I just love the innocence and sweetness of little girls and their conversations. We are visiting friends in florida for the week. Their little girl, Shaylyn, is a couple of months older than Anniston and I could listen like a mouse in the corner for hours, watching them dress-up in their 500th princess gown and dance the night away. A new room of dress-up costumes has consumed Anniston on this trip. Tonight, we went to the park with our friends. The following conversation is exactly why I’d like to bottle this little girl’s voice, innocence, and sweetness into a little bottle so I can hear it for the rest of my life. She is so sweet!
Shaylyn: “look, the moon is smiling at us.”
Annie: “oh Shaylyn, that’s my Grantie smiling at us”
They continued to walk in silence staring at this beautiful sky.
The frigid temperatures have been the subject of just about every conversation lately. You go to the store, on the phone, talk with a close friend or someone you barely know and the cold temps will definitely be a part of the conversation. For me this weather chills me straight to the bone and has begun to make me crabby. I have to remind myself that any temperature I feel is a feeling I should embrace because it means I’m alive and on that note I need to remind myself I’m blessed.
This morning on my way into Minneapolis I was at a stop light and couldn’t help but giggle at what I think was a younger man. This person was so bundled up I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or girl. In fact his hood was pulled up so tight I couldn’t even see a face. It was a pleasantly long light this morning because it is moments like this that distract me (good or bad). I seem to find a message in some of the most random things in life, something I never really did before losing Grant. For me it is a feeling of his presence. Maybe some would say otherwise but I find myself seeking these messages out like I never did before. Most of the time in my mind, sometimes even out loud, I find myself asking Grant what I should learn from whatever scenario I am pondering on or that that took my attention away. Whether it’s something that makes me cry or something on a cold morning like today that makes me giggle all the way to work I ponder about the message.
Mornings can be hard; another day waking up to reality. The everyday routine of getting ready, pouring my bucket of coffee just to repeat the same mundane commute to work but with an emptiness I will never fill in the same way, seems so tiring, especially in a winter that’s been this long. So anything in the present that reminds me of Grant, even if it means something as simple as a message, I feel his presence with me.
So back to the stop light and bundled up young man at the stop light. As I was slowing down for this light I could see this guy just dancing away, not just shifting his feet a bit, this guy was dancing like he had just won a lottery. Whatever the music was playing in his ears put him in a happier place or just a place that helped keep him physically warm by dancing. As I approached the light, I sat there watching him, my thoughts went from negative to a full blown giggle. He just kept on dancing. My first thought was, “he’s crazy” then…the messages started to flow… I could think negative about this situation, thinking he was weird or out of his right mind. Just as he could have felt negative about standing out on the corner of a busy street waiting for a bus watching all of us leisurely sitting in our warm cars complaining about getting stopped at once again another red light. The message that worked its way into my mind was that he’s finding and embracing whatever pleasure he can in the miserable situation he was in because baby it was cold outside, -12 on my odometer. And he still made whatever the situation he was in as joyful as possible.
I thought about this all day at work for a lot of reasons. God and Grant both know, along with several other people, I have been whining and whining about the weather and how cold it’s been. Being I have two wedding this weekend with temps not looking anywhere above 0 has been making me cringe. But this morning was my message that this weekend was something to look forward to, cold or not. I worry about my hair and the thought of wearing a hat. That young guy dancing at the bus stop reminded me that it isn’t my big day and that my job is important to someone and well… just wear the hat, no one cares what my hair looks like and if I feel cold…. just dance.
Thank you Grant for opening my eyes, helping me grow and always reminding me that it’s true …if I just listen I realize just how close he is. I Love you to the moon and beyond, Mama
Most religious quotes I read I find a bit of peace and calm…. For me I believe social media has been a way to send a message of hope to someone. In living a life where you have felt defeated you find yourself trying to find understanding in some of the messages that tug at your heart and in many cases you find the reminder that God is Love and that God loves you. While many of these messages have given me hope I also believe that they are not all quite what God intended. Trust me I am the last to raise my hand with the right answer in any room full of people but sometimes there are messages that haunt me and leave me with a feeling of being defeated. While struggling with Grant’s addiction I had faith that God would heal, strengthen and cure this disease. I read quotes that lead me to believe that Grant was strong and brave and he wouldn’t be given this fight unless he was able to overcome. I had faith. I prayed hard. I believed and had hope. Just as Grant had faith…
I don’t think anyone had more faith than Grant. As much heart ache, shame and many days of feeling defeated he may have endured he always had hope. I remember the day and the very place (the corner of Hanson and 10) where those ocean blue eyes looked into mine. For those who knew Grant knew he always looked you in the eyes when he was serious about something and shame didn’t change that. We were at a stop light and he looked over at me and said “the only thing that’s going to get me through this hell is God.”
I will be the first to admit that I struggle with a lot of these messages that promise us hope. It took me a long time to truly understand that God does not give us pain. He does not intend for us to struggle. He does not want us to suffer. I don’t believe God took Grants life. I don’t believe God struck him with addiction. I don’t believe God intended for him to fight and suffer. My God, the God that Grant fell on his knees to repeatedly was a loving and compassionate God. Grant’s God didn’t give him this battle to fight… earth gave Grant this battle to fight. Grant’s battle on this earth is no more or less shameful than the sins we hide in our closets. We all have a fight to fight, maybe a different, less publicized one, but in the end we all stand before God without scrolls of shame and sins, but to open arms because we knew Christ and we believed.
I don’t even want to start on some of these messages because I could go on for hours about how these had given me hope at a time in my life and then disappointed me when I thought God had let me down. I misunderstood the message or they weren’t written to be perfectly clear on what they really meant. My take-away on these is this: God is Love. He loves us. He loves us! He LOVES US… he doesn’t cause or give pain; he is not cruel and mean. He doesn’t ignore prayers because you just happen to be able to handle the tough stuff. Our earth is evil, Satan has caused sin to be powerful within this world. The world is full of disease, sadness, despair, burdens and grief. There is hope…. Eternal life. There is a day where we will no longer suffer. Trust in Him and remember he loves us. This earth will give us more than we can handle, those are the moments we must turn to God.
I met with a group of moms a few weeks ago; most I did not know, some of which I had seen in passing a few times but never knew their life story, and a couple I knew a little better. The conversation started by sharing a little about ourselves, what had gone on within the week, the ups and downs of life. The conversation started our pretty light, similar to almost any conversation that is had by a group of women who don’t know one another very well. This light conversation quickly led into a deeper one when one woman started sharing about the loss of her mother and how it had been a difficult few months. Within seconds this conversation made me suddenly realized that I am not alone. While sitting with this group of women I learned that one had recently lost her mother, another it was her son, another lost her unborn baby. I also learned that in this group of women three of the four who had grown children had one or more who struggled with addiction. Immediately I felt at home, I felt safe, and I felt less alone. It is amazing about what you learn when you take the time to hear someone’s story. My church has recently encouraged us to listen to one another stories and I’ve thought really long and hard about this and how I can be a better friend. While I sat I in this group I thought I should apply the church practice. I consider myself to be a more introverted person so this can sometimes be difficult for me. I tend to answer questions of “how are you” with a “I’m good” for fear that the other person would press harder if I said “I’m okay” or if I was even more truthful and said, “honestly…. I am sad, angry, depressed, am having troubles lately, or [insert other adjective].” Not sure I could even imagine the surprise on someone’s face if I wondered the grocery store and gave one of those answers to the produce guy stacking the product. Imagine that scenario! I do have to say though when it’s a friend I am sure they would rather you express how you really feel and get it off your chest. If you say, “I’m good” I am sure they take it for what it’s worth and think you’re good. We are all pretty good, I think especially those who have lost a piece of their heart by losing someone so special in their lives that months or years prior could not have imagined going on with life without them, at putting on a good front. To be honest? Over two years later… do you want to know what grief looks like? Grief looks like this:
- You are reminded over and over again, every minute of every day that you’ve lost the very person that you lived life for. And every time you remind yourself that they are gone it is as if you heard it for the first time. ** Every day that I have to remind myself that this is our reality I am reminded of a story that Grant once told me. He worked for a man who had dementia (his short term memory was completely gone) and was told that each morning when the man would wake up he needed to tell him that he was retired and that his wife had passed away. Grant was just heartbroken at the day to day response that would leave this man feeling hopeless and grieved of the loss of his love and thought there had to be a better plan. One day Grant decided that enough was enough and today would be the day he’d just omit the loss of his wife part. He wasn’t going to lie, he just thought maybe if I don’t recite this paperwork perfectly his day could maybe be saved. He saved this man one day of living in this deep sadness. They spent the afternoon different than every other afternoon. It was spent in chatting about his life, playing a game and having a peaceful lunch. By afternoon nap the man’s memory had been lost again and the story would have to be again recited. I honor Grant for giving this man, even if it may have only been four hours, it was four hours that he was not haunted by this incredible sadness. He borrowed him a few hours of his life back.
- You aren’t content staying at home, but you’re tired of keeping yourself busy. ** Home makes you lonely. It reminds you that someone is missing slamming the cupboards shut, dirtying the dishes, and walking on the carpet with his shoes (even if it were in a tip toe sort of manner.) Well, I’d take a dirty house back any day. And, keeping yourself busy is expensive… enough said!
- A day may seem to be going okay for the most part but somehow a stranger says something stupid and it throws the whole day into one you’d like to do over. ** Reminder to myself that those who have not lost someone they love can say some of the dumbest things… I have to accept that. I wish that I didn’t have to go through this life lesson to learn this. I am sensitive; something you could have said sarcastically two and a half years ago will affect me differently now. I am human, and I am sensitive, and I don’t know how to help the way I react to certain things. I apologize that this has changed me as a person and I wish I could have a do-over. A do-over where I could be the naïve person who hasn’t had the life experience to allow me to write this list.
- You tell yourself that you can’t write another blog post because you feel like you’re saying the same thing over and over again. ** This is what I say: Keep writing, keep telling it, keep saying the same thing because your story matters. A new person may enter your blog world and the one thing that you keep saying may be the one thing that makes her not feel alone. We need to know that we are not alone. And if writing makes you feel better then do it!
- You find yourself at a table of women, women of a variety of ages and are floored at how they can affect you in a way that no other person or therapy group could have. You are reminded that your story matters and that everyone has a story to tell. I walked out of this group being told I was a blessing and that my story allowed someone to heal just a little bit that day.
- This list could go on and on about what grief looks like, and I’ll probably continue to write this list over and over and post it on this blog in some fashion or another… because our story matters and I care enough about the next person going through loss to let them know they are not alone.
My 50th…. Never could I have imagined I would be a half a century old without Grant, never could I have imagined he would be gone from me. I have thought a lot about turning 50; reminding myself that Grant wouldn’t be here to relentlessly tease me about being over the hill. I can hear his laughter as he would have awaken me with that gut belly laugh that I can still hear as if it’s in the same room as me, repeating over and over “you’re 50 Mom… Oh my God, you’re 50!” He would have spoiled me with a FULL FAT menu and so kindly reminded me I was Hot for fifty… just to embarrass me.
I wish I didn’t have to turn anything without Grant by my side. I still can’t imagine growing old without him. I decided to write about turning 50 the day before maybe so in some sort of imaginary mind I could pretend all day tomorrow he was here. I think for those who have lost a loved one you have an understanding that the only way to get through the day sometimes is to imagine they are as present on earth as they are in your heart. Grant lives in me… He lives in Steve and the girls and I even see a bit of him shine through those who knew and loved him.
I feel blessed to have been able to live almost 48 years without tragedy in my life. I never knew what deep sadness felt like until losing Grant. Steve and I are blessed to still walk this earth with our parents and siblings. Losing our child was not a fair place to start. I grieve for my loss but I also grieve for the pain and suffering it has caused Steve and the girls. None of us could have anticipated growing a year older without him.
For 28 years I took care of my children, making sure they were safe at night, praying for health and happiness. At age 48 that role flip-flopped. Not only did the girls grieve the loss of their baby brother they had to grieve the loss of their parents’ breaking hearts. They knew that the 4 of them were Steve and my world. Sarah, Chelsey and Karmin didn’t deserve to say good-bye to the boy they mothered by my side, they didn’t deserve to plan a funeral for their little buddy, they didn’t deserve to mother their mother … but they did. I’m not sure how but I believe that God and Grant gave them the strength to do what he knew I couldn’t. So on my 50th birthday I will celebrate the amazing children and husband I have. They have been my rock, my pillow of tears, they have gifted me with comfort, love and the strength that I thought I could never have again. Turning fifty without our Grant is hard; but celebrating fifty with Steve and the girls makes life worth celebrating. Grant would have wanted that. He would have proudly placed and lit each candle on my cake. Grant will be present in our celebrations… I will imagine he will find a way to make me laugh, just to comfort me, he will find a way to dance with me… to somehow glide me through the day. He would have lifted me high and spun me around… I will forever miss him.
Happy Birthday to me. I still miss you….
On December 21st at about 12:50 in the morning the phone rang loud waking me from a sweet dream. The chime rang loud in my ear. For days I had been excited that this call would come. I kept my phone next to me waiting to hear the musical notes informing that a new life was making her way into this world.
To start off, I will tell you about my dream because I think it brings a little bit of Grant’s humor to the big exciting event. I also like it because it seems that so many have dreams of Grant and for me they come few and far between. For so long I wished and wished he’d join me in my dreams. So as short as this one was I still had to remember every moment of it as part of the welcoming of our new family addition. So, my dream on December 21st was of me talking to Grant. It was a very short conversation but all I remember was a white cooler like box sitting in the entry area of our Brooklyn Park home. I remember walking up the stairs saying “Grant don’t leave your things at the bottom of the stairs.” I looked at him at the top of the stairs with his big smile and he was eating a Jimmy John’s sandwich. This is the moment where my phone woke me up to Matt saying Chelsey’s water broke. Chelsey, as many of you know is known for a very speedy delivery. When Greta was born, three years ago, the hallway and triage table is where she decided to make her arrival. No epidural, Matt in the parking lot, and Benny in the elevator watching his mommy in excruciating pain. So as you can imagine there were several very excited family members rushing their way to Mercy hospital praying they didn’t miss the arrival of our little miracle. This time we were not going to miss it! I threw on whatever clothes were nearest me and ran out the door!
Dan took watch over Chelsey’s sleeping kids as Karmin and I speeded our way to the hospital. Sarah rushed through the doors just as we did still in her ugly Christmas sweater!
Grant was with us on December 21st when Holly Lu made her arrival into the world safe and sound not even 45 minutes after the phone call. I know Grant knew her and held her safe and sound for us. I like to think she is a little gift from Grant and that he held her first. I had thought for some time even though she was due in January that she would be our Christmas gift. I think Grant would have wanted our family to have some happy and a little piece of heaven in the middle of what has been a very sad month for us. Grant wanted us to be happy and find joy because I know our sadness over the holidays would make him sad. Someone, a while back told Chelsey that there’s something extra special about this baby. She has truly delivered a message from heaven; about new life and happiness, joy and love. I know Grant begged God for this gift to us.
We continue to laugh about how “freaky fast” the Topeff babies make their arrival. So the Jimmy John’s sandwich from my dream only seemed appropriate! Many of us hoped that Holly Lu would come early, and join us for Christmas and our wishes came true. Her name came from Grant’s love for the song Hallelujah. We continue to sing praises for the joy she has brought to our lives. She is truly a gift from God.
hallelujah (definition): an exclamation of worship or a call to praise “Praise ye the Lord.”
The kids and I love listening to this Jimmy John’s commercial… Enjoy!
A few days ago I was blessed with another memory I didn’t know I had even forgotten. I was at Target and who would have known; Not only did I find a few fun Christmas items for 70% off, but I left the store with a memory of Grant that may have stayed in the forgotten file of the precedent. I heard a familiar soft voice from the past say, “hello, Kim”, from behind. We had our small talk, but this unexpected encounter was a gift. In our conversation he mentioned his son was going to be a teenager. For most this mention would have the response of Oh how nice or other light-hearted ‘approaching the teen years’ comments. For me, that one single comment brought back an entire day for me. I remember when their bundle of joy was about to be born. Shortly before I remember a day Steve and I spent with our Grant 13 years ago. I may not have remembered… I may have forgotten about this day… A friendly hello, a comment, a trip to Target was a gift. Not of merchandise, not something that came home in a bag; but the gift of a day… An entire day spent with my boy. People may sometimes think it’s uncomfortable to talk to a bereaving parent especially when it’s been a long period of time or the only time since the loss. I understand their loss of words to say. I see it in their face… Sometimes I find myself ducking and running just for their sake because I know it’s hard to know how to have small talk unexpectedly especially with me. I’ve been there and I do understand. To be honest, there could be a whole book written about “What to Expect from a Bereaved Parent” because you never know what to expect. Maybe what the book should really be titled is “What NOT to Expect from a Bereaved Parent”. I will never apologize for my behavior while I grieve. I will apologize for the feelings I have hurt. I know I have… I would only ask for understanding. I have hurt deeper than I ever thought possible… Some days I thought I’d loss all dignity; crying, endless blubbering, cursing the heavens, and time after time a sleeve full of snot. I’ve allowed myself to do whatever I needed to feel better. I guess dignity would be waking up a whole person, not in maintaining appearance. often at the end of a long work day I’ve exhausted all the energy I have, but I do want people to know/understand. All the beautiful cards, thoughtful voice mails and messages, kind meaningful words of encouragement meant more than you will ever know. In fact, there were so many I found myself reading without replying. Sometimes it’s hard to respond, but they were the strength I needed to get through many days. So my book would read… Expect nothing from the bereaved… They’re reading it… they’re listening!!! It’s what is getting them though the day. It just hurts so much and it’s hard to respond. I have no regrets for how I handle grief. It’s not something always in your control. Loving and reaching out to someone who has lost a child or a loved one is sometimes a one way message, but a message that matters. Conversations, small talk, walking down memory lane; these moments matters. Any small talk about Grant matters to me. You may have a memory of him that I never knew or had forgotten. That’s a gift… The greatest gift I could be given. What I could only wish for my 50th birthday gift is 50 memories of my Grant; which would be the best gift I could ever ask for. A simple trip to Target was a gift. Thank you, Scott. You gave me a day… a memory I can treasure.
What do you do on an anniversary of the saddest day of your life? There is no answer and nothing to ease the memory of the somewhat ‘warm’, to Minnesota standards, December day. The light snow and smell of the cool air rushes back the memories of the stabbing pain. Today hurts like any other, but the sting on December 3, 2011 of that sharp blade to the heart is so fresh in my memory. I feel it like it was only moments ago, but somehow the instant sting lessens and the numbness, rehabilitation and scarring remains every day. I try to hold onto my memories of Grant and create new ones with those I love so dearly. Since day one of the month approached I thought about how I should spend this sad day. I desperately wanted to sleep through it as I did days following the horrid news. I remembered hysterically crying myself to exhaustion to the point where I slept hour upon hour; Waking from another nightmare and crying myself back to complete exhaustion in a constant cycle. I re-lived the news in my dreams so often I couldn’t even count. My eyes were so puffy I could hardly see and I swallowed so much air through my gasps that I made myself sick. I got to a point of being so weak I couldn’t cry anymore and my whales of cries became tearless… I cried out every last tear in me. I hear sometimes people think I am so strong. I’d like to say that is true. I am actually weak… Really weak, but you can only cry so much. I remember by the time Grant’s wake approached almost a week after his passing I couldn’t even cry. I was so weary and I just couldn’t do it anymore. As time passed I had to teach myself not to cry; How to get through a story without the tears rushing down… How to get through a song… How to eat french toast as I did moments before I heard the news… How to see his smile and smirk in pictures… How to hear his voice and laughter… How to dream of him without sobbing myself awake.
I woke on December 3, 2013 with a few tears as I reached for my phone with the reminder of the date at the top of my screen. I wasn’t going to celebrate the day, but I wasn’t going to ignore it either… I was going to live it. I picked up Mom and we brought B-Dub and Ashton McDonald’s and ate lunch with them. Of course, the hot lunch menu option when we arrived was french toast… I think I have only had french toast once in the past two years and with my first bite I remembered I swore I couldn’t eat it again. The aroma of maple syrup is something I will never forget… We all have scents that conjure up memories with a vivid force no other sense can match… Mine is maple syrup.
Following lunch Mom and I picked up Benny and Greta to go on a non-planned adventure. Let’s see where the day takes us and head towards St. Paul. We told the kids we were going to a magical place and we did… I didn’t know how magical at the time. We ended up seeing the ice rink in rice park and with one mentioning of it Benny wanted to try it so badly and I wasn’t going to stop him. We tied up the first set of skates ever to touch their feet. This was a big moment for them; a milestone in their life. I held Benny’s hands and was his full support as he stepped on the ice with determination. He was going to do this and I could have not been more proud. Just like how I feel in my grief; with each fall you get back up and keep going. Sometimes you stumble and sometimes you fall hard. With practice and time you glide with more grace, but you do know that you might plunge again and that is OK. Even the best skaters fall and the better you get the more complex things tend to get. I had to remind the kids that they were going to get better and better with more practice. They would know what to do as they learn… My reflection of the day helped me realize that falling in life can’t make you give up on the rest of the adventure. The adventure may be long and some days I wish I had a river I could skate away on, but the adventure is easier when you have the hands of family and friends holding you up.
“Faster Daddy, Faster!” screamed the kids as we whirled round and round on the Mad Hatter Teacups at Magic Kingdom this last week. All five of us sat in this tiny teacup that I had waited all day to ride. A few years ago Karmin, Mom and Grant took a trip to Disney World and I promised to take the kids on their favorite ride at our first trip to Disney. I have an image in my head of the exact teacup that Grant sat in. Recalled from the photo that was taken of them I knew that we too would ride the white cup with teal décor. I stood in line plotting out my plan of attack, praying that nobody would steal my teacup. Grant’s teacup. As soon as the line grew shorter and I was ready to make my move, people swirled all around me, running to their favorite teacup. I ran, losing the rest of my family, but so excited to put my hands on this memory. As I sat there gathering the kids, taking their picture, I wished I had the joy of taking this ride with Grant. I closed my eyes for just a second to pretend I was back in 2008. Reminding myself I have to soak up the now I held my camera out and let it snap. I remember Weston saying to Anniston, “Keep your eyes on me. You won’t get dizzy if you keep looking at me.” As the ride started Weston took the wheel and whirled us round and round as fast as we could go. I have never twirled so fast. The kids’ laughter was priceless and I vow I will never forget the sound of those giggles. We twirled. We laughed. As soon as the ride was over we hopped off dizzy from all of the twirling. Ashton even fell into a bush! As I sat back to catch my breath from all of the laughing and get my head on straight I couldn’t help but think of the song, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” It reminded me that the twirling of life can sometimes cause us to stumble, maybe fall into a bush, or a dark hole, experience sadness, or a deep depression. We need to remember to let our Father take the wheel and to keep our eyes on him as it is the only way to get through this life. If we can remind ourselves to sit back and trust that our Father will always take care of us our lives will be changed. We may not understand what peaks, dips, and twirls will come but we must trust that we will make it through this life and the ultimate goal is spending eternal life with our loved ones. Don’t close your eyes; keep your eyes on the Father, and soak up the now. Knowing that there will be struggle and there will be pain, enjoy the giggles in life. For today leave the laundry pile and dishes behind and be kind, share a laugh, give a kiss, whisper I love you, show someone how much you care for them; for we don’t know what tomorrow may bring.
“Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I’m on
Jesus take the wheel”
Carrie Underwood – http://youtu.be/lydBPm2KRaU