Reese is my sunshine. He can do no wrong right now. His sisters have been off to school, so in their absense, he has been an angel. He gets mom and dad all to himself! Yes, we have to work, our peak is approaching, but in a month, we'll be past it and have lots of free time. In the mean time, Reese goes along for the ride, running errands with mom, short trips with dad, or entertains himself in between all this. He's there to snuggle at bedtime (all of the kids were great snugglers--I'm so lucky). And he jumps in the car with his PJs on to take the girls to school. This last year before he goes to school I will be counting the minutes. Each precious minute that I get to spend with him before he is off to kindergarten and forever changed. My least favorite day ever? The first day of kindergarten--I hate sending them off!
Anyway, Reese talks about Chase, his little Maverick, with smiles and happy thoughts. I have been concerned about each of my kids with this loss. How they are handling it, what they think about, are they comfortable talking about him, how I am treating them in my grief, how they feel...But a four-year-old is harder to read. I don't know how this will affect him the rest of his life. I don't know what he remembers or what he perceives. I know he hears us talk about things, a lot of things, that I know he doesn't always understands. But I don't know what he takes away from all of that.
I have an enlarged photo hanging up of Chase right next to my bed. It's my favorite photo of him. I also have our family picture in the hospital with Chase hanging there and a shadow box with some of Chase's things. I see it and talk to it every night before I go to bed. Since Reese has been sleeping in our bed, he sees it there, too. Sometimes he stops to look at it, sometimes he doesn't. Last night, he crawled up on the bed and when I walked into the room, he had been sitting there looking at it with tears in his eyes. He asked me, "why didn't I get to hold Chase, mom?"
Oh, god. My tears, immediately, welled up. I sat down and talked to him. I pointed to the family picture and showed him, "Baby, you were sleeping. You had a really bad headache, do you remember that?" When we all got to hold Chase right before the tubes were removed, I could not get Reese to wake up. He had felt warm as soon as he got to the NICU with his sisters. He was extremely tired, the room we were sitting in next to Chase's was really warm, and Reese fell asleep. I tried and tried to wake him up to say good-bye to his brother, but it wasn't meant to be. I didn't want to force him to wake up and have him be cranky and really mad. Patric brought him into the room and held him on his lap while I held Chase and the girls knelt beside me so we could get a picture with everybody. But Reese wouldn't wake up. It was one of those ten million things that I didn't know what to do that day. What was I supposed to do? Would someone just tell me, us, what to do? So I didn't wake him up. Patric had taken him in to see Chase before that and said it was okay. He told he me said his good-bye. So that's what we did.
When I told Reese about that moment, he cried. From his gut. He cried like he hadn't ever cried for Chase. He was so sad. I held him and cried with him.
I had made the each of the kids their own hardcover book of photos from snapfish and had yet to present them yet. I didn't know when or how I wanted to do this very special event. But I knew I wanted to do each of them separately. The books are somewhat similar, but have a slightly different storyline pertinent to each sibling and they are authored from Chase's perspective of his siblings. I told Reese I had something very special for him and I would be right back.
Reese absolutely loves books and I hadn't thought about this until he saw me bring the book in. It was instantaneously something very special to him. He loved seeing himself on the book's cover! I went through each picture and read every page as he laughed, cried, reminisced with me and cried some more. We talked about Chase and what he had to look forward to. We talked a lot about mommy going into the hospital that morning to have Chase and how each kid jumped out of bed in their excitement at 6:30 in the morning to await the arrival of their new sibling. We talked about seeing mommy in the hospital and why I looked the way I did (yuck!). He looked at my scar (again) and asked how Chase came out of there. He told me he wanted me to have another baby in my tummy and asked me, "will it die, too, mom?" I told him, no, babies don't normally die, but he doesn't know that. All he knows is Chase died, so babies must die. So we talked about organs and how they work and why Chase was so sick when he got to Albuquerque. We talked about how he felt about me in the hospital and what was going on with me. We talked about the day at G's house while mom and Chase were in the hospital and about the friends that brought him to Albuquerque for us so we could all be together again. I don't know if I did the right things. But if anything, I err on the side of honesty with my kids. I would rather try to explain to them in words they can understand than to take the easy way out and brush over the topic or give fake answers.
We read the book again and snuggled under the covers, each with our "Chase blankeys". I hugged mine real tight, put my arm around my earth angel and fell asleep with my nose on his face. Something I am so thankful that I can do.