5 years

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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 :


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6 thoughts on “5 years

  1. On October 22, not realizing the date, for some reason I had this strange urge for Timbits. As chocolate Timbits will forever remind me of Stella, my thoughts went to her and all of you and I looked at the date….October 22. My subconscious made sure I did not forget! I cannot believe it has been 5 years since Stella left this physical world. You sound really good, Michelle. Strong and grounded and happy, and that is such a victory considering what you have all been through. Trish and I always toast Stella with our chocolate Timbits on the rare occasion we eat them. Stella is never far from my thoughts. I learned so many lessons from her and all of you. I never thought a fellow red head would have such an impact on my life! Adele is gorgeous and looks a bit like Hugo as a baby, but she has her own unique face and I am looking forward to seeing how she changes as she grows up. The boys are so big and beautiful! Xavier too but I didn’t see his little brother in the photos anywhere. Michelle, will you please make sure to give Heather a hug from me and tell her that I think of her often and would love to hear from her to know how she is doing. My phone number is the same and she can text me if that’s easier. Or you can give her the email I have listed here as it has changed since she last emailed me. Thank you so much for continuing to share your lives on your blog with all of us. Please know that Stella will never be forgotten and that I feel incredibly privileged to have met her and to have known all of you. I am forever changed from knowing you all and that is definitely a change for the better. I am so relieved to see you all happy and thriving and still finding the joy every day even when it is not always easy. You and Aimee are doing a great job, the kids look healthy and happy. Sending you much love and best wishes for more good “reports” in the future….Andrea M.

  2. I thought of you all on the 22nd as you celebrated Sam and Xavier’s birthdays and the life of your Stella. The photos are such an indicator of the passage of time. Gracie is so grown up! Love to you all.

  3. I’ve always felt like something of an interloper since we’ve never met but I was a quiet follower of your story (and occasional commenter) during Stella’s illness. I pop in from time to time to check on you all and feel so uplifted to see such beautiful changes in your lives. Welcome Adele!

    Just wanted to tell you that I think of sweet Stella often, especially in October when the leaves turn and when my kids are devouring timbits. She’s not forgotten. She changed so many lives just by being here. Xo

  4. I thought of you all on Sunday…and bought my kids chocolate timbits. I think of Stella often, and I am glad to hear you are all well at GWL.

  5. I remember what you said that day… that there was another star in the sky because Stella had died.

    You have a beautiful family and you are never far from my thoughts

    Jeanine xo

  6. Came by today to see how you guys were doing. You sound right. Not “all right” – hard to ever get there again – but “right”. Like a boat swamped by a storm that rights itself. It might still be riding a little low in the water and its sails may always be a little bit ragged, but it’s upright and sailing again.

    Glad to hear of the positive chaos that is your life.

    Warm thoughts from Ottawa.

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