It’s Raining, It’s Pouring
So Monday came and went, the dreaded “Diagnosis Day” anniversary. I was quite emotional leading up to it. Aimee and I cried a lot, hugged a lot. I personally decided to mark the day by doing something in Stella’s honour- getting my learner’s permit for driving. Driving is something that I’ve always had a huge fear of. I tried to get my license when I was 17, and instead became so scared of driving that I’d given up completely on the idea. Even standing on a street corner and watching Toronto traffic makes me feel anxious and out of control. But my beloved Stella has died, and I promised myself that I would honour her by living each day with a bit of “Stella” in it, which means fearlessly and without boundaries. For me, this includes getting over my phobia of driving and trying it again. So, on Monday along with a group of about 25 youth with braces and acne, I wrote my Learner’s Test and signed up for driving lessons. I fiddled with my Stella ring and bracelet the whole time, and passed! So now I can officially learn to drive (that’s how it works in Ontario, you need to pass a written exam to be allowed to learn to drive an actual car, then two more road tests before you’re a fully licensed driver).
While I was sweating it out doing my written driving exam, Aimee went to Stella’s tree in Riverdale Park with her mom and sister. They hung ribbons, sat in silence, and cried. Then they went across the street to Necropolis Cemetery, where Stella’s plaque in the scattering garden was finally installed after months of waiting and perfecting. The end result was lovely, although I still find it sickening to see my child’s name on a funeral marker. Later, Aimee and I spent 3 hours in Ikea. It was fitting somehow. Ikea is a big, overwhelming and generic place with no windows or clocks. We wandered around and allowed ourselves to get lost in the world of trying to decide between blue or green dish towels. We ate boiled hotdogs and sat on couches to determine which was most comfortable. We wandered through the kiddie section and dreamed about when Sam and Hugo might share a room in bunk beds. Most of all, we just needed to be together. Needed to walk around and be physically close, be emotionally there for each other on a date that changed our lives so quickly and harshly two years ago. And in the evening, we lit a candle for Stella and shed a few tears for what could have been. Then we snuck into Sam and Hugo’s bedrooms, gave them kisses and went to bed. Just like that, the day was over.
Just as it had two years ago when our lives fell apart, the world just kept spinning and we were forced to either keep up, or drop out. So, we got up the next day and kept going. It just so happened that Tuesday in Toronto was a rainy day. Periods of light rain, but also periods of torrential downpour that would soak you in five seconds flat. During one of these periods of heavy rain, when the sky was black and the raindrops were fast, furious and large, Sam stood at the door and was insistent on going out into the backyard, saying over and over again, “Mama, rain”. I am pretty good about letting my kids splash around in puddles and the wading pool, but there is something about a rainstorm that I still can’t deal with it. It just looks so icky and cold and…well, for lack of a better word, wet. But seeing Sam looking so forlornly out the window and knowing Hugo wouldn’t be home for at least an hour, I relented with a huge sigh and said. “Okay. We can play in the rain”. A saying that I often repeat to myself is that if you’re not stretching your comfort zone a tiny bit every single day, you’re not really living. So, I decided to get wet. But I was feeling pretty grumpy about it.
Heading outside, I squinted and struggled to see between the raindrops. It was miserable outside. But Sam was ecstatic to be outside and ran, laughing towards the grass. I stood aside and just watched him, still trying to shrink a little bit to minimize how wet I was getting. But it was no use. Within moments, I was soaked. And then, suddenly, I was fine to be out there. Sam thought it was hilarious to run as fast as he could through all the rivulets that formed in our pea gravel. He liked watching the sand in the sandbox turn to mud. He slipped and slid down the slide, landing hard on his bum but getting up each time and climbing back up again calling, “Mama! Mama!” to make sure I was there to watch and kiss the “boo-boo’s” as he calls them, away. We got wet, we got dirty, but we also laughed a lot. It reminded me that many times in my life I’ve been walking along and gotten caught in an unexpected rainstorm. After the initial discomfort and trying to hurry along, there comes a time when you get so saturated, that there is no longer any point in running or trying to find shelter. You accept the rain, and maybe even feel a bit exhilarated in it. As my hair and clothing stuck to my skin in the backyard Tuesday, I felt very alive. I was aware of the raindrops splashing on my freckled arms, aware of the smell of wet grass as I walked on the lawn, aware of the puddles my flip flops splashed into as I stood on the deck. Suddenly, I had a memory of Stella in the rain.
One Saturday morning after Stella had awoken at her usual hour of 5am, I took her to the playground around 7. It was raining out but I didn’t care, I just wanted to get out of the house as two hours of Stella in a tiny East York bungalow was past the limits of anyone’s capabilities. I put her in a pink rain suit (pants and jacket) we had inherited from her second cousin Hannah, and we went to the park. The rain suit was rubber and it prevented her from going down the slide. She kept climbing to the top, of the slide, sitting down, pushing off and then she would get stuck on her way down, the wet plastic of her rain suit sticking to the slide. It would have been my expectation that she would get frustrated by this, but instead she would laugh with delight and look up at me, ecstatic that she was defying all the rules and laws of slides around going up and down. At one point, she even stayed in the middle of the slide, halfway between up and down, and requested her snack of crackers which she ate happily with the rain spitting down around us. That was Stella- embracing whatever came her way with awe and enthusiasm. Delighted at the surprises in life, paying no mind at all to the fact everything was soggy and cold.
And it got me to thinking. Sometimes there are hard things that come to us in life. Things that just soak us right through to the bone with their difficulty. We have two choices: run for cover, or turn your face up to the sky and welcome the rain. Stella would have chosen rain every single time, so in remembrance of her, I turned my head up the sky on Tuesday and let myself feel every drop as it washed over me.
Because the truth is, without rain, there would be no life.
Stella’s Plaque in the Scattering Garden and Necropolis Cemetery:
Sam feeds the lemurs at the (awesome!) Oshawa Zoo:
Hugo at the park:
Aimee pulls the boys around the Oshawa Zoo:
This is not how we normally dress Sam. He is wearing one of Hugo’s outfits as he got his all wet…in the rain, of course!
Stella never got to learn how to drive. But I think she would have been a daredevil!