Salted caramel cupcakes

Chicago mix popcorn (cheddar cheese popcorn and caramel popcorn mixed)

Salted caramel chocolate bar

It’s only been in recent years that I have discovered these wonders of these decadent treats.  It wasn’t that long ago when I would have thought that sprinkling seasalt on a dessert was utterly disgusting.

And then I tried it.

Salty and sweet together–Delicious

I love the way the two strong flavors play off each other…how the salty enhances the sweet in a surprising way. Simply put:  YUMMY!!

Janna would have been 15 on Sunday.

Janna is Husband’s daughter.

Janna was Husband and Car’s third child…a normal pregnancy after two healthy boys.  So…when she was born, there was dreams of ribbons and dresses, tea parties and girl giggles. Elation over the birth of their third child. The delight of a daughter.

The heart problems became evident almost immediately…and it went from bad to worse.  Within hours, Janna was hooked up to multiple machines in the NICU. Poked incessantly. Within days they planned surgery in Edmonton.  Within 3 weeks, the machines were turned up as high as they could be to help her make it, and they weren’t high enough to sustain life.

The hospital staff removed the many tubes and machines, and gently placed her in her parents’ arms…the only time they were able to hold her.  She was lovingly held as she passed into eternity.

There’s a despair like none other when your child dies.

Last Sunday, on Janna’s 15th birthday, a woman read a beautiful poetic prayer in church, with a line that has been ringing in my head all week:

When the tears are both salty and sweet, when the only way through is through, and when there is no surety of safety, no guarantee of good, let there be every trace of our trust anyway. Quote on background of carved statue of infant weeping


When the tears are both salty and sweet…

That line has had me thinking all week.

Days after Janna was born, Son #2 turned 5.  Janna all under tubes and monitors…scarily ill with travel to Edmonton for heart surgery seemingly imminent.  How can a parent’s heart be in it to celebrate a little boy’s birthday, when their hearts are at the hospital rooting for a little girl’s very life?

It all seemed too much, and they contemplated cancelling the birthday.

The neighbours and friends would have none of it. The neighbour asked what he wanted and told his parents to be at the hospital until it was time for the party.  It was all prepared.  Husband remembers that the little boy requested Boston Cream Pie.  What?? Strange but true…and the neighbour made Boston Cream Pie for the boy’s birthday party.

It’s a humbling and beautiful thing when people who care, help you love your kids when there isn’t enough of a parent to go around.

Husband often tells this birthday part of the story as part of the larger story when he talks about the terribly awful uncertain days as they fought for Janna to live.

Husband used to buy Car a crown of daisies every year around this time.  They imagine Janna in heaven wearing a crown of daisies. One of those daisy crowns, all dried and crunchy, sits in our living room over a picture of the family at Janna’s hospital crib.

He and Car had a wonderful crew of boys tromping around the house with loud burps and messy legos and sponge nerf bullets here and there forever needing to be picked up. But their only girl was in the ground. That makes it hard to not walk through the girl’s section of the department store and think pink sometimes.

A few times around this time of year, Husband would buy a dress for Janna and bring it home.  A dress in the size that Janna would have been that year. He would hang it in the closet, never to be worn. Usually with pink in it.

Grappling with a grief so big that you think it will swamp you changes a person.  Spending sleepless nights wondering why life is so unfair is brutal. Being so angry and despairing that you just wanna hit something or explode or implode or both means that you can never go back.

You can never go back. Never go back to the time when life is fair, good things happen to good people, and everything works out for the good guy.

Grappling with the grief of Janna’s death created a gentle wisdom that unknowingly carved him into someone who could be fully present to Car as she struggled with cancer.  I think it shaped his grief after she died.

When Car died, his world was stripped of colour and existed only in greys.  It was dark and dreary and lonely.  But for Janna, he had felt that way once before, and had then been surprised by the gradual return of colour.

When Car died, he knew from experience, that colour would again return to his life, even though he couldn’t really imagine it at the time.

He could trust that color would return.

I sometimes wonder…Janna isn’t alive…but am I allowed to consider her my bonus daughter, just as I now have bonus sons? Me, who has only birthed boys–can I have her as my daughter?

The daisy crown was something from Husband for Car, as they remembered their daughter and grieved her death, and celebrated her life. It was their thing.  No more daisy crowns in our house, because Janna’s momma is now with Janna, and can put them on Janna herself.

Daisies are Janna’s flower…and pink was her colour.

I gave Husband a bouquet on Sunday.  Daisies, of course.  Baby’s breath–oh, but if she had only been able to have her own breath. And a pink rose in the middle.

A colourful, beautiful pink.

A pink rose nestled amongst baby's breath and white daisies in memory of Janna


Sweet and salty tears.

The tears for Janna are a mix of sweet and salty:

Sweet for at the beautiful life she had.  Salty for its terribly short time.

Salty for the pain of her death. Sweet for the lessons she taught her dad.

Sweet for memories of the kindness of neighbours and friends who gave them a freezer full of lasagnas and a Boston Cream Pie. Salty because those acts of kindness came out of a response to tragedy.

Salty for the rage, despair and confusion that her death created. Sweet for the gentle wisdom that Husband gained…sweet for the beautiful way it carved him into the gentle creature I now love.

I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures. Quote by Gail Caldwell.

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