Skip to main content

From the Rearview Mirror

With all this talk about Kiddo lately, you might be wondering where Charlotte has been in all this.  Of course, we needed to tell Kiddo about Charlotte even before her first visit to our home. I think the plethora of pictures might have been a quick giveaway. 

Part of my card, complete with the "butterfly life cycle".
The little egg on the leaf turns into a CJ butterfly.
Kiddo handled Charlotte's story really well. She asked a lot of questions at first. We share stories about her but definitely follow Kiddo's lead in how much we talk about her. Kiddo has also sweetly mentioned Charlotte in her "prayers" and even drew a "CJ" butterfly on my Mother's Day card.  

When Charlotte first died, I had a difficult time understanding how anyone with kids could function while grieving another child.  I was completely self-absorbed and was sometimes actually grateful that I could get lost in my grief without having to worry about tying someone's shoes or sending a little one off to bed.  When I brought this up in counseling, I was told, "Parents who have other children often say just the opposite.  They can't imagine moving forward without someone to divert their attention and to whom they can provide love."

Now I think I get it.  

The busy-ness of child rearing can sometimes be just enough to pull you out of the black hole of grief.  The reminders are all around me and the sadness never goes away but it's...different.  It also helps, I suppose, that I am in my 5th year of grieving her loss. I've become much better at riding the waves.

One night recently, though, my thoughts wandered as I was drifting off to sleep. I had this memory of Charlotte that I couldn't get out of my mind. It was a memory of the day we received final verification that Charlotte's tumor was, in fact, terminal. As I left the hospital that day, overcome with emotion to the point that I was virtually numb, I remember that all I could do was look at her. I didn't know what to say but as we drove from the MCV parking garage to our home in Ashland, I looked in the back seat and stared at that beautiful girl with the bald head and brown eyes thinking, "This is it. There's nothing more we can do. I just want to stare at her forever. I want to soak up her essence."

I was stuck in that feeling for about 8 hours, after which we were jolted back to reality via a seizure that sent us right back to the ER that evening.  I remember, though, that in the weeks to come, I watched Charlotte a great deal. I watched her play. I watched her sleep. I watched her drift away.

The first time I got into the car after she died, I looked in that rearview mirror.  There was that car seat, sitting empty. The harsh truth that she would never sit in that seat again filled me with such pain. 

Fast forward to today. So much has happened in our lives. The view from the rearview mirror is different, and yet it's amazingly comfortable. As we fall back into our parenting roles, it feels good to find the balance with past memories and new experiences, always looking forward to the road ahead but always glancing back to remember where we've been.  

Popular posts from this blog

The Edge of Seventeen

It's that time of year when the blog musings center on my grief journey. Every year, it seems like we are busy with end-of-the-year school activities and the start of summer, planning vacations, and then (kablam)'s almost July 9.  Grief is funny. Grief is weird. I remember very early after Charlotte died, I watched the movie Rabbit Hole.  There's an amazingly poignant scene where Nicole Kidman's character is talking with another woman who lost a child over 10 years before (played by Dianne Wiest). She talks about grief being like a brick in your pocket. It never goes away. Sometimes you can even forget it's there. But it comes back and makes its presence known from time to time. And (she says) "it's what you have of them."    I probably did not fully realize then what a powerful and true analogy that is. As time goes on, our grief changes. Yet, it is always there on the edge of things. It sits in that pocket and sometimes makes itself known.  This

The Stages of Grief: COVID Edition

It's 2020. It's almost Christmas. We're still in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, we are experiencing what appears to be an incredible surge that is exerting tremendous pressure on our healthcare and social service system. The headlines are clear: we're not done with this madness and December 31, 2020 will not magically be the "end of it".  Earlier in the year, our family thought about whether we might be able to travel at this time. We thought that maybe the curve would be flat enough that we could take a few days away from home during the Christmas holidays. We realized that the pandemic would still be happening, but with the right protections and with prolific mask usage, we could get a much-needed change of scenery. During what is now (clearly) a delusional thought process, we booked a stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the week of December 19th. Spoiler alert: we canceled the trip almost two weeks ago.  Canceling this trip was not a tragedy. In fact, I

Bittersweet Sixteen

I think about Charlotte every single day. However, this time of year, I'm flooded with all kinds of memories as we commemorate the anniversary of her birth. This year feels like a bit of a milestone. Sixteen.  If cancer had not taken her life back in 2010, I have a feeling I would be planning a massive birthday celebration this year. 16 always feels like a landmark year in someone's life.  I have been thinking a great deal about the last birthday party we had for Charlotte in 2009. We didn't know it at the time, but we were halfway through her treatment journey. We had been through three major brain surgeries and a few rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. Treatments were not going well. In fact, right after her birthday, we would make the trip to Houston, Texas where we would settle in for about 10 weeks of proton beam radiation treatments and a new customized chemotherapy protocol. This was the unspoken "last chance option" to beat that aggressive brain tumor into