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I have had trouble writing lately. There just seems to be so much: feelings battling with other feelings, thoughts confronting and shaping beliefs, depression clouds moving in and coloring all of it at times. It’s hard to get any of it into words and these last few months have been more about distraction as a coping tool.

Tomorrow, July 5, will be what some refer to as Noah’s “Heaven Date.” The anniversary of the day he was officially pronounced to have died. But for me, it isn’t really about that specific day, but the process spanning several days that culminated in the finality of my son’s existence. I find myself obsessively reviewing the journal from Noah’s caringbridge website (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/noahdavis), comparing the dates and times of the updates with the times now. I don’t really know why. Maybe a part of me wants to honor his process; remember with a clearer head what was so traumatic and shocking at the time, that it has become this nightmarish blur; the details of which I strain to recall.

Over this year, this painful alternate reality, I have tried my very best to cope. Desperate for comfort, I have leaned on friends, family and sometimes complete strangers to see me through.

Even without his actual presence tangible beside me, his Spirit, now one with the Universe, reaches across all boundaries:

  • The parents I know watch their children like hawks when they go swimming now.
  • They would never let their child swim in a pool where it is too dirty to see the bottom.
  • When I am missing him most, Noah leaves me little signs like a wild rose on the ground where there are no rose bushes or wild rabbits making a home under my best friend’s porch across the street from me.
  • While searching for something else on the day after Mother’s day, I came across a recordable Hallmark card from last Mother’s Day. Opening it, I was delighted and crushed to hear Noah’s bright voice “Happy Mudders Day!
  • I was invited to create a Dia de los Muertos altar in honor of Noah last fall, where I got the opportunity to share Noah’s story with countless others who visited The Mattie Rhodes Center during First Fridays, local school field trips and a beautiful celebration honoring the Day of the Dead.
  • I have cultivated a relationship with one of Noah’s kidney recipients and look forward to exchanging information and hopefully meeting her someday. She is a lovely, very grateful woman who needed a very specific match for a successful transplant. Noah’s kidney was her perfect match.
  • Chief of Police Larry Larimore, upon learning of Noah’s fondest wish to be a police officer when he grew up, was a catalyst for making Noah’s dream a reality. On August 27, 2012, what would have been Noah’s 7th birthday, Noah was sworn in as an honorary member of the Shawnee Police Department and awarded the Medal of Valor for the lives he saved through organ donation. (P.S. Watch the full ceremony here but fast forward to about 20:00 to get to the actual ceremony)
  • Noah’s story, especially his swearing-in as an honorary Police Officer and awarding of the Medal of Valor, was shared through countless local news stations and newspapers.
  • Officer Amanda Pandolfi of the York Regional Police in Ontario, Canada has a photo of Noah posted on the inside of her locker. She says, “I see him every morning when I report for duty and every night before I go home to my own kids.”
  • My dear friend Alyson, who happened to be going through a rough patch in her own life, somehow managed to take all the clothes that Noah had at my house and create three beautiful quilts; each one a work of art and loving testament to Noah. Zoe and I cried when we saw them, remembering his favorite shirts, the ones he always tried to wear backwards and the little pockets where he would stash his matchbox cars.
  • While in the hospital last year, Zoe made a friendship bracelet for Noah and tied it around his ankle. She made matching bracelets for all the family and friends who visited us and for anyone who wanted one. Noah was cremated wearing it.
  • While Zoe and I were in Italy, we were in awe of the beauty and love around us and were accepted immediately as part of Isabella’s family. It wasn’t until my bracelet broke – the one Zoe made to match Noah’s – that I cried. I realized later that it was the longest amount of time that I had gone without crying in over a year and a half.
  • Zoe promised to make me another one. 🙂
  • After Noah’s accident at the apartment swimming pool, the City of Overland Park, Kansas required them to have a certified Pool Maintenance Technician on staff. (Shouldn’t they all? From what I understand, semi-private swimming pools – apartment pools, hotel pools and the like – are not required to have a swimming pool maintenance specialist on staff.)

I’ve had some changing to do this year also. When I first moved into my new place, it took a long time to come to terms with the fact that this is my life now. Sometimes I still struggle with that.

I had lots of help from co-workers and close friends who moved me from the apartment across from that horrifying swimming pool (which I never had to go back to) to my new home and helped me organize my things. It’s an enormous understatement to say that I had too many loving caretakers around me to count.

Still, I feel like I have yet to “settle in” completely, which I suppose is an expected metaphor for my life. Noah’s toys and books still sit in unopened boxes, too painful to approach for now. Someday when I need him, I will open and savor each little item; slowly, one by one.

For a long time, my new home was more like a shrine. Photos, toys and memorabilia everyplace I looked. It was comforting and I felt like it kept him close to me. But over the last month or so, as this week has crept closer and closer, I’ve had to tuck some things away. It’s just become too sad. I still display his photos here and there along with Zoe’s, his ashes on the bookshelf with his Suzy bunny and the shadowbox with his police badges. I know that no matter how hard it is to accept sometimes, Noah’s Mom is not the only role I have to play in life. I’m Zoe’s Mom too. Ben’s Sister. Dan’s Daughter. Employee. Friend. Confidante. Noah would want me to be the best I can be in these roles and I work to make him proud.

I also feel compelled, on mornings like this one when I feel strong, to create positive change in the world from my loss. Perhaps that means advocating for stricter, more enforceable regulations for semi-private swimming pools, education on pool safety or perhaps matchbox cars for pediatric patients. Maybe all of the above. When I am stronger and the grief-bursts subside a little I will know.

No doubt my grief is raw again now as I look at the calendar disbelieving that it has been a year since I’ve seen Noah, heard his laugh or held his hand. Over the last year, I have struggled to comprehend the traumatic events that I witnessed in rapid succession: his limp body jolted by CPR compressions, his cold blue fingers, toes and lips, the way the oscillator blew up his little body like a balloon because his lungs were too damaged to contain the air pumping into them, watching the team of doctors and surgeons try to revive him during the three times that his heart stopped, the last sponge bath I gave him one year ago today, talking to him and then finally kissing him goodbye that next day.

I have tried very hard to replace these horrific memories with good ones: Christmas mornings, knock-knock jokes, snuggle time, bedtime stories and songs. But recalling the events of “one year ago at this time…” is hard to escape.

I will always struggle. I will always miss Noah. I will always love Noah. Although I can no longer say that I have no regrets in life (the what-if’s can be awful), I can move forward. I can experience joy, laughter and love. I can remember him with a smile. I’m not always strong and I still break down. But I know that it is possible to move forward knowing that his little hand is always on my shoulder.