I am faced with an ache in my heart that I want to go away. It aches because people I care about, an entire community, is under attack by the weather. My hometown community of Rock Rapids, Iowa is flooded beyond the devastation of the floods of 1993.
I have said it before and I will say it again. A loss is a loss. Grief comes with loss. It seems like those that lose things like houses that are, for lack of a better way of saying it, “replaceable” are expected to only think of their things as that…things. They are supposed to get through it fast and move on. As I think of the steps I have had to go through, ones I continue to go through, I see those that have flooded houses, those that were evacuated and those that know now or know eventually they will have to clean up, tear down and try to rebuild a house or business and they will go through similar steps. Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Depression. Acceptance. As I googled the the “5 steps of Grief” to make sure I got at the stages right I saw with “Acceptance” people put “moving on” associated with it. As I typed it earlier it made me cringe. There is no moving on. We move forward. We look behind, acknowledge what has happened and try to move forward. Like I have had to create my new normal, these people will have to do the same. As in the early stages of Jay’s death I had a lot of denial. These people will have the same. I bargained, sometimes I still do, that if I did something, said something or was the best person to everyone in my life for the rest of my life maybe Jay could come back. I see many of the people that live there saying things on social media like “Please let this stop.” I went through an early bout of anger and still have my times now that it hits me hard. I can hear it in the words of the people posting pictures and status updates on the devastation. I don’t blame them one bit. I’d be pissed off too. I get angry still till this day. I was depressed with what life had given me to handle. And these people will at some point be the same. You look at the word acceptance and it seems like it ends there. Once you get there it’s all “down hill.” Not the case.
I am on the other side of this loss and this grief. I live 4 hours away. I cannot get up there to fill sandbags and help try to prevent worse damage. This is similar to the many that knew Jay had died and didn’t know what they could do being 4 hours from me. I offer my “I’m sorry” in comments. I share information to others in my life so they are aware of what these important people in my life are going through. I pray for them. I contact my parents frequently to make sure they are OK. I cry as I see pictures of my friends homes being engulfed with fast running water. My heart aches and my stomach turns as tonight they are getting hit with more heavy rain. I wish with all my heart I could make their struggles, pain, hurt, loss and grief go away. These people, many I grew up with through school or parents of classmates, have a long journey ahead. I know nothing of how one recovers from this type of devastation…this type of loss. I know they are strong and they will make it through one step at a time. Being 4 hours away I cannot walk the streets but I can feel their strength. They don’t want to be strong, I get that. I can see the devastation via pictures. They want it to all be a nightmare. I get that too.
Stay strong friends and family in Rock Rapids. Those of us watching from afar watch with aching hearts but pride because you are an amazing community. If I have learned anything from my own journey you will find your way through and eventually put your feet on dry ground and move forward. Take your time.
Friday morning I went to daycare and hung out with Aaron for Donuts with Dad.
A couple weeks ago our daycare teacher approached me about what I wanted for Father’s day. I said that if they were doing a little event like Mother’s Day that I wanted to be invited. She said “of course!” And then she asked if I wanted Aaron to make a present for Jay and I said, “yes please.” I am so blessed with people who although they don’t get what I go through every day or on milestones and holidays but that ask and I truly believe try to find some understanding and be what I need.
I walked into the room. A few of the dads were already there sitting with their children. There are a few that know why I am there instead of Jay. I could feel the others look at me as I walked in probably wondering why I was there. Aaron saw me and said “Hi Mommy!” He walked over and gave me a hug then we walked back over to his chair. I am sure for the dads that know our story seeing me hit them a little hard but me being there was not to make them feel bad. It wasn’t even about me. It was about the little boy that walked me back to his chair. The little boy that deserves to have his dad there and if Jay were still alive he would have been there for donuts. He would have opened his gift and probably displayed it with pride on his desk when he got back to work on Friday. He probably would have gone down the aisle to show all of his co-workers.
It is days like Friday that my heart aches for Jay to be here, even for just one more minute. I will always do everything I can to make sure Aaron does not feel left out. He is my reason I do everything. Jay was going to be an amazing dad and I remember telling him that many times in his time with us. I wish in so many ways more times than I can ever count that instead of having donuts with mom that on Friday Aaron would have been able to have Donuts with Dad.
I needed the orientation I attended last night for the Iowa donor Network. I was reminded how precious life is. I was reminded of why I survive. I was reminded of why I work so hard to make this life worth it.
When I got home I had a tired little boy. He had spent the first little part after leaving the house being really mad at me for leaving but then played A LOT. I picked him up when I got home and I was so simply reminded of why I live. His arms tightly wrapped around me giving me a true Aaron hug I was reminded on how much this little boy depends on me. Not just for shelter, food and clothing but for love and support. May and June will always be rough months for Aaron and me. The month of May holds the day Jay died and Mother’s day will most likely be close to that day every year in May. The month of June holds Jay’s birthday and Father’s day the weekend after.
I cannot change the fact that Aaron’s dad, the man that had so much to teach him is gone. I cannot change the fact that my best friend, the man that knew everything about me and still loved me is gone.
We lost a lot on May 9th, 2012. Last night I was reminded of the powerful things I was given in return; perspective, an appreciation for everyone, a love of life and most importantly an angel above that will make sure we never forget it.
So a cardinal wanted to be noticed and heard by Aaron and me after work today. I have been calmed by the presence of cardinals since Jay’s death. I always thought it was because Jay like cardinals. He was an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. His high school mascot was a cardinal. His email user name was Redbird78. Our wifi connection is Redbird. Tonight as Aaron and I sat on our front steps eating our ice cream cones waiting for the babysitter to get to the house, this beautiful cardinal flew by us capturing my attention. He stood next to our tree out front and as I watched him he turned to me and sang to me. He then flew south a little bit then next I knew he was standing in our driveway looking toward Aaron and me.
For a couple weeks now I have been struggling a bit. I’ve been overwhelmed, sad and down right mad. “Why?” is the question of the day…literally. I mean 2 year anniversary. Organ donor awesomeness. Mother’s day. His birthday coming up. Father’s day close behind. Being a working mom. Potty training a little boy. Remodeling a basement. OK so not really a question but a guess on what is making things difficult in the exact moment I’m struggling. I appear strong to most. It’s not always as it seems.
Today as I rewarded Aaron for a good potty training day at daycare with ice cream and thoughts raced through my mind of where an important flag my brother had given me was located in the house the cardinal showed up. A calm came over me in a way I have not had in a long time. Tonight I decided to look up the “meaning” of the cardinal showing up. I found a site that told me it meant the following about red birds.
Red Birds – When you see a red bird in winter, you will prosper in spring. When you hear a Cardinal sing, your sadness will soon be lifted. When a red bird shows up, help is on the way.
I found the flag I was looking for. I was relieved. And although not perfect I have a calm about the other struggles I have. I mean if for nothing else to be calmed but because the cardinal said help is on the way.