I name my letters based on the feeling I get when I reread them as I type. In this letter, I am sad, angry, and feel like I am being punished for not being a better parent to Chloe, for not protecting her. Although I still sometimes feel like I didn’t do my best in protecting her, I no longer feel like I am being punished. Forgiving myself is something I will wrestle with for a while longer, but I am proud to say that I am no longer angry with God. I have recently found my way back to Him and can now say without doubt that He was with us during those horrific days. He was with us as he sent wonderful friends and family to be by our side while we held onto our sweet Chloe that day. He was with us when he gave us a chance to see her beautiful face once more, and a chance to say good-bye…to know that she died peacefully in her sleep. I know Jesus held her as she left us, and is holding her now. I may never understand why God called Chloe home so early, but I do know I will see her again. Faith does not keep bad things from happening, but helps us through those bad things.
February 9, 2011
I miss you so much. I would give anything for one more hug, or just one more sloppy kiss, or just once more to hear you call me ‘Da’. I don’t care what you call me; I just want to hear your voice. Even if you were screaming and crying. I wouldn’t care. Just to hear you. A giggle. A laugh. A cry. Anything.
This past week has been really tough. I went to work Wednesday thinking it would be a “normal to me” day, but I lost it around 9:30. Why? Who knows? The anxiety was building and I thought I would scratch my arms until they bled. I sent my students to their reading spots on the floor. I then found myself walking around aimlessly, just looking at them, not conferring with them. I couldn’t even call a reading group. I paced toward the door, looking out, and back again. Pacing and scratching. Wanting to escape. But escape what? My harmless 1st graders that need a sane teacher? My room? Just 4 walls? Why is it so difficult for me to be here? I finally asked the parent volunteer from across the hall to watch my students while I walked to the office. I sat and cried with Mrs. VaRee for a while. She had Mrs. Patti call a sub so I could escape. I mean, go home. I can’t escape. I just take my feelings to another place so I can deal with them alone or in another way. Not wanting to go home, I visited with Mrs. Amanda for a few minutes to calm myself. I then decided to go to CVS and get all my new meds. After CVS, I ran through Chick-Fil-A to get lunch, but I was really hoping to see Mr. Deall. I did see him and he told me to come by and see him at 4:00 that afternoon. Great. That made me feel a little better already. I went home and tried to watch T.V. for a little while but I really just wanted to sleep. So at about 2:00, I thought I would take a short nap. Well, Daddy and Zach came in at 4:15 wondering why I was at home instead of talking with Mr. Deall. Oh, no! My new medicine really knocked me out! I jumped up and took off while Daddy called to say I would be late. Mr. Deall is such a positive person. He wasn’t mad at all; just glad that I felt relaxed enough to sleep. Anyway, that was a tough session. We talked again about how my classroom isn’t “safe” for me anymore because that is where I was when I received the worst phone call of my life. He made me walk through the time in my class when I felt like I needed to run. I talked about pacing back and forth toward the door. Trapped. He suggested teaching with the door open
I also talked about my anger. I get very angry every time I open the backdoor and the alarm sounds. I get angry because it didn’t sound on that important day. I get angry when I open the door and it doesn’t sound because that is a reminder that it is broken. I get angry every time I fidget with the backdoor lock to get it open. I turn the deadbolt at least twice before I finally get it open. How did you open it so easily that day? Needless to say, I never open the backdoor without feeling some sort of emotion, all in the span of just a few minutes when I let Ellie out. Letting her out and then back in again is a reminder, possibly a trigger, that I face daily and have never thought about. Perhaps a small reason why my day starts shaky.
I get a little angry every time I see a little girl that reminds me of you. Angry at God because he didn’t answer my prayers that day, my hundreds of prayers just to let you be okay. He can perform any miracle, yet we didn’t get one. I didn’t tell Mr. Deall about my anger towards God. It is hard to talk about because it is a new feeling for me. At least new since August 7th, the day he called you home. I will never understand why you were called home so early. Sometimes I still can’t believe it. I ask myself, “Are you sure? She’s really gone?” The answer is yes, she’s really gone. It just doesn’t seem right because children aren’t supposed to die. Not at 2 years old. But you did. You did die…at 2, only 28 months young. I am so sorry. I think of all the things we could have done differently and you would still be here. First of all, that stupid ladder! How could we forget to put it away? Secondly, we could have had the door alarm fixed. Perhaps that would have let Joseph know that you were on your way outside. We also could have put a slide lock on the door that you couldn’t reach. I could have even had someone else watch you instead of putting all of that responsibility on Joseph. We failed in so many ways and I feel like we are being punished for not being good parents. Just having the ambulance called to the house was enough to warn us and scare us into being better parents. That’s what I prayed. I told God that I had learned my lesson. Please just let my sweet Chloe live. He didn’t. Again, I am sorry.
This is a very short read. I was just writing to Chloe while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. I took my journal everywhere and wrote to her every chance I got. This letter just explains some of the anxiety I was going through at the time and my attempt at getting some help in understanding where the anxiety was coming from. While I still feel anxiety at times, it is nothing like it was in the past (as you will read in my next letter!). Today, I am seeking help, but in other ways. I have started a Grief Share class at a local church and am now talking with someone on a weekly basis. I have also returned to church and feel some comfort at mass. I pray the comfort I feel on Sundays will get me through the rest of the week. I feel I am beginning to let go of my anger at God, and can maybe begin to praise him for the wonderful 2 years I had with my sweet Chloe. The process has been and continues to be very slow.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
It is Tuesday afternoon and I am sitting in the psychiatrist’s office. I have been seeing her for some time now trying to control my anxiety. Some days are worse than others. I am on so many medicines that I just don’t know what else she can do for me. I take my handful of pills everyday and see Mr. Deall every week and things are just not better. When do they get better? Sometimes I think they are. Like last week – I found out I will be teaching 5th grade next year. I am excited about the change and the challenge. I felt some form of relief at first, but now the same anxiety. I want things to get better and stay better.
Well, she said I am feeling so much anxiety now and having such a difficult time because it is finally setting in that you are not coming back. Up until this point we have been in somewhat of a fog, but it is becoming more and more real. That is why it is getting harder and harder instead of easier.
She increased one of my medicines and changed another. I’ll see her in 3 weeks to see if the change helps. She also wanted me to take some time off but I told her I was unable to do that. I would if I could. Just to give me a chance to get my thoughts together.
Thanks for listening. I love you.
This letter is about going to Abby’s baptism and the guilt we felt for not having Chloe baptized. We were waiting for her adoption to be final so she could be baptized as a ‘Faletto’. Time just ran out on us.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Today is Sunday, January 30, 2011. We are on our way to Phenix City to go to Abigail’s baptism. I will be her godmother. We are excited to be a part of her baptism, but it is also a little bittersweet because we never had you baptized. We wanted to wait for your name to be changed to Faletto. We never dreamed you would reach heaven before your adoption was final. Nana secretly baptized you, so we have some comfort in knowing you were at least baptized; I just hate that we were not a part of it.
Before going to PC, we are going to Target to look for a bow for Abby’s hair. I was going to do that yesterday, but just forgot. I brought one of your bows just in case we can’t find one. I didn’t think you would mind. I needed to go into your room to get your little pony tail holders. That was very hard to do. We haven’t been in your room very much since the accident. It is hard to go into your room and not find you there. We will go in there soon to clean and organize, but it will remain your room.
Today is also a sad day because your baby sister will be going back to Texas this week. Her dad, Steve, was offered a job back in Texas. I hate to see her leave because I was looking forward to watching her grow up. I guess we should count our blessings and just be glad that we were able to see them and spend some time with her.
Well, we found a couple of bows for Abby. Not much at luck at Target. I got her a set of bows which included a white one. Nana said the dress was “Candlelight”. Not sure what that is, but I know it is not plain white. Next to Target is a store called ‘Butterfly Kisses’. I found a cute off white bow that I hope will work. It was a little difficult looking at all the cute little girl things, but not quite as hard as it has been in the past. Hopefully that is a sign that things are getting better. After shopping, we had lunch as a family…of four. It was nice spending family time together. We know how important that is.
Abby’s baptism went as well as could be expected. We tried to sit in the back of the church during mass, but Father Tom insisted on moving us to the front. Not a big deal, but little Abby wasn’t too crazy about mass. She was yelling out a little and rolling on the floor as much as possible. Although I tried to focus only on the good, I was still overwhelmed with the quilt of not having you baptized. It was selfish of us to wait for your last name to change. We just never dreamed you would die before we could get you baptized. Children are not supposed to die. Two year olds don’t die. But you did. I still can’t believe it. Anyway, the baptism was beautiful. Abby wasn’t crazy about the water on her forehead, but she didn’t cry. She tried wiping it on your Daddy’s forehead. We were all very surprised when Father Tom gave Abby the lit candle! She was happy with it! Grabbed it with both hands and had her eyes glued to the flame. Needless to say, we all grabbed it quickly, let her enjoy it for a moment, then blew it out. Her baptism made me cry, but I am not sure why. I was thinking of both of you, but missing you so much. Why didn’t we do that for you? I don’t think I can forgive myself. I am sorry, Chloe, for keeping you from something so beautiful and special.
This is a letter to my grandfather, known lovingly as “Paw Paw”. As I explained in my letter, this was one of my assignments to try and help me forgive myself for Chloe’s accident. I wasn’t sure if I should include it on my blog, but decideded to post it as it is part of my journey.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Dear Paw Paw,
It feels so strange to be writing you after all this time, but it was one of my assignments given to me by my counselor, Mr. Deall. I guess he sees you as my “voice of reason” and you will help me to understand my part in Chloe’s accident and therefore somehow be able to forgive myself. First of all, I want you to understand how much I have missed you and thought of you since you left. Your death was hardest on me, I think because you were the last little bit of sanity I was holding onto. You, Mom, and Nanny were everything to me growing up. You were my father figure, my “dad”. I always thought so much more of you than just a grandfather. If I could have chosen a dad, I would have chosen you. I respected you, Paw Paw, and wanted nothing more than to please you. That is why I was so afraid to tell you that I was pregnant with Joseph. I didn’t want to hurt you or have you think any less of me. I felt like I disrespected you in some way, but you acted like it was no big deal. You comforted me and loved me unconditionally. You never acted disappointed or ashamed. Thank you, Paw Paw, for helping me through a difficult and scary time in my life. As you can see, things turned out great. Briane and I are still together after all this time and have 2 wonderful boys. I guess this is where our next conversation comes in because I should also be telling you about our precious daughter, Chloe. She was actually Steve’s daughter, but we were given the wonderful opportunity to raise her until her tragic accident. I can picture us talking at the kitchen table. You are sitting in your usual chair drinking a beer, well deserved after a long day’s work. I am sitting to your right at the oval shaped table, the fridge directly behind me. I am drinking sweet tea and rubbing my fingers nervously around my glass. I am having a hard time looking at you or making eye contact. I don’t want to disappoint. “Just say it, Hon,” you would say. “What’s bothering you?”
“Paw Paw, I killed her. It was all my fault. I should have moved the ladder. Just the day before I said something about the ladder, but I didn’t move it. I forgot. Two days before the accident, the laptop crashed. She somehow got to it and pushed the right buttons to bring it down. Briane was upset. I told him not to worry because it could have been so much worse. I said, ‘Chloe could have snuck out of the house and gotten into the pool. The computer is nothing.’ Those were my exact words! Yet, I let it happen. I knew it could happen, and I let it happen. Paw Paw, I killed my baby.”
You would reach over and grab my hands with your rough, ink-stained hands. You would say, “Baby, things happen. Accidents happen. We all forget to do things. No one could have predicted Chloe would sneak out of the house. It is not your fault. It is just not your fault. You can take the blame if you want, but you must forgive yourself. Only you can forgive yourself. I can’t do it for you. Chloe can’t do it for you. If you must take the blame, you must forgive yourself. You are worthy, and you must set yourself free.”
I wish I could hear your voice. I wish I could hear you tell me everything will be alright. And I wish I could believe that. I’m sure you’ve met Chloe and know how wonderful she is. Now do you see why I’m having such a hard time letting go? I just want her back. That is the only way to make things better. I just want her back. Tell Mom, Nanny, and Tina how much I love and miss them, please, but give extra love to Chloe. Extra hugs. Extra kisses. I love her so much, Paw Paw, it hurts. I don’t know what to do.
No words of wisdom today…I still believe everything in this letter.
Friday, January 21, 2011
It is Friday at 2:00 pm. My students are at super specials and I should be working, but I am having the hardest time concentrating. The anxiety is unbelievable. I took some medicine a little while ago so maybe that will help. I also called Mr. Deall and set-up an appointment for this afternoon. Chloe, I can’t shake it today, the tapping, the rubbing. Without even noticing it, I was tapping (hard) on my face with my fingernails. It would be hard to explain scratches on my face. So, anyway, I thought since I can’t seem to work effectively, I would write you. Talking to you sometimes calms me, if even just for a minute.
Chloe, I know it was my fault. It was ruled an accident, and no matter how many people tell me that it was just a tragic accident, I know I am to blame. God gave me the beautiful, wonderful little girl I always wanted, and I let you slip away. I should have moved the ladder into the pool. I even thought about it the day before and just forgot. I should have called Joseph to check on things. That would have kept him awake. I should have put a safety lock on the door and made sure the boys used it. There are so many things that I didn’t do that caused you to slip out of the house and into that pool. I am so sorry that I took your life from you. You had so much to live for and now it is all gone. I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself. Chloe, I didn’t even see you that morning to say good-bye. I saw you on the monitor, but was afraid to go in your room. I didn’t want to wake you. I could have seen you one last time, but I didn’t. I wanted to rush off to work. I didn’t want Joseph to have to get up yet. So I just looked at you on that little black and white monitor. I never would have guessed that would be the last time I would see you alive. The next time I saw you, you were in a hospital bed in a coma, full of tubes and wires, surrounded by beeping machines and nurses breathing for you. My life ended that day with you, Chloe. I am so tired of pretending to be okay. How can you ever be “ok” when you’ve lost your baby girl and you know it was your fault?
This is a short read. I was just telling Chloe how I would much rather sleep than enjoy the company of friends. At this point in my journey, sleep was my friend. It kept the hurt and tears away. Even today, I find myself just wanting to sleep. Sometimes, forever.
In this letter, I am telling Chloe about Italian night. While typing, I realized that I’ve mentioned Asian night, now Italian night without explaining how those “nights” came to be. Well, before Chlo Belle went to heaven, we would frequent Mexican restaurants with our friends. You know, a few chips, salsa, and margaritas never hurt anyone! Well, after Chloe went to heaven, I couldn’t bring myself to go out, so our friends brought Mexican to the house. Everyone brought a Mexican dish and we just had “Mexican Night” at home. So that’s how it all started.
January 15, 2011
Well, Chloe, it is Saturday afternoon and we are going over to Mrs. Kerri’s for Italian night. I don’t know why, but I just don’t want to go. I feel very anxious. I don’t want to do anything but curl up in the bed. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I have taken all my medicines and should be excited about spending time with friends. Where does the anxiety come from and why won’t it leave me alone?! I always feel like a “downer”. You know, the sad person in the room that is quiet and nobody knows what to say to them. I am going to go and try to have a good time, but if I could, I would just go to sleep. It doesn’t hurt when I sleep. I am not anxious and itchy when I sleep. I just want to sleep. Forget the world for a while and just sleep. If I didn’t have Daddy, Joseph, and Zach, I could sleep forever. Why bother waking up? I could sleep forever and be with you. I miss you so much. I still can’t believe you are gone. Again, Chloe, I am sorry for failing you and ruining our family. I just want you back.
Well, Italian night was a success, I guess. It took a couple of glasses of wine to loosen me up, but all I wanted to do was come home to you. We had several good laughs, but you were always in the back of my mind. I am so glad to finally be home so I can cuddle with my pillow and close my eyes. I can cry if I want to and no one has to know. I don’t have to force any more smiles. I can just lay here and cry my heart out for my baby girl that I miss so much. I love you.
This letter describes how I ended up with my “Chloe Pillow”. It was one of her favorite dresses that turned into a security blanket for me after the accident. I still have the pillow and stil sleep with it every night. When I am feeling especially lonely, it will even join me on the couch. Yes, I am still spending a good bit of time in the bed and on the couch. When will this end? Not on this side of heaven. The picture I included in this post is one of Chloe in her ‘forever’ dress.
January 15, 2011
You should see the beautiful pillow Nana made for me. It just came in the mail the other day. It is heart shaped and made out of one of your favorite dresses. Let me explain…
After your accident, I was on a lot of medicine to keep me calm. I spent most of the time sleeping the first couple of days. I don’t remember much, but I do know that all of the planning and arrangements fell on your daddy and nana. Even though I was pretty much sedated, Nana and Daddy tried to include me in the arrangements as much as possible. I remember them asking me if your bed should be white or soft pink. Of course I chose pink. They also woke me long enough to choose the dress that you would wear. I described a pink dress to your daddy. I had the perfect one in mind. He came back carrying 2 dresses because he was unsure of the one I wanted. I selected the soft pink dress with the white collar and gathered bodice with tiny delicate flowers for you to wear. You looked like an angel. The other dress was made of a darker pink and white gingham material. It was a beautiful sun dress that tied in the back and fell almost to your fat little feet. You loved the dress because it had several appliqué flowers attached. Some were embroidered, but many stuck out so you could touch and feel them with your little fingers. You loved the feel of the flowers so much. I remember you pitching a fit to wear the dress. I couldn’t even steam the flowers to lay flat because you were afraid you wouldn’t get the dress back. So you always wore it wrinkled with messy flowers and all.
When I chose the dress for your burial, I asked to keep the other one. I held it close. Smelled it. Touched and rubbed the flowers between my fingers. I cuddled your dress and slept with it. It became my security blanket. I took that dress with me everywhere I went. When I eventually moved to the couch, the dress went with me. It even went with me to your funeral. I remember holding and caressing it. Trying to will some comfort from it. It took a while for me to be able to leave the house without the dress, but I still slept with it. Nana said that when I was able to part with it for a while, she would make me a pillow out of it. Well, after 5 months, I was able to leave the dress at Nana’s and let her work her magic. She made your dress into a heart shaped pillow, just the perfect size for resting my head on or cuddling with. She made a cover out of the bodice of the dress. It slips over the pillow and ties at the sides. It is covered with six of the beautiful flowers that you loved so much. Your nana made this wonderful pillow out of love. You would be proud.
Perhaps your mommy will look less crazy sleeping with a pillow versus sleeping with a little dress! Zachary seems to think so. He was very impressed when he saw it. He said, “Wow! Now you won’t have to scrunch it up to your face!”
Oh, Chloe! I wish I could hold you just once. I dream of you often. Just the other night, I had a dream about you. I was in a very bright, well lit area. We were inside and all walls were made of clear glass with a little stained glass here and there. It was a very warm, sunny feeling place. Many little girls in sun dresses and bare feet were running around and laughing and squealing. No arguing. No sadness. Just a very peaceful, happy place. I seemed to be the only adult standing in this large room observing these happy little girls, many of which looked like you. I saw one from behind that I was sure was you until she turned around and I saw the bangs cut across her forehead. I forced a smile but was crushed until seconds later another girl ran by. I whispered your name softly, “Chloe.” She stopped immediately and looked up at me. This time, it was you. You were wearing a polka dotted sun dress, had your bangs pulled up in a little pony tail, and gave me the biggest smile. You ran and jumped in my arms. I held you so close and so tightly. I couldn’t believe it was you. I kissed you, hugged you, smelled your hair. I wanted to remember everything. Chloe, it felt so real. This was about the third time I had a dream about holding you that felt so incredibly real. Sometimes I think God is letting you visit me so I can feel you close, if only in my dreams. I’ve often thought about the place I found you. Is that what heaven is like? Children running around laughing and playing without a care in the world? You did seem very happy. That is how I try to imagine you, happy and carefree. Please don’t worry about Mommy. I will be okay until we meet again in that sunny, warm place. If you can, try to visit your daddy. He misses you very much and would love to hold you once more.
Loving and missing you always,