5 years ago today our precious Stella Joy took her last breath in the arms of Aimee and I. A circle of family members were in the room with us, bearing witness to this painful yet peaceful moment in our lives.
She died at 5:10pm and a piece of me died with her that day. Nothing has ever been the same.
The ground shifted five years ago and we lost our footing. But we are still hanging on. Still choosing to find out joy amidst the realities of work, dishes, shopping, cooking, cleaning, karate lessons and swimming. It’s not always easy. Some days as I struggle to understand why little boys insist on jumping off every piece of furniture in eyesight, I can see Stella’s bright grin in my peripheral vision.
Her five year death anniversary happened to fall on a weekend this year. Insignificant except for the fact that we have faithfully gone to Great Wolf Lodge on her death anniversary every year. The day of the week never matters to us,we just go. But this year because it was on a weekend there happened to be a whole other group of people who came to Great Wolf Lodge at the same time as us. People who witnessed our journey and were strong enough to stay with us even when we got ugly and the situation got impossibly hard.
So this anniversary of Stella’s death was chaotic and loud and full of laughter and hugs. In our room last night we had 27 people eating pizza and cake. Kids ran non stop in and out of the room chasing each other and shouting. Adults perched on chair arms and the beds visiting and yelling to hear each other over the din of 12 kids.
It was so comforting to have all these people there. No one was talking about Stella but everyone was thinking about her.
I have so much to write and so much to say but will have to do a longer post in a few days as right now I’m typing this on my phone in a pitch black room at Great Wolf Lodge while Sam snores in my ear.
So for now I will just tell you that we are here.
That on our way we went to Stella’s tree and bench and ate Timbits.
That I went on a water slide today with Gracie and screamed my head off.
That I ate ice cream for Stella.
That Adele cooed, Hugo laughed and Sam giggled.
That we remember everything. We remember when the first crisp autumn day arrives. We remember when we see how big Stella’s friends have gotten. We remember with each breath, each smile, each tear.
That we are different people now. For better or for worse we are all changed.
That life is hard but we choose joy anyway.
And that…we are okay.
Aimee, Adele and the boys enjoy a late fall day at the cottage:
Adele visiting Stella’s tree with some timbits 😁
“The kids” on Stella’s bench (Hugo, Xavier, Gracie, Adele, & Sam):
Some of kids in our room at Great Wolf Lodge, last night for a pizza party…
Ari, Sam, Ayoka, Ava, Henry, Violet, Gracie, Spencer, Tobin, Hugo, Xavier, Marcus :