Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blessings...

The rumors are true. I'm struggling a little. Physically...as I am finally miscarrying one or both of those little embryos we worked so hard to keep and not feeling well at all. And mentally as I feel like all the events of the last weeks, months...even years...have caught up to me. I'm definitely feeling sorry for myself.

But do not feel sorry for me. And do not worry. This, like everything, will soon just be part of my story. Despite what I may be going through internally, I had fun today with the boys.

Today is Thanksgiving and we are spending the day as we had planned...in our pajamas and enjoying each other. The boys and I made our own version of "Hand Turkeys" and I was so proud of Gavin for allowing me to hold his hand down while I traced it.

Brian loved the activity and I got teary as I pictured him doing things like this in his new pre-school. (Which is definitely a "go" come January)


Ed has been spending most of the day preparing a Thanksgiving feast (and perusing the black friday ads!). He's putting our turkey in our new "Oilless Turkey Fryer" and making stuffing and green bean casserole. I'm making Yams au Gratin with Gruyere cheese. Thanksgiving dinner to me, though, is just that - a dinner. In all sincerity, I feel like every day is Thanksgiving. Even in the darkest hours, I know I have much to be thankful for.

My favorite song over this past year has been "Blessings" by Laura Story. If you listen to it here, it sums up how I truly feel. I may not always get what I ask for...pray for...long for. But sometimes my greatest blessings come from my greatest disappointments. I feel grateful that I am able to realize that.

I remain crushed that my Dad died. But so grateful that I knew what true love from a great Dad felt like for 41 years. So grateful that I knew he loved me so much - and told me. So grateful that he knew I loved him - and those were the last words we spoke to each other the Sunday before he died.

And I am so thankful for my Mom. She has been a Mom, a Mommy, a fantastic Granny, a friend and a confidante. Everyone should be so lucky.

And when I look around my very own house - I feel such gratitude. A husband who loves us. A son who teaches me every day to try and try again and never give up.

And another son who reminds me that laughter really is the best medicine.
I don't need a national holiday to celebrate them.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Butterflies...

I woke up this morning with butterflies. Today was the day Brian and I were visiting a potential school for him. The school that was recommended because of his speech delay. I spent more time than usual choosing his outfit and smoothing out his hair.

I'm not quite sure why I was so anxious. Perhaps it's because it seemed like such a big day - a rite of passage. Maybe it's because I was so against sending Gavin to school and I wasn't quite sure how I was supposed to feel about sending Brian. Maybe it's because I was afraid I would hate it. Or that Brian would hate it.


And to be honest...I was also afraid I would love it.

Aunt Bean got here to stay with Gavin and Brian and I made our way over to the school in the rain. It's definitely close enough - about 10-15 minutes from our home. Under our shared umbrella, Brian held my hand and jumped in every puddle we passed as we walked to the door. We were greeted by Jessica, the service coordinator from the county. She was Gavin's coordinator as well and was so wonderful when I told her I didn't want to send him to school last year. Miss Janna, Gavin's teacher, was there to greet us, too! She and Miss Maggie share an office in the school. We walked down the hallway to the classroom and it was clear when we got to the door that they were expecting us.

It was snack time when we arrived. Two boys and two girls sat in little cube chairs around a table. I soon heard "I want to meet him - can I go meet him?" when one of the boys knew that a new kid was standing outside. By this time, Brian was hiding his eyes and backing up away from the door. I picked him up and we walked into the classroom. The kids went around their table and introduced themselves, which was so cute! Brian kept his hands over his eyes. Then they moved over to the "dramatic play" area where they had a toy kitchen and store. Brian kept his hands over his eyes. They pretended to blend fruit in a blender...to shop for food and bring it to the cash register...and to drink tea. Brian kept his hands over his eyes. At one point a cute little boy went up to Brian and confidently confronted him. "Why are you doing that? I want to play with you!!"

I didn't expect to like it. But I did. Brian slowly warmed up and, although he remained quiet and a bit shy, I could tell he liked it, too. The teachers were warm and inviting. The classroom was bright and organized. The daily schedule seemed fun and consistent. The teacher has a communication book that goes back and forth each day so we can write notes to each other. And my biggest fear - that Brian would be in a classroom of kids who had the same speech delays as he did? Erased within the first half a minute. To be honest, I have no idea what any of the other kids' issues are. Not a clue. They seemed completely typical to me!

I had one important question for the teacher.

I asked, "So...have you ever had an overprotective Mom stop by to peek into the classroom...or spy through the windows? I mean - I've heard about these kind of crazy Moms I'm not saying I am one or anything."

"No, I really haven't," she replied.

Crap. Well, I guess there's always a first.
I haven't 100% made up my mind, but I will say that I am not opposed to this school for my little guy. The program is Monday through Thursday from 8:45 - 11:30. They do have bus transportation. I'll give you three guesses if I'd use it. And the first two guesses don't count.

Would you like to know what Brian's opinions are? Check out my post-visit interview with him...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Bread Therapy...

I've been putting off writing my journal entry all day. Why? I'm not sure! I think I'm just...blah. I'm still not quite right after all that's happened over the last several weeks. The IVF experience, my Dad's sudden death, the funeral, the positive pregnancy test that turned into a negative. I definitely feel like I've been on a roller coaster - and the ride hasn't come to a complete stop just yet.

But one thing I can guarantee you right now - I'll be fine. My Dad was a very positive person. I'd like to think I get that from him. He could always rise above anything... and he was the master at spinning a negative into a positive. I feel like if I stay stuck in a depressed mood I would be disrespecting him. I owe it to him - and all he taught me - and all he did for me - to be happy.

BUT...to be fair, it is pretty darn hard to be sad in my house. Gavin and Brian see to that every single day.

Last time I wrote, I had just found out that my very short pregnancy was over. I was told to stop all of my medications and to expect a very heavy period. Then I was to make an appointment for this Wednesday so they can be sure my Beta level is back down to zero. Well, nothing major or even close to "heavy" has happened. I don't know what to think, but I'm certainly not getting my hopes up or expecting any miraculous news come Wednesday.

I had a few emails from concerned readers wondering why I would do something stupid like announce a pregnancy so early. Well, thanks for your concern. I decided to share my entire IVF journey. I think it would kind of suck if I left out the ending each month, don't you think?

Ed and I decided to skip town for a change of scenery. I needed to laugh...to eat a lot...to have a place to sob alone in a room if I wanted (and I did) without little ears to hear me. We ended up going to a show at the hotel. The comedienne, Kathy Griffin, was not only there...but her show was being filmed for an upcoming special on Bravo in December!! And not only that...we scored seats in the FRONT ROW!! Coincidentally, I found this out at the same time I came to a shocking realization that my hair looked stupid, I was dressed like a "Mom" and I had almost no makeup on. Basically, totally camera ready (if you are watching "What Not to Wear"). This was our view...

We definitely laughed a lot. That will make up for the crying I'll surely do when I see myself on TV in December. Ha!

The show ended late so we headed back up to our room to go to sleep. I was miraculously woken up by the tiny bing of my phone - I still can't believe I heard it from across the room. It was Katja's boyfriend. Katja was staying with the boys at our house - and she was having severe abdominal pain. Her boyfriend was scared and thought he needed to take her to the emergency room. Ed and I immediately packed up - we were in total "parent mode." Katja is like family to us and we were very concerned for her well being! I made some calls and my friend, Drew, ended up picking up the phone at 1am - thank God. He rushed over to our house and stayed there until we got home two hours later. Katja spent hours and hours in the E.R.; but thankfully it was nothing terribly serious. She is taking off this week to rest and recover.

Sunday was busy at our house. I'm back to interviewing for a new helper and ended up meeting with three candidates yesterday afternoon. They were all very good! While I was grilling...er, I mean getting to know...the girls, Ed was busy with his new toy. He got an "Oilless Turkey Fryer" and was dying to try it. It's a pretty cool contraption! He hooked it up to a propane tank on the deck and it cooked the turkey in just a few hours. Ten minutes for each pound - and it came out great. Crispy skin...and tender meat. I bet our whole neighborhood smelled our turkey!! (You're welcome)
My sister, Bean, came to help me today for a few hours. Gavin had his four year old physical at the pediatrician. We haven't seen Dr. Forman in a long time - which is a great thing! We feel so fortunate to love both of our pediatricians and we recommend them to everyone in town.
I am very happy and proud to say that Gavin is officially "on the charts." He weighed in at a whopping 28.8 pounds and he's 37 1/2 inches. That puts him in the 10-25th percentile. Woo Hoo! He had to get a few shots today, too. He took them like a champ, as always.

When we got home we had a quick lunch before Gavin's teacher, Miss Janna, arrived. I think that's when the discomfort started to kick in. Poor Gavin. When bubbles don't cheer him up, you know he's got to be hurting...

We ended today with a nice treat. My Mom made a ton of pumpkin bread the other day (yes, the same Mom that just lost her husband - can you believe her??) and we were one of the lucky recipients. We all enjoyed a piece as a snack. Brian was signing more before he was even finished what he had!
And even Gavin...who had been so grumpy and sad all afternoon...was smiling and happy eating Granny's pumpkin bread.
Yep - it's pretty darn hard to be sad around here for long.

p.s. I'm on a mission to find a copy of my Dad's obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer. I was lucky enough that two friends found copies...and I just need one more for my sister. If anyone happened to save a copy - or still has their Inquirer from November 8 - I would be SO grateful. I know it's a longshot...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just That Quickly...


...it's over.

I just got the call from the fertility doctor. My beta number went from 89 to an 82. They told me to stop all of my medications and come back on Tuesday for a repeat blood test. They need to follow my number down to zero to be sure the pregnancy is gone.

Needless to say, I'm crushed. Pissed. Devastated.

Needless to say I am boycotting fairy tales from now on. And, come to think of it, re-runs of the Ghost Whisperer, too.

And needless to say, I feel sad. I really believed that with all that was stacked against me over the last few weeks, that God wouldn't take this from me.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

Ed is taking me for a change of scenery for a couple days. I'm sorry to leave you again, but I won't be back until Sunday or Monday on this blog. I just want to be invisible, needless to say.

UGH.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering...

I realized yesterday, after I caught you up on the results of our IVF journey, that I've left you hanging on several other topics. So today, because I am sad and unmotivated, I'll just post random, gratuitous and adorable photos of the boys from today...

and also update you on things like...

Genetic Testing

In July, I wrote that Gavin was getting some additional genetic testing. The results had come back that Gavin had a small deletion on his third chromosome - and it was a "familial variant" which means it came from me or Ed. The official name, for any genetic junkies like me, is 3p12.1. So he went back for more testing, and so did we. He was also tested for FG Syndrome which seemed like a good fit, but the results came back negative for that. The final results came back right before I started IVF (otherwise known as: when time froze). It turned out that Gavin inherited the small deletion from me. What does that mean? Not much. (except to add to my Mommy guilt) It's possible Gavin's genetic issues don't even have a name yet. But as science improves, we get closer to a diagnosis for him. I would say that 90% of the time his "diagnosis," or lack thereof, is the last thing on my mind.

Gavin's Special Needs Bed

See: When time froze when we started IVF. I have the insurance check in my "to do" pile but haven't sent it yet to the bed manufacturer. I'm considering this my formal reminder.

Brian's Evaluation

The results came back from Brian's big evaluation. No big surprise, they said he had a speech delay. They also said he had some developmental delays. I took that with a grain of salt - there were things that we know he can do (and does on a daily basis) but he didn't perform during the evaluations. But he was scored low for not dressing himself. I guess that's my fault - I always dress him. He helps a little, but he could never put all of his clothes on himself. I didn't know 2-2 1/2 year olds did. They had one single recommendation for a pre-school with a special-ed classroom. I go to visit with Brian early next week. I hope I like this school because, believe it or not, I am pretty convinced that Brian would LOVE pre-school for a few hours a week. He's fun to watch with other kids and I think he will really thrive.

Help at Home

I have had a string of bad luck finding a replacement since Miss Katja left. She is here Tuesday and Thursday morning's for 3-4 hours to help me, but the rest of the time she's happy at my neighbor's house. If you forgot, I had to find a replacement for Katja after she told me that she couldn't do the Hyperbaric Oxygen with Gavin - which is a big part of the job. But with the bad luck I've had since - Gavin hasn't done the chamber in I don't know how long. So do I regret saying goodbye to Katja? Ummm....totally!!!!!

This has been the worst time to not have someone here. While my Dad was in the hospital, we were scrambling because I clearly wouldn't bring them with me. Ed took so much time off from his brand new job - I felt horrible. And the days of the viewing, funeral and burial were very stressful until Miss Kara saved the day. She actually called out from her job in order to help us. Needless to say, I was extremely relieved. Our next choice was for me to go alone without Ed...and I really, really didn't want to do that. I don't think people realize that we just can't hire a "babysitter" like everyone else. You really need a two week orientation before you stay with Gavin - he's not your typical four year old. I can't just have a teenager come by. It's complicated. So, I'm back to taking applications and have a list of about seven people to schedule for interviews as soon as possible.

Responding to mail

I feel so grateful for the emails, the sympathy cards and the texts that were sent to me when my Dad died. I am hoping to acknowledge each one. The last week has not only been busy...but emotionally draining. And now my sisters and I are working on a mountain of thank you notes for my Mom. Each message meant so much to me. I'd often just sit and look through my phone in the midst of the chaos and your messages really helped me gather my strength.

Organ Donation

Tomorrow evening I will be attending the viewing for Caroline, my cousin Jean's daughter. I don't know how to prepare MYSELF...I can't even imagine what they must be going through. I'm grateful to my sister, Bean, who is having me drop the boys off at her house so I can go to the viewing first...and then she will go when I get back.

In an act of selflessness, Caroline's Mom and Dad donated her organs. Do you know that through her death FOUR lives were saved? Caroline was very involved in a special charity that I'd love to share with you. Warriors for Tim was created by Tim's family. Tim died at the age of 13 after succumbing to the H1N1 and a secondary infection. Organ and tissue donation might have saved him, but it took too long to find a donor. The family had asked that "In lieu of flowers" donations be made in Caroline's memory to this worthy charity. So I thought I would put it out there for anyone interested in making a charitable donation this holiday season. You won't need to put an address if you list that the donation is in memory of Caroline Gallagher. The family will be notified, I have been told. I feel so very helpless to help them...sharing a charity that is important to them feels like something practical I can do.

And finally...

Tomorrow is my second beta blood test. Let's all make a wish for a big, HUGE number!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Welcome to Heaven...


The post embryo transfer instructions were strict - bedrest for two days, no lifting, no exercise (that one was easy)...blah blah blah. The first two days I spent in bed, as you know. I had Ed buy a truckload of pineapples and ate them day and night - hoping to help with implantation of an embryo or two. I tried to do every thing by the book to protect these two little "so-so" embryos that we worked so hard for.


But then, I got the call. And we all know what happened next. I spent day and night at the hospital. I tried hard over that weekend, as my Dad lay dying, to remember to sit...to eat...to drink. It was suggested that I go home several times...that I rest...that I calm down. But for me it was about weighing my regrets. And potentially sacrificing the IVF process in order to be there with my Dad was a no brainer. My greatest regret would have been not being there for him in his final hours.

In order to tell this story properly, though, I must backtrack a little. My Dad had his massive stroke before the sun came up - early on Friday morning, November 4th. That same morning in my house, I got up at my usual time - around 7 - and took a pregnancy test. It was way earlier than the suggested test date, but I'm an addict. I looked down and, much to my surprise, it was positive. I called the fertility clinic and spoke to the IVF nurse - "Could it be?" She didn't get overly excited - just told me to stop testing (yeah, right) and wait a week and a half for my blood test.

But then I got the call. When I got to the hospital and we found out that my Dad was not going to survive - it was hard for me not to think, "Could it be...?" There were so many distractions in the days after, but I tested every morning until today. And I remained...
...pregnant.

I went in for my first blood test to confirm pregnancy today. They count the day of egg retrieval as ovulation day so today I would be considered 17 days past ovulation. At day 17, the average beta is 132 with a typical range of 17-249. My beta number came back at 89. The important test will be this Thursday when they will check it again. If it goes up, we're good. If it goes down, I will stop all my medications (progesterone, estrace, baby aspirin) and we'll be back at square one. For some reason, I really don't think that will happen this time.

I swore I wouldn't go here...wouldn't do this...wouldn't admit this...or write this. But I can't resist. It's really hard to not see this as something my Dad orchestrated. This is how I can totally see it happening:

"Mr. Gallagher, welcome to Heaven! We've been waiting for you. We got the message you sent ahead of time...asking for a favor for your daughter? Please be assured we have our angels working on it. Now, can we take you to your orientation breakfast?"

"Maybe later...can I speak to your supervisor?"

"Mr. Gallagher, we have your parents...your brothers...your sister...your nephew...your granddaughter here. Would you like to see them?"

"In a minute - promise - I have something important to do."

"Mr. Gallagher, Jesus is right here waiting to see you!"

"Ah...just the man I want to talk to. Before I fully commit to death, can I ask for one special favor?"

I'm kidding, of course, but if you knew my Dad - you'd know that he would move Heaven and Earth for his children. Sometimes I thought he was magical - he could make anything happen for us! It just didn't surprise me that with "so-so" embryos...extreme stress and a tragedy that I got pregnant at all. And then spending hours on my feet greeting people in a viewing line - getting little to no sleep for a weeks time...that I remained pregnant.

I knew the day of his funeral would be long. I decided at the last minute to pack a change of clothes, which I haphazardly threw into a beat up plastic grocery bag that I grabbed from our pantry. We had a big luncheon after the funeral mass and when we finally got back to my parent's house, I was exhausted. I went up into their bedroom to have a little cry and change into jeans before I went back down to face more people. I pulled my clothes out of the ripped up bag and went to set the bag back down on a wooden chair.

"clink"

I lifted the bag back up - what was that? I set the bag back down.

"clink"

I looked in the bag and didn't see anything. I was about to write it off - I didn't really care about much that day (or the day before - or the day after). I set the bag back down again.

"clink"

Curiosity got the best of me. I reached into the bag - saw several holes at the bottom - put my fingers into the folds and felt something. When I pulled it out and saw what it was I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a Saint Gerard Medal.

In the Catholic faith, Saint Gerard is the patron saint of expectant mothers. I know I have ONE medal in my home...and it's hanging on a paper clip on my refrigerator at all times. It was given to me by my neighbor, Anne. But I knew there was no way it hopped from the paper clip to the bag. And when I got home, with my newly found medal in my hand, I immediately checked the refrigerator and there was my other medal...just where I left it. So how did that medal get into a beat up shopping bag with holes in the bottom that had been shoved with a hundred other bags in my pantry because we haven't gotten into re-usable bags yet - don't judge??

Ask my Dad.

So...in conclusion...please, please pray for this little baby of mine. I can't help but have a bit of caution after countless miscarriages and a stillbirth. So when I have doubt, please keep hope. The last several weeks have been a complete and total roller coaster of emotions for me. I don't think I have to tell you this - but if this doesn't work out...well, you know. It would be pretty awful.

So there you have it. You're all caught up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eulogy to my Father...

On 41 Years.

I spent 41 years being loved, raised properly, emotionally supported and cheered from the sidelines by the same man. I was tucked in bed, taken on incredible vacations, comforted after a bad dream, comforted after a terrible date, and lectured over a thousand times by the same man. I learned to swim, ride a bike, shoot a basket (kind of), jitterbug and appreciate big band music from the same man. To this same man, I pretended to ignore his advice and feign embarrassment and act like my problems were none of his business for a stretch of years. In reality, I hung on this man's every word...every word...for 41 years. I was taught to catch a typo, write a good letter, work a room, respect my elders and give a good handshake by the same man. For 41 years, this man made me feel like I could walk on water...but I knew that was because he was holding me up.


On Love.

I learned to love without conditions. He loved me when I gave him reasons to brag. He loved me even more when I royally screwed up. He loved my brothers - and I see so much of him in them. He adored my sisters. And, lucky for all of us, he loved our husbands and wives. I think each one of them would say they felt like he treated them like they were one of his own. He showed us that a marriage is never perfect...but your love for your spouse is. He wasn't afraid to proclaim his devotion to our Mom. He's grab her for a smooch in front of anyone. He'd grab her for a slow dance in the kitchen while dinner was on the stove. He would randomly bring home a single red rose for her...brag about her...and write her poems. His last words to her before he suffered a massive stroke in his sleep - "Happy Birthday!" And days later she would discover that before he went to bed on the eve of her birthday, he composed his last love letter...his last poem...almost like he knew. My sister said it best in her beautiful eulogy. The girls wanted to BE our Mother...and MARRY our Dad. He was full of love...for everyone.

One of the most emotional moments in the hospital was between him and my Mom. Their "song" was "Always," by Irving Berlin. I downloaded it to my phone and placed it on my Dad's pillow. We all watched...sharing a box of tissues between us...as my Mom gently took his hand and closed her eyes. She smiled sweetly and swayed with the music. When the song was over, she slowly opened her eyes and said, "Well, Tom...we just had our last dance."

On Lessons.

I learned so many lessons from this man. My favorite story was the one he would tell about his own Dad. He would describe his Dad as a "simple carpenter" and every time he spoke of him his eyes were filled with admiration. My Dad, in college at the time, was sitting at the kitchen table doing some difficult Trigonometry. His Dad, peering over his shoulder, asked if he could help. My Dad scoffed, saying "What would you know about Trigonometry, Dad??" And then his Dad sat down...and showed him just what he knew. I heard that story so many times in 41 years...and it would always end this way: "Kate, don't ever think you're so smart that you can't learn from someone else."

On Humility.

There were so many things my Dad had a right to brag about. But he never would. There were so many acts of kindness and times that he "saved the day" for people - and would either never tell them (or anyone) or never want credit. My Dad practiced "Random Acts of Kindness" way before it was cool. He didn't get caught up in the trappings of materialism or social status. There are so many things that people may not know about my Dad. He was so smart - in math, history, english, world affairs. He was creative - wrote plays, song lyrics, could sketch. He was a great singer. Ok, maybe not that.

On Charity.

My Dad loved to volunteer and I think, perhaps, it could be my favorite quality of his. He grew up very poor in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood and he knew what it was like to go without. He was always looking for ways to help others. My Mom would tell a story of him dressing up as Santa and delivering toys to a poor (and large!) family in their neighborhood. Never wanting recognition, he would just leave the bag of toys on their doorstep. He would tell me he'd never give money to a beggar on the street - he knew it would go to something unhealthy. Instead he'd say, "Are you hungry?" and often take them to get something to eat. He would pick up hitch hikers (before the world went crazy!) and get them safely to their destination. When I was in high school, I decided to boycott Thanksgiving dinner with the family. I wanted to spend the day with people less fortunate - less fortunate in resources and in family. Instead of forbidding me, my Dad joined me a few times. And then he joined me in visiting elderly shut-ins on Christmas day. When planning his funeral and writing his obituary, my Mom asked that donations go to the Salvation Army. Why? Well, when my Dad was in boot camp for the Navy, he took a trip home to visit his Father. He fell asleep in the bus station and his wallet was stolen. Turned away by other charities, it was the Salvation Army that gave him the bus fare to get home to see his Dad. My Dad never forgot that - and has been loyal to the Salvation Army ever since.

In his honor, I would love for you to remember that story this holiday season. When you see the Salvation Army bell ringers - drop in whatever you can. A nickel...a quarter...a dollar. And when you do, think of my Dad...and his generous spirit.


On Pop.

His first grandchild, Emily Grace, was born in 1988 - the year I graduated from high school. He went on to add 19 more. I secretly envy all the grandchildren born before his first stroke in 2003. He was able to swim with them, hit a baseball with them...and simply hold them. But after his stroke, he still interacted with his grandchildren and even learned to hold our babies with his one good arm. When Gavin was born and in the NICU, he came to the hospital and sang to him as he held him in a rocking chair. He and Gavin had a special bond - two guys whose muscles didn't work very well. Two guys who needed assistance. Two guys who had a determination that was amazing to watch. And Brian...he loved his Pop. They shared many laughs together.


On Death.

His death was inevitable, we were told. The stroke he suffered was so massive that there was no way he would recover, we were told. Five children and my Mother - some grandchildren and some sons and daughters-in-law all crowded the room from Friday to Sunday night. He had a living will - no extraordinary measures. Part of me was okay with that - thinking he was extraordinary enough to survive without them. Make the greatest comeback of all time. But most of me was devastated. I was obsessed with how "no extraordinary measures" would affect him. Would he suffer? Would he feel like he was suffocating? Drowning? Would he feel abandoned? Lonely? Scared? Would he feel pain? My mission was to ask a ton of questions - get all the facts - and stay on the nurses to make sure he got his pain medications. I needed to be busy - have a job - and that was it. My Dad would have done the same thing for me. For anyone. The night I slept in the bed next to his, I set my phone's alarm for every two hours. If the nurse didn't come in with his morphine, I was out in the hall looking for her. I was obsessed...it was how I dealt with feeling SO out of control. I knew he wouldn't die the night I was there. I knew he wouldn't die in front of any of the women in our family. He was too protective of us. The next night, my brother Mike said he'd sleep over. My Mother, my two sisters and I kissed him goodbye after 11pm and went home. I was just crawling into bed when my brother called. He had the privilege of being there for my Dad's last breath at 12:15am. My Dad was there for Mike's first breath...and Mike was there for my Dad's last.

On His Body.

I had a hard time throughout all of this ordeal with leaving my Dad's body. I never wanted him to be alone in the hospital bed - and he wasn't ever alone for long. The night he died we all waited until the funeral home came to pick him up. As much as we LOVE this funeral home and it's funeral director - as much as we trust them - the feeling of giving up control of my Dad's helpless body to someone other than family was so difficult for me. I dealt with this by finding a job. I made sure the funeral director knew my demands - make sure he's clean shaven...trim his hair - he's a well groomed man, you know! He combs his hair from left to right. No makeup! I was...obsessed. And the funeral director was...patient. And very understanding. When we were finally able to see him at the viewing, I found myself brushing lint off of his suit like a fussy wife. Making sure his collar was flat and smoothing out his hair. I wanted him to look as perfect to the world as he was to me. It was just how I dealt with it.

By far the hardest moment? Driving away from the cemetery. Leaving his body alone. Sure, I know it's just a shell - I know it's not "him". But the thought of leaving his body behind is more than I can bear. The arms that held me as a baby...the hands that let go of my bike...the legs that creaked up the stairs and prompted me to quick jump in bed...the back that carried so many of my burdens...the face that was always quick to smile, share a story or a song...and make me laugh...the head that was filled with knowledge. I'm finding it very hard to let go. Very kind people have been saying to me over the last week, "He'll always be in your heart" and "You'll see him in your children" and "You'll feel his spirit" and "You have your memories." I appreciate all of that - and in my head I know it's true. But these people never had a 'knocker' from my Dad (a special kiss that makes everything better - always). They never felt his great hug. They were never swung around on the dance floor with a crowd of people cheering and smiling. They never snuggled up in his arms like I did - even as an adult. His body...his physical presence means so much to me.

On the Funeral.

I sure hate it when people say, "He/she looks so good." when they look into a casket. But I said it. My Dad looked handsome, dignified, and peacefully asleep. I didn't imagine saying "That was a beautiful funeral," but I did. The music, the homily, the flowers. Three incredible eulogies given by my brother, Mike, my sister, Meg and my brother, Tom. Over 400 people attended his funeral mass alone. His sendoff began at 11am on 11/11/2011...Veteran's Day. I felt like I was greeting a never ending stream of friends, relatives, and...quite frankly..."fans." My Dad was well liked by everyone. It was a devastating day for each one of us...but I felt like it was a tribute befitting a superhero. My original superhero. I also realized just how important support is now that I've seen the "other side." I was grateful to see a neighbor, a high school friend and a few close friends that came for me. It meant way more to me than I imagined it would. Thank you to everyone who came to say goodbye to my Dad. The military ceremony at the cemetery was moving. Taps, gun salute, the folding of the flag. There was a big mistake when they announced him as a "Petty Officer" when, indeed, he was a Captain in the Navy. But my humble father would have laughed that off...and maybe not even corrected them.

On Attitude.

By far the greatest gift my Dad gave to all of us? He taught us all the importance of having a positive attitude. He would say things like this: "If you were in a room full of people...and everyone threw their problems on the table...you'd grab your own and run!", "Adversity makes you bitter or better," "Winners never quit - and quitters never win," and, always, "Keep the faith." My Dad could spin any situation and somehow see the positive. He never let anything "beat him." I know I've written this a hundred times, but when he had his stroke - it was SIX months before my wedding. I was the last of his daughters to walk down the aisle...his baby. For years we had planned our dance - our own jitterbug routine. Others around him in the rehab center gave up...gave in...but not my Dad. For him, this was just a blip in the radar. He worked so hard and on my wedding day he walked down a very long aisle holding onto nothing but my arm. Since 2003, my Dad never...ever...complained about his condition. He worked hard to stay as independent as possible. He had the best attitude. I was always inspired by that - and strive to stay positive even when it feels hard to stay upright.

I will remind myself of my Dad's positivity and his great attitude when I find myself missing him. When I feel angry that he won't be here to see Gavin take his first solo steps. When I feel sad that he won't be here to hear Brian start talking. I will remind myself that in Heaven, my Dad now has legs that work...arms that are free...a heart that is un-burdened...and ears that can hear all of my daily updates. And, perhaps my greatest comfort, he can hold Darcy Claire in his arms until I get there.

I love you, Dad. I will miss you forever. And even though I feel my world has been turned upside down at the moment...I promise...I will keep the faith.

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It is with great sadness that I report that my cousin, Jean, and her husband, Kevin's gorgeous teenage daughter, Caroline, tragically passed away. She suffered a massive asthma attack on November 7th which triggered cardiac arrest. After spending all week on a ventilator, she passed away last evening. As a mother, it is very hard for me to process this kind of loss. Jean and Kevin previously lost a son, Michael, who was born still. She was a great support to me when I lost Darcy. Please keep Caroline, her twin brother, Jimmy, and her younger brother Jack in your prayers...along with Jean and Kevin and their families. I have such a large group of supporters through this journal - if each of you says a prayer, sends positive thoughts, or even writes an encouraging note on the CaringBridge page they set up for Caroline...it would mean so much to me. It's something small when I wish I could do SO much more to comfort them. God bless Caroline. And Dad...I know you will take care of your favorite cousin's granddaughter.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blue...

This morning was the first time in days I had a moment to be still. Let me tell you, it's overrated. This week has been so busy as we prepare to bury my Dad. The amount of details and planning and preparing - it's overwhelming. But perhaps it's designed that way. I know for me, staying busy has been keeping me upright. But not this morning. In the stillness with nothing to do but be...I realized just how awful, how shocked, how utterly devastated I am. My Dad was my original superhero.
And now he is gone.


Tonight is the viewing. Tomorrow is the funeral mass. Saturday is his burial with military honors. My family is forgoing the traditional black funeral attire. We are all wearing shades of blue...my Dad's favorite color. You are welcome to wear blue, too. He would love that. I think he thought everyone looked their best in blue. Especially my Mom.

If you are coming, I hope you notice the details. From the music to the program notes to the eulogies to the photos you'll see displayed in the back...everything has a meaning and everything was chosen because we knew it would make my Dad smile. I know he will be there...and I am sure he will say, "Well done" to his children and my Mom. Especially with her in blue.

My Dad would only be upset about one thing. My absence from this blog. He waited for it every day. When I'd call the house he'd ask, "Did you put up your journal yet??" And he printed it out every day. Somewhere there is probably a closet with a stack of papers from floor to ceiling. My Dad made me feel like I was so special...he was my biggest fan.

The next few days will be busy - and I don't know when I'll get back to writing. Please keep us in your thoughts as these few days will not be easy.

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If you missed the arrangement details, they are posted in my previous journal entry. Or you can visit the funeral home's website at www.lownes.com and search for my Dad's name.

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