Sawyer’s Story: The Funeral

December 28, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Posted in funeral, Grief | 8 Comments
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Four years ago today was Sawyer’s funeral.   I still cannot believe that Evan and I have lived through 2 of our children’s funerals.   Most of those days are a big blur and what I do remember was that everything seemed so surreal.  I had trouble putting sentences together.

Evan, on the other hand, wrote speeches for Jake and then again 4 years later for Sawyer.  I am still amazed and thankful that Evan was able to think and write clearly enough for both of us.

My brother read what Evan wrote at Jake’s funeral.  Below is what Evan read at Sawyer’s funeral:

Our son Sawyer is perfect.  We know all parents feel that way about their children, and they should.  We feel that way about our first son Jake, our twins Fletcher and Alyssa, and about Sawyer.  But it’s not just a feeling.  We know it.  Sawyer is and always will be perfect.  He has been perfect from the first moment we met him.  Yes, he was also sweet, and adorable, and soft, and cuddly, and wonderful.  But above all else, he was perfect.  A perfect son.  A perfect little brother.

We don’t know why we only got 40 days with Sawyer.  We were supposed to have 40 years or more.  40 days makes no sense, and likely never will.  We don’t know why that happened, but what we do know is how much we love Sawyer.  We know how much we miss him and how much are hearts ache not being able to hold him and kiss him and care for him the way we were supposed to be able to do.  40 days – even the 40 wonderful days we had with him – is not enough.  Not even close.

But, we’re going to treasure every memory from those 40 days.  The first moment we saw him at the hospital.  The first time we each held him.  The first time we fed him and changed him and swaddled him.  The first time we took him home and introduced him to the twins.  The first time he smiled at us (even though it was probably just gas).  The first time we got to tell every one of you about him and positively beamed with pride in getting to do so.  We will hold onto each of those firsts – and every other moment after them that we had with Sawyer.  We’ll remember every time we just sat and stared at him and marveled at how perfect he was and how amazing it was that we could make something – someone – so perfect.

We thank you all for being here this morning to help us get through this day with your love, friendship and support.  We thank you for all that so many of you have already done, your words of love and kindness, and your helping hands.  And we thank you for all that you will do to help as we try to figure out how to go on without having all those “firsts” we were supposed to have with Sawyer over the days, weeks, months and years to come.  We welcome you back to our house after the service today, so that we can attempt to start to thank you in person and thank you for loving Sawyer with us.

There is comfort in knowing that Sawyer’s big brother Jake will be with him now.  So will Grandmother and Aunt Sophie – Sawyer’s namesake who also had to grieve for a lost son – and his other great grandparents and loved ones who passed before him.  We know he’s in good hands – it’s just that they are not the hands he is supposed to be in yet.  He is supposed to be in our hands.  But instead, our hands shake because we can’t touch him.  Our arms ache because we can’t hold him.  Our hearts break because he is gone after only 40 days.  But even as we cannot understand or believe any of this, we want you to know, Sawyer, that we love you.  Truly, deeply, forever, we love you.  And no matter what Sawyer, you are perfect.  You are perfect.  You are perfect.

Boys (& Girls) of Summer

September 10, 2012 at 12:04 am | Posted in after death?, Grief, life after loss, normal? | 6 Comments
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When Evan and I were told it was 100% certain that Jake had trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), 1 million thoughts raced through my mind.  I doubt I can adequately articulate my exact thoughts and feelings at that moment.  However, when we were “by accident” told that Jake was a boy I remember very clearly the precise thought which entered my mind first.  The realization that Evan might not be able to play little league with our son was the thought which resonated first (and loudest) in my brain.

Jake was born 14 weeks early and only lived for 14 days.  He did not ever leave the NICU.  He never played little league.  His little brother and little sister did join a team this year.  They played in their first little league game over the weekend.

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The team shirts were randomly given out right before the game.  I have always thought that Jake’s lucky number was 14.  So, maybe just maybe he was there today too.

A Happy Day

August 16, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Posted in life after loss, Love | 13 Comments
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“Today you are you! That is truer than true!
There is no one alive..…who is you-er than you!
Dr. Seuss “Happy Birthday To You!”


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The Ocean

April 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Posted in Death, Grief | 5 Comments
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I met a bereaved father the other day. There is an immediate level of familiarity when you meet another member of the club. Bereaved parents all have different stories but we have all walked in the darkest valley of death. We have all cruelly defied the circle of life and outlived our children.

It has been 7 years since his 29-year-old son died. The father went on to tell me an analogy of grieving for your child. I am not sure I can explain it as eloquently as he did but I will try.

Grief is like an ocean. At times it is calm but there are always ripples. Other times the water is rough. The ocean is unpredictable. Out of no where and with little or no warning a tsunami will drown you. Over time the waters will calm down again but they will never be still.

On a completely different but still ocean related note, click this link to hear the twins tell their versions of their great grandfather’s ocean joke.

Anniversaries (again)

September 10, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Death, father, Grief, mother, mourning, parents | 4 Comments
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The tragedy of 9/11 and its’ anniversary are kinds of grief.   It is of course, an enormous source of grief for all of the families and friends who lost loved ones.  It is also the kind of grief in which you realize that the world as you knew it will not ever be the same.

Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans the week that Jake passed away.   A very close friend of mine took her 5-year-old son in for his check up and the pediatrician found a rare heart condition.   My grandmother had died.  I felt like the world was coming to an end.   So, I asked the rabbi who presided at Jake’s funeral about the possibility that the world was ending.   He replied with an analogy.   He said that it is like when you decide you are going to buy a certain kind of car.   Once you make the decision you start seeing the car every where.   So, my take away from his explanation was now that I was grieving I would start to see grieving every where. . . Turns out you don’t have to look too far for grief in this world.   The record 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti shortly after Sawyer died.

I know that 9/11, where close to 3,000 people died; Hurricane Katrina, where 1,500-1,700 people died; and the earthquake in Haiti, where almost 230,000 people died are tremendous losses compared to the death of two babies.   But, those babies were mine.   And, my world will never be the same as it was before they had died.

There is not a contest for who has the most grief.   I am not trying to compare my losses to these catastrophic tragedies.   There are not any winners here.  In grief we have all lost.   However, there is still the next day and the day after that.  And one day, there is a point where we will realize that our loved ones are dead but we are still alive.

I posted the above last year at this time.  On the anniversary of 9/11 and every day, my heart, prayers and thoughts go out to not only the victims but to those who they left behind in this world. 

Hospitals, Hernias & Holidays

July 2, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Posted in emergency room, Grief, hospital, parents, twins | 10 Comments
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Yesterday I called Evan and told him to come home immediately.  As I hung up the phone, I questioned if I overreacted.  We had been at a close friend’s house playing.  All was normal except when we left one twin ran to the car and the other was dragging his left foot.  I asked if he wanted me to pick him up.  It is not unusual for him to get tired and ask to be carried.  However, when I picked him up he screamed to be put down.

Finally I got everybody in the car.  As I drove I thought maybe he was having an allergic reaction.  Maybe he could not walk because his feet were swollen.  Or maybe his shoes were too small and he needed new shoes.  I opted to stop at CVS rather than the shoe store.  At this point, they both were screaming.  She wanted ice cream.  He wanted to sit down.  After buying Benadryl, 2 toy cars and frozen yogurt to go, we were back in the car.  I made the call to Evan.  One of us needed to take him to the doctor.

At home I stripped him down to look for hives.  He was very swollen in his groin area.  Evan got home and took him to the after hours pediatric urgent care.  I fully expected a call telling me there was an unexplainable allergic reaction (like many others in the past) and the hives would be gone in the morning.

Instead Evan called to tell me that he was on his way to the ER.   The hive was actually a hernia.  I needed to go to the ER.   Luckily, I was able to drop off the well twin back at our friend’s house.  Thank you again!!

I got to the ER just in time for the ultrasound.  He screamed, cried and begged (politely) for the ultrasound technician to please stop.  Evan and I held him down.  Ok, Evan held him down.  I had to go cry in the hall.

After the ultrasound we waited to speak to the surgeon.  While waiting, I went to the bathroom.  The bathroom was right across from this hospital’s “consult room.”  The “consult room” was where Evan and I held Jake for the last time.  It was where we were when the ER doctor told us that Sawyer was dead.  They were different “consult rooms,” in different hospitals but they looked the same.  Standard issue plastic couch and chair.  Generic flowery art.  Striped carpet.

As I reached the door of our ER room I looked through the glass panel of the door.  Evan was holding hands with our very much alive son.  I thought of the glass partition which Alice Wisler so insightfully used to describe bereaved parent’s desire to be so close and so distant from their living children.  I walked back into the room.

The surgeon arrived.  He originally said that we would be checked in and surgery would be the next morning.   An hour or so later, we were told that due to life threatening cases and the holiday weekend we would need to go home.  We were discharged early this morning.  Surgery will be scheduled for this week.  I am going to kiss the twins one more time right now.

Perfect Parenting?

June 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Posted in Grief, mourning, parents, twins | 8 Comments
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Did you ever see the movie Sliding Doors?  Gwyneth Paltrow, pre country music singing career, plays a woman whose entire life changes based on catching a train.  Her life is portrayed in the movie both as if she caught the train and as if she did not. 

I wish I could know what kind of parent I would be if Jake and Sawyer had not died.  I wish I could see my life both ways, in parallel.  And okay, I wish I could just pick the life that did not include either of them dying.

However, here in reality I know I do not get those wishes and I can not watch both options in parallel (nor will I become a country music singer).  So I must try to be the best parent I can be and accept that I will not be perfect.

Alice Wisler wrote Parenting Through a Glass Partition — After the Death of a Child.   Her son Daniel, died from cancer treatments in 1997 at the age of four. She wrote: 

“At the fast food restaurant, my children laugh in the play area as I sit drinking coffee behind the glass partition that separates the play area from the dining section. While I have hugged them so tightly their tonsils could pop out, I am still, much of the time, finding myself watching them from a distance. They are mine but so was Daniel, and in the course of a moment I know they could be gone, as he is.” 

After Jake died I could not imagine being a parent to a child who came home with us.  After the twins were born and did come home, it dawned on me that I was so focused on making sure that they were not premature that I had not considered actually being a parent.  Parts of me want (and may always want) to wrap them up in a bubble wrap and protect them from the world.  The wiser, perhaps more jaded part of me knows that no matter what I do I will not be able to protect them from every thing.

Sawyer was full term but did spend some time in the NICU.   I did keep myself at a distance.  I could not visit the NICU for long.  Once Sawyer was released from the NICU I felt incredibly guilty that I did not visit him more.  I also felt incredibly lucky that he came home with us. 

Being a parent (bereaved or not) is bittersweet, frustrating, exhausting and amazing all at the same time.  Would I be more patient, appreciative and understanding if Jake and Sawyer were here?  Would I be less bitter and more sweet?  Has grief made me a more aware and loving parent?  I will never know.  Right now all I know is that I will keep trying.

Father’s Day

June 19, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Posted in father, Grief | 4 Comments
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A grieving father is often refered to as a “forgotten parent.”  As I quoted Harriet Sarnoff Schiff, in this post nowhere in the history “of sex discrimination is there a more glaring injustice than that thrust upon a bereaved father.”  It is hard to find resources for a bereaved father.  However, I did come across the Grieving Dad’s Project, which was created specifically to assist father’s with their journey through grief.

This week I helped the twins make Father’s Day cards for Evan.  They made him art projects too.  I can not help Jake and Sawyer wish their dad a happy father’s day so here is my best attempt:

A Father’s Day Wish From Heaven

Adapted from Jody Seilheimer poem
A Mother’s Day Wish From Heaven

Dear Mr. Hallmark,
We are writing to you from heaven,
and though it must appear
A rather strange idea,
We see everything from here. We just popped in to visit,
your stores to find a card
A card of love for our father,
as this day for him is hard.
There must be some mistake we thought,
We saw every card you could imagine
Except we could not find a card,
from a child who lives in heaven.

 He is still a father too,
no matter where we reside
We had to leave, he understands,
but oh the tears he’s cried.
We thought that if we wrote you,
that you would come to know
That though we live in heaven now,
We still love our father so.

 So you see Mr. Hallmark,
though we no longer live on earth
We must find a way to remind him
of his wondrous worth.
He needs to be honored,
and remembered too
Just as the children of earth will do.

Thank you Mr. Hallmark,
We know you’ll do your best
We have done all we can do;
to you I’ll leave the rest.

Find a way to tell him,
how much he means to us.

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