What I Know Today

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Trip To The Zoo

A few weeks ago, Jack and I took a little trip to our local zoo. He's not too keen on noises or animals that make them, but we needed to get out of the house so we tried it. And it was fine. Mostly. He didn't really pay much attention to the animals, and the few he did see he really wasn't all that impressed with. He was more interested in sitting EVERYWHERE and trying to jump in the lagoon in the center of the zoo. I finally convinced him that that water was only for the animals, so that crisis was averted, but I couldn't get him to stop sitting on every flat surface he could find. For most kids, this would be a non-issue, but for us with Jack's immune deficiency, we worry about the bacteria he could pick up - especially at a zoo. Granted he gets his IvIG treatments and theoretically they will protect him for most of those, but having already lost one child, we can't help but be concerned and a little (ok, a lot) cautious.

It's not an easy thing to do... trying to balance concerns and risks while still letting Jack be a kid and have as many experiences of childhood as possible. It doesn't help that he is uncooperative and stubborn and independent. But I can hardly fault him for owning three of the most common traits in both of his parents, can I? *wink*

Here are a few pictures from our day. First, Jack sitting on the bench in the wolf viewing cabin. Note that the windows one would look through to actually see the wolves are behind him. There weren't any there that day, but I would be willing to bet it wouldn't have made a bit of difference.

Here we are sitting in a little area by the lagoon. This zoo was Henry's favorite place on earth. We visited it daily during Henry's second and third summer. Sometimes more than once a day. When we lost Henry, some of our good friends bought a memorial brick for Henry. You can see it in the photo below:

We used some of the memorial money we received for Henry to help get the turtle pond up and running again. I would always tell Henry about the turtles that had been in there when I was a little girl and how we'd watch them sunning themselves. Throughout Henry's little life, it was only a weedy overgrown area in need of work (and a new water pump). Despite the overgrowth and lack of life, Henry would pick a clover every day and toss it over the fence to feed the turtles. We saw a chipmunk run under some nearby evergreens one day, and after that he would always toss a clover in there, too, in case the chipmunks were hungry, too. Henry's heart was bigger than the moon - especially when it came to the animals.

One of Henry's favorite things to say was, "Be good to the aminals." He couldn't quite pronounce the word right, but it was so cute we never tried to correct him, and came to find ourselves pronouncing it the same way. We had it spelled correctly on the sign though, because we didn't want people to think it was a typo since we couldn't be there telling the stories and explaining the whole thing every time someone walked by. 

In addition to the turtle pond, we also donated two large cement turtles for the kids to climb on. Here's Jack crawling up the little one...

We chose turtles because Henry loved this guy:

His name is Dash, and we sought him out on every visit. He wasn't always easy to find, but on this day with Jack he was right out on the path waiting for us. I told Jack all about Dash and about how much Henry loved him. I tried to get him to pet Dash's shell, again weighing bacteria against life experience in my head all along (when am I not?), but he would have none of it. This is as close as he got:

Today, as I'm typing, Jack is beside me saying, "Mama pet the turtle!" :) I don't know if that's a memory or a directive so he doesn't have to try it himself. hee hee.

It's hard to go back to these places that were so much a part of Henry's life, but it's all part of the healing process I guess. And, it helps me to remember that life does indeed go on. Jack has the whole world to explore. I just need to guide him through it, remind him of all the people (on earth and in heaven) who love him, teach him as he goes, and maybe every once in awhile let life experience trump potential bacterial issues and believe the doctors when they say it will be ok.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Henry's Fifth Birthday

Each year since his death, we've had a small gathering of friends and family at the house on Henry's birthday. We have lunch and visit and then go to the cemetery for a balloon release. We also ask our guests to bring gifts that are then donated somewhere in Henry's name. Last year we asked for gifts from the humane society wishlist. This year, since Henry would have started kindergarten in the fall, we opted to collect gifts to donate to a kindergarten classroom. It just so happens that Henry's godmother is a kindergarten teacher, so choosing her classroom only seemed right. We collected lots of glue sticks and crayons and stickers, games, jump ropes, etc. It was an awesome day, and an awesome way to try to make the best of a sad situation.

Below you can see a photo of our balloon bouquet. We invited two friends who had also lost children, so I decided to have balloons to represent their angels as well. We released five orange balloons for Henry, two pink balloons for the twin daughters of one friend, and a blue balloon for the son of another. Everyone wrote messages on the balloons before we sent them to heaven. 

And off they went (carefully, to avoid all those trees, of course!)....

Higher and higher....

There is nothing I can say to you (unless you are also a bereaved parent) that will make you understand the depth of loss and pain that comes with losing a child. It never ends, it never lessens. But small things like this balloon release help to lessen that pain in small ways, if even temporarily. I know those balloons don't actually go to heaven, but to think for a moment that something I am releasing is going straight to my boy makes my heart happy. And giving back to our community in his name, and seeing other people so willing and generous in their giving to do the same gives me a little comfort to know that he is not forgotten.