26 Days Of Love

In honor of my son’s 26 glorious days on Earth, I am going to spread love for the next 26 days. I am going to write about the awesome people in my life and how cool I think they really are. I’d love to see people join in. Just add #26daysoflove 
So for this this first day I wanted to start with my son, Leo. You transformed me! I am changed forever. I am more open, less afraid, and more willing to try new new things. I live in honor of you my boy. Thank you for being in my life. I love you, Dad.

Today you are three

Today we celebrate your birth 3 years ago.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  I remember driving your mother around the city and up and down the hills of San Diego.  It was all in an effort to induce labor.  

I remember hoping you would be born on 3/14, which is pi day.  When that past, I was shooting for St. Patrick’s Day.  Instead we met you on 3/16, your mother’s birthday.  The thought of all the mom/son birthdays made me smile.  

You gave us quite the scare when you were born.  The umbilical cord was wrapped several times around your neck. You looked kind of gray and my heart sunk into my stomach.

The doctor assured us that everything was OK as she unwrapped the cord.  I got to tell you, I was freaking out inside until I saw a wave of color rush through your body.  At that moment I knew everything was going to be ok.

We had 26 very full and glorious days together.  I miss you every second of every day.

Happy Birthday Leo!!!

Love, Dad

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Leo’s Anthem (makes me cry every time)

This is Not Goodbye 

By The Sidewalk Prophets 
I can see it in your eyes that you are restless

The time has come for you to leave

It’s so hard to let you go but in this life I know

You have to be who you were made to be
As you step out on the road I’ll say a prayer

So that in my heart you always will be there
This is not goodbye

I know we’ll meet again

So let your life begin

‘Cause this is not goodbye

It’s just “I love you” to take with you

Until you’re home again
The stirring in your soul has left you wondering

Should you stay or turn around

Well, just remember that your dreams they are a promise

That you were made to change the world

So don’t let fear stop you now ‘cause
This is not goodbye

I know we’ll meet again

So let your life begin

‘Cause this is not goodbye

It’s just “I love you” to take with you

Until you’re home again
I know the brightest star above

Was created by the One who loved

More than we’ll ever know

To guide you when you’re lost
What started as a still, small voice

Is raging now and your only choice

Is to follow who you are

So follow who you are ‘cause
This is not goodbye

I know we’ll meet again

Oh
This is not goodbye

I know we’ll meet again

So let your life begin

‘Cause this is not goodbye

It’s just “I love you” to take with you

Until you’re home again

He is surrounded by love

Tonight the pastor of our church was telling me about how he was thinking about Leo while on a hike this weekend.   Hearing this brought me close to tears because I love hearing that somebody was thinking about Leo and reflecting on his short life.  Then the pastor said “you know, he really is surrounded by love.”  This was the line we had written on a bracelet we had passed out at Leo’s services. 

You know what I believe people who are grieving a loss want to hear from others, they want to hear that people were/are thinking about the person who passed away.  They want to hear how much their son, daughter, mother, father, etc. meant to the person who is sharing the memory.   
To know that 2 3/4 years after my boy passed on someone was just randomly thinking about him warms my heart.

Thanks Ed! You helped start my 2016 on the right path 🙂

Unexpected YouTube Notification

This morning I was informed by YouTube, via notification, that a video of mine had been viewed over one thousand times. Hmmm, I wondered which video? I have several silly videos and a few videos for work on YouTube. It could be any one of those. When I clicked on the link I was completely unprepared for the video that popped up.

As the video began to play and I heard the music, my face grew warm and I could feel a welling of emotion from deep within. A mash-up of happiness and sadness overwhelmed me and the tears poured out like a fire hydrant that has been crashed into by a truck!

With 1,129 views and 14 likes, Leo’s Memorial Video began to play. I had created this video right after Leo’s passing for the memorial service and as a way to remember my baby boy. The song I used was “This is Not Goodbye,” by The Sidewalk Prophets. This song was the anthem for this time in my family’s life and brings back so many emotions. I can’t listen to it anymore unless I want to relive those days right after Leo’s passing.

Struggling through this video I was amazed to see just how young Aly and Lily were. It reminded me of the life Angela and I lived before Leo and just how different we are now. It reminded me of how much people have helped us over the past 2 ¼ years. I remember my parents and Rose coming down and being there for us. We came home from the hospital that awful morning to my sister cleaning the bed and changing the sheets so that we didn’t have to.   That meant more to me than she will ever know.

I remember family and friends coming over and consoling us. I remember Lynette and everyone at WC putting on the Family Day of Play to help raise money for Funeral costs. I remember Amber and her family taking Aly and Lily so that Angela and I could grieve. I remember Tic, Bill, and Ed from Journey praying with us and helping to set up a memorial for our boy. I remember so many people bringing over food and cards.

I also remember Lorraine spending the day with us and giving us encouragement and a hand crafted casket from The Garden of Innocence, and how helpful the folks at Humphrey’s Memorial in Chula Vista were. Ed from La Vista was beyond helpful and I consider him a family friend now. Oscar was there to lend a supportive ear in those first weeks. As time moved on, I met Josh Lawson. Here was someone who had shared in painful heartache and loss. We began to meet regularly and I had the opportunity to share my thoughts without feeling judged.

As I reflect, I realize that a thick fog has settled around my memory of those first weeks after we lost Leo. There are so many others who were with us at that time. They made this bitter pill a little easier to swallow. The amount of love and support we received was so amazing and I am forever grateful to everyone for being there and sending their condolences.

In the end I am glad this YouTube notification popped up today. It reminded me of the strength I drew from so many during those initial hours, days, and weeks is a real testament to the awesome people around us. God placed the right people in our lives at the right time. He used this tragedy to show how loving people could be.

2 ¼ years later Angela and I are still rebuilding ourselves. We have some great kids whom we adore. We have our community. Also, we have each other. A few times now, we have been able to be there for others who are going through the same situation. Its not easy, but being there for people in their darkest times is healing to us.

Here’s the video:  https://youtu.be/_YDgkutmIf4

April 11, 2015

I wrote this almost a month ago.  Not sure why I didn’t post it?  I guess I just never felt like it was finished.

As perfect a sunny San Diego day can be, we remembered our son Leo with family and friends at La Vista on Saturday.  Angela, the girls, and I had been battling a series of colds. This one lead to some nasty chest congestion that has lasted for over 3 weeks now.  I seemto be getting the worst of it.  

By the time Saturday reared its ugly face, my voice was all but gone because of violent fits of coughing.  I have noticed that for me, one side effect to losing a child is my immune system has all but abandoned me.  Contrary to most of my life, I seem to catch every little bug or virus that comes my way.FullSizeRender

Arriving at the cemetery,  I reflected on how we felt this time last year. I remember still being in a state of shock at what had happened the year before.  Our grief was in its infancy, I had no preconceived notions about how that day a year ago would go.  It turned out to be a day of love and rememberance for my son.

This year has felt very different, it has felt sad and lonely.  

Leading up to the 11th, I questioned every thought and feeling I had.  What if no one came?  Am I bugging people when I still talk about Leo?  Why does it seems that some people just want to sweep the idea of death under the rug.? I know life has moved forward for everyone, even for us, but it makes me happy to talk about my son and SIDS research.  

Is it ok for me to be happy again?  

All of these questions came from a place of fear.  And they began to take hold of my heart.  I felt distorted and stretched thin, like a piece of chewing gum.

 

FullSizeRender 3 On the 11th I was reminded that we are surrounded by love, so much love!  Yet, I still feel so alone.  I feel so sad and afraid.  But most of all, I feel tremendous anger.  I still ask, why us?  Why our son?



This year we experienced the birth of our 4th child, Zoe.  She is so cute and precious.  I love her with the same intensity as I love my other children.  She isn’t Leo and she isn’t meant to replace or even heal the hole in my heart left by the loss of my son.  Every child is a precious gift from God.  One is waiting in Heaven like a Christmas present under the tree.  I can’t wait to meet you again in Haeven Baby Boy.IMG_0600      

I love you with all my heart, son.    

2 Years Ago

2 years ago I found out my wife was pregnant with our son, Leo!

2 years ago I was contemplating what my completed family, 2 girls, a boy, and my wife would do by the time our son was 2 years old.

2 years ago I was much more innocent in my understanding of life, death, and grief.

2 years ago I would have never thought that 2 years later I would have a son in Heaven and a 3rd daughter on Earth.

2 years ago I probably would have thought it strange that my family would build a 3 ft long pine casket for some friends who just lost their 1 year old son, Levi, to SIDS?

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Goodbye Baby Levi

Today has been quite the emotional day for a family we are friends with at Journey. Amy and Bill Fiskwald lost their 1 year old to SIDS this morning.

Hearing of this news stirred up several emotions for Angela and I. I can remember clearly everything that happened during the morning Leo passed away. What a shock it was. How could this happen to MY SON?

I understand the guilt that comes with SIDS. The shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I remember thinking that if I had been a better dad maybe he wouldn’t have died. I remember feeling like I failed.

One thing that parents of SIDS need to hear is “it is not your fault!” There is nothing you could have done differently. The only symptom of SIDS is death.

After Leo passed away my family needed a few special places to treat and mend our souls. One of these places was and still is Disneyland. We go there a lot because we have much more mending to do. Today happened to be one of those days that we were already here when we got the news.

We honored Levi the best way we know how, next to the Matterhorn and Space Mountain. It was a difficult trip. I kept thinking of Levi and Leo the entire time. They would have enjoyed it here today.

I pray that Bill and Amy find a place that allows them to find peace.

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Baby Zoe’s Job

Driving home from work, I see the dark gray clouds behind the mountains to the East. In between are puffs of cotton-like clouds leading the way as if smearing the sky in calm shades of dusk. Leather hillsides glow with the final kiss of the sun as it passes below the western horizon. These are perfect conditions to get lost in deeper thoughts.

I became who I am today at the age of 32, at 2 am in the spring of 2013. That night, as many nights in the past, the girls and I were having a princess party, but, this one had a prince twist. We were so happy. We had nothing but time together, Angela, the girls, Leo, and I.

That was the last time I saw my little boy awake.

A few short hours later, my perfect facade of a world was changed forever. This was my defining and pivotal event in life. I have played that night over in my head about a million times over the past 20 months. Did I fail as a father that night? Could I have done something differently? Do I even have control, over anything?

The Zach of 2012 was striving to be a better person, both mentally and physically. I was on cloud 9 with the way my life was going. Those were very happy times, living at the condo with my “complete” family.

I was on the HOA Board and I thought that kind of thing mattered. I was on different committees at work and in the community, I assumed that made me important. I thought having a college degree meant I was successful.

How wrong I was.

While those things are important milestones, they define you as a person. I am amazed that I ever thought anything was more important than my relationship with God, my family and myself.

These past 20 months have been life altering. I have learned so much about life, feelings, relationships, and what makes people tick.

My boy has ushered in so many realizations into my world. Now, I have this precious gift in Baby Zoe. She looks SO MUCH LIKE LEO!!!

I think there is some healing in this. I never got to hold my boy for the last time. I never got to look into his eyes and tell him I love him. But with Zoe, with Zoe I kind of get to put those feelings somewhere.

Thank you my sweet baby girl for helping your father have a little bit of closure (at least on some things).