[post started on December 23rd. finished and published December 24th]
The world should be hushing, calming, preparing. My spirit is desperate for the quiet that Christmas brings; the sacred space that is for He alone to rest.
Instead the world around me seems to be amping. Loud & bright are the noises and the voices and the scurrying.
Braden's in the bath tub now, repeating the same thing over and over and over again, loudly. Not uncommon but definitely worse. He is seeing a specialist soon, but not soon enough. All I hear is the racing thoughts in his head and it correlates to my heart and I want to pound fists to the air hard and scream "stop! please just stop."
He can't. My heart can't.
And the noises they etch deep into me.
I watch from this clouded bubble of child loss.
I watch the people around me and I think about their lives. I wonder where they are headed and what they are doing and what they have learned and who they love. I think about how they dibble and dabble and tralala through the day and I question their motives and their thoughts and their every little thing. None of it is mine to ponder but I can't help it.
As the rest of the world is revving up for Christmas with excitement and zeal, and as I have tried to do the same for the sake of Nora and Braden, reality struck.
Because it always strikes.
Yesterday I told the kids to please come and eat lunch with me around the living room table as a family. And that's all it took. Nora cried harder than she has cried in a very long time.
"This is NOT a family without Mabel!"
Her bones shook and her body ached and then she woke through the night, many times, physically sick from the missing. The rest of the world, even people we know, they're outside living.
And I sometimes can't understand that when inside this house there is so much deep pain. When the heartache is palpable and the children are suffering and the anguish is unending.
I sit back and I see the celebrations; birthdays and new resolutions being made, parties planned and people living. In fact, I'm doing those same things most of the time.
And that feels good.
The living part is so easy. It feels so right.
But the part where you actually have to give in to the feelings that are true and real; the ones you can't escape because your baby did die and your sister really isn't coming back-
That part is horrific. That part is the part that we have to wake up with and carry. We don't get to carry on like the rest of the world. Our grievance is different; I may even be bold enough to say it's the worst possible kind of agony that one can experience.
Today some really special gifts came in the mail.
A few weeks ago, my friend Robyn who created Tiny Super Heroes sent me an illustration of Mabel. She had someone create it based on how she now pictures her- flying and free. She got the illustration spot on. My girl smiling, wearing the biggest bow, barefoot with one fist closed tightly because, I believe, even in Heaven she is 'tapping' her very own Mabel tap.
Today we opened the box and in it we found two journals, one for each of the kids; both with a special letter inside and the illustration of Mabel on the front. And two mugs, one for each of us, with all sorts of yellow inside and our girl happily on the outside.
They are beautiful and perfect.
Later in the day, as the kids were away, I napped. But before doing so I had to move the van out of the garage so that Chris could do some work inside. After nearly two hours I decided to get up so that I could finish the last of my Christmas errands. When I walked outside, the van was still running. This incident followed one the night before where I removed the clothes from the dryer, forgot to put in a new load and let the dryer run an entire cycle anyway.
That fog of grief; the illusion that I'm 'doing just fine' because I'm avoiding anything and everything...it catches up to me eventually. And then I fall into full-blown "feel sorry for myself" mode because I'm a complete wreck who appears to have it together.
Let me assure you, I don't.
However, I just want my dad and grandpa to know and possibly be proud that at least I had gas in the van.
I left the driveway to check the mail and as I opened a bulky card, (my favorite thing to do at Christmas), I sobbed at the revelation of what was inside.
So many gift cards for our family. Hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards.
And all of the holiday gusto that I had been building and all of the feelings I had been repressing came crashing down in one swift second.
Racing thoughts included:
"This is so kind. This is so much money. I wish I could afford to do this for a family in need. Oh my God-we ARE the family people are thinking about this holiday because our baby DID die.
Oh my God, she died. She died. She died.
It's Christmas and she isn't here. She isn't coming back. Not ever.
Holy *#$%. Holy #&^@(. Holy *&$*#."
Followed by a whole lot of howling and a whole lot more profanity, because that's the only thing that somehow comes close to making the sharp pain in my stomach have a sharp sound in my voice and it's the only thing stopping the vomit from rising and somehow it is the only terrible thing that I can say or do that comes close to the total and complete nightmare of totally messed up feelings trapped inside.
I made it to wal-mart. Barely. I couldn't go in. And the parking lot held my cries for what seemed like an hour. A villager texted, "It's just a moment. Get it out and the moment will pass. You've gotta just do it."
Another villager came. Held me close. I snotted into her long hair, as I usually do (thank you all for letting me do that-always). I said quietly, "I can't deal with this." She said,
"I know. You don't have to today."
She then said, "Santa is walking into wal-mart right now. A legitimate santa."
Life outside the van was preparing and moving and readying.
Inside the van, my heart was shattered and broken and at a standstill.
Eventually my breath calmed, my cries leveled. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
And before I knew it, just like that, we were inside. The moment did pass.
Like a wave crashing, it roared and tumbled me around, and it was brutal. But as always, it came and went. It was over and I carried on.
Because quite honestly, what else is there to do?
The truth is, this kind of moment catches me off guard and it makes me angry. I don't want to find myself spinning out of control in the parking lot with no warning, makeup ruined and day interrupted. I want to live and carry on. I don't want to avoid the feelings deep inside forever but I don't like having to give into them either. I just want to do this at my own pace, in my own time.
And that's just not how it works.
Not for the grown adult and most certainly not for the tiny child.
I want to celebrate our Savior and I want my thoughts to occupied of this time of His birth; His coming. I want to think about His mother, the amazing mother who carried and birthed a child that she knew would save our entire world by sacrificing himself. I relate to her.
I've always related to her.
She lived a life with Jesus wholly, all the while preparing her mind and spirit for what was to come-ultimately his death.
So though the world around me is hustling and bustling with thoughts of gifts and food and songs and everything our culture has created for this season, the world inside of me is preparing for simply survival. A time when I can lodge myself into the knowing that Jesus is the entire reason I have peace about my baby's death. Jesus came so that I would feel the assurance of her celebrating with Him in Heaven right now. That is the entire reason for Christmas.
Remembering, dwelling, concentrating on Him.
The human God who came as a babe to save us for eternity.
And now, my baby who was once alive but never fully well, is free and whole because of him.
It's all so overwhelming and beautiful and breathtaking and honestly, perfect.
Often times it doesn't 'click' with me that we are one of the families hurting this holiday season. Even though she is absent from our home, our hearts are so full of her that it seems impossible. But I am reminded on days like today that we are that family and that is ok. It is not lost on me that there are many others hurting as well. In fact, maybe it's easier for me to empathize with the situations that are somewhat distant because it's a good distraction from my own deep pain.
My thoughts go there, and I am reminded to pray and be mindful of everyone during this season who finds it almost unbearable to make it through. Simply put, survival is key. And whatever that means during this time (and always) is perfectly acceptable.
Yesterday two cardinals appeared in our front tree. They were a vibrant and breathtaking red.
I woke up today, Christmas Eve, and the sun is shining.
Much needed mercies from Heaven surround me, and I am thankful.
Merry Christmas Eve, from my family to yours.
[also, thank you to the giver of the most amazing gifts to our family. though it was sent anonymously, I want to thank you publicly. my heart is humbled, truly.]