Out Like A Lion

March was always my favorite month. Our wedding anniversary, Brooke’s birthday, my birthday, Brooke’s big Dance Company Showcase, Little League Opening Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring Break… Easter. So many things to celebrate. But this year, March was more like rubbing salt in our open wounds. Over. and over. And over again.

I grew up in the Northeast, and everyone always said that March came in like a lion, yet out like a lamb as the weather got warmer and better. Now that we’re in Southern California, it usually gets colder in spring right before June Gloom sets in. I have to say, I’m actually looking forward to it. A little wind, a little cold. Maybe even a little fog and a fire to fit my mood.

As the days stretch on endlessly without Brooke, it gets harder instead of easier. I can no longer ignore that voice inside my head. It’s getting louder  and louder as denial and shock are gradually becoming replaced with reality.  That voice taunts me. It haunts me. Until I have no choice but to acknowledge it.. “She’s never coming back. Ever.”

So if you see me crying after dropping off Blake at  school, or hiding behind my sunglasses at a baseball game… be gentle. The lion of March has kicked my butt. And, once we get back from Spring Break, there’s our fundraiser community service in Brooke’s honor… The Beach Cleanup.

If this were a Lifetime movie, it would be heart-rendering. But it’ s not Lifetime. It’s Life.

There is no heart-rendering musical score, there are no slow motion moments of friends and family together on a beautiful, perfectly lit beach. It’s cold, hard reality. She’s gone. And I will never know why.

So we push forward. We honor her Spirit. We do the very best we can.Because Brooke expects us to. Because Brooke deserves a strong family and the wonderful support network for which we remain eternally grateful. But it’s the hardest thing in the Whole World. So be gentle with us. Be kind. Be understanding. Because Brooke is gone. Because Brooke will be missed forever and ever. And we still just don’t understand why, and we’re still figuring out life without our beautiful girl.

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Life Is But A Dream?

I’ve been dreaming a lot about Brooke lately. But I’m not the only one. When others tell me of their “Brooke Dreams” they provide tremendous comfort, because she’s always happy, always smiling. Always pretty much saying the same thing… “I’m okay.”

So it makes me wonder… what are dreams, really? If you asked me that four months ago, I’d tell you what anyone would. Anyone, that is, who hasn’t lost someone precious. But now that I’ve  lost a piece of my heart and soul, I’m not so sure about anything anymore.

If we spend over 30 percent of our lives sleeping, who’s to say when we’re actually awake?

Maybe we’re more awake when we’re in a dreamlike state. Perhaps when our mind shuts down at night, it’s really switching on what our rational daytime brain shuts out.

I’ve had what are called Vivid Dreams, where I can see, feel and smell her. I’ve also had dreams that give me some type of knowledge or peace in the fact that there is another place,  far beyond our brains’ capacity to understand. I believe that sometimes, just for a moment, we can comprehend that place… but only when our minds are open. Only when everything is shut down for the night. Only when we are dreaming.

So maybe life really is but a dream. I don’t know. All I know is that I want to keep dreaming. Because Brooke will find a way to reach out to me, as she has to many of you.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close Enough

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Silver Spur Elementary is just on the other side of the canyon. Working from home, I’m close enough to hear the bells that signal recess or lunch. When Brooke and Blake were both there,  I took tremendous comfort in the fact that I knew exactly where they were, and that I had a general idea of what they were doing.

When Brooke started middle school, I had to get used to the fact that she was several miles away. And now that she’s a literally a world away, I have to get used to that, too. I hate that I don’t know where she is. I wish there could be a bell, a signal..anything to let me know… something.

Blake is now a fourth-grader at Silver Spur so I’m often on campus during the school day. Walking to his classroom,  I pause at the mural she painted with her Girl Scout Troop last year. There’s her signature… Brooke. Two little girls skip happily past me, holding hands. Across the blacktop, some older girls are sitting in a circle, whispering about the boys playing handball. This is a world, I realize. And for more than half of Brooke’s life, this was her world.

It dawned on me that, while Brooke was here, she was off experiencing her own life. While she shared parts of her day with me, there were probably many parts she didn’t share. So while I took comfort in her being physically close – just across the canyon – she was also a world away as she made the transformation from a shy little kindergarten girl to a confident fifth grade tween.

And all the while, she was just on the other side of the canyon. Close enough for me to feel secure, yet farther away than I realized. So what about now? Sometimes I think she’s closer than I realize. Because Brooke is always on my mind, and maybe that’s the bell or signal I’m longing to hear.

 

 

 

 

How Much Longer?

1399674_10153355654144619_1025590539219127888_oEvery August, our family would make the 12-hour journey to Park City, Utah. And every hour or so, Brooke would ask the same question… “How Much Longer?”

Along the way, we’d play games, sing songs, and watch movies to pass the time, but the drive always seemed to take longer than Brooke, or any of us for that matter, wanted it to take.

This year, our family is on a journey without Brooke, and this journey really has no end. But it seems like everyone (including us) is wondering… How Much Longer?

How much longer until the unbearable pain wears off? How much longer until we can make it through a day without crying? How much longer until we can focus on a simple task without forgetting something important? How much longer until we feel somewhat like ourselves again? The answer is simply this: We have no idea.

So we play games, we sing songs, and watch movies to pass the time. We hug each other – a lot. We find moments each day where we get some relief from the pain … dinner with friends, watching Blake play sports, a walk near the water, jumping high in the trampoline, Dudley’s antics… a freshly baked cookie.

But the truth is, our journey has just begun. Losing Brooke was so sudden, so unexpected… we haven’t even pulled out of the driveway yet.

We have no idea where we’re going, and we have a long, tough road ahead. But there’s one thing we do know. We won’t ask “How Much Longer?” Because Brooke isn’t here to ask. She knows it’s forever – and she’s along for the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quintessence

I finally have the courage to post a photo of us together. It’s taken me this long to do so for many reasons. The most obvious is because we look so much alike, and it’s painful to be without my other half. We also look so incredibly happy because we were. We took this selfie during Blake’s birthday party last June at Angels Stadium. I want to warn those two smiling faces about what will happen in November. I want to tell them to hold on tight for the next several months because that’s all they will have together.

But the other reason it’s hard to look at photographs, or even videos for that matter, is Because Brooke is so much more than an image or a file.

The word for this is Quintessence:  the essence of something in its purest and most concentrated form.

Brooke’s essence transcends photos and videos. For those of us who knew her well,  it’s the way she made us feel when she walked into a room.

It’s the way her smile was like a light going on in our hearts.

It’s the way her overall silliness made us roll our eyes and giggle at the same time.

It’s how we can hear a song on the radio and fondly remember her wacky rendition.

It’s how we eat a cupcake and still look over our shoulder, waiting for her to mischievously stick her finger in the frosting.

Brooke’s Quintessence is alive and well in our hearts and our minds. And that’s where she  lives  – Forever.

 

 

 

How Do You Talk To An Angel?

Ask anyone who has lost a loved one and they’ll tell you about signs: butterflies, pennies, feathers, songs on the radio.. the list goes on. I truly believe that love and energy continue and our connection remains forever with those we so dearly  love.

Last week in Tahoe, I quickly snapped this photo from our hotel window with my iPhone. I see an angel kneeling and praying in this wispy cloud – the only one in the sky. But Blake sees ballet shoes. It’s kind of like the cloud game we used to play on long car rides. We all see something different, yet meaningful to us.

Whenever I’m driving and missing Brooke the most, I always see two birds flying overhead. I watch them playfully follow one another and remember how Brooke and I would swing hands as we walked together through a parking lot. I always told her that while I no longer needed to hold her hand… I wanted to.

Signs. They connect us back to the memories, the moments. Are they sent from those we love? I have no idea. All I know is that they open up my heart and keep me connected to my precious Brooke. They bring a smile to my face and comfort my aching soul.

I like to think of them as angel emogies. Which are absolutely perfect coming from my tween whose texts were usually more pictures than words, anyway. On Earth she sent me purple hearts and cookies. From Heaven she sends me clouds and birds. I wonder what’s next from her?

I remain open to signs and feelings along with amazingly vivid dreams. That’s how you talk to an angel. Because Brooke will always talk to me, and I will always be watching, listening, and connected to my amazingly creative girl.

 

The New Year

We are spending the week in Lake Tahoe with dear friends. Together we will greet the New Year and 2016 will be the first of many without our precious girl.

It feels strange to be here without her. It feels strange to be anywhere without her. But this place, this beautiful, snowy place… is somewhere she never was… so we don’t see her in our memories here. Instead we see her in the snowflakes and the soft glow of the sky at night. We feel her in the calm beauty of winter. She is with us. I am sure of it.

Blake is learning to ski and loving it. He is so happy to be in the snow… in this new place… so I’m trying to not be a nervous wreck as he takes on new challenges. I’ve learned that we have absolutely no control over what happens to any of us. The only control we have in this life is to make sure the ones we love know that we do… every moment of every day.

I will always think of 2015 as the worst year of my life – the worst year of our family’s life. But most of it – up until November 8 – was one of our best years. One day I’ll write about the great times we had as a family, about how Brooke and I became closer than ever as she seemed to grow and mature at light speed before my very eyes. I’ll write about how I saw glimpses of the woman she was destined to become… about how much wisdom she had for someone so very young. For now it hurts too much to put into words.

Our little family will take on a New Year, new experiences and new adventures.  But Brooke will be in our hearts and minds the entire time. Because Brooke is always with us, no matter where we go, no matter what we do… forever.