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