Sunday, December 14, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year?

I was driving home this evening after picking up some things from the store... I was taking the back roads looking at Christmas lights and picking my favorite house.  It was mindless, no real thinking, no emotion involved... just driving and looking.  A song came on the radio, one that I have sung my whole life... It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  I listened, probably for the first time to some of the words and found myself getting negative and cynical... One verse says "and the tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago..." and all I could think of was how my stories of Christmases long ago are all of someone I use to be... someone whose heart had never been stung by deaths sting. Someone who had no idea that people actually hurt because of the holidays. The only stories I have been telling myself lately are the stories of Christmases I should be having... Of what I believe my life should look like on Christmas.  It should be of three children squealing with delight at the presents under the tree... there should be three little bottoms up in the air as the kids try to identify which gifts belong to them.  It would probably be the first Christmas Declan would be excited for his gifts and the first holiday he might remember... It should be something different and looking back at past 'Christmas glories' only serve as a reminder to how much I have changed.  Then I heard "and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near..." and all I could think of was 'what about when loved ones aren't near?' What do our hearts do then?  How do we, as grieving, hurting, broken people fit into this season of celebration?  How do we shake the pain and put on a smile?  How do we re-find our Christmas joy?  I think back over the past few Christmases since losing our sweet Declan and I am struck how hard I work to 'survive' this time of the year.  I have always loved the holidays... it's always been special and it still is... but lately the tears come easy and often, the ache for my baby heightens and I am stuck with the simple truth that this is what it is... this is the life I have.  As I find my way to a place of contentment and acceptance during the holiday season, I try to focus on the reason for the season.  Jesus... His birth and what it means for me.  Had God not sent His Son, I would not have the HOPE, nor the peace of mind, that I will be reunited with Declan someday.  That this is not where I belong and the hurt is temporary.  Is Christmas the most wonderful time of the year... in many ways it is... yet for some of us, it's an internal battle. It's mentally and physically exhausting fighting against my grief, but that's what I am doing... choosing to experience JOY ... because my living children deserve to look back on 'glories of Christmases long ago' and remember their mom, not as a passive feature in the back ground, but as someone who actively experiences her sadness, while loving harder, giving more and remembering the reason for this wonderful (and often difficult) time of year.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My "not enough"

So where to start.... I haven't been here for awhile.  I have several 'excuses' to pardon my absence, but the truth is I have been busy being busy to avoid feeling and grieving.  It's feels like there are times when it is easier to be 'busy' with work, with motherhood and with wifehood than to remember my pain and hurt. I have gotten really good at being busy.  I use that excuse all the time... and in truth, I am busy.  I have a busy, demanding job that I am trying to learn.  I have two active kiddos that need to be escorted to all of their various activities.  I have a home I wish I could make presentable. That's the price of being a working mother I suppose, but I know I am not the only woman who feels like there are not enough hours in the day.  I am not the only woman who doesn't have the time to slow down and take a breath.   I certainly am not looking for sympathy... I am more or less admitting that I am using that excuse to AVOID my grief.  I am pretending that I 'don't have enough time' to go there... I am banking on busyness to save me from heart ache that burns in the depth of my stomach and sets my feet on fire.

Well... this weekend I had an opportunity to go to Women of Faith. I went last year and it was amazing.  I had a sneaking suspicion that I would have a hard time at this event. I was pretty sure it would be a multiple tissue weekend.  The theme for the weekend was "Survival to Revival" and so many of the speakers talked about overcoming life's hurdles.   I heard more great advice and scripture than I actually remember.  I really should have taken notes... the entire conference seem directed at me... faithlessness in difficult times.  Understanding what to do when life doesn't go the way you planned... becoming hopeful again after loss... and as I expected, I cried a lot and even though I LOVED the whole weekend, it brought me to the place that I had been hiding from by being busy.  I finally was unable to avoid my grief... I reluctantly was giving myself permission to 'go there.'  I had no where to go, no one to dote on, nothing to clean... expect for my heart, my soul and my grief.

Many of the women speaking talked about feeling like a part of their story... something from their past, precluded them from God's grace.  I think, if I am honest with myself, I can say that when Dex passed away, I felt that way...  It made me question everything... from wondering why God would allow Declan to die when I know He could have prevented it, changed it, or reversed it... to looking at my own story, my own life and starting to question if I was enough for Him and how my past mistakes potentially played into this horrific experience that I have to live.  We all have a story and the speakers at Women of Faith talked relentlessly about coming to terms with that story and that includes the secrets that we often don't want other people to know.  My story makes me feel like I am not enough... I am ashamed for many decision I have made in the past.  In attempts to comfort myself, I would like to think I am not alone in that and that we all hang our head in shame at a few of those indiscretions.   One quote that stuck with me this weekend was this, "Bring your not enough to His MORE than enough."  His MORE than enough...

I spent this afternoon working on something... I wrote on a piece of paper these words "My ugliness.  My unworthiness.  My brokenness.  My STORY." and I wrote down things that I feel I fall short at. I wrote down those secrets I was talking about.  I confessed things I felt were ugly... than I looked up Bible verses about God's grace. I found one that I liked... that spoke to me.  It's from Ephesians 2:4-9.  "4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God9 not by works, so that no one can boast."  Then I remembered that my confirmation verse was somewhere in the book of Ephesians as well.  So I got out my Bible and found that book... what happened next gives me goosebumps... I started to thumb through the chapter and I found my's  Ephesians 2:8-9.  THE SAME verse that I had just looked at! I remember reading that verse back in 8th grade and wondering what Pastor Kevin was thinking.  I remember being confused by it.  I remember being disappointed that it was my verse and I always wanted to know WHY that verse... what about me, made him think of Ephesians 2:8-9.  I almost wonder if Pastor Kevin had no idea why that verse came to him for me...however, now I understand and know that God's hands were ALL over that decision. 

I know I'll never know why this happened... I actually am ok with that.  Knowing would only make me mad because NOTHING would be a good enough reason for me.   What I do know is that my "not enough" is NOT why this happened.  I know that because of Ephesians 2:8-9 and at church today, as I was sitting there with tears streaming down my face I heard 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 say to me, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the OLD IS GONE, the NEW has come!"  Praise God.  The ugliness of my story does not define who I am... it does not hunt me down and ruin me... although there is NO promises that the remainder of my life will be smooth sailing... there is NOTHING that guarantees I will not suffer another loss, but I can confidently say should something like that happen... it is not because God had precluded me from His grace.  Far from it.

This weekend, I've realized I have been busy hiding from grief because I didn't want to acknowledge my disappointment in my own story, my own self... because my grief IS my story, mixed with poor decisions and imperfect love for everyone, I was afraid to look to deep into my hurt... at this point there is no separation.  Right or wrong everything about me, about who I am... IS MY GRIEF JOURNEY.  Looking grief in the eye is looking at all my hurts, all my pain and all my disappointments head on.... and that is huge for me.   Thank goodness our God has big shoulders.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sneaky grief...

Celebrating another birthday today and as this day approached, I found myself getting anxious, angry... and sad.  I first figured it was because a few of the things I wanted to do fell through and weren't going to work out.  I felt like I was pouting and multiple times I said to myself, 'get over it!  It's not that big of a deal.', but I still couldn't shake my case of the blues.  Than it hit me... this is my grief.  This feeling of yuck and gloom is my burden of death and the burden of a love so deep you can never fully recover after 'losing' it.   It's the unfairness of getting one more year here when he didn't... it's the continuing question of "WHY?!".  Why him? Why us?  Why ME?! It's facing another year without's realizing that grief doesn't end and that grief will be embedded into my life forever... that I will always carry this burden of loss, pain, anger, frustration, and sadness with me. Simply waiting for my sneaky grief to step up to the plate and remind me that this is what my life is now.  I never know when something will bring me to tears for no reason.  I never know what song on the radio will make me bawl my eyes out.  I haven't figured out which events will make my heart ache so bad that I wonder if I am having a heart attack.  In those moments... my smiles are fake, my laughs are forced and I would rather be alone, throwing a pity party, than trying to pretend that what I am currently doing matters.  What I am learning, however, is that life doesn't stop for grief... my kids still need me, there are still dishes and laundry to be done, work still continues... which means I have had to figure out how to move forward when I all I want to do is check out.  

I suppose I should have expected my birthday to be tough, but I really hadn't thought about it. Once I figured out why I was struggling it was easier to just accept allow those who are close to me to take care of me and support me.  We decided to go to church last night so we could sleep in today (One of my request. Slept until 9 am!!).  As always, I found the message to be so pertinent to me and my situation! It's amazing how God works like that... but anyway, the message was about carrying our burdens and how, through God's grace, they become blessings.... how something might seem so very overwhelming and scary for a moment, but after time you can look back and realize what a blessing it turned out to be.   It was very fitting for me in one aspect of my life, as I recently took a new job and have been feeling very overwhelmed and scared by the decision to leave a place I loved so dearly.... the message gave me so much hope that it was a good decision and I will look back on it in a few years and praise God for taking me on this journey.... but as I sat there listening, bouncing around how relevant the message was, I found myself feeling like I was digging in my heels to the message as well.  I wanted to say "YEAH BUT..." what about the burden of losing a child?!  How will that turn into a blessing?!  It reminded of the song by Laura Story called 'Blessings'... same concept... the refrain says this "What if  your blessings come through rain drops, what if your healing comes through tears. What if a 1000 sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near.  What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"  I like the song and when I hear it on the radio I turn it up and cry... but I cry because I don't believe it.  I tear up because I feel like there is NO WAY God would hurt me and my family like this to bless us.  I weep because I DO believe it about EVERY OTHER situation, but it can't be about losing a child.  It just can't.  I can admit and I DO say, we have had blessings bestowed on us since losing Declan.  We have met amazing people and have developed great relationships that we would not have had if we hadn't lost a child.  I freely say that I am a better person since losing him... good things have happened since his death, but I can not... I WILL NOT say it was a blessing.  To me, his mother, nothing can ever happen that will make me utter those words... nothing.   Other's may say it.  Other's may believe it.   I just cant'.

So... yeah, I am digging my heels in on that.   I loved the message... it inspires me in many many ways, but I still carry my burden of grief and I am ok with that.  It's the price of love.   I think my favorite part of the song 'Blessings' is close to the end of the song with she says, "when darkness seems to win, we know that pain reminds this heart that this is not, this is not our HOME..." and I know that is what pulls me through these moments of sadness and gives me the hope I need to continue this journey!  I will see Declan again!!  I might have 63 more birthdays and each one is going to bring up painful feelings, but knowing that each one brings me one more year, one more day closer to going HOME and seeing Dex, than at least I know I am moving in the right direction!

Blessings by Laura Story

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Yesterday my family and I headed to our local legion, listened as the names of all the fallen soldiers were read…one by one, men and women who served our country and either lost their lives during their services or sometime afterwards…I sat there, willing myself not to cry.  I was so moved by it all. I couldn't help but think of the mothers of those fallen soldiers.  The pain they felt when they were notified… the not knowing what their child's last few moments of life were like… the longing for just one more moment, one more touch, one more smile… to lose your child, no matter how honorable the circumstance, is horrific.  Than I wondered why I was trying  so hard not to cry… death is sad, there is no way around that!

 I was happy we went.  It felt good to honor those people.  I can tell you, however, prior to losing our own son I probably wouldn't have cared.  I wouldn't have thought twice about going to the cemeteries to see the flags… it would not have occurred to me.  However, since Declan has passed away, we have made sure his stone is 'ready' for Memorial day each year… we meticulously pick out decorations that we think will hold up to the mid-western wind, the blazing hot sun and yet still be considered appropriate for a child.  We head out there with a bucket of warm water, paper towels and a broom to clean it and make sure the winter hasn't done any damage.   Suddenly, it matters.

Since losing Declan, Nate and I enjoy walking through rows of cemeteries, looking at each one and pondering the stories behind them.   Sometimes we laugh that we don't know anyone else our age who has so much fun walking around cemeteries.   On Friday night, when we brought the last of our new decorations out to Declan's stone, we ended up playing with the kids and Murray for 15 minutes.   We chased Murray around and we were all laughing… as hot tears stung my eyes, I took a quick moment to ponder what we were doing.  We were playing in a cemetery.  We were laughing and having fun… and every single one of us felt content with it.  I noticed a car driving by and I wondered what we must look like… I am sure they thought it was an odd place to hangout.

The service that moved me to tears….

The flags that were breathtaking! Amazingly beautiful! 

The firing of the guns… gives me goosebumps every time! 

My husbands grandpa, Lloyd and his uncle Joe's stones.  

My husbands other grandparents, Wally and Leona's stone.

My grandparents, Sylvester and Phyllis. 

Declan's stone…. 

My niece, Medbh and my brother looking at Dex's stone.  It was really cute because we have pinwheels in the front of his stone and she walked right up and started playing with them… exactly the way it should be I think… nothing scary, simply inviting.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

A reflection on Mother's day…

I have been sitting on this post since Mother's day… I have been struggling with finding the words to actually describe what Mother's day is like after losing a child.  Here is what I can say a few weeks after the fact… Mother's day is just a day.  For me, and I am thinking I am not alone in this, it means nothing.  There is nothing "Happy" about it.  It serves as a day to remind me of what I don't have.  It is a day that I am acutely in tune to the fact that there are only two little voices wishing me Happy Mother's day and only two little faces giving me kisses.  Only two… there should be three.   If someone would have told me how tremendously painful being a mother was going to be, I would have never believed them.  I could not have imagined, as I watched my beautiful children enter this world filling me with joy, that their very presence would make me vulnerable… I would not have guessed that their pain could bring me to my knees in a heartbeat… I did not realize their very existence could ever make me second guess mine.  I wasn't prepared for that side of motherhood; to have your heart at their mercy. I have learned that when you lose a child, motherhood doesn't stop, but it looks and feels a whole lot different than it did.  There are moments when I experience true happiness and there are moments when I want to put a hole through a wall.  There are times when I can't picture what Dex looked like unless I look at a photo and yet there are times when I can still smell him.  I am moving forward… I am figuring out this new world of mine, but it's a day by day battle to choose happiness and to choice joy.  I don't always win that fight… but I am doing my best.  

Yes, I am blessed to have Noah and Courty.  God knows how they saved me from myself and my pain. .. the two of them bring me more joy than I could have imagined ever feeling again and in the same breath they remind me of everything I am missing with Declan.  On Mother's day, I was watching Courty run into the lake, holding her dress up, shrieking with delight and I thought to myself, 'I could not live without her.' The next moment, Noah ran by me, with Murray hot on his heels and I thought, 'Life wouldn't be worth living without him.'  It's those moments, the ones that used to bring me instant joy, that make me hurt the most now.  It's the ordinary life we are living that makes my pain and longing so much more real. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The goal is not to "get over it"

I have bookmarked a lot of other grieving mothers blogs…. I used to find myself reading their words on a daily basis, hoping to find some relief in my pain or maybe even an understanding of how to move through this journey without losing yourself. I am not sure what drew me to these blogs, but they were there for me when I needed someone who understood; someone who could say, "I KNOW what you are going through and here is what I experienced". I would spend hours in the evening after the kids went to bed pouring through their words of pain and sorrow, but also seeing glimpses of hope and happiness. Over time, I have visited their blogs less and less and have found that my comfort and support is coming in the form of people I know. I have a great group of friends, all of whom have experienced the loss of a child, with who I can share my struggles, can laugh with and cry with. I am very blessed to have them.

Over lunch today, I found myself catching up on some of those blogs. Trying to see or gage where my old friends are in their journey, to see if I am still doing this 'grieving mother' thing correctly… on one for those blogs ( I found this article by a man named Steven Kalas and his words brought tears to my eyes and took my breath away with how accurate someone who has not lost a child can be in describing this journey.    Please take a moment to read it! It may be a bit lengthy, but it's SO good!


When you lose a child, grieving is a lifelong experience.

When our first child is born, a loud voice says, “Runners, take your marks!” We hear the starting gun and the race begins. It’s a race we must win at all cost. We have to win. The competition is called “I’ll race you to the grave.” I’m currently racing three sons. I really want to win.

Not everyone wins.

I’m here at the national meeting of Compassionate Friends, an organization offering support and resources for parents who lose the race. In a few minutes, I’m going to address Compassionate Friends. This is the toughest audience of my life.

My address is titled “The Myth of Getting Over It.” It’s my attempt to answer the driving questions of grieving parents: When will I get over this? How do I get over this?

You don’t get over it. Getting over it is an inappropriate goal. An unreasonable hope. The loss of a child changes you. It changes your marriage. It changes the way birds sing. It changes the way the sun rises and sets. You are forever different.

You don’t want to get over it. Don’t act surprised. As awful a burden as grief is, you know intuitively that it matters, that it is profoundly important to be grieving. Your grief plays a crucial part in staying connected to your child’s life. To give up your grief would mean losing your child yet again. If I had the power to take your grief away, you’d fight me to keep it. Your grief is awful, but it is also holy. And somewhere inside you, you know that.

The goal is not to get over it. The goal is to get on with it.

Profound grief is like being in a stage play wherein suddenly the stagehands push a huge grand piano into the middle of the set. The piano paralyzes the play. It dominates the stage. No matter where you move, it impedes your sight lines, your blocking, your ability to interact with the other players. You keep banging into it, surprised each time that it’s still there. It takes all your concentration to work around it, this at a time when you have little ability or desire to concentrate on anything.

The piano changes everything. The entire play must be rewritten around it. But over time the piano is pushed to stage left. Then to upper stage left. You are the playwright, and slowly, surely, you begin to find the impetus and wherewithal to stop reacting to the intrusive piano. Instead, you engage it. Instead of writing every scene around the piano, you begin to write the piano into each scene, into the story of your life.

You learn to play that piano. You’re surprised to find that you want to play, that it’s meaningful, even peaceful to play it. At first your songs are filled with pain, bitterness, even despair. But later you find your songs contain beauty, peace, a greater capacity for love and compassion. You and grief — together — begin to compose hope. Who’da thought?

Your grief becomes an intimate treasure, though the spaces between the grief lengthen. You no longer need to play the piano every day, or even every month. But later, when you’re 84, staring out your kitchen window on a random Tuesday morning, you welcome the sigh, the tears, the wistful pain that moves through your heart and reminds you that your child’s life mattered.

You wipe the dust off the piano and sit down to play.

Copyright: Las Vegas Review-Journal

How true these words are… I love the part where he talks about the way the birds singing even changes because I experienced that. Prior to losing Dex, I was a dreamer. I was a glass half full kind of gal… I was the crazy lady who stopped on the road to take pictures of the sunset or of an eagle sitting in the tree. I used to be moved to tears over the beauty of nature… even really green grass gave me goosebumps. After losing Declan I remember crying because the vibrant, rich colors of the world were no longer there to me. I remember thinking how sad it was that the world had turned gray… and that I was alone in that grayness. No one else could possibly know how different I felt… I had felt like "me" for 35 years and in one day, I felt like I had become someone else. If you think about that, you can begin to imagine how grief effects EVERYTHING in your life… your relationships, your parenting, your job performance… everything. You lose your child and in the same breath, you lose yourself… tough luck!

However, like this man talks about, slowly I began to figure how to be comfortable with who I had become in my grief. I feel like I have 'partnered' up with my grief and together we are walking this path… no longer do I wither in fear of it or wish it gone. It is my reminder of what I have lost and what I have survived. Yes, I am different… I am NOT the person I was before, but I have come to a place where I cherish the woman I am now and I know I will continue to change and evolve into someone even stronger. And although I couldn't tell you the exact date, I do remember one day when I saw a family of deer in a field and I pulled over and snapped a photo… without even thinking about it. I got back in the car, looked at the photo and bawled my eyes out… I was so thankful that I was finally getting my 'sight' back after his death. I hadn't even realized how much I had missed it until it started returning. "You and grief — together — begin to compose hope." That day with the deer… that was the my first glimpse of HOPE after losing Declan and it felt really good. 

I am happy the majority of you will not understand what I am talking about… I am happy if you might be reading this thinking I am crazy… because that means you have not lost a child. If you are reading this and thinking, 'holy crap, that is SO true!' than I am deeply sorry for your loss and hope that your journey can bring you to a place that you can start to recognize HOPE again, because trust me, it's out there waiting for you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A bad April fools joke…

Yesterday was April 1st… for lots of people it marks the day where you plan pranks and try to trick people into believing something that isn't true.  For Nathan and I it was the 4th anniversary of finding out that our third expectant child had passed away.  He (just guessing here) was 10 weeks and 4 days old.  I remember going in that day for an ultra sound and feeling so different than I had with Noah and Courtlynn; I had not experienced the morning sickness that plagued me before.  I was alone because Nate couldn't get out of work and I went back into the room.  The technician was chatty and nice and I felt very much at ease.  The familiar feel of the cold jelly on my belly gave me goosebumps but I was so excited to see our baby that I didn't mind.  The screen lit up and there he was… little arms, little legs, big head :) he looked perfect.  The technician only allowed the screen up for a few seconds before she turned it off.  I was confused. What was she doing?  She cleaned off my belly and said she had to go get the doctor because it appeared there had been a "demise" of my baby.  I buttoned up my jeans, pulled my shirt down and sat on the couch… shaking, not even crying, just shaking.  My teeth were chattering and I could not stop them, I ended up having to bite on my fingers to stop the movement.  The doctor came in, an older lady who spoke with a kindness the technician hadn't conveyed.  She put her arm around me and I started to bawl.  I was feeling such a strong mix of emotions.  I was devastated at the loss, but I also was feeling so guilty because I had been having hard time excepting this pregnancy and being ok with the new addition.  My daughter was only 4 months old when we found out we were expecting.  I felt ashamed and stupid that this had happened to us… like people were going to think we were irresponsible.  I cried many nights in the beginning.  We prayed for God to help us accept this change in our plan and be excited about this new life.  Shortly afterwards, both Nate and myself began to feel the familiar joy and excitement of this baby!  We began to tell our family the news and we were sincerely happy about our unexpected bundle of joy.  When the doctor told me the baby had passed away, I felt like it was my fault.  Like it was my lack of excitement and love that caused this to happen. I was crushed and felt so much guilt and sadness and I was alone.  Although this nice doctor was stroking my hand and was as kind as she could have been, I felt alone and that all I wanted was to be out of that room; to have my husband wrap his strong arms around me and tell me it was going to be ok.  When I got to the car, I called Nate.  I was crying and we had been joking that morning that I was probably pregnant with twins… so the first thing he said when he heard me crying was "oh my gosh, we are having twins!" No honey, we are not, in fact, we are not even having a baby anymore…  I remember lying in bed that night, thinking life couldn't be any harder… that I would never face anything more difficult in my life.   I felt like I had endured the worst April fools joke ever.

What I believe to be true is that our wonderful third child is in heaven with Declan…that the two of them are enjoying being brothers in the greatest playground ever!  I am excited to know there will be a day when I finally am able to meet our little one!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The final glimpse

Today I attended the funeral of an 18 year old boy. When we arrived at the church, we found the last available spot and sat down.  We were just feet away from the casket where the family was gathered, saying their final good-byes…one last moment to look at his face, to touch his fingers, to kiss his forehead, to try and memorize every curve, smile line and imperfection on his beautiful face… one last moment to look at their son and brother… I tried not to look at them, the moment so deeply personal and intimate, but I couldn't help but steal a glance.  I listened to the mother's sobs and could almost feel her pain radiating off of her.  As they walked away, the father gently pulling his wife hand, I watched her as she kept turning around looking, trying with all her might to get one final glimpse of the beautiful child she had brought into this world.  Just another peek… It was heart wrenching to watch.

I could not help but remember our final good bye to Declan… when our funeral director told us it was time to say our final good-byes, I remember thinking, 'NO, not yet. I don't want to say my "final" good-bye. It's too soon.'  I remember trying to take in as much as I could as I stood over his casket… trying so desperately to burn his image into my brain. I remember holding Nate's hand, the two of us simply staring at our son… Our funeral director told us to take all the time we wanted, but forever wasn't an option and how do you say, "ok, thats enough." I am not sure how we decided to walk away, but it was so very difficult and unreal… and what I wouldn't give for one last glimpse, one last chance to run my finger across his chubby little fingers.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Living through yet another angelversary….

Once again we lived through another angelversary and came out on the other side feeling like we had made a difference… feeling like we had honored Declan's memory and all of the people who fought so hard for his life.   We spent the morning running around, delivering donuts to the St. Peter Police station and Rivers Edge hospital… trying to make sure the staff knew how much their actions on that dreaded day continue to mean to us!!  It was nice to connect with them and express our appreciation.  We also volunteered to do a "Cooks for Kids" supper at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Minneapolis.   If you are not familiar with this program, don't feel bad… neither were we, until we benefited from it during our brief stay at the RMH.  It is a program where a group of volunteers prepare a supper for the families who are living at the RMH in attempts to lighten their load so they do not have to worry about spending time preparing meals when they could be by their child's side.  The typical stay at a RMH is 10 days.  At this particular Ronald McDonalds House (on Oak street) families have a longer stay than that and can be there anywhere from 3 months to 3 years.  These families primarily come from the midwest, however, because of the amazing hospitals in Minnesota, families have come from around the world to this particular RMH.  It was an amazing experience for us and I think I can speak for all of us who were there on Friday, when I say we would do it again in a heart beat!

When the families went through the line, they were able to see why we were there.

Our group…. my brother Lance, my dad Court, my bestie Jen, my mom Gayle, Nate's aunt Heidi, Nate's uncle Brian, me, my mother-n-law Lynn, my father-n-law Jeff and Nate.  Not pictured are my aunt and uncle Keith and Jean, along with those who were watching our kids, Aileen, Jenn, Anna and Brock. 

Working hard or hardly working… 

To make sure people knew who we were there for… our aprons. Although I didn't have enough for everyone :(

The kids were there for a little while, but technically were not suppose to be since there are children who are living at the RMH who are medically fragile.  We were able to get a family photo.

If you ever have an opportunity to do a Cooks for Kids, please consider doing it!  The families who are living there appreciate it so much!!  Check out there link for details on how you can volunteer:

Guest Post: A year of Tears

I am calling this my first ever guest post… although I didn't ask if I could 'borrow' her work, it's my sister-n-law so she just has to deal with it.  I wanted to share her post she created a year ago.  I often only talk about my grief because it is what I know.  I understand my pain and I can speak without worrying that I am putting words into peoples mouths…. so when I read her blog post about the last time she was with Declan prior to the 14th, I was very moved by it and wanted to share it.    So… thank you Jenn for posting this and sharing your memories with us!!

A Year of Tears

REMEMBERING... There are so many things I remember about the day you left us. First hearing about you being flown to the hospital; rushing home and trying to pack - only to realize you were't going to Sioux Falls, but were coming to Minneapolis. Grandma meeting me in the hall at the hospital, preparing me for the terrible reality; seeing you hooked up to the machines; watching you take your last breath and your mommy giving you your last bath. 

Those images of the day you died will never leave my mind - I'm sure of that. But, there is another memory I have of you - one that is so special, I hold on to it with every piece of my heart. 

On the morning of your baptism...
As our family sat in the front row of the church, listening to the pastor's sermon, (he showed a Veggie Tales video - it was so cute! Noah and Courtlynn loved it and I remember thinking, "We should get some of those videos for Noela"). 

You were laying casually across your mommy's lap. You had on a beautiful baptismal gown - I think it was your great-grandpa's. You were sleeping. You were such a good sleeper. You could sleep anywhere (I was jealous. My baby didn't do that). 

As you lay there, asleep, I watched you and your mommy as the rest of the congregation listened to the sermon and watched the video. Your mommy was touching you - trailing her finger across every tiny feature of your beautiful little face - from the bridge of your nose down to the tip of that cute little button. Then, tracing the outline of your pink lips. Her fingers stopped at your chin, feeling the groove in the center (you got that from your daddy). I watched as she traced your jawline up to your perfect ear, following every ridge and crevice. She ran her hands along your neck, rubbed the back of your head and pet your hair. 

 As I watched this seemingly ordinary moment between you and your mommy, it touched me as something more - something extraordinary. I though to myself, "She knows every inch of him. Every nook, cranny, bulge and roll of that beautiful little boy" Did I know Noela that way? I had spent countless hours staring at her, marveling at her beauty and in awe of how something so perfect had come from me, but had I ever really touched her like that? Investigating, not only with my eyes, but with my fingers? Your mommy touched you with such casual familiarity that I couldn't help but be in awe of the bond you two had and the confidence she had about being your mom. 

 I had no way of knowing that this would be the last time I would see you alive - the last opportunity I would have to hold you - no way of knowing how important that memory would be to me. I saw your mommy touch you like that again as she held you in the hospital. Her fingers knew you already, but were ever so carefully taking these last moments to feel you and to absorb you. To remember you. 

Remembering you... Most often it brings me to tears, but as I remember that morning of your baptism, it brings me joy and even a smile. I remember you Baby Declan - I always will. 

You are forever in my heart. 
Love, Aunt Jenn 
Declan and his mommy on the day of his baptism.

Jenn is a fellow blogger and you can follow her over at  She is one crafty lady and I love her!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When life isn't fair…

I am missing Declan so much today… I can't stop thinking about all we have lost.  Not just who he was, but everything he would have been.   We should have a 2 year old.  We should be watching the kids play with Declan and get frustrated when he steals their toys. We should be hearing belly laughs and whinny cries… we should be watching fat fingers turn pages of a tractor book and getting wet kisses.  We should have more, we should be more… this isn't the life I envisioned and frankly, it sucks.  Death has robbed us of the future we deserve.   There are still times I ask myself, "why us?"  Why not someone else? What did we do wrong?  I read horrific stories of child abuse and neglect and I stop and ask "Seriously!?!?  Those sick people have living children, but Declan had to die?!  Where is the fairness is that?"  Then I remember the line I have said too many times to count, "Life isn't fair and rarely does it make sense."  Life is not fair.  Life is NOT FAIR!  The very fact that it is not fair, is SO NOT FAIR!!  Unfairness is a hard lesson to learn. 

I find myself in a place again of discontentment… wanting to somehow make our future what it was supposed to be.  Wanting to fill the hole that is left and to feel like all is right again.  Here is where I am confronted with the "Great Divide" that I have talked about in the past…The heart vs the brain. My heart is wanting something, someONE, so badly right now that it is winning the battle of logic with my brain! My brain knows nothing will fill that hole.  My brain knows that bad things happen to good people and that's just a fact of life… but my heart is hurting so much that it is tricking my common sense into believing something I do or change will make life right again… And life won't ever be what I believed it would be.  I had the life I wanted.  Now, I have to learn to want (and be ok with) the life I have… the one without my baby.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hey, who stole my sunshine?

It's been a gloomy month… I suppose I anticipated the 2nd anniversary of his passing to be easier, but that hasn't been the case for me.  In fact, since his birthday back in November, life has felt blah and sad.  I feel down, I feel exhausted, I feel anxious… I hadn't really thought about it and I was trying to describe to a friend the other day how I was feeling and I said, "It's like someone stole my sunshine."  I didn't even know the words were going to come out of my mouth, but than I thought about it and it was a pretty good description of how I have been feeling.  Almost like I have been walking around with a cloud above my head, waiting for it to rain on my parade.  It's this gloomy feeling that make me quick to anger, quick to tears, quick to frustration and quick to want to have a pity party.   I know the weather hasn't helped any either! A lack of fresh air and constantly having frozen toes is enough to turn anyones good mood sour, but add in grief and its like the 'polar vortex' of YUCK!

Under my cloud, however, there are moments that are unexpected and so moving I don't know how to respond other than with a soft whispered 'thank you'.  Here is what I received the other day, from one of the officers that responded to Declan's 911 call (I hope he doesn't mind my sharing!):

"As the 2-year anniversary of Declan’s passing approaches, I want you to know that I still think of him.  As I have told you before, I have been to many heartbreaking calls in my career as a Police Officer, but Declan continues to stand out to me. Officer ***** and I both wear our “Declan bracelets” proudly in honor of his bravery and I know that I pull strength from it.  I should tell you that our bracelets are showing extreme wear and I am hoping you have another one for us.  never take mine off as I find Declan a source of motivation for many things, including my job."

My heart swelled with such a mix of emotions while I was reading his email… pride in my son, hope in humanity, sadness at the reality of his death and an overwhelming urge to find this officer, hug him and again tell him how much his service means to us!! I actually haven't responded to his email yet.  I have formulated multiple responses, but my words seem insignificant to how he made me feel!  How do you say thank you to someone who fought so hard for your child's life?!  Maybe it's not as complicated as I am making it.  Maybe it's simply saying, "thank you" and hoping the look in our eyes can speak louder than our words! 

As we begin this week… in attempts to 'pump' myself up for the emotional journey this week will prove to be, I am going to start by saying: I am thankful to be Declan's mom.  I am thankful to have Nate by my side walking through this with me.  I am thankful for GOD's ever present hand in my life.  I am thankful for the mothers I have met along this journey who hold me up with words of encouragement when I want to give up.  I am thankful for the life God gave me, even when it hurts like hell!  I am thankful that I am who I am.  AND lastly… go ahead and try Devil… you might break my heart at times but you will never break my spirit! 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Here we go again…

Here we go again… gearing up to survive another anniversary of our sons passing.  Another February to walk through the stores and see all the hearts and pink and mushy love junk.  I actually find myself trying to avoid looking at it.  I will walk out of my way to miss it, however, in most stores it's front and center… cuz this holiday is a big deal I guess, but it makes me hurt.  For Nathan and I, this holiday will never be about our love for each other, but will always be about our love for our sweet Declan.  It will always be about how we can honor his memory and the memory of that dreadful day.  It will be about saying Thank You to so many people…. it will be about remembering the selfless act of our daycare provider, the St. Peter police officers, the doctors and nurses at Rivers Edge hospital, the helicopter flight crew, and the staff at Children's hospital.   It will forever be about what I can do for someone else… how I can show my gratitude for those who FOUGHT for my sons life!  I think of the people, from our daycare provider to the doctor who pronounced his death… each one of those people looked at our son and decided he was worth giving it their all.  This might sound crazy, but I look at those people… and I feel so lucky that they were on duty that day.  I feel almost in awe of their will to fight, when I am sure it often seemed hopeless.  I think of our daycare provider and her quick actions, giving Declan CPR… I don't know how she found it in her to do it and than to go through the police investigation, when I am sure all she wanted to do was curl up in her bed and cry.   "Lucky"… not the word I would have thought I'd describe myself as in reference to that dreaded day, but it's true.  That is how I feel.  We had the best people on our team and we still didn't win, but the game was fought hard and the loss was felt by everyone!

My heart is still heavy and I'm still very broken… the past two years have been difficult, a living hell to be specific.  I am still finding myself learning about my grief.  I still lose  my breath thinking about our beloved boy.  I still want to punch the wall at times and shout obscenities at the time of my lungs.  Two years has done little to change my sadness, but I have learned how to 'control' it and frankly, avoid it when it's not the right time.  I can say that he doesn't fill my every thought anymore, but there is not a day that he doesn't enter my thoughts at some point.   I don't cry everyday anymore, but there is no telling what will send me into hysterics and uncontrollable sobs.  At times I feel like I am a shell of who I was…not the confident, out going, almost fearless, YOUNG lady I was.  Now there are a lot of days I feel OLD, with the weight of responsibility laying heavily on my shoulders.   I live with a level of anxiety I have never experienced. I struggle when life gets difficult with putting things into perspective and not freaking out. What I can confidentially say is that I have more purpose in this life now.  I have a better understanding of how important the 'little' things are.  I am more empathetic and kinder than I used to be and I am able to love deeper than before.  I can't imagine going back to who I use to be…  I am different and I am learning what it means to be the 'new' me.  It's a challenge, but it's not going to break me!  As we approach the dreaded day… I am going to let my heart feel what it wants.  I am not going to hide any tears, I am not going to apologize for not living up to any expectations,  I am going to go with the flow and be OK with it.