The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

One Year "Angel-Anniversary"

Today I am going to keep it short and sweet. There really isn't much to say on such a somber occasion. This is the first entry I ever wrote in my personal journal to McKenna after she passed away. I feel like it is a good summary of my feelings of her today. Just goes to show time does not change much when it comes to the love you have for your child. I feel just as strongly as I did when I wrote this a little less then a year ago.

" It's been 1 week and 1 day since you have passed away. It's hard to believe it's already been a week. Sometimes it feels like it has been a year, others only a day. I dreamed of you for the first time last night which has made this day even harder to bare. It's Easter Sunday, the whole family is here, everyone excited to do the egg hunt, eat candy and hang out. I can never seem to get you off my mind, not even for a second. I am always thinking of our time together or imagining the time we could have had together. I can easily imagine you doing the Easter egg hunt, You would have loved it so much. I know how clever you are, you would have had it figured out in no time, I can just see the joy on your face with every egg you found and even more excitement once you realized there was candy inside of it. I wish we could have really shared this memory. I wish you were here, I wish I had more then just dreams and a lock of your hair. It's hard to breath, it's hard to eat, it's hard to speak. The dream of you last night was bitter sweet. It was so good to see you last night. I held you in my arms and told you how much I loved you. For some reason you didn't have a voice but you kept mouthing to me that you loved me too with your beautiful sweet smile. You embraced all my kisses and hugs, you petted my face the way you always have. I asked why you couldn't just stay here with me even though you didn't have a voice but you just continued to hug and kiss me and mouth to me "I love you". We did this till I woke up at 5am to your little sister crying. I fed her but found it impossible to go back to sleep. McKenna I love you so much. I can't say that enough. I miss you beyond words. This house is not a home with out you in it. The service Friday was beautiful. Daddy says he knows you were there and I know you loved the balloons. Over 300 pink balloons were released with 300 messages to you. I don't know how it works over there but I hope you got to read them. I hope you hear me when I talk to you, I hope you can feel my love for you. I know that God made the weather perfect, I know He let me have the bright blue skies on a beautiful spring day and for that I am grateful. Although the funeral was to say "goodbye" we both know that's not possible. I love you Kenna Bear, love always, Mom." 

That last sentence is what I chose to have as my short summary of what my blog is about under the title picture. I know I can never and will never truly say goodbye to her. She will always be my baby girl and I will always be her mom. I love her with all of my body, heart and soul. I still can't believe it's been a year since I have seen and felt that sweet face. I love you angel. I hope your one year in Heaven has been absolutely amazing. I can't wait to hear all about it when we are reunited, until then, I will never stop missing you. 

Here are a few of the last pictures I ever took of her </3

We did a "Tough Mudder" in honor of McKenna's one year anniversary.  
I felt like it was symbolic of how "tough" it has been without her. 
I am blessed to have a very beautiful angel in heaven and a beautiful family here on earth too. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Last Time We Played

The last day we played was on Thursday. Two days before your death. The last time I saw you was Friday morning. We were a little out of our usual routine, I took it slower then I normally would but for the most part a normal day and I enjoyed it the same way I always did but the last time we played was different. It was the week before final exams and I was in full blown stress mode. All hell was breaking loose as I struggled to squeeze in every second of study time before the big exams. I was exhausted, grumpy, and so ready for the break. I avoided going home because I knew if I did I would end up dragging my feet and hanging out the way I always did when I went home to "study". I didn't feel bad about it though because I just kept telling myself "All you have to do is get through this next week and your done! Then you will get to spend the whole break with your family and it is going to be awesome!" I remember this day very clearly because Thursday daddy needed to borrow the car for some reason. I can't remember why he needed the car, I can't remember why it had to be done at that moment but I do remember getting mad. "Why didn't you do this earlier?" "You know it's finals week!" "How long will you be?"" Well hurry home ok! I have to get back to school to study!" These were all the things I yelled at Zach as he panicked around the house gathering his things quickly and trying not to react to my bad attitude because he knew it was the stress of finals speaking and not my usual self.

He walked out the door and I stood there steamy and in disbelief that he had put me in this position. As I muttered to myself and continued to throw a pity party McKenna walked up to me with a big smile and wanted to "go play outside". I knew this meant the trampoline, unfortunately I am one of those moms who has a "mom bladder". Three kids have totally ruined my bladder so fun activities like jumping, laughing too hard, and even surprise sneezes are the enemy but I decided I would get on the trampoline this time with her because Dominic was not there and I knew I would not have to jump as hard to play with her. She was so happy I was actually getting on the trampoline, she knew I did not get on there often and was elated to play with me. I brought baby Zoe with us who was 8 months old at the time and she attempted to crawl around the trampoline only interested in the edges of course. To my surprise McKenna was not even interested in jumping. She just wanted to roll this little ball to each other across the trampoline and practice her aiming skills. She thought it was so funny when it actually went to me and was proud when she caught the ones I slowly rolled her way.

Fifteen minutes later that game was too simple so then she switched to the complete opposite and thought it was more amusing to throw the ball off the trampoline and make me go get it. I let this happen for a while until finally I was able to distract her with another game that did not require me to get off and on the trampoline every 2 seconds. The second game was this little toy tiger, he had a button on his back and when you pushed it he would fly across the trampoline and stop just in time before falling off. This time we allowed Zoe to play with us and McKenna continued to yell out "YOUR TURN ZOE! NO MOMMY IT'S ZOE'S TURN" if I did not give up the toy fast enough to Zoe she would quickly retrieve it from me, hand it to her and then stare me down as if I was unwilling to share with her baby sister. She was always protective like that.

The last game we played was McKenna's favorite of all games. Pretending to talk on the phone and then put it in her pocket or her little black purse. She had a cheap fake bedazzled dollar store phone that she would put her ear too and then you would get on your cell phone and talk to her. This was the best game ever and always made her laugh. It was so cute to watch her smile as you pretended like you couldn't see her and would say "OH HEY MCKENNA! What are you doing today? Oh, your outside with Zoe! That's cool! What are y'all doing out there? Oh, playing on the trampoline. Oh wow that sounds like so much fun! I wish I was there! Did you have a good day today? Oh that sounds like a very good day!" She never talked much on the phone, she would just stare at you with her big bright eyes and smile from ear to ear with her little crooked grin. Then she would try to shove the phone in her pocket or purse which was always entertaining because she wasn't coordinated enough to do this in one swift motion yet. After a few laughs I would finally help her place it wherever she was trying to put it away and then she would rip it right back out and we would start the game all over again. I don't know why she loved to see you pretending to talk to her on the phone but she did and it was very adorable.

I remember clearly at one point I really wanted to record it because it was just so cute but I knew if I turned the camera on she would know I was not talking on the phone to her anymore and then be disappointed. I remember clearly telling myself, "You know Shannon, just enjoy the moment. Not everything has to be recorded or have a picture taken of it. She is happy playing with you, leave the camera off and just enjoy this moment with her." So that is what I did. I didn't take any pictures, I left the video off and we played for about 30 more minutes until Zach got home. When he returned I immediately apologized for my bad attitude and told him what a great time I had with McKenna. "It was a good break, I haven't gotten to see her much this week and I was really letting the stress of school get the best of me! I'm glad I was able to take a time out and play with her some. Now I wish I didn't have to leave!"

I gave her a hug and kiss, apologized to Zach one more time, and said goodbye to Zoe then out the door I went back to school. I came home late that night and did not see the kids in time to help put them to bed, then I woke up the next morning completely unaware that getting my daughter ready for school that day would be the last time I would ever see her and that those moments on the trampoline would be the last time we ever played together. I know God gave me that moment. I know He put me in a situation where Zach had to do something and I had to be at the house and I would be forced to stop my daily routine and play with her.

I am so grateful for that. I am so grateful that I listened. I am so grateful that I chose to play instead of stay angry. Sometimes I wish I had pulled my camera out and recorded our last memories together but in a way I know I was meant to spend that short moment a 110% with her. I believe God is the one who whispered that thought in my ear so not even a second of my time would be spent on anything but her. He knew she would be returning to Him soon and He did not want me to waste it on trying to get the perfect picture with the perfect smile from everyone or record it and then waste more time plastering it on social media. It was our moment, our last play date, and it didn't have to be documented and shared for all the world to see, it just needed to be us. A mother and a daughter sharing a private and special memory together reconfirming our love for one another alone in our final moments together.

I think of that day often. The perfection of her smile and personality bursting out of her. I think of how in a matter of seconds she wiped my selfish anger away just by asking me to go outside. I think of all the joy she brought me and the life that we shared together. The day after she died I was sitting at our kitchen table looking out the window and I saw the trampoline. My heart tugged away but my eyes continued to look at it as I recalled only 2 days ago we had been playing in that very spot. Then my heart dropped to my toes as I continued to stare because there on the trampoline was the little bouncy ball we rolled and the tiger that we pushed. I didn't have the strength to go in the backyard and retrieve those toys for about a week. When I finally did collect them it was only because other kids were playing with it and I was afraid they would pop the ball so when they were done I silently snuck them out of the backyard, placed them on my closet floor and wept.

I still have those toys sitting in my closet. I even have her little black purse with her cell phone inside of it. I have the exact outfit she wore the last time I saw her along with her few favorite outfits and dolls. My closet has become my treasure chest for her things that hold great value to me, the only physical remnants I have of her on this earth. Each item possessing a clear memory of a moment we shared together. Proof that she lived, proof that she was here, proof that her 2 1/2 years on this earth could never be wiped away just because her 1 year anniversary is near. I dread the day, I dread the hour, I dread the moment. Only 4 more days and there it will be. One entire year since I've seen my baby girl and people will expect me to feel better. One year...the magic number. The deadline to moving on and feeling better about what happened. Accepting fate and not hurting as much. Who ever made that ridiculous assumption never had part of there soul ripped out of their body.

One year only makes it worse. It mocks my pain. It's a reminder of how long we have been apart and it gives the impression that time has healed these wounds. I have been working on a song I wrote for McKenna but have never gotten passed the chorus because it is just too hard but the part I have written is about this betrayal of time:

"They tell me with time, time, time.
With time I'll see your face again,
With time I'll go grow strong.
With time we'll be together,
With time I'll move on.
With time it won't hurt so bad,
With time less tears.
With time I can hold you close,
With time, time, time.
But what if time is not my friend?
and I don't want to wait till the end!
I'm tired and I just want you to come home. "

Easter was very difficult for our family. It was a strong reminder of last year which was the first holiday we ever had to celebrate after McKenna's passing. The one thing that made it easier for me was General Conference was held on Easter weekend. I have mentioned General Conference on here before. It is where the Prophet and Apostles of the LDS church give talks on spiritual matters twice a year. Saturday Zach and I were going to watch it on the TV at our house. Zach asked me before it started "They say it's good to have a question you want to have answered in your mind before conference starts that way when you are listening to the lessons the answer might come to you more clearly. Is there a question that you had in mind that you have been wanting answers too?" I responded without even hesitation "I would like some answers about McKenna. I still don't fully understand her death, I have hardly gotten anything from her and I would just like something... anything in regards to her." Zach nodded and we went and sat down together in hopes of getting some revelation.

That night we went and painted Easter eggs at my aunt's house. I managed to compartmentalize my feelings and just tell myself one command at a time so I could keep myself from getting too emotional. I would tell myself "Dye the eggs with the kids" "Help clean up the mess" "Don't think about what this is for or what it represents. Just one step at a time." I kept this up all night and was successful till I got home. Exhausted, I put the kids to bed and sat on the couch feeling flustered. I had not received any answers about McKenna like I wanted too, Easter was tomorrow, and McKenna's one year anniversary is next week. I heard my phone vibrate and I saw a text message from a friend of mine who goes to school with me and is also LDS. It said he had sent an email for Zach and I to read when we were home alone about an experience he had in the Temple that day.

Surprised, I quickly opened up my email curious to see what might have happened that would strangely involve me or my husband. The title of his email was "Temple Blessings". As I read it tears flowed down my face and I realized that God had decided to answer my question from earlier that day loud and clear through a friend and I could not have been more humbled or touched.
I will share some of it here:

"....I suddenly couldn't stop thinking about your sweet McKenna. I thought about how much I know you miss her. About the fact that she'll have been gone from this world a year next week. About how I know you long to hold her in your arms tomorrow on Easter and every day. As i was thinking about your family, I didn't hear her voice, I felt very strongly that I was to tell you, from her, how very much she loves you. She wants you to know that though she misses you more than she could convey, she's always with you. She loves to watch you and Zach, Dominic and Zoe together as a family and that she's excited to send her little sister to be with you. She wants you to know that she's so proud of you and that even though it's difficult, she needs you to endure to the end because she's excited to have you with her when your time here on the earth is done. I also felt like she wanted you to know that she's being well taken care of while she waits for you.

The spirit reaffirmed to me how real the covenants we make in the temple are and that the sealing power is binding and eternal. Our families, because of that power, will be together for all eternity. Our Heavenly Father and Christ love us more than we can possibly know. The things we go through here, though often times terrible and unfair, are to help us grow and to show us that when we feel like there's nothing left to do but allow ourselves to be swallowed by darkness, they are there to pull us into the light. I know that Christ lives. I know that he gave us the blessing of eternal life and I know that through the application of his atoning power, we can be made whole. I hope that this weekend you feel the love of our Savior and that my experience might help to make this difficult time for you just a little bit easier to get through. We love you both and will continue to keep y'all in our prayers."

This weekend was tough, next weekend will be worse, but I am so grateful for my Saviors love. I am so grateful that He understands my pain and that He is always willing to go the extra mile to let me know that He sees me, He loves me and He will always be there. No matter how many times I push away or shut down He is always there sending sweet songs of hope and peace. I love my Kenna Bear so much. I greatly wish this Easter could have been spent with her and our other loved ones. I wish next weekend never happened and was just another day in the spring. I am still trying to understand her death. With every message I receive a new piece of the puzzle is revealed and I begin to see the shape of the picture. It is still very incomplete and will require more work on my part but I will endure just like she asked me too because apparently there is a reason behind all of this suffering.

I am so glad that you are happy Kenna Bear. I am happy you are close by and watching us. I am happy you are proud of me. I am comforted that you are taken care of but most of all I am so happy that you love me. I love you too angel and don't worry baby girl, I will endure anything for you. I can't wait to be with you again. I can't wait to spend eternity together. Never forget how much I love you. I hope you had a wonderful Easter, daddy and I thought about you all day. Thank you for all the beautiful memories we shared together, thank you for our final moments together and thank you for reminding me you are never really gone.

McKenna's 1st Easter


Gotta love trying to get one nice family picture on Easter. I love the kids faces in this shot.

McKenna's 2nd/last Easter
(She was OBSESSED with chips and salsa!
Never saw a baby east spicy food the way she did!)

I have shared this picture so many times that I forgot this was actually on Easter.
It is one of my favorites <3

This is a short video of her last Easter with us.
She was always dancing or singing to something. My little musical girl.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Unspoken Promise

I remember watching General Conference on TV the year after Dominic was born. This is where the prophet and apostles of our church speak 2 times a year and give “talks” to the members of the LDS faith and anyone else who wants to tune in. These are lessons they feel prompted to teach about and are always very spiritual. I was a single mom living with my grandparents at the time and for some reason they were not home so I had decided to clean the house for them while listening to the lessons. Dominic was taking a nap and surprisingly I was really enjoying picking up the house while hearing such great speakers. Prophet Thomas S. Monson was speaking and he was telling a very sad story about an LDS pioneer who decided to travel to Utah with her children so they could stop being persecuted for their beliefs. The journey conditions were harsh on her and her family. One by one all of her children died and she was the sole survivor to make it to Salt Lake City. All though it was difficult, with time she used her story of disparity as a message of hope to many and was an amazing example of not only having faith through trials and sacrifice but the true belief that one day her family would all be together again.

I hated that story. All I could think about was how absolutely terrible it was. Not only did she lose one child but she lost ALL of them! The whole reason she moved there was to give them a better life by raising them in a place where they could safely practice their faith and now their dead! Her fate was worse than death itself. What mother would want to live on without her children, what was the point? The prophet continued talking and I went from happily mopping the floor to sitting on the couch staring at the TV in disbelief. I was yelling at the screen “Why would you tell such a horrible story? I don’t feel any peace at all! That was so depressing! She didn’t deserve that and neither did they!” My anger quickly turned into fear and in that moment I begged God to never take a child from me. I was not strong enough, I could never begin to imagine the pain, I had endured many things but this one was unbearable. After my prayer I felt peace and pushed that fear to back of my mind.
As I grew more into my role of “mommy-hood” I became more and more sensitive to the death of children and found myself in a place where I couldn’t even hear a semi-sad story about them without it weighing on me for days as if it had happened to my own child. Anything from abusive parents to kids being bullied at school my heart absorbed the stories and I couldn’t cope with it anymore. I eventually reached the point that if I even thought someone was about to share a sad story with me I would quickly interrupt them and say “Wait, if you’re about to tell me a depressing story about a child please don’t! I can’t handle it!” I even deleted friends on Facebook who seem to overly put news post about horrible situations involving children and pretty much placed myself inside of a bubble of safety away from all of the awful tales.
I know every mother can relate to what I am talking about, once you have a child you know that if anything happened to them it would kill you! Or at least that is all you can humanly imagine since it has never really happened to you (nor want it too). I was the same way but for some reason a little more hypersensitive to it and had to go above and beyond to avoid these situations so I wouldn’t feel so depressed. I remember when I was a little girl I would wake up my sister anytime I got a nightmare. One night I had a particularly awful dream and no amount of her comfort would make me feel better, she then told me a little secret she did to help her when she had bad dreams. She said that anytime she had a nightmare when she woke up instead of focusing on the horrible parts she would immediately re-write the story line. She would go back over the dream and start when everything was ok and before the bad part came she would edit it out and replace it with a happy ending.
This really helped me and I used this little secret not only for my nightmares but in my real life as well. Anytime I was going through a hard time and it would get me down. I would imagine what it would be like if I could simply edit the story and make it into a happy ending and for some reason it gave me a sense of hope. I felt like I could turn any situation around if I tried hard enough and this is how I learned to deal with my problems as a child who grew up in a troubled home. This is also how I mentally handled any sad stories about kids, I would alter reality and tell myself none of it was real, none of it really happened, and all the children were safe and happy. Obviously it was a coping mechanism. I thought it was healthy at the time, I now realize that it was a huge hindrance in dealing with true issues in my life but it got me through tough times and even though in some ways I still use this technique, I am learning healthier ways to deal with harsh realities since McKenna's death. It is  still a work in progress though, it's not easy changing a 25 year old habit. 
At some point, I’m not exactly sure when, I had convinced myself that God had made an unspoken promise to me. I never talked about it or even prayed about it because just the mere thought of it was like jinxing myself. It seemed simple enough, He could put me through any challenge in life but the one we were never going to touch, the one we were never going to get close too was taking away any of my children. I felt like it didn’t have to be said or prayed about, it was just obvious. I had been put through many hard trials, I had carried many heavy burdens and I had accepted all of them. I had stood up to the challenge and was even aware that plenty more were to come and I was ok with that. I would stand through every trial because it would make me a better person, I would stay strong in my faith and continually try to be a good person with a sunny disposition because life isn’t easy for anyone so either you fight the good fight or you let it swallow you whole. All of these things were acceptable except in return the only challenge I would never have to face was the death of a child. This one was off limits and I believed full heartedly we had both agreed to that.
I cannot say how betrayed I felt when McKenna died. It happened so fast. No warning, not even a prompting that something was wrong. With a blink of an eye she was dead and there was no going back. I remember shouting at Zach in the hospital “No, not this, we go through trials but not this one! This is not our story!” I must have said it a 100 times. I truly believed that God was going to spare me this trial. I thought we had a deal! I would faithfully endure and he would never go to the place we never talked about. Why? Why were we here? Why this trial? Why my child? Why so sudden? Why no warning? Why so young? Why not me instead? I just couldn’t understand it. Why was God so determined to challenge every part of me? Had all I been through in my life not enough? Did we have to take my pride and joy, my heart, my soul, my child? Did I make a mistake? Did I do something wrong? Did I ask for this? Did I deserve this? Was I being punished?
I tried many times to go to my “happy ending”. I tried to re-write the script of McKenna’s story and change it to where she was still here with me but it was impossible. It is the only story I have never been able to change. She is gone, never to return to this earth and live this life with me. That is a hard script to swallow and even with all the imagination I have been gifted with it will not allow me to see life with her here because this trial is different. I have no control over this situation. I can’t bring her back from the dead no matter how much I wish I could. It’s not that I did anything wrong, I am not being punished nor have I been betrayed. Honestly I am starting to realize this doesn’t have much to do with me at all… it’s about her. She didn’t deserve to be here… she was too good for this world. To “valiant” is what I was told a few weeks after she died in a priesthood blessing from my bishop, “She has work to do, very important work. She had to return with our Heavenly Father, He needed her personally and she is working very hard to get the work done so she can see you again in Heaven” is what he continued with.
I have no idea what those sentences mean. I’ve rolled them around in my brain a million times. Work to do? What work was so important that only she could do it and she had to leave right away? I think part of her work was to help this family. She was obviously sent to us specifically for a reason. She was sent to Zach and I to raise her, she was sent here to touch Dominic, Zoe and the rest of my families hearts. I know having her in our lives was not by mere chance. Her time was short but there was a strong message behind it. We were called to do something more then what we were doing. Why else would we be asked to struggle through so many trials? Why else would we have had her just to lose her so quickly? I don’t think we could have reached the goal without her, in fact I know we couldn’t have because nothing is more motivating then just the thought of being with her again. Nothing else could possibly provoke such a strong response not only from me but her family. We are all willing to change, drop bad habits, go above and beyond the call if we think it will make her proud, make her happy, and bring us back together again.
I still don’t have all the answers. We are coming up on a year now and I still feel like only a few months have passed. I am just as lost as I was when it started. I don’t know my purpose! I don’t know what God wants from me or this family. I don’t fully understand her death. All I do know is that my daughter will never have to suffer a day in her life from now on. All those stories that I use to not be able to handle (her death has changed that) will never happen to her. She will always be safe, she will always know she is loved, she will always know her true worth because the Lord personally called her home. That promise I thought we made was me in denial. I, much like every parent didn’t want to endure the loss and suffering that follows losing a part of your soul but I realize now that I was holding her back. She is very important in Heaven, she was called home with a job that only she could complete. She is working hard to do whatever her part is to be with us again and I can’t help but be proud of her.
It really makes me stop and think, what am I doing? Will I sit here and do nothing while she does all the work? Will I be angry with God and never move forward? Will I stop fighting the good fight and allow myself to be broken? No, that would defeat the purpose of her leaving. That would push me in the opposite direction. I have work to do. Work that only I can do for her and the rest of my family so we can be together again. I have to raise her siblings so they will be strong and righteous warriors like their sister and if at any moment they are taken, I will know they too will be with her. I have to be here for my husband. I have to uplift him, love him, and stay true to him. I need to help him see and reach his full potential so that when he too reaches his time he can be with our Kenna Bear again. I have to do my part too so I can grow closer to my Heavenly Father and further understand the work He needs me to do. Then when my time comes I will be worthy and ready to be with her again. Just because McKenna passed away doesn't take any of us off the table for death. It is inevitable. I pray to never lose another one but at the same token I will never live in that kind of denial again. It's what helps me make every second count. 
I now know without a doubt that there was never an unspoken promise between the Lord and I. Not because He doesn’t love or want me to be happy but because none of us are exempt from life. Challenges occur and it is not up to us which ones we get to take on or walk away from. Do I like that? No! Does it make me feel any better? Not really! But I know it’s true, if I could pick and choose all the trials I would have to go through in this life I would have said no to all of them. I never would have thought I could handle being a single mom, walking away from family, going to a graduate school when I was an average C student my whole life and I most definitely NEVER would have chosen to lose a child. No one gets to go through life without a struggle. I don’t know why but it is in these moments that we seem to grow the most. It is in these moments that we are morphed into something we never could have imagined, whether it be for the good or the bad.
If high school Shannon was standing in front of the woman I am now I know she would have been shocked. I also think she would have been very proud because only she knew all my weaknesses. All the fears I had about who I would become, what kind of mother I would be, how hard it is for me to express my pain, and how selfish I could truly be sometimes. She would be happy to know I avoided most of the routes that we thought we would take. I use to think if I lost a child I would lose myself. I would lose my dignity, my hope, my thrive to live, all morality would instantly go out the window. Although parts of me have died I realize now going through it the answer was never that simple. There is work to be done. I know everyday she is being the little busy bee that she has always been. She is learning and growing in ways that I can never imagine with the Father as her instructor. She understands her purpose and is literally perfect in every way.
I have a lot of work to do to even be in the same universe as her. There is no time to slack off, there is no time to doubt, there is only time to do my part. I am her mother and I will try my best to keep up with the standard she has set. She has raised the bar for this family. We all know that we have to be better, we have to work harder, and we have to stand up and fight everyday otherwise we are wasting time. This life feels long right now but one day I too will be gone. I will see her in heaven and all I will have to show for it is whatever I chose to do in this life. I can’t bare the idea of not making her more than proud. She is working so hard, she deserves the best, and she deserves to know that I will not only do anything for her, but I will go above and beyond God’s expectations to let her know how much I love her. The next time I see her, I just want to see that giant smile on her face and then I will know my work is done. In her arms I will finally feel peace again… only when I am in her arms will I rest.
This is a poem another mother sent to me that lost her daughter too.
I feel like it sums up my feelings today exactly.
The Loan:
“I’ll lend you for a little time,
A child of mine,” God said;
“For you to love her while she lives,
And mourn for when she’s dead.

 It may be six or seven years,
Or twenty-two or three,
But will you, ’till I call her back
Take care of her for Me?
She’ll bring her charm to gladden you,
And should her stay be brief
You’ll have her wonderful memories,
As solace for your grief.
I cannot promise she will stay,
Since all from earth return
But there are lessons taught down there,
I want this child to learn.

 I’ve looked the wide world over,
In search of  teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lane,
I have selected you.
Now will you give her all your love?
Not think the labor vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call,
To take her back again?
I fancied that I heard them say:
‘Dear Lord, Thy will be done!
For all the joy Thy child shall bring,
The risk of grief we’ll run.

 We’ll shelter her with tenderness,
We'll love her while we may,
And for all the happiness we’ve known,
Forever grateful stay.

And should the angels call for her,
Much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes,
And try to understand.’

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What is a mother?

Ever since McKenna's passing one thing that has constantly been on my mind is "How am I still her mother?" It's very confusing because when you stop and think about all the things that make you a mother I no longer fall under these guidelines. I am no longer there to tuck her into bed. I am no longer there to brush her hair and get her ready for school. I am no longer there to prepare her meals and play with her. So who am I to her in the eternities? Who is her mother? Does she even need a mother anymore? Of course I know that biologically I am her mother and that she is my daughter but I have always taken the term mother as more then just a blood bond, I define mothers by their actions.

Coming from a childhood where I never had a strong motherly role in my life the idea of being one frightened me. I remember being pregnant with Dominic and wondering if I could be a good mom. What if I wasn't any good at it? What if I was selfish and annoyed by him? What if I couldn't handle it? What if I became like most teen moms and I was a terrible mother? I felt like I had no strong role model to look too and I wasn't even sure of who I was yet. My life was broken, nothing had gone to plan so far. Here I was 8 months pregnant and had just split with the father. I had no job, I was at community college struggling to keep up, and I was 19, so how could I bring another human into the picture and expect to be a good mom?

At first I kept talking like it was inevitable. As if there was no way around it. My mom tried her best and she was a disaster, it was guaranteed that I was destined to end up the same. I mean you can't run from your past right? You are who you are? No one really ever changes so I had been told many times. I had made so many promises to myself about what I would not put my children through after growing up in my crazy environment and yet here I was in almost the exact same place. I had failed. I was destined to fail. I didn't know what a good mom was or how to be one and I started to let Satan whisper in my ear "Even if you tried your best, you will never be good enough. We all know you who truly are, you have tried to change a 1000x and a 1000x you have failed. It's time to stop lying to yourself. You will always be a disappointment."

I fought this mental battle for months during my pregnancy and felt very alone. Surprisingly, this was very helpful for me. Since I had no arms to comfort me, no one to talk too, no one to hold me, I was forced to turn to myself. Looking inward for the first time in my life I saw my reflection in the mirror and realized that the biggest lie I ever told myself was "I can do this on my own, I can fix this." See this was the true problem. I expected myself, a very imperfect human being to change with no help or guidance but from more imperfect people. If I really wanted to change I needed to develop a real relationship with my Heavenly Father who was perfect and then maybe I would have a fighting chance. It was during this time that I learned how well God knew me personally. I prayed all the time, I dug deep into my scriptures, I reflected on my actions daily in a journal. In those moments I was so humbled, instead of feeling sorry for myself for being a single mom or hating myself for the mistakes I had made, I just felt humbled. For the first time in EVER I was starting to see that I had a lot more to offer then what I had been letting the world tell me. The possibility of being a good mom was achievable. It would be difficult but there was no reason in the world that I could not only be a good mom, but a great one.

Soon it was time to go to the hospital and deliver Dominic. Although I had truly changed in many ways I still felt fear inside of me. "Oh I hope I can do this, I don't want to screw this kid up!". After being in labor for what felt like eternity and feeling pain that I wasn't even aware existed the nurses threw a very slimy, bloody, tiny human on top of me and I flinched. I just remember thinking "Uuhhhhh, what now? Is that it? Am I really a mom now?" Seconds later they took him off me and he was gone on the other side of the room where I could no longer see him, hovered by family members dying to hold the new little prince. My brain was still trying to process the situation. Nothing felt real. I was going through the motions, I was pregnant, I had experienced labor, and now he was here. Is this real? The moment felt very surreal. The day continued and he was passed from loving arms to loving arms while I laid in bed and tried to take in the reality of everything. I knew my life had just reached a new stepping stone. Somehow the entire universe had shifted and we were now about to start a completely new journey filled with responsibility, diapers, and sleepless nights but nothing felt real yet, why?

Finally everyone had left and it was just Dominic and I in the room. He laid in a clear tiny bassinet next to me and I starred at him sleeping. I recited out loud to him because I felt like maybe we were both unaware of who I was in his new world, "I am your mom and you are my son". It still didn't feel real so I said it again to him, this time sitting up and pulling his bed closer to mine. "I am your mom and you are my son, Dominic." My brain felt like it was on the verge of solving a mystery case, I could feel it trying to make the connection of what was really going on so I took him out of his bed, held him in my arms and whispered softly "I am your mom and always will be... and you are my first born child, Dominic." With this statement I felt a love that I had never known before. I felt a bond so strong that there are no words to describe it. My heart grew 10x bigger then what it was, my mind opened and I could feel and see all the beautiful things we would accomplish together. Just like a snap of the finger I knew my role, I knew who I was. I was a mother and I would spend the rest of my life proving that to him. I fell asleep with him quietly in my arms. I had never known such peace.

This new love in my life was the cement to the truth that people really could change because I had just done it myself. I knew I wasn't the same person and I knew I never would be. I was so glad to know I had finally shed myself of the old Shannon and had found a happier, more hopeful mother to take her place. I didn't know it but I had been searching for that kind of love my whole life. I had no idea how beautiful the bond between a mother and a child was because I never had it. I never got that with my mom and I didn't know what a difference it makes in your life. It makes you feel so complete, it opens up every vessel and ventricle in your heart so that every inch of it is covered in love. I had never been happier, I had never felt more complete, I had found the cure to my selfish disease. I had my son, I had all his innocent and pure love, but more importantly I loved him more than anything or anyone I had ever met in my life and that kind of love changes you forever.

After Dominic I knew for sure that more children would have to come when the time was right. I just couldn't get enough of that special love and bond. Motherhood was the life for me, eventually I would get married and we would have a giant family with lots of little crazy babies running around and I would stay at home to take care of all of them... or so I thought but God had different plans for me. I was surprised to find myself 3 years later preparing to go to medical school and after a year of trying still not pregnant. Would Dominic be my only baby? I got pregnant so easily with him! What is going on? I finally took all the right steps, got my life straightened out, found a great husband, ready to get this baby train going and now there is no baby! Why? I was finishing up community college and had been accepted to my medical college when I finally found out I was pregnant with McKenna. Zach and I were so happy. I delayed school and got to be a stay at home mom with her for the first year of her life. It was beautiful and I loved every day of it.

I really didn't want to start graduate school. I had an associates degree and all I ever wanted to do since Dominic was born was to be a stay at home mom. School didn't come naturally to me anyway and I struggled much more then the other students did. Maybe my school path was over and I could finally just stay home with my babies? I prayed relentlessly about it, Zach prayed, my family prayed, we fasted, we talked to our church leaders and in the end I knew without a doubt that God wanted me in school. It was so strange. I thought for sure I would get to stay home but as usual nothing ever goes according to my plan. So after lots of denial and crying I finally started school when McKenna was about 1 and we all started a new journey. It was then that I learned a new role of motherhood. The one that I still play to do this day. This is when I discovered that the word "mother" is not a noun, it is a verb.

Taking on a full school schedule and still trying to play mommy was EXTREMELY difficult and harder then what I had imagined it would be. At first I was non-existent. Buried in a land of books and never ending homework. I had no time for my children or husband. I hated not being with them and often felt that old familiar fear that despite my efforts I was not a good mother. How can I be a mother if I am never there?  I then learned about a study from a psychology class I had taken. They had 2 groups, one had a stay at home parent and the other had 2 working parents. They wanted to see how it affected the children to have a parent who was home most of the day vs gone. They followed the children for years and measured success by happiness, responsibility, confidence, and overall well being of the children. At the end of the study they were surprised when they concluded that the working parents who made an extra effort to spend even one hour of their day with their children when they got home felt just as loved as the children who were home with their parents all day. It was because the children still knew they were a priority in their parent's lives and that even after a long day of work they still sacrificed to be with them. This changed my attitude about everything.

Even though I couldn't be home with them all day like I was before I would just have to work twice as hard to make sure that when I was home they felt my love for them as if I had been there all day. I did my best to give them my undivided attention when I was home and if I had to study I still tried to take breaks and play with them for a little while. McKenna could never help herself from coming into the room when I was studying. My big bright shiny highlighters were too much of a temptation for her to resist playing with. Countless times she would sit on my lap coloring on my homework as I flipped through other notes and books. It wasn't exactly what I had pictured my motherly role to be but all that mattered was my children knew I loved them greatly and even though I had to fulfill other obligations in my life, nothing was more important then they were, nothing! So this is how we learned to function and have been functioning for the past 2 years. Now that I am about to graduate my schedule has lightened so much and I am saddened that McKenna just barely missed out on all my extra free time.

For most of McKenna's life I was a mother by action. I played with her, I sang to her, I bathed her, I fed her, I did all the things that mommies are suppose to do and now it's all gone. I don't like the role I play in her life now. I don't like that I am here on the side lines talking into space hoping she is hearing me while everyone continues to tell me "She is watching over you." What? That's not her job! That's my job! I am suppose to watch over her. "She is your guardian angel" Why? I am suppose protect her, guide her, lead her through this life. I thought that was my role as her parent? How am I her mother? I mean lets be honest, she has more knowledge now then I could ever hope to have in my entire lifetime. She has seen God himself! She fulfilled her journey here and is now in Heaven. She has all the answers, all the mysterious of life are solved. What could I possibly offer her? What words of wisdom could I give? What could I teach her that she doesn't already know? Everything I have defined on what makes a "good mother" has been done. What left is there for me to do?

I still talk out loud to her. I still tell her that I love her. I still try to do things that I think would make her proud but in all honesty I don't know what my role is in her life. I have gone back and forth on this question for the last 9 months and still have not reached a conclusion. I know that only time will tell me what the purpose of her death was and what my role is to play in this turmoil but for now I still don't know. The only thing that gives me comfort is a priesthood blessing I received a month after McKenna's death. A very simplified version of what our church (LDS) believes is when a "priesthood holder" which is worthy man who upholds to his responsibilities and obligations in the church lays his hands on a person's head and gives them a "blessing". The blessing is direct revelation from Heavenly Father telling them what to say and what you need to hear at that point in your life. It can be anything from guidance, peace, and even healing when sick. They are very special and sacred. They have played a major role in mine and Zach's grieving process with McKenna.

Before I got the blessing I was praying extra hard that month trying to survive the freshness of her absence and at the end of every prayer I spoke VERY sternly (in a motherly way) to God. I would always tell him "You better make sure you are giving her a hug from me every night and telling her that I love her every day! You hear me! Don't let a day pass without a hug and a kiss from me!" I said this every night and I never told anyone about it because I assumed it would not sit well with most people that I was bossing the big man upstairs around. One day was particularly hard so Zach offered to give me a priesthood blessing and I accepted. I don't remember anything that blessing said except for the very last sentence, Zach said, "Shannon, Your Heavenly Father wants you to know that he gives McKenna a hug every night and tells her that you love her every day. Do not worry that he does not hear you. She loves you and misses you very much too." I could not believe what I just heard, I was stunned. NO ONE knew that I prayed for that! NO ONE! Yet there it was, almost VERBATEM of what I had prayed for. I began to whimper then cry in disbelief. My baby girl knew that I loved her. God heard me. He fulfilled this mothers plea and I finally got to hear that she missed me too!

I don't know what goes on in Heaven. I am unsure of how things work and what the daily routine is up there but I am so grateful for that blessing of comfort and assurance that God hears my prayers. I miss her so much and it's beyond difficult when you had someone in your life everyday become gone in a matter of seconds. You have all of these details that you know about them, what they like, what they don't like, their hobbies, interest, and habits and then all of a sudden none of that information matters anymore. I would love to be at least a fly on the wall and see what she does all the time. I miss watching her, I miss playing with her, I miss singing with her. I am so glad that she is with a loving Heavenly Father who is telling her everyday how much her mommy loves her. I don't know what advice I can give her or how to guide her the way I use too but at least she knows that no matter what our circumstance is I love her very much and at least I know that she loves me too.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Year

Between McKenna's birthday, school finals, my 5 year anniversary with Zach, Christmas, and today being New Years Eve my emotions have been on a rampage of craziness. One minute I am convinced I am doing better, that life is not so dark and everything has happened for a reason. The next minute I find myself in a pit of despair, sinking lower and lower into a hole that can never be filled. It's chaos in my mind! A guarantee way to loose your sanity is by loosing a child. You get so much advice "time will make it better, time doesn't help anything, try to stay busy, relax and just let yourself mourn, don't push yourself to move forward, you have to keep moving, stay strong, it's ok if you can't handle it". I mean honestly, it is so overwhelming and confusing. I am someone who prides myself on being neutral. What does that mean exactly? Well to me it is someone who keeps a level head at all times, doesn't over react when someone pisses you off, doesn't cry when their feelings get hurt. You logically think through situations before making a statement, don't react on other people's behaviors, stay "cool, calm, and collected". Your not easily offended and basically you don't show emotion in emotional situations. I don't know why this is important to me but it always has been and I wouldn't say I have mastered it but I am definitely good at keeping my emotions at bay.

Now all of that has changed. My emotions are raw and tender, for the first time in my life I find myself crippled by one statement someone just said in passing. I lock myself in my room and cry for hours, I cry in public, I cry in the car, I cry, cry, cry. It's exhausting and I hate it. I miss the old Shannon who would say things like "I can't remember the last time I cried about something", oh how innocent I once seemed. Of course crying is just one part of the large concoction called "grief". Fits of rage, anger, disappoint, bitterness, and my least favorite lashing out on others. I have caught myself SO MANY TIMES pulling out the "verbal whip". Sometimes I am able to keep it in my head and brute over it all day like a spoiled teenager, other times the words just fall out. The worst part is the look I get after I say it. People are not use to that side of me, it definitely surprises them when someone who use to do anything to stay out of fight, now just bit their hand off for making a comment that wasn't even slightly offensive. After the "look" I instantly know I screwed up and the guilt hits hard. I try to apologize and so badly want to say "I'm sorry, grief has changed me" but never actually spit out the whole sentence, I just say I'm sorry and walk away. For some reason I have convinced myself that finishing that sentence sounds like an excuse. Like when people say "I'm sorry, I'm just being honest" but their not really being honest, they are just justifying being mean and I can't stand that!

It's been a learning experience to say the least and since I have tried so hard to be "neutral" my whole life I find myself behind the learning curve of emotions. I remind myself of a robot who has just been programmed to have "feelings". Surprisingly though there has been a lot of positives from this as well. I have learned that emotions are a great thing too and being neutral is imprisoning in a way. Emotions show who you are, having an emotional reaction doesn't mean that you are always over reacting (which for some reason is what I had convinced myself it was). Being emotional doesn't mean that you are a chick flick waiting to explode with sappiness. They are your genuine feelings, they are your pain, suffering, joy, excitement, and a sign that you are a human with flaws and beauty. I will be the first to admit that emotionally I am a disaster right now but I have seen a side of myself that was not their before... and if it was I was smothering it in the background snuffing out what I thought was it's ugly head. I have allowed myself to open up and accept that I am no longer neutral and no longer want to be. I don't want to be the person who gets verbally abused by someone else and just takes it because I tell myself "they are just hurt and taking it out on me, it's ok, they are just words and they don't mean it". I don't want to be the one who stares at people when they cry because I don't know how to handle their tears of pain. I no longer want to avoid standing up for myself because I fear that I will hurt someone else's feelings.

All of these lessons have come with a price,  the good and the bad. I have had to apologize many times and show others I am not the pillar of strength that I once was but I have also had to learn that I don't need to be the person that always apologizes. My whole life I have struggled to see the line of when things where considered my fault or someone else's and would make restitution with people just to play it on the safe side and that's not ok. The reason that it's not ok is because that is a one sided relationship, if you are having to go out of your way every single time their is a disagreement to appease someone then that means you are the only one who is trying. You are the only one who cares. You are the only reason the relationship is working and that is not fair. During all this time of "figuring myself out" I of course have thought a lot about the people who have met this new me and I have changed the way I check myself to make sure I am not lashing out on others. I no longer ask myself "Are you reacting emotionally right now?" but instead say "Are you being reasonable?" That question has shifted my perspective, it allows me to still have my emotions with it's reactions but doesn't allow me to stomp all over others. This has been a helpful tool in the last few months especially in dealing with my family who has abandoned me and my family since McKenna's death.

This has also completely changed my marriage. One of the reasons I was so attracted to Zach when I first met him is because I realized that he too was a "neutral". He was always calm, he hated fighting, and was never quick to be offended. Marriage is easy when you have 2 people who are always trying to avoid confrontation. I have mentioned before how Zach is the main receiver of my full on crazy. Lucky for me he had a better handle on his emotions prior to McKenna's death then I did so he has taken me on with great stride. The number one thing we were both preached on at counseling was communication. Although Zach and I have a great relationship, we have never had to deal with such emotional turmoil before and this was new territory for both of us. Zach was so worried he would burden me with his pain that he constantly portrayed himself as this strong warrior who could felt nothing. While I on the other hand was crippled, I had never been good at expressing myself and now I had all of these new feelings that were even harder to describe and I didn't know what to do with them. For months I would wait for him to go to sleep so that I could let it all out and only show him the tip of the iceberg of anguish I was feeling. I honestly have no idea why I did that, at the time I just hated to see myself so riddled with confusion. I felt like I was back in middle school and figuring out what "hormonal" meant and why it applied to me.

I liked being the "stable" one, I liked always knowing how to react to situations, I liked having my emotions locked up and whipped into shape but now I was none of those things. Here I am 25 years old, 3 children, 2 alive, and pregnant with one more. I own my own home, car, about to graduate from grad school and have been happily married for 5 years and NOW I am having to ask myself "who am I?". I am having to start all over again, I am having to pick up the pieces and put them back together except now chunks are missing and I don't know what to replace them with. I am a new person, I am no longer the woman I have been and have worked so hard to become for the last 25 years. I am weak, I am unstable, I am vulnerable, I am emotional. Having to rediscover yourself is not as fun as the movies make it out to be. It doesn't get resolved in a nice hour and a half segment then wrapped up in a happily ever after. Some of the pieces you think are a good idea to replace for the missing one's are a mistake then your back to square one, some days you wake up and hate everything you have become and the reason you are here, other days you give yourself a break and finally tell yourself that you are doing a good job and come to peace with the new creation you have formed. This has been going on for 8 months, soon to be 9 and everyday is a new battle.

Zach and I are learning to watch each others back more. We both struggle approaching one another and speaking candid. What has helped the most is just asking a simple question "how are you doing?". This has taken the pressure off of pretending everything is ok because it is so rare when someone genuinely ask you this question that you can't just say "Good, how are you?". You have to stop and give a human response, admitting that it was a tough day, that you had a break down in the car by yourself, that you saw a little girl who looked like her today and it tore your heart apart. It has still been a struggle, both of us worry about burdening the other. For me, as I have stated in other post, my greatest time of trial is at night. Like clock work every time we hit the lights and say we are really going to bed she pops into my head and instantly I feel the tears wanting to come out. No matter how many times Zach has told me to wake him I just can't bring myself to do it. He is so busy, he wakes up around 5am to get himself up and drop Zoe off at my sisters. Then he purposefully gets to work early to make sure things are in order. Then he normally ends up having some crazy day and staying a little later then planned. Then he strolls in around 6pm usually after he has stopped by the grocery store on his way home and begins to make dinner. After dinner he gets the kids ready for bed, plays with them a little, reads scriptures, then a book of their choice and finally has his down time.

How can I intrude or ask any more of him? He does EVERYTHING and I know he does. What do I do all day you might ask? School. That's it. Just school! School, school, and more school! I am in a full time, accelerated graduate program that goes by trimesters so you only get a 2 week break before another semester starts. I have always struggled to keep up, especially in a medical program  where I have taken more then 30 hours in just one trimester and it consumes my life. It's so frustrating when you love being a mom and a wife but are constantly being ambushed with exams, homework, and other school responsibilities. Zach has always been so kind and understanding about it. He has never treated me like I was dumb or slow, he has never called me out or told me that I am useless around the house. All he ever tells me on almost an every day basis is how proud he is of me and he wishes he could do more FOR ME! He truly is insane! So the other night I began to weep silently to myself and Zach asked if I was ok, I thought he was asleep and tried my best to hold my quaking voice enough to tell him I was just thinking about McKenna but he saw right through the charade and told me to let it out. After confessing to him why I hated to keep him up he swore on his life that he wanted nothing more then to be there for me, so I let him... I don't think I have ever cried so hard in front of another human being in my whole life. I am positive that not even my own parents have seen me so broken.

We laid there in the dark as he stroked my hair gently, I could feel his agony, I could feel that it hurt him to see me in pain just like it would affect me if I saw him suffering that way and all I could get out was "I'm so sorry, I just want our baby girl back home, I just want her to come home." He continued to hold me as I for the first time allowed someone to see how much I really do hold back. Even in that dark moment I knew something beautiful had come from that cry. We had reached a new level in our marriage. We had seen each other at our highest high and now at our lowers low, we had discovered that we no longer had to endure this pain alone. I don't know why it took me so long to realize that, I have always trusted Zach full heartily but the idea of showing myself, admitting that I am not the strong woman everyone says I am, I am not the positive ray of sunshine that I use to be, I am lost, confused, and in pain seemed impossible. Words can only take me so far, tears are small glimpse of the reality we live in but to let the walls down, to let the flood gates open, and show one person in this universe all that I have been holding in not only with McKenna but with myself, my family, my friends, and even my faith, that is the full story. The same story that we all have but struggle to express. Since our vacation to Colorado for Christmas this year I have been slowly showing my husband these emotions and 3 nights ago in the 5 years that we have been married I gave him my all and I have never known such love.

It reminds me of what our Savior must feel for us. Just a glimpse of His love and compassion for us trying to make it on our own down here. Convinced we are alone, forgotten and forsaken. Yet there He is, the Comforter, the Prince of Peace, the Healer of all things waiting for us to open up and bare our souls to Him. Why is it so hard to do this? Why are we so protective over who gets to see what and how much they get to see. Because it feels like a freak show, at least to me it does. You see crazy stuff on the internet and entertainment media all the time but that's not how people really act. People will judge, condemn, and forever keep that image of you and the time you acted out. There is barely forgiveness or a kind notion, just empty words and something to gossip about. Everyone loves to say "Your over-reacting", make jokes that your on your "period", complain that you are sensitive. We live in a de-sensitized world. We have seen it all and can Google it in a second if we haven't. There are no boundaries and yet when real people encounter true heart ache we don't know what to do with them. We time them, give them a moment to mourn, pick and choose what we deem appropriate reactions and then we sit and wait to see what happens. I know this because I have done it. I have shown this type of judgment first hand. I never understood how difficult it is to navigate through this pain until I lost my own.

This year has been the most I have ever learned and it's not because of school, seminars, or workshops. I have learned the benefit and curse of emotions. I have learned when to show forgiveness and when to walk away. I have learned that time is not as promising as everyone makes it out to be. I have learned that the love of Christ goes deeper then anything I could ever comprehend and that I can't just sit here waiting for it to smack me in the face. I need to dig it up, study it, learn it, love it, and apply it in my own life then maybe I will get a shimmer of understanding of how much my Savior truly loves me. It is more then my husband and my children combined. His love can fill those missing pieces of my soul but it won't happen over night. It takes time, love, dedication, and patience.

I know this is true and in a way must believe it because I would hope with all of my heart that McKenna is with someone who can show her all the love in the world right now. Someone who can guide my tiny 3 year old through that heavenly kingdom never letting her feel a moment of fear or loneliness. Someone who will wait patiently by her side till I can return to my motherly duties for her. The only person I can think of who would show such genuine interest in my own child is the Creator Himself. The One who not only made me, but made her for me. He will love and cherish her in every possible way, never falling short of His responsibilities because He is perfect and I am so blessed that she has all of that and more because she deserves the very best. It's hard to believe that we are starting a year that she will never be apart of. I can't believe that she was only here from 2011-2014. Who would have ever thought it would go bye so fast and end so quickly. I wish she was here to celebrate this new year with us but I know she is where she needs to be. I love you Kenna Bear, Happy New Year baby girl, I hope you know how much we truly love and miss you.

Our Christmas trip to Colorado this year 

 6 months preggo

 My Christmas present from Zach
(I had a weird allergic reaction to my original ring when we first got married and then lost it soon after so I couldn't wear it.) 

 Finally hung McKenna's painting in our hallway by the front door. I put her little face at kissing height so I can give her a peck on my way in and out every day. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

3rd Birthday

Well I know I haven't written in a while but as I mentioned in the previous blog, November was a tough month.

McKenna's birthday was November 17th, as a family we were unable to celebrate it that day due to school, work, and the every day craziness of our lives. We decided to celebrate it today during the Thanksgiving break when we all knew we would have a little more down time. The day of McKenna's birthday was difficult. Many friends and family members released balloons in her honor while Zach and I did our best just to function and try to pretend it was a normal day. I had several break downs but thankfully we are blessed with many people who love and support us unconditionally which carried our family through the day. Even though I could not "celebrate" on her birthday I was trying very hard to figure out how exactly I wanted to "celebrate" McKenna's birthday when the time came.

I knew I didn't just want to release balloons. It's honestly become a depressing activity in my life and is a strong reminder of the day of her funeral. I also didn't want to have any type of birthday style party because that sounded even more depressing. After discussing with Zach we decided we wanted to do something along the lines of a "random acts of kindness" service. We bounced around between 100's of ideas anything from performing service at a children's hospital to leaving money at vending machines with a little note. I knew whatever we did I wanted Dominic to be the heart and soul behind this project. We were starting a new tradition. I wanted us to do a service every year on her birthday that not only brought all of us joy but a true reminder of who our little Kenna Bear was and still is.

This morning I flipped through pinterest, after pinterest, and even google to get ideas of what we could do that was a service, reminded us of McKenna, and would be at Dominic's understanding level. I found nothing. It was only 10:30am and I was already beginning to feel defeated. The blame started setting in, "Why didn't I plan this better. I know I'm busy but I should have made more time. This is going to look like I half-a**'d it and I don't want it to look that way." Once again Zach and I went back and forth with ideas, I just wanted something simple, is that even possible? Finally I had a light bulb moment. "What if we just bought some little stuffed animals (preferably bears) tide a balloon around them with a note attached about McKenna and passed them around at a park?" YES! I HAD FOUND A WINNER! It was simple, it was sweet, and Dominic could hand it to any little kid he wanted. It was perfect.

Zach, Dominic, and I hopped in the car to go get the supplies. It took us a few stores to find the stuffed animals we were looking for at an affordable price. We ended up finding some very cute and fluffy ones. They were not all bears but most of them were and they were in many different colors so it could easily be for a boy or a girl. We picked up 20 stuffed animals, printed 20 notes about McKenna, and 25 pink balloons (5 for our family to release at the end.) Running the errands was time consuming and I could feel something over taking me. It was an old habit that I thought I had long overcome. It was creeping it's way up into my brain and it was whispering to me "Everything must be perfect!".

When I first married Zach 5 years ago I had a very bad control problem when it came to parties, events, crafts, outings, cleaning, and pretty much EVERYTHING! I would obsess over perfection. I knew how to make things look exactly the way they "should" down to folding an invitation perfectly or deep cleaning every nook and cranny of my house. I would spend hours on simple projects and stay up all night until it was perfect. No one would notice the detail or the effort, most never thought twice about such perfectionism but I didn't care. I loved it and everything was in order just the way it would be in a magazine. I would spend all my time at parties cleaning up after people and constantly reorganizing anything that might have gotten slightly moved around so that the decorations would look perfect at all times. I would be so surprised and even disappointed when the party was already over because I had barely spoken to anyone or really got to enjoy the party.

I know many of you don't really know my husband but if you take the paragraph above and say the opposite of every single sentence that's who he is. He is Mr. Laid-back-No-worries-Everything-will-work-out-exactly-how-it's-suppose-too. At first it drove me crazy but with time I realized that he was right. All of that obsessing was worthless! Wasting hours upon hours on perfection just for no one to even notice the detail except me was insane. I was ruining what should have been an easy going fun event with my perfectionism and realized that I was kind of a party pooper! So, with much effort and even more time I learned to stop a habit that I had my whole life and began to enjoy the beauty of simplicity. I still enjoy making things look nice and putting full effort into projects but when I feel that tinge of crazy come out I just stop and walk away from the situation. I then realize it was perfect just the way it was minus all the stress. Ultimately it led to a lot less disappointed and ended with a lot more satisfaction. I was so proud the day I realized I kicked this problem in the butt.

But here I was today riding in the car and I could feel it. I could feel that urge to make sure everything was exactly how it should be. I kept rehearsing the details of what we were going to do over and over again in my head to make sure that I did not miss a thing and that all was going according to plan. I guess my husband could sense this and nailed it on the head as we were driving around by saying "I don't want you to base this day on how perfect everything goes or how long it takes. That's not what its about ok?" "I know, I just want everything to be nice." I responded and tried to act like my statement wasn't a complete lie but before we even made it to the parking lot of our next destination I was in tears. Feelings of frustration that all of my efforts might be in vain were already dominating me and on top of that I could tell I was making him miserable because I was acting like a brat. The guilt along with my lovely emotions dragged out our errands and instead of stopping to get control of myself I pushed through and just let myself become uglier.

We got to the park and began to tie the balloons to the animals. We did this because we thought it would be easiest to pick up the balloons last and finish up everything at the park. This was a big mistake. It was surprisingly windy and all the balloons kept getting twisted and knotted together AFTER we had tied the dolls to them. Zach was trying to spread them further apart by putting them on the ground which was UNACCEPTABLE to me and I yelled at him for getting the dolls dirty. Then a big gush came and 5 balloons flew out of the car. "WELL GREAT, THERE GOES THE BALLOONS WE WERE SUPPOSE TO RELEASE" I yelled at him as if he didn't already feel bad he had let them escape. I continued to cut my husband down and scream out loud what a complete failure this was as I attempted to finish the job. Trying to untangle the balloons was literally impossible. There was no where for me to hide from the wind and every time I undid one knot it was quadrupled by another push of wind. As I watched a few of McKenna's notes slip away and 3 more balloons fly out of the car the monster had finally taken complete control.

"THIS IS A DISASTER! I JUST WANT TO GO HOME! ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS SOMETHING NICE AND SIMPLE AND IT HAS ALL FALLEN APART! I HATE THIS! NONE OF THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH! DONT TOUCH ME!!!" Tears burned out of my eyes as I continued to resist comfort from Zach and yanked my arm away from him when he tried to pull me in for a hug to calm me down. He maintained composure even though I was glaring at him as if this was somehow all his fault. He replied with only positive comments promising that it was great and not all was lost. We still had 17 balloons and it was going to be wonderful. I didn't believe him. I really wanted to sulk in the car while they handed out our gifts to the kids at the park. This day sucked.

We finally figured out if we just wrapped the entire string around the animals they would no longer get tangled up. We had to cut all the strings off the dolls we had previously done and pull the balloons out one by one because they were so intertwined. Some of the holes we had punched out for McKenna's paper had ripped so we had to punch new stabbed out looking holes into different parts of the paper instead which looked terrible. I tried to take deep breaths and calm down but I eventually succumbed to the "I don't give a crap anymore" attitude that I tend to get when I have reached my limit. What should have only taken us 20 minutes to set up with no casualties of missing balloons or crumpled pieces of paper had now taken us over an hour. We had finally finished. We took some pictures. I forced a smile. Then we went to work.

I loved watching Dominic hand out the balloons to the kids. Most of them were afraid and unsure of him. They would run to their parents and stare. Dominic showed no fear. He would continue to follow them and offer the little dolls till finally they accepted his gift with a smile. Many parents kept asking "How much?" or "What is this for?". Dominic would answer every single one of their questions without me even telling him what to say "there free" or "because McKenna died". I watched them take the balloons with confusion on why someone would give them a free doll and balloon. I tried not to gawk as I waited for them to read the note and see their reactions.

This is what the note said: On April 21, 2014 we lost our beautiful baby girl McKenna Eve Bundy. November 17th of this year would have been her 3rd birthday. As a family we decided to celebrate this day by doing "random acts of kindness". So please accept this gift and release this balloon in honor of our daughter so everyone can get a glimpse of her sweet love. We were blessed to have her for the short 2 1/2 years that we did. Our life goal is to be the ray of sunshine in other people's lives just like she was in ours every single day. Enjoy today knowing that you are loved and this did not happen by coincidence, our daughter wanted us to do this just for you! If you would like to learn more about our "Kenna Bear" and the story behind the pink balloon you can visit our family blog at ""

It lifted a burden off of me to see that first balloon released by a couple and their young son. They smiled as they let it go and my heart was happy that they understood the note and were happy to be apart of our little world for just this tiny moment. As we continued to watch Dominic pass out balloons I could feel my anxiety and craziness calming down but for some reason could not keep the beast from being rude to Zach. It was like an out of body experience. I didn't want to treat him that way, I knew I was being a jerk and I hated it. If anyone knows Zach and I they know that we don't really fight. In the 5 years that we have been married we have rarely fought, occasional heated discussions of course but nothing really beyond that. To be 100% honest we have never had a full blown "level 10 alert" fight either. I don't know why the Lord chose to bless me with such a great husband but I know it was a very tender mercy indeed.

We finished up the balloons and walked back to the car. I tried to snap a few shots of the children walking around with the dolls. Some were still holding their balloons, others reading the note and releasing them. It was a very humbling moment to look out and literally see all those we had touched today. The evidence right in their hand. I stared out in the park and realized the last time I had been here was for McKenna's balloon release. Funny how I had noted every detail of today yet failed to realize the symbolism of celebrating her birthday with others and releasing balloons in her honor at the very same place we had held her ceremony. Just goes to show who really runs the show down here.

I sat in the car and still felt a sting of disappointment. I didn't want it to be there. I just wanted to feel satisfied with all that we had accomplished. It had been a tough day, tough week, hell a tough month but we made the very best of it. So why was I still in this mood? Why couldn't I just be grateful? Well the answer is obvious isn't it? Where is my daughter? How far away is Heaven? Does she see me down here in this abyss? Does she know how hard I'm trying despite my crappy attitude? Can her innocent 3 year old mind see past all of that and know I'm not ungrateful but in pain? That I don't know how to deal with these torturous feelings so I unintentionally lash out on the people I love? Even her own daddy? Can she still love me after that? I took a deep breath and thought to myself "I wish I could just feel you here with me. Please McKenna, I need you." I closed my eyes and waited to feel her embrace but nothing came. My face flushed and anger stung my heart. What have I done to deserve any of this?

I had been tuning everyone out in the car up until this point but my ears perked up when I heard Dominic singing a song I had not sung in a very long time. In fact, I had completely forgotten that I had ever taught him this song. It's called "Little Bunny Foo Foo". Its a silly song about a rabbit who wont behave and a fairy turns him into something (I always make that part up). I actually originally taught this song to McKenna. Before Dominic started kindergarten I took them both to a little friendly daycare down the street. I was still at the same college and as usual was the morning drop off for the kids. McKenna was not a morning person (just like her daddy) and would scream every morning in the car. The only way to avoid this was to sing her songs but usually she was unhappy with every song I sang, until I discovered "Little Bunny Foo Foo". She loved this song because it came with hand motions and was goofy. She would do the little bunny ears with her tiny fingers and then "bop" the bunny on the head for misbehaving. We sang it everyday for months. Dominic loved it at first too but quickly despised the song after being forced to hear it so many times.

He was now singing the song to his little sister Zoe, because she too was crying and grumpy from a long day at the park. He was doing the hand motions and she giggled wildly at his funny song. My heart stopped as it was flooded with memories I had completely forgotten about. Memories can feel like you found a million dollars when that's all you have left of a person. I felt my lips begin to tremble and the anger melt off. She was here with me. The hard part about loosing a loved one is not everyone is the same when it comes to feeling them around you. I struggle "feeling" McKenna around me. Others say they feel her, dream about her, and even see her. I rarely have any of these. I have had 3 dreams all together and have felt her presence a handful of times. Outside of that, nothing but when I heard that song I knew without a doubt that was my angel singing to me. Letting me know that Heaven is not as far away as it seems.

We finally went home and I asked if I could be alone for a little while to calm the last of my quivering nerves. Everyone went to the grocery store and I let all the tears out. All the anger, fear, disappointment, pain, and even the unexplainable attitude out. I punched my pillow, I held her doll that I sleep with, I cried out to God "WHY DID TODAY HAVE TO BE THAT DIFFICULT?" Then I crawled into my bed and looked at the photos we took of today. There were not many. Most of them are far away and slightly blurry but I knew McKenna had been there with us. I know it brought her joy to see us do good on her behalf. I mean what more could an angel in heaven want from us mortals? Faith, devotion, sacrifice, compassion, endurance, and unconditional love. These are all the traits our Heavenly Father wants us to have and that was shown by so many people in so many different ways today.

Yes, it was a tough day, a tough week, and a tough month but we got through it. Right now I lay next to my loving and compassionate husband knowing that despite all my behavior today he still loves me. I asked his forgiveness and without even a flinch or a put down that I easily deserved he embraced me with watery eyes and the comment "If anyone understands why you acted the way you did today, it's me". McKenna is a lucky girl to have a daddy who loves her so much that he will push through whatever trial stands in his way with a positive attitude to show her his love and devotion. Mommy has a lot more to learn from him.

Happy 3rd Birthday Kenna Bear. I meant every word I wrote in that note we passed out today. I will be lucky if I can hold a flame to the light you have left in our lives. I love you with all of my heart, body, and soul. I hope that you were able to celebrate your birthday without us in Heaven. I hope you know if we could be, we would be there with you too. Thank you for letting me know that you are always with me, no matter how much faith I lack. Never forget how much we all greatly love you.

P.S. When our 5 family balloons slipped out of the car this afternoon Dominic yelled out "well at least she got our balloons first.". He loved seeing you get the balloons from all the kids today. He asked us to buy you a birthday cake and even sing you happy birthday. Then we shared stories of all the funny memories you have left in his life. He loves and misses you very much. I know today was a special day for him too.