Monday, June 9, 2014

What is parenting? Joyfully Grieving

I wrote this June 4 and never got around to posting it...

Growing up I always said I wanted 2 kids, a boy and a girl, just like my mom. I wanted a family just like ours. But as I got into college, I had some friends that came from larger families and wanted larger families for themselves and suddenly I started considering that 3 or more might be really cool. I wanted at least 2, but I was really open to more. I don’t know what God has for me, especially after having 2 but only getting to raise one. We’ve batted around many options, but none seem to be what God is wanting for us RIGHT NOW.

I think of all of this as I get up this morning, the last morning that I will wake up and give kisses to Micah as a 2 year old. I sat down with him and told him that today was June 4 and asked him if he knew what tomorrow was. He thought a minute and pressed his little cheek against his shoulder and pointed at me and took a guess “Your birthday?” I said, “No, that makes tomorrow June 5th” and he said “MY BIRTHDAY”. I teared up a little and asked “How many will you be tomorrow?” He told me today he was two but tomorrow he would be three while holding up his little fingers (he is still working on three). My heart melts and breaks at the same time. In the last 3 years I have many times described parenting as “joyful grieving”. I was surprised to find that I had feelings of grief that one stage is over at the same time I was joyful of a new milestone met. I knew I would always grieve Lydia’s loss, but I didn’t know I would grieve still for a normal, intelligent, living child.

So I sent Micah off to school with his daddy this morning, gave him hugs and kisses. He told me with his arms outstretched that he loves me “this much”. That’s the last time I will send a 2 year old off to school, or will it be? It’s the last time I will send two year old Micah to school, that’s for sure, but will I have another 2 year old to send off with daddy in the morning, I just don’t know. For now, I’m okay not knowing. I celebrate what God has given me and I wait with anticipation for what else He may have in store for me. Whether it be the 2 children I always thought I would raise together or something I haven’t even dreamed of yet.

So I move on to joyfully grieve the life of this incredible gift that God has given to me and Jonathon. My heart will joyfully grieve tonight as we give our little man a bath, read bedtime books, sing bedtime songs, give bedtime hugs and kisses, and tuck him into bed for the last time as a two year old and wake in the morning to a whole new adventure to joyfully grieve as we go. What a beautiful world we live in as parents! We have such a privilege to have moments of joy and moments of grief in the exact same moment.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Old Country Roads

The fog rolls in every year about this time. It’s been creeping in for a few weeks, but it’s heavy today. My baby would’ve turned five in a few short days. She would be learning to write, learning to read, making new friends, and giving night-night hugs and kisses. There would be bows and shoes and tangled hair. There would be dolls that wet and cry and Barbie clothes and shoes and play kitchens and tea parties. I think of her every day, more than once. I think of the many people we knew at that time that were all pregnant at the same time. I think of all those friendships we lost because play dates weren’t so fun when my baby couldn’t play. I think of all the friendships that could’ve been for me and Jonathon and for Lydia. It’s a constant emptiness in my life. It will always be there.

We told Micah that it was going to be Lydia’s birthday and his response was, “It’s my birthday first!” He hopes that Lydia’s birthday means that there will be cupcakes. We know his understanding of Lydia is limited but his obvious love for her is amazing. At this point he doesn’t understand eternity, so it’s our job to teach him. He loves to look at her picture! He says that Lydia is “my baby.” He posed for a picture while lovingly holding Lydia’s picture this afternoon with the biggest smile I have caught on camera in quite some time. It’s heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time.

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to talk to Micah about Lydia and what happened to her and why she is not with us. He is asking more and more questions. We have always talked about avoiding the statement “God took her” because it seems to imply that God is uncaring and takes people at His whim. We have decided to say something to the effect that “Lydia was hurt very badly. Jesus let her come live with him because the doctors couldn’t make her booboos go away. When Lydia went to live with Jesus, He was able to make her all better.” He is the Great Healer. With the Word of Faith or Prosperity movement containing the view that God brings good things if you are faithful to tithe your 10%, it becomes difficult to explain why bad things happen in spite of the faithfulness of the servant. But those “good” things are temporal and not eternal; there is no focus on the eternal within the Word of Faith or Prosperity movements. If I ascribed to such theology in this tragedy, I would be absolutely hopeless and lost. I am so thankful that there is hope because Jesus was dead, buried, and rose again three days later conquering death so that Lydia and those that love Him could have eternal life!

Christianity is eternal at the core. The term Christianity can be broad, so let me specify that I mean those who have a personal relationship with Jesus. Those who have asked Him to cleanse them of their sin and have accepted the greatest gift ever, the gift of eternal life. We wait in anticipation for the return of Jesus where He will take us to a place where there will be no more death or crying or pain. Bad things happen, even to the most faithful followers of Christ, sometimes even more so because of the faithful following of Christ. The road to follow is narrow and less traveled.

You know the old country roads, the unpaved gravel roads, they are less traveled and full of overhanging branches, brush growing over the path, pot holes, wild animals, snakes, and large obstacles. Sometimes the overgrowth of the brush on both sides of the path encroaches on the road making the road very narrow and the brush scrapes down the side of the car, taking a little paint with it. That is the road we walk with Jesus. We are called to “count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds.” Though that is especially hard to grasp, it is something that defines our lives. It is not by my own ability that I find joy in the trials, but I feel Jesus near. I feel his comfort and His love in the midst of the trial. My paint job is not as shiny and there is dust on the dash from my tires kicking up dust into the ventilation system, but I’m still pressing on. I move along slowly with my wounds and fight away the vines that entangle me at almost every move, but Jesus holds my hand and there is no turning back.

I have been thinking about our society and our view of death in general. We see death as bad and as an end. As Christians, we believe that death is only a beginning. This is what I want Micah to know first and foremost. He has nothing to lose on this earth that will not be replaced seven-fold in eternity. When the Lord calls me Home, I hope that Micah doesn’t shake his fist at Heaven in anger. I hope that he thanks God for the time we had together and waits in anticipation to see me again. It feels like Lydia is lost sometimes, but she’s not. She has been eternally healed and rests safely in the arms of Jesus. Though my journey is difficult, it is not without its rewards. I get to teach my son about eternity from the perspective of getting to meet his sister when he goes there. That fascinates him and gives him an excitement that I didn’t know until I was almost thirty years old. He gets to know that now and I’m so proud to share that with him. I know Jesus a little deeper because of Lydia. I pray differently because of Lydia. I look at life different because of Lydia. I’m glad that I have tasted suffering on earth because it makes the hope of heaven just a little sweeter. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Friday, March 28, 2014

"A pleasure is not fully grown until it is remembered"

All mother's know that there is a life timeline that is always before or after she got pregnant and with which child. A few Sunday mornings ago we were eating breakfast and Jonathon and I were talking. I made a comment that the event was before I got pregnant with Lydia. We continued on talking a couple of sentences later we heard Micah's little voice say, "I wanna see Wydia." We pulled up a picture on Jonathon's cell phone and handed it to him. We expected that he would lose interest and start scrolling through the pictures like he loves to do. His hands looked so little holding the iPhone, but his words were so big. "Awwww, there she is, there's Wydia. She's a princess. Shhhh, she's sleeping (her eyes were closed in the picture). Be vewy quiet so we don't wake her." He stood the phone up next to him and talked for a few minutes about his sister. We then talked about how Lydia lives with Jesus. I read a book after Lydia died about how the children who had died were like unseen witnesses of the Gospel in their home. I think that "Wydia" may play that role on our home. But it is our job to give her memory the presence to do so. I am Lydia's mother and I mothered her from the moment of conception to her very last breath. I used to feel like I was robbed of the chance to raise her and take her with me through our lives together. I realized that morning that I still get that chance to watch her grow up through the eyes of my son. In a lot of ways the things that I feared the most, like moving on, don't seem so scary. Moving on meant that I would get further and further away from Lydia and forget more and more. But I'm finding that in moving on she still has a presence and an active role in our family. I guess we are finding C.S. Lewis's words to be so very true, "A pleasure is not fully grown until it is remembered." Tonight we stopped in the hallway to look at Lydia's picture. We talked for a minute about Lydia and how she's a baby princess (he's into the idea of prince and princesses lately). We talked about how she is his sister and that she lives with Jesus. Wrapping things up, I said, "say night-night". He said, "Night-night, Wydia, I wuv you." My heart smiled and my eyes cried a little. We choose to allow her to grow through our memory. We continue to love her as we move on taking our love for her with us every step of the way. Moving on doesn't seem so scary anymore.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Kitchen Aid

I’ve been quiet on this blog for quite some time, but I’ve been thinking about how to reintegrate it into my life and show that life goes on after tragedy; even though in the midst of tragedy, going/moving on is the greatest fear. Last night I was baking my husband’s 37th birthday cake. He was 32 when our world fell apart. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries always bring up the thoughts of what would’ve been. I was watching the ingredients mix together in the stainless steel bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer and the flour and cocoa came rising out of the bowl making “snow” on the mixer and the countertop and I was remembering. It suddenly came to me that the kitchen Aid mixer was a baby gift. That’s right, a baby gift. We had come home from the hospital, baby-less (Lydia was still very sick and in Cook Children’s at this time), and my mom asked if I would like to see the gifts that friends and family had sent. My mom walked in with it and what seemed like a TON of other gifts and placed it on my dining table. It was a gift sent to me by my Granny when Lydia was born. She admitted it was perhaps a strange gift, but knew I had wanted one. I think she was thinking of birthday cakes and happy memories that would be made with this brand new mixer. I thought it was a great idea, maybe even more like a “push gift”, an idea that had been gaining popularity at the time. I was so excited to feel better and use it, but at that moment, I just wanted to know if Lydia was going to get better. I remember trying to force myself to be excited about all the lovely gifts that our parents had brought to us from family and friends, but the excitement was just not there. After the funeral and things settled down, the gifts given to Lydia went in her room and the door remained closed for a very long time. But one thing stayed out, the Kitchen Aid mixer. I made cakes every month for probably the first 6 months. I needed something to do since I didn’t have a baby to celebrate. I had the need to make something from nothing, to make a beautiful and delicious creation, to set aside time and remember. And honestly, there was also a little comfort in whatever sugary confection I created. It fueled a passion for baking and decorating. Me and Kitchen Aid are pretty tight nearly 5 years later. You can tell this mixer has seen its share of hard work; the motor tends to groan a little if I’m mixing something thick and heavy. The plastic knob that covers the metal bar that determines the speed is broken off, but it still works. I guess this mixer is a lot like me. I’ve done a lot of hard work walking with my grief. I groan a little when the load gets heavy and I’m missing a part of myself too. But there is one distinct difference, the part of me that is missing is now an eternal soul who lives with Jesus and I will be reunited with her again. The plastic knob from the Kitchen Aid is gone forever in the landfill in Fort Worth. There is hope for me, but none for the mixer. I’m remembering all of these things as I hear a little voice behind me saying, “Momma can I have a lick?” I’m jarred back to the present by the one thing that holds me on this side of heaven; another tiny soul that has been entrusted to me to raise to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. This one I get to keep for a little longer than I did Lydia.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Season Opening

This week rolls out our second holiday season without our precious Lydia. I can’t believe that she would be big enough this year to eat Thanksgiving turkey, or maybe rather throw it across the room and laugh. Maybe mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese would be her favorite, they were always mine. She would be walking and talking some, she would've been 18 1/2 months old for Thanksgiving this year.

I think that this Christmas would’ve been the most fun of all the Christmas’ with her. She would've been 19 1/2 months by then. The purity of the joy of a child as they are able to open those first Christmas gifts is priceless. There is no disappointment at this age in not getting exactly what they asked of Santa Claus and there would be no sibling rivalry to distract from the joy of giving. There would simply be giant smiles and lots of hugs and kisses for the joy of Christmas morn. The wrapping paper would be the best gift of all in her eyes and I would want nothing else, but to see her smile.

I can envision us getting ready for the Christmas church service with Lydia in her floofy red and white Christmas dress. All lacy and frilly. Maybe even the kind with the jingle bells sewn to the petticoat, those always make me smile. Her frilly socks with the lace around the edges and black patent shoes. And a little red bow in her baby soft, fine hair. Everyone would stop us to say how adorable and beautiful she looked and she would know it because her daddy would always be doting on her so. This means that Christmas service will be hard to attend, because there will be a beautiful baby girl, about Lydia's age, dressed just as I envisioned, but that child will not fill the emptiness of my arms.

Instead, of all these hopes and dreams, there is an empty place at the table next to her 11 month old cousin, Cole. He'll never know the difference, he will get all the attention, but there is heartbreak for us adults knowing that he should have a playmate, other than Elwood and Delta, the dogs of the family. I’m sure Lydia and Cole would be all into things together and a handful to keep up with, but a joy all the same. The clamor of favorite toys making all their melodious noises will be missing once Cole is gone. The coos and giggles and clapping hands will also leave with him. Leaving the house still silent in comparison to the noise of a house with a child.

People wonder, do we have joy now. Of course we do. But there will always be a hole where Lydia would've been. Anyone who believes otherwise is sadly mistaken. Do we know that we will hold her again? Absolutely! But being certain of eternity doesn't take away the pain of this world, it just gives us a way to embrace it and move toward that day where there will be no more crying and no more tears. Even so, Lord, come quickly!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What Do You Say...

What do you say when a baby dies and someone says...
"At least you didn't bring it home."
What do you say when a baby is stillborn and someone says...
"At least it never lived."
What do you say when a mother of three says...
"Think of all the time you'll have."
What do you say when so many say...
"You can always have another."
What do you say when someone says...nothing?
What do you say when someone says..."I'm sorry."
You say, with grateful tears and warm embrace, "Thank you!"

We all need "Kleenex & candle" friends when we suffer loss. Compassionate companions who give us permission to cry and offer a Kleenex or their tears. When the darkness of discouragement comes they encircle us. Our heroes of hope light the way to brighter tomorrows and to the One who is truth and our eternal encouragement. And at the right season, we can pass on what we have received to others...a Kleenex and a candle.
Kathe Wunnenberg in Grieving the Child I Never Knew

Lord, please bring Jonathon and I "Kleenex and candle" friends who can continue to walk with us through the pain. Grant us the courage to forgive those who have said insensitive things in their well-meaning attempts to soothe our pain. Thank you to all of our friends who have cried with us or brought us light in the darkness. We couldn't have carried this burden without you!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Homegoing Memories

I hadn’t planned on posting this, but thought it might be a blessing to someone. I will give the disclaimer that even I can’t read this without crying again.

I had Good Morning America on the TV this morning (May 21, 2010) as I worked in the kitchen and I was flooded with memories.

A year ago today, Jonathon and I were cooped up in a room with a terrible view of a construction site at Cook Children’s waiting for Lydia to be with Jesus. These were the most agonizing hours of my life! Knowing that she was suffering in her earthly body brought me to my knees to pray that the Lord would take her quickly. The first time she stopped breathing long enough for me to believe that she was gone was early morning May 21. Jonathon had run out to the cafeteria to find us breakfast and I had Good Morning America on in the background. Lydia was lying peacefully on the bed while I picked up the room to make space for our families coming soon. She stopped breathing and her color went ashen. I waited for her to take another breath and she didn’t. I sat there rocking her envisioning her being greeted by the loved ones gone on before her. And just I started to sob, I laid her down to look at her and she gasped for air like a fish out of water. I had even called Jonathon and told him it was time and to come back quickly. The whole day was full of these moments. Holding our breath waiting to see if she would take another, watching her color fade, another gasping breath and she would be pretty and pink again. It was hard to believe that she was a sick as she was. She looked so perfect on the outside! She had a beautiful head of dark hair and dark eyes. Her little fists were clinched so tightly that her fingernails were bruised, a symptom of the hypoxia.

Those gasping breaths and the clinched fists visited me in my dreams for months.

I held her every moment I could. I cried when I had the tears to cry. I tried to comfort her, but knew that comfort was only going to come when Jesus took her home. I longed for a miracle and prayed for one, but prayed that if healing was not God’s will, that He would take her home quickly. We knew our chances of a miracle faded with every period of her not breathing. We had 24 hours of waiting. We agonized over her and our heart broke over and over knowing that she would never grow to say “Daddy” or “Mommy.” I had been holding her for at least two hours straight. My tailbone hurt and I finally had to get up and relieve myself. As I got up, she took one gasping breath and I kissed her little cheek and handed her to Jonathon. I held her for her last breath and Jonathon held her as her heart stopped.

The doctor came in and called a time of death, 4:25 pm May 21, 2009. Jonathon handed her back to me. Her body was still warm in my arms, but her color was gone. Our families came in the room and gathered around us and said goodbye. They left us there with Lydia, we had more papers to sign. I removed her monogrammed onesie from her body and folded everything neatly breathing in her scent. We picked up the diaper bag and left her there having no idea what funeral home would come and get her body.

I don’t remember much of the drive home or that evening.