Saturday, July 31, 2010

Satire in Song

Daniel was quite the officianado of catchy tunes, bright lyrics and often satire in song. He had all his own satiric words to many of the most common and annoying commercials and we enjoyed hearing his songs. He also enjoyed the work of Weird Al Yankovic, although I don't think he quite believed me when I told him that Weird Al had been a performing guest at my college when I had been a student. Daniel and I also often wrote our own songs as if for commercials for products we liked, or thought should be lampooned.
For this reason, he would really enjoy the work of Andrew and Julia. Their viral You Tube hit, " Canadian,Please" is below. One of Andrew's jobs is as a music teacher at Yamaha and the second video is of children from Andrew's class, singing and dancing to "Canadian Please". Daniel would have found this very amusing, especially as people with ties to Canada.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Greater and More Capable than We Can Imagine

Psychologists tell us that within the first year of losing a child, most people contact a psychic medium, desperately seeking a mixture of contact, forgiveness or closure with their beloved child. We never did this.
The circumstances of Daniel's passing were so very peculiar and unusual, and we were supported so quickly and so immediately by so many, that I instantly believed that the God who had so graciously sent him to us, had called him home. Someday, I will speak more about some of the unusual happenings following Daniel's passing,and why we believe this. I believed that the autopsy would tell us how God had chosen to call him, but a 15 month autopsy at a world class medical center never really did. There were some incidental findings, a mild but resolving viral infection etc. but never anything that allowed anyone to say, "There, that must have been it". The presumed cause of death which eventually generated a death certificate more than a year after his passing was "probable cardiac arrhythmia of unknown etiology" (cause). My attitude and behavior after Daniel's passing very much set the stage for, at least, the initial coping of my family. We truly believed that Daniel was called to a better place, and that we were left on the imperfect world to grieve and to learn. We did not contact a psychic medium simply because we believed that if Daniel and my Dad (who passed 31 days prior) could contact US, that they would, and that it would not take a psychic medium to do this, if in fact, it was permissible by God.
Our choice was a good one for us. I have enclosed some interesting materials from a man with a near death experience and a mother of a child who has passed. These are not rare experiences. They are more common than most of us realize.
Like most families we have enough of our own experiences in which we believe they have contacted us, at least in dream, to send simple messages, and to let us know they still have awareness and peace, and that we should live in peace until we are reunited with them also.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Notes to Self on Grief

Grief is a cyclic phenomenon. I think some expect us to be "all through" processing our loss inside a year or so. Of course, this is ridiculous because unless Daniel is coming back, then life will realistically be a progression of sailing through life's happenings, and periodically being acutely aware of the fact that you are staring yet one more resultant loss in the face. For example, when Stephanie graduated from the university, it was bittersweet. First, because Daniel was not present at least in a manner in which we could see his beautiful face reflect his expressions, and second, because we again realized that we would not see HIS college graduation here on Earth. It seems that even good things may make us acutely aware of our losses, throughout our lifetimes. This doesn't mean we are perpetually saddened, because we aren't. If we give in to being perpetually sad and chronically sorrowful, then we will not have the time or the emotional reserve to celebrate the life of one of the most intelligent,loving and amusing people I have ever known. Life is still for living,
and Daniel, of all people, would be displeased if we used his departure as an excuse not to continue, or not to enjoy our own remaining time here on Earth.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Count the Days

Grief is a strange thing. It exists in a time warp of sorts. In some ways we never leave the moment in which I found you without breath. I still hurriedly sign checks sometimes, "2008". I still have a lot of your clothes. The ones with special meaning will remain with me forever. Sometimes though, it seems so very long ago, and much has changed since you were here last if you mark things in Earth time, and I try, and I should. Since you left Earth, Mr. Obama has been inaugurated, and there have been more changes to the US than I think even you would have imagined. Both Stephanie and Adam was graduated from the university, and Matt has completed a year there. We adopted James and although it's hard, we do our best to invest in his future, although he is as fractured sometimes as we are. Jake, Sir Gallahad, and Mark have all passed to you. I try very hard to set the example which will allow your Dad and your siblings to continue and live the life they were meant to. However, sometimes, even with faith in God to beat the band,my heart is not always here. Dad was right. Losing him and losing you just after is more than I can do, and still be the same person. Sometimes the days flow faster than I can anticipate or manage them, like water from a sloppy waterfall. I count the days until I am back to you. I will do my best until then to make you all proud.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Godspeed, Mark

Daniel and our family have many dogs. I think being the youngest child, Daniel was probably closest to them all, especially after the older kids began to head to college. Mark is one of those dogs. We acquired Mark in 2000 from our local pound, just after a dog we got from there, the week before, suddenly died of parvovirus. When we let them know, they asked us to come down and gave us Mark at no charge, before he had actually been checked in, and exposed to the kennels where parvo was presently a problem. (Apparently, in a parvo rich environment, even an immunized dog can become ill,and possibly die.) The dog had been brought in my the mother of a teenaged daughter. The daughter was also there, and begged the mother not to give him to the pound, but the mother was vehement that the daughter had not taken care of him, and that she had been left to do it. They never knew that I took him that day, in order to prevent his parvovirus exposure. I have often wondered what the implications were to the relationship of the mother and daughter, for I would never do something my daughter so clearly begged me not to. Mark settled in pretty well at our house. He was an apparent black labrador and weimaraner mix, who looked more like a black lab than anything else.
When we did some (human) fostercare in 2001, Mark was hit on the head with a rock by a foster child, sustained a fractured skull, and spent a week the veterinary critical care center. He emerged but remained on two anti-seizure medicines twice daily for the remainder of his life. He was also plagued by allergies, and ear and skin issues,which although were expensive, were our pleasure to help to treat.
In November, 2009, Mark had a stroke which rendered him unable to walk using his back legs. He still ate, drank, enjoyed interacting, and so we declined to euthanize him. Although his care could be time consuming, we were happy to do this, especially for one of "Daniel's dogs". Mark did remarkably well and had no seizures during this post stroke time. Ultimately, Mark lived in an air conditioned room in our barn watching a flat screen tv, getting better reception than we do at the house owing to the metal barn roof. We would visit him often,being him special food, and watch tv with him, although Mark liked the weather channel and would carry on if you changed it, and we liked other programming. This week we hatched chicks in the hall outside Mark's room. Despite his own lifecoming to a close, he remained interested, and occasionally that tail would still wag. Mark had an excellent life, and took his last breath late yesterday afternoon. The vet had allowed us to let him pass without euthanization as long as we were able to continue his care, and he was not in inordinate pain. He did receive pain medication in the last couple of months.
Today, Daniel and my Dad have Mark with them. We were blessed to have such a wonderful loving dog, blessed to have him with us for so long despite his issues, and blessed that he passed without any more discomfort than he had. Thankyou God. Godspeed Mark !

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Drought without Doubt

Not only are we without the joys that having Daniel and Dad here brought, but once again, we are in a drought. Two weeks ago, everything on the farm was lush, green and growing like a nineteen year old boy
at a smorgasbord. Now, we have die-back on trees, plants, and vegetables. My gingko bilobas have yellowed, and the poplars are dying back so significantly that it looks like early autumn here, in July ! My son Adam reminds me that poplars do best near creeks, ponds and marshes, but still ! The Royal Paulonias are holding their own and many of them have seeds this year. It has also been unseasonably hot this summer. We have 103s in June,and it has been very humid.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scorching Summer Days

This may be the last candid photo ever taken of Daniel

It has been an uncharacteristically warm summer. Daniel's dog, Mark, the black labrador who was not expected to "make it through the winter" four years ago, continues to hang on. He lives in a barn room, with a flat screen tv, and an air conditioning, while we visit multiple times each day with food and water. The vet does not wish to euthanize him as long as we can continue his care and he is relatively pain free. It is an odd irony that my youngest son could not remain here while on Earth, while one of his beloved yet elderly dogs just won't leave us. I think that Mark's days will be over soon. He seems to enjoy eating and drinking less, and lost control of his back legs six months ago. It seems that Mark remains with us faithful to Daniel's family with the same commitment that we remain faithful to Daniel's wishes by continuing to give constant and faithful care to Mark. The vet is pleasantly flabbergasted that Mark is hanging in there so well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Birthdays and Losses

Yesterday was both the birthday of my husband but also it's the birthday of my father who has passed, and is also with Daniel. We celebrated my husband's birthday by buying him a metal detector, so that he, among other things, can locate the tractor keys he lost in the field last year. The kids got him some different colored "Tractor Supply" t-shirts for his off times, and a "Tractor Maniac" sign for one of the outbuildings. My husband is an engineer, yet enjoys his time away from pressure and industry playing farmer. The way food prices and the economy in general are going, this may have to become a more serious endeavor.
We celebrated my Dad's birthday with recalling special memories, prayer and remembrances. I hope he and Daniel had a wonderful day, or however days or units of time, if they are counted in that way, are quantified. Happy Birthday Dad !
We also had some bad news this week. Some time after Daniel's unexpected passing, a wonderful group called SUDC, based in New Jersey, called us and lent support. SUDC stands for Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, and it apparently, more common than I had realized. One of the people who freely called and checked on us for quite a long time, was Paula Goldblatt, an RN who was deeply involved in SUDC, it's outreach, and its research etc. This week we heard than Paula died on July 5. She did a great deal of very valuable work with grieving families. To read about SUDC,please go to:

Paula, you will truly be missed, and I am sorry that I was not at home for your last call to check on us. Your support and encouragement has meant the world to us.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How is James Doing ?

Some time ago,we mentioned that we had adopted a boy. For privacy purposes for him, we use the name James in the blog when referring to him. Adopting a child at any time following the loss of one, is not generally a wise thing to do. First, a damaged and emotionally raw family experiencing long term loss is not generally flexible enough to provide what a newly adopted child may need. In addition, most children who are legally free for adoption have experienced abuse or neglect to a sufficient degree, that they too are navigating intense loss and grief, also on a long term basis. Consequently, both sides are asked to be uncommonly flexible, when both sides have suffered enough to make doing so difficult. We followed through with the adoption of James because the adoption of a child who needed a home, was something Daniel felt passionate about for a long time. He believed that "good families" should find room for kids who need to see the loving inner workings of a family. Daniel first brought this up when he was four or five, and as a result, we did have a boy with us, when Daniel was five, which actually became a foster situation rather than an adoption, as we had originally hoped. The adoption of older children is important because no one can parent correctly, if we have never seen how. It has been an interesting journey. It had not been our exact intent to being home a child in the approximate age range of Daniel, after his passing. We were actually open to ages 2-12. Somehow though, we located and were matched by the agencies involved, to a boy who was approximately Daniel's age when he passed. Then it took an additional year to process the paperwork. In this case, this went well because James had a year to hear about, and consider our family and moving to another part of the country, and we had an additional year to grieve, which we truly used. Bringing a new child home is interesting, in that a new person, clearly not like Daniel is home, and we laugh and share. Because there is a relative closeness in age, they share certain similarities in likes and dislikes. However, there are challenges in that we are, in some ways, finally free to see exactly how very much we lost the day that Daniel had to leave us so suddenly. James is a great joy to have here and also a reminder of the brother who should be here enjoying his company also. Children like James, who endured abuse or neglect often come with a myriad of coping behaviors and this too can also be a great draw on a family attempting to right itself, move ahead and go on.
I am often asked how James is doing. James is a remarkable kid who is intelligent, perceptive, and who is learning to trust adults. Daniel would like him because he is his authentic self. James has no duplicity, no measuring or censoring of his ideas and words. Daniel would have found this amusing and somewhat refreshing. Daniel would also have appreciated how James cares for what were Daniel's animals, when he was here.
The ideal would clearly have been Daniel and James growing up here together, particularly after the older three left for college, and having them all gather here for holidays, and other celebrations, but this was not to be.

The music for today comes from Andrew Gunadie and Julia Bentley, two university trained musicians who have yet to be signed by a major record label. They have a broad range of interesting works and are excellent writers and producers as well as performers.

This is "What I Learned from Daniel's" one hundredth blog post.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On a Lake

I often dream about Daniel. Sometimes it's a dream where I am simply telling someone about what happened with the full brunt of our grief flowing. Sometimes, it is my own psyche trying to make sense of a happening that still did not, and does not compute. Often though, Daniel appears and talks to me in dream trying to make sense of a world and a cosmos I apparently knew very little about. When he comes in dream, the download is very rapid and I cannot catch or recall much of what is said. I often know only that he has visited, that he cares, and that all is well and is proceeding according to God's plan.
Last night I had a dream that Stephanie and I were sitting in nice and comfortable Adirondack chairs at the side of a large lake. Daniel was with us and he decided to take a canoe or small boat out on the lake. Unlike real life, this seemed normal to me and we let him. He rowed out to the center of the huge lake where he was a speck and we could see him no more. Then, there was aircraft activity, Ospreys and other aircraft, one by one over the lake. We were worried that Daniel had been interfered with as the helicopters had stirred up the lake. In that moment we wished that we hadn't let him go or that we had given him a cell phone and could call and check on him. We also knew that it was Daniel, and even if he wasn't coming back to shore, that it was alright. We counterintuitively knew that all was well and that everything was fine. I take these to be messages. The feeling that came was "No matter what you saw, no matter what frightened you, the last time you saw me, all is well". I seem to need to hear this often, because it does not feel well to me.

As you may know, Daniel was a very gifted animator. On a code level, we would often alter cartoons and characters to do things and make motions he saw in other games or videos. I have included this Gummy Bear video because I think many of the things they did in it would have both amused
and intrigued him. Daniel did not bring this to my attention however, it was our newest son James who thought it was amusing.