6th Anniversary

Leo,

I celebrated our birthday this year. It was really special and I actually felt happy. I got the sign you sent me when we went to visit you at the cemetery. I live for moments of confirmation like that one.

I know you’re still with me. I feel you. I miss you and I wish I could see you, hold you, snuggle you…be the mom to you that I am to your sisters.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day you left this Earth. Tonight is the anniversary of the last night I got to kiss your sweet warm cheeks. The next time I would see you- you would be dying in our arms. I hate that this is part of our story.

I’m really proud to tell you that I’ve lost all of the weight I gained after your death. I’ve finally let go of the physical manifestation of the weight of my grief- my “grief weight” as I called it. Physically, I feel so much better! Emotionally, well, suffice it to say that I’ve accepted your death, but it’s always going to hurt.

I try not to focus on that though. There are a million good memories of you, of our 26 days together, and of the miracles and signs you’ve sent me. I focus on those things because I want to continue feeling joy.

I love you, son. You’re my heart and I’ll miss you forever.

Yours,

Mom

Walls

Hey Leo,

My letters have become fewer and far less often than when you first left me, but your absence continues to grow in my heart. I know I’ve got some serious walls up. I don’t know how I’d be able to go on without them.

When I think about you for too long, I remember what it felt like to hold you…or what I think it felt like. It’s been so long that I really can’t remember, which intensifies the sadness. I do remember kissing you a million times on your sweet face and little feet, but I don’t remember your smell. My memories are a lot like the photos that I have of you….still images of a moment in time. Just memories; nothing more, nothing less. When I think about what it feels like to be where you are now, I want to grab my shovel and exhume you myself so I can keep you warm and safe. It sounds crazy, I know, I’m pretty sure that other loss parents understand.

But your body is not really you anyway, is it?

When I remember you, I remember your body first. That’s the part of you that I held, kissed, swaddled, adored…that’s the part of you that died. I know your soul lives on somewhere, somehow, and I do find solace in knowing you’re still around in your own way.

But this is all too much.

I’m always thinking of you, but when I’m thinking of you with intention, I feel a pain that is indescribable. I’m flooded by sorrow, regret, anger, longing, guilt, and depression that is beyond the words that our vocabulary has to describe it. So I put up walls to protect myself and those around me. But those walls keep you out and I don’t want that either.

You’ve heard the saying “it’s like a car accident that I can’t not look at”? That’s my grief, my relationship with you. It’s so beautiful and sharply painful at the same time.

I know you’re with me, waiting for me to figure this all out, patiently popping in during the fleeting moments when my heart is the the right place to receive your messages. I know your grave is simply the place where we buried your shell and not all of whatever it is that made you, you. I know for certain that I’ll see you in Heaven and I’ll understand why all of this happened to us.

Until then, it’s just me and my walls and my hot mess of a life trying to make the most of what I’ve got and live the life you and your sisters want for us. I’m trying my best to not block out the good stuff and to leave the trauma in the past. It’s all kind of mixed together still.

I love you with every ounce of my being. I’ve never stopped loving you. I’ll never stop loving you. As long as I’m living, I’ll miss you and and think of you.

I’ll be here, watching for signs in those moments when my walls are down. Maybe someday they’ll be down forever. Who knows?

Until I wake up in heaven, I’ll be here, waiting.

Forever missing you,

Mom

Flesh Wound

Leo,

I haven’t written to you in so long.  I tried to make myself feel guilty for it, but I just don’t have the strength.  I am tired of feeling pain, sick of feeling sad, and angry with my fragile heart.  I just want the one thing that I know I do not get to have…you.

Writing letters to you and blog posts became a source of pain and not further healing.  I tried to bury my head in the sand and pretend like my heart had been restored.  But the honest truth is that I had just shut my eyes and did my best to act like you were still alive and part of my family.

That was fucking bullshit…and a bad idea.  It didn’t make me feel any better.  I felt like I had a huge secret stuffed inside of me, suffocating me, ballooning me up like the giant blueberry girl in the Willy Wonka movie.  How long could I keep it in?  Then, today…

BOOM

I can’t keep it in any more.  My “secret” exploded all over the place and there’s blueberry goo fucking up all of the nooks and crannies of my life.

You’re around me, I know it, I can feel it, but you’re not alive in flesh.  You’ll never know things about us and we will never know the things about you that come with living on this Earth.  I feel robbed but I don’t feel like a victim.  I just feel angry about it.

I can’t NOT think of what it would feel like to stroke your blonde hair while you sleep in my arms like a baby, even though you would be four years old and probably proclaim that you’re a “big boy”.    I can see, in my mind’s eye, where you would haphazardly throw your shoes in the living room, where your action figures would be carelessly discarded the moment your sisters ask you to come outside and play on the playground.

These thoughts feel so real.  They cut me so deeply but I couldn’t live without them either.  I know who you are because you are a piece of me and a piece of your dad.

I’m trying so hard to put my life back together, Leo.  I’m trying to set things straight, to stay on God’s path, to listen when I’m unsure, to follow when I feel led, to lead when I feel guided, to stop and pray when I feel lost.

But with every step, I stop and look around, and I only see three kids.

You’re missing.

You’re missed.

We all miss you terribly.  I really hate that you’re gone.

With all that I am and all that I have, I love you.

Mom

Hello

Hi Leo,

I can’t even remember the last time I wrote you.  It’s not because I don’t love you or don’t miss you, but because I can feel you nearby.  I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you’re living life right alongside us.  Nobody in the world could convince me otherwise. 

I had been pondering my letters to you, which I still love to write, but I felt like I wanted more.  My words to you are beautiful, I know that.  And that’s not to sound egotistical but to give thanks to God for giving my letters and articles the raw and descriptive quality that people can connect to.  But I still wanted more. 

I wanted my words to not only sound beautiful but to be beautiful, to look beautiful.  So I got on Instagram and started watching hand lettering and modern calligraphy videos.  I was inspired. 

My hand lettering journey started on July 14th, 2016 at and Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance conference with a ball point pen and a tiny pad of hotel  stationary.   I wrote “I miss everything about you” and used an app called Pixomatic to overlay the words into a photo i had taken in Monterey, CA. 

I was in love with the feeling I had.  I was able to write my words in a way that people could actually see my feelings.  I was able to draw my words.  People were able to see the depth of my longing for you.   What a gift to me!

So know that, even though I’m not writing you letters, I am drawing you letters, and I miss you so terribly that I’ve run out of words to write about it.  None of them truly describe the depth of my pain anyway. 

I love you eternally.  Thank God for you for making me who I am today and for allowing me to touch the hearts of others with our story and with my everlasting faith and trust in God and in the goodness of life. 

Love you,

Mom

#8daysoftrust -Day 6

  
We took our kids on a hike today. One of my goals this year was to take more time to be with my family in nature.  I want to teach my kids to be quiet and reflective, to soak in their surroundings, to feel free and unrestrained from the structure of society.  Heck, I want to feel free, to experience quiet, to reflect!  

Thank you God for the gorgeous world you created for us to explore and for giving my family and me adventurous hearts. 

#8daysoftrust – Day 5

Today I saw an image that’s said “No matter how much you revisit the past, there’s nothing new to see.” 

At first, that comment stung a little bit because all I have left of the time that my son lived is the past. But in the same moment, I felt like God turned my head and said “Eyes forward, Angela.”  

I took that that to mean that God wanted me to focus, not on the tragedy of losing Leo (because that quote is right, there’s nothing new to see there), but to focus on how Leo remains present in my life. 

Wow!  

Talking about spiritual gifts yesterday and today the gift of spirit. 

  

#8daysoftrust -Day 4

  
I got to watch my husband turn a creative passion into something he can share with the world.  Not just something others can see but something they can participate in, something they can explore, something that can help them uncover a talent they didn’t know they had. 
God doesn’t just love us, He doesn’t just guide us through life, He doesn’t just sit and wait patiently for us to hear him, He gave each of us a gift at birth and it’s our challenge to uncover it. 

God gave me the gift of words and Zach the gift of a good eye which allows him to create art and films.  

Tonight I got to see God’s gift to my husband shared with our community. And isn’t that what God wants?  For us to take our gifts and fearlessly share them with the world. 

Thank you God for giving us the courage to put our life’s passion on the line in hopes of living out your will for us. 

#8daysoftrust -Day 3

  
Today I experienced God in a really quiet way. I was so busy and God didn’t try to compete with that or try to shout over it, He simply found me when he knew I would be focused inward.  On my car ride home I was listening to music and I kept hearing the words “awaken” and “hope”. I knew God was trying to tell me that he is awakening my destiny. That, my heartbreak was the beginning and not the end, as long as I would trust him and let go of fear. 

So I mindfully released my stress. Don’t get me wrong, the kids still need me, Zach is still demanding my attention and help, my job is still impatiently waiting for me to return to work, my house still needs to be cleaned, I still haven’t even looked in the direction of a gym since the day before Leo died…the workload didn’t go anywhere.  I surrendered the worry, the fear of not being able to finish, of not being good enough, fast enough, paid enough…I let that all go.  

I believe in a God who isn’t demanding and doesn’t require perfection or have a lot of crazy rules.  I believe in a a God who believes in me whether or not I trust Him!  I believe in a God who doesn’t get angry that I don’t pray without ceasing or when I use his name in vain.  I believe that the only thing furious about God is His love for us. 

And with that kind of love, what’s left to fear?

#8daysoftrust -Day 2

Well, today started off crappy. I was exhausted from Leo’s anniversary (it’s an emotionally draining day), and I had a huge half-day meeting pop up that I needed to facilitate…first thing in the morning.  Traffic was horrendous and Lily threw an amazing fit.  I couldn’t find my car keys (I just found them about 1 hour ago) and I was just flat out grumpy. 

I pasted a smile across my face and decided to fake it until i could get home and rest.  I made it though my meeting and actually did s pretty good job. 

I challenged God to show himself in a day like today.  A co-worker asked me how my day was and I told her about Leo’s anniversary and that I was having a tough day. She said she was too because today would have been her dad’s 77th birthday, but he passed away 5 years ago. 

I went on to tell her that my dad’s birthday is this Saturday and he would have been 70 if he hadn’t passed away 3 years ago.  I told her about my dad’s reaction to Leo’s death, about my dad’s accident, about his near death experience and what he saw when he was on his way to Heaven. 

I gave her a huge hug and told her that our dads are always with us. She told me a few stories about her dad, we shared a few laughs, and then went back to work. 

I was being pulled in ten directions and everything was highest priority.  My email wasn’t syncing, my calendar didn’t work right, and deadlines for various projects were weighing heavily on me.  

A quote had popped up that I started creating an image of during my big meeting, but I still hadn’t noticed God and I really didn’t have the time to think about it. An email popped up from my coworker near the end of the day and it was like God threw ice cold water on my head and shouted “Here I am!  I was here all along!   See how I did that?” 
Her email simply said “Thank You”.  She had told me earlier that I made her day but I hadn’t thought much about it.  And that quote that I started creating an image of?  Well, that quote was a perfect fit for the experience. 
God,

You are so rad!  Thanks for revealing yourself to me slowly and for making my day!  Thank you for turning my heartbreak into healing. 

Love,

Angela

This quote is from Glennon Doyle Melton of momastery.com 

 

#8daysoftrust – Day 1

  

 Zach and I were supposed to go to Disneyland this morning. We had gone to Disneyland the night before and were debating whether we should go again or just start heading home. As we approached the Mickey and Friends parking structure, we started to realize just how crowded Disneyland really was. I suggested we head over to Orange Circle in downtown Orange,CA for breakfast. We hadn’t really explored this area but when we drove through it looked like fun. 

We were enjoying our coffee and waiting for our order to come out of the kitchen at Watson’s Soda Fountain & Cafe when I looked at Zach and said, “Leo would be proud of you.”  Zach looked a little caught off guard, confused even.  I clarified, “He would be proud of the things you’re creating in his memory. And he would be proud of me too.”  

Just then, through all of the noise of the restaurant, I heard “Your Song” by Elton John start playing. I burst into tears because that is the song I used to sing to Leo. That is the song to which Zach set Leo’s “welcome to the world” video before Leo died.  I knew right at that moment, that Leo was confirming how proud he is of us and that he is listening to us. 

Our waitress came over to check on us and asked if we were headed to Disneyland (I had Mickey Mouse leggings on). I looked up and burst into tears again.  The song was still playing and I just couldn’t explain myself to her. Zach told her what was going on and she offered me a hug. A few minutes later she came over with this pastry box and two ginormous cupcakes. She said, “Now, don’t cry, because I’ll lose it.  I wanted to try and brighten your day just a little bit. I know it doesn’t take the pain away, but I’m doing this anyway.”  She gave us two cupcakes from the bakery next door to celebrate Leo’s life. 

God is always letting us know that there is more to this world than meets the eye and that small acts of kindness go a long way. 

#8daysoftrust