Friday, December 21, 2012

Amazing Boys and Christmas Love

I just need to take a minute and talk about my amazing boys, and our trip to see Santa this afternoon.

Every year since Colton was born, I have gone to get the boys' pics with Santa. Even last year, as hard as it was, we got it done. 

This year, I have been dreading it more than last year. Last year, just weeks after Brynn's death, we were in a total fog. Robots just moving from one day to the next. This year, the fog has lifted slightly, and what remains is the permanence of our situation without Brynna.

I summed up the energy and courage today to just go, with the boys in hand, and brave the incredibly long line, knowing that if I didn't, next year I would really regret not having this year's picture in the lineup of the past nine years.

So we went.

And the line stretched all the way from Macy's (where you see Santa), down the mall to Sears. I think all together we waited close to 2 hours.

But I have the most amazing boys!

They sat, stood, and crouched quietly and patiently the entire time. I had thought ahead and did bring my ipad and old iphone that they took turns playing, but there were no fights and no whining. They did not wander or run off even once, and many other parents in line commented how well behaved they were.

They are amazing.

Before we left home, we had decided together that, in the picture, the boys would hold the pink frog that Steven had given me a while back, in honor of their sister.

So for nearly 2 hours, I carried a 7 lb 11 oz pink, stuffed frog in line, while all around me little girls danced and twirled in their Christmas dresses. Some very close to the age that Brynn would be.

Everything about this process is hard.

When we got up to the front of the line, Santa's assistant asked how many groupings we would be wanting for the pictures. I was trying (and failing) not to tear up and I said it would be the boys and they would be holding the frog for their sister that passed away.

I'm not sure when she got the message passed on down the "picture line", but the photographer took extra special care getting everyone, including Brynn's frog into place, and Santa was so very gentle and kind. While the boys talked to Santa and told him their wishes, the photographer put his hand on my shoulder.

I cried.

She is supposed to be here. She is supposed to be in the picture with her wonderful, compassionate brothers.

When the boys were done, they stood up from Santa's lap, and then Santa stood up too. He said to me, "I really want to give you a hug." Then he wrapped me up in the warmest, safest, sweetest hug I have had in a very long time. I felt like a little girl again, wrapped up in the magic of Christmas. He said in my ear, "I will be saying a very special prayer for you tonight. Please know your family, including your daughter are now in my heart." I told him, through my tears, how thankful I was for his tenderness and that her name is Brynna, and he said he would remember her this holiday season.

Then, he wiped his eyes and wished us a Merry Christmas.

When we went to pay for our pictures, the top of our invoice said, "On Steve." We did not have to pay a dime.

I don't know if Santa is going by "Steve" in his day to day life, or if maybe the photographer's name is Steve, but either way our "sweet, broken, trying so hard to heal" family was shown true Christmas love today.

Monday, December 17, 2012


8 more days til Christmas.  What?  Wasn’t it just her birthday? Where did Halloween and Thanksgiving go?  We’ve already had our early Clancy Family Christmas in Seattle?  I remember bits of all these things, and if I put my mind to it, I can concentrate and come up with detailed memories, but seriously…
Time continues to confuse the hell out of me.
The day after Christmas will be 14 months since her birthday…
14 months we will have been without her.  14 months we will have been among the living dead; our fellow zombies that are somehow walking through this life without their children here to hold our hands.
Time ceases to mean anything, and yet it means everything.  A moment can stretch to a day, hours into months…time is no longer a linear, progressive thing.  I am no longer in a hurry to “get anywhere,” nor do I find myself under any pressure to “do anything” within a specified amount of time.  When you are facing a lifetime without your child, the sense of urgency about other things just disappears. 
And yet, I am tied to time.  Every month has a 26th and every month has a 1st.  Every holiday in every month of every year marks another memory absent of her presence.  When the clock hits 10:15, I think of her (her due date), 10:26, I think of her (her birthday).  At 1:11, I see 11/1 (the day she died). 
Time means nothing, and yet it defines everything.
“Time heals,” “time flies,” “time is precious,” “don’t waste your time”….
I miss my daughter.  I miss her all the time.

The Tree.

December 17, 2012

Dear Brynna,
My sweet, sweet girl, how much we miss you!
Last night Daddy and the boys and I decorated the Christmas tree.  It took me quite a while to get all the lights on, doing as I learned from your Grandma Betty Ann, wrapping each branch and making every effort to hide the cords.  I think the tree ended up taking 12 or 13 strands of lights!  I had to send Daddy out twice to the store to buy more.  :o)
Your brothers waited patiently for the lights to be done so that they could help put the ornaments on.  When it was time, they did such a wonderful job.  Aidan unwrapped the little angel ornament we got last year to remember you, and took care to hang it near some lights, making sure it would sparkle.  Eventually, I came across the Sleeping Beauty ornament your Auntie Andrea got for you at Downtown Disney last May.  Aidan said, “Be sure to hang it high mom, because Brynna is really important.”  He loves you so very much.  All your brothers love you so very much.

I cried to myself a little.  I wanted so badly for you to be there with us, grabbing at the ornaments that we inadvertently hung too low.  But the truth is, we can hang the ornaments wherever we want, because you will not be grabbing at them.  This little truth breaks me.  It’s not supposed to be this way…
When all the ornaments were hung, we took a step back and admired our work. 
The tree is beautiful.

After it was done, the boys decided to take part in an impromptu dance party to Christmas music playing on the TV.  Daddy got some of it on camera, and we all had a good laugh.  They are so silly!
Such is our life.
One moment, there are tears, sadness, and longing and then, there right next to all of the heartache, comes happiness, silliness and spontaneity.
A constant state of bittersweet is my existence.  Joyful in being a mother to four beautiful children, but at the same time brokenhearted because one of them is not here with me.  Not in the way I would like, anyway.  Trying, to the best of my ability, to soak up the good that life has to offer and remain in the moment, but at the same time knowing life is not always good.  Knowing to my core that life is unpredictable and unfair and, at times, devastating. 
It is such a polarized, often very hard to reconcile, existence.  But, in rising each day, I face my new reality.  I acknowledge that my life will never be the same, and that is okay.  Because if it were the same, that would mean you would not have existed.  I am different for having had you Brynn.  I am more compassionate, aware, loving, and “in the moment” for having known you.  The loss of you has broken me in so many ways, but you my sweet girl, you are mending me.
I love you, Brynna.  More than you will ever know.  I love you so, so much. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Falling Again

About to fall.
Again, I am about to fall.
I feel it.  It’s coming.
Another break, another momentary crash.

To be without her is heartbreaking.
To be a family incomplete in a season of “thankfulness,” is a cruel joke.


Others will gather round their tables,
In eager anticipation of the feast,
waiting to be fed.

Alone on my pillow, 
my head grapples to gather its memories,
Anticipating the tears,
waiting for the inevitable release.

Every day is planned for,
Every moment anticipated and navigated.
Fatigue is a regular part of existence now,
It seems there are no breaks, only breakdowns.
No respite.  
Not really.

Sometimes there are moments,
Fleeting, oh so temporary,
In which I feel like it might, someday,
Be better…

But then, here I am.
A mother without her daughter.
It’s as if I am missing limbs.
Bruised and battered
Limping, crawling
Through this life…

And days like this are just like salt in my open, raw wounds.
There is no getting away, around or through this.
It just is.

We have spent the last 13 months trying to shift our focus,
From sadness over what is lost, to attitudes of thankfulness for what remains.

But she is missing.
Our table has an emptiness that cannot be filled.
Our hearts have an emptiness that will not be filled.

A fall is coming.
It is inevitable.
I’ll let the others be thankful this year.
I’m not there yet.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

News From the Front

Our lives are not all tears.

Amidst the sadness and the pain, we also have moments of distraction, and sometimes even happiness.

Three reasons for the happiness are named Colton, Aidan and Jackson.

Our boys make us smile at the same time our hearts are cracked and broken with loss.

Thank you, boys, for being the crazy, sweet, fun loving, hilarious boys that you are.  You are helping your Daddy and I heal.

Here are some pictures of our life lately:

Our Good Fortune

November 15, 2012                                                                                     9:13 a.m

We have the most amazing daughter. 

She is kind.  She is funny.  She is sweet and thoughtful.  She is wise. 

And she is in heaven.

Brynna Elizabeth Finnegan, our one and only daughter, lived here on Earth for only 6 days, but she continues to send messages of love and encouragement to Steven and myself, and we recognize how blessed we are to have a daughter like her.

I have a story I have been debating on sharing.  I have hesitated because I didn’t know if it was too personal or if, when people outside the grief circle read it, the magnitude with which it moved us would be lost on them…

It is Steven’s story, really.  His version of the “Red, Heart Shaped Balloon” if you will.  But I asked him if it would be okay for me to write about it, and he assured me that yes, he would like others to know how amazingly sweet our daughter is as well.

So here goes….

There was a night a few months ago now, that my mom and dad had the boys at their house overnight. 

It isn’t that often that Steven and I have hours of uninterrupted time to talk about where we are in this grief process.  However, that night, knowing the boys were safe and being cared for, we embarked on an open, honest and very emotional conversation.

We discussed how broken our hearts are, how we continue to question where this life is taking us now, and whether or not we are feeling ready to walk more willingly toward our future…

We talked about missing Brynn, trying to do right by the boys, and whether or not another baby will come into our lives through adoption…

We addressed how painful this turn in our life has been, and how cheated we feel.  Cheated out of raising our beautiful daughter as well as cheated out the possibility of any further biological children…

We talked about the emotional insecurities and irrational fears that come hand in hand with losing a child…

It was a very honest and emotional discussion about so very many things.  We cried.  We wondered “why”? And, at times, we sat in silence, answers nowhere to be found.

All the while, there was an underlying thread to the conversation.  We both acknowledged as we were talking, that although this road is a devastating one to walk, we feel fortunate to have each other to walk it with. 

I “get” him.  He “gets” me.  Thank God.

Thank God I have a partner that understands, more than anyone else, what it feels like to experience such heartbreaking loss.

When we were done (or just too emotionally spent to continue a moment longer), Steven offered to go get us some take out for dinner.  I agreed it was a good plan and admitted I had no energy to come up with something to make.

I told him to surprise me and just bring home whatever he was in the mood for.

He left, and came back with teriyaki chicken and sushi.

We sat and ate, quiet and thoughtful. 

He finished his dinner before me and grabbed one of the fortune cookies that had been included in our take out bag.

He cracked it open, and then just sat staring at the fortune inside.

“Uhhh, Laura, I need you to look at this and tell me if you think it’s strange…”

I looked up from my dinner and saw my husband, appearing very “deer in the headlights” as he stared at the small piece of paper.

I asked him what was wrong and he replied that he just wanted me to look at the fortune and tell him if I had ever gotten one like it. 

Before he showed me the fortune he said, “After we stopped talking and the whole time I was driving around trying to figure out what to bring home for dinner, I was talking to Brynn.  I told her how much I love her and I thanked her for being our daughter.  I told her we miss her, but we’re going to be okay.  And then, on my way home, I talked to her again….”

“Okay, show me,” I said.

And this is what I saw…

“It is most enjoyable to talk with you.”

Could we have a more sweet and thoughtful daughter?

I know the “rational” human brain says, “So? It was just a fortune cookie, what’s the big deal?”

But the grieving daddy’s heart says, “Thank you, my sweet child.  Thank you for giving me strength and encouragement when I needed it most.  I love you.  It is most enjoyable to talk with you too.”

2 Weeks Into Year 2

November 15, 2012                                                                                     8:40 a.m

Dear Brynna,

Well, here we are 2 weeks into year 2 of being without you.  I really have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that over a year has gone by already.  Daddy and I miss you like we did the day you left.  The pain of losing you is still sharp and heartbreaking.

We got through your birthday, and the boys’ fall festival at school.  We got through going to the pumpkin patch and trick or treating on Halloween.  We got through Halloween night and the early morning of November 1st, watching a candle burn in honor of you, our sweet girl.  We got through November 12th, the anniversary of your funeral. 


I’m not entirely sure.  Maybe because we are still functioning, in part, on auto-pilot.  We have learned that fighting the passage of time and willing it to stop, is futile and just leaves our bodies, minds and hearts more exhausted.

But maybe we got through it because we are healing just a tiny bit.  I hesitate to use that word…”healing.”  Maybe “changing” is better…  Maybe we are changing just a little bit.

I am very protective of you, Brynna.  Protective of your life, and of your memory. I talk about you to anybody that will listen (and probably to people who don’t necessarily want to listen).  I feel like if I don’t speak up for you, who will? 

I talk about missing you.  I talk about the dreams your Daddy and I had for you.  I wonder out loud about the girl and woman you would have been.  I talk about what it feels like to be a parent lost without their baby.  I talk about loving you.  I talk about you loving us.  I talk about you. 

I miss you more than can be explained. 

And at the same time, I am feeling a slight change.  Not in missing you, but in how I manage it.

I see myself carrying my love for you and my heartbreak in being without you at the same time I am carrying my love for the life we have here on Earth.  The two are by no means in balance, but I feel a shift in that direction.

I have known for a long time that this is how it is going to be.  The Brynna shaped hole in my heart will never be filled by anyone or anything else.  It will be there always for you, and for you alone.  I do not need to “heal it” or “fill it” or even “ignore it”.  It just is.

I remember what I have said all along, “it hurts this much because we love her this much”.

Oh how I love you, sweet girl.  I love you greater than the distance between us right now, and I love you forever and then one day after that.

Please continue to come to me as you have been.  Fly free, but also continue to let me know you’re there somewhere on the wind.  Just a whisper away.  I feel myself standing a bit more steadily, but I am not strong enough just yet, and I need you. 

Is that selfish?  Does that somehow tether you?  Oh, how I hope not.  I hope my broken heart is not a burden to you where you are. 

It hurts this much because I love you this much.

I love you, Brynn.