I have a file sitting on my computer of 486 pictures of Lego scenes. For the longest time after her Dad died my oldest child tried desperately to keep everything exactly the same as it was. She refused to let her hair grow – she had shaved it in September, 6 months prior to his suicide. She wouldn’t move any future in her room, change any pictures on her walls. And she wanted to do all the activities that they use to do together.
One of their favourites was to make stop motion Lego movies.
The spent hours on this together. Carefully placing the Lego. Using the tripod for the digital camera so that the picture was taken exactly in the same spot. Carefully moving the Lego. Take the picture again. And repeat – 486 times to create a second stop motion movie less than a minute long.
This should also give you some insight into the character of both my daughter and her father. Meticulous, perfectionists, extreme patience.
Some times they would even do voice overs for the movies. Which I am forever thankful for as we now have several clips for the kids to listen to their father’s voice.
My LH was a techie. He insisted on using Linux as an operating system – had a serious hatred for all things Windows. So not only did he write a script – that’s like a mini computer program – to create these stop motion movies, he also documented all the Linux code functions that were needed to make them and saved it in a file on our computer. Imagine creating a computer program you could use with your kids to make stop motion movies. I’ve since learned there are apps for that.
But that was his “thing”. He would spend hours with the kids taking those pictures and then hours on the computer getting it to work correctly. After the first time, with the script in place, it only took a few minutes.
So in the first months post-loss when my daughter announced that she wanted to make a Lego movie like she had done with her Dad I panicked. I am not techie. He was always my “tech help desk”. I had needed to get myself a more user-friendly Windows system after he died. Linux has a lot of good qualities, but user-friendly is not one of them.
Faaaaack…how am I going to make this happen for her?
Keep calm, Michelle. Smile. “That’s a great idea Ais, here’s the camera.”
Hours, days, more hours. She spent the better part of two weeks between swim practices taking 486 pictures. Then came the part where I needed to step up. She handed me the camera. Now I needed to do what her Dad had always done. Turn the pictures into a movie.
I had already tried looking up instructions. I had called a local computer store asking for a Linux Geek. They told me, “there’s an App for that.” I tried telling my daughter that we could do it in an easier way. Nope. We needed to do it…
I logged into his old computer. I checked the web browser history and found online help forums for Linux users. I found the file that contained the Linux instructions to make the script work. But I didn’t understand what the instructions were telling me.
So I went to the help forums. I explained to the Linux Geeks what I was trying to do and why I was unable to – I was not one of them. I was simply trying to help my daughter after the death of her Dad. They were so incredibly helpful. They walked me through each step. They provided all the guidance I needed and I was on my way to making those 486 pictures into a movie.
One keystroke at a time. Following his instructions, in a language that I needed translation to read.
I got to the last instruction and…
The computer’s memory was too full to be able to run the script. Ugh. Now what.
Yes, I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. I was so angry that he wasn’t there to solve that problem. That he wasn’t there to take the pictures with his daughter and convert them to a movie. I was angry that I had tried so hard and still failed.
And I still had to tell her that I failed. It wasn’t the first time I failed at trying to accomplish a task just the way their Dad had. And I’m 100% certain now, at 3.5 years post loss, that it will not be the last.
That look of disappointment in your child’s eyes. That doesn’t leave you. Ever.
Shortly after my epic failure I discussed the situation with my therapist. And she said to me...
“Michelle, you cannot become Kenn.”
Faaaaack that was one of those earth shattering therapy moments. An extremely hard pill to swallow. So many layers of emotion in that short sentence.
You cannot become the one you lost. You cannot do things exactly the way they did. You cannot protect your children from all the hurt that comes with letting go of that.
You can keep the memory. You can make new memories. You can smile at what is and cry at what is not.
I still have those 486 pictures. I won’t get rid of them. But I have let go of my obsession with taking over every role he left behind.
**The true stop motion files are mega huge and I couldn't attach them here, but this link is of a movie they made prior to starting on the stop motion adventures.
I am Michelle. Above all I am a mother of four incredible little beings. I am a certified Personal Trainer and Healthy Eating Coach, an educator and a real estate investor. I am a coach who also participates fully as a fitness enthusiast, a runner, and a swimmer. I speak from the heart and have no filter left to tolerate bull shit.