Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Birthdays In Heaven

I haven’t written in awhile… Im at place in my life where words often escape me. Today is heavy.  

He should be here.

As I get older and the world gets more crazy there is so much clairty in the fragility of life.  Losing my Dad so suddenly only drove that clarity home. I keep waiting for the sadness to pass. I keep waiting for the depth of missing him to ease.  I keep waiting for the dreams to suddenly stop.  None of it has and there is a part of me that is so very, very grateful for that. Somehow, those things have become a comfort to me as the years have passed. Like an old, tattered blankie. Sometimes we hide it and it isn't very pretty, but brings us comfort just the same.

I know “he would want me to be happy”. To “not be sad”. And yet just as my sister and I always discuss; had the roles been reversed he would be exactly where I am today. Sad and missing us.  Is there more happy than sad? Of course. I have a lot to live for. I am an example to my children and while I have not navigated this unflawed, I have shown them that even when we stumble…. to always get back up. Dad would be proud of that.

His pictures are all over my house. His jacket has hung on the back of the door since the day I received it.  It even still has the grease stain from what I’m guessing were wings on it.  That grease stain… it’s so silly but it reminds me that he was here and very much alive. Sometimes I just walk up to it,  put my face in it and cry.  There have been to many times to count that I have needed him so desperately these last couple of years, especially these last two months,  and I have come up empty.  Even at 38 years old he was that place of solace for me.  No judgement. Only love, even at my worst.  That is something that is hard to replace and perhaps only comes in the form of parental love. Forever and ever that is gone for me and as I navigate raising five children, being an incredibly imperfect human being and learning to live with a broken heart I find myself mourning that place of comfort more than ever. I hide it a lot because I feel like by now I should be on the other side of such thick grief.  It should have eased. I should have learned to live without him by now….but it hasn’t and I haven’t.  

In everything I do, I find myself innately finding a way to include him. It has become second nature to me.  My heart is so adamant about remembering him in the deepest form that it just happens and often I don't even realize it until looking back. Whether it be his iconic color orange, a quote, a picture, a shirt, a toast, a song or a letter.  Wherever I go, there he is and those little itty bitty ways my mind and heart have way of including him only confirm that. A reminder that he was such an intricate part of me that even years after his passing he is included in everything I do without even thinking about it.

Sommer continues to be my beacon of hope every day. She is the greatest gift he ever left behind and that baby has truly gotten me through some of my darkest hours.  Life is simply stunning like that.

I don’t know when or if it won’t hurt. I just keep hanging on and look for the signs I so desperately looked for just after losing him.

In the rays above his granddaughters head...

In the cardinal that has a nest right outside our front door...

In the song that comes on somehow at just the perfect time... 

In the boys when they bring home artwork with DDD on it, pick out orange anything "for Papaw" or even make the cars in their games just for him.

And especially and mostly in the wee hours when he emerges in my dreams as clear as the day is long. I cling to them in the hopes that one day I will see him again…  

I allow the tears to come when they won’t let go...especially today.
but when they ease and they always do….

I celebrate.  I remember.  I am proud.  I am #SOMMERstrong.

Happy Birthday Dad!  I never thought I would be living life without you so soon, but you are with me every breathe I take.  Thank you for being the most imperfectly perfect Daddy there ever was and for laying the foundation for me to be the same as a Mommy. I would be nothing to them today were it not for you. I miss you.  Somehow more and more as time goes on but I “keep hitting the curve balls” for you. 

MORESTER always~jennie bean

PS~ thank you to each person who has reached out only just this morning knowing how hard this day is for me. it is everything to me. truly.

"I hope everyone has a great day. I know today might be hard for all of us but just remember we have each other. You know I'm always just a text/phone call away. Love you all. Happy Birthday Dad. I love you and miss you so much" ~ Adam Sommer

"Happy Birthday to Dad in heaven.... Thinking of you today. xoxo" ~KB

"I know today is a tough day for you. Thinking of you. I wish I could have had the pleasure of meeting the man that built you. xoxo" ~ SL

"I'm thinking of you and loving you always"~ JB

" Happy Birthday Coach!"  Thinking of you my friend. You are such an inspiration, always remember that."~BM

Even when I feel alone, I am not.  Thank you sweet friends.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

2 years #SOMMERstrong

 I have been sitting at this computer for awhile pondering how to get all of these thoughts that constantly swarm around in my head out.  My life is so very busy with five kids and my poor brain even busier trying to make sure they all stay alive.  There is one thing though, that no matter how consumed I get, never ceases.  Dad. 

He is always just below the surface.  Swirling in the back of my mind. His voice not even a little bit faded.  His face clearer than it has ever been.  The dreams are constant day in and day out, even two years later.  Some are good.  Some are far to intense.  They are ALL hauntingly beautiful.  I adore seeing his face with such a vividness.  I crave his voice telling me to hit the curve balls and I like to imagine that is the only way he knows how to get to me now.  In my dreams.  Where my mind continues to swirl just as intensely as when I am awake.  I have been bracing myself for THIS day for weeks now.  The tears have ebbed and flowed in anticipation of reliving the most devastating month of my life.  I have spent countless hours in counseling trying to work through the heartache of losing the man who is the very reason I am alive today.  He didn’t have to be so incredible at 21 and take on raising his daughter alone, but he did. 

He was all I had ever known for so long and while Paxtons illness has blacked out a lot of my memory, the memories of my younger years are crystal clear.  So clear that I can remember learning to tie my shoe under my grandmas kitchen table with Dad cheering over me.  That never ceased. He was always my biggest fan; even when the “Jennie shuffle” came in dead last.  “Bean if we turn this race around you would WIN! Now SHIFT!”  As long as I live I will remember his sheer joy at seeing me run like a goddamn snail.  I can remember Dad having to buy me my own water bed (yes... you read that right, ‘waterbed’ lol :) because I refused to leave his and the poor man probably wanted some hottie in there instead.  So a queen waterbed I got...except like Talon is to me now... I still always made my way back to the safest, most non judgemental, loving place I have ever known; wherever my Dad was.  

Lord have mercy could I make bad life choices and he wouldn’t even bat an eye.  His love for me had no limits. Never faltered. Even in his busiest years.  If I called, he was there.  Love like that can never be replaced and I am beginning to realize that healing from losing a love like that may never happen.  Am I scarring over a bit? Yes. But am I still raw as hell 730 days later? Oh dear God, yes.  

I haven’t really gone into to much verbal detail about what it’s like to see your life force laying in a casket gone.  However, last week my counselor urged me to talk about it. She said she wanted to know...that it mattered to her. Hearing someone say it mattered opened up the gates.  So, after months and months of two days a week with her (and someone I could be besties with were we to meet in a different situation) I knew she meant it. So I sat on that couch and picked at her blanket while I ripped that scab off. I choked out detail after detail about how today and the days after played out two years ago.  The tears were relentless.  The tissues piling up beside me. There is nothing in this life; just like walking in to see your four day old on a ventilator with his chest cup open or peeking around the corner at a funeral home and seeing your 58 year old Dad lying in a casket, that can fully prepare you for how your world will instantly crumble. 

Talking about it and acknowledging those devastating memories somehow eased me. I left that day utterly drained and yet feeling lighter. Somehow, to open up and put those words out into the universe became a balm to my raw wounds and I knew I would be ok when today came. A gift I am so grateful for.  Thank you A. 

He was an organ donor.  Of course he was right.  What didn’t my Dad do to help others.... when we saw him for the first time since he passed away, we instantly noticed that his closed eyes were extremely swollen. I asked the funeral director why and he told us his eyes were donated to someone. Oh my heart. Those baby blues are helping someone see again.  If only we could have passed along that smile.  But then again,  I think he did... and it walks around in a 24 pound little girl who will carry on his legacy all the days of her life and perhaps her Mama too.  

So while the tears come when I expect and also least expect them; this morning we laughed.  A LOT.  I got my butt out of bed at 4 a.m. to head to the field where I spent four years of my life running and training.  Oh how those stadium lights as I turned the corner brought back all the memories of my untethered, teenage life.

Never though, without my Daddy just beside me yelling to “shift!”,  or ahead of me coming back to bring me through the finish line and most of the time behind me screaming “HOLD ME OFF OR WE DO IT AGAIN!”  How many of you readers have heard that out of Dads mouth?? Oh how he had a way of motivating us didn’t he?!


My Dads people have continued to celebrate, honor and love him and us through this journey. 

This morning before the sun even thought about rising. As the skies lit up with lightening, thunder rumbling and sirens going off with no rain (definitely Dad ;) parents and runners, past and present ignored the alarms and gathered around us ‘Sommers’ like hugging an old friend.

They made us laugh with dirty jokes and memories of the big and certainly LOUD goof that my Dad was. How someone can be soooo perverted, so funny, so giving and yet so tough and SO respected is a balance very few can achieve!  There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not BEYOND proud to be a Sommer.  I would scream it from the mountain tops if I could because, in the words of J. Cole, "damn they don’t make em' like you no more."

And as the sun began to set on this bittersweet day I loaded up my babies and we all headed to Estero High school to run Dads favorite loop with my Sister, my nephew and brother in law.  I actually wouldn't call it running, more like trying not to pass out in true "Jennie shuffle" form, but we did it. For him. 

And as I let lyrics from all of our favorite songs power me through, I thought back to all of the years I ran with him there having no idea what my future would hold at that time.  I looked down through sweat filled eyes at my angel in her stroller peaceful as ever running with her Mama. It's like she knew, but then again, it's in her blood.

When we finished we wrote our notes to heaven on orange balloons and glued our eyes to the sky smiling at the memories of him and the legacy he created right there on that track.  

I miss and love you MORESTER than any “morester” we have ever said to each other Dad.  Not a day goes by that you aren’t forefront in my heart and no matter how many years pass I will always celebrate you, your legacy and the love you gave me and SO many others.  

That one Sommer that changed me.... 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A long time coming....stream of consciousness

In light of my recent, very hard to post... post,  and all of the outpouring that came with it, I thought I should have a "stream of consciousness" post after almost another year of neglecting what I love to do the most; write.

I prepped this stupid...." BEFORE" pic hours before I actually hit the post button.

I had asked my trainer Brad if I HAD to do a before picture and he said I didnt have to do anything I didnt want to, but his look said sooo much more. I sat with that for awhile as minutes turned to hours. 

Was I ready to put myself out there on 'SOCIAL MEDIA' like that.... 

I was in truth; terrified. 

For those of you who knew my Dad, the Jenn today would be unacceptable to him. However; I do believe if the roles were reversed and he lost me, my sister or my brother that Dad wouldn't have had a leg to stand on. The suddenness of his loss rocked me to my core. And yet, I know it would have done the same to him. That loss is still just as raw today. Perhaps that is what happens when you have no warning and yet no warning is just how he wanted it to go down. Dad and I had a bond right out of the gate, like no other. I dream of him easily 3 times a week and it is vivid, raw and SO seemingly real.  In the months past, I have found those dreams haunting. Today, I find them motivating. After nearly two years of suffocating grief, missing the first love I have ever known,  I am choosing life. For my kids, for my family and for ME. I know Dad is smiling that giant smile we both share from wherever he is, SO proud that I have pulled myself out of this quicksand.

********I spent last night watching well over 60 comments come through my phone after posting what I consider a "fat pic" of myself and yet.... not one comment came through that didn't bring me happy, bittersweet tears. The truth is, I cried myself to sleep last night missing my Dad so deeply, and yet all the same, feeling wrapped in love and motivation. Overweight or not. I wasn't alone. We are all on our own journeys.... and that was SO comforting.

I also found myself realizing with a clarity that I haven't had in a looong time that being true to where we are in this very moment of life has the power to move mountains. I stood in front of that camera at my most vulnerable and put it out there for the world to see. Yet, the only thing in return was a stark reminder that there is power in numbers. That if we all just stick together we can change the world. Make it better for each other and our babies. Not one of us is perfect. We all have our demons and our stories, but being true to what brought us to this point has the power to transform us all.

There is a sign at Burn Boot Camp that says: Real Women Lift Each Other Up Not Tear Each Other Down...

Every day that I step foot in that gym, self conscious as ever, with beautifully fit bodies surrounding me; I remind myself that they too; started somewhere. Then I look at the other Moms still trying to find their footing outside of being just "Mom" and know I am not alone. I watch as full time working Moms and wives rush in last minute to change just before class starts and again, I am reminded that we are ALL taking it one day at a time. One workout at a time. One step at a time. Sure, our stories help make us who we are, make us stronger if we allow them, but they do not define us!!! The harder the fall, the greater the fight. Thank you to each and EVERY friend who commented last night. Each and every one of you will never know how much it meant to me. Truly! Many I know well, some I don't know at all and lots whom I haven't heard from in awhile. As crazy and daunting as this world can seem these days; there is still a community out there unwilling to let this shy, hermit of a girl go and for that I am forever grateful!!   #SOMMERstrong #burnbootcampnaples

Love and hugs
For the record, these babies above are worth it ALL!

PS~ see you in 30 days burn boot camp ladies and trainers! Couldn't do it without you. 😙

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sommer Elizabeths Birth Story 7 Months In The Making...

It's been over a year since I have last written. My how life has been so very heavy and utterly breathtaking in the same breath.  I have tried to write since this post and words have failed me time and again.

Today I will move forward.

Today my therapy begins again. My heart will open back up and do what it loves to do the most. Write.

Today I will share with you my daughter, yes DAUGHTERS, birth story. She deserves that.  He deserves that because there is no doubt Dad went to the throne and helped make this happen. 

(kelly goggin photography)
I knew that I was pregnant just mere weeks before losing my Dad.  Because I had lost a second trimester baby in the past, we decided not to tell anyone until we got a little further along. To say we were shocked at this ‘suprise’ is putting it mildly.  This baby would make five for us and holy hell five is a lot.  Some of us were happier than others, not naming any names David ;).

As I pushed through the first trimester suffering from pretty intense migraines, I would come to find out laying in a hospital bed that my Dad, the man who raised me as a single Dad for years, had died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 58.  My world suddenly crumbled as I shared in my last post well over 365 days ago.  Suddenly I didn’t know up from down. Couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep.  My family and I lived in a haze for weeks on end.  We did everything a loved one is supposed to do when someone dies.  We went to the funeral home. Planned everything just so (with the help of hundreds of Dads people).  We saw him lying in a casket.  Gone.  Forever.  We kissed him. We talked to him. Laughed over him and loved the shit out of him in those final moments.  Stood in the auditorium, shook hands, hugged and thanked over 1000 people who came to say their good byes. Listened as he got a flyover from the Lee County Sheriffs department and watched as those thousands of people formed an aisle for his casket to be carried through and away forever.  This would also be the day standing in the middle of Estero High Schools courtyard; my Daddy’s second home, when we decided beyond the shadow of a doubt that should this baby be a girl (we never find out gender) that she would be named Sommer. 

Today, I cannot really say how I got through that.  The truth is, and I feel guilty saying this, but he was mine first.  Just the two of us growing up together. Him as a single Dad and me a wee little one.

I clung to that gift in those days and weeks after his passing. I still do. Perhaps that got me through or perhaps the baby in belly, who was so unexpected, was my lifeline to well... life.  I had to continue on for the baby.  For my other babies too, but without one in my belly I didn’t have to eat or take care of myself.  

Fast forward 7 long months of highs and the lowest of lows:

~Sommer Elizabeth West~ November 16, 2015

(just before leaving for induction)

We checked into the hospital on a Sunday night for induction due to uncontrollable high blood pressure.  I had my blanket made of all of Dads shirts tucked tightly under my arm.  I remember stopping just outside the hospital around 6 pm. I looked up to the sky, closed my eyes and just inhaled as fully and completely as I could.  I just knew I would never be the same the next time I walked out of that place. If I close my eyes I can take myself back to that exact moment. I wanted to suspend time. I wanted to remember that feeling of anticipation, gratefulness and joy after such heartache for all of eternity.

Every moment of those 3 days is so crystal clear to me, even now.  We anxiously waited in the waiting room for them to call us back. People would walk by, see the bags, my big belly and know what was to come. I was so proud.  So excited.  

Once I was all set up they started the slow process of induction.  The room was full of Grammys and Aunts so eager to meet this baby, however it was going to be a long night so they got hotel rooms nearby.  I slept wonderfully and woke up around 5 when they started my pitocin. Today was the day. I couldn’t even contain myself. 

I had decided after Dad died that I was going to try to have this baby with no epidural. This was going to be my last baby forever and ever and something in me really wanted to experience the entire process.  Besides,  nothing could hurt as badly as May 2, 2015.  I had mentioned it to my husband, but he wasn't to keen on the idea, so I just tucked the goal away in my heart, never losing sight of it.  Family arrived around 9 and we were all just so ecstatic. Because I didn’t have an epidural for the first time ever I was able to wear my own clothes, get up to walk around and even use the birthing ball which was awesome. Those were never options before due to an epidural and having to stay in bed.  I remember facebook blowing up the entire day with everyone wanting to know updates.  We had SO many people pulling for us on this day. Dads people. My people. Daves people.  SO MUCH LOVE for a baby not even born yet.

I don’t know if it’s because I get migraines or what, but labor was totally fine. I never faltered. I don’t say that to imply that I am so great, but it really was so easy for me.  I breathed through them and kept my eye on the prize.  My nurses were INCREDIBLE.  The best EVER!  They kept asking if I wanted anything and I kept saying I am ok.  Even when she looked at me puzzled and said that I should really be hurting from the contractions and was I sure I didn't want anything, I truly was fine. I am guessing I wasn't alone in this fight through labor.....

Everyone there knew of our story. Of Dads story.  They all asked about his blanket and then we heard about the bets going at the nurses station as to whether this was a boy or a girl. This baby though was going to take its sweet time.  I labored from 5 in the morning throughout the day until finally around 6:30 my OB came in to break my water. I remember him saying just before “if you want an epidural you need to get it now”.  I just knew I could do it, but fear was setting in. My family, bless their hearts, all just sort of sat there to scared to influence me.  So I looked to my nurse who had been with me through Talons birth too and asked what I should do. She was an old soul and she looked at me and said “look how far you have come! look how wonderful you have done all day long laboring!” and so, thanks to her empowering me, the decision was made.  My OB did not know I had chosen not to have an epi as he had left right after he did his business.  In years past, once my water breaks it’s game over and I just knew this too was going to be quick. Naturally a West baby decides shift change is a good time to make an entrance.  I knew within minutes that it was time. I told my nurse who was about to change over and she said to the new nurse “ he just broke her, she isn’t ready yet.” 
Oh’ but I was.  I began to panic and retreat inside myself because I knew this was it.  NO ONE could help me now. I had to do this.  Alone. Through whatever pain it brought me.  I kept saying out loud, the baby is coming.! It’s coming!  As I was crying out and the nurse saw me starting to push, she scrambled to call for back up and the room became a whirlwind of people.  They kept telling me to breathe. To hold on. BUT if you have ever had a baby with no epidural then you can understand there is NO stopping or holding on. I vividly remember thinking you can sit here with this utterly overwhelming force or you can push and get it over with. And so I did. I looked into my nurse Kellys eyes. They literally saved me as the sheer force of giving birth took over my entire being. She didn’t break contact once and her eyes seared into mine as if siphoning me the power to do this.  

The utter power that filled my body as I gave birth is like nothing I have or ever will experience again. I had zero control over myself. My body knew what to do and it was going to do it come hell or high water.  It took maybe 3 pushes and SHE was out. Born at 7:11 pm on November 16th, 2015 weighing 7 pounds 14 ounces and 19 inches long. 

I fell back onto the bed nearly passing out. My Mom told me after that she thought I was done for. I begged for oxygen. Could hear all of the cries and screams that IT’S A GIRL, but couldn't lift my head. I remember hearing Dave squealing through the tears that she looks just like Mason but the power that had taken over my body wouldn’t allow me to lift up and see her.  

Finally I was able to get my bearings as they laid her on my chest with a giant bow on her head.  One of my nurses Darla had made it for her before shift change and passed it on to Kelly before she left. She said she just knew it was a girl. 

My first look at her drew me deep into to her eyes as she looked up to me.   I remember mumbling that they were so big.  It was like she knew already what a gift she was and as her eyes bore into mine she began healing my broken soul.

I was in complete awe. I  had a baby GIRL and she did look just like Mason.  Sommer (after Dad) Elizabeth (after my Grandma who became my mom once my birth mom left us) West. I just stared in utter disbelief. I cried. We all cried.  I remember looking to my Aunt who was laughing and crying at the same time and saying “she came straight from Dad, she really did.” 

My brother later told me that as he waited outside my room for the all clear to come in that my Dr. walked out, saw him and said “man this is a good, good day!”  Oh’ how my heart swelled hearing that.  He has been with me through it all. All the migraines. The miscarriage. Paxtons diagnosis. Dad. He knew how much we wanted a little girl too. 

Delivering her on my own is single handedly the proudest moment of my entire life.  There truly aren’t words to describe how primitive and omnipotent that experience is.  

After all of the ooh’ing, awwing and stuffing my face (dear lord was I ravenous with no food all day) we were moved upstairs.  My nurse even got us the suite room after all we had been through the past year.  Sommer was already a princess.

She is very literally an angel from heaven.  I don’t have a single doubt in my mind that this baby that was such a ‘ surprise’ to us initially, was a part of our story all along.  It is no coincidence that after four boys, our little girl, who we would name Sommer came when she did.  I don’t know what happens to us when we die. I like to believe there is some form of heaven where we are reunited with the ones we miss and love most. I wasn’t brought up religious, so I don’t have any certain intrinsic belief in me, but I do know that we are powerful beings with the potential to mighty things.  My Dad did in life and in his death.  My daughter is the by-product of that. She is the very representation of the circle of life. That soothes me as I continue to navigate this grief.  

(thank you jaime for being there as she made her entrance and for always just getting it)

She comforts me every minute of every day. Her soul is so angelic and her demeanor heavenly in every sense of the word.

(kelly goggin photography)

I will never know why my Daddy had to go so soon. It hurts. SO badly, even now. I literally miss him more with each passing day, but in his wake he left me a perfect piece of himself.  A little girl who is Sommer genes through and through. Identical to her Mama who likes to think she is just like her Daddy.  Their stories will forever be intertwined and one day she will come to understand how special she really is, because you don't get a name like Sommer unless you are #sommerstrong.

(me on the left, sommer on the right)

Until we meet again, we will remain #sommerstrong Dad.  Miss you and love you morester.

and p.s.~ thank you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A stream of consciousness on losing my Daddy...

I will never forget where I was or how I felt in the moments leading up to “that moment”.  The suck the breath right out of your very body, suffocating, life will never, ever be the same “moment”.

As you may or may not know, I am pregnant. With #5! I know, holy shit right!  I thought that very same thing.  Anyway, pregnancy causes my migraines to heighten. That Friday night my brother Adam had come over to hang out because he is awesome like that. I was sick as hell, but trying desperately to avoid the hospital...again.  I woke up that Saturday worse than ever. Dave had to work so Adam took me, bless his heart.  They drugged me and gave me fluids all the while my brother waited patiently beside me.  He stepped out to give Dad a call to see how things were going at the State meet that morning.  He did not answer....

When Adam came back in the nurse said I was still pretty dehydrated and they wanted to give me another bag of fluids so I sent Adam on his way telling him I would call Dave for a ride when I needed one.  

Awhile later as I am trying to get a ride home, but to no avail due to spotty cell service in the hospital, a random text comes through.  Without going into detail it said something to the effect of I am so sorry to hear the horrible new about your dad...etc. etc.”  Remember I had been sick for days and finally quite drugged so I wasn’t really grasping what was happening, however I knew immediately that something wasn’t right.  No one types that kind of text by accident.  The nurse came in and the look on my face must have spoken volumes because she asked if I was ok. I told her what had happened and she promptly took out her cell phone for me to use.  I called Dave and told him I got a weird text about Dad to which he played it off all casually saying he would call my Mom to figure out what was going on.  Little did I know what was happening behind the scenes. Well if you know how close my Dad and I were then you know I wasn’t about to just sit there, so I called my Mom. She answered and I could tell this was bad. She handed the phone off to my Aunt who was basically stalling by repeating herself so I didn’t have to find out alone.  Then just as “that moment” was about to hit me alone in a hospital room, Dave and my brother came barreling through my door. I knew by their faces that he was gone. He grabbed the phone from me, slammed it down and choked out “he didn’t make it”.  I looked from Dave to Adam, Adam to Dave and then the wailing began. Loud and long. I was screaming no, how did this happen. 
No one came in. Everyone there seemed to know and they allowed my crying to permeate the entire ER.

Almost as quickly as I started crying, I stopped. I checked myself out of the ER as the shock set in nearly immediately.  I can’t say I have ever felt this kind of shock. There has been bone chilling fear with Paxton and shock at his initial diagnosis but there was always a shred of hope.  My Dad had died. There was no hope and this shock was an altogether different thing.  My brain had a tremendously hard time really understanding that he was gone.  I knew that he was, people were telling me that he was, but my brain wasn’t making the connection. There were no more tears for days. Friends came over and later asked me if I remember seeing them at all I seemed so out of it. I remember the rest of that day and the days after as a blurry panning of a movie camera.  I saw what was happening but my eyes just scanned back and forth as I went through the motions. I wound up back in the ER that same night. The pain in my head so bad. The nausea and vomiting even worse. My dear neighbor drove me back and sat in the dark with me as I held a framed picture of my Dad to my heart for hours as they medicated and hydrated me again.  

I came home and forced myself not to think about it. I knew I could be nothing to my Mom, brother and sister who needed me if I continued to be as sick as I had been. My health was on a cliff and this news had the ability to fling me over if I wasn’t very very careful. 


My Dad... well, he was some kind of awesome.  A simple google of his name will tell you what a devoted Coach he was. I could write for hours and hours about all of the lives he impacted and changed. Adults and children alike.  l touched on that devotion in my funeral speech..   (pasted if here if you weren’t there)

Good morning!  As you may or may not know, I am Jennie, Coach’s oldest daughter. Oldest by a lot of years actually.  My Dad had me when he was just a young college student.  Oh’ but even then he was as incredible as he was when he left us.  He turned out being a single dad with a very young baby for many years.  I don’t know a lot of men at the age of 21 that want to take on raising a baby on their own.  I am sure it doesn’t surprise any of you that he did though.  You see, I knew my Dad before all of this. Before he ever made the newspapers or won the state championships. Just as he has watched me evolve over the years, I was able to do the same with him. It seems time did nothing but perfect him.  

Today will be one week exactly that I found out my father had crossed his final finish line.  The shock is still as heavy as the day I was told.  The ache grows deeper every day.  The reality that I will never see him again can be all consuming at times, but then I pause and look around at all of you here now or look on facebook or any given newspaper and see the articles, the tributes, the thank yous, the love and i think “jenn that's YOUR dad.”  Your dad has touched all of these hundreds of hundreds of people in such a profound way that years later they are coming in droves to say good bye to him and that sadness turns honor. I am honored to be his daughter.   I remember when I went to high school among these very walls that I never had a name, i was always simply “coach sommers daughter”  everyone called me that and that pride ran deep.  I was the daughter of the man that everyone loved... ok and lets be real, that many hated come speedwork time.  

I don’t know why my dad was taken so soon.  I will never know.  I only know that he spent his entire life making sure Adam, Ashely and I turned out to be good people.  Kind people.  Tough people.  People who worked hard. Knew that things could always be so much worse.  I never understood when I got sad or frustrated why my dad would firmly say “ you think you have it bad Jennie, there are kids all over fighting for their lives in hospitals...” and he would let that simmer.  It sunk in and many, many years later I would come to find out just exactly what he meant when I would look at my own son fighting for his life in a hospital.  He was preparing me all along.  I can stand up here today and speak in front of you because my Dad prepared me for anything that life throws my way. I can still hear him saying “you gotta hit the curve balls bean.”  

Daddy, wherever you are please know that I love you “MORESTER” and while you would always reply and i quote that's impossible, there is just no love like a daddys little girls love.

I can only hope I made him as proud as he makes me.  I hope I can be half the parent to my children that my Dad was to me.  I hope that his legacy lives on in all of you. He may be gone, but the work, the time, the effort and the love he put into us is not.  He has been preparing ALL of us all along how to be Sommer strong.  

Time has now turned into two phases. Before and after. Before I lost my Dad and after.  My thoughts continually rush in and each one now holds a before or after on the end of it. Oh’ look there is where we had that race we all went to “before” Dad died.  Or I was driving down this road in this very spot when that song came on that I sobbed through “after” Dad died. Before. After. Before. After.  I presume this will fade as time marches on.  I presume this fog that I am constantly living in will lift. I pray the pain will ease, because it is so very, very heavy.  I try to continue because I know he wouldn’t want us to roll over, but getting out of bed is hard.  I just want to lay with the shirt he died in wrapped around my neck for all of eternity, but I can’t because I have 4 little sets of eyes depending on me to be ok.  Learning from me, watching my every move as I navigate through this grief.  I think of how he would want me to present myself and I do it, for him, and then when my babies are all tucked into bed I retreat to my room and fall apart.  I cry endless, hot, wet tears full of longing for a simple chance to say good bye. To tell him I love him.  Just like all of the quotes tell you to do...  

I know he knew though. I know as he took his final breaths that his wife and children were what was on his mind. I know this beyond the shadow of a doubt. After his first heart attack he would always tell me “all I want is to be around long enough that my children will be old enough to be ok.”  Over and over he would tell me this. My Dad and I had a sort of a mutually morbid way about us.  I think perhaps watching my Grandma (his mom) die a long, slow death from Leukemia grew that in us.  I can remember having conversations with him about how we wanted to die. Dad always said fast. He didn’t want to suffer and I would always say no Alzheimer's, I couldn’t imagine forgetting him.  We would go back and forth but the conclusion always remained the same, I want to make it until I know my kids will be ok.  His wish was granted.  We all will be ok.  As hard as it seems right now, I know that we will be ok. All of us. And his wish has now become mine for my children.

The last newspaper count was 1,800 people that attended his service.  That’s one thousand eight hundred people!!!  I don’t think I have even encountered that many people in my lifetime, let alone made such an impact on them that they should all want to come say one last final good bye. Many people have told me they are changed because of this.  I think anyone at his funeral could look around and think how few people there are out there as selfless as he.  So giving. So kind. He may have only been granted 58 years, but I’ll be damned if he ever wasted a single day of them.  Not a single day went by that he wasn’t helping, motivating or pushing someone to be better than they ever knew they could be.  He gave so much of himself. The man never slept.
“I will have plenty of time to rest when I am dead.” He said it all the time. Someone wrote somewhere to him “Rest Easy Coach, you deserve it,” and I will be damned if that ain’t the truth.

I remember seeing him the Friday before the service. We had a private family viewing.  I was not in favor of seeing him from the start, but it isn’t all about me, so I lost that battle. In the end, it was a battle I am glad I lost.  I will never forget the first glance at him as the entire back of my body clung to the wall for support.  I hesitantly poked my head around and nearly fell to the ground.  I thought I had prepared myself. I had not.  I looked to my brother, eyes as wide as saucers I am sure, and he said to me “I don’t think I can go in there”.  I knew then we had to do this together. So I grabbed his hand and together we walked over to see our deceased Dad.  I reminded myself over and over again that “Dad” wasn’t in this body anymore.  It was just his shell. Oh’ but I loved that shell. That giant smile, he so graciously bestowed to me when I was born. His hands that rubbed my temples when I couldn’t sleep at night.  The ears he listened to me with for 35 years, bless his heart.  I wanted it all back. ALL of him.  I stood there, staring over him, completely shell shocked.  My Dad was gone. Forever.  I would never hug him or talk to him again.  I then sat in the chair and the shock began to dissipate into loud, gut wrenching sobs.  My Daddy was gone.  

Eventually my sister and I went back up to his casket where together we held hands and touched him.  He was cold. I expected that, but once we got the initial touch over with we bathed him in love. Talked to him. Held his hands. Rubbed his face and sneakily wiped the stupid lipstick off his lips.  He would not have been cool with that lipstick man.  

In the midst of our sadness and deep grief, we laughed.  Saying he needed bronzer. Saying he didn’t smell like stinky, sweaty Dad, to which my husband offered to put one of his shoes in the casket.  We joked that we kept waiting for him to pop up and say “Ha, just f*&ckin” with ya!” because that’s my Dad.  He was funny. He was perverted. He joked constantly and if he could have popped up and did that to us he SO would have. We said we wouldn’t even be mad.  The humor sneaking its way into the sadness was exactly what he would have wanted.  There is always a reason to smile and laugh.  He left us with a lifetime full of laughter, funnies and above all....LOVE.  

Saturday after the service as they asked us to say our final good byes, I panicked. Suddenly this body that terrified me at first was my only lifeline to Dad and I didn’t want them to take him away. I laid on him and sobbed, knowing this is the last I would see of my Daddy in this lifetime.  That hurts to a depth my writer self doesn’t have words for.  

As the day came to a close and people told me how strong I was, how proud he would be, I began to realize that his body was not, in fact, my only lifeline to him. It was actually very much the opposite.  Everything he taught me through the years was. The wisdom, the love, the strength, the humor, the kindness. All of those things are my lifeline to Dad and they can never be taken away. Continuing to live the life he adamantly instilled in us is and always will be the final, never ending connection to the single, greatest man I have ever known...

"MORESTER" forever and ever Daddy!

"Jennie Bean"

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wowww.  It's been since November.  I would be surprised if I had any readers left, but I am a Mommy first.

I have spent all five days of this month, February, "heart month", CHD Awareness month, thinking about how I want to address the significance of it without sounding redundant.  If you have read my blog for any length of time, you have seen the many posts about Paxton.  His journey. His fight. His stunning bravery, of which I don't know that I would have in his shoes.  I have written about it all many times.  To me though, there is nothing redundant about it. Nothing redundant about living day to day wondering if he will wake up tomorrow, because guys, that is our reality. Panicking if he oversleeps. Holding my breath as he goes to ju jitsu and attempts to be a normal child, never quitting, not even for a second, while I sit and watch his lips turn blue as he exerts himself.  Waiting. Just waiting for the ball to drop.  There is nothing redundant about being a Mom to a boy with half a heart.  There is nothing redundant about being a Mom to a child with cancer. Or liver failure. Or SCID (Deklan and Jenna, I love you and I have never even met you, but I will. I promise you that.)

There is NOTHING redundant about being a Mom to a child with special needs.

So I will not apologize or hold back my shouting from the rooftops that tomorrow is WEAR RED TO SUPPORT AND RAISE AWARENESS FOR CONGENITAL HEART DEFECTS!!!!! I will not shy away from asking you all to join us in doing so. I don't care if it's a sock or your best pair of red granny panties, just please support all of us on this journey.

1 in 100 babies are born with a congenital heart defect. More than all childhood cancers combined. NOT that it matters one iota which disease is bigger or badder. I am simply stating how prevalent CHD's are and yet so few know about them.  I, for one, can come forward and say I didn't know jack or shit about congenital heart defects until I was laying on that ultrasound table and the tech said "Jen... there is something really wrong with your babies heart."  Til the day I die, I will never forget that feeling. And until the day I die I will never stop praying and begging and hoping, for not only my own son's life, but for all of these children who have to endure so much so young.  I don't care what from.  These kids. God are they brave.  We adults, wouldn't stand a chance against them.

Tomorrow though. Tomorrow is Paxtons day. Kians day. Mateos Day. Ashers Day.  Graces Day. Grahams Day. Jacks Day. Sadies Day. Zoeys Day. Izaaks Day. Bodies Day.  Olivers Day. Emmas Day.  The list, my friends, sadly, goes on and on.  Among those I listed are several angels.  There are many, many more CHD angels among us. Gone far, FAR to soon, having fought hellacious battles in their short time here. Those of us who still have our warriors here, are the lucky ones. Every single day that he is here, we are lucky.  I never lose sight of that.

Paxton has gotten to the age where he has begun to understand that he has a "special heart". Oh' just let me tell you all the ways that he does not like it. He despises being different than his brothers and wants to know "why he is the only one in the family with a special heart??"  Why he has to wear a chest guard. Why he has to take medicine. Why he has to get pictures of his heart.  We answer the questions as they come.  We stress his awesomeness daily. He knows his bravery.

Friends, take the time to read that article a Mom posted about CHD's that most scroll on by. If it was your baby.... you would.  Wouldn't you?  I think that's why I have come to understand any battle, CHD or otherwise. Whatever the "diagnosis", I grasp that it is still someones baby and it just kills my Mommy heart.  I recently read a Huffington post article that simply said " I get it, I am a Mom." And that is how I feel anytime I read of a child being diagnosed with annnnyyythingggg. I. GET IT.

It is my greatest hope that all of these children come to know how truly special they are. That they know their battles are not fought in vain.  That we are all here to pull for them, pray for them and support them.

RED tomorrow for them!!!!!!

Love and massive heart hugs~

ps~ to those who simply shared my FB status yesterday, and there were several of you. thank you!!! that is how the word is spread.  how the support is shown. how my boy is lifted up. xoxo

My Peeps