January 28th, 2013
What I said at Izzy’s funeral.
My sister said something on her facebook page that was true: she felt guilty sharing Izzys story with other parents of young children because she knew the story would bring them pain. She was right.
I have friends who have never met Izzy, and they told me they cried when they read her story. They have children, and have had sick children, and that is enough. They know that the value of her loss is incalculable.
I have two daughters; one is six and one is three.
Two things that have happened recently have made me cry. The first was in December. I was sitting in the Atlanta airport thinking about problems at work and all the things i needed to do when I got home late that night after being away all week when I heard that someone had opened fire at a school. It took me several minutes to understand that the school was an elementary school and most of the victims were first graders.
Just like my daughter.
I was crying by the time I boarded the flight. I hugged my girls extra tight when I got home and went on with my life.
Then a few weeks later, I was sitting at my desk at work. It was my first day back in the office after a long holiday: I was on vacation from Christmas to New Years Day; a vacation I took only because I was going to lose my time off at the end of the year. I was happy to be back in the office, in the world of adults and problems that “mattered.”
Then my mom called.
And I heard about Izzy.
By the time I got off the phone, I was crying.
I wasn’t crying for Izzy; I barely knew her. I was crying for my sister. I was crying because no parent should have to endure what my sister has over the past few years. I was crying because it was so unfair and so unbearable for those who loved Izzy. I was crying because I knew if the tables were reversed, I would be destroyed, and I might not be able to recover. I was crying for myself, for all the gifts I would never send, all the visits between my children and my sister’s that will forever be sadder because Izzy will not be there
I called my sister. She sounded in shock, but ok, dealing with the things she needed to deal with. I went home and hugged my girls, just like my sister asked me to.
I cried some more.
I cried for Andy. For my parents, who have helped raise Izzy. For Andy’s parents. For Mac. I was so sad that so many people were hurting.
Then I remembered that you must love to feel pain: the suffering of so many is testament to the joy that Izzy brought to the people that I love. In her short life, she was a sister, a daughter, a grandaughter, a niece, a cousin. She brought joy, and hope, and brought families together. We will always have those memories of her, even after the pain of her loss has faded.
Her death has brought us together today, and had reminded us of what is important in life: our families and our friends. Our community. Deb, Andy and Mac and my mom and dad have been the beneficiaries of an overwhelming outpouring of love and support: of meals and cards and warm wishes and people wanting to help. Of facebook friend requests from people we haven’t seen in 20 years. That is what is important and that is one lesson that Izzy has helped me learn.
I will spend 2013 trying to find ways to repay these kindnesses done for my family.
One last story.
The other day, I helped my sister pack Izzys things.
As I went through her clothes and toys, I found things that my kids had worn and played with. Things they had gotten from Mac and maybe even from Beth and Taylor before that.
I have seen these dresses and skirts and tops and toys in so many of our family’s pictures.
I had so looked forward to seeing Izzy in the things that reminded me of Geneveive and Alana. It reminded me of the things that Izzy will never do, the memories that we will never have, the little girl and princess and tomboy and woman that she will never be.
There’s a picture that my sister has on her facebook page of my oldest daughter Genevieve with Mac at our beach house. Genevieve was 3 and Mac was 4. When I look at that picture it reminds me of pictures of me and Deb as girls. I was so looking forward to the day when I would have a picture of Izzy and Alana like that.
Then I think of the things that I do have. I didn’t get a chance to visit often in the last year and a half, but I did get the chance to spend a few weeks with Izzy during her short life.
We watched her laugh and cry and scream as she learned to walk, to eat, to communicate, to play. Her firsts were our firsts.
I got to change her when she was 6 weeks old. I marveled at how tiny she was, how delicate. I got to burp her and rock her to sleep when her mom needed a break. It reminded me of my babies when they were new.
I was there when she tried solid food for the first time. It reminded me of Genevieve …like Izzy, she wasn’t sure what to do. Swallowing the food I put in her mouth was not an option she explored.
We watched her learn to walk…Izzy was an adventureress, like Genevive. She loved to explore and climb and was fearless. Not like my daughter Alana who was content just to nap and let the world come to her.
I was there the day my sister decided to take her down the 2 story waterslide we rented for Mac’s 7th birthday. Izzy wasn’t sure she liked it, unlike the other kids who played until they were exhausted.
I never saw her first tooth or first step or first word, but every time I arrived those things were new enough that I shared in the wonder of them.
On our last visit, she and Alana bounced and giggled in a toddler-sized bouncy house my mom had bought for Izzy. I took pictures of them and looked forward to the future, when Deb and I could talk and catch up and the girls would play together happily.
I will always remember those firsts that I was lucky enough to be there for. I will always be grateful to Izzy for bringing those special memories of my girls back to life for me and for allowing me to get to know her.
When I tell people that I have young children, I get three responses.
If they have no children, they change the subject.
If they have young children, we swap stories about how hard it is to have young children.
If they have older children, they sigh jealously and urge me to cherish the years when my children are young. I am inwardly rolling my eyes, wishing my kids could dress themselves and wishing I could watch a movie that wasn’t animated.
But those parents of older kids are right. Childhood is fleeting. Izzy’s childhood was too short by far, but all children go from helpless infant to defiant teenager in the blink of an eye.
The loss of Izzy reminds us that childhood can be lost tragically as well as gradually, but either way, our children leave us with only vague memories of those precious early years when everything was new, the world was full of possibility, and most importantly, mom and dad were the center of the universe.
I know as my children grow, I will no longer be the center of the universe for them. Deb and Andy have lost someone for whom they were everything. That loss is incomprehensible to me.
I hope I will never know the pain of the loss of a child. Izzy was a beautiful soul who has touched so many lives. I hope that her memory will leave us all stronger and happier and closer because we knew her. I hope that out of her loss will come something good. I hope her memory will remind us all of what is important. Life is a gift that can be taken away at any time, for nonsensical reasons.
Monday, when I go back to work, and every Monday after that, I will remember that fact, and go home, and hug my kids, and kiss my husband. And shut down my computer and stop answering emails from people that dont really matter that much. I will have Izzy to thank for that.