Come Little Children

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Come Little Children

 

Stella’s been dead for over a month now.  Only a month…already a month…time is so meaningless.  Aimee and I are stumbling though the days, as are our family and friends.  Many times we repeat to each other or to ourselves, “I miss Stella”.  Naming the pain seems to help.  Sharing with each other that we are all feeling the emptiness left behind seems to help.  Hearing that other people continue to look on the couch, wishing Stella was there, seems to help.  I’ll say it again.  I miss Stella.  Such a simple statement, but fraught with so much emotion.  There is anger, grief, resentment and, of course, profound sadness. Aimee misses Stella most in moments of action and fun when she wishes Stella was there to experience it.  I miss Stella most in moments of quiet reflection when the intensity of all that is gone in my life hits me like a tidal wave of anguish.  Our sisters miss popping in on their way to and from work for a quick nose kiss from Stella, a smile, a little game of peek-a-boo.  Uncle Tristan misses making Stella laugh with his antics.  Our parents miss bringing Stella little gifts…Timbits, books, ice cream, videos, stuffed animals.  Gracie misses trying to make her laugh and telling her all about school and  re-enacting her weekly kindergarten “show and share”.  Sam still looks for his sister on the couch.  He points to her picture and kisses it several times a day.  We miss Stella’s touch, her crooked little smile, her tiny chicklet teeth, the way her curls fell in fiery waves to her shoulders, the smell of maple syrup and baby wipes, reading “King Hugo’s Huge Ego”, seeing her little tongue sticking out, painting her nails with gaudy colours, the steady evenness of her breathing as she slept in our arms.  We miss our daughter.  We only had one daughter, one Stella, and now she’s gone.  And the world just isn’t as vibrant without her.  The sky isn’t as blue, the Christmas trees don’t smell as good, the cupcakes don’t taste as sweet and laughter isn’t as musical.  Stella was magic, and I find that I just can’t get that incredible mystic feeling back with anything else.

 

I am having trouble interacting with people.  I have no patience for things I find irrelevant now— things like complaints about the price of gas, the fact that they forgot to put a pickle on someone’s sandwich, the annoyance of losing a favourite scarf.  I just don’t care and have no energy to feign interest, which makes it a little difficult to live in a world where these things are discussed at length, and are viewed as valid grievances.  I’m trying to fit in, but it feels uncomfortable.  I’ve changed so much and the world hasn’t followed suit.

 

The only time, the only place it feels genuine and natural and bearable is when I’m surrounded by children— my own children Hugo and Sam, my niece Gracie, nephew Xavier, or some of Stella’ friends.  They are still young enough to be untouched by supposed social graces, manners, etiquette, and deportment.  They treat me the same way they always have, and I don’t need to worry about making them uncomfortable, or them making me uncomfortable.  Children don’t mince words.  They don’t get all weird around death, or me.  They are genuine.  They are thoughtful.  They are REAL.  They say things like, “Tutu was going to take Stellie and me to Disneyland.  Stellie is dead now, but it would make her very happy if Tutu would take me anyway” (Gracie)…”Mama, there’s Stella’s star” (Lark)…”Stella died, but I still get to see her sometimes when I look hard” (Arin)…”Stella’s pretty, she has nice hair even though she died” (Nate), and, my personal favourite, the understatement of the year, a simple: “It’s really a shame Stella died” (Flora).

 

I find it refreshing, I find it honest. The children still greet me with wholehearted grins and huge hugs when I see them.  They still talk openly and honestly about Stella to me and their parents.  They ask questions that adults are afraid to ask, like “How did you know Stella was going to die?” and “What are you going to do with all her toys?” (Nicholas).  They don’t whisper, they don’t stumble over their words, they are unconcerned about the “right” things to say or do.  I’m not nervous around kids.  They are happy to just play with me and ask nothing more from me than my attention and energy. 

 

I am finding that I prefer to hang around children much more than adults.  I am finding that the times I feel the most genuinely myself, are when I’m having serious conversations with Gracie about Cinderella vs. Swan Princess, helping Flora (who’s a vegetarian), pretend to boil a bunny for supper, when I’m sneaking snacks to Arin in Church, dressing Hugo and his friend Violet up as “Skater Babies” for an impromptu photo shoot, hiding the rubber ducky from Sam in the bath and then watching him laugh in delight, or reading a silly book to Xavier.   There is a freedom when I’m with the kids that eludes me everywhere else.  In them I see that the honest actions with which they live their lives are much more effective than the amazing intentions with which most adults live their lives. 

 

Stella was 100% genuine in everything she did.  You always knew where you stood with her.  She was direct, honest, frank and unwavering in her commitment to just be herself, despite the piles of incident reports she racked up from daycare in the process.  I have challenged myself to try to live the way she did—with honesty and intent.  But so far, the only times I’m truly able to do that is when I’m knee deep in play-doh and finger paints and imagination and giggles.  In the laughter of the children I love, I’m finding a little bit of Stella.  I thought it would be difficult for me to be around kids after Stella died, I thought it would make me sad.  But I’m learning that perhaps the things that break our hearts the most, are the same things that serve to open them.  So by surrounding myself with the curiosity, openness and enthusiasm of children, I’m slowly learning to get a little bit of joy back into my heart.  A little bit of Stella Joy, that is.

 

Sam and Gracie have a playdate with Flora and Alice:

 

Skater Dudes Violet and Hugo:

Sam and Aimee- sunset in Picton:

Mama and Hugo:


Hugo, Xavier and Sam in the bath:



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Time Heals

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Time Will Heal

 

“Time will heal”

Time doesn’t heal.  Time takes Stella both further and farther away from me.  Maybe time numbs, but it doesn’t heal.  Nothing will ever heal me and time is not the answer.

 

“At least you have your sons”

My sons are not Stella.  It doesn’t matter if I had 100 children, none of them would be Stella.  I love them but they don’t make up for losing my daughter.  They are not comparable.

 

“She’s in a better place now”

A better place?  What place could possibly be better than here, in my arms, surrounded by all the people who love her most in the world.

 

“You need a vacation”

You don’t understand.  There is no “vacation”.  There is never a break from the intense pain that comes with every breath.  It doesn’t matter if I’m lying in bed, or lying on a beach, I can’t get away from the grief.

 

“Why don’t you go for a nice, long walk?”

Because when I go for walks, I see three year old girls everywhere.  They skip down the street, curls bouncing merrily on their shoulders as they chatter incessantly to their mothers.

 

“Have you tried a change of scenery?”

It doesn’t matter where I go.  There are avocados at every grocery store.  There is a Tim Horton’s on every corner.  The stores have racks of brightly-coloured dresses and shelves full of Dora The Explorer running shoes.  There are cupcakes and ice cream and poppies and butterflies and stars dotting every corner of this earth.

 

 “She lived a full life.  At least you had her for three years”

Is three years enough?  Is thirty?  Is three hundred?  It doesn’t matter how long we had her for, how happy her life was, there is no good time for your child to die.  There is no way you can tell me that in three years Stella accomplished everything she could have.  Her life should have been so much fuller, so much longer.

 

“You’re so lucky to have such a close-knit and supportive group of family and friends”

I love my family and friends.  I would not be here without them.  I’m blessed.  But don’t tell me I’m lucky.  There is nothing lucky about what I’ve just had to live through and witness.

 

“It was meant to be.  Just look at all you’ve learned and how much you’ve grown through all this.  She did what she was supposed to do”

Losing a child is completely unnatural.  It will never be “meant to be”.  None of the lessons learned are worth the pain that comes with them.  She didn’t do what she was “supposed” to do.  She was supposed to live a long and healthy life.  She was not supposed to die. 

 

“I’m sorry for your loss”

I didn’t lose Stella.  She was taken from me.  She was ripped from my arms by a cruel, aggressive and rare form of cancer.  I didn’t misplace her, she died.

 

“I know how you feel”

No you don’t.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve lost a parent, dog or even a child.  No one knows how I feel.  My feelings are my own.  My thoughts are my own.  My journey is my own. 

 

I am aching.

 

I am sad.

 

I am lonely, though I’m not alone.

 

I have not moved on.  I will never “move on”

 

I can’t forget.  Don’t make me pretend I have.

 

Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away.

 

I am lost.

 

Time does not heal

Time does not heal

Time does not heal

 

Healing is curative.

Grief is not something I can be cured of.

 

Healing means to make something better.

Nothing can make this better.

 

Healing has to do with wholeness. 

Without Stella, I will never be truly whole again.

 

Time does not heal

Time elapses

Time does not heal

Time numbs

Time does not heal

Time hurts

 

“She is still with you.  She is always with you”

Then why can’t I find her?????  I’ve looked in every room.  I’ve called her name until my throat got hoarse.  I’ve closed my eyes and tried to feel the soft weight of her in my arms.  I’ve even searched my dreams late at night.  But she’s gone.

And time has not brought her back.  Time has not healed. 

 

Just tell me you’re sorry.

Just hug me.

Just be there.

Just say her name, shout it, celebrate it.

 

Just give me time.

But don’t expect it to heal me.

 

Visiting Stella’s Memorial Tree at Riverdale Farm with the boys, and our friend Tobin:

Gracie spends time with Hugo at her weekly sleepover:


Aimee and our boys:


I just found this photo on my IPad.  It was taken a year ago, when I was figuring out how to work the camera.  I’ve never seen it before.  I don’t remember much about taking it…which is why I like it.  It’s a new moment with Stella:

 


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Learning to Live Again

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Learning to Live Again

 

The flowers from the funeral that sat on the hutch in our living room died a week ago and got thrown out.

 

The red toolbox that was once bursting to the seams with medications, instructions, labels, medical supplies has disappeared.

 

The visits from palliative care Doctors, nurses, physio have stopped.

 

The stack of brightly coloured children’s books that lay piled on the floor next to the couch is untouched and starting to get a thin layer of dust on top.

 

The folder with all the information from Sick Kids Hospital— on call numbers, medical history, medication notes— is filed neatly away.

 

The bottles have all been cleaned and are sitting on an unreachable kitchen shelf.

 

The clothing is freshly laundered, neatly laying in drawers that never get opened.

 

Stuffed animals stare blankly from the spots they were last dropped.

 

The couch looks empty.

 

The house feels empty.

 

My heart is empty.

 

It’s been over three weeks since Stella died.  It feels like so much longer.  Much of it feels like a dream.  Did all that really happen?  Did all the things neatly typed out on the pages of this blog really happen?  The answer is yes, but it’s still hard to believe most days.

 

Saturday night our friends arranged a “Stella-bration” for Stella.  A gathering in the park by moonlight, just outside the gates of her beloved Riverdale Farm where the pigs and the cows waited patiently to see a little girl that would never get to visit them again. There we told stories about Stella, lit candles in her honour, and sang her favourite songs.  It was extremely powerful to see our community of friends working together, wearing bright green “Stella-bration” T-shirts, and pulling together to honour our girl.  At the end, Stella’s Poppa and his friend Shawn played “Happy Birthday” on their trumpets and as the last chords reverberated through the cool air and everyone’s voices trailed off, a huge gust of wind came and blew out almost everyone’s candles with a great big “whoosh”. It was Stella.  It was beautiful and magical, and over all too soon.  The next morning Aimee and I woke up in our home with Sam and Hugo and looked at each other…what do we do now?  All the formal stuff is over.  The funeral is over, the death certificates are printed, Poppa’s morning Timbits are no more.  Stella has been taken from our arms and transformed to ashes and memories.

 

The only thing we can do is wake up every morning and move forward.  So we do.  Even though it hurts.  Even though some days we don’t want to.

The hardest part of this wasn’t letting go.  It’s starting over.

 

I went to the local drop-in with Sam and Hugo on Tuesday morning.  It’s the one I’ve been taking Stella to since she was 6 months old.  I have a lot of memories of Stella there, and we were there just a couple of days before she slipped into the sleep she never quite woke up from.  The staff have always been incredible to us, and greeted us with a loud and happy, “Stella!” whenever they saw us come in.  So I found it a bit odd when I went there and the staff didn’t say anything to me about the fact she had died.  I kept glancing at a few of the “regulars” and giving them half smiles, inviting them to come talk to me, so I could thank them for everything they had done, and they could offer their condolences.  It took me a good half hour to realize something…the staff had no idea who I was.  Without Stella, I was just a random, nameless, faceless mom coming to the drop-in with her kids.   Once I went over and re-introduced my self, I saw the realization in all of their eyes and they were wonderful to me, as always, but it was still a shocking experience.  Just as shocking as the lovely mom who casually asked me, “how many children do you have?”.  I’ve been expecting this question.  Been mulling over how to answer it for a long time, but it still caught me off guard.  I had no response.  I must’ve looked so confused as I stuttered through an answer that alluded to the fact I had three, but was vague about the one not with me.  My identity has completely changed, and I feel like I’m having to start all over again.  People need to get to know me as Sam and Hugo’s mom now.  Stella is no longer my identity.

 

Hours later I took both boys to their regular check-ups.  The pediatrician (who was never Stella’s Doctor), I hadn’t seen in a couple of months.  As she was buzzing around weighing the boys and asking questions about how often they drink milk, and how much, she casually threw in a “and how’s Stella doing?” with a big grin.  It took me off guard, but I stuttered something along the lines of, “Oh…um…actually…she died a couple of weeks ago”.  The Doctor couldn’t conceal her shock and gave me a big hug.  I realized as I was hugging her, breathing in the smell of her shampoo and my head was buried in her hair, that it was the first time I’d said the words, “my daughter died” out loud.  It felt like I had just said something in a foreign language.  It made me realize how very, very far I have to go before I get used to my new identity.

 

Somewhere along the way these last 16 months, I got used to being the mom of a dying child.  But the mom of a child who died is still new to me.  I’m still learning, still hurting, still confused.

 

Yet we continue to find great joy on a daily basis in small, unexpected places.  Those moments of happiness that creep in are like tiny bursts of hope that push us to the next minute, and the next, and the next.  Sometimes, before I know it, I’m smiling down at Hugo and Sam playing together in the bathtub and feeling Stella’s arms around me in a hug when her fuzzy green towel falls from the hook, landing on my shoulders.  And then I remember, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (Lao Tzu) and I plan on following Stella’s lead, and dancing with abandon through as many of those steps as possible.

 

Sam and Hugo play together in the bathtub:

Sam and Xavier, both over a year old now!

Getting some cuddle time with the big boys, Sam and Xavier:


Uncle Tristan celebrates his 17th birthday:

Family Photo:


 

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I Miss Stella

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I Miss Stella

 

I miss Stella.

 

It seems like such an understatement when I type it like that, yet I don’t really have another way to express the way it feels to be beginning this next part of life.  The part where Stella is gone forever.

 

After 16 months of Aimee and I focusing almost all our energies on Stella, suddenly we find ourselves with not that much to do.  Both Auntie Angie and Auntie Heather went back to work on Monday.  It was strange for them, strange for us.  GrandPa and Nanny went on a week-long trip.  DeeDee and Tutu are both working full-time again.  Gracie is back at school, Juju is back to her regular schedule of the gym in the morning and work all day.  Poppa still comes over in the mornings, but without chocolate Timbits.  He is back to playing in bands almost every night (he is a trumpet player).

 

It’s as though we are all supposed to pretend like nothing changed, but everything has changed. There is a certain amount of a feeling of, “okay…that part’s done, let’s move on”.  But most of us are not ready yet.  We are still lagging behind saying, ‘wait…the world is different now…we don’t know how to act anymore…we’re not ready to live without her…’  But the world keeps steadily marching forward whether we’re ready or not.  So we are running a bit behind, trying to find our way and playing an exhausting game of catch up.

 

Since Stella died Aimee and I have been inundated with offers of visits, social events, dinners.  We are happy to get out.  Happy to be distracted.  But it feels strange somehow, like an old favourite shirt that doesn’t quite fit anymore.  We laugh but the laughter sounds hollow to me.  We enjoy ourselves, but feel guilty about it.  We push the pain down as much as possible, but it resurfaces at odd moments.  We go outside but the sun hurts our eyes and we just want to return to our home.  Return to the place where photos stare out at me from every single wall of the house, where her art peeks out from all corners, her clothes remain neatly folded in her drawers, her room virtually untouched other than the fact that Sam’s crib is in there.  It feels like she is everywhere, but I can’t find her anywhere.

 

I miss Stella.

 

I miss saying her name 50 times a day.  When she was alive, it seemed like every other minute someone was saying “Stella”.  I love the way the two L’s of her name roll off my tongue.  Now an entire day can go by and we say her name only a few times.

 

I miss looking over on the couch and seeing a pile of reddish curls piled on the pillow.  We cut off a bunch of her curls as she lay dying and they now sit in a box in our bedroom.  I’ve opened it a few times to look, but I don’t find the curls comforting like I thought I would.  I find them devastating to look at.  That my beautiful, vibrant, energetic daughter is gone leaving behind a pile of inanimate curls behind.  It’s so wrong.

 

I miss reading books to her.  Sam and Hugo aren’t old enough to sit patiently as I read through favourite books.  The books that we once read multiple times a day (King Hugo’s Huge Ego,  Adele and Simon, Stella and Sam), sit idle now.  Piled on the floor next to the couch, gathering dust.

 

I miss working so hard to make her smile.  Stretching the limits of my imagination and ability to play, sing, dance just for a glimpse of one of her precious beams of teeth and light.  Sam and Hugo smile so easily for me.  It warms my heart, but I miss her smile so much.

I miss watching Stella interact with her brothers.  I miss Sam crawling all over her and giving her lots of kisses.  I miss Hugo cuddling into her.  Miss seeing her laugh when she sees them.  Now when you ask Sam “Where’s Stella?” he smiles and points to her picture.  It’s cute and heartbreaking all at the same time.

 

I miss the feel of her warmth next to me in the bed.  I used to fall asleep holding her hand in mine.  I used to wake up and place my head on her cheek or her chest.  When she was able to, she woke me  by smacking me in the face or whispering “couch”.   I miss being able to reassure myself that she is still here by simply reaching for her in the dark and feeling her next to me.   After so many months of having her between us, Aimee and I cling to each other desperately at night now, both needing the reassurance of another body in the bed.

 

I miss taking photos of her.  We took hundreds of photos of Stella, frantically trying to capture each moment of her life.  Now I have to remind myself to take photos of the boys, remind myself that their smiles and experiences are just as important as Stella’s and need to be captured as well.  But whenever I look at the photos I find myself wishing Stella was in them too.

 

I miss being known as “Stella’s mom”.  That was my title, my identity for over three and a half years.  Now I don’t know who I am.  I need to rediscover myself, reset my life, review my goals.  It’s overwhelming to think about it all at once, so I am remembering what Stella taught me and living one day at a time, one tear at a time, one laugh at a time and one dream at a time.

 

It’s been so incredible to continue hearing from people all over the place about how they are having “Stella Moments” in their lives.  Everytime I hear from someone who still thinks of Stella, or tells me she affected then somehow, it’s a balm for my broken heart.

 

This Saturday in the park just outside Stella’s beloved Riverdale Farm there will be a public “Stella-bration” with candle lighting, a Timbit Toast and some storytelling.  I’m so excited at the prospect of talking about Stella to people again and seeing how many people she touched and being reassured that she did live an important life, even though it was short.  I also love hearing from people about their plans for the Stella Stars (http://www.stellastars.ca/).  It’s an obsession I have to ensure Stella is not forgotten.

 

People have been asking about the blog, what our plans are for it.  The blog was supposed to be Stella’s story, something for her brothers to read someday but it also became the story of how Aimee and I learned to accept the unknown, grow, love deeper, embrace life and, ultimately, let go.  And Stella’s story isn’t over yet.  I have read so many blogs from people who stopped writing after their child died, but I’m not ready to stop writing about Stella and so I will keep going as long as it is meaningful for me. It likely wont be as rich as it once was, because life is less rich without Stella in it.  But it remains an outlet for me to work through my thoughts and feelings, to share my daughter with others.

 

And when I miss Stella the most, I come on here and look at her pictures and remember.  And then even though I miss her, I feel her in my heart and I can pick myself up, go play with my wonderful sons and get lost in their laughter.

 

But I still miss Stella.

 

Breaking Amish…baby style (Hugo and Violet):

Uncle Tristan takes Hugo out for his first Hallowe’en:

The Boys:


 

Stella a year ago with Sam:


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What Happens Now?

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What Happens Now?  That is the question that everyone has been asking for the last 11 days, since Stella died.

 

The first few hours were a whirlwind of family and a few friends rushing over to our house to cry with us, bring food, and say their final goodbye to Stella’s body which lay resting in our bed for a few hours.

 

At around 8pm, as darkness fell on our house we called the funeral home to come and get our beloved daughter.  Our friends and family lined the hallways and kitchen and front porch, each one holding a white candle.  Aimee gently picked Stella’s body up for our bed, wrapped in a soft white blanket, and carried her outside to the waiting car.  We all stood in the driveway and watched the black car carrying our daughter drive away down the street, huddling and crying with each other.  Gracie let out a primal cry of desperate sadness, and it was suddenly all over.  We left the candles burning all over the front of the house and a few hours later we heard them all sizzle out as a gentle rain began to fall.

 

Aimee and I didn’t sleep at all that first night, haunted by visions of what it had been like to watch Stella actually die.  Death is not pretty.  We were ready for her to go, it was too hard to watch her any longer, so there was a relief when she finally took her last breath in our arms.  But getting there—those last two weeks—was horrific.  It was peaceful and loving, but death from this type of cancer is not the type where your loved one just falls asleep one day and that’s it.  Stella did, indeed, fall asleep but it took 12 days for her body to shut down fully. 12 days of no food or water.  Of watching her body shrivel, bruise, turn blue.  12 days of counting her breaths, whispering in her ear, watching Gracie play on the bed where her best friend lay dying.  12 days of knowing it was almost over and feeling your heart break, the shards of it puncturing your soul until the pain is so horrible you sleep just to escape it for a few moments.

 

That first morning Aimee and I walked aimlessly from room to room, not sure what to do with ourselves.  Our arms felt as empty as our hearts.  After over a year of sitting with Stella on the couch, suddenly it didn’t feel right to not have something in our arms.  We took turns holding Hugo and then filled our arms with other things…food…a magazine…one of Stella’s stuffed animals.  We felt so lost.  Stella has been our sole directive and biggest priority for so long that suddenly we didn’t know left from right.  We tentatively did small things all day, but kept returning to our comfort spot on the couch.  Even showering felt strange as usually one of us would stay with Stella and the other would take Hugo and/or Sam with us.  But suddenly we can shower alone again.  Alone.  It all feels so lonely.

 

Even now, so many  days later, waves of grief continue to hit us as we remember our beautiful girl. A wave hit when I was finishing up folding the last of the laundry a few days ago and came across two shirts of Stella’s that she was wearing only two weeks ago, during some of her last days on this Earth.  I paused for a moment, not sure what to do with them…fold and put away? Throw out? Giveaway? Nothing felt right, so I just folded them and hid them under my pillow in the bedroom.  A wave hit when I dug to the back of the closet looking for a winter hat and one of her small red mittens fell to the floor.  Mittens she wore to get ice cream with me just a few weeks ago and laughed in delight at when I pretended to put them on Hugo’s feet instead.  A wave hit when Sam saw Stella’s picture on the computer screen and bumped his head over and over again trying to kiss her, looking up at me in confusion when he couldn’t figure out how to get closer to her.  A wave hit when Gracie said to me, “Can we watch a video of Stellie talking?” and then cuddling into my arm said, “I miss Stellie”.  A wave hit when I tried to figure out what to do about Hallowe’en this year.  DeeDee had bought Stella, Sam and Hugo each bear costumes so they could be the three little bears and I couldn’t bring myself to just have two little bears.  Something is missing— she is missing.

 

Each time grief hits, I have to stop what I’m doing for a moment and just breathe through the pain that comes.  It’s both physical and emotional.  In some ways it’s like labour where unimaginable pain sweeps through your body in waves and you just have to give into it until the contraction of agony passes.

 

We are trying so hatd to find our way in this new life.

 

Until today, we were frantically planning Stella’s funeral service, her Celebration of Love.  It took a lot of our time and energy.  It had to be perfect.  And it was (the whole thing was videotaped and we hope to have it up on the web in the next few days in case anyone not able to attend wants to see it).  We were so proud of how it all came together, so grateful for all our friends and family who helped to make our vision a reality, and especially thankful for the incredible care we got from the Funeral Home (Simple Alternatives, Mount Pleasant).  Once we get it up on the web, I’ll post some pictures and tell you more about it.  But trust me, it was beautiful :o)

 

We don’t know yet what we will do with Stella’s stuffed animals, her clothes, her books.  We aren’t making any decisions right now about too much.  Aimee and I are planning on taking a trip somewhere soon— just the two of us so we can reconnect, have some quiet time to think, relax, unwind, remember the past and plan for the future.

 

Our sons make life bearable because they urge us forward.  Two hours after Stella died in our arms, Aimee had to put Sam to bed.  As I sat with our first child’s body in our bedroom, I could hear Aimee next door singing Sam a lullaby… “All the Little Birdies”….the same one she used to sing to Stella.  It occurred to me that life will always keep moving forward, it won’t wait for us, so we need to be as present as possible for Sam and Hugo, and live our lives in honour of Stella by welcoming each and everyday.

 

Our family knows Stella is still with us, somewhere and somehow.  As Stella lay dying, we asked her to please send us a sign to let us know she was okay.  All of us- Auntie Heather, Auntie Juju, Auntie Angie, DeeDee, Uncle Tristan, Tutu, Poppa, GrandPa, Nanny, Daniel- believe different things about where Stella’s spirit might have gone, if anywhere at all.  We are all enormously respectful of each other’s beliefs and thoughts, but all agree that she must be out in the universe in some form, somewhere.  Since she died, many of us have gotten what we believe to be special, individualized signs from Stella, letting us know she is okay.  Some examples…

 

–       The day after Stella died we couldn’t find the channel changer ANYWHERE in our house.  We looked and looked and looked, to no avail.  We were therefore stuck on a random television channel all day.  In the afternoon a game show came on the channel, a show none of us would ever choose to watch.  Andrea, Julia and I all commented how lame this show was and just then another contestant was called down on the TV.  Her name was Stella and she was dressed as a lobster with red antennas that drooped down over her eyes in curls.  We all had a good laugh and knew it was Stella giving us a thumbs up!

–       Our friend Catrina was driving just after we spoke about signs from Stella and she called right back to say as she turned the ignition in her car, a song came on with the exact line, “Calling all Angles…give me a sign”.  Awesome.

–       My sister Heather was at Goodwill and while browsing a section that had nothing to do with children’s books came across a Dora The Explorer book we had never heard of before (and trust me, I thought we had ALL the Dora books).  The book is called, “The Brightest Star”.  Thanks Stella.

–       Aimee’s friend Jo came for a visit and said her 3-year old daughter AJ had  randomly thrown a book in her bag.  When she arrived at our place and checked her bag the book was, “Twinkle Twinkle”.

–       Just a few moments ago I was sorting laundry when I looked down and saw a tiny yellow star sticker stuck to my finger.  I have no idea where it came from, or how it got there so I took it as a little kiss from my girl!

 

What happens now?  Well, we just keep getting up.  We keep trying our best to live the way Stella taught us to— never wasting a day, being grateful for what we have, living fearlessly.

 

What happens now is that we focus on building a new life with our sons, giving them the opportunity to have our full attention now and the benefit of having parents who are super excited to help them discover the incredible community surrounding them, and all the wonderful experiences that await.

 

What happens now is that we will proudly talk about our Stella to anyone willing to listen.  We will celebrate her whenever we can.

 

What happens now is that we will begin to look forward, begin to think about a future without Stella.  It’s scary.  We are just as unsure as anyone else about where we will be in one year, two years, ten years from now.  But we plan to march forward with our hearts full, our heads high and Stella’s spirit guiding us.

Sam Turned 1 on October 20:


Xavier Turned 1 on October 21:

The day Stella died we covered her body in “hugs” made by her family and friends.  When Stella died she was literally covered in love by her family and friends!


Some of the candles that lit Stella’s path as she left our home from the final time:


Sam and Hugo fill our broken hearts with happiness:


 

 

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