Sunday, September 20, 2009

Messy mess

Steve lovingly called Katie a "messy mess" when she was, well, messy -- emotionally or physically messy.

He would definitely call me a messy mess now.

I don't walk around crying all the time, but it's definitely possible at any moment. I feel completely competent in taking care of Cooper, Katie, the house and usually myself, though at the end of the day I marvel at how everything fell into place (often with the help of others).

The grieving process -- which is going to take a long, long time -- is unpredictable. There are no textbook stages. There is no one correct way to do anything. It kind of reminds me of the first 21 months of the cancer journey, only this is astronomically more difficult for me because it's without Steve.

Thursday night was Katie's first soccer game ever.

The three of us had wonderful company. Jeannie had volunteered to help that night, plus Liz was with us. (Noe and Katie are on the same team.)

Still, I ached for Steve to walk the sidelines, cheering on his darling Katie. It was just four years ago that Cooper played his first game, and when I close my eyes I can see a healthy Steve smiling and waving at 4-year-old Coop on the field for the first time.

I know that Steve is always with us now. That he's in our hearts and watching out for us. I truly believe that. In the moment, though, I'm selfish and want the real, live-in-the-flesh Steve.

Cooper gives Katie some sideline advice between quarters.


Friday night the three of us gathered in Katie's room like we do every night for stories before bed. Without thinking much, I selected Caps for Sale.

The book about a hat peddler and some mischievous monkeys was one of Steve and Katie's favorites. For weeks at a time, he'd read it to Katie every day. I didn't expect that I'd have trouble reading it.

By the third page of this normally cheerful book, I was sobbing. I couldn't continue.

Cooper gently took the book from my hands and began to read instead.


I miss Steve's voice. I miss his weak voice from three weeks ago and his strong voice from the pre-cancer days.

So last night I called his cell phone to listen to his outgoing message.

Oh my goodness. The warmth of his voice surrounded me. And then, when it was over, I was a big ol' messy mess. I sobbed for about 30 minutes.


When I cry around Cooper and Katie, they try so hard to cheer me up. I often tell them that it's OK to cry, that it's a natural way to let out emotion.

Still, they tickle me, make silly faces, hug me, tell me jokes.

From last night:
Cooper: Knock knock.
Me: Who's there?
Cooper: Olive.
Me: Olive who?
Cooper: Olive Daddy.

Then Cooper offered to tuck me into bed and make me breakfast in the morning.

I politely declined. Instead, I tucked each child into bed, fell asleep on my own and woke up in plenty of time to get ready, make their breakfasts and drive us all to church this morning.

Before church this morning


Cooper, Katie and I are not alone. Everyone who loves Steve is grieving.

There are so many of you who continue to help us daily and who continue to pray for us. We are abundantly blessed and sincerely thankful.

We are also receiving help from trained professionals.

Cooper's guidance counselor at school has been working for a year and a half to establish a nurturing relationship. He completely trusts her and has been spending time with her a few days each week.

Hospice continues to provide services. The music therapist meets with Cooper and Katie in our home every other week. An adult grief counselor has started visiting at the same time, so we have a team approach for our care.

We'll resume play therapy for Cooper and Katie in the next couple of weeks.

I have my own grief counselor.

In the next weeks or months we'll begin attending sessions with Journey of Hope, a grief support center in Plano.

We won't use all these resource all the time. We'll rely on a mix of services depending on our needs. And we'll always rely on prayer and grace.


Cooper's soccer team has new uniforms this season. On the back of each blue jersey is the player's last name and number. On the front left corner of every jersey are the initials SED -- for Stephen Edmund Damm.

Longtime buddies Dylan, Cooper and Reilly after yesterday's game


At the end of Katie's game Saturday, Coach Hollie gathered all the players for the post-game talk. She asked Katie to sit in her lap.

Coach Hollie explained to the 4-year-olds that Katie's Daddy had passed away. And then she presented Katie with a soft stuffed bunny, dressed in a soccer uniform, as a gift from the team.

The bunny's name is Hope.

Hollie, Katie and Hope


Anonymous said...

I think this is the hardest part of your journey - the grief that you go through and the emotions that creep up on you when you least expect it. You and your family are in our continued prayers. Thank you once again for sharing your journey with us.

Jenny said...

After five years of going through the grief process myself, I wish I could tell you a specific formula to fight the messy messiness. There is no right answer. You are doing an amazing job. The pain creeps in at different times. It can surprise you, such as when reading a favorite book or hearing a song on the radio. There are times where you look to the outside world like you've got all the right answers and have it together and there will be times when everyone will be worried about your current state. You have the added challenge of helping two young children navigate the grief process as well.

I'm continually amazed by your beauty and grace in sharing Steve's life and your current journey. You are one incredible woman, Tyra.

Thinking of you.

Cyndi said...

Well, Tyra, I'm a messy mess, too. I love you. You are wonderful. I wish I could ease your pain and grief. I do have a strong shoulder any time.

DogBlogger said...

Thank you for continuing to share in this intimate way, Tyra. Anonymous has it right: Grief is so very tough and unpredictable. And Jenny's right, too: You are one incredible woman.

My prayers for you, Cooper, and Katie continue. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you all the time.

Natalie Willis said...

I love you all. That's all. Just wanted you to know.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to share your journey with us. Your family is often in my thoughts.

I too lost someone important to me, the 7th anniversary just passed. Most days are good, and others are just yuck.

Bella, in MN

Anonymous said...

We love you, dear. Barely an hour passes by that you Coop and KT aren't in our thoughts.
Our families (and that is plural) have been deeply touched, but equally inspired by you.
When things get tough, I'd hope you can feel a big wrap-around hug from me.
With love,
Mel and Vera

Cathy Frye said...

You, Cooper and Katie, remain in my thoughts and prayers. And while you may be a messy mess, you manage to describe the messiness so very beautifully.

And what a lovely thing for both teams to do.

Anonymous said...

Hello Tyra,

It sounds like you are doing all the right things to take care of the kids and yourself. You had a great idea to have the different sorts of counseling for all of you.


Sharyn said...

I know yesterday was a difficult day at church. I saw in little baskets on the tables pictures of you and Steve and then the family pictures. What strength and wisdom you have. You are a blessing to all of us. Real quick, my year without Bill is coming soon. 10-9-08. Leave it to Bill to help me always remember the date! Anonymous is so correct, out of the blue the tears come. Once when I was changing a tire in the rain. Only it didn't rain on me and I made it to NTandB when I spotted the air compressor in the garage. Bill always said, you need to learn this. Come on Sharyn, you can do it! He was there that day, still telling me, I can do it! You can too. Love you.

christie said...

tears for me reading this...constantly thinking of you, Coop and KT.

Anonymous said...

....The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you during your times of trials and sufferings. When you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you”.

Tyra, Steve will always be with you, Cooper, and Katie. There are good days and challenging days; and that is OK. Like Jenny said, there is not a specific formula to deal with such a loss.

God Bless your family today and always. My heart goes out to all of you. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

A Little Of This And That said...

You and your sweet children remain in my prayers. Death is but a doorway to the life that is to come.