Unfinished Business

Of course when a six year old dies there is a lifetime of unfinished business. There is the promise of the person she would become but something I love about Kim is that she and I never lost sight of the person she is.

Elena was a giant personality. I’ll say more about the person she was in later posts. For now, I want to say something about parenting.

How often do you encounter someone after a death of a friend or relative and they say “I should have told them xxxx” or “I wish I hadn’t said yyyy”.

I am happy/relieved/unexplicably fixated on the fact that Kim and I have none of those. We told Elena how smart and beautiful she was every day. We celebrated her recent achievements as she turned the corner and became a reader. She loved stories and was just uncovering the magic of the written word. We learned from Montessori to separate actions from her self. There were things she did that we weren’t happy with – but we were never disappointed by her.

Kim told me a story that I found particularly heart wrenching. Each morning she would drop the girls off at school just a bit late. Maggie told Kim that as they ran to the school to get in before they were marked late, Elena would turn to Maggie each morning and say “Maggie, I love you.”

Please don’t leave things unsaid that you need to say and consider not saying those things that don’t need saying. As miserable as I feel, I am comforted by having followed this advice with my children.

Published in: on February 23, 2006 at 11:34 am  Comments (39)  

Dear Elena

Eight and a half years ago Kim and I were on a flight to China on our way to be introduced to our daughter Maggie Rose. We bought a notebook and started a journal that we hoped we could give her later to describe the process and to help her understand how she came into our world. Once we were handed this beautiful baby girl our attention was on her. How could we capture any of this in words. The journal sits somewhere with just a few short entries of people about to be parents.

Maggie made me a dad and Kim a mom. She taught us what forever means. We went from zero to 60 in the matter of a minute when she was placed in my arms.
What did Elena bring us? Everything. A year and a half after I first held Maggie, the doctor placed Elena in my hands. She was beautiful, bright, smart. I saw, selfishly perhaps, the two sides of my personality in my two children. Maggie is so much like my intellectual side. Dominated by reason searching for understanding. Elena was so much like my emotional love of life side. She greeted every day with cheer. She came up to my office when she first woke up for our morning hug.

As I write this I am unbelievably sad because she won’t be coming up to wrap her arms around me this morning. Yesterday she woke up, just a little over a week shy of her seventh birthday with a new gap where a tooth had been. She – we thought – had the stomach flu that is going around. She had just been at the doctor’s two days before so they could check out an ear infection and everything appeared to be fine. After being cleaned up from being sick she found the dollar under her pillow that the tooth fairyhad left. “Mom,” she said, “look at this dollar. It’s special. Where did the tooth fairy get such a special dollar.”

And that was Elena. She found wonder everywhere. She would pause with me to smell the fresh air in the morning and would say, “yep, sure smells like fall.”

Just before noon yesterday, I went downstairs to see if she needed anything. She asked for a little fizzy water and then threw up all that she had had in the past few hours. I took her upstairs and washed her off and put her in fresh pajamas. I threw the slip cover from the couch into the wash and set her back in front of the television. Kim came home from work early to take care of Elena. It’s not fun to be home sick – and Kim wanted her to be comfortable.

When I got home from picking Maggie up at school, Kim had me look at Elena. Her face had sort of a purplish look to it. She called the doctor and they said bring her in. Three blocks away Kim called 911 as Elena was unresponsive. She died in the ambulance and could not be revived at the hospital.

Elena was surrounded by her four grandparents in the hospital. Grandparents are not supposed to bury a beautiful six year old. Neither are parents.

I don’t know if I’ll keep this journal any longer than I kept the last one. I’m not sure who it’s for.

It just happened so fast.

Published in: on February 23, 2006 at 11:31 am  Comments (145)