CS Lewis once said that "grief is like the sky, it covers everything." In recent weeks, our family has found that this is so very true. It seems that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief. I have created this blog in hopes that some day we will be able to look back on our journey and see written proof that our great God never leaves us. God is good all the time.

Celebrating Laynee

You might want to scroll to the bottom of this page and pause the music before playing this video.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Death by Drowning

Yesterday we received word that my uncle died.  The semi that he was driving was found crashed into a ditch where he was unable to complete a turn.  His body was found close by, submerged in 8 inches of water in the ditch.  It was presumed that his death was a result of either an underlying health issue or drowning.  Today the autopsy report concluded that the cause of death was drowning. 

I am trying desperately to make sense of this, at least on a cerebral level.  This uncle lived over an hour away from us and I did not see a great deal of him.  He had a large family with several sons who were close to my age but I do not pretend to have had a deep personal relationship with them.  Still, he was my uncle, my mother's older brother.  His children are my counsins and I love them. 

  Before the autopsy report was in, my mother and most of my other family members seemed confident that he did not drown. The pictures showed very little water in the ditch he was found in.  He had some health issues. Everyone seemed to assume that he had had a heath attack.  Though I did not give voice to my thoughts, something deep within me prepared me for the reality of drowning.  I hoped and prayed all day that my feeling was wrong.   I know that in the grand scheme  of things the "how" of death is quite insignificant.  I have not talked to any of his children and I suspect that they probably have not fully processed all that has taken place.  I know also, that the circumstances here are dramatically different than in Laynee's case.  Yet,  at the core of my being is the awareness that to have someone you love experience death by drowning is a really tough one to have to live with.

All of this has triggered a rush of memories, many of which I'd given very little thought to since Laynee's accident.  Ironically, though my uncle was not from this area, he died in the same county that Laynee died in.  This means that the same coroner performed both autopsies.  The 4 conversations that I had with her have played, like a broken record, in my mind all day today.  I recall with startling clarity, every word that she spoke to me.  The tone of her voice echoes through my mind.    She was very kind but in my mind she is akin to the grim reaper.  In the hospital, as we were saying our goodbyes to Laynee and feeling as though our hearts were being torn from our chests, a nurse pulled me aside and placed a phone in my hand, telling me I needed to talk to the coroner.  The coroner gently told me that she was sending someone to get Laynee, they needed full body xrays and she would perform an autopsy in the morning.  The day after,  when she called, I stepped outside because our house seemed to be busting at the seams with people.  As I stood on our front walk, the coroner spoke these words "Mrs Holmes, this is the Peoria County Coroner, I have completed the autopsy on your daughter and wanted you to know that I have determined the cause of death to be lack of oxygen to the brain.  In other words, Jalayne drowned."   I remember thinking "how do I respond to this?" and out of habit, I gave her a feeble "Okay, thank you."   This news did not come as a surprise to us but those words are hideous words for a mother to hear. 

Several weeks later I received a phone call, once again, from the coroner.  She informed me that she had requested a coroner's inquest in which a jury would be selected to make the final verdict in regards to Jalayne's death, she told me the date of the inquest and again I thanked her.  Finally, on the date of the inquest, about 10 minutes after the time it was scheduled, my phone rang and I answered once again to her voice.  I recall my legs trembling and holding onto the wall for support in the kitchen area of my coffee shop as she spoke these words.  "Mrs Holmes, the jury has determined the cause of Jalayne's death to be 'accidental death by drowning' Jalayne's case will be closed now.  Her death certificate will be sent to you mortician, you can pick it up there."   Again I thanked her.  She and I had four telephone conversations and the only words she heard me speak were "Okay, thank you."  They were words spoken strictly for the sake of courtesy or perhaps only by habit.  They were words meant to fill the void left by the knowledge that not a single word was befitting.

I cannot recall if I picked up her death certificate or if my brother in law, who works at the mortuary brought it to me.  However, I remember reading it.  There was her birthdate, her beautiful name and then like I punch to the midsection the words jumped off the page at me "ACCIDENTAL DEATH BY DROWNING."  These words drove me to the floor in agony.  I hated these words then and I hate them today.  I hated them in reference to my child and I hate them in reference to my uncle.  Now, after the events of the past 24 hours, these words pulsate through my head like a mantra. 

My heart aches for my cousins and their children as, suddenly and unexpectedly, they bid farewell to their father and grandfather.  In the coming days they will share many beautiful memories along with their sorrow.  I know without a shadow of doubt that he would say "God is good and God does good...........all the time.  I have to chuckle a little thinking that heaven will never be the same now that he is there, the other saints are probably wondering what happened.   I smile also at the thought of the reunion there must have been when my grandparents welcomed him.  I know that there was ALOT of talking at this reunion.  Of course, I cannot think of anyone being in heaven without my Laynee dancing around them.  You were and are and will forever be loved, Uncle Donald. 

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes
and there shall be no more death
neither sorrow, nor crying
neither shall their be anymore pain
for the former things are passed away.
Revelations 21:4

Monday, February 14, 2011

After several weeks of bitterly cold temperatures and gray, gloomy days, we have had a a bit of reprieve from the harshness of winter.  The past couple of days we have welcomed temperatures in the 40's and more importantly, sunshine. 

The break in the weather has not come a moment too soon.  I have felt recently as if I am constantly fighting against a pull toward a perpetual downward spiral. Sorrow and grief continue to weigh heavily upon me and dreary, damp days have done little to brighten my outlook.  Added to this was the fact that due to large amounts of snow I was unable to get to Laynee's place at the cemetary without trudging through heaps of snow.  I had not realized before this how very important my visits to her site have been.  Yesterday, I was grateful to find that the lane around the cemetary had been cleared.  Her site is bright and colorful with flowers, balloons and valentines, a testimony to the love that our little girl knew. 

I continue to struggle in the quest to find something that resembles a new normal.  Her abscence continues to make itself known wherever I go.  The waves of pain continue to crash against me and sadly, what I am finding is that this is becoming normal.  At times I find myself wishing for the shock and numbness of the weeks and months immediately following the accident.    That seems almost preferrable to the dull, throbbing ache that is now a part of my existence. The pain no longer takes me by surprise. It has, in varying degrees, become my constant companion and I suspect it will be so for a very long time. 

I do not function as I once did.   My task oriented nature has greatly diminshed.  I know that I do not accomplish nearly as much in a day as I once did and there is a part of me that says this should bother me.  It doesn't! Instead, I wonder what exactly it is that I was always striving for. Exhaustion seems to have become a part of who I am.  The constant war of emotions that wages within requires enormous amounts of energy. 

Today, Valentine's Day, we celebrated with our traditional candle light dinner.  I made cookies with the names of each of my family written in white icing.  As I wrote Laynee's name on a cookie, my heart ached with the knowledge that she will not taste it's sweetness.   To some it may seem meaningless to prepare a cookie for a child who no longer walks this earth.  To me it is a small expression of my deep love for my child.  In no way does such an act fill the longing that I have for her but it does, in the smallest of ways, tell of that longing.

Happy Valentine's Day, Laynee

Wish you were here.
I love you forever!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Easier but not Better

Well, my friends, we are in the midst of what might very well be the worst snowstorm I have ever experienced.  The snow started around 11:00 this morning and keeps dumping from the skies.  Add to that, gale force winds, and we have ourselves a blizzard.  The visibility is zero and I pray that no one is out on these roads because wherever they are headed, they will not make it. 

We got a call last night saying that school would be canceled today.  The last thing the school needed was a building full of students when the storm hit and no way to get everyone home.  Another call came in a short time ago notifying us of tomorrows cancelation as well.  Oddly,  the wind and snow is accompanied by thunder and lightning.  For those of you in the south, snow and lightning do not go together. 

I really do not mind the storm, as long as I can stay safe in my home with my children around me.  I went to work this morning but our office closed at noon.  The short drive home was enough to convince me that nothing was important enough for being out today.  After I got home, Jamee and I pulled out a puzzle.

 I love doing puzzles but it seems that snow days are the only time I take the time to work on one. Since a snow day usually happens only about once a year, I don't have the pleasure of puzzles very often.    Without fail, every time I do a puzzle, I think of Jim's grandma Fehr.  Working puzzles with her every Christmas Day is my dearest memory of her.  Usually, other family members would lose interest in the puzzle, which would leave Grandma and I to work together. She and I had some good talks over those pieces and I can still hear her soft laughter. 

Today, Jamee worked with me for awhile and then decided to take a break.  In the quiet, alone time that I had, I thought back to other puzzles we have done in the past.  I found that I could not remember doing last year.  That, of course, does not mean that it didn't happen.  Many things were not retained in my memory at that point in life.  The last puzzle I remember doing was when Laynee was here.  It stands out clear in my memory because she kept running past the table and swiping puzzle pieces.  She also kept wanting up beside me and would lean over the table, knocking pieces onto the floor.  It occurred to me that doing puzzles is something that is definitely easier without a toddler around.  There are many things that are easier, from a physical perspective.  Going to the store is easier, getting ready for work is easier, dinner time is easier.  Going out in the snow is easier without bundling a wiggling, squirming little girl.  Many things are easier to do without Laynee here.  I would rather have things be difficult because easier is definitely not better.