I had to think back, with effort, to the time when Caitlin when first diagnosed. Early 2012…I tried to remember what her room looked like. I found a quiet place, closed my eyes and hit rewind in my memory. Aha! Purple paint still on the top half of her walls, wainscoting on the bottom. A full size bed placed against a far wall, draped with a bedspread full of purple, green and yellow. A purple flower lamp made of paper sat atop a tall dresser, and a contemporary pink jewelry box full of the treasures of a 4 year old little girl was centered on a shorter dresser. Picture frames scattered on either side.
And there was a crib, butted up against the side of that full size bed. Yes, that’s right! I remember now…Campbell was still in a crib since she wasn’t yet 2 years old. Caitlin had been so excited to share a room with her baby sister. She insisted the crib touch the bed so she could hold Campbell’s hand at night.
Then, when Caitlin was undergoing radiation, we knew we had to move Campbell to a regular bed because she was too tall to fit in the crib/toddler bed any longer. So we transformed the room.
Pop built a fabulous corner unit; complete with 2 twin beds in an L-shape, anchored at the corner by a tall, wide unit, with shelves above each bed and a common top capable of holding lots of dolls, and big vases filled with sand and bright pink and white gerber daisies. Caitlin picked out bright pink comforters with giant white and black polka dots. Hello kitty sheets were under one of those comforters, and Minnie Mouse sheets under the other. Nana built a great window treatment consisting of a black pull shade and sparkly, bright scarves and valances. I vowed to paint the walls in a theme that encompassed and embraced the signature bows of both the kitty and the mouse, since the purple now seemed so glaringly obnoxious that even Caitlin asked for it to be changed.
But clinical trials took place. Surgery happened, followed by frequent trips to NYC. My other children demanded their mother’s presence. School started, tumors grew. Chemotherapy (in NYC) started and then ended in a short time. Tumors grew again. A little girl lost her fight…the walls never were painted.
Cleaning up and cleaning out and going through the most prized possessions of my 5 year old little girl was agony. Folding clothes as I pulled them off hangers and out of drawers to be placed in rubbermaid containers was nothing but a blur in time; the same way I saw those clothes through tear filled eyes that blurred my vision. I accomplished it quickly, because I needed the pain to end just as fast. I did all of it, so it could just be ‘done.’ Well, I completed almost all of it…those shelves above her bed? They just got cleaned off 2 weeks ago, when I finally gave in to Campbell’s 15 months of requests to decorate her room “in a rainbow…”
It has been a struggle to find the right mode, moment and method to redecorate the sweet little bedroom my littlest children shared together. Those purple walls and pink comforters have been an eyesore for over a year; but I couldn’t find the energy to paint over the walls or buy new bedspreads. I searched my heart for a design that could honor Caitlin, while allowing Campbell to make the room hers. Her message to me was clear: leave my Yaya’s bed, and her Hello Kitty sheets; give me a rainbow that is my own, but allows my sister to stay in this room with me.
You can imagine, trying to balance Campbell’s need to redecorate, but still find a way to hold fast to her sister, reflected my own heart and my reasons for not having changed anything earlier. I was balancing the grief for all of us. (After all, Cole, Campbell and I all have evenings when we climb between those Hello Kitty sheets to sleep. It is often, but it is special.)
With the help of a patient husband, and the energy of a 4 year old little girl who is fierce and persistent, the room has been transformed. We think we have honored Caitlin with the same quiet beauty she honored all of us with while she was here. I have given Campbell exactly what she has requested (to “sleep under Yaya’s rainbow every night”). I have made the room Campbell’s room, while not completely taking Caitlin away from her. It is another balancing routine I engage in regularly: remember Caitlin, without allowing our home to become her shrine. (It’s so much harder than it sounds!)
As a parent you paint your child’s room, pick out curtains and comforters, decorate with child friendly themed adorations, and let them gather their collections of special things that are displayed proudly. You never imagine that one day you will be redecorating because your child died….
It is another part of the impossible; impossible decisions, impossible heartache, impossible to understand…but, hopefully, there is possible healing…
all my love on this Easter weekend, d