Friday, April 29, 2011

A Child's Life

April 29, 2011

Hi Andrea,

            Sahara is seven.  You have never met her.  She is sleeping in my queen sized bed with Sadie curled up next to her.  I read her Mother Night and How Bonny Little Bear Got Her Tutu.  I have a loaf of cinnamon chip bread from Great Harvest on the kitchen counter downstairs.  In the morning, I will cut thick slices and make her cinnamon toast with warm maple syrup.

            I love the company of a child.  I love the honesty and openness to possibilities.  A child will invite me to swing with her, ignoring my graying roots, the dark circles under my eyes and the lines in my face.  A child will climb into my lap wanting nothing more than the warmth of my body.  A child will sing with me at the top of her lungs to any song.  She will dance with me and encourage me to dance with myself.  A child will ask me about you and not watch me for signs of a breakdown.

            And children’s movies are safe for me.  I feel silly going by myself.  I borrow my great niece, a friend’s child, like I used to borrow cups of sugar.  At children’s movies, I can laugh.  I know it is fiction. 

            I will not go to “grown up” movies anymore.  On New Year’s Eve, right after you died, I went to a comedy with a friend.  The previews of upcoming releases included one for The Lovely Bones.  I tripped over outstretched feet trying to reach the aisle.  I could not breathe.  When I made it to the lobby I was gulping for air.   Anything rated PG or over may leave me paralyzed.  It is best to avoid that.  
          Tonight I went to a children’s movie.  Sahara sat next to me in a darkened theater.  We went to see Rio.   I loved the colors of animated tropical birds, the music, the humor.  It is a story of the power of love.   Half way through the movie, Sahara turned to me.  “I know how this is going to end.”  She said. 

            “You do?”  I answered.

            She shook her head up and down emphatically.  “I do.” She said.

            “How?”  I asked.

            “Blu is going to fly.” 

            “How do you know that?”  I asked her.

            “I just know.”  She answered turning her attention back to the movie.

            I wish I had her confidence.  Her belief that everything is going to turn out a certain way.  

            I know now, we cannot count on happy endings--the story can be unpredictable and take you places you did not expect.  Even to places you did not want to go.

            Tonight this is how the story of this day will end--I will finish this letter to you.  When I have signed my name and sent it off I will put on my pajamas and brush my teeth.  I will search my face for evidence of new lines and note a deepening of the ones where I smile.  I will crawl under the down comforter next to the sleeping child in my bed.  I am humbled and  strengthened by her innocence and confidence. 

                                                                   Love You and Miss You

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Fight

April 28, 2011

Dear Andrea,

            "I want a divorce." My client, a businessman dressed in a white starched shirt, a red tie with a paisley pattern in tones of blues, and tailored navy blue suit sits across the desk from me. "What can I expect?"

            "How long have you been married?" I ask.

            "23 years."

            "That's a long time." I say. I thought of my own marriage, then 16 years old.

            "I just can't do it anymore." He looks at his hands in his lap as he tells me this.  There was a plain gold band strangling the ring finger on his left hand.

            On this day that he has come to meet me, I have been a divorce lawyer for over 17 years. I do not pry. If he wants to tell me why "he just can't do it anymore" he will. 

            "Do you have children?" I ask him, as I record his answer on my yellow pad.

            "Two." He answers.

            "How old?" I ask.

            "Ten and Twelve.” He answers.

            "Does your wife work?" I ask.

            "She does," he answers," she is a secretary."

            We talk about her income. She has no retirement plan, no healthcare benefits, everything they have acquired is in both their names.

            Then we talk about his income, his 401(k), his retirement plan, his benefits. He makes four times more than her.

            I have him list the bank accounts, investments, real estate, cars, other property of any value.  I reduce his marriage to a list of possessions.

            Then I lay it out for him. "Here is what you can expect. You have two children. You will pay child support for each child until they turn 18 or graduate from high school. If they go to college, expect to continue paying child support until they finish. In addition to child support, you will pay a portion of health insurance plus part of uninsured medical expenses for your children. Your wife makes less than you. Expect to pay maintenance, perhaps until you retire. Your 401(k), your retirement, she is entitled to half of everything earned during your marriage – at least half – the law says an equitable portion. The house, the cars, the bank accounts, investments, anything of value, all gets added up then split equitably, generally that means half."

            He looks up at me. He weighs what I have told him." At least half of everything?" He asks.

            "At least." I answer.

            He is quiet. He looks back down, studies his hands folded in his lap. I see his knuckles turn white.

            "Child support, maintenance, and half of everything?" He asks.

            "That pretty much sums it up." I say.

            Again there is silence. He works his hands kneading the fingertips into the space between his knuckles.

            "Thank you." He says when he finally looks up at me. His eyes meet mine."I think I'll stay."

            Though Dean and I had no children together and we both made about the same income, I knew if I ever left I would have to fight for half of anything.  He would not be fair.  He would not be kind.  He would want to keep everything.

            And after you died, I had no fight in me. But there was only this truth. Nothing Dean and I had accumulated  was worth the cost of staying.

            I was right.

                                                                                            I Love You,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


April 26, 2011

Hi Andrea,

            I have been drowning.  I have surfaced. 

            I take in huge gulps of air, store it up.  I know the undertow will grab my ankles, pull me under once again.  When I am drowning the only sound I can hear is my heart beating wildly, demanding oxygen.  I want the peace and stillness of that liquid place where everything floats, swims, or sinks.  I want to remain devoid of daily discourse and interruptions to my thoughts.  I am in a state of grace before my body wins its fight for air again and finds it.

            Life is like that now, for me.

            Leaving Dean was like another death.  The next day, after I made my decision, I went to work.  By lunchtime, I had three rental houses to look at.  That night I had another.   I called Dean and asked him to meet me at the little diner across from the movie theater for dinner.

            I hate change.  As unhappy as I was with my marriage, I did not want it to end.  I knew my role, it defined me.  I was comfortable in my status as wife.  Comfortably trapped in unhappiness. 

            Every time I thought about leaving Dean, or thought about divorce, that little voice inside my head kept whispering, “But remember how much you loved him in the beginning.”  Sitting next to him, I would look at his profile, tears would fill my eyes.  I could not bear the thought then, of ever losing him. That feeling never changed.  But I did.

            That night, in the diner, after we ordered burgers, fries and chocolate shakes, I told Dean, “I need a place of my own.  I need a place where I  am able to sing myself lullabies and rock myself to sleep at night.  I cannot be with you anymore when you are drinking.  I can rent a place in town, and come home on the weekends.”
            “I think you should get a place of your own.” Dean told me.

            I though perhaps he understood.  Maybe there was something to be salvaged from our relationship of 25 years, our marriage of 18.

            “But don’t plan on coming home for weekends.  It just won’t work.”   He added.

            His words, his nonchalance, felt like a fist in the chest.  I could not breathe.  I was underwater. I wanted him to tell me, "Don't go.  I will get help.  I can change."

 “Then I guess that is how it will have to be.” I told him.

When you died I lost everything there was to lose.  I was left vacant, wanting only what I could not have, your presence.  In the days and weeks that followed, as I slowly moved back into myself, I found the final gift you left for me. 

Strength to claim my own space.

Thank you.

                                                                                       Love You Andie

Monday, April 18, 2011

Walking Away

April 18, 2011

Hi Andrea,

            I know you will not be surprised by this.  I left your stepdad, Dean.  I lasted for three months after your death.  Today would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. 
            After you died, everyone told me “No major changes for a year.  Wait a year, and then decide.”  My father was the only one who told me different.  He was the one I turned to for advice when I learned there was another woman; when Dean laid out in 21 degree weather after stumbling and passing out in the woodshed—wetting himself in the process.  He was the one who listened all those days and nights and holidays Dean spent with the bottle.  
When I called him and told him, “Dad, I need you to talk me into staying.”
            He replied, “I think you already know the answer.  All I can tell you is--when you are ready to leave, call me.  I’ll be there with the pickup.”
            It wasn’t when he got so drunk at your memorial service he could barely walk, let alone drive as I needed him to, that I decided to leave.  It wasn’t the next day, when he woke up to make Bloody Mary’s and scrambled eggs for Jake and Kim.  I could not eat.  It was not when he was so hung over he could not drive me to Funeral Alternatives to drop off your clothing and personal effects—then coming home to find him stumbling and barely coherent.  
            I decided to leave on Wednesday, December 2, 2009.  The console clock on my Subaru recorded the exact time in green light, 5:48 p.m.
            We met on the corner of Old Highway 99 and Highway 2.  I was coming from work in Olympia.  I did not have time to go home and make it to Providence Hospital in Centralia for the Grief Support Group Christmas tree ceremony.  Dean drove to the Shell Station and parked in the back.  When I drove up, I could see his silhouette behind the driver’s seat of his truck.  As he got out, and locked the driver’s door, I braced myself, I knew.  As he slid into the passenger seat of my car, he reeked of Stoli.  My hands gripped the steering wheel a little tighter.  I said nothing.  As I pulled back out onto the highway, I focused on the turning of my head, the tensing of the muscles of my neck as I searched the road for traffic. Rain fell steadily.  The only sound in the car was the steady click, click the windshield wipers made.  I willed myself to not start crying then.  I did not have the energy for a fight.  I had to take him with me or miss this Christmas program.  I did not know how I could make it though Christmas without you.  I hoped there were others there who could give me guidance.
            I turned right onto Old Highway 99.  The light was red.  I took the free right turn when I had the chance, exited to Interstate 5.  When we arrived the group was gathered in the hallway and lobby at the entrance to the hospital.  We gathered there to decorate a 12 foot noble fir.  The decorations were ornaments we decorated.  Each person took a colored bulb or a white wooden angel and a glitter pen and wrote their child’s name, the date they were born, the date they died, then placed the ornament on the tree.  When the tree became too full, we decorated a banner on the wall.  Some parents did not come back every year, we took turns placing their ornaments for them.
            As I took my turn, I could hear Dean, everyone could.  He had his arm around one of the women.  He was telling her about his son in medical school, about his lovely grandchildren, about his son in California and his beautiful, brilliant girlfriend, about his other son in California and his girlfriend too.  When he was done telling her, he went on to tell someone else.  When I finished decorating, making spirals, drawing flowers, I hung your ornament on the tree—Andrea Marcella, 12/23/81-9/1/09. 
            He did not come to me when I sat down in a chair off by myself. 
            When everyone was done, we all moved to Kit Carson’s, I think you and I had breakfast there together once.  Kit Carson’s had a banquet room set up for our group.  A place where we could sit, share a meal and share the stories of our children.  Dean and I sat across from a couple and their two older children.  The waitress came, asked us what we wanted to drink. 
            “I’ll have plain iced tea.”  I said.  “No sugar.”
            “A double martini for me.”  Dean said.
            I looked at him.  “I think you’ve had enough already.”
            “I’ll decide that.” He replied, staring at me icily.
            I began talking to the couple across the table.  Their daughter died on Christmas Eve several years before.  Her sister went in to wake her up to open presents.  She was dead.  I asked them how they planned to spend the holidays, if they had any suggestions for me, the newly initiated to this group.
 “Our faith in God has helped us through.  Without that, we could not have survived.”  They started. 
            “Only idiots believe in God.” Dean bellowed.  “You might as well believe in elves and fairies.”  Dean droned on and on.
            I heard nothing after that.  We ordered, our food came, I pushed mine around on the plate.  When I could finally summon the energy, I said, “I’m leaving now.  It’s time to go.”
            “I’m not finished with my drink.”  Dean said.  “I want another.”
            I stood up with my purse and keys.  “I’m leaving now.  It’s time to go.”  I began to walk away.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Retreat

April 17, 2011

Dear Andrea,

            I am just returned to my home here, sunshine bright through the slats of wide, white blinds.  Sadie is asleep here on the floor.  Stella, my cat who looks like your first cat, Lisa, meows downstairs.  She insists we come down to join her.  I call “Stellllllla.”  I hear her run up the stairs.  She walks by Sadie, sniffing her.  Sadie does not move.  Stella then comes over and weaves herself in, out, around my legs.  She purrs.  If I were a cat, I would be purring.
            All weekend I have been on retreat in the Longhouse at Evergreen.  I was bathed in the warmth of words spoken by young men and women less than half my age.  In stories passed down generation to generation in the Leshootseet language spoken in clicks as well as consonant and vowels, then translated into English.  The sound of the story was so much more beautiful in Leshootseet.  It was as if I was a child, being read a bedtime story.  I closed my eyes, wanting the story, the sound and shape of it, to never end.  We made rope from cedar bark and cat tail reeds.  Heard poems read by Dunstin Skinner—his father’s poems of Ireland, and then his own.  We cooked and ate together.  Today, I made pancakes with real butter and maple syrup from the sap of Vermont trees—just like I used to every Sunday, when you were growing up.  I watched a doe eating from low lying branches as her fawn trailed behind.  Sadie came with me. 
            It was a weekend of writing and experiencing the beauty of it.  It could not have been a more perfect setting.  The smell of cedar paneling and enormous whole log beams above us mingled with the smell of humanity.  Though there were short bouts of rain, the sun shone through, giving time for walks in the surrounding woods and forests.  It was a time for observation, contemplation, silence.  In that space I wrote this down for you. 
            August 31, 2009

            “I am going to die.” 
You looked at me, unafraid, consigned to what your body was telling you.  “You need to accept that.”
            I did not want to hear.  My heart embalmed itself.  I stood in silence, not knowing what to say, remembering the coupling, then the contractions that brought you to this place.
            You sat there on the edge of the hospital bed.  The gown they gave you was snapped in the back, bare flesh exposed.  It was all there to see, if I dared to look.  Those first contractions of your death.  You were alone with it, as I was alone with you when you were born.  There was no midwife for this, though—for either of us.
            I wanted to sit next to you, to hold you as I held you as a baby, rocking you in my arms until you fell asleep.  I wanted to watch your chest rise and fall, smell the milky sweetness of your breath as you lay cradled in my arms.  I wanted to sing you lullabies and tell you everything would be o.k.  But you were older now, a woman.  I sat next to you then, wrapped my arm around you, pulled you in to me.  You laid your head on my shoulder.
 “I am going to die.” You whispered.
 Still, I could offer only silence.  There were no words for this.
            The doctor came.  “The tests came back,” she said, “your heart is fine.  We can find nothing wrong with you.”
            “Fine.”  You said.  “Then discharge me.   I’m going home.”
            “Wait.”  I said.  “Your tests are wrong.”
            “Leave it mom.”  You said.  “I’m going home.  These doctors, I’ve had enough of them.”
            This was your decision to make, not mine.  I had to honor that.  When you were a child, I could decide everything.  I could protect.  Now this was not my role.  My presence, whatever you would allow, was all I could offer.
            You dressed.  I helped you pack.  The nurses came with clipboard, pen, instructions.  Sign here.  Sign here.  Here’s your copy.  Call if you have problems.
            “I called.”  You said.  “You never listen.”
             September 1, 2009

            You called me at noon.  You were in your silver slug bug with Sadie.  “Wait.” You said.  “I’m at Starbuck’s and I need to order.”
            “A grande mocha frappachino with whip.” I heard you tell the voice in the metal box with all the pictures.
            “That will be $4.95.” The voice replied.  “See you at the window.”
            “Sadie drank my last one.”  You laughed.  “I left her in the car for just a few minutes when I went in to get my mail.  She’s bouncing all over the car now.”
            I could hear Sadie panting.  You and I were making plans to fly to San Francisco to see a doctor there.  One who specialized in Lyme disease.  All day long we talked and texted.  “I’m going home to take a nap.”  You told me around four p.m.  “I’ll call you when I wake up.”
            Eleven p.m. you were logged into Facebook talking to your friend Edwina.  Then nothing.  Edwina feels guilty.  She thinks if she came to check on you, you would still be alive.  I assure her that is not the case.  There was nothing she could have done.
            You died alone.  Sitting at your computer.  When your body stopped, you simply fell over and laid there on the floor.  Sadie laid on top of you, absorbing you, as you midwifed yourself from your life.  She staid on you until you were found. 


            I am midwifing myself through your death.  I am surrounded by a close circle of family and friends, some of them new.  They whisper to me, breath in, breath out.  Breath in, breath out. 

Love you, Mom.

Friday, April 15, 2011

When you were born

April 15, 2011

Dear Andrea,

            New Year’s Eve morning, when you were born, they lifted me, laboring with forces out of my control, onto a gurney, wheeled me into the delivery room.  The doctor, scrubbed and gloved was waiting.  The orderly wheeled me into place, propped pillows behind my head and back, asking me “are you comfortable, is this o.k.?
            I could only pant, shake my head, concentrated as I was on muscles grown taut, screaming “ENOUGH OF THIS.  We cannot stretch anymore.”  They were fighting back, squeezing everything out of me.
            The nurses put each leg into a metal stirrup.  They worked around me, with me, efficiently, quietly.
            “Adjust the mirror so she can see,” the doctor said.
            “Can you see that?” he asked me.  “Your baby is crowning.  Look at all of that black hair!”
            No longer focused on the tautness of my womb squeezing you, I watched, mesmerized.  In that moment the crown of your head was framed by my body.  
            “Another push,” he directed, as if I had control and this force did not have control of me.
            The nurse put her arm around my back, folding me over on myself as far as she could.  My face turned pink, red, purple.  I could not breathe.  I could only push.
            “You’re doing great,” she tells me.
            Bending, stretching, pushing, pushing, pushing.  I saw your head, twisting as you shouldered your way out.  Then arms, chest, legs, feet. 
            The doctor held you up for me to see, all glistening pink and white and warm.  “It’s a girl,” he announced.
            You let out your first cry.
The nurse held you as the doctor cut the cord.  Once un-tethered, she wrapped you in a blanket, placed you in my arms.
From these moments we would grow together and apart.
That is the scene that played over and over in my dreams the hot summer of 2009--as you texted me from mountain falls and rocky beaches and called me from emergency rooms in pain, afraid of what was happening to you.
My strong daughter who stood at helms of ships, stood watch for pirates, sailed seas, called from Catania, Chania, Naples, Dubai, Shanghai.
It was then I began to know what my dreams were telling me.

In thinking about Annalise's birth, and of yours I am in awe.  My friend Linda is a midwife.  She always tells me she is amazed by the strenght of women.  I am amazed by the forces of nature that give and take.  I am amazed by the fact that each of us mothers who have survived our children, can get out of bed in the morning, brush her teeth, brush her hair, make coffee, toast, sandwiches, soup, wash dishes, vacuum floors, show up for work.  I am amazed by the strength I have found in me to not just get through, but to accept this absence of you. 

Love you baby--

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Gift

April 14, 2011              

Dear Andrea,

“Annalise just had a doctor appointment.  She weighs 13.5 pounds.  She had gone from the 10th percentile to the 90th!  He thinks she is eating too much because food makes her tummy feel better.  So he is giving her some reflux medicine to try to help her.”
This is what your cousin, my niece, Lisa texted me this morning.
“Food makes my tummy better too J” I text her back.
I never used to text until you showed me how.  “It works like this.” You said as you showed me.  After that, you texted me all the time.  I would sit there, watching your words appear.   Then you started sending pictures.  “Are these the shoes you’re looking for?”  “Can you believe this?”  “Sadie says hi.”    
Lisa came to help sort through your stuff the day after you died.  Later, my sister Karen, her mother, told me Lisa was devastated seeing me so sad.  She did not know what to do.  She hugged me and held me as I quaked in sorrow. 
She stepped in as a daughter would.  She called to check on me.  Made sure I was invited to family dinners, then followed up with my sister to remind me, encourage me to come.  Now Lisa calls me her “second” mother.  When she asks my sister for an opinion, my sister tells her, “you should ask your other mother too.”  When she calls with good news, or sad, my sister tells her “did you call your other mother too?”  They know nothing will ever replace you, Andrea.  They loved you too.
What they are offering me is an incredible gift.  They have wrapped their arms around me, drawn me into their relationship.  I accept their gift, and thank them for it.
Annalise was born on February 4, 2011.   I was there with Lisa, on the right side of her hospital bed in the birthing room.  I had my right arm around her shoulders to help her lift up with each pushing contraction.  I took cool washcloths from her friend and put them to her forehead in those moments she could rest.  I watched the doctor, the nurses working quietly. Even when Annalise’s heart rate dropped, they barely spoke above a whisper, moved quickly with efficiency.
“The baby’s heart rate dropped.” A nurse relayed to the doctor.
“Call the team.  Get me suction.”  The doctor quietly ordered.
I was worried.  My heart raced.  This had to have a happy ending.
I watched, listened, holding Lisa up and leaning in to see.
When Annalise came out, I saw her drop into the doctor’s gloved hands.  I held my breath, until she took her first.
When my sister Karen called to tell me Lisa was pregnant, she told me, “I have two grandchildren.  This is my third.  I’ve talked to Lisa.  We want this one to be your first.  You can be this baby’s grandma also.  We’ll share.”
After that, Lisa called me after every doctor visit, every ultrasound.  When she learned the baby was a girl, I texted her baby names to the point even I thought I was annoying.  Georgia, Isabel, Elizabeth (I thought about calling you Elizabeth), Lilly, Isabel.  We went shopping for pink baby clothes, things with flowers and hearts.  I checked with her, making sure “my baby” had everything she needed. 
When I am holding Annalise, when I am with her mother, Lisa and when I am with Lisa’s older two children—Tanner and Alicia—I feel something break loose in me.  I am sad that you and I never got to share the birthing of your child.  I know how badly you wanted that.  I kept telling myself, I would have been an awesome grandma. 
I hope I am.

Love you baby girl--Mom   

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Part of a Wish

April 12, 2011

When I was reading all the things you posted on Twitter, Myspace and Facebook, I came across some lists you made.  One of the things you wanted was for someone to write you a love song.  It was such a sweet thing to ask.  But even now, it is a wish I cannot grant.  Though I made sure you learned to play an instrument, the violin,  I never learned to read music.  I always had to sing along. 

In high school I wrote poetry.  I wrote well enough to get published in some anthologies, though I could not tell you which ones.  I sold a poem once to the ­Tacoma News Tribune for $25.00.  After high school, I dabbled with poetry once in awhile, but never for more than a few days or weeks at a time.  There were always other, more pressing demands.  My stories, my thoughts, the words that tumbled round in me seeking exit, remained trapped. 

After you died, after I could pull myself out from under the down comforter long enough to take a bath, I began to listen to the words that formed.  I tried to write them down, but tears turned them into rivers of ink I could not read.  Now, the tears come less frequently, I cannot stop the flow of words.  I write everywhere and race to find pen and paper to capture thoughts.  Even though I cannot write you a love song, I wrote you a poem.

For Andrea on Her 29th Birthday

Your letterman jacket
hangs limply
on my office chair
I eat from pink chopsticks
painted with dogwood blossoms
you purchased in Shanghai
the Blessed Virgin oil
you bought in Italy
I found rolled up in a cardboard tube
hangs framed now
above my desk
your baby shoes
scuffed from crawling
sit next to a framed picture of you
learning how to surf.

I cannot bend to this
there is no truth here I want to know
on my knees
I beat bare earth
demanding back
what was never mine
to keep.

Are you afraid?
I am.

Do you miss me there?
I miss you here.

I gather all I am
ever was
I draw from trees
grass, sky
call out your name

Do you call out to me?

I catch glimpses
chase you
look for you in dreams.

I hear music now
I am carried away on the notes
of a violin
haunting me
the melody brings me back again
to the whole of it
this world without you.

                                                Love you--Mom

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where did you go?

April 11, 2011

Good evening Andie,

      It rained all night like a thousand old women weeping for their children.  I laid in bed and listened as the wind whispered, then sang, trying to console them.  Growing tired of so much sadness, it attacked the women in a fury.
     They could not stop.
     The light was pink this morning.  I check the sky for its mood.  Gray clouds edged in sunshine disperse, turn white, scatter revealing blue sky as I sip the first cup of coffee.
     When I was a child, Heaven was in the clouds.  I envisioned whole cities floating above me.  If I strained hard enough, I thought I might catch a glimpse.  If I had a ladder long enough, I could go there.  My God was an all knowing one who heard my prayers.  I did not need to look for him.  He was everywhere.
     Sunday school, catechism, the doctrines of miscellaneous religions interposed in my young mind tried to displace what my heart knew.  I was introduced to an angry God—a punishing God.  Adam and Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah’s Ark.  He showed no mercy until he became a father.  And even then, it took the death of his son.
     It was always Mary I identified with.  I sang a song about her once in an Easter solo.  I sang about how she rocked Jesus as a baby, watched him take his first step and cried when he first said her name.  I could not finish without my voice breaking.  When I was finished singing, there was the sound of sniffling, the quiet rustle of Kleenex and handkerchiefs.  It took a moment for the pastor to compose himself, before he could move on to the next part of the service.
     You were still alive then.  On that Good Friday you came to church with me and sat in the pews in front of the church choir as I sang about Mary raising Jesus as a child and then watching him die on the cross.  I felt what it must be like to survive the death of your child.  The thought, the possibility, the reality was too immense for me.  Back then, I could leave the song—the notes, the words, the haunting feelings they invoked.  I was simply channeling Mary’s grief.  It was not my own.
     Yesterday, Steve sent me an email from his sister Jana.  Fwd:Interesting view of heaven.  He must have seen the books I have laying around the house—The Shack,  A New Theology by Sheila Bender, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Heaven is for Real.  I am sending you a copy of that email at the end of this letter.  I know you cannot write me back to comment, but that does not stop me from sharing.
     All of this leads me to this question—what happened to you when you died?  Where did you go?  I am searching for an answer.
     When I found you once in a dream, I wanted to stay with you.  You laughed at me, told me I could not.  I asked you for something to bring back with me, a souvenir of our visit.  You hugged me and apologized.  You are somewhere I cannot travel to now.  There is no ticket I can buy.  No roadmap showing roads I could drive leading where you stay.    
     Though I do not know where you are, I have seen that you are happy there.  I found the slide show that you left.  At the end, you wrote “If I am smiling, you should be smiling too.”
     I am finding ways to smile again.

Love you—Mom  Life vs. Lyme  Andrea’s video she made on myspace in March 2010

"THE ROOM" as written by a 17 Year Old Boy.

This is excellent and really gets you thinking about what will happen in Heaven.
17-year-old Brian Moore had only a short time to write something for a class. The subject was What Heaven Was Like. "I wowed 'em," he later told his father, Bruce. It's a killer. It's the bomb It's the best thing I ever wrote." It also was the last.
Brian's parents had forgotten about the essay when a cousin found it while cleaning out the teenager's locker at  Teays Valley High School   inPickaway County  .

Brian had been dead only hours, but his parents desperately wanted every piece of his life near them, notes from classmates and teachers, and his homework. Only two months before, he had handwritten the essay about encountering Jesus in a file room full of cards detailing every moment of the teen's life. But it was only after Brian's death that Beth and Bruce Moore realized that their son had described his view of heaven.

It makes such an impact that people want to share it. "You feel like you are there," Mr. Moore said. Brian Moore died May 27, 1997, the day after Memorial Day. He was driving home from a friend's house when his car went off

Bulen-Pierce Road
in Pickaway County and struck a utility pole. He emerged from the wreck unharmed but stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted.

The Moore 's framed a copy of Brian's essay and hung it among the family portraits in the living room. "I think God used him to make a point. I think we were meant to find it and make something out of it," Mrs. Moore said of the essay. She and her husband want to share their son's vision of life after death. "I'm happy for Brian. I know he's in heaven. I know I'll see him.

Here is Brian's essay entitled:
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings.
As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At."Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived.

Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "TV Shows I Have Watched," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me.

One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards.

But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room.. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.

No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes.

Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room.. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files.. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, and so alive.
The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.