Learning to be “Sappy” at the ZOO

photoWe have been planning a family trip to the ZOO for months. Yesterday was the day, so we packed a picnic lunch and made the two-hour drive to St. Louis. We saw lions, tigers, bears, elephants, ostriches, camels, fish, birds, sea lions, penguins, and just about all the animals we could fit into one day. We thought Kyla would enjoy the trip and be able to understand more than last time we visited 9 months ago.

As it turned out, we were not disappointed. Kyla’s eyes lit up with glee as each new animal came into view. I think the penguins were her favorite. There was only one problem. After checking out each new exhibit, she would quickly start pointing and saying, “I go. I go. I go” She wanted to get in the pen with each and every animal, including the Siberian tiger and the Grizzly bear! The view was just a little too far away for her liking!  Maybe that’s why she enjoyed the penguins so much – you could practically touch them!

photo (1)I can honestly say that we had a fun trip. Yet the ache was still there. If you’re a mom of loss, you know what I’m talking about. The ache that someone is missing. The pain of not sharing simple joys with ALL of your children. It seemed that around every corner was a pregnant woman, and I found myself comparing how big I should be to how big she was. Most radio flyer wagons we saw had two children to ride, but we had a painfully empty seat with no second rider soon to be born. It hurt every time we looked. At one point, we stopped to consider that we should be having to stop every 15 minutes to find me a bathroom, and we should be taking regular bench breaks for my aching feet, and we should be trying to keep my big pregnant self cool in the hot day. But we weren’t doing any of those things because she wasn’t there. We realized again what a blessing it is to ache, to be hot, to make frequent trips to the bathroom, and to waddle like a duck. How I wished that was still me carrying the wonderful sense of life inside my body. It hurt all over again.

Yet at the same time, we knew that we were still a family, Adam and I still had each other, we still had a faithful God, and in reality, we still had our two daughters – just not both here.

In this journey, we are learning to be “sappy.” Sad and happy all at the same time. We are learning that while the photoache and the pain are very present in our lives, joy can be present too. In the past, I’ve always thought you were either one or the other at any given time. But loss changes things. Grief isn’t a clean cut series of emotions, but more like a jumbled up mix. I’m thankful for the person that helped Adam and I to understand that it is okay to feel terribly sad and somewhat happy at the same time. It is helpful to me to put a word to the odd mix of emotions I am feeling.  So around our house, when we feel some joy even in the sadness, it’s called “sappy.”

So all in all, we had a “sappy” trip to the ZOO. Happy that little Kyla had a wonderfully fun time. Happy that we could enjoy God’s creation. And yet sad that Esther wasn’t with us. Sad that she will never ride in the little red wagon, and sad that she will never go to see the animals with her family.

What about you? If you have experienced loss, can you relate to being “sappy?” What experiences or memories trigger both of those feelings at once for you?



  1. Sappy–I really like that term because it’s true. Every year around my daughter’s birthday I’m reminded of the loss of my Dad since his death and her birth occurred on the same week. Every birthday I’m sappy but it’s good to know that it’s okay to feel that way.

    • kalyn.waller@gmail.com says:

      I thought of you when I was writing this post. I can imagine that birthday week is full of happy and sad feelings. Thanks for sharing…

  2. Adam Waller says:

    That was a very fun trip!
    Love you

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