Featured post

The Day Everything Changed…

kris and zach

The day everything changed in my life forever began as any ordinary Monday. On this particular day, I was up and running around early in the morning. Shower, coffee, getting kids ready, more coffee, daycare drop off, and off to work. On this particular day, Zachary had the day off from school and had an eye doctor’s appointment. I ran through my daily morning routine with meetings, questions, preparing information and left to run Zachary to his appointment.

We made it to his eye doctor’s appointment in Mount Vernon (about a hour drive from Lynden) and had a little time to spare. He was able to play in the waiting room. In typical Zachary style, he made a new friend. We saw the doctor and Zachary got the news he wanted. He needed glasses! Most kids would think this is not a good thing. Zachary how ever was completely excited to get glasses. He has been waiting for “his turn” to get glasses. He was head over heals excited about this news. We called John, my fiancé and his “step dad”, to tell him the news. Then, he had to call his dad too. He called him but got his machine. Instead of leaving a message, he said, “How rude” and put the phone down (later I learned that it was an open line for about 10 minutes…)

I knew this was an exciting moment for Zachary. I planned to celebrate with ice cream and a nice ride home. I wanted to celebrate this moment and make sure he had a good time. It was a beautiful day for March. A Warm, sunny, perfect day. We were going for ice cream, new glasses and going home. We were content and happy.

That’s my last memory of that day.

I woke up in a hospital bed unable to move or speak. It was like a strange movie I was watching. Moments that I can remember. Then time flew by and another moment. My level of consciousness was minimal and beginning to recover. On Easter Sunday, I was awake and alert. They took out the ventilator. I saw my mother come into the room. I said, “I know he’s gone”. She cried and nodded. He was gone.

In later days, I heard the details of the past weeks I was in a coma. How Zachary had died in the accident and no one knew if I would live and if I did, what would it look like? The fear, sadness, anxiety, loss, shock, disbelief and a mixed bag of intense pain and emotion filled my days. He was gone.

Zachary Dean Conzo was born on October 1, 2007 and died March 31, 2014. He is gone. His light continues to shine through my everyday. His life made a huge impact on mine and so many others.

In this blog, I hope to share my story with love and respect for everyone involved. My life is forever changed, now how do I go on?

Twilight On the Beach

On a beautiful night in Perth, Australia, a fellow bereaved mom and artist wrote “Zachary” in the sand and captured this moment for me. I received this piece of artwork today and I had to share my thoughts.

Grief is a long, dark, and hard personal journey. My heart has been aching lately with the thought of this eternal pain and grief. It has been drowning me again as it did in the early days. The loss. The pain. The never ending journey to more time since I had him in my arms. It’s inundating to think about forever without him. No more good night kisses, belly laughs, hugs or time.

Since the New Year, I have been searching for a light in this darkness. I have been delving into reading and listening to grief books about what to try to gain some tools in this journey. In this journey, Reading and writing have given me space to breath for a moment. It has allowed a little pressure to release. Lately, It wasn’t enough. I needed something that I couldn’t speak.

When I saw this artwork, I found it. The pressure released just a little. The weight of this backpack of heavy loss was lifted, if even for a moment. That’s the thing I have learned. Grief is not fixed, it is carried. Every waking moment it will be yours. Looking for moments where the weight is lifted gives you respite to continue to journey.

This piece says to me. He is light. He is peace and beauty like the twilight on a beach. He name is impermanent written in sand but his soul is the colors of the sky and the steadfast star. Beauty and permanence of his spirit.

This is for me. A gift to myself in grief. The weight remains daily but it is in moments like this that I can see lightness return. I can almost see my blue eyed boy and all the beauty his spirit brings to this world even if the physical body was impermanent.

I love you Zachary and miss you more than words.

I need a little Christmas

Christmas 2017 is in the books. Great time with family and friends being joyous and thankful. Christmas joy is mirrored by ache in my heart. Seeing Grace excited about Santa and all our little traditions: the advent calendar, calling the North Pole, decorating the tree and Josie, hanging stocking, the Elf on the shelf, and opening each gift with care and anticipation. It is joy at its purest. Through all this joy, all I can think is what would he be like this year? Would he believe in Santa? Would he want to be a part of our “secret Santa” for her? What gifts would he give and what would he want? What would it be like? Those are questions that make my heart ache because there is no answer.

Our last Christmas together was 2013-2014. Zachary was in kindergarten and had picked out special gifts for his parents that he got at the boys and girls club. When I picked him up, he had a handful of gifts. He wanted to get something for everyone but he settled for me, John, Grace and Kevin (his dad). His gifts for me were wrapped with care and included a cd, a candle and a picture of him with Santa. For john, his gift was so heavy. I couldn’t believe he had lifted it. He told me it was because he really needed this gift. When we opened it, we found it was a car jack. He said it was in case of an emergency for john to get home. John was working in Seattle at the time and always driving. For Kevin, he picked out oven mitts with an Italian chef picture on them. When I asked what he got for Kevin’s wife he looked worried and then said “I know” as he pulled the two mitt apart. “This way they each have one”. My Zachary was always thinking of others and making sure everyone was given a thoughtful gift.

So I think the answers to my questions are as follows:

Zachary would be 10. He wouldn’t believe in Santa anymore but would believe in the magic of Christmas. He would love playing Santa and helping us with all our little traditions of elf on the shelf and the North Pole calls. He would give the gift of love as he always did.

Merry Christmas Zachary! I love you and miss you. Love mom

An empty chair

Here we are again. Beginning the holiday season 2017-2018. It’s a time of joy and happiness. We had our thanksgiving this year. Just the three of us. We made our homemade pumpkin pie, turkey and all the sides. We watched Macy’s parade and sang along with the songs we knew. Grace lit up when Santa ended the parade. Then we sat at our beautifully dressed table. White table cloth, cloth napkins, roses in a vase, and all our creations. As I sat down, I couldn’t help but see the empty chair beside me. The grief floods over on days like this. He would’ve been right here next to me. Holding my hand and saying our thankful for this year. Grace held my hand and she wanted to say grace this year. Then, she began to recite the pledge of allegiance. I couldn’t help but smile. He would’ve done the same thing. She went on to say she was grateful for her family, the universe and heaven because her brother is there. This made my heart both proud and sad. This little girl, just seven, has the knowledge of personal loss that no child should have. She holds it with grace and reminds me to be thankful for the little things like love of family and the pledge of allegiance. I miss him daily but during the holidays the loss is palpable. It’s right in your face saying “I’m missing”. The joy and sadness are overwhelming at times seeing that empty chair. I am grateful for my family and friends. I am grateful that I am here today. I am grateful that I am his mom even if he is not with me. I am grateful that I have my Grace to hold my hand.

Day 31 – Sunset Blessing 

May every sunrise hold promise. May every sunset hold peace. -unknown 

The sun has set on this years project. It has brought me peace and comfort. I am looking forward to another year full of blessings of the small things that I enjoy. Thank you all for listening to me all these days of pain and love. The fact that I have so many people cheering me on makes me keep getting out of bed in the morning. It’s amazing when you feel supported what you can accomplish. All my love until next year! 

Day 30 – Reflect 

It’s been a long month of reflection for me. I both look forward to and dread this month of reflection daily. I open up my grieving heart to anyone that will listen (well, read) my long posts. It is part of my gift to myself each year. October is the month of pregnancy and child loss. I coincides with Zachary’s birthday and my birthday each year. Those days are hard enough as they are but to chose to write my feelings is difficult but rewarding It’s not easy to let others into your pain. The worry on how it will be received is tempered by my need to emote. The new me here in the after cares more about my feelings then how it is received. I have received both positive and negative feedback but it hasn’t stopped me. The positive support drives me to write more and worry less. 

 In 2014, I set out to write something each day of this capture your grief project and I accomplished it. After that accomplishment, I set out to do it each year I could and this is my 3rd year running.

 I have learned about my grief through this daily mindful practice; The good, the bad and the horribly ugly. I quietly read and examine my grief in my self privately the rest of the year. It’s safe. This project is difficult because it is my writing in all its vulnerabilty and imperfection on display. I have learned through my Brene Brown obsession that vulnerability is necessary and beautiful. As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” 

I am strong. I can continue this journey for another year. 

Day 28 – Upside Down 

Life is upside down after loss. Nothing feels the same. The things that brought me joy now bring sadness. Finding my footing in this upside down world has not been easy but I am learning. I find the joy through sadness for the times we had together. I am learning that what I worried about before is trivial. I gained the strength to walk again, upside down, with true friends who walk with you through the pitfalls and triggers. Day by day, I continue to find my way in this topsy turvy world in the after.  New joy in self care and appreciation for the opportunity to spend time with the ones I love. Man, I miss this little man so much it hurts. 

Day 27 – Passion 

In my life after Zachary’s death, the colors disappeared. Everything was shades of black and gray. One day flowing into the next with no joy. It was survival, not life. 

Now, years later the colors have started to return. They are muted but starting to return. The question of today is to talk about what you are passionate about. I can say I am passionate about supporting my friends, family and patients. This has always been my passion to be present with these people. Be a light in the darkness. One of the reasons I went into speech language pathology was to help people one at a time. 

Experiencing my own broken journey of loss physically and emotionally has created a new depth to my heart. I have had the experience of truly being dependent on others – for pain medication, tolieting, showering, drinking, and moving. It was a humbling experience. It was difficult to keep my dignity when I was in a dependent place. I relied on others to give of themselves to help me. I had to trust. I had to stop pushing and let go in order to progress. 

The same can be said about my emotional journey. Stop pushing and let go. Stop running from the wave of emotion and let it happen. Let the tears flow as the emotions overtook me. Like my mom always said, “tears are like a shower for your soul”. The wisdom of my mom helped me understand that tears were not weakness they were necessary to heal and grow. 

My passion is being that person to someone each day. Listening to them. Giving of my time to help them keep their dignity. It’s the least I can do. 

Day 26 – Universe Miraculous

This universe is miraculous and full of wonder. Taking a few moments to appreciate the beauty of the universe and all things in it. Time lapse photography of the night sky or the Great Barrier Reef (attached link Milky Way time lapse and Great Barrier Reef) and you will see the miracles that surround us. 

 I look to the sky for answers to why, where is he now, and how did this happen. The answers have not come. The miracles that surround us give me comfort that there is a God and heaven. How could something so beautiful be anything more than made by God? It comforts me as I watch these videos of creation evidence that surrounds. There is peace. There is love. There is a “happily ever after”.  

Zachary was a miracle. He was my heart living outside my body. He brought me more joy and love then I ever thought was possible. How could this universe and beautiful boy not be a miracle? 


Day 25 – Indestructible Heart

Charles R. Swindoll says “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” 

Like many people, I have had more than my fair share of horrible things happen to me. The worst thing was the car accident that took Zachary’s life. Since that day, people have told me “you are so strong” and “I don’t think I could deal with this like you”. I didn’t plan on being “strong” or “deal with it” at all. It was what happened to me. My choice is the reaction. That is what I had control over. 

So I reacted. I lost it. I thought I was crazy at times. The grief was overwhelming. It drown me. The strength that others see and comment on has been built over time. It’s the endurance built during this grief journey. 

The triggers. 

The uncontrollable tears. 

The take your breath away depth of your soul ache. 

It happens over and over. 

Somehow, I still get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. The waves of grief and inconsolable moments are fewer and further between giving me time to breath and love again. I have grown strong enough begin to carry this grief instead of falling with the weight of it. Don’t get me wrong. The heart wrenching, tear soaked moments still happen and will keep happening. It’s part of this love/grief journey. It will not break my spirit. 

Tonight at my support group, we talked, cried and even laughed (ok mostly because I make crazy comments but come on it’s me). It’s healing. It’s moments like this that help to soothe my aching soul. I am not alone. 

My heart has a huge hole right through the middle that hasn’t broken completely. It’s supported by all the love and support of those around me that help give me a moment of space on this journey. A moment of respite as we continue on our individual paths. A moment to realize the resilience of the human heart and spirit. Like a bench on a long hike, we find that moment of rest to continue moving forward again with new strength. 

Day 24 – Capture the moment 

Capturing a moment is like holding sand in your hand. The tighter you try to hold onto it, the more slips away. You need to be careful with a moment and put it in a solid place – photo or journal- to keep it as safe as possible. 

I have found that I treasure the small things more now then ever. I know that it is fleeting and no one is promised tomorrow. I take photos and write to capture moments in my life. They could be silly videos or long articles. I mostly enjoy documenting each little thing that makes up the bigger life picture and helps me keep moving forward another day.  There are moments when I find a forgotten picture of Zachary and it brings me to tears with gratefulness and longing. Like the picture below, nothing exciting just a regular daily moment. Captured now forever and it means the world to me!