First, I want to acknowledge the steps that our state officials and national Congressmen are taking to enhance NHTSA's public awareness campaign locally, due to the multiple incidents that have occurred in Connecticut this summer. On July 11th, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy spoke out in a letter to NHTSA asking for the agency to focus more resources geared toward public awareness in our state (see Sen. Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Murphy (D-Conn.) Letter to Acting Administrator of NHTSA).
During a press conference yesterday, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, along with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, announced that the state DOT is providing a $100,000 grant to fund the new NHTSA "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock" campaign in Connecticut. See "After Toddler's Death, Connecticut Effort Aims to Prevent Leaving Children in Hot Cars" (New Haven Register) and "Hospital Launches Campaign to Prevent Hot Car Deaths" (NBC Connecticut).
Congratulations for a successful launch and THANK YOU!!!
After sitting down over the past few days with some wonderful, respectful news anchors in order to raise public awareness, I've realized that it is this part of the aftermath -- the tid-bits of joy and hope -- the small successes throughout the week that keep us going. I remember today, when I saw their SUV pull into our driveway, I hoped they weren't nervous or wondering "How will the family be? Will this be a horribly difficult interview?" And, after the interview, I mentioned that thought -- receiving in response, the natural insight that "Well, its just such a tragic story. It could happen to anyone." So, I smiled and we chatted and I responded "We'll be okay."
But, later today, the epiphany hit me. It was just yesterday that I found myself pulling by Ben's grave site, standing there just talking to him...saying how much I loved and missed him, and that I honestly didn't think I could do "this." Now what "this" is, I'm not sure of yet. In that moment, I think "this" was...to live without him, to move forward with our new and different life. But, I think the "this" was also...holding it together for others. Knowing how unimaginable and tragic this is to other parents (your worst nightmare, in ways) -- I sometimes (well, often) find myself feeling the need to hold it together in front of others to prove "We'll be okay."
As dusk arrived, my youngest daughter and I were chatting away about the future -- school, vacations, time alone, etc. She was very excited and life seemed....well, "okay." But, out of nowhere, her lips parted and this thought slipped out: "Mommy, I wish Ben could go on vacations with us. He never really got a vacation. Because, he only lived about a year." Again, it took my breath away, it was like a knife in my heart -- maybe it was the unexpected nature of her comment. In that one moment, the floodgate opened and in rushed a torrent of dozens of emotions...washing over me for the remainder of the day -- back to shock, anger, profound grief, disbelief, etc.
A close friend sat with Kyle and me on the porch tonight -- we discussed the "reality" of that day and what happened. I ran through our options: (1) we just don't go on -- which isn't an option; (2) we go on, but never really live again, we allow the grief and trauma to swallow us whole; or (3) we go on, different, hold on to each other, and struggle through. The only option for us is #3...and, to answer the most common question from reporters, friends and even strangers -- that is how we are doing. Its for the girls, really. They are the anchors allowing us to weather the storm, until we can do it on our own. We see innocence, happiness and hope in their every move and word. We ended the evening, tearfully, with our friend reminding Kyle that he's such a good father ("Mr. Mom")...with us all recognizing, though, that our family still has to work through our new reality. And, in her words, people can lie and say we will be fine eventually, but really its not just going to disappear and go away...it will always be difficult...but we just hold on and Live and grow.
So, that's a typical day about a month after losing Ben....but we make it through and hopefully end each day...well, just "okay." And, that's good enough for now.