Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bringing in the New Year

I'm trying not to let today be a hard day.  I know my children need some normalcy in life.  I know we can't stop celebrating life because one of us is missing.  I know life is continuing on.  I know William loved celebrations and time with family.  I know he loved life and celebrating was a part of that.

I know all of this, yet I have to force myself to be festive.  I am not glad to say goodbye to 2015...I would go back to pre-October and remain in it.  It is difficult to see hope and joy coming in 2016.  It holds so many unwelcome firsts... his birthday, marking his grave, family photo, starting classes, moving, the anniversary of his death, and much more that I've not thought of yet.

New Year's is typically a big holiday for us.  We enjoy going through each month and being thankful for all God's provided and done in our lives.  I can hardly think of being thankful, yet I know there is much to be thankful for.

I pray that the Lord will help me handle tonight.  I pray it will be a festive, memorable time for my family.  I pray that the Lord will help us in 2016 to find joy in every day, to love one another through our grief and be patient with one another, and to still be able to notice the things we are grateful for.  I pray we will have thankful hearts and not let bitterness spring up.

May we not forget how very short our time on earth is.  I miss William.  I am a better mother because of him.  He brought so much blessing to my life.  I am truly grateful that God gave me 8 and 1/2 years with him.  I would rather have had that time than to not have had him in my life at all.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Little Things

I had been dreading taking Andrew in for his ABR at Hearts for Hearing.

When you have a child with special needs and you see their doctors often, it is amazing how much you come to care for those who are so deeply vested in their life.

William always loved to go to his mapping appointment with Dr. Sara.  Every 3 months, she made his very long appointment so much fun!

He had activities that were his favorites, like putting the Little People on the bus and putting them in the water for a bath or a swim.  I think he would've continued playing that for days.  His favorite Little People were, of course, the superheroes!

So, since we're there every 3 months anyway, we always schedule our newest infant's ABR during William's mapping appointment.  This one was scheduled long before Andrew was born and before William "flew away," as Adelina always says.  And here I was, dreading going to the place where my precious son spent so much time.  I thought it would be so incredibly difficult, but it caught me by surprise.  It was a comfort.  It was like coming home.  It was a place of rest and peace, which I've had precious little of in the last 2 and 1/2 months.

That's one of the things about grief...it catches you so unaware.  Things that you never dream of being difficult knock you off guard and you find yourself sobbing hysterically in the middle of the kefir isle at Sprout's.  Then things you would expect to be hard are like a little gift where you finally feel that peace and comfort that you've been begging for.  But the hard thing is, you never know which one you'll be hit with.  There's no predicting it.

Over the last 72 days I've heard several variations of people afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.  Boy, do I get it.  It's awkward, I know.  You want so much to reach out and take away the hurt, the pain, to make it all better.  But it's not possible.  So, what do you say?  Really, nothing.  There's nothing to be said that can make it better and really, very little that can make it worse.  But where I, personally, have received the most comfort is from those of you, so many of you, who have grieved along side us.  Those who have shed tears with us and for us.  Those who loved William and have shared your precious stories about him, especially the ones I didn't already know.  It comforts me to hear how well you knew him and what he loved and that he's on your mind and in your heart...that you're thinking about him while you're thinking of us.

Aside from the sweet gifts of friendship, peace, comfort, and love when we went for Andrew's ABR, we also received another special gift.  It was a set of Little People Superheroes.

Thank you, Sara and Tami!  The children have enjoyed putting them on the bus and in the water and talking about William.  That was so incredibly thoughtful!  Thank you for helping to preserve his memory among the younger children.  He loved you both so much!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Handprints

I've had a couple of good days in a row.  It's not getting easier, but I am beginning to feel God's comfort more.  I know I will see William again.  The grief is for what I miss.  But the grief has taught me much already.  First and foremost, that any control I pretend to have is an illusion.  I have always been a "control freak."  I have never been one to struggle with fear but I think it's largely because I felt I was so prepared for things.  We drill our children on safety measures.  We weight the risk vs. benefit of every decision on everything they want to do.  We are extra cautious when it comes to what we allow our children to do, not because we don't trust them, but because we want to do everything in our power to keep them safe.  So many times I've said, "We do the best we can with the knowledge we have and trust God for the rest."  And I believed it.  Now I know it.  I have control over nothing.

The other thing that really sticks with me is the fact that I'm dying.  Not in the sense that I have a terminal illness, but in the sense that our bodies are all wasting away.  I do not know how many days I have left, but the only thing I truly have control over is how I spend them.  I choose to spend them praising the God who made me.  Even if He does not deliver me from the fire.  Though He slay me, yet I will praise Him.

Our time here is so short.  Time gets away from us.  All too easily we focus on the here and now instead of eternity.  Our eternity begins now.  It's not for someday.  It's about the relationship with have with Christ and the relationships we build here.  That's it.  That's all we take with us.  All the stuff that gets done really doesn't matter...only the love we've shared.

I found this handprint of William's the other day as I was going through papers that needed grading.  It is probably his last one.  Sydnee had been doing school with him and she was using red on white for contrast to see if he could decipher it.  Just for fun, she painted his hand and placed his print.  He always loved that!  He couldn't see detail, but he could see enough to know there was something there and be able to touch it.  And, of course, that brought a huge smile!

And the handprint got me thinking about the footprint canvas that hangs int he boys' room.  I had always intended to redo the footprints.  After Titus was born, I was going to do a whole new one.  I never did.  Ugh.  Now it's too late.  So I added Titus to the top and Andrew inside Michael's prints.  That's another thing about grief...it's always there to remind you of all the things you didn't do with your loved one when you had the opportunity.
I regret that we never took him fishing.  It was only because of my fear of everything that could possibly go wrong.  And look, in the end, what did I save him from?  A fun day near the water touching the slime of bait and fish.

I can't say that I've completely turned over a new leaf and that I'm suddenly willing to let my children jump off cliffs or travel to Europe alone, but I  am finding that I'm willing to say "yes" more often.  I am reminded of one of William's favorite shirts...
It has a T-Rex on it and it says, "Be Mighty."  He loved that shirt.  He loved anything strong.  He so wanted to BE strong.  And he was.  He faced everything with a smile.  Everything with love.  Everything with joy.  He took it all in stride.  Never complaining.  Always appreciative.  When I think of him, I think, "That's how I need to live MY life."  That's the handprint that William left...BE MIGHTY!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Last Day

Today marks 2 months without my little boy.  Unbelievable.  I still feel like I'm in a terrible dream.  I truly believed that William would pull through.  He had had so many close encounters.  So many near misses.  So many times he overcame.  Did I fool myself?  I honestly thought he was stronger.  I genuinely believed that he would be with us for a long time.  Even as they were performing CPR, the deepest part of me was sure that God would not take him.

A few people have been brave enough to ask about the details.  I know everyone was shocked.  He had seemed so healthy, how could this have happened so fast?  The truth is, we were as dumbfounded as anyone.  Shocked.  Incredulous.  How can this be?  Friday he was healthy, happy, playing.  We went into town and he visited with people, people who were absolutely stunned by the news just 2 days later.

Saturday evening William wasn't feeling well.  He threw up.  I listened to his lungs and called his doctor.  He sounded clear.  I was so relieved.  It was the first time he had ever thrown up and not aspirated.  He did, however, have a lot of mucus coming up.  I started suctioning treatments after his vest, which seemed to finally help.  We decided to watch him closely and visit his doctor on Monday.  I stayed up with William that night, watching him.  I knew a turn for the worse could happen quickly, but when I asked him, he did not want to go to the hospital.  This actually gave me peace that everything was okay because William was always ready to go to the hospital to "get better" when he was feeling bad.  He'd been through this enough times that I trusted he knew his body.  He slept peacefully Saturday night.  I held his hand most of the night.  He snuggled into me a couple of times, but didn't really awaken.  His breathing was good all night.  I checked his pulsox and it was holding firm.

Sunday morning he awoke and everything appeared to be fine.  We were getting ready for the Vest when he threw up again.  We decided to head to the hospital.  There was too much mucus to deal with.  I called his doctor to say we were on our way.  We called the ambulance to meet us and headed that direction.  William sat enfolded in my arms in the backseat of the car while I continued to use the portable suction machine on him.  Michael was on the phone with 911, planning a meeting spot.  We were on the highway, then pulled over, waiting for the ambulance.  William was so calm.  Michael prayed.  I prayed.  I knew in the bottom of my soul that William would be alright.  We would meet up with the ambulance, spend some time in the hospital, and my boy would come home, a little weak at first, but his strength would come.

William stopped breathing in my arms.  I cried out to Michael, I cried out to God.  I breathed into his mouth in a desperate attempt to keep him breathing.  The ambulance arrived and I breathed a sigh of relief.  They placed him on the bed and immediately got the ambu bag going.  I was so thankful, still believing he would be alright.  We'd been down this road before.  He might spend some time on the ventilator, but he was in the hands of "professionals" now and it would all be okay.

Then his heart stopped.  Suddenly my head began to spin and everything became a blur.  How could this be happening?  I cried.  I prayed.  I continued to have faith that God would save my little boy.  He would not let me face life without him.  He knew I could never handle that and God does not give us more than we can handle, right?  They gave medicine, they shocked his heart, and there it was...whew.  We were waiting on the life flight to get there and they kept the ambu bag going.  His heart stopped again and the life flight arrived.  Why weren't they moving him?  They had to wait until he was stable.  The decision was made to take him to the local hospital.  I rode in the front of the ambulance while 4 techs continued to perform CPR.  We arrived at the hospital and they continued.  They performed CPR for over an hour.  The doctor came to tell us there was nothing more they could do.  I begged him for help, something, anything, but giving up.  Wasn't there some kind of life support, couldn't they beat his heart for him, keep him alive, give him time to come back?  The doctor explained to me that they could not make his heart beat.  Which makes sense.  Only God can do that.

I don't know where to go from here.  How to get on with life.  Every day brings new tears.  I want to continue to trust the Lord.  I'm confused about how to go on.  Nothing is simple now.  Everything has 2 sides now.  For every moment I spend in faith and peace, there's a dark one that I spend in fear and doubt.  For every Scripture that comes to mind that brings comfort, another one comes to haunt me.  The fervent prayer of the righteous avails much.  Was I not fervent?  Am I counted among His righteous?  Where was the miracle?

Oh, God, how I loved that boy.  Yet, I could not save him.  He took his last breath in my arms and there was nothing, nothing I could do.  Completely powerless.  Helpless.

I've been struggling.  Struggling to read Scripture.  Struggling to pray.  Struggling to believe.  Fighting against anger and despair.  And it is hard.  Hard.  I don't know when it will end.  Maybe never.  But in the midst of my struggling, God has not left me alone.  I hear His Spirit speak to my heart in the darkest hours.  There are glimmers of light.  And today, comfort.  My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus' blood and righteousness.  It is not built on what happens in this life.  It is not built on His miracles.  It is not built on what He does for me.  It is not built on the here and now.  My hope is in Christ, for eternity.  He is the bread of life.  Whoever eats of this bread, will live forever.

I do not know why William was taken home that day.  I do not know why his time on earth was short.  I do know that my struggles have everything to do with me missing him and nothing to do with questions about where he is.  I know I'll see him again.  I do know that his short life here changed me drastically.  He made me love deeper, stronger.  He made me look beyond myself.  Maybe it's just as Wallace said..."his purpose was complete."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Grief

Grief is like a two-headed dragon.  One moment I am fine, pressing on, and I feel like I am going to make it through the darkness.  The next moment, for no apparent reason, I am crushed, struggling to breathe, clawing my way through the mire, searching desperately for hope and light and air.  I feel abandoned, hopeless, as if nothing matters.  I find myself struggling to believe, struggling to have faith, struggling to hang on to the things that I know in my heart to be true.  Yet, here I am, struggling to believe them.

There are tons of books out there about grief.  How to deal with grief.  How to help someone deal with grief.  The stages of grief.  Ha!  Certainly I've not read everything out there, but there is one thing I know... Every single person who cares about me has the same fear when talking to me.  They are all afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.  I completely understand this fear.  Words can be hurtful.  And since pretty much everything hurts right now, I understand people be afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing.  Here's what I want you all to know...

I am different.  I will always be different.  There are things I no longer enjoy.  It's hard for me to be around people, even those of you who I love.  I don't know why.  It has nothing to do with you or my feelings for you.  I still love you.  It's just hard.  I still care about you.  I still want you around.  I appreciate the fact that you are trying to comfort me.  Or that you will sit in silence with me.  Or that you share your stories of William, even through my tears.  Tears aren't always bad.  It would be worse to never hear about him.  It's important to me that other people are thinking about him, too.  It's important to me that he was important to you.  That I know that you loved him.  That you haven't forgotten him.  Share your stories.  Let me cry.  Or be silent.  Let me stay home.  Or leave early.  Let me retreat.  Or withdraw.  Don't take it personally.  And don't give up on me.  Love who I'm becoming, not who I was.  It is a process and I don't even know who am I anymore.  I'm struggling through the "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" verse in a whole new way, day by day...moment by moment.  Bear with me.

My friend, Melanie, runs a blog called The Life I Didn't Choose.  She wrote this post called, What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know.  I copied it here because I think she has some very valuable things to say.



People say“I can’t imagine.
But then they do.
They think that missing a dead child is like missing your child at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.
That’s not it at all.
It isn’t nostalgia for a time when things were different or better or you talked more: it’s a gut-wrenching, breath robbing, knee-buckling, aching groan that lives inside you begging to be released.
There is no smooth transition up the ladder of grief recovery so that you emerge at the top, better for the experience and able to put it behind you.
We’ve all heard the much touted theory that grief proceeds in the following stages:
  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • acceptance
And people (who haven’t experienced grief) tend to think it’s a straight line from one stage to another, gradually going from bottom to top and then on with life.
But it just isn’t true.
Reality is, these “stages” coexist and fluctuate back and forth from day to day and even hour to hour.
Grief remakes you from the inside out.
Losing a child has made me rethink everything I believe and everything I am.  It has changed and is changing my relationship with myself and with others in ways I couldn’t imagine and often don’t anticipate.
And it is hard, hard work.
Life around us doesn’t stop.  Grieving parents return to work, continue to nurture their surviving children, keep getting up in the morning and taking care of daily details.
We are doing all the things others do, but we are doing them with an added weight of sorrow and pain that makes each step feel like wading through quicksand.
We want you to know we are doing the best we can.
Life without my child is like having a leg amputated–I am forced to learn to manage without it, but everything will always be harder and different. And it will be this way for the rest of my life.
The one thing a grieving parent DOESN’T want you to know is how it feels to bury your child.

I don’t want anyone else to know what it means to leave part of your heart and a chunk of your life beneath the ground.

“But please: Don’t say it’s not really so bad. Because it is. Death is awful, demonic. If you think your task as a comforter is to tell me that really, all things considered, it’s not so bad, you do not sit with me in my grief but place yourself off in the distance away from me. Over there, you are of no help. What I need to hear from you is that you recognize how painful it is. I need to hear from you that you are with me in my desperation. To comfort me, you have to come close. Come sit beside me on my mourning bench.”
Nicholas Wolterstorff   LAMENT FOR A SON

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Sun Still Rises...

Today I awoke with no tears.  The first morning that I haven't awakened to my own sobs.  Sure, they came later in the day, but they did not greet me first thing.  It is another sign that life goes on, as I know it must.

Never before in my Christian walk have I felt so keenly the pull of two personalities, the war between my flesh and my spirit.  The war rages intensely now, with the spirit just narrowly winning out over the flesh.  The flesh still wants to wallow, to scream and demand to know why, to be angry and bitter and resentful.  Yet, He has set eternity in my heart.  I am reminded that this world is not enough.  William was not created to live only 8 1/2 brief years on this earth.  He was created for eternity.  Imagine if the best this world has to offer was the best that it got.  When I remember this, I suddenly know with certainty that no matter what happens, I will be all right because this is not all there is.

Today I was holding Andrew and lamenting over my sorrow that William never got to hold him.  I began to cry out about how unfair it seemed when suddenly it struck me, a thought or vision or dream...it doesn't matter what it is called, it brought me a sense of deep peace.  The picture I saw in my mind was of William, strong and healthy, beautiful and oh-so-happy, holding our baby, the one that God chose to take home before we ever got to hold him, in 2009.  William talked about him often and wondered what he would be like and if he would know us when we saw him in heaven.  Only in my mind, he wasn't really a baby.  He and William knew each other well and were laughing together. I never got to hold that baby.  I never saw his face or took a picture, except on ultrasound.  We could not even bring ourselves to fully name him, but simply call him by an affectionate nickname, "Coo."  And now, he and William are together and the rest of us remain...missing them.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Of Dreams and Other Things...

I had a dream.  A beautiful dream.  A terrible dream.  I was dreaming that I was back in the hospital the day Andrew was born.  Everything happened exactly as it had, except when my blood pressure bottomed out and I could't breathe and all the bells and whistles started going off, they could not help me.  The medicine did not work.  I died and went to heaven and the first thing I saw was my beautiful, sweet boy, running to me with his arms stretched out.  I bent down and scooped him up, twirling him around as I've done so often.  He giggled and laughed, then wrapped his arms around my neck in that oh-so-familiar way and said, "Hello,  Mommy!"  What a beautiful twinkle was in his eyes!  Then, just like that, it was over.  I woke up.  Such cruelty.  Reality set in and I've not been able to stop crying since.

It's been 46 days.  Only 46 days.  Already 46 days.  It doesn't matter how you look at it, they've been torturous.  In some ways I feel my faith has been strengthened.  In some ways I feel like I'm a giant fraud, only feigning strong faith.  My faith is being pummeled by fear and doubt.  Will it be consumed? Will this brokenness and sorrow overtake me? Or is it just to become a part of who I am? As I've said before, life is now a conundrum...a constant mixing of emotions and ideas, no longer simple.

Today was a "William" day.  Of course, we think of him everyday.  We talk of him everyday.  Tears flow for him everyday.  But today it seemed that every thought, every memory, every song was all about him.  For everyone, not just me.  Wallace, who ALWAYS wears cowboy boots, put on William's tennis shoes as we were going out the door.  He was so proud of them.  It probably should not have been so difficult for me to watch them being worn.  When Wallace came to show me what he was wearing, I simply said, "That's nice, son."  We were taking Andrew for his check up.  The older girls were working at the barn so Michael drove me and the younger children (Elly and down).  I sat next to Andrew and Wallace.  Wallace talked a lot about the day William died, his viewing, and the funeral.  Calvin chimed in.  Elly and Selah sang his favorite songs.  We stopped by Sprout's and I ran in while Michael waited in the van with the children.  I stood in the grocery aisle and cried as I stared at the kefir the children had asked me to get.  William's favorite.  We only started buying kefir because of him.  Will it always be hard to buy kefir?  Simple things, now turned so difficult.

I've always been thought of as a strong person.  Turns out I'm the weakest of the weak.  I cannot pull myself together.  But that's okay.  It turns out, it's not my responsibility to hold it all together.

The Lord will preserve me.  I know He will.  I may not feel it, but I know it.  His gentle Holy Spirit is there to help me take captive those thoughts that are not in line with His truth.  He reminds me that He is faithful to complete the good work He began. We will be okay.  Never the same, but we will persevere in Him.  "But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." Isaiah 64:8

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Lord gave...

We are pleased to announce the birth of our newest child, Andrew Steadfast.
Andrew means courageous and enduring.  Steadfast means firmly fixed, devoted, and loyal: not changing.  We are praying that this little guy will grow into a courageous, Godly man who is not swept about with every wind of doctrine, but is firmly planted and loyal to His Savior, Jesus.  "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
He was born November 29 at 3:50pm, weighing 6lbs, 8oz, and 19 inches long...our 2nd smallest baby.
Though Andrew did fine throughout labor and delivery, I had a couple of issues with extremely low blood pressure, which they medicated for and put me on oxygen.  This one was probably the hardest on Michael, who watched helplessly as my BP bottomed out.  After watching things happen with William just a few weeks ago, he had a very difficult time with this.  But, praise the Lord, all is well and we ended with a healthy baby, healthy Momma!
 Of course, the children are excited, as usual!

Everyone is so happy to have a new baby in the house again!  The Lord knows the joy is needed!  Sydnee, Sherrod, and Selah were able to be at the hospital during the birth...


while Elly was able to come up later.
Everyone else had to wait until we got home to see him and they were nearly bursting through the door when we came into the house!





Titus was a mess!  He was so excited to see "Baby Ru" and all he wants to do is hold him!

Life is so different now.  It's hard to get used to.  It was so simple before.  Joy was joy, sadness was sadness.  Now every joy is mingled with sorrow.  I don't know that that will ever change.  As thankful as I am for this beautiful child the Lord has given, I cannot help but think about the one He took home and how much I miss him.  It is so strange to feel so empty.  I look at the pictures and our family suddenly seems so small.  Though there are 12 children in the home again, it seems bare.  Even through the great joy, there is an emptiness.  It does not mean I am less happy or less thankful for this child...I am not.  I love him dearly and am VERY blessed.  But it is strange to have such a deep, deep sorrow mixed into that.
For those who have not heard the story behind Andrew's nickname...

We always spend time as a family coming up with names.  This time, none could be agreed upon.  We had several ideas for the first name, but nothing seemed like IT.  The middle name was set all along.  William wanted to name the baby Rupert after a favorite character in the Millie Keith books.  I told him we weren't naming him Rupert and he smiled his ornery smile and said, "Well, I can still CALL him Rupert."

"No," I said.  "You'll need to call the baby by his name."

He thought about that for a moment.  "Hmmm...Well, maybe I'll just call him Ru."

I'm not typically big on nicknames.  But one night after William passed into glory, we were sitting around the table, talking about the upcoming birth.  Michael asked if we were going to have a nickname.  I don't know why, knowing that I'm usually pretty adamant about calling them by their given name.  "Andy?" he said..."Drew?"  Someone said, "Ru."  Yes, that's it.  Little Ru, you were so loved by your big brother.  He looked forward to your birth.  Everyday he would pat my tummy and ask how many more days.  He would put his head on my tummy and listen for you.  He would wait patiently with his hand on my tummy, hoping to feel you move.  How he longed to hold you.  He always LOVED holding the baby.  He would do it for as long as he could get away with it.  And he was always so gentle.  He loved you dearly and looked forward to your coming with great anticipation.  He was so proud to be your big brother!  Though you will never know him this side of heaven, may you ALWAYS feel his love... "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Time to Give Thanks


We did not greet this year with our usual festivities.  There was very little giddy baking in the kitchen, few joyful songs, half-hearted reading.  No one seemed to notice.  We have stayed busy with "things," but it is definitely not our normal Thanksgiving.  How could it be?

Part of me wants to wallow in my sorrow.  Crawl in bed and never get up.  The flesh in me wants to be angry at the unfairness of it all.  But is it really unfair?  God has been far better to me than I could ever deserve.  But you'll never catch anyone complaining about that.

It is easy to praise the Lord when things are "perfect."  It's easy to see His goodness when everything is as we think it should be.  It's easy to give thanks when we "feel" like our life is full of blessing.  Can we do it in the hard times?  The times that knock us off our feet?  The times that are impossible to walk through on our own?

As I faced this Thanksgiving, partially balking at giving thanks, God flooded my mind with memories.  Precious memories.  Wonderful things that He has done.  William singing, "He Arose."  William's beautiful prayers, always concerned with how other people were doing, longing for their comfort and healing and happiness.  William's sweet voice in past illnesses, asking me if he was going to Heaven now.  It seems such a dishonor to him to balk at giving thanks when he always had such a thankful heart.

I've been thinking a lot about Job lately.  With my own baby due very soon, of course the verse has been on my mind, "And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.'" (Job 1:21)

Wednesday the older girls took all the children traveling around to deliver bread.  When they got home, Abby said that the van was shaking and felt off.  That evening we traveled 90 minutes to visit family.  The van definitely felt different, but nothing major.  About 5 minutes from our destination, the van started shaking uncontrollably and Michael was very concerned.  When it was time to leave he drove straight to a gas station and checked the tires.  One of the back tires had a small hole where air was leaking but was also cracked down the middle, which could not be seen until it was taken off.  I praise the Lord that it didn't blow when the children were out alone.

We fool ourselves into thinking that we have control over situations.  The truth is, we all belong to the Lord.  We are His to give and to take away.  His mercies are new every morning.  And I can truly give thanks with my whole heart when I choose to recount all His wonderful deeds.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankfulness

Thanksgiving.  A time to give thanks.  Kind of an oxymoron for Christians, as we are commanded to "Give thanks in all things."  Still, it gets me thinking...
Even in the midst of the broken-heartedness, how could I NOT be thankful?  Of course, I miss him.  For every moment I miss, there is an equal feeling of gratitude.  I am grateful for his sweet smile, for his ornery laugh, for those precious hugs and the way that he wrapped his arms around my neck.  I am grateful for the time I spent, cuddled up next to him.  I am grateful for the 8 1/2 years that God gave us to spend with this dear boy who taught us so much about love, thankfulness, forgiveness, sacrifice, and seeing the good in everything.  William struggled with breathing all of his life.  God could have taken him home at any point, but He didn't.  He allowed us the time to know our little boy.  He allowed us the time to be changed.  How could we not be thankful for that?

The reality is, there will always be a part of me that grieves.  I am not the same person I was before William came into my life and I am not the same person I was since he has flown away into glory.  Nor would I want to be.  I cannot ever see myself praising God for William's death, but I will be thankful for his life everyday...his life here on earth that changed us all so much and his life in eternity where we will be reunited.

Speaking of thankfulness, I received the most beautiful baby gift from a sweet friend.  She wanted to do something special for Andrew, knowing how much William looked forward to his birth and knowing how much it pains me that William will not be here to hold him and that he will never know William.  We discussed some ideas and this is what she came up with...
A beautiful quilt made out of some of William's favorite things!
The back is a soft black material, since William's favorite color was, of course, black!

Here are a few of the squares, close up...






















He LOVED this shirt!  And it was so suitable for him!  And of course having the hulk costume and Woody shirt right next to it is pretty fitting, as well!

This is one of my favorites.  He loved it and now it reminds me to "be mighty" and carry on...







Sunday, November 22, 2015

Something More

I am tortured.  Haunted by memories that are too painful to recall, yet too beautiful to forget.  I awoke this morning to the sound of the younger children playing a game at the table.  Their sweet little voices all a jumble.  His voice should have been there.  I stayed in bed, pretending that his voice was a part of the mixture.  Oh, if I could just stay in bed... If the world could just stop.  Why must it continue on?  But it does.  The children beckon.  There are tummies to fill, diapers to change, laundry that needs tending to, hugs that must be had.  For that, I am thankful.  Still, I feel like Job..."My days are over.  My hopes have disappeared.  My heart's desires are broken." (Job 17:11)  And, yet, somewhere in the darkness, He whispers to me.  Somehow in the midst of the despair, I hear Him.  And I know.  We will make it.  Joy will come.  There is something more that I cannot even imagine.  And I look for it.  I wait for it.

Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Let Me Grieve But Not Forever














I miss talking with him.  He had the sweetest voice.  I still hear it in my head, which makes me sad.  It makes me more sad to think there might come a day when I don't remember it.  I just want him back.

Sherrod and I spent the better part of yesterday putting away things from the funeral, going through his things, deciding what we couldn't part with and what really needed to benefit someone else.  We didn't finish.  His toothbrush is still on the counter.  Some things will just stay the way they are.

To say grieving is difficult is such an understatement.  I always thought of grief as an emotion...you expect the emotional pain of grief.  But what I am caught off guard by is the physical pain of grief.  It is almost unbearable.  I am thankful for the faithful prayers of friends who are standing in the gap during a time when I am too weak to stand.  I am thankful for a faithful Lord who understands me even when I cannot find the words.  I am thankful for those who have gone before...who are able to put their grief into words so much better than I ever could...

"'How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?' the psalmist cried. And I wondered ... Will this pain ever go away? Will I ever again think clearly? Will anything in the days to come hold any sense of contentment? Will you forget me forever, Lord, and let the enemy named Despair have the last word: 'I have overcome her?'
Self-pity? Maybe. Reality? Yes. I daresay no one who stands in the debris of a lifestorm has not struggled with such feelings. Sadly, sometimes the unitiated voices of the religious community rise up and ask, 'Where is your faith?' and the suffering devout scamper for a place to hide. When the hurting Christian begins to fear the fine line between facing the reality of the pain and wallowing in self-pity, the pain too often gets stuffed into some room down inside and replace with glowing rhetoric. Or, rather than deny the pain, anger at the unfairness replaces the self-pity.
But would not the psalmist have us cry out in our anguish and reach upward with a weak and uncertain hand? Would not he say to us that God hears such pleas offered in the desperation of knowing we cannot heal ourselves? Would he not tell us that the way to trusting in God's unfailing love is through the valley of shadow and death and pain and confusion and dread and fear - and in finding that, indeed, he goes ahead of us and positions himself along the way to take a load from us, one hurt at a time?"
~Verdell Davis, "Let Me Grieve But Not Forever"

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

One Month

Life should really just stop.  How does it just keep going, like everything is okay?  And yet, here we are, a month after my dear boy has passed into heaven.  A month without him.  A month without seeing his sweet face.  A month without hearing that precious voice.  A month without his arms wrapped around my neck.  A whole month.  And somehow I've survived it.  The sleepless nights.  The haunted dreams.  The fault-finding and self-examination of what I could've, should've, would've done, if only I'd known.
The "things" in our house are still the same.  His toothbrush still sits in the bathroom, greeting me every morning, every evening.  I stare at it and cry while I brush my teeth.  Will I ever be able to put it away?  His clothes hang in the closet, waiting for him.  His "special toy bucket" remains untouched.  (*a little background...with so many children, all the toys are "shared" toys, except for the ones in your special bucket, which only that child may play with, unless they grant special permission for sharing.)  Each child in my house has their own stack of cups...his remain on the cabinet shelf.  Elly has been sleeping in his bed for comfort and she stares at his hulk poster every night while falling asleep.  The cars blanket that he loved so much is carefully folded on my nightstand.  His shoes remain in the shoe bucket with everyone else's.  His cochlear processors sit, untouched, unused, on my computer desk, next to the batteries that are still charged.  All the "things" are the same, but the people are not.  The people are wandering, longing for a face they can no longer see.  Grieving for the precious boy they used to hug and kiss and play with, the boy who gave so much love, who appreciated every little thing.  The people are shattered...broken.
I find myself struggling with new things.  God's Word, which has brought me so much comfort, now brings mixed emotions.  Last night I was reading in James and I was particularly bothered by chapter 5:13-16.  I find myself questioning my faith.  Why wasn't he healed?  Was my faith too weak?  Not fervent?  God could have.  He could have saved William.  Easily.  He could have brought William back from the dead, had He chosen.  But He chose not to.  He chose to take William home.  Would I have chosen differently?  Even knowing all I know?  Yes, I probably I would have.  Selfishly, I would have kept William here for my own comfort, my own desires.  Then I was reminded of all William has been through.  His poor, little, fragile body.  How much he suffered with so much patience.  This time last year he was in the hospital on life support, struggling to breathe.  And yet, God granted us another year.  Another year to love him.  Another year to treasure him.  Another year to comfort him. Now he has God for that.  Now he walks unhindered, no more pain, no more suffering, no longing to do things that he couldn't.  Now he is perfect in every way.  His beautiful eyes behold the magnificence of heaven.  He hears God's voice clearly.  How can I be angry at the Lord for that?
I do not know if tomorrow will be a better day.  I do not know if I will be able to put one foot in front of the other.  I do not know if my faith will be stronger tomorrow or weaker.  I only know that it is only by God's grace that we will continue on.  Only by His grace that we have hope for a future.  And because we trust Him, because we believe Him, we are able to continue, day after day, and look forward to being reunited.  Someday.

**Update...this was the memory that showed up on my FB page this morning...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Life I Didn't Choose

Isn't it interesting how some things in life make you instant friends?  Some things create a bond that will not be broken.  The passing of a child is one of those things.  As I find myself in new territory, unknown territory, UNWELCOME and UNWANTED territory, I also find solace in new friendships with those who have already been walking this journey.  Encouragement that they ARE actually making it, day by day.  The grief hasn't actually overwhelmed them, as it so often threatens to do.  And, yes, God IS faithful to His promises.  I particularly find comfort in my new friend, Melanie's, blog...The Life I Didn't Choose.    She talks about her grieving process in exactly the same words that I feel.  This morning she was talking about handling the holidays and this excerpt from her blog COMPLETELY sums up what I feel...

"And please, please, please, don't look for the moment or day or year when I will be "back to my old self."  My old self was buried with my son.  I am still "me" - but a different me than I would have chosen... But because I trust in the finished work of Christ, I know that one day my heart will be completely healed."

Thanks, Melanie, for being able to put it into words.

But joyful, too...

I realized that I hadn't posted about Abby's birthday.  I can't believe she's 19!  Such a wonderful young lady!  And one of my best friends!  I remember my teen years and I was nothing like the young women in my house.  Praise the Lord, they are different!  They are fun and intelligent, a joy to be with, thoughtful and kind.  I only have ONE check and that is...they are getting older and will one day want to get married.  They will leave the home and I will have to learn to create a new normal again.  Ugh.  I dread the thought.  But, for now, I'll just enjoy them.  All of them.

Abby is a lot like me when I was her age...headstrong and confident, ready to take on the world.  But she has a softer side than I did.  She's also fiercely loyal and dedicated and I am fortunate that she counts me as one of her best friends.  She had a hard time with her birthday this year and didn't want to celebrate.  I admit, I wasn't really in a festive mood, either.  But we changed some things up and enjoyed the day.  We did gifts in a different way...the old, normal way was too painful.





Then, instead of celebrating at home, we headed out with some friends to play laser tag and ride go-karts.  It was a much needed break from reality.  The competitiveness abounded, which made for a lot of fun!

The fun turned into a pretty late night, but we'd do it all over again.  Thanks to all our dear friends who came out to help us celebrate!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Broken

I've always heard that it gets easier with time.  That's a nice thought, but it's not true.  My days get harder as time goes by, the pain deeper, more acute.  My heart seems to break more with each passing day without him, if that is possible.  I have not reached a point where my thoughts of him bring smiles or laughter.  Or if they do bring a smile, the tears quickly follow.  Soft, single tears too quickly and easily turn to sobs.  I'm haunted by our last few days together.  He was so healthy...laughing, playing, being his ornery self.  How could it have turned so quickly?  How could we go from healthy to gone in a 24-hour period?  I can't wrap my mind around it.  The "what-if's" are overwhelming.  Even though I believe God's Word.  Even though I know He is sovereign over all things.  Even though I know deep within that He already knows the number of our days and nothing we do can change them.  All of that and I'm still haunted by "what-if's."
My 2yo asks several times a week, "When will we fly away like William?"  Suddenly, the magnitude of how temporal everything on this earth is is so real to me.  I've always KNOWN it.  Still, I ignored the truth that "life is but a vapor."  I said it.  I repeated it.  But my heart denied it.  I resisted it.  Now I FEEL it.  I wonder how long it will be before I see my son again.  I realize that with each passing day, I am one step closer.  Closer to being whole.  Closer to being restored.
And yet, there are things that bring me back to the now.  First, do I long to see my Lord the way I long to see my son?  That's a big one.  It's one I struggle with on a daily basis.  Oh, Lord, draw me close to You.  Give me a desire for You above all else and help me not to set up idols in my heart.
Second...oh, these children!  They need me to be here.  They need normalcy.  They need to know that everything will be okay.  How do I convey that when I don't feel it?  But because life is but a vapor, I don't want to miss a moment of it.  I don't want to "check out."  I want to experience their joys, their successes, their disappointments.  I want to hold their hand, snuggle with them, carry them as long as possible.  I look back on William's last night and I'm so grateful that I spent it next to him, holding his hand.  He wasn't afraid or struggling, I just wanted to hold him.  I could not save him, but I loved him deeply and he knew it.
I never imagined this life.  I took for granted that our happy little family would always coast along in joy.  Sure, I knew we'd have bumps along the way that we would face together, in strength and unity.  I never dreamed the bump would be an earthquake that shook everything to the very core.  And though we are facing this devastation with strength and unity, it's not the strength I had imagined.  It's not strength that we muster up.  It is the Lord alone Who carries us through.  It is HIS strength we rely on because our own is wholly insufficient, inadequate to the core.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Regrets and Non-Regrets

I miss him.  I get that I always will.  That is the hardest part.  The knowledge that things are forever different.  There is no going back.  No matter how good things get, there will always be something missing.  An empty spot.  A hole that no other person, no amount of joy, no special anything can ever fill.

One thing I've learned over the last few weeks is how complacent we become.  All of us, in general.  We lull ourselves into thinking that we have tomorrow.  We naturally put things off for another day, deluding ourselves that we can do it tomorrow or next week or next year.  Of course I have regrets.  I regret not saying "YES" to the park more often.  I regret that we never took him fishing.  I regret that it took me longer that it should have at times to charge the battery on his police car.

But there are also many reasons NOT to regret.  So many things I'm glad of.  I'm so very glad that I have no doubt that William knew how much he was loved.  I'm thankful that he was always greeting with cheerful kisses, hugs, and affirmations, not just by me, but by everyone who knew him.  I'm grateful that everyone in our house loved to serve him and meet his needs, loved to play with him, never thought of leaving him behind.  I cherish the nights I spent cuddled beside him in bed, singing his favorite songs, holding his hand, kissing his forehead or cheek.  I'm thankful that I am confident that William never felt belittled or "less than."  He was welcomed everywhere he went.  EVERYONE loved William.  In that, at least, he never faced adversity.  His life was filled with love, acceptance, laughter, joy, compassion.  Though it doesn't remove the pain of missing him, it is a small comfort.  

But it makes me think of my other children.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  Would I be so confident that THEY always feel loved and accepted and treasured?  When children don't have special needs that they truly NEED you to fulfill, is it easier to let things slip by the wayside?  Do they have my undivided attention when they need it most?  Or want it most?  Or is it easier to push them aside, to make them wait for "later" because I know they can fend for themselves?  What about my husband, the love of my life?  Does he always know how much I treasure him?  Or do I just expect him to know it without applying words and actions?  These are things that I have been pondering.  Yes, I miss William.  Desperately.  I always will.  But I also have a household of people that I love dearly, who need me to be present.  They need my love.  They need me to be present.  They need me not to shut down.  They need to know how important they are.  That they are unconditionally accepted.  Lord, help me to be THAT mother.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

On Tears and Gray Hairs

I found this picture a couple of days ago in Sarah's photos.















The boys have always had so much fun together.  It's hard to watch my little guys struggling so much now.  Of course, we all miss William.  We are all struggling.  It's so hard to believe he's gone from this earth.  Everyone points to all the good things...he can run into the arms of Jesus, he can see clearly, hear perfectly, no tears, no hardships, no difficulties.  I know all of these things to be true, but selfishly, I would keep him here.  I miss those little arms wrapped around my neck.  No one has ever been able to give a hug like William.  I miss that ornery voice, joking with me over nothing, really.  I miss the way he would snuggle up to me at night as I would sing his favorite song.  I miss seeing his cheerful face at the table.  The empty seat is more than I can bear.

Things are different now.  There's no mix of vitamins to prepare in the morning.  No Vest therapy to get ready.  No Braille lessons.  No searching for lost Cochlear batteries.  No teeth flossing and mouthwash.  No socks to put on.  No big diaper to change.  No bath to prepare.  No one to help with mealtime.  No hair to spike.  No wheelchair to fold up and try to fit in the car.  No joke about slowing down so I won't need to visit with a police officer (that only happened once).  I miss it.  All of it.  I want it all back.

I am at a loss when it comes to counting my children.  We use to do the "sound off".  Sarah would start with "1," Abby would say, "2," and so on down the line.  Adelina would say, in her very cute little voice, "11," and whoever was sitting next to Titus would reply, "12."  I can't imagine that we'll ever do that again.  When I've gone somewhere, it's literally confusing for me.  I have to pull them all together, look at them one-by-one, and say their names.  My older girls have looked at me compassionately and said, "Mommy, we're all here."  Michael and I are in awe that our house can feel so empty.

After William died that Sunday, the first time I looked in the mirror was the day of his funeral.  Thursday.  I was shocked at the amount of gray hair that seemed to come from nowhere.  Last year, when he stopped breathing, I had several crop up.  Six, actually.  Now it is so peppered, there's no counting them.  How do they just pop up like that, overnight?  Isn't that strange?  One thing is for sure, I will never dye my hair.  Those gray hairs are simply reminders of a much-loved little boy and how precious he was to me.

It hasn't all been doom and gloom.  We've had some good times, reminiscing.  Titus will occasionally point to William's picture on the wall and grunt until Michael holds him up where he can touch it, then all is well.  The children like to pick William's favorite songs at night for their own now.  Wallace has really surprised me.  He's so thoughtful and wise, almost melancholy at times.  One night he asked why we couldn't just go be with William in heaven now.  I told him that we had not fulfilled the purpose God has for our lives yet.  He paused and after a few moments said, "William fulfilled God's purpose for his life."  It wasn't a question, but more of an understanding.  Last night he asked if we could tie army guys or knights onto balloons and send them out on William's birthday because William would like for someone to get a surprise.

I feel for Knox.  I know he doesn't understand and he can't even put into words how to ask what he doesn't know.  The day of the visitation, he came in and saw William's body, lying in the coffin.  He excitedly ran to Wallace, saying, "Wallace! Wallace! Come here! I found William!"  He hasn't slept a solid night since that Sunday.  I don't know how to make it better for him.  Just hold him and pray over him and love him.

The grief is different for all of us.  There are different things that break us and different things that bring a fond smile.  But one thing I'm thankful for...through all of this, God's grace is still clearly seen.  We can feel His hand on us, His comfort, His care.  We can see His past mercies and His current graces.

I know life must go on, but every first without him is so very difficult.  There will never again be a complete family picture.  He will never get to live in the house he was so happy that we are buying.  He will never see his sweet, new baby brother that he loved so dearly and was counting the days until he could hold him.

I know the day will come when there's lots of laughter again.  I think the day will come when our thoughts of William bring tender smiles instead of brokenness and tears.  I hope the day will come when I can sing to my children at night without crying.  But for now, I simply cry out, "Help me, Lord! Help me walk this road that You have given me.  Help me be grateful for the time I was given and cherish it, instead of coveting more.  Mold me into what You will and help me to glorify You in all things."