Monday, March 3, 2008

Weekend Musings

Gregg went out for dinner with some friends Saturday night. These guys were in our wedding; one of them is the man who introduced me to Gregg, so we “owe” him a lot! They have known each other since high school. While Gregg was out, David and I went to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner. We then came home and played LIFE (while listening to a James Taylor concert on PBS), played Scrabble, and watched (and read) some of the Harry Potter stories.

One of the things that came up in the conversation with Gregg’s buddies was a question I’ve heard several times since Katie passed away: Is Karen going to get a job? My reaction to this is always the same: Now, why would I want to go and do that? I have a job; I am a stay-at-home mom! Just because Katie has died, that doesn’t mean my job is over; I have a son at home.

Do people think I NEED a job? Do they think it will help me in some way? How? I am sure that any family can benefit from a second income, so I understand that; however, since we have already learned to live without it, where is the logic? Is it that they think it will take my mind off of my situation? Really? Like I’ll forget what happened for a few hours? Come on; let’s not pretend here. Do they really think that, at nearly 49 and menopausal, I have a lot to offer to a boss? Can you just see me taking crap from some employer about where I have been, what are my numbers, or my hours, going to be for this month, blah blah blah, etc.? I would get into trouble immediately, and then get fired, I feel quite certain. I am too old, too angry, too cynical and way too independent to work for anyone else, at this point. Who would want to take me on, especially since I have no desire to report to anyone? I would have to be an advocate, a lobbyist, or someone who worked on my own. Bottom line: I don’t want another job; I already have one! It’s too soon to consider any really big change, anyway; everyone advises no significant changes for at least a year after the death of a child. It just strikes me as strange, that people ask this question again and again.

One of the big difficulties for me in grieving the death of my only daughter is the loss of hope for the future, of the things that I was so looking forward to doing for Katie, and with her. In my family, giving gifts of jewelry is a tradition. The people in my family are romantic about that. My grandfather was a very sweet and generous man, who showered Nana with gifts. My father is also very generous in this way. I have always looked forward to passing these gifts along to Katie, at various significant times in her life. When she turned nine, my father insisted on giving her an emerald pendant. We felt that she was too young, and that it should be given later; my dad would not be deterred, and of course, Katie was thrilled.

When she completed her first round of chemo, I gave her the ring that I had received at my high school graduation; it’s an eternity ring of emeralds and diamonds. I told her that she had passed a very big milestone and deserved a mature gift. She loved that ring, was proud of it and always wore it.

As the date of her surgery was approaching, she began to think more about her desire to have her ears pierced. Our agreement was that she could have this done when she turned 12. She asked Dr. Waldhausen if he was willing to pierce her ears during her surgery, to save her from having to feel the “pokes.” He took her seriously, and said that this time it wasn’t a good idea. After she recovered and came home in April, my friend Janice, who is an RN, pierced Katie’s ears for her. She was so pleased, and could hardly wait to change from the first pair to the others that she began collecting. Her favorites were a tiny pair of sapphires that I had given her.

Katie sort of missed her 12th birthday, since she was in the ICU (mostly unconscious) that day, so when she was feeling better and more awake, my parents gave her a lovely diamond solitaire ring. That really impressed her! Now she had one for each hand, and I could tell she felt very special indeed.

When she passed away, I had to remove her rings from her hands, and her earrings from her ears. It was an awful part of preparing her to leave home.

I have a very hard time accepting the reality that I will never be able to pass along to her the other items that she admired, and that I looked forward to giving. It may sound frivolous, but it’s not; it hurts terribly. It is a mother-daughter pleasure that I have been denied.

I am feeling more and more angry these days, which is probably a good thing, but it is not my normal state of being. I prefer to focus on the positive aspects of life, and to count my blessings, but truly, this is a horrible thing, and it deserves to have attention paid to it…and it deserves to be grieved. Part of grief is anger, especially anger at the waste and hollowness and pointlessness of the death of a beloved, precious, talented, sparkling individual who had unlimited potential to give to this world, who was a vitally important member of my little family of four. She had become my most intimate girlfriend. We were so close, and she has been ripped out of my hands and my arms. That is a terrible feeling for a mother: to conceive and carry a child for 9 months, give birth, take the best care of her that you can, give her medical care, healthy food, joyful experiences in life, educate her in every way you know how, protect her from the elements, bad influences, etc., and then have an illness grow invisibly inside of her, past the point of cure. It still just boggles my mind that this has happened!

When Katie wrote her will, she left a couple of hundred dollars to Gregg, David and me. We have each been saving it, not knowing what to do with it. Of course, I thought of giving it to charity, but she left half of her money to charity; she left this money to each of us, for us. I have been waiting for an idea that wouldn’t wear out, get lost, break down, etc. One of my rings was very special to her, and I had been planning to give that one to her as her next big gift. A few weeks ago, I decided to have it made into a necklace that I can wear as a gift from her, using the money she left to me. So I did that, and I am wearing it. It will not bring her back to me, but since I cannot give it to her, I thought, she can give it to me, and we can share it that way. Thank you, Katie!


Karla W. said...

I belieeve that you are doing wonderful with all that you have to cope with as an individual as well as helping your family as a whole cope with this giant void that is now in your lives. Many would consider that a full time job...I would.

It seems that so mandy people say things because they just aren't sure what else to say and sometimes we can cope with it no problem and other times it hits a nerve.

You are working so hard and everyone should be able to see that. You can't physically hold on to Katie anymore, but you sure are doing a great job at preserving her memory and honoring her wishes.

Sending hugs, Karla

Maggie R said...

I check your blog daily and have commented a few times. I almost feel like I'm intruding, your writing is so honest and raw. I admire your strength. I admire Katie's as well. I look at her pictures and weep because the world has lost such a bright light. She always has such a beautiful smile.

I lost my mom about a year ago to cancer so when you were writing about the tradition of passing jewelry down it really struck a nerve. My mom made everything so special and that was one thing she loved to do. As a single parent to a little girl, I hope I'm able to carry that tradition.

Thank you, as always, for you honesty and sharing your journey.

Sheri said...

Beautiful and perfect. I would love to see a picture of how the necklace turned out. I think Katie would be truly delighted that you did that!

People have a driving need for our grief to be over. It is uncomfortable. Its a reminder of mortality, which most people ignore and pretend just doesn't exist. Perhaps subconsciously they want you to return to work so they have something else to talk to you about and so they can assure themselves that Katie's death is over and everyone is "moving on". Nobody but those who have shared in this kind of a loss can understand there IS no moving on from this. There is only rebuilding, and that takes a ton of time. We are reshaped. The anger you are feeling is part of that process. Its not like you but it is very much part of you. You are doing so well to not feel guilty for the anger. It is appropriate and valid.

Much love, Sheri

Joyce said...

We've only met once but I knew Gregg in high school. I've been following Katie's story for a long time now...praying for her, you and your family. You are right where God wants you right now... not at some "job"...but right where he wants you. To everything there is a season. You are in the season you need to be. May God bless you and your family. Joyce Black