The snuggle that never was

I believe I’ve talked about Declan’s blanket here before. Actually, it wasn’t a special blankie bought for him by us or some other loving family member or friend. It is, in fact, one of those fleece tie blankets given to us by the hospital. It is the last blanket we held our baby in. It says ‘I (heart) Mommy’ and ‘I (heart) Daddy’ all over.

Declans blankie
Declan’s Blankie

I think I slept with it every night for the first 2 years or so. (I even took it on business trips initially until Stan pointed out how truly precious it is and what if by some chance it were to be lost. I was so caught up in having a piece of him with me, I didn’t really think through all that it meant.) I even cried the day I washed it by accident. I’m a little more (ahem) stable about it now.

I don’t sleep with it every night any more but it’s always right by my bedside, either next to Declan’s picture or folded next to it. The last few weeks, I’ve been sleeping with it more. These weeks leading up to today are pretty mentally taxing but really I just love having a piece of him to cuddle.

As I mentioned yesterday, the boys were at camp so Cole slept with me last night. (Not all together shocking if you know us … I’m a softie and would let the boys sleep with me every night but that’s another post and therapy session.)

I woke up at some point during the night with Cole snuggled up next to me and Declan’s blankie in between us. I was half awake but felt like this is what is should be … my two babies, snuggling with Mommy. I thought I would get mad at the fact that it was a blanket not Declan in between us but I didn’t. I felt a really strange sense of peace. I just knew he was there in between us and it felt awesome. I fell back asleep with a smile on my face.

Sure, I’m always a little upset about stuff like this because it should never be as I describe. Our life without Declan is what it is and while I would give just about anything for it to be different, I am learning to enjoy these moments for what they are … not what they are not.

That empty feeling

I dropped the boys off to camp tonight (just the older boys). It was a momentous occasion for Brady. You see this was the first time he was eligible for BRASS Camp. BRASS Camp is a camp run by the amazing folks at SpecialLove, specialove.org, for the BRothers And SiSters of children who are, have or died from pediatric cancer. Will has gone since the month before Declan died and has had nothing but great experiences. He loves it and has been waiting for the chance to share it with Brady. Brady hit the magic number on his last birthday, lucky #7.

We’ve been caught up in the excitement since the boys applications arrived and today was the big day! I was excited for them to have this experience together and, well, I guess I was focusing on the getting ready and coaching up Brady on being away from home etc. So caught up, I didn’t coach myself up on the fact that this is Brady’s first time away from home when he wasn’t with relatives. Ack!

As I sat in the parking lot getting ready to pull away, that feeling I have become all to accustomed too, returned to my chest. That heavy feeling. The feeling of loss. I know, I know … what’s with the high drama, Sherri? Yes, it sounds dramatic but it has similar tones to losing Declan. It’s that feeling you can’t stifle but also can’t do anything about. The connection broken, or better yet, stretched. Maybe that’s why my heart hurts. My heart strings, attached to all of my boys, are being pulled taut tonight (and every night since August 18th, 2010) because (some of) my boys are somewhere I am not.

It’s similar to what I feel with Declan. So many have asked and there really is no way to explain this feeling. This picture, recently posted by my friend at A Bed For My Heart, really hits the nail.

Bereavement

Frankly, this is as close as I want any of you to come to understanding this loss but I still want to try to help people understand. Kind of silly but on some level I think it helps … who you may ask? Probably just me but that’s one person, right?

I hear “I just can’t imagine”, a lot. I try to figure out ways to scratch the surface and tonight seems like a decent way. We’ve all had that experience where we drop our child(ren) off somewhere and as we leave that warmth in our chest spreads to heat, grabs hold and just sort of settles in. You try to will it away with deep breaths but its remains. That sense of discomfort in knowing, no matter how amazing the people you left your child(ren) with, they aren’t you. They won’t ever do it as good as you (even in all my imperfectness … I’m imperfectly perfect for them.)

The death of a child has its roots in this feeling. I will grant you … God is a pretty damn good substitute but he’s still not me. Nothing will ever be as good as me (or Stan) Even God. Sorry God, we’ve chatted about this … I know you understand my feelings on this topic. It lingers, never far from the surface, never really loosening its grip.

And yet, life goes on … just as it will while the boys are at camp … it will just be different, a bit unbalanced, until we are all together again. You can relate, right?

A visit with my sweet boy

Sunday is, typically, the day we head over to the cemetery to visit with Declan. Most times we go as a family and sometimes we meet up with different family members. (Hey weeds, in case you were wondering. You don’t stand a chance … Grandad won’t stand for it.)

Today, due to some miss cues and a basketball game, I ended up going by myself. I haven’t done that in a really long time and wish I could have stayed all day. The weather was comfy (for early March in the mid-Atlantic), the sun was shining and my coffee was steamy. I proceeded to prop myself up against the little tree that sits next to our plots (ultimately, Declan will be between me and Stan). We chose the location because of the little tree; it was new, like Declan, when we came looking for his final resting spot. We just knew it was the right place for us to be with him, to share the beauty of this little tree as it grows. Kind of poetic, in a not so lovely sort of way, considering we were burying our baby. We decided we would enjoy its shade in the warm, summer months and its changes during fall and spring. It even has a small nest in it … the circle of life.

As I sat there chatting with Declan, I noticed the birds chirping. It struck me because, well, it has been damn cold here and I just wasn’t thinking the birds should be back from their treks down south. And yet, they were. I let the sun warm my face as I closed my eyes and enjoyed their beautiful melodies. I felt warmth growing but not from the outside. Rather it was coming from the inside. The connection, so strong and never broken, between a Mommy and her baby. It was just lovely.

I lingered as long as I could but had to leave to make sure we arrived at basketball on-time (Stan, I know you’re laughing … I swear I tried to get there on-time.!) Anyway, as I was pulling away in the car, I felt the urge to listen to some tunes. (Sidebar … I typically don’t listen to music on the way to the cemetery when I go by myself. Not sure why, I just don’t.) So I turned on the radio to find Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird on but it was the lyrics that had me catch my breath. “I’m as free as a bird now.” It all came together for me. My sweet baby, letting me know he is free. He is free and, most of all, he is ok. I love how he lets me know. It’s hard to explain why I know it’s him, I just do and it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good to know he’s always with me and that he knows when I need a little extra from him.

He’s not here in the traditional sense and, well, it blows but I love that our relationship still grows. The bond that neither time nor distance can break. I love you, baby.