Three Months

August 4th, 2008 | by Matt |

Three months. I hate to always be thinking of how long it’s been since Kevin died and calculating the weeks and months, but the truth is that it’s always on my mind. Every Friday morning I know that another week has gone by, and when I see 8:00 on the clock I often think back to the last moments with him in Iowa City many weeks ago.

Three months is a long time for a child his age, and I wonder how he might have changed in that time. Maybe he would have had new words or new favorite movies. Maybe he would have finally learned to pedal is tricycle by himself, or ride on the little John Deere tractor. Maybe he would have learned to swim better in the pool this summer. Maybe he would have been figuring out how to use the potty. It’s hard to have memories of him be so static and locked in place. Our lives go on and change, but his doesn’t get to.

Losing Kevin is not only the loss of a cute young life and the emptiness that we feel without him, but for us it’s also the loss of so many hopes and dreams we had for him. Simple moments we looked forward to. Parents are always thinking about what their child will be like on the first day of school, or the first sleepover with a friend, or at baseball practice, or what they will think of Christmas this next year. To leave all those future moments unfulfilled is difficult. Especially when times come up where we are reminded of the fact that he would have been somewhere with us or would have been doing something new.

We went on a second summer vacation with family last month – a week at a cabin in Minnesota. It was a nice get-away, but Kevin was supposed to be with us. We had talked about how much fun he was going to have with fishing, boating, and running around with his cousin Keaton. His tiny little life vest is still hanging in his closet, unused. Like so much of our life now, the week was bitter sweet. We enjoyed ourselves, but it’s hard to get back to that kind of “naive” feeling of fully enjoying life and living in the moment. There is always the tugging of sadness just below the surface, and it has a way of adding a certain dullness to things that are otherwise enjoyable. Coming home brought some sense of comfort, because this is where I feel closest to Kevin. His pictures are on the walls and the house holds memories of our times with him. I know he is not physically here, but he is still very much a part of our lives and thoughts. It sounds strange, but I do feel like we come home to him. And it’s comforting.

We are making progress on Kevin’s garden, but it’s going slow. We bought a nice fountain to be put back there and we have figured out what we are going to do. We had a bad storm recently and one of our two trees in back fell down right where we are going to put the garden. So maybe it’s good luck that we didn’t have it done yet. Removing the old tree gave us the chance to plant a new tree in its place and watch it grow.

Emily did the Jr. Bix race again this year, and it made us think back to how much fun Kevin had last year. He “ran” the race and got his medal, probably without really realizing what was going on. I’ve been more into running lately, so I always wondered if he would grow up to be a runner, or if his heart conditions would even allow him to do that. He loved to run around the house, especially down the hallway. He would yell out “run! run!” and move his little arms back and forth like he had to concentrate on it to do it right. He was so proud of his running shoes and would show off how fast they made him run.

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I was looking through the pictures on my cell phone the other day and I realized that there were pictures of him on there that I had forgotten about. It’s always nice to see new pictures of Kevin. I look through all of our digital pictures often, but obviously it’s always the same pictures. It’s really nice to see new ones, especially from family and friends who send one they think we might like.

This was a picture I took at the mall in the play area, him talking to a little cow. It was just me and him one day while we were waiting for Dawn to do some shopping, and he played there for a long time. He was fascinated with the little slide and he must have gone down it 50 times after I showed him how to do it all by himself. He looked so proud of himself each time. There were other boys around his age there too, and they were playing a little rougher. Kevin would step aside to let them go when they came around and watch them slide. He wasn’t so much interested in running around with them. He just wanted to enjoy the slide over and over. He had such a gentle spirit about him that I loved. He was so sweet and loving (most of the time!).

Emily is so much like Dawn in so many ways, and I always think of Emily as a glimpse into what Dawn was like as a kid. That’s how I felt about Kevin, too. He was a little miniature me in many ways. I wondered what parts of my personality he would have as he got older, and what things he might get into that were like me. It makes me sad that there is no little me running around anymore.

This picture is my screen saver on my phone, so I see it all the time. I often open my phone just to get a quick glimpse of him. I took this on a random weekday when I came home for a long lunch because Dawn had to be somewhere. I was organizing some stuff in the garage and he wanted so badly to play on the lawn mower (as he always did). So I gave in and stopped working in the garage so I could sit by him and play with him on the tractor. He must have sat up there for a half hour or more, always giving me a frantic “no!” when I asked if he wanted to get down.

The first picture below is the last picture taken of Kevin before he died.  It’s not a great picture, but it’s special to me because it is one of the many pictures I took of the two of us with my hand outstretched. I would try to snap pictures like that all the time, but many didn’t turn out too well. Some of the others ones I’d taken in the past are below too.

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We have a lot of video of Kevin, but I always wanted more of him talking and just being himself. We were lucky enough to have been invited to the Children’s Therapy Center to record a speech therapy session with Sara (his speech therapist) in February. They recorded us in advance of the telethon so they could use video clips while we told his story. Thankfully the full recording was saved and the TV station gave us a copy on DVD. I am so glad we have it, because it really shows Kevin talking and acting like his normal goofy self. He loved Sara so much and always looked forward to his time with her. He had his favorite cow toy that she always brought for him, and he loved to look in her bag to see what else she had brought. I watch the video every so often just to hear his voice and watch his facial expressions. I finally got the full video uploaded to YouTube, but broken into 4 clips because of length limitations. They are available at this page:

Finally, a note about how we are doing. We continue to do okay – it’s not like we have much choice. We know that people care about us and want to know that we are doing alright, but it’s a difficult process for us to even understand and even harder to explain. I think we have done a pretty good job of letting life go on, and continuing to enjoy Emily, our family and friends, and life in general. In some ways, I do feel like it’s gotten harder recently. As time goes by and we get further away from his death, the feeling of loss from our life deepens. I don’t want my memories of him to fade. It makes me sad and angry that it’s harder to imagine holding him or remember what his giggle sounds like. It makes me sad that life has moved on from when he was with us, and we have new routines and habits that don’t involve him. Sometimes when I’m home alone I talk to him like he’s still here. Just simple things like “Kevin, come in here, it’s time to go!” It feels like a different life, even though it was just 3 months ago. I want to hold on to that old life as long as I can, but it’s slipping away into memories. That’s the kind of sadness we deal with daily that won’t necessarily make us break out into tears, but eats away at us and makes life difficult. Sometimes the feelings of sadness will come to the surface when I hear a certain song or have a certain memory or just think about the cards life dealt him and us. I’ve learned to feel those feelings, sit and think about my memories, cry if I need to, then regroup and go on with the day. The last thing I want to do is wallow in sorrow and feel bad for myself, but I need to have those moments every couple days. It’s impossible not to.

People often ask what they can do for us, and we appreciate the kindness – but there isn’t much that we need. Nothing can take the sadness away. We do appreciate it when people let us know that they are still thinking of us and Kevin. It means a lot to know that we haven’t been forgotten, and that people are still there for us if we would need it. Simple acknowledgement that we are still struggling and that we are still in peoples’ thoughts and prayers is comforting to us.

We know that it’s not easy for the people around us, either. Some people aren’t sure what to say, or whether they should mention Kevin, or whether it’s okay to treat us like “normal”, etc. We can understand how that can be difficult. We want people to know that it’s not like we have forgotten that Kevin died, and something you say or do would suddenly shock us into remembering and upset us. We are sad, but we’re not that fragile! We like to hear from people. One of the most difficult things is to have awkwardness around people who are so afraid to say the wrong thing that they say nothing at all. It hasn’t really happened yet, but we know there will be moments where something is said by someone who never knew Kevin or that we lost our child. We can sense it in family and friends around us sometimes, like they hope nothing is said that will hurt us or make us feel weird. But really, we have talked quite a bit about what to say when these situations come up, and how to answer questions. Maybe someone will say “oh, you’re going to keep Emily an only-child?” or “you don’t understand what it’s like to have a boy!” If someone asks me if I have a son, what do I say? Do I just say no, or say yes but he died and deal with that awkwardness? If someone sees the picture of Kevin that I carry in my wallet and asks about him, what do I say? I guess what I’m saying is that these are situations that everyone knows can be awkward, and we’ve thought about them, and it’s not like we are going to be shocked or hurt if it comes up. It’s bound to at some point and really, it’s okay.

We also have a hard time knowing what to say to people, how to react to situations that are upsetting, and how to tell people what is helpful to us and what is not. It’s hard to work through deep sadness, a life that has been turned on its head, a daughter who still needs love and attention and parenting, daily life stuff that still needs taken care of, and relationships with family and friends. We still need extra patience and understanding. Please know that things are not “better” yet, and we’re still trying hard to figure all this out. Sorting through all these thoughts and feelings can be overwhelming, and we guarantee that we won’t do it all the “right” way. All we can ask for is patience while we try to figure it out, because it’s obviously a long road.

As always – thank you to everyone who continues to care about us and remember Kevin!

  1. 9 Responses to “Three Months”

  2. By Jeni on Aug 4, 2008 | Reply

    Lily and I watched the therapy videos last night. I love hearing Kevin talk and remembering the way he said words and looked around with his big beautiful eyes. His therapist obviously knew him well and her interactions with him were so special.

    I have no idea how hard it is for you and Dawn every day. I can’t imagine the emptiness you feel. During our vacation to Colorado I was overcome with sadness when I picked out a souvenir for Emily but not for Kevin. As friends of Kevin, Nathan and I talk about our sadness and emptiness without that special little guy. We miss him.

  3. By Mona on Aug 4, 2008 | Reply

    I love reading your writing Matt, you share your feelings & thoughts in such a special way. Kevin reminded us so much of you when you were little, you also were such a gentle little guy & so easy to have around – so he really was like a miniature you. It’s hard to see you & Dawn & Emily go through so much heartache – but I see you taking care of your family & I’m very proud of the husband & dad that you are.

    I can relate to you talking to Kevin, I don’t talk out loud, but I have found myself talking to him. The other day I was missing him & the thought came that I should just write a letter to him & I think I’d feel better. All the goodness we experienced with Kevin in our lives will always be with us. I don’t think a broken heart can be fixed, but I pray & ask God to patch your hearts so the pain is bearable.

  4. By Shel on Aug 5, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks for the update and all the pictures.

  5. By Joanna on Aug 5, 2008 | Reply

    I love the picture you posted of Kevin from the BIX last year. It is one of my favorites. He was such a happy carefree guy unlike his scowly cousin Keaton. I was glad you had Emily run the BIX this year. It was nice to see her enjoying a sport we know her dad is so good at. I could not enter Keaton because I knew it would be too sad and painful for me to stand in line with him and not have Dawn and Kevin with us. That was such a wonderful day last year! I will never forget it! It just makes me very sad that we wont have moments like that with the two boys together anymore. Keaton still talks about Kevin often, and we look at pictures of him all the time. It helps all of us to heal by talking about him. I know you know how much we love and care about you. You are doing well, but please remember, we are always here for you when you need us! Please continue to share your writing and updates with us as it helps us all heal.
    Joanna, Brent, and Keaton

  6. By Kristel on Aug 6, 2008 | Reply

    Kevin will never be forgotten. The impression he made on the lives he touched in the time he was here, well it’s just more than any adult could ever hope to accomplish. I too think of him every day, and when I go to sleep at night, and when I see something that would have made him give me that look, or made him smile in delight. Fridays are hard for all of us, and I understand that.
    He would have loved fishing off the dock, paddling in the paddle boat, and steering the pontoon boat, like Keaton got to do with Uncle James. What a great vacation!, with a hole, we all felt. He should have been there, and instead, we all had a hole in our heart. I love my family, my children and their children. I will always include this wonderful, delightful and amazing little one when someone says, “how many grandchildren do you have?” Because he is always with me, alive in my heart, my life, and I look forward to seeing him again. Grandma Kristel

  7. By Alice on Aug 8, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks for the update. What terrific pics!

    It was great to see you all in MN this year; it’s been so long since we have seen you!

    We continue to think about you guys all the time. I know our situations are very different, but I remember vividly the deep sadness that came a few months after Thomas and Mary Katherine died; there were days when it seemed unbearable. It makes my heart ache to think of other parents having to endure it.

    Don’t worry about “how” you are grieving; there is no right or wrong way to do it. Grief is deeply personal and we all know that you are working through it in the way that is right for you.

    Take care. We are thinking of you.

    -Alice, Dave, Nate & Maggie

  8. By Aunt Liz on Aug 11, 2008 | Reply

    I think of you every day. I do know what you are going through, although we enjoyed many more years with Andrew. We were all there with you in thoughts and prayers during Dawn’s pregnancy and through all of Kevin’s life and experiences. He had a light in him that was very different from most children… Those of us that knew him were blessed by that light.

    This past Friday was a difficult day for us, and though five years has passed, the pain of the loss has not faded. Counting is part of it…. Remembering is all of it. I can tell you that, from our experience, the deep ache you feel in your stomache and heart will not lessen, but will evenutually not be felt so often, so intensely. You have elequently expressed your curiosity of the future Kevin never knew or you never knew of him. He will always be a part of you, just as you were a part of him.

    I am envious of your ability to share so openly and uninhibited – or so it seems by your writing – and so thankful that you can. We really look forward to your updates and always will be here to share with you and support your family – all family members included! We love you!

  9. By Stephanie on Aug 14, 2008 | Reply

    We enjoy going to your website and viewing the pictures and videos of Kevin. I remember always thinking of what an easy-going little guy he was whenever we were around him and how happy you all were together. Your word “gentle” is the perfect word to describe him. Your Kevin will never be forgotten. I think of you all so often. Please know we care so much. I hope you continue to write because it obviously helps you and those around you understand how you and Dawn are feeling. All the questions I have been wondering (what to say, what not to say, etc.)were answered here. Thank you for sharing your deepest emotions with those who care.

  10. By Dawn V. on Sep 21, 2008 | Reply

    Just wanted you to know that you are all still in our thoughts and prayers often. I love reading your stories about Kevin. You both write so eloquently and vividly that I feel like I knew Kevin better than I actually did. Your words are so touching that the tears just don’t stop as I’m reading. You are amazing people. We wish you much love and happiness.