Monday, June 5, 2017

Brody - The Little Boy Who Left Behind A Big Legacy...

The other night I sat in my back yard talking, but mostly listening to Tori and Sheena Grühn, two sisters I’d reached out to through social media, tell me their story about Tori’s three-year-old son Brody.

When I reached out to Sheena a few days ago, I was hoping that she’d call me and tell me a little bit about Brody and about the Team Brody Foundation Inc., which was formed in Brody’s honour after he passed away on September 1, 2015.

I don’t know Sheena or Tori. I never met Brody, but this is Winnipeg and it seems as though we are all connected in some way. In this case, I went to junior high with their older sister and we have some mutual friends. That’s how it came to be that I watched their tragedy unfold on social media, and it gutted me. I was a new mom, watching this young mother go through every parent’s worst nightmare.

On August 31 a mutual friend posted about Brody. He was fighting a rare form of cancer that started at the base of his skull, diagnosed nine months earlier. That day he had seized and the situation was dire. He was in the hospital, hooked up to life support; Prayers, good vibes, and whatever else helpless people do when life is cruel, was encouraged. If there was such a thing as a miracle, Brody needed it.

I remember looking at his picture and the horrible, horrible words that captioned it.

A wave of despair fell over me, and I’ve never prayed harder to a God I wasn’t sure I even believed in, for anything. There had to be a chance. Kids aren’t supposed to die. Brody wasn’t supposed to die.

But he did die.

He died the next day at 6 pm while his parents lay with him, watching videos of him they’d shot on their phones. Tori said she was playing the last video she’d ever taken of him when his monitors started to “go crazy.” In the video you could hear his little voice saying “I love you,” and in real life he was slipping away. If you believe in signs and miracles and divinity, there was seemed to be so many little signs trapped in that most horrible moment.

They knew it was dire, but they didn’t expect it to happen like that. Not in that moment.

The hospital staff asked Tori if she wanted to bathe her son before they took him away. She did. She cleaned his little body that had endured so much during his nine months of treatment. She held him, and she washed him and when she was done she dressed him in big boy underwear and pyjamas before she said goodbye. She said that there was a kind of peace in doing that.

And then Tori left the hospital to a new reality.

In those first months, she could barely function. She shared her grief on Instagram, spilling her broken heart and soul into each caption and story she posted, and though each post was unbelievably sad she was so poignant and gifted in how she articulated herself. Every word and picture was a testament to this mother’s love and bond to her baby boy.

Tori was just 18-years-old when she gave birth to Brody. He was born five days before she graduated high school, and he even attended her graduation ceremony with her.

For the first two years of his life Tori was a stay-at-home mom. In 2014 she enrolled in CDI College when she was able to get Brody into daycare. She wanted to create a better life and future for herself and her son.

It wasn’t long after he was in daycare that Brody became ill. He was two, but he stopped walking and talking and eating. He became detached. Exhausted. Lethargic. He was always sick, but every trip to the emergency room – and there were a lot of them – Brody was diagnosed with minor ailments, or nothing at all. Three times he had pneumonia, another time it was an ear infection… The lump they’d discovered in his neck was nothing to worry about according to one nurse.

Tori knew something was wrong. Her little boy was always sick, and nothing seemed to be making him better. They would give him antibiotics, he would finish them, and he would still be sick.

Then, in December 2014, Brody’s ear started to bleed. When they looked inside they saw something shadowy protruding out of his ear canal.

They brought him back to the emergency room, and it took six people to hold the little boy down so they could try to cut a piece of the shadowy mass off and send it for a biopsy. They weren't able to cut anything off that day, but they sent the little boy for a CT scan, which confirmed that he had a tumor. The family was sent to stay in CancerCare's Ck5 unit on December 18th until the biopsy and portacath surgery was done.

On December 24 their worst fears were realized when he was diagnosed with stage 3 Rhabdomyosarcoma.

The mass had grown to cover one whole side of his face and head under his skin. The cells grew aggressively, like tree branches. But there was still hope, and they clung to it. Tori read that Brody had a 70 per cent chance of surviving this beast.

To look at Tori, it’s hard to imagine the hell she’s lived through. She looks younger than 23, but when she speaks her demeanor and experiences are old, well beyond her years. She is laid back and thoughtful. When she tells the story of when her world started to crumble in late 2014, she speaks so eloquently and factual.

Her eyes light up when she talks about him—sometimes in the past tense, sometimes in present tense. He was mischievous and had his mom and his aunts wrapped around his little finger. Even though he was so young, he was well aware that he will sick. He spent so much of his young life in the hospital that he even learned how to administer his own medicine through the tube in his stomach.

And though he spent countless hours in the hospital, he also had a ‘normal’ life too. There were many magical moments…Tinkertown. The Zoo. Playing at the park… He liked collecting toys and figures, and he was obsessed with clean. If there was an upside to being treated in isolation it was that Brody’s room was immaculate.

The little boy was special. He was feisty and so full of life, even when the cancer started to steal him.
This June 19 he would be turning five-years-old. It will be a hard day for the Grühn and Birrell family, but rather spending a somber day mourning for the little boy who will eternally be three, they will be celebrating in his honour, and hoping to give joy to other kids fighting cancer.

His family (The Team Brody Foundation) will hold Brody's 5th Birthday & Toy Drive at the Earl Grey Community Centre where Tori works. There will be pizza and cake and games for kids. There will be family, friends, and hopefully even strangers who want to help celebrate this special little boy with the big legacy.

It’s an open invite from a family who seem to quickly embrace strangers as new friends.
“Toys aren’t everything, but when Brody got a new toy while he was in treatment it always made him really happy,” she explained. “You don’t always know what’s going to happen, so I say spoil the crap out of your kids.”

“I wish I had spoiled him more,” Sheena said.

Tori, Sheena and the rest of Team Brody Foundation will hand deliver all the toys and donations to the children and teenagers at CancerCare themselves. They beam when they describe doing it last year.

“You’ve got these kids who are going through a lot and to be able to go in there, and give them something that will make their day and their treatment that much better is really awesome. When we dropped off the toys last year, the kids were so happy.”

Brody’s birthday isn’t the only fundraiser the group does. They’ve held a social, a benefit concert, blood drives, and bake sales in an effort to raise money for other parents of sick kids. They’ve applied and are going through the process to become a registered charity so that they can give tax receipts, but right now everything is still really grassroots. Even the money they raised for themselves when Brody was still alive, went back into helping others after Brody died.

“Nobody out there does what we do. All of the money we raise goes directly to the families for things like parking, or food, or even just for peace of mind so they don’t have to worry about money for a few days while they’re going through this,” explained Sheena.

Even more than the money, they offer support to families with children who are fighting childhood cancer.

“The biggest thing about having us around is that we know what you’re going through. When people tell you that they can’t imagine what you’re going through, we can because we know.”

This fall Tori is enrolled in the University of Manitoba. She hopes to become a pediatric nurse because knows that her experience can help others who are going through the same thing. She also feels at home in the CancerCare ward, where she spent so much time with her little boy.

“It’s home for me, I love going there,” she said as we wrapped up our conversation.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Donation, a Doughnut, and a Delightful Conversation...

After giving blood today I sat at the closest table to the doughnut counter-- Easy access for an extra doughnut and a little bit of company since I was by myself.
The lady behind the counter, Lynne, was excellent at making conversation, though she may have been a little hard of hearing at times. She was an old hat at this, about four or five years in, at serving up cold drinks, coffee, and doughnuts to blood donors.
Each of us donors were treated to whatever we wanted. A doughnut and a bag of Bits & Bites? No problem. It's the least they could do since we'd come to give our blood.
I sat at the table and I inhaled my doughnut.
"They're good, aren't they?" She said. "They're from Salisbury House. Nothing but the best for our donors."
I asked her how long she'd volunteered for, and why she started.
It was something she needed to do she said.
About eight or nine years ago her husband needed blood, and not just once. He needed it regularly because he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He was given three months to live, but he lived for 14 months thanks to the blood donations he received during his treatments.
"He was always going to die, his leukemia wasn't curable," she said. "But, we got an extra year because of the people like you who donate blood."
And that year, she said, meant the world to her husband and her family.
"He wasn't just given extra time, he was also given quality of life."
A few years after her husband passed away Lynne decided to start volunteering at Canadian Blood Services. She said being there and being able to tell people just how important their donations are is something she knows is important.
"I am a link for people like you who come in to donate blood. I have benefited from it, and I need to keep telling people my story," she said.
She recalled a time when her husband got a call cancelling his appointment because they didn't have any blood for him. It was time of dire straights. Blood donations, she assumes, had been slow and he would just have to wait.
"When you hear about them putting out urgent calls for blood they mean it," she told me, adding that her husband only had to wait a few days.
"He was OK, but if they bring in someone who's been in an accident..." Her voice trailed off.
We chatted a little longer while she tended to others and I sipped my Sprite. She was comfortable and motherly. I told her I enjoyed her company and asked if I could take her picture and share her story on my Facebook page. She looked at me in this funny way and she said "OK, just because you asked..."
I thanked her, and she thanked me, and then I got up to leave and to book my next appointment at the front desk.
"I hope to see you next time," I said.
"Book it on a Wednesday. I'll be here."
**Posted with permission**

Friday, January 6, 2017

Amazon to the rescue!

This Christmas Santa brought my stepson, H, a grey FurReal Friend kitty named Bootsie. Instantly H fell in love with his kitty, babying her and carrying her with him everywhere he went. He showed everybody her robotic magic, and laughed and laughed at how temperamental his new kitty was.

Santa did well.

A couple days later however, Bootsie stopped working. We tried coaxing this robotic cat back to life with different batteries, and then more different batteries, but that didn't work. Chris had thrown out the box Bootsie came in, and we weren't sure if we could find the Amazon receipt (that Santa left behind.)

Thankfully Amazon has an amazing return policy that would see us get a new Bootise in just a couple of days!

We told our boy that we'd have to send Bootsie back to Santa's workshop to get repaired. He was a good sport about it and agreed to send his kitty back to the workshop. Before we did he got Chris to help him write a letter to Santa, asking him to take good care of Bootsie.

We told H that we'd have to send his Kitty to Amazon, and they would send her to Santa's workshop for us, because we don't know exactly where Santa lives, but Amazon does.

He was cool with that.

I posted the pictures of H and his letter to Santa on my Facebook and Twitter feeds because I thought they were the cutest thing I'd seen. Not long after I did, Amazon reached out to me, directing me to a feedback page and asking that I fill them in on the situation.

I complied because I wanted to tell them how impressed I was with their customer service and return policy. I explained the situation and I thanked them for being a conduit for Santa Claus and his workshop.

 The next day I received an email response from someone who works for the social media team at Amazon...

Hello Shelley,

This is Josue with the Social Media team here at Amazon
Thanks for forwarding your information. 
We are working on a surprise for your son to brighten his day!

Have a good rest of your day!

- Josue

A day later The new...errrr... fixed Boosie arrived in the mail. He and H were reunited! I wasn't home when the package arrived, or when he opened it but Chris sent me a picture of the reunion and it was the sweetest. H was beaming!

Fast forward to today, and we received another package from Amazon; inside was the surprise Josue told us they had coming for H! Chris opened it and found a grey plush cat for H! We sealed the box back up and left it for H to open when he got home from daycare.

I got home from work after H opened his package from Amazon, but when I came in it was the first thing he told me about. He said that Santa had sent him a special friend for Bootsie. He was elated, and he got he to feel how soft his new kitty was! 

It was just really special.

H was so excited to get a package just for him. He was thrilled that Santa sent a friend for Bootsie, and that the new cat has soft fur and a long tail. He loves the plush kitty. He spent the night playing with her and carrying her around the house. 

Needless to say we are so happy with our Amazon experience.

Thank you Amazon and Josue for going out of your way to fix our situation and to make our little guy happy! You really saved the day! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mom's the word.

WARNING: I swear in this post. Sorry mom, dad, work, kids, people who might be offended. All f-bombs were carefully thought out and planned for this post.

Something happened after I became a mom (and stepmom.)

Aside from all the love and joy that the kids bring me. Aside from the hugs and kisses and moments that I will remember for the rest of my life... Aside from the absolute love I learned how to feel for another human being, I have learned that there is a really dark side to motherhood.

I have lost track of myself, my friends, my waistline, any hobbies I had, and my career.

Motherhood has doubled the speed of life and added about eight bajillion things to my plate. I am having a helluva time keeping up. Where I used to prioritize tasks at work, I am now prioritizing whether I can fit a bath in for my kid/s tonight or tomorrow. Or, whether I can skip lunch, cut out early, and get some groceries before picking up my kid from daycare. Or, if I can MacGyver something semi-nutritious and good for dinner with whatever's in the fridge.

My mind never stops. I am constantly thinking of the things I need to be doing. The things I should be doing. The things that I will need to do soon, and sometimes the things I want to do.

I feel like this is not just me. No, this is all of us.


Please tell me this isn't just me.

Since becoming a mom I can't stop fucking up.

That sounds harsh, and I don't need a pep talk. Please, don't tell me I'm not fucking up. Trust me when I tell you that I am fucking up and that I am doing it often. In fact, sometimes that's how I remember that I checked something off my 'to do list,' because of the epic fail I made while doing it...

From the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I am chasing the day that will always beat me. I am trying to steal minutes for myself while the rest of the family is sleeping, or while I am pacifying the kids with bribes of treats or dreaded screen time so I can get stuff done. I am trying to multitask, and I am getting frustrated every single time I do it.

This isn't easy. Domestic bliss is by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

I can only imagine that I sound like a complaining shrew.  I know I do. I can't help it. It just comes out. That's another part of the new me that I am having a hard time dealing with. I didn't realize I'd be such a killjoy.

"Don't do that."

"Don't play with that."


"Stop doing that!"

"Get out of there."

"Stop fighting."




I don't even like saying no to the kids. I love them all so much that I would give them everything their little hearts desired if I knew it wouldn't make them terrible human beings. But no, this is part of it. Moms have to set boundaries and sometimes have to be a bummer.

Hey man, nobody wants to be a bummer.

I am searching for validation that I'll never get. I know that's not what we do all this for. But, damn. I need validation, because it turns out that I am not sure of anything. nope. I am not sure of a single thing. I am winging it all. So, I need validation that I am somehow winging it all in an alright way.

I need someone to notice that I'm a busy as fuck person. I need someone to tell me that I am not suffering from postpartum depression when I have a breakdown because my kid is being a jerk. I need someone to tell me that I'm not a shrew, or a nag, or a killjoy, or overbearing. I need someone to tell me that I'm not a total write off as a friend because I only text back about 40 per cent of the time. (I'm so sorry friends!) I need someone to tell me to take an hour for myself and to go to the gym, or for a walk, or do whatever I want to do just for me...

I need way more validation than I'm ever gonna get, and if you're a mom chances are you do too.

We lose ourselves in this, because it's not equal and it's not easy and we are expected to work and be homemakers, and lovers and friends. We are expected not to stay fat after having babies because that means we've let ourselves go (If Maria Kang can do it, what's your excuse? Ugh.) And we are expected to fundraise for our kids, throw them Pinterest-worthy birthday parties, join a book club, and drink wine with our girlfriends... We are expected to shatter the glass ceiling, because somehow in the day and age, men still make more money than us for the same jobs. Oh, and we are expected to get the kids a snack and some milk about ten times a day.

In all of this, where do we find time for ourselves?

If there's an answer, somebody tell me!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Feelings. Nothing more than feelings?

The other day my daughter had an epic meltdown at the doctor's office, I wrote about it on Facebook.

Actually, we both had meltdowns. She threw the tantrum of all temper tantrums and when I couldn't console her, or figure out how to make her stop I lost my shit and started to cry too.

I cried hard. I was a sloppy spectacle with makeup running down my face and a screaming, crying, kicking toddler at my feet. In hindsight it's kind of funny, but at that moment I was so frustrated, tired, defeated, embarrassed...

So, I cried.

You know how it is, once you finally cry after a good build up you need to let it all out. I can't remember the last time I cried before this. There had been many times that I wanted to, but I never did because I was busy, or because there were kids around and I didn't want to scare them... Or, just because I couldn't. I wanted to, but I couldn't.

The good news is that both her and I started to settle when we got into the doctor's office. She finally let me hold her, so I nursed her until she was nearly asleep.

That sleeping little girl is who the doctor saw when he came in. He said he didn't even hear her tantrum, so I must have looked insane when he saw me. My makeup was running down my face. My eyes were red. I was still reeling over both of our meltdowns...

I tried to explain away my emotions.

"She's just really hard right now."

"I'm so tired."

"I feel like I do everything."

"I hit my breaking point."

"I am overwhelmed."

I told the doctor that today's tantrum was the biggest I'd ever seen. He then said something that I wasn't expecting...

"I'm sniffing out a touch of postpartum depression," he said.

Uh, what? Blank stare. doing math in my head. Nothing really adding up right now...

"She's a year an a half old. I can't have that."

"Yes you can..."


I left the office agreeing to followup with him in a month.

Since he brought it up I have googled a lot about postpartum depression. Symptoms. People's experiences. Methods of therapy...I have talked to Chris and I've talked to some of my friends about his suggestion, and I've tried to determine if I am missing something that he saw.

Can someone have something like postpartum depression and not know it? If so, that's pretty messed up...

I know the doctor saw a mom of a strong-willed tantruming toddler who hit her breaking point. I know he didn't see her epic tantrum. I know that he's a professional with experience in dealing with children and mothers and all of that fun stuff...

But I am not convinced that postpartum depression is something I have.

I think it's worth looking into, and I think it's important to talk about because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, but I think I was just having a bad day.

I feel overwhelmed and tired, and I feel like crying sometimes. I feel really busy, and guilty, and like I have lost myself in this whole parenting thing. However, I also feel happy, and proud and really connected to my daughter and step kids. I love being their mom and their Shelley. It's stressful as fuck sometimes, but I love it.

I feel like I feel too happy too often to have PPD.

Maybe I'm wrong.

But, I don't think so...

I did go through a dark period in the first couple of months of Riel's life. It was such an odd feeling because it was the most joyous darkness I've ever experienced. I was high. Euphoric. I was so in love with my new baby, but I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my own mortality. The feeling of not being around for her was crushing. I was so scared of the worst case scenario. I was anxious that she would get sick, or that I would get sick, or that one of us would die. It scared me, and it was a really dark spot during the happiest time in my life.

What an oxymoron.

I thought far too much about the 'what ifs.'

With the intensity of the love I had for my daughter and the feelings of becoming a mom came a lot of fear and anxiety.

I chalked it up to sleep deprivation and hormones.

But now, I feel like I have moments, and sometimes days that are hard. I feel like that's just part of this life. Sometimes I am weak, sometimes I am strong. I'm still kind of new at this-- Eighteen months in...

I will look into the doctor's suggestion of possible PPD. I am not ashamed or embarrassed of the notion that I could be thought to have (or even have) postpartum depression. I just don't think that I do have it.

I suppose this post is to be continued...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Goodbye Gord. Thank you.

We went to The Tragically Hip concert on Friday night.

I had been waiting for this day. This concert. This show. I'd been waiting for this one last experience with Gord Downie-- Canada's coolest older brother, for what seemed to be forever.

There was a bitterness to yesterdays sweetness though, because through the excitement there was grief that this was goodbye.

Cancer is eating his brain, and instead of dying at home he is living the fuck out of his life across Canada with one last hurrah. If the rest of the shows have been like the one in Winnipeg yesterday, then it's apparent that Gord is giving all of himself to his fans and to his art. He is doing what he loves, and he's not letting the vicious c stop him.

He is the most alive dying man I have ever seen.

It was surreal. It was loud, and everyone was wearing their Hip merch, old and new. It was like a cult of fans who had known The Hip for some of the most important years of their lives trying to hear the soundtrack of their lives just one last time. Trying to be part of something that actually meant more than just dollars and choreographed dances. Trying to see if they could spot the terminal cancer in the flamboyant Gord Downie. Trying to savour every second of the last time.

It was truly an honour just to be there.

The MTS Centre was packed. More people would have been there, but the demand for tickets was too high. Everyone there won some sort of karmic lottery. Robots snatched up all the tickets to sell on StubHub on the day they went on sale, and he general public never stood a chance unless they were part of a fan club, or a particular credit card holder. Or, unless like Chris and I, they had a friend who was willing to sell tickets to them.

But for a show like this; a band like this; a part of your Canadian soul and identity, you just had to be there to say goodbye. Whether people were ripped off by scalpers or StubHub, or whether they got their tickets at face value, what the fans got was an experience that is invaluable.

They got to say goodbye. They got to feel that goodbye...

Gord Downie was supposed to live well into deep wrinkles and old eyes that had seen a lot. He was supposed perform countless more times, singing from his soul like the performer that he is. He was supposed to write more songs and poetry, and watch his kids grow and hold his grandbabies. He was supposed to live to see his own legend grow.

He won't though. He will die, and a part of us will die with him.

While his impending death truly is tragic, right now he is still alive and he is still giving one helluva performance. Winnipeg  was an incredible sendoff to a man and a band who have been part of the soundtrack of my life since I was a kid.

Thank you Gord. May you find peace in whatever you believe, and may you live out the rest of your days happy, feeling loved and pain-free. Thank you for being part of my life for...Well, for what seems like forever. Thank you for doing this tour, and for sharing yourself with all of us.

We love you Gord.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On life and death.

We are interring my grandma tomorrow, on her birthday. She died in November, but the ground was frozen so we decided to wait.

I bought a box to put her ashes in and I dropped it off at the funeral home the other day. The funeral director brought her remains out-- a cardboard box, smaller than a shoe box, filled with a tagged bag of sand. That was it. That was all that was left of her. This bag of greyish coloured sand.

It's hard to believe that someone so mighty; someone who, until recently, had been a part of what I know as forever is now just a box of sand.

I've tried to look for signs that she is still with me, and that there is something far more divine after this life. I've consoled myself and others by saying that she has finally been reunited with her beloved George, and her sisters and brothers.

I wear her necklace because it reminds me of her.

I realized that I am not at peace with her being gone. I am not at peace with what I believe in. I get scared when I think about death, or what it must feel like to die. I get scared when I think about me, or the people I love not existing anymore...

What if there is no heaven? What if this is all there is? What if there is a heaven, but I won't go because I don't know exactly what to put my faith into?

When I think about it I want to cry and throw up all at the same time.

When the funeral director showed me the sand I didn't make a big deal about my feelings. I've learned that big feelings like the ones I am having are hard to share. People get scared or uncomfortable, or they think you are being dramatic-- She was an old lady, she lived a hell of a lot longer than a lot of people. I should be so lucky to have had her for so long. Get over it.

I know. I really should.

But there, I got lost in a whole bunch of deep feelings and I didn't want to sound crazy. I was calm and I thanked the funeral director and I left.

When I got into my car the lump in my throat became too big and I started to cry.

I cried for her and I cried for myself.

I've struggled a lot with her death, and with the idea of death in general. This isn't new, I've always been afraid, but my fears have intensified since the birth of my daughter and the death of my grandma.

When Riel was born, my mortality hit me so fast and so hard I didn't even see it. I remember the second she was born, I was forever changed and I was euphoric. Here was this brand new life with everything ahead of her and yet there was this part of me that was already grasping at all the time I have with her. I remember thinking that all the rest of my life would never be enough time. I was so overcome with emotion that I just held onto her and I cried.

Perhaps it was hormones, or a realization of how precious life and love are. Whatever happened to me that night changed me and it changed the way I see life.

Eight months later, on the night my grandma died I remember smoothing her hair and telling her to let go. She was in a deep, medically induced sleep. Her breathing was forced and she was never going to wake up again. She was lingering in the land of the living, but death was all around. Even the weather sensed it. Tiny raindrops fell from the sky, as if to weep for her in her last hours of life.

In that moment I wanted her to die because life seemed so forced and I wanted her to be at peace. I wasn't thinking about the days, years or lifetime after she died. I wasn't even considering that her death would leave this emptiness and sense of wonder. I was just in that moment and I just wanted her to be at peace.

When someone is dying, it's hard to watch those final moments.

That evening her pastor came. He held her hand and he read Psalm 23:4

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff comfort me."

It seemed so cliché. I wanted to laugh and weep all at the same time.

I left her, intending to come back. I had to get my daughter home, and my parents were there to sit with my Amma as she drifted away.

And then my mom called me, maybe an hour after I got home, and she told me "Shell, she's gone."

My grandma meant different things to different people. I won't lie and say that she had great relationships with everyone, because she didn't. But, her and I had something special. She was one of my greatest loves and even though she was old and I was lucky to have her for as long as I did, my fear and my grief know no such logic.

I miss her. I miss her and I am so scared that I will never, ever see her again.

In life there is nothing more true than the fact that we are all going to die. It's the one constant. I remember asking Amma if she was afraid of dying. She said no. She believed in God and heaven, death wasn't an end for her.

Monday, April 18, 2016

For my Riel on her first birthday...


Today you are one year old. What a year we've had!

You slowly made your way into this world at 10:08 p.m. on April 18, 2015 after more than 24-hours of labour. Looking back, I don't know how I did it, or how anyone does it. Giving birth is such a powerful and surreal experience. Before I actually did it, I was so scared and unsure. Yet, when the time came, motherhood came over me and I became so strong and able. My friend Melissa (a midwife) told me that you had to work just as hard and I did for you to be born. Her words and the meaning behind them pushed me to keep going, because I owed it to you.

When you were finally here I held you close and I cried and I cried. You were so little and new, yet it was like I'd known you my whole life. I never knew how incomplete life was before you. 

It's so strange how much we change when we become mothers. We can plan and anticipate what is to be, but babies and life don't follow plans all that well. In fact, when I was pregnant I set out to fit you into my busy life. I didn't want anything to change and I didn't even consider that you wouldn't fit, no matter how tiny you were. No, you changed everything and turned my world upside-down. But, from the moment I met you I was madly in love and I embraced the new journey.

Our year has been the best year of my life.

Seeing how much you change and grow is astounding. Every day it seems that there is something different or new. There is so much change in such a short time, sometimes it's hard to comprehend.

I won't lie and say that there haven't been moments that were hard, or that there were times when I just wanted to feel like myself again. Motherhood is constant. Even when you're asleep, or are in the care of someone else you are the forefront of my thoughts. I have to give you all of me because you are so small, and you still need all of me. 

But childhood is so short, and I will get myself back soon enough. 

I remember your dad telling me that this man he used to work with said to him one time "Don't ever wish your childrens' childhoods away, because one day they will be gone." 

That hit me. It hit me hard.

There have been moments when you have been hard-- crying, fussy, sick, overtired... and I found myself wishing that you'd just stop being so helpless, or I start wishing that you were just a little bigger so I could reason with you. Then I remember that this time is so short, and that I don't want to wish your childhood away. 

Tomorrow a new routine starts for us. I start back at work, and you'll be in the care of someone else. I never thought I'd feel so emotional about this, but I do. I don't want to miss anything. I know you'll be fine, but I am so scared to miss anything, including the hard moments.

I love you my girl, you are the light of my life.