“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time — the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes — when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever — there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” –John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Amelita’s lovely little room
It’s our last night in our house. Tomorrow, bright and early, the movers come to collect the hoards of brown boxes scattered about the house, blocking entrance ways and hallways, boxes that house all the crap we don’t really need but own anyway.
I finally gave Amelie’s bed frame away today. The bed, paid for with donation $$, that provided her comfort during her last final months and me solitude and sleep the last two years. I was able to give it to another little girl with special needs—a little girl who is so beautiful, she looks like Amelie, shares her Italian/Greek heritage, and who’s mommy and daddy are who we consider family. Someone in the Brotherhood. That provides me so much joy, relief, gratitude, and is a reminder that we are all in this shit hell storm together. Another little girl will be sleeping soundly on this bed. Thank GOD for that.
I kept the mattress, b/c I know somewhere it has Amelie’s DNA in it and it’s crazy comfortable. I don’t know where it’s going yet, but it will find a home in our new home.
HOME. interesting concept to me right now, considering I keep saying ‘Amelie has gone home’ yet I simultaneously mourn the life I had in this home.
Amelie LOVED her room. I’ll NEVER EVER forget the first time she saw this room. Aunti Shelley had surprised her, had the room painted, unpacked, decorated so when we saw the house for the first time, it was all ready to be lived in. Amelie gasped and immediately laid upon her new bed, which was delicately encased in a white mesh Cinderella-like canopy, with a real chandelier light floating at the top. She just laid down in pure amazement and total satisfaction. It was such a moment, I caught it on film and it will LIVE with me forever. She LOVED her room. It was her sanctuary, her play area, her final resting place.
I slept in her bed in her lovely little room one last time Saturday night. Brave was at a sleepover so I was free to sob openly, loudly, painfully, without restraint (for fear of waking him) and the pain hurt so immensely I verbally begged Jesus to make it stop. I could feel pain radiating from my being, pouring from my eyes, seeping out my pores, shooting through my hair, energy exploding off my body in a way that felt it was practically visible. I turned over and felt the cold wall on my burning body, and I remembered: Once Amelie rolled over, she was moaning and sort of screaming and when I walked in there, I was mortified. She was stuck, smooshed against the wall unable to move her body away from it. Her body just couldn’t work anymore. The pain of that awful memory fucks me up every day, and is as vivid in my mind as this computer screen in front of me. I want it gone from my psyche but I can’t shake it. laying there against the wall made it even more fresh.
Ben gently woke me this morning and we both just sobbed together, thanking God for her life, for this house, for the end of hard times, asking for new chapters, new beginnings, a fresh start.
Ben said he’s so grateful that the move is happening now—-he doesn’t want Bravery at 10,11 years old, having to walk by his sister’s empty room every day. Instead, he can shed those horrible times and create a new home where he can grow up without that constant reminder staring at him in the face 100 times a day every time he walks down the hall. He praised me for taking care of her when she needed me most. He admitted his utter failure to be there for us during that time, and how he wants to move forward together in grace and joy, not pain in the past.
I tried to share his gratitude, I really did. But I’m not there. I’m mad at God right now and, even despite the abundant blessings He’s surrounded me with, I’ve got a massive chip on my shoulder and an ache in my gut [and my Gut health is a mess. I emotionally ate till I was sick friday, barely ate a thing Saturday, practically had no food all day yesterday until Vietnamese date night dinner, then ate an entire bean and cheese burrito with sour cream today for lunch outta nowhere, swore I’d never eat again, then was somehow starving two hours later. Grief screws up your appetite, that’s for sure].
So here I sit, staring at the bare walls of her once perfect little princess room, now just a shitty storage unit. Her things packed, her bed moved on, her mattress loaded in the truck, her clothes folded in bins. That’s it, that’s my daughter’s room. I now move into a home with no Amelie’s room.
Sure, I painted the third bedroom pink in the new house. I’m going to decorate it all girly in homage to my baby, but it’s not her room. and I have to accept that.
I’ll have a special spot for her, of course, but this is the first move of my life to a home where my daughter will have never lived nor breathed. I am the only female in the house now.
Goodbye lovely little house, you served us well. Goodbye military housing, you protected and provided for us. Goodbye military life, it was hell and an honor to serve. Goodbye lovely little room, she loved you.
Goodnight moon, Goodnight air, Goodnight noises…everywhere.
Well the time has come. the house sale is finalized and escrow closed as of Friday, the workers (my knight in shining armor) are there making improvements and, as boss calls it, adding “Bittiesness” to it, and the movers are at our house today packing up all our things.
The time has come to pack up Amelita’s room. The girls came over last week, brought me lunch and we sat in her room, slowly going through each item. Bawling sobbing tearing sniffling (then eating, drinking and desserting, bc that’s what I do—my coping mechanisms can’t be running long distances and drinking smoothies, nah, nothing healthy like that of course), we put away in little bins the worldly items that remain of my little girl.
To think, an entire life in a few bins. It’s so pathetic how dearly we cling to physical things, but yet so fitting for our fragile hearts.
The only items that are “easy” to dispose of are those correlated to bad memories. I have no problem throwing hospital notes and charts and medical equipment and shirts made to access her port ALL AWAY.
but what about her socks? Her darling little feet wearing these tiny little Cinderella-like socks, how do I keep all those (I can’t) and yet, how do I part with them? (I can’t). It reminds me of funerals—how do you sum up the entirety of a person in one 20min eulogy? In one 30min slideshow? You simply can’t.
Thats what packing her room feels like. It feels so heartbreaking. so tragic. so embarrassing that I attach her memory to a fleece blanket, when the memory doesn’t really live there—it all lives in my mind, regardless of the blanket’s existence. But these items SUMMON the memories! They retrieve them from the vault of Amelie memories that’s locked away behind doors of my mind that I can’t access often (or at all). And so to pack those all away just seems....sad. Proper words escape me.
and it furthers reminds me how short her life was. 6 short years. She was just a baby really. her things evidence her childlike innocence—peppa pig, tinker bell, her little kitchen, her wooden doll house, her Disney castle, all her “thing-a-ma-bobs” they only little girls love.
And yet here I am, neatly folding the few items Amelie lived with and loved on into a plastic bin, relentlessly reminding me her body is gone.
As I write this, I’m staring outside and across my path of vision I see an elderly woman being pushed in a wheelchair. We live around the corner from a memory center, and there are often Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients who take strolls through our neighborhood because there are so many trees. I wave at her and I know she can see me, but she can’t really move her body. Her body is disintegrated and her existence now relies solely on the help of others. I can’t help but cry. Thank you Jesus! that my daughter doesnt have a life in a wheelchair. Thank you Jesus she’s flying above us freer than any notion of freedom we could ever imagine, more joyful than any idea of joy we could ever even dream of, and more real than any idea or concept of reality that my limited brain can even fathom. So I’m going to keep looking at this bed, this bed she needed only when she became a quadriplegic, and be grateful as hell that I have to pack that up and give it away, even if that means also packing her beautiful little socks and thing-a-ma-bobs.
I walked by Amelie’s room last night, and stopped in my tracks.
It was late, I was physically smoked, my eyes heavy squinting and tired, so not seeing fully, I swear for a second I thought I saw a fairy.
it’s not a great photo, and does not accurately capture the image I saw from 10 feet away. But I’ve had her Tinker Bell music box right next to that pink salt lamp for months, and not once did it line up perfectly like that. I’m sure it got moved during a cleaning or something, but it stopped me in my tracks. Sometimes I feel her in there, as if she’s running around leaving her little mark on her lovely little toys, reminding me, “I’m here mommy!“
Well I haven’t written publicly about this because, frankly, I didn’t want to jinx it. But it’s time.
We put an offer in on a house last week and it was accepted. We are currently in 45 day escrow.
Needless to say, I’m freakin the heck out, man.
It’s been a total roller coaster of emotion. Home prices in this area are EXORBITANT. It’s no joke. I told my Texas bff Mel about the house and her reaction was, “well the house is adorable!, but the price makes me sick to my stomach.” me too, Mel, me too.
Fact is, we simply cannot—not ‘do not’, but cannot—leave or move very far. We’re moving 3.4 miles away, and that alone is a massive adjustment that I can barely stand. I don’t want to leave this house. I love my little house. I love being in the house where so many memories of my daughter flood my mind every time I turn a corner. I don’t want to forget those memories, those fantastic minute moments that together culminate into a tapestry of her life and love. That’s all I have left of her.
And now I have to leave it. I’m not handling it well.
We are so effin lucky to be able to qualify for that much$$. True, We’ll be house poor and won’t be able to remodel for a very long time, but so what. Brave gets to stay in his school, Ben doesn’t have to drive 30 min each way to surf, and I don’t have to find new environment to function. I’m functioning well—dare I say, thriving—where I’m at, and even though one of my top 5 Strengths is Adaptability, I do not take well to this kind of change. esp to a smaller home.
BUT! the house is CLEAN. I’m talking, very very very clean. It’s older and small, but it’s CLEAN and was lovingly taken care of. The owners are genunely kind patriot Americans, a veteran, who accepted our VA loan, who have lived in this house for 41 years! and they are model homeowners. The home has gentle calm energy. (Exactly what Ben and I don’t have.) We are beyond lucky. This house on this street truly is a gift from God.
Yet, to my surprise, I am still deeply struggling.
I love my bright yellow bedroom, my large closet, my narrow, but amazingly high functional kitchen, my perfect laundry room. The three places I literally spend more time in than any other. I’m fighting the current of downsizing (it’s only 1200sq ft, yippppes.) and am slightly terrified to be locked into that kind of house payment $$ every month.
But the backyard is private, gorgeous, easy to maintain, and I can meditate and do yoga without a homeless person staring at me from atop the hill. Ben says it reminds him of Arizona with all the palms, and I think it reminds me of Coronado, where the happiest most carefree years of my life were had.
So naturally, Ben and I got into a massive fight Day 1 of escrow. right on time baby!
We were sittin’ around, chattin’ it up, lively and excited, cuddling on the couch, looking at photos, brainstorming, being open and honest, having a super productive, naively optimistic “future of us” talk, when BAM!! outta nowhere! it just happened. and it ALLLLLL started when the subject of what to do with the 3rd bedroom came up.
My first thought, “I want a guest bedroom so people can visit us.” (People person extrovert.)
Ben’s first thought, “I want a home office to build my business and study alone.” (Isolated introvert).
and it just slowly brewed into a raging fire from there, culminating into Ben’s brilliant comment of: “Well if Amelie were here, babe, obviously we wouldn’t be having this conversation—it would be brave’s room, our room, and then Amelie’s room.”
my face fell. I gave him the “LOOK.” oh you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about, we’ve all seen it, esp on the faces of emotionally charged (fine, dramatic) women. the friggin LOOK. The LOOK that says with no words, I got two words for you, and it ain’t happy birthday. Silent, I just glared at him.
his response, “oh, so I’m the asshole because I’m just stating the obvious.”
my textbook of what NOT to say response, “No darling, you’re the asshole because you’re the ASSHOLE.” and I proceeded to go off from there…ending in me having the mic drop last word then bawling in Amelie’s room and him coming into make amends and reconnect.
This is the type of conversation I cannot believe I even have to have in life. Our first ever home, first time entering the real estate market and making the massive financial leap into adulthood, and all we can think about is: NO More Amelie’s Room. I could have moved 30 minutes East and bought a home with 4 bedrooms and not even had this conversation probably, but we just couldn’t do that either. It’s a, what Ben used to say, “Catch 22 Situation Man” (yes, he intentionally got the number wrong to intentionally and amusingly confuse people). and we need to navigate through it, hopefully with no more uses of the word a$$-hole.
For now, we are in ESCROW and I pray the reality of what to do with a third bedroom is realized. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, people say. And this house IS a gift.
This was Amelie at Make A Wish Foundation. They threw her a little “wish planning party” and it was darlingly fun. They put together this beautiful binder for her, It was labeled, “Amelies wishes.” We sat there for a really long time… Playing, dreaming, hearing all kinds of things she would like to do. We put all those ideas in that binder and took it home with us. She and I would go through it, and she could never pick just one idea, she wanted all of them of course!
I recently found that binder in her room… and promptly threw it in the trash. I didn’t even think about it. It was more reactionary than anything else. all I know is I didn’t want to even see it anymore. None of those wishes got to happen. Not Disneyland. Not Disney World. Not meeting any princesses. Not going to Cinderella‘s castle. Or hosting a tea party on the beach. Or taking a train ride with her friends. Instead, She got a hot tub. And it wasn’t really her wish. It was the only thing we could think of. It was more of a freaking consolation prize. A consolation prize for having a stroke, for losing the ability to talk, or use her legs, or swim.
All she could do was float in it while we held her, struggling not to drop her in the way in and out. Make A Wish Could not put a lift and ended up piece-mealing together some flimsy step that we nearly broke hers and our backs on, these freakin wobbly steps, lifting her in and out every time we wanted to use it, but, luckily daddy is 6’5”, 225lbs, and he’s the only one who was able to lift her out. I know she enjoyed being in it (not the transitions obviously) and we have enjoyed it together as a family in her memory since then. My husband is in it every day, almost without fail. So naturally we have to ship/transport it to wherever we move to next ....
If it were up to me, I would sell it. Not look at it anymore. Be done with it. Not have the memory of her once hopeful Make-A-Wish plan party be tarnished by the quadriplegic flotation tub consolation prize, costing me probably $1,000 (or whatever it’s going to cost to hire a crane and truck and electrician) looming around our next house. But it’s not up to me. Brave loves it. Ayzia loves it. Hubbs loves it. Guests love it. So, then, it comes with us.
Being Catholic and Greek, Easter was always a fav holiday in my house. Over the top egg hunts, prizes, massive Easter baskets, all dressed up with hats and Sunday church dresses. It stayed that way even until adulthood, and we started getting so competitive with the egg hunts it’s was like an all out war.
I kept that tradition—correction, keep—and Easter will always be a favorite holiday, where I have so many memories of my dear baby girl, it swells in my chest. This pic is of her stopping mid-egg hunt to open the eggs, and pull out the chocolate loot. She just plopped right down in the pasture and started scarfing down candy. All because of Jesus. She really was a funny little kiddo.
Since we are moving (again, where is TBD. NO farther 10 min away would be my #1 choice) to what will very likely be a much smaller house, we decided its best to give away Amelie’s playground.
It was given to us through an organization called ROC SOLID who give children with cancer an option at PLAY. Play time is so important, and since they’re often isolated for weeks, months at a time, having a swing-set is a valuable commodity for a child with cancer.
Amelie loved it. She loved to be out there on the swing, always asking someone to push her because she was too weak. “Pustthhh me!” she’d scream, and she’d squeal with delight the higher and higher she rose in the air.
Once Amelie passed away, Bravery basically took it over. It was HIS tower. He stored toys, collected snails, would sneak snacks and an iPad and chill on the slide, even in the blazin SoCal sun. Our playground was a hot attraction for the neighborhood kids, and the sounds of their laughter (and let’s be totally honest here, cries moans wails and fights too) I could hear all throughout my little house. It made our home / yard feel FULL, not so quiet. Amelie was many things, quiet was NOT one of them. So having kids here all the time help fill the deafening silence of her voice gone was a welcomed gift.
I decided it wouldn’t be right to sell it for $$. After all, it was generosity that brought it here and generosity it should leave here. So instead I offered it up online for free, and the first responder (within 12 seconds. No seriously, I’m not exaggerating, after only 12 effin seconds he messaged me.) This rad dude nicknamed Blue ( you know I love me some nicknames), a giant Samoan, has claimed it. He couldn’t believe it was free, and offered me $50 to hold it for him when he realized he couldn’t get it right away.
“Let me ask you, Blue” I responded, “what are you using this for? Are you planning on re-selling it?”
“NO! I am getting this for my two little kids, I have a two year old daughter who’d love this.”
“It’s all yours, for free Blue. All I ask is that you give it to someone else for free when your little girl has grown out of it.”
“Absolutely.” and we both smiled at each other.
and that’s that. He’s dismantling it as we speak, and by tomorrow, it will be gone.