Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Memorial of Sorts

Yesterday, the hospital health system that had sent the helicopter for Daniel, and had ultimately been entrusted with performing an autopsy which took eight months, had a Memorial Service for the children who had passed to spirit within the last several years. In concept, this is a lovely idea. Particularly with the economy, many families cannot afford funerals or ceremonies of remembrance and so for many of them, this may be all they have. Families and their friends are welcomed as long as one RSVPs in advance. There is a room where there are tables of remembrance where one can either set up a picture of your child, or some brought the child's toys, or a computer with a power point presentation of their child's life and times. There is childcare, and a fairly sanitized service bordering on the non-religious. On entering, families are given carnations of many colors, and as their child's name is called, they come forward and place the flower into a wooden "Tree of Life" with holes drilled for the carnations to rest. One can also ask for more flowers in order to remember others who have passed recently.
It was an interesting gathering. My husband and I attended along with all three of our children who remain on Earth, the two in college and the one who had graduated. The gathering was held in the medical center's college of nursing building which is experiencing renovation. Parking was underneath the building, and we arrived to a table outside the elevator with kleenex packages, programs, forget-me-not seeds, poems on cards, and a booklet on local Grief and Loss resources. It was interesting to learn that there IS a branch of Compassionate Friends in our area, as I had asked this, and was told no, about ten months ago. We went and set up Daniel's framed photograph.
It was interesting to me that there was a bevy of pregnant women, almost due, who were there to remember a premature infant they had lost in the last eighteen months. There were lots of families with babies who were there to remember an older child. You could pick out who the parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and grandparents were. Mothers had tears and were barely holding it together. Fathers looked as if they had been punched in the gut. Aunts were concerned and supportive. Grandparents were as supportive of their families as they knew how to be, and siblings were simply bewildered, wandering from table to table, realizing that their grief and pain, was a grief shared with so many other children and families. No one there was doing particularly well, and families that did not already know one another, avoided eye contact as well as avoided talking to one another.
It is a difficult event to structure in the best of circumstances, and a tough audience to be sure. As I waited in a line at the two stall ladies room two ladies using walkers lamented the lack of toilet facilities for a crowd this size. The pregnant women clenched their legs in line hoping they could make it to their turn to use the toilet.
As a result of the bathroom line,we were a little late to the service which was one the other side of the long hall, and was unmarked. There were poems read by some of the families which we could not hear at the back of the room. About that time I realized that Daniel's name in the program, had been listed as Eric James with our last name.(??!??) In addition, they cited our favorite poem on this subject as author unknown, when Edgar A Guest is the well known author of "To all Parents" which they had mislabelled as "God's Loan". One presumed boys grandparent said to another, "I hope our boy got better care than the set up of this little fiasco." I took this to mean that there were other errors in the program, and that the toilet issue upset her, as I had seen her there with a walker a few minutes earlier.
In point of fact, no medical center is required to do this. It was staffed by volunteers and is tough work. I recognized the names of some of the children as being a sibling group of three or four who died in a housefire earlier in the year. It is unlikely that any institution will please the throngs of devastated families who attended. I noticed that a large number of children did not have their families in attendance. My husband and I placed flowers for both Daniel and my Dad, and I kissed them before placing them in the tree.
I found the ceremony very difficult. I realized that I am not yet ready to return to church simply because music reduces me to big sobs. The man who played the hammered dulcimer yesterday as a last minute addition was very welcome, and the music reminded me of Christmases, we would never have with Daniel here on Earth. I also appreciated the young physicians, "The Arrhythmics" who sang two numbers a capella, although Daniel's passing being due to a probable arrhythmia made their name unfortunate for me. I consoled myself throughout the sweet music by calculating how much all these young doctors could bill for their ten minutes of time, in about six years collectively.
It is enough for me to know that our lives are completely changed and torn without seeing the multitudes of so many who lost their beloved children in a variety of terrible ways. A mother who has lost a child can pick out others who have, a point I learned recently at a local mall.
After the ceremony, there was a rather nice catered reception. If one is ever in my area, you might want to go to Brix Cafe who provided the unusual Italian reception fare. I spoke to only one family. A young African American boy stood mesmerized by Daniel's picture and told his mother that he thought he knew him. I spoke to them and learned that they had recently lost their five year old daughter to an asthma attack. All of them were quite devastated and the wound was quite fresh. I spoke to them for a little while and told them that she would find ways to tell them that she is alright. Her mother confided that her five year old used the microwave all the time at home, and that today, with no one nearby and nothing in it, the microwave had turned on and run for about 15 seconds by itself. She believed it was her daughters way of saying that she still is nearby at times.
I spoke briefly to a female chaplain who attended, who seemed surprized when I related Matthew's dream. It seems strange to me to work in the field of grief and sorrow and not know many people who have found hope in small ways, either through dreams or in isolated actions of ones microwave.
Had Daniel been there, he would have asked two pressing questions. One, can we take some of the left over Panini home ? and Two, why did you subject yourself to this ? Seeing so many suffering families will not help you. You are too empathic. Help one at a time as God places them before you. He might be right.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Things I Remember that Daniel Loved

We are nearing the season in which Daniel (and my Dad) passed to spirit almost one year year ago. The major medical center who sent the helicopter to help Daniel has invited our family to a memorial service where he, and other children who passed this year will be remembered again. It's a sweet sentiment, as if any of us have forgotten the child who is no longer breathing under our rooves, for even a moment.
It is in the spirit of this remembrance that I have thought I might list a few of Daniel's favorite things. As I list I am taken by how full a life he really had in 12 1/2 short years.


I will mix both past and present tense here, as appropriate, because some things
are likely to have changed, now that he has been freed from the flesh suit we inhabit, and some things are likely still to be true where he is now.

1. Days in which the entire family is home.
2. Our dogs Jake, Susan, Sally, Spook, Alvin, Angus, Roisin (pronounced Ro-sheen),
Jared, Benjamin, Mark, Albert, and Daisy. Many of them were adopted as older dogs and many have passed during Daniel's lifetime.
3. Our rabbits, chickens and our ducks on the farm, who were too numerous to mention by name, but who are very special to him.
4. Daniel loves computers, particularly laptops. He likes wifi, and a variety of gaming software.
5. He likes books and had a wide variety of reading materials.
6 Since about three, he has liked at "Dairy Queen" styled vanilla cone with "a chocolate forcefield".
7. He loves a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings but without sugar because his sister is diabetic. He loves pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
8. Daniel loves a particular cat named MacIntosh, who attended his "Celebration of Life" just after his passing.
9. Daniel loves going for a walk on the farm with his sister. He could walk for miles.
10, He likes outings with his family, particularly with one or two of us at a time.
11.He liked to pray before a meal, even at McDonalds.
12. He believed in modesty, for him, and for everyone else, including young women in midriff tops !
13. He loved creating animations and power point presentations on his computer.
He was exceedingly gifted in the creation and formulation of animations.
Even at 12 1/2, he was planning to attend Virginia Commonwealth Universities
"Kinetic Studies" department which is part of their highly rated art program.
He intended to attend college early.
14. He enjoyed homeschooling and was exceeedingly bright and accomplished academically.
15. He enjoys political discussion with Congressmen. He gave Eric Cantor something to think about when Daniel opposed 70 billion dollars to save what Daniel considered "poorly run banking institutions which deserve to fail" in September 2008.
16. Daniel loved homeschooling social gatherings such as barbecues, Field Days, and Harvest Festivals, even if he were the youngest there.
17. Daniel liked softtoys which resembled real animals. (Yes, I listed it in the past tense sweetie)
18. He looked forward to college and life afterward.
19. He loves God and had an uncanny acceptance of whatever God would bring to him.
20, He loved comfortable shoes, and an occasional suit, and looked fantastic in a suit with a tie.
21. He loved the Celtic Festival.
22. He loved to go to Panera with his laptop, have the bacon turkey bravo sandwich with the "You Pick Two" special, along with the brocolli and cheddar soup.
23. Daniel loved to create amusing songs to tunes that were familiar to us all. He had us in stitches a lot of the time. He had a tremendous drole sense of humor.
24. His favorite television programs included "A Bit of Fry and Laurie", the four season British comedy series which showcased the talents of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. He liked Tia Carrere and Relic Hunter series. He enjoyed Airwolf. He also liked "Monarch of the Glen" the BBC longrunning series about a Scottish family who lived in a castle in a fictional place called Glenbogle. (In real life it was filmed in Lagganmore and environs in Inverness Shire, in the Scottish Highlands) He also considered "Family Guy" and "Southpark" to be both vulgar but in his words, "superior satire".
25. He liked soda, particularly name brand cola. This was a longstanding concern as we thought this was not good for his teeth, so we limited it as we could.
26. He liked playing volleyball with his siblings, soccer and foxtail (ball with a tail that glides) on special occasions. He liked to play ball with our Golden Retriever Benjamin.
27. He loved our annual Easter Egg Hunt in the front yard, especially after I stopped using wrapped candy in plastic eggs and started using quarters after the older kids went to college.
28. He loves my father who passed before him. I remember the last visit
with Daniel to the ICU before my Dad passed. I remember how upset Dan was
and how he hugged me. Now, they are free to spend as much time as they can
29. Dan loved homemade oatmeal raisin cookies, particularly the flourless recipe.
30. Daniel liked our casseroles which had whole grain pasta, chicken, cheese, and chopped chives, carrots, and herbs grown in our garden.
31. He liked chilled water with ice from home.
32. He liked running and sliding on the oak floors in stocking feet.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Without Daniel,(and of course my Dad too) I continue in this life with eyes and ears, but with no arms. Yes, you can live without arms, but not half as well as you could have with them. Our ministers tell us, "You will have your arms again in Heaven". Yes, well, without Daniel how do I eat, brush my hair, write, cook, paint, draw, cuddle, and climb ?" Not particularly well I am afraid.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wisdom from Heaven

Sometimes in the early hours of the morning, when I am deep in REM sleep, I believe that my Dad, or Daniel, and sometimes both of them check on me, and talk to me. Sometimes I am in such a deep sleep that I can only lie there as if deep in anesthesia while they tell me something. (They probably wish I was quieter and a bit more anesthetized when they were here on Earth.) Other times, I am able to formulate a question, sometimes accurately answered by them, and sometimes answered later. I did ask my Dad where the bolt to his rifle was kept, as it wasn't with the rifle, and he did not seem to remember. I am happy to say that this week, it was located, and now is safe and sound.
You may think that I am a sad and pathetic mother who could not manage the simaltaneous passing of her father and her beloved youngest son, or that my own psyche creates or interprets their communications and manifestations. You may think that I was a closet psychic who ignored information given to me, but when my father and my son died, I finally listened to "the ancestors" who had always spoken to me. You might think that our loving Heavenly Father decided to allow limited and loving communication following their passings, to ensure that I complete the tasks assigned to me on Earth and that I remain on the correct path, before I join them someday. I don't really mind which you choose. I post some of these musings because I think it is important to truthfully relate what I know, which is that we do not die. Our souls and consciousness live on. I seek only to validate the similar experiences of others, and then, only if you wish me to.

This week the communications are as follows:

"In Heaven, No Kindness on Earth Has Ever Been Forgotten"

(Dad and Daniel showed this to me on a heavenly bumper sticker)


The answer to my question, "What is Heaven Like ?"

"This week it is a lot like Nova Scotia in August" because this is where Dad
and Dan are presently visiting. Coincidentally, this was the home of my father's maternal great grandparents.