"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Garrett's Monument

In the nine years of living in our town before Garrett died, I drove past this cemetery hundreds of times.  I never thought twice about it, and I never could have imagined that my own child would be buried there one day.  I remember driving through the gate for the first time about a week after Garrett died, going to meet with the cemetery people to look at plots and start the process.  It was a horrible and surreal experience, one that I hope to never repeat until it's my husband or parents or parents-in-law...and not until they have all lived to a ripe old age.  I don't think I will survive doing this again for another child, or for my husband if he dies young.

We were advised by the cemetery people to not rush into getting a headstone right away.  They said many people feel the need to get it done fast so they can "move on". When in reality, they move too quickly and regret the choice they made for the monument.  We met with the monument company a little before Thanksgiving for our first sit down meeting, to talk about logistics and get a tentative design drafted.  Cody had been tinkering with designs, sketching things on napkins and scraps of paper; it was cathartic for him.  I could barely look at his sketches when he showed them to me because my heart would bleed.  It was Cody's project and it was good for him. But it was bad for me, so I left him to it.

It took 120 days for the granite to be excavated from the quarry and sent to the factory.  Then it took a few more weeks to actually make the monument.  We purchased four plots at the cemetery (which was the minimum we had to buy in order to do an upright monument, as opposed to a flat in ground monument). It was very important to us to do a big upright if at all possible.  Now we know where the next three immediate family members will be buried, God help us when we are forced to deal with that in the future.  We also decided in a granite foundation to go across all four plots; because it made sense financially, and it would make Garrett's monument settle better.

As I said, this project was Cody's baby and he oversaw the whole thing.  He made frequent trips to the factory to see the progress, but I only went twice because it was too hard for me.  I remember the day I went and saw Garrett's name etched across the front and I about fainted.

We decided to put Lightening McQueen and James the Engine on it, which were hand carved by the monument maker.  The quality of it is astonishingly good.  Both Devin and Garrett shared a love of all things Cars and Thomas the Tank Engine, but Garrett especially loved James ("the number five engine") for some reason.  Garrett was by far the most stubborn of our children when it came to potty training, and most things for that matter.  It was a mix of stubbornness and fear that kept him from fully embracing the potty, and I tried just about everything to bribe him into doing it full time.  One day we were at the store and he saw a bright red talking James toy and he lit up.  He wanted the train so badly, but I decided to use it as leverage for the potty.

For a few weeks before he died, I would gently coax him about doing his business full time in the potty and he would say excitedly "And then I get my James!!"

But he never got his James.  I never gave in to his wish, even though I had a nagging voice in my head that told me to just let him get it.  I planned on getting it for him while we were in Texas.  After he died I was at the store and I deliberately walked to the train aisle and stood in front of the Thomas displays and right there staring back at me was James. The exact same James he wanted so badly.  I took the train from the rack and held it against my chest as the sobs violently erupted from me.

I'm sorry, Baby.  I'm sorry I got so frustrated with you and wouldn't let you get the train.  You never asked for much.  You were usually so happy to play with the toys we already had, and you were just...a happy boy.  And that one thing you wanted, the one thing that made your eyes light up at the mere thought, I denied you because I wanted to show YOU who was in charge.  I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.  But here is your James, forever etched into a piece of granite for you.  James, the number five engine...is finally yours.

The monument was finally installed on April 27th and we absolutely love it, in spite of the horrible circumstances.

Garrett's nicknames.  Each one has a significant meaning and a story of how it was acquired.  "No Empty Seats" is a family motto we began shortly after y brother's death six years ago.  It means that when we are all reunited at Heaven's table, we don't want anyone missing.  We don't want any empty seats.

Our family embraced the Jewish tradition of leaving a stone at a loved one's grave, to let people know someone visited them.  We do this at my grandparents' and brother's graves, and my sweet cousin gave me a bag of beautiful stones to use at Garrett's grave when we finally had the monument installed.  So if you are ever there visiting, please take a stone from the jar and place it on the headstone.  It helps is to know people go visit him.  I love this tradition.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Peter Pan Ballet

Hailey and Lauren performed in their ballet studio's amazing production of "Peter Pan" a couple of weeks ago.  The girls were in the same ballet class this year, which was not by accident.  I remember one day in August sitting in the lobby of their studio, trying to muster the courage to fill out the forms to register them for the upcoming year of ballet.  It was something I had done every August for the last four years.  But only one month after Garrett died, I sat on a chair and starred at the blank forms and couldn't see through my tears.  I'd chosen a time of day to go in and register them when I thought the studio would be fairly empty, because I didn't want to make a spectacle of myself in front of other parents.  I was grateful that no one else was there except the studio owner, Jana, and one of the office staff members.

It's taken me several months to be able to fill out any type of form and sign my name to it.  I can finally do it again, but in August I looked at those forms and was taken straight back to the hospital when I literally signed Garrett's life away.  It was the last time I had signed my name to anything, and it was haunting, to say the least.  So I sat there and cried my eyes out, shaking like a leaf, when Jana came over and sat beside me and hugged me and let me cry all I needed to.  Creative Arts Academy is a very unique dance studio, to put it mildly.  Unique because the owners, the teachers, and the staff genuinely care a great deal about the students and their families.  When Garrett died, it took no time at all for word to reach CAA and Jana immediately reached out to me and let me know they wanted to help us in any way they could.  She had no idea how it helped to have her help me sit and register my girls.  It probably seems like a simple thing to most people, but I needed someone to hold my hand and help me walk until I could finally do it on my own again.

Hailey and Lauren danced in the same class when they were three and four years old, but they branched off into different age groups after that.  This year, the studio let my girls dance together again to make it easier on all of us.  For a long time, our kids wouldn't do anything without each other.  Physically being together made things a little better, and CAA was more than willing to accommodate.  It also helped tremendously to not be pulled in a million directions this past year.  With so many therapy appointments and other activities, streamlining at least one activity helped my sanity.  It helped all of us in more ways than one.  It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to help grieve and mourn the loss of a child too.

There was a woman sitting directly behind me and she had to have been at LEAST eleven months pregnant.  I couldn't keep myself from turning around to quickly glance at her a few times during the night, and I was taken back to exactly four year before when I sat through the girls' show of "Romeo and Juliet" when I was eleven months pregnant with Garrett.  It was such a sweet and miserable time for me.  Garrett was born only a few days after that show in 2011.

This year the girls played the part of the Night Sky, when the Darling children are being transported to Neverland.  Little trampolines were hidden behind the clouds and the dancers got to leap off of them.  Their dance was beautiful and fun whimsical.  The entire production was my favorite one to date.  In fact, I took the girls back on the final night of the show so they could actually sit and watch it, when they were not performing.  They were mesmerized through the entire thing, and I was too.

Their wonderful teacher, Miss Alyssa.

Hailey and her good friend from school, Anna.

Grandma and Grandpa Andrew came into town to see the show and it was great to have them there.