August 13, 2012

The Olympics and My Little Niece

Two weeks ago, my little niece came to DC for a visit. I haven't seen Rowan since January andboy, oh, boyshe has grown! Now that she has turned four, all of her baby-ness is gone. No more pacifiers. No more training potties. No more "Wonder Pets" or "Dora, the Explorer."

She's 100% girl.

Granted, Rowan is a little girl and sometimes she still cries. Sometimes she still pouts. But she has blossomed into a tiny adult, with opinions and ideas and definite preferences (mostly for the color pink).

{Rowan at a playground near my house.}
{Rowan and Auntie Caroline.}

Rowan's visit to DC coincided with the opening of the Olympic Games, which is just about my favorite thing EVAR. (Seriously, I am obsessed with the Olympics! My love for it is so great that I will watch anything, be it skeet shooting or wrestling or dressage.) Always the good sport, little Rowie watched a few volleyball games and gymnastic meets with me, even though she had no idea what was going on.

I don't know what it is, but the Olympics always makes me weepy. The Parade of Nations? The new world records? The cheesy behind-the-scenes stories on NBC? Yeah, they all bring tears to my eyes. But during this year's Olympics, a certain commercial tore a seam right through my heart:

It's the end tagline that gets to me:

The hardest job in the world, 
is the best job in the world.
Thank you, Mom. 

That last sentence makes my eyes well. Because my little niece Rowan, who is so sweet and smart and wonderful, no longer has a mom. My sister-in-law Aimee passed away last December, torn from our lives in an awful boating accident. In the span of one sunny afternoon, my husband lost his only sister. Aimee's husband lost his wife. And Rowan lost her mother.

So, I suppose, this commercial has a different meaning to me. Of course, I'm grateful for the thousands of mothers who help their children become Olympic athletes, because those athletes inspire us to try harder, to dig deeper, to push forward through pain and loss.

But at the same time, I mourn for Rowan, who lost her mother far, far too soon. Aimee was the very best person that I knewpatient, funny, and with a smile that could brighten your souland she was the very best mother to Rowan. She's been gone now for nearly nine months, but commercials like this one remind me of what we have lost. And especially of what Rowan was robbed of.

Still, as silly as it sounds, the Olympics give me hope, with its cheesy music and never-give-up stories. Rowan gives me hope too, with her zeal for life and with her bright white smile that reminds me so much of her mother's. She's a survivor, my niece.

I just wish it didn't have to be this way.


  1. Caroline, this post (and that commercial) totally had me in tears. You've painted such a beautiful picture of Aimee, and I think Rowan is lucky to have you for an auntie. I'm so glad you got to spend time with her this summer. She is absolutely adorable, and you're right: She's grown up so much! Please tell her that Claire and I say hello. :)

    1. Aw, thank you so much, Katy! It means a lot, especially since it was so nice to hang out with you and Claire right after Aimee passed away. It was great to give Rowan a little sense of normalcy and fun after everything that had happened.

      Hope you and Claire and Matt are doing well in sunny CA!

  2. I'm so sorry for your family's loss; Aimee sounds like she was a wonderful person, and I think Rowan will grow up knowing that.
    This was such a sweet and beautiful post, and I think it does tie rather well into the Olympic spirit because it's about hope and surviving and overcoming and about celebrating humanity as a whole. Rowan is so adorable, and I think she's lucky to have a great auntie like you. Glad you got to spend some quality time together this summer! :)

  3. Wonderful post, Caroline. It is truly awful to me that Rowan doesn't have her mommy anymore. I grieve for her (and frequently with her) a lot.

    But she does have us, all of us, her family. And we're a pretty good bunch. I feel like ultimately, she's going to be ok. :)

  4. Hi, Caroline. I happened on your post from Katy's blog, and boy it touched me so much. I loved that commercial from the Olympics too, and was just so moved by Rowan and all that she has already faced in her young life. I am so thankful that she has an auntie who loves and feels with her so much. It will be invaluable as she grows up. My heart just goes out to her, and I know the memory of her mom will every day continue to shape her in a beautiful and tangible way. Thank you for sharing, and (even though I don't know you guys) big hugs to your whole family.

  5. That was a beautiful post Caroline, it just breaks my heart to think of Amiee and Rowen. I'm so glad she had a lovely time with you this summer and that you're hopeful for the future.