Meet the McNeil Family

Meet the McNeil Family

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Thoughts on Grief

The counting of weeks has morphed into the counting of months - 4 to be exact on March 18th.

The anticipation of each 18th day is agonizing and often worse than the actual date itself.

I have broken more glasses and plates since Waverly passed away compared to my entire lifetime.

I cannot recall names of those outside of my immediate circle.

Words escape me and my grammar has been especially horrid.

Night time is by far the most difficult part of each day.

I say good morning and good night to Waverly daily.

Magical Thinking is a very real concept. (I need to reread Joan Didion's book.)

I am going to become a crazy bird lady. I bought a feeder for in front of my kitchen window and I love it. The birds bring me such joy. I am now on the hunt to fill our entire yard with bird feeders.

Hearing someone say Waverly's name is music to my soul. Please continue to #sayhername

I have never been so tired.

I don't like to cry in front of people. I always cry in the church pew though.

I often say I am OK. It's not true. I am broken and struggling.

I am woefully behind in thanking everyone for the gifts and flowers they have sent. Please grant me grace as I slowly try to check things off of my to do list.

I love keeping fresh yellow tulips in Wavey's room.

Being in nature brings comfort.

Grief is not linear. There is no moving on or getting past. It is messy.

A smile is a easy way to show compassion. Eye contact avoidance does not.

I have depression and anxiety.

I cannot imagine how I will cope with losing Oliver. He is my snuggle buddy and provides me with so much comfort.

I miss every aspect of caring for Waverly. I do not "enjoy the free time" or "like the break".

I have watched way too much bad tv, but it provides a mindless escape.

I recommend reading "Rare Bird" to anyone who wants to understand how I am feeling in a deeper way. Anna nails it. And I am unable to put words to my feelings at this time.

Looking at old photos and sharing them is cathartic.

I replay the moments surrounded her death over and over again in my mind. It is awful.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mel-Moo's Poem

Our niece, Melanie, wrote this beautiful poem for school. She is 17 years old. Waverly always called her Mel-Moo and loved talking with her in the phone. She was her favorite cousin and hero.


By Melanie R


Sometimes I wish I had a time machine

I would open the door, step inside, and program

Not some major historical event,

But instead a memory.


I wish I could go back

To when I was little.

Specifically when we visited my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin in Ohio

We were all so much more carefree back then

All blissfully ignorant of the future

There are two things that really stick out from that trip

One, the Columbus Science Museum

The other, the scene from Titanic where the boat is slowly sinking in the dark


I wish I could go back

To when my cousin could follow me around and around

And around, 

And around, 

And around…

I can still hear her calling my name

Chasing me around my Grandmother's house

In circles like a merry-go-round that would never end,

But it did.

Life was so much clearer then.


I wish I could go back 

To the first time I saw Frozen.

the theater was crowded and my sister wanted to sit high up,

So I sat with her up towards the top while the rest of my family sat across the theater

The highlight of that movie for me

was when Anna freezes toward the end.

The room was dead silent, you could hear a pin drop

And all of a sudden I hear my cousin from across the entire room

Laughing her laugh that only she could create

And was so uniquely her.

I’d love to go back and revisit that moment

When it seemed as if the worst thing that could happen

Was that someone died in a Disney movie


I wish I could go back

To last summer

Before one of the scariest moments of my life

Before I could clearly see the effects of her genetic disease

Before I looked directly into my cousin’s eyes and she didn’t recognize me

Before she looked straight through me as if I was thin air

Before the longest minute where I waited 

For that smile of recognition to slowly spread across her face

Before I felt the relief that she knew who I was

Before I wondered if I had just imagined the entire moment


I wish I could go back.

Back to when I knew my cousin would burst into a fit of uncontrollable giggles

As soon as you mentioned her name because she was so happy


I wish I could go back

To before my cousin died

Because I miss her.


My memory is my time machine

With it I can travel anywhere I have already been

In memory I can always go back

and remember everything my cousin was able to do.

That is a miracle in itself.


How I remember my cousin is my choice.

Yes, I could remember everything 

She will never be able to do, 

But I choose to be thankful of everyday, every moment

That I had with her.

I choose to remember how amazing it was 

That she

Could laugh,

Could run,

Could sing,

Could speak,

Could live.

Still, that does little to dull this pain of loss,

For every memory is tinged with sadness,

Dusted by grief.


I once read that grief is the price of love,

And if so,

It is one I will gladly pay over and over again.

For without grief,

How can we ever know we truly loved anything of value?


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Joy & Sadness

I posted some of our family vacation photos from our time in Florida last month. It was such a wonderful time away for the three of us. A break from routine and reality to relax. I like to look at the smiles - genuine smiles. I struggle with guilt when I can laugh and enjoy the moment. These pictures capture the joy we still have, the joy that Waverly still brings to our lives. I thought it was important to share all sides of our grief, not simply the sad.

Vacation Pics

shadows on the beach 

family selfie 

golf cart rides around the island 

Oliver enjoying the pool

our first boat ride 

Matt and Oliver enjoying the gulf

my shell collection 

golf cart family selfie 

Oliver at Magic Kingdom with Wavey's Minnie

riding the carousel

Oliver and I enjoying the Pooh ride

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

15 Weeks

It's been 15 weeks. I cannot believe I have entered the fourth month without Waverly.

We took a family trip last week to Florida. We were able to take our yearly road trip down south to sunshine and warmth in the midst of winter. Unlike past trips, we ventured to the gulf coast for a few days on the beach. A new destination to create new memories. We rode around in a golf cart, walked in the surf, collected seashells and enjoyed one another's company. We then went to Orlando for a day at Disney. Disney World holds so many memories for our family, we worried an entire week there would be too painful. It was always Wavey's favorite place. Still we enjoyed the day remembering. We have been there so often that each area holds a special reminder - her walking down Main Street in a Snow White dress, driving the cars at the Speedway, giggling maniacally on Big Thunder Railroad. I bought a balloon for her, because she always loved balloons. I cried as I disembarked Dumbo for the final ride of the night, remembering how much I loved riding that particular ride with her.

For a week I was able to distance myself from my grief. Our vacation was not just an opportunity to escape winter, but I was able to escape the full presence of grief. I was excited to return home. I love being in our house and I appreciate our space more than I ever did before. But I was aware that my grief was there waiting for me. And it found me. Like a warm down filled blanket, it has enveloped me. I missed it. It's weight grounds me. I am comfortable here.

Whenever I write of grief, I inevitably get a few messages from people about moving on or choosing to be happy with the now. I appreciate the sentiment and I believe most of it comes from a place of love. However I have found that people are uncomfortable with grief. Actual grief, which is not over in a finite amount of time. We like things to have a defined ending and there is no such thing. Waverly's death changed me. 

And I cannot help but remember that I will have to endure the loss of my son. Oliver is going to die. I cannot fully comprehend my grief, because I am anticipating his eventual death. I have been to hell and I know that I have to go back there again.