Monday, June 20, 2016

Am I Blue?

The blueberry bush sits dry and likely, dead, but still a part of my home amid the greenery in my front yard.  It seems like watering it when needed is such a simple task that there is no real good reason why it shouldn't get done.  But there are no simple tasks these days, and many things don't get done.  Every once in a while I am horrified to discover a dirty diaper under a pile of laundry, unsure as to how long the diaper has been hidden there.  I feel like I must be the biggest slob in the world, which doesn't make sense, because I also feel that I am constantly on the go.

Nothing gets the attention it should these days.  Not my kids, not my husband, not my dogs, not my house - certainly not my work.  Direct file referrals are pouring in for me these days, and I'm on the brink of two appellate decisions that I am fairly confident will be favorable.  Maybe they will be.  Maybe they won't be.  But either way, I am moving files - exactly what clients want.

Actually, clients want a lot of things.  They want to be your priority.  They want everything done right now.  Everything is a rush.  Everything should have been done already.  Nothing can wait until tomorrow.  Everything is extreme.  EVERYTHING.

There was a time in my life when I was motivated by this kind of pressure.  How many A papers have I written in the 12 hours preceding their deadline?  The appeals mentioned above were written and submitted within a crunched statutory time limit.  I can pat myself on the back, for I have shown a tremendous capacity to take pressure, grief, anger, and pain and turn it into steam to propel me through life.

But I feel like I've run out of steam.  I don't know why.  I guess we all have our breaking point and I suppose my breaking point is a lot farther and a lot less destructive than others' might be, but it's still devastating.

It is then that the weight of the loss of my son crushes me.  I live with his absence daily, the ache is constant and painful.  Now, as I tread water to stay afloat I feel the hole inside of my heart being crushed by the heaviness of having lost my son.  Five years ago today I held my son in my arms through his seizures and labored breathing until his heart beat one last time, and he died.  I felt his tiny body stiffen with death in my arms, and I kissed him one last time before giving him over to a very kind and solemn undertaker so that he could burn my little boy to ashes.  I took those ashes and placed them in a little, tomb-like cavity and marked his place in this world with a little plaque, and a few times a year I visit that final resting space but every single day I long to feel him again.

Am I blue?  How can I know anymore?  How can I distinguish between the depression that I have experienced all of my life, and the grief of the traumatic experiences that I've been through, and the postpartum depression compounded by back-to-back pregnancies, and the stress of every day life?  When are my responses selfish, and when are they self-loathing, and when are they natural, and when are they wallowing?  I don't know anymore.

Above all I am thankful that Gabriel was trusted to me to love and care for.  I know that this was no accident, I know that I was blessed - Blessed with the gift of a child, blessed to be charged with the care of a terminally ill unborn baby, blessed that I got to spend ten days with him when most people walking in my shoes will never get that opportunity.  I am blue, but I am blessed.  I don't have time to water plants, but even in life's rush I carry Gabriel with me every day.  His life and his loss are a part of me. Even as the branches of the blueberry brush dry and harden and threaten to break every day, I keep and guard them.  Life isn't easy, hearts don't break evenly, and all I can do is hold on for the ride.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Days that Change the World

Two accomplishments that I get to take credit for, though I can really only thank God for, are the opportunities to be a mother to Gabriel, Eden, and Delilah, and a big sister to Monica, Timothy, and Victoria.

I remember so clearly Victoria's first day of daycare. It coincided with my first day of my senior year of high school, and I cried when having to leave her with her new sitter, after having spent the entire summer looking after her myself.  Victoria was the first person to teach me, truly, about selfless love.  I only ever wanted to give her the world.

So, it's no surprise that this, the morning of her high school graduation, I have been teary and nostalgic for the days when she was just a little girl.  I have been recalling her first day of kindergarten, the day she transferred to Colonel Nichols halfway through her first grade year, her First Communion, and her graduation from junior high, which hardly feels like a year ago.  I remember her in my own milestone moments - The day I found Sean dead, when I came home still in shock and still regretful that I had missed Victoria's classroom Valentine's Day party, that little 7 year old girl wrapped her arms around me in a big hug and said, "I miss Sean."  I remember the day my cat Lily had kittens, on Victoria's third birthday, and upon seeing the first kitten for the first time Victoria saying "Lily has a mouse!"  I remember standing by her side as she held Delilah, her first goddaughter, to be baptized.  I remember her standing by my side on my wedding day.  I remember standing behind her, beaming with pride, as she delivered her closing arguments during this year's mock trial competition, for which I had the privilege of coaching her.  This day came all too quickly, but the years leading up to this day have been packed with memories.  What a gift, to have been this girl's big sister.

I suppose Victoria's graduation, as all graduations are for me now, is especially touching when I consider that in the blink of an eye, my girls will be graduating too.  And the sweet becomes bitter when I think about my only son, who will never graduate from high school - Something I knew several weeks before he was born.  Before he was born, the doctors told me Gabriel wouldn't live long, and though I hoped with trepidation, I never dreamed that my little boy would be the one to defy the odds and live ten days.  Those ten days have changed the world.

With a bittersweet, teary but happy joyful longing, I invite you to celebrate Gabriel's 5th Birthday by participating in this year's 10 Days to Change the World:

Day 1:  Friday, June 10 - For the first time since his birth, Gabriel's birthday will fall on a Friday, which was also the day he was born.  At 3:19 p.m. my sweet boy showed his face to this world.  I invite you to take a moment at 3:19 on June 10, 2016, to remember his birthday.  Share pictures of your clock and where you are on Facebook.

Day 2:  Saturday June 11 - The annual cupcake day.  When Gabriel made it to 24 hours, our family celebrated with cupcakes - While Gabriel and I slept.  This year, enjoy a cupcake to celebrate with us the day that Gabriel became one of the only 25% of anencephalic babies to live past 24 hours.

Day 3 - Sunday June 12 - Wristband Day!  This year I have awareness wristbands, the proceeds for which will be used to fund the next Magic Mullet Run fundraiser for Duke University's anencephaly study.  Contact me ASAP to get your wristbands for $3 each.  Children's size available.

Day 4 - Monday June 13 - Finally getting comfortable enough with my delicate little bundle, we took Gabriel's footprint on this day.  This year, find a way to leave your footprint in your community, your tattoo on your town.  

Day 5 - Tuesday June 14 - This year would be Gabriel's 5th birthday, and he would be starting kindergarten.  Last year we celebrated what would have been his pre-school years by asking people to donate to their local pre-schools or Head Start programs.  This year, I invite you to do the same.  As most schools will be out for summer break, consider presenting a teacher you know with a gift card for supplies for her classroom in the fall.

Day 6 - Wednesday June 15 - On this day we FINALLY introduced Gideon to Gabriel.  Give your own furbaby a hug on this day, and do something special for him/her/them.

Day 7 - Thursday June 16 - Bowling night!  My friends and I bowl on Thursday nights, and we have a great time.  Life is short, and busy, and bowling nights are our weekly opportunity to gather and nourish the friendships that have carried us each through some challenging times.  Take this day to spend some time with your friends, do something fun - Try bowling!

Day 8 - Friday June 17 - This year Marcos and I will be heading to the beach for this weekend.  Friday we'll be riding to Oxnard so I can appear at a hearing in the morning, then we'll be heading up the coast where later in the evening, we will meet some of our friends for a beach weekend.  Before they arrive, Marcos and I will have a chance to spend some time together, have lunch, walk on the beach.  Take this day to spend some one-on-one time with someone you love.

Day 9 - Saturday June 18 - Community clean up!  We will be on the coast, and looking for a local park or beach to clean.  I invite you to find a place in your community in need of a bit of clean up, and volunteer your time to help.

Day 10 - Sunday June 19 - Father's Day.  A bittersweet day the year that Gabriel was born - He was still with us, against all odds, but we did not know how much time we might still have.  And we didn't know that our time would be up the following day.  Honor your father today.  And honor your children.  Not a single day is promised to us, and every day is a gift.

Angelversary - Monday June 20 - As has become custom, I will be releasing balloons on this day.  Time and location to be announced if you wish to participate with me - If not, please try to release a balloon or lantern in memory of Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude, whose brief life of 10 days is still changing the world.

I look forward, as I do every year, to sharing these days with my family and friends.