The end of our innocence

On Saturday April, 12, 2014 @ 10am we had our “Life Celebration” for Matthew. I still feel like a phony calling it that, I just wanted to make it less horrible for Caroline and truthfully for myself as well. I couldn’t handle it. I still can’t handle it. I feel condemned to an entire life of hell. Yes I love my daughter, my husband, my sister & brother, my parents….all of my family both blood related and related by marriage, however I want my son back. I feel helpless, I know I just need to live my life and try to move forward however I would love to just quit sometimes. I’m tired, I’m tired of pretending I’m okay, when in reality I’m no better than I was almost 5 years ago. I want to rest and relax but I can’t. I’m constantly frantic. I constantly have 3 million thoughts running through my head at the same time. I live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wake up every morning with a lead ball in my stomach. Im waiting to see who will be stolen from me next. I haven’t felt peace in almost 5 years. Do you know how fucking hard it is to live like this? Peoples expectations of me are way too high, so I pretend. I pretend I’m happy. I pretend I’m not terrified. I pretend that my living children are enough. They aren’t. They aren’t enough. Call me selfish go ahead I’ve been called far worse and nothing that is said about me will come close to the way I feel about myself. I hate myself. I hate that I’m not a good enough mother to have kept my child alive. I should have known. I shouldn’t have assumed that I no longer needed an alarm clock because Matty will wake me up. I really spoke those words out loud the night before he died. I don’t deserve peace so I will never have any in my life.

My world ended when Matthew died. But I keep pretending to be okay. I’ve been handed a life sentence. I apply my happy face while I put on my make up. As much as I know that my life ended with his, I’m forced to remain on Earth and go through the motions. I don’t have a choice, I never had a choice. I’m not strong. I’m just really good at pretending. I’ve lived a million different lives, I can be whoever you want me to be.

I understand why woman say they lose friends after losing their child. Friends get tired of you not returning phone calls, of you not being able to go places where a baby is, of you not being the same person as before, I don’t blame them, trust me we get it. We don’t like who we’ve become any more than they do. They don’t understand, it’s not just a phone call, sometimes that simple task takes everything you have in you to complete. All that being said I guess I will get back to my sons funeral.

April 12th of 2014 was a beautiful day; weather wise at least. My sister and mother had taken Caroline and I out a few days prior to buy us new dresses. We were having difficulty finding something to wear so my mother said she was going to ask a sales associate. I said “yes please do. Ask them where they keep their selection of cloths for your child and brothers funeral” clearly that was uncalled for. My mother did and will do anything she can to help me. She was broken as well. I took my anger out on her and feel horrible about it. My mom has been one of the very few people who actually get that I won’t bounce back from Matthews death. We finally found something to wear. Caroline chose a white dress, my initial thought was to say no it needs to be a dark color however I decided that it is her brothers funeral and if she wants to wear white then she can. So both of my beautiful children wore white that day, Matthew in his christening outfit that was his daddy’s and Caroline in her white sundress.

As I got dressed that morning and tried to be strong I leaned over to buckle my shoe and my Saint Matthew medallion fell to the floor. I put it back on it’s chain and pulled and yanked to find the spot that made it fall….however it was on there securely. I know that was Matthew saying hi and I should have felt blessed for the contact and I did feel blessed but I was shaking, I was so so destroyed. There aren’t words to describe how I felt.

Immediate family met at the funeral home where if they had Michael’s permission they were allowed to say their goodbyes to our son. I didn’t want to go in that room. That was no longer my son, my son was already with Jesus. The owner of the funeral home wanted to speak with Michael and I he too had experienced a great loss and had some words of wisdom to bestow. That is a conversation that was meant only for my husband and I so I will not indulge any further on that. I will say that his words resonated with us and we do try to keep his advice close to our hearts.

When the time came for us to head to the church, Michael was asked if he wanted to close Matthews casket. Michael came & asked me if I would do it with him and although I did not want to I felt as if he asked because he needed me to be there. My sister asked if I wanted her to come with me and I said yes.  We entered the room and I don’t know what I was expecting but for some reason I found myself in a coherent state of shock. I walked over to the casket with my husband, took one look at our son and said “NO I CANT DO THIS, THAT IS NOT MY BABY. THAT’S NOT HIM. THAT IS NOT MY BABY”  I remember turning to look at my sister and saying “GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW, ANN, GET OUT”! I was afraid for her to see him she after all had two of her own babies at home and I knew the vision would remain forever ingrained in her mind as it is mine. I wanted to protect someone from something and clearly I couldn’t really protect anyone from this horror. That however was the one thing I could do to save her from some part of this nightmare.

Michael and I closed his tiny casket and we all went outside while they pulled the hearse   around. Michael carried our son to the hearse. I will never forget the look on his face, it was one of defeat, sadness and heartbreak. For some reason I had our daughter sit in the car while he carried his tiny coffin to the hearse. I had zero capability to think ahead, or I would have realized that Caroline was going to see the coffin when we got to the church.

On our way to the church for some reason Michael and I did not drive in the same car. He drove with his father, step mother, and siblings. I drove with my parents, Caroline and one of Caroline’s friends. Michael and his family were directly behind the hearse, with me, Caroline and my parents behind them. We were about half way there when a car cut between the hearse and Michael’s family. The owner of the funeral home actually stopped the hearse and got out, however, I beat him to the car. My parents tried like hell to use those damn auto door locks to keep me inside but I don’t think anyone or anything could stop me from getting out. I ran over to the car, who’s window was open, and in a very firm but somehow controlled voice said “my 6 week old son is in that hearse you are a piece of shit, you’re in that much of a hurry that you have to cut off a hearse?” I’m sure I had more to say but my husband was out at that point and not as controlled as I was. He started yelling “YOU’RE GOING TO HELL STRAIGHT TO F#*CKING HELL YOU PIECE OF F#*CKING SHIT”. At that point John the owner of the funeral home had come over, he said something to the man, who looked ashamed of himself to say the least and was apologizing over and over. John turned to me and put his hand on my back and said (to my surprise) “good job, you’re a good mom, that’s why you are Matthew’s mother”. Everyone returned to their cars and we went to the church.

Dear Lord, the church, I don’t know where to begin. John told us that our son’s casket was going to be wheeled in first with Michael, Caroline and I following directly behind, my sister Ann was behind me, and truthfully that is all I remember about the placement of people. I have never in my life felt anything close to what I felt when it came time to walk inside. I remember thinking “keep your head up” over and over. Only God knows why that singular thought kept repeating itself in my head. Very likely it was a coping mechanism. A way for me to do what I do best and attempt to disassociate myself from what was happening. I remember very little from the time frame of when Matthew died and the days, following but there are random thoughts, events or comments that stick out, one being that as we walked into the church me thinking I should tell Caroline to hold her head high. I was about to say that to her but when I looked over she already had her head held high. I was shaking like a leaf, I remember that vividly. As we walked in there was a collective gasp. I imagine it was due to the size of the casket? I’m not sure. We walked into the church and it was PACKED, not just full but PACKED and of course everyone was looking at us. The casket was stopped at the top of the church aisle, and we were told to put a blanket over it. Just the 3 of us, Michael, Caroline and I. Dear God, it was horrible, so horrible nothing you can imagine will come close to helping you understand just how horrific that experience truly was. Caroline was hysterical she could hardly breath, I was no better, I remember saying over and over again to her “it’s okay baby, put the blankie on Matty”. I came very close to throwing up, I was shaking so badly and I felt so dizzy. When we got to the front pews, we were told to sit.

I do not remember much of the service, according to Ann, and my mother I almost passed out several times. Once apparently I was on my way down when Ann grabbed me and sat me down. I’m not sure if I was passing out or if I was so completely destroyed I no longer had the strength to hold my body up.

I do remember Father Sanella saying that the Immaculate Conception Church has existed for 138 years, and in a 138 years there has never been a sadder day. I remember him asking me several times if I would reconsider reading my eulogy, he really didn’t think it was a good idea for me to get up there and read. I, however, was hell bent on reading it. I don’t understand why I felt so strongly about it, but I did. After the point in the service where you turn to your “neighbor” and offer them a sign of peace, which I sat through staring at my son, while people walked up behind Michael, Caroline, Ann, my mother & I offering us peace…peace that we would never have again. Father told everyone that I had a few words to offer….another collective gasp went through the church. Apparently it was not expected.

The only way I can even come close to describing to you how it is that I actually got up there and read is to say, it wasn’t me. I honestly feel that another force or power took control at that point and lifted me up to the platform. With my husband standing beside me I read what I had written:

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Matthew Michael is my son, he will always be my son, there is no past tense. He is Michael’s son and Caroline’s brother. We love him, we will always love him.

I was chosen to be Matthew’s mother, Michael his father and Caroline his sister, we were chosen for a reason. Words will not surffice to express our overwhelming sadness and grief.

I need to believe there is a reason God chose us, as horrific as this is, I have to believe God has a plan for us in this.

Matthew was only six weeks old when he passed away, but he made a profound difference in so many lives, he is so special he didn’t need a lifetime to touch others.

As I said I need to believe there is a reason, it seems too cruel, but there is a plan in this, there is a reason we are all here today. I feel strongly that Matty’s message to us all is to hold on a little tighter, cherish our loved ones, and love without boundaries. We all have times in our lives when we get caught up in trivial gossip or don’t treat each other as kindly as we should. Many people have asked what they can do to help us, my answer is this, let us all treat each other better, let us please learn through Matthew how precious life is.

We had made plans, we had ideas for Matthew, but ultimately God had bigger plans, as much as it hurts I know it’s for a reason.

In this, my and any parents worst nightmare, my husband, daughter and I have seen not just great but amazing kindness from family, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. This is where we gather our strength; strength we didn’t know we had.

We thank each and every one of you for being with us through this terribly difficult time and helping as best you can.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”

Matthew 5:4 NIV

I don’t know how the hell I read that. I don’t know how the hell I wrote that to be honest or why I felt it was so important that I read a eulogy. It was though, it was VERY important to me that I did it. At least there is one thing I do not have to regret, like not holding him one last time. I remember crying through some of the reading, I remember walking down from the podium and I remember walking over and kissing my hand and placing it on Matthew’s casket. Honestly I want to throw up right now just remembering. The next thing that I remember is the service being over, and I was standing in the hallway that leads to the exit of the church. I looked up and my father in laws American Legion riders were all standing on either side of the hallway holding balloons, and prayer cards. It was amazing! The funeral home had orchestrated that for us, how they knew we would love a bunch of Harley riders standing there, as if to salute our son I will never know. Once everyone exited the church, we waited until the hearse was out of sight then I yelled “I LOVE YOU MATTHEW” and everyone let go of their balloons for Matty to catch in heaven. I stood there as a line of people formed to see me. I stood there a long time, I hugged everyone, I was starting to lose it big time, I found myself basically stumbling. It had gotten to be too much I needed to sit down or I was going down. During the time I spent thanking around 200 people I wondered where my daughter was, and how she was doing but I couldn’t get to her. I saw my then 12 year old brother in law standing near a few small trees that are next to the church. I didn’t think much of it, until I was told later that he saw about 4 balloons that had been caught in the branches and he stood there until they were at last taken by the wind and blown up to heaven. I found my daughter standing with friends when I asked how she is doing she quietly told me she thought that she was going to pass out when we let the balloons go. Her knees were weak, and she was dizzy. I hugged her and took her to get a juice box from the room in the church they were kind enough to let us use. I was again approached by more people and tried my best to greet each person however my mother saw that I was not doing well and really needed to sit down and she made sure that’s what I did.

My life is not my own anymore, I’m riddled with dreams and everyday live with awful flashbacks. I vividly see him that morning, the morning he passed, I see him in the hospital, I feel his cold body, I feel his stiff tongue as I tried to give him CPR. I live a nightmare, I can barley see past my own pain to help my family. That’s very sad, I can’t help my own family. I have failed in everyway possible. To say otherwise is a lie, and just being said to make me feel better. If you live with me you know I am a shattered, broken, shell of who I used to be.  I want the old me back I want my son back I want my innocence back. I want to be able to see a baby and not shudder and turn the other way, I want to be happy for my friends who have babies but most of all I want to be capable of at least realizing how different I am, not walk around thinking I’m doing this great job holding it all together only to be told that I’m a wreck and really need to get help…help that I’m already receiving but apparently isn’t working.

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