By: Casey Zenner
One of the greatest things about being a parent is watching the bond your children have grow over the years. When you have one child in Heaven the fear of missing out on witnessing that bond for me, at least, has been one of the toughest parts of this journey. Not only have I lost my daughter, but I’ve lost the chance to watch my son grow up being a big brother. Everything from listening to the laughter from the swing set in the back yard, to the yelling over a silly toy. Those are things I will only ever get to dream of. Avery will never get to run around chasing her brother, run to him for a hug when a boy is mean to her, or have him by her side on her first day at a big scary new school. Brayden is growing up, in essence, an only child. No one to laugh with in the backyard, or to ride bikes with…I was so devastated when we made the difficult decision to terminate my pregnancy for medical reasons not for myself, but for my son. We took away his opportunity to be a big brother. Well, so I thought. You see, life has a funny way of working out.
I was so worried that he would never get to experience that special sibling bond, but I am more certain now that he knows the bond more than most.
Brayden is almost 5, so when we try to explain Heaven, and who his sister Avery is to him, it’s been a bit of a challenge and a huge learning curve for us. She was never tangible to him. At this age, they thrive off tangible things. For the longest time he thought his sister was an actual butterfly, who lives on the moon. I am sure to a small child, that idea is really cool. In fact, I remember one time we went to the zoo, and the next day at school he told his teacher he visited his sister at the zoo. Kind of funny when you think about it. He was so confident, that I think had she not known our story she would have been very concerned as to why his sister lived at the zoo! It wasn’t until recently that he began to understand that Avery isn’t actually a butterfly, but the butterflies are signs from his sister who lives in Heaven; or the moon if you ask him.
As we embark on year 3 without Avery, I have had a lot of ups and downs on the ride I like to call the grief roller coaster. I visited a medium last September on Avery’s second Angelversary. If you’re like most people I have told, you think I am crazy. The thing is though, when you lose a child, you will do anything to try and feel connected to them for even just five minutes. This was my attempt at that, and it was the most healing experience of my life. My Grandpa came through right away and the first thing he said was “I have her.” The medium then told me he could see a little girl playing peak a boo behind this man’s legs, and I instantly knew it was Avery. Before meeting with him, he had no idea I had lost a child, let alone that I was looking for validation that my Grandpa was taking care of her. He knew nothing about my story or how we lost Avery. She came through and told the medium that she knows her time on earth was short because my body failed us, not my heart. That we were always supposed to have each other, just not in the way that I thought we should. She confirmed to me that she loves to say hello by way of butterflies, her favorite being the little yellow ones.
I worried my children would not get the opportunity to have that special sibling bond siblings have. Boy, was I wrong. You see, the bond is still there, it’s just a different kind of bond.
He still blames messes he makes on her, except its “that silly ghost Avery” who makes the messes. There is always a little yellow butterfly around for him to chase when he plays in the back yard, and on really difficult days, she sends the most beautiful cardinals. She is always with us, and she never lets us forget it. What I love the most about her signs though, is that she sends them to her brother, and at just 4 years old he recognizes them.
I am not raising my children the way I had always envisioned. To be honest though, I cannot imagine it any other way. Writing those words is heartbreaking, but I believe it’s really just the last step of the grief process talking. Acceptance. I have accepted that I had to make the most difficult decision a parent could ever make. I have accepted that my children will never get to physically hold hands or help each other when one of them gets hurt. I have accepted that to strangers I will always look like the mom of only one child. I have accepted that the closest I will ever get to my daughter is little yellow butterflies. I have accepted that Brayden’s sibling bond will never be the “sibling bond” people think of when they hear that phrase. It’s okay though, because they have their own sibling bond, and as a parent that is all I can ask for. Along this journey I have been thankful for many things. My biggest gift though, is the ability to believe in these signs from above. To have a connection with Avery even though she isn’t physically here. To know that she still loves me even though I fight daily to love myself for being the reason she isn’t here today. For the chance to be the mom to a beautiful little yellow butterfly.
About Casey Zenner
My name is Casey! I am a wife, mother and friend. I have 2 dogs, a wonderful husband and am blessed to be the mama of Brayden, my spunky 3 yr old, and Avery, my angel baby. We are also foster parents on our journey to adoption! I live in Texas, am a stay at home mom and a travel agent. After losing Avery, I lost myself. While I attempted to find my way back I founded Avery’s Angels. A non profit that provides Angel Moms with comfort packages and cards after the loss of a child. (www.facebook.com/flyhighlittleones) There is someone always telling me how strong I am, when the truth is, when being strong is the only choice you have, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you begin to believe in your strength too.