Posted by Mishi Methven on Dec 06, 2012
I am writing this entry from my iPhone on a balcony overlooking the ocean in Maui. Apologies in advance for any typos! Thanks to the incredible generosity of friends, family and strangers, enough money was donated to the Aimee/Mishi Rest and Relaxation Fund, that we are currently enjoying a 10 day vacation in Hawaii while our sons are safe and sound at home with family. Aimee and I have dubbed this our "Reset" Trip.
We are filled with so many mixed emotions being here. Guilt, that the reason for this "trip of a lifetime" is that our daughter died. Excited for the beauty and fun of such an amazing vacation. Grateful to have a rest, some time away, people willing to take our sons to give us time together. Shyness at having it suddenly be just Aimee and I here together, learning who we each are after such a tumultuous and life-changing year and a half, discovering each other as partners in a marriage again, not just parents. We made only two rules for the trip, #1 to truly listen to one anothers needs and thoughts (and sometimes listening to each other entails sitting in silence and being okay with it), and #2 to sleep as much as possible. Soi far we have been successful in both these endeavours! We planned this trip as a way for us to indulge and begin planning the next phase of our lives after a year and a half of tears and heartbreak. We wanted to try to close that one chapter in our lives so that when we return to Toronto, we are ready to move forward. Christmas will be upon us when we get home. Our first Holiday without Stella. Then just after Christmas, Aimee heads back to work and I will be left home with just Hugo to keep me company during the days.
We weren't sure how it would feel to be here, just the two of us, we are being very careful of one another's feelings and needs. But what we learned almost immediately upon landing is that if we thought getting away physically from our home and our regular lives would make us feel further away from Stella, we were completely wrong. Stella is everywhere on this trip. It still takes some getting used to, but Stella is with us all the time. It is as though she has permeated the very air that we breathe. We see and feel her everywhere.
For instance, at the hotel we stayed at in Waikiki there is a Christmas Ornament store. I am OBSESSED with Christmas ornaments, so of course I ran right in. Turns out it was a store where all the ornaments can be personalized. And what name appeared over and over again on all their sample ornaments??? STELLA. Crazy. Even stranger was that hanging right next to a pink "Baby's First Christmas" ornament that had Stella on it was another ornament, identical except that the name on it was the name that our best friends, Stella's beloved Ray and Brad, have chosen for their baby-to-be that is due in the Spring. It was too bizarre to be simple coincidence. Especially when Ray and Brad had a scare the next day with their baby. Everyone was afraid that something was wrong, but I wasn't. I know Stella is looking out for them and the baby, I realized the Christmas ornaments was Stella's way of saying, "don't worry Mama...I got this baby's back!" It turned out that the baby was perfectly fine, and to prove her point further, Stella send a beautiful rainbow in the sky to Ray the very next day. On top of that, at our new hotel in Maui, the first store we saw had a mannequin dressed in little girls clothes and right on top of the mannequins head lay Stella's favourite pink straw hat that Tutu bought her two summer's ago at Thunder Beach where we rented a cottage. The exact same hat. I've never seen another one like it other than the one Stella owns, and there it was right in the window of the store on the top of a mannequin exactly the size and shape of Stella. And her sense of humour is still intact. Aimee has a real and true phobia of birds. It was one of Stella's great joys in life to laugh at her Mommy whenever a bird came too close. Aimee is not above hopping on top of picnic tables, cursing loudly and running away quickly when a bird comes too close. At Riverdale Farm where the chickens run loose and are often found charging people's legs to try to get them to drop crumbs of food, Stella used to giggle and ask constantly if Mommy was going to "freak out" when she saw the chickens. Mommy always did, and when Stella was too sick to leave the house we would torture Aimee by beckoning her close to us and then throwing a stuffed Rooster that crowed loudly at her face. Aimee never disappointed Stella with her made-up theatrics and terror of birds and Stella would inevitably dissolve into giggles. Since we arrived in Hawaii four days ago, Aimee has been plagued by birds. They follow her everywhere. They swoop down at her head. They sneak out from under beach chairs and try to cuddle up beside her. If there is one bird on the beach or at the bar or the restaurant, you can bet it's got it's eye on Aimee. This afternoon at the pool, a scowly looking one was stealing Aimee's nachos right out of her hand, making her stomp and scream humorously. We know it's Stella. Just like the single butterfly that came out of nowhere and landed on our balcony this morning was Stella. Whenever I feel her around, I always picture her giggling. I have no idea where she is, but I feel her happiness and freedom just as acutely as I feel my own broken heart.
Our conversations all have to do with Stella. A typical one will go something like this: Mishi (pointing)- "Oh my gosh, look at all those Crocs over there!" Aimee- "Oh yeah. Hey, remember when-" Mishi (laughing) "Yes!" And then we both fall into silence remembering together, but seperately in our own minds, the first pair of Crocs we bought for Stella. She was almost two and it was at Great Wolf Lodge, before she was diagnosed, and we took her into the gift shop and proclaimed she could choose any colour she wanted. She gazed seriously for a moment at the rows and rows of colourful rubber shoes... pink, blue, yellow, green and then said pointing, "those ones!". They were brown. A mud-brown, completely remarkable for how unremarkable they were. "Are you sure?" we asked her several times. She was. We tried to convince her otherwise--- didn't she like the bright red ones? Didn't she think the pink ones were nice? Nope. Brown. And so Stella owned a very ugly pair of brown Crocs that she wore proudly until she grew out of them. We always thought it was so funny that she wanted those brown ones. Such an imp.
It's beautiful here. Full of lush scenery, gorgeous ocean, fascinating history. Yet, this trip, in a strange way doesn't quite fit---much like our life now. I am, at best, a 3 star woman who is living a 5 star life here in Maui. Staying at a nice hotel and eating expensive food. I gave myself away as not belonging here moments after we arrived when "Jorge" said he'd take care of our luggage and I narrowed my eyes at him and said, "What does that mean?" He looked surprised and explained that he would take the luggage from us and have it delivered to our rooms in a few moments. I hesitated, still suspicious. Too many trip to New York where you never let luggage out of your sight! Tonight at dinner as Aimee and I were splitting a salad that consisted of a total of 8 pieces of sliced beet, I mentally worked out that each beet was costing us $2, and took three bites to eat, so each bite of food was about .68 cents. I chewed verrry slowly. I wear my $6.99 one-piece banana yellow terry cloth cover up around the pool, sticking out like a sore thumb amongst all the sleek black sundresses and high heeled metallic sandals that other women are wearing. I take pictures of the breakfast buffet because I've never seen anything like it and the other guests look around nervously, wondering why I'm so flash-happy at 7am.
The truth is, Aimee and I are having a wonderful time even though we don't quite fit in. I was just saying to her that being here is not, as I assumed, clearly marking an end to our "old" life and the beginning of a "new" life. Instead, it is simply a continuation of our constant struggle to adapt to the reality of a life without Stella. Whether sitting by the pool sipping a Pina Colada and reading a magazine, or sitting on my couch drinking cold tea and reading to Sam and Hugo, my heart still hurts. My mind still wanders. But I also feel confident in a happy future. How can we not be happy when we have so many incredible things in our lives to celebrate? Aimee and I talk daily about how much we miss Hugo and Sam, and of couse, Stella. Today we went on an epic drive around the coast of Maui to a beautiful black sand beach where we hiked to a fitting place, where strong waves slap windswept cliffs, and hung a Stella Star (www.stellastars.ca) on a tree branch overlooking the Ocean. It was the perfect place for her to be, a place full of energy and life and beauty. So, here we are in Maui, far away from everyone and everything, but still feeling incredibly connected to both the "old" and "new" lives. Aimee and I are tentatively learning to be together in our new selves, and have successfully come together for precious moments of lightness and happiness. It's a long, slow process to shift our focus onto life now. But, if we're going to move forward together, Paradise is a good place to start!
Aimee and I at Pearl Harbour:
Just after placing a Stella Star at 10,000 feet on Mount Haleakala:
If there is a Heaven I bet it looks like this: