Right here, right now... be who you are, live with intention, love with an open heart. No one is guaranteed tomorrow... live accordingly.
Here I am sitting at my computer, with a to-do list a mile long and I can't stop thinking about Ollie. And today I think of him in a very heavy way... Annie had her 15 month check-up this morning... On our way out, I stopped to book her 18 month appointment. The nurse behind the desk, "Hmmm, let's see, we can do January 3rd?" That's the day Ollie died, "No!" "Or, we have a few appointments at the end of December... December 28th?" That's the day Ollie went into the hospital, the first day of his last week on Earth. And, there it is... grief almost 3 years after Ollie's death, hitting me hard like a bag of bricks... and my chest feels heavy. I see everything I saw that week, clear as day. I feel the emptiness. I can't breathe. And then I'm scrolling through FB in between updating GoogleDocs for our upcoming Ollie event, and I come across a post from a new angel Mom. She lost her Ollie to his congenital heart defect just a few weeks ago. Her pain is fresh. She's in a fog of grief... still trying to figure out how is it that her baby died and yet the world around her keeps moving, how can life possibly go on, still learning to cope, still trying to figure out how to make it through each day... it's SO hard... still trying to believe that someday she will feel happiness again... that's where I was almost 3 years ago. Her baby was born with a complex congenital heart defect and required open heart surgeries, tubes, medicines, SO many medicines, living out of the hospital, not being able to hold her baby for days or maybe weeks at a time, and after all of that BRAVERY, all of that FIGHTING for her boy, he died. So, she had to be brave again... she had to be COURAGEOUS! She didn't know she could be so strong! And, after fighting and advocating for her baby during his very short life and after LIVING through the pain of his death, she's having a hard day because she's afraid she didn't love on him enough while he was here... this poor grieving Mother ❤️... and her words cut very deep. The heart babies who are very sick are sometimes hooked up to machines that are keeping them alive... tubes that are putting life-saving medicines into their body, delivering oxygen into their lungs for them to breathe, pumping blood through tubes to give their heart a much needed rest. It's very scary to see your child like this. These babies are laying in their hospital beds in very critical condition and all you can do as a parent is sit at their bedside and watch over them... once you get a little more comfortable you may hold their hand, caress their cheek, run your hands through their hair. But you can't hold them. It's too dangerous... something may come loose, you may interrupt one of those vital tubes. And for some of us, we don't know it at the time, but these were the days leading up to our child's death... our child's death. Screw those tubes and wires! I should have been laying in bed, holding my baby, cheek to cheek for the last 5 days! I've been sitting next to Ollie in isolation garb, wearing rubber gloves with a mask over my face for the past 5 days... the last 5 days of my child's life! And I feel her very fresh pain the same way I did 3 years ago. This is grief. The pain of losing a child is a pain that you carry forever. I had a revelation and reached a turning point when I came across this quote awhile back, "The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to." I often tell grieving mothers to try to think of their pain as a way to "feel" their child who has died. And this quote is what led me to this thought of "feeling" Ollie through my pain. And it was life-changing. I carried my pain differently after that... I embraced it, I cherished it, My pain was very tangible... Ollie was very tangible. My pain represents my love for him. My pain over his death will never go away... my love for him will never go away. My pain is part of me... Ollie is part of me... always ❤️ That's when my pain became a very beautiful thing to me. I've come to embrace that as a grieving mother, I'll carry a darkness inside of me for the rest of my life. I am not "normal". I am broken. But, through all the pain and despite the darkness, life is good, it feels full, it looks bright. Even as I sit here right now, by myself, working my way through these heavy thoughts in order to carry on, the sun is shining, the sky is BRIGHT blue, the birds are chirping, a breeze blows through windows, monarch butterflies are fluttering by, I hear kids squealing on the playground at the school up the street, Annie sleeps soundly in her room... I can keep going. Yes! I CAN KEEP GOING! The possibilities are endless... with love, all things are possible ❤️ I know several Moms very new to grief and they're having a really hard time and wish I could reach out to each of them and squeeze them SO tightly! You have a choice... and I pray that you choose hope. Hope opens a world of possibilities when nothing seems possible. There ARE brighter days ahead. This picture is a favorite of mine... this was Ollie and me... ALL the time. We'd sit on the couch and I'd hold him, feed him, rock him to sleep, hold him, feed him, hold him some more. Sometimes he was recovering from a surgery so I was just being very gentle with him, but then it kind of just became the norm. He always wanted to be held. And, thank GOD a million times for it! Maybe Ollie knew something that I didn't. I may not have been able to hold him as I would have liked during his last week, but for 13 beautiful, amazing, out of this world months, he was pretty much a permanent fixture in my arms and I can still "feel" him ❤️
Just catching up on some papers from Maddie's homework folder... The last sentence... "I will hap babby with bobbob's on thr hat." Translation: I will help babies with boo boos on their hearts ❤️ Takes my breath away ❤️ So thankful for my sunshine girl ❤️
I woke up this morning with Ollie weighing heavy on my mind... Before bed last night, I couldn't stop staring at this picture of Ollie, myself, and Annabelle. Actually, I couldn't stop staring at Ollie. I had this very hard to describe feeling... almost like I had to remind myself that this little boy existed once and that he was mine... that I got to stare into these gorgeous eyes every day, I got to feel him looking back at me, run my fingers through his curls, kiss those sweet lips, nibble on those cheeks, nuzzle into that cozy little spot of his neck, LISTEN to the sounds he made. I had a son for 13 months (and I still do). And after everything I've gone through during Ollie's life and since his death, I have to remind my self that he was real?! I feel like he was only here for a moment... and in that moment time stopped. And, just like that he was gone. When I was staring at this photo, I felt like this boy was someone I had only met. For one second, I had to process the fact that for 401 days I woke up with this boy, fed him, held him, played with him on the floor, rocked him, held him some more... He ALWAYS wanted to be held, which I'm SO thankful for now!... he and his big sis had bath time, they watched Yo Gabba Gabba together, they splashed at the pool, we went to doctor appointments, he laughed, he cried, he endured way too much for only having 13 months here with us, but he loved life!!! And, his BIG SIS! Maddie has a little brother. And Annie has a big brother! Ollie is a BIG BROTHER! He should be here. All of these thoughts rolled up into one, they take my breath away. And although I rarely cry anymore (thanks and no thanks to a med prescribed by my doctor), I cry. So, then I'm out this morning, waiting at the gas pump, and as the breeze blows by, I swear that I "feel" Ollie. And a few minutes later, on my way home, I pull up to a stop sign and this license plate catches my eye... "IM FINE"... I'm okay... Don't worry about me, Mom. ❤️
This quote. "Do not judge the bereaved mother. She comes in many forms. She is breathing, but she is dying. She may look young, but inside she has become ancient. She smiles, but her heart sobs. She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS, but she IS NOT, all at once. She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity." If I had to draw a picture of a mother's grief, this would be it. So poignant. I know several grieving mothers who are hurting very badly right now. And I know several others who are hurting "regular". There are different ways to carry the grief, but the pain is always there. For any angel Moms who are hurting really badly right now, I'm here to remind you that there will be better days ahead. Keep moving forward, go with the flow, and you will get there. You're not alone. There are many (too many) other Moms also learning to build their lives around the loss of their child. Sending SO much love to you brave women ❤️
The ebb and flow of grief... Lately, mine has been flowing a little more. My grief feeling a little heavier. So, as I wait for it to "ebb", I'm waiting for a sign, for something to reflect on, for my next move, and tonight a friend texts me a link to a blog called "Scribbles & Crumbs", led by a mother who lost her baby boy to a congenital heart defect. So, I go on to read a few of her posts and they consume me... I can still smell the hospital smells and hear the beeping of the monitors, and my arms ache, and I've cared for a sick child, and I've relied on my faith to get through, and I've chosen hope! My chest tightens, my stomach turns, for a second I can't breathe, and before I know it, I'm chatting her virtual "ear" off via her "contact" tab. And then it hits me... grace meets me halfway and my grief feels lighter again. This is just what I needed, my sign, my reflection, my clarity. I needed a reminder that I'm not the only one and that I have all the tools I need to keep going. This may sound redundant to some of you, but if even one person hasn't read my posts and it helps you in any way, then that's reason enough to pour my heart out a bit ❤️
This is what I wrote, "Hi Lexi, tonight a fellow grieving mother sent me a link to your blog... She assumed I already followed you and I did not, so when I opened the link and dove into your posts, your words struck me like a bolt of lightening. I lost my son, Ollie, a CHD warrior, when he was 13 months old in January '13. The night he died and we had to leave the hospital without him, I was lost, empty, everything was dark. I was a shell. When I went to bed that night, I wished I would never wake up. I knew I wasn't strong enough to face my new reality. But the next morning I woke to my 3 year old (at the time) tapping my shoulder and, "Mommy, will you make my breakfast?" And, at that moment, I decided I was going to face my grief, embrace it, explore it, build my life around it. I knew that facing my new normal would not be easy, but I had no choice... no, actually I did have a choice, and I chose HOPE. Not long after my son died, my pastor gave a sermon that hit me, and the premise... "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future of hope." And right in that moment I told myself that someday I will believe those words with my whole heart and that is when I know that I've made it, that I'll be okay. This journey has been long, trying, discouraging, heart-wrenching, dark, and painful, and just when I think maybe I'm not strong enough after all, God's grace meets me in that hopeless place... maybe it's a heart in an unexpected place, the way the sun shines in the house at dawn or dusk, a long chat with an understanding friend, my daughters' smiling eyes, or maybe it's a friend who texts me a link to this blog during a time when my grief has felt a little heavier than the usual and I'm compelled to reassess where I've been, how far I've come, and how many wonderful things lay ahead... And, I'm reminded that I have a choice, and I choose hope.
Thank you for sharing your heart. I needed this. It took my breath away, but I feel lighter now. My friends started a FB page after Ollie died to keep everyone in the loop on his services. I've kept the page, though, and it's become a journal of my path toward healing. It's been an outlet for me and a huge source of support "Ollie Hinkle". My husband and I sit on the Board of the MO chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation and we have an annual food & wine fest in his memory. Since his death, we've raised over $200K for pediatric heart research and to provide financial and emotional support to heart families in need. This Fall, we're following our dreams and we've teamed up with another heart angel family and we're opening a restaurant, Olive + Oak (Olive for Oliver "Ollie" and Oak for their son who passed named Oakes). Some sort of goodwill toward the CHD community will be a big part of our plan, though exact plans are still TBD.
Phew! Thanks for listening! Sending you love and ❤️ hugs!
A sweet sign from my baby ❤️ Visiting friends in Chicago and one of them found a picture of him on his phone that I had never seen before... I couldn't stop looking at it. I've seen all of Ollie's firsts... He won't have anymore. It was a real heart-filling experience to see this "first" 2 1/2 years after he passed ❤️ And my friends cried... they still hurt too... I'm not the only one hurting. Ollie is still impacting lives. Ollie's spirit brings forth these unexpected tender moments, our softer sides, unconditional love, and a reminder of how STRONG we are ❤️ So, he's really been on my mind since then. This bright little heart is just what I needed ❤️
Couldn't resist the wet concrete when they redid our sidewalk ❤️ #annieandollie #angelbaby #rainbowbaby #lovealwayswins #hearts
Annie got the sweetest sign from her big bro when we were opening presents at her birthday party ❤️ One of the balloons had floated into just the right spot while the sun was shining in from just the right angle... a big, beautiful heart right above Ollie's picture ❤️ Hi, Ollie!!! And, that sweet gal in the picture is Ollie's great-grandma and she is "great" indeed!
"When my husband was dying, I said: 'Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?' He told me: 'Take the love you have for me and spread it around."' -via Humans of New York
Yes! Yes, yes, yes!!! Take my love for him and spread it around ❤️ This is one of the ways I'm able to go on living after Ollie's death. Like, I need oxygen, I need food, I need sleep, and I need to spread Ollie's love around ❤️ There's just something about seeing this verbalized.
On January 3, 2013, my 1 yr old son, Ollie, passed away. That's where my life "before Ollie" ends and my grief journey begins... My new normal, my path toward healing, my life "after Ollie". I'm a grieving mother who believes in hope. This is my story.