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Thursday, June 23, 2016


Jake and I have been rewatching Lost on Netflix these last couple of weeks- at least two episodes before bedtime, sometimes three.  Cory, Jake, and I watched the entire series together years ago, Jake being the brains of the operation as we all struggled to follow the plot, but in all actuality he was only eight or nine at the time, so for him, it's like a brand new show...he has forgotten all but the major characters and basic premise.  Me, though?  I remember most of it, and especially what it was like to watch it cuddled up on the couch with Cory on one side and Jake on the other, one of us always  called out for hogging the blanket.

We did Lost Pizza Night for the first couple of seasons, and I'd make homemade pizza.  We'd eat in front of the tv (shameful, I know, but quite delightful, really).  Then we went through the phase of baking cookies or brownies.  There was always something to share.

I remember how fun, if slightly awkward, it was for Cory and I to find ourselves lusting over Sawyer and Sayid with equal enthusiasm.  She used to say that whenever Sawyer entered a scene, I would thrust my chest out involuntarily.  Maybe I did.  She spent her fair share of time fanning herself at the sight of Sayid's burning gaze, so we were pretty even.

 I didn't experience anything like it with my mother until we went to Italy together years later and helplessly drooled over all those beautiful men.  Also, Mom has quite the crush on Liam Neilson, which I don't share, but quite enjoy watching.  It is so cute.

Invariably, I'll find myself crying while watching an episode of Lost with Jake because I can so clearly remember what it felt like when she was here and we were all together, our bodies in a line, shoulder to shoulder, everyone warm and alive... when the only danger was make-believe on the screen and our circle of safety was still intact.

  I haven't quite figured out how to remember her without it tearing me apart.  I wish I had a magic sieve so all the happy moments could float right to the top and  all the pain of her not being here would retreat down the drain. I wonder if that ever happens.  I kind of doubt it.  I think you can't have one without the other.  They are seamless, unavoidable partners.

To love and to remember her- it comes at a cost.  So if I seem to be embracing my suffering- as some have accused me of- I can only say, I won't move on without her.  I will never leave her behind.  And if it hurts to do be it.  She's worth it.

If anyone figures out a better way- you know, a way to time travel, a cure for PTSD, or happens to invent that magic sieve, let me know.  I'd be all over it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Duck Duck Goose

 I saw a little girl at Pizza Hut tonight that reminded me so much of Cory at that age, it completely unnerved me.  She didn't really look like her, you understand; she behaved like her.  I smile a little now to report the two or three year old with the whispy Pebbles ponytail that I saw was quick on the move, listening to none of her parents' scoldings as she made for the kitchen with a certain determined flair.  Her mother pulled her back as she marched her way past the register, and I could see her wide eyed expression as she was toted back to the table (with a modest swat on her plump little fanny):  not fazed in the least.  She waited a couple of minutes- perhaps for her parents to catch their breaths- before giving it another go.  

Have I mentioned that Cory quite knew her own mind from a young age?

The first date I went on with my husband was dinner at the local Chinese restaurant.  Cory went with us, and spent the majority of the meal under the table quacking like a duck.  This bothered me very little, as I found her very entertaining, but I fully expected to never hear from Tim again.  He already didn't strike me as a kid kinda guy, and Cory was not the seen-and-not-heard type of child.  

So I stalker-watched this little girl at Pizza Hut and restrained myself from going over to the family's table to tell them that although this little lady might be a wee bit challenging at times, she was also full of life in a way a merely quiet, fully-compliant-at-all-times child would never be.  I wanted to tell them to take it easy on her because it wouldn't matter in ten years that she needed to sit under the table instead of at it, because she would eventually learn to do it, and while she did, she would probably make them shriek with laughter until their sides hurt.  In short, she would be their delight, as Cory was mine.  

How do you measure grief?  Can it be measured?  Sure it can.  How much of your heart did she occupy when she was here?  That's how empty it will be when she's gone.  How many of the dark corners of your soul did she set alight with her eyes, her voice, her laugh?  If there were many...if it was all of them...well, my friend, you are screwed.  I've always been an all or nothing sort of girl, so yeah, there's that.

I spent the rest of dinner thinking about this one certain toy Cory had when she was a toddler.  It was a washer and dryer combo from KayBee toy store at the mall, which was kind of a big deal as most of her toys came from the Dollar Store except for what Santa brought once a year.  I remember worrying she didn't have enough doll clothes to do a proper load, and how I raided the kitchen drawers for dishrags to fill the gap.  But in the end, she wanted to wash her baby dolls.  Maybe some of her pretend kitchen food...a chicken leg here, an ear of corn there.  She was content as could be.  I can see her now, all chubby cheeks and stubby pony tail, laboriously stuffing that washing machine with babies until the door would barely shut, opening it up now and again to stuff in an errant limb.  
She knew exactly what she wanted to do, and how to do it.  

She always did.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Managing Expectations

Tonight, I caught myself in one of those situations that was absurd, yet completely typical.

Crying while remembering Cory?  I do it all the time.  Sometimes I start crying and then get caught up in something phone beeps or the dog barks to be let in or Jake calls my name.  Tonight, all three happened, and I was well into putting Winston into his safety harness with Jake, playing ventriloquist in my most convincing seven month old puppy voice before I felt the tears were still on my face, having grown cold there.

Jake didn't notice, and I rather suspect that I've cried so much since the death of his sister, he considers it my baseline behavior.  What struck me was that I could be engaged with Jake, quite properly, but still aching so much that the tears came and continued, whether I was aware of them or not.

That is what it is to bury your child.  I get dressed and pour juice and pay bills and do laundry and drive and feed pets and joke with my son.  I work and sleep and argue with my husband.  I watch movies and laugh and read and draw.  I do it all while watching that wretched sheet float down over her body.  I do it all while watching them lower her coffin into the ground.  It's not the easiest multi-tasking, let me tell you.  But I do it.  I hate it.  But I do it.

Moving forward is staying alive.  Full stop.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mail Call

Cory loved Frida Kahlo, as do I.   I browsed the internet tonight just to look at some of her paintings, ended up on Amazon looking at book collections of the famous artist, and finally, much to my indignation, discovered there are not only such things as Frida Kahlo stickers out there, but there are also Frida Kahlo paper dolls.  What the hell?  Does all the cool stuff come out after 2012 or what, people?

This too-late-to-do-my-Cory-Girl-any-good discovery came on the heels of getting yet another piece of mail addressed to her out of my mailbox today.  Punch in the stomach, one and two.

The mail to my dead child I can't stop, even when I notify the senders.  The stickers and dolls?  They will be waiting in the mailbox to comfort the next possible blow in 7-10 business days.  Thank you, Amazon.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


The pain doesn't go away.  It doesn't get smaller.

Instead the way I cope with it has changed a bit.

One Ativan instead of seven.  Or twelve.

I'm not wiping out my car while under the influence of my anti-anxiety meds; I just don't leave my house very much.

I don't shop to distract myself.  I read or binge-watch on Netflix.  Put me in any other world, any other situation but this one.

I don't buy every art supply under the sun; I just rarely make art anymore.

It's cheaper, maybe even healthier at times, but only effective until I pull my head out of the current book or finish up the last episode of the show I'm currently hooked on.  Caught up on Grey's Anatomy.  All done with Orange is the New Black till Season Four.  Racing to the end of House of Cards.

Then what?  Well, then I remember that she's still dead...that Jacob is fourteen and lost to his computer games and that my husband would rather sleep fourteen hours a day than do anything else in the world.

I am alone.  I am still. There is way too much time to think.
 I'm not wrecked on prescription meds and I'm not racking up debt, but I am wracked with guilt.  If only I had went to the store myself.  She would live.

But I didn't, and she died.  The line between those two facts is only too easy to draw.  Is it so surprising that some days I just want to shut it all down?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Play It Again

There are always more tears.  Always more.

Sometimes you may think you've learned to control your grief, and that's when it sneaks up on your from behind and puts a sack over your head, drags you off some remote country road, and bends you over something right there in the dirt before leaving you for dead.

Anything can bring it on.

Sirens and uniformed officers work well for me.

The whole distraction thing only goes so far.  Be a S.T.A.R. Take a deep breath.  In the moment, it works fairly well.  Then two days later, while innocently flipping through pictures, you are suddenly bent at the waist sobbing until you can't breathe and start to dry heave.

She is gone. Really gone.  No more Cory Girl.

I want to die.

It's been the only solution that offers even a glimmer of hope.  That's the really dangerous thing about suicidal thoughts- they are inviting, they are always available, they always come back for you.  They never leave you completely alone.  An end to pain.  An end to the milestones she missed.  An end to watching the apparently more deserving folks soak that all in.

Gonna burn in hell anyway since I don't believe in God anymore.  Or wait, I guess there'll be no hell to burn in, will there?  I haven't quite got my post-Cory's-death belief system worked out yet.  Agnostic?  Athiest?  Beats the hell out of me.

I am weary.  I am tired of trying to be ok when I'm not.  I'm tired of being a failure at everything I do now that she's gone.  I'm tired of hurting all the time.  ALL the goddamn time, because even the happy moments are overshadowed by her absence.  This whole deeper joy thing the grief books promise is a load of horseshit.  I promise you.  I do not feel deeper joy because I have lost someone who meant everything to me.  I am not living more fully because of my new found relationship with death.

I'm tired of being the complainer.  But I won't lie either.  It doesn't get easier.  It doesn't soften.  And the worst part is so few people understand what I mean.  Even the people who love me most and try their hardest don't really understand what it means to lose your child.

 I realized this fully a few days ago when my mother recalled the day she watched her first daughter to be married back out of her driveway for the last time...the heartbreak, the tears, the very real sorrow.  She was devastated.  And I'm sure she was.  But like...take that and multiply it by a million and you might be in the neighborhood of what it feels like to see your child's coffin lowered into the ground.  Maybe.

And this isn't their fault that they don't understand.   It just is what is.  And so you find yourself alienated from most everyone you know...feeling alone in a familiar crowd, when you aren't busy feeling sick with jealousy, envy, and anger.

Am I supposed to be more empathetic because of my loss?  I think I am, but most of the time I can't help myself from following up every person's problem with "yeah, but at least your child isn't dead" in my head.  If I can stop myself from saying it aloud, that's a good day.   Bet I make a great friend right about now.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hobby Lobby

If Michael's arts and crafts store is my place, then Hobby Lobby was Cory's.  So sometimes when I am missing her unbearably, I go there just to walk through the aisles and remember her.  I went there yesterday.

I could see the ghost of her next to me in front of the candy colored tubes of acrylic paint...excited to be buying art supplies, eyes bright with possibilities.  If I remember correctly, they used to run about four bucks a pop, so I'll tell her to pick out five.  Five were never enough, and maybe because I didn't make art at that time, I didn't realize how difficult a task it was to narrow down all those glorious colors to a mere handful.  Why didn't I buy her a cartful?  What kind of mother was I?

The tears begin, and through them, I spy a few of her favorite colors, touch them, needing some type of confirmation that yes, she did once exist, yes, we did come here together all the time, laughing and talking.  Think of the good times...cherish those memories.  Isn't that the trite advice given by people who aren't in this situation, safe to dole out stupid one liners that they will never fully understand?  It's such crap because placing yourself back there often burns even more.  Never again?  Never???

Then you begin to beat yourself up for stupid shit like not buying your child two hundred dollars worth of acrylic paint at a time.  I was furious with myself about this.  How could I have limited her creativity?  Limited her experience?  Especially considering that she only had a short time to develop as an artist.  There were only so many trips to Hobby Lobby in her future.  There was only so much time left to paint.  Only so many canvases left to fill.

Speaking of canvases, I turned the corner and wandered towards that aisle.  I took one peek down there and fled in shame.  She'd always wanted a truly gigantic canvas and I'd dragged my feet, letting her practice first on a great succession of 8 x 10s, 11 x 14s, even 16 x 20s...but never took the plunge on that cover-the-wall-behind-your-couch-fully sized canvas.  Now it's too late.  No dainty earrings for her and no wall encompassing paintings.  Failed her.

I escaped into an aisle of scrapbook stickers, and let me just share that those can be pretty damn depressing.  You wouldn't really figure stickers to prompt sorrow, but they are milestone heavy:  graduation, wedding, baby, family vacations.  It's enough to make a bereaved mother want to just lay down and give up.

There really aren't a lot of scrap booking/art journaling materials out there to honor grief, the passing a loved one, or any type of sad occasion.  This is why I was so ridiculously excited to come across some Day of the Dead stickers at an expo with my friend a few weeks ago.  Finally, someone has acknowledged that my loved one died.

Of course, that's pretty much the only item I've ever seen of the sort, so I will continue to take my sad selfies and draw my "grief girls" as an artist friend of mine calls my drawings.  Someone needs to illustrate this experience- why should only the happy occasions get playtime? I struggle to feel it at all.

Finally, after walking past the sketching pencils and feeling my heart sort of turn in on itself, as I remembered a certain Christmas that consisted of art supplies and squeals of joy, I could take no more.  Having gained no real comfort in walking the aisles-,just reminders of what I'd lost, I made for the door.

On the way out, I stopped at a display of journals, and paused, my eyes having landed on a little girl style of journal with a cat on the front and a feathered pen.  I picked it up and transported myself back in time to Limited Too at the Kalamazoo mall with a eight or nine year old Cory Girl.  There was a nightgown/diary set, pale yellow background with a popcorn print.  She had to have it, and I couldn't have been more delighted to give it to her.  She was adorable in that little spaghetti strapped popcorn nightgown, and I can still see her blonde head bent studiously over the popcorn diary (which had a matching pen and was, indeed, scratch and sniff).  My heart leapt in my chest to see her recording her thoughts and impressions so seriously...she likes to write, she's going to be a writer just like me!

That memory while I stood in the aisle of Hobby Lobby with that stupid cat journal in my hands was so crisp and so clear.  She was close enough to touch...and completely unreachable.  Someone might as well punch their way through my chest cavity, grab up my heart, and pull it right out of my body.

I put the journal down, tears still streaming, and ran to my car in the parking lot where I could sob in private.

Four years in July.  This is still my day to day life.  It hasn't gotten better.  It hasn't gotten easier.  The people who say it will?  Full of crap.