One day at a time

Today, I wore my favourite skinny jeans, I cleaned out a drawer and I shopped for wallpaper. It was a difficult day.

Those skinny jeans were the pair I threw on to rush Brody to the ER; I was wearing them when he died. The drawer was full of sippy cups and baby bibs. And shopping for wallpaper was fun – and it hurts to have fun.

I put on my jeans and I said “sorry Brody.” I cleaned out my kitchen drawer and I wanted to scream and swear and go back in time. At the design store, I went to the bathroom and told Brody that I loved him so much and didn’t want him to doubt that even though I was trying to move forward.

That is all very embarrassing to share.

But it’s really hard for me to move forward in these little ways right now.

Nice jeans. Tidy drawers. Paint chips. I don’t care about any of this shit more than I care about my baby. I would give it all up in a second for more time with him.

But there is nothing I have that will bring him back to me in this life. And that’s terrifying. It’s my worst fear realized. And I have to look right at that reality and walk forward.

I have to tell myself that Brody knows I love him. Moving forward doesn’t hurt him and it doesn’t push him further away. It feels like it does, but it doesn’t.

I honestly don’t know exactly where I’m trying to go right now – what healing looks like. I don’t yet have a clear picture in my mind. But I’ll just keep trying to make these little forward motions. One day at a time.

Day 7 – The funeral

It was raining when I woke up this morning. It was comforting in a strange way. My first thought was that God was crying with me.

I certainly needed Her support. Today was Brody’s funeral.

I decided to speak at his service, and (after reading his obituary) this is what I shared:

Years ago, I heard the story of the grandfather who taught his grandson about the wolves that war inside each of us. It’s a Cherokee legend, and for me, it is very helpful wisdom as I grieve Brody’s death.

The grandfather explains that one wolf is evil… He is anger, envy, regret, sorrow, self-pity, guilt and lies.  One wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, kindness, generosity, empathy, truth, compassion, and faith. And I would add, gratitude. The wolves battle inside each one of us, trying to gain control.

The grandson asks his grandfather which wolf will win the fight, and the grandfather answers: the one you feed.

People have told me that there is no wrong way to grieve – and I appreciate that because grief is a journey you have to allow yourself to travel without judgement. Still, I have found, that tragedy and grief make both wolves eager to fight.

What I want to say to everyone – grieving for our loss or for your own – is please don’t let yourself camp in a dark place. Please don’t embrace anger. Please do not call pity your friend. They are worse foes than death – they will kill the living. Please don’t get mad at God and think that she is a cruel mother. She grieves with me, she hopes with me. She knows what it is not to get her way.

Please, embrace love and hope. Seek ways to be gracious and compassionate and feed the good wolf.

If you are somewhere dark on your journey – keep going.

Jensen and I brought children into the world to be sources of light and love. I want the light that Brody gave me to live on in my heart, and I will feed that light – I will feed the good wolf.

I want to end today with a poem I wrote the night before Brody died. I had no idea what was to come the next morning. I was laying in bed telling God how I wanted to help parents whose babies were in intensive care – and that inspired me to write a poem.

I loved you when you were just hope in my heart
When I heard your heart beating I thought
This is the start of an adventure, together
Though now we’re apart
I love you and there is still hope in my heart

Day 5

There was a lot of good in today. I can’t say that today was a good day, but I can say it had good in it. We were surrounded by loving faces all day long. It was exhausting though, and all I can post tonight is Brody’s obituary. It ran in today’s paper.

Brody Andrew Novak graduated to Heaven on May 2, 2017. He was 16 months old.

Diagnosed with a rare genetic disease at birth, Brody had exceeded all expectations and was enjoying a beautiful life.

He loved to be outside; he would notice birds far off in the distance and watch them fly. He loved to be read to and to play with books. We were always amazed at how he would immerse himself in play. He adored his big brother who enthusiastically embraced him from day one.

We miss Brody’s big, wet kisses. We miss his adorable laugh. We miss his gorgeous eyes and warm smile. We will miss seeing how strong and handsome he would have become. We expected to live a full, rich life with him by our side. We have lost an incredible gift and a source of great joy.

Brody is survived by his loving parents, Jensen and Myrrhanda Novak, by his proud brother, Bryson, by his paternal grandparents Dave and Louise Novak and by his maternal grandparents David and Trish Keam. As well as by great grand parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and a large extended family who adored him. We mourn, but we remember the hope we have in Jesus. We are thankful He is with him now.

Please join us for a memorial service on Monday, May 8 at 1:00PM. The service will be in the main sanctuary at Spring Church, 595 Lagimodiere.

In Brody’s memory, please donate to the St. Boniface Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Family Room Improvement Fund. To donate, please call 204-230-2067 or donate online at http:/ Donation forms will also be available at the service.

Day 4

Brody was cremated today. I remember giving him raspberry kisses on his tummy. I remember giving him baby massages after his bath. That soft, squishy little body I cuddled and cared for is now a pile of ash.

I wanted so badly for his body to be donated to others, but I don’t think that was possible. I told the doctors to at least use his eyes. He had such striking eyes. Surely they could help someone else see. I’m too scared to ask now if they were able to.

But there were also many moments to enjoy today. We received bouquets and pastries and lasagnas and donuts and sincere, meaningful texts, emails and cards.

Our house was full of family. My sister-in-law had a date with Bryson. My brother and I took a walk to the park with our sons who are only 12 days apart.

There were moments today when I thought, if I can just focus on how good life is and not on how good I thought it was going to be – then it doesn’t seem so bad. I felt a bit guilty for those thoughts. I can’t explain why.

It’s still very hard to think about Brody’s full beauty and his potential. I allow myself to forget at times to protect myself from despair. But I know that I always want to remember everything about him, and that I can think of how he is thriving now in Heaven.

Tonight, my husband and I got into bed and I said, “I’m still here. You’re still here.” And he said, “Bryson’s still here. And Brody’s not far away.”

Day 3

Today my oldest son – who as I write this I realize I no longer need to refer to as my oldest – walked into the house and told my dad that he wanted to go check on his mom to make sure she hadn’t died.

I was sitting in the office. I was picking a photo for Brody’s obituary. It’s very painful to look at his photos. Brody is incredibly handsome. I know I’m his biased mom, but he was beautiful. He was happy and full of life. I don’t know what took that life. I just don’t know. I don’t know how to explain to Bryson that I am not as fragile as Brody was. That he shouldn’t expect that I will die soon.

I was proud of myself today. I’m not proud because I got things done, although they were hard things that I never ever wanted to do – pick my son’s urn, post on facebook that he died. I am proud because I expressed gratitude. I was welcoming to guests. I was hopeful. I enjoyed listening to the birds. I played with my son. My husband and I watched some TV. We laughed and we enjoyed it and that was encouraging. I loved and was loved. That’s what life should be.

Day 2

It hasn’t been even 48 hours since he died. But every moment has gone so slowly. When I went to bed last night, it took so much effort not to become hysterical. I wanted to scream and light something on fire. I wanted to rage. It took so much effort to restrain myself. It took medication to sleep.

This morning, my husband and I had to go downtown to be interviewed, separately, by the police. An officer asked me all about my pregnancy with Brody, his delivery and what happened after he was born. I was devastated as I remembered how much I had done for my boy – I thought of memories that once were sweet and now tasted sour. Brody, I gave you everything. I loved you so well. I’m sorry it wasn’t enough.

When we finally got home, we planned Brody’s funeral. I had to plan my baby’s funeral today.

Then I took Bryson outside to jump on the trampoline. Our neighbour and her daughter, Rowan, came out and we talked and the kids played. I pushed Rowan on the swing. I jumped on the trampoline with Bryson. I felt okay. I felt a bit of joy even. I felt like sweetness would be possible again, somehow, even if my heart hurt for the reality that I couldn’t share it, as I wanted to, with Brody.

Day 1

This is day one of grieving the death of my nearly 16 month old son. This morning, we took him to the ER, they tried to resuscitate him. They couldn’t.

It’s been about 13 hours since he died – every minute has been slow and excruciating. I would like to die too so I can be with him and be free from this pain.

But today – I don’t want to write about all that. Not right now. Before I sleep, I want to say, that I am thankful. I am thankful for my husband – who has been my best friend since we were 17. I am thankful for the beautiful four-and-a-half year old who is incredibly strong. I am devastated – disillusioned – that he has lost the little brother he adored and should have shared life with. My grief is – it’s too much.

But I am grateful. I will not die too. I won’t be a zombie for the rest of my life. I will love and I will be loved and I will forgive.

Brody, mommy loves you. I will miss you but I will live on and not let your life be in vain. Thank you for being my baby.

Day 1