Back to school

back to school after loss

So many firsts in a day. My husband’s first day back to work. Our first day back to school. Our first month without Tiggy.

I really didn’t plan it that way. I just sort of felt like doing school so I told the kids we would. I wasn’t thinking about the date, but I’m not sure it really matters. How do you decide when to start picking up the pieces of your life after it has been shattered?

But the fact is, I needed to do school.

I finished planning my garden.

I finished writing out my gardening calendar. For the whole year.

I tried crocheting a pair of baby booties, but apparently counting stitches is beyond my current mental state.

So I went through my seeds to see what I need to order.

I’m pacing. Continually pacing. Whether physically from room to room, mentally from project to project or virtually from Facebook to Twitter to email, I’m pacing. I need something to slow down and focus my thoughts.

We needed to do school.

I had no great plans for the day. Last week I had a shadow of a thought about how to transition back to our normal school routine, but it all required so much planning. And thought. And concentration.

So we started with a little meeting and a prayer and dived into spelling. The program we’re using is scripted. It takes no planning. No thought. No concentration. Just dealing with a little complaining from children who have had no schoolwork and very little structure for a month.

OK, actually it took a lot more than that. It took all of my energy to watch my daughter form contractions from the words I put on the board.

Not once did I have to stop to go get a toddler off the table.

Not once did I have to catch the easel after a car raced into it.

Not once did I have to wrestle tiles from chubby little fingers.

Not once were we interrupted and it took all of my energy to keep going through the silence.

Fortunately, I had no great plans for the day. So I showed them a picture of the tree a friend I’ve never met is planning on sending us. A beautiful Japanese flowering cherry. We looked at it. We read about it. We thought how nice it would be to have a picnic under it along with the butterflies and bumblebees of early spring. And then I had another thought.

A lot of people have suggested a memorial garden as a beautiful place to sit and think about Mattias. As much as I like the idea, I’m not sure it is the best for us. I fear it would become overrun with weeds. We’ve purposely stayed away from ornamentals because I have enough work with homeschooling, the animals and our vegetable garden. And after the peace lily incident. . .well, suffice it to say that I’m not sure I could handle his little memorial garden succumbing to my lack of diligence in weeding. Or to the scratching of chickens.

But a memorial playground — that sounded like something we could do. So I gave them all a sheet of butcher paper to draw up their dream playground. Their plans are full of all sorts of things that will never be, from Bear’s church to Mouse’s tree house to Bug’s talking flowers. But they all contained a few ideas I think may be. Some day. Over time.

I picture a pathway in a large circle bordering the whole area where the children can skate and bike with the tree in the center. There’s a sandbox and a stage, a picnic table and some swings, a slide and maybe even a small basketball court. Maybe we can build a clubhouse, or maybe we can just plant sunflowers for a sort of sunflower house grown new every year.

There’ll be places to play and places to sit, places to romp and places to reflect. What better memorial can there be to the life of a toddler? And what better place for a family with small children to go to remember him?

And so we ended our first homeschool day. Nothing much planned, but a lot accomplished.

Follow me


  1. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    Dana, the playground is a great idea. Perfect.

  2. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    Just perfect. 🙂

  3. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    That will be a happy place in years to come, as you all play there, with Tiggy in your hearts. And for now it gives you a project to focus on. Lovely!

  4. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    Glad you started studying again. Having something to do helps. Alex was my only, so when she was killed I scrapbooked her life – it was my ‘job’ you could say.

    You’ll love the tree. We were given a Jacaranda and I loved that it bloomed every May, right around her anniversary. Now whenever I see Jacarandas that’s what I think about – Alex, and that there is still beauty on this earth.

    Still Praying ~

  5. Reply

    Jen R. (

    January 13, 2011

    I love the playground idea!

  6. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    A playground is a beautiful idea! I love it!
    And this is one other time where homeschooling really proves to be a blessing. I know you and the little ones are not healed, but allowing that time to grieve without the pressure of having to go back to school I am sure helped.

    Much love and support Mama.

  7. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    Wonderful idea! A playground of hope and dreams!

  8. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    You don’t know me, but my sister provided a link to your blog and I’ve been following you ever since. . .

    I am so very sorry for your family’s loss and everything you and your family are going through right now. I think it is wonderful you are thinking of ways to honor your son’s memory. . .I wanted to let you know that I follow a blog of a grieving mother who lost her little girl to cancer. She had a playground built at her church in honor of her daughter’s memory. I love the idea of a place where other children can play, be carefree, and enjoy life. I think a memorial playgroud for your precious son is a wonderful idea 🙂 regardless of whether it is just for your family, or if you decide to plan one for other children as well. This family shows it can be done.

    Here’s the blog . I was very moved that they planned and had built (with help of fundraisers and donations) a wonderful playground for children to enjoy.

    Here’s a post about the dedication of the playground:
    there are numerous posts before that one discussing the plans, etc. All very touching.

    Whether you plan on a playground for your own children, or other children, it sounds like a WONDERFUL idea 🙂 I hope you can make it happen. I hope watching your kids play on it helps you smile, warm your aching heart, and help you find some sort of peace. . .

    Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  9. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    Great idea! And the homeschool… I’m so sorry. We hobble through our day doing exactly what you described used to happen. It’s so frustrating… He wants to be a part of everything. My heart aches for your emptiness. I’m glad your husband had some time off to be home with you all. Love and prayers from all of us here…

  10. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    Regina Doman did a similar thing as a memorial to her son a few years ago. You can see it

    Glad you are moving forward – slow and steady…

  11. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    I love you.

  12. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    What a beautiful idea and a lovely memorial.

  13. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    That ia a beautiful idea and much more fitting for a busy little toddler than a garden – also a place for your family to have fun which is what toddlers are all about. =)

    Praying that you start to have more good moments than sad ones. God bless.

  14. Reply

    Lea Ann Garfias

    January 13, 2011

    I can’t read a post of yours without crying … praying for you … then running to find a child to hug. I am praying God’s peace and comfort to you.

    That playground idea is wonderful.

    Your children are learning So Much right now, just walking through this valley by your side.

  15. Reply


    January 13, 2011

    That is a wonderful idea! Still praying for you and your family. Blessings.

  16. Reply


    January 14, 2011

    When there is a wound the first sign that healing is taking place is the itch. It sounds like you have that itch, and you are beginning to heal.

    The playground is a wonderful idea, and the tree standing tall in the middle lifting it’s arms to heaven. What a vision that will be.

    God bless you, Dana, and your family.

  17. Reply

    Kim Wright

    January 14, 2011


    Still praying for you and yours. I love the idea of a playground in his honor. May the Lord give you a peace somehow that only He can..Hugs..Kim

  18. Reply


    January 15, 2011

    That playground sounds like a great idea!


  19. Reply


    January 15, 2011

    I saw a prayer request for you via Raising Olives. I won’t pretend to say I understand what your family is going through, but I’m sitting here crying just the same. I’m saying prayers for you and your family. I hope you get that playground someday.

  20. Reply


    January 15, 2011

    I was following for awhile and then life got in the way. Decided to get caught up today with some blog reading.

    We don’t know each other but right now I am crying for you, your husband, and your children….I am praying too. Lord, carry them.

    I am so sorry this horrible thing happened to you.

  21. Reply


    January 15, 2011

    I love the playground idea – beautiful.

  22. Reply


    January 15, 2011

    I cannot begin to understand how you are feeling. I just want you to know I am crying and praying with you. I have been garden planning, too. These dreams of the sunshine days to come are sustaining me in this gray winter.

  23. Reply

    Joycelyn Connet

    January 15, 2011

    I am continuing pray for you!

  24. Reply

    Laurie T.

    January 15, 2011

    Dana, I just read your blog for the first time. Tears stream down my face. The depth of grief and suffering that you and your family face is unfathomable. My heart goes out to you. If only I could hug you and sit with you. I pray that the Lord will carry you through this time. May you throw yourself into His arms as you grieve.

    In one of your posts, you mentioned leaving Tiggy behind. But in reality he is the one who left you behind. Now he is in heaven. And every day you get closer to him. And one day you will see him again.

    I will pray for healing for you and your beautiful family.

    You are my friend.

  25. Reply

    Grateful for Grace

    January 15, 2011

    I am here from Raising Olives. I just read your story for the first time. I am bawling my eyes out and I know it’s not even a touch at your grief. Truly. You are in the ‘club no one wants to be in’ as it’s called on a forum I stop in occasionally. You walk a road that millions of women around the world walk, but one no woman ever wants to be on. I walked up to the door of that road and it started to open two and a half years ago, but my son and I were spared. It breaks my heart that you were not. I’m so sorry. Truly.

    I will be praying for you, Dana. Though we will never meet in person, your story will be in my mind for decades, I’m sure. In honor of your loss, I will walk around my home today and see what might be a hazard I have never seen before.

    I am blessed by how you are helping your children through this.

    I know that the LORD will equip you daily and that His grace is sufficient, yet imagining your life tests that faith.

    May He give your new mercies every morning.
    in Christ,

  26. Reply


    January 15, 2011


    Oh how my heart aches for you. I came to your blog today after my friend Kimberly at Raising Olives wrote a post requesting prayer for your family. As so many have said, there are no words. Your story has struck me like no other “stranger” story ever has. Maybe it’s because we are a large homeschooling family too. Maybe it’s because I have a son about the age of your Tiggy. Or maybe it’s just because I’m a mom and as moms we spend our whole lives trying to protect the little ones God has intrusted us with. Whatever the reason, I find myself weeping for your loss.

    I have been touched by your faithfulness. I have a friend who lost a daughter at age 16. She has said there were days when she didn’t feel she could put one foot in front of the other. I’m sure there must be days like that for you too. I will be praying for God to uphold you. That He will give you the strength and courage to face each day. That He will draw you and your husband closer to one another. And that He will give you wisdom as you seek to be a source of comfort to your other children.

  27. Reply


    January 15, 2011

    I think a playground is a beautiful plan.

  28. Reply


    January 15, 2011

    My prayers are with you and your family. I know you will see you sweet baby boy again. My heart is breaking for you…
    “Blessed be Your name when the sun’s shining down on me
    When the world’s “all as it should be”
    Blessed be Your name
    And blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
    Though there’s pain in the offering
    Blessed be Your name”

  29. Reply

    Miss Roxie

    January 16, 2011

    Wow~! What beautiful music your family is making. A Playground! How brilliant is that? ~ all is well in the realm of God’s love.

  30. Reply


    January 16, 2011

    Sorry for you loss, I think a playground is a wonderful idea. Even add a flower garden or tree in memory of your baby. Its good to listen when the children have flashback. Keep reminding them that he is heaven and the angels are waatching over him. Let them grieve in their own little way and its okay to cry even though it happen some time ago.

  31. Reply

    Amy @ Finer Things

    January 17, 2011

    Hi Dana ~ I’m new to your site, brought here by your unspeakable tragedy. I had to comment on this post, because nearly 9 years ago my brother was killed in a car accident. Your mention of a playground moved me… that’s what we did with his memorial money. It’s part of our small-town park now, and I enjoy taking my own children there when we visit my parents. It’s a sweet reminder of the uncle they never met.

  32. Reply

    Dianne - Bunny Trails

    January 19, 2011

    What a lovely idea. Particularly for the family to all have a part in it.

  33. Reply


    January 19, 2011

    I hate how much “easier” my life is too. It has often reminded me to take joy in the dishes and laundry and having a family to take care of. Even now we have talked about how Christian would’ve loved it here in Guam. Every time we pass by a fire alarm we’d tell the same stories of him pulling it at the grand opening of our new library and that church in NYC where the whole building was cleared out (not just church but support groups, community college classes, everything!). Embarrassing at the time, but SO funny to us now! 🙂

    I think your playground idea is FANTASTIC! God will provide a way and clear the path, or He will have something even better in mind for y’all.

    Much love,

  34. Reply


    January 19, 2011

    PS I have been nervous about planting things in memory of Christian. I guess I am fearful of the trees and plants dying too, and somehow having attached myself to it in a weird way and mourning all over again. I’m a bit of a practical person and acknowledge the fact that Houston has super wet winters and super hot summers, not exactly the best foundation for a garden of eden!

  35. Reply

    Elephant's Eye

    March 13, 2011

    I have only just found this story. I was trying to work out who my reader in Guam is – and this post of yours came up with Marsha’s comment.

    My heart goes out to you. Perhaps you could plant a tree each year, on your son’s birthday. In time there will be a small forest, a place to walk …



January 11, 2011
January 17, 2011