Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Three Months

Kolbjorn died three months ago.  It feels like a lifetime.  It feels like just a moment.  Sometimes, it feels like the last 3 months have all been a dream.  Sometimes it feels like it was Kol's whole life that was the dream.

It hurts just as much today as it did three months ago.  We miss him so much.  Julianna and Mari spent a week at camp this month and Birgitte spent the mornings that week at VBS.  While it was good to have time to just focus on Annika and Birgitte, it was really good to have everyone back together after camp.  Except that everyone wasn't there.  Kol has left such a big hole - I don't know how to fill it.  I don't want to fill it.  Our family dynamic has changed - it's still changing.  I want what we had back.

Some days are better than others.  On the bad days, I just want to hide, stay away from people.  I don't want to deal with the awkward smiles from people who don't know what to say to us anymore.  On the bad days, I don't want to smile, or pretend that I'm doing fine. On the bad days, I know that I'll burst into tears if someone says something nice to me. Today was a hard day.  Earlier today, two sisters - friends of Julianna and Mari's - stopped by with flowers and a card, and said that their family was still thinking of us.  I don't know if it was a random thing, or if they remembered that today is the anniversary of Kol's death.  Either way, it meant a lot.  I could barely stop crying enough to say thank-you.

On the good days, I say that I'm doing OK when they ask how we're doing - because, at the moment, I am feeling OK.  Then I wonder - are these people going to think that we're doing fine overall?  Are they going to think that we're getting over the grief?  It may seem petty, but I'm scared that people think that we don't need them any more.  We've said it many times before, but we are incredibly thankful for all of the people praying for us, thinking about us, showing us love and support.  We still need you.  And there are probably lots of other people in our "circles" - in your circles - that are probably hurting more than we realize, and who need love and support, too.  We all need people.  We need relationships.  That is probably the most important lesson that I've learned through Kolbjorn's illness and death.  We all need other people in our lives.  Things are nice, but it's the relationships that are most important.

The recording of the tribute that Kirk and I gave at Kol's funeral is now on YouTube.  I have to admit that I haven't seen it yet - I'm not sure that I can yet.  However, we'd like to share it with you.  The text of the tribute is below, if you'd rather read it, or read along.  I did add and change a few things while I was speaking though, so the text isn't exactly the same.  [Kirk adds: I have no idea how we managed to hold it together through that speech.  Maybe we were still in shock?]


(Kristen) Not all parents have an opportunity to do what we get to do today - to be able to stand up here and brag about our child to an audience who truly wants to hear what we have to say.  Today, we will say good bye to our only son, but before we do that, we want to tell you more about him - about his passions, his likes and dislikes, and his heart.

(Kirk) When I think of Kol, I remember him stumbling out of his bedroom in the morning, hair sticking out every which way, rubbing sleep from his eyes, and with a hopeful smile on his face asking whether he can go play on the computer, never remembering that the answer is always "get dressed, have breakfast, and then we'll see". I think of him sitting at the kitchen table with a snack of sliced apples and almond butter, curled up on the living room couch with a stack of books and comics beside him, or up on his top bunk, surrounded by LEGO. I think of him down in the family room, perhaps watching cartoons on Netflix, or playing games on the Wii, or out in the backyard, chasing (and being chased by) his sisters. I see him laughing, with a twinkle in his eye, a smile on his face, enthusiastically talking to anyone who would listen about whatever topic currently had his interest - LEGO, Star Wars, a Wii game he was in the middle of playing, a book he was in the middle of reading, a movie he had just watched, what happens in our mitochondria or even the intricacies and mysteries of Kinder Eggs.

(Kristen) Kol was a happy baby - as long as he got to eat when he wanted to.  Even as a newborn, he loved snuggling.  He'd put his head on my shoulder, and snuggle right in, and go to sleep. He loved being sung to - but regular lullabies, or children's songs didn't calm him.  Old hymns did.  When I sang Amazing Grace, or Peace Like a River, Kol would almost instantly relax.  When he got a bit older, Kol would play with my hair - twisting it around his finger as he drifted off to sleep.  Just last week, I noticed him twisting his own hair around his finger as he tried to sleep in spite of his headache.

(Kirk) Kol was a late talker. He barely spoke a word until he was well past three years old - but then he started talking in complete sentences, and had so many stories to tell. Even then, though, he often preferred non-verbal communication. He made up his own sign language, which he seemed to enjoy expressing himself with - however, it often seemed that he made us guess what he was trying to tell us, only explaining himself verbally after we became frustrated. Two years ago, while recovering from surgery, it took him a while before he started speaking again. The signing, however, came back quickly - although the only one I could recognize was the universal "cuckoo" sign. That particular sign was a favorite of his to describe me. The day he died, in one of his last lucid periods, I made a bad pun to try to get him to laugh - but all I got was the "cuckoo" sign. It made us laugh instead.  And then he smirked.

(Kristen) When Kol was a preschooler, he discovered "screen time".  He learned how to operate the mouse on the computer, and how to run the VCR.  Kol loved watching movies.  He'd have one favourite movie at a time, which he'd watch over and over again, as many times as he could get away with.  By about the 4th or 5th time through the movie, he'd have most of the dialogue memorized - right down to the inflections in the actors' voices.  Kol loved playing on the computer, too.  He'd play phonics games at starfall.com., and go shopping for toys online.  We once discovered that he had a Veggietales shopping cart with over 5 thousand dollars worth of toys and videos in it.  It's good he didn't find our credit card, too.  Right around the time Kol turned 4, I decided that Kol was watching way too much T.V., so I started reading to him every time he wanted to watch a movie, or play on the computer.  He had learned the letter names when he was little, but when he was almost 4.5, he refused to answer me when I asked him to tell me what they were.  I thought he had forgotten them, so we started reading alphabet books again.  A week later, I was driving through Saskatoon, and Kol told me - word for word, what was on a billboard we had just seen.  Later that day, while driving past the town hall, Kol said "T-o-o-wn office - Mom!  That says Town Office."  He hadn't forgotten the letter names after all.  After that day, Kol began reading better and better.  Within 2 months, he was reading simple chapter books (like Magic Treehouse) independently.
(Kristen) Kol has always loved books.  When he was a toddler, he would choose 2 books, which had to go with him everywhere he went.   The titles changed every week or two, but he'd always be carrying 2 books with him, under his arm.  That love of books lasted.  When he learned that he would be eligible to receive a wish from the Children's Wish Foundation, Kol chose books, but he needed some place to store all of those books - so he decided on a "clubhouse library."  The library was delivered to our backyard last October.  Kol spent many hours sitting out in the clubhouse over the last 7 months reading.

(Kirk) Kol had little fear of addressing large crowds. The earliest example I can think of was at our congregation's annual meeting 4 or 5 years ago, in our old church building - some of you here may remember this incident. Right in the middle of the meeting, Kol burst out of the room where the kids were playing, raced right across the meeting hall, and as he was running he loudly announced "Don't worry, I'm just going to the bathroom!" This fearlessness served him well later. His voice rang out loud and clear whenever the Sunday School sang, nearly drowning out all others at times. He had a  significant speaking and singing role as Sgt. Tibbs in our local community theatre production of "101 Dalmations," which he handled like a pro. And over the past year, Kol became an in-demand public speaker, giving addresses at fundraising events for organizations like Camp Circle O' Friends, the Brain Tumour Foundation, and the local Relay for Life. Kol enjoyed being in the spotlight, but somehow he didn't let it go to his head - when he was done a speech or a performance, he was back to being a kid, running around and playing.

(Kirk) Kol was both a loner, and a very gracious host.  He loved it when people came to visit.  He tried to give every visitor a tour of the house - even the neighbour kids who spent hours everyday playing there.  One day, some friends stopped in for a brief visit just before meeting someone else for lunch. Shortly after they arrived, Kol came to the living room with a plate full of soda crackers (the only thing he could reach in the pantry) and insisted that everyone took one. As much as he liked visiting, he would often get tired of it quickly.   Then he'd grab a book or magazine, find a comfy spot, and start reading.  Even then, though, he loved sharing what he was reading, and would try to explain an interesting, or funny part in the story.   Usually we had no clue what he was talking about, not having read the story ourselves, but it was fun hearing his excitement.

(Kristen) Kol loved intensely.  Our girls' middle names are Hope, Faith, Joy and Grace. Although Kol was named after his grandfathers, we've often thought/joked that Kol's middle name should be "love".  Kol was passionate.  He didn't just like something, he loved it - he was completely absorbed by it.  He loved reading.  He loved LEGO, Star Wars, and Super Mario.  He loved his family - especially his sisters.  He loved his friends of all ages, and he inspired others to love him back. When he was little, we called him "the charmer."  He seemed to instinctively know what to say or do to win people over.   I don't know why, or how, but he was drawn to certain people.   And they were drawn to him. Through his honest smile, quiet strength, and complete enjoyment of the simple things in life, he has shown us how to love too - to reach out and latch on to those things that are important to us.

(Kristen) We will miss Kol.  (Kirk) We'll miss his smile, his dry sense of humour, his stories about his latest video game conquest.  (Kristen) We'll miss his snuggles, and hugs.  (Kirk) We'll miss his machine gun laugh, and his sensitive heart.  (Kristen) We'll miss his eyebrow wiggle, and his crazy hair.  (Kirk) We'll miss his quiet presence on the couch, curled up reading a book.  (Kristen) We'll be forever grateful for the 9 1/2 years that we got to spend with Kolbjorn, and for the lessons that he has taught us. (Kirk) We thank God for the past two years, because they made us realize how truly precious the time together was.  (Kristen) We thank God for the promise of eternal life, for the hope that this is only a temporary separation, and for the hope that we will one day be reunited with our dear boy.

To God be the glory. Amen.
We said in previous posts that we want to continue blogging - and we do.  I do.  I still have lots of things that I want to share, and I hope that there are some people out there who would still like to read what I have to say.  I'm sorry that I've made you wait so long between posts.  I'd like to say that will change, but I know I can't make promises.  It takes a lot of emotional energy to write what I want to say, even if writing is cathartic.  It's just that, on many days, I cry enough without facing the tears that inevitably come when I'm writing.  I will continue writing.  I just don't know how often.