Tuesday, August 19, 2014

And then she sighed

My baby girl started first grade last week. I gave birth to her just a few weeks ago (right?) and already she is school aged. She was in a rush to make her debut in the world, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised she has been in a rush to grow up. Everyone talks about growing pains, but no one said the only one who would feel the hurt of it would be the parents. This growing up stuff is no joke. You feel so proud and so sad all at the same time. You know how some people are jumping up and down when that school bus comes down their street??...I am not one of them. No judgement, no judgement. I'm pretty sure when the twins turn comes to go to school, I will be singing the Hallelujah chorus. (I kid...sort of...ahem.) But that firstborn girl of mine...I just want to bottle up her innocence and keep her 6 years old for forever.

We are so fortunate to be able to send Ella to a very sweet and wonderful Christ loving school that we feel like will be both a good fit for her as a student and us as the parents. She still only goes half days (8-12), which is such a sweet blessing to this hurting heart of mine. She can be such a ray of sunshine on those days when I'm missing my mama so very, very much...which is pretty much every hour of the day. The friends we have already made through the school...the outpouring of love from people who don't even know of my mom's recent passing...it's just been such a gift from the Lord.

I had a dream about my mama the other night. It was the second night in a row I have dreamed about her. Sadly, it wasn't this Hollywood version where you wake up and feel happy. They were sad dreams. Each dream she walked around in this fuchsia dress that she wore in my sisters wedding. She didn't say anything, she was just walking around and then she died. Both nights I had these weird dreams about seeing her body in a casket, but it was not the funeral she had in real life. It was just...weird. Not comforting at all. So, the past two days I've woken up just feeling really awful. Where are these sweet dreams that people have where their loved one comes back and say "you are going to be OK. Or I love you. Or anything happy"...but not reliving her funeral?

This morning I was so frustrated trying to put together a chandelier in this never ending construction zone we live in and just sobbed. And sobbed and sobbed. I dropped a crystal and it shattered into a million pieces. So there I sat on the top of a ladder with two toddlers staring at me from outside the room wondering what all the commotion was about. I look at my little boy who looks down at the box and starts handing me one crystal at a time and says "mommy, I help you. Don't cry. I help you."

And he and Audrey both did. They each took turns handing me crystals and I hung them where they needed to go. My focus changed from my mom to thinking about how these two little miracles will be 4 years old in just 11 more days. I thought about those those 3 months in the NICU, about watching 3 nurses do CPR on my little girl, about how the doctor told me she didn't know if I was going to be able to carry them long enough for them to survive. I thought about those months where we worried Audrey might have cerebral palsy and "would she ever walk"? And those years of worrying if Jacob would learn to talk well?

"Mommy, do you want a little crystal or a big crystal next?"

He talks. She walks. They are alive and well. And I have a first grader too!!...the baby who we prayed for for a really long time. My womb that God did not leave barren.

And I sighed.

That sigh that you release when your body is so built up with sorrow and pain. That sigh that says "I'm broken, but I'm going to be OK." That sigh that says "man, this life can be so very hard. But God has done miraculous things in my life. And He is good."

Sometimes in the midst of this grief, I have to look at old photos and remind myself of how much He has done for me. It will be difficult to celebrate these two miracle's birthday in a few days without her there. Normally she would call me at least 14 times to double check that she got exactly the right present. And then she would tell me some dramatic story about going to 4 different stores to find the best deal on it. My mom never quite embraced the beauty of amazon prime! And then she'd tell me "while I was there, you'll never believe what I found on the sales rack."I have a closet full of her dollar store finds!

On Thursday, it will be 3 months since we said goodbye to my mother. I often wonder what her new body looks like. She was so beautiful before, how could God have made anything more beautiful?

I read something the other day that said "Grief never ends, but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love."

No person can ever replace the love of my mother. But, I am so thankful for these 3 little ones that God has loaned me that help me take a deep breath and sigh when the pain is too much. Never have I been more thankful for my three babies. Looking at that picture above is such a sweet reminder that He is good and He is faithful.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Grief: The torrential downpour, the grey clouds, & the patch of blue skies

Blessed are those who mourn,  for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

 The two months of living without my mother has come and gone. I keep waiting for that phone call as my mind is still in a state of disbelief, but the more that time passes the more I feel the permanency of her absence. I spent the July 4th weekend at my parents lake house and watched my kids enjoy themselves thoroughly. It was wonderful and it hurt all in the same breath. It hurt because the thing my mother enjoyed most was the lake. In recent years, she had finally convinced my dad to add on to the house so that there was space for all the grandchildren. I had not yet taken the twins out there until this past weekend and I felt both mad at myself and mad at the world that my mom never got to see all 5 grandchildren up there together at the same time. Yet, I also felt like we were honoring her by fulfilling her wish. Grief...it's such a bizarre emotion.

It's always hard to know what to say when someone asks "how are you doing?" Before I go off on a tangent, let me say that I'd rather someone at least ask than to say nothing at all to me. Don't be afraid to ask the bereaved how they are doing...don't be afraid of saying something "dumb". Asking how the bereaved are doing is a totally fine question to ask...the only thing is that that question is multifaceted; it is an ever changing emotion from one second to the next. It's not "one day at a time" for me...it's still "one hour at a time". So my response totally varies throughout the day. Overall how am I doing? I'm just going to be honest...I feel broken. I feel sad all day every day. Some days are worse than others, but every day is still hard.

I am sure grief looks different for everyone depending on the circumstances. Although my mother had been sick, her death was very unexpected and very quick. It was not tragic in the sense of an instant car crash death, but it was tragic in that it caught us off guard those last few days. We didn't know that was how it would end until 48 hours before she passed away. Every day between 2 and 3pm, I really struggle because those were the moments of her last breaths and the images are still so vivid in my mind. After seeing my grandfather this weekend (this is my mother's father), who is 94 years old and just lost his wife 2 months prior to my mom's death, I almost felt like my grief intensified a little. Hearing him say that he "begged God not to take his daughter, but to take him instead."...y'all...it just shattered the little bit of heart I had left into a million pieces. Parents shouldn't have to bury their children no matter how old that child is.

It's all still really, really raw.

As we were traveling the month of July, we at one point were driving in some really terrible weather. It was an absolute torrential downpour...the kind of rain where you cannot see at all, but you can't pull over either...you just have to very, very slowly and prayerfully move ahead. And I got to thinking that that is very much what these early stages of grief are like. I can't speak for all, but my couple of friends who have lost a parent at a young(ish) age I'm sure would agree. You can't pull over...you have to keep moving. But it is so hard and you can't see ahead, but you are trusting that God will get you through. You are scared and anxious, but you can feel every once in awhile this overwhelming peace from the Lord reminding you that His hands are on the steering wheel with you...that He is going to help you.

And eventually as you are driving, the rain slows. You can see again, but there are still these sudden bursts of rain that slow you down. These are the months after some of the shock has worn off. You know eventually you'll see blue skies again and you are keeping your eyes peeled for those patches of blue skies, but you're still driving in the rain. This is where I am folks.

I've survived the torrential downpour, but I'm still driving in grey skies that are trickling rain...and some days there are those quick bursts of heavy rain that come out of nowhere. It's those moments where you feel like you regressed in your grief, but you haven't. It's just that something special has happened that my mother didn't get to be a part of and that pain is really sharp. But the rain is still there...I still cry everyday...it still hurts way more than I can ever really even begin to explain.

I have faith that with my grief that I will eventually see the blue skies again. I know that there will always be rainy days for the rest of my life. That will never stop. But, I am on my knees daily asking for God to help me see the blue skies. I know I will. I know because I know that God is still good. I'm just not there yet. I still get up and shower and do my best to care for my little ones. I still get out of the house some...I don't enjoy it much...but, I do it. I still laugh and smile. Those times that you laugh and forget your pain for a moment...they are so precious.

But the physical ache is still there. The grey skies. The dark cloud that you just can't seem to quite get through. I feel like I am failing my kids miserably. I lost my biggest cheerleader. My mom, no matter how rotten my children might be behaving, she ALWAYS told me I was an awesome mom. She was such an encourager. She told me many times over the past few years that there was no way she could parent children so close in age the way I have and that she was so proud of the mother I had become. She NEVER criticized my parenting.

But my cheerleader is gone and I feel a little...lost. And I know my grief affects my kids and I hate that. I just pray every day that they will one day understand and that they will forgive me for my short temper.

I know that there are blue skies ahead. I sat and watched the ocean waves roll back in and out this summer and my heart did very much the same. I sat and watched Ella and Jacob play in the waves, while Audrey stood behind me singing and playing with my hair. Her song:

"And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine"

I'm sure in her mind, she was just singing a song about the ocean that she has heard many times. But for me, it was a reminder of the day I played that song for my mother while she was dying.  And I know God was using that little girl to sing truth back into my heart. That He is right here. And that my mother is right there with Him.

Grief is like the weather. It's very unpredictable and it is always changing. You are never done grieving from what I've heard from the few who have walked this road ahead of me. But I know I serve a God who is near to the brokenhearted. A friend reminded me that death was never part of God's plan. I had not really thought about that until she said that and it brought me great comfort. Death grieved our Father...that is why He sent his son...to overcome it.

And that my friend's isn't the blue skies...that's the rainbow.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds". Psalm 147:3

I pray too that you will forgive me for not being a good friend. God has a million shattered pieces to sew back together and it's going to take a long time. I miss her so very, very much. Thank you for loving me despite my messy life. 

He is still so good...even in the rain.