I should've written sooner because I have so much to say, so this entry is going to be really long...
Hard to believe Summer is just about over for the kids. They would all be in school today if we hadn't lost power from storm Irene. They're all thrilled to have until next Tuesday before starting. The summer went by pretty fast. July was pretty quiet but once August hit, it flew by.
First weekend of August, I rode in the PMC. It was an amazing time. I was asked by the PMC to do a live interview with Ed Harding on Channel 5 the night before the race, from the registration tent. I was a nervous wreck! I prepared the answer to the questions I was told Ed would ask, and of course, he didn't ask any of them! So, I was unprepared but think it went ok. Before we went live, I tried to lighten the moment and told Ed he had something in his teeth. He double checked with his camera guy and we all chuckled but he told me he always checks his teeth before going live so he wasn't phased! Then I told the camera guy not to zoom in on my zit, not knowing we had gone live! He mouthed, "He's talking live!" to me and my eyeballs grew bigger just as the camera turned on me! Had to get serious in an instant! Man, a live que would've helped!
The next morning, I drove with my brother in law Dean, and neighbor Paul to the start of the ride. We all hopped out of the truck and ran to use the porta potty one last time before the ride. An older woman approached me and asked if that was me on tv last night! I couldn't believe she recognized me among thousands of riders. She said she knew my face because she was so touched by the quick story I shared of Maddie and Meghan. That felt nice, to know that people would be thinking of the girls, along with so many other loved ones as we all rode.
The weather was perfect! Not too hot or humid, no rain. Just right. We met up with all our teammates who were starting at the Wellesley start, and throughout the ride, all met up several times to ride together. The first stop is the hardest. We stop at the cemetery. It's right on the route. Several other riders, stop to pay respects and I am always so touched to see them all. One in particular, is Ted, the Dad of a beautiful friend of Maddie's from the hospital, Molly, who is doing great! He knows the journey. Colleen and Frank stopped as well, but we weren't there at the same time. I was so emotional at the cemetery. Truly thought for a second that I should just go home. There was no way I could ride with such a heavy heart.
After we left the cemetery, there was a sign for me further down that road. It said, "Go Kristen! Maddie is always in our thoughts." There was a butterfly drawn on the sign too. I was so touched and had never had a personal sign on the route for me before! I gave a huge "Woo hoo Maddie!" shout out into the air and felt so inspired to ride from then on. That sign renewed my confidence that I could and would finish the ride. I said out loud to Maddie, "Let's do this Maddie!" To know that our town was thinking of her on that day and every day, meant the world to me. Thank you Mackay family for making that sign!
Next stop was the first watering hole in Wrentham, where Ernie, the boys, my parents, and friends all wait. It was so good to see everyone there. I was so happy to see Michael there. He had just gotten home from a weeklong camp away, late the night before, and I truly didn't expect him to get up and come out to see me. That meant so much to me! Jeanne and Amy were there, bummed they weren't riding, and we were bummed they weren't in the ride too, but hopefully next year, we'll all be in the ride! We all kissed and released huge pink and yellow balloons to Maddie before riding on.
Physically, I felt great this time around, but emotionally, had a harder time. It just felt heavier this year. At one point, a mother held up a picture of her infant and was thanking the riders as they went by. Don't know the story, but would imagine that child is either still fighting or now doing well. The Mom and I locked eyes and I felt a huge lump in my throat. I wanted to stop and talk to her but we connected in that second, as two Mom's who shared a common bond. I blew her a kiss and kept riding. Kept riding for that infant. I started to cry. I hated that I lost my child and that's why I was still riding. I was riding in memory of my child, not in hopes for my child. I was riding in hope for that woman's child, and so many others. I felt so sad and angry in that moment maybe even a little jealous. Of course, I want only the best for that woman and her child, but I was feeling sorry for myself, that I wasn't riding for continued treatment for my child. I wanted to scream out that I lost my child and this really sucks! I want her back!
You ride along and see survivors holding up signs and there is a feeling of elation, hope and gratitude for these children and adults, and then at the same time, there is intensified pain at your own loss. I don't usually walk around thinking why me or why Maddie. I did feel it though when I was in the presence of so many survivors throughout that ride this time around. It's very hard to explain. Again, you wouldn't take their triumph from them for a second, but you want it for your own child, your own family, too.
So, the ride was very emotional for me. Found myself crying a lot. Missed Maddie so much and talked to her quite a bit. During the last leg of the ride, I was side by side with Dean, my sister's husband, and we rounded the corner to see a pink and yellow balloon flying outside a store. I knew it was a sign from Maddie to finish, and it was made even clearer when, as we completely rounded the corner, in front of that same store were a blue and green balloon together! Maddie and Meghan were there! What are the odds that those two color combos would be flying side by side. That gave me the boost I needed to finish and I couldn't wait to find Colleen at the end and see if she saw them. I couldn't wait to tell her about them! I had heard she was having some very hard times on the ride as well, and I wish we could've found each other. She was ahead of me and I kept missing her at stops by minutes.
Crossing that finish with Dean was amazing and emotional. We held hands as we crossed. I pictured Maddie jumping up and down at the finish, in her pink shorts, her pink cap, her huge smile, and cheering! Then a big hug and kiss from her! Then she would hold my hand, help me put my bike away and get my things. I was so proud of Dean and I know Maddie was too. Maddie was nuts about Dean! She used to climb on him like a monkey when she was little. I was so happy he was able to ride in place of Jeanne and experience this incredible event. He's hooked.
I came home to the most beautiful video made by Abigail DeLuca. She took pictures from the ride, the tv interview and set it all to Maddie's songs. It is so professionally done and it is such a gift that I will always treasure! Thank you Abigail!
We had a nice cookout the next day with family and friends. We had wanted to have a huge cook out but we were heading out of town the next day for vacation and some of our team had stayed down on the Cape after riding the second day. Plus the weather was not good on Sunday. Tons of rain. We will get the entire team together very soon for a celebration.
We left for Main on Monday, to borrow a friend's home for the week. Ernie was totally in his element. Woods, water, and fishing. We had our own private lake beach. It was great taking the boys out on the boat during the day to go tubing and then making a fire on the beach at night and telling stories. I told a great scary story that nobody could top until the next night. I was on the beach with the boys. I was sitting in the chair, and Ernie came running down through the woods to the beach, yelling at us to run towards the boat, because there was a bear at the house! The boys took off and I jumped up so fast to follow. Ernie stopped and started laughing! So proud of himself for topping my scary story! Our hearts were all pounding. We hadn't actually jumped into the water yet. Ernie had spared us that much, thinking my phone was in my pocket and he didn't want it to get ruined. Funny thing is, the whole time I jumped up and ran, heart pounding, I didn't spill a drop from my wine glass that I had gripped tightly in my hand! Come on, I needed that glass to hit the bear over the top of the head with!
Maddie was with us in Maine. I was missing her and sweeping the deck near our pile of shoes. There was a lot of sand. I looked down and there was a perfect sand heart next to all our shoes! So amazing! Snapped a picture of it. No other explanation for that perfect heart, other than Maddie was there.
Lots of changes around our house. Our house was looking so sad and neglected so we decided to give her a much needed face lift. We had a new walkway and garden put in the front. It turned out beautifully. Much grander than we had intended, but our friends at JPK Landscaping, the same crew who did Maddie's Butterfly Garden at school, really went above and beyond. This new front came with happy and sad moments for me. It was really emotional seeing our front stoop being ripped out. I stood with William while it was being done and thought about how many times I sat on it with the kids, how many pumpkins we had put there, how many pictures I had taken of the kids out there. How many times they stood there to Trick or Treat their own house. How many family and friends who had come to that door. You don't think you get attached to an ugly old stoop, but I guess I did. I felt the same as the walkway was ripped up and the front hedges were ripped away. As ugly as they were, we watched so many baby birds being born in nests in those hedges. The kids loved to watch the process through the window. Maddie would constantly go over and try to pick the birds up as they got older. I thought about how many times the kids had hid in those hedges when playing hide -n- seek. Anyway, as sad as I was to see things go, it felt good to try to bring a smile to the outside again. We still have to change out the front door and add lighting but it's almost all done.
I know Maddie is thrilled with the way the front turned out and know she wanted me to know we were doing the right thing because she sent a sign. Through the noise, dust, and dirt of the construction, a huge butterfly sat perched on the front window, un-phased by anything. It sat for a very long time. In fact, it was Jay, of JPK, who brought me outside to see it. I walked right up to it and took a beautiful picture. It eventually flew off once everyone had gotten their chance to look at it. She made sure we all knew she was there.
Bought new swings for the swing set. That was very hard for me. The other ones were so old and rusted but they held so many memories. I switched them out while the boys were away at the Hole In the Wall Camp. I did it myself, so I could go through the emotions and they would just come home to the happy of the change. They love them.
August 20th has come and gone. Emotions were high for me that day and even though unspoken, I know they were for Ernie too. That's the day Maddie left our house three years ago. Seems like just yesterday. Did a lot of secret crying. I sat on her roof top that morning with the boys, the Altmeyer girls, and Paul, and we released our balloons as we have done since Maddie sat there on her last day, every 20th. It's very hard. She is so missed by so many.
So, the boys went to Hole In The Wall Camp and had a blast! It was the first time for Thomas and he did it! I was so proud of him. He didn't think he was going to stay but he did! Love that place! Always emotional being there as I've written about in the past, but such an amazing experience for the boys. Simply the best!
So, I was an empty nester for the week. The camp counselor asked, "Wow, what's Mom going to do all week?" I said, "Mom's going to hide from Dad all week!" We both cracked up. Ernie and I did have a very nice week together. A chance to reconnect and enjoy some grown up time together, but I sure did miss my boys and couldn't wait to get them back!
In closing, I have to share one more Maddie sign with you. I was having a hard day and went so sit with Maddie at the cemetery. I laid down on my back and looked up to see the most incredible vision above me. There were no other clouds in the sky, except for my gift. A huge Angel cloud above me. I knew right away it was an Angel from my Angel. I jumped up and grabbed my phone to take a picture. It stayed in form for what seemed to be a very long time. I cried, stared at it, talked to Maddie. So breathtaking. I will post that picture. I shared the picture with so many because it was too amazing not to share. I would say to any of you, without a doubt in my mind, heart and soul, your loved ones in Heaven are still with you. They see you, they hear you. They know everything. You just have to open your heart and mind and you will receive your signs. They're all around you if you trust and believe.
I will post another entry by next week. This one is already outdated and so much to talk about with the start of the new school year, etc. Hope you are all settling nicely into the new school year.
Thursday -- August 7th
It has been a heavy week this week. A lot going on. Michael has been away at camp all week. I managed to get his room painted and cleaned while he was away. Hope he likes it. He comes home tonight. It has been hard to have another empty bedroom. Makes my brain wander. Soon, he will be off to college and it will just be the other two, and then before I know it, they'll be gone too. I dread those days. I am afraid of those days. I will have no more distractions from my grief, fear, sadness. In addition to being completely aware of Maddie's absence, I will have to miss my boys too, and just be with it all. I don't like that. I can't imagine what that new chapter in my life will be like. Maybe I'll be extra busy. Maybe I will have written my book and life will be an amazing adventure. That's what I'll focus on. I have to stop jumping into the future and just let each new day come.
Laying in bed with William and Thomas the other night and William asked me, "Mom, do you think you'll ever be ready to let me have Maddie's room." I immediately got emotional and he asked me if I was crying.I told him a little bit. Told him it makes me sad, but it's ok to talk about it. I told him I wanted to know how keeping Maddie's room still the way it is makes them both feel. William answered first. He said he loves going in there "because her spirit is in there and she keeps him protected." Thomas chimed in, "William, Maddie is right here with us. She's everywhere." William said, "I know, but I feel her extra in her room." I told him that if he moved in there, the room would change. It would no longer be Maddie's room and all of her things would have to be put into a box, the curtains changed. Then he got sad and said he likes to see her things and wants to keep them there. He would feel sad if they were all put away. They make him feel good. So, I told him that maybe we're not ready to change the room. We can think about it more. So, I think he's still unsure. He likes her things being in there because they remind him of her, but at the same time he would like his own room, her room. We'll keep him where is for now, until when and if we're all ready. Thomas' take was that "we should change the room because what's the point of it being for Maddie when she doesn't go in there." So hard. So emotionally draining. Can't bear that topic.
As August 20th approaches, I find myself getting deeper into sadness and thought. I re-live the last weeks Maddie had with us at home before being admitted Aug.20th. We sat on her rooftop that morning. I'm sure I'll do it on the 20th again, and release balloons. I can re-live every day so vividly because they were so precious to us. Some things I remember this year, I don't think I remembered last year. I feel my anxiety building all this month. Find myself crying in the car again when I have a vision, a thought, a memory. Can't decide what time of year is the hardest. It's all meshed. I'm told going in to the third year is actually harder and let me tell you, I'm feeling it already.
Had to have a stress test at the hospital yesterday because I have had some chest pain. Had to make sure I was ok to do the PMC. My heart is fine, thank God, but as I looked at the image on the screen, I thought about the expression, broken heart. Imagine if you could really see a big line spilt across the center. Had to have an ultrasound of my heart and as the doctor was pressing the wand into my chest, I flashed back to Maddie's echocardiogram tests and how much she hated them. I can picture the room clearly. We were in a dark room, Maddie in the bed, me next to the bed, holding her hand. Outdated kid movie in the VCR. As the doctors would push that wand down, hard, onto her soft little chest wall, so brittle from chemo and radiation, she would squirm and tears would build in her eyes. "Just a few more minutes Maddie". A simple echo was painful for her. That was such a hard test to get through and she had to do it often. She could sit in a tunnel for hours, but the echo sucked. Hate going into hospitals. I've written that before. Just makes me ill. Everything about it.
So, maybe my chest pain is grief, depression, anxiety, stress, manifesting in chest pains. I don't know. Feel like I'm a lemon. Always seems to be something going on with me. I guess that "emotional combination," conscious or subconscious, really does take a physical toll on your body. It's very powerful. I exercise every day and try to stay in decent shape. I laugh as often as I can make myself laugh, yet the "combo" still seems to be the bully. I hope I win over it all one day.
Tomorrow is the PMC! I can't believe it's here! I'm nervous and excited! I haven't trained as much as I have in the past so hopefully I'll do ok. Good news is that we are going to have a beautiful, mild. August day. We're very lucky.
I received a phone call from the PMC media team yesterday asking if I would agree to a live on air TV interview at the registration tent. I am honored to have been chosen, but of course, very, very anxious about it! Live! No mistakes! Uh oh! So anxious, I didn't sleep a wink last night. I'm so afraid that the minute I open my mouth, I'll be gulping back the tears and fumble!
I was trying to explain to a friend how hard it is to talk about Maddie without crying, for obvious reasons, but what's hard most times is when you hear your own voice saying the words, "after my daughter passed away,""when my daughter died,""my daughter died,""Maddie died."...it smacks you right there in the face, as if you're being snapped out of your denial and having to accept it, on the spot, all over again . To hear the words come out of your own mouth. It's your own daughter you're talking about, it really happened. You can't pretend you're talking about someone else's story. Maybe I'm not making sense. I spoke to Colleen about it and asked her how she speaks without crying. She said she is able to go to "another place." It's like she's talking about someone else. She doesn't know how she is able to do that, she can just do that in order to get through what she has to say.
Anyway, they say it's only about a minute long interview but in TV land, a minute is a long time! It will be with Ed Harding, who I hear is a very gentle, kind man. Please wish me luck. I want to make sure I say the right things and get through it. It will be anywhere between 4:45 and 6:30 tonight.
I hope you will all come out Saturday morning and watch the PMC riders go by. It's an incredibly moving, beautiful sight to see. We ride right through Norfolk. We come down Seekonk and right to the cemetery. We get there between 8-8:15am. I will stop and say hello to Maddie, before I go onto the first watering hole in Wrentham, across the road from Tom's Tavern. It's down that side street, where the fields are (can't think of the name, but you’ll see all the signs). If you come out to watch, you can go to the cemetery or the first watering hole. It would be great see everyone!
Thank you again to all of you who have supported our team! We will be forever grateful!