14 months. numbness. and (involuntary) survival.

Little Diddy,

It has been too long since I’ve written. There is no excuse – other than the fact that this numbness thing has made stringing multiple sentences together an elusive feat. Everyone who knows me could attest that I express the contents of my heart best through the written word. I realize that talking proves to be the most efficient and effective form of communication for most people. Apparently, I am not most people; at least not when I’m expected to express emotions by talking. So much of what I want to say remains unvoiced when I have to rely on my mouth to keep up with my brain. (Momma is a quick thinker. But when matters of the heart are at play, the right words don’t always catch up with my speedy brain…much less find their way out of my mouth. Ironically, in situations that it’d behoove me to be at a loss for words – thoughts fly out of my mouth all too quickly. It’s gotten me into trouble every now and again. Largely because the things that fall out of my mouth, when not speaking with my heart, happen to include the “F” word…usually more than once. And also because most people don’t appreciate the versatility of the word as much as I do.)

In hindsight, writing to you proved to be a helpful way for me to process my grief. I guess it took me until January to begin writing because that’s when my grief-induced numbness started to wear off. Each time I wrote, little pieces of my heart grew closer together. Uniting my scattered, yet most sacred, thoughts into a coherent and heart-felt voice allowed a tiny sliver of my soul to come back to life. Given I had lost my beloved child, to a gruesome and horrific disease – just six months prior, I don’t think my emotional paralysis was uncommon or unacceptable. As it turns out, others thought differently.

Two months ago a deep-freeze-Novocain-shot-to-the-heart-type-numbness returned. This round being induced by a choice, not a disease, feels entirely different…yet strangely familiar. Apparently, numbness is how I spare myself from pain so profound that, if absorbed, it would kill me. I never understood how Aron Ralston, the hiker who got trapped under a boulder for 127 hours in the mountains of Utah, managed to severe off his arm to dislodge himself and save his life. Now it makes perfect sense. Mr. Ralston cut off his arm; I cut off my feelings. Survival: I guess it is an involuntary reflex after all.

I am glad I survived until today, because today you would have turned 14 months. Before I even opened my eyes this morning, I knew it was the 12th. I knew it was 14 months. Instead of letting my eyes give way to the tears which all too often push their way past my lids and down my cheeks, I closed them a little tighter. As I did, I was met with a vision of you so vivid that if I’d reached inside my eyes, I could’ve grabbed onto you. You held onto the railing of your crib as you bounced just high enough to make me nervous…but too excited to make you stop. Across your sweet face spread your trademark, semi-lopsided, contagious smile which was so fierce that it pushed your cheeks against the bottoms of your baby-blue eyes. You had on fuzzy pj’s – – through which your diaper, being extra squishy, made your dupa stick out a little further than the rest of you. The babble you uttered was purposeful in nature – – as you were luring Momma to your room to swoop you into my arms for a good-morning kiss and love-packed squeeze.

I could have watched you all morning. But just as quickly as you came – you were gone. When that happens, especially in a semi-sleep state, I am still not sure if you actually came to visit, or if I simply conjured up a desired reality. Either way, I feel as close to you as I can possibly get – which makes my heart smile.

I eventually willed myself out of bed. I forced myself into the shower. I put one foot in front of the other. I set out to execute the motions of the day. But I held that vision of you so steady in my eyes that I can’t say for sure I ever saw the road as I drove through the dark, rainy morning. I was snapped out of my trance by a message from someone I thought I may never hear from again. The gesture alone was beyond what I could have asked for…especially today…especially in that very moment. I am certain you were behind that too, Sweet Boy. You always find a way to remind me that we are together in this shit storm of life.

For now, Momma has to go to sleep. As always, I will look for you in my dreams. Wherever you are, and wherever you roam, I hope you can feel my love – – from the top of your precious little head all the way down to your tippy-tippy toes.

...the giving tree.

I am so sorry you got sick. I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you. I am so, so sorry for all of this.

I love you. I miss you. I hope you are safe.

xoox,

Momma

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Be Peaceful.

Sweetest Diddy,

An early morning trip to Target proved to be far more significant than Momma’s run-of-the-mill trips to Target. With only a few things to pick up, and a surplus of time to spare, I began to amble mindlessly through a store which, once upon a time, was as familiar to me as our backyard. Ultimately, I found myself in the middle of the “happy home” isle. I almost screamed out loud, (but didn’t – so don’t be embarrassed) when I found the candle I have been searching high and low for since last April. To the rest of the free world, it would seem there is nothing extraordinary about this candle. It is a typical Target something-or-other-brand aromatherapy candle. The name however, a bit more special, ‘Be Peaceful’…which is what compelled me to initially buy it. I found it on my first “away from home” trial in very early March. I wonder if it were exactly one year ago today? At any rate, I remember your Daddy making me leave the house without you in tow. He said I could go wherever I wanted, but that I had to be gone a minimum of twenty minutes. Prior to you becoming a part of my life, a twenty minute errand was nearly laughable, given my trademark ability to turn a five minute errand into a two hour escapade. Nonetheless, I took the challenge.

In lightening speed, I secured formula, a double pack of Dr. Brown’s bottles, and a tube of “Butt Paste” (recommended by Dr. D.). I turned to head home, but realized I had been gone about 7 minutes. I anxiously made a quick right turn down the “happy home” isle….where I spotted the ‘Be Peaceful’ candle. I instinctively, and giddily, added it to the must-haves-for-Paxton basket. Unwilling to suppress my angst of being away from you, away from my family, a minute longer – I headed to the Express checkout, paid for our stuff, and drove home…without stopping to look both ways. I burned that candle, almost daily, until approximately the middle of April. When I noticed it was almost gone, I began my search for another one. I checked multiple Target locations, Target online, and eBay; but was unable to find another one anywhere. Knowing it was ‘running’ low – and with no replacement in sight, I began to burn it more sparingly. Then May happened.

Finding the ‘Be Peaceful’ candle today, initially, seemed so very serendipitous. It is, after all, March 2nd. Today marks 8 months since I rubbed my lips across your perfect head and silky hair, held you against my chest as we slowly breathed in tandem, and felt the warmth of your gentle – but steadfast – fingers circled around my thumb. To my surprise, the more aroma that fills the room, the more sadness fills my heart. Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than any other of the five senses. The recognition of smell is immediate. While other senses (touch and taste) must travel through the body via neurons and the spinal cord before reaching the brain: our olfactory response is immediate, extending directly to the brain. The emotional connections and the memories attached to a smell are always deeply personal; it seems a familiar smell is oft intrinsically enmeshed with the individual experience.

As the scent of the candle replaces the air in the room, I can almost teleport myself back to last year on this very day. Although smell is the strongest of the five sense, I can remember them all. I hear college basketball steadily as a fixture on our t.v. – but not too loud – because we were listening for the coo of your voice. I see you contently asleep, while swaddled (extra tight, like a cigar) in my arms, or in your bassinet – which we moved upstairs and downstairs depending on where “camp” was determined to be for the next several hours. I taste the sweet flavor of your formula, as I test a drop from my wrist to make sure it is just the right temperature. I feel the unabridged happiness, unexplainable contentment, (no doubt the newborn induced sleep deprivation); most importantly I feel the good, sweet love that filled every last inch of our home.

Needless to say, since ‘Be Peaceful’ has permeated throughout our home, the scent has evoked an unanticipated array of emotions. The sadness and yearning which have flooded my heart are not only due solely over the loss of you – but also over the loss the family who lived here – just last year. It does not seem plausible that the only thing that remains the same about our little family, about our quaint home, about our happily-ever-after … is the familiar scent of a candle.

Sweet boy, I do not know how all of this has happened. What I do know is that if I could fix even one part of it, I would…in a heartbeat, I would.

Momma. Alone.

I hope you are safe. I hope you are peaceful. Please be happy, little one.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox
Momma

A sign. A sigh. And I just miss you.

Sweet Boy,

Thank you so very much for the sign you gifted me the other night. It was one of the most special, endearing, and distinct ones you have so graciously sent to date. (It was no baby giraffe drinking from a bottle…but, it was pretty damn close.) Β And, of course, I so appreciate that you made sure to save it for a time when I needed it so very, very much. Not only are you good, kind, brave and funny…turns out you also happen to be quite bright to boot.

Each time I come to the edge of all the light I have, you find a way to reassure me that I am not alone. You find a way to let me know that you are, in fact, right by my side. Diddy, with the dawn of each new day, I draw a bit of strength, fight, hope and grace from you. Though it pales in comparison, I will continue to conduct myself in a way I hope makes you proud to call me your Momma. I will continue to carry you in my heart, my bones, my blood, and my soul through all of eternity. Β I will continue to believe in you…I will continue to believe in us…I will continue to believe in our indomitable bond.

Littlest Warrior

I miss you. That is all. I miss you.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

Stuck.

Diddy,

I am stuck. I am downstairs on the couch, Daddy and Lucas went to bed nearly four hours ago. I am tired; in fact, I am exhausted. Once again, I am stalling the inevitable close to another day. Any sensible person would take one look at me and tell me to ‘go to sleep’. They would likely add some sage advice, such as “…you’ll feel better with a little sleep”, or “you’ll feel better in the morning”. I cannot sleep. And, no, Soothsayer, I won’t feel better in the morning. If you want to know the truth, chances are I will feel worse. For the love of licorice, I am a Bowe; I have never liked mornings. I think I may have a severe allergy to them. (Ask Nana and Papa, they can attest that this has been a life-long condition.)

I have been dreading the entire month of February…since the month of July. Despite my pleas for some omniscient power to freeze time – or better yet, turn back time – the world has continued to rotate on its axis. Without my consent, the sun has persisted to rise and to set. The long days, and even longer nights, have compiled into weeks; and the weeks have have proceeded to roll into months.

Alas, here we are…February 5th. Exactly one week away from your 1st birthday. Given the preoccupation I’ve had regarding next week, one would think I would have found a way to better combat the darkness which now completely engulfs my insides. I now know for certain, that not even kryptonite would prove powerful enough to ward off the grief of childless mother.

In her recently released ballad, Pink has seamlessly managed to compose my love song to you. She has done so far more articulately and beautifully than I would ever be able. That being said, here is your lullaby for tonight. May the lyrics wrap around your heart and the message soothe you into a peaceful slumber. May you know in the deepest part of your soul that although a minute would not nearly be long enough – Momma would give anything to have just one more with you.

I hope you are safe. I hope you are warm. Most of all, I hope you are happy.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox

Momma

Call my understudy – this role sucks.

Paxton,

I think today was the perfect day for me to have stayed in bed and boycotted my participation in the real world. I hated every second of today – starting with saying good bye to you while scanning your room and (yet again) being bombarded by my unbelievable reality …cruelly reinforced by the sight of your freshly-made crib, abandoned ‘size one’ diapers, and deprived, staged stuffed animals.

Because everything about today would only make me say swear words on top of swear words, I need to skip telling you about it. I made a promise to myself that I will keep my swearing to a minimum in each entry. At least, I promised myself I would try.

Over the weekend I solidified a starter-plan for your first birthday. I think it may have been harder than planning your memorial. Aunt Lala and “Magic Meg” did most of the planning for your memorial – i.e. “the most fucked up day that should never have had to happen”. I was in shock, merely watching myself in a (very bad) made for t.v. movie…as I blindly assumed a lead role, which I never tried out for, much less reviewed the script ahead of time. Thank goodness for Lala and the entourage of lovelies in her wake, for I know not how we’d have pulled one minute of that day together. At this point, the shock of your absence has worn off; but the reality of it is just not setting in. Regardless, I simply cannot NOT participate in planning my baby boy’s 1st birthday. Other than the day you were born, this is a day I have looked forward to for as long as I can remember. The “dysfunction” of planning a birthday for my only child, who was stolen from me (after being slowly tortured) by cancer…at the age of 20 weeks and 1 day…is not lost on me. I get it. It’s unnatural. It’s unbelievable. It’s unorthodox. It’s kind of like your 12 week old son being diagnosed with cancer. So, between you and me Paxton, I certainly hope people hold their judgements about my ‘psychological instabilities’ behind having a birthday gathering for my dead child for someone who gives a shit. I’m unwillingly trapped in a D-List version of my old life. If my behavior is so disconcerting that anyone feel it necessary to psychoanalyze my motives in group talk, or generate phone tree conversation to concoct the best way to approach me with their ‘loving concerns’…I urge them to take a less circuitous route – and call my agent. I cannot, will not, simply refuse to allow your birthday to come and go without proper recognition. You are my baby; you also happen to be my hero. Therefore, you deserve the very best. And, the very best you will get.

Daddy and I decided we would like to remember the happiest day of our life (the day you were born) by gathering all your special earth angels for an afternoon of quality fare, sweet melodies, fond memories, pure love…and, of course, some therapeutic libations too. As you watch us come together, I hope you will recognize we do so not because of any one of us has the strength, will, or desire to overcome the fact that you are gone. Rather, we come together – despite your absence – because we are collectively driven to remain united through the strength of your spirit, courageous of your soul, and purity of your love. Diddy, you alone have the ability inflict a change in this world. I have told you this before; yet, I realize that because I am your Momma, you assume I couldn’t possibly know what I am talking about. You just wait and see, little boy. Your birthday gathering will be beautiful – and powerful…much like you. Afterwards, when Momma proves, again, she knows ‘what’s what’, you and I will talk about other plans I have for that uncanny power of yours. Don’t worry baby, I will be with you every step of the way. You and I are in this ‘change the world’ thing together.

It is time for me to go up to bed. Daddy went up almost two hours ago now. I am beyond tired, yet dread ending the night – much for the same reasons I dread starting the day. I will walk in your room to kiss you good-night, touch your warm little head, pull the blanket you kicked off back up across your tummy, whisper in your ear how proud I am to be your Momma…and sneak as many kisses onto your cheek before (accidentally) stirring you awake (and getting in trouble with Daddy). Instead, I will be met by the familiar heavy silence and somber absence which greeted me this morning. Intellectually, I (almost always) know it’s coming. It takes my breath away nonetheless.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you are warm enough.

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Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox

Momma