The Gravestone. The tattoo. The nursery.

The Gravestone. The tattoo. The nursery.

Today was more of a difficult day for me. I know that before any of this happened with Ava I was the type of person that could be a bad mood for no reason. Maybe that’s like everybody else, who knows.

I woke up this morning in a somber mood. I never pinpointed exactly what was causing my mood to head south but I suspected its the typical “I hate having to live this way” attitude that rears its ugly head every once in a while. We drove to the cemetery after waking up like we had been nearly every day since we buried Ava. I was never a night owl before any of this happened, but now I find myself up until the wee hours of the morning every night. There’s a sense of escape that I get from burying my mind in TV through the night. It could be consider unhealthy grieving but its the only break I ever seem to get from the all the emotions I feel on a daily basis. The point of all that was, getting up and going to the cemetery didn’t happen until almost noon every day. That’s a simple symptom of my grieving. I never before this ever slept that late in years.

When we got to the cemetery, I found myself in this irritable mood. People were pissing me off on the way there. Some guy was riding his bike down the right of two lanes in the road when there was a perfectly good sidewalk at his disposal. This forced me to slow down and go around him. Leah pointed out that there were spots painted on the road that indicated it could be used as a bike lane. I however disregarded that and stated it was not necessary. High-class problems I felt like having.

I sat in the cemetery with Leah for a while with her fully aware I was having issues. She tried to talk to me but being honest with her I didn’t really know what my problem was. As I said before, sometimes it seems like nothing and it is just a crappy mood. She convinced me to go for a walk while we were there. It’s weird how discussions we have even if they are about the pains we have with Ava have a therapeutic quality to them, as long as one of us isn’t crying. Then it is not always therapeutic.

It became more and more clear to me that being the person that I am, maybe that means being a man, my emotions are sometimes the cause of my moods when I suppress them. I have this switch that goes off in my head when I catch myself missing Ava. There are two options with this switch: I can continue to feel what I am feeling, or I can flip that switch and shut them off or spin it into something positive. This lead me further to conclude that so long as I suppress my emotions I am not really dealing with them. I think the majority of men are programmed to do this, either by being wired that way or by being taught that is the manly thing to do. I know for a fact that the grieving process is different for every single person regardless of gender, so as long as you can honestly say you are dealing with your grief and not hiding it, you are doing the right thing.

My problem is sometimes I can’t tell what is the right way to grieve and what is the wrong way to grieve. I probably over-think everything so this could be a pointless exercise to explain. How do I know if it is okay to simply shift my train of thought to something positive rather than focus on what saddens me so deeply? It isn’t like I haven’t already felt enough sadness to last a lifetime. It isn’t like I haven’t felt like my heart has been ripped out. So is it normal to simply shift my train of thought? Is that okay? I have no idea. I know that I cry when I need to, I am sad when I need to be and I am strong when I want to be. The most important part is that I am doing what feels right. My fear is that if I don’t handle this the “right” way I am going to just break sometime down the road. Does that mean I should be crying every day and feeling awful 100 percent of the time? Once again, I don’t know.

The next major stop after the cemetery was the place we were designing and eventually buying Ava’s gravestone. When we walked around the cemetery, the area were in definitely did not have infants that we could find. We wondered if the way we buried her and the extent we were going was overboard by some standards. We very quickly concluded that there was no way we were doing anything less than everything for our little girl. After two-ish hours of designing on top of what we had already done and a way too expensive deposit, her stone was ordered. And it was gorgeous. Fitting for our little girl and it was worth every penny.

We only had a little bit of time before our next endeavor which was getting our tattoos designed. My wife and I are not tattoo folk. This was a new experience. Leah had a much better idea of what to get for her tattoo in memory of our daughter but I was not sure what I was going to do. My tattoo at least in my mind was something very special to me. I am a firm believer in God. I don’t go to church regularly. I have had my quarrels with Him and I am angry He took my daughter from me. But I still believe in Him and trust that although I will probably never know why, my precious Ava is in good hands. I mention this because of a day not too long ago.

Only a couple of days before we buried Ava our family went to a flower shop to get flowers for her. There were about 10 or 12 of us getting flowers so it took a bit of time. I had to use the restroom while I was there and asked where I might find it. The young lady working there showed me the way. On my way back from using the restroom, sitting just next to a set of four or five stairs was a stepping stone sitting upright that said the following.

“For those we have held in our arms for a little while, we hold in our hearts forever.”

I did not go out of my way to find this quote. I didn’t search for it and I was not even thinking of any reason I needed any sort of quote at this point in time. But, I saw it and took a picture of it because it immediately made me think of Ava (and made me cry, but only briefly). I only had such a small time with my daughter. She was gone so quickly. But every time she was in my arms, I experienced a love unlike anything I had ever felt in my life. I can’t even describe it. It was powerful. I held her once in my arms while she was still on her ventilator and that is what brings me to pieces when I think about that quote. For only a matter of minutes, I held my beautiful, perfect, innocent daughter in my arms. But the very instant she was in my arms, I was given a gift that I would literally hold in my heart forever, even if it broke it every single time I thought about it. And I still would not trade it for anything in this world.

Back to the tattoo shop. With this quote and her hand-prints we had a pretty good idea of what my tattoo was to be. I still don’t have it yet but will in a couple of days and I can’t wait. I want the whole world to see, even if so simplistically that I love my daughter and she will always be a part of me. Leah’s dad and stepmom also came along and designed their tattoos. I am honored they chose to remember our Ava in this way. It is one of the many reasons I have grown to love and respect them. After dinner with them we went home. Then came the nursery.

Ava’s nursery was perfect. Just like her. It was finished just one weekend prior to July 8. The walls were this beautiful mint green, the windows were decorated with sheer white curtains, a brand new white crib was centered beneath a gallery wall, a rocker was in the corner, a recently refinished dresser was on the other wall. We put so much time and effort into this room. It was sad, but necessary for us for it to remain closed since being made that way before we came home from the hospital. Leah’s dad and stepmom cleared our house of anything we had gotten related to Ava and shut it in her nursery. We had no idea when we would have the strength or even the desire to enter that room again. That day came today.

Almost every time I walked by Ava’s room I thought about going in there and how I wish it were opened. I would place my hand on the door as I passed by, giving it a quick touch of love I guess. As badly as I wanted the room opened, I also wanted it closed because of everything that room meant to both of us. This was Ava’s place to come home and sleep. This room was her space to be taken care of. It was a place in which she would grow up to be my little girl. But in just a few days, that all changed. But what remained was the belief that it is her room. Regardless of which of our other kids occupy it in the future, it will have always been Ava’s room first. We do not have any children other than Ava, by the way.

Leah was having a rough night so she decided to call her mom and head upstairs. She would take a bath after her phone call with her mom. She said I could go into the nursery and clear it out of all the things that should not be in there. Willingly and equally reluctantly I went upstairs and got to work. When I opened the door I looked at the crib first, and then the gallery wall above it. I remember the tireless searching for all the perfect things to put on the wall and putting the crib together. I love putting things together so I really enjoyed building her crib. It was heart-wrenching slowly coming to the realization my daughter’s crib would remain empty. But I knew there was nothing I could ever do to change it. The most difficult part of this process was opening the closet. I opened one set of doors and in front of me, hanging all by themselves were two onesies Leah bought me for Father’s day that Ava would eventually wear. I don’t recall what was written on them, but I couldn’t bear to read them. I also couldn’t bear to get rid of them, so I tucked them away in the bottom drawer of her dresser. I miss my Ava. So, so badly.

I carted some of the heavier items we had bought for her down stairs. This included a highchair we bought used but like new for her, a swing thing (yes, I am guy so I don’t know what its called), a couple bins of baby clothes my brother and sister-in-law gave us to look through and some odds and ends. Once that was cleared out, I talked to Leah and got the go-ahead to make the room as perfect as I could. We bought a few things since Ava passed that we thought would make the room cozy and a couple things that were in memory of her. We felt that we should keep her room and embrace it as a part of our home. I put a mattress and sheet in the crib. I put a throw blanket on the rocker and draped one over the front of Ava’s crib. I placed an ultrasound photo of Ava on one corner of the dresser and on the other corner a picture of our beautiful daughter at peace. Centered between them was her memory box. I placed a few craft projects Leah wanted to work on in the sitting nook. I put a lamp we bought on the shelf. Finally, I placed AvaBear in the crib, with a small pillow, and with AvaBear was a gray stuffed bear (I think I always called him Bearie) I had ever since I was a very young little boy. AvaBear was a gift given to us by a support group we attended shortly after we lost Ava. We named her AvaBear.

My work was done and I must admit that once the room was complete, it was such a calming place to be. I am so happy (I really am) that this can now really be Ava’s room. The door can be open and I don’t have to fear the room anymore. It was hard to do but I’m glad I did it. Leah saw the room too shortly after. It was just as hard for her to see, but I do believe in time it will be her favorite room in the house. I think it will bring her the peace and quiet she sometimes so desperately needs. I also believe this is a place for Ava to visit whenever she wants. AvaBear will be keeping her spot warm.

 

 

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