Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart

9/08/2014

Kindness. It matters



Its daily.

 Still.

 Daily that I feel the sting, the pain, the separation that only death can bring.  Its a never ending, permanent feeling, that is caused by the distance of having one of your children on the other side of eternity.  I can't explain, or describe, or help anyone to understand just how much it hurts, unless of course you too have been forced to live on that other side as we are.

I stare into the photographs that I have of Ashley Kate scattered around our home.  I look deeply into her eyes and long to touch her, feel her, or hold her again.  I can see the twinkle that came from inside of her soul and made its way through the image of her eyes in almost everyone of them.  If only I could have another day to stare at her.  To memorize every little detail of her face.  I tried so hard to capture it all in my memory.  On her good days and her bad I would find myself looking intently at her features never wanting to forget who she was, how beautifully she was created...her eyes, her lashes, her brow...I loved her so very much.

The days continue to  pile one onto the other since we last saw her.  Time is a cruel, cruel element of this all.  I woke this morning longing to know who she would have been at 9 years old.  I used to lye in the early morning hours listening to her laughter spill down the hall and try to envision our Ashley at 10, 12, 14.  She is  now forever 8 years old.  She will never be more than 8 years and 25 days old.

Oh how much that hurts.  Forever 8.

A few weeks ago the doorbell rang.  Allie answered to find a bouquet of pink flowers lying there.  Someone thought of Ashley Kate that day.  They wanted me to know.

Last week the mailbox held a hand written reminder that she was thought of again.  That her memory brought happiness and encouragement to someone that day.  They wanted me to know.

A single birthday card arrived for Ashley Kate.  It was from my cousin.  Inside it held a description of how a little girl she had gotten to know changed her life.  She remembered her special day and wanted me to know.

A couple of her nurses from years back have taken the time to write, remember, and share with us the difference she made in their lives. Not because they had to, but because they wanted us to know.  I miss you girls so very much.  Forever grateful to have had you in our lives.  Thank you for your kindness toward her.  Toward me.  

These are just a few of the acts of kindness bestowed upon us a year after the loss of our Ashley that will forever make me grateful.  One of the biggest lessons I learned in this life from my daughter and the meeting of her birth mother was that everyone deserves kindness.  Simple, little, acts of loving on one another.  Never expecting anything in return.  Just being kind because they are human and because they are human they may very well be in need of receiving kindness from another.  I hope to never forget that lesson.

I struggle to figure out what we are meant to do since the day of Ashley Kate's departure.  I knew who we were and what we were meant for while she was here.  Its the days since she left that we feel lost, and confused.  What is my purpose?  Who am I supposed to be?  Never have I wondered until this time.  I'm not an advocate.  Not a speaker.  Not a  writer.  Not a life changer.  To many peoples disappointment I am none of these things.  I'm just a mom.  A mom who is lost and broken and left confused.

I share the pain, the grief, and the ugly emotion here in this place because it is what is left.  It is where we are in this journey.  This story of our beautiful Ashley and now the story of the loss of our beautiful Ashley.   So many people mistake this journal for something it is not.  Something it was never intended to be. This is our experience.  Not written to reflect everyone's experience. Just a recording of ours.  Just the experience of one family in the state of Texas who were blessed to have loved the most beautiful little girl we've ever known.  Some people read my journal and assume I am speaking for all the grieving families in this world.  I am not.  Have no intention of doing so.  Many read and conclude that we think we are the only family to have ever lost.  I assure you that we don't, but I will remind you that I'm not writing their story.  I'm writing ours.  I'll say again that I am not a spokes person for grieving families.  I'm just Ash's mom.  Thats it.  They read my words and thoughts and grief and assume I am curled into a ball in the corner absent from the lives of our other children.  They make the leap from the cries of my heart spilled out onto these pages and have judged that I am no longer engaged or loving or participating in Blake or Allison's lives.  Never have you been more wrong.

 How easy it is for us all to pass judgement on one another.  I hate that part of human nature.  Feeling as if we have the right to advise everyone else on how they should be living or in our case grieving.   Instead of maybe just reading, listening, and praying for one another.

Our family still hurts and I imagine that we will always hurt from the loss of our sweet Ashley Kate.  Each one of us struggle on different days, shed tears in private and sometimes a few when we are together.  We remember, talk about, and mention Ashley Kate in our every day conversations.  She is just as much a part of us as she ever was. We learned to be who we are because we had her with us.  To try not to talk about her would be so unnatural.  It wouldn't be who we are.

I wrote this today to those of you who continue to bestow kindness toward us.  I wanted you to know how much your acts of kindness mean to me.  I wanted to say Thank you.  Thank you for remembering.  Thank you for loving her.  Thank you for letting us know.

8/29/2014

Ashley Kathrine Adams

Remembering the little girl who came to change our world



Ashley Kate...
the tiny gift that changed our lives, our world,
and our forever.



Memories.
Remembering the moments...the JOY...the blessings.




She could speak a thousand words without a voice.



Her eyes said it all.



That silly grin....expressive eyes...and infectious giggle.



Moments.
There are these moments in our lives that completely take our breath away...
a feeling...an emotion...
that transform every moment lived after.



JOY.
Found in the little things.



Cherish.
I've often wondered what thoughts were hidden inside her beautiful soul.
So full of wonder...So full of life...
We cherish her memory and the moments spent with her.



Determined to make the most out of the days we were given.  
Living like there would be no tomorrow.


Every drop of rain on her skin, 



Or tiny flake of snow upon her tongue


brought her JOY like I've never known.  We learned to view the world through
Ashley's eyes.  It became a more beautiful place because she was in it.


Ashley Kate briefly came into our lives and changed everyone who ever loved her.  This tiny girl with eyes that spoke volumes and a laugh that filtered into our souls.  She lived each moment without fear or worry or concern for her tomorrow.  Fully embracing her world.

We will never be the same...forever changed.

We love you and miss you sweet girl.  Forever. Until the day we meet again.

  Love, Daddy, Mommy, Blake, and Allie.  

8/26/2014


I don't write much anymore.  I don't share nearly as often as I once did.  People ask why.  They think they want to know how we are doing.  Truth is they truly don't want to know.  I realized this shortly after losing Ashley Kate.  Its hard to hear the truth.  Hard to see that what once was beautiful has become so broken.

I can say that our children are continuing to thrive.  Blake has moved on to college.  Allison Brooke has begun her junior year of high school.  He plays baseball.  She cheers both for her high school and competitively.  Each of them thrive in the areas they are most comfortable with. They are strong and beautiful and talented.  Living their lives to the best of their abilities and always remembering in a piece of their hearts the little girl whom we lost.   They loved her.  They talk about her often.  We smile when we remember some things and we cry when we remember others.  Grief sucks.  Even at 16 and 18.

The beginning of her life was so very scary.  The end of her life was so very sad.  The middle... all of those wonderful, amazing, beautiful days of her life between the beginning and the end...that is what truly mattered.  She had an incredible life.  She was so happy.  So loved.  So full of joy.  Laughter.  Happiness.

Today is the second day of school.  Its been a brutal one for us.  Painful.

A year ago this week we woke up to a nightmare that has yet to end.  The second day of school, at 6:48 a.m. our beautiful Ash left our home and went on to her eternal one.  The tears have not stopped falling.  My heart has not even begun to heal.  Our home remains broken.  This family forever changed...broken...never again whole.  One of us is missing...she is gone...we have been left behind.

Since her departure the loss of joy, laughter, and sparkle that only Ash had has left us so empty.  Our home so quiet.  Our lives so void of meaning.

The truth is that time does not heal wounds this deep.  Hearts do not mend once they are broken.  Dreams that are shattered are not replaced or put back together again.  Loss is loss.  Death is forever.  The separation is painful.  Always painful.  Every moment hurts.

I think I can safely say that we have not known joy even in the smallest amount since the loss of our sweet Ash.  I think I can safely say that we may never know it again.  Not in this life.

I miss every part of her.

This week is proving to be hard .  Cruelty in its highest form.  The anniversary of her departure is hanging so heavily here among us that it becomes hard to even breathe.  We feel the loss daily, but it is so magnified lately that I can't seem to move.  Can't seem to get up.

Everything about our life has changed.  Our family.  Our home.  Our faith.  Nothing is the same.  We are forever changed by the life and the death of the most beautiful gift we had ever received.  It all seems so very wrong.

The memory of those last days, flailing about inside of ourselves, realizing that we were helpless, finally seeing that regardless of our pleas, our cries, our prayers that she would be lost is maddening.  It was an impossible place to be in.  We had no options.  No matter what choices were made there would be pain...there would be suffering...there would be loss.  I'll never understand the purpose in her pain.  I'll never heal from the suffering she endured.  I'll never get it.  I struggle daily to find the love, kindness, and mercy in any of it?  I fight against what I know is truth and what I felt, and witnessed, and helplessly watched happen to my daughter.  I hang on to my faith as tightly as I can because without it I have no hope of ever seeing her again, and yet everything I thought I knew, thought I believed, has been shaken.

In my world I am displaced.  There is not another person whom I know that understands the thoughts and feelings that I find inside of me.  I am no longer among the transplant community.  I am no longer among the community of parents raising a special needs child.  I feel so lost.  I struggle to find my place.  Where do we belong now?  Dave and I hang on to the memory of who we were with her and try desperately to find who we are supposed to be without her.

Friday will be the anniversary of her death.  I hate knowing that.

  As Allie wrote to Ashley Kate on the morning of what should have been her 9th birthday, "I hate living this life without you."

 Never have I read more truer words.

 

8/19/2014

Moving Day



I've known this day was coming.  I've known it for the last 18 years, but I've REALLY known for the last 355 days.  Its because of this day, the one I'm facing this morning, that I forced myself to open my eyes for each of the last 355. I'm not sure that I would have if not for this very day.

In just a couple of hours I'll be following down the road behind his sporty little car.  Mine packed to the brim with all of his belongings. In all honesty I can't believe we've actually made it through the last 355 and have arrived to this one.  Its happening though.

I can only imagine how it will feel when he wraps his strong arms around me and hugs my neck before we head back home this afternoon.  I can only imagine how hard it will be to contain the tears that so freely are falling from my eyes this morning while he still sleeps.  I can only imagine what it will feel like to tell only one of our three children goodnight this evening.  Still as hard as all of that is going to be,  I can only imagine that it will be easier though than it would have been 355 days ago.

Hugging my son and telling him goodbye will be easier than it was for us as we hugged and kissed and told our precious Ash goodbye 355 days ago.  Sending a child off to college and sending a child into eternity are vastly different.   Perspective is what I've been working on all week.

Blake is ready.  So ready! We are proud of him, of who he is, of who we will grow to become.  So proud! Today is his first step toward living his dream.  Making it come true.  All the preparation, the struggle, the sacrifice, its taught him so much.  Chasing the dream has shaped him into the man he is today and I can't wait to watch him grow over the next few years as he gets closer and closer and closer to making it a reality in his life.

Parenting Blake has been one of the greatest JOYS in my life.  He has been my constant friend for 18 years.  I can still see him sitting next to me in the sandbox.  Still hear his voice announce to me, "I'll be wight back mommy, K, wight back.  Don't worry bout me, K?" as he ran off into the house to get his cap.  I can see his tiny legs rounding the bases for the very first time and the grin that spread across his face as he looked up and saw us sitting on the other side of the fence.  The little thumbs up sign he gave to us told me we had stepped into a world where he would thrive.  It was so him.  He was in his element.  At 4 years old!  We knew.  It was written all over his face.  I can still see him holding each of his baby sisters the day he met them.  Still see the smile in his eyes.  The pride on his face.  I can still see him loving on those two girls. Taking such good care of those two beauties.   He has always been an amazing big brother.  Simply amazing.  I can still see the joy on his face and on hers too the day this photograph was taken.  I remember the laughter, the giggles, the delight that spilled out of them both as the played.  The memory is still so real.  I can still see his shoulders shaking and his tears falling as he wept over the body of his baby sister.  I can still see him lean in to kiss her face for the last time and see his broken heart written all over his face as he turned and walked away. There are so many memories that I can still see so clearly.

Today is moving day.  My first born.  My only son.  My first best friend.  He's moving out today.  No longer will he be living under our roof.  Oh he will be coming home to visit, but it will be forever different after today.  I'm not sad.  I'm excited.  I'm proud.  I'm ready to watch him succeed.  He deserves nothing less than that from me.  I'm determined not to burden him with my breaking heart today.  Its his day.  His day to do great things.  I have NO doubt that he will.

Its moving day.


7/14/2014

Not Ready

I'm not ready for this.

I wasn't ready for her to leave.

I wasn't ready to be left her without her.

We weren't ready to stop being her mom and dad.

 Not ready to be finished parenting her...  Loving her...  Caring for her.

We are weeks away from her 9th birthday and I'm not ready.  I don't know how to do this.

 I'm struggling tonight as I search for words.  The right words.  My final words to her.  The last thing I will ever be allowed to do "for" her.  I've been given 21 letters.  How do I say what needs to be said in only 21 letters?

I've searched my writings, her books, her movies...all the things she loved...I can't find anything that is "Ashley" and this HAS to be "so Ashley".   It has to say something that will be fitting for the amazing life that was laid to rest behind the stone in which these words will be forever engraved.  It has to mean something because she meant something.

Everything about this task feels so very wrong.  How can this be right?   Why am I searching for a brief 21 letters to memorialize her life instead of planning her birthday party?  Why?  Its not ok.  Its not.

We have been left so confused, so hurt, and so lost.  I KNEW with every part of me that God gave her to us and asked us to parent her.  I have NO idea what He plans for us to do without her.  NONE.  It is such a lonely, isolating, miserable place to be in.

I'm not ready for this.  This final piece of laying her to rest.  Once the words have been chosen, they will be engraved, and her beautiful, precious, body that I long to hold just one more time will be moved to its final resting place.  I'm feeling the pressure to complete this and yet I'm not ready.

I can't do this.  I want to wake up and have our life back.  The life that we lived with the most beautiful girl in the world playing down the hall.  The life that was filled her laughter, her smile, and her joy.  The life that was amazing and meaningful and so full of Ashley.

We just weren't ready for this life.  The one we have been forced to live without her in it.

6/17/2014

Desperate



There are moments where I struggle so intently to see her face, to smell her hair, or to kiss her cheeks.  I long to see her again.  To hold her. To love her.  I know she was really, really here for a moment, but the number of days since I last touched my beautiful baby keep adding up and I'm trying so very hard to keep telling myself that she was really here.  She was.  She was real.  She was happy,  She was beautiful. She was loved.  All I have to convince myself of those things is the pain I feel from her absence, the tears that flood my eyes, and the photographs that we took.



Oh how I miss this sweet girl and her dinosaurs.  She was the most beautiful little girl and she loved the ugliest of things!  I loved that about her.  Dinosaurs, bugs, lizards, roosters, cars, and myth busters.  None of it made sense to me, but its who she was.  I would give anything to see her sign any of the above just one more time.

I'm desperate to see her again.  Absolutely desperate.  My heart is so broken.  It hurts so very much.

6/09/2014

I miss her most...

... When its raining or...

 When I'm at home or...

 When I'm headed out the door or...

  When I pull back into the drive or...

 When I open up the front door or...

 When I sit still or...

 When I'm running around or...

When I lay down.

I miss her most...every minute of the day.  It just seems that those rainy days hurt a little more, sting a little deeper, and last a little longer.

Its those rainy days that the tears fall from my eyes in a never ending fashion and I am sad and melancholy and lonely without my girl and her constant requests to go outside in the rain.  I miss seeing her tiny hands sign "rain" and I miss hearing her giggle as it falls onto her skin.

I feel as though I've been trapped running this never ending marathon of sorts.  I can't seem to make it to the finish line.  I've spent the better part of 9 months busying myself with event planning and today as I finish loading the boxes for the last event on my calendar I find myself glad that its come to an end.  I thought I needed things on the calendar to force myself to get up each day and in a way I did, but I find that I'm exhausted.  I'm really exhausted because being busy in the middle of this nightmare has forced me to move, but it has also forced me to keep putting myself in situations that I don't desire to be in anymore.  So I'm glad to be finishing the last of 6 and I don't plan on taking on another.  The joy of event planning is no longer there since those events are not being planned to celebrate the life of my sweet Ashley Kate.  Its merely a task that I feel I have to complete.  I don't want to do it anymore.  I don't know what I want anymore.

Tomorrow morning I will leave home with Blake for the last summer we will ever spend traveling together. He will be wearing the number 8 on his jersey this season in memory of his baby sister that will be forever 8 years old.   Its bitter and sweet.  Bitter because I know what I lost last summer while I was on the road with him and knowing I can never get it back hurts more than words can share.  Sweet because I get another chance to spend day after day with this amazing kid I got to parent.  I know the summer seasons will never again be the same once he moves to school and so I'm going to try so very hard to contain my sorrow and my grief and my tears and just enjoy watching him play.  Play the game that he loves so much.  I'm so proud of him.  I see him walk into a room and I'm just so in awe of who he has become.  I see him take the field and I'm overcome with admiration for the countless hours and sacrifice I know he's given to the sport.  I visit with him about his future and I hold my breath as I listen to him plan and dream.  He such a great guy.

I can't believe we are where we are.   Ashley Kate has gone on to Heaven, Allison Brooke has gotten her license and independence, and Blake has graduated High School and will be moving out just two weeks after we make it in off the road.  I never imagined I would find myself in this place.

I miss her.  I miss her most...today...and then tomorrow...and the next and the next.