January 3 – WFDE
The New Year is supposed to be met (I think) with an overwhelming sense of something fresh, something new. However, in our family, that excitement is always dampened by the fact our daughter and the kids' sister, Kelligar, died January 3, 2011. Let's face it, there is no good way to get over the day your loved one died, especially an 11-year old kiddo. And any day it falls on is forever regarded as a less than stellar day.
In fact, on every calendar in our home, it is simply listed as WFDE, which is a homemade acronym for the "Worst F****** Day EVER."
It's funny how things in a family become a tradition. This January 3 marks the fifth year since our Kelli died. Had I known four years ago that our actions that day would set in motion a tradition that would follow annually, perhaps I would have been more creative. Maybe not. What we do is precisely what I think Kelli would have wanted to do. All of us, one by one, ends up at Kelli's Park. This is what we renamed the cemetery where Kelli is buried. Although there is no doubt she is no longer alive, calling the cemetery Kelli's Park, seems less harsh and flows easier off my tongue, somehow making the reality of what we are doing there less harsh as well.
We all end up sitting around her gravestone on blankets or fold-up sports chairs, braving the heat or the cold or the wind that a wide-open cemetery in January can provide. It is fitting that it should be one or the other. Why shouldn't the weather match the way our hearts feel? We bring coffee and donuts from Dunkin Donuts and reminisce about Kelli herself and her impact on the world. Now, Kelli liked the idea of donuts but she really did not eat many. What she really liked was the coffee. Any way you made it, she liked it. She drank it at home and was overjoyed to go to coffee with her Pappa Don. Right now, I can imagine that we are at the Park and she is sitting on her dad's lap, helping him drink his. Mostly, I think she would be, or perhaps is, enjoying us all talking about HER. (To learn more about Kelli and her incredible 11-year journey, or to order Kelli Cards, visit www.Kelligar.com.)
Well, as far as imagining goes, I don't need to. In a few minutes, we will be heading that way again. As her mom, every day is a reminder that she is gone and every day is hard. Holidays, birth days, death days, are the days that affect other people the most. For me, this day just should not exist.
But I will drink the coffee, eat the donuts and partake in the small talk, but ultimately, I just want to hide in my bed, cover myself with my blankets and cry all day long. But for the sake of my boys, my family and my friends, I cannot. I have cried and continue to cry, trust me. But today of all days, I am being watched. Closely. For some, how I act or react today will set the tone for the months to come. I have to be strong so they can continue to be.
This tradition, regardless of how hard it is for me, is cathartic for so many and it is a guarantee that one little girl, who's light shined so brightly, is never forgotten. Like that would have ever happened anyway!