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Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime. 

From the moment I read this on the Home page of In These Small Moments, I knew Nicole and I would be friends someday.

Her writing is eloquent, touching and magical. It doesn't matter if she's writing a letter to her daughter's teachers, allowing us a glimpse of the beautiful love she and her husband have for one another, sharing her grief for a father she never knew, or showing us a small moment spent with her son, Nicole writes purely, deeply and from the heart.

I am very honored to have her here today.

Please follow Nicole on Facebook and Twitter and look for her at BlogHer '11, where she and I will most certainly be sharing a glass bottle of wine.   

I’ve known for all of my life that my father was dead.

I was told that he was in Heaven…that he loved me very much and one day I would join him.

I’ve also known for my entire life that my brother was dead…that he was with my father and they were waiting patiently for me.

From a very young age, I felt that tremendous, consuming weight of death.

It became my responsibility to care for my mother and younger brother, as I was petrified of losing them too.

I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t struggle with anxiety…with fear.

My father was dead and fear of losing my mother was truly paralyzing.

My older brother died as an infant, so losing my younger brother wasn’t an irrational fear.

Tonya asked me one day, nearly a year ago, how I will explain my father’s death to my children.

My mother was faced with the choice between telling me the truth, as appropriate to my age, and distracting me with half-truths.

She chose the former.

And I’m not sure if there was a right answer.

For as long as I can remember, I have known bits of the truth that came to form a whole by the time I was a teenager.

I knew that my father’s best friend shot him. Twice. At close range.

And for my entire childhood, death was real.

It lurked behind every car trip.
Behind every scary face.
Around every corner.

I lay in bed at night, nearly every night of my childhood, bargaining with God.

I’ll be a good girl, God…please just don’t take my mother. I have nothing else.

I won’t sass, God.

I will keep my room clean, be nice to my brother.

Just please don’t take them, too.

When my daughter turned two, I felt as though I could breathe a little easier…that she was finally at an age when she could begin to store her memories…just in case.

That’s how I’ve lived my life, gathering small moments and stocking them away, just in case.

So, as my daughter approaches the age where she’s making connections, seeing where she fits into a larger whole, her little wheels are spinning and it won’t be long before she asks me where her grandfather is.

And it will paralyze me.

Because he is dead and I’m not as certain of that Heaven as I once was.

What will I tell my children?
Will I be as honest with them as my mother was with me?
Will I tell them comforting stories of Heaven and being together as a family one day?
Or do I have some other choice that I can’t see in this moment?

As the months since Tonya’s invitation have passed, I hoped that I would reach some conclusion…that the answer would take shape in my mind.

But it hasn’t.

And as more time passes, I’m not certain that there will ever be an easy answer.

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Blogger Alison@Mama Wants This said...

Nichole, you are one of my favorite writers. I can't even imagine the burden you have to carry with the loss of your father and brother. Trust in yourself and your heart, and you will know the right thing to do, at the right time.

July 27, 2011 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 27, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Kris said...

So much of yourself in this post.

So much of the woman you are today explained perfectly with these words.

Love you, Nichole.


July 27, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I cannot begin to imagine. Wow.

I believe if you follow your motherly instict, you will figure out what to tell her. And relax, knowing that it is okay to make mistakes as long as we are willing to admit them and learn from them. If you do this, she can only admire you when she is older.

July 27, 2011 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I don't think there ever is an easy answer! We have to deal with that with my oldest who seems to have a 6th sense connection to my brother. He asks all the time if we can go look at the stars so that we might see and talk to his uncle!

It's heartbreaking.

July 27, 2011 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Kim @ Mamas Monologues said...

I can't begin to imagine. I don't think there is ever an easy answer. I also don't think there is a right or wrong answer. I think we just do what's best for us, in each situation.

July 28, 2011 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger Kir said...

Death is such a difficult thing to explain and with the way your dad died, at the hands of someone he must have trusted is another story you have to weigh and consider.

I promise not to get too wordy but I have always been afraid of losing people too...both my grandmothers were widows by the time I was old enough to understand death, and then little by little over a life I lost each of them I saw my mother become a widow when we lost my dad. Honestly Nicole I worry every single day about losing John , that's it's my fate as a woman of this family to be a widow and when I am not with John , I spend half of my time apart in prayer and bargaining and denial. I don't know if that feeling will ever go away, so I understand...I do.

As for the boys, Gio's middle name is my daddy's. He says it often and it brings me joy to hear it from his mouth. I talk of my dad often to them, and as they grow I'll tell them how he died, how sad and shocked we were, how he loved music and dancing like Jacob and numbers like Gio and while my heart will break that he will never hold or cradle them in his arms or lift them high over his head in joy I will always feel that wherever he was when it was time he spoke to God and helped to bring the grandsons he'd adore to me.

That's the part that will help me tell them and keep him alive in our lives.

All my love to u Nic and if you ever want to talk about loss, death, how we'll all deal it (you too Tonya) I'm here and holding u in my heart. Xo

July 28, 2011 at 4:01 AM  
Blogger Mad Woman behind the Blog said...

Oh Nichole.
I know that you will find the words that will both answer your daughter's questions and still protect her from the ugliness of your father's death. You will find a way to dole out the truth as Katie is prepared to understand it.

We have faith in you because of your words so generously shared. Now have some faith in yourself. You will always do what is best for your children.

July 28, 2011 at 4:29 AM  
Blogger Aleta said...

Oh my gosh.... I want to cry for you, for the little girl inside of you that lost your father and had to deal with death as a constant fear.

You'll find the right way to share with your daughter when she asks. She's your heart and you'll know the right words when it's needed.

July 28, 2011 at 6:08 AM  
Blogger Evonne said...

Nicole, it is so incredibly hard to lose a parent. I don't have any answers for you, but I think your motherly instinct will tell you when the time is right and you will know what to say.

July 28, 2011 at 6:25 AM  
Blogger Elena @CiaoMom said...

I cannot even begin to fathom. Except that your words made me shiver as I read. Lately my daughter has been talking alot about not wanting to lose me, not wanting me to die. Your fears, your feelings, will ring in my ears the next time she says something. Thank you for sharing.

July 28, 2011 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Death is such an impossible thing to explain. I feel so much for that little girl you were and can't help but wonder if my daughter will grow up the same. My boys will be fine, but my daughter? I see so much of her in what you described in this post. Thank you for sharing such painful memories Nichole. Your honesty is courageous.

July 28, 2011 at 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Galit Breen said...

Oh Nichole. I have tears streaming down my face- as I often do when I read your words.

I have no advice whatsoever.

What I do have is this- total and complete faith in your Mama instincts.

You are pure and true. And you will look deep inside and into your children's beautiful eyes and that transparency will shine through. And you'll know how much is enough. No book can truly tell you that.

So no advice friend, but a lot of love. And a whole lot of respect.


July 28, 2011 at 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a powerful, sad, and thoughtful post. You are such a beautiful writer even on a topic so tragic. My heart is with you.

July 28, 2011 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger said...

Death and disconnect is so hard to explain andshaprs us for a lifetime. I celebrate the simple things each day.. It's all you can do
It was fun checking out your blog

July 28, 2011 at 7:18 AM  
Anonymous Terry said...

As I read everyone's response I realized, there are some things in this life that never crystalize, some things we should never have to deal with, so therefore we do not have immediate answers. This is one of them. What shines through here is the person you are and the love you have for your children, and both of these things is what will carry you through. I am sorry that you don't have the same faith of that heaven that you had as a little girl...I hope you do find that again. Faith has a way of carrying us through the questions that this life deals to us. I am sorry for your hurt and pain.

July 28, 2011 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

For better or worse, I don't think you can plan what you will say to Katie or Matthew when they begin to ask (although I suppose it's the conversation with Katie that will set the tone).

Because you don't know exactly when, how or what she will ask, you will have to rely on the words to find themselves in the moment.

Whether or not everything you say is right, it will be the best you can do. And the life you've created for Katie is so secure, warm, safe - she greets every day confident in the love you and Craig have for her.

That right there is an amazing beginning to any conversation. She knows her parents' love is an enormous, powerful, concrete safe-house. She will believe that this love can never leave her. Will never leave.

Because it won't. You are in and around and through her, everything she does. You will always be there. You don't even need heaven.

She already has it.

July 28, 2011 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger Sherri said...

Oh my sweet friend....this makes me so teary. And so very proud of you for all that you have overcome. Your children are blessed with such a caring, loving mom and dad and when the time comes to answer these questions? You will have the right answer.

Hugs to you...while this is sad and breath-taking, it is also very beautiful.

July 28, 2011 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger Not Just Another Jennifer said...

Oh Nichole, it breaks my heart to picture you as a small child, laying in bed, bargaining with God. I have no idea what I would say in your shoes. I'm not sure what I will say when my parents pass away. Each year we have with my dad feels as though it's on borrowed time. With my girls I'm sort of like you with your daughter - just praying our they get big enough to really remember him before he dies. S will. But Baby R is the apple of his eye, and she's not quite old enough yet. Hugs for you, my friend.

July 28, 2011 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. This is difficult to explain to children. My husband's father passed away when he was 6 so we have to tell our children the same thing. We have been honest so far with our oldest daughter and our youngest is still to young to know. I'm sure when she is older we will also be honest with her. Do what you feel is best for your you and your family.

July 28, 2011 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Shell said...

I don't know what the answer is, either. I've had to explain death to my children in the form of losing their great-grandfather almost two years ago. All I said was that he was in heaven.

My oldest has this idea that death is something that happens when you get really, really, really old and sick. And then you go to Heaven. I didn't even let them go to the funeral b/c I didn't know how to explain to my boys how he was there and in Heaven. I didn't want to approach the topic of souls.

My grandmother died when my mom was 15. Obviously, I never met her. I knew my whole life that she had passed away. My mother brought it up daily and usually in anger. She was angry with us kids that we still had a mom and she did not. "At least you had a mom. You don't want to know what it's like to lose your mom when you were only 15. Maybe you'll find out" And I lived with the belief that my mom was going to die somehow when I was 15, just to prove some sort of cosmic point.

People deal with death in different ways, I guess.

I have no real point here, to the world's longest comment... just that I don't think there are any easy answers to this one.

July 28, 2011 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger JR Reed said...

This is awesome. And sad. Sadly awesome, Thanks. My dad and his family never got along, so I have an uncle and two grandparents (probably cousins too) that I never knew. Occasionally I think about them and wonder what they were like.

July 28, 2011 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Missy@Wonder, Friend said...

Oh, Nicole - I'm so sorry for your losses. And I don't know the answer. The truth, I believe, is important; but age appropriateness is, as well. There's no good answer, either way.

I do believe in Heaven, but that belief doesn't erase grief. Nor does it create a solution for explaining loss and grief to our children (or to ourselves, for that matter). As real as I think Heaven is, the pain of loss is just as real. We have to walk through it.

You and yours are in my thoughts.

July 28, 2011 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Wow! That is certainly a hard thing to deal with as a child. I too didn't have my father in my life and he committed suicide when I was a little girl, but I didn't know him. I was told from a very early age that he was a bad man and that we should be glad he wasn't in our lives. For me his death was just sort of a matter of fact thing for me. I did come from an abusive home and was in foster care a lot, but most of my fears were from my mother and me being a bad girl and being sent back to foster care. Its so hard as a parent to know what to share with your children and what not to share or just wait on. We can't expect them to act like we would act as adults, kids process things differently. I'm sure however you share the news with your children that their grandpa is in heaven, it will be better than how you found out because you've lived with that fear.

Anyway, great post! :)

Heather From and Mommy Only Has 2 Hands!

July 28, 2011 at 10:06 AM  
Anonymous MamaRobinJ said...

Nichole, this post contains so much of your story and your beauty and your strength. I don't know what the answer is either, especially without having had to deal with this as you have. But you will do what is right and what is best, and in doing so you will provide beauty and security to your children even in the face of evidence of the contrary.

July 28, 2011 at 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are right...this will never be easy. I think that by you writing about this may one day give you an answer, or at least help you get closer to one.

On another note, I know I have told you before but I am so sorry for your losses, and at such an early age. Hugs to you my beautiful friend.

July 28, 2011 at 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Practical Parenting said...

This is beautiful. I can't imagine growing up with such a weight. I lost my dad to suicide when I was 23. My 4 year old is now asking a lot of questions and it's hard to find the right balance between truth and protecting her from problems that hopefully she will never truly know.

July 28, 2011 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

This is a beautiful piece and evoke a lot of emotion and feelings in me.

I worry about death a lot more now after experiencing the loss of both my parents. I worry about Tonya's health all the time and pray in my own little way that we'll have each other and our families for a VERY VERY long time.

I also worry what it's going to be like having to tell my children that they'll never get the chance to meet my parents. I'm not sure what I believe about heaven.. I don't even know if there is one but I do know that we can tell our children that they are loved by people that aren't around today.

July 28, 2011 at 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I can't imagine. I just can't.

I pray that when that time comes you will have the wisdom and the words that you need.

July 28, 2011 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

My husband's mother died of cancer when she was in her 40's. My daughters know this as we told them the truth. They worry every time I get sick that the same thing will happen to me. They worry... but not every day. By the time they started really asking the tough questions... I knew they needed to know the truth. We have had a lot of death in my family... my Aunt & Uncle were killed my a drunk driver, my cousin committed suicide at 21, we had a very close family friend who was killed by a car that ran up on a curb and hit him. I always felt it best to tell kids the truth. Good luck with your choices... I have every faith that you will make the right ones for your children.

July 28, 2011 at 9:23 PM  
Anonymous Stacy @bklynstacy said...

Your story is so heart-wrenching: to have to learn so young that life is unstable and ever-changing is so hard. My son has had to learn that lesson after my parents suddenly and very scarily became ill and died last year. He said to me, "Mommy, why does life hurt so much? And not the kind of hurt where I need a band-aid, but the kind of hurt that makes me want to cry and cry?" He was 6. I still don't have the answer to that question, but, like you, I live in the small moments and do my best to fill in the blanks (the name of my blog) honestly, and let there be no answers where there are no answers. Our children will learn how to carry life's pain from us, so I strive for expressing dignity and truth, and I believe the rest will unfold as it should from there. Every child (and adult, actually) is greeted with a different amount of tragedy; and if we teach our children well, they will learn to turn it into grace.

July 29, 2011 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger JennieB said...

Beautifully expressed. You have such love for your children that I know you will handle this, even if it isn't easy. Your kids will surprise you too. The loss is further removed for them, and you will help them understand that they are save and loved, no matter what.

July 29, 2011 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger K said...

Thank you so much for introducing me to Nicole's blog. I've just spent the last 30 minutes reading the links to her other posts as well as more on her blog. Her writing is exceptional and this post shows her amazing talent to put her entire heart and mind into words. She shares with us a lifetime of feelings and it helps us to open our hearts and minds to others.

July 30, 2011 at 10:58 PM  

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