For 6 months I ached for the pain Teddy was going to suffer. I thought and planned and tried to diligently work in preparing him. It never felt like enough!!!!!! I would do anything to take this pain away from Teddy!!! He is my sacred treasure, my first born, my first love, my lovebug, my peanut, my precious son!!!
His greatest fear was that one of us would die and now his fear was going to become reality. This made me cry just as deeply as the pain and suffering Nina went through.
From the moment I recognized Teddy's anxiety, I have worried and toiled to help him develop adaptive skills. Too many people around me are crippled by anxiety and I was determined to help my son. What worth did my Ph.D. have if I did not pour everything into helping Teddy. For years and years Teddy has worked hard to overcome his anxiety. Family and friends, especially school teachers, cannot believe that he is the same little boy. He is so strong now and his strength never shone so brightly as today!!!!!
After the kids had breakfast, I asked Todd if he wanted to stay with Nina or take the boys with Robert and Joe to the beach. I felt like the boys needed to be able to run around and process their grief in a child-centered way. Todd decided to take the boys. They were gone for almost a couple of hours. When they returned, they came into the living room. I was sitting next to Nina. Teddy came and plopped himself on my lap. We had the Tinkerbell soundtrack on and I watched him look over to the cd player when her favorite song came on. I was rubbing Nina's arm. I didn't urge him to touch her, just kissed him and asked what they had done. Slowly, he moved closer to her and then started to touch her hand with his index finger. He just quietly tickled the top of her hand, then moved to tickling her pointer finger. Before I knew it, he was holding her hand. His eyes were glued to her, as if he was trying to make sure she was really gone and not just sleeping. He leaned his head into the crook of my neck, like so many other times, but never like this!!! I whispered in his ear that Nina was now his angel and that she was right there beside him, loving him, so happy he was loving her. Tears came to his eyes and he asked if we could go outside.
We went outside and were immediately joined by Silas and Niels. We walked over the Lauers and sat in their living room. I asked the boys how they were feeling. Silas and Niels said they were sad and Teddy just tucked himself into my lap. We talked about how it was okay to be sad and to cry. That it was normal to do so. But I also reassured them that it was okay to be happy and laugh and to smile about all the wonderful memories we had of Nina. Silas shared his favorite story about her snorting. Teddy sat quietly and declined having lunch. After a while, we turned on the tv so the boys could eat and hang out. Teddy whispered in my ear that he wanted to go to his room and cuddle.
We left the boys and went upstairs. As we climbed up the stairs, he looked behind him at Nina. Tears started falling out. By the time we reached his room he was sobbing!!!!! He crashed onto his bed and started wailing, "Not my sister!! Not my little sister!!!!! Who is going to be my sister now??? I don't want to be an only child!!!!! Oh my God!!!!! Who is going to get me in trouble and take time outs with me???? I don't want Nina to be dead!!!! I want her to live!!! There are so many things I want to do with her!!! She is so little!!!!!! Who is going to be my sister!"
He literally flayed across his bed, intermittently crawling into my lap for comfort. I just let him talk, rubbed his back and when he would calm down for a bit, I would tell him how much we loved him, how much Nina loved him and that she was never going to really leave him, that she was his angel forever and right by his side for the rest of his life. "But I don't want her to be my angel, I want her to be next to me. Who am I going to cuddle with when I watch a movie?" I tried to comfort him, that we would cuddle with him, that his cousins and friends would be with him, and most importantly that even though he couldn't see or touch or hear Nina that she was right by his side.
His face was red, covered in tears. The only thing his precious beautiful face said was PAIN!!!!! He was living the pain of Nina's death just like the rest of us!!! I would have given my life to take away that pain from him!!! I just held and kissed him, over and over again. There is nothing worse, even Nina's pain, than the torture of watching your child grieve excruciating heartbreak. I firmly believe that we have lived through HELL on all levels, with both Nina and Teddy!!!
Eventually he calmed down and asked, "Can we just cuddle and watch a movie?" He didn't want to play with his cousins or friends. He was sad and didn't want to go outside and have fun. I reassured him that was a great plan and that it was okay to be sad, to cry, to scream, to shout. I told him I had been doing it all day and that we would continue to do it together. "Can Nina cuddle with us too?" he asked with the most innocent face. "Of course honey! She is right here and she is so happy that you talked about feeling sad and now want to do something fun! She is proud of you just like she always is!!!" I explained, kissing those perfect cheeks over and over, so glad that for once he wasn't wiping them away!
Todd came in at that point and Teddy started sobbing again. His grief was palatable, so thick it filled his bedroom, almost making it hard to breathe! He cried in his dad's arms and Todd loved him, reassuring him that Nina was always with him.
Teddy ended up deciding that he wanted to cuddle and watch Suite Life of Zack and Cody with Todd. He asked for goldfish crackers and the two of them climbed up onto the top bunk. My feelings weren't hurt. Teddy had been longing to spend more time with his dad for a very long time and he needed to feel secure with his father. I left the two of them together and they hung out for about 1.5 hours.
After a while, I returned and Teddy was ready for some mama time. As I climbed up the bunk bed, Teddy told me he wanted more goldfish, then he looked to his right and said, "Is that okay Nina?" I smiled as I looked at him and he explained, "Nina is right here with me. I can't see her but she's here." "You're right buddy! She's with you all the time, never forget." I kissed him and then went out for my goldfish run.
As I was climbing back up the stairs I ran into Todd and asked how Teddy had done and he said well, that he had asked a lot of questions about getting to see Nina again, what she was doing in Heaven, who was taking care of her, if he could talk to her, etc. I asked how the beach hike had gone and Todd got chocked up as he pulled out his iphone and showed me the following photo. He explained that as they were walking through Campus Pointe, he noticed that Teddy was walking with his arm slightly extended out and his right hand cupped. When he asked Teddy what he was doing, Teddy told him he was holding Nina's hand. I was left breathless!!! This most tender little boy has the heart of a wise old man. He is astounding, he is exquisite, he is amazing, he is a MIRACLE!!!!!
I cuddled with Teddy for a while and then asked him if he was ready for Silas and Niels to come up and play with him. The boys had been asking when they could see Teddy repeatedly. They were worried about him, sad for themselves, but especially sad for their best buddy. Teddy nodded that they could come up. The boys were elated and the three of them played for the rest of the afternoon. Periodically, I would go sit next to Teddy, feed him bites of banana and chips (if ever there was a time to spoil him....), rub his back, kiss his head, anything that would reassure him that I loved him, that his family adored him, and that we would always be here for him. Teddy was so affectionate, constantly tucking his head on my lap, nuzzling, and never once balking about my kisses. He needed loved poured on him and that is exactly what we all did!!!
After I returned from the funeral home later that evening, I found Teddy and Todd alone in our bedroom watching the Suite Life of Zack and Cody and eating the Habit. I cuddled next to Teddy and asked how his burger was and he said, "Tasty!" We munched on fries and watched the remainder of that episode. When the next one started, Teddy asked if I could leave, that he wanted to have alone time with Todd. I kissed him and said I was glad to do so. I knew that he wasn't trying to be exclusive or retreat away from me. Fact of the matter was that Teddy spent the majority of his time with me, that we did activities together all the time. More importantly, Teddy missed spending time with his dad, and today he had suffered the biggest loss of his life. Even though he loves me dearly, he is a little boy and little boys crave time with their fathers. I was glad that they were spending time together.
Not long after I left, Teddy came to find me and invited me to return. He gave me the biggest hug and I told him that he could just have alone time with dad, that it didn't hurt my feelings. He insisted I join him and so I did. In the past, I have found myself complaining about watching the same episodes of his favorite television shows. Tonight, I was thankful for something familiar, something normal, something constant. After a few more minutes, Teddy asked Todd to get him more goldfish :) The boy was the goldfish king! As Todd ran his errand, Teddy and I talked about how Nina love Zac and Cody, remembering our favorite stories and memories of Nina. Out of the blue, Teddy turned to me and said, "Mama, Nina isn't really dead. Her body is dead but her true self is alive, it lives forever!" I was speechless!!! All I could do for a few seconds was hug him and kiss him. Then I cupped his precious face with my hands and told him he was the most incredible and wise person I knew, that he was my hero!!!! Teddy beamed!!! I explained to Teddy that God had given him the heart of a warrior, that his capacity to love and understand was beyond comprehension and a flat out miracle!!!! Teddy just nuzzled into my arms and loved me in return.
Todd returned with goldfish and the three of us hung out. After a few more episodes, Teddy and I cuddled. He fell asleep in my arms. I don't remember falling asleep myself but I do remember that for the first time in a very long time I reached out to God in happiness and thanked him for the Miracle of Teddy!!!!