When we pulled up to the Governor’s mansion my mom instinct to get all the kids out and across the street kicked in. I found myself dazed on the driveway – putting on my name badge, posing for a group photo in front of a beautiful fountain. Then I knew I needed to find a restroom before the ceremony started – the Diet Mountain Dew I had on the car ride was kicking in. The line was so long that by the time it was my turn it was time to find our seats. I grabbed a cookie on my way to the back of the tent, where my family was already seated and waiting for me.
It wasn’t until the ceremony started that they announced that Gov. Walker wouldn’t be attending. I’m not going to lie, I was peeved. Our time to honor Owen had already been postponed a year and now we weren’t even going to have the medal presented by who was promised? I’m not sure if those of you who do not live in WI have heard on the news, but there was a mass shooting in a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb (Oak Creek). We were told that Gov. Walker was “spending time with the families effected by the shooting.” Now, I’m just going to be brutally honest – I was hurt by that. The shooting was DEVASTATING, HORRIFIC and TERRIBLE … but the Donor Network ceremony was honoring 209 families who have lost their loved ones. There were 6 deaths in the Sikh temple shooting. Didn’t really seem like he chose how he could reach the most people – he rather went to where the news cameras would be. The terrible and bitter thought of “just because my son’s death didn’t make national news, means that he’s not worth Gov Walker’s time.” It was a horrible thought and it felt even more horrible. I was a little ticked that he was not going to be there. Let me also end by saying, I am actually a Scott Walker fan and am not looking to start any kind of political debate. I simply felt like it was just a political move … and I can’t stand politics.
That being said – the ceremony was really something special. The instrumental music that played while each loved one’s name was announced was perfect. The weather was beautiful and the view of the water was calming.
We were third in line to receive Owen’s medal. I carried Weston, Doug had Logan and Jaden walked proudly between us.
As we paused to wait for our time to walk, I looked up and felt the wind get knocked out of my chest. I flashed back to the funeral – where the musical was playing, and I was standing at the back of the church looking at a sea people. I looked down the aisle and just focused on Rebecca Kleefisch (Lt Governor of WI) just as I had focused on the large picture of Owen at the altar. The only thing I could do was breath and put one foot in front of the other.
We received Owen’s medal with honor. We received a heart felt thanks for Owen’s gift. Logan and Weston were especially loved. Then we made our way back to our seats. I realized just how my grief had been replaced with joy in so many ways. I had not felt the heart stabbing pain in so long. Perhaps it’s because I turned it all over to the Lord from the very beginning. Perhaps it’s because I have two boys who have replaced my pain with smiles. I am so busy loving Logan, Weston and Jaden. It does NOT mean that I don’t love Owen. It just means that I gave myself permission to be happy. I have allowed myself to love what I still have.
As Logan and Weston grow, I have come to know each of them individually. They have started to show their personalities and preferences. This is a part of Owen I never knew – he was too young. I know he was much calmer than his brothers, but even that is different between Logan and Weston now. I remember the nights that Logan just WOULD NOT SHUT UP! And now he is the calmest and cuddliest of the two. Who knows what Owen would have been like. I can spend hours hypothesizing and guessing how he would have played into the mix. But it would have been just that – a guess. I feel like I’m grieving someone I hardly knew. A personality I never met or saw. It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like if he were still here. There really isn’t a huge gaping hole anymore. The boys have outgrown all of the clothes I had in sets of three – their drawers are filled with blue and green.
The pain and awkwardness is still there every time I call them triplets to a stranger and they look at me puzzled and ask where the third one is. Then I think “crap, I’ve got to go there again.” But the thing is they ARE TRIPLETS! I don’t know that I’d ever be able to call them anything else. I just hate having to explain my story over and over when it’s become an intrinsic part of me. I just want to be able to introduce my children without a sad story that goes along with it.
As I sat in my chair, I noticed the photos some families were carrying up with them. A few rows up a father carried a photo of (who I assume to be) his daughter – maybe 9 or 10 with beautiful long red hair. It felt like she was looking right at me. I could imagine what a joy she must have been to have around. Her family must still feel her loss in the family. Her smile and personality had already made an impression on me, surely in ten years she was a huge part of her own family. I found myself wondering how she died. Was it illness? Or a sudden accident? It felt rude to walk up to these strangers and ask them such personal questions. So instead I said a prayer for her family. I prayed that they would feel the comfort of my thoughts. I prayed for their beautiful daughter who was the hero to someone else. I confessed that I was thankful my child was taken from me so early – only having 6 months to grieve seemed like the long stick when compared to ten years. I know it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but I find myself thinking this more and more. I thanked the Lord for giving me Weston and Logan – so that I had something to love in his place. When I miss Owen, I hug one of the other triplets a little tighter. I sing Owen’s bed time lullaby to the other boys. Perhaps that’s why the hole doesn’t seem so empty. Maybe I just filled it with loving the other boys more – simply because they are here with me. Not because I love Owen any less. I think it feels like I don’t miss Owen as much because it’s become natural to use my love for Owen on the other boys.
When we get home from vacation, I’ll find the perfect place to display Owen’s medal. It was a beautiful ceremony and will be remembered always by myself and my family.