Thursday, September 11, 2014

Four Years

Dear Luke,
Happy 4th birthday!  Your birthday is a day that we like to celebrate as if you were here - decorations, cake, balloons.  We always have a balloon release and visit your grave.  But this year none of those things happened.  Life has changed so much for us this year - the kids are both in school full-time, I am working now and have a church calling that made it so we couldn't do our usual birthday celebrations.  But that doesn't mean it wasn't a special day...

Today was filled with phone calls and texts from family and friends.  At one point I heard a knock on my door and found my neighbor standing on the porch with a bouquet of flowers.  Dad came to the school for lunch where we sat in my classroom and ate sandwiches and cake balls.  Later in the day one of my students gave me a little "treasure" she found out on the playground - the tiniest pinecone I've ever seen.  It's silly how much that little pinecone meant to me at that moment.  But isn't that how it is?  It's the little things - those little tender mercies - that make all the difference.  I experienced countless tender mercies today.

I went to Young Women's tonight where we encouraged the girls to share their thoughts and beliefs about Christ and the gospel on-line.  I feel that I can't ask them to do something that I am not willing to do.  I feel there is no better birthday present I could give you today than to share my own testimony, for you are one of the reasons my testimony in Christ is so strong.

I know that Christ lives.  I know that he has made it possible for us to live with our Heavenly Father again.  I know he is a loving God who hears and answers our prayers.  But most important to me at this time is my knowledge that families ARE FOREVER!  It is this knowledge that gets me out of bed everyday, that puts a smile on my face, and motivates me to be the best person I can be.  I know I will see you again, that death is not eternal.  I know your spirit is just as alive today as it was when I felt your little butterfly kicks in my belly.  I feel you so strongly.  And that brings me unspeakable peace and happiness.

I am forever grateful that you joined our family.  We love and miss you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Being the "expert"

Dear Luke,
I got a call from two of my nieghbors today.  One of their friends, who had lived in the neighborhood before we ever came here, lost a baby today.  Stillborn.  Gone before she ever even got to be here.  So very heartbreaking.

I was touched that these women would call me.  Both were concerned about how to reach out to this friend in a way that would be most helpful.  What true friends they are - wanting only to comfort someone who means so much to them. 

But then there is the other part of me that wishes they had no reason to call me.  I wish I had no idea how their friend feels.  I wish I had no words of advice.  How very surreal to be the "expert" on this topic of conversation.

Some days I wonder if it is really me living this life.  On a day-to-day basis, my life is like anyone else's.  I get my children fed and out the door for school.  I mop floors, make beds, straigthen messes, and everything else a mom does.  Life is so normal, in fact, that when I really stop and think about what we've been through, I can't imagine that this stuff really happened to us.

Did we really watch as one of our son's nearly passed away?  We watched him fight for his life, crying tears that were silenced by the ventilator that kept him alive.

Did we really listen from the waiting room in the hospital as a "Code Blue" was sounded over the PA system, filled with the dreadful knowledge that they were talking about our daughter?  Later a nurse would talk in hushed tones to another nurse about how they had to give her chest compressions to get her heart going again.

Did we really hold you in our arms, so perfect and tiny and lifeless?  We talk about you everyday as if you were here.  As I snuggled Sam into bed tonight we talked about what we think you would look like if you were here.  He thinks you'd have Halle's red hair and maybe even glasses like her (let's hope not, seeing as how you'd only be 3!).  He also thinks you'd have Dad's teeth - I'm not quite sure what that means.  And you would have "fruckles" on your nose like him.  Such an ordinary conversation that it never really hits how very tragic it really is. 

The truth is, people come to me for advice on how to grieve, and I have absolutely no idea.  Three years after the fact and I still don't know.  Some days life is so "normal" that I figure all the tragic stuff that has happened to us must really belong to someone else and I am merely the bearer of their memories.  Other days I am still overcome by my brokenness.  How can I possibly continue on with this load that at times suffocates me?

To illustrate my point, I will tell you a little of the inner battle I experienced when I found out you had a new little cousin.  My day began very normal.  Breakfast, cleaning, playing with kids, shopping.  All the normal things that every mother does.  Then I get the text.  A picture I can't bare to look at, but like a train wreck, I can't seem to take my eyes off of.  A little girl, healthy and fat.  I want to be happy.  I so desperately want to be happy.  What kind of monster isn't happy about a new life from heaven that is joining the family?  I am standing in Carter's at the time of the text.  I began to cry.  Tears of someone who is completely broken hearted, so broken hearted she doesn't have even the smallest amount of pride or common sense (or both) to keep her act together until she can get to her car.  I prayed for weeks, knowing this was coming, for God to strengthen me.  But even He cannot, or will not, take away the grief of a lost life.  That pain never, ever goes away.

I bought her a shirt.  I didn't want to.  I wanted it to be us that gave birth to that baby.  I wanted you to be alive and mourning the loss of your status as the youngest at the birth of a little sister or brother.  For three years now we've known our days of more children is over.  When will my heart finally accept it?

We went to see your new cousin at the hospital the next day.  We had to travel a few hours to see her, and when we arrived we were told the kids couldn't come in.  Dad and I would have to go in seperately.  I completely broke down.  I started hyper-ventilating.  I couldn't go in that room alone.  I needed Dad to be there to talk to your aunt and uncle and keep them from noticing me recede into that dark corner of my mind that I subconsciously go when life gets to be too much.  I needed Halle and Sam there so that I didn't have to hold the baby.  I would just help them hold her instead.  The emotional pain I felt quickly became physical.  How can this still be so hard after three years?

I wonder if it would be different if you were our first, or if we had been able to have more children after you.  There is no doubt that a dozen more children would never take away our sense of loss over you, but at least my arms would have held another child in them.  My mind could revert to other memories when bombarded by your loss.  But as it is, that is the last moment I have, the last memory, of holding my youngest in my arms.  You were so cold and no matter how many blankets I bundled you in, I couldn't get you warm.  When I handed you over for the last time, my arms felt so empty they literally ached.  They still do.  They will never know the pleasure and hard work of a baby again.  Only the borrowed moments of someone else's child.

I did hold your niece, by the way.  I went in alone.  I did it.  One ordinary every day occurance for mankind, one seemingly impossible leap for the mother with a broken heart.  But I did it!

Oh how I miss you tonight.  Thinking of this other mother who now knows my heart, I can't help be relive it all.  What a very long road she has to walk...or crawl.  I wish I knew how to help her, but I don't.  I haven't yet figured out how to master this grief of my own.  It still sneaks up on me and startles me when I least suspect it.  It seems the more time goes by the better I get at pushing it aside, but it's still there, waiting to pop up again when I let my guard down.  At times I wish that I was more of an expert on how to handle grief, but then again, who really wants to be an expert on something like that?  And so I will continue to stumble along this painfully ugly and strangely beautiful path and hope that it leads me back to you.

I love you buddy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Dear Luke,

We've all been sick around here - nasty little colds. But I just can't seem to shake mine. It's more than just a sore throat or stuffy nose. I have absolutely no appetite - everything sounds gross. Every smell makes me gag (at least the ones that my stuffy nose doesn't block). And then there are a few other suspicious symptoms.

I was contemplating how sick I feel as I was eating crackers and cheese (the only thing that tastes good to me) and I was flooded with memories of the last time I devoured these foods as if my life depended on it - I was pregnant with Sam. NOTHING tasted good to me back then. Nothing, that is, except crackers and cheese.

But don't worry. I'm not pregnant. I know I'm not because I've taken 2, yes 2, pregnancy tests within the past week. Each time I knew I wasn't pregnant. It's not even possible. So why does my body act as though it is?! And why, WHY, when I know I'm not pregnant do I insist on putting myself through the torture of taking a pregnancy test and crying when it confirms I'm not pregnant.

I've only heard of 2 cases of women getting pregnant with an IUD - one had a tubal pregnancy and the other had her IUD removed but ended up losing her baby anyway. So I know I can't be pregnant. And I know that, even if by some chance I did get pregnant, there is no chance the baby would live. So why is it that I want so desperately to be pregnant anyway. Loosing you was without a doubt the most painful thing I've ever experienced. So why would I want to do that again? Maybe just so, for even a few weeks, I could remember what it feels like to be pregnant. I miss feeling a baby move inside. I miss watching my belly shift from side to side. I remember once being able to hear Sam experience the hiccups while I was being monitored in the hospital. I miss the miracle of life. Oh how I miss that!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Dear Luke,
I am well-aquainted with the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I've been through them all, at times getting stuck in the anger phase, but I feel I've landed solidly onto the grounds of acceptance.

But what no one tells you is what to expect after acceptance. Where does a person go from here?

I love the movie Tangled. There is the line where Rapunzel is telling Eugene that she is scared to see her life-long dream turn into reality, because she doesn't know what she'll do next. He tells her that's the best part - she can make new dreams.

I suppose that's a little how I feel. I've had the same dream all my life - to be a mom. I've now fulfilled that dream, just shy of one baby that I thought I'd be raising, and I'm not quite sure what my next dream should be. The dream I want most of all - my dream of holding you - can't be mine right now. So now what?

I fill my days up with countless activities. I love our new house and conjure up thousands of projects I'd like to do to make it our own. I love to listen to Halle's kindergarten antics and watch her learn to read. I focus a lot of my energy on fun activities Sam and I can do to not only keep us entertained without Halle around, but also to help him learn all the things a kid his age should know. (Sometimes I think he might still be behind developmentally. After he "graduated" from early intervention they suggested I might still want to have him tested for an early intervention preschool, but the thought of having him gone several times a week and leaving me home alone frightens me. After all, I'm a professional teacher, I should be able to help him myself, so I'm trying to spend more time helping Sam catch up to others his age.)

My life is good and I am happy. But sometimes the memories of past dreams will come back and haunt me.

Thanksgiving was one of those times. We spent it with Dad's side of the family this year. We spent all afternoon out at Aunt Carolyn's house and had a fabulous traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but after a while the warm house and the conversation of pregnancy began to suffocate me and I needed to get out in the fresh air. So I went for a little walk.

Dad and I would clock that "little" walk later on and discovered I walked over two miles. I love the scenery out there - all the farm land. I walked passed a few new houses - gorgeous ones with wrap around porches. I always dreamed of having a house with wrap around porches on the outside and a stunning staircase and catwalk on the inside. I got my dream staircase and catwalk, but our front porch is non-existant. And I felt a small pang of sorrow over my lost dream house.

I thought of other dreams too as I walked along. I thought of how there was a day when I thought my dream of being loved by some amazing man was never going to be fulfilled. I was almost 25, and in the culture in which I live, that is considered an old maid. All of my friends were married and had at least 2 kids by this point. And I was still looking for Mr. Right, and failing miserably. And then I met your dad...

I remember sitting in a tractor with him one day over seven years ago. We were ripping one of Uncle Dennis's fields and listening to Kenny Chesney on the radio. I was madly in love with your dad. And it was clear the feeling was mutual. We nonchalantly talked about the future, trying to act like we weren't as thrilled and terrified about the topic of conversation as we really were. Somehow we began to talk about how many kids we wanted. Our hopes were the same - no less then three but no more than five.

It all seemed so easy then. We thought all you had to do was proclaim how many kids you wanted and they were suddenly yours. We stare at pictures of us back then, particularly our engagement and wedding pictures, and marvel at how innocent (and naive) we were. Little did we know that there would be times when our dreams would become nightmares.

I would be lying if I said that I didn't sometimes feel guilty that Dad got "stuck" with me. Our pregnancy problems and sick babies are wholly my fault. He could have married someone else and fulfilled his dream of 3 to 5 kids. Living kids, that is - for he does have three. But the thought of not being with him is the worst thing I can possibly imagine. And the best part is that I don't think your dad has ever even let this thought enter his mind. He lets me know in countless ways that he would rather be with me and only get to raise two kids in this life, then be married to someone else and have half a dozen big, strong, healthy boys. Our family, no matter how undesirable it may seem to others, is his greatest joy and he wouldn't trade it for anything.

Dreams are funny things. Some never become reality, but we don't mind, for we look back and see how childish they were in the first place. Others are fulfilled and replaced by new ones. And others still are compromised. And then there are those that will remain forever in our hearts though we know they are not reachable in this life.

God has granted me some of my most precious dreams - my Mr. Right and two children to raise here. But you, Luke, are the one dream that I will never stop yearning for, or striving for. I miss you tonight. My arms feel empty without you. But I cling to that hope, that dream, that I will someday be holding you again and smelling your sweet little head and kissing your adorable button nose.

Perhaps that's the step after acceptance - hope. Hope in our dreams. I sincerely believe that there will come a day when, if we live the life God intended for us - if we reach our potential - that every dream we've ever dreamed will come true.

Sweet dreams my little one,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Christmas Season

Dear Luke,

When we first heard that you were due at Christmastime, I knew this holiday would forever be different because of you. When I'd tell people our due date, they would rave about how amazing it would be to have a brand new baby in the house for Christmas day - particularly a brand new baby boy. We knew you wouldn't really be born then. My history of preterm labor had us convinced you'd arrive by Thanksgiving, but, again, if history repeated itself like our two previous babies, you'd be home with us before your due date, and we would indeed have you in our home for Christmas morning.

It never occurred to me that you'd arrive much too soon, nor did I ever think that you wouldn't make it home for Christmas.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

We decided to put up our Christmas tree today since we will be out of town for Thanksgiving. I've heard so many other grieving mothers say they are dreading another Christmas without their little ones, but I hadn't felt that same grief. Not yet anyway. And then we got out the tree...

Actually, it wasn't the tree that reminded me that you won't be here for yet another Christmas. No, it was the Christmas music. A friend had given me the CD of "The Christmas Box" by Paul Cardall last Christmas. I listened to it constantly back then. It made you feel close, so very close.

It's been months since I've heard those songs. And as I heard the first few notes played today I felt that overwhelming desire to curl up in a little ball and cry until no tears were left. It hit me like a ton of bricks. You are gone and this isn't just a dream. And I miss you desperately.

But as I continued to listen to this beautiful piano music, my sorrow quickly passed and I was overcome by that same strong feeling I had last Christmas season - that feeling that you are so very near. I sat down and closed my eyes while listening to the music. And then, with the rest of the world shut out, I could feel you. It felt as though I could literally reach out and touch you. The rest of the evening as I dressed the kids for bed, read them stories, and sang them lullabies, I felt as though you were right there with us. It was such a tangible feeling - one of those tender mercies from God that I have come to cherish more than anything.

I was right, Christmas will never be the same because of you. Never. I once thought it would be different because it would be a time for us to celebrate your birth. But now I see it as a time that we celebrate your life and the light that you have brought to us. We are better people because of you. Our love for eachother is stronger. Our determination to return to God is unwavering. Christ's life is not something we celebrate merely on Sundays and Christmas morning only, but rather every single day.

I thank God for you every day, too, Luke. I miss you, but I know that you are here with us tonight. And that fills me with a joy that words cannot express.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thoughts on Miracles

Dear Reader,
I know I haven't posted in a while. Don't perceive that to mean that I've forgotten about Luke or that I don't like to talk about him anymore. It's quite the contrary actually. I still love to talk about Luke, to think of him, to feel him close. But I find myself becoming more and more protective of him and his story.

I've found that this blog is getting hit by inappropriate websites. That makes me SO angry. I'm considering going private with my blog. I'm not sure that it does anyone any good besides myself anyway.

I think I started this blog as a way of letting people know Luke existed. It was so important to me that people know about him, that he mattered, that he was loved. I felt that if his story changed just one person's life that his life was now somehow validated. If not, then what good came from this painful trial?

It has taken me awhile, but I now see that he has changed lives. Ours. Boyd and I, our children, we are much better people now. We live with greater purpose. We love deeper. We have a greater desire to follow Christ. What a miracle, that one little tiny baby could completely change the lives of his family!

I volunteer at the NICU and have just started going back regularly. I still struggle with going around to the babies' bedsides, but that is another story for another day. So I merely go to get presents ready for each baby and to chat with the other volunteers. Just last week a topic of conversation came up that didn't settle well with me. It was the topic of miracles.

One mother talked about her son and his struggle at birth. He had a very risky surgery performed during his first few months in order to save his life. The doctor, finding that things were much worse than anticipated, developed a new method for performing this surgery right there on the spot. He told the mother that the idea just came to him in the middle of the surgery. She told him she felt it was given to him through divine means. He now performs this surgery successfully on dozens of preemies a year now. This mother got all teary-eyed as she proclaimed her son a miracle and that she feels he has some great purpose in this life.

Another mother related a similar experience - how her daughter's NICU stay taught doctors new ways to deal with certain health issues. She too feels her daughter's life is a miracle and that she has important things to do in this life.

Then both looked over at me and quickly apologized. They said they didn't understand why some children made it and some did not. Why some babies were allowed to miraculously live and others to die. And, like always, everyone ended up sitting in awkward silence. If I was a more eloquent person I would have explained to them that their stories of their miraculous babies did not upset me. What upset me was that they would seem to think that because my son died there was no obvious way that he could be a miracle or that he could have some great purpose in this life.

Over the past few months I have come to accept that others' probably don't love my son like I do, nor are they as affected by him as I am. At first that really bothered me. But now I'm okay with the idea that Luke and his life belong solely to our family. What I'm not okay with is people thinking that we don't see him as important as they see their children. I do not need my NICU friends to be affected by Luke's life, but I don't want them to think that he doesn't affect my life positively. A person doesn't have to live to be a miracle - for which I have found the definition that a miracle is NOT something that goes against the natural order of things, but rather something that shows the divinity of God. Keeping that definition in mind, Luke therefore is indeed a miracle. In fact, all of my children are. Their very existence has brought me closer to our Heavenly Father. They teach me that He loves me and is aware of me. Perhaps their births did not teach doctors new ways to save babies. Perhaps no one but me and their dad will ever be affected by their lives, but to me that is enough.

A person does not have to change the lives of thousands to be important. All that matters is that one solitary person is affected for the better. Perhaps that doesn't seem like such a big thing, but to the one person whose life has been changed, it is a very big thing.

I echo the words of Albert Einstein "There are two ways to live life - as though everything is a miracle or nothing is." And like Albert Einstein I have come to believe that everything is. Even the death of a child can be a miracle - for that child has taught his parents and brother and sister that God truly lives. That He is aware of us and wants nothing but our happiness. And that He is always close by to comfort us, to cry with us, and to carry our burdens when they are too heavy for us to bare.

Believe in miracles, dear reader, for they do exist. Don't let other's stories of miracles discourage you and make you wonder why miralces like that don't exist for you. Remember, a miracle is anything that brings you to our loving Heavenly Father. Today it may be something as simple as the fast beating of a tiny bird's wings or that delicious smell of the earth after a rainstorm that reminds you that God does exist. And for me, it just may be the fact that I have three living children. One may be somewhere just beyond my sight, but I know that he lives all the same. And I will cling to my miralce with all my might until the day I am reunited with my Lukie.

All my love,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Even Now

Dear Luke,

Everyone told me this would happen - life would move forward. It was impossible to imagine at the time after your birth/death. In fact, the very thought of life continuing on without you was offensive to me. But here I am , nearly 9 months later and for the most part I feel that I have been able to press forward without you. That's not to say that we don't think of you each and everyday. In fact, there is not one prayer uttered by Dad, me, or Halle and Sam that does not include you in it. We are constantly thanking God for you and asking Him to send our love to you. You are all around us, we feel it, and so we are able to wake up and continue on each day.

But even now there are days that I am overcome by loneliness and heartache. I miss you.

Memorial Day was a very surreal time for us. This holiday for me used to hold memories of visiting the graves of grandparents and great-grandparents - people who had lived long fulfilling lives. And then it was topped off by a BBQ and a celebration of the end of the school year and the official start of summer. This year I spent each and every day of our weekend and holiday sitting on your grave. Who knew that this holiday would turn into a time that I would dedicate to my baby boy, gone before his life ever began?

One day I went over without the kids in tow. I sat on your grave, thinking of you and feeling the cool breeze blow all around me. Other mothers were visiting the graves of their little ones. One mother and I began sharing our experiences. Isn't it funny how connected and close I feel to complete strangers like this. After this mother left, another approached me. Her little one had passed away 21 years before. I was touched by her words of encouragement and even more by her willingness to just let the pain and sorrow be present. Before she left she gave me an enormous hug and we cried together. I left shortly after that. I sat in my car and cried. Not for sorrow, but for the blessing of these sweet women. I know God knew what my heart needed at that moment - another mother to share my joy and grief - someone to fully empathize.

It turned out to be a lovely weekend. One where our little family took a break from "normal life" and choose to dedicate our time and thoughts to your memory. A few of our extended family members and friends came to visit your grave. It means the world to mean when others beside Dad and the kids and me come to see you. It's very validating to know that others acknowledge you as a true member of our family and feel a small sense of loss over your death (though I have come to accept that no one mourns your loss like Dad and I do and that is okay).

But now today my heart is aching for you. It all began Tuesday night when I did a very dumb thing...

I have started volunteering at the NICU again after many, many months away. I wanted to be around the other NICU volunteers who have become such dear friends. I wanted to ease myself back into volunteering because I loved doing it before I got pregnant with you. So I started going to simply get presents ready for the babies and then I would leave while everyone else delivered them to the bedsides of those little miracles. This was the part I knew I couldn't do. So I skipped out on this for a few weeks. But this Tuesday I decided to give it a try. As Dad always says "the first time doing anything without Luke will be hard, but if you take one little step at a time it will eventually get easier." So I took a small step forward and into the actually NICU to hand out gifts. (Turns out it was a huge step backward in my healing process.)

I was okay at first. I simply kept my mind busy by talking to the other volunteers as I passed them the presents to place by the babies' beds. I used to love to "oo and ah" over the babies, but that was long ago. Now I stayed away from actually looking at them. But then we stopped to talk to a mother and one of the nurses and my mind began to wonder. There was the bed that Halle slept in during her stay. Right next to it was Sammy's. I started feeling sentimental and missing those times when Halle and Sam were tiny and wondering how on earth they grew up so quickly. And then I decided to take a gift to the bedside of one of the "micro-preemies" (that is a baby born under 2 pounds like you). I made the mistake of looking at the baby. Oh, his toes where so tiny. He looked so peaceful snuggled in his incubator with the sound of the ventilator rhythmically pulsing. And that's when I lost it. I left the NICU, presents still waiting to be delivered, and drove home crying so hard I couldn't see the road and unable to catch my breath between my sobs.

I miss you!!

When I look at my friends' babies, all around the age you should be, I don't miss you. They are big and fat and they bare no resemblance to you. But that baby at the NICU, so tiny and sweet and miraculous, made my heart yearn for you. After first seeing that baby I felt a tiny bit of jealousy and longing to have you be that sick little one in the hospital. My next reaction was to yell at God and utter how unfair it was that these 24-weekers were still alive and were going to go on to live relatively normal lives. Angry because He took my 24-weeker. But in the end I knew that my real heartache was stemming from the fact that I miss you. I miss you more than words could ever express!

I don't think I'm baby hungry. It isn't any ol' baby that I want. It's you. I've finally been able to hold other babies without falling apart. In fact, at times I even feel a sense of comfort with them where at one point I felt absolutely disconnected when holding another baby as if I was holding nothing more than I sack of flour. But the truth is, they aren't you! I can't believe it has been nearly 9 months since I lost held you. My arms literally ache to hold you, snuggle you, sing to you, smell you. No amount of baby holding will quench that thirst for there is a piece of me that can never be whole again until I hold you in my arms again.

I feel I cannot say it enough; I miss you my Lukie. And while I know that this aching depression I am feeling this week will give way to peace and happiness when I think of you, like it always does, I know that this desire to be with you will never ever leave me. It is a constant part of me. There is a piece of my heart that belongs to you and no amount of time will erase my longing for you. Oh, how I miss you!!