Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Back to School Blues

I'm really one of the lucky ones, if there is such a thing. The chaos of getting my 8 year old ready for school and fall activities is almost enough to make me forget how much additional chaos this family is missing. Almost...
Tomorrow is the first day of school. I'll make my sidewalk chalk art declaring it's my oldest's first day of 3rd grade and I'll take pictures as she boards the big bus. I'm looking forward to her smiles and first day excitement. But a part of me will feel crushed. Crushed because I should have helped pack 3 backpacks tonight. I should have sidewalk chalk art taking up an even bigger portion of our driveway tomorrow morning. I should be sending Tyler & Ethan to Kindergarten tomorrow. I can only imagine what we're missing - I would panic that I would run out of sidewalk chalk before I fully spelled out "kindergarten" plus A's "3rd grade" lettering. I would worry a little about them getting off the bus and to their classroom, since it would be their first day at the "big school." I would tell A ten times to make sure she walks them to their classroom and makes sure they get on the right bus to go to daycare after school. She would roll her eyes, and I would know that despite the sarcasm, she worried about them as much as I did. She's a mother hen that way.
But tomorrow morning, it will be just my oldest boarding that bus. And our rainbow looking on at her big sister of course, asking when it will be her turn. Too soon, Ladybug...too soon. I will smile with tears in my eyes and wave to her as the bus drives off, and then we'll all get on with our day. The moment will be short. The anticipation of it always bigger than the moment itself. The worst of the hurt only lasting for a short while now. Until the next milestone...
I pray that Tyler & Ethan will watch over their classmates this school year and always. Running beside them, laughing at their jokes, sharing in their excitement. Most of those kids don't know that there should be two dishwater blonde twin boys in their circle of friends this year, but even though they don't know Tyler & Ethan, I hope they feel them. Feel their spirit, feel their love, and feel their protection. Just like I do.

~Jen

Friday, April 1, 2016

5 Years

It's the milestones that get you. The first year is expectedly the worst - the first Christmas they miss, the first family vacation, their first birthday. Each one of those days is bittersweet. Heartbreaking for all they're missing, yet bittersweet when you remember all that they had, even if it was only for a short time. One would think that each year that goes by, you miss them a little less. Not true. You never stop missing those you love. Every year, you add to your mental list all the things that they missed. This year marks 5 years. Five years since Tyler & Ethan were born. And died. Five years since we held them. Five years since we said hello and good-bye, all within a couple of hours. When I think about everything they've missed in those 5 years, it is so sad. They never got to go to school, meet their baby sister, be held by their big sister, learned to ride a bike, play fetch with the dog, go to Disney. On one hand, five years doesn't seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but on the other, there is so much that happens in five years. So many experiences they have missed.

But have they really missed them? That's the question I keep asking myself, even though I know the answer. They haven't really missed a thing. I believe in angels, and I believe my boys have walked beside us every day for the last 5 years. They knew their baby sister before I did. I still believe that between Tyler, Ethan and our friend Monica, they brought our rainbow baby to us safely. It is so hard to look at her and think that if Tyler & Ethan had lived, Lexie would have never been born. Not that I would ever trade one for the other; it's just human nature to want it all but know it never would have happened. Lexie was talking about her friend Madison the other day. Madison doesn't have any brothers or sisters, and Lexie was asking "Where is Madison's sister?" I said Madison doesn't have brothers or sisters. Lexie says "Oh, only I have brothers and sisters?" I said yes. You have two brothers in Heaven and your sister. She's big into asking "why" lately, so I was bracing myself for it. It never came. She just said "oh" and moved on. It was so interesting to me that this child who is curious about everything and asks me "why" twenty times a day, did not bat an eyelash at the fact that she has two brothers in Heaven. She's only 3, so we've never had a big explanation about death and Heaven. But it's like she knew. Because she did. She probably knows her brothers in a way that I will never understand, and that is so beautiful.

So no, they haven't missed a thing. They see us every day. They see the good things we are doing in their memory, and the amazing birthday party we throw every year for them to benefit March of Dimes. And they are proud. And happy. And they love each and every one of you for keeping their memory alive. And so do I.

Happy 5th Birthday, Tyler & Ethan.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

So Much to Say

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I posted last. Life is crazy. Beautiful, but crazy.

I'll start where I left off last time. April Fool's. I had asked everyone to celebrate Tyler & Ethan's birthday by having a little fun and playing an April Fool's prank. I even encouraged T & E to prank me if they could. Well, they did. I always take off work on April 1. I stay home and work on their scrapbook and visit the cemetery by myself before we go as a family later. So when I returned to work the next day, I was surprised to see two random carabiner clips hanging in my cubicle. Weird, right? I don't use carabiners and I don't think we even sell them where I work! I traced it back to our cubicle-neighborhood prankster...who I am friends with but not Facebook friends with and I'm pretty positive he has never read my blog. I have to imagine that a couple little angels were using him as a vehicle for their prank on mom. I'm sure he has no idea how his simple act brought tears to my eyes and made me so happy, but maybe I'll tell him someday.

Fast forward to September. The first day of school this year was so hard. I drew Addison her "First Day of Second Grace" sidewalk chalk art for her annual picture, and of course Lexie had to get in on the photo opp too. It was such a hard thing to do this year though because I should have been drawing "First Day of 4K" for Tyler & Ethan too. I should have been taking their picture getting on the little 4K bus with their friends at daycare. I should have had tears that my babies were going off to school. And instead, I had tears that they were not. I work from home sometimes and sit at the kitchen table where I can see out the window while I work. It hurts my heart every time the little 4K bus drives past picking up and dropping off what would have been Tyler & Ethan's classmates. Every single time, it still hurts.

And now fast forward to March. We're knee-deep in planning this year's March of Dimes Fundraiser, which is scheduled for April 2. I always do it around Tyler & Ethan's birthday because it fills the void of not being able to plan a birthday party for them. This fundraiser IS their birthday party. And it's always amazing. I was getting my pizza order together last night, going through spreadsheets from prior years, and stopped to look at the folder I was in. I have a folder on my laptop called "Tyler&Ethan". It was created April 2, 2011, the day after they died. For the first year, it only housed things like the readings our uncles did at the funeral, the poem I wrote for their funeral leaftlet, their photos from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and other sad reminders of their passing. Today, that folder is blooming with happiness. We are preparing for our 5th March of Dimes Fundraiser, and all the planning documents live in my Tyler&Ethan folder. Flyers, newspaper ads, donation lists, thank you note lists. This event has transformed a very sad place into one filled with hope and strength. Looking in that folder shows me how far we've come. We've come out of the ashes of a tragedy and turned it into a legacy for the boys that walk beside us in spirit. And for that, I am proud. I am thankful. I am blessed.

One more thing before I go. I KNOW in the very depts. of my soul that Tyler & Ethan are with me. Right beside me sometimes even. I received a donation from our silent auction from Megan at Bridge Creek Cottage (find her on Etsy - her wreaths are great). The kids had Pandora on, and when I opened up the box from Megan, "my song" for the boys came on. A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. I had so many silent tears - thankful tears, happy tears, sad tears and tears of joy knowing that it was the boys' way of saying they see what we do. They see what we ALL do and they are proud of us.

Here's my song. I know it's weird that this is from Twilight, but the words speak to me. I imagine myself reuniting with Tyler & Ethan in Heaven and saying to them "I have died every day waiting for you...I have loved you for a thousand years; I'll love you for a thousand more."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtOvBOTyX00

Thank you for reading and following Tyler & Ethan's legacy. I invite you all to attend our March of Dimes Fundraiser April 2 in Barneveld! See facebook.com/thewalkerboys for details!!

Much love,
Jen

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Blessings, Lessons & April Fools

Some people say that everyone who touches your life is either a blessing or a lesson. I would add to that that some people are both. I know that sounds strange...this quote is really meant to explain why crappy people touch your life sometimes - that bully in junior high, the guy who cut you off in traffic, the old boss who didn't have a nice bone in his body. Even though they brought negativity into your life, you were meant to learn something from them. But today, I want to tell you that sometimes, people bring both - sunshine and rain, joy and sadness, smiles and tears. And those people are the "both."
Today we celebrate Tyler & Ethan's 4th birthday. Those boys, even though we only had them for a short time, were a blessing. They brought us 6 months of hope, excitement and love before they were called home to Heaven. But they were also a lesson. Their death was by far the most negative, sad thing to ever touch my family. Even through all that sadness, we learned so many lessons though - to not take anything for granted, to enjoy your kids because they're only small once, to love your family and friends because they won't always be here, and to enjoy life because that's what being here on this earth is all about. 
Four years ago, I thought this day was forever going to be marred with unbearable grief. Every year, over and over again, listening to the April Fool's banter and being so angry that people were playing stupid jokes on each other while my heart is breaking. How dare they, right? My brother and I used to love April Fool's day when we were kids because we'd always get my mom with the "Mom, the cows are out!!" joke. She'd go running to the window and we'd erupt with laughter and yell April Fool's!! Even after we both moved out of the house, we'd still call her on the phone and tell her that a friend was driving by and saw the cows were out...that only worked about 50% of the time (moms are always smarter than they let on) but it was still a fun little tradition. I haven't pulled that prank for 5 years now. I have hated April Fool's Day since April 1, 2011. But today, I'm taking a different approach. Tyler & Ethan would be 4 years old today. I think that was about the age when Addison started thinking April Fool's was hilarious (she'd yell it any day of the year, as a matter of fact), and she loved little jokes...jumping out from behind a corner, saying something silly like "There's a unicorn on the roof!" and yelling April Fool's! So I know Tyler & Ethan would think that it was awesome that their birthday was on the biggest joke day of the year. Just think - it's their birthday, so really I'd let them get away with just about any prank they could think of. So in that spirit, I just may plan an April Fool's joke or two today. And you should too! Do it in memory of Tyler & Ethan and all the lessons they've taught us all. And of course, tell me about it!! 
One last thing - you may have saw my Facebook posts about our March of Dimes Fundraiser, but in case you didn't...we raised over $2,500 for March of Dimes in memory of Tyler & Ethan! The fundraiser started out looking disastrous - we had problems with the original venue and had to cancel, couldn't find a DJ for a while, had to move the date - but it all turned out to be a blessing in disguise because this year's fundraiser was better than ever. Thank you to everyone who came, donated and volunteered - we couldn't do this without you! It's so awesome to be able to bring people together to remember our boys and raise money for a great cause in their memory. I hope to keep this going for a long, long time! 
Happy Birthday in Heaven, Tyler & Ethan - play some pranks on your angel friends today (and on me too if you're able). Love you always. 
Much love to you all,
Jen

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sometimes Grief Rides Shotgun

I haven't blogged in almost a year. I haven't known what to say. It wasn't that I didn't feel the need to or didn't have anything to say; I just couldn't put the chaos in my head into words. Truth is, I had a hard time with Tyler & Ethan's third birthday this year. You wouldn't know it by looking at me; as usual, I try hard to keep it together. I didn't feel like I should be having a hard time with it at this point. The wounds aren't fresh anymore. I've found gratifying ways to honor their memory and put my energy into being thankful for the short time we had with them. You'd think it would be easier...but it wasn't. The weeks leading up to their birthday left me constantly beating myself up about the decisions that were made surrounding their care, the stress I had subjected myself to at work while I was pregnant with them, and all the "what if's" that go along with it. What if I had turned down that big project that had me working crazy hours and yelling at everyone? What if I had listened to my Grandma and stayed off my feet at home? What if, what if, what if... The quiet moments in the car on the way to and from work were when grief rode shotgun and guilt was a backseat driver.

A week or two before Tyler & Ethan's birthday, I was asked to work on a large project again. It was all too reminiscent of the situation I had been in while I was pregnant with them; the big "2011 project" I had agreed to work on that I (and I assume others) may blame for what happened to the boys. I freaked out. I am a rock most days - you have to try pretty hard to get me to cry, especially in public. But when I had to talk to my peers and superiors about not taking this project, I was a sobbing mess. Through tears, I explained that I could not take on this kind of responsibility plus my regular responsibilities because of what I had been through on the "2011 project" and all the stress that it had put on me and my family. I am so lucky to work where I do now - I work for a totally different team than I did in 2011 - my managers now are the best and would never torture me with a situation as bad as that "2011 project" but my heart couldn't take the risk. Luckily they were very understanding of my position on this matter. My family is the reason I needed to say no - T&E taught me that time with my family should be my #1 priority. Guilt is the reason I was a sobbing, hysterical mess; I felt like I was reliving 2011 and saying all the things I should have said back then...and the horrible guilt that maybe if I had turned down that project I could have saved my babies' lives.  I know I can't go there...but I just needed to say that sometimes, I still do. That's how grief is.

I guess what I'm saying is that everyone has their triggers. Bad feelings pop up. Old guilt pops up. You see a baby that reminds you of your own, and a sudden sting of tears sneaks up out of nowhere. It doesn't make sense. But I've learned that's how grief is. It's something I'll never be cured of. I'll still have bad days, sad times and things I'll need to work through. It sucks, but it's normal.

Today, October 15, was the worldwide Wave of Light. At 7pm, we lit our candles for Tyler and Ethan and shared a picture on Facebook. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who lit candles for their babies and ours and tagged us. My Facebook was blowing up! So out of the darkness has come all this light - all this friendship, support and love. And that is what I try to look to when grief starts riding shotgun.

Thanks for reading,
Jen

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Missing You at Christmas

Two years ago, we attended our first Holiday Remembrance Service for the Bereaved Parents of Madison group. It is a beautiful annual service held at a church in Monona, organized by some veteran members of our group that I'm lucky enough to call my friends now. There are beautiful readings, touching songs, and a reading of all our babies' names. I remember sitting in the audience that first year watching fellow bereaved parents take the podium and read memorial poems and excerpts so calmly and without shedding a tear. All while I sat in the pew silently sobbing over every word that reminded me of Tyler & Ethan (when you have a four year old, you learn quickly how to fall apart without anyone noticing). I wondered to myself, how do they do it? How do these parents find the strength to speak these touching words without completely losing it? I couldn't even listen to their words without sobbing. I eventually learned to talk about the boys without falling apart, and of course I can write about them until the cows come home, but songs and memorial poems/quotes have always had a way of making me tear up at a minimum. I just decided I would never be able to be that strong.

This year, however, I proved myself wrong. I was given the opportunity to do a reading for this year's service, and I accepted it. The reading I was given was incredibly "me". Here it is:

Excerpt from The Promise of the Rainbow...After A Child Dies by Patti Fochi Read
Tomorrow-not today- You will see the light in your darkness.
And you will learn to touch your precious child in your soul.
You will meet him spiritually and the emptiness will be somewhat filled.
It will become easier to speak than to cry.
And the heaviness will be lifted from your heart.
Your arms will no longer ache to hold him near.
And you will touch his spirit with your heart.
And he will kiss you in your dreams.
And the pain will slowly ease – but never go away- You will find joy again and laughter will come. You will once again feel the wholeness of your life -But never too soon- And only with the passing of time.

I took the podium this year and read that excerpt with my two guardian angels sitting on my shoulders, and I made it through. It was really a moment of triumph over my grief. I have to admit though, the first time I read that excerpt, I cried. The second time I read it, I cried less...and so on until I could do it without flinching. But I wasn't crying because it made me sad. The tears came because it is such a beautiful summary of what we've been through and how far we've come. I really have learned to meet my children spiritually, and that gives me peace. Over time, my wounds have healed but the scars remain. I can laugh, be happy and enjoy life in ways that I didn't think I could two years ago. It has taken time, but I've learned to look at the glass as half full. Instead of mourning what I've lost and how quickly Tyler & Ethan were taken from me, I thank God for the short time I had with them. I really believe their purpose was never to walk this earth; they were here for a short time to teach and then move on to Heaven to be our guardian angels. I know my life and my personality are completely different now than they would have been without Tyler & Ethan; they have changed me for the better. And for that, I am thankful. Glass. Half. Full.

So to all of my friends who are missing someone in Heaven this Christmas, know that I feel for you. Know that over time, your pain will lessen and you will smile again. Cherish your memories and remember to be thankful for whatever time you had with your loved one. The best way to keep him/her alive is to remember the lessons their life taught you and to find hope again. Remember that they are always watching over you always.

Merry Christmas in Heaven, boys. You and your sisters will always be my greatest gifts. Keep on smiling down on us.

thanks for reading!
Jen

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Coming Full Circle

I can't believe it's been so long since I've blogged! Obviously I've been busy enjoying our rainbow baby Lexie and it's been crazy trying to adjust to being back at work. Today is literally the first time in almost five months I've had a free moment!
I've been thinking about this blog post for quite a while. Over the last five months, several things have happened that have to be more than coincidence; mainly in that people we met at the time of Tyler & Ethan's loss have made their way back into our lives to welcome their baby sister. It all started the day she was born...
I called into the triage desk to let them know we were on our way, and who answers the phone? None other than Sara, our labor & delivery nurse from the day Tyler & Ethan were born. She was on duty, ready to check me in and prep me for my C-section. It was so great to have a familiar face (and awesome nurse) at such a nerve-racking time. I really felt like the boys arranged the timing on that one!
Unfortunately I couldn't take Sara with me to the OR, but I had two fabulous nurses there as well - Jean and Allison. The surgery went great, but I knew there was something off...the nurses didn't bring Lexie over to us, and it took forever before they even let Brad go across the room to her. Turns out she had some breathing difficulties and needed to go to the NICU. Most people would expect me to totally freak out...but I didn't. For some reason, I felt really calm about it. I was confident that she was going to be just fine. It helped that the docs reassured us too of course (and maybe I was drugged up a bit too...). But now comes the next appearance of an old friend...another nurse who was near and dear to us while we were in the hospital with the boys was Ange. She was with me when we were informed that there was no stopping their delivery and that we would have to make some hard decisions. Ange transferred to the NICU after helping our family two years ago, and low and behold, she was able to take care of Lexie the day she was born. If I wasn't seeing the signs before, I was definitely getting it now. Tyler & Ethan were sending us a message that they were with us and watching over their little sister.
Now this last one really blows my mind. While I was on maternity leave, I volunteered at Addison's Vacation Bible School up at the Lutheran Church. I got talking to their intern, Vicar Don, a few times and always felt like I knew him from somewhere but couldn't place it. On the last day of bible school, they had a program and potluck at the church, and Vicar Don asked if he could talk to me afterwards. When we spoke, he said that he had been praying for us for two years...he was the hospital chaplain that was with us when Tyler & Ethan were born. I was almost too stunned for words. This is a person who really blew me away that day. Don blessed Tyler and then held and talked to him while Ethan was born. Had he not been there, Tyler probably would have laid alone in an isolette during that time. He then baptized Ethan before he passed away. I felt like he loved my boys like family that day. I couldn't find the words to tell him how much that meant to me, but I hope to track him down via email if our paths don't cross again soon.
What are the chances?! When I sit down to think about this, I know now that it is all part of a message. I think Tyler & Ethan brought these people back into our lives to let us know that everything comes full circle; nothing is ever all said and done. And even though we met these people in a time of tragedy, we were all brought back together for a time of joy and celebration with Lexie's birth. It wasn't just about us - I'm sure it was healing for our friends to be part of this joyous occasion too!
I understand now more than ever that there is no "good-bye"...only "until we meet again", whether that is here or in Heaven. Thanks Boys.