Sorry about the delay in getting these posted. There are several entries going back....
We had a nice dinner out for Michael's birthday last Saturday. Oddly, we ended up going back to Michael's restaurant of choice, Hibachi's, where we went last year for his birthday, only 8 days after Maddie had passed. I thought back to last year's dinner and here we were again, same place, so much having transpired in the last year. I thought about the state I was in, the state we were all in last year. It's so hard to believe a year has gone by. I thought about how incredibly proud I am of my boys, of our family. We have had such an incredibly hard time, but we were sitting there all together, making the best of our time together. All holding on, all probably having the same thoughts. Some of sadness, some of hope, lots of mixed emotions. It's a Japanese restaurant, so I know our little fire lover, William, was loving watching the food go up into flames right in front of us. A very exciting distraction for him! Of course, William and Thomas won't eat Japanese food, so we smuggled in the McDonald's Happy Meals for them. What a night.
That Sunday, I took Michael, William, and a few of his friends out to the movies for his birthday. We saw, "Where The Wild Things Are." It was a good movie, very different. The kids had a blast, all laughing together. We had smuggled candy in from the Christmas Tree Shop. Big boxes, half the price! Hmmm, between the smuggled in Happy Meals, and the movie candy, this smuggling game is kind of fun. No, really kids, it's perfectly acceptable to bring your own food into a restaurant and your own candy and juice boxes into a movie. Anyway, I think Michael had a good birthday overall.
On Sunday, a few of our neighbors came over to plant pink and yellow bulbs in honor of Maddie, as they had done last year. Thank you Meg, Steve, and Mei Singer, Jane Fitch, and Paul McCarthy. You guys are the best!
During the week, we carved our pumpkins. They all came out really great. William's has the traditional pumpkin face, Michael cleverly carved the word PUMPKIN around his, and Thomas wanted a ghost carved out, but it turned out looking like an Angel. They wanted me to carve the one I picked for Maddie, the little green pumpkin. I decided not to. It will last longer if I don't carve it.
A few years ago, I worked for hours, carving out a pumpkin. I carved a ghost house into it, following a stencil. I had never done anything like that before. I think William was a little baby. It was amazing. Do you think Michael or Ernie remember it? Of course not! They didn't even believe me when I was talking about it. Of course, I had to go and dig up the picture to prove it. Why do we go through all the trouble if nobody is going to remember it. I guess the trick is to do those kind of things when the kids are older, that way, the odds of them remembering it will be greater.
OK, I'll end with a great story. The other day Hope threw up. Yep, a treat for me. Luckily it was on the floor, not the rug. So, I cleaned it up and came back into the room with a cleaning spray, sprayed the floor and left again to get more paper towels. The whole time, of course, I was cursing about the dog, talking to Maddie, telling her how hard I have tried to be a "dog person," but it's just not working! I came back into the room with the paper towels. When I bent down to clean up the spray, there it was...a heart! The spray had formed a perfect foam heart! I swear to you this is true! Michael was home and I called him into the room to see it. I asked him what he saw and he undeniably saw it too. We both just gasped and smiled. Then I said, "OK, OK, Maddie. I get it! I'm sorry. Hope, I'm sorry. I'll work a little harder with the dog. Wow, Maddie you're good!" Of course, I took a picture of the heart to add to my collection. Come on, isn't that amazing?! She was there. She was listening, watching, and reminding me to love that dog, like I promised her I would!
Saturday -- October 24th
TODAY IS MICHAEL'S 13th BIRTHDAY!!! I have a teenager! Wow! He is so excited. We are taking him out to dinner and then my sister and her family will come over later for cake. Tomorrow I will take a few of his friends to the movies. We celebrated his birthday with the cousins last weekend when they were in town for the memorial. They had fun. All the kids played laser tag, played in the arcade, and had a nice lunch out. Thank you to all my family who made the trip up.
Went down to visit with Maddie and clean up her site a bit the day after the memorial last Friday. There was the most amazing pumpkin I've ever seen! Kelly LaBlue carved our butterfly tattoo onto the pumpkin and painted it the exact colors. It's so amazing! Thank you Kelly! What a special gift!
I brought the huge sunflower home until the Spring and put new flowers on the hooks. There have been some beautiful notes left in the jar. One really touched my heart. Maddie's friend, Mary, left a note, letting Maddie know that she would be taking her stuffed bear on the 6th grade camp away to Bournedale for the week (19th-23rd), so that Maddie would be there with them. Mary had given that bear to Maddie when she was in the hospital and I gave it back to her after Maddie passed away. Maddie had named the bear Lovey. It’s pink with white hearts all over the fur.
Bournedale, the big exciting trip for 6th graders. After reading Mary's note, it was then that I realized the kids were going that week after Maddie's memorial. I got very sad, knowing Maddie wouldn't be there with them. It tried to envision how excited she would be about going. Then I thought about how she would be there. I know she will be watching over her friends, giggling with them, watching them play silly pranks, sing songs, make up skits, listen to each other's stories of their first crushes, and I know they will talk about her. They miss her. She'll be there. Not the way I want her to be, but she'll be there.
Took William and Thomas to a Barn Open House today. They had pumpkin painting, face painting, potato sack races. It was cute. Something to do on a rainy day.
Thomas has a double ear infection. Poor little guy. He gets them so regularly. He had the ear tubes put in a few years back, and they're gone now, but it didn't do the trick.
This afternoon, William asked if he could let a balloon go to Maddie. He wrote two notes to put into it before I blew it up with our helium tank (yes, I bought one at BJ's. We send balloons up so often that it was worth it!). One note said, "I will always love you," and the other one said, "You're the best!" We sent it up and watched it climb up into the cloudy sky. I saw Michael standing outside a little while later, letting the balloons I made for his birthday go up. I asked him if he was sending them to Maddie and he said, "Yep."
Lastly, it was Thomas of course. He didn't know the other two had done it, but asked out of the blue if he could send a balloon up to Maddie. He let it go out, from her bedroom window (we haven't put the screen back in since sitting out on her roof). They are all missing her and want her to know they are thinking of her
Friday -- October 23rd
I'm sorry I haven't written since Maddie's memorial mass. I have had a very emotional week. Everything just hit me like a brick, after the weekend was over. Not only did we have our service, but on Sunday, Ernie and I had to go into Boston, two blocks from the hospital, to attend the Children's Hospital/Jimmy Fund Memorial.
That was so hard to be there. Just driving by the hospital was terribly hard. I closed my eyes when we went by it. Seeing some of Maddie's nurses, her doctors, the child life specialists, the counselors, her friends, brought everything back to the surface.
They had a beautiful slide show of all the children who had passed this year and Maddie's beautiful picture came onto the screen. I could just sit there, shake my head in disbelief and cry. It was so hard reading her name in the program.
Talking with the staff afterwards, I felt how much they miss Maddie. We all shared hospital stories. We laughed, then got silent. A few of them are pregnant now. Maddie would be so excited. Just standing in the room with all of these people, without Maddie, seemed unnatural in a lot of ways. I didn't have my sidekick with me, the one they all loved, adored and took care of. She loved them all right back.
By Monday, I fell apart. I got the kids off to school, took a shower, climbed into bed, screamed, cried, and slept all day, until Michael came home from school. Just a very, very draining weekend and weeks leading up to it.
Our memorial service was beautiful. I was so nervous all day. I was so scared I wouldn't get through it, that it would be too much like re-living the funeral. I was scared I would fall apart. I was nervous it would be too hard for the boys and Ernie. I was nervous something would go wrong. That it wouldn't be perfect for Maddie. I am so glad that it went so well. I asked Maddie to sit with me through the service and to help me keep myself together, and she did. I asked her to let everyone feel the love in the church, and she did.
We were so touched by the huge turnout of friends. There were at least 200 people there. I knew we would have a nice sized crowd, but never expected it to be as big as it was. I had only bought 100 balloons, made 125 candles, and 100 programs. I wish I had done more of all of those. Msgr. Conley ran out of hosts during communion and had to get more. He hadn't anticipated the crowd size either.
Msgr. Conley gave such a beautiful homily and all of the readings were so perfectly fitting. I was so proud of Michael and Kristen after they did their reading together. Michael told me he was so nervous, but you would never know it.
William and Thomas were so well behaved. They looked so handsome in their pink dress shirts. They sat respectfully throughout the whole mass and I think the only time I heard Thomas was when he gave Mrs. Knowles and his teacher a shout out! The boys actually wanted to sit in another pew with their cousins for much of the mass. Michael sat with Ernie and I, and again, rubbed my back and held my hand, as he did last year. I was so proud of my three little men.
Some of Maddie's close friends helped out. Thank you Sydnie, Molly M., Molly C., and William. Thank you Michelle and Kate, who both came home from college for the mass. Thank you Kirstie! Thank you Chip, for being the "DJ." I hope everyone enjoyed our music choices. They were all so personal, especially, "Can You Feel The Love," from the Lion King. That's one of Maddie's favorites, which she played every night on her electric keyboard, in her bedroom.
After the mass, everyone who had received a balloon, kissed it, and they all went up to Maddie. I wish I was outside to see that, but I was still inside, thanking people. I'm sure it was quite a sight and I'm sure Maddie was loving it! We loved seeing all the pink and yellow clothing, another awesome tribute.
Thank you to all of you who came. Thank you for taking the time out of your Friday night to be with our family. To love and support us and to show your continued adoration for Maddie. We are so grateful. It means the world to us, knowing that Maddie continues to touch your lives every day.
Thursday -- October 15th
Dear God, I pray for the strength to get through tomorrow. I barely made it through today... I pray for strength for Ernie and the boys. I pray that we will be able to comfort each other the best we can. I pray that You will ease our pain. I pray that the Blessed Mother will watch over me, comfort me, as she holds my girl close... I pray that Maddie will be there with us, holding our hands... I thank you God, for our family and friends, who have continued to shower us with love and support. I pray that you will help lighten their heavy hearts. I pray that Maddie's memorial service will be beautiful. That it will fill all of our hearts with love. Amen.
Tuesday -- October 13th
Friday morning was a busy one. I went for a long bike ride with Amy to start the day. Having a very hard time this month, and trying to stay busy and get some exercise. It was a beautiful day for a ride. I hope it won't be the last of the season.
After our ride, I went to Walmart to pick up a few things for my very first camping trip with the boys. We were all going to Nickerson State Park in Brewster, MA., for the weekend. Ernie took William with him on Friday after school and I followed on Sat. with Michael and Thomas. As I was walking around the store, I saw a woman wearing a pink baseball cap. On it were the words, "Cancer Sucks." It was obvious that this woman had cancer because she had no hair under her cap. So, I approached her and told her I loved her hat. I told her my daughter fought her own battle with cancer and that she used to wear a pink t-shirt with the same words on it. She loved that t-shirt. She went on to tell me her own story, how she was lucky they caught her breast cancer early on, and how she is almost done with treatment. She asked how my daughter was doing now, and I sadly told her that Maddie had passed away. You always hate to say that to someone who is battling cancer. You're afraid to scare them, to shake their own confidence or hope, but I knew this woman would be ok. She was very saddened to hear Maddie passed. We wished each other well and I walked away. So many thoughts running through my head...
So, I found what I needed. The new Bop It, The Game Of Life, and Pictureka. All fun family games for our camping trip, plus a "rag mag" and snacks. Remember the Game Of Life? Played it all the time when we were kids. I always loved adding little stick babies to my car. I always wanted to be a Mom.
Friday night Jeanne came over, along with Lynne, Patty, and Amy. Our goal was to label and put a ribbon on 125 candle votives for Maddie's memorial service this Friday night. They came out really pretty, except for the ones we did towards the end of the night...a little too much glue, labels upside down, ribbons on backwards...ok, I'll admit I was on label duty. Wow, what a long night. Poor Jeanne, the only one not indulging in the "grape juice" tried to correct us and stop us several times!
Saturday morning I had to get up, pack myself and the two boys for our camping trip! Yahoo! We finally got on the road around noon and got to the park around 1:30. William and Ernie were there waiting for us. It was good to see them and I was finally camping, as I promised all summer long. I was ready! How far away is the bathroom? OK, I can do this. We unpacked and settled in, met our new neighbors, Jim, Diane, and their 7 yr old daughter, Carmella. They were very nice. Ernie had a nice visit with them the night before.
We all walked down to the lake. It was beautiful! The boys played in the water, catching tadpoles. It was crystal clear..and FREEZING! My boys were the ONLY nuts actually in the water! I sat on my towel and just took it all in. Ernie was out in the water doing his fly fishing. It really was a gorgeous fall day.
Next we rode our bikes around the campground for a bit. Lots of families all set up, a large group of Boy Scouts down the road. Everyone just loving camping. The boys really love it. They played tag, hide and seek, never once complained that they were bored. Imagine that?!
We gave Ernie his birthday gifts and had some cake, by the fire. It was his birthday on Sat. He loves his new Life Is Good shirts, especially the one with the big fish on it. As we were celebrating his birthday, a HUGE hawk flew right behind where Ernie and I were standing and landed in the tree DIRECTLY above us! Michael was so excited, he saw it coming, and said Ernie and I didn't even see how close it flew behind us, before landing in our tree. It brought such an amazing sense of comfort to all of us. Maddie was letting us know she was a part of our celebration. Amazing...
For dinner we tried to cook pizzas over the fire. Didn't work. Luckily our friends next door cooked them for us inside their camper. They had a real stove in there! They also had a bathroom, a shower, a t.v. A home away from home. That's ok, our tuna can on wheels is much cozier...
Michael and I played a game of Life in the camper. It was fun. I won! Of course I can't really brag. It's really a game of luck! I was a millionaire with three kids. Michael had 4 kids. Three boys and a girl. Isn't that funny? It was fun playing. I'm glad I found a game we can all enjoy.
OK, bed time. I ran down the hill to go use the bathroom before bed, because there was no way I was walking down there in the middle of the night! I thought I was alone in the stall, but then I realized there were several "Daddy Long Leg" spiders in there with me. Yep, they were staring intently at me. I was staring right back, ready to jump up if any of them moved! Ran back to the camper.
I snuggled in close with Michael one side and the two boys snuggled in with Dad on the other. It was super cold out, super windy, and our heater didn't work! I LOVE camping! Ernie kept laughing every time he looked at me, wishing he had his camera. I had gloves on, a hat, three fleece coats...
Sun morning, Michael and I went on a power walk around the site. It was great exercise in the crisp, cold air. We all had breakfast then started the day filled with water fun on the lake again, a ride on the bike trail, a lighthouse tour and a swim in the ocean... Yes, once again, my boys were the ONLY ones in the FREEZING water! We had come from the bike trail and walked down to the water. Ernie had to go get the truck and pick us up afterwards. There was no way they could bike back in soaking wet clothes.
I loved watching the boys in the ocean. I sat on the sand and wished I had my camera. At one point they were holding hands. It was so good to see them laugh and get along so well! As we were waiting for Ernie to get back with the truck, a couple approached me and said they had been watching and bet each other that my boys would go in. They told me they have three boys too, all the same age difference as mine and that they were now in their 20's. They said to me, "Enjoy your three boys. They grow up so fast." I wanted so badly to tell them there was more to our story, but just smiled and said, "I know." I felt so sad not telling them I have a daughter too, but they were so delighted in re-living their memories through watching my boys, that I didn't want to bring their mood down.
Our second night in the camper was just as cold. That night I slept in the middle of William and Thomas, and Michael and Ernie cozied up. Thomas fell asleep and then William asked me to give up my gloves for him. What?! Oh man! OK, I had to hand them over. As I laid there in the dark, listening to the wind, feeling our camper rocking in the wind, listening to everyone sleeping, it really felt good to all be together in one cozy little tuna can. We all kept each other warm, safe and loved.
We got up the next morning, packed up, and the three boys came home with me. Ernie stayed behind to pack up the camper and got home about 2 hours after we did. As we were driving home, two hawks flew right passed our car. Michael asked me if I had asked Maddie to send those. I said no, but I was thinking about her. He told me he had just asked her to send one! I think he was so excited that those were for him!
We spent the day unpacking, doing TONS of laundry, catching up on yard work. I ran down to visit with Maddie for a bit. I had missed her terribly on this trip, as I do every day, and needed to sit there for a while. It was back to business now. Jeanne came over in the late afternoon, along with Stephanie, and together we fixed up the candle votives. There weren't as many mistakes as we had dreaded, so it didn't take us too long to finish.
It's our wedding anniversary tomorrow. We'll be married 14 years. This time last year, when Maddie was in the hospital, I don't remember the exact date, but a nurse stayed with her, so that the two of us could run across the street to have a quick dinner to celebrate Ernie's birthday and our anniversary. We felt nervous and guilty for going out but, needed to do that for ourselves. I remember how down we both were. We were back to Maddie in under an hour. Who would've known what the next weeks would bring.
We have a sitter lined up so we can get out for a quick dinner tomorrow night. Not really in a celebratory mood, but I guess we need to force ourselves to get out and have some quiet time. The next several days are going to be very busy and very emotional.
Maddie's memorial service is officially set for this Friday night at 7pm, at St. Jude's in Norfolk. I have a lot to get done before then. I want to make sure it's a beautiful service for our girl.
Thursday -- October 8th
I used to love October. It was my favorite time of year...kids settled into school, leaves changing colors, the smell of Fall, the memory of Michael's birth, our anniversary, Ernie's birthday. October was always my favorite. This time around, I'm not feeling the same, for obvious reasons. Now I lost my love of the Fall. I'll still celebrate the joyous occasions October brings, but with a very different taste in my mouth...
Ernie has been having a very hard time. He has always been very strong, sometimes abnormally stoic. His tough venire is cracking. I know, as I have for a long time, that he needs to crack, he needs to fall. I'm sure he has in his own way, out of our sight. But it's getting harder for him to conceal. I feel like we're both falling right now, we both need to hit the floor, and let the flood gates open, each of us afraid to go first in front of the other. We have never really allowed ourselves that, always keeping the boys, and maybe each other, in mind.
I put a fire on in the fireplace, Saturday night. The first one of the season. Wow - did a rush of emotion come with that fire. I thought about all the times we all sat in front of the fireplace. So many memories...
I delighted in the excitement the boys had over the fire! The kids always love when I put a fire on. We all sit around it, and either snuggle, or fight over blanket coverage or seating arrangements!
I always reflect back upon the first winter Ernie and I spent in this house after Michael was born. He was born in Oct. and that winter, we lost power for over a week. We had well water at the time, so when the electricity went, so did our water! No toilet flushing, no water! Michael was 2 months old! We had to melt snow by the fire, in a pan, to make hot water to heat up his bottles! It was nuts. We had to keep the fire going straight 24 hours, for days. Ernie looked like Grizzly Adams by the end of the ordeal.
OK, so here we are...it's Fall again... OK, let me focus on something awesome so far this month.
I went on the motorcycle ride on Sunday, with Cops For Kids With Cancer. Their Flight of the Angels ride. It was such an awesome time. I rode with Bob Hayden, on the back of his bike, where Maddie sat, and wore her helmet. Only this time, her helmet was transformed into a kick ass Maddie Girl butterfly helmet! I decorated it this morning. I put big pink and yellow butterflies on it, more tiny little shiny butterfly stickers, wrote MADDIE across the back and I "heart symbol" YOU, on the top. It was great. I was the only one with an original like that!
The ride was very emotional but it felt so good riding for Maddie. I truly felt her presence with us. I could just picture her hanging onto my shoulders, her chin resting on my shoulder, and her smiling so happily. Half way through the ride, I said to her, "Maddie, I know you're here honey, I feel you, but please send a hawk or a heart shaped cloud, so I can point it out to Bob and show him you're here. I kid you not, there it was, out of nowhere - my hawk! I screamed and told Bob to look at the hawk! I told him I asked Maddie to send that. He was in awe. It followed us! There were no other hawks in the sky. It gets better. Pulling into the end, I asked Maddie again, to please let that hawk greet us at the finish so I would know you stayed with us the whole time... I jumped off the motorcycle when we were done, hugged Bob, and said to Michael and Helena, who were standing there, "We got a visit from a hawk." Just then Helena, shouted and pointed, "Is that a hawk right there?!" Yes! It was ! It was right over us and circled us! It stayed and circled, then flew ever so high up into the sky before disappearing. We all stood there, truly mesmerized...and grateful for that gift.
Kristen Altmeyer, got to ride on the back of another motorcycle in Michael's place. When we got there, Michael decided he didn't want to ride. It was fun riding next to Kristen. I could again, imagine Maddie's giggling and shrieks of joy, especially when I leaned over and Kristen and I high fived each other! Michael says he'll ride next year. He'll love it.
At the event, I presented Cops For Kids With Cancer a check in the amount of $2500.00, to help other families in need, during their time of struggle with cancer. It was a gift we were able to give because of all of you. For all of the Maddie cards we sold to benefit her charities. It is such a wonderful feeling to give back. Again, that is what Maddie would want us to do and she was loving everything about that day!
Tuesday night Ernie an I got out for dinner. It was a nice night out, until I got a call on my cell, on our ride home. It was William crying. He had accidentally erased Maddie's greeting on our answering machine. He felt terrible. I was beside myself. Her voice, it's gone. I absolutely fell apart. Even typing this a few days later, I can't get over it. Ernie had recorded it onto a personal recorder and tried to duplicate it, but it's not the same. It's garbled and just not the same as it was. It wasn't from her, standing there, pressing the button to record that original greeting. It will never be the same.
Last night, I was lying in bed with Thomas again, and he fell asleep. It was dark in the room and William whispered, "Mom, it just felt like Maddie's hand was holding my hand." Then the conversation went like this...
"Really? It felt like her hand was in yours?"
"Yep, like right in my palm, like she was holding my hand."
"Were you thinking about her?"
"I was sad and thinking about how much I miss her and then I felt her holding my hand."
"Wow, William, you're so lucky. Maddie is always showing you that she is with you. She was holding your hand, letting you know she's there. She doesn't want you to be sad."
"Yep, she was..."
Then I hopped over to his bed and snuggled with him. Secretly hoping I'd feel Maddie wrap herself around the two of us. Even though I didn't feel her at that moment, I know she was there.
So, this morning I ran out to get out of the house and go do some errands, to get ready for Maddie's memorial service next Friday. I was at the gas pump, very sad, staring up at the sky. I'm always staring into the sky. Anyway, I turned and looked into the car window, at the passenger seat, where Maddie would sit. I tried to picture her sitting there. I started to tear up, and then looked up and...gosh, I must just sound absolutely insane...
Yes, there it was, a beautiful light colored hawk, swooping down toward the gas station over hang. I literally said, "Maddie are you kidding me?! I CANNOT believe it! That is SO unbelievable! Really?! You are SO here with me, Maddie! You are here! Thank you! Please don't ever stop sending me signs." I waited for it to pass over the overhang on the other side but it didn't. It was gone. I was in such awe and tried to get a hold of Ernie at work, but he didn't pick up. Guess this was just between Maddie and I...and now all of you too!
Maybe that's why the phone hasn't been ringing for any play dates! I think I've scared all the Moms away! They all think, that poor lady, She's really lost it...