Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Am I angry at God?

Most people who know me know that I am a Christian. As such, I've been asked multiple times "about my faith." This question comes in various forms, but in the end, they're all trying to get to one thing.

Am I angry at God because of Aimee's death?

The question makes complete sense. After all, I truly believe and often said that Aimee was a gift from God to me. No one likes it when our most precious gifts are taken back, do we? I also believe that God is omnipotent, and that therefore He could have saved Aimee's life. So if God could have saved Aimee and didn't, it could be argued that my loss (and the loss of so many others) is God's fault, right?

Well, I can't really say I think God is 'at fault', because to me that would imply a flaw or imperfection - that God made a mistake. And since hold to traditional Christian doctrine - that God is perfect and without flaw - the position that this is God's 'fault' doesn't work for me. But what I can say is that at that moment, as in all others, God was in control, and as such, He allowed Aimee to die that day.

My life verse, Romans 8:28, states that:
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according toHis purpose." NKJ version

Early on after Aimee's death I said that I didn't think that would mean that things would always work for my good. But that's actually contrary to what this verse says. It does in fact state clearly that all things work together for good for those that love God. That includes me.

So, let's review my beliefs to this point:
  • God does not make mistakes.
  • God was in control and allowed Aimee to die. 
  • All things will work together for good, for me and all those who love God. Now that may not be the way I envision it or hope for it, but that doesn't mean it won't be for my good.

And where does that leave me? That despite the pain I have felt over Aimee's death, someday and in some way the end result of this will be for my good. And I believe for Rowan's good as well.

And this, my friends, lies at the very heart of my recovery from this tragic ordeal. For if I could not believe that God was infallible, or if I thought God could not control events on earth, or that He did not care for me and what happens to me or to Rowan, I could not possibly have much hope for my future at all.

Does that mean I have not gotten angry at God? Well, the most part, I haven't. There have been a few brief moments, but I always come back to the three points above. That and to Job, who while suffering greatly responded to his wife's complaints, "Shall we accept good from the Lord and not the bad?" (my paraphrase).

So no, I am not angry with God. And I believe that in the next life, God in His mercy will reveal to me the breadth of the good that came from both Aimee's life and her death (like the people who are helped by this blog), and I am certain that I will not be able to argue with the perfection and beauty of God's ultimate plan.

One last thing. The above arguments apply to Aimee, too. Meaning, I sincerely believe that her death was what was best for Aimee as well. I don't know why, and never will this side of heaven, but I'm certain of it. Maybe Aimee would have gotten cancer, or had some other horrible condition or accident befall her. Maybe it would have been more than she, I, or Rowan could have borne. I don't know. All I do know is that what happened, as bad as it has been, is for the best.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nine long months, Part 2

Through his blog, I have tended more to write about the hard parts of loss and grief, with much less space dedicated to the recovery from it. Well in this post, written nine months to the day after Aimee's death, I want to write about where I am after going through nine months of grief, sadness, and above all, healing.

First, let's be clear about something: I miss Aimee. I really do. She was an amazing, special, incredible woman to everyone who knew her, and I had the honor and pleasure of knowing her more intimately than nearly anyone else. But as much as I loved her and still miss her, Aimee is not and was not my entire life, especially since Rowan was born.

Over the past nine months, I have worked on healing the gigantic hole her death left in my life. And I've done so by focusing on creating new memories, and strengthening the bond I have with my daughter. I also never tried to bottle up or push down or drown my grief, but just took deep breaths and dealt with it. And slowly but surely, I am coming into a new place of being able to find joy in life again. Joy not just in Rowan, but in my own life as well.

I know that the next few months are going to present me with some potentially horrific days. Scattering Aimee's ashes on October 25. The anniversary of her death on December 18. And, well, that entire roughly two weeks from then until the end of the year.

So as I stand here today, I am not "fully healed", whatever that might mean. I am not done feeling grief, or sadness, or loss. I will probably feel those in moments now and then for the rest of my life. Most especially when it comes to Rowan's milestones, I know I will wish that Aimee had had the chance to see them, knowing how much she absolutely adored her little one, just as I do.

But I am moving forward.

I can do so because I am strong. Not on my own, but through God who strengthens me, through the love, prayers, and support of countless people from family to strangers.. Acts of friendship and kindness of endless magnitude and tiniest measure, all held me up and gave me hope. My mental state today is the end product of all the people who have loved me and cared for me since last December 18. I owe so much that I can never hope to repay.

I am still recovering, and I still have weak moments. I sometimes struggle with loneliness, especially after having had such a wonderful marriage. I miss that fulfillment in my life. But more and more firmly each day, I place one foot in front of the other, and I walk through life.

And as I do so, I hold the hand of my little angel and bring her with me, showing her the beauty that still exists in this world, as I myself learn to see it again.

Nine long months

It's been nine months.

Winter, spring, and now summer have passed.

Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, Easter, Aimee's birthday, Rowan's birthday, our wedding anniversary, Memorial Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, 4th of July, my birthday, Justin's birthday, Donna's birthday, and Labor Day have all passed.

Rowan turned 4. And she got glasses. She also got a big-girl bed and doesn't use a pacifier anymore.

The house has closet doors and air conditioning.

My grandmother Rose passed away.

I started this blog, and to date, have written just over 100 posts. It's been visited more than 62,000 times.

Aimee's car is gone. Her clothes are in the garage, her books have been donated to Goodwill, and a few important keepsakes have been put into a memory chest for Rowan.

And her ashes, those are in a box in my room. At least until October 25.

It's been nine long months.

Most of the time, it feels like a lot longer.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rowan's meltdown tonight

It is so hard being a parent sometimes. And I think it's hardest when your little ones are hurting, and you can't take it away and bear it yourself. That's how I felt tonight.

Leading up to Rowan's bedtime, she started getting, for lack of a better word, fussy. She was whimpering, crying about little things, or even nothing, scared of everything. It was weird, but it's also becoming more common. Finally she was getting into bed, on the verge of tears, and then she grabbed a picture of Aimee and clutched it and started sobbing. Her little face had so much pain on it, more than I've ever seen before. And she kept holding the picture, sometimes looking at it ad sometimes holding to the side of her face, and she cried and cried. And I held her and stroked her hair and kissed her teary cheeks, but I couldn't really make her feel any better. It was so hard.

It went on for several minutes before she finally started to calm down a bit, and I continued to just hold her, occasionally telling her I was sorry her mommy was gone, and that I missed her too. I so badly wanted to promise her I'd always be there for her, but I know I can't make that promise, because I know that some day, out of the blue, something might happen to me as well. I don't want Rowan to be filled with anger at me for breaking that promise.
This is a picture Rowan recently
drew of her and Aimee. Rowan
is in the pink (big surprise).

Like I said, this is becoming more common for her, although tonight's meltdown was the worst yet. I did re-start her visits with a childhood grief counselor, and I think we'll continue with those visits again for some time. It's amazing in a way, because Aimee has now already been gone for nearly a quarter of Rowan's life, but that bond between mother and child is so strong, that I know that decades from now, Rowan will still have moments where she wishes her mother was still alive.

Lately I've been having thoughts like maybe I don't want to get remarried again, at least not for a long time. I think to myself, "I got this. I can raise Rowan without anyone's help." And the fact is I could. I mean c'mon, LOTS of single parents raise kids and do it well. Even dads. It's not like I'm a pioneer here. And when I think about how hard it might be to find someone that fits in all the ways we need them to in this family, it feels daunting, and I think "To hell with it, I'll do it myself."

But then Rowan has a night like this, and I think that even though she will ALWAYS miss her mommy, it would be great for her of she had someone in that role she could look up to, and be comforted by, and then I completely turn around and feel like I want to go out right now and start interviewing candidates like I'm hiring for a job or something.

I know, I'm a bit insane at time. Loving your child does that to you. A healthy dose of loneliness doesn't help.

At the point I do date again (I haven't yet), I hope to be able to push all of this out of my head, and just get to know the women I'm out with. As badly as I want Rowan to have a mother at times like this - and I won't lie to you, I sure wouldn't mind having someone in my life again as well - I know full well the cost of getting this wrong is far too high for the benefit of just having 'someone'  here. I want Rowan to have the 'right' mom, and for me, the 'right' wife. And of course, I want to be a great husband and continue trying to be a great father.

And as we go, I'll keep holding Rowan and wishing I could take the pain away that seems so big for such a little girl to have to bear.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Journey to Tragedy

I don't know why, but over the last couple of months I've thought a lot about the series of events that ultimately led to Aimee's death. I don't mean just the decision to go scuba diving that day and the series of things that happened on the boat, I mean over the course of months or even longer. Many of those events have no direct bearing on Aimee's actual death, yet they all led to it. Here's what I mean.

May, 2006: Aimee and I are on our honeymoon, a Caribbean cruise. Among the stops and excursions we enjoy, one of the offerings is your choice of a snorkeling outing or scuba diving. Aimee tells me she'd love to go scuba diving, but the cost is pretty high, and the location doesn't seem to offer much, so we both opt for the snorkeling instead (I would have picked that anyway, as I had no desire to go scuba diving at that point).

November 2010: Donna's father Don dies. She inherits, among many other things, his car. She doesn't need it or want it, and both my and Aimee's cars were getting up there in miles, so she gives it to us.

December 19, 2010: Aimee's father Terry dies after a battle with cancer. Although he'd lived most of his life in Indiana, we had moved him and Donna close to us during the last few months of his life so that Aimee could be a better support to them during this time.

Spring, 2011: Conversations begin between Aimee, Donna, and Justin about how to recognize the anniversary of Terry's death when it comes around in December 2011. If I remember correctly, Florida is offered as an option because the family had vacationed there during Aimee's childhood, and it held good memories for them. It was also a place Terry had enjoyed visiting. And most importantly, it wasn't here, as the family had decided the last place they wanted to be on that sad anniversary was in the town where he passed away.

July 2011: After a long battle of finding documents and filling out paperwork, the car inherited from Aimee's grandfather is finally in our ownership. We decide to keep Aimee's car and sell mine. The timing means that I can use the proceeds from the sale of my car to purchase plane tickets for us to go to Florida in December, which I do soon after the car is sold.

Summer 2011: A vacation house in the Florida Keys is selected as the place where we'll stay during our time there. Divided amongst the three households, the cost is relatively affordable for the eight day stay. Excitement about the trip begins to build.
Aimee on a date night the night
before we left for Florida. When
I took this, I had no idea she'd
be dead eight days later.

December 11, 2011: Late in the evening, Aimee, Rowan, and I arrive at Donna's house to pick her up to go to the airport for our red-eye flight to Miami. Not surprisingly, Donna is not ready. What is surprising is that Aimee and I completely switched our typical roles, with me patiently helping her finish packing while Aimee fumed. It was surreal, until you realized that Aimee was hungry and she didn't do especially well when she hadn't eaten.

December 12, 2011: We arrive in Miami, tired as hell but otherwise none the worse for the wear. After breakfast at IHOP we begin the drive down to the Keys. Everyone falls asleep except me (I was driving). We spend part of the time listening to the CD I had bought Aimee as an early Christmas present, Adele's "21". The songs on this CD are now forever linked to this trip.

Throughout this week, Justin and Caroline go scuba diving several times, including on Saturday, December 17. Aimee discusses her desire to go, and they encourage her to consider giving it a try. She and I also discuss it, with me also encouraging her. Additionally, we talk about me also going, since I'd somewhat warmed up to the idea after five and half years. However, I hadn't gotten to the point of really wanting to go, and then there was the matter of cost, so we remained undecided, ultimately, until the morning of December 18.

December 18, 2011: If you want a full account of this day, as seen from my point of view, you can read this post. Let me just say here that I decided to stay with Rowan while Aimee went diving, and that probably was the one saving grace in that horrible day.

She died at roughly 3:15 in the afternoon.

So many events and details, seemingly unrelated, but which all in one way or another were part of the road to the tragedy we experienced on December 18. Like I said at the beginning: I don't know why this has been on my mind, but it has.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to Florida?

Someday, either I or Rowan may want
to revisit these waters off the coast
of Florida
Back in May, I was struggling with how I wanted to recognize the one year anniversary of Aimee's death, even though it was still about seven months away at the time. I wrote a post here (Dilemma - I'd like advice) asking what people thought of my idea, which was to go back to Florida, charter a boat to take me to the place where she died, and scatter flowers on the water there. This seemed to be how I felt led to recognize that event, but ultimately what I wanted or needed was a ceremonial act of closure. I felt like I needed to do something to 'finish this chapter' and begin the next one. And as of June and into July, I'd about 99% made up my mind that I was going to go.

Then in late July, as I was realizing how hard it would be and how incredibly powerful and symbolic it was going to feel to scatter Aimee's ashes (Letting go of Aimee... literally) it occurred to me that I would have that act of closure then, on that mountaintop. And the more I thought about how that was going to feel, the less I felt like I needed to go to Florida and recognize the anniversary of Aimee's death there.

To be certain, I will do something on December 18, and Rowan will be part of that. Others may be also. And I know that at some point in the future I may again feel the need to go back to Florida, or maybe when Rowan gets older she might want me to take her. I don't know. What I do know is that for now, I am no longer feeling the need to go there myself at this time (thankfully).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Finding mommy

For the last eight-plus months, I've been working towards being the best single parent I can be. For me, that means trying to figure out how and when to be mommy vs. being daddy. Knowing when to be a problem solver or protector, versus a listener or comforter. And of course getting all the 'mommy' stuff done plus the 'daddy' stuff as well. It's not that I think each parent doesn't play all of these roles, but, at least on our family, typical gender roles were more or less the norm. That meant that when Aimee died, I felt like I needed to find my own inner mommy.

It's been a journey, that's for sure.

But I think I'm starting to get a little of what it can feel like at times. I took Rowan out of town for the weekend for some daddy/daughter bonding time. We got back earlier this evening, and tomorrow she starts back up at her preschool. This is what my evening was like, both in my head and what I actually did. Does this sound familiar to you parents, especially single ones?

Rowan is excited about the
"Disney princess" lip gloss I
let her get.
Pulling in the driveway. Mind flashing to what food was in the fridge and cupboards when I left. Do I have dinner? Do I have what I need for Rowan's lunches this week or even tomorrow? No. Need a store run. Better prepare Rowan now before we even get out of the car, since I know she won't want to get back in the car after the four hours we just spent in it. "Hey, Rowan? We're going to have to run to the store in a little bit after I get the car unloaded. OK, honey?" Expected groan from the back seat. "It'll be a quick trip to the store, then we'll go out to eat." Expected uptick in response to that - Rowan like to go out to eat, just like me. OK, dog's out of the car, Rowan's unbuckled, trunk is popped open, bags, suitcases, guitar all loaded on my arms. Door open, Rowan's TV show on so I can unload and put away things quickly. Dirty clothes tossed towards washer. Call to mom, yes, we're home, had fun, lots to do. Reload Rowan into the car. Safeway - lunch meat, cheese, small veggies easily packed for lunches. OK, check, head for restaurant. Dinner, no hope at getting her to eat something healthy tonight, but almost never any healthy options on kids menus anyway. Back home, Rowan's now in the tub, load of laundry started. Back to the bathroom to wash her hair, get her out, dry her off. Clean jammies on and back to the couch to watch a show before bed (normally she only gets one show in the morning and one before bed - the electronic babysitter earlier is a rare exception). I watch with her as a brief break, but also because I need to brush her hair out after her bath, plus learn how to talk like these characters because she WILL ask me to do so soon. Show over, brushing teeth, and glad I paid attention to show because sure enough I've suddenly been conscripted to role play as Captain Hook and his sidekick Smee from the Disney Jr. show we just watched. Meanwhile teeth are clean and now settling in to read stories, say our prayer, and lights out. Straight back to kitchen, do dishes (good LORD I should have done some of these before I left and NOT left them soaking because the smell is nasty). Kitchen finally clean and I start making Rowan's lunch, pause to put clothes in dryer and start new load. Back to Rowan's room to check on her - she's fast asleep so I kiss her head and go back to the kitchen to finish making her lunch. Clothes out of the dryer, wet clothes in the dryer, now... um, ok, now I can sit down and write a blog post. But quickly. It's now after midnight, and I have to get up early. I want to make sure we have plenty of time to get ready and get the new school year off to a good start. Oh, except I still need to fold these clothes and put them away...

Deep breath.

Like I said, sound familiar, parents?

When I spoke to my mom earlier, I said to her that this is one of the times I miss having a spouse from a purely logistical standpoint. But even when I said it, I knew I could and would get everything done. Single parenting is as old as time, and LOTS of people have done as well or better with a lot less to work with. It's just that for whatever reason, women seem to do this better than men, or maybe that's just my perception (not the necessarily kid-raising part, I mean the planning, organizing, getting all this crap done part). At any rate, it's taken me some time to get the hang of this, but I'm getting there.

And as I hinted at earlier, it's not just getting all the tasks done. I'm getting better at figuring out when to turn male-brain off and turn female-brain on. "Oh, she doesn't want me to tell her she fell down because she wasn't watching where she was going or that if her friend upset her she should find better friends. She just wants me to hold her, stroke her hair, kiss her forehead, empathize with her, and make her feel better. OK, I can do that..." I'm trying to figure out the finer points of putting outfits together so that when all of this sudden this matters to her, I'm ready. And I notice cute girl clothes in the stores now (and when they're on sale). I converse with sitters and teachers about her care and her current mental state. I bring home books from the library, some that teach moral lessons and some that are just fun. I role play with her, and as such I voice characters from TV shows and movies, sip 'tea' at tea parties (water I sincerely hope is from the bathroom SINK), or make her toy unicorns fly through the air and guide them through an adventure to rescue a princess from an evil witch. And lastly, when her voice is breaking and she's telling me that she's just really sad because she misses her mommy right now, I hold her close and I tell her I miss mommy too. And I wish I could soak the pain right out of her and into myself so that she didn't have to bear this huge burden on her little shoulders.

Because that's what mommies (and daddies) do.