Archive for category Thoughts

Moving

Its been official for over two months now, but I haven’t been able to write about it.  I’ve accepted a new job and we have to relocate. We’re moving…

We will leave this apartment that we’ve lived in for the past six years, the place which Kiran came home to when he was born, the place he left to go to the hospital when he died, the only home he knew.   I remember the first week after he died, my impulse was to leave the apartment immediately, to run away from it all, imagining that that would somehow help us cope.

I’m glad we stayed now.  Sometimes there is great comfort in just being in the space where he used to run around, to sit where we would sit and play.  Sometimes, sitting in his room, the feelings are overwhelming and I can’t stop crying until I leave.   As another grieving parent told us – there are booby traps all over the house.  And they seem to change all the time – things that trigger fond remembrances today, bring the world crashing down tomorrow.

We still have Kiran’s stuff all around us – his clothes are still in his dresser and his toys are all over the house.  A lot of his space is as he left it.  Right now I can still sit in the rocker by his bed and remember the feel of him lying on me as I used to pick him up in the mornings and we’d rock and sometimes sing as the cobwebs rolled away and he woke to take on the new day.  But now we have to prepare to pack it all up.  This configuration of space will be no more.  Maybe it should have ended earlier.  I don’t know.

Our new home will be a place where Kiran never walked, but I’ve already started to picture him running around the house there.  He’s moving too.  He will be with us always.

Sleep trouble

Sleep is one of my favorite things in the world. My mother claims I took two naps a day until I was in kindergarten. She called me her little sleeper. Since Kiran died sleep has been very difficult. Often as I am drifting off to sleep I will remember a moment of the night he died, and my eyes will SNAP open, like I have been slapped hard in the face. I have to get out of bed, force myself to do other things until I can’t help but fall asleep. Sometimes the cycle happens a few times in a night.

Much of days before Kiran died are off limits to me. I actively avoid thinking about it. In my head it’s almost like a movie I saw once. I can recall the details if I want to, but I have to focus on it. It’s no wonder these memories flood me at my most vulnerable, the precious moments before sleep.

I have learned to function on less sleep, and to appreciate moments of distraction. I still want to nap twice a day, but it’s clear those days are over.

Mother’s Day

Well, this year was better than last year. Sekhar’s b-day is always close by so it adds an element of difficulty to this period of time. Last year we just pretended that his b-day and mother’s day didn’t exist. We simply ignored it. It didn’t really work. It was awful.

This year I want to give thanks to my own mom. You’d think I would be a better daughter after losing my own child. But, no. I am no great prize. My mom gets the full brunt of my emotions, and she still calls the next day to make sure I am ok. It is important to recognize Kiran’s death hasn’t only changed mine and Sekhar’s lives.

I also want to take a moment to be thankful that I had the great luck to be Kiran’s mom, albeit short. I like to think he picked us to be his parents. I have said it before, but it bears saying again, I am a better person for having known him. When I think something is difficult I remember the openness and perseverance of my boy. He was a gift.

Unbelievable

When Kiran died I knew that it was the worst thing that could happen to us. I knew that there was nothing that would ever compare. I naively thought that nothing could rattle me after his death. Of course bad things have happened since and probably will happen in the future. I was wrong that they wouldn’t impact me. I think in some ways my sensitivity might be higher. Sekhar didn’t just get hit by a car, Sekhar got hit by a car and Kiran is dead. I don’t just have a cold, I have a cold and my son is dead (no, not always but sometimes).

So you can imagine the reaction when I try to e-file our tax return only to find it is rejected because someone else has already filed using our dependent’s social security number. Seriously? Some piece of crap out there has used Kiran’s social security number on their tax return? Have they opened credit cards? earned wages?

So, for all of you financial services people out there…yes, I have read the tax laws and yes, I contacted the IRS (it could even be as simple as a typo, keep your fingers crossed). I have an action plan, but that isn’t the point of this post.

Had this happened before he died, it would seem bad. But now I am totally shocked at the audacity of some people. I am really angry that I have to take all these steps to clean it up, and I don’t even know how bad it could be at this point…and Kiran is still dead!

Unbelievable.

What is the genuine in you?

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” – Howard Thurman

There is nothing like facing the death of your child to make you ask yourself, what in the hell am I doing here? I have an immense feeling of guilt. A parent is not supposed to live longer than their child, and if you do then you must have done something wrong. Thus, I feel like I am supposed to do something good with my life. I am Kiran’s legacy. It’s part mission and part penance, my own hairshirt (yes, I was raised a Catholic or maybe I am just a serious BNL fan…take your pick).

What if I don’t do something special? Is that ok? Will people still remember Kiran?

What I know is that the genuine in me was to be Kiran’s mom. So what now?

Spring is in the air

When Kiran died last January, we were in the middle of one of the coldest mid-winter spells.  The ground was frozen hard and covered in snow.  The trees were bare and brown.  It seemed fitting.  I didn’t ever want it to warm up again.  Eventually, of course, the days grew longer, the sun warmer and, without even a passing nod to our grief, spring arrived.  It was really hard.  When the weather warms up, all of Boston seems to come out of doors, the playgrounds fill up and you hear little children everywhere.  In the beginning there were times we had to shut ourselves in just to hold on to our sanity.  Over time I’ve slowly learned how to enjoy their company again, and to wear the mask when grief breaks through.

This past weekend once again heralded the arrival of spring.  I can’t believe its been over a year, but time moves inexorably on.  My grief is not as raw as last year, but the onset of spring is still hard.  I have the urge to go outside, but it feels empty and meaningless without Kiran.  I want to be enjoying the outdoors with him.  I imagine all the things we would be doing together.  Would he still like to watch the trains, or spend the morning swinging and clambering through the big boy playground?

Over the last year we’ve found some comfort talking to other parents who’ve lost children, reading their books and blogs.  I thought When The Bough Breaks:  Forever After The Death Of A Son Or Daughter by Judith Bernstein was excellent.  It was a sensitive book by a bereaved parent who also happens to be a professional psychologist.  Joan Didion’s book The year of magical thinking also made a deep impact on me.  The book describes the year following the death of her husband during which her daughter was quite ill.  Her daughter died the year following the events outlined in the book.  I recently finished reading Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther.  John writes about his son Johnny’s last year as he struggled with the brain tumor that would take his life.  Though the book is set in the 1940’s the underlying emotions are all too familiar.  The last chapter, written by Johnny’s mother Frances, could have been written by us today.  Here are some excerpts.

Frances Gunther in Death Be Not Proud

“My grief I find, is not desolation or rebellion at universal law or deity.  I find grief to be much simpler and sadder.  Contemplating the Eternal Deity and His Universal Laws leaves me grave but dry-eyed.  But a sunny fast wind along the Sound, good sailing weather, a new light boat, will shake me to tears:  how Johnny would have loved this boat, this wind, this sunny day!”

“Missing him now, I am haunted by my own shortcomings, how often I failed him.  I think every parent must have a sense of failure, even of sin, merely in remaining alive after the death of a child.  One feels that it is not right to live when one’s child has died, that one should somehow have found the way to give one’s life to save his life.  Failing there, one’s failures during his too brief life seem all the harder to bear and forgive.”

“All the wonderful things in life are so simple that one is not aware of their wonder until they are beyond touch.  Never have I felt the wonder and beauty and joy of life so keenly as now in my grief that Johnny is not here to enjoy them.  Today, when I see parents impatient or tired or bored with their children, I wish I could say to them, But they are alive, think of the wonder of that!  They may be a care and a burden, but think, they are alive!  You can touch them – what a miracle!  You don’t have to hold back sudden tears when you see just a headline about the Yale-Harvard game because you know your boy will never see the Yale-Harvard game, never see the house in Paris he was born in, never bring home his girl, and you will not hand down your jewels to his bride and will have no grandchildren to play with and spoil.  Your sons and daughters are alive.  Think of that – not dead but alive!  Exult and sing.”

Kiran-Mama time

Are you ever watching TV, driving your car, working, eating, walking, reading, talking to a friend, and a random memory pops into your head? Just all of a sudden you remember something from elementary school, college, a movie, a family gathering, a decades old conversation. What made you think of that, at this moment?

It happens in grief all the time. Without forethought a picture comes to mind. It doesn’t discriminate where you are or what you are doing. It just happens.

Recently, I was in a large training session and I had a full on sensory memory. Every afternoon Kiran would come home from pre-school and before his nap we needed a bit of down time. I would let him pick a video and we would sit on the floor together and watch. He would put his head on my lap and I would rub his head, play with his hair. It was our special time together.

Right in the middle of this meeting I can remember the feel of the weight of his head on my lap, his fine, soft hair (like mine) in my fingers. The sense that sometimes comes in the presence of your child, of peace.

Tears sting my eyes, but I sit still, and let it happen. The memory envelopes my whole body. It’s just a moment. I let a few tears slide, slowly, and then I am back in the meeting.

Silence

The house is silent.

I hear…

Time it was and what a time it was,
A time of innocence a time of confidences.
Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you

Suggestions for further reading

I have found comfort in seeking out others who have shared the experience of losing a child.  It’s interesting to see that no matter how different we can be as individuals there can be a bond in this shared experience.   It’s weird in a way, to find comfort in not being the only one, yet still hoping beyond anything that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

I guess that is my way of introducing you to another blogger, Hailey’s mom.  Hailey passed away in August of 2009.  She and Kiran had a few things in common, not the least of which was that they were both three years old.  Hailey’s mom has been blogging longer than I have and I have been reading for a while now.  If you all have a few minutes I would like you to check out her blog on 2/27/09 entitled “What To Say? What To Do?”  You can find her here.

Sometimes I am asked for guidance, and sometimes I just give it.  Here is something from someone else who is living it, like me, and not a book…although if anyone wants a book suggestion I have a few.  Actually, Elizabeth Edwards wrote very eloquently about the death of her son in her book Resilience (I wouldn’t suggest the entire book for obvious reasons, but about two thirds of the book is specifically about her son and I am not sure I could have said it any better).   Anyway, you will see how different Hailey’s mom and I are, yet if I sat down to write a list it wouldn’t be much different.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign…

…or not.  Why is it that some people believe they are receiving frequent signs from their dead loved ones and some of us never receive them?  I keep thinking if it was really possible why would Kiran leave me hanging?  Maybe that’s a big expectation for a three year old.  So then, I can’t believe Sekhar’s mom or my grandmothers wouldn’t send a little note or something.  Is that a lot to ask?

Maybe it’s the classic, believing is seeing.  So, if you think signs are possible then you might see them everywhere.  I admit it would probably take an incredible sign for me to believe it was really a sign.  I am married to a scientist.  Generally, we’re proof kind of folk…like, can it be solved with an equation?

One of the more veteran members of my group once said that he doesn’t think he gets signs from his child, but he does appreciate anything that reminds him of his child.  I let that guide me.  I haven’t heard anything that fits me better, so I’ll stick with that until something better comes along.  So, I just appreciate things that remind me of Kiran.

I think maybe I have had some experiences which others would consider signs, but I think are coincidences…and since they remind me of Kiran they made me happy.   One day I was at a grocery store in Cambridge and the cashier was an older Indian woman, her name tag said “Kiran.”  I wanted to tell her my son’s name was Kiran, but then I knew she would probably ask me how old he was and I didn’t have the energy to answer honestly or to lie.  I just started bagging my own groceries, when a young Indian man came up behind me and said “let me do that for you.”  I looked at his name tag and it also said “Kiran.”  I let him help and I just smiled.  I remembered my boy because he was also a big helper.  I didn’t think it was a sign, and still don’t, but when I told others some did think so.

Hmmm.

Flying

I was on a plane again last week.   While sitting at the gate, waiting to pull back I thought about how much Kiran would have enjoyed airplanes, both watching them and flying too.  He never got the chance.  We’ve flown more in the last year than in the previous four combined, and every time I’ve got on a plane I imagine that Kiran would have loved the experience.  And then I realize that I’m probably projecting.   I grew up around airplanes.  My father was an aircraft engineer and some of my earliest (and fondest) memories are tied to planes.  The truth I have to face is that I don’t know what Kiran would have thought.  There’s so much I’ll never know about my boy .

Taxes, etc.

Today I started working on our taxes.  We have a program that automatically imports basic data from year to year, and there it was in black and white.  Kiran Ramanathan, age 4.

But, of course he will never be age 4.  Often I feel sad for me and Sekhar.  We will miss all the great experiences of parenting Kiran.  Just as often I feel so sad for the things he is missing.  He missed celebrating his 4th birthday with his friends at school.  How he would have loved that.  Birthdays were the best thing ever.  He made us sing happy birthday several times at every b-day event, it didn’t even matter whose birthday it was.

He missed picking out his own Halloween costume.  This is a big deal to a 4 year old.  I don’t even know what he would have picked.  Who would he have been by October, 10 months after his death?  So much changes for a child in that amount of time.  What would he have wanted for Christmas?  We were all robbed of the 4 year old Christmas morning experience.  He just loved the lights on the tree and wanted them on all day long.  In a great act of avoidance Sekhar and I traveled separately to visit our families this year.  Christmas meant nothing to us.  I can’t imagine it ever will.

I could list forever all the things he will never do.  Kindergarten, breathing trach free, first love, driving, graduation, marriage, children.  Big things and little things, he never tasted a pizza.

Most often I try to focus on what he did do.  Given Kiran’s humble health beginnings Sekhar and I always appreciated the little things.  We are so thankful that we treated him as a normally as possible.  It was a big deal to ride the train and go to the playground, or dip his feet in the ocean waves.  Going to preschool and riding the bus, holding the hand of a friend.  He loved these things.  Things he was sheltered from early on.  He never lost appreciation for them.  Even before his death, I would observe other children his age and feel sad that they already felt the mediocrity of an elevator ride, or a bookstore visit.  Kiran always had fresh eyes and excitement.  He had no expectation and thus was usually happy (well, he was 3 after all).

In my best moments I still see the world through his eyes.  He was a breathe of fresh air…but he will never be 4 years old.