The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

Saturday, November 8, 2014


November use to be a big month in our family. We have McKenna's birthday the 17th, Zach and I anniversary the 21st and of course delicious Thanksgiving. I have always loved November. Texas starts to cool down and you get your first real taste of fall. The leaves slowly begin to change colors and you start to see the hats, boots and heavy coats come out. Since fall is a very short period in Texas I have always taken extra joy during this time but this year I have feared it. The holidays have officially started. Zach and I barely crawled out of Halloween and now we are about to face birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in just 2 months. That's a heavy load to dump on anyone even when there is nothing wrong let alone when you've lost a child. I have tried to embrace and accept the fact that this month will be a tough one and instead focus on how we as a family would like to honor McKenna on her birthday. We are really trying to change up the celebration style this year so we don't have to go through another experience like Halloween. I have some ideas floating around but nothing concrete yet. I will keep you updated.

We have continued to go to the family group counseling. The last 2 weeks have been a "dozey" to say the least. Last week they had these shattered pots. Every family member got 3 broken pieces. On the inside you were suppose to write things that had been hard since their death, what you felt like you had missed out on, what you were trying to overcome. On the outside you wrote what has helped you get through it and what was important to you now that they had passed. You could draw pictures or write something, whichever you preferred. Afterwards you would glue it all together and pick it up at the next meeting. They warned us before we started that it can be very emotional and many people cry. I thought to myself "Nah, this one is not going to make me cry. In fact this whole thing seems really silly." We sat down at our table and I picked my little broken pottery pieces. I was about to start writing when I looked up to see Dominic sit down across from me. I explained the project to him and then Zach asked him what he would like to write on the inside. My heart stopped as I heard my 6 year old son say something he had never talked about in front of me before "Write for me that... it was hard to watch you die in front of me". He said it as if he had just told him something very casual. There was no tears or emotion behind it. In fact he started coloring his outside piece and seemed delighted to be coloring.

Zach looked up at me as if didn't know what to do and I returned the look of bewilderment. Then he wrote it down and I realized that this project is not as silly as I thought it was going to be. I put a little more thought into what I wanted to say and 5 words in tears began to role down my checks. Dominic was having a blast coming up with ideas to draw on his pot and even drew a picture of McKenna dead at the bottom of a pool. He was happily jabbering away about everything and anything when he looked up and saw me quietly crying. "It's hard mom isn't it?" I looked up at him surprised that he had noticed and said "What is?" "It's hard to talk about it and not cry." I felt like my tongue had gone limp, I didn't know how to respond and all I could manage to get out was "yeah... it is". Then he went back to his usual up beat personality as I finished up my note. Children mourn completely different from anything I ever could have imagined. It's amazing to me how they can say things that are so sad and terrible like "watching you die in front of me" and then go back to singing and dancing like they didn't just drop a bomb in your lap while they draw a picture of their dead sibling. He did a few more sad things like he purposely drew a heart between 2 cracked pieces so it would show his broken heart but even then he showed it to me with pride rather then sadness.

I decided to just go with his flow. I talked about a few things that made me sad and did my best to smile through the words. If this was his way of opening up I didn't want to miss it. Dominic has talked to many other people about the day he found McKenna in the pool but not once as he ever said it to me. My son is a momma's boy, we have a very close bond and even at the young age of 6 I see him go out of his way to make sure he doesn't hurt me. I think that's why he won't talk about it with me, I also believe that's why he says things with a smile. Clearly he comprehends more then I thought he does with his comment on "it hard isn't it" but I guess to him it's more important to make sure he doesn't make me sad with what he says. I find it very sweet but very painful at the same time. I don't want him to worry about me, that's not his job! His job is to be 6! He is just suppose to be a silly, goofy, dirty and even a gross little boy with no burdens or images of his dead sister's body in his mind. Even though I know I have been very straight forward and open with him about my feelings because I have heard the worst thing you can do is hide it from them, he still handles it as if it's bad to make me cry and I'm not sure if this is "healthy" or not. It's very confusing but I'm grateful he shared that moment with me. Hopefully this will start opening up more doors for us.

The outside of the pot was a much better experience. I drew a little temple with pink balloons, hearts and a quote from one of McKenna's favorite songs. Zach of course made all of our drawings look like crap with a scenery shot of mountains, a river and flowers. He also drew each one of our faces as cartoons on the brim of the pot. Dominic drew the entire family with our ages above it (he does this a lot) and then became jealous of my temple. I really didn't think he would care and was happy he recognized it was a temple (I am not a very good artist). He started to pout and said that he wished he would have thought of it because the temple reminded him of McKenna too. After handling a minor meltdown and Dominic accidentally dropping his piece 3x shattering them into smaller pieces he finally got to draw a little temple too and beamed with joy over it. It was a good heart felt but emotional night and I was relieved to be done with the project.

The next week we picked up our little pot which came out really good surprisingly and were now given a new assignment. They had lined up a busy night for us with writing individual notes for McKenna to attach on purple balloons and release later that night. Then we were going to draw on a quilt square that would be made into a blanket to hang in the hallways of the building. Dominic was a little extra wound up that night and when we got outside to let go of the balloons there was suppose to be a moment of silence before we let it go. He accidentally let go of his balloon and immediately broke into tears. At first I felt frustrated with him because that whole day we had issues with listening but I decided to show my patient side and tried to comfort him by giving him my balloon. This did not seem to calm him down and finally I whispered to him "It's ok you let it go, now McKenna will get your note first that way it doesn't get lost in all the other balloons." This immediately silenced him and he smiled as he released Zach and my balloon. We watched them fly away and Dominic bragged about her getting his note first.

I felt a gentle tug on my heart. I felt heavy. I felt tired. That morning I had dreamed I was watching a video of McKenna drowning and I was so upset with myself for not saving her it woke me up. It had lingered with me all day and the balloon ceremony was a strong reminder of how dead she really was. Early that evening when we were writing our notes one of the counselors walked up to our family to check and make sure they had her name right for a candle light service we would be doing at our last meeting next week. "Her name is McKenna Bundy right? Did I spell her name correctly?" for some reason a lightening bolt of rage struck me and it took every ounce of control in me not to yell out at him and scream "I HATE YOU! Yes, we get it she's dead! How many more ceremonies and memorials do we have to do! SHE'S DEAD SHE'S DEAD SHE'S DEAD AND NONE OF THIS IS HELPING!" but I just looked at him and nodded my head, "Yes, that's right." Of course I didn't really hate him. He is honestly one of the nicest people I have ever met and this whole program is amazing. It was just one of those days where I woke up with a vision of my daughter drowning right in front of me and it wasn't going to be a good day.

I don't know why but I have always thought a little balloon floating away into a big sky was a beautiful thing. I watched my balloon float away but today felt emptiness. "Look at my lonely little balloon and it's not even really going to heaven. I wish it was..." We went back inside and split into our individual classes. This was the part I was looking forward too. "I hope everyone is having a crappy day too. I hope everyone is ready to let it out. I am ready to hear about some struggles so we can all share the pain. Lets get this started!" All the women sat down and the counselor said we would only be talking for a few minutes so that we would have time to work on our quilts. "Oh no, I don't want to do that. Didn't we pretty much do the same thing last week and today with the balloons? I need to hear some gut wrenching pain! I need these women to show me I'm not alone and how sucky it is to live in the real world when your mourning a child. I don't normally want to talk about my feelings but it's been a long day and I need to let it out!" I said this all in my head of course.

I saw a woman crying and thought "Ok, here we go!" but she ended up not saying a word even when the counselor tried to give her the floor to speak her mind. We went in a circle around the room and NO ONE HAD ANYTHING TO SAY! The one time I really wanted to hash it out and not one person was saying a peep! WHY??? I am terrible at communicating my struggles. I do best when someone opens up to me and then I feel comfortable opening up to them. It's part of this obsession I have with making sure the conversation is not 100% about me. I don't know why but I hate that! I don't like to be the center of attention and I DEFINITLY don't want to be the only person talking during grief GROUP! That's why it's a GROUP so we can ALL talk about our shared burden. This greatly discouraged me from saying anything and ended up joining in on the silence.

Since no one was talking we started our quilts early. I had no idea what to write and starred at the other quilts they already had hung on the wall. Many of them said "RIP" with a name on it. "Well that's extremely depressing, no thanks." I grumbled to myself. Now the other moms had started to talk except instead of talking about rough times they were laughing and joking about how terrible their quilt was coming out. "OF COURSE! Everyone is in a great mood and I am the grump in the corner over here. When will this day end!" I tried for a very brief moment to engage in the conversation but just couldn't do it. Not today. I zoned everyone out and stared at my empty quilt a little longer. What to put... what to put. A bunch of cheesy quotes came to my head that I have heard a 1000 times since Kenna's death but still wasn't satisfied with the idea. If I could leave one note on here, just one sentence to McKenna that I knew she would read, what would I want it to say? I know I wouldn't want it to be sad or depressing, it needed to be something happy and personal. How could I write anything even remotely positive when I felt so terrible all day? And then it came to me, the one thing I longed for more then anything. The one image I constantly day dreamed about. The one thing that if it really happened would make the last 6 months vanish in the blink of an eye. My "happy thought" when I got too sad. My every desire, my biggest dream, my greatest treasure.... giving my daughter a hug again.

I quickly scribbled away a crappy stick figure drawling of me on my knees giving McKenna a hug with one sentence stating "I can't wait to share this moment with you." I finished up just in time and turned my quilt in. I didn't say a word to one person that night. I hardly made eye contact with a single soul but I had done it. I had found my silver lining and all though it didn't take the hurt away it definitely brought me some comfort. On the way home that night I said everything I wanted to say in group to my husband. I told him how much I missed her. I missed getting her dressed in the mornings. I missed singing our songs together. I missed fighting over what shoes she would wear. I missed pretending that her hand was missing every time I put a shirt on her and couldn't get her arm out. I missed the way she smiled at me when she knew she had done something wrong. Listening to her stay up in her bed singing songs and telling stories even though she was suppose to be asleep. The way her head would rest against my leg with my hand on her head as we would walk down the hallway to leave day care and I would think to myself "Cherish this moment Shannon, one day she will be grown and you won't have this anymore."

I got part of that right but thank God it's not true. I will have this again. I will get her back. I will get to hold her. I will get to see her grow up and I will have her for eternity. It will be greater then I could ever try to imagine. November will be a hard month, the holidays will be a hard season, this journey will be hard for a life time but at least it's not forever! Heaven is real and it's for eternity. It's hard to see it but if I don't believe in that then what is the point of this life?  I have to hold on to the promise that everything happens for a reason and that there is a time and place for all things. My daughter died for a purpose bigger then I can comprehend and I know one day... some day...   I will see that promise fulfilled.

Ecclesiastes 3
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

What Dominic wrote for his balloon release.
That is McKenna in a cloud and she is watching over him. 

He drew a temple with her flying next to it as an angel.



My quilt square



Our broken pottery project:
Happy thoughts:
I drew the temple and Zach drew the faces above it of the whole family

Dominic's picture of him and Kenna

The rest of the family

His broken heart

Zach's scenery painting

Dominic's Temple

Our sad thoughts:


Mine at the bottom

Mine on the top and Zach's at the bottom

Dominic's says
"I miss you and I love you so much"

What Zach wrote for Dominic with
Dominic's drawing of McKenna drowning below it.

***This is what gives me hope***
Dominic drew this at school for his teacher all by himself.

The past: McKenna drowning

The present: This is our family all kneeling together in prayer in the family room.

The future: He wants to be a police officer... at least as of right this moment.
Last week it was a veterinarian. :)


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