Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hope Rocks

Nate and I sneaking a trip on the red carpet :) 
Nathan and I spent this past Friday evening volunteering at Hope Rocks... a benefit for Faith's Lodge.  Faith's Lodge is an AMAZING place for families who are grieving the loss of a child. Families can go, free of charge, and be surrounded by other families who have lost children, the beauty of northern Wisconsin and have almost their every whim provided for them.  My family went this past July and LOVED it.  It was one of the only places we've been in the past 8 months that we didn't have to have our guards up... that we could talk about Declan whenever, wherever and however we wanted AND the families there knew what we were talking about... they had been in our shoes and could understand and add their own perspective to our stories.  It was so wonderful to be able to have gone there.  Nate and I have felt so strongly moved by this wonderful place that we really wanted to do something to give back to them... so we volunteered at this super fun concert called HOPE ROCKS.  It was a really great time.  The wonderful people of Faith's Lodge who spent countless hours setting it up, organizing the auctions and planning an evening of entertainment did a phenomenal job!   One of the best parts about being there was reconnecting with some friends we made at the Lodge, meeting up with other families that we have had the pleasure of meeting along this journey and getting to know new families who have traveled the same road we do.  It was such a moving evening for us... several people asked us if we had volunteered there before... It made me think of how much has changed over the past 8 months for us... a year ago at this time I was pregnant, waiting and anticipating the arrival of our baby.  I was under the false impression that bad things don't happen to good people... I was living with rose colored glasses on... in a bliss of happiness at the life I was living.  Prior to our loss, I didn't know such an amazing organization existed nor do I think I would have understood the importance of Faith's Lodge...    although I wish I didn't have a reason to care about Faith's Lodge as much as I do, I am glad it has been a part of my life... I am glad it is there for other families...I am glad I was able to give back! 

The volunteers... good group of people! 

Eric Hutchinson... first musician to perform!  He was really good!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Back where I come from...

This weekend we are back in our home town...a small town and a farming community.  Being here, surrounded by familiar sights, smells and sounds is comforting. Tractors are busy and the men are working from dawn to dusk... the sounds of wagons bouncing along the road fills my parents house as my sweet Courty yells, "theres a tractor!" Harvest season is in full swing and Noah couldn't be more excited!  HE LOVES FARMING!  He has been a true farmer since he was able to walk! Two years ago, Noah would ride around my with dad and my uncles and enjoy a full afternoon of combining... last year, Noah stayed out from morning until 11pm, refusing to eat supper because it would take away from the farming.  He loves it...  I remember when Declan was just born and Noah was so excited that he had a little brother, he asked me "Do you think Dex will love farming as much as I do?"  Noah and I talked about how Noah would have to show him the ropes and teach him all about the different types of tractors and how to combine.  Noah was SO excited for Declan to start farming!  The day after Declan passed away, when Noah and I had a moment to talk about what had just happened to Declan and to us, he started crying and all he could say was, "I wanted to teach him how to farm."  It broke my heart.... he was so excited to have a brother and to be a big brother to a little boy who would eventually want to be just like him.  Often I get stuck in thinking about all I have loss, but I need to remember it wasn't just me whose dreams were taken from me...

Here are some photos of our farming weekend.  As usual, it was a blast and I was reminded of why Noah loves to farm so much... there is a certain calmness and peace that comes from the sound of the combine, the drum of the tractors... the night sky as the sun is setting, sending orange and purple hues dancing across the earth... the dust from the field leaves the sky a foggy haze... the chill in the air is just enough that you need to pull your arms in tight to keep warm... it's harvest and unless I am back home, I forget about the serenity that comes from being caught up in the middle of this wonderful season.

The old barn... looking a little weathered, but still holds a beauty all it's own.

As the corn empties out of the wagon, it makes a neat sound as the kernels hit the metal of the auger.

The old house that my father grew up in... also the house that I grew up in until high school.  Lots and LOTS of memories here. 

The crew, busy unloading the corn and getting ready to go fill it up again!

Emptying the new combine! This is Noah's FAVORITE tractor!!  He likes John Deere, but his heart belongs to Case IH!

Papa Court waiting for the corn to unload... all smiles now, but farming can have its own set of troubles... hopefully no more this season!

The view from our rope swing... our community has been over taken with windmills (Wind turbines is the P.C. name) which makes sense because it is almost always windy down in this corner of MN.

Our beloved rope swing... began its life many moons ago as a "bag swing" and was the life of many many gatherings!  A great time had then and continues to be... Courty is enjoying the swing all 'by herself'! My little big girl!  So independent!

Noah takes a turn on the swing and he also enjoyed it... but he wants a little more action!  Maybe next time we will get out one of our tractors with a loader and jump from that!  :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Everything Happens...

I have been thinking a lot about death lately and asking the age old question of "why"...  it's a maddening question.  I truly believe you could drive yourself crazy focusing on that question.  I have talked about this before, I know, but that is the thing with grief... it is a process that you go through where you find yourself back at places you thought you moved forward from.  Now at this stage of my journey, the "why" question has some answers... some truths that I have discovered along this passage of time... 1) God didn't do this TO ME... I have not been forsaken.  This did not happen because of something I did or Nate did.  2) Death was never a part of God's original plan... that pesky devil came into our lives and introduced SIN into our world and that is how death came to be.  It was a great comfort on the day following Declan's death when my Pastor told us, "God didn't want this to happen. God is suffering with you."  God doesn't want us to hurt... he doesn't find joy in our pain.   3) If I was told the reason why Declan died... it wouldn't make it better and it wouldn't be a good enough reason for me!  I am finally able to put some faith into the fact that God sees a bigger picture of the world than I do... and that maybe Dex's death will benefit the greater good in some capacity... but again, to me whatever that is will not be worth his death.  4) Dwelling on the 'why' doesn't change anything... Declan is still gone.  No amount of reflecting, thinking, focusing, dwelling, processing or anything will change what has been done.  Our son is no longer living in our world... he lives in a better place and one day I will be with him!  AND FINALLY 5) Telling me that "Everything Happens for a Reason" does NOT make me feel better.   It brings me back to wondering, "what is the reason" and ultimately back to the question of "WHY?"... A place I don't want to be at this point in my journey.  What I have come to realize is that "everything happens"... it does.  Just as surely as the sun will set tonight... everything does happen.   What reason for anything to happen is a mute point... the point is it happened and what matters is how a person moves forward from whatever it is.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The unimaginable

A young man from a neighboring town was killed in a bike accident this weekend.  The first thing I said to Nate after hearing the news was "I can hardly imagine what they are going through."  Then it was like I was hit in the face with a brick.. I can hardly imagine what they are going through?! What the heck was I thinking?! Not only can I imagine, I KNOW what they are going through.  I really couldn't believe I said that... it was like for one moment I forgot.  How could I have forgotten?  Did I forget or was that a gut reaction to say that? Is it an automated response?  I really don't know what that means,  BUT I do know what they are going through... I know what it is like in the few seconds after they tell you that your son is no longer alive.... I do know what it is like walking out of the hospital, feeling numb and like your watching a bad movie of someone else's life... I know what the day afterwards feels like (the worst day by far!)... I know how terrible it feels to plan your child's funeral...  When I allow myself to remember how we felt, the emotions we had when we lost Declan... I am able to have an empathy for this family that I don't believe I would have had prior to our loss.  Perhaps as we continue to grieve and move forward on our journey that will be the one positive thing that comes from Dex's death... our ability to potentially help others through their loss and a deeper understanding of what losing a child really means... of the new life you have no choice but to make for yourself.  I pray for this family and for what their tomorrows will bring... it is a journey I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Giving thanks

Celebrated my sweet Courtlynn's birthday today.  She will be three this week.  It was a good day.  I made it through without breaking down... without needing to excuse myself to have my moment of tears.... I did it.  Six months ago we celebrated Noah's birthday and I could hardly handle my emotions. I was truly at my lowest that day... it seemed so wrong to be celebrating life when death was all I thought about.  It was hard to give Noah a birthday worthy of him when I was just so sad... today was different.  I was sad, yet I felt genuinely happy inside.  I was filled with so much love watching Courty open her gifts and play with her little friends... seeing Noah help her open her presents, painstakingly getting the Barbie's out for her to play with... seeing the two of them play together (even if it was 'guns').  And having our friends and family here to help us celebrate... I was overwhelmed... how could I feel so lucky when I feel so unlucky most of the time?  It's an odd sensation... knowing I have a million things to be thankful for, but ONE huge reason to say, "yeah, but..."  I actually feel an internal fight with wanting to give thanks and praise for the life and gifts we have, but wanting God to know that it's not ok that Declan isn't here and that I'm thankful, but not that thankful... that doesn't make any sense, but I don't know how else I could put it... Sometimes it feels like giving praise and thanks is like saying "it's ok that Declan died, I'm over it..." and that IS SO not true.  I am not over it... in fact, I don't plan on ever being 'over' it.  I know I will get through it, but never OVER it.  I think the healing process is like that... feeling like once I start to feel better, I am forgetting my son... but that isn't it.  Some people are just not made to live in sadness... I am one of those people.  I would not, could not thrive in a world where I didn't see more positives than negatives, where the glass is half empty instead of half full... that is me.  I am learning to balance my life with a broken heart and allowing myself to feel joy again... to be happy again.   Today showed me that I can do it... I can celebrate the wonders that life has to offer while reflecting on Declan... his short life had HUGE impact and I am moving into a position where I can start to see the beauty in that...  even in my hurt. I am learning that I can be thankful for the many gifts God has bestowed upon us and still be sad... I know He understands.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The gift of Empathy

I've met many wonderful people throughout our journey.  Many of those people have come into our lives, stayed a moment and although are still there for support if/when needed, have gone about their own grieving.  That is one of the funny things about grieving... I want to be around others who know what grief over a child feels like, I want to be around a couple that can relate to our experience... but at the same time, we can't grieve "for" each other... I feel their pain, but can't take their pain away... we grieve in parallel... there is something comforting in knowing that.  We met this family this weekend (actually we met multiple families this weekend) at a golf tournament/benefit in memory of Bennett and in support of the CJ Foundation for SIDS.  Bennett's mother told us her story... obviously similar to ours, but very different at the same time.  A story she told has been replayed in my mind multiple times since meeting her... she received a call on February 28th, 2011 that Bennett had been found unresponsive at daycare while taking his morning nap (sounds so very familiar to me) and that she and her husband needed to get to the hospital as soon as they could.  They took at cab from their downtown Minneapolis offices and while in route to the hospital they received a called that Bennett did not make it.   She talked about looking at a restaurant they were passing and she could see people eating, she looked at the cars around her and people were laughing on their cell phones... she kept telling herself that he couldn't be gone because she wouldn't be able to be alive if he was gone... people wouldn't be laughing or eating.... the world would surely stop if her son wasn't alive anymore... but the world went on, as hers was shattering and in a sense, just beginning.  (A very familiar feeling)  Upon arriving at the hospital, her and her husband went to his room, not knowing what to expect, in total disbelief and found a nurse rocking Bennett in the rocker.   He was swaddled and when she noticed them, she asked calmly, "Are you Bennett's mommy and daddy? We've been waiting for you." as she handed him over... looking like a sleeping angel.  They were able to spend some quality time with him before heading home to start their journey through the unthinkable and unimaginable pain that comes after losing a child. I'm not sure what it is about their story that I have been able to stop thinking of... I think maybe it is how impressed I am that a nurse stayed with Bennett until his parents arrived... never leaving him alone.  How loving and caring she must be...   I remember when we were at Children's hospital... I never left Dex's room unless someone was in there with him.  Even after he passed away and we were leaving I remember talking to the nurse and begging her not to leave him alone and she assured me he would be loved and taken care of while in her care.  Why did that matter?! I don't know... but it did.  I think because even though he was no longer with us, he was a baby... he is my baby and you would never leave a baby alone.  I know Bennett's mother thinks of this nurse as their angel and I am so thankful for her, for them!  It was such a pleasure listening to her talk, crying with her and sharing Declan's story with her... and knowing there are people out there who 'get it'... they can't take our pain away, but they can help support us through it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Keep Me Safe Mommy

Tonight Courty and I were shopping at HyVee and we were by the frozen food section... she said she was cold, so I wrapped my arms around her and she snuggled into me and then said, "keep me safe mommy" and without thinking I said, "I will always keep you safe. I will never let anything happen to you."  Then I got to thinking about all the 'things' out of my control.  How as a parent, I want to promise to keep my children safe from harm and pain... I quickly thought to myself, 'just like I kept Declan safe' with a sarcastic snort.   What a simple statement that parents say, but in reality, there are times when our best isn't going to change the outcome... there are times when we do everything right and still everything falls apart.  Clearly no one said parenting would be easy, but it wasn't until Declan died that I realized what a monumental task it was and that even at my best... your best... ANYONE's best... tragedy could still happen and does happen. That is one of the harsh truths I have learned in the past 6 months.  I couldn't keep Declan safe from something that had no warning, no symptoms, no known causes, no nothing... but I did do all I could to create an environment in which minimized risks and was in my control. I did what I knew... I don't think there is any other way to parent... even though I know I can't always keep my kids out of harms way, I do what I can to keep them 'safe'.  This innocent comment made by my sweet little girl... to her, Nate and I are mighty, strong and could protect her from everything scary, dangerous, and terrible.... to me, it is a inner battle of knowing so much is out of my control and feeling guilty that I was unable to keep my precious Dex safe and alive.  I will continue to promise her that I will keep her safe... I think she needs to hear that, but I will be struggling with the knowledge that there is only so much I can do.

Miss Courty posing for her 3 year old photo.  What a ham...  :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I refuse to SINK!

I finally got a tattoo with my sweet Declan's name.  I had put a lot of thought into the design and kept changing my mind... it never seemed right.  Then I stumbled across a quote that has stuck with me for a while and I have adopted as my personal motto... "I refuse to sink".  That quote pushed my mind and my tattoo design into full gear and I came up with this... Declan's name with an itty bitty anchor next to it on my wrist.  Symbolizing his life and all it's glory and that I will not allow death to sink me.  I will not be beaten by Dex's death, but instead will continue to move forward and become stronger. I think I have said this before, but I am not who I was before he passed away and I am not sure who I will become... but no matter what, Declan's death will make me a better person! I will stand tall and proud with the other mothers whose lives have been torn apart by the death of their child and have stood up to the tragedy and with a brave face said, "I'm still standing".

This month Declan will have been gone 7 months.  It's really hard for me to accept that. It's hard, as I have mentioned a million times, to see time continue to slip by. It's hard for me to accept the fact that we will be coming up to his 1 year birthday in 2 1/2 months. It's hard for me to accept that he isn't here with us, walking and talking and eating food, getting into messes and just being present in our lives.  It's hard for me to accept that.   But day by day and even moment by moment, it is becoming a part of me.  Seeping into my brain, slowly... allowing me to process it and for lack of a better word, accept it.  Each day that goes by I try to figure out what being Declan's mommy means... how do I continue to parent him when he isn't physically a part of our lives?  How do I make his life impactful?  Part of refusing to sink for me is more than just getting up in the morning, but figuring out how to use his death in a way that changes others people's lives.  It's more than getting back to normal (because trust me... we will never get back to the 'normal' we had before his death)... it's about making an impact on the way we think... it's about supporting others who have lost a child (or children)... it's about never letting ONE day go by that his name isn't mentioned in our household and how we can use his short life to change the world.   My son died, but I REFUSE TO SINK!