Sunday, May 31, 2009


On that last Wednesday, I can remember that Michael and I had spaghetti for lunch, that we had an UNO tournament that I won, that Michael snuck out of bed for one last goodnight smooch, and that he was excited to watch Clone Wars as he got ready for night-night.  I can remember a portion of our lunch conversation where he wanted me to tell him a funny story.  So I told him the story of my Halloween.  When I was a witch and was scared that people would really think I was a witch and so I made my mom take me home early.  We laughed.  

But I can't remember what we had for dinner.  

I have searched my memory for this fact.  I can't remember. And that terrifies me.  

Friday, May 29, 2009

last day of school

I had the opportunity to spend some time in Michael's class yesterday ... this last day of fourth grade for the students in his class.   I hadn't planned on being there.  But one of his best friends e-mailed me, asking if I would come see her.  How could I say no to that?  I couldn't and so I made certain that it was fine with Mrs. Branch.  It was.  And so I went.

And oh how thankful I am that I did.

The kids in his class are the sweetest of the bunch.  I can't imagine a better class.  They are all friends.  They all cheer on each other.  And they are lead by one of the most amazing women.  Mrs. Branch is a gem of a teacher.  I love her.  Michael loved her.  She is one of those people that lights up the room.  That made Michael a lover of school.   Quite a feat for a boy who was never a fan of the inside of the classroom.

To be truthful, the day was bittersweet.  I loved being in the class.  But such a big part was missing.  He was missing.  He would have been thrilled.  Going to fifth grade.  The rulers of the school.  The top dogs.  He would have loved it.  Counted down the loudest.  High fived his friends.  We would have celebrated the weekend at Disney World.  He would have strutted like a peacock.

It would have been fun.  It would have been exciting.  It would have been a proud moment.

Instead, it is sad.  Just another moment in the laundry list of moments that I won't have.  That I won't collect in the recesses of my memory.  To tell his grandchildren. 

 Just another could have been.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


We made CDs of Michael's favorite music to give to his classmates (no worries, family and friends, we made a ton of extras to give to all of you as well!).  I did edit the list a bit as I thought some of his favorites might not be appropriate for all households (nothing terrible ... but not everyone lets their kids listen to Low or My Humps or Baby Got Back or Ice, Ice Baby).  Maybe I will put together a volume 2 of his favorites that can include more of the edgier songs. In our house, the beat of the music was important. We like a funky beat that we can dance to...

Anyway. I thought I would share the cover and inside cover.  These are just some of the songs that we sang on road trips.  Danced to in our house.  Sang while cleaning or playing video games or walking in the store.  

Songs that every time I hear, I will think of Michael.  And smile.  And remember him.  His spirit.  His funky dance moves.  His booty shakes.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The dedication of Michael's memorial garden was yesterday.  The garden is beautiful ... and put together so lovingly by Michael's class and the school.  The stepping stones spell out his name and were designed by Michael's class.  The flowers were also planted by Michael's class.  

At the dedication, the principal spoke as well as two of Michael's classmates and his teacher.  Their words were so sweet.  Michael would have loved it.

Afterwards, we went to Michael's classroom and spent time with his class.  The students shared their Michael moments.  So funny.  We ate pizza.  Laughed together.  It was good to be there.  Good to see his friends.  Good to be amongst kids again.  I haven't been around kids in a long while.  I needed that.  It was good for my soul.

Our neighborhood is just across the street from the school.  I can walk to Michael's garden whenever  I want.  It is so peaceful - I drove by there tonight.  I look forward to seeing it grow.

Michael was blessed with a great school.  A fantastic teacher.  Good friends.  Their tribute to him is beautiful.  I don't have enough words to thank them for all they have done.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I have moments.  Of extreme sorrow.  They sneak up on me when I least expect it.  I also have moments.  Of extreme anger.  I am mad and want to lash out.  I am mad and want someone to be held accountable for righting this wrong.  This incomprehensible act.  

The taking away of my precious boy.

Stu and I went to see Night at the Museum 2 on Saturday.  A movie that we would have/should have taken Michael to see.  I couldn't laugh.  I knew every moment that Michael would have laughed.  The kind of laugh where no sound comes out because it was just. that. funny.  The kind where his whole mouth would go wide and he would look at me with big eyes and the most musical sound would come out.  His laugh.  His guffaw.  I knew those moments.  And the joy that we would have shared ...  would have remembered long after the credits rolled ... was not there.  I couldn't laugh.  Because HE can not laugh.

And I was mad.  We left the movie and I was angry.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  And angry that my child was taken from me.  I don't know what to do with myself in those moments.  I lash out.  I sob.  I find it hard to breathe.  

I feel incomplete.  I am overwhelmed.

And I am selfish.  I am not able to be a comfort to anyone else.  My grief is whole and I have no room for other parts.  Stu and I are grieving.  Alongside each other.  But in different ways.  That's OK.  There is no right or wrong way.  

Tomorrow is the dedication of the Memorial Garden at Michael's school.  His class assisted in designing the garden and created 9 stepping stones for him (7 to spell out his name and 2 more - the class wanted to have 9 as that was his age).  The class also participated in the planting of the flowers.  My parents are here for it.  We will have pizza afterwards.  I made cookies.  My friend Carmen is bringing fruit.  Mrs. Branch is bringing drinks.   Michael loved the pizza parties at school.  It seemed fitting to have one after the garden dedication.  Michael loved his class.  He LOVED his teacher.  I am glad to be with them for the day.  To hear their Michael moments.

I just can't believe he won't be there.  

Saturday, May 23, 2009

flip flops

I went to Old Navy yesterday.  I bought a couple of shirts that I will probably end up returning.  Victims of retail therapy.  

As I was checking out, the Old Navy employee asked if I would be coming back over the weekend for the $1 flip flop sale.  I said, Oh, I forgot about that.  I should probably stock up on flip flops for my son.

I'm sure she looked confused when the look of horror came over my face when I realized what I had just said and I high-tailed it out of the store.  I don't know.  I didn't look back.

fun with dad...

When I did the 3 Day walk in Atlanta this past fall, Stu and Michael came to cheer me on and be my support team.   And to also have some fun in Atlanta while I was on the route.  I thought I would share some of the photos from their time together.  They loved going to museums.  A fun time to share together.  They would spend hours there.  Exploring all of the exhibits.  Trying out all of the educational displays.  Learning.  Laughing.  Enjoying their time together.

These are pictures from their time at Fernbank.  Aren't they so fun?
Polar bear hands and feet.
I love Michael's face in the penguin costume.  Cracks me up.  He looks like he might be on the cusp of being embarrassed, and was probably coerced into putting on the costume at Stu's request.  He did it, though, and posed for the photo.  

The other thing that I love about the penguin photo is to see his shoes scattered haphazardly in the back and his hoodie jacket thrown on the floor in front of him.  As if he and Stu took over the room.  And threw their belongings all over the room.  I love it.  An indication of the good time they were having.

An indication of the good time they always had.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

story people.

I am a fan of Brian Andreas Story People.  I subscribe to his daily e-mail.  Stu bought a print for me on my birthday (it is this one, in case you were curious).  Love his quirky sayings and use them quite a lot in my scrapbooking.  The quotes seem to sum up exactly what I am thinking, but in a much more smart and clever way.

Anyway.  I received the following quote in my inbox today:

carrying a recognizable picture of herself because she got dressed in the dark, so there's no telling how close she came to her usual self

Isn't that so applicable to me today?  I am in my darkest of days.  I do not resemble the Jenn Dooley of 6 weeks ago.  I am not the same person.  I don't remember her.  I am these scattered bits and pieces and wonder if I will ever be able to scoop them up to arrange them in a way that at least resembles what used to be.   I am totally dressing myself in the dark.  I am but a shadow of myself.

I am a lesson in opposites these days.  My outside face doesn't always reflect my inner face.  I am a facade.  I have learned to hold back my tears ... to sob more privately.  So while I laugh on the outside, I cry on the inside.   People tell me how strong I am.  I certainly don't feel that way.  I'm numb.  I don't know how to feel anything.  Other than sad.  And sometimes angry, with a little bitter on the side.

So we'll see how close I come to my usual self.  I wonder what she will look like.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I ache I miss my son so much.  I am so weepy these days.  I can't help it.  I just have this Michael sized void in my soul.

Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers.  Please continue to tell us that we are in your thoughts and prayers.  Please continue to tell me your memories of Michael.  I can't promise that I won't cry.  I can't help it.  But I want to know your memories of him.  And crying is ok. Please continue to talk about him.  Please continue to call, write, e-mail, comment on this blog ... whatever.  I may not always answer the phone or respond to an e-mail, but I listen.  I read.   I want to hear from you.  

The thoughts and comments from others keep us going.  They buoy us in these dark days.   I cannot begin to put into words how much we appreciate our family, friends, and community members.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Each day, each week is filled with obstacles to overcome.  Little landmines scattered throughout the days and weeks. To get through.  To wade through.  To hold my breath and hope to come out unscathed.

Nights are one of those hurdles.  Sleep is ever elusive.  I close my eyes and all I see are memories from that day.   Thoughts of Michael lying there with no sparkle in his eyes.  The looks of the faces of those trying to comfort us.  Replaying the call from the school.  All of those little details that make up that terrible, horrible day.  My mind won't stop.  I can't still my thoughts.  And so I stay up until I can't keep my eyes open for another minute.

Mornings.  I wake up with the promise of a new day and instantly remember.  And each time, the realization still shakes me to my core.  I have gone back to work.  And every time I walk in my office, I cry.  I sit in front of my computer screen and wonder what it is I am supposed to be doing.  And then I pack up for the day, only to repeat the same pattern the next day.

As I have mentioned before, the time of 2:42 pm is hard.  As is 11:46 am now.  Thursdays are another hurdle.  Friday nights are troubling.  Weekends no longer have the same joyousness.  Who wants to sit for two days in a quiet house?  Without plans for new adventures?  The start of a new week holds no hope.  Tuesday afternoons haunt me.   Wednesday nights were always big homework nights.  Now, I don't know what to do on those nights.

There is no day, no moment that is untouched with my profound sorrow.  I hurt.  Deeply.  It is a struggle to acclimate to this new world without my Michael.  I don't want to.  I have no desire to move on.  Or find a new normal.  I want what I had.  

Not to brace myself, steel myself for these everyday moments.  

Sunday, May 17, 2009


The first time his laughter unfurled its wings in the wind, we knew that the world would never be the same. (from StoryPeople)

Friday, May 15, 2009

loves music. loves to dance.

For Christmas, we had given Michael my old green iPod.  I filled it with his favorites songs of the moment.  He loved it.  And would wear his headphones around the house singing as loud as he could.  He only knew the very end of each phrase and would yell that word as loudly as he could.  But in tune.  That's my boy.

His most requested songs in the car were:  Citizen Soldier (Three Doors Down);  Battle Cry (Pillar); Stronger (Kanye West) and I Run For Life (Melissa Ethredge).  What can I say?  He had eclectic tastes.  He also liked Hey There Delilah (the Plain White Ts) and though he would never admit it, I think he very much enjoyed my Broadway soundtracks.  Or maybe I will just tell myself that he liked it since I subjected him to it ... over and over again.

He also was a dancer and would bop around the house.  So funny to see him.  His signature dance move was what I can only describe as a booty shake.  It was awesome.  I tried to get Michael involved in clogging with me.  Turns out he just went for the pretzels.  But would watch me clog.  While he ate.  Stinker.

We used to hold Friday night dance parties - where we would turn on the tunes and dance.  Even our dog, Nellie, joined in.  Though she is not very good at the hip hop.  Of course, neither were we, so it all balanced out.

When it was bedtime, I usually sang songs to him.  Even as he got older, he wanted me to sing to him.  I am not a great singer, but to Michael, I had the voice of Kristin Chenoweth.  I'm certain of it.  I sang him You are my Sunshine.  And I adapted the words from I love you Conrad (from Bye Bye Birdie) to I love you Michael.  I also sang Twinkle Star.  And Fifty Nifty United States - mostly just the alphabetized listing of states.   I would sing it as fast as I could.  And he always asked for me to do it again.

I wonder what he would have done with his love of music.  Would he have picked up a guitar at some point?  He enjoyed making up his own songs and singing them in the shower.  Would he have written music?  Would he have joined chorus in high school?  Would he have sang the songs that he so loved to his kids as he tucked them in?

What could have been?  A hard thought.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Michael's death certificates were ready today.  I picked them up from the funeral home on my lunch hour.  Doesn't that sound too casual?  I have 5 copies.  I only have 2 copies of Michael's birth certificate.  Those numbers seem incongruous somehow.

I didn't know his time of death.  It was 11:46 am.  His occupation was listed as Student-Elementary.  His marital status was checked as Never Married.  

The cause was listed as:  complications due to right heart hypoplastic syndrome.  Interesting that they didn't give his heart defect the proper name. 

I have the last certificate that Michael will receive.  It is not a marriage certificate.  Or a diploma.  Or a certificate of participation in the astronaut camp he might've participated in this summer. 

It is a death certificate.  A signed, certified copy of the end of my son's life.  In black and white. On watermarked paper.


Michael always said "mommy, can I ask/tell you something?"  And if he forgot what he was going to say he would say "I love you mommy".  Or "did you know that you are the best mommy in the whole world?" or "I wouldn't ever want another mommy".  He told me once that sometimes he forgot what he was going to say.  And so he said those things.  Because those were always true.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

thank you

It was a privilege to be your mommy, Michael.  Thank you for teaching me about love.  And life.  And how to make the most of everyday.
Love you.
To the moon and back.
x 1600.

Friday, May 08, 2009

one month ago

I have always loved the number 9.  It is the day of my birth.  It is my user number for the scale in our bathroom.  It was the end of my number in Powder Puff football in high school.  It is the number I always pick when asked to pick a number between 1 and 10.

Now, I'm not certain it is such a great number.  It is the age of my son when he left this earth.  It is the day of the month of April that I said goodbye.  

It has been one month.  The longest month of my life.  

Of course, I have learned some things along the way.  I thought it might be good to share some of them in this forum, along with some of the things I am missing:
  • The cemetery is a popular place to be on a Friday night.  
  • The sound of legos being sucked into the vacuum cleaner is music to my ears.
  • Stepping over a storm trooper or two while showering is more fun than a clean shower floor.
  • Grief is a very personal endeavor.  Everyone grieves very differently.  And that is OK.
  • I look at my watch everyday at 2:42 pm.  And everyday, regardless of the day of the week, I think that I should see Michael walking down the driveway.  Home from school. Everyday, regardless of the day of the week, I am disappointed.
  • The first time I do anything without Michael is always the hardest.  And doesn't really get easier.  I still cannot go to the grocery store.  I have pulled into the parking lot 3 times now and have always had to leave before getting out of the car.
  • Nights are hard for me.  I miss Michael sneaking out of bed.  I miss him grumbling about taking his aspirin and vitamin.  I miss him trying to get out of taking a shower or brushing his teeth.  I miss crawling into the bottom bunk and snuggling for a few minutes.  
  • The resilience of children astounds me.
  • The highlight of my day was always seeing Michael.  And now, the highlight of my day is seeing Michael.  Only now, I visit him at a cemetery.  Where he still has Star Wars figures and now a Spiderman surrounding him.
  • Michael was right when he said "She is Amazing" when asked about his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Branch.  I will be forever grateful to her.
  • Late night television is not full of great choices.  I have not been to sleep before 3:00 am since that terrible, horrible day.
  • I am in awe of how Michael touched other people's lives.
  • The way Michael said Mommy was so special.  
  • Candy is not as much of a treat as it was when we would purchase it together.
And this one deserves to stand out from the rest:
  • I have THE MOST amazing and supportive family and friends.  Don't argue with me on this one.  I will win EVERY TIME.  Never have I ever felt such love from so many.  Never will I ever have the right words to say how thankful I am for each of you.  Never will I ever stop thanking you for your calls, e-mails, prayers, cards, thoughts, memories, etc.  

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Beginning, The End

When I was pregnant with Michael, I used to joke that any test I took - I failed.  My tests always came back positive and so I got to be very familiar with the my OB and her staff.  In fact, I went into the office every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the end of my pregnancy.  The nurses put up a sign in my honor - dedicating the chair to me.  For someone who is not a fan of doctor's offices (me!), I got to be quite comfortable there.  As long as my baby was healthy, I would go as many times as needed.

And then when the ultrasound technician spent an inordinate amount of time looking what looked like a dancing chicken.  When she went to get the specialist, I knew something was up.  I know now that when medical professionals don't look you in the eye, something is wrong.  I understand that - it is hard to give bad news to people.  I get it.  In a way, it gave me a moment to steel myself for whatever was coming my way.

After several more ultrasounds, it was determined that my son had a congenital heart defect.  A defect that ultimately was diagnosed as Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome.  Michael would undergo at least 3 open heart surgeries.  

Michael was born at 6:52 pm on July 1.  And was promptly whisked away to stabilize him.  I got to see him for a few moments before he was transported to the Children's Hospital in the CICU unit (the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit).  I got to touch his skin, smooch him and he was on his way.

The next day, I begged to be discharged so that I could be with Michael.  I needed to see him.  To be with him.  And so I was allowed to leave.  And I stayed with Michael in the CICU until I was kicked out by the nurses to go to the sleep room and then I would be right back there the next morning.  I never left.  I rubbed his back.  I sang to him.  I read him books.  And when I first got to hold him - amazing.  My greatest joy.  My sweet son.  He had surgery at the ripe old age of 4 days.  He was discharged 5 days later.  A miracle baby.

It followed the same path with his subsequent surgeries - at 5 1/2 months and just before his 3rd birthday.  I never left his side.  I couldn't be far away from him.  He needed me.  I needed him.  When I couldn't hold him, I would lay my head down just beside his bed.  Me standing up, bent over with my head beside his.  His surgeries and the meds sometimes left him agitated and it seemed to sooth him when I was so close to him.  It wasn't the most comfortable of positions, but I didn't care.   Whatever worked - I would do it.

With every new school year, I found myself repeating Michael's history.  I had my speech memorized.  It was second nature.  I knew Michael's anatomy and history like the back of my hand. 

Michael went to the cardiology office frequently - from every two weeks to every two months.  He graduated to every six months in recent years.  I used to joke that going to the cardiology office was like our Cheers.  Everybody knew our names.  They would set up the Lego Star Wars game for Michael in the waiting room when they saw his name on their roster.  They had watched him grow from a cranky-in-the-office 1 year old to the tough, easy patient 9 year old.  I didn't have to bribe him with a trip to Target after the appointment any longer.  We still went there, of course.  His last appointment was the fastest.  He was doing really well.  His cardiologist was pleased.  We left with an appointment for a Tuesday in June. 

And then that terrible, horrible Thursday, I found myself in somewhat familiar territory.  With medical professionals who couldn't look me in the eye.  With my repeating his history to anyone who would listen. And then, with me half bent, with my head next to his and rubbing his head.  Only this time, there was no need to soothe.  There were only tears.  My tears.  The beginning became the end.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


I love this picture.  It was taken the day before Michael's 8th birthday.  We had surprised him with a trip to Epcot for his big day.  We gave him clues along the way.  He had no idea what was in store for him.  This photo was taken at the hotel on the day we arrived.  He was so excited and bouncing around the room, jumping on the bed.  The photo captures the joy of the weekend that we had.  Birthdays are a big deal in our house ... and his was the biggest.  

This photo also shows Michael in motion.  He was in constant motion, even while sitting.  And the big grin on his face.  You can also see a bit of his mischievousness.  

*jumping on the bed in hotels was always treat when we were on vacation.

Friday, May 01, 2009

star wars weekend

May would have been a big month in the Dooley-Williams-Hall household.  We would have been counting down the days until Star Wars Weekend.  The last weekend of May.  At Disney World.  Michael would have missed the last day of school because we would already be at the park.  Grabbing autographs of the Star Wars characters, taking pictures with them, making sweet memories.

We would have stayed at the same resort as last year.  Only this year, we would have spent a whole day at the pool.  With the lazy river.  

We would have spent two days at the parks.  One at Hollywood Studios (the site of the exciting Star Wars Weekend) and the other day at ... well ... we hadn't quite reached a consensus.  I wanted to go to Epcot again.  Stu wanted to go to Animal Kingdom.  And Michael didn't much care.  He just wanted to see the Star Wars parade again.

This video cracks me up.  It is of Michael getting the autograph of Darth Maul last year.  He was a little freaked out by the guy.  He was very creepy.  Michael just wanted the autograph and then to get out of there!


He was still my baby boy.  But was becoming quite the young man.  He still called me Mommy. He still liked to snuggle and would hold my hand in public.  He told me how much he loved me. Multiple times throughout the day.  He still believed in  Santa Claus.   And the good in people. His last report card was the best he has ever had.  Reading was becoming a love of his.

I hate that I type my verbs in the past tense.


I have library books that are due back.  They were due on Tuesday, but we were going to drop them off on Thursday.  Two days late.  But that was three weeks ago.  And I still have them.

They are the last books that Michael checked out.  We picked some of them out carefully for specific reasons.  He went to my mom and dad's for his Spring Break.  They took him to the King Tut exhibit and the Terracotta Army exhibits.  He wanted to read up on the subject.  To know more than Pa.

Michael checked out:
  • Tut Tut (part of the Time Warp Trio series) - Loved this series of books and read them quite fast.
  • 1944:  America Storms the Beaches - a book about World War 2.  He started this book, but did not finish it.
  • Discoveries -  Tutankhamun:  the life and death of a Pharoah - again to know more about King Tut. He did say that he didn't read it all "because he wanted to be surprised at the museum".
  • Eyewitness books - Ancient China.  Again to read up in preparation for the Terracotta Army exhibit.
  • Star Wars:  Last of the Jedi - Of course.  He loved the Star Wars
  • Animorphs:  The Conspiracy - We renewed this book once.  He had not yet read it.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles:  A Giant Problem - He was a little scared to watch the movies, so he decided to read the books.  After reading, he decided he was ready to watch. We were going to watch it over the Easter weekend.  But never got the chance to.
All of these books are kept on our hall closet door knob.  In a pink Clinique bag (a gift with purchase).  Michael never wanted to carry the library bag because of its pinkness.

Our library days were Tuesday.  I let him sit in the front seat on the way home on these days.  The library is about 2 miles from our house, so not a far distance.  It was a special treat to sit up front.

And so, I have these books.  They need to go back.  But I find it so hard to let go of them. It is just another reminder that my buddy is not coming home.  That this is not an extended Spring Break.