death and bodies, part 2

Since Greg died in the early morning while the girls were asleep, I had a choice to make. Should I wake them to say goodbye or just let them sleep and tell them when they woke? Part of me wanted to just let them sleep because all I wanted to do was to curl up in a ball and cry and cry and cry. But deep down I knew that was not the right answer. We had done our best to be truthful and include them as much as we could when Greg was sick. I knew I had to wake them so that they were able to have closure in their own way, as much or as little as they understood at the time.

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When Greg was healthy, he went into work around lunchtime and every day the girls would hug him goodbye and make sure to put a bunch of kisses in his pocket to last him throughout the day until he got home. On Greg’s last night, as the girls were saying goodnight, he gave both of them a crystal butterfly box full of his kisses that would last them their entire lives. We still take kisses from their boxes every night before bed. I do too. I figure there are probably a few in there for me as well.

That evening, Greg had taken an obvious turn for the worse and we knew his time was very close. I told the girls that Daddy might not have much more time and that he would be dying soon. We had talked about it a lot before this but because he hadn’t been ‘actively dying’ I could always tell them he still had time. As I was tucking Squirmy into bed, she asked me, “Is Daddy going to die tonight?” I told her yes, he might. She nodded and cuddled up in bed.

I woke Squirmy and Squeaky at about 5:30 in the morning and told them Daddy had died. They both clung to me and Squirmy started crying with me. I took them upstairs to see Greg. He had the white teddy bear tucked under his arm that the girls picked out for him when he was away from home at hospice.

We had a little ceremony to say goodbye to Greg before the funeral home people came to take him away. The girls both continued to cling to me but they saw him. The thought of them being scared of him hadn’t crossed my mind until we went into the bedroom to see him. But they had also seen Greg with his eyes and mouth open while he slept so they were used to it. A few times, Squirmy buried her head in my lap. Squeaky held me tight but her eyes jumped around to watch facial expressions, taking cues from everyone around her. The Hospice Chaplain said a few prayers, the girls and I quietly sang the Barney, I Love You song and we played the Talking Heads song, This Must be the Place (Naive Melody).

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I don’t remember if either of them touched Greg but I don’t expect a 2 and 4 year old to have the same kind of experience that I did. They are both so young. I’m just glad that they were there. They were (and continue to be) a huge support to me even if they didn’t know it and they were there to be a part of something very important. While they both exhibit a surprising understanding of what happened for kids their age, it’s still quite hard for them to grasp the concept. When the funeral home people took Greg away, the girls said goodbye to him one last time and watched as his body was wheeled out the door. Then they went back to playing with their cousins.

And that’s when I went back upstairs, curled up in a ball and cried and cried and cried.

xxx,

Mariah

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death and bodies, part 1

Years ago, I heard a news story about how removed from death we (as a society) have become. We have a harder time dealing with the finality of death because we aren’t exposed to or spend time with dead bodies anymore. People die at the hospital, a nursing home, a hospice unit and are taken away and we don’t have the chance to get our final goodbyes at home.

When I was younger, I thought that was a good thing. I was terrified of death, the thought of finding a loved one dead, dead bodies at funerals, even my own family members (grandparents, great uncles and aunts, etc) and I wouldn’t get close to the casket, let alone actually touch the body.

At some point in my relationship with Greg, I had the thought that someday I would see him die or find him dead. I know that’s a morbid thought but it popped into my brain and I thought, “Well, yeah – since he’s 11 years older than me that’ll probably happen…in my 70s or 80s.”  And I kind of terrified myself by that thought. Of him dying…not really, because it was going to happen when we were much, much older. But I was terrified by the thought of his dead body. I had never been very close to a loved one who had died so I guess I just assumed it would be like the other deaths I had experienced.

Turns out that assumption was wrong. And I’m so glad I was wrong.

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The evening of Greg’s death, his bed was surrounded by our friends and family, talking to him, crying with him, calling loved ones who live far away. We all stayed up late to sit with him but at about midnight, after a hospice nurse had come to check on him and confirm that he was ‘actively dying’, I decided I’d like someone to be in the room with us, to take shifts. My sister-in-law (J) and I stayed up, quietly sitting and laying with Greg, trying to stay awake. I lay on our bed which was pushed up against his hospital bed so I could be as close to him as possible while J took a spot on the floor. I held his hand and talked to him. His breathing had become so labored and it was beginning to be painful to watch how much he struggled to get a breath.

I tried to stay awake and Greg started to call out after awhile. It was hard to understand what he was saying. I thought he was saying, “Red” and “Mariah” but I really didn’t know for sure. His legs were restless and I got a little scared that he was in pain so I helped make him comfortable and gave him a boost of his medication.

I lay back down and then it was quiet. I’m not really sure when it happened but I think we may have fallen asleep because Greg had gotten quiet. I felt bad that I hadn’t been awake for his last breath but when I woke up shortly after, I was still holding his hand. And it was warm; warm but limp. And I didn’t want to let it go. In fact, I couldn’t stop touching him. It was like as long as I was touching him, he would still be here with me. Maybe I wanted to touch him as much as I could before I couldn’t anymore. Or maybe because I had missed touching him during the couple months he was in so much pain and we couldn’t squeeze him for fear of hurting him. Or maybe I was scared that when I stopped, he would become that dead body that I was afraid of. But that didn’t happen. I was never scared.

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It was about 3 a.m. when Greg died so while we waited for the hospice nurse to come and clean him up, the chaplain to come to talk with us, the funeral home to take him away to be cremated, I just kept touching him. He slowly became colder. He died with his mouth and his eyes wide open. It should have been scary to me but it wasn’t at all. It was how he slept the last few weeks so I was used to seeing him that way. The hospice nurse told me that I could ask the funeral home people to keep his face uncovered until he was out of our house. So I did. And as they carried him down the stairs and to our entryway, I gave him one last kiss and touched his face as it peeked out from the body bag. That lifeless body that had been so good to me, to him, until it eventually failed.

Death, ghosts, the dark – they’ve always scared me. I know that becoming a mother has made me much more brave. Because how can you be scared when you have to kick some ass (ghost ass, intruder ass, mean kid on the playground ass!) to protect your kids?!  But now that I’ve witnessed a loved one – my loved one – die, death seems more like a friend. Not something scary at all but something very natural, almost comforting.  Because he is there and he has done this first, for me, so I don’t have to be scared anymore.

xxx,

Mariah

 

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squeaky is 3!

Our sweet little Squeaky nugget is THREE today!

DSCN2260I went into false labor with Squeaky on January 3rd, both my parents drove down and then they had to drive home when my contractions stopped. But two days later, the contractions started again and the next morning, she was born. When Squeaky was about to come out, the doctor saw that she was posterior and wanted me to wait but that was NOT happening. The next push and Squeaky literally did a corkscrew somersault into the world. And nobody’s been able to stop her since!

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Greg loved her dark hair and thought the way she came into the world meant that she was going to do something very special in this life. He thought that her and her sister were going to take on the world. He was so proud to be their Daddy. We were both proud of ourselves (and even surprised!) that together we made such wonderful, innocent and sweet little people.

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DSCN0876Squirmy couldn’t stop touching Squeaky and holding her when they first met at the hospital. As soon as someone else would hold her, Squirmy would say, “Can I hold my sister now?” Come to think of it, she still loves carrying Squeaky around. She takes care of Squeaky when she’s sad and if they are playing with other kids, Squirmy waits for Squeaky to catch up and comes back to hold her hand.

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And when I hold her now, I sometimes tuck her legs up and imagine she’s still in my tummy. My baby.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

xxx,

Mariah

 

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merry christmas and happy new year

Many of you have seen these photos and words from our holiday card but I’m going to say it again…

As we stay goodbye to a heartbreaking year, not only will we remember our sweet Greg with eternal love but we will always remember how much our family and friends helped us through it all. Thank you for being here for our family during this difficult year. We love you.

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I’m going to take a little break from kissing glue since we’ll be traveling, partying and having over-tired tantrums in the next couple weeks. I’ll be back in early January.

Have a good time and take care of each other.

xxx,

Mariah

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kissing: a series

Here is a series from Thanksgiving a few years ago. There were other people around to take photos of us but there was something intimate about just doing it ourselves. Where are our children? I have no idea. We were in our own little world!

Look away if you don’t like seeing other people kiss. Ha. :)

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Mariah

 

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patience

Most days are good. Some days are not. Sunday was not. By the time the girls got to bed and I started thinking about how ugly the day had gotten, I was ashamed. One girl loses it, then another one does and then mama just joins in. It’s hard to turn things around once that happens.

I used to have more patience. Since I was (am) a stay at home mom, I felt good about the way I parented. I remember being able to hold it together during a kid crisis. And that used to be a huge part of who I was because I didn’t work another job. My kids were my only job and I was going to be good at being their mother, dammit. It’s depressing to see that part of me now compromised. Greg used to look to me and would even brag to other people about what a good mom I was. On these bad days, I can’t help feeling like I’m letting him down.

My kids don’t have a father anymore. And on top of that, their mom is losing it. Kind of a double whammy to them.

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Since Greg’s death, people treat us differently. Of course they do. I would too. I see it and it’s fine. Because this is what has happened to us and if people are more nice/attentive/caring/responsive/forgiving, then yes, that’s okay. What I’m having a hard time figuring out is if and how *I* am treating the girls differently. Our situation is constantly making me second-guess myself. I don’t think I’ve changed the way I parent but it’s hard to know since we’re at a completely different phase in life. I have never had a 5 year old and an almost 3 year old until right now. Who knows if I would do things how I am doing them if Greg was still here. But now not only does the fact that my girls are fatherless effect things, *I* am also in a completely different mindset. A double whammy to me as well.

The most upsetting thing to Greg about dying was that 1. He was going to be leaving us and 2. He wasn’t going to be here to help us through our pain. And that was the point, I guess. A double whammy for him too.

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My mom gave me a counseling book when Greg was sick that had a chart including roles that family members assume when someone in the family is seriously ill. I don’t remember the wording exactly but Squirmy was the angel or the pleaser, I was the one who tried to do everything for everyone and was the forgotten one and Squeaky was the problem person. For those short months, there wasn’t much we could do about it. I am very aware of these ‘roles’ and I do not want to be the person who keeps these labels attached to my children. I sometimes secretly (and now not so secretly!) love it when my Squirmy does something out of character and is a little naughty. It makes things feel more balanced. And when I look at Squeaky who is so creative and silly and makes us all  laugh, I know that she isn’t a problem.

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Today, things don’t seem as daunting. The last few days since Sunday have been good. Great, actually. We have all been getting good sleep and the few times there has been a kid crisis, Mama has been able to keep her cool. I’m hoping, as things heat up a bit with Christmas coming, traveling and getting everything done, I’ll be able to keep cool and stay cool. Deep breath.

xxx,

Mariah

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santa

What would you like for Christmas?

DSCN2248This year, I’m asking Santa for a little more patience.  I’ve been lacking it for awhile and now I feel like it’s becoming a bigger strain on my relationship with Squirmy and Squeaky. I’m going to try and ‘talk’ this one out through the blog so more later this week…

Have a good Monday.

xxx,

Mariah

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cookie day 2013

Every year, I host a cookie exchange/crazy baking fest at the beginning of December. This year was something like my 11th year doing it! I started this tradition in my apartment in Plymouth, Minnesota where I lived with a boyfriend at the time. Hmmm, I’m hoping it was longer than 11 years ago. I’d much rather say that it’s been 15 years since I’ve been in that relationship because it’s a little embarrassing to look back on. Do you ever find yourself thankful that another year has gone by since you’ve made a mistake or done something that you’re not that proud of. Then, you can add that year to how much more mature you are, how much you’ve grown and how you were so silly back then and would never do anything like that now!? Ha. Ah well, it is what it is!

Anyway, last week I held my annual cookie day in my new hometown with some new faces. I love having get-togethers like this where friends from different phases of my life come together. And what a good feeling it is to be able to just pick up here – to throw a party in a new town and have friends show up!  To me, it’s such a simple yet completely meaningful act to just show up for a friend. So, thank you to everyone who could come!

Since my apartment is too small to do mass quantity baking in, I decided to just have the exchange. I did have everyone make a felt ornament (see Wednesday’s post) but that was all we had to do this year besides having a few drinks and laughing so loud I thought we’d get a knock on the door from an angry neighbor!

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What kind of  holiday parties do you have? Ugly sweater parties? Caroling parties? Fancy cocktail parties? Not-so-fancy cocktail parties?  …and can I come? :)

xxx,

Mariah

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three ornaments YOU can make

I really want to have the patience to do step-by-step instructions for things I’ve made, but I don’t. Plus, I usually just use someone else’s idea and they’ve already created a beautiful tutorial. Here is my attempt to show you how to make three very different ornaments.

First Ornament: Popsicle Stick Snowpeople

Last year, the girls and I made these snowpeople out of popsicle sticks, buttons, ribbon and felt. Here are my instructions to you: look at the picture and make some. Hee hee. I’m trying to think if there was anything I want to mention but I did use a glue gun for these. I don’t remember what kind of paint I used. And I used some fatter popsicle sticks for the moms and dads and some smaller ones for the kiddos because that’s what we had at the time.

The girls have to arrange them on the tree together in couples and families so they won’t be lonely. :)

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Second Ornament: Nail Polish Glass Ornament

This one is really easy but it is stinky. I can’t stress enough to do this in a well-ventilated area. We did these with the windows open in the apartment, stuck them outside to dry and took off to let the apartment air out.

First, you’ll need some helpers…

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Then, you’ll need some clear glass ornaments and old nail polish…

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Take the metal hardware out of the ornament. Pour a little nail polish in and swoosh it around. Repeat with one or two more colors. Glitter nail polish looks great. Tip it over to dry and leave it somewhere where nobody will have to breathe the toxic air until they are good and dry…this may take several days to get rid of the smell. As you can see, I just chucked them out the back door of our apartment building. :)

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Replace the hardware, tie on a ribbon or string and hang in your tree. Ooh and aaah that YOU made something so simple and clever.

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Ornament Three: Felt Ornament

Each year, I have a cookie exchange party where we exchange cookies and we make and decorate a bazillion sugar cookies as well. This year, I just didn’t have the room in my apartment for baking so I nixed that part. But I had to do something else – I couldn’t just let these ladies sit around drinking cocktails and chatting! So I put them to work making themselves an ornament…while drinking cocktails and chatting!

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Here is a tutorial for this one. Yes, hers is much prettier than the one I made. Mine looks shaggy. I will now go and give it a haircut.

Your tree wants you to make it something. Go do it and make an extra for a friend.

xxx,
Mariah

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playlist from 2013

On Friday, I was making a million more rosemary butter cookies for my annual cookie day on Saturday (more about cookie day later this week). The girls were at a friend’s house and I was streaming a radio station from Madison that I really like (I haven’t found a radio station up north that I like yet – waah!). We have a Sonos system that Greg bought back in 2006 that I use to stream radio stations – I highly recommend it. We have access to our entire music library plus any streaming radio throughout our entire house/apartment.  Music is such a big part of our lives and we don’t have the TV on often so we have never regretted spending the money on it.

When I was alone making the cookies, I heard all three of these songs that I’m going to share with you. Sometimes, I don’t realize how much I’m effected by things until I’m away from the girls for a little while and can take a moment to pause. These songs are going to stick with me forever and they are always going to help me break down if I ever need to. I think they also help me remember thoughts and feelings from this year in a way that even pictures and videos cannot. I love them, even though they all make me cry, sometimes really hard. Here they are:

“Carry on” was played a lot when Greg first got sick and I felt like it was a personal calling for me/us to just keep going because that was all we could do.

I heard “Stay” for the first time as I was driving by myself late one night to the in-patient hospice unit to spend the night with Greg. He was getting so sick, so quickly and when I heard this I started to panic realizing he was going to be gone too soon. He wanted me to stay with him all the time and I struggled to spend the time I wanted to with him. There were so many things to take care of during that time, I just couldn’t do it all. I stayed with him when I could but there were times that I had to tell him no. There was also a part of me that wanted to plead with him to stay with me, to not die. That seems so silly. He couldn’t help it that he was dying and he already felt so bad knowing he was leaving us.

I’m sorry (or you’re welcome!) for the naked-y video of Rihanna.

“Gone, Gone, Gone” was played a lot this summer and Squirmy, Squeaky and I all love this song. The girls like to sing/yell, “Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating!” They like it turned up loud and I like it turned up loud because it gives me a chance to sing/yell while drowning out my sobbing.

“Gone, Gone, Gone” is also a good tune to make up your own lyrics (since it’ll be stuck in your head all day) while trying to get your kids to do things. “For you…for you…I made you this sandwich – can you please now eat it up?!” or “For you…for you…Squirmy’s going potty – can you please try to go next?”, etc.  I do this often, with lots of different songs. :)

Even before he got sick, Greg had a playlist for everything. But when he was stuck in bed, he spent even more time carefully choosing songs to listen to; songs from his past that were important to him and had effected him and helped him become the person he was. Things for me were going so fast that I just didn’t have time to pause and choose my own playlist. I just flicked on a radio station and my playlist was chosen for me as I rushed on to the next thing. And since these are the songs that were playing, these are the songs I’m going to remember.

xxx,

Mariah

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