We’ve all said it to ourselves- “I just lost track of time” or “where did the time go” maybe “the days all run together”. I don’t understand the phenomenon of this but I can truly say here in my mid-40’s that there are minutes, hours and sometimes even days when my memory escapes me and I lose blocks of time. I can also say there are certain days that never leave me and that I can return to as clearly as if I were just living them right now. The month of May tends to hold lots of those days.
Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and our family spent it like most together, enjoying each other and making sure Ashley didn’t do anything she didn’t want to do. We called our mothers (the kids grandmothers) to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day. But this year the second Sunday in May happened to fall on the 8th which also marked the 3rd anniversary of Natalie’s passing. And as the years go by I can still live every moment of that day as if it were live today. Holding her hand as she slept, kissing her forehead, telling her it was okay to say goodbye and let go, the tears rolling down my cheeks. Believe it or not those are good memories because I remember them so vividly.
Today is Ashley’s birthday, the 4th one she’s celebrated without our daughter. I’m lucky, I’ve only celebrated 3 because my birthday hasn’t arrived yet this year. Her first birthday without Natalie fell on Mother’s Day. To this day I remember sitting on the front porch, out of town guests dropping in to say goodbye before they left for their various lives. Goodbyes have such a different meaning for me now.
Yesterday, May 11th was the anniversary of Natalie’s memorial service and burial. I was there, in the moment- going on what would be the first of many morning runs to clear my head, secluding myself in the garage where I could write the eulogy (see below) that Ashley would so courageously share with the standing room only crowd gathered at St. Thomas a few hours later, sharing the celebration of a life ended too soon with friends and family into the late hours of the night. Oh the memories, the moments when time stops still and lasts forever.
Next week marks the last day of school for our kids and Natalie’s 5th grade class will be graduating from elementary school. We will take part in the festivities with all her friends and their families watching them form new memories that we unfortunately won’t get to make with Nat. I often wonder what 11-year old Natalie is like, what is she in to. Those thoughts quickly fade to be replaced by the Natalie I was blessed to spend 8+ years with forging the memories that I very much hope will last a lifetime.
Below is the text of our eulogy to Natalie. I haven’t looked at it or the video of her service in quite some time but I gained some comfort in reading and hope you will too. I plan to become a somewhat regular blogger and look forward to sharing my thoughts with you as well as to seeing all of you at our 3rd Annual Natalie’s A.R.T. Run on September 3rd of this year!
Hi sweet girl.
How are you? It’s a beautiful, warm sunny day here, but I guess you probably already know that since I’m sure you are looking down on us from your new home.
You are probably wondering what’s going on, why are we at church on a Saturday afternoon, and why are there hundreds of people here? It must look crazy with the maze of cars winding through the neighborhood from your Google Earth satellite view. I really can’t fathom it all myself. Believe it or not, we’re having a celebration, a HUGE party in fact, and it’s all about YOU! The party started on Wednesday, and so many friends and family have been part of it sharing laughs and hugs tears and stories of their memories of Natalie. We’ve listened to your music and looked at your pictures. Miss Sherry made a video about you, and Miss Rebecca and Lauren made a CD of your favorite songs like Baby Got Back, Thrift Shop, Let me Show Ya A Few Things, and LOTS of Taylor Swift! There’s tons of food – yummy fruits and veggies, a bunch of noodles and lots of dessert, but no ice cream cause it would melt.
Your cousins came and Savannah and Caroline, all your teachers and so many of your buddies. You would be proud of them, they miss you a bunch but they are all staying so brave – more brave than most of us grownups. Jack is playing Clash and he finally made it to first place. Em is holding court as the life of the party and has done some very big girl things the last few days. You would really love it cuz you loved a good party. Mom and I love it too but our favorite part is the stories and shared memories.
Everyone, and we mean EVERYONE, talks about your beautiful smile. They say it never left your face, and they’re mostly right. It is an awesome smile, and we know it’s spread across your face every moment of your new life.
Miss Sauer told us that Miss Brahl shared with her at the beginning of your first grade year. She said “you’re gonna love this little girl. She skips through life. I don’t think her feet ever hit the floor.” Boy, she was right, and we’re so excited you’re skipping along again.
There is talk about what a great little athlete you are. Coach Brad summed it up in an email to the Diamond Dazzlers parents – “She was a scrappy player with a quick bat and very fast in the field. She was fun to coach and a joy to watch play the game.” Coach Bryan agreed the same could be said about the soccer field. Coach Daddy said it reminded him of his favorite St. Louis Cardinal, Willie McGee – not the strongest or the fasted but no one hustled more or tried harder. I’m so glad you are playing ball again.
We brought lots of your artwork to the party, and everyone says how beautiful it all is. Miss Clifton shared how creative your little mind was and how much joy you brought to the Heartland art room. We know painting was your favorite, and the beautiful rainbow in the sky the other morning was a sure sign that the entire heavens will be a canvas full of your bright colorful creations.
All the parents talk about how kind, friendly, and polite you were. We always said you were everyone’s friend, and we really meant it. You can’t say that about many people, as everyone has someone they don’t like very much or who doesn’t like them, but not you…no way. You made sure everyone had at least one friend in you, even if they didn’t have any others. We can’t even imagine how many new friends you’ve already made up above.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking to all your party guests and Father Gar about why you got sick, why you left your home on earth for your eternal home in God’s house. The answer is there is no answer, so instead of wondering we choose to accept that it is the most amazing and beautiful place there, where it is 70 degrees and sunny all day every day so that you can kick the soccer ball, throw the softball, ride your scooter, run skip hop, play with Wilbur and most of all show off that gorgeous smile.
Your friend Andrew said it best when he said “I wish this whole thing never would have happened.” He’s right Big Fluff, and we miss you so darn much, but you are with us every day in our hearts and in all those wonderful memories and no one, not even God, will every take that away.
We had better say goodbye for now. You wouldn’t want us to be rude to your other party guests. We’ll talk again soon and will see you someday when we get to Heaven with you.
We love you baby!
Mommy and Daddy