Category Archives: Life stories

Dear Harvey//2nd Birthday Edition

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December 17, 2016

Dear Harvey,

Today at 4:01am you turned two years old. This year on your birthday at that time I was up in my room nursing your baby brother Holden back to sleep while you slept peacefully in your room. What a difference a year (or two) makes!

This past year has been without a doubt the most difficult as well as the most enjoyable of my 35 years of life. You will never truly be able to comprehend just how much you have done for me, simply by existing. Being your mom has saved me in so many ways and for that I am and will forever be incredibly grateful.

Watching you grow and learn this past year has been a magical experience and one that will always hold a special place in my heart because even though my heart was broken, it kept beating and my love for you kept increasing but mostly because this year was the last that you would be my only child.  The last year that I would only have to worry or wonder about you and only you. Although I will now worry and wonder about you and your baby brother, I can make you this promise my sweet boy, I will ALWAYS love you with the same intensity as I did when you were my only one, ALWAYS.

This past year you have grown into such an incredible human being.  You have a sense of humor that is developed well beyond what your 2 year old mind should be able to comprehend.  You have mastered walking, running and galloping and you do it in THE MOST entertaining way! You are a sturdy toddler weighing in at 36 pounds and measuring 36 inches tall at your 2 year check up!

You have mastered the balance bike and it is incredible to watch.  You LOVE LIGHTS! ALL OF THE LIGHTS, ALL OF THE TIME!  Seriously kid, Times Square has your name written all over it, HARVEY + LIGHTS = ALL OF THE LOVE! You also love: all things with wheels, ICE!, cheese balls, stroller rides, slides, The Allen Family, your grandparents, your Auntie Anita and Uncle Chris, your Auntie BESTFRIEND Valerie, CARS!, yogurt melts, pacifiers, morning and evening bottles (STILL!), your sock monkey blanket, the movies “UP” and “The Polar Express”, you have about 40-50 words which you love to say but you’re a fan of using them once and then tucking them away, helping with cooking, cleaning, LAUNDRY, diaper tossing, locks, doors, handles, door slamming, “Beep-Beeps”, key fobs, pacifier plugging for your baby brother, the carousel at the mall as well as all of the toy rides, your Grandaddy’s sautéed mushrooms (you are DEFINITELY your mommy’s baby!), cheese (all kinds except Swiss…), and most heartwarmingly, you have shown love for your baby brother already, giving him sweet kisses and gentle pats, holding him on the daybed and sharing your people with him with little to no fuss. Seeing the two of you together makes me feel complete, no small feat considering the state of my life at the moment, well done boys, WELL DONE!

Everything about you amazes me, EVERY day.  In the last month or so you have started babbling your vocabulary constantly which is absolutely adorable and awesome.  You also smacked me upside my momma head with the trifecta of “Mommy/Mom”, “NO!” and “WHY?!?” all at once! Whoa buddy, WHOA!  In all honesty, I love it, its funny most of the time and it’s such an honor to be the one to answer your “Whys?”.  I promise to do my best to answer them all and to answer them in the best way I can, while I’m at it, I promise to continue to learn for the rest of my days about any and all of the things that you might happen to wonder why about! I can’t wait to explore, adventure and discover ALL of the things with you and your brother!

Thank you Harvey, it has been an honor and a privilege to grow another year older along side you and witness you transforming into an exceptional tiny human. My momma heart is swelling with pride and my life is filled with happiness because of you.

Happy 2nd Birthday Harvey!

Love,

Mom

 

 

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It’s Been Four Years… Things Change

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When I first started this family tradition, taking a photo of us holding a photo from the year before, starting with our wedding day, I was full of big dreams and massive amounts of hope for my marriage and my family. Things haven’t turned out quite how I had imagined, to say the very least. Nevertheless, this day, November 10th, will forever be the day that my family began. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this process of love and loss its that it’s up to me to choose what I am going to carry with me as well as what I am going to let go of.  It would have been easy to just not continue the tradition this year, to let this one go and accept it as a loss. But I decided not to.  I decided to celebrate what once was and to embrace all of those big dreams and massive amounts of hope I once had for my marriage and shift them towards being the best mother I can possibly be.

There is no erasing the past and there is no desire in me to do so, no matter how painful a process this has all been and continues to be at times. Times like today, a day that I once believed would bring me pride and joy at my accomplishment of maintaining a marriage.  I do not get to celebrate that feat but I do get to celebrate my family and that is something I am proud of every single day.

Next year I will take this photo with two little boys, Harvey and Holden, and we will celebrate our love for each other and for this tradition and that will be enough. Things don’t always work out the way you hoped they would but in the end, the beginning photo will be so small you won’t be able to see it and what will matter is that the photos existed at all.  I mourn the loss of my partner and my marriage on this day but I am choosing to celebrate the beauty that is my opportunity to be a mother to my favorite person and very soon to his little brother.

Life will go on and I will continue to choose happiness, even on the most heartbreaking days. It’s the best option although it is also the most difficult at times.

Three Years of Marriage

3 Anniversary

3 Years

36 Months

156 Weeks

1,095 Days

26,280 Hours

1,576,800 Minutes

94,608,000 Seconds

“That is how long/how much you have been my husband. We are us. We have made it. I have made a promise to never underestimate how difficult this commitment we have made is. I have promised myself to each year, quantify in this way, just how long/how much you and I have been us, Mr. and Mrs. Ernst. Seeing the years, months, days, moments, seconds add up makes my heart swell with pride. I chose to allow your love to fill my life and my heart and whilst that makes me happy and content so much of the time, I knew going in to this that this was never going to be easy. Not by any fault of our own necessarily but because of the world, society, people that we will meet or have met that will influence us in one way or another, raw deals and lost dreams that we will have to let go of, money, air, wrenches and who knows what else… Easy or not, we are in this together, for better or worse, such easy words to say, so much more difficult to live them, I’m proud of us for doing so.”

This post is ridiculously LATE and overdue, but we’re just going to go with “better late than never”!

Our third year of marriage has been… a BLUR:

  • We went out for our last anniversary to spite me being SO pregnant that all I wanted to do pretty much ever was sleep and hope that when I woke my ankles had returned!
  • We celebrated our last Thanksgiving as “just Jen & Don”
  • We took a trip to Jacksonville Beach and had awesome times with Anita & Chris, ate some amazing food at The Maple Street Biscuit Company, and burnt ends from some BBQ joint whose name I don’t remember, checked in at the local hospital for an NST that would later prove to have been a waste of time… Sigh and got to have brunch with the one and only Mr. Paul Ferlita.
  • We had our maternity photo shoot cancelled at the last minute and you were so kind and sensitive to my super prego hormones and my insistence that it was “THE WORST THING EVER”. Good friends once again came to the rescue and we did end up getting beautiful maternity photos during the busiest time of year for professional photograhers! (Thank you Bobby, Erin and Kai!) I have yet to edit any of these and do something with them… its on “the list”…
  • I did an engagement shoot at 9 months pregnant while you worked your butt off at the shop to try and get ahead for us.
  • I FINALLY got our wedding photos printed and hung up in our home, seeing those photos on display makes me smile on a daily basis. Our wedding day will forever be one of THE BEST days of my life.
  • A week prior to my scheduled c-section I went in for my NST and for the first time didn’t pass the second round of tests, on December 16th around 5:30pm I called you to tell you that they were admitting me and inducing me, you said “Ok, well I still have 3 alignments to do” LOL and I said “All good, we should have plenty of time”.
  • Everyone made it in time and after every one was sent home they were all called back as it was decided that we were going to do a scheduled c-section around 2:30am.
  • You stood by my side in a cold operating room with your least favorite Dr. performing major surgery on your wife and your son and you kept your calm, said all of the right things.  In that moment I had never been more thankful for you.
  • At 4:01am on December 17th, you and I heard our baby cry for the very first time and it was the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard.
  • You managed to not lose your mind going stir crazy being in the hospital for 3 days and you helped me and Baby Don in any and every way you could. Fatherhood looks so good on you my love.
  • We argued about Elf on The Shelf pictures while in the hospital and you not having any jeans to wear for our coming home with baby pictures (I’m pretty sure you had on two opposing styles of plaid at the time LOL!) but, we worked it out and got an Elf picture and you changed into some jeans for our pictures once we got home. (Looking back now I’m not sure why either of these things really mattered but I love you for humoring me!)
  • We somehow survived a mandatory 48 hours of consecutive hourly nursing sessions for our first two days home with the baby AND managed to drive to the hospital two times to get his blood tests. We were speaking in tongues by the end of it, but we were also working together as THE BEST TEAM and we kept our son from having to spend any time in the NICU by bringing his billirubin levels back to normal.  I am still so proud of us for this!
  • Speaking of those blood tests, in my first of what will hopefully not be too many “too much for my momma heart to handle moments”, you took over mid blood test as I could not bare to see them cut his tiny brand new foot anymore! You handled it like a champ and took care of my heart and my baby. Thank you.
  • We had visits from DON ONE when Don Cubed was brand new and also in the summer where we got to splash around in the pool at The Tahitian for a whole day.
  • Uncle Doug has become one of Don Harvey’s biggest fans and has come to visit with him a couple of times now even reading him a bedtime story each visit.
  • We have watched Harvey infect everyone he meets with a smile and love.  He is so much like his daddy!
  • We have been the luckiest to have my parents take on such an active roll in being Harvey’s grandparents, he is SO loved by them and we are so fortunate to have them.
  • Baby Don is incredibly lucky to have three aunts and an uncle that also love him very much!
  • You went on your annual race weekend in Daytona and once again NO ONE got arrested! LOL It was the first time I was alone with the baby, he was just about 6 weeks old at the time.  I missed you while you were gone but I have very precious memories of that special time Harvey and I got to spend together alone.  I also remember having a really sweet phone conversation with you during a 3:30am feeding, it was one of those talks where we just seemed to get one another and it made my heart really happy.
  • We have dealt with all things baby: gas, constipation, sleep training, scheduling, teething, crawling, talking, almost walking and even when our days may not have been the brightest we both put a smile on our face and showed our son the best parts of ourselves.
  • We managed to keep baby Don home and with a nanny for his whole first year which was so important to me and is yet another thing I am so proud of us for because it certainly has not been easy!
  • As I write this post (late…) your “Family Car” #projectslowsaab is said to be almost completed! So sometime soon you and Don Cubed will be able to cruise around town in your own ride, which I know is going to make all of us SO happy!
  • We went to “The Price is Right”and did not get to spin the wheel… But had an awesome time!
  • Went to see Dave Chapelle and we laughed hysterically to spite my weird worry that I was going to somehow not think he was funny and be the only one not laughing!
  • You supported me through 6 months of breastfeeding and willingly took over the morning feedings once you could.
  • I got to meet Colbie Caillat while you got your own alone time with the baby for a weekend.
  • We had date night at Duffy’s, I love our mutual appreciation for SWEET dive bars!
  • We went to bachelor and bachelorette parties.
  • Coordinated a friends engagement party at the very last minute (refreshments and all!) LOL!
  • Went to a Vertical Horizon and Tonic concert at The Water Works Park and walked the length of the River Walk afterwards.
  • Went to John’s Pass for a visit with Laura.
  • Went to lots of birthday parties and dinners for friends that are family, for family and for babies of friends that are family.
  • I set up mini-sessions in our backyard and finally made some good use of our crazy “jungle wall” and you helped as much as you possibly could to spite being worn out and super busy with your own responsibilities.
  • We also DIDN’T do A LOT of things that we wanted to, we missed out on two weddings that were so important to us to be at.
  • We didn’t get the chance to go back to the OH to visit with friends and family like we had hoped we would.
  • We got robbed, more than once in our own front yard.
  • We stayed strong and confident to spite health concerns for our family that turned out to be minor but could have been major.
  • We lost friendships and forged new ones.
  • We lost our way, grew apart and back together again over and over.

In spite of plenty of opposition, disappointments and challenges thrown our way we are still forging our way forward. Marriage and parenthood are harder than I ever could have imagined they would be.  The weight of it all can feel like way too much at times but I am now and will continue to be committed to doing my best each day to be the best wife and mother that I can be. Because at the end of the day knowing that I can always count on our family being together makes each day worth it. Thank you husband for continuing to show up and do the same even on the days when not “adulting” is the much more appealing option! I promise to do my best to acknowledge my own shortcomings and try to improve on them and to continue talking AND listening it all out with you while doing so.

I am still smiling and still falling my love.

I’m quoting this part from our original anniversary post along with the intro because I STILL mean it:

“We are of a generation that is fickle, that runs away from the scary shit. I promised myself and you that I would not run away from the scary shit in our marriage. That in and of itself IS SCARY! But, I meant it, I will mean it. I may write this “review” some years and mostly hate you! But, I will love you, I will forget and forgive, I will smile and laugh, I will let go and move on, I will go crazy and find sanity, I will want to quit and join the majority and I will overcome and subscribe, once again, to the minority. I am yours, you are mine. It will not be easy. It will down right suck at times. I knew that going in. I knew that when I sat in the corner eating two bites of a fish-filet pushing you away to no avail that I had completely jumped into the abyss that is us.

I will get jealous, I will worry, I will cry, we will experience loss in many ways, but we will see our way through it. I will grow old with you, which means that there is so much that will occur, that the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years will just keep stacking up to remind me just how sure I was/am that this is love, this is us.”

“I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart”
With all my heart husband,
Your Loving Wife

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“We love him”

I found myself choked up this morning whilst reading this blog post by Handsfreemama, shared on Facebook by Rebecca of the simple as that blog.  If you aren’t already you MUST follow both of these lovely ladies’ blogs if you are a parent, artsy, crafty, into photography (even if it’s just with your iphone!) or if you just like to be inspired by others.  These ladies continually do a great job at inspiring and motivating me.  I suggest every one at the very least read the blog post “Six Words You Should Say Today” which is the one I read this morning.

I now have a son, his name is Harvey (or “Don Harvey” depending on who you ask!) and he has shifted my world in an amazing way.  Not only mine but my entire family’s as well!  When I read this post I immediately started to think of him and of how I will interact with him with regards to his activities in the future. I don’t know what he will like to do, maybe it will be sports, or instruments, or chess or working on cars like his dad?  It really doesn’t matter though, I imagine I will think that whatever he is into is the coolest and, here come those magic words, I WILL “love to watch him ____________”. I can’t possibly imagine not saying it outloud, but I can also totally see how such a simplistic phrase might fall to the wayside in lieu of lengthier and thus seemingly more sincere commentary.  I hope that my eyes are now opened to the beauty of allowing ones self to keep it simple, to not drown ones thoughts and intentions with unnecessary words.

After my trip into the future with my own son, I then allowed myself to travel back in time to the hundreds of soccer games and practices that my own parents were a part of and tried to remember the types of conversations we use to have with regards to my playing.  I don’t remember the exact words, but I can say that my memory of their involvement relays to me that they did in fact LOVE to watch me play.  The rest is irrelevant and they got their point across regardless of how they might have phrased it because I have no doubt if I were to ask them now or if I had asked them then, they would happily admit to how much they loved to watch me play.

There is something seriously magical about making your own parents into grandparents.  It’s a gift that can’t be measured and one that my parents have embraced with arms open wider than I could have possibly imagined, it’s so wonderful to watch their eyes light up at the sparkle in 3 month old Harvey’s deep blue eyes.  I once again glimpse at the future and see all of us thinking to ourselves just how much we love to watch him play, sing, dance, cook, jump, explore and discover this amazing world we live in. Now I just hope that we will all remember to say it out loud.  I will feel quite accomplished if that practice becomes a part of my sweet boys life in such a way that he lives without hesitation in expressing his joy in witnessing the lives of those he loves.

I do know that I love watching those that I love falling in love with my boy, it makes my heart sing.  And whether my mom, Harvey’s grandma, knows that shes doing it or not, she sends me a text after every time she watches him that simply says “We love him”.  It makes my heart swell with pride and puts a smile on my face every time.

Make a point today to tell someone how you feel and keep it simple with those six little words, “I love to watch you ________”

-thejensspin

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Your Short Story

I have been contemplating posting this for quite some time.  I consider myself an open book and fairly free in the “social media realm” but this has been a struggle for me.  I was inspired by the courage of a friend whom I already admired and respected for her talent in photography but for whom my respect grew even more when she announced the loss of her pregnancy on Facebook last week.  She did so with grace and gratitude for the love that she is surrounded by and it was a sad but beautiful thing to see.  So here it goes.  This is our story of loss.  It can’t all be butterflies and rainbows but it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and share something that hurts as much as something like this does.  I am hopeful that sharing this story will bring comfort and companionship to someone, anyone that has to go through this.  This is very raw and perhaps offensive at times, but it is as real as it gets and my true account of one of the saddest events of my life.  I wrote this mostly to document my experience and put it into my Project Life but it has always been in my head that I should and eventually would share it.  So here it goes….

 

 

What We Thought

The photo on the left is what we THOUGHT you looked like… The photo on the right is what you truly looked like when you stopped growing….

 

January 16th, 2014

The day seemed long because I was anxious about our appointment.  Your Grandma made me chocolate banana cupcakes with strawberry cream frosting.  They were a Pinterest request and “she just happened to have everything she needed laying around” so she whipped them up and brought them to work.  They were DELICIOUS!  Those pretty little cupcakes seemed like the perfect way to start the day that would be the day that we would FINALLY know you were “real”.  Your Dad and I would finally get to hear your little heartbeat and see your tiny little body on the ultrasound screen.  Yes, I was anxious but MOSTLY excited!  

Cupcakes

Your Dad (always the multitasker!) was dropping a car off at Brandon Outback so I picked him up there.  On the way out to Brandon I listened to “Riding Elevators” on repeat.  I sang the lyrics at the top of my lungs with the windows down and my heart wide open.  I had such a content and peaceful feeling, so light and…. happy.  We were about to actually FEEL like parents!

We made it just in time for our 3:15 appointment.  I did my obligatory “pee in the cup” and luckily we didn’t have to wait very long.  So in we went to the ultrasound room.  She told me to just undress from the waist down so she could do an intravaginal ultrasound and get really close for the “pictures”.  So I did, slipped on a gown from the waist down and laid back in the chair.  The space was very small so it was a little awkward with Don in there, but he found a corner to occupy and the technician came back in.  We got started and she told your Dad that we would do the “fun stuff” first.  So he was ready with his phone to take pics and video.  Within a minute she had an image on the screen and I remember her saying something like “looks like you’re not as far along as we thought”…  To that I naively responded with something like “yeah we found out really early so it may be off a little…” (Whatever the hell I meant by that?)  I will hold in my heart the memory of this one flash, this one image where I could see “you”.  You were “floating” in darkness… and then in an instant, “you” were gone.  She started rapidly snapping through taking screen captures of every angle.  Still completely chill and unaware of what was happening to me, to us, in that moment I asked he if we could at least hear the heartbeat?  She said “No, I wouldn’t do that with this machine, let’s just wait till you see the doctor.”

And just like that she stood up and left the room, I put my pants back on and looked up at Don and shrugged my shoulders and said “well maybe something is wrong?”.  He looked at me with love and said “I’m sure there’s nothing wrong”.  Such sweet naive little love birds we were.  So off we went to the next set of waiting rooms.  As we sat there I still really had no idea what had just happened or what was about to happen I don’t think Don did either.  We were ill prepared to say the least.  Fortunately I wasn’t letting my mind wander to worst case scenarios, I was just existing in that space and time.  I was present in only that moment and that was all I could manage.  

My favorite, “Anna” (she’s a nurse practitioner) was in the hallway giggling and laughing, basically shit talking about a crazy patient.  Don and I giggled, it was hard not to hear them and it was funny.  A nice little distraction while we waited.  She saw us and proceeded to give us the story, we laughed some more and then she ducked away for a minute.  I took that chance to explain to Don how much I like her and that she was who I saw for my annual visit right after he and I got together.  She stole my heart at that appointment when she told me “this is the happiest I’ve ever seen your vagina”.  I mean how could I not love her after a statement like that?  She also made sure to hook me up with as many free samples as she could manage and extra scripts and what not.  So yeah, she’s cool and I really like her.

A few minutes passed and she came back with my file (“our file”) and she called Don and I into the doctor’s office.  We followed her in and sat down….

She had “the face”….

She began….

I remember so much about this day, but the next minute or two?  They are in there somewhere but it’s a blur.  I do know that in those two minutes I put on my “matter of fact face”, nodded, accepted the facts, asked logical questions and said “ok…” an exceptional amount of times but I don’t remember Don saying anything…  “Anna” left to “give us a minute” and so we could wait some more for the doctor…  As she shut the door behind her I remember her saying “the doctor will be in with you shortly”.  Never in my life has that phrase bothered me or incited any sort of anxiety, but, in this moment it hurt.  I couldn’t understand what the hell I could possibly need to see the doctor for at this point.

Time passed….

and also didn’t…

and we were quiet.

So very still and quiet.

I pulled out my phone and sent Anita a text.  She was at the port on a cruise ship and was eagerly awaiting an ultrasound snapshot.  Instead I crafted a text:

“Baby stopped growing 😦 I am ok, we are still at Dr.’s office now.  Just wanted to let you know before you left. I love you.”

That was seriously shitty but necessary.  She was moments away from setting off on a trip and I had to TEXT her the news that her niece/nephew didn’t make it.  Just one of many messages that would need to be relayed.

“Anna” came back in and said one more thing, what that was I couldn’t tell you because that’s when I broke.  My “matter of fact face” melted right off and right behind slid the first tear betraying me and my keep it togetherness completely.  The damn burst and then I was wide open and vulnerable.  Hurt seeping into every cell of my body as reality and her cold bitchy ways started to set up shop right in my dead womb.  As this is happening “Anna” says “There it is. It was inevitable.”….  She then hugged me and I wept.  Embarrassed and hurt I wept in her embrace.  She looked over my head at one point and asked Don how HE was, if he was ok.  I remember that but I do not remember hearing him respond but I am certain he had his “military/strong man face”.  She left again, this time leaving me with the box of tissues. Dammit.

Don and I alone in the room again I finally look over to him and said something like “I’m just worried about what you’re going to do…”  In my head I was worried about what he was going to do as in be mad or crazy upset?  Because I knew I didn’t have it in me to help him manage any of that in this particular moment.  His response was epic and so classic THE DON, he says, “Well I’m not going to divorce you.”  HA!  To that I said something like “you better not mother fucker! and that’s NOT what I meant!”

Dr. “S” finally arrives.  I don’t know her, never met or seen her before… Seems appropriate that she should have “this talk” with us.  So she begins by going over the facts.  The baby stopped growing at 7 weeks, I was in the midst of a missed miscarriage and here are your “options”.  A fantastic snapshot of our life at the time would be the first question I ask as soon as the “options” are brought up, “is that going to be covered by medicare?”. “Medicare? or Medicaid?” she asks.  I seriously responded with “I don’t know, I have a gold card.”  (Fuck my life.)   She said that she didn’t want me to worry about that, that it would all be covered…  She pretty much told me that having a D&C was my best option.  My body had let five weeks go by without aborting the baby itself so there was no telling how long the “limbo” could take if it happened naturally… So I chose to have a D&C.  We went over some paperwork, signed my name a couple times.  Then it was off to the checkout counter.  This part of the process was way too long and I was doing my best not to completely fall apart while answering questions, making decisions and scheduling.  Don kept it together too although it was difficult and I could feel his patience waring thin as we waited and waited to get out!  In the end it was decided that I would have the D&C on Monday, the 20th, Martin Luther KIng Jr Day and Mikaela’s birthday… As good a day as any I suppose.

We got in the car and it was quiet.  I had been playing “your song” through my iphone so now there was just silence.  We stopped at a gas station to fill up and headed home.  We didn’t say much.  Don seemed to be most worried about having to tell his sisters which pissed me off a little bit at the time.  But looking back it seems like a perfectly acceptable concern.  I considered turning on the radio but couldn’t think of any station that would be playing the appropriate soundtrack for the drive home after finding out your baby is dead.  So it remained quiet.

We took the new expansion off of the crosstown, mostly by accident but it turned out to be a good distraction.  It was the first time we were on that road, seemed strange to get such different views of our city from way up high.  When we got to “malfunction junction” it was almost five o’ clock and I knew that your grandma was waiting for an update…  I was so sad to have to call her and tell her this.  Nothing is ever real until you tell your  mom, you would have learned that I know…  So I took a deep breath, let out a sigh and called…

I think I said “Hey Mom” I don’t remember what she said after that, I think she asked a question about you.  I remember I managed to squeak out through my choked throat “there is no baby” and then she said “what?” in the sweetest most comforting heartwarming voice that can only come from one’s mom and then I explained that you had no heartbeat.  That you had stopped growing at 7 weeks.  A lot of what came next is a blur I just remember being very worried about her.  She was so excited about you and so very happy for us.  She will someday be the most amazing grandma.  I am so very sorry that she will never know you.  She asked if I felt like I needed her to come over and while her love is always welcome it felt like something that Don and I needed to tackle together.  Not to mention a mom hug in that moment would most likely have sent me into hysterical convulsions.  We said “I love you” and with that the hardest call was done.

Once we got through traffic we stopped at Al’s aka Nebraska Mini-Mart to get ice and coke because we had decided that cocktails were definitely in order.  He gave us what we morbidly deemed the “Dead Baby Discount” after he asked how “things” were going and he became the first person we told… in person.  I just said to him that it didn’t work out and he reassured us that we’ve got time and we’ll try again but that he most definitely would not be taking our money on this occasion.  Good times.

Conveniently we had an appointment scheduled with Joelle to sign the new lease for our house.  So when we all sat down to go over the paperwork she became the second person we got to tell in person.  She too was reassuring and kind.  After she left Don and I went to ABC on Kennedy to get some more cocktail supplies and then we headed to Chipotle so that Don could get some comfort food. 

Doing the best we can

We came home, made cocktails, took a couple pictures to shove into my project life and Don ate not one but TWO Chipotle burritos.  He loved you a lot little one.  Dead baby grief requires double duty comfort food apparently. We spent the rest of the night making seriously inappropriate dead baby jokes which helped us to laugh instead of cry. I called Valerie and let her know, she too was heartbroken but, she and I are both very logical people.  Mother Nature knows best and she decided it just wasn’t meant to be this time.  Val does a great job of helping me to see the silver linings of things. Excelsior!  I decided that a round of informative matter of fact texts to close friends was the easy way to tell everyone.  There was no way I could speak out loud the explanation over and over.  I just couldn’t.  So I checked that task off my to-do list and had many heartfelt responses of sympathy.  I realized that Don had not called his “people” and I knew he needed a little push…. So, I texted Don’s bestfriends and let them know that they should call him.  One called after I had some time to text with him which worked out good because the other called right away.  He spoke to both of them for a little while each and he seemed to feel “better” once he had gotten those conversations off his chest.  I eventually got to talk to Amber which was an extremely hard call, but luckily Don and I had had time to loosen up beforehand.  It was really sad to realize what a precious opportunity it was for Amber and I to be pregnant with our first babies at the same time and to face the sadness in knowing that that will never be possible again.  It was a once in a lifetime chance that was now gone.  

We wrapped the night up dancing in the front room to techno songs to the point of pure exhaustion.  We cuddled together very tight in bed that night, neither of us giving the other too much space to move or to get lost.  Our grips were fierce having been reminded in such an intense way, just how very fragile this life is.  We are lucky to have one another and we will always love “you”.  You helped Don and I to see just how much we do want a family and also to feel and experience just how intense the love for one’s own child can be.  You were so tiny but you shifted our world in the best way you could by showing us a glimpse of everything we’ve always wanted. Thank you for that.  We needed you.

Love, 

Your “Mom”

 

January 26th, 2014

It had been a long day celebrating Gasparilla and it was so nice and comforting to end the day at home with just my big sister.  Anita and I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning talking.  We covered every emotion that I was going through but also everything that she was and had gone through.  It’s tough work being a big sister.  It was the first time we had been together since everything happened.  It was so incredibly good for my soul to share everything with her.  

When she left the next afternoon, I was just starting to have “cramps”.  They came in waves and were uncomfortable but mostly manageable.  But as I stood in the frame of our front door watching her back out onto the street and drive away, I realized that I was alone.  And it started to ache.  Being alone is not something that normally makes me unhappy or vulnerable, but, I think my body and mind knew what lay ahead and being alone felt more relevant in that moment than it has in a very long time, maybe ever.

I was alone with what was left of “you”… and “you” were about to leave me completely.  There I was alone and becoming empty.  I ached for my husband but I quickly became too consumed with the process to think of much else.  I started to hurt all over, physically it would come in waves, later I would learn that those “waves” were similar pains to contractions… Thank you for the practice sweet one…  

My heart hurt the most.  I missed you, I missed the hope for you that I fell in love with.  What was left of you was leaving me and I was ALONE.  Alone in a new and foreign way.  

“I go home to the coast it starts to rain I paddle out on the water. Alone. Taste the salt and taste the pain I’m not thinking of you again. Summer dies and swells rise the sun goes down in my eyes. Take these broken waves, darkly coming to take me home. And I’ve never been so along and I’ve never been so ALIVE.”

-Third Eye Blind

A part of me wanted “your dad”, my husband, my partner…But this way was better. I was not in charge of managing anyone else’s emotions, instead I had the freedom to FEEL EVERY ONE OF MINE.  I now know that I needed this to be something just you and I shared.  An experience only to be remembered by “us”.  And so “we” did… and so it was.

After about 6 hours of painful waves, throwing up from pain meds and taking care of the physically real remnants of “you” I finally felt the last bit of “you” leave me.  It was done.  “We” were done and I was now left with the task of once again feeling complete with every piece of “you” gone.  I was alone.  But I, unlike you my love… was ALIVE.   

Thank you so much to all of our friends and family that have been so amazing as we have recovered from all of this and somehow managed to fall even deeper in love.  We are incredibly grateful every day.

-thejensspin

 

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We made it through our first year!

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Papered Heart Photography

One year.
12 months.
52 weeks.
365 days.
8,760 hours.
525,600 minutes.
31,536,000 seconds.

That is how long/how much you have been my husband. We are us. We have made it. I have made a promise to never underestimate how difficult this commitment we have made is. I have promised myself to each year, quantify in this way, just how long/how much you and I have been us, Mr. and Mrs. Ernst. Seeing the years, months, days, moments, seconds add up makes my heart swell with pride. I chose to allow your love to fill my life and my heart and whilst that makes me happy and content so much of the time, I knew going in to this that this was never going to be easy. Not by any fault of our own necessarily but because of the world, society, people that we will meet or have met that will influence us in one way or another, raw deals and lost dreams that we will have to let go of, money, air, wrenches and who knows what else… Easy or not, we are in this together, for better or worse, such easy words to say, so much more difficult to live them, I’m proud of us for doing so.

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Papered Heart Photography

We are of a generation that is fickle, that runs away from the scary shit. I promised myself and you that I would not runaway from the scary shit in our marriage. That in and of itself IS SCARY! But, I meant it, I will mean it. I may write this “review” some years and mostly hate you! But, I will love you, I will forget and forgive, I will smile and laugh, I will let go and move on, I will go crazy and find sanity, I will want to quit and join the majority and I will overcome and subscribe, once again, to the minority. I am yours, you are mine. It will not be easy. It will down right suck at times. I knew that going in. I knew that when I sat in the corner eating two bites of a fish-filet pushing you away to no avail that I had completely jumped into the abyss that is us.

I am still falling and still smiling.

I will avoid painting walls with you ever again! But I will count on your sharp scissors to cut through me when I’m resisting and pushing the most. I will obsess and stress and reassess and come right back to… I love you. Even when I hate you. Mostly.

I will get jealous, I will worry, I will cry, we will experience loss in many ways, but we will see our way through it. I will grow old with you, which means that there is so much that will occur, that the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years will just keep stacking up to remind me just how sure I was/am that this is love, this is us.

You have been “mine” for just shy of 3 years, our “Jump Day” is November 14th, 2010. But this year, this year has been one of a kind, there will only be one first year of marriage and I’m so happy that I got to experience mine with my bestfriend, the one that will give me shit when I deserve it and who will hold me tight when my world is shaken. The man that will give me a hug when I ask for one, even after I’ve torn him to shreds and my face is puffy and my eyes are filled with tears of worry and frustration.

Thank you for this truly magnificent first year. A year filled with ups and downs, with humility, bravery, blind trust and most importantly love.

Thank you for being my husband. Thank you for your love. I am still the most beautiful I have ever been inside and out through your eyes.

I won’t give up on us, I love you.

Happy anniversary My Husband, The Don.

Still Smiling. Still Falling.
Forever yours,
Your Wife,

Jen Ernst

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Where I was 9/11/01

I will never forget.

This post was written and shared last year on this day.  My story hasn’t changed, but, I am going to make it a tradition to re-share it each year as well as share any new thoughts or life experiences that may be relevant as the years go by.  Last year, I read a number of stories of my friends with children struggling with the explanations that need to be made when you are a parent.  From what I gather, it’s a difficult piece of American life to explain to children.  I will cross that bridge when I come to it… But for now, this is my story, Where I was:

It has been exactly eleven years.  I was 20 years old. I had bid my teenage years goodbye just twelve days prior.  What happened that day however, made me feel smaller and younger than I had ever felt before.  I was living with my boyfriend at the time in a crummy apartment complex in Brandon, Florida.  We didn’t have much, but what we did have was fine by me, because I was in love… or at least what I thought love was at the time.

I was sleeping when it all started.

It’s funny how strange it can make you feel when you realize the things that have or can happen while you are sleeping.  Simple things like spiders or roaches crawling on you, to nightmarish things like someone taking your child from your home while you slept in the next room.  Sleep is such a wonderful state and one that I cherish… But… the fact that I was sleeping when the world as I knew it had started to shift is still mind blowing to me.  How could I not have felt that something terribly wrong was happening?  We all like to think that when disaster strikes our intuition will alert us and cause us to act appropriately… But alas, my “guts” did no such thing.

That day began for me with the ringing of his Nokia cell phone.  I recall being irritated that I was being interrupted in my slumber, but proceeded to check right back out once he answered the phone.

It took only one second for my instincts to kick in and I bolted up right, immediately realizing that something was terribly wrong.  It was as if that nokia phone was pressed up against my own ear as every word coming out of it was dripping with panic and terror.  His brother was in Queens.  He couldn’t stop talking and all I remember him saying, over and over and over again, “They’re coming for us!  They’ve got us! We are going down! It’s over!” and then one clear and properly enunciated sentence; “A plane hit the twin towers!”

I don’t remember if he said anything to his brother… I don’t think he had an opportunity.  We were told to turn on the TV, so we did. It was the first TV I had ever purchased, it had a VCR built in! and it swiveled.  I absolutely LOVED that TV, in fact, I still have it to this day, I somehow can’t bring myself to part with it…Never in my worst nightmare could I have imagined the horrific images that would be projected from it’s monitor.

At the same moment we turned the TV on he lost the connection with his brother, that would be the last we would hear from him for days.  In fact it would be days before he was able to check on any of his family, all in New York.  All cell phones and land lines were blocked.

That memory would stick with me and on August 15, 2003, I was living in Queens, New York and working at Bayside Outback.  There was a blackout.  The very first thing I thought was that we were under a terrorist attack.  Cell phones were already not working so my very next thought was that I needed to get to the land line and call my mom.  I called her and told her that I didn’t know what was happening, but that I was worried that it might be really bad.  I told her I loved her and that I would try and get in touch with her again when I could.  I will never forget the sickening feeling I had in my stomach making that phone call.  For a moment I had let myself think that it would be the last time I heard my mother’s voice, the last time that she would hear mine. Luckily, the blackout was just that and nothing worse.

What I saw on the television captivated me.  I sat on the corner of the bed with jaw dropped open in shock and just kept saying out loud, “This can’t be real. This can’t be real.”  At that point only the first plane had hit.

I started to realize that I was witnessing REAL PEOPLE jumping out of buildings.  Even typing that now I feel sick to my stomach.  Terror and pain so fierce that people were either choosing to or being pushed out of the burning building.  “This can’t be real life”.

Looking back it is outrageous to realize how incredibly slow my brain was working.  I was so overwhelmed with what was actively happening that at no point did my mind transition to the “what could happen?” or “what is likely to happen next?”.  It seems to me now that it is perhaps part of the “American Condition” to not have thought past what might happen next.  In other countries, where survival skills are part of daily life, it most likely would have occurred to them that there was no reason to assume that there wasn’t another plane on it’s way, that there weren’t bombs set up through out the city, that the terror was only in that moment.  They would probably have looked ahead and tried to see what terror may be next.  It seemed to me that what I was watching was as bad as it could get.

At 9:02, we watched live as the second plane was filmed crashing into the South Tower.  Time stopped.  I stopped breathing.  Screams, I could hear so many screams, the entire country screamed at that moment. Tears started.  And then the fear started to set in.  This IS REAL LIFE.

Again with the slow moving brain.  At no point did it occur to me what would happen next.  What could be worse?  I was watching the only reality I had ever known burn and realizing that I was helpless.  I not only had no concept of war, of battles, bombs, mass murder, terrorists, I knew I had no survival skills.  I felt confident that I had the will to live, but at what cost and against what kind of enemy?  I had never imagined I would have to think about such things.

In the next forty five minutes or so, we learned that we were under terrorist attack.  That all air traffic had been stopped.  That a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. More Americans were dead. And then my slow moving brain processed what the media had been speculating would probably happen as the first tower started to sink as if into quicksand, no longer visible in the sky, a black cloud even darker than the one that proceeded it racing upwards.  Again. There were screams.  “This can’t be real life”.

News of  Flight 93 going down started to be reported.  It was somehow a piece of “good news”.  Amazing, strong and brave Americans had banded together upon learning what else had happened that morning and decided to take control of their destiny.  They stopped what was intended for that plane from happening.  True American heroes.

Somehow, I was still holding on to hope, thinking that all of this was more reminiscent of a Hollywood Blockbuster than an early morning news reel and that surely there must be something that won’t go wrong.  My hope was shattered as the second tower collapsed and the reality of the last hour started to sink in.

We were under attack. “This is REAL Life.”

All of America was glued to their televisions or tuned into their radios for the rest of that terrible day and for days, weeks and months to come.  The footage that would be shown later would not be what I had witnessed live that morning.  As it shouldn’t have been.  I will never be able to get the images out of my mind.  People, real life people, jumping to their deaths, others trapped and never able to find a way out.  I don’t ever want to feel the way I felt that morning again.

I realized on that day just how small and insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things. My love for my country had never been greater.  But my pride had been taken away completely.  I felt like I didn’t know what being an American really meant anymore.  It had never occurred to me that we could possibly fall victim to acts of terrorism like that.  One of the craziest things to think about now, is that I was aware of other terrorist activity that had occurred in the U.S. before that day, but I think I am not alone when I say that it had never once occurred to me that there was EVER a possibility for something as monumental and detrimental to take place.

My fiance’ posted this on his Facebook Status today:

“Its been eleven years and I still reflect on that day for the week leading up to today, and weeks following today. I was in basic training, red phase. We had just finished our run for the morning and the ‘sick call rangers’ had met back up with us from being lazy and getting out of P.T. . They told us that the twin towers got hit, but noone believed their lazy asses because we had just gotten our asses handed to us by the drill sergeants on the 5 mile run. Chow hall, two minutes to inhale, back out the door and in formation. March to the armory warehouse. In single file line and with a quickness we are issued our rifles, return to formation, and are abruptly commanded to fall back in single file line to be issued our bayonets for the first day of bayonet training. Normally we roll out immediately after to get on cattle trucks, but today the commander was there speaking to the drill sergeants, and a few minutes later we all are ordered to return our weapons and bayonets. Much confusion at this point. We all assumed we were going to get smoked, but we had no idea why. First Sarg comes out and yells ya’ll are going to WAR!!!!! We then proceed to go out to the field where we are met by the commander and told about the plane attacks and then issued a day of relief for what I guess was to make sure that noone was going to kill themselves with their bayonets. 9-11-2001 I will never forget.”

Even though I had heard this story before, seeing it put into words and knowing that these words came from the man I am lucky enough to be spending the rest of my life with really struck me today and inspired me to, for the first time, put my own experience of that day into words.
It’s hard to believe how far apart and completely different my future husband and I’s realities were 11 years ago today, but, if 9/11 teaches us anything, it is to love one another, to cherish every moment and make the most of the life you are lucky enough to live.
So much more information came out after the day, facts, stories of heroism, love lost, love rekindled and the list goes on.  One of the most gut wrenching parts for me was hearing the voices of people who knew they were living their last minutes or sometimes even seconds.of their life and they wanted to make sure that the people they loved got to hear it one last time.  Don’t wait.  Tell anyone and everyone as often as you can, you will never regret it.
I will love my country and my fellow Americans for as long as I shall live.  I am the product of good men who have gone to war to protect and support this country and I will forever be proud of that.  I am honored that I will be married to a man who selflessly served his country.
In Loving Memory. 9/11/2001. I will never forget.
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Where I was.

It has been exactly eleven years.  I was 20 years old. I had bid my teenage years goodbye just twelve days prior.  What happened that day however, made me feel smaller and younger than I had ever felt before.  I was living with my boyfriend at the time in a crummy apartment complex in Brandon, Florida.  We didn’t have much, but what we did have was fine by me, because I was in love… or at least what I thought love was at the time.

I was sleeping when it all started.

It’s funny how strange it can make you feel when you realize the things that have or can happen while you are sleeping.  Simple things like spiders or roaches crawling on you, to nightmarish things like someone taking your child from your home while you slept in the next room.  Sleep is such a wonderful state and one that I cherish… But… the fact that I was sleeping when the world as I knew it had started to shift is still mind blowing to me.  How could I not have felt that something terribly wrong was happening?  We all like to think that when disaster strikes our intuition will alert us and cause us to act appropriately… But alas, my “guts” did no such thing.

That day began for me with the ringing of his Nokia cell phone.  I recall being irritated that I was being interrupted in my slumber, but proceeded to check right back out once he answered the phone.

It took only one second for my instincts to kick in and I bolted up right, immediately realizing that something was terribly wrong.  It was as if that nokia phone was pressed up against my own ear as every word coming out of it was dripping with panic and terror.  His brother was in Queens.  He couldn’t stop talking and all I remember him saying, over and over and over again, “They’re coming for us!  They’ve got us! We are going down! It’s over!” and then one clear and properly enunciated sentence; “A plane hit the twin towers!”

I don’t remember if he said anything to his brother… I don’t think he had an opportunity.  We were told to turn on the TV, so we did. It was the first TV I had ever purchased, it had a VCR built in! and it swiveled.  I absolutely LOVED that TV, in fact, I still have it to this day, I somehow can’t bring myself to part with it…Never in my worst nightmare could I have imagined the horrific images that would be projected from it’s monitor.

At the same moment we turned the TV on he lost the connection with his brother, that would be the last we would hear from him for days.  In fact it would be days before he was able to check on any of his family, all in New York.  All cell phones and land lines were blocked.

That memory would stick with me and on August 15, 2003, I was living in Queens, New York and working at Bayside Outback.  There was a blackout.  The very first thing I thought was that we were under a terrorist attack.  Cell phones were already not working so my very next thought was that I needed to get to the land line and call my mom.  I called her and told her that I didn’t know what was happening, but that I was worried that it might be really bad.  I told her I loved her and that I would try and get in touch with her again when I could.  I will never forget the sickening feeling I had in my stomach making that phone call.  For a moment I had let myself think that it would be the last time I heard my mother’s voice, the last time that she would hear mine. Luckily, the blackout was just that and nothing worse.

What I saw on the television captivated me.  I sat on the corner of the bed with jaw dropped open in shock and just kept saying out loud, “This can’t be real. This can’t be real.”  At that point only the first plane had hit.

I started to realize that I was witnessing REAL PEOPLE jumping out of buildings.  Even typing that now I feel sick to my stomach.  Terror and pain so fierce that people were either choosing to or being pushed out of the burning building.  “This can’t be real life”.

Looking back it is outrageous to realize how incredibly slow my brain was working.  I was so overwhelmed with what was actively happening that at no point did my mind transition to the “what could happen?” or “what is likely to happen next?”.  It seems to me now that it is perhaps part of the “American Condition” to not have thought past what might happen next.  In other countries, where survival skills are part of daily life, it most likely would have occurred to them that there was no reason to assume that there wasn’t another plane on it’s way, that there weren’t bombs set up through out the city, that the terror was only in that moment.  They would probably have looked ahead and tried to see what terror may be next.  It seemed to me that what I was watching was as bad as it could get.

At 9:02, we watched live as the second plane was filmed crashing into the South Tower.  Time stopped.  I stopped breathing.  Screams, I could hear so many screams, the entire country screamed at that moment. Tears started.  And then the fear started to set in.  This IS REAL LIFE.

Again with the slow moving brain.  At no point did it occur to me what would happen next.  What could be worse?  I was watching the only reality I had ever known burn and realizing that I was helpless.  I not only had no concept of war, of battles, bombs, mass murder, terrorists, I knew I had no survival skills.  I felt confident that I had the will to live, but at what cost and against what kind of enemy?  I had never imagined I would have to think about such things.

In the next forty five minutes or so, we learned that we were under terrorist attack.  That all air traffic had been stopped.  That a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. More Americans were dead. And then my slow moving brain processed what the media had been speculating would probably happen as the first tower started to sink as if into quicksand, no longer visible in the sky, a black cloud even darker than the one that proceeded it racing upwards.  Again. There were screams.  “This can’t be real life”.

News of  Flight 93 going down started to be reported.  It was somehow a piece of “good news”.  Amazing, strong and brave Americans had banded together upon learning what else had happened that morning and decided to take control of their destiny.  They stopped what was intended for that plane from happening.  True American heroes.

Somehow, I was still holding on to hope, thinking that all of this was more reminiscent of a Hollywood Blockbuster than an early morning news reel and that surely there must be something that won’t go wrong.  My hope was shattered as the second tower collapsed and the reality of the last hour started to sink in.

We were under attack. “This is REAL Life.”

All of America was glued to their televisions or tuned into their radios for the rest of that terrible day and for days, weeks and months to come.  The footage that would be shown later would not be what I had witnessed live that morning.  As it shouldn’t have been.  I will never be able to get the images out of my mind.  People, real life people, jumping to their deaths, others trapped and never able to find a way out.  I don’t ever want to feel the way I felt that morning again.

I realized on that day just how small and insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things. My love for my country had never been greater.  But my pride had been taken away completely.  I felt like I didn’t know what being an American really meant anymore.  It had never occurred to me that we could possibly fall victim to acts of terrorism like that.  One of the craziest things to think about now, is that I was aware of other terrorist activity that had occurred in the U.S. before that day, but I think I am not alone when I say that it had never once occurred to me that there was EVER a possibility for something as monumental and detrimental to take place.

My fiance’ posted this on his Facebook Status today:

“Its been eleven years and I still reflect on that day for the week leading up to today, and weeks following today. I was in basic training, red phase. We had just finished our run for the morning and the ‘sick call rangers’ had met back up with us from being lazy and getting out of P.T. . They told us that the twin towers got hit, but noone believed their lazy asses because we had just gotten our asses handed to us by the drill sergeants on the 5 mile run. Chow hall, two minutes to inhale, back out the door and in formation. March to the armory warehouse. In single file line and with a quickness we are issued our rifles, return to formation, and are abruptly commanded to fall back in single file line to be issued our bayonets for the first day of bayonet training. Normally we roll out immediately after to get on cattle trucks, but today the commander was there speaking to the drill sergeants, and a few minutes later we all are ordered to return our weapons and bayonets. Much confusion at this point. We all assumed we were going to get smoked, but we had no idea why. First Sarg comes out and yells ya’ll are going to WAR!!!!! We then proceed to go out to the field where we are met by the commander and told about the plane attacks and then issued a day of relief for what I guess was to make sure that noone was going to kill themselves with their bayonets. 9-11-2001 I will never forget.”

Even though I had heard this story before, seeing it put into words and knowing that these words came from the man I am lucky enough to be spending the rest of my life with really struck me today and inspired me to, for the first time, put my own experience of that day into words.
It’s hard to believe how far apart and completely different my future husband and I’s realities were 11 years ago today, but, if 9/11 teaches us anything, it is to love one another, to cherish every moment and make the most of the life you are lucky enough to live.
So much more information came out after the day, facts, stories of heroism, love lost, love rekindled and the list goes on.  One of the most gut wrenching parts for me was hearing the voices of people who knew they were living their last minutes or sometimes even seconds.of their life and they wanted to make sure that the people they loved got to hear it one last time.  Don’t wait.  Tell anyone and everyone as often as you can, you will never regret it.
I will love my country and my fellow Americans for as long as I shall live.  I am the product of good men who have gone to war to protect and support this country and I will forever be proud of that.  I am honored that I will be married to a man who selflessly served his country.
In Loving Memory. 9/11/2001. I will never forget.
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