Thursday, December 13, 2012

1 Year

RIP Jamie Denise Tharpe 
02.12.1976 - 12.13.2011

It started just over thirteen years ago, this family's pain. I mean, we had felt loss and pain within the family before that, but our immediate family - my parents, my sister, her children, and myself - it really started for us then. Jamie was pregnant with her fourth son. Having had three pregnancies and birthed three healthy boys, no one expected anything to go wrong. But, it did. One day, during a routine ultrasound, the tech's expression changed, and she said, "What a pretty heart, let me get the doctor." And left my sister in the room, knowing that something was very, very wrong. That was the beginning of the spiral, a baby coming with a diagnosis of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Hunter was born on November 27th, 1999, with the best Apgar scores of all of Jamie's children, seemingly healthy. But, because of the ultrasound, we knew, and he was rushed off by life flight to the children's hospital in Birmingham, where my sister and my mother joined him the next morning. He went through two surgeries, and during one, the surgeon tore a hole in his tiny heart, there just was not enough tissue to work with. The hole couldn't be repaired, and my sister made the hardest decision of her life - when Hunter Reed was four days old, on December 1st, 1999, she allowed the doctors to turn off life support, she allowed her son to stop suffering, and she watched him die... Again, I'm brought back to Death Cab for Cutie... "Love is watching someone die." My sister was not the same after that... Only it didn't stop there. We buried our precious Hunter, a beautiful baby boy that only ever opened his eyes long enough to see me, he was too tired and drugged to open them the rest of his little life.

Four months later, we buried Jamie's second son, Tyler.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Trade: Completed

The trade is completed... My Mom is gone. She gave up her fight yesterday, went to be with her daughter, her grandsons, her father, her nephew... I find myself wondering how much pain one family can endure before things begin to come apart at the seams. My mom buried so many people and experienced so many tragedies in her life. It isn't right for one person to go through so much. This is what made me so angry in her last months - she should have had more happiness, or she at least should not have had to experience such a terrible death as she did if she had to experience so much pain in life. How many women in their fifties have had to bury their father, two grandsons, a daughter, and a nephew, among others?

I feel like I have so much to say... But, I can't think of what I want to say. The kids are already back to arguing and fighting. Jake didn't even take the day off of school. He said he couldn't afford to miss it, but I think he just didn't want to sit around the house all day. I can't blame him, it's already driving me a little crazy.

People keep saying they're heartbroken over this... I'm not. That sounds harsh, but the fact is, my heart has been broken over and over again, and last year, it shattered... It never healed. So it couldn't exactly break again while it was already broken still. I feel numb, to an extent. There are so many mixed emotions. Numbness, exhaustion, anger, brokenness, gulit, sadness, relief...

She was hurting so badly. She's not anymore. I don't have to wonder anymore, when her last breaths will be, what her last day on earth will be like for her. Her husband of 38 years kissed her forehead good morning, told her he loved her, laid back down to try and get a few more moments of rest, and listened as she took her last breaths. I'm so thankful that she wasn't alone, and that the voice of a man who loved her, telling her he loved her, was the last thing that she heard. I'm also thankful that he has the closure of knowing that the last words he said to her were the words that everyone hopes to be able to say last to their loved ones, and that everyone hopes to hear last. "But, I'm thinking of what Sarah said - that love is watching someone die." If that's true, my father has proven his love for my mother to me. I wish that everyone could experience a love so selfless and pure in their lifetime. Yes, in thirty-eight years together, they had their hard times. Of course. Every couple does. But, when she really needed him, when it really, truly mattered, he was there for her every step of the way.

Which is more than I can say. I had distanced myself. I wasn't strong enough to watch her die. I know that it might have been different if I wasn't pregnant. I might have been able to do it, but I was so afraid I would stress too much and it would hurt the baby, that I pulled away. I barely went into her room, and if she was asleep, I tried not to wake her. I should have woken her up sometimes, just to tell her that I loved her. I should have gone in there more, to see her and talk to her. She had gotten so bad and it hurt so much. I know that no one blames me. Except me. I know that she knows how much I loved her, how much she meant to me, but that doesn't change the fact that I wish I had done some things differently. I wish I had been stronger. I wish I had been a better daughter. It's not a chance I'm going to get again. I don't think that anyone can lose someone without having regrets. Maybe someone can, but I sure haven't managed it.

Maybe my heart is breaking. How can it feel like it's breaking and like there's nothing left to break all at once?

I'm so relieved that she isn't hurting anymore. And that Jamie didn't have to experience her last months, and didn't have to be here for her death. But, I'm so sad... I wanted this. I wanted her to be done suffering, I didn't want her to have to feel it anymore. It doesn't seem right that something I wanted, something I knew in my heart was the right thing, can be so painful.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Trade

Please, don't tell me this is a ridiculous thought, because I know that it is. But, sometimes, I feel like I wanted another baby so badly that I unknowingly made this horrible trade-off. I had to give up my sister and have to give up my mom to make room in my life and my heart for a second baby. I know that it's a completely irrational thought, but it's the thought that still keeps coming back to haunt me. In my first marriage, we tried for four years for a second baby, and never had one, and then I moved home and we split up and Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I kept wishing that the guy I was seeing and loved would mature and be ready for a baby, I still wanted one so badly, but knew he was not the one to have one with right then. And then last year, Mark started showing interest in me, even though I was kind of blind to it and Jamie had to tell me. Then we started flirting more and more, but I tried to keep my distance because he was seeing someone, even though I knew the relationship was quickly going south.

And then Jamie died. It'll be a year ago Thursday. And I honestly was not okay, and I attached myself to him - I think it was a combination that she gave me an otherworldly push, and that I knew he loved her if not as much as I did, almost as much, but he was still doing some EMT work at that point and heard the call and went. And as hard as I know it was for him, because she was his best friend after all, he stayed with her the whole time. He helped pull her out of the car and stayed with her until the coroner took her away, and then he came to our house and sat with our family while we told her kids. He was in such shock he couldn't even cry. I hope I never have to see that look on his face again. All the broken hearts I dealt with in those hours, I wasn't even in love with the man yet, but his face is the one that I can't get out of my mind still. Before he went home early that morning to lay in bed and not sleep before work, I clung to him and cried and thanked him for staying with her, because that gesture, knowing that she was not alone with a bunch of strangers, meant - and still means - so much to me. I knew then, but I know even better know, just how much damage that did to his soul. As I hugged him that morning, all bets were off. I knew he was seeing someone, but my resolve was crumbling. When he kept coming around, every single night after work, and sitting with me and the kids for hours, and took me out when I needed to get out and stop thinking for a bit... Well, we spent an awful lot of time together over the next weeks. The girl he was seeing was there for most of it, but we talked a lot too while we were each at work... We had a hurdle to get over before he could get away from her and be with me, and while it really only took a month, it seemed like ages. My heart shattered as he left me every night. Admittedly, we had an inappropriate relationship considering he was still in one, but we didn't even really try to hide it. She wasn't exactly the best kind of person in the first place, so even though I'm typically a guilt-ridden person, I don't have much when it comes to that, because I feel like this is where I should be... If we had worked really hard to go behind her back or something, I might feel guilty. But, pretty much everyone knew about us except her, and I think in her heart, she did too - she just didn't want to admit it to herself.

Anyway, Jamie had wanted Mark and I together, and before he even moved in a month after her death, we knew that we would be married. Every time we were together, her presence was so strong, and we just KNEW this was where we were supposed to be in our lives! In January, he moved in. By Valentine's Day, there was a ring on my finger. By June, two lines on a pregnancy test (with a miraculous due date of Jamie's birthday, only possible because my last period was exactly one day late), and in October, we were married. But, Jamie, who was so excited about her first and only nephew, and loved him so much, and ached for me and with me when I couldn't have that second baby, she isn't here to share in this, her first and only niece. Her best friend and her baby sister, together. God, I thought it was hard to marry him without her there, but the closer we get to this baby girl coming, the more I realize how much harder this is going to be. The thought of the baby shower almost gives me a panic attack. Jamie and our Mom threw me my baby shower for Will. And now Jamie is gone, and never going to come back. And Mom is in the other end of the house, in a hospital bed, sometimes groaning in pain, sometimes talking about things that make no sense, sometimes talking to her dead daughter and father and grandsons, sometimes talking to the monkey that lives just below the ceiling, or the baby that's wandering in the backyard without adult supervision (these are her hallucinations, or maybe we really have a monkey and a baby haunting us along with our family). I'm not even strong enough to go in there and try to talk to her most days.

I'm rambling and I'm not even getting my point across. Again, I KNOW that this is an irrational train of the thought. But, here goes. I don't know that Mark and I would be together if Jamie hadn't given us a little push from the other side, and if I hadn't been pure numb, unable to fear losing a man anymore, because I was prepared to lose my mother, but I lost my sister instead, the one who was supposed to be there when Mom was gone, so we could see each other through that tough time. I had lost my sister and I could no longer remember why I had tried so hard to shelter my heart, how anything could be worse than what I had just experienced, so I let the walls down and I let him in and I fell in love. So I'm not sure we'd be where we are if she was here. And then Mom was doing good - She was supposedly going to be gone around May 2011 (best case scenario with aggressive treatment) but she was doing REALLY good. And then she started going downhill after school let out this past summer and we got our positive pregnancy test, but she was still holding on. Her body was beginning to fail on her, but her mind was still strong. I know she wanted to hold on for Paige's birth, but I think Jamie's death was that last break to her already shattered heart, and Paige's sheer existence in me gave her the belief that when she goes we'll have something to hold us together, like we all did with Savanna after my nephew, Tyler died. After our positive pregnancy test, her health slowly declined, and then our ultrasound showed a growing baby in July, and it picked up the pace a little bit, getting worse just a little bit faster. And then September came, we had our anatomy ultrasound coming up, and she got to the point that she couldn't get into the car for treatments anymore. And then we had the ultrasound, the one that she was supposed to get to go to, and I called her from the parking lot and told her "Mom, you have another stubborn granddaughter coming and everything looks perfect." and her voice broke and I could hear the happy tears caught in her throat, and it was such a fast downward spiral from there. Within a two week period, I went from thinking we could get her to our wedding in Pine Mountain in October, to making cancellations and getting deposits back and looking for a free venue in town, because I wasn't even sure she would still be alive for my wedding, much less at it. Her hallucinations started and I was sure it was only a matter of days. But still, she kept fighting, she's getting worse and worse more quickly, but  it's like every time she hears that the baby is still doing well and we get closer to a healthy delivery, she gets a little closer to dying. I think she's already given up, and I really don't think she'll make it to Paige's birth. But... I've been wrong so many times before. Since her diagnosis in April 2010, and then the horrible test results and 6 month expectancy given that November, there have been so many milestones I haven't expected her to make. So she might prove me wrong. But we've gone from doing so good, to hospice telling us to prepare for the end so quickly, that I don't know if she can do it again.

As a child, I was told that people die so that there's room for new babies in the world. At the time it was meant to comfort me - my grandfather had died, but my first nephew was on the way. It did comfort me then, but also stuck with me. So when I think of the way that in a year's time I've gone from my sister alive and my Mom fighting so hard for her life and being in a relationship that probably wouldn't have been ready for babies until I was well into my thirties, to my sister being gone and my Mom being on the edge of death and being married to an amazing man and pregnant with the daughter I had come to think I would never have... I can't help but feel that my wishing so deeply for another child set this chain of events into action.

I have to get this thought out of my head, because it's eating at me, and because I can never let my beautiful daughter know I feel this way, for fear she'll think I blame her for the loss of her aunt and grandmother. That's not it at all, I have no regrets at all, I believe that this is where I'm supposed to be in my life, that she is supposed to be here for us, and I don't blame her at all or regret or resent her. I love her so much already and I cannot wait to meet her, and I think she's going to be so much like her aunt. She's a gift, and I never want her to feel otherwise. I love this baby with all of my heart. I just miss my sister, and I miss my Mom being my Mom, instead of someone hurting and dying and not herself.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Last year (and pretty much every year for 10 or 12 years beforehand) my sister did all of the Christmas decorating.

And then last year, 12 days before Christmas, my sister died. Needless to say, we were all pretty much numb for the holidays. I went back to work shortly before New Years and couldn't bring myself to take the decorations down. So my mom and my nephew did it one day while I was at work. See... Jamie was BRIGHT. She had some pale green, bronze, and gold ornaments... That went on a light purple tree. That was her tame tree. The tree in the living room? Was white, with a mostly red, hot pink, lime green, and turqouise/aqua-ish ornaments, along with her variety of ornaments that she had bought or been given (glittery cupcakes, a frog prince, two Frosty ornaments, ornaments the kids have made). That tree was fondly called the Dr. Suess tree. So there was a lot of her personality tied up in it. Christmas is just... JAMIE for us. Last year we were numb, this year we're remembering...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Double-Cheese Chili

Being as we ARE such a large family (most nights I'm cooking for eight - and a half if you count my little womb-resident) I always have to alter recipes I find to feed a crowd. So I'm going to regularly post recipes on this blog - partially just so I can keep up with how I've modified them in the past! This is the first time I've tried this Double-Cheese Chili, and I'm kind of looking at the recipe and wondered what makes it qualify as "double cheese"? But okay, they call it that, so that's what we'll stick with.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Crisp, New Blog

I've been trying to figure out how to summarize my crazy life for the first entry of a new blog.

And then I realized the only followers I'll have for the first entry, probably, are people who already know me. So trying to summarize the insanity of my life for people who already know all about it is relatively pointless. SO. Instead, I decided just to start with something I wanted to blog about. And I have to say, yesterday is a pretty good thing to blog about. It was a long, crazy, awesome day in these parts.