Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Grief Support Group.

Tomorrow night, Thursday, April 7th at 6 pm in the community room of the Clinton YMCA, "Mabel's Able" will be holding our first ever grief support group. 

The goal of gathering together is to facilitate a safe, private environment... where we can offer emotional support to one another through our loss, grief, & experiences with the hope of bringing about healing through community & friendship.
If you or someone you know has lost someone they love and this feels like something you {they} may want to try, please join us 
[[This group is open to anyone. We will have an open forum for discussion with a weekly facilitator but we want to emphasize that this is not and should not take the place of a professional counseling service.]]
Somehow, over the course of my young life, grief has not only become my closest companion but also my true passion.  As a culture that is so dedicated to education and pursuing all avenues of such, we are highly uneducated in the area of grief.  Mostly, I believe, because as a general population we just cannot emotionally handle it. But there are many reasons that have led us here, to a fast-paced era of getting over this and fixing that.  We are lost in a realm of focusing our attention anywhere except inwardly or on anyone around us who is hurting.  This is so damaging to not only our own psyche but the mental state of our generation as a whole.  I fully stand by the mission in my heart that screams loudly that we must
"We must reach others around us who are hurting!  We must tell them they are not alone!  We must not turn our back on the pain.  We must not allow them to feel shame about how their heart may feel.  We must enter into a place of comfortable grieving with those around us- empathizing with their hurting, messy, broken, beat up and busted souls.  We must, oh how we must!"
This week has been awful for me.  I am 3 weeks post a foot surgery that has caused me an immense amount of pain.  Last week I found out that the incision wasn't healing properly and felt discouraged and today I got more bad news that I could possibly develop an infection.  I'm still in a lot of pain in my foot which has also caused a lot of pain in my back. 
I'm completely overwhelmed by the physical pain. 
At first it seemed almost like a respite from the emotional pain but now the two have joined forces and made a bed in my heart; one that I feel trapped in, utterly and totally helpless.  I know the physical pain won't last.  There will be an end.  But telling myself that only makes the emotional pain worse, as I know the longing for my baby will haunt my heart for as long as I live.  And that could be a very long time. 
The thoughts swirl and where I once had an outlet in exercise I now find myself in bed with a heating pad and pain meds, weeping for all that I do not have and cannot do.  And yes, it's a ridiculous pity-party for one.  Just me. 
But truly, all of the pain and agony has me in a bad way and I just can't shake it.  I'm remembering details that I cannot and do not want to recall just yet.  I've done my best to run from them (in every way) for just over 10 months and I'm not ready to lay here and listen to my mind or tap into my memory.  I just can't and yet I find that I don't quite have a choice.  I have nowhere to go and nothing to do and that makes me angry, sad, frustrated and oh so vulnerable. 
It's unbearable actually.
Three nights ago the kids heard me wailing from their rooms and came to meet me on the couch, one in front and one behind me as I cried.  They planted their faces next to mine and as my body shook they held fast to their mama in a way they haven't before.  I opened my eyes, mucky with mascara and looked at their faces and noted how unfair this must feel; their own hurt being pushed aside to comfort me in mine.  No child should have to.  No mother should have to.  All that we've endured and have to continue to walk with; it's just so hard and seems so cruelly unfair. 
Of course we remember her pain and are grateful that the horror she endured is over, but that doesn't ease the pain in our own hearts or home.  In fact, at times it just enhances it.  It's just so sad to think of our girl suffering, but also not being here with us.
Yesterday I got text messages from two of my sweet grieving mama-friends. 
One basically said, "I don't want to interact with anyone who will not openly accept my use of the F word."  I agreed the same and felt free in it.
The second said,
"I wrote her anniversary story and I am literally destroyed.  I think I need wine but it's the middle of the day..."
To which I also agreed and later replied, "I took a Xanax.  I hope you drank that glass of wine." 
So I'm laying here and I feel completely helpless and then I get these gentle little word reminders that even fully-abled grieving mama's feel the same.  They are wrecked and ravaged and exhausted and shattered.  They need non-judgment and wine and medicine and sleep and silence and busy-ness, and friends and noise, and nothing.  And everything. 
Like me, they don't even know from minute to minute what they need but they sure aren't trying to figure it out either. 
We are all just doing the very best we can. 
And we're talking about it.  And we aren't ashamed of it.  And we keep giving a voice to it.  And we are trying desperately to recognize it and normalize it and not over-rationalize it.  We are just living it and are horrified by it.
But what makes us different than generations before us is this:  we are communicating about it. 
And that's why this idea of community grieving is important. 
It means that we come out of confinement, into a place of solidarity to join our voices with others who are hurting.  It means that we open our hearts to hopefully bring about peace for ourselves and those around us. 
God speaks about it constantly in the Word, about gathering together.  And I don't think that it necessarily always means for the mission of spirituality, though I do believe something insanely spiritual  happens when people gather together with other people who are longing for the same thing. 
Especially in the presence of grieving hearts...
  There is so much tenderness, strength, understanding and knowledge in the presence of those grieving, and just enough brokenness to let the beautiful pour in. 
This art of mourning is a sacred and powerful dance.  It is exhausting in ways that are unexplainable unless otherwise fully experienced.  It is overwhelming and frightening and lonely and so very painful. 
 But it is an art. 
And a very forgiving and stretching process. 
 I just no longer want it to feel like one that we have to endure alone. 
So...if you're reading this and your heart has been shattered, or you are grieving for that child that was never born, or one who took their own life, or your mother who never got to see your kids go to school, or your daddy who can't walk you down the aisle, or your grandma who raised you like her own, or your partner that slept at your side for 43 years....
If you are reading this and have never shared your story of hurt or maybe you've shared it a trillion times over...
If you are reading this and you feel like you maybe just need a friend; someone who may understand...
Please, please, please step out and join us. 
We will not have all the answers.  We will not bring a 'fix' to the hurting.  But we can assure you that you will not walk away empty. 
Sometimes it takes a congregation of the brokenhearted to see the strength that lies inside of yourself.  That is our hope.  That we can all walk away with a little bit of extra strength for the days ahead.
For questions please feel free to email me:

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday: holy week.

It was finished.
And suddenly it was Saturday.
He was tortured, killed and buried in a tomb right before their eyes.
And as Christians, we tend to talk about it and literally walk straight into the redemption of Sunday.
But I am now and likely always will be a Saturday girl.
 I mean honestly, the Saturday in this Easter story goes like this:
The one they love is dead.  He JUST died.  They are wounded, pained, reeling from their loss.  No one is singing hymns, wearing their best dress, or celebrating.  No one has any idea at all that there could be anything to celebrate. 
Mabel died at 5:23 am and we buried her on the same day, almost exactly 12 hours later.  The sun had shone brilliantly all day, even moments before we drove her to the cemetery. My brother and her da carried her casket from the front door of our house to the hearse and I remember the way the sun looked on their faces because I stood alone in the yard and watched their every step, heartbroken for these two men who loved her more than anything. 
As we drove ten miles west to the cemetery where she would be buried the sky turned dark, dark blue and the wind began to blow fiercely.  It felt like a storm was raging behind the clouds.  But it never did rain on us that day.  It just blew like a Heavenly reminder from God of all His power and wonder.
And goodness.
So, like the biblical account of the death of Jesus, our baby died and was buried in one day.  This is not what our culture is accustomed to but it was our plan and God had His hand in seeing it through in such a way that would bring all of us, especially her siblings, the most peace. 
She died on a Friday.
I'm still trying, but the memories from Friday night escape me completely.  I do not remember leaving the cemetery, or getting into bed, or anything beyond the wails and cries that echo in my mind from her tiny best friend at her spot that day.
Saturday morning I woke up and found him sitting up next to me in our bed, just waiting.  Just so I wouldn't wake alone.  The living room was full of the women who didn't leave my side for days before or the days that followed. 
If I remember right they joined me in bed after he got up and they didn't leave.  But I have no recollection of the rest of the day.  Not because I was medicated or because I slept for hours.  Because my body was physically in shock. 
Shock:  a sudden or violent mental or emotional disturbance.
I asked several of my friends and Chris this morning about Saturday and they all said the same thing, "I literally have no recollection.  I do not remember."
The Saturday of the Easter story is all about pain. 
Shock.  Emotional disturbance. 
And those of us who are grieving or who are in pain, we are surely Saturday people.  We can most certainly relate to Jesus' loved ones on this very day.  The people that loved Jesus had to fight hard to live through Saturday.  I'm sure there was gnashing and flailing and waves of guttural cries from bathrooms all around. 
There was no expectation of return.  Of rising.  No talk of resurrection or hope of what the death of the man they loved truly meant for the world.  They had no real idea what tomorrow would bring.  There were no memes for them to cling to, "Sunday is coming!" 
What does that even mean? 
We Christians like to sprinkle this Easter week with a whole lot of excitement and celebration and feel-goodness.  But now that I can envision the human emotion behind the events, I know it just wasn't so.  Even Easter Sunday absolutely didn't feel the way we think it did or happen the way we'd like to believe it happened, I'm certain.  What mother is thrilled to see that her child's body is not in the tomb where she left it?  How disturbing and disheartening and sickening must that have felt? 
What kind of faith would she have had to have in order to believe all that we are taught to believe. 
I just find it so complex and difficult to imagine Mary in joyful celebration after watching her child be brutally killed and now, not knowing where His body actually is. 
Surely on Saturday, Jesus' mother was not clinging to the hope that her only Son would rise from his grave and ensure for the coming world that there was an eternal home waiting for us.  Jesus' mother was lamenting for her child.  Surely she was unable to look in a mirror, unable to stand in the shower, unable to leave the house, unable to think about eating, unable to remember anything other than what just took place the day before and try to wrap her mind around it. 
It was Saturday and He just died on Friday. 
This day, the pain, it had to be horrendous. 
Today I reflect on my own Saturday and try to remember.  I'm thankful that the memories aren't there; that they've disappeared.  So in turn, I'm trying hard to envision a Saturday without a child that was a human son to Mary and God to us--a God who died for us.  
It's all so big and all so heavy.  I don't know how to carry or make sense of it. 
I woke up today, once again humbled at the journey that Jesus took but also those that loved Him. 
They have helped me know that surviving Saturday is vital to surviving grief. 
There is hope in it all, even if we don't know that it is coming.
For all of you other 'Saturday people', maybe today we can simply try.
"The presence of love, the presence of grief.  The acknowledgement of both--in fact, welcoming both.  Leaving the door open, leaving emptiness a place at the table..."
Until tomorrow, when we know and accept the truth of what we believe it means for us, give yourself permission to sit in the grief and sadness of today, Saturday. 
I know I will. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday: holy week.

Christians around the world have begun their celebrations. 
Today is the day our Savior gave up His only life for us. 
For love.
"Oh what a day!" we say.
"Good Friday" it is called.
But my God, it's so much more than that.  And now I find myself lamenting at the knowing. 
At the waiting.  The watching.  The counting of breaths, the bargaining with God.  The begging for Him to come and for it please be over and then the guilt for the weight of that feeling. 
And then...just even more waiting. 
Jesus Himself walked through every single one of those emotions and more as the day unfolded.  We read about it and it's evident.  He speaks humanly, vulnerably.  He expresses fear, torment, frustration, sadness, guilt, and more.  And that's just Jesus. 
We aren't really told of the emotions felt by those around Him who loved Him deeply.  I would give anything to know their account, but then I realize-I really already do. 
See, death takes it's time.  Sometimes, it is in no hurry. 
It is said that from the time that it all began that day until the time Jesus actually died there were at least 6 hours in between.  Which in all actuality seems quick to me now that I have experienced death first hand and know that it can take much, much longer. 
About 24 hours separated the time between when Mabel's body fully shut down to the time that she actually died.  But because there is no true predictor of death, we didn't really know how long it would go on.  In all reality, it could have been (and usually is) much longer.
At first there was thrashing of her body, even with medication that should have calmed her.  The thrashing of her head and body lasted a full night, at least 8 hours. 8 agonizing hours.
 It was absolute torture for me to watch.  So I didn't.  I prayed and I slept and I rested while she thrashed.  I silently waited on death, pleading to God for my child. 
"This was not the plan!  Someone better find a way to make this stop for her.  There has to be more we can do.  She is not going to die like this.  This must stop."
What happened to my daughter was natural death.  The body thrashes and battles long after the brain no longer can.  Signals misfire and the body reacts and it can be horrifying.  But most death and all of the ugly parts that come with it are 'normal.'
We are fortunate to live in a time and in a world where there are medications to help bring comfort to the dying. The whole goal of hospice care and the whole purpose behind every one of my choices for my child was for this very reason. So eventually her body did tire.  She thinned out overnight, and fell limp, her body also just awaiting death to swoop in and ease the burden.  But not before the highest fever I had ever witnessed, and sounds I will never forget, and colors that make me want to vomit on days that mimic her skin in those hours. 
But crucifixion?  The most unnatural, brutal, guttural death? 
There is nothing to ease the burden or bring comfort or stop the thrashing.  
Not when that's the exact point--murder in the most inhumane way.
 I can picture it vividly now, unlike I could before.  The involuntary movements of His body and the sounds that must have escaped from His mouth.  The sweat that fell, dirty, dripping with blood down the thirsty mouth of our Father, I can almost taste it. 
I have witnessed the sweet release of death after suffering.  I have felt the peace that overcame a room, and all at once, our life as I held my child across my chest, no longer feeling her breath next to mine.  I have watched as the man who loved her more than himself placed her into the custom made child casket where her body would lay forever. 
And because my child now lives with Jesus forever, on this Friday I am able to fully grasp the reason why He allowed it to be so when in all reality, He could have changed it all.
But, How could He have been our Savior if He hadn't known suffering?  How could we bow to Him and honor Him if He did not fully understand?
He was dirty and naked and defiled and bleeding and broken and battered and shamed.
He lived in this foul and offensive world.
And rather than clinging to all that was here, He fully surrendered to death...
Because He knew it was the will of His Father, and because He knew it had to be.
And so did I. 
Once again, Mabel was no Jesus.  And I am no Jesus.
But I understand the purity behind the person in a way I wouldn't have been able to without my sweet girl.  And the surrender it took for my heart to wait on, pray for and accept that death was part of the will of God and that it just had to be. 
Mary stood beneath her son's body as the guards unclothed Him and hollowed out His insides before her very eyes.  She watched as blood poured from His wounds and touched the earth with fierce, sacrificial love.  She watched her child-the baby that she swaddled and nursed and the boy that she nurtured, laughed with, and loved,  die for a world that tortured and contaminated all of who He was. 
And I imagine that it was the most horrifying thing she ever had to do. 
And yet, she did it.  She too, was able to trust Him and surrender to the idea that ultimately it was good and right. 
On this Good Friday, all I can think about is how brave Jesus was.  And how brave Mary was.  And I feel thankful and humbled that they chose to be so that in turn, I could be too. 
This year, though, my heart is wrapped around tomorrow, the Saturday of the Easter story...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday: holy week

The reflections of this week are always spiritually heavy for me.  Spring comes and life is anew.  
All at the cost of a man's very life.  A Savior.  It's daunting to actually sit in it, think on it. 
In the past several years I have found myself being able to relate to Jesus' mother and all that she must have endured in this week before her child's death.  For days before the actual celebration of Easter I have found myself physically ill over the suffering of Jesus' mother and the people who loved Him most.  This year, I was given even more insight and my heart was stretched further than ever before.
Today is Tuesday. 
This would have been the day when arrangements were made to betray Jesus.  I think on it and it takes hold and violently shakes me.  The man-God-Father-King: to be betrayed. 
Ann Voskamp wrote so much truth this morning when she said,
"Turns out that unless we make time to honestly pray, our priorities betray Jesus.
Unless we choose to radically trust,  our fears betray Jesus.
Unless we commit to quiet communion,  our distractions betray Jesus...
Unless we keep our hand in Jesus' hand, we hand Jesus over too -- unless we give everything to Jesus, we give up Jesus too."

  So here we are, preparing to celebrate the resurrection of a Savior, the One who brings all hope through the act of rising.  Because He did not stay in the grave, we celebrate life eternal.  But the truth is, the days leading up to His death must have been excruciating.  The anticipation of what was to come had to be agonizing.  In fact, scripture tells us that they were.  For others around Jesus, but inside of His own spirit. 
I just can't imagine. 
This man, this God-human and friend to many, was aware that he was actively being betrayed.  Sure, Judas would betray him in a single act but others betrayed Jesus as well.  Maybe not as blatantly, but looking back, though he never spoke it, how could he not have felt it?
 He asked Peter, James, and John to go with Him while He prayed.  He was filled with horror and deep distress and even said to them, "My soul is crushed to the point of death.  Stay here and watch with Me."
Jesus walked a little farther to pray alone and ask God to please let Him not have to endure what was to come.  I believe, having prayed the same prayer myself, that He knew it wouldn't change the outcome.  Jesus knew what would ultimately have to happen to fulfill the will of God.  But I believe out of faith, in speaking to His Father, Jesus simply needed to say the words. 
When he returned to where his friends were, just a little further behind him, all three of them were sleeping.  Jesus asks them, "Are you asleep?  Couldn't you stay awake and watch with me even one hour?"
Couldn't they have?  I mean that's really all He asked of them. 
This year, this is the part of the story that changes everything for me. 
My own child died and for hours and hours and hours I had so many people surrounding the two of us as we sat and waited patiently together for the Lord to come.  There we were, she and I on a little brown couch, shallow breathing and holding our own breath for what seemed like an eternity.  Her limp body fell over mine and she rested comfortably as it steadily continued to fail her.  No one knew how long this could go on, but in reality, it could have been this way for days. 
In that room not a single person closed their eyes until I told them that it was ok to do so.  And they would not have.  They were faithfully keeping watch with me for the Lord to come.  Because their eyes never looked away from me, I felt safe enough to never look away from her. 
They kept watch. 
"We should sleep.  Everyone should rest now.  Let's lay down and try to sleep."
I moved to my back, laid across that little brown couch so that my face was toward the sky and I situated Mabel's body so that hers was the same.  Face up, my chin to her forehead, we didn't move for hours.  And we slept.  At one point, I gazed around the room and saw everyone else doing the same.  The bodies of the people who love us most packed tightly into one single room, awaiting the Lord, but finally resting in the assurance that whether awake or asleep, He was coming soon. 
After Jesus told his friends to wake the first time He reminded them that they must keep alert and pray.  He left again to do so, pleading with God to not let him have to endure what was next.  When he returned to where his friends were for the third time, scripture tells us that they just couldn't keep their eyes open and they didn't know what to say to Jesus.  He said to them, "Still sleeping?  Still resting?  Enough!  I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Up!  Let's be going."
Jesus, though God, was a human and he carried these people.  He was about to endure excruciating, unexplainable death but they couldn't keep their eyes open to simply keep watch and pray?
It's appalling to me now.  How hard that one task must have been for them. 
Though I say everyone was sleeping in the hours leading up to Mabel's death, that's not entirely true.  Everyone did sleep at one time or another but there were enough of us that if my memory is correct, there wasn't a time through the night when at least someone was awake.  It seemed as if the spirit's of my sweet friends and family ebbed and flowed for one another, sleeping and waking in a rhythm that allowed me to not have to wake and worry at all. 
Keeping watch for the Lord, for me.
Their vantage point had to be horrific, much like the view of Jesus' friends. 
Here they were in different areas of her room, the room where she slept and cried and laughed and breathed and lived, knowing that it would also be the room where she would die.  Their anticipation and heartache was palpable yet courageous.  When my eyes met any one set of their eyes, I felt safe. 
Unlike Jesus, I did not have to lead my troops into the battle.  And for that, I feel deep empathy for Him.  In His actual last moments on this earth, Jesus still had to be the commander of His people, people who were supposed to be His friends.  People who could have rose up for Him.  I feel like He never quite had a soft place to fall.  That makes my heart literally ache and bleed for the heart of my Savior.  It makes me overwhelmingly sad.
But, I also can't fully understand it. 
That kind of anticipation and uncertainty also had to be so physically exhausting for everyone involved.  How did they truly know this was going to take place?  They trusted their friend, but in a sense, there had to be a strong form of denial that these would truly be their last moments with him.  How could they know for sure?  The story itself just proves to my heart, though, how as humans we just sometimes fall short.  It's in our nature.  We are imperfect. 
I just find myself wishing that Jesus would have had it differently in those moment.  The loneliest and scariest moments of his entire life could have maybe felt less lonely or less scary and yet we are told-they did not. 
At 5:23 am, after sleeping with my babe on my chest for 4 very restful hours, I felt her take her final breath and this time I was certain of it.  My spirit felt hers meet Jesus.
  My eyes opened to meet the eyes of my truest friend and then one by one, without a word being spoken, each of the others opened their eyes as well.  No one said a word.  There was just a sweet, gentle, sacred knowing.  Her da walked in the room, his eyes meeting mine and he knew as well.  He leaned down over me to kiss her gently and to be honest, I closed my eyes and while holding her, fell quickly back to sleep, knowing that my people were awake once again and would keep close watch,
I am so lucky.  I have always had people who have done this for me. 
Faithful, loyal, trustworthy, courageous, powerful friends and the greatest family, who would keep watch and pray over me, and for me, especially when I maybe couldn't for myself.  This has been my lifeline.  They have seen me through and continue to do so, even now.
I am no Jesus. 
But I have certainly been betrayed and have absolutely been the betrayer at different times in life.  We all have, without a doubt.  The days leading up to and the days following Mabel's death were no different.  I was betrayed in very hurtful, purposeful ways and we were betrayed in ways that maybe weren't so intentional.  Either way, it is one of the most painful emotions that a human can walk through and that kind of suffering is the kind that has me pained and groaning for my Lord today.
This Tuesday, the day the betrayal was arranged...
My heart is simultaneously broken for and thankful for Jesus. 
What a God.  What a man.  What a friend. 
How lucky I am to know Him...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

anger, the phase.

I have never quite felt a conflict like the internal battle I am fighting now.  
There is this deep desperation to be present in each moment as I have learned to be, which is so important.  But I'm also wanting so badly to skip through the next few months and not feel a single thing.  The memories and reminders are etched in the normalcy of my days and I'm finding they are far too hard to bear.  

This week I have just found myself angry.
It's not something I feel often but when I do, I try to embrace it and feel it too.  It's a valid emotion; it too should be felt.

  Many of the reasons I would have had to feel anger in the years prior were insignificant in the face of Mabel's sickness and death so naturally, I let a lot of things go in order to survive the most important thing which was taking care of her.  Now I'm left with raw emotions that never really got dealt with and the effects can be exhausting.

And all of the superficial reasons to be angry aside, if I'm being honest, sometimes I'm just angry that life has moved on without her.
Sometimes I feel angry at my phone for the million trivial texts that come through that day.  Sometimes I feel angry if I don't receive any. 
 Some days I feel angry at the sun for not shining but find myself crying hysterically in bed the next day simply because it is.
...and it's beautiful, and my God she would love it.  

Some days I'm angry because Nora doesn't have a sister here anymore. Who wants to have a sister in Heaven?  I'm just angry for her.
And I'm angry for him, too.
Because he did have two sisters..  And that's just unfair.  
I'm angry that I had to pick out a plaque that will serve as headstone for my dead daughter 
By the way, she died because she had a really horrific rare disease.  And I'm angry because we don't even know what form of that disease she had so no one in the world knows enough about it to stop it from happening again or to even help a family if it does happen to them.  
Most days I feel really angry about social media and the platform it gives to inconsiderate, uneducated, downright mean people.  People who make judgments about our life; a life that they were most certainly not part of.  
 I'm angry that when the truth is spoken or published, people in our community take sides when there are no sides here to be taken.  
This is our life.

People made choices along the way, choices that were poor and choices that affected all of us.  But ultimately, two children lost their sister, we lost our beloved daughter and unfortunately, that wasn't something we got to make a choice about. 

Honestly, if you didn't make impossible decisions about a tiny girl's life or death, her headstone, what kind of therapies she would participate in, or medicines she would receive, or where she would be buried, when the right time to stop feeding her was, what she wore from day to day...

If you didn't meet with a handful of professionals regarding her decline, call and make an appointment with or participate in a meeting with the funeral director, decide on a casket, or funeral clothes, or flowers or decide how you would tell her siblings that she was dying...

If you didn't actually have to tell those small children that she did, in fact, die, or find a way to make that experience as beautiful and sacred as you could for them, then you do not GET to have an opinion about any of it.  Not inside of your own self and most definitely not on social media.  

I'm angry every single day that these sweet children of mine, who's hearts are hugely impressionable are impacted personally by a world that is corrupt and diluted and downright unethical.  
I feel angry at least once a day about something hurtful that someone says unintentionally because I guess I just feel like that society, as a whole, should just be able to do better.  Truly, why are we not a little more sensitive or aware of the people around us and what they have walked through or are currently enduring?

I feel angry when someone chooses to vent to me about how little time they got to spend with their baby that week.
"At least they are not in the ground," I find myself thinking.  And then I feel angry for thinking that way because that's just plain nasty and darn it, I am not.  
I'm really angry that it's March and that she isn't here.  
That when I look back at her pictures I find myself remembering just how sick she was and now, just how sick that makes me.  

I'm angry that I sometimes feel like I haven't grieved at all, though I know I have.
But, that I will have to do this every day for the rest of my life.  My God, it is exhausting.  And all I want to do is see her.  
I'm angry that I can't.  Oh, I can't believe that I can't.  

I'm angry that all I have left are pictures and videos.  So many but not ever enough.  Not enough of anything actually.  
Mostly...time.  Just not enough time.  
Today I feel like I can't possibly make it through the next few months.  These are the days that will break me, I'm certain.  

I miss her more.  I feel her less.  I remember more.  I can control it less.  
I'm angry at life and death and people and situations.
And just everything.  And ultimately nothing.

I just feel it but then I think on it, cry about it and move forward because that's all there is to do anyway.  
This week, moving forward makes me angry, too.  Not our lives so much as just watching everyone else's.  Grief is complicated because it feels bad and selfish to feel that way yet, you cannot help it.  It's just something that is.  
I'm hopeful that the days of sunshine ahead will bring a renewed spirit in me.  Though, I can't say I'm not afraid to face them.  It feels just as heavy and lonely as it once did.  The only difference is now I am no longer afraid of losing her; it's living without her forever that I'm terrified of.  
I sent this last year to a friend on this exact day and she sent it back to me this morning.  My, how I needed to read it:

"For the secret of grief?  It hollows you, then hallows you.  What else is a hollow chamber full of holy dark other than a womb?  A cocoon, a holding space for life, fertile soil waiting for the seed of desire.  All life begins in the dark..."

Today I woke thinking of you.  And then I took a few minutes to pray for you.  I know that the journey of grief is lonely and isolating.  I know that as the world is spinning yours is at a standstill.  I know that no one else, even if they are in their very own grief, understands yours exactly.  I've always told you to be in your own grief.  Embrace it, cuddle it, quicken to it.  Grief, as awful and deafening as it can be, is your companion and you will learn to find comfort there.  I love you and I have not forgotten.  I am here for you and always will be.  Grief is a constant reminder that the person or thing you are grieving is significant and vital.  There's a purpose and it's there with you every day.  Rest in that today.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Arizona 2016

This week, this life, these people I'm meeting, the stories I'm hearing and have been part of telling.   And, oh this road I'm traveling...
It has awakened something inside of me that I didn't even know was sleeping.
A month ago we planned a trip for just the two of us. 
 As long as we have spoken, our words have revolved around children...  
...and heavy things... 
And always, always hard decisions; most of which took a lot of discussion, because every single outcome mattered.  Every single choice we have made and continue to make has a lasting impact on our family and we have always known it, and valued it above all else.  Together we have always put stock in the whole of this family before ourselves, just the way we believe it should be. 
For the first time in three years we felt like we were really ready to spend time away. 
It was a trip that we felt was necessary to revive our spirits, to re-strengthen them for the days ahead.  To tap into our hearts and feel the love between just the two of us.  But also, I know we both felt like this would be a time to reflect on where we have come from, what we have endured together along the way, all the days that we have walked that have led us exactly where we are today. 
Together, we talk a lot about it but I think more than anything we just needed to feel it. 
Alone.  Together.  And far away. 
This week I didn't discover anything substantially new within myself.  It wasn't life-altering in a 'finding myself' kind of way.  But it was absolutely enlightening and important.  The beauty and the majesty of what we were able to experience was far beyond my wildest dreams.  And to experience it together, in the sunshine and dry air-it was exactly what we needed.  
This week as we climbed higher and higher toward the Heavens, I really did feel our girl close.  There is something very engaging about the way the earth is in tune to our spirits and in these moments of total solitude where I was pushing my abled-body to it's limits, I experienced a freedom that I haven't in a very long time. 
There was nothing that needed to be said.  There was nothing to be done.  There was simply he and I and the vastness that is God.  

I found myself at the height of our trip, literally, in total awe of our Father once again.  
I found myself thinking about details and moments within our last year that have been too difficult to process until now, and allowing myself to really think about them.  I also found myself thinking about the love I am in; the love God has provided all of us and felt completely and totally overwhelmed with His goodness in my life. 
For five whole days, I really allowed myself to fully feel. 
I was completely held captive by this place; a place where I was totally surrendered.
Hurt and happy, pain and joy, love and hate; all gave way to moments of perfection in the middle of nature where my breath was literally taken away. 
By him, and her, and them, and life. 
My what a life. 

While in Sedona we made sure our days were full.
  The very first morning we climbed cathedral rock which was my absolute favorite part of our entire trip.  Just when the other adventurers stopped climbing, we climbed higher and the reward was incredible beauty!  I have never in my life seen or experienced anything like it.  When you read about Sedona, Arizona, you will likely read about the famous vortex's within the canyons or mesa's. 
All I can say is that when you know you really do just know. It's indescribable. 

[cathedral rock]

Another one of my favorite things that we did was driving to lookout point at sunset.  Almost every night we watched the sun go down in the valley from a different place on some rock or mesa.  It was incredible and the valley really is completely inspiring. 
The colors of the sky against the rocks and the way that they changed with each passing minute; their fleeting yet sustainable vibrancy-it was eerily comparable to life.
And in that way, I adored it all.

On the second day of our trip we hiked for 8 hours and for a total of approximately 15 miles. 
Unfortunately I have to have foot surgery in 2 weeks so I have been resting leading up to the trip, knowing that I would basically push myself to my physical limits.  This day, indeed, I did.  We hiked to 'devil's bridge' which was amazing.  I happened to enjoy being under the canyon more than even the view from the top.  And then after a really great lunch and feeling totally sun-drunk, we hiked another 5 miles around one of the city's largest mesas.  It was incredible.  

(devils bridge)

On the last active day of our trip we visited the Grand Canyon, which really was a dream come true for me; something I always wanted to do but never actually thought would be a reality.  I am so thankful for the chance to travel and experience life in it's fullest capacity.  What a gift it is to have lived and continue to live such a rich life in so many, many ways!

We missed the kids a lot but honestly focused so much on being fully present. 
It was good to not feel worried about them.  It was good to know that they were in good hands. 
And it was really good to come home again. 
Though, in coming home we tasted the bitter reality once again. 
Our baby really is gone. 
A five day trip that was not only spiritual, and stretching but also truly healing came to a post-vacation head in a really epic crash the day after returning.  Overwhelmed and exhausted, I think we both just ached for the lady who is missing... 
Never ever from our hearts, but definitely from our home.   And I think that's what makes traveling easy and even important.  She goes with us where we go.  But at home, in our safe place, the void of her is more recognizable than ever.  
The next several weeks will be incredibly difficult for me, I can tell.  My emotions and the memories are relentless.  It was this week last year that Mabel had the seizure that changed everything.  She became so sick, so quickly and everything is a reminder.  It all feels like an open, oozy, very raw wound and oh, how it's painful. 
Please continue to pray for our family.  I will always be humbled and grateful that you do.  With so much adventure, joy, goodness, and love-we sure experience equal parts grief and sadness and I'm not quite sure that will ever go away.   So thank you for lifting us high in your hearts and thoughts.  We need your strength, as we always have.