I am here

May 2, 2011

This post was written about a week ago, during Jen’s final days.

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There is a fuss. My Asher, he doesn’t want to “sweep” when it comes time for a nap and so I tell him he needs sleep because I can see how tired he is in his face, and anyway, his “fins must be awfully tired from all the swimming at the Y.”

He calms down and turns toward me, curling himself as close as he can around my belly, both of us on our sides on the bed. His sister grows restless with my stillness and starts to roll and turn and bump and kick inside me.  Asher’s face crumples with one last attempt to fight the nap and then he calms and starts to doze, his little fists holding tightly to his “maps” (directions for Legos).

Our breathing starts to match and I stare at his suddenly closed and peaceful eyes, the way his lashes spring out and seem to never end.  His little body twitches with the coming of deeper sleep and he drops a “map” to scratch an itch on his cheek. I start to feel the same itch, watching him, and scratch my own phantom one in the same place. Then I slowly trace his face with my eyes and feel the baby kicks in me. His knees press close to my belly button and his sister bumps at him, like Morse code. His soft deep breaths smell of lunch, but I don’t mind. I feel the lump in my throat and I want to weep at the closeness of him, over the simple fact that we are both here.

I’m thinking of Jen while I watch and feel, the way that the life is too quickly leaving her and I think of her daughter. And so the weeping starts to come. I try not to shake the bed or my belly against his legs because I’m trying not to wake him. I am here and he is here and I’m thinking of the sleep he needs because that’s what moms do with their love. I try to stop thinking of anything else, just not waking him, just watching him, but I can’t.

These are her final hours.  The cancer wants her gone and so her husband and daughter have to say goodbye.  While I lay watching my boy for an hour with no end in sight, they are saying a much too fast and much too slow goodbye.

I’m smelling his breath and tracing his face and I am here and he is here and I’m so sorry, Jen. I’m so sorry.

The bed shakes even though I’m trying not to wake him. It shakes with the emotion of their loss. It shakes because I’m here.

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The next day, I tell Miles I feel like I haven’t seen him in a long time. Easter was full of family, a busy day.  So I say that I’ve missed him, even though we’ve been together and he answers with a rolled-eyed Moooommy while he wields a light saber.  Then he suddenly stops and rounds the counter toward me. He hugs me, throws his head back a little, gives my belly a quick kiss and races off.

Thank you.

Before he’s a few steps away, my phone rings. I see Dad on the caller ID and know that this will be about Jen.  He says she’s in a coma now, slipping. It won’t be much longer; they think maybe not through the night, he says.

I go in my room and close the door to cry behind it. I hurt for them, for all that are so close to the woman who beams, the one with the big laugh and shiny eyes.

I want to cry longer, to curl up on the bed and pray nothing but the word peace, but it’s bedtime and my boys are waiting and I am here.  I wipe mascara and take a deep breath and go to tuck and hug. I sit on the edge of Miles’ bed and we say prayers while I watch his heavy eyes. I stand to leave and we do what we always do, blowing kisses. He grabs my invisible flying kiss and I grab his and then we let fists spread to open hands on our chests, pushing in.

I am here and tonight I don’t understand
why I get to stay
and she cannot.

We look for reasons when none would justify this and then we wait for the hope and peace that is always underneath, in time. The peace and hope that won’t take away the pain but are miracles all the same, in their small doses, breaking through like flown kisses to chests.

I don’t know much. I only know that Morse code kicks, never-ending eyelashes and grasped invisible kisses are achingly beautiful. And so are all the things I struggle against–my impatience, my no no nos and my not right nows, the times I feel bored or lost in motherhood, isolated and exhausted.

It’s all beautiful. I am here.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

melissa May 2, 2011 at 12:54 pm

oh heather, i’m so so so so so so sorry. my heart breaks for you and for them. some things just should not have to be lived through.
your voice brought her to all of us and we will all send love and prayers to you, her, and her family and friends.
hang in there.
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krista May 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm

so many things about life that I just don’t understand. learning how to stay in the moment with my kids when everything is falling apart – whether it’s the little things like a project at work or the big things like what you’re going through – is one of the hardest parts of being a mom. it’s also one of the most important and one that comes with the most rewards.

i’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. so very sorry. and many many prayers.

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Allison Zapata May 2, 2011 at 8:16 pm

heartbreaking. I’ve been thinking of your friend for the past few days…every time I get frustrated when my kid wants one more thing before bed, or won’t get in his car-seat without being silly for 10 mins….I remind myself to enjoy these precious moments.

so sorry for your loss and theirs.

xoxo

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Ann's Rants May 2, 2011 at 8:16 pm

This is the most beautiful peace peace peace prayer I could ever imagine.
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Stephanie Hanes May 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm

This post is beautiful in so many ways. Thank you for this reminder of how beautiful life is and how precious these moments are. Praying for you as you grieve this loss. Let yourself grieve, allow yourself to cry those deep soul shattering sobs. Because it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry over a loss like that. I pray that as you grieve the Lord would give you a peace and a comfort that surpasses understanding.

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SoberJulie May 2, 2011 at 9:44 pm

I have no words to relieve your grief but please know that we’re here to hear your voice. I’ll be praying for you, thank you for sharing your friend with me.
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anymommy May 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Oh, it just hurts. Beautifully. What can we do but hold them all close?
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Christine @ Coffees & Commutes May 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm

My goodness, I’m crying right along with you, and for her daughter knowing only too well the pain that is unfolding. In honouring your own life, you pay homage to hers.
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Angie May 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Sitting here weeping for you and her family and everyone who hurts because of this horrible disease, because of this fallen world. This was so beautiful.

I can’t tell you how I have struggled with the questions. The why did I survive cancer while others did not? Why I got to stay and they did not? On Friday I will walk the survivor’s lap at our relay for life, but my heart aches as I go to do it… because there will be others there who are walking for someone who died. Someone who is not me. Because I am here.

So like you I move forward in the here, now… and it is beautiful. A dance of grief and joy that is unexplainable.

Praying for you and your friends who are hurting.
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Kaycee May 4, 2011 at 10:41 am

So very very sorry for your loss, and for her family’s loss. From your writing I know she was a beautiful person. This post is gorgeous and such a good reminder, thanks for that. We recently had a staff member lose his wife to cancer and they had young kids. So hard. Your heart just breaks a little extra for the kids that have to face something like this.

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Jody May 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm

These words are so beautiful. You are such an amazing writer! I am so, so sorry for your loss. Life is truly such a beautiful and ugly mess all at the same time. Why? – that’s such an impossible question to answer…but I totally understand the need to ask it.
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Natalie May 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm

My aunt passed in Jan, after 15 years of battle. It still catches me unawares, that these amazing women who have had such a profound impact on us could possibly be gone. How could that be.

My heart aching for you, Luke, Kaiya.
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tracey May 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

So very sorry…
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Elizabeth @claritychaos May 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I am so sorry.

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