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It's hard to believe that the last time I posted here was on September 9.  Three and a half months is the longest I have ever gone without putting my thoughts here about grief and Donna and life after Donna.

We continue. 

September, with the publishing of Donna's Cancer Story on my Mary Tyler Mom blog, was perhaps more than I had bargained for.  It took me by surprise, it still does, just what Donna went through, what we as her folks went through.  In the day to day life of raising a toddler, there is no choice, but to move forward.  It is what Jay needs and it is what we need, too, but every once in a while, WHOMP.  There it is. 

Jay is thriving.  He is amazing just as Donna was.  He is bright, articulate, silly, dancing, curious, naughty, challenging -- everything a two year old little boy should be.  He saves us every day.  He is the hope we choose now. 

After Donna died, we kept the room she shared with Jay pretty much the same.  Yes, we meant to remove the toddler bed she used for a few months, but no, we never did.  It was a play space for Jay and his stuffed animals.  A few weeks ago, after he made the transition to the toddler bed, pretty much on his own suggestion, we disassembled and removed the crib.  It was the first time we didn't have a crib in our home since July 2005.  It was sad, but it was time.

As if on cue, that toddler bed that Jay had been sleeping in just fine for weeks, suddenly became Party Central.  Some of you might remember that in March of 2009, seven months before she died, Donna simply decided she would no longer have a respectable bed time.  She was cooperative with pajamas and teeth and overnight fluids, but when it came time to turn the light out, a switch flipped inside of her and she was wired.  Almost every night for seven months.  At some point, we just made our peace with it.  In retrospect, I now think of it as Donna eeking out as much of life as she could.  Most nights it was as late as 10 or 11 (sometimes midnight!) before she settled to sleep. 

Well, Jay seems to be following in her footsteps.  And he is the same combination of precious and infuriating during those hours as Donna was.  Mind you, it's not as late as 10 or 11, but he sees 9 pm more often than he doesn't.  Sigh.  I love my boy, but Lordy, does this pattern remind me of Donna.

Other reminders of Donna are all around.  Jay now wears her last winter coat and snow pants.  He wears some of the long sleeve tee shirts she wore in her last year.  With these, we are coming to the end of our unisex wardrobe.  Jay will be wearing all of his own clothes soon.  Another sadness.

On Sunday night we took a carousel ride with Jay at the zoo's winter light festival.  You can't not think of Donna on a carousel. 

The holidays are tough this year.  I see the lights on the trees and think of Donna's beautiful wish that all trees be adorned with lights at Christmas for warmth and company.  She was such a gorgeous, beautiful soul.  I wait for the first snow at dinnertime so we can watch it fall by candlelight over dinner, just as Donna liked to do. 

Last night I left Jay and Jeremy at home and went to do a little shopping after dinner.  On the way home I wept with the realization that I will never again buy a gift for Donna, that I have one child to shop for, not two. 

It is always a realization, you see, that Donna is gone.  That cancer invaded her body and took her from us. 

Last week, seeing a certain something in my eyes that he knows is about Donna, Jay spontaneously suggested that we go buy another Donna.  It was such a simple solution for this pervasive sadness he recognizes from his toddler point of view.  Would that it could be so . . .

I miss our girl.  I miss her smiles.  I miss what she would be learning in the 1st grade.  I miss the light she brought to our world.  I miss the naivete we had before cancer.  I miss the insulation we had before cancer -- the knowing that life is tough for lots and lots of people in a thousand different ways, but that we were okay and spared.  We are not spared anymore. 

Please hold us close in your thoughts this holiday season.  Thank you for still reading and checking in on Donna's family.  I promise it won't be such a long time until my next post. 

Choosing hope still and always.  Sheila, Donna's and Jay's Mama.