Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dear Isabella

July 31, 2012
Dear Isabella,

Nine years have passed. I am a different person now because of you. I am a stronger person because of you. I have helped a lot of people because of you. I have helped change the world because of you and I have helped others to do the same. That being said………as strong as I may be…… today is a struggle for me. It is always a struggle but for some reason today is much worse…….more intense. I am sitting on a plane heading home from a work trip and I keep staring at my watch knowing that nine years ago around this time, one phone call changed everything forever. One minute I had the intense joy of knowing I would meet you soon coupled with the joy of knowing I was hours away from celebrating with your Mom the day we were married. That would be a special combination any year but this was extra special because, without you I do not know if the anniversary would have happened. There was a time when your Mom and I were struggling and heading different directions and you changed all of that………you brought us back together and reminded us of the love we shared for each other. You reminded us of why we were together and how we fell for each other years prior and you reminded us that a life together was what we wanted.

The phone rang though. I play it over and over in my mind and simply wish the phone had not rang.

“I cannot feel Isabella kicking anymore”. That is what Mom said.

Haunting words. I wish I had known you needed me. Maybe I could have helped. I certainly would have tried. Maybe you would still be here today filling my day with laughter instead of the tears that are streaming down my face as I am sure folks around me on this flight wonder what is wrong.

The phone rang though and the rest of the day and evening were a blur of hardship. I held you. I was only given a few minutes but I savored every second because I knew it would be a long time until I would get that chance again. I know you are okay. I know with all that I am that you are in a good place. I just miss you. Until that day comes when I can hold you again, please know that I am grateful for the changes you brought my life on your short stay with me. Please know I did not stay down in sorrow but stood up in strength. That is your legacy…………..giving me the strength and desire to lead a life that leaves behind a legacy of my own.

Meet you at the usual place……my next finish line. Until then,



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Isabella's Day 2012

I think I have said this every year…..it is hard to believe another 12 months have passed.  I guess that at 45 years old, that is true of life as much as it is Isabella’s Day.  This post is not to talk of life, though.  It is, of course, to talk about my little girl. In that sense, I guess this post is about life.  It is about loss and is about moving on and living without and waiting to meet again.  Isabella would be 9 this year on August 1st of 2012.  She certainly is still 9 this year……..just not here.  I know she is somewhere with a big smile and having a good time but I cannot hear her and that makes me sad sometimes.  This post will not be long.  I have already shared the most intimate details of Isabella throughout this blog.  If you know me or have read the posts, you could probably put good words to how I feel without me sharing them with you any more.  Truthfully, I was not going to write a post this year.  I was going to ask the favor I always ask and will do so again at the end of this writing.  A post, however…………..I was going to skip.  That was until Rich Cruse took the photograph you see above.  Rich is an incredible artist with his camera and on one particular day, I happened to catch the twitter post where he was sharing this photo with the world. It is a beautiful shot and to most of you it is simply a remarkable photo of a random girl on the beach. To me, however, I see my precious little girl.....wherever she might be.  It was an Isabella moment.  They come less frequently 9 years after Isabella’s passing but when they do come, they hit hard.  It is to be expected.  Time 'heals' goes the saying but it is probably more like time 'suppresses'.  

Anyway, at seeing the photograph above I started to think.  More accurately...I stopped and realized.. that I have this recurring image in my head of my little girl.  I saw Rich’s work and realized his image is often the image I picture in my mind of Isabella playing at the beach and splashing in the waves.  Just like Rich’s image, I can never make out all of the detail.  I know it is Isabella though.  She is my child and while I have never heard a single word from her, I swear I would…and will……know my little girl when our paths cross one day.  This is probably because I think about her often.  Much of what I do today keeps her and my Dad close at heart.  When I swim or ride or run or coach the course for Team in Training, it is the thought of Isabella that keeps me going.  When I want to quit, she drives me forward.  When I am tired, she gives me energy.  We never met but she is my inspiration and it is truly a blessing to have something so fierce to drive you on a daily basis. She helps me to make good decisions because I know she is not only watching my life but I know I will look her in the face one day.  When that day comes, I do not want to have to bow my head in disappointment but hold my head high proud of the life I produced.

Regarding Isabella, Rich’s picture lead me to an idea of putting words to what I think Isabella would be doing today.  Would she be great in school? Would she like running? Would she still be afraid of the dark? Would she like Barbie? Would she like Hello Kitty? Which would be her favorite? Would she sit and watch Braves games with me or football on Sunday? Would we be best buddies or at 9 would she distance herself from me to look cool to her friends?  Would she like to read?  If so, would she make time for it? Would she love the same music as I do (I am young when it comes to music taste!)? Would we go to concerts together? Would she have a tattoo………hell no….just kidding as this question never enters my mind?  What kind of movies would she like?  Would her favorite color be pink or orange like me? Would she….God help me….like Bieber?  Would she like Math or English better? Would she be bugging me for a cell phone? Would she be on the local swim team? Would she play soccer?  Would she like Nutella and crave s'mores? Could she sit and admire the beauty of the sky like I can? Would she share the amazing smile that her Mom has?

These are all questions I ponder from time to time.  Not because the answers matter but because I like to remember her and think about her.  I do not want to move on from her which is why you will often hear me say  I ‘Run to Remember’.  Some would perhaps want to forget in this situation but I never want to let go.  On this note, I decided not to post any of my thoughts on this subject.  Honestly, I am not sure I could get to clear answers because the answers do not matter.  Whatever traits Isabella possessed today would not impact anything let alone how I feel.  Short or tall.  Fat or skinny.  Loves hanging out with me or would prefer her friends.  Loves to run…hates to run. Straight A student or struggles with every subject. None of it would matter.  She would be my little girl and I would Love Her with all that I am. Truth be told, living with loss is living without the answers to these questions.  Until I actually know the answer, I will hold a special place in my heart for Isabella.  Nobody can get to that special place but her.  Nobody can take the thought of her away from me and, while those thoughts can make me sad from time to time, I would never and will never give them up.  All I can do is live a life that makes her proud and be the best Dad to the children I am blessed to still have with me.  My son, Jaden, is my best buddy and my daughter, Thalia, is as close as you can get to an Angel here on earth.  As I always say, blessings come from the worst of times and these 2 children are among those blessings for me.

Now it is time for that favor.  It is the same one I ask every year and is meant simply to help me remember my little girl.  On August 1st, sometime during the day, I ask that you raise a glass to my little girl.  It can be a coffee, a bottle of water or a Kettle One Martini.  The drink does not matter.  It is the moment you give to remember my little girl that matters.  As always, thank you for the gesture.   It might seem silly but it means everything to me and my wife.

To Isabella!

Note: A huge thank you to Rich Cruse for his amazing work.  If you would like to see more of Rich's work, please do yourself a favor and visit RICH'S WEBSITE