Saturday, December 31, 2005


Dear Rachel,

Just some random thoughts today....

It's the last day of the year. The worst year of my life. The worst year of many, many people's lives. I've only had a couple of really bad years - the year my mom and dad divorced and the year that Steve and I divorced - but they don't compare to 2005. Mom & Dad both remarried wonderful, loving people who have enriched many lives. Steve and I both remarried and I truly believe we're both living our "happily ever after." In spite of the pain endured in these two examples, life did get better and there were happy endings.

I honestly don't see what good can ever come from your death. And while I'm thankful this terrible year is just about over, I know we still face a lot of hurdles in the year to come. It has to be a better year. I don't think any of us can take much more. We'll start the New Year with a long-anticipated visit from Amy and then a visit out to see our Little Princess in Virgina. Nice to have something to look forward to.

I heard an old George Harrison song today and thought of you.

"Every time I see your face
It reminds me of the places we used to go
But all I've got is a photograph
And I realize you're not coming back anymore"

I'm forever thankful for all the beautiful pictures we have of you.



Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hearts in Armor

Saturday, December 24, 2005

'Twas the Day Before Christmas

Dear Rachel,

Well, now it's sunny and a balmy 40. Almost feels like one of those San Diego Christmases when we'd turn on the air conditioner in order to have a fire in the fireplace!

I have a couple more favorite pictures I wanted to post.



'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Dear Rach,

It’s Christmas Eve. Cold (37) and drizzly - no snow in the forecast. We'll head over to Chris & Jen's later this afternoon for dinner and gifts. It’ll be nice to spend the evening with them. The little girls are apt to provide the humor we all so desperately need right now.

I'm going to do some baking this morning. I find a lot of comfort in my kitchen these days and want to get some treats baked to take to a few of our friends early next week.

I keep looking at all the pictures I took last Christmas and remember how much fun we all had. These are a few of my favorites.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Please, Mister Postman

Dear Rach,

There’s been quite a flurry of Christmas cards arriving this past week. Until very recently glossy, thick catalogs were crowding our mailbox (it never ceases to amaze me how many we receive between Halloween and Christmas!), but it’s been days since I’ve seen one and I’m sure our mailman is breathing a huge sigh of relief.

I’ve always loved getting mail, smiling to myself when I discover a hand-addressed envelope in familiar writing buried amidst the bills and junk mail. It’s such a rare treat these days. Grandmommy and Miss Leslie (my godmother, whom you never met) both kept in touch with me, sending long, newsy letters all in pretty cursive writing on gorgeous stationery. Mom and a few of my closest friends used to send long, chatty letters, but then email became the norm, and to be honest, it’s just too easy and immediate to avoid. I rarely write letters by hand anymore.

But Christmas cards still arrive via snail-mail and every December I look forward to sitting down each afternoon with the daily stack, savoring the letters (I know a lot of people complain or joke about these, but I love them) and admiring the photographs, always surprised at how much older the children look. I don’t feel that much older, so how can they be college graduates or married with children of their own??

This year’s Christmas cards evoke bittersweet feelings in the Scher home. It feels irrational to find myself not being happy for everyone else’s good news, but I suspect it’s quite normal for bereaved parents to have this almost uncharitable feeling when they look at the photographs of happy, smiling families or read about all the wonderful events that took place during the past year. It boils down to pure envy. I wish we were writing about the great times we had this past summer, proudly showing off pictures of our girls. And there were good things to write about (your college graduation… Amy’s return to TCU, majoring in Fashion Merchandising… her upcoming trip to Paris… Shaylyn’s achievements in her new preschool… and the incredible love and support from family and friends for not only our loss, but for Chris & Jen with their terrible scare with Chris’ cancer). But all this is overshadowed by your death and no positive thinking and “chin up” attitude is ever going to change the fact that you are gone. Even your little princess knows you’re never coming back. Ever.

In spite of my mixed emotions, I am very grateful to all those friends and relatives who sent Christmas cards to us this year. We are very fortunate to have so many people who care about us.

And who miss you, as well.



Sunday, December 18, 2005

I Think About You

Dear Rach,

Christmas is a week away and you’ve been in my thoughts a lot today as I tackled some neglected housework. I found myself thinking about previous Christmases spent with you, Amy, Shaylyn and your daddy.

I came across this picture recently and while I don't remember too much about that specific day, I do know that you and Amy had a lot of fun decorating those gingerbread cookies.



Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Call Me

Dear Rach,

I've come to the conclusion that try as I might, I have no control over my grief. It's one thing to intellectually understand that certain objects, conversations and events will bring me sadness, but it's another to know it emotionally.

I've been preparing myself for the holidays ever since we returned from Virginia last June. Every book on death and grief mentions the difficulty families and loved ones face during the first year, particularly during the holiday season. I was fully prepared to fall apart as I hung your ornaments on the Christmas tree last week, but surprisingly I was fine. No tears, just nice memories of you and all the Christmases we spent together as a family. I was also expecting to fall into a blubbering mess when I hung your stocking with the others. Nope. That emotional landmine blew up in my face back in June when I came across the picture of you pointing to your stocking. Christmas carols don't pose too much of a problem since I decided early on to avoid the radio until after New Year's Day. I broke with tradition and wrapped gifts listening to Tom Petty, Lyle Lovett, Alan Jackson, and Van Morrison. This was not the year to listen to George Winston or Nat King Cole (your dad would say every year is not the year to listen to George Winston).

See. You just have to plan and prepare. Mind over matter. Complete control.

Wrong. Yesterday my guard was down. I hadn't prepared. It was my birthday. 44 years old and for the first time in my life I feel every bit my age.

I had a lovely day. I got to sleep in and go to work a bit later than usual, thanks to my very considerate and thoughtful brother and sister-in-law. I had fun playing with Miss Maddie and Emily, both of whom were perfect little angels for their Auntie's special day. I had several phone calls, messages and birthday cards from friends and family, helping make my day extra special. I treated myself to an hour-long massage which was pure bliss (so much so, I booked another for next Friday). Your daddy took me out for a quiet, romantic dinner followed by cake and gifts at home. It was one of the nicest, most peaceful birthdays I've had in a long time.

And then it hit me. As we were getting ready for bed, I was overwhelmed with uncontrollable sadness. I know you're dead and I know I will never hear your voice again, but in my "year of magical thinking" (to borrow from Joan Didion's book of the same title), I so wanted to hear you wish me a happy birthday - on the phone - as you always have, year after year. I don't think I really expected you to, but the absence of your call was lurking behind every corner of my day, waiting to catch me unaware and prove to me that I am not in control.

This morning, swollen eyes and achy head, I thought about the unbearable sadness that came over me last night. And then I thought about Rod. You and I talked and emailed fairly regularly, but not nearly as often as you and your daddy. He spoke with you several times a week (and much more frequently in the last year, as you were gearing up for graduation and a job search). I can't begin to fathom the agony he must feel every single day when those phone calls don't come.

And then I thought of Debbie. How she must feel, after almost seven months of waiting for you to walk through the door and shout, "Hey, Mom! I'm home!"

Didion states, "Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be." I don't know what I expected, but this is so much harder than I ever imagined.



Sunday, December 11, 2005

Light One Candle

Dear Rach,

Tonight, all over the world, parents are lighting a candle in memory of a child that has died. From the Compassionate Friends organization:

The ninth annual Worldwide Candle Lighting, held the second Sunday in December around the globe, is an opportunity for bereaved families everywhere to remember and celebrate the lives of children who have gone too soon. Families are invited to attend any of the hundreds of formal services throughout the United States and the world or to light a candle in the privacy of their home. You do not need to be a member of The Compassionate Friends to participate.

I Googled "candle" and "lyrics" trying to come up with a title for this entry and came upon a song I've never heard of. Many of the lines brought tears to my eyes so I decided to simply include the song in its entirety.

Light one candle for the maccabee children

With thanks that their light didn't die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts


What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they've not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail!


Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!

(Peter, Paul and Mary)

At 7:00 a candle will be lit in Lincoln, Nebraska in loving memory of you, the light of so many lives. At 7:00 EST another candle will be lit in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Your mommy and daughter are attending a service to commemorate their love for you.

We love and miss you.

Love, Les

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hello, It's Me

Dear Rach,

I talked to Amy a few hours ago and it sounds like she's having a good birthday. She had over 7 minutes of voicemail messages when she woke up this morning and guess what? Her favorite of all came from your baby, Shay Shay! She was so surprised and happy to hear Shaylyn's voice. Probably the best gift she's received all day.



My Sister, My Friend

Dear Rach,

Today is Amy's birthday. I can hardly believe it's been 22 years since she was born. Three days after her birth I turned 22. So young, yet so happy to be her mommy. Sound familiar? You were close to that age when you had Shaylyn.

You helped Amy celebrate 19 birthdays - some in person, but the majority from across the country via telephone. I remember when Amy turned 3 (you were not quite 6). We had a birthday celebration at Nana and Papa's house in Carlsbad and Amy had yet to master the art of opening gifts. She'd tear off a little piece of the wrapping paper and hand it to me to throw in a trash can. You were so patient and made us all laugh with your contagious giggle as you tried to explain how to get to the actual gift more quickly.

You two formed a quick and solid friendship, much more than most sisters at that age. And as you got older, the bond became even stronger. Your dad and I were pleasantly surprised to learn that you'd started calling each other on a regular basis. We were so happy to know that you could turn to each other for help or advice...What should I do about this guy who keeps calling? Do you think Dad and Les will be angry about such and such? Should I buy the shoes AND purse?

You flew out to Fort Worth to surprise Amy (and your dad!) when she graduated from high school (that was so much fun to plan with you) and she flew out to visit you and Shaylyn for her 2nd birthday. I knew you'd always be close in spite of the geographical distance. I even envisioned you living in the same big city some day. Or at least taking trips together, as you both loved to travel.

One of my proudest moments as a mother was watching Amy stand up before hundreds of mourners and talk about her love for you, her sister, her friend. She reminisced about the times you two would sneak down to the kitchen and eat ice cream straight from the container. You both thought you were getting away with something but we knew all along and let you have your fun. I wish I could remember that entire eulogy, but I was so wrapped up in her grief as well as my own (and Rod's and Debbie's) that part of me was mentally holding her up as she spoke, hoping to send her some strength and courage to finish without breaking down completely. It was the proudest, yet one of the most painful moments in my life. Oh, how I wish I could've have protected her from such pain and sadness. And how I wish I could have done something, anything, to protect you from the danger that brought us to where we are today.

I find that I can't think of you without thinking of Amy. I must have hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of the two of you, bringing to mind just as many happy memories, making me smile. So today, on your little sister's birthday I'm thinking of both of you and the love and laughter you shared. Sisters and friends.



Sunday, December 04, 2005

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Dear Rach,

Only 3 weeks 'til Christmas. This would have been my 20th Christmas with you.

December has always been my favorite time of year. Amy's birthday on the 10th and mine on the 13th. Yet the biggest thrill has always been the excitement of our girls coming home. Christmas was especially meaningful to me and your dad since it was one of the two annual visits you were able to make to Nebraska.

By now the Christmas cards would be addressed and stamped, waiting for the final editing of the letter and selection of the Christmas photo. I'd turn into a nagging wife, reminding Rod that the outdoor lights still weren't up and it wasn't going to get any warmer. I'd have bags and bags of gifts (since at least July) stashed in the guest room, ready to be wrapped and shipped or put under the tree. Remember the year I color-coded the gifts for you, Amy and Rod? I picked out a different wrap for each of you and left all the tags off. You and Amy didn't know what to think! How in the world were you supposed to guess what was under the tree for you? ;)

We're not sending any cards this year. How could we possibly choose a picture? Every year we've used one of you and Amy (and more recently, you, Amy and Shaylyn), usually taken during your summer visit. I can't imagine what I'd pick this year that wouldn't bring sadness to those on our mailing list. Amy without her big sister? Shaylyn without her mommy? A picture of you taken at your college graduation (never in a million years could I have guessed that those would be the very last pictures I'd ever take of you). No. I don't want to even try to find a suitable picture, let alone a card with an appropriate sentiment for a grieving family.

Several months ago I was prepared to skip the whole Christmas season. No cards, decorations, baking, and only minimal gift-giving. Yet complete denial of the season can't be healthy. It's obvious it won't ever be the same, but we can try to get through this one with the least amount of pain and work toward creating new traditions in the coming years. I am so glad Amy will be here and I look forward to future visits from Shaylyn as well.

So the tree goes up tomorrow. One of my best friends is coming over to help decorate, share a bottle of wine, and keep us from getting too sad. Miss Maddie came over yesterday and helped bake chocolate chip cookies for Uncle Rod (not exactly Christmas cookies, but I was out-voted). With the cookies in the oven, we starting in on some decorating. We had such fun! Nothing like a 3-year-old to help get one in the spirit of the season. I honestly can't remember the last time I had such a nice Saturday.

We received our first invitation to a Christmas party and have decided to go. I plan to start wrapping presents this afternoon and will get going on a mental list of Amy's favorite meals. And who knows, if it warm up enough to melt the snow and ice maybe your daddy will get those lights up after all. This is Nebraska, you know. We could jump from the current temp of 7 to 60 by lunch time.

I believe this is the right thing to do. Ignoring the holiday would be too depressing (not to mention a little difficult when everyone else is in a festive mood). It'll still be very, very sad, but we'll do the best we can.

You would've wanted it this way. It was your favorite time of year, too.



Thursday, December 01, 2005

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Dear Rach,

It's the first of December and winter has arrived with snow and bone-chilling temps. As I bundled up this morning, getting ready to brave the cold and scrape ice and snow off the Mini, I reached for my scarf and was flooded with memories of last Christmas. Amy had recently learned to crochet and was busy making scarves for everyone she knew. You were quite impressed.

So off in a whirlwind, Shaylyn in tow, you dragged Amy out to Hobby Lobby to buy all the necessary materials so she could teach you. I remember sitting back, nestled in our cozy living room, watching with pride and joy as you two sisters spent the evening giggling, chatting, and simply enjoying each other's company, making "scurvies," as Shaylyn called them. "Make me one, Aunt Ammy! Make me a scurvie!" (Ammy rhymes with Pammy). The room was filled with warmth, love and excitement.

Every time I reach for my scarf, I'll think back on that fun-filled evening and the love between you and Amy. No longer little girls, but beautiful, confident young women.