Monday, February 27, 2012

On treeplanters and baby girls and Jesus.

Many years ago, in another lifetime, I was a treeplanter. I planted trees by the thousands at about 10 cents apiece.  It was back-breaking physical labour that I shall not soon forget. More importantly though are the people that were also treeplanters with me. Sarah, Shannon,  Joel, Mike...and many others of whom I remember fondly and not-so-fondly. In the summer of 2001, I treeplanted in Northern Alberta. This summer was particularly memorable. Not only did I meet my future husband that summer but I also planted with several Christians, all at a different crossing on the road of their walk with Christ. First was Sarah, a believer struggling with questions. Second was Shannon, fallen away from Christ at that time but full of wisdom, knowledge and un-judgementat answers to all my questions. Third was Joel, he shared the gospel through his life and showing his commitment to God in ways that appeared foolish to my eyes at the time. Fourth was Mike, Mike gave me a bible, gave me some scripture references that were both helpful and not. All of these people have ebbed and flowed in my life in the last years.  I am grateful to all of them for the role they played in bringing me to Christ.  On Septembe 9, 2001, I gave my life to Jesus with trembling hands and a trembling heart. I remember that day at St. Stephen's Anglican Church in Montreal so clearly.  Then, two days later was September 11, 2001. I remember thinking that if this was the end of the world, that I was glad I had given my life to Jesus.
 On September 9th 2011, still reeling and blinded by the grief of losing my baby girl, I didn't remember that it was 10 years. 10 years of following the Lord as best I could. These past months, (where a new 10 years has began) I am no longer following the Lord as best I can.  Now I am letting Him lead me, I am letting Him hold me.  To Him, I commit my body, my spirit, my soul, my broken heart.  I am broken and only in Him is there rest and healing for the broken.  He calls the broken to Him, the broken-hearted, the weak, the meek, the suffering. No longer can I make it through the day on my own strength. No longer can I say that I made right choices to be where I am. No longer can I say I have succeeded in anything through my own strength. No longer am I following the Lord as best I can. I have joined the ranks of the broken...and His banner over me is love.

Remember Joel? A couple of months ago I received a large rock in the mail. Yes, a rock...and even the rocks will cry out You are God. This rock had been collected on the shores of Lake Superior by Joel and his wife, Renee. They got it sand-blasted with Eva's name and a butterfly.  They could not have known that butterflies are our special little connection to our special little girl.  It was one of the most meaningful gifts we have been given.  This family has seen their share of heart-break.  Their little girl, Emily Grace, lived from June 2nd to June 11th 2008. Emily also had a heart defect. Emily also has a rock from the shores of Lake Superior. Emily is also in glory with our Eva. In earthly years Emily is only 2 years and 3 months older than Eva. Today Emily would be 3 years 8 months old. Eva would be 16 1/2 months old. They never met on earth, and yet, somehow, they are probably friends in Heaven.

For some reason, today I went to Joel and Renee's blog and searched out all the posts about Emily.  I found the letter below on one of the entries. I felt like it had been written to me...and yet, I also know the pain in which the recipient of the letter must have read some of those words. I was gently reminded a couple of times today to seek joy, and it is difficult to hear and difficult to do. 

This letter is full of truth, comfort, hope, pain...and, almost 400 years after it was written I am receiving it.

To a Christian Gentlewoman [23 April 1628]:

My love in Christ remembered to you. I was indeed sorrowful when I left you, especially since you were in such heaviness after your daughter's death; yet I am sure you know that the weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you, lies on your strong Saviour. For Isaiah said that in all your afflictions He is afflicted (Is. 63:9). O blessed Saviour, who suffers with you! Your soul may be glad, even to walk in the fiery furnace, with the Son of Man, who is also the Son of God. Take courage. When you tire, he will bear both you and your burden (Ps. 55:22). In a little while you shall see the salvation of God.
Your lease on your daughter has run out; and you can no more quarrel against your great Superior for taking what He owns, than a poor tenant can complain when the landowner takes back his own land when the lease is expired. Do you think she is lost, when she is only sleeping in the bosom of the Almighty? If she were with a dear friend, your concern for her would be small, even though you would never see her again. Oh now, is she not with a dear friend, and gone higher, upon a certain hope that you shall see her again in the resurrection? Your daughter was a part of yourself; and, therefore, being as it were cut in half, you will be grieved. But you have to rejoice; though a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven.
Follow her, but do not envy her; for indeed it is self-love that makes us mourn for them that die in the Lord. Why? Because we cannot mourn for them since they are happy; therefore, we mourn on our own private account. Be careful then, that in showing your affection in mourning for your daughter that you are not, out of self-affection, mourning for yourself.
Consider what the Lord is doing. Your daughter has been plucked out of the fire, and she rests from her labours. Your Lord is testing you by casting you in the fire. Go through all fires to your rest. And now remember, that the eye of God is upon the burning bush, and it is not consumed; and He is gladly content that such a weak woman as you should send Satan away frustrated. Honour God now, and shame the strong roaring lion, when you seem the weakest.
Should you faint in the day of adversity? Recall the days of old! The Lord still lives; trust in Him. Faith is exceedingly charitable and believes no evil of God. The Lord has placed in the balance your submission to His will and your affection for your daughter. Which of the two will you choose? Be wise; and as I trust you love Christ better, pass by your daughter, and kiss the Son. Men lop the branches off their trees so they may grow up high and tall. The Lord has lopped your branch off by taking from you many children, so that you would grow upwards, setting your heart above, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father.
Prepare yourself; you are nearer your daughter this day than you were yesterday. Run your race with patience; let God have what belongs to Him. Do not ask Him for the daughter who has been taken from you, the daughter of faith; but ask Him for patience; and in patience possess your soul. Lift up your head; your redemption draws near.

Your affectionate and loving
friend in the Lord Jesus,
Samuel Rutherford

('From Grief to Glory' by James W. Bruce III p. 147)

I cannot help but think, how happy the letter's recipient is now. She is with her children in heaven.  She is singing praises to God.  The truth will set you free and she is free.  How fleeting our lives here on earth are.  How momentary. How long eternity is. In heaven or not, our free choice.  I am so glad I gave my life to Christ on that September day, over 10 years ago now.  I am so glad every day that passes is one day closer to holding Eva again.  I know not whether she will be a baby, or a young girl, or a young lady when I see her again in Glory but I know that when I see her I will hold her and I will sing praises to God because I will have eternity with my God and my daughter. Sounds like heaven to me.

Thank you, Joel, for the testimony of your life in the summer of 2001, and your prayers in the summer of 2011...and to Renee, a sister in Christ and in heart break.

Eva, until I see you in Heaven, I am learning patience, as there is no other choice.
 I love you sweet girl, your mama.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

These are the days of hurt and anger and faith.

I am so angry. I know that anger stems from hurt and I know from whence the hurt comes.  I hate that people have to be careful around me and I hate when they aren't careful and say stupid stuff. I am trying, trying, trying to grow from losing Eva but it seems that everywhere I turn I am not good enough for somebody.  Why I care is beyond me, but there you go, I do care. But, and this is a big but...I have grown more in my relationship with the Lord in the last 6 months than I did the whole of my walk with Jesus before losing Eva...I have learned to place my trust in Him and Him alone and He holds me in the palm of His hand no matter where I am.

I went to church on Sunday and before I left I took 2 books out from our church library. One is Where is God When it Hurts by Philip Yancey. I am not really in that space...I know that God is here with me and He knows the tears I cry...the day is coming when every tear will be wiped away, and in that hope I live and put my trust.  I also took another book out that I am reading now it is 'The Heavenly Man: The remarkable true story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun.  The faith of this man is truly inspiring in the face of torture, imprisonment, starvation and so many more hardships that you or I cannot even possibly imagine.  It has helped me to get outside of myself and look at the sufferings of others and to let the Lord grow me through this trial knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not dissapoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:3-5).  I am learning to lean on the Lord through it all, even in this incomprehensibly hard heartache and hurt and anger.

Still, I am human and I am angry and hurt and it is easy to talk the talk about leaning on the Lord it but it is harder to really live it.  I still find myself sucker-punched by people who I had trusted with my grief.  Through it all I am learning and growing as I walk on this long, difficult, lonely road...and, yes, there are fellow travellers on the road of grief but they bear their own burdens and while we may wave to each other along the way, each must walk their journey alone.  That said, I often think about that footprints poem and where there is only one set of footprints that is when Jesus is carrying me.  He must be carrying me now because there is no way I could be making it on my own during these dark, dark days.

This has been a rather rambling post but it is where I am at right now: trusting in my Saviour, hurt by people, angry at so much, living in faith that the days will get brighter somehow....though I can scarcely see it now.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mike, among other men.

I have been thinking alot about Mike lately.  I read awhile ago on another blog about how a dad feels after losing a child and he compares it to losing a leg.  After awhile, he learns to use a prosthetic pretty well. If he's wearing pants no one can see his leg is missing. He can function and walk around.  Some people who have only ever seen him wear pants don't even know he's missing a leg. But still it hurts and he's always missing a limb.

Some people ask me how Mike is doing but really I don't know.  If someone asks how I'm doing I can honestly say 'not too bad'.  I guess I'm learning how to use my leg too. Sometimes the truth is more 'well, awful, but functioning' know, everyone ate supper tonight, got their jammies on, a story (because heaven forbid anyone can go to sleep in this house without a story-including me really as the bible is a great comfort and I read it almost every night); but I digress.  How is Mike? I don't really know. A better question might be: How is Mike managing? He's managing all right.  He's getting work done, he's playing with the children we have left, he's putting drywall in the basement, he's hugging his wife and even remembering flowers for Valentine's...and that's managing if you're a guy, right? You get your work done, you take care of your family.  I guess Mike is managing...but has anyone asked Mike lately?  I know he tears up when he reads my posts on this blog.  I know he misses his little princess like crazy.  I wish I could do something for him like he's done so much for me...but I think the only thing that will fix either of us is holding our little princess again on that glorious day that is coming...I can see it in the distance...not too far away...there's a wedding and a feast...

Today I came across another blog and the poem below was posted there.

It must be very difficult

To be a man in grief,
Since "men don't cry"
and "men are strong"
No tears can bring relief.

It must be very difficult
To stand up to the test,
And field the calls and visitors
So she can get some rest.

They always ask if she's all right
And what she's going through.
But seldom take his hand and ask,
"My friend, but how are you?"

He hears her crying in the night
And thinks his heart will break.
He dries her tears and comforts her,
But "stays strong" for her sake.

It must be very difficult
To start each day anew.
And try to be so very brave-
He lost his baby too.

Eileen Knight Hagemeister

If you're a grieving dad, how are you managing? coping? surviving?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The 15th is for Eva.

Eva was born on the 15th of October. Eva died on the 15th of August.  The  15th is for Eva. 

When Eva was first born we counted her life with us in hours, then days, then weeks, then months.

When Eva died we counted our time without her in hours, then days, then weeks, then months.

Now it's been 6 months.  Half a year. How have I managed to breathe without her for half a year?

In this past half a year there have been people that have given empathy and tears to us with a grace I did not know existed.  There have been people who have said imcomprehensibly thoughtless and painful things to us.  There have been people who have almost completely ignored our daughter and the horrible void that has been created in these past months. Then there is me. I am all of the people above.  I have done, said, thought compassionate, hurtful, and stupid things...but somehow right now, when people hurt me the hurt goes all the way to my heart and soul.  When people are kind and remember our daughter or do something special all the emotion in me just pours out through my eyes.  There is no middle ground anymore.

I have lost some friends this last half a year and I have barely any middle ground friends anymore.  This is not all their fault...they are who they have always been but it is I who have changed and cannot cope with so much now. Maybe one day we will be able to find a new middle ground. I hope so.

In this half a year, I have come to see that I have some real, true friends. One of them is  Holly.  She started as an acquaintance when our oldest children were both 12 days old...this grew into a friendship over the next 5 years. In the last 6 months our friendship has become so much deeper. She has cried buckets of tears with me.  She brings up Eva on her own and I never feel like I am talking about her too much when we are together.  I can tell her the truth about how much it hurts and I know there are no thoughts in her mind that I am 'dwelling in the past' or am grieving too long or too deeply. She loved Eva and misses her too.   I thank God for the true friends in my life right now.

I have a couple of very brave friends who have called me from long distances and told me it is ok to talk about Eva and ok to not talk about her.  They have magically said the right things without really knowing it.  When I look at all this...I guess I can see the kindnesses, sensitivity and tender hearts of so many really does outweigh the bullshit of so few. 

I have joined a club I never knew existed and become friends online and in person with other babyloss mamas.  Women whose lives have been completely altered by the loss of their child.  Kind, compassionate, hurting, brave women.  I am one of them now too.  I never wanted to join this club.  I never ever fathomed I would.

And to wrap it up I will never forget that the 15th is for Eva.  Eva would be 16 months old today.  Eva has been dead these last 6 months. She literally died of a broken heart and my heart has been broken ever since.  Today is so hard.  We are burning a pink candle for Eva. We lit it at supper yesterday...for our missing Valentine.  I hate these candles. I hate that we have a candle instead of a girl.

I miss her smiles so much.  I miss who she might be right now.  I ache for all the broken dreams that left us on August 15th 2011. I miss the me I used to be. I didn't think today would be so hard, but it is.

Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine's Day my sweet Eva.  Happy Heart Day. The irony is not lost on me. Your heart was broken and my heart is broken for you.
I love you always, all ways...Mama.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On Pink flowers and White balloons.

I went to Cowboy Church today.  There was a really old lady there that I didn`t recognize.  She was beautiful.  I cried when I looked at her and I knew my Eva would never be a really old lady or a mother or a grandmother.  So many lost dreams in that sweet girl. 

On Friday, the boys and I were outside Costco and a white balloon was floating up to the sky.  Likely some child was crying for it not too far away but Samuel and Vincent immediately noticed it and said, oh, there goes a balloon to Heaven for Eva. Then today came along with it`s unforeseen tears and smiles and flowers and another white balloon of which I write about below:

I was just breathing today and my neighbour came over with pink carnations from the young ladies at our church.  Pink is always Eva's colour.  The sweetness of those flowers coming after all the funeral flowers have dried up was so much to me.

Then tonight I was reading a blog by another babyloss mama and I came across a memorial about Lori`s son, Jonah. Jonah`s mom and dad and others released balloons on Jonah's one year anniversary.  Jonah's mom painted the names of babies that she knew who had died....I scrolled down through the photos of these white balloons with names on them, sort of hoping, but not expecting, there might be one for Eva.  Some of the names were easy to read and some were obscured and then, then I came across this photo and it took my breath away.  To see her name so clearly against a cloud of white balloons against a New York sky I haven't seen in years and years and likely never will again...I felt like it was for me. These balloons, this photo, these pink flowers.  They were for me.

Thank you Lori. I had no idea it would mean so much to me to see her name like this.  You even wrote the E the same way I do.

...and, of course, Jonah.

All this comes in the days leading up to the 6 month anniversary of losing Eva.  The days leading up to the `big day` which is halfway through every month are some of the hardest days amidst so much hard, and these flowers and these balloons have helped me get through one more.  Thank you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The candle and the saucer.

The pediatrician we had for Eva was the all-time best pediatrician in the world.  He is a pediatrician for high-risk kids but he has agreed to take on our boys and any other future children we might be lucky enough to be blessed with, even though they are not high-risk (hopefully). 
This pediatrician gave us a beautiful, high-quality pure beeswax candle when Eva died.  We burned this candle during Eva's memorial (part of it anyway) and I have burned it every now and then when I wanted to feel especially close to her. There is something truly living about a flame. This candle has been getting smaller and smaller and I became more and more stingy about burning it...all those little connections to my child that I am loathe to give up. 
Today, I learned that someone I know gave birth to their baby at about 5 months gestation.  Baby Faith died.  She went to Heaven with her big brother. I'm sure he is taking good care of her up there and showing her the ropes but it tears me up...all this pain...all these children in Heaven.
I got out a candle for Baby Faith today and put it on the saucer with Eva's candle.  I lit them both and thought of those two girls together in Heaven.  Two little girls that could have been close enough in age to be friends here on earth.  Faith's candle burned all day and this evening burned its brightest before sputtering out.  Eva's candle continued to burn into the evening and it was so small I decided to let it burn out...I'd been watching it all evening and as the flame got bigger and more erratic as the candle began to die I thought about life...does it burn brightest before the end?  Eva's candle flickered and burned much longer than I would have expected given the tiny amount of wax left and I think about Eva's life as it burned much longer than we expected those first days in the PICU.
Since placing Eva's candle on the saucer I wondered what I would do when the candle burned out...would I scrape off the wax and throw it out...would I keep it...I just did not know.
Turns out...the candle burned so hot at the end that I was sitting on the couch and I heard a crrrraaack! The saucer had broken into many pieces, yet the candle burned on.  Eva's body is broken but she lives on. It felt appropriate that this saucer should break. There are no decisions now as to what to do with it...those of you with only living children will wonder at my sentimentality over a candle and a saucer...but those of you who have lost children will understand the sentimentality of holding onto every little scrap that we have left of our children.  There will never be another candle that burned at her memorial. 
We will light another candle and I will look at the children sitting at the table and I will look at the candle like I did with this one and imagine all my children at the table together...which will never happen again, no matter how many children we have.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My baby is growing up in Heaven

So my friend came over this afternoon with her brood of children.  One of her daughters is 3 months older than our Eva would have been.  As I looked at this sweet child toddling around and playing I suddenly realized that my Eva wouldn't be a little bald baby anymore.  She would be a little girl with blue eyes and brown hair long enough to squeeze into tiny little pigtails.  She would be toddling around carrying a doll.  She would be smiling at her daddy.  She would be crying when one of her brothers knocked her down.  She would be comforted by mommy's arms. She would be almost 16 months old now. Suddenly it struck me, my little girl is growing up in Heaven.  How I miss her.

Someday it will be okay.  Someday I will hold her in my arms and I won't weep. Someday I won't wish for every kiss and every growing-up moment that I haven't had with her.

Today I do.

Going to church

I used to love going to church. It was the perfect bookend to the week. I loved the singing. I loved seeing my friends that I often only saw there. I loved the worship of my Lord. I loved how the kids went to Sunday School. I loved it all. 
Now I prepare myself for church. I think, ok, this week I can do it emotionally. This week I can look at the people I love as they smile at each other and often at me. This week I can sing without the tears washing down my face.
Every week I am surprised by the sadness that overwhelms me there. I sit in my chair and hold one of my sons and I cry, I cry for the little girl that is not there with us. Every week I am surprised by how much the sweetness of one of the little babies at church stabs me in the heart. Every week I am surprised by how I can't look my friends in the eye or talk about baby things with them, like I used to.
Every week I think I have a handle on it and every week I am surprised by the intensity of my grief in church.
This past Sunday my husband said maybe I should stay home from church for awhile. Part of me is thrilled. Avoid the horribleness of being in church with all those people. Part of me is so sad that something I loved so much is now something I would rather avoid. 

*Just to be clear. I am still standing on the solid rock of Jesus, despite it`s just the actual going to church that is so hard...among so many hard things.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Love, Pain and Hope.

I have been spending some time re-reading the posts I put on carepages before Eva died.  It is heart-wrenching to read the hope in my tone when I know the outcome.  I will never get over losing my little girl. I will never be the same person I was before August 15th 2011.  The post below is an excerpt from a post I wrote on carepages on July 7th 2011. 

Today I learned how to give my daughter injections of enoxeperrin (blood thinner). She needs the blood thinner because she has a blood clot in her leg that was caused by the cardiac catheterization. It's hard to cause my own child pain and yet I do it because I love her. If I didn't love her I wouldn't have to cause her this pain and it grieves my heart for this to happen to her and yet, as a loving parent, if I didn't cause her this pain I would actually be causing her more harm. I have never really thought about the relationship of love and pain so closely intertwined before and the relationship of love and pain that God has with us, His children.

I look at this post of me as a mother causing my daughter pain because I love her.  I think of God, my Father who loves me, causing me pain because He loves me.  While I will always hurt for Eva I also know that there must be a reason for this pain.  I'm sure Eva could never understand the reason for the pain of injections twice a day.  Why would her mom, who holds her, loves her, cuddles her, give her pain.  But I, as her mother, knew what I was giving her was helping her.  God must know that what He is giving me is helping me, however murky and unclear it is to me today.  There can be no other way.

My grief for Eva knows no bounds.  She is my ever-present, yet unreachable daughter.  God how I miss her and what I wouldn't do to just hold her again, and again, and again.

I don't post too often on this blog because it is always so hard and I always end up being a teary, bleary, snotty mess at the end of a post but this has been rolling around in my mind for some time and I had to get it out.