Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our Year in Pictures

The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Today, I will let them speak for me.

3D pics of our little girl

Images from my baby shower

A handful of my amazing friends



So many presents

My shower cake.  I love turtles and hoped Allie might, too

Allison's Nursery

Allison's Nursery

Allison's feet.  This is the only image we have shown our loved ones.  They form a heart.

The Memorial Walk, one month to the day of our loss

Allie's Creek

The Aleph that Daddy designed for our baby

Her hand and foot prints that now hang in her room

A Hanukkah present from one of my dearest friends.  It's a heart shaped locket.

Thank you to everyone who got us through this year. We could not have made it through without your support.  So for all the cards, gifts, tissues, flowers, food, shoulders and love, thank you so much.

Here's hoping 2012 brings much more joy and happiness to us all.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Looks like we made it

Tomorrow I go back to work.  Most of the people I know are still off, but I am out of vacation time and thus it's back to work I go.   I need to start to tie up the loose ends of my old job so I can start the new one in a few weeks.  Still, I would not mind a few more days off!

For the most part, my mini-Christmas break was very nice. We went to the movies.  We spent time with our families.  We gave and got some great gifts.  We laughed.

The holidays were not the way I thought they would be when I envisioned them last year.  Hell, they were not even the way I thought they would be six months ago.  But we survived.  And I like to think we are the stronger for it.

There were a few highlights to the long weekend. Seeing our nieces and nephews ranks up there as number 1.  No doubt about it.  I sometimes feel such a longing for Allie when I am with them as it hurts so much that they will never get to know their cousin.  But this weekend, for whatever reason, I was able to just enjoy them and love them and not wish for what is not here, but instead, appreciate what is.

Last night, we said a toast to Allie before we ate dinner.  Man that was nice.  Then as we opened presents, we were given this plaque from Gary's aunt.  I told you about it a while back in this post, but we did not have all the details then. How amazing is this gesture and the love behind it?
  
Last night I was also given the most beautiful heart necklace, inscribed with these words:  "My precious Daughter, I love you today, tomorrow and always".  Gary's dad and his wife got it for me and I could have just melted.  For some reason, my worst fear is that our daughter will be forgotten.  Well, guys...I get it.  Allie is here in our hearts today and every day.  Perhaps that is the best gift of all?

So here we are on December 26th.  Christmas is past.  The last night of Hanukkah is tomorrow.  2012 is right around the corner.  I am very happy to say goodbye to this year as it brought more pain and anguish and sadness than I would have ever thought possible.  But, it also brought us more love and strength and support than I ever thought possible, too.

Happy holidays to you all and may all our dreams come true in the coming year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Birth Announcment

A friend/coworker made this for us.  She told me when I was pregnant that she liked to do birth announcements and would like to make one for us.  I was super excited.

When I came back from leave, she told me she still wanted to make it...if we still wanted it.  I said yes.

Although Allie was born on April 22, the date of May 11 was the one we held close to our hearts for all those months as that was the day she was due.

I cannot wait to go home and hang this up and I cannot wait for the day that I can tell my friend to make us another one.  Even though I am leaving her department, she does not seem to be holding a grudge.

Thank you, friend.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Feeling...good?

Grief is such an odd "thing".  I am not sure if it's an emotion or feeling or state of mind or stage or what so I am just gonna call it a thing.  It makes you sad and keeps you sad.  It can take away the ability to see the happy in situations. It can smother you like a blanket and take your breath away.  It will allow you to go through the motions of life, but in a way, stop you from actually living.

I have worked for my company for about 5 and a 1/2 years.  Last March, I went to HR and talked about making a change.  I was 7 months pregnant and it was going to be hard to put the baby in daycare and come back to a job that I was not 100% passionate about.  I loved the people I worked with and I knew I wanted to stay at the company, but I wanted something a little more me...and something that was going to really challenge me.

Then we lost Allie.  Our world stopped.  Time stopped.  Everything went black.

6 weeks after the worst day of our lives, I went back to work.  Going back was good for me as it made me feel needed and it obviously helped pay our mortgage and bills.  I went through the motions, buried in grief, but did what I had to to get by.  I did not care what I did, as long as I was doing something.

About a month ago, I was in the cafeteria getting ice from the ice machine and I saw a posting for a job that practically screamed, "Sam, look at me!".  The open position was for a Training Specialist and it involves training and leading and teaching and all the things I have really wanted to do for a while.  I will get to travel to our other facilities and I will be constantly challenged and pushed to my limits.  

I went to HR and expressed my interest.  I met with the hiring manager and expressed my interest again.  I met with a person in the department and well, you get it.  Last week, I was given an assignment to do as part of my interview.   I had to present a 15-30 minute class with Power Point slides and a logo and a brand and a theme and a flyer and I worked harder this past week than I have in longer than I care to admit.  I practiced every night and had Gary help me and then help me again and then help me some more until I got it right.  I was scared and nervous and I second-guessed myself a lot.

My presentation was 9:30 this past Friday.  I knew it was good.  I knew it was me.  I knew I did the best job possible.  I knew it more when HR called shortly after lunch to offer me the job. 

I gladly accepted.  I ran down to tell Gary.  I did it!  We did it!  (There are so many perks to us working for the same company!).  I was so proud of myself and it felt so...good??  Yeah, it felt good!  I worked hard and went after something and I got it.  Here's the best part - I felt good and I let myself feel good!  

It's now 2 days later and I still feel good.  Is my daughter still gone?  Yes.  Am I still sad?  Hell, yes.  But am I making the most of my life?  For the first time since April, the answer is yes.

I found this on my way home from work on Friday and bought it as a treat for getting the job. I think I deserved it!  This blog has been so very helpful to me, as have each and every comment that you, the readers, has ever left.  So now I can be reminded of them all whether I am in front of my computer or not.

I know I am not "over" the grief.  I am not sure I ever will be.  But this week, I was able to compartmentalize that grief and the results were astounding.  I hope I can keep it up because it feels good to be able feel good again.  Nothing has changed, but everything has shifted.  And when it shifts back, I will now have this post to rely on.  I will read it and be reminded that sometimes, it's ok to feel good, too.  It really is...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Need for...what?

I feel like I need to write today and yet, I am not sure what I want to say.  Usually I have a topic in mind before I start, but I figured this time, I would just start typing and see what comes out.

A few people have asked me if the holiday season is hard for me this year and my answer is yes and no.  It's hard because it's just one more thing that my baby will not be here for, but it's not any harder than any other day.  Because we celebrate Hanukkah with my side of the family and Christmas with Gary's side of the family, it's not like the season culminates in one day for us like it does it so many other households.  No, for us, it's 8 nights of lighting the menorah that she will never see and then 1 full day of Christmas cheer that she will never hear.


Next week is 8 months that she is gone.  I carried her for just a little longer than that.  Soon it will be 9 months and then 10 months and before I know it, she will have been gone even longer than she was even here.  That makes me sad.

I need something...but I am not sure what it is.  I need to be a mom to a living child.  Someone told me recently that they do not like that expression and guess what?  Nor do I.  But it is what it is.  I need to get pregnant again, but apparently my body is not ready for that just yet.  I need to feel that there is more to life than sorrow and pain, and some days I do.  Other days, it's just too hard.

Last year this time, we had just found out we were having a girl.  I never imagined a scenario in which should would not be here with us this year.  Damn.

I am angry and sad and fearful and mad.  I do not feel like shopping and I do not feel like celebrating.  But I am here, my family is stronger than ever, I have nieces and nephews that want to play and I will NOT miss out on all of that.

So up I get each and every day...just waiting for that something that I hope one day will come. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Other Side of Loss

Last night, my dear friend lost her father.  He had been sick off and on for the last few years, but we were all very  hopeful that they would find the right treatment for him and that he would get well.  He had so much to live for - a loving wife, two wonderful kids, 2 adorable grandchildren, 7 siblings, 1 dog...the list goes on and on.  Mr. R was an active member of his church and loved to golf.  He had a great sense of humor and if anyone he knew loved you, well then, he loved you, too.  67 years was FAR too few years for him to be on this earth.

My bestie called me last night from the hospital and asked us to go walk the dogs.  Her dog and her parents dog were together at one house and the doctor had just told them to not go home last night.  So Gary and I put on baseball caps and dark clothes and got in the car to drive over.  It was pouring last night and we wanted to be prepared...but I am sure it looked like we were casing the joint.  We fed and walked the dogs and then dried them off and played for a bit.  Anyone that knows me, knows I am not a dog person.  I was mortified that one was gonna poo and that I was not going to know how to handle it.  (Insert Gary's help here!).  I am a cat person all the way.  But for my friend, I would walk a thousand dogs.

Early this morning, before the sun was even up, I had an eerie feeling.  I checked my phone and sure enough, there was a voice mail from my friend.  Her dad was gone.

I sent her a text to see if she was up and then I called her.  We cried together for a long time.  We cried at all the things her dad was going to miss, now that he is not here. We cried at all the things she was going to miss about him.  And we cried because we both came to the realization that her dad and my daughter would be together.  He will surely look out for her and teach her whatever she needs and love her the way we can't here on earth.

I am now faced with the kind of grief that our friends and family faced back in April.  I want to send flowers and food and cards.  I want to be there for their family and hold them and hug them and let them know they are not alone. I feel so helpless and so sad and OH MY GOD...this is what it feels to be on the other side of loss.  I think it might suck just as much.

It's with a heavy heart that I write today as he was not my dad and his is not my story to tell...and yet, I was touched by this man.  This strong man who raised my friend to be one of the best people I have ever had the honor of knowing.  So I guess it is fair for me to write about him.  He was loved so very much and he is already missed so very much. 

Mr. R - here's to you.  I will surely toast my next martini in your honor.  I know how much you loved them.  I hope you are in a happy place.   A place with no pain.  You left your family in good hands.  We will take care of them.  Please tell my baby that we miss her so.  I suspect you might have done that already...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mass and Muppets

Yesterday, I went to church.  Yup, you read that right!  Not many Jews go to Mass, I know.  Trust me.  We do not know what to do there.  We love staring at the stained glass and feeling the wood of the pews, but as a whole, we usually feel out of place in church. We go, of course, for weddings, christenings, funerals...and for Mass Services that are held to honor our baby girl.

Gary's aunt has taught at the same Catholic school for 40+ years.  I think.  I may be off by a year or two, but I think I am close.  Her sister, Gary's mother, works in the same school in their main office, and has also worked there for years.  Catholicism is important to them and the sense of community that they get from the school and the Parrish is unmatched.  So when they both told us many months ago that they wanted to have a Mass to honor Allie, we were immediately on board.

Technically, Allie was Jewish.  In the Jewish faith, a child born to a Jewish woman is automatically Jewish.  Also true are that Allie's Daddy is Catholic, and so are her cousins, grandparents and aunt and uncles.  So although she would  have been raised with Hanukkah and the Hora, she would have certainly been aware of Christmas and Easter eggs.  This Mass was a way to honor that side of her, and to honor her whole family.

It was a lovely service.  The students practiced their readings for weeks and weeks.  There was a sense of warmth and love and it was so very nice.  My brother and sister-in-law came with us, along with all 3 kids.  The parents pulled the boys out of school so they could be there with us.  That's what family does, they said.  

When it was time to bring the gifts the alter, my mother-in-law and her sister proudly got to do the honors.  So did Sean, my adorable 7 year old nephew with Gary's eyes and the biggest heart.  He represented all the little people.

I looked over at Gary during the service and there were tears on his face.  I was a little shocked since I know that religion is not that important to him.  We held hands and got through the service and I asked him later what had made him so sad.  He replied that it felt like a funeral to him in some ways and that had a great effect on him.  The last time he was in that very church was when his grandfather passed away.

In the middle of the ceremony, they read her name.  Allison Paige Koellhoffer.  I could listen to it being read a thousand times.  My heart burst.  We are remembering you, baby.  We love you, baby.  We are all trying to honor you the best we can.



When the Mass concluded, we went to tour then school and then we went to brunch.  Whether it was the emotions of the morning or the Pomegranate martini's from the night before (we stayed over with our brother and sister-in-law since the Mass was so early), we ate like we had never seen food before!

Next, we went back to their house and Gary and I decided we were not ready to go home just get.  So my sister-in-law and I took the boys to see The Muppets.  When else would I get this chance? Gary stayed back with his brother to get quality time with our niece.  What an afternoon!  The movie was so fun and the boys were laughing and giggling almost as much as their mom and me.  The characters brought back so many memories from my youth and I hope that when the boys are older and they think about Kermit and Miss Piggy, I will be a teeny part of that memory, too. 

So home we went, as the sun set on the day.  We were both exhausted.  In a good way.  We honored or baby girl and we laughed and lived in the present and made the very most of the experience.  It was a wonderful day and we are thankful to all who made it happen.  You, too, Kermit!!

A Letter to My First Daughter

My Dearest Allie, It’s been a while since I have written to you. I find it easier to write about you than it is to write to you. ...