During the time when a parent has lost a child, it’s awkward for people to be around you.  Our society doesn’t like grieving people. We don’t know what to say. We don’t have any good rituals or social norms- especially for the loss of a child. There are no words.  There just aren’t.  People have actually avoided coming over or calling because they don’t know what to say.

When you do see us please do not act as if our child did not exist.  We love talking about them. It keeps them alive for us.  Good friends who have known us and Shayna for years have asked if it’s OK to bring her up. Yes, please.  Let’s go back down memory lane. Tell me your favorite Shayna story. I’ll try not to bore you with too many of mine.  I might break into tears. I probably will.  Don’t worry.  It’s not because you made me sad. That sadness is right there always just below the surface. It’s just a release which I have to do periodically. If I weren’t crying now, I would be in a few minutes or hours anyway.  

I could talk about Shayna all day, every day for the rest of my life. If she comes up in conversation, don’t dance around it, say her name.

I wrote this for Shayna on the occasion of her birth. I felt her name had been given to us and I felt she had a mission in life.  

Our
Father in Heaven,
We
thank you for the precious gift you have given us
We
thank you for blessing us with a second healthy child 

We
acknowledge that Shayna’s life is not ours or even her own.  
It
belongs to You.  
We are grateful that you
have given us the honor and responsibility of nurturing her and raising her in
Your ways. 

Shayna
joins our family at a time where we have already been blessed with her sister
Kayla.  
Kayla has accepted Shayna with
love and with joy, sight unseen.  
We pray
that this relationship grows even stronger over the years Kayla and Shayna will
have together. 

Shayna
Elayne, we have named you this.
Shayna
means “beautiful”.  We
have named you this without even seeing your face; with faith that you are
beautiful in spirit.  
We
have named you Elayne in honor of Brian’s GodMother, a godly and righteous
woman.  
Elayne means “shining light”.
Thus
we believe you will be a Beautiful Light, reflecting the Light of your Heavenly
Father.  

Amen

Today is Monday, the first day we are going to try to get back to a full routine.  Kayla has to go to her lifeguard job all day.  Ty and I are going to try to get the orders out.  Ann is coming to help.  

I manage to get myself out of bed after my normal crying and groaning.  I start my Facebook therapy, check in with friends, then hit the T25.  It feels good to sweat, to exert myself.   Ty and I take another 3 mile walk.  We continue to treat each other.  We hold hands for the last mile or so. Haven’t done that in a while.  I then get work done for a few hours before the exhaustion and depression hit me- this time worse than ever. I just cannot care about anything.  I warn Ty the anger might come back. I don’t feel it now, just the depression, but anger is usually not far behind.  Today, it’s just depression though.

As a father, it’s my job to protect and serve my family.  We do all we can do to keep them safe. Doctor’s visits. We did everything any doctor ever suggested and more. None told us this could happen.  We insisted Shayna work out. With her arthritis, staying active was important. Being an athlete helped. I kept telling Shayna I had three more years to teach her about nutrition. She was a sugar fiend and loved carbs. I was working on that. We are extreme about safety. We’ve always closed all the bedroom doors at night. We’ve told the girls how to get out in case of fire.  We set the alarm.  No thief is going to get in without us knowing it.  That is no thief except one. That thief was Death. Death came without making a sound.  I was ready to fight any intruder. I had my alarm set.  I had my girls safe with me.  Shayna was safely kissed, hugged and the door to her room shut, but she was taken anyway. What the fuck!  What was I supposed to do?  How did I not hear anything?  If this was a cardiac event, and we will never truly know, why did it happen while she was alone?  Shayna was diagnosed with a mild heart condition a couple of years ago.  It was treated and supposed to be a mild nuisance.  Her heart would flutter maybe once or twice a month for a few seconds.  People live with this for decades. Why couldn’t this have happened when she was with us?  Could we have saved her?  All of this floods my mind.  I’m mad.  Not angry. When I was a kid, we would say we were mad meaning angry. This time I’m just mad.

The world is different now.  It’s like someone put a filter over it. I know the colors are still there, but I can’t see them.  It’s all black and white to me, or “gray” as Shayna said when she first saw a black and white movie.  I’m trying to function, trying to go on, but it’s hard to find the motivation, until I think of Kayla and Ty and realize, I have to.

Ty and I have been more intimate since Shayna passed than we have in a long time.  I know what a hole losing Shayna leaves for her and I know it’s a Shayna shaped hole I can’t fill, but at least I can be a better husband. All the things she’s been asking me to do for years, stop criticizing her so much, give her words of affirmation, physical touch.  It’s coming easier now. I hope I can continue it.  We hold each other again. We make love for the first time since Shayna’s passing. With all the stress and depression, I wondered if/when it would happen again, but it’s easy and great.  My thoughts turn to the night Shayna was conceived.  But, this time there will be no Shayna coming from this.  It’s Ty and Kayla and me against the world now.  We’re going to make it work.  

As parents, we all worry every time our kids leave our sides that they might not come back.  Yesterday I wrote about how Death stole into my house in the middle of the night to snatch my baby right out from under my watch.  

People are telling us how well we are doing, but I think that may be because it really isn’t real to us what has happened. Human beings only function well when we have hope.  Take away hope and we simply cannot go on. This tragedy has taken away all hope of having Shayna with us in the flesh again.  Facing that is more than we can bear.  I did not use the word incomprehensible in the title without thinking about it.  Incomprehensible means not able to be understood. While you think you can imagine what it would be like to lose one of your children, I can pretty much assure you cannot.  I have lost my daughter. It’s been two weeks and I still do not understand it. I cannot comprehend it.  

Just when we think we have our heads around it, it hits us again.  I got up, did my workout, worked some and got ready to meet a friend for coffee.  I was standing in the shower, when the moments after Ty screamed for me came flooding back.  Me running up the stairs.  Me giving CPR. But, this time, Shayna took a quick breath and came back to us.  When I realized that was only a fantasy the sobs, the tears, the moans came pouring out of me again.  

Today was not a good day for Ty. She said she felt weepy all day.  Yes. That is going to happen.  Has to happen.  Kayla worked a full day.  She made it through!  Yay, Kayla.  Left the house at 10:00 and didn’t get back until 9:00PM.  We had dinner, relaxed together. I was looking at pictures on my iPad and saw recent selfies Shayna had taken.  Old pictures of Shayna bring back happy memories. I love looking them, but recent pictures just kill me. I know they are the last of her I will ever see. I break into sobbing right there on the couch.

As we retire, Ty and I congratulate each other on one more day. We are now like the alcoholic who has to make it a day at a time without drinking.  We have to keep drawing breath one day at a time.

People have told me I might dream about Shayna. I wish for it. I long for it.  Shayna comes to Kayla in a dream. They are happy together, but it’s a cruel joke.  Kayla thinks Shayna is alive and goes to her room.  I awaken to terror as Kayla is by my bed, on her knees, hysterical.  I ask what’s wrong? What could it be now?  She tells me of her dream. I hold her while she sobs. I feel terrible. What can I say to comfort her? What can I say to make it better?  How can I take this terrible burden from her?  I want to cry with her, but I have to be strong right now. I whisper over and over “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry… This isn’t right. You’re 18 years old.  You shouldn’t have to face this.” What Kayla doesn’t know is the “I’m sorry.” has a double meaning.  I’m sorry this has happened.  I’m sorry she is dealing with this.  I’m also sorry I let the family down.  For 18 years, since the day I strapped Kayla into the car to bring her home from the hospital, I’ve had one job- protect this family.  Now, not only have I let Shayna down, I’ve brought unthinkable tragedy into the lives of Kayla and Ty.  I am crushed. I want to die there on the spot, but I cannot.  I have to do what I can to pick up the pieces.

I say a prayer over Kayla and Ty.  I pray for peace. I pray for strength.  I pray for comfort.  I pray that we can just keep moving forward one day at a time.

I hope the depression that is hitting Ty and me, the display by Kayla- I hope those are signs we are coming to grips with the fact this has really happened.  I don’t know. 

During these first, darkest days after the passing of a loved one, we are trying to find first, a reason and second, a way to go on.  We want to die with them. We know we can’t bring them back, but maybe we can go be with them. We pray to God, “Why didn’t you take me instead?”  We beg God to take us now.  We cannot imagine the time between now and when we see them again as being bearable.  Please, if you say anything, don’t say things like “You’’ll never get over this.”  What you might mean is we will never forget our loved one. That’s fine. We don’t want to forget them.  But, what we hear is “This pain will never go away. It will always be the same.”  No.  I reject that. It’s not possible for me to endure like this.  Hearing that takes away the hope I am desperately trying to muster.  It takes away both my reason to go on and my ability to find a way to go on.  

Don’t tell me me how hard it will be or the stages of grief that will lead to an inevitable long term depression. I know it will be hard.  I know better than you.  Don’t tell me my marriage will be at risk. I already know that.  Give me examples of people’s whose marriages have survived. Don’t tell me my surviving child will have a hard time adjusting. 

Whisper hope to me. Give me a reason to go on. Tell me it will get better.  Or say nothing at all.  

Crossing Over.

Thanks for this Otto.

The last two weeks have been hell on Earth for Ty, Kayla and myself.  Moving on without our Beautiful Light at time seems like an insurmountable task, but move on we will.  

During this time we have done a lot of reflecting on the past 15 years. What we did right, what we did wrong.  There is very little in the wrong column.  I told Kayla that one thing siblings sometimes find therapeutic is to put in a letter the things they wished they had said to their loved one before their passing. Kayla said there wasn’t really anything to write.  Tywana and I always lavished love on the girls.  I was raised in a home where the words “I love you.” were seldom, if ever heard.  Physical affection simply wasn’t given.  My parents were of the mind that those things were OK, if you needed such things.  Years later, in counseling, I realized I needed those things. I needed affirmation. I needed to be told they were proud of me. I needed to hear “I love you.”  I needed to be hugged.  I vowed my girls would never question my love for them.

We homeschooled the girls for the first 8 years of each of their school careers.  We didn’t do it because they would get a better education (they did). We didn’t do it to keep the world from corrupting them.  We did it because we just loved being together.  I had jobs where I would work from home since before Shayna was born. So, often it was me in my office and Ty and the girls in the basement doing school work.  We all had breakfast, lunch and dinner together every day. We did little adventures like going to the movies in the afternoons or running out for a shopping trip to Costco. We just loved being together. One of my most fond memories is of a trip to Disney World when they were 7 and 10. We went right after Labor Day, when the prices were dirt cheap and the parks were empty. It was like being VIPs as we raced from ride to ride, no lines.  We felt special.

Eventually, the girls decided they wanted to go to school. Kayla went three years ahead of Shayna.  But, even then and with all of their activities, we tried to have dinner together every night. We told them we loved them every day.  We hugged them. We kissed them.  We never went to bed without saying good night.  Kayla and Shayna for years had “sister sleep overs”. Even after spending the entire day together, they wanted more time together. Kayla made room for Shayna, moving her many stuffed animals out of the way.  Once the sister sleep overs ended, they developed a special way of saying “Good night Kayla, I love you.” and “Good night Shayna, I love you.”.  Ty and I were never allowed in on their secret language.  

Even among all of this grief, I can say, without reservation, I have zero regrets. I know both my girls know how much they are loved, how proud we are of them and how much we enjoy them.  Shayna cherished her spot as the baby in the family and we loved babying her. We complained, but we all did it.  You just could not say ‘no’ to that girl.  

If God were to say to me, you can live the whole thing over, just the same way with the same three companions, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  Every single minute of it.