Never Ready to Say Goodbye

She was 88 years old and still independent. final 26It’s the only way she knew how to be. She woke up that morning and drank her coffee like any other day. She washed her laundry as she did every Saturday, then had her shower and folded her laundry.

While she followed her daily routine, my mother, sister and I went to a celebration of life in honour of our dear friend’s father who suffered a massive heart attack while he was singing in church. We decided to make the most of the trip and stopped for supper. Shining across my plate was a delicate rainbow, a reflection from my water glass, a gentle reminder that our loved ones are always with us.

final 19Moments after we arrived home, a loud urgent knocking at the door startled my mother and sent her running to me in a panic. “Nonna collapsed in church and my car won’t start!” Before I could even think, I grabbed my phone, purse and car keys and we were gone.

Just like every Saturday night, Nonna went to church. It was more than her place of worship; it was her sanctuary. We were told she was out of breath when she walked in, sat in her regular seat, then gently closed her eyes. The priest intuitively knew something was amiss and when he asked a kind man to check on her, she was already gone.

Nonna was in the ambulance when we arrived and as I witnessed the paramedic performing CPR on her, I refused to believe what I knew in my heart to be true. Nonna joined Bella that night. We were told it was a massive heart attack. It felt like a replay of what happened to my friend’s father the week before.

final 23Nonna was more than a grandmother to me. She was an important part of my immediate family and was included in everything we did. She attended every celebration and gathering at our home. She loved coming to visit and was so grateful when we would surprise her with a visit too.

She and Bella had a very special bond which developed before Bella was born. I really wanted Nonna to be at Bella’s birth, and although she didn’t make it in time, she did accompany me to my last ultrasound. Nonna had never witnessed an obstetric ultrasound before and it was an honour to share that sacred moment with her.

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After Bella was born, Nonna was my saving grace. She would drive down to my home, park in the driveway and my kids would get excited as soon as they saw her walk up to the house. Nonna was Bella’s favourite person. She called her “Bis” and  would fetch Nonna’s slippers from the closet and greet her at the door ready to place them on her feet. Nonna would entertain the kids while I cleaned up after supper and washed dishes. We would visit and play, then she would rock Bella while I put Hudson to sleep. I would take over from Nonna once Hudson was settled and she would see herself out. This was our routine for many months, until the tragic day we lost Bella.

final 20I will never forget Nonna’s reaction that day, the shock and horror. I will never forget how she begged God to take her instead. The memory brings tears to my eyes and is something that terrified me as I was deathly afraid of losing someone else I loved. That fear is what forced me to be strong as I believed my family would get through the tragedy as long as they knew I would be okay. Except Nonna was never the same after that day. A piece of her died along with my daughter. She lost her spark, her love of life, and hope for the future.

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I have seen that spark return for brief moments, but her essence has never been the same. I know she is now where she’s wanted to be for the last 4.5 years.

My best friend, who is a medium, began communicating with Bella shortly after she passed. The following is from a letter she wrote to me where Bella described Nonna’s transition to heaven:

 

“She shows me Nonna Bis leaving this world but not in the immediate future. She shows me a man’s shadow calling Bella’s name and saying ‘okay it is time.’ Bella is playing and she is shadowed too. She grabs the man’s hand that I get is your Nonno’s presence. They walk toward a bright light. They are holding hands and they just wait. Then Nonna Bis slowly comes into sight in an illuminating white light and smiles. img_8621 2I see her approach the man and Bella and the first words she says are “What took you so long?” The man kind of chuckles giving of a sense of ‘well it’s not up to me when you get here’ so to speak. Nonna takes Bella’s other hand and they walk into the light.”

You will never be ready to say goodbye to someone you love, but this image brings great comfort.

Nonno was 88 years old when he passed, the same age as Nonna; they both passed on the 12th day of the month. I’m not sure what it means but I don’t believe in coincidences.

Now I grieve once more as I mourn the loss of my Grandmother, Nonna Bis.

Rest in Pease Nonna Bis. Please take care of my baby girl.

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Happy 6th Birthday in Heaven Sweet Angel

I woke up this morning and it wasn’t just an ordinary day. Your sister has a cough, which always makes me anxious. She woke up coughing and I looked over at her in your old bed and told her to come cuddle with mommy. “Okay,” she said, then threw her stuffed baby shark, her choocho (soother), and rainbow blanket on the bed, then waited for me to gently pull her up. I hugged her tight and said: “Today is a special day. It’s Bella’s Birthday. Can you say Happy Birthday Bella!?” She whispered softly: “Happy Birthday Bella!” Then she pointed the painting of Bella on the wall. “Oh no. Mommy, what happened? What happened??”

Your baby sister has said a few strange things about you lately. She used to say that the pictures of you were her, but recently she started calling you “Poossa.” This is our nickname for Aria, but he strange thing is when she refers to herself, she calls herself Aria. When I ask her where Bella is, she will point to one of the 2 canvases of you on the wall, but will say Poossa, as if she’s correcting me. “There Poossa!” Of course, we have never referred to you as Poossa.

About a week ago, she started saying “Oh No!” when she points to your photos. Yesterday, when I picked her up from Daycare I asked if we would go home and see Daddy and she said “yes. See Maui?” I replied “yes, we will see Maui too.” Aria then looked at me and said “and Poossa? Go see Poossa?” I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I asked if she meant Bella and she excitedly said, “Okay!”

Aria has always been bright for her age. But I can’t wrap my head around how a 2.5 year old understands that you were a real person and something happened to you. More than that, I have no idea how to respond to her when she asks me what happened to you! How do you explain “death” to a 2 year old? I was honest and told her you are in Heaven, but of course she has no idea what that means.

You would have been 6 years old today, but you will remain 19 months old forever in my heart. As time passes, these difficult days get easier as my grief transforms. When a difficult day is approaching, something minor and completely unrelated to you will break me and I’ll cry so hard that I can’t breathe. This is my way of releasing my human emotions, which is inevitable, and makes these difficult days easier to get through. It’s also my way of letting go, as I no longer want sadness to dominate and leave me unable to cope through these milestones I am forced to get through without you.

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“…And then there was you!” – November 14, 2012

For every year that passes between your birth and the present moment, I let go a little bit more.

In letting go, I choose acceptance.

In letting go, I choose to keep putting one foot in front of the other with my head held high so I can see the beauty before me.

In letting go, I choose this life I was meant to live and decide to make the most of every day.

In letting go, I choose not to let your absence drown me in sorrow, but instead keep looking for your presence everywhere I look.

I’m sad and I miss you, but I am no longer grieving for you. Thank you for the blessings and the lessons. Thank you for always being at my side. And thank you for helping me let go.

Today, I ask for your guidance in how to respond to your baby sister. Someday she will be old enough to tell her all about you. Maybe she’s ready for that now, but what if I’m not!? I feel you in her. Maybe that’s why I don’t miss you as much as I once did. But Aria isn’t you and will never replace you, and you will always hold a special place in our family.

Happy 6th Birthday in Heaven my sweet Angel. I love you more than life!

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#StayStrong❤

A Trip To Finding My SELF!

It’s my last morning in Florida and I’m awake before the sun sets. I’m sitting outside taking in as much of the salty air as possible. I love everything about this place: the sights, the sunsets, the white sand, the smell of the breeze. Most importantly, I am a different person here, completely calm and focused on my soul work. I am the true me.

I registered for the Grief Recovery Specialist training in Tampa, as my soul work is to help people cope with grief. I cancelled my trip after a family emergency, but later found out I wasn’t able to cancel my flight. My husband encouraged me to come to Clearwater for a few days as he felt there was a purpose for this trip; I needed to come.

I became focused on searching for a purpose for this trip because I felt guilty for being away from my family. When things don’t work out, it’s for a reason, and I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had alone.

What I found in Clearwater was magical. I was focused and productive. I accomplished more than I expected possible and worked very hard on writing my book proposal. I found clarity and purpose. And most importantly, I found my true self!

I’ve met a few amazing women during my visit here, and when I’m with my soul tribe, by true self comes through. I am understanding how I am not this same person when I’m at home. I’m so busy with work and everyday life that my true self gets tucked away. When I speak about Bella and my experiences communicating with her, the connection I have to her in Spirit, a beautiful part of me emerges and allowing this light to shine brings me peace.

I’m not sure why I keep this side of me hidden. Part of me feels it’s simply preoccupation with “life” and ignoring it, but another part feels there is a deeper reason I keep this tucked away. What I know for sure is by allowing this part of me to be seen, be truly being ME, I let go of all my doubt and insecurities and am able to SIMPLY BE!

We Made History This Week!!!

I was recently approached by the editor of the Canadian Medical Journal of Sonography who asked to include my story, The Ultrasound Miracle in the journal. This is the first time in the history of the journal that they included a story from a patient. So here it is, my miracle, on the cover of the journal! And here is my story, officially in print in a medical journal which will be read by sonographers all over the country! It was a pretty incredible feeling to see my sonogram photo (or as I see it, a photo of my two daughters) on the cover of a medical journal. It’s pretty amazing that my story will reach the medical community in this way. I hope my story touches many more people and opens them up to a new reality where love never dies.

Journal cover and article © 2018 Canadian Journal of Medical Sonography

Bella’s 5th Birthday in Heaven

It’s morning and I wake up to the sound of my alarm. I fight through sleep and open my eyes and my first thought is you. It’s your birthday today; you would be 5 years old. I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like if you were still here. I see myself jump out of bed and run into your bedroom excited to wake you up. I sing as I enter your room. “Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday sweet Bella…Happy Birthday to you.”

Tears fill my eyes and as I open them, the tears run down my check as reality slams me down and steals the wind from my lungs. I’m paralyzed and struggle to breathe. My mother’s words fill my ears: “This cant be happening!” Yes, it happened and this is real life.

I close my eyes again and return to my safe place where death isn’t real and You are fully alive. Your vibrancy fills my lungs with air as a smile sweeps across my face.

Your dirty-blond hair falls mid-back, is straight and full of body. Your eyes are the same, old and wise. Your face hasn’t changed much, just a few years older. You dance as I sing to you, twirling round and round. You giggle and grin and are so happy, so alive! You are so excited that it’s your birthday and thrive on the extra love I give you on this special day. I want to make sure you know just how special this day is to me, how very much you mean to me.

The alarm sounds again and you vanish as I cling to the memory of what I just witnessed. I’m instantly reminded that I won’t be singing to you again this year.

My chest is heavy and I refuse to get out of bed. Today is one of those days that I allow myself to not be okay.

I look at the photos of your birth and try to relive the moments captured. I desperately want to return to that day, to give birth to you once more. The pain of your 9 lbs 3.5oz body passing through me is nothing compared to this pain of having to live in a world without you. I would relive the day of your birth over and over again until the end of time just to have one more moment with you.

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I decided I needed to get out of bed tonight day because our puppy needed the go to the vet. A special friend showed up and spent the day with me; it was nice not to be alone. The day ended with cake, balloons, and a small gathering in our living room. Signs surrounded me today reminding me that she is never far away.

The best part of the day was hearing my family sing “Happy Birthday” Bella! Having only celebrated one birthday on earth, we have only sang it to her once before… until tonight. I’ve been reading about how other parents get through their child’s birthday after loss and was surprised at how many of them actually sign to their child in heaven. My friend brought a candle for Bella’s cake, so we sang. And it felt wonderful! I hope Bella was dancing in heaven today, with the angels, under the rainbows.

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#StayStrong❤️

 

Wisdom From The Past

The purpose of life is to experience. It is not our experiences that shape who we are but the choices we make from these experiences; what we choose to perceive, how we choose to react, and what we choose to take away from it all. We all go through good times and bad and the bad times allow us to appreciate the good. I’ve been through a lot recently and I may have scars, but I wear them with pride as I have learned a lot from them and I am a better person because of them. I choose strength and self-love, and choose to share this love with the world in hopes to inspire others and change lives. It is what you make of it so #StayStrong ❤️ – Angie Carter (June 21, 2014 – One week before Bella passed away)

Sometimes when we look back, we surprise ourselves. I often feel amazed when I look back at my written words. Did I write that? I don’t remember. Where did it come from? I’m in awe of how my own words helped me through the darkest days of my life. How could I have known what I would need to hear just one short week later? I had no way of knowing what was coming, but I have strong sense that something (a force?) was preparing me for what was to come. It was inevitable. When I look back at the last 6 months of Bella’s life, I was undergoing an enormous shift. I was waking up, accepting life as it was. I was finally adjusting to life as a single mom and made a point to celebrate life with my kids every single day. I was happy and felt fulfilled.

A few days after this inspiration hit me, I had the words “Stay Strong” tattooed on my arm. When I woke up in the Emergency Room the day after I lost my daughter, the doctor and nurses were in disbelief at the fresh tattoo on my arm. It’s as though I had the words I would need most permanently etched in the place where my eyes couldn’t miss seeing them. Reading these words helped remind me to live when I would forget to breathe.

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June 25, 2014 – 3 days before saying goodbye.

In 7 days, it will be 3 years since I’ve held my baby girl. Today, I stand by these words that escaped my fingertips and am grateful they crossed my screen today. I am reminded of my life purpose. The next week will be an emotional ride, and once again I will visit the past. I will look at photos and remember the final days I had with Bella, relive the last memories we made together. Remembering her brings me so much joy, but memories bring deep pain as the two are intertwined. Grief is the price of love and memories are the prize. No one can ever take these priceless moments away from me.

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June 21, 2014 – Blowing bubbles with her brother Hudson. She loved her puppy backpack.

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June 22, 2014 – The day the power went out and we spent the whole day outside. It was the best day we ever had!

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June 22, 2014 – Sleeping peacefully in the same outfit she’s still wearing today…

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June 25, 2014 – The day I got my tattoo and Zia Lori picked Bella up from daycare, but forgot her diaper bag. HA!

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June 26 – Bella’s new favourite snack. I still have this bag of edamame in our freezer.

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June 27, 2014 – The last photo I have of Bella… also the last day I would ever know what “normal” feels like.

My hears hurts tonight, but once again I must choose how I react to this pain. She’s still here with me, holding me, guiding me. What matters is what I choose to do with this pain and instead of letting it eat away inside me, I am choosing to share it with the world. Letting it out can be painful, but every tear that falls helps my soul heal a little bit more. Instead of keeping these beautiful memories inside, I am sharing them with the world because this is now the only way to keep Bella alive. It is what you make of it so #StayStrong ❤️

 

 

 

One Good Deed is All It Takes

Like a boomerang, you know it’s going to come back eventually. I can no longer predict when it will return; I feel like I’m throwing blindly. On my way to work this morning, I had a brief visit from grief. The lady in front of me in the drive through couldn’t have possibly known that I was fighting to hold it together. Two tears managed to escape. I took a deep breath and tried to ground myself. Work is not a place to bring grief. I got to the window and the cashier told me my coffee was paid for by the woman ahead of me. I didn’t know what to say; it caught me off guard. I did what I always hope others will do in a situation like this and handed the woman $2 and a Bella Angel card. “Please, pay it forward!”

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Please pay it forward❤️

That one small random act of kindness was enough to shift my morning. When I arrived at work, sadness lingered but it didn’t remain. I’m in the process of transitioning back to work full-time after a year on maternity leave and it has not been an easy process. I’m struggling with being away from my daughter. I miss her, deeply. This intense longing for her is not a feeling I am familiar with as I didn’t experience this in the past.

The last few weeks have also been a learning curve. Trauma affects the brain and my memory is not the same as it was post-loss. I changed careers when I was 2 months pregnant with Aria. I worked at my new job for 6 short months before taking a leave of absence in anticipation of my daughter’s birth. I am now trying to remember all the details required of me at this new job I barely had a chance to learn. To say it’s been stressful is an understatement. I can say that I love what I do and am surrounded by wonderful people which makes the process much easier. For this, I am grateful!

Since my return to work, I have been more mindful about the energy I put into the Universe, whether it’s through random deeds, increased patience, or simply a shift in attitude. I have been making a conscious effort to make a minimum of one positive exchange with the Universe every day. I call it my “one good deed.” What I have noticed is interesting and quite beautiful.

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Bella Angel Card

When my day starts off on a lower vibe, these exchanges have completely shifted the course of my day. Some “deeds” have taken a lot of energy from me. Some of these “deeds” have simply been “being in the right place at the right time.” Other “deeds” have lifted me up and brightened my day (hopefully along with brightening someone else’s day too). I have also made “selfish” acts of kindness, where I do something nice for someone else to prevent negativity from finding me, and to my surprise, it actually worked!!!! After 3 rough days at work, I bought the person behind me in the drive-through their coffee. This was “selfish” because it was effortless and I did it to feel good. I had an amazing day, so it worked!!! I hope I made someone else’s morning that day too.

These “deeds” have also come back to me. This week, I checked Bella’s email account and there was an email from the Calgary Food Bank. A friend had made a generous donation in memory of Bella’s and although this took place in December, I just found it now. My son received a Bella Angel card in the mail this week along with a $20 donation towards his karate Board Breaking challenge.

I truly believe that everything eventually comes full circle. It’s only a matter of time before what you put out comes back to you. The good, the bad, the love and kindness, but also the darkness. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what you’re exporting.

Thank you to the mystery woman from this morning. I appreciate your gesture. I went back through that same drive-through to get a snack later today. The woman who gave me my food told me the card was passed on, and the recipient began crying when she was given the Angel Card. I don’t know who this person is or why she cried, but I hope this made their day a little bit brighter.