Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hey everyone. It seems I have said all I can say for now. Until I write again, I would recommend the blog "" My friend, Terri, expresses the grief of the loss of a child so well it's like she's reading my mind...writing my exact feelings.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

Kenny and I were out to dinner a while back and we ran into a couple that we haven’t seen since we moved from our old neighborhood 7 years ago. They stopped at our table and sat down. We have mutual friends in the old neighborhood, so I knew that they must know what had happened. I sat waiting nervously for 15 minutes for one of them to acknowledge it. With a pit in my stomach, I listened to small talk about their kids, the old neighborhood, the weather, until I finally had to work up the courage to ask them directly if they had heard about Kirsten. “Oh, yes” they said, and returned to idle chatter.

This happens quite often. I am not angry or bitter, I just wish people were better informed. To not bring it up the first time you see someone, no matter how long it has been, is to downplay the significance of what has happened. This is THE most significant thing that has ever happened in our lives, and always will be, so to pretend like it isn’t is hurtful and feels disrespectful… not only to us, but to Kirsten.  I would suggest that one muster up the courage to bring it up immediately, to take the burden off the already burdened to be the ones to bring it up, even if the loss happened 20 years ago... and then, after at least a few sentences or questions about it, if you never want to bring it up again…fine.
I was given this poem in a support group…

                  The Elephant in the Room
                                  By Terry Kettering

There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting, so it is hard to get around it.
Yet we squeeze by with, “How are you?” and “I’m fine”…
and a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.
We talk about the weather. We talk about work.
We talk about everything else --- except the elephant in the room.
We all know it is there.
We are thinking about the elephant as we talk.
It is constantly on our minds,
for you see, it is a very big elephant.
But we do not talk about the elephant in the room.
Oh, please, say her name.
Oh, please, say “Barbara” again.
Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
For if we talk about her death,
perhaps we can talk about her life.
Can I say “Barbara” and not have you look away?
For if I cannot, your are leaving me
alone…in a room…with an elephant.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Year of Firsts

The year of “firsts” is now over. The big “firsts”… first birthday, first Christmas, first summer without her, and some of the unexpected firsts, the ones that just keep coming, the ones that wear your soul down… the first time I didn’t set her place at the table for a family dinner, the first time I ventured out in public as the woman who had lost a child and the first time I answered “one” when asked how many children I have.

One of the big “firsts” is about to become a second. Next month we will celebrate Kirsten’s birthday without her for the second time. Last year we celebrated her birthday just over a month after her passing. It was as nice a party as it could be without her actually being there.

All of our family and friends were there, and all of Kirsten’s friends, even a couple of the Shippensburg friends. I baked a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and put a number 1 candle and a number 9 candle on it. I wanted to make the cake myself, it was a motherly duty I could still do for her. There were beautiful flower arrangements, so kindly sent to us for the occasion and Kirsten’s friends decorated the house with pink and blue streamers.

The food was from one of Kirsten’s  favorite places, Royal Bakery. There were two 5 foot subs and assorted pastries. When I picked up the food, I took a picture of the heart and initials that Kirsten had drawn on the wall behind one of the booths. Others had added notes to it since the accident. The new management has since painted over it.

After we ate, all of the people who had gotten a tattoo in Kirsten’s honor gathered outside for a picture. There were 12 of us. There are several other people with Kirsten tattoos that aren’t in the picture. When I’m afraid that her friends will one day forget her, I think of those tattoos.

We sang Happy Birthday and blew out the candles. That was when I lost it. I hid my face against Kenny’s shoulder and sobbed. Everything about this was just SO WRONG.

Then we went out back and released about 50 pink balloons with handwritten messages on them. They floated up toward a bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. Mine said, “Happy Birthday, Kiki. I love you, Mom :-) 

It was a perfect spring day and the sight of all those balloons drifting away from the people who had been holding them was very moving. As the balloons passed the treetops, escaping our grasps forever, I noticed Kirsten’s friend, Cami, start to cry.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Morning Like No Other

One year hardly seems possible.

It was a morning unlike any other, peculiar from the start, with unexpected snowfall covering the ground following a warm, early spring day. I noticed the note while I was still confused about the snow; a yellow sticky note stuck to the kitchen counter that read,

“ Mom/Dad, going over to Amy’s house. She lives off Hawkins Creamery Road. Just wanted to let you know. Love, Kikibird”

This came as a surprise, too, as Kirsten was in pajamas when Kenny and I went to bed around 11pm and I didn’t know she had gone out.  After getting my coffee, I went back upstairs to finish getting ready for work. I dried my hair and did my make-up, glancing occasionally at the news on the TV reflected from the bedroom onto the bathroom mirror. I had my black scrub bottoms on and a white tank top; the black floral scrub top needed a little ironing so I took it to the laundry room to iron it.

The doorbell rang around seven fifteen. My heart stopped when I saw the tan and black of two police officer’s uniforms, a man’s and a solemn looking woman’s, through the glass on each side of the front door. As I came down the steps, scrub top and the towel I was using as an ironing board still in hand, my mind raced into overdrive, panic stricken…”don’t open the door!” “God, please let her be in the hospital!”  I knew from experience what police officers on your doorstep meant. I was seventeen when I opened the door to police officers at three in the morning on another early March morning long ago to be informed that my twenty-two year old brother, John, had fallen to his death from the top of the trunk of a car driven by friends down Wisconsin Avenue after an evening in Georgetown.
And I knew it was Kirsten. I knew Michelle was in bed and Kenny was at work and I had just read the note on the kitchen counter. My worst fears were realized when the policeman said that they were investigating an accident at Rt. 27 near Brink Road and asked me if I owned a red Honda Civic… if I had a daughter named Kirsten who went to Shippensburg University. The officer explained that there was black ice, she had lost control of the car, gone into the other lane and had been hit by a Ford Explorer coming from the other direction at five o’clock that morning. And then the worst words I have ever heard, the ones I am constantly chasing from my mind, the words that pop into my head at random times of the day, when I look at pictures and when I lay in bed at night…”she was pronounced dead at the scene.” My reaction brought Michelle downstairs and the officer encouraged me to sit down. Together we sat, stunned, in the living room.

My mind went back to the images in the bathroom mirror and sorted through them until it found them…I had seen it without knowing it…the red car in the darkness, lit up by a news helicopter’s spotlight…the banner at the bottom of the screen reading, “Fatal accident in Germantown.”

The male officer gave me his business card and explained to me that I would need to contact a funeral home, the words “funeral home” making me feel sick to my stomach. They prepared to leave, but I wouldn’t let them give me news like that and just walk away. I led them into the kitchen and, through my tears, pointed at Kirsten’s big, beautiful senior picture over the mantel. I think I wanted to inflict a little of my pain on them. I wanted them to be able to put a face to the name. To make them see what a loss it was, not only to us, but also to the world.
I went back upstairs, Michelle trailing behind me, crawled back in bed, and that was how my life, as I knew it, ended.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


With the one year mark coming up I thought I would share this letter written by Colleen Fledderman, who lost her 18 year old daughter in 2001. I identified so closely with her letter that I felt like if I changed the names I could have written it myself.... so that's what I did. I think I speak for any mother who has lost a child when I say that her letter illustrates the depth of the loss so well.
I have never met Carlie Brucia’s mother, Nicole Brown Simpson’s mother, Polly Klass’s mother, Princess Dianna’s mother, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s mother or Laci Peterson’s mother. But I know them all intimately. I know what dwells in their hearts and souls everyday. Like them I buried my daughter.
What am I now? Am I a daughterless mother? That sounds like an oxymoron, two words that contradict themselves. My eighteen year old daughter, Kirsten, died on March 7th, 2011. My life is forever changed. Burying a daughter is a surreal experience. There are no words in Webster’s Dictionary that can explain the grief, the heartache, the pain, the depression or the anguish. Heartbroken is too small a word. The words don’t exist because it is not supposed to happen. There are no plausible definitions that could accurately describe “bereaved parent.” Groups of words can’t be strung together on a typed page to accurately explain the grief. It is impossible to bury your child, yet it happened.
Logically, the factual part of my brain processed the information. The emotional part of my brain argues with the fact everyday. Each and every morning it is still a shock to my entire being! I still peek into her bedroom and expect to find her perfectly made bed a mess of jumbled covers with my daughter snuggled deep inside of them. Parents don’t bury children! Headstones read “loving mother,” “cherished wife.” They don’t read “beloved daughter.” That is not the natural order of the universe. This was not supposed to happen to me. It always happens to other people. I see reports on the evening news, articles in the newspaper describing horrible events that resulted in the death of someone’s child. It isn’t supposed to be my child. How can this be? It can’t be changed. I can’t say, “Kirsten, want to go to the mall?” “Let’s go out to lunch.” She can’t tell me about her “freaking psych test” that she has to study for all night long.
Things I want to say to her are forever left unspoken. How will I go on? I can’t go on, yet I do. My body wakes up each day. I don’t ask for this to happen, it just does. My lungs take in air, it is automatic, something that I have no control over. My physical body now controls the course of events in my life. I breath, I eat, I walk, I talk, I put one foot in front of the other. I load the washer and shop for food. I can work. I can teach. I can think on the job about the job. My spiritual being merely exists. It cannot flourish or soar ever again.
When my daughter died, my emotional self was buried with her. When she died, I also buried her future husband to be, my future grandchildren, my daughter’s future wedding, my daughter’s college graduation ceremony, my holiday, my joy. I buried my best friend. I buried the once perfect life that I knew and lived everyday. Tucked into the corner of Kirsten’s casket is my happy husband. My despondent bereaved husband now
lives with me. I buried my twenty three year old daughter’s future matron of honor. I buried Michelle’s future nieces and nephews. There is not enough room in Kirsten’s casket for all the things that died with her. Dreams, hopes, joys, lives, emotions, hearts and souls slipped into that casket with Kirsten. They occupy every square inch of that place. One day my fifteen year old nephew will be older than her. Can my brain every understand that?
Bereaved parents go on. We go on because we have no other road to travel. It is just we are not “normal” anymore. We used to be you. We used to be the PTA moms and the Girl Scout leaders. We brought lovely frilly fancy holiday dresses for our daughters. We were once carpool moms and soccer moms. We sat at musical recitals and listened to the first melodious squeaks and squawks of their instruments. Forgotten homework assignments were rushed to school for our children. In our heads we planned our beautiful daughter’s future wedding. Vision of the bridal gown and the reception danced in our heads. We couldn’t wait to have grandchildren and baby-sit and enjoy. We wanted to tell our daughters that their children were just like them. Our daughter’s christening gown is carefully preserved and awaiting to be worn by her own children. We wanted to hold our grandchildren’s chubby little fingers in our hands and remember holding our daughters chubby little fingers in our hand.
We used to answer the telephone and hear, “Hey mom, what’s up?” Now the phone doesn’t ring. And it will never ring again with that sweet voice we so desperately would love to hear. Now we are set apart. We are not normal anymore. People choose to walk down a different aisle to ignore us. It is too painful for them to think about our lives. They might take a moment to wonder how we go on. They say, “I can only imagine your pain.” That is not true. No one can imagine it unless they live it. We now belong to a new group. We never wanted to be a part of this group, bereaved parents. No one lines up for this membership. We wish our membership would never grow. I am glad you are not me.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Last Words

A friend of mine said she wished she had known that the last time she saw her son was the last time she’d ever see him. She couldn't remember exactly when it was. It got me thinking about what I would have said to Kirsten if I had known it was the last time I'd ever see her. How would I have spent my time with her?  I am so thankful that I spent most of Kirsten's last day with her and I got to say some of what I would have wanted to, had I known it would be my last chance.

We started out at Chipotle in Germantown, one of Kirsten’s favorite restaurants and now one of mine, too. She had a chicken burrito, which she hardly ate half of. 
We sat in a secluded part of the restaurant, at a counter facing the window with reggae music playing in the background. For some reason, I was compelled to tell her about the day she was born. I told her how she had been special from the very moment she was born. She didn’t look like the other babies, she wasn’t red and skinny and wrinkly. I remembered the moment they handed her to me and being surprised that she had such a healthy, normal skin tone and that it looked like she was a few days old already. She was perfect.

I told her that she continued that way, always so pretty... that I could still picture her at about age four as clearly as if it were yesterday, with those long, pretty, blond wisps of hair that always escaped her ponytail and fell around her face. 

She told me how she had started sharing my love of reggae and that she really wanted to go to my favorite resort in Jamaica. I thought someday we would go. As she walked to the soda fountain to refill her drink, I admired how good she looked in her black yoga pants.

Next we went to Solar Planet, where she used to work, so she could tan. She used the points package and lotion I had gotten her as a surprise for her to use on spring break. I waited while she tanned, then we went next door to Hallmark to buy Michelle’s birthday card. Kirsten took a little detour through the Vera Bradley section and really wanted to get something. She looked at purses and luggage, which were more than I wanted to spend, and finally settled on a small black and red wristlet, which I bought for her. The police returned it the next day with her personal effects. 

Then we went to Best Buy and bought three episodes of How I Met Your Mother for Michelle. That evening, the four of us celebrated Michelle’s birthday with dinner at Mi Rancho. It turned out to be Kirsten’s last meal. Kirsten and I sat across from each other in the booth. We ordered the same thing, steak fajitas. We had a lot of the same food, clothing and music. We came home, Michelle opened her gifts and we watched a couple episodes of How I Met Your Mother together before Kenny and I went to bed. I kissed and said goodnight to Michelle and then I kissed Kirsten on her head and said the last words I would ever say to her…”Love you, goodnight.”

Sometimes I try to think of the small blessings that can be found even in the midst of this horrible tragedy. I feel so thankful that on Kirsten’s last day, I got to tell her how special she had always been to me, I got to buy her a gift, eat her last meal with her, kiss her and tell her I loved her.  I guess there are worse ways to leave it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Unfinished Story

I don’t just miss who Kirsten was, I miss who she was going to be. I miss the rest of her life, the unfinished story. Sometimes I make up the rest of the story myself and it goes like this...

Kirsten would finish college in four years. She would struggle a little, but would graduate from Shippensburg University with a degree in Graphic Design and start working at GKA, the advertising agency that our friend, Jodi, co-owns. She would plan her new and trendy outfit for each day the night before. She would get along great with Jodi and would model herself after her. They had a lot in common: energy, enthusiasm, cheerfulness and a positive outlook. Kirsten would do well there and be successful and well liked. She would also spend time with Jodi’s kids because she missed them from the days when she used to be their after school nanny.


Kirsten would marry at about 25. She would marry an ordinary, down to earth kind of guy and have two kids, a boy named Colton and a girl named Blaire or Emma, or maybe two boys. I would be there for the deliveries, along with her husband and her best friend. She would quit work or cut her hours to part time to be a good mom. Being a mother would come naturally to her. There are pictures of her on facebook holding friends' babies and she looks so comfortable with them. 

She would be a great wife and mother. She would probably try to be a mom like our old next door neighbor, Diana, Marc's mom.  Kirsten spent a lot of time next door and I think she learned to be so organized and punctual from Diana. Kirsten's children would always be nicely dressed, probably in designer clothes, and be well kept and clean. She would spend lots of time with them, play with them and take them places. Her house would always be neat and clean and the kids would always get to school on time. She and her little family would come over for dinner a couple times a week and her kids would love us. They would love swimming in the pool in the summer and watching football games in the winter. She and I would go out for girls' days, going to the mall and to lunch. We would talk on the phone everyday. She would ask me for recipes or advice on childcare or how to do something she needed help with and she would enthusiastically tell me all about her day. It would be a play-by-play description, not a single detail left out.

Later, when Ken and I got older, Kirsten would insist that we come to live with her so she could take care of us. She would think we were such cute, little old people and would do my hair and make-up for me. When we passed on, she would make sure everything was done right, no matter what the cost. She would make sure that we were dressed nicely and that it was a funeral that would honor us. She would speak at our funerals of her fond memories and of the things she learned from each of us. She would wear my ring everyday and have pictures of us in her house because she missed us.

And, although she missed us, she would live a long and happy life. She would continue to be the Kirsten we all knew and loved…cheerful, funny, helpful, pretty and classy, brightening everyone’s life she touched.

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”
                                                                             John Greenleaf Whittier