Sunday, March 30, 2014

At Peace At Last

James I. Fields died on March 30, 2014. He was 72 years old, and was the retired President and CEO of Fielco Industries, Inc., Huntingdon Valley, PA, a manufacturer of adhesive products. He was born in Philadelphia, the son of the late Dr. Allan Fields and the late Rose Fields. He is survived by his three children, Daniel J. Fields (and his wife Lauren), Jeffrey S. Fields (and his wife Neda), and Samantha J. Koellhoffer (and her husband Gary). He is also survived by three grandchildren, Ella Michael Fields, Summer Jade Fields, and Miranda Hope Koellhoffer; his former wife Phyllis Fields; and many good friends. He was predeceased by his sister, Beth Fields Black, and his granddaughter, Allison Paige Koellhoffer.

Tell my baby I love her.  Make her laugh with your stories.  Entertain her.  I will see you both again someday.



Saturday, March 29, 2014

Seasons of Love

Dear Dad,

I went to see you today but I am not sure if you knew I was there.  I have been to see you a few times this week and each time, I am less certain of how much of you is really there.  It's been 2 weeks since we were told that you might not make it past the weekend and in that time, we have all had time to say goodbye.

Your sons have been at your side virtually every day.  Mom has been there with me and by herself.  She wanted to make sure you knew that she is not angry with you anymore and that it is ok to go.  She forgives you for the past.  That's not an easy thing to do and if you heard her at all, I am sure you were pleased to know it!  

I have brought Miranda to see you and even though I am not sure that you could see her, I bet you felt her presence.  She has a way of just lighting up a room simply by being in it.  She has changed my life for the better and I am sad that you will never really get to know her.

As for me, I have held you hand and kissed your head and assured you that you are loved.  I have reminded you of vacations we took together and I pulled up Broadway show tunes on Pandora.  Today was Rent and Les Miserables and a little Wicked. I do not know if you could hear it but it made me feel good to play them for you.

Today, you met your newest niece.  She smiled and cooed and she completes the circle of grandchildren for you to meet here.  Now it's time to go meet Allie.  She is waiting for you.  I told her to be on the look-out.

Hebrew
Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

I learned today that a rabbi had visited you this week.  He left this prayer by your bed with a note that it should be one of the last things you hear before you die.  I read it in Hebrew and English before I left.  Dad, it's time.

Your body is a shell of what it used to be.  The robust man that I remember is gone.  It's painful to see you there, immobile in that bed, waiting for the end to come. Eyes open by not seeing.  Food sitting untouched and your water glass still full.  This is not what you would have wanted.

I had a dream about you the night before last.  In it, we were at the beach and you were tan and laughing and buying popsicles for everyone around us.  I am glad that is how my subconscious mind remembers you.

I know that death has no timeline - it happens when it happens and there is no way to predict it - but I can say with certainty that there is nothing left for you here.  Let go of that body that is only causing you pain.  We all have different ideas on heaven and the afterlife, but I feel it in my bones that you will be reunited with my daughter and your sister and anyone else you want to see.   

You have lived a life that many only dream about.  It's time to go.  Let us mourn your body and your physical absence and let us celebrate your spirit and the part of you that will live on in your children and grandchildren.   

I love you, dad.  I always have.  I always will.

Love,
Sammy
"In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?" - RENT


Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Power of Love

"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was."  Anne Sexton, American poet

Watching someone die is a very hard thing to do.  I find that so much of the time I think about me and how my dad's death is going to impact me when I really should be focusing on him and how this is really the end for a man who was indeed larger than life for many of his years.

We have been sitting by his bedside much of this last week.  Listening to his breathing.  Talking to the hospice nurses.  Talking to each other.  Remembering stories.  Sharing memories.  Trying to make my dad as comfortable as possible.  

My incredibly passionate brothers have made sure there is music around our Dad at all times as music was something my father really loved.  One brother was streaming Tchaikovsky through Pandora and the other was playing a medley of different operas. It was peaceful to sit with him, hold his hand, and listen to the music softly playing.  Listening to my dad's breathing and wondering how much longer his body is going to fight.

I told him yesterday that I loved him.  I tell him that every time I see him now.  I kiss his head, I tell him it's ok to go and that I love him.  Yesterday, I told him I forgave him for anything in the past.  I meant it.  My mom was with me - she came for both him and to support me - and she was so compassionate and sweet to him that it brought tears to my eyes.

I said what I needed to say and I said what he needed to hear.  But there was one thing I could not say out loud.  And it's been swimming in my head since I left him yesterday.  So I will say it here:

There is a little girl playing in the clouds.  She will call you Pop Pop but you never met her before.  No one did but her mom and dad. She has black curly hair and long fingers and toes.  She is with your parents and your sister.  She is sunshine and light and love.  She is my first born daughter and she is waiting for you.  Dad, it's time.  It's time to go meet our Allie.  You will recognize her.  She looks a lot like I did when I was a baby.  Go to her.  Love her.  Be loved in return.

In the meantime, we wait.  It won't be long now.  I know it's the natural order of things to bury your parents but that does not make it easier.  Well, easier than burying a child, but still not easy in any way.  Not easy at all.
 


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Circle of Life

When a wife dies, her husband is a widower. When a husband dies, his wife becomes a widow. When parents die, their children are called orphans. There is no word or name for the parent whose child dies. Parents burying children is unnatural.

How many times did I hear this when Allie died?  How many times did I even say it?  I still believe it to be profound and true.

But let's back up a bit.  When a parent dies, their children are called orphans.  But what happens when just one parent dies?  And what happens when the relationship was tumultuous at best?  What happens then?  What is the name or label for that?

My father is very ill.  This time yesterday, my brothers and I sat by his bedside thinking we were saying goodbye.  Turns out he might have some more time, but not a lot.   Perhaps a few weeks instead of a few days.  He is on hospice now and is in no pain.  He is receiving comfort care and we are urging anyone that wants to see him to go sooner rather than later.

Death is something very familiar to me.  I lost my dear uncle when he was just a few years older than I am now.  I lost my grandparents in junior high and then college and right after.  I lost an aunt way too soon.  I have been to funerals in the snow and I have been to ones in the scorching heat.  I have lifted shovels of dirt to place on caskets and I have marked my visits to cemetery's by leaving a pebble or rock on a headstone.  I know the "Mourners Kaddish" by heart which is a Hebrew prayer we say when we have suffered a loss.

And yet I do not know how to quite deal with the imminent passing of my father.  While never the dad I needed him to be, there is no denying that he created me and for that, I am grateful.  He helped create 2 brothers for me that are true extensions of myself.  Real living, breathing parts of me that mean far more to me than I can ever express.  For a while in his life, he made my mom very happy but I am not sure if that cancels out the years he made her very unhappy.

He taught me how to laugh and he taught me how to savor the finer things in life.  He loved New York City and all it had to offer.  An afternoon at The Met, just us, was wonderful for him.  Tickets to a Broadway show were always super fun and I loved watching him watch me enjoy an experience that he provided for me.

For many years, though, he was simply not there for me.  There were many birthdays that were not celebrated and many events where I sought him out in the audience only to realize he was not there.  In some ways, I think my dad wanted us to come out grown up.  He simply did not not how to relate to children or what to do with them.  Weekend visitations were often spent with a babysitter.

It's not my intent to make a pro and con list of the good and bad things he did...but it is my intent to come to terms with the man he is - or was - before it's too late.  I guess what I realized as I sat by his bedside yesterday and helped him take small sips of water while holding his hand was that first and foremost, he is my father.  I am who I am because of him but also in spite of him.  I think he loved me the best way he could and I in turn love him for making me.  For giving me life, even if at times he seems to make that life awfully difficult.  

At the end of the day, when he is gone, will I be mad or will I be sad?  I think I will just be sad.  Sad that he spent so much of his life trying to be someone that he was not and sad that he made so many other people suffer while trying to figure out his own way.  

I said to Gary the night before last, "He will be with Allie soon".  That actually gave me some comfort.  For in this case, I think it will be she that greets him and I hope reminds him how to laugh again and how to live in a forever where there is no pain and no turmoil - just happiness and love and peace.

My Dad and Me in NYC

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sweet Pea Project

This past Saturday, I had the chance to be a part of something beautiful.  A while back, I learned about and organization called the Sweat Pea Project.  Founded by a mother who's daughter was born still, they "offer resources and gentle guidance for bereaved families and health care providers, a place to honor our sweet children and more." This mother became a writer and her first book, Still, is given out at many hospitals to help grieving parents.  When I learned of this book and it's healing powers, I sponsored 4 books in Allie's name to donate to women in need.  

Then came her second book. This time she collaborated with more than a dozen other grieving mothers and created poetry.  This collection, to linger on hot coals, was published earlier this year and on Saturday, they had a poetic gathering to celebrate.

My mom and I decided to go.  To connect with others like us and to honor our Allie.  So we drove and hour and a half to Lancaster, PA and walked into the cute and chic art studio.  We climbed up the steps towards the event and were greeted warmly.  The room was filled with the sounds of an acoustic guitar playing and there was a lovely display of hummus and cheese and crackers.  And wine.  Lots of wine.  Then, up front, behind the podium, 156 candles lit with the names of the babies that are alive only in our hearts.  By sponsoring a copy of Still, you could get a candle with your baby's name.  A win-win if you ask me!


I nervously walked up front to look for her candle.  Mom looked on one side and I looked on the other.  There were so many candles.  Too many, if you ask me.  Too many babies that are not here.  Too many parents left to wonder why.  When we found her candle, our hearts soared.  Hi baby!!

After some wine and munchies, we sat down and waited for the poetry to begin.  4 women read their works live.  The rest were pre-recorded and displayed on a big screen by the podium up front.  It was so lovely.  I cried.  I was not alone.  It was a beautiful way to pay tribute to our children and to be in a room with other people who understand the grief.  They agony.  The sadness.

Many of the readers had lost children years ago.  One was 20 years...one was 6.  I guess in some ways, we are new to this grief party and yet it feels like I have been here an awfully long time.  Allie would have been 3 next month.

At the end, we got to meet the authors and they signed all of our books.  I got to thank them in person for the work that they did and I hope to be a bigger part of their organization moving forward.  It felt good to be there.  It felt right.  My mom and I, side by side, while my husband was home with our rainbow and texting me updates of their day.   

 The drive home was spent talking about which poems we liked the most and which did not resonate as much with us.  We got to take our candle home and I placed it in the cup holder to keep it safe. 


I am proud to be Allie's mom.  Have been since the pregnancy strip came back positive. It's so nice to be able to honor her.  With Miranda, I post her pictures on Facebook and I plan play dates and look for activities for us to do.  I dream of the future and what it will hold for us.  I can't do that with my other daughter.  But I can remember her and love her and honor her.  I hope that is enough.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Common Thread

I gave birth to a child that I am not raising.  So is Miranda's birth mother.  How strange that we have such a tremendous thing like that in common?

There is a thread that will always connect M (Miranda's birth mother) and me.  And her name is Miranda Hope.

8 days from now marks the one year anniversary in which we got the call that a birth mother had picked us to raise her child.  Our lives changed that day forever and in the most spectacular way!

There are nuances to being a mom that I never got to experience with Allie.  Nuances that M will most likely not get to experience with Miranda.  And while I am so grateful for the choice she made to let us raise this phenomenal gift, I can't help but feel that she is missing so much.

In the beginning, I resented the Skype calls a little bit and the visits were hard on me.  It was difficult to figure out where I belonged and where M belonged and although I vowed to do everything in my power for the benefit of my daughter, it was still tricky.

Now, almost a year later, my feelings have changed.  I want M to see what a beautiful and spirited and fun little girl she created.  Turns out there is enough love to share.

We have a visit with M on March 30th.  One day before Miranda turns a year old.  I am excited to see her and to show her what all Miranda can do.  I am giddy with pride and full of nothing but love and respect for this woman who changed the course of our lives.

I often wonder what life would be like if Allie were here.  Sadly, I will never know.  But M will.  She will know what Miranda is learning and doing and experiencing and I am so so happy that we can provide that to her.  It actually helps ease my grief in a way.

Here's to my girls and the common threads that unite us all!  

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. ...