Monday, May 23, 2011

Finally a Marker

This last week we received a call we had both anticipated and dreaded. 
Jairus's gravestone had been installed. 
We were glad to get this news as we ordered it weeks ago and were anxious for the process to be over. The idea of an unmarked grave does not sit well with me. And we wanted to process of burial to be finalized by getting a stone placed for our son. More hope for healing.
We struggled with the punch of reality in seeing his name in print on a gravestone. With the finality of knowing that the marker will be there everyday forever, and our son will be away from us every one of those days until we join him in Heaven. More heartbreak and broken dreams.
The stone turned out very nicely. Mark wrote the epitaph and we chose the granite together. I love seeing his name in writing, it is so seldom I get the chance. But it makes me cry that the writing I currently see is just a reminder of his departure from us.

Soon grass will grow and it will look as though he's always been buried there. I both anticipate and dread that as well. 

But one day, this tiny grave will be as empty as Jesus' tomb on Easter Sunday. Because one day, Scripture says, "According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)

So we know that our son is already in Heaven, and one day Jesus is coming back to earth and at that time the dead in Christ will have their physical bodies resurrected to join them in Heaven. I'm no scholar, I don't know how that works or what it will look like, but I know it gives me great hope.
Easter at the cemetery
Talking to the kids about the resurrection of the dead

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bye Bye Diapers

I'm a reluctant potty-trainer. I had lots of false starts when it was Emma's turn and it burnt me out a bit. I knew with Hazen I'd wait until he was more ready. But then when Jairus died this winter, I began to fear the entire process. Though many parents are thrilled to have everyone under their roof out of diapers, that wasn't supposed to be us for another couple years at least. And I just wasn't ready to be at that threshold.

Besides, since Hazen was about 6 months old we'd been using cloth diapers and, well, I like cloth diapers. I'm not ready for them to go into storage. Or turn into shop rags. Or whatever it is you do with cloth diapers when you don't need them anymore.

I'm sure they call it denial, but my little Hazen just couldn't be ready to be a big boy yet. Or could he?

In March, Mark (rightfully) declared that Hazen was indeed ready and we had to at least try potty training. It would be beneficial for him to feel like a big boy, and to give his skin a break (sensitivity has been an issue for Hazen's skin since birth, even with cloth) as well as lightening my laundry load.

That was about 8 weeks ago.

 Hazen hasn't had an accident in 5 days.

Which in my book declares him fully potty trained and officially a Big-Boy! He was so obviously ready for this part of growing up. And he's LOVING his big boy underpants. We are so proud of him. Way to go Hazen!!

And I'm enjoying less laundry.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bloomin' Treetops Batman!

It's been a long winter. And I think I can safely say that for all of us who live here in the great North, too close to the frozen tundra for my comfort much of the year, but here we are and here we stay. I heard we had snow for 6  months straight this winter. Now that's just nauseating. Not that I hate snow, I actually really love it, so peaceful and beautiful and fun for the kids. For the first 2 weeks anyway. After that I'm about done. Which means we had only about 24 weeks extra winter than I ordered. What can you do.

Despite the few false starts we had this season, spring is a great celebration here in Minnesota. You have to give it that. When you're stuck inside for 6 months straight, spring means you get to officially remeet your neighbors, that everyone is gardening and the smell of blossoms and barbeque's is nearly intoxicating every time you open a window! Those in the Midwest appreciate spring in a very wonderful and embracing way. And it's worth celebrating! Everything's blooming, people are smiling again, children are outside laughing. Hazen enjoys declaring every time we go outside, "No hat, no gloves, no boots!!" Gotta love it.

Especially when you consider that this is what we woke up to on April 22nd this year...

And this is our view of the same 2 trees just over 3 weeks later...

It's no wonder we bought our house in the springtime. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shove It Down?

I don't have much close experience with death. I lost people I loved in the past, but they were not generally a part of my daily life, and so losing them made me cry but didn't impact much of a change in my day to day life. I remember hearing people in grief talking about "shoving down" or "pushing aside" their pain. And I thought, "how terrible, you've got to deal with it." Now I think I have a better grasp on what was meant.

There are many times throughout daily life that I cannot grieve. It's not an option. I have to be able to function for my family. If I'm having a rough day, I can't stay in bed or watch TV all day, Emma and Hazen still need to eat and be cared for. When holidays come around I have the urge to skip out, or hide at home, but I really want Emma and Hazen to feel special so I make plans for fun. When my husband is having a down day, he still goes to work, he has to support his family, he still reaches out to me to offer his hurting wife comfort, even when he needs comforting himself. If I see a Mom with 2 preschool aged kids and a baby being carried in a sling while I'm at Target, I can't start wailing in the aisle, we still need milk before I can go home. (In these particular cases I usually do turn and run in the other direction though)

When Jairus died, many people commented that Emma and Hazen would see Mark and I through this, that they'd play a big role in our moving forward, that it was a blessing to have them. In the initial days and weeks I have to admit that I did not fully agree with those comforters. Don't hear me wrong, immediately we saw what great miracles the lives of our first two children were, we were more grateful for them than was possible before their brother died. We love them with such a deep love that I can't picture a day without them. But in the first days it was extremely painful to know what the day you give birth is supposed to be like,m we'd done it twice before and knew the intense joy and bond new parents feel with their new babies. The reward for labor of holding your new child in your arms. Knowing what we were supposed to be experiencing but never would with Jairus was a deep sting.

But Emma and Hazen continue to live out what people said they would do. They bring us so many opportunities to smile and laugh and be happy. They give hugs and comfort as they are able to. And they give us goals and purposes through out each day. Because they still need us to be their parents, even as we mourn the loss of the brother they never knew. And so everyday, I get up. And I hold them and feed them and love on them. Sometimes it's really hard, sometimes I cannot grieve because Emma and Hazen need my attention and my time, and sometimes I struggle to be present for them because my grief has caught up with me.

My point is just that, yes, allowing yourself to grieve is extremely important, but it's not always an option as you go through your day to day life. It's a tough balance. Trying to "find time to grieve" and also trying to "keep on keeping on". Sometimes you don't have the ability to stop life and deal with your loss, sometimes you have to shove it way down inside you so you can function. If it doesn't sound fun, it's not. Its exhausting. But sometimes it's necessary.

The problem I then find is when things have been pushed aside too long, when I haven't made time to grieve and allow any healing to happen, the pain is building up without my realizing it. And it often comes out in more intense ways than I would've expected, or my pain becomes directed at things that seem so trivial and unrelated to our trauma. I might break down in sobs or start yelling, I might be crabby at everyone around me or cling onto those I am closest to. Maybe I'll be able to watch my older kids playing in the nursery with no real problem, but then seeing bird eggs makes me weep in the front yard (we've actually had lots of run-ins with eggs lately, but I'll get to on a different day).

So if someone you know is walking through a valley, remember that as they are trying to deal with the craziness and pain of their loss, they are also trying to relearn how to do the day to day things most of us take for granted. They're learning to go on, even on the hard days. They are trying to find a balance between grief and healing and getting by. It's a long process. Don't let them walk it alone. We'd never have come so far without the friends who stepped in to help us learn to live again. Your friend needs you too.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross

There's a song I've been thinking about a lot lately called In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross by Brooks Ritter and Rebecca Bales from Sojourn Church. Its been brought before me a number of times in recent weeks, with a different message for me each time. Most notably, on the evening of Good Friday, while at an evening church service.

Good Friday was hard. It is incredibly overwhelming to think of the intense suffering Jesus went through for us. That He go through all that and declare "It is finished" astounds me, that He would endure the shame and pain and loneliness of the cross for my unborn baby, its humbling. The hymn was being played and I was trying to sing along, but hadn't been able to sing or say the praise of "Hallelujah" since Jairus died. Its a beautiful word, which means "praise ye the Lord" in the Hebrew language. Its a call to celebration and joy and uplifting of God. And it's been very hard for me to rejoice in the Lord the last few months. I am comforted by Him and rest in Him, but happiness is more difficult to offer up.
At the Good Friday service, during the "Hallelujah" chorus, I was given a vision in my mind's eye. In it I saw Jairus, laying on the floor, looking as he did the last time I saw him, so still and peaceful and quiet. Then, he turned away from me toward a dazzling bright light, he stood up and began dancing. And singing. And I knew for a fact that in that moment, my son has the privilege and the joy to look at the Lord who created him, the God who saved him, and to sing to HIM the praises of Hallelujah.
And I knew it was ok for me to be able to praise my God with the true Hallelujahs of my heart.

 In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross 
by Brooks Ritter and Rebecca Bales

In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross
Compelled by grace to cast my lot
Embrace the loss and bare your name
Forsaking all for Your own fame

Your hymn of grace sung over me
Abounding forth in glorious streams
My thirst is quenched by you my Lord
Sustained am I redeemed restored
Sustained am I redeemed restored

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

When death's dark shadow's at my feet
When I am plagued by unbelief
You place my hands into your side
By precious blood identified
By precious blood identified

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

These crowns I've clenched with fisted hands
I cast them down before the throne
Of Christ my God the worthy lamb
Christ crucified the Great I AM
Christ crucified the Great I AM

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

It's a beautiful song...enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011


I've been witness to the beautiful journey 

of a woman growing through the years 
of God's good work in her life.

There was a time when she was "Judy"

Then we came and called her "Mom." 

Now we adore her as "Oma" 
She's the delight of her grandchildren's life. 
And I'm pretty sure they're the delight of hers!

Judy, Mom, Oma...
You are a living treasure, 
a lesson in
Kind Guidance
Helping Hands
Forever Love

I love you Momma, thank you for your endless love. And for taking the time to be my Mom. 
Happy Mothers Day weekend to all you Mommas out there! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good Days & Bad Days

The question began within the first week of Jairus's death, which perplexed me infinitely at the time. It's only just becoming clear now when asked, "Is today a good day or a bad day?" what is meant and what it feels like to indeed have a great enough difference between any of my days to call some "good" and some "bad."

For the most of the first 2-3 months after burying my baby, I would have replied to this question (if I was being honest, that is,) with something to the effect of, "Every day is bad," then it morphed into "Everyday is bad, but everyday has moments that are good, there are things to smile about too."

It's difficult to identify any day as "good" when you are healing physically from birth with no baby to hold or nurse. It's really hard to say any day is "good" when you are having traumatic flashbacks while you're awake and nightmares while you're asleep. It's painful to say it's a "good" day when you realize you've begun adjusting to the fact that your are (again...still...?) a family of 4 and not 5 for all intents and purposes. It has taken me a long time to feel like my days can be anything other than generally awful.

And I still struggle many days, being ok with the fact that we're generally ok.

As time passes it is an inevitable part of the process that we begin to have days without tears, days without the general sense of melancholy I'm almost accustomed to by now. It is definitely a relief in some ways. It is a blessing to truly enjoy the family that I get to live with, to laugh with them and create memories with them. It feels good to be able to plan things that will occur more than an hour ahead of where we are (though we're not much further out than that to be honest). It it good to feel happy again.

But it is not the carefree, lighthearted, life is great sense of happiness that is was leading up to Christmas.
It is a different feeling of happy. It's deep and pure and solemn. It's hard to describe. I think it's one of the things that reflects how I am a different person now than I was 18 weeks ago. I don't know how losing my son will affect me for the rest of my life. But I know that I am not the same. Couldn't be the same. Change has come around me and it has come within me. And I have to do my best to embrace it.

So if you ask me nowadays if a given day is "good" or "bad," it's a coin toss. I'd say I have good days with bad moments in them, and I have bad days with good moments in them. I don't really know from day to day which I'll wake up with. It hasn't been that long and there is a long road still ahead of us. But in the mean time I'm learning to cry out to God on my bad days and truly thank Him on my good days.

I don't want to get comfortable with death and its terrible effects. But I also want to celebrate life as it comes.
So whether today is "good" or "bad" it is a day the Lord has made, I'm really trying to rejoice and be glad in it.