Monday, January 31, 2011

Lost Dreams

Dear Luke,
There were so many things I wanted to do with you in this life. So many fun things we were going to do. So many places we were going to show you. We didn't plan on doing these things simply for our own enjoyment, but for yours as well.

Last night we went to your cousin Tyler's Eagle Court of Honor. I felt such a pride for him as I watched him join the "Eagle's nest" with your Dad, great-grandpa, and Uncle Troy. I thought of what a good example he is for your brother Sam.

And then the sorrow hit. One day I will get to see Sam as a scout. I will help him earn merit badges, send him off to week long camps and feel relieved to be rid of him for a few days and crying over missing him all at the same time, and maybe one day help him with his Eagle Project. And as happy as all that makes me, I feel bad I will only get to do it once. I'm supposed to be helping TWO of my boys earn merit badges. I should be sending TWO boys off to scout camp. And I should be helping TWO boys with their Eagle projects.

Last night I thought of how much it hurts to think that you won't get to sit in the "Eagle's nest" with your dad, grandpas, and big brother. I imagine how proud your dad would have been of you. I imagine how Sam would have shook your hand with pride as you sat in the seat next to him, sharing a great honor together.

I know everyone says you are in a better place, but I can't help but feel sorry that you'll miss out on the wonderful things that this life has to offer. I know it isn't all roses here on earth, but there are some pretty amazing things to make life happy. Last night I missed you like crazy and felt a deep sense of heartache over not getting to experience this wonderful part of life with you. I think you would have been happy here. I think you would have sought out all the good things that this life has to offer. I think you would have loved to go to camp with your big brother.

I think last night I wasn't the only one feeling lonesome for you and wishing you were here. I think you were wishing it too. I sometimes get the feeling that you miss us as much as we miss you. Maybe I just feel that way because I hate the thought of you forgetting about us. But I think a mother has a special bond with her children and I don't think I'm just imagining things. I think my heart is connected to yours and I think I can tell when you are as lonely for us as we are for you.

Hang in there, my boy. We can do this hard thing that the Lord has asked us to do. I promise we'll come home to you. I promise!!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Songs Say it Better Than I Ever Could...

Dear Luke,

Did I tell you I have an iPod? Oh, really? I did? Well, too bad, because I'm going to rant and rave about it a little more.

The other day I was listening to some hymns while doing some house work. It's amazing how calming and peaceful cleaning out a fridge can be while listening to good music.

I thought of my sister-in-law (your aunt whom you most likely already know and are well acquainted with), Stephanie, when "There is Sunshine in My Soul Today" began to play. When Stephanie was just three years old she got very sick and stopped breathing. It was minutes before she started again and suffered severe brain damage. My mother-in-law says she used to sing this song to her because she loved the words "And Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing." Stephanie could not talk. She could only express herself through laughing and crying. But my mother-in-law knew that someone could hear her. Our Heavenly Father was very aware of Stephanie and the earthly family that loved her. I cannot hear this song without thinking of Stephanie and feeling anxious for the day that I will get to meet her and talk with her.

Next I heard "Nearer, My God, to Thee." As I listened, I watched my kids sitting at the computer together. Halle was playing on and making stories for her and Sam to listen to. My mind instantly went back to last January. We were desperately wanting another baby. I yearned for one. Whenever I watched my two kids playing together, I got that overwhelming feeling that someone was missing. Now here we are, one year later, and nothing seems to have changed. Sure, Sam's a little taller (but hasn't gained one measly pound) and has a mouth full of teeth. He also talks up a storm, whereas last year at this time he could only say half a dozen words. Halle's gotten taller too. Lots taller. And she's definitely not a toddler anymore, but a little girl. But otherwise, to an innocent bystander, everything seems to be the same as last year, as though time has stopped for us.

But in reality, EVERYTHING has changed. As I looked at my two kids sitting at the computer I no longer feel as though someone is missing. I know you are not here physically, but you are a part of our family. We are complete now. And we have a much stronger love for God than ever before. I feel we truly are nearer to Him because of you.

"Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth me.
Still all my song shall be
Nearer, my God, to thee.
Though like a wanderer,
The sun gone down,
Darkness be over me,
My rest a stone,
Yet in my dreams I'd be
Nearer, my God, to thee.

There let the way appear,
Steps unto heav'n;
All that thou sendest me,
In mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me
Nearer, my God, to thee."

Luke, you are the angel who beckons us to Him. Without you, we'd still be yearning for something more. But now we can look at our lives, and though we miss you daily, we feel that life has more meaning. More purpose. We feel whole.

Many nights I sing my absolute favorite hymn to Halle and Sam. I never make it through without crying.

"And when I think
That God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die,
I scarce can take it in.
That on the cross
My burden gladly bearing
He bled and died
To take away my sin.

When Christ shall come,
With shout of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim
'My God, how great thou art!'

Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to thee,
How great thou art!
How great thou art!"

We truly have a loving Heavenly Father. I see that now, more than ever. And I will prouldy proclaim it to anyone who will listen.

I love you bud!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Choosing Life

I remember hearing about a woman tragically burned in a plane crash. While in a medically induced coma, she says that she can recall being given the choice to return to her now deformed body and live a very emotionally and physically painful life, or she could choose to die and return to her heavenly home. As she thought about the painful life that she would live, all while being surrounded by her children and loving husband, she said she didn't have to think twice. She chose life.

I think we are all given that choice. Maybe not in as dramatic a way as she did, but nevertheless, we get the choice. Each morning that we get out of bed we can choose to make something of our day, or bide our time until we get to crawl under the covers yet again and go to sleep.

I admit that there have been some days since your passing that I have chosen the latter. Actually, I didn't even choose to go to bed and put the covers over my face. Sleep only brought horrific nightmares. Dreams of Sam stopping breathing during his sleep. Dreams of Halle being hit by a car. I'd run into their rooms in the middle of the night to make sure it was just a dream. Thank heavens it was.

One night I dreamed that I was picking out impossibly little white outfits to bury my child in. Dad and I were looking at tiny coffins. I woke from that dream sweaty and sobbing, because that one wasn't just a dream.

No, curling up in bed wasn't an option for me. Sitting on the couch until 2 or 3 in the morning watching TV until my eyes finally glazed over and I fell into a dreamless sleep was more my style. Even during the day I rarely got off my spot on the couch. I remember giving the kids chocolate chips for breakfast one morning. I had no energy to make anything else. Even the thought of pouring milk onto a bowl of cereal seemed impossible to me. So chocolate chips it was.

I've been accused of being a bit of a drama queen before. I prefer the term "passionate" or "spirited". I'm a problem solver. When things don't go my way I obsess over the problem until I figure out how to fix it. But this is one thing I can't fix.

I cannot bring you back. I couldn't keep you alive. Whatever it was that took you Home, I had no control over it. I will most likely never have more children - I cannot fix my physical broken body. And I cannot heal my own broken heart. There are times when I have felt absolutely helpless. Hopeless - almost.

Somewhere along this journey I realize that I have chosen life. At first it was deciding to make my children a real meal. Something with actual substance. Then it evolved into taking a shower and deciding to clean up the floor to remind myself what color the carpet was. Now the life I choose is to put into action all of the things I've been taught since I was old enough to have actual cognition.

I grew up in a very religious family. My parents didn't just expect us to attend church on Sunday; they expected us to live the gospel every single day. I had been taught about Christ since I was barely able to walk. I remember listening to Sunday School teachers talk of His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection. I believed them. I believed them all. But now I am being asked to believe that it all applies to me. These are not just beautiful fairy tales. These are not gifts given to everyone else. These words are true. And they are meant for me.

I know that Christ lives. I know He came to this earth to teach and care for all mankind. I know He performed miracles in God's name. I know He bore each of our burdens, that He knows our pains and heartaches. I know that He died. And most glorious of all, I KNOW that he was resurrected three days later.

I once was preoccupied with organizing my house, with countless craft projects, or what was on mine and the kids to-do list for the day. Now I'm just concerned with living.

I have made a goal to make the kids laugh each and every day. Not just polite little giggles. I'm talking about deep belly laughs. I love it when I'm in the middle of tickling Halle and she screams "STOP! I'm gonna pee my pants!" When I hear that I know I have reached my goal for the day.

I want to show my husband I love him. Oh, I tell him several times a day, but I want him to REALLY know. I want to cook his favorite meal or go for long drives where we talk about nothing and everything all at the same time. I want to see him smile and know that it was me who put that smile on his face. I want him to know that life would not be complete without him.

I want to remember everything about Halle and Sam's childhood. It is going way too fast already and I don't want to forget a thing. So I have set a goal to document the kids' day in some form each night. Maybe I will scrapbook a few pictures, write down something silly they said that day, or record something wonderful we did together.

To record memories, however, you have to be making them. I don't want to be so focused on writing everything down that I forget to create something to write. I love those moments when I choose to drop everything and play on the floor with Halle and Sam. Yesterday the house was a complete disaster area. But the kids and I were too involved in playing "Beauty and the Beast" to even notice. Halle was "pink Belle" (because she was dressed in pink) and Sam was "yellow Belle" (yes, pathetically Sam is going through a princess phase) while I was the Beast. Sam insisted I growl instead of talk. Halle wrapped an ace bandage around the wound I received fighting off wolves for her. And Sam and I danced in circles around the family room until I was so dizzy I thought I'd be sick.

The life I've chosen isn't all that glamorous. I will probably never see the 7 Wonders of the world. I'll never climb Mt. Everest. And I'll never be famous or wealthy. But I feel love and I am loved in return. I love this life.

Not everyday is easy. Sometimes we can barely hang on to normal heart rhythm. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to keep breathing through all the hard times. But never give up. Always choose life. For this life has so much to offer if we will just hang on to what matters most - the ones who love us, both on earth and in heaven.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dumpster Diving

Dear Luke,
Wow, so there are so many strange things that I've done after your death. Things that no sane person would do. But if you've been in my shoes, it suddenly seems normal - not crazy at all.

I went to your grave today. I wanted to retrieve your Christmas tree and check on the wind chime we'd put up. My stomach dropped to the floor as I entered the cemetery and saw all of the decorations cleaned off. Your tree was gone. So was your wind chime. I wanted to bawl.

I know it's silly to be so attached to these things, but I am. They were for you. I have so little of you; how could it be gone? So I marched up to the cemetery office and asked where they dumped the decorations that were now gone. I'm usually not so confrontational (actually, I am SO not confrontational it's pathetic really), but today I felt like I'd been violated. Your things were gone and I was MAD!

That is how I ended up behind the cemetery looking through a massive pile of Christmas decorations. But of course, I didn't find it. I did start talking to another man there, an elderly man whose wife is buried close to the Angel Garden where you lay (he too was hoping to find his thrown out decorations). His wife was buried the same day you were and I see this man there every time I go to the cemetery. I've seen him as he's wept for his wife. He's seen me as I've laid on your grave sobbing and praying to be with you. This man and I talked for an hour about his wife, about you, and about how much we miss and ache for our loved ones.

As I reflect on this past hour I have spent, I can't help but wonder at what I have become: a dumpster diver who pours her heart out to a random passer-by and feels better because of it. Strange how going through the loss of a child can make you cherish even the littlest of things or open up to someone else who hurts as deeply as you do. I don't even open up to family anymore. They just don't get it. Sometimes I don't think they want to get it (not that I blame them). Grief is a very heavy burden to bare and I think we'd all rather not carry it if we don't have to. So I find myself seeking out others who are already familiar with the pain and aren't scared to talk about it or feel it with me.

And that is the story about how I searched through garbage for you. Just one of the millions of sacrifices I'd be willing to make for you.

That is how I made friends with a widower whom I had never met before.

Hm, isn't it interesting who we become when life throws us into the fire. We never know how we'll react until we are truly there. I have to say, despite the dumpster diving moment, I like who I am becoming. I feel that I am being worked into some marvelous piece of art. It's rather excruciating at times to be in this fire, but I can see that all of this pain isn't for nothing. It's molding me, shaping me, and turning me into something better than I could ever imagine myself being if I choose to let it. And I choose to let it (what other choice do I have?)

Love you tons my boy!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Funeral

After your burial on Sept 16, the mortuary gave us a copy of your funeral on tape. It has sat in the drawer of your room since then. We don't have a tape player any more to even be able to listen to it. But it doesn't matter, I haven't felt strong enough to revisit that day again.

I do realize that one day I will want those words, however. And so I borrowed a tape player from a friend, and then I let it sit for two weeks. Finally on Sunday I summoned up the courage to listen to it while typing the sweet words of comfort and peace spoken by our fathers and our bishop.

Listening to the service brought that day back so vividly in my mind. We went first thing to dress you and to sit with you before others would arrive. I was anxious to see you again. You were so beautiful that day in the hospital. You seemed so alive. I expected at any moment to see you move your hand or open your eyes. But you looked nothing like this at the mortuary. It was clear that you were gone. That moment, that realization that I wouldn't get to see you like I did after your birth or hold you like I did then, it nearly ripped my heart out. The only pain I have felt worse then that moment was when I had to hand you over for good to the nurse the day after you were born. I will forever be grateful to the nurse who took you, for she cried with us as I handed you to her. She held you tenderly as I was wheeled out of the room sobbing uncontrollably. I knew then that I would never fully recover from that moment. There are no words to describe the agony of that moment, but then again, who would ever want put such a horrible feeling into words. A piece of me died that day.

I remember your Dad carrying your casket, your lone pall-bearer. Just a few weeks before I had been volunteering at the NICU and listening to another parent volunteer relate a story of going to a baby's funeral and watching the dad carry the baby out in the casket. She said he was trying so hard to be brave, but that you could see tears streaming down his face. She said it was the most heartbreaking thing she had ever seen. I remember thinking I was glad I wasn't there to see such a heartwrenching sight. Yet here I was, several weeks later, watching it all play out before me. Only this time it was happening to me and it was my husband carrying his child's casket in his arms and tyring to be brave as tears streamed down his cheeks.

I went running in the cemetery a few days ago. Six and a half months of doing nothing while pregnant (ironically, for fear that something might happen to you) and then another 3 months of living only a half-life has left my body feeling like jell-o. I ran for less than a minute before I thought my legs and lungs would completely shut down. So I walked instead. I walked through the enormous cemetery looking at headstones and mourning others' losses. At times I even became jealous when I'd see a headstone (I know, silly to be jealous of a headstone) and see the number of children etched into the stone: 5, 6, 7, some with more (this is Utah after all). My headstone will only bare 3 names, and only 2 of those will I get to raise. I always wanted to be the one with 6 names on my headstone. I think I would have liked having that many children very much. Heck, at this moment I'd be overjoyed with just three. But in reality I only get two in this life and no more. Oh, how that hurts!

I walked past a burial that day. I saw the hearse parked carefully on the road and I thought about the day that Dad and I rode in the back of a hearse just like it with you in the middle seat. What a surreal moment that was, to know that I've seen hearses thousands of times and never once did I think it might one day carry one of my precious children inside. Anger and pain and heartache ripped through me and I felt myself running. Running harder than I ever have before. I couldn't outrun the pain or the reality of my life, but at least I could run until my legs and head and lungs were hurting as much as my soul.

I've felt my body growing stronger over the past several weeks as I've begun exercising again. But as I listened to your funeral some more today (I can only listen to a few minutes at a times before I am bawling and can't see the computer to type anymore) I realized that my soul is getting stronger too. My love for God and family is stronger than ever before in my life.

I suppose there is some good coming from all of this after all.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Candle

Dear Luke,
On Christmas day we lit a candle in your memory. It burned all day. Yesterday I packed up that candle to put it with the other Christmas decorations which were going back in storage for 11 more months. But then I changed my mind and decided to leave it out, in case we want to light it again sometime in your honor. As I lifted the box containing the candle holder out, the lid came off and the candle holder slipped onto the floor and shattered. And I fell apart.

"It's a bad omen" I thought. And then I sat there, baffled by that thought. A bad omen for what? What more can happen to you now? You are already gone. Looks like the bad omen is a few months too late.

I cleaned up the broken glass through teary eyes. How silly it seems that such an insignificant object should bring me to tears. And yet...

I have so few tangible memories of you. Most are from the womb and the rest are the feelings I get from you now. But I have no pictures and only a few mementos of your birth. And so I tend to cling to anything that in some form or another is attached to you and your memory. The receipt from Carl's Jr. where Dad ate lunch on the day you were born. The plant Grandma gave me for your funeral. Even my smashed thumb.

It was a little over a week after you passed away. Dad and I decided to take H & S to the library to get a few books. We did very little over the past few days except sit limply on the couch. We decided we might as well have a few books to read (or at least to pretend to read) while sitting limply on the couch. My head was in a fog those days, causing my already slow reflexes to crawl to a near stop. I had taken H out of her booster seat and set her on the ground, then began to shut the door. It was in mid-swing when I realized H's head was in the way and the door was going to hit her. I reached out my hand to stop it, but not in enough time. The edge of the door hit her in the head and then shut on my thumb. We both screamed out in pain. Luckily H's injury was minor. I, however, was convinced my thumb was broken. It swelled to twice its size and throbbed for several days. It took nearly two months for the damage to really show, though. As my fingernail grew, it showed sign of where it had been smashed under the skin. As it emerged from the skin, it was bruised and dented. It has now grown a third of the way out and in another month or so it will be completely grown out. Strangely enough that makes me sad. That smashed thumb signifies all the emotional pain I was feeling at the time (and still feel today). No one could see my broken heart and therefore no one knew how much pain I was in. But they could see my thumb, twice it's size and terribly bruised. It looked sore, the pain was obvious. It looked like how I perceived my broken heart to look - battered and bruised. It was nice to have something to show for all my pain. And soon it will be gone. The bruised thumb, that is. Not the pain.

And so it is with the candle holder. It was one of my reminders of you. One of the few tangible things I have to hold on to that had a memory attached to it. It was your candle - lit in your honor. It was our way of having you here with us for Christmas. And now it is shattered in little tiny pieces. Just like my heart has been since that horrible morning over three months ago.
Man, I miss you. Perhaps more every day if that's even possible. I wouldn't miss you so much if not for the fact that I love you so deeply. And that is something that cannot break or be grown out. So I suppose it doesn't matter that the candle holder is gone. It cannot take away our feelings for you. You are loved more than you can possibly imagine!
With love,