It's been just over 7 years since I found out I was pregnant with you. And 7 years ago this week, you & I went to a woman's retreat together with our church where I was to share my testimony under the topic of Hope, with the verse Romans 5:5 - Hope does not disappoint us....
You & I stood up there and I talked, as I usually do, for much longer than I intended about the amazing story of Redemption that God had given me when He came for me... both over 2000 years ago and when He invaded my life shortly after I had your big sister. I shared things most don't dare about my past and the darkest depths of my heart, only so I could reveal how amazingly God's grace had changed me and covered my sin...and when I finished 45 minutes later, you couldn't have heard a pin drop over only tears falling as people either wept with me or as they were encouraged in a situation in their own life through my story... but as I sat down, there was the loudest roll of thunder out of nowhere that caused a mixture of awe and laughter. God was SO in it. When that session was over, I went to my group of close friends and shared with them that I was pregnant again. The days were simple... exciting... uncomplicated... for a little while.
I don't know how much you truly know or are aware of the things that have happened since then. I don't know how many of the times 'you show up' in my day are actually caused by you. I tend to think it's God meeting me in that way and that He speaks my language and that maybe you get to watch and sometimes giggle as you see the joy that knowing you has brought me in the middle of the sadness that losing you has caused. But there is just so much I don't know about you. That's the hard part.
I wanted to write to you because if you were here and I had the things going on in my mind that I do today, I would share it with you. I would probably tell you at the counter in the kitchen or hanging out on the couch in the living room... but I'll settle for here until I get there....
It's been a long 7 years. I have felt more pain than I knew possible on this earth since I lost you. I had no idea I could physically ache so bad over missing you. Your life and death consumed me. And I'm ok with that because in that, God changed me. But it was often messy and I regularly felt like I failed you. See, I had this idea that if I was honest with everyone I cared about throughout my grief journey, that I would come to the end of the 'hard part' and our relationships would have gotten stronger and I would have no hard feelings left over. What I discovered, the very hard way, is that most people don't truly want to know how they hurt you, and so often, I caused more harm than good because I was regularly more hurt by the responses I received. People wrote me off and then the one thing I thought would help keep the relationships I cared about, actually did the opposite. Most of those relationships are healed now, but I absolutely hate that I hurt people in my journey with you - and that means that when people think of you, they will think of my inability to love well in the middle of it. I'm so sorry for that Rachel. I'm sorry to them, and to God, but I'm really sorry to you. I set out to make your story beautiful and I got in my own way sometimes.
I did so many big things for you, fueled by my pain - I had a vision for a playground and told you when you were with me, I was going to build you one - and I did. Over 100 people came together and helped erect that beautiful ark in memory of you and people who loved you from near and far sent money to fund it and local companies donated time and supplies and we gifted it to your church family at Grace. They loved you so much and loved us so well through that valley. Kids play on it all the time. I think you know that.... I think you also know that your story got the name of Jesus on the front page of the Foster's Daily Democrat multiple times. Your story brought people so much hope. And not because of who you were necessarily, but because of Who Jesus was to us in our saying goodbye to you. Truly, God has used you, Rachel.
We held big 5K's... which required more work than I can fit into a letter and I'm amazed looking back I could even pull off since I was also pregnant for most of them... and then donated the money to other charities in your name. As things went along, one thing led to another and more fundraising and tons more effort later, I had a 501(c)3 called Baby Rachel's Legacy, in your memory. It was amazing - but if I'm honest, it was nothing I truly set out for or necessarily wanted. I just wanted to be able to do things for others and in order to get donations, which people will only give if they can get a write-off, you have to be tax-exempt.... and so I was. I suppose it only makes sense. I do the same things for your siblings - when something gets in the way of a goal involving them, I get through it. I guess this is the part of my personality that Nana always hoped I would use for good one day... the determined little girl who always fought for what I wanted...
So, to get to what I've been wanting to really talk to you about - over the past year or so, I've been praying about what direction I should go with your legacy. It's a lot of pressure to have your legacy be my responsibility. Technically, you wouldn't have one at all if I didn't share your story, my love for you, my pain in losing you, and my healing along the way. I know God gave you to me because He knew I would do that. And it's been humbling, amazing, overwhelming, painful and beautiful to see all the ways in which He has reached across the world and back with my vulnerability.
Somehow though, I feel the winds changing and if there is one thing I have learned along this road with you, my precious little girl, it's that I have to bend with the wind.
I have taken small steps - I closed your PO Box just after your last birthday in December... that was not an easy thing but I believe it was the beginning of testing out the waters of the new ocean I was about to swim in. The one I've had my eye on for a while but have been afraid to jump into. The truth is, most the time it was empty now. It used to be full all the time - for years I got mail there regularly and it was SO good for my heart. People have truly been much too good to me. This was the first year that on your birthday, there was no mail there. None. And I'm okay with that too. I had more mail in that box than I ever would have expected and it always came just when I needed it, but God knows, I don't need it anymore. I love getting mail for you, but my heart doesn't hurt if I don't. That healing is a gift and I'm going to open it and take it home!!
But then somehow, after closing the PO Box, I started getting way more mail at our home - all applications for headstone assistance. And I noticed that not only was I not able to keep up with it from a business stand point, I wasn't able to keep up with it with the energy in my heart and mind. Constantly reading stories about how babies died was wearing me down. And so one day as I stood looking at a stack of applications that I had been procrastinating on, I heard myself say out loud "I don't want to do this anymore." and I heard God whisper to my heart "You don't have to." And so began the process of closing our nonprofit - which I am not currently referring to as "Baby Rachel's Legacy" because I am NOT closing your legacy - I should have never named a business your 'legacy' because it isn't.
I have been contemplating the question - What do I want Rachel's Legacy to be? And Is the nonprofit accomplishing that? A legacy is so much more than being a 501(c)3 and giving people money. I have always wanted your legacy - what people think of when they remember you - to be one of what you taught me - learning to dance in the rain, to love deeper and for life to be more meaningful. To not waste time with the ones you love. To have more love than can fit into a minute of life. To hope in Jesus and the promise of heaven when life has more pain than one can bear. And I love helping people - but honestly, I think my blog helps people in a way that money towards a stone - or even a care package - never could. So that is probably time better spent, if I spend any at all, and I'm not sure if I will unless God tells me to share something. There is already so much here and people are still reading it, even the very first posts.
I've been thinking that I'm going to start having a cookout each year to celebrate you. We have the space now and loving my family and friends is much more my style than trying to round up support for another fundraiser! I'm SO TIRED of that! LOL!! I want food and fun and just conversation - normal conversation that doesn't involve dead babies. Not that I won't talk about YOU, but YOU ARE ALIVE and that's what I want to focus on. I don't even need to tell people we are celebrating you when we invite them - I'm thinking the people who love you most do that often all by themselves. That's your legacy.... and you are so loved.
Now, onto what happened to me this weekend... I went to that same woman's retreat you & I went to. It was one of the only 2 times I've ever been in 12 years where I was not either pregnant or there with a nursing baby! (although I did have to pump for your baby sister!) The theme was "Living Hope" this year! I got to sit next to Jill for sessions and worship and I was able to apologize to a couple more people who I didn't love well in my pain and I just felt like God truly is bringing my life without you full circle. Like he is truly healing depths in my heart I didn't know could be reached... and I cried. A lot. But I cried with a smile. And for the first time since you left, I sang "It Is Well with My Soul" and truly meant it with everything in me that I am okay that you are not here. I am full of joy for you that you are with the Lord and that this earth can't hold you. You have the better part and I am so thankful for that.