Dax is Finding Joy in Gymnastics Again

If Rory’s death was the only struggle our family had to get through for the rest of our lives, it would be enough.

Her death hit each of us, leaving cracks in so many places. I’ve found that pain finds its way into those cracks, spreading into different aspects of our lives.

For Dax, the unexpected crack, the unexpected pain, was gymnastics.

Dax started gym at age 5. He spent the entire summer begging me to do gymnastics.

I thought maybe it was more of a whim, but when it lasted the entire summer, I signed him up in September. One day a week on Thursdays.

After starting gym his first question everyday was, “Is it Thursday?” Then he spent the day doing handstands and cartwheels all over the house.

Because of his love and insistence, I signed him up for Tuesday as well.

In a few months they invited him into the pre-comp team then within a year he was moved up to the competition team.

We were out of our depths and didn’t know what we were getting into until it was too late.

But it never mattered because he LOVED gymnastics.

Fast forward to a few months after Rory’s death.

I was saying goodnight to him in bed and he expressed regret that he spent so much time away from Rory doing gymnastics. And now he doesn’t have anymore.

In the following months, he talked about quitting a few times which was so unusual for him. He stopped doing gymnastics around the house. He hardly ever went to do flips on the trampoline.

But Lance and I kept encouraging him. He found so much joy in gymnastics, we didn’t want him to regret leaving the sport.

The last couple of weeks, he’s been doing handstands all over the house again. He walks from the couch to the kitchen on his hands. Dax annoys Lance by doing handstands right into his face.

It’s made my heart swell to see him loving gymnastics again. I’ve fought back tears seeing his love and passion return.

Rory didn’t love going to the long competitions but she did love to watch Dax do gymnastics at home. She also loved to push her brother out of handstands every once in a while too.

I think she’s happy to see that joy returning to Dax.

Rory’s attempt at doing a press handstand on Dax’s parallettes.

So Many Deaths

I have a degree in history.

I’ve studied about many wars. Many struggles. Many deaths.

It wasn’t until I started to work at the National Archives and read personal accounts that something became blatantly clear.

These were sons I was reading about.

Daughters.

Fathers.

Mothers.

Sisters.

Brothers.

Uncles.

Aunts.

From that point on as I read about history, it was personal. The people that were dying on the pages meant something to someone else. Probably lots of someone elses.

And since Rory’s death, I’ve taken it one step further.

Their deaths are an empty seat at the table.

At the movie.

In the car.

In the pew at church.

When going on vacation.

Everywhere.

From November 13th, 2017, there will always be someone missing from our family.

I used to feel bad when deaths would occur, now it’s almost debilitating.

These mass shootings.

I can’t even.

So many families.

The sorrow, grief, fear that are taking over their lives.

I hope this isn’t a norm for our future. For my boys’ future.

Something has to change.

Please.

Something has to change.

My heart and love goes out to the victims’ families.

Too many empty seats.

Mental Side Effects: The Impossible is Always Possible

Rory’s death is statistically not great.

Her age.

How she died.

All of it.

It makes everyday feel like anything can happen.

Since her death, I panic a lot. Especially about my family.

When the boys sleep in longer than they usually do, I creep toward their door.

With every step I’m praying.

Please let him be alive.

Please let him be alive.

Please let him be alive.

I can’t breathe again until I see their chests going up and down.

Today, Chiler went outside and was lying on the trampoline.

In my head I kept trying to convince myself.

He’s fine.

He’s just enjoying the outside.

I couldn’t stand it.

I had to go outside and make sure he was okay.

Praying the whole way.

My That Night Story

Saturday, November 11th was a normal day. Dax had gym. Xander had play practice. We hung out at the house. We spent part of the night at my parents house. Rory was skipping around the house, laughing, joking. We went home and Lance helped her prepare a small talk for church the next day.

Unfortunately, Rory wasn’t able to give it. She woke up Sunday morning and was throwing up. Lance had thrown up that week. Dax missed at least one day of school because he was throwing up. Rory caught the stomach virus.

She threw up every few hours for the next day and a half. But she was drinking, going to the bathroom. She didn’t have a fever. She was sitting up. She was talking. She wasn’t lethargic. Other than vomit, she was relatively normal.

Monday evening Lance went to pick up Dax and Xander from across town. Chiler was throwing up so he was laying on the opposite couch of where Rory was laying. I was at her feet. I’d rub them until she kicked me away. She was watching Angry Birds.

She sat up and laid back down then looked at me and said haunting words, “I can’t get up.”

I looked at Chiler and said, “We need to get her to the emergency room. Get shoes on.”

I ran threw shoes on and he helped me get her up into my arms. By the time we were in the garage, she was limp.

It was too late.

She died in my arms.

I wasn’t giving up! I told Chiler “We need to call 9-1-1.”

Chiler ran down the street, knocking on doors. “We need help! We need help!”

I pulled my phone out and talked to the operator. She wasn’t breathing.

I gave her breath. Watched her chest rise.

“I’m going to count with you as you do chest compressions. Count to 600.”

1, 2, 3, 4. You do it staying alive.

5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. She’s not breathing. She’s not breathing. How is my daughter not breathing?

11, 12,… Neighbors arrive and give her a blessing.

20, 21, 22, 23 Her eyes are open. But not looking at me.

98, 99, 100…

“Give her another breath.”

With shaking hands, I lift up her chin with help from a neighbor. I give her two breaths. Her chest rises and falls. Rises and falls.

Back to counting. There’s a weird sound.

120, 121, 122. Emergency workers arrive.

They take over.

They kept asking me what happened, what was going on.

I don’t know, she was throwing up.

More chest compressions. Shots in her leg.

My neighbors tell me I need to call Lance.

Lance picks up. I say, “Rory might be dead.”

Awful words. I was pulled from my daughter with no response. I didn’t know what to say.

Neighbors called my mom. Who ran over. She called my sister. Who drove over.

They got her heart back for a minute but it kept leaving.

They transferred her to an ambulance that sat at the bottom of our street. A helicopter landed.

But the ambulance was shaking. Ambulances shouldn’t shake. She wasn’t stabilized. They were doing chest compressions again. The ambulance just kept shaking.

“Will your husband be here soon?”

I nod.

Lance and I run to each other.

They were waiting for him to arrive.

Our daughter had passed away.

We stepped up into the ambulance. Our sweet baby girl was incubated and still. She was never still.

We said goodbye.

The boys. We need to get them. They were in the closest house cuddled up on the couches with our neighbors.

Hugs. Tears. Disbelief. I took two by their hands. Lance took one. We went to my parents’ house.

That was the first of many sleepless nights.

We found out the next day after her autopsy. Appendicitis.

Memory- Doing Hard Things

Ugh. This past week has been… painful. A week of doing hard things.

Rory knew doing hard things.

We walked into one of Rory’s karate belt promotions and there were so many people.

She immediately clang onto the back of my pants, hiding.

I squatted down. My eyes connected with her teary ones.

I reassured her. Told her she’s amazing and can do anything. I told my little ninja daughter that she can do hard things and does everyday.

Now, I repeated those words to myself. To my family and loved ones.

She’s happy. At peace.

It’s us. It’s our turn to do hard things.