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Newtown, CT: Holiday Rollercoaster

I sit here looking out to the window. Anticipated bad weather is on the move toward us. My mind is racing in so many directions I don’t know which one I should or could concentrate on.

I’m exhausted.

The happenings of this past week have been something I never thought I would ever have to endure. Not for me or for my husband. We were just going along swimmingly well, raising our daughter until this.

My mind is definitely not wrapped around this yet. I guess I have to expect this, but somehow I wish I could just be in control of something at this point and the thought that I won’t be for a very long time disturbs me immensely.

Since the identification, it has been a whirlwind. Between the family and friends who flocked to us (which we are so grateful for), to picking out a casket, to the services, to the funeral and all the people who attended.

I feel numb.

I feel small.

I feel like I’m just existing.

Mostly I feel fragile.

I’ve never felt like this before and for me, it’s not a good feeling. It’s a when-will-this-end, I-can’t-stand-this-feeling, sort of situation. One I never saw coming, one I never thought I would live.

Well, actually, how could anyone see such a thing coming into your life. No one ever teaches you what you will do, how you will feel, what will happen and how you are supposed to live if your child is murdered.

They just don’t. Maybe because they think it will never happen to you. Maybe because the thought of it is frankly so unthinkable that no one wants to go there.

How does one tell you how to pick out a casket for your child. How does one tell you how to go to memorials for your child. How does one tell you how to bury your only daughter.

It just doesn’t compute. It just doesn’t.

This past week has been unbelievable. I felt like I was just ushered around by the well-meaning people in my life. And, actually, I was.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget moving in slow motion through the funeral home, first to the director’s office to start the planning and then to another room to choose the casket. It was something I hadn’t yet experienced, as both my parents are alive. It was something no one should have to go through.

All the little details seemed overwhelming. I looked at my husband and he wasn’t the only one whose eyes were filled with tears. Somehow we made all the decisions that would bring to a conclusion the life of a child we thought we’d know forever.

From the moment I stepped into the funeral home that day and first saw her in the casket, I felt like I would collapse. How was I going to endure this completely unthinkable pain. How does one look at this little body in this box and think that just a few days ago we were picking out a Christmas tree, just the one she wanted.

I think of all the little things we did together just before this happened. All the sprinkles she decorated on her favorite cookies when they came out of the oven. All the little gifts we bought and wrapped for her friends.

All the presents and cards we picked out for her grandparents, aunts and uncles. As she started to read, she wanted to get the prettiest cards to send to those she loved. I remember helping her read the inscriptions in the card store as her Dad and I patiently went through so many boxes until she chose just the right one.

Will I ever step foot into a card store again and not become sentimental?

I sat in the funeral service and so many people have visited. People I haven’t seen in years and others I see all the time. But the amazing thing is full families have arrived from out of town. Our relatives, friends, old neighbors who spent thousands of dollars to be with us at this time. Hotels, car rentals, food, etc. How are they doing this?

I am grateful. I feel so blessed to know such good people who care so much about my husband and myself.

The viewing days were filled with sitting and looking at her in the casket and being torn between wondering when this would be finished battled by the thought that I’d never want it to be over. Because when it was over, I’d never see or have her again. I didn’t know which was worse as the moments passed.

There were times I wanted everyone to leave so I could have her all to myself. I wasn’t in a sharing mood right now.

I wanted to just jump into the casket with her. I can’t imagine what this life will feel like when she’s not around.

The morning I awoke knowing it would be her funeral, I remember sitting up in bed against the headboard, pillows propped up against my back to realize it was the last day I’d ever see her.

How could I bear this?

How could I get through this day?

How could I endure such pain?

How would I react when it was time to close the casket?

Could I do this?

Could my husband do this?

My thoughts are so isolated. I don’t know how much I’ve shared with him at this point. No much really and he hasn’t either. It’s not good.

We’ve gone through the motions of what needed to be done but at some point the deep, dark, difficult emotions will have to come to the surface, even if only for a little while, and it scares me so to think what we will both say to each other.

That day all I could think about what it was her last day with us. And how I hated that thought because there was absolutely nothing I could do to change it.

The funeral was attended by thousands. I didn’t know that many people could pack into our church at one time.

It was a lovely service, at least what I could remember. I spent too much time looking at her casket trying to remember her little smiling face when she was alive and sitting in the pew between her father and I.

She used to look all around during service in church at the lights and stained-glass windows, as they were her favorites. She just loved the colors of the stained glass in the windows.

I wondered if I would ever be able to set foot in that church again.

The burial was one of the most difficult times for me. When we arrived at the cemetery, the grave was all prepared and there were seats all lined up waiting for us. I had asked for extra seats as I knew how many of our relatives would be with us that day.

The priest did a lovely job at the gravesite but it all seemed so quick to me and I wanted to linger for a long while and even though I had left gravesites more quickly after other funerals, this time I wanted to take the time I needed.

And I did.

I know I made everyone wait on me, but I really didn’t care.

I had to see her buried…completely.

I had to know exactly where she was and that there would never be any doubt in my mind.

So I asked the funeral director to have the workers lower her casket as I watched. My husband thought it would be too much for me, but for some reason, it wasn’t. It was comforting. It was a completion that I felt I would need to do for my daughter, my first born.

The men graciously lowered her down and then started to add the dirt. I asked if I could add some dirt and they let me. Why I needed to do that I will never know. I wanted to be included.

Soon the dirt was smoothed out and we took my and my husband’s roses and placed them at the center of her grave slightly tilted to one side. Two lone roses among the thousands she received at the funeral home.

They looked so appropriate there. I felt good about that. A weird feeling of accomplishment. That I had done everything I could do for her in death as I had in life.

I trust I will see her again one day. But the life I will now need to live without her will never be the life her father and I had planned.

A life that will always feel as though we are missing a piece of our hearts.

A life that will always feel empty and cold since we’ll never know what she would have become.

A life that will always wonder what could have been.

Today we start that new life without her.

I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

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