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I am meeting Noah’s kidney recipient on Saturday and have so much hope and fear around this. Part of my son, the life that formed inside me, the life I nurtured for 7 years, is in this woman. Literally. Stop and think about that for just a minute. Part of Noah is literally living and working inside someone else. I am excited to meet her because I hate that she is a stranger. I need to know who she is – her family, her story. Perhaps I am looking for a reason somewhere: a reason why Noah had to leave this earth. And I know I will not find it in just one place, but I look for the big pieces to give me strength. I know that the moment his consciousness left his body, the focus of energy that made up his potential in this life was dispersed into the far-flung corners of all reality. I wonder if the legacy, the ripples he has created by touching the lives of so many others, is bigger now because his body is gone. Had he lived, would he just be another kid in his class? Another citizen of the world and the universe of billions of beings? Another schmo just trying to make his way in this life?
Of course, I would have rather had him grow up, struggle like the rest of us, be just another face you might see on the street. But that’s just my selfishness asserting itself, because I’m thinking of my own pain. If Noah had the choice, which I believe that on some level he did, he would have wanted to be bigger; to create the biggest possible positive change at whatever the cost. Even if it made Mommy sad, the payoff would be so much bigger. And Mommy would eventually see that.
So, the rest of my life, or at least a part of it, is a kind of treasure hunt. It’s a bunny that sits in the backyard staring at me as I watch him from across the lawn for an hour. It’s a mother, daughter, sister and friend who is now healthy because a part of my son has replenished her very existence. It is all the nurses who so lovingly cared for Noah, then went home to hug and spoil their own children. It is all the tears, the sadness of everyone: Noah’s family, teachers, friends, parents of friends, doctors, nurses, specialists, surgeons, fellow officers, readers / listeners of the story of his life and the transformation that that continually manifests in those people.
It is every time I say his name: Noah Michael Davis. I honor him.
The knowledge that my little boy has created so much positive change in the world in such a small amount of time is so powerful that it’s overwhelming sometimes. I don’t know where to put all of it. The emotions and reactions surrounding this knowledge ebb and flow and fight each other inside of me at all times. I’m proud that he found a way to be such a positive force in so many lives, but I’m angry and miserable that I had to say goodbye to “my baby.” I’m jealous that he has done all of this when, after 36 years on this earth, I am still just trying to begin to understand how I might create what he has so easily accomplished. My humanity and motherhood just wants to hold him again. Watch him grow. But my soul, my heart, knows that he is working and fulfilling his purpose. He’s not gone. Just gone from my sight and my arms. This is another battle that is constantly underway within me. I know the sides that I WANT to win in these little constant wars within but when the guilt starts to bubble up, I hold fast to my Mothers’ Heart and I cannot let him go.
These little battles are what make it so hard to get out of bed some days. To care about paying bills, making dinner, going to work or even just going on with any kind of life can be so difficult. So I try to remember that his soul is still doing it’s work and mine needs to continue in my work, whatever that is or means. And maybe he’s given me the gift of a purpose within all of this. Maybe not. But I cannot ignore the possibility, so I continue searching for Noah’s treasures in the world and within me.
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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.
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…and I really can’t say why. it’s just been a roller coaster.
some days i am my normal self. some days not so much. but lately i have done a lot better than usual. i really have to thank Cuky Choquette-Harvey for the major steps in my recovery from this profound grief. Yes, my Buddhist faith has been a major source of strength. And, no doubt, I have been nothing short of DESPERATE for ANYTHING that might ease the pain or lessen the grief that has become a part of me. But nothing has come close to the relief that has been afforded me through the comfort of Lomi Lomi and through Cuky.
I know. It seems a bit strange: aligning chakras, hot stones, spiritual cleansing and what may seem like voodoo crazy new-age weirdness. But I have to say: it has been the most healing, profound experience of my life. And I have only had two sessions with Cuky. Cuky is not only a Lomi healer; she is an empath. Every visit with her is like a visit with not only my true spirit and self, but a visit with my mother and with my son. She knows things and unlocks things deep inside me that no one but me would know or realize.
So I have been a bit reticent about posting about it here, but that is the truth. I practice Nichiren Buddhism. I believe that my mother and my son are well taken care of in a spiritual realm that I can only dream of. And somehow, some way…this connects me with the absolute that are the loved ones that I so dearly miss. Noah dances in my peripheral vision, my sweet mother whispers in my ear as I go about my daily life. And I realize, yet have always known, their voices whispering in my ear. What they would say, do or think. Those of you who came to visit Noah in the hospital with me know what I mean. A mother knows what her child would say, do or think in any given situation. Just because his body is no longer something we can sense doesn’t mean that intuition is lost.
My cord and my ties to him transcend earthy, tangible metaphors. I live for him; through him. He, and all of those who have transcended their earthly bodies, do not cease to exist. Not really. They continue with us. Through us. And even if Noah was 6 and my mother wasn’t event 60, they continue with us and through us. Not just in our memories and hearts, but for real. Their love; their connection with us is real. Never doubt that. They are always at our sides: loving, laughing, growing with us. It is this that sustains me and keeps me alive in this incarnation at this time. It is this truth – not belief but actual truth and proof – that brings a real comfort to me.
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I’ve not been writing at all lately. Mainly because I’m afraid of it. Sometimes it just makes me feel worse to write.
I did, however, pen this little poem after seeing a photo of my lovely daughter, taken when it was all still fresh:I wake up… her forehead pressed to my chin a comfort fleeting as it all comes rushing back. I gently break contact so I can see my features in her dreaming face. Her calm breathing tells me she’s still in that place still, safe and warm. Contentedly dreaming of thick green meadows… love, laughter, joy. Where grandmothers bake cookies and give warm, soft hugs Instead of losing hair, strength, legs, mind… Where little brothers giggle and play Instead of silently dying before her innocent eyes. And the mother bird in me realizes the lie of my own protective powers. And as her eyelids flutter like a sparrow’s wings, it’s time to be strong again… (another lost cause) I wrap my arms around her “Five more minutes, ok…?”
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The bunny / rabbit significance to me is complex. When I was little and would sit and draw, I always wanted my mother to draw bunnies for me. Later in life, she confessed that she really couldn’t draw, but she did her best when I asked her. She would always try to draw little Beatrix Potter-esque bunnies for me. A couple of years ago when I took her for her chemotherapy, an art therapist came around and invited us to make some art. I was all for it but Mom wasn’t really into it. I begged her to, once again, draw a bunny for me. She obliged me once more…I think my dad has this drawing tucked away someplace.
Noah always loved bunnies. His favorite books, when he was old enough to pick them out, were Pat the Bunny, Runaway Bunny, The Velveteen Rabbit, Guess How Much I Love You and Goodnight Moon; all featuring bunnies. When he was three, we went camping and when Noah and I went on a little nature walk, Noah discovered a nest of baby bunnies. The mother rabbit was close by and I was amazed when she allowed him to get a closer look. Of course I insisted that we keep a good enough distance for him to not touch. Later, Zoe and I went looking for the bunnies again…but we soon discovered that they could only be found when Noah was around.
A little over a year later, during a particularly bitter Missouri winter, I pulled into our driveway after picking up the kids from school, per usual. When I got out of the car, I noticed something scamper into the bushes in front of our house. After looking around a bit, Noah saw that it was a white rabbit! That rabbit greeted us almost every evening when we got home and Noah would leave carrots out on the front porch for him.
Noah also loved Zoe’s Webkinz stuffed animals and “borrowed” them from her, often giving them new names! So when I was out shopping one day and saw one that was a white bunny, I had to get it for him. Suzy the bunny quickly became Noah’s “lovey” and he slept with her every night from then on. Once, he commented to me that he thought she seemed “naked” and asked me to make a little shirt for her. So he picked out the fabric and I made a funky little shirt with a ribbon and button closure for Suzy. He was thrilled. 24 hours before Noah’s accident, as I was reading Curious George to him and tucking him into bed, he said that he thought Suzy might like a different shirt to wear. I promised him that we would look at fabric that weekend, which of course, we never had the chance to do.
Wherever we went, if Noah was there, so were “his” bunny rabbits. He was always the first to see them and they always seemed to let him get closer than I thought they would. We would often comment that the bunny was definitely Noah’s “spirit animal.” He loved them and they seemed to really love him back.
Since his passing, I have seen several bunnies at moments when I have felt the worst. They peek out at me or dart across my path. My closest friend, while out walking with her Great Dane, came face to face with a bunny just feet away from her giant dog. Instead of scampering away, the bunny just looked at Duke and rather than try to give chase, Duke just stood there looking. They stared at each other for a long time, neither of them moving, and Isabella said it was as if Noah was visiting them once more. Noah LOVED playing with Duke when we would go visit Izzy and he helped me dogsit Duke a few times also.
So for these reasons, I need a bunny tattoo. I knew it right away and said so to many people in the hospital while first facing the prospect of letting Noah go. I would have liked to design it myself, but I just lack so much motivation in all aspects of my life right now I haven’t been able to sit down and actually do it. I did do a little oil painting in the weeks after the funeral, but cannot seem to find / think of a suitable tattoo design.
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So it has been a while since my last post. I found that the only way to deal with the holidays was mostly through mindful denial, which included not blogging, journalling or reading a whole lot. Holidays were so hard. I got gifts for those closest to me and I did most of my shopping online, which was helpful. But ignoring all the decorations and the excitement of the holiday season in those around me was the most difficult. It was very low-key for my family this year, which seemed most appropriate.
Still, the office holiday parties and “what are your plans for the holidays?” chatter was hard to avoid. Thus, whenever possible, I stayed holed up at home. It has been more comfortable, more predictable to stay home as much as possible. I can control what I’m exposed to here in my own little hobbit-hole and there are less unexpected surprises and triggers. The hardest thing has been making it into the office at least for a little while each day. These past few weeks, getting out of bed, showered and clothed has been the most difficult part of the day. The snow on the ground mocks me just as much as the hot summer sunshine did 6 months ago and it still feels so fresh even though the world around me has changed so much.
My brain comprehends the differences in my life. It’s my heart that hasn’t caught up. It’s as if the only way to comprehend what it means for time to move on is to live it: to wake up in the morning and realize it’s another day, another week, another month. December 28 marked one year since my mother’s death. It was also the day, this year, that I signed the final divorce papers to file with the court. I am really fine with the divorce; Jason and I remain close. We are the two people on earth who knew Noah best. And I think Noah would love that we’re friendly and that we still care about each other. I am completely ok with the divorce itself…is it’s just the acknowledgement of another unsuccessful life endeavor that bothers me. So I stayed in my PJs all day cuddling with Zoe and crying off and on.
So now here is this new year. I feel like I’m bracing myself for it; well against it, really. My fear is that this endless dumping of tragedy might never end. Just living each day is painful enough…and I’m afraid of what another day might bring. In the first few weeks after we left the hospital, it felt like a dream. Like I would wake up in the morning to find Noah there wanting breakfast. Sometimes I would swear I saw him and for a split second my heart would leap like it wanted me to run and grab him and never let go. Now, almost 7 months later, it sometimes feels like the time I had with him WAS the dream. Which is not a feeling I could describe as better or worse, but the guilt that goes with it is so incredibly heavy.
I have to remind myself that grief comes in waves. That it gets more and less painful for various amounts of time. On Saturday, I got sick of being a hermit and took Zoe for a little post-holiday shopping and to the local arcade. Sunday, we met Amy for lunch then walked around the Plaza a little. I’m just so tired of being sad. I can’t help being sad, grieving, but it’s so exhausting. Sometimes I want to just put it aside. And sometimes I’m able to do that. But, for now at least, it’s difficult to do that sometimes. Especially when the tide comes in and brings that pain again.
P.S. Noah loved cars. And I mean this kid REALLY loved cars. Everywhere we went, you can bet he had at least one matchbox car clutched in his little hand. He had hundreds of them, too, and played with them daily. I still smile when I remember waking up every morning to the sound of him shuffling through them. So I decided that it might be a good idea to make ornaments out of them and send them to friends and family instead of the traditional holiday cards. In response, there were many people who sent photos of Noah’s cars hanging on their trees and trim…it was amazing! It feels good to know that something he loved and treasured so much can enjoy the holidays with everyone who knew / knows / loves him. That was the best gift I could have hoped to receive this year. So a big, heartfelt THANK YOU to those lovely souls!
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This week marked six months. Add the holiday season to that and I’m spent. I can hardly believe it has been half of a year since I saw my boy. I have taken advantage of all the grief support groups, workshops, celebrations and events that I possibly can. (P.S. Please light a candle for Noah tomorrow, Sun. 12/9 at 7:00pm wherever you are!) I have a file folder bursting with articles, brochures, worksheets, lists, prayers, poems and charts on grief and getting through the holidays. I have great friends, family and supporters who keep me busy and check in on me. I have books, music, companions. I have tools, distractions, hobbies and the goal to ease back into working from the office more. I have lists of things I want to do, things I need to do and things that are still taking shape in my head.
And sometimes I’m just not feeling it. Like Christmas. I see the decorations, commercials and TV specials. But all of it falls flat. I try to stay numb to it all: let it just roll past me. But it’s more than that. It’s painful and debilitating. This time of year is more than just the celebration of a religious holiday. It’s a time to look back on the year and reflect. To ponder all the changes and growing we’ve undergone since last year at this time.
I’m trying hard not to do that this year. Grief comes in waves and I feel my defensive instincts trying to hold it all back – push it away. Distract. I have lovely medications for when the tsunami starts brewing…because when the glimpses of pain seep into daily life, it takes my breath away.
And I know I can’t hide from what haunts me. I can’t hide from this new silence that is a life without his voice, his giggle, his presence. The past 6 months mean establishment of a permanence that is this strange life; without Noah. New silence. New routines. New sadness settling into my soul and unpacking its agony. But I digress…
As much as I try not to look back, the concepts of a year ago are still fresh: knowing that my time with Mom was running out. The pain of watching her lose such a long and arduous battle with cancer. I remember being mostly sad a year ago as Mom seemed to drift further from lucidity. I was devastated to lose her, honored to play a role in caring for her in her last few weeks…and any type of celebration or happiness felt forced. I spent as much time with her as possible, often at the expense of time with my kids. How could I have known…?
I knew then that 2012’s Christmas would look very different without her and that Jason and I would have separate homes and lives by this year. I was excited to start my new life. Little did I know the absolute destruction that 2012 would bring: financial complications, divorce, heartbreak and even the death of my own son. I know some good things have happened even in the face of all of this tragedy. It just seems to pale in comparison to all of the hurt.
So…for good or ill, that’s how the holidays are impacting me. I have not shopped (please don’t get me a gift: I will just feel guilty because I couldn’t brave the crowds to get you one too). No holiday movies or Christmas carols. No tree for me this year – Zoe and I made snowflakes instead. The pure, innocent joy of childhood is gone from my life and though I’m trying to believe that I can create joy again, it eludes me right now. I’m exhausted.
Sorry to have yet another depressing post. Here is my boy’s smiling face from last year to help cheer it up a bit.
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so i have a home now. one i can actually go to. there were so many wonderful people who helped me move. they made it so that i didn’t have to go back to the apartment across from the pool where my beautiful son lost his life. there were about 15 people who moved my friend Isabella and myself to new homes across the street from one another. then, the next morning, Sinnamon and Tracy spent their entire Sunday helping Zoe and i unpack, organize and hang pictures. which was good because i was paralyzed at the prospect of doing it all again. i probably would have just left everything.
it has all been SO difficult. seeing all the items that surrounded our little family. the coffee table where we played Sorry and legos and colored. the dining room chairs where i had to remind him to sit on his bottom. his framed art, his Cars bicycle…all those boxes in the basement that i can’t bear to look at. i still look around and wonder what happened. everything is bewildering and i am stunned and paralyzed by all that makes up my environment, my life…the thoughts and memories in my head.
today would have been Noah’s first day of first grade. my babygirl Zoe started high school today. i no longer have a little kid. no more school supply lists, lunch boxes and notes to teachers about Noah’s dietary needs. no more trying to keep his breakfast from staining his fancy new school clothes, courtesy of his loving Nana. no before and after school care. no big sweet hugs from my little boy as i send him off to learn about the world. just a huge space and lazer-like focus on getting Zoe ready.
it’s cooler outside today and it makes me just as angry as when it’s sunny and warm. every day is just another day without my son. another day with no relief, no escape from the pain and heartbreak of this loss. another day of just getting by and hoping that time will heal. but i don’t feel like I’m healing. i feel irreversibly altered. twisted. broken. just like so many others, i have always said that losing a child would be the one thing i could never endure. “just put me in a padded room if that ever happens,” I used to say. “throw away the key.” because how could i ever begin to try to live with that kind of pain?
and now here i am and i’m not far from wishing for that room. people keep telling me that it gets better and i know i’m not supposed to give myself time restrictions…but WHEN exactly is it supposed to get better? and what does “get better” mean? because if it doesn’t mean that I get my son back then that’s just not “better” enough. i hear people say that i’m strong but i don’t feel strong at all. i feel shaky, volatile, crazy, indifferent to anything to do with the business of getting on with life. i miss him desperately and the slightest things set me off: all the gluten-free cookbooks, breakfast cereal, waffles. the extra toaster that was dedicated to his food only, so as not to risk cross-contaminiation of the wheat that made him so sick. It’s these little things that punctuate the pain, especially today, as Noah’s friends start first grade without him in their world.
all of this hurt swells up inside of me, making me feel like a shadow of who I used to be. just one year ago Jason, the kids and I took a last-minute vacation to the beach to stay with family and play in the sand and surf. my mother was still alive, in recovery from her last surgery. he hunted shells like a pro and dug in the sand. i’m so glad that i insisted on taking that vacation so that the kids could see the ocean for the first time. they both loved it and loved spending time with Skip and Linda. Noah would practice his “Ringmaster” skills on the back porch for hours and he loved the boat ride where he and Zoe got to go tubing. i spend hours just staring at the photos from that trip. he had such a great time. here are a few of my favorites:
Having him in my life…this sweet little angel calling me Mommy…that was a heaven my heart yearns for endlessly. Now that my heart has known and lost that heaven, a part of my heart will forever dwell in hell.
I will end with an attempted video dedication to my little man: Johnny Cash | You Are My Sunshine
Mommy misses you, Bubbers. XOXOX