Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Loss of a Friend

Dear Luke,

The family went out to the cemetery today to sit by your grave. I know that you are not really there - not your true essence anyway. But there is such a special feeling at your grave site. We like to go there as often as we can.

After you first passed away, I went to "see you" everyday. I couldn't imagine that there would ever come a time when I wouldn't make my daily trips to sit by your headstone. But I have to admit, I usually only make it to the cemetery once or twice a week now. I feel you are with us in our home more than you are at the cemetery. But there's still just something about sitting by your grave. Even the kids seem to notice the special sacred feeling that we get there.

I've even made friends at the cemetery. I once wrote a post about an elderly man that I got to know while visiting you. I viewed him as a true friend. I took note of his birthday (which was written on the headstone of his wife's grave) and, knowing that he would be at her grave on that day, left him a little gift on her headstone for him. I felt a special bond with this man. We'd only talked the once and on all other occasions we merely nodded acknowledgement to each other. But he had become a part of my life, in a sense. I knew when I went to visit your grave that I would see him there, and if not, I would always expect to see fresh flowers and love notes on his wife's grave.

Today while at the cemetery, we walked over to my friend's wife's grave. I was admiring the beautiful new flowers and colorful pinwheels when I suddenly noticed that the ground had recently been cut away and the sod replaced. I stared in utter shock when I saw not only a birth date for my friend, but a death date. My friend is gone. Gone home to his wife. I am happy for him. He missed his wife deeply. But I feel a strange sense of loss and sadness at his death.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I could feel myself on the verge of crying as I stared at the headstone. Dad lovingly put his arms around me. "At least now he's happy," he reassured me.

I suppose he is. So why am I so sad? Sad about a man I hardly knew.

If you see him, Lukie, tell him hello from me. And know that, even when a person no longer lives on this earth, they are still loved. They are still thought of. They still matter.

I love you tons,


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Me

Hello again dear reader,

I just got home from a movie with some of my friends. I'm not a late night person and I don't do well with less than 7 hours of sleep, but tonight it just sounded fun to go to a late movie with friends.

When I walked in the house I got this overwhelming feeling of happiness. And I realized that, I do mostly vent and complain on my blog. You know, I started this blog because I knew not all of my friends and family could handle what I was going through. It's heavy stuff. So I let those who wanted to be apart of my grieving know how I was doing through my writing. And then there are those who have also lost babies - I wanted them to know they weren't alone in their grieving. But I am suddenly aware that I am not painting an accurate picture of my life.

So tonight, before I go to bed and get a few hours of sleep before Sam calls my name and begs me to come sleep with him, or before Halle crawls in bed with us and puts her cold feet on me, I just want to let you know that I am happy.

I am. I really am. Yeah, some days are tough. That's no surprise. We all feel that way, right? It doesn't matter what we are dealing with in life, some days are hard. But in the end, I feel as though everything is going to be okay somehow. And that's all I need to know to make me smile. And for the first time, in a long time, I feel normal. Normal, and happy.


Monday, March 21, 2011

My Apologizes

Dear Reader,
I want to apologize for a previous post. My sweet husband read it over after I had already posted it and said that, while he understood my intentions, others might not and that perhaps it came of sounding a bit harsh as if I was saying that others' lives are not as difficult as mine. Bless that man for trying to protect me from the misunderstanding of others and at the same time trying to protect others from my bitter diatribes. And so I want to apologize to anyone who might have taken my words as such. I removed the post shortly after, but have decided to re-post it, but this time with an explanation...

I wrote that post after offering to have a neighbor's children come play at our house. She thanked me over and over saying that she felt totally swamped (what with having three kids to take care of and the extra housework that comes with having that many children) and that I was an answer to her prayers. I know she meant it nicely and would feel awful if she knew that it hurt me deeply, but that is exactly what it did. It hurt. I felt as though she was saying that I was lucky to only have two children and that my life must be so easy to not have all the concerns she has.

I admit, I don't know how difficult it must be to have three children. I can imagine it is a lot of work, but that's the thing, all I can do is imagine. I am not saying that she has life easier than me or that my life is easier than hers. They are just different. Both of us have struggles and trials. Both of us feel stretched to our limits. But truth be known, I'd take her trials over mine - not because they are easier by any means, but because I miss my Luke like no one can imagine and would give anything to know her kind of pain.

Despite my missing Luke, I don't ever want others to think that I am so absorbed in my heartache that I can't feel joy or pain for others. As one of my dear friends said the other day, "Everyone has the right to complain about something." She mentioned that she was frustrated when one woman complained about how much pain she was in during the end of pregnancy and hearing another woman chastise her, telling her she was lucky to be pregnant and had no right to complain. The thing is, she was in pain! Just because she was talking about her pregnancy pain didn't mean that she wasn't grateful for her pregnancy. She was merely in pain and wanted someone to understand her pain.

I love this same friend because she lets me complain and understands that, while I'm hurting for me, I'm still happy for her and all my other friends. Likewise, I understand that even while my friends are ecstatic about their new babies, they ache for me. I guess that's what makes us friends. We can feel each others' joys and pains, even while experiencing our own emotions.

Again, I am sorry if my previous post hurt anyone. I did not mean to make it sound like I have to endure anything worse than anyone else. I was merely hurting. Hurting that I'm that lady with a dead baby, allowing me to be an "answer" to others' prayers. I hurt that because of my circumstance in life, I'm seen as the one who can and should pick up the slack for those with more children than me. I guess what I really needed was a safe place to vent for a minute and I hoped that this blog was the place that I could do that.

So please, if you are someone who reads this blog, be gentle with my heart and know that sometimes I just need to have a really good cry where my snot and tears are mingling together on my chin; that sometimes I need to pound my piano with my fists until the flesh on my hands is bruised and swollen; and that sometimes I need to turn on my "angry music" that says words that I don't approve of and turn it up as loud as possible. (Ah, the Matchbox 20 of my high school years sure does hit the spot on an angry day.) And sometimes I just need to complain and be bitter and hateful and yell at God for just a little bit. But know, dear reader, that even these strong emotions subside and I feel peace once again. And know that, even in my darkest of moments, I am still aware of the pain of others. I would never want someone to think they couldn't come to me and complain about their pains and sorrows thinking I might judge them. I also wouldn't want someone to keep their joy and happiness from me because they are afraid I don't want to take part in their joy - because I truly do want to celebrate with others when something wonderful happens. All I ask is that, after listening to your heartache and crying with you or after cooing over your adorable baby and listening to the miracle he is in your life, you will allow me to talk about my sorrows and joys as well. For that is what builds true friendships - our ability to hurt with others and laugh with others, often at the same time.

Thanks for your understanding hearts,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Peaceful Reminder

Dear Luke,
Yesterday Dad and I went to the art museum at the nearby university to see an art exhibit of Carl Bloch's. His original art from Denmark and Sweden was sent here for a few months for the public to view. Many of the paintings were depictions of the life of Christ.

I found the art not only beautiful, but very uplifting. This one was my favorite. I like the idea that angels come to us in our darkest hour, even to Christ.

It's also a good reminder to me that, no matter how difficult life is at times, I will never come even remotely close to knowing the pain that Christ was put through for my sake (and for all of Heavenly Father's children).

I loved this one too. It made me think of how much Christ and our Heavenly Father love little children - little children like you and your brother and sister. I imagine you in Their arms, being comforted, and I am filled with peace. We are all being cared for and protected by a loving Heavenly Father and His Son.

Love you,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Refiner's Fire

Dear Luke, This week has been a tough one. One of the worst I've had since Christmastime. I thought I was doing better. Sure, I thought of you everyday. I've missed you like crazy and shed a few tears each day over you, but I was getting to the point where, more and more, I was able to think of you and smile. My little blessing. My bearer of "light". Your very existance is a miracle and that thought made me smile and feel wrapped in the arms of the love of God. But not his week. This week has been very, very dark. My whole soul has groaned under the weight of this burden I carry. I more than miss you, my son. I yearn for you, ache for you, scream for you, and yes, even curse God for taking you. I feel as though I am being tortured; tormented by my sorrow and the stark contrast of those revelling in happiness. Earlier this week I was in such a dark place that I felt I could hardly take care of Halle and Sam the way I wanted to. So I took them out to lunch, bought them a happy meal (something I rarely do), and let them play at the playground. This helped my mood for a while, but soon the despair snuck back in. Finally I sent the kids to a neighbor's house to play until their dad got home and I went out by myself, hoping to get a grip on my life. I did not hesitate on my destination - I was heading to a house of worship, knowing that feeling the Lord's spirit was the only relief I was going to get from my pain, even if only for an hour or two. On my way, I drove past another of our church's buildings. It was a beautiful building, built by pioneers shortly after settling in Utah. Around Christmastime it was all but completely destroyed by a tragic fire. It took hours and hours for the fire to be extinguished. And when the fire was finally gone, all that was left was the empty shell of a once-majestic building. No time was wasted on cleaning up and restoring the building. The foundation of the building remains strong and unchanged, most of the outer structure is intact and useable, but the entire inside was gutted out. Its remains lay on the middle of the lawn, ugly and burned and exposed to the whole world. The building looks sad. Broken. Defeated. I know how you feel, I think and then I cry a little for both of us. There is that scripture about the refiner's fire and how each of us is perfected through our trials. I feel like my refiner's fire has left me nothing but an empty shell. My foundation is still the same - I still believe in God and His ultimate goodness. I still have my husband and two living children. In fact, these things seem to have actually been strengthened by the "fire", rather than destroyed by it. But otherwise, I feel as though everything inside of me has been destroyed, painfully removed, and laid in the middle of the street for everyone to gawk at. I tell myself all of this is for the best - for both me and the building. While this building was beautiful, it while be remodeled so that its space is better utilized. The inside will be safer and made even more beautiful than before. I tell myself that the same is true of me. I will be a better person because of all of this. I will be more useful in God's hands. My soul will be better, more beautiful. But right now it is hard to see that. All I see is an ugly mess. I think of others around me. Each going through their own refiner's fire. Each as difficult as the next person's because they are designed just for them. We're each so different on the inside and therefore endure different refiner's fires to beautify and perfect our souls. But why is it that I only see smoke around other people. I know several people who have had babies over the past few months. Each came with a different set of circumstances, different concerns about the pregnancy or labor and delivery. There seemed to be billows of smoke around each of these situations with the very real possibility that a terrible fire lay within. But luckily that's all it was - a bunch of ugly smoke. The damage was quickly assessed and taken care of, and now each mother has a beautiful baby sleeping peacefully in her arms. While I would never want another person to go through what I am enduring (I would NEVER wish this hell upon my worst enemy - if I had one), I don't understand why they only dealt with false alarms and I was given the real deal. Why couldn't mine have just been a false alarm too? Why can't I hold my son in my arms right now? What have I done so wrong in life that I needed more refinement than others? I can't help but think these other women must have much better, more refined souls than mine if all they needed was the thought of a tragedy to perfect and beautify them. Clearly I needed the real deal. Two NICU experiences clearly weren't enough to teach me what God had in mind for me. He had to take my youngest in hopes of me becoming who He needs me to be. I know I'm far from perfect, but I try awfully hard to be someone the Lord would be proud of. I try to raise my children unto Him. So why? WHY all this?! I know we're told not to question God, but I can't help it sometimes. Sometimes I am just so angry! Was my soul so useless and ugly that it had to be completely removed and replaced? Did I really need a complete renovation of my life? I'll be better in the end. I remind myself of this over and over. I feel God's hand at work. He hasn't left me alone. My remodel work was begun as soon as the damage was done. But it still hurts. The pain is extruciating and literally knocks me to the ground at times. I'll be better because of this. Right? Missing you, Mom

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Half-birthday

Dear Luke,

Today you would be 6 months old. I can't believe 6 months have gone by. In some ways I feel like it's been years since you left. I feel so old, like I've aged forty years in the past six months. But in other ways it seems like it was only yesterday that you left. Some days the pain is still as raw as it was that first week. My memories of seeing your face are so fresh in my mind that I feel like it only just happened.

I remember when Dad and I decided that, despite our terrible odds and the very real chance of having another preemie, we should have another baby. I won't tell you all the details of what lead us to feel that you were meant to join our family - the experiences leading us to believe that are too sacred to share at this time - but just know that we knew without a doubt that we were meant to have another baby. We were meant to have YOU.

Along with this feeling that we were to have you, we also had a small itching feeling that there could be complications and that perhaps you would not live a "normal" life. Perhaps some would think us wrong to even get pregnant if we felt that we might be putting our baby's life in danger of extreme prematurity and the risk of cerebral palsy. But everything in our hearts told us that, no matter the outcome, this was the right decision.

Your pregnancy was kept secret for quite some time. We feared others response to our pregnancy. Not everyone felt it was the wisest choice. But mostly, we just weren't ready to share you. Everyone in the world, it seemed, was involved in Sam's pregnancy. I had to have someone in my home at all times, not just to help with Halle while I was on bedrest, but to help me so that I didn't have to get out of bed. Dad was terrified to leave me alone for fear I'd start bleeding again and not be able to get to the hospital. So that left me with family members, church members and friends at my house around the clock. And then when I was robbed of my pregnancy too soon, I had to share Sam for a couple of months with nurses and doctors. I felt that I was hardly Sam's mother at all. So while I was (and still am) so appreciative for everyone's help, I was certain that your pregnancy would take that route too and I wanted to enjoy every moment with you before the multitudes came in to take over my duty as the mother and caretaker of my three children in one form or another.

I became very possessive and protective of you. I didn't talk about my pregnancy with anyone that I didn't feel was absolutely overjoyed about your existence (I guess that hasn't changed). While on family vacation with extended family, I refused to do any sort of physical activities - hiking, four-wheeling, etc - not wanting to do anything to compromise your health. You were always foremost on my mind.

It was easy to focus on all that could go wrong during the pregnancy, but I was determined to ignore them all. We knew you'd never make it to 40 weeks and, wanting to enjoy every moment of what we felt could be a shortened pregnancy, I made a paper chain. Kind of like the ones you hang up at Christmastime to count down the days until Santa came, but in reverse. Each day we hit a milestone - 16 weeks, 18 weeks, 24 weeks (that was the big one - we felt nothing could go wrong once we hit the "age of viability" ha!) - I would record it on a piece of paper and add it to our chain. When something noteworthy happened - I first felt you kick (at only 15 weeks), the first time Halle kissed your belly, the first time Sam talked to you - I added it to our ever-growing chain.

I loved your pregnancy. It was actually a very sacred time in my life. Looking back, I think my soul knew, even if my mind didn't, that I was carrying a spirit too perfect for this life.

(As a side note, I still have that paper chain I made while pregnant. In fact, we still add to it. I added a paper for our first balloon launch in your honor, for our first "Angel Ceremony" we attended, and for the first time Halle prayed for you and Sam told me what you were doing in heaven. I'm hoping that by the time we are together again, your paper chain will be miles long and full of the moments that we thought of you.)

Dad and I had accepted the fact that, if born early, you could have health problems and possibly even long-lasting problems. We decided that it didn't matter one way or another to us. We would love you with the same intensity as we would if you were healthy and perfect. We would make sure you experienced the wonderful things in this life, even if we had to push you around in a wheelchair to do it. We had decided long before we even knew you were a boy that we would accept you in whatever form the Lord gave you to us, because we knew that Heavenly Father wanted you to be in our family and we wanted you too. More than I could ever express.

As it turns out, Dad and I were right when we had that impression that you would not have a "normal' body or a "normal" life. But we misinterpreted that as you having a body stuck in a wheel-chair or walking with a limp. We couldn't possibly have imagined that it would mean that your body would lay peacefully in the ground while your soul returned to our Lord. But we had promised God that we would love you, no matter what. And that is what we are doing. You have been given to us, perhaps in a very different form than we had anticipated, but you are ours nonetheless. And I am determined to love you just as much in the form of a heavenly angel as I would if you were a perfect little baby or even a baby with severe CP.

I think I focus way too much on what form you are in. But what I should really be focusing on is the part that you are mine and I will always love you. And nothing, not even death, has changed that.

I love you tons!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Small Second

Dear Luke,

Dad and I love to watch the Olympics. Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics, doesn't matter. We love them both. It is the only time we keep the TV on all day. We don't care if an American is in the particular event, we cheer for everyone.

During the last Summer Olympics, Dad and I were glued to the swimming events. We were on pins and needles wondering if Michael Phelps would win all of his events. Never before had either of us really cared much about swimming, but suddenly nothing else seemed so important. Oh, how we wanted him to win! I remember one race where he won by only one-hundredth of a second. Can you believe that?! One-hundredth of a second! Faster than you can blink. But that was all the time needed to make him the winner of the gold. That's all the time needed for the next guy to completely lose all dreams of a gold and take home silver instead. Not a bad place to be - second - but when you are that close to gold, it must really be a slap in the face to carry around that silver medal. While half of me was celebrating with Michael Phelps, the other half of me ached for the other man.

Life is like this in so many other scenarios. I went to a NICU fundraiser this last weekend. I will write more about that later, but today I want to focus in on the "miracles" the NICU boasts. I was not in the room when they spot-lighted an adorable set of twins. They truly are miracles. But I couldn't bare to hear it. They were born at the same gestation as you, Luke, but were even tinier. They had to endure a long NICU stay and many illnesses, but they made it all the same. And now, 2 years later, they are walking around with big smiles on their faces.

Isn't it interesting (or sad or frustrating or maddening) that two similar situations could end up so differently. Here are two mothers, giving birth to 24 weekers, and while one now holds her children in her arms and chases them around a roomful of people singing their praises and adoring every breath they take, the other mother sits at the grave of her son who never even got the chance to breathe, wondering how everything could have gone so terribly wrong.

One small second is all it takes for one man to take home a gold medal and another to leave empty-handed. One small second is all it takes for one mother to receive a miracle and another to receive a small box to keep her deceased son's memories in.

While reading the Bible the other day I came across this parable in Luke 16:19-25. To paraphrase, there are two men - one a rich man with anything he could desire, and Lazarus, a poor beggar. "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom" (doesn't that sound wonderful!). The rich man dies as well and sees Lazarus being cared for and loved. He asks for Lazarus to take away his torment "but Abraham said, Son remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented".

I do not mean to insinuate that those who have children in this life will be in "torment" like the rich man was (after all, I am one of those who has two miraculous NICU babies). I gather that the rich man was a selfish, greedy man and that is why he was in torment. So, while that part of the parable does not apply here, the part about Lazarus does. Though he was denied certain things in this life, he was given it in the end. This brings such comfort to me. Perhaps I did not get a "gold medal" for all the "races" I've won, but I will not be denied my third miracle forever. I will be with you again someday, Luke.

It may seem like I was robbed of my prize as everything changed in that one small second when I knew you had left this life, but my prize still exists - you still exist! Perhaps our moment of celebration has been postponed for awhile, but we will still get the opportunity. I will one day get to hold you in my arms and give you all the love I possess for you. God will not deny us the righteous desires of our hearts - if not received here in this life, then undoubtedly in the next.

And that moment shall be an awesome one - one that shall last for eternity and not just one small second.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Changing Everything

"Once in a lifetime, we meet someone who changes EVERYTHING."

Dear Luke,

The other day I was contemplating who in my life I would say has changed "everything".

Hm, there's my mom, of course. Without her I would not even exist. Then there's my dad who worked hand-in-hand (literally) with my mom to teach me the value of hard work, the joy in serving others, and above all, to love God.

Then there's my amazing husband. I wouldn't say that I changed after we got married. I was still the same person essentially - just better. I know I'm running the risk of sounding cliche, but he completed me.

There's also each of my children. When Halle was born, a whole new side of me was discovered - that motherly instinct and that ability to love unconditionally. When Sam was born a more spiritual side of me was opened up. My belief in miracles (ones that could happen to me and not just in the scriptures or to others around me) was solidified.

As much as all of these people and experiences have shaped and molded who I am, you are the one who has changed EVERYTHING, Luke. I am often baffled how such a tiny little boy - weighing just under 2 pounds - who never even took a breath of life, could make such a profound impact on the way I see everything.

My perspective on life is different. I cherish each moment with my family more. I try to live fully in each moment, not wanting to forget one sound, smell, or feeling.

I embrace my emotions more and apologize less for letting others see me cry. There is nothing more powerful in this life than sharing our emotions - including our heartaches and sorrows - with others. Nothing forms stronger relationships than sharing, not only the good, but also the bad with others. And it is our relationships that make life so meaningful.

I am able to prioritize what really matters in life now. When I write out my to-do list each morning I ask Halle what it is she wants to do that day and add that to the top of my list. I have made a habit of reading my scriptures each day rather than just doing it when I remember and if I have time. My prayers to Heavenly Father are more earnest and sincere rather than quickly muttered pleas before the kids come bounding in my room to interrupt me.

Oh, I could go on and on all day over all the things that have changed because of you. Your influence reaches into the very smallest of places, the most minute details of my life. I am often surprised when I look in the mirror and see that the face looking back at me is the same one from six months ago. How can that be when everything about the inside of me has changed?

Let it be known that I think the changes (except for some all-too-normal-for-this-situation anxiety issues) are for the better.

And now, a few quotes from my favorite children's book:

On the Night You Were Born
by Nancy Tillman

"On the night you were born...
the night wind whispered,
'Life will never be the same.'

Because there had never been anyone like you...
ever in the world.

For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
has the world ever known a you, my friend,
and it never will,
not ever again..."

I love you, Luke. Thank you for your profound impact on me. I am eternally different - better - because of you! Truly, "life will never be the same" and I thank God for that. I thank God for you.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Just Another Milestone

Milestones can be really hard. Even with my two living children...

I remember how I felt as Sam approached his first birthday. I began to relive his entire pregnancy. How one morning I woke up and went about my normal day only to realize that I was bleeding. Not just a little spotting, but tons of bright red blood streaming down my leg. Luckily it was the weekend and Boyd was home. He rushed me to the hospital as I began to go into shock.

I had a complete placental previa. I was put on partial bedrest, and after another bleeding episode, on full bedrest. As difficult as those (almost) three months were, I would have given anything for a few more weeks. I wasn't prepared to have a 30-weeker with severe health problems.

This was our second NICU experience. The first time around was unexpected and therefore traumatic. This time we saw it coming and learned to embrace the experience. I fell in love with Sam's nurses, doctors, and therapists. We became genuine friends. Even after Sam came home, I found myself wondering how they were doing (and wishing they were still around for the midnight feedings).

As Sam's first birthday approached, I found myself wanting to be back at the place where it all began. I made a phone call and joined the Parent Volunteers at our NICU. This group of women brought Sam and all the other NICU babies presents once a week. They had all had a baby (or, like me, two) who had spent time in the NICU. They knew how we felt and were there to talk us through everything. I felt that perhaps becoming a volunteer as well would help me come to terms with all we'd been through.

The first time I entered the fifth floor, smelled that sterile smell, and heard those beeping monitors I nearly had a panic attack. How could it be that I loved and hated this place all at the same time? How could it hold such tender, sacred memories, and yet be the place that haunted my memories? After gathering gifts together we went "out on the floor" to take them to the babies' bedsides. The first bed you can see after entering the NICU door was Halle's. The one next to it, Sam's. Upon seeing them I did have a complete breakdown and began to bawl. It would take several weeks of volunteering before I could finally go out on the floor.

Now skip ahead another year. Sam is approaching 2-years-old. This time I am handling the milestone much better. I love volunteering at the NICU and am even a part of an enormous fundraiser held each year for the NICU and pediatrics. After a silent auction and dinner, a presentation about the NICU is put on. The room goes dark and suddenly a movie screen lights up with pictures of impossibly tiny babies. They are so sick, and just when all hope seems lost, the baby miraculously recovers. He goes home, perhaps with oxygen and monitors and maybe even with some lasting effects, but he is home with his family all the same. I watch this movie and I begin to sob. A fellow volunteer, and friend, puts her arms around me.

"I want another baby so badly," I tell her. "I know our chances of ending up in the NICU again are high, but I would do the whole NICU experience again if it meant we could have another beautiful baby in our home." She nodded knowingly.

A month later I found out I was pregnant.

Skip ahead one more year. Sam is going to be three this month. The big NICU fundraiser is once more upon us (tomorrow, in fact). I haven't been to the NICU since a week before Luke's death. I can't go anymore. I can't stand the smell of that hospital. I can't stand to go to the fifth floor where the NICU and labor and delivery are situated. My last experience at L & D was a true nightmare. And the NICU is a place I yearn to be - watching my little boy breathing peacefully, even if while on a ventilator. I'm afraid I would covet all those adorable babies. (Let it be known that, while others may look at preemies as scrawny and baby bird-like, I have never known anything other than a preemie. Not only have I never experienced a full-term pregnancy, but I've been around the NICU so much that I am always shocked when I see a full-term baby. 7 pound babies look ridiculously large to me - the NICU has seriously warped me in so many ways.) I think I would be jealous of all the parents with babies in the NICU. I know no one wants their baby there, but at least it means they have a baby.

I've been invited to volunteer at the fundraiser. Lori, the head of the parent volunteers, is very understanding. She knows I can't even drive past the hospital without bawling, but she also knows I miss the support of the friends I have made there. And so she cautiously invited me to come. I gave her an emphatic "yes", but now I am scared.

Scared of the emotions I will feel when that video presentation comes on and the memories that it holds of one year earlier.

Scared of seeing Heather, the bereavement specialist. She is getting an award this year, which she so deserves because of all the support she has given others. I just wish I wasn't one of those people she has supported.

Scared of seeing Halle and Sam's nurses there and feeling an ache in my heart, wishing they had gotten to meet Luke as well.

Sometimes I wonder if I am masochistic. A gluten for punishment. But most of all, I wish that I didn't even have the chance to go to the fundraiser this year. I should be tied down to home and a nursing baby boy with shocking blue eyes and the cutest button nose.

Just another milestone I have to live through.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Greatest This Life Has to Offer

Dear Luke,
There are many things people say to try to comfort those who are grieving. We just can't stand to see others hurting, and so we try to say something, anything, that might help. One that I've heard a lot is that you "are in a better place." I've even heard people say that you are "lucky to miss out on all the terrible things in this world."

Hm, a better place? Lucky? I know heaven must be wonderful, but I'd also like to think that our family is too. Don't get me wrong, this life can be very difficult and cruel, no one understands that more than me right now. But there are also some incredible moments that everyone should get to live.

After you were born, we kept you in our room for almost an entire day. Dad rocked you and whispered tales of football heroes and of the wildlife he loves so much. I held you up to the window so you could see the majestic mountains overhead. The mountainsides were beginning to glow orange and red as the leaves on the trees changed colors. And I began to bawl. You will never get to see those beautiful mountains we love so much. You will never get to hike the trails with us, picking up leaves and rocks as you go. You will never get to sit in Romney Stadium and watch the Aggies play football. You will never get to throw a baseball in the backyard with Dad and Sam.

How can people say you are in a better place when you have a family that would love you to pieces and show you all the good this world has to offer?

My parents offered me the happiest childhood a girl could know. I want that for my children as well. And I find myself lately trying to shove three happy childhoods into only two children. I feel like I have to give it to you, whether you are here physically or not, because I feel you deserve it too. I feel as though we need to live this life to the fullest, in case you are allowed to live vicariously through us.

So, in an attempt to create some of the happiest memories a child could want, we went to Disneyland last week. We entered those gates and I felt as though all cares and troubles melted away. Nothing mattered but our family - you and Halle and Sam. And for those three days life revolved around us.

It was a wonderful vacation. The kids enjoyed every moment of it. And Dad and I felt like kids again, enjoying even the simplest of things. We even went to the beach so the kids could see the ocean for the very first time. Halle was mesmerized by the waves and Sam couldn't keep his artistic fingers out of the sand and drawing murals.
But there was one moment, on the last day, that I felt my emotions well up inside. Maybe it was the knowledge that this fantasy world was all going to be gone in the morning. And maybe it was the reminder that I will never get to take you to Disneyland in the flesh. But whatever the reason, somewhere between seeing the Toy Story army men playing their drums and posing for pictures with Lightning McQueen and Mater, I began to sob. Yup, right there in the middle of "the happiest place on earth" I broke down and cried.

I miss you buddy. I wish you could see the tulips poking out of the dirt in our front flower bed. I wish I could take you to see the baby lambs down the rode. I wish you could feel the spring air outside and smell the newness all around. I wish you could hear your brother and sister talk of you and pray for you.

But perhaps you do see and hear and feel all these things. I feel you so near sometimes. I think that if I could just look hard enough, I would see you right here beside me.

I'll never stop living for you, Luke. I'm going to experience all the wonderful things this life has to offer in case you are here with me. I want you to know that, wherever you are, there is a family here who loves you beyond all comprehension and will never forget you. And that is the greatest thing I can offer you in this life and the next to come.

Love you,