Friday, August 30, 2013

Stay Here

Today I was vacuuming out my van when Asa came over and asked me to take his helmet off.  He had been playing nearby me in the driveway the whole time I was out there.  I took it off and continued on cleaning.

A couple minutes later, I heard a car coming around the corner.  We live on a corner lot and people drive entirely way too fast around the corner.  I turned to make sure Asa wasn't near the road and all I saw was his helmet in the middle of the road.  I looked around and couldn't see him so I motioned for the truck to slow down as I walked out in the street to get the helmet out of his way.  The guy SWERVED around me so as to not have to slow down and I panicked not knowing where my little boy was and if this guy would pay any attention.  (did I mention he was on our street to read a meter... that's right, he works for the city....) 

I started calling for Asa..... nothing.

I walked around and checked in the neighbors yard.... nothing.

I walked further down the street.... yelling his name.... nothing.

I went back to the house and asked if he was in there with the others.... nope.

They came out and started running around looking in other yards.... No Asa.

About 3-4 minutes into this, my mind went from "He's right around here somewhere."  to "Where could he have gone?" to "Oh no, this is really happening."  Every moment felt like an eternity.

Finally after more than 5 minutes and me about to call the police, we heard his little voice calling from behind our neighbors house across the street.  Isaiah ran to find him.  When he came out with him, I quickly scolded him and then grabbed him up, hugged him and cried. 

Standing in someone else's yard, I stood there and clung onto him knowing that I had been gifted another moment with him.  I pulled away, stared straight in his bright blue eyes and told him.... "Don't ever run away like that again Asa.... You stay with us." I said firmly. 

He probably had no idea why such a fun adventure would make Mama cry like that.... He probably thinks I overreacted..... He will probably do it again someday...... but as I heard the words "You stay with us!" come out of my mouth I realized that I was crying over how little control I have over whether or not my children stay.

My heart heard the words and felt a little envious that I couldn't demand that of Rachel....  I wish I could have told her to stay.

Later at snack time, the kids were talking about how scary that was.  Des was saying that at first it didn't feel real and then after a while, she began to fear that he was really gone.  I knew exactly what she meant.  Isaiah added.... "At first I thought he was going to be gone forever, but then I knew that you would never stop looking for him until you found him."  I asked how he knew that and he said "I just know that about you."

He's right.... there is no amount of time that will ever "call off the search" in my heart for any of my children.  Even when I know they are already gone for good.... I look for my girl in every sunrise...every sunset.... and every moment in between....  I look for her in the clouds, in the garden, in the eyes of her siblings and Daddy.  I look for her everywhere we are.....

And so often I find that even though she is gone, she did stay here too.

Friday, August 23, 2013

How Long?

I've been putting this off....  because somewhere along the line, I bought the lie.... I started to believe it... and when I once in a while I feel like 'it' is happening to me, I think "it" should be here to stay. Like healing is a destination, not a journey.... Like one day you wake up and feel better.... let it go for good... Because that is what we're told is 'good for us'.... that's a "good witness"... that's the "healthy thing" to do....that is how we show that we believe in God and hope in eternity.....

I should be able to move on....

I should be better by now....

I should just be thankful for all I *do* have.....

And stop worrying about what I don't.....

Because, after all, she is fine....

She doesn't need me anymore because she is in heaven and totally happy without me.....

And why cry when one day I will see her again?....

And there is so much to be happy about here and now....

So, suck it up, your time to grieve has passed and now it's time to just smile....

Cause didn't you notice all the good God brought out of her death?....

And aren't you thankful for that?....

Don't you see that you have other children you did get to keep?....

And don't they make it hurt less?....

Are you reading your Bible enough?....

Praying enough?....

Having a positive enough attitude?....

The right perspective?...

Cause if you were doing all the "right" things, wouldn't you feel better by now?....

So, let me be clear that what I am about to share has absolutely NOTHING to do with an inability to love, cherish or care for my living children.  It has very little to do with how I feel about, or how much I trust in my God or His plan for my life.  It does not speak of a lack of faith - it doesn't mean I don't believe in or look forward to heaven.  It doesn't mean I am not grateful.  It doesn't mean that throughout my days I don't laugh, smile, or notice the millions of things I have that I don't deserve but have been granted by His grace alone.  And it doesn't even mean that I'm not positive that He is at work in everything that is happening to us.  So, please - if you aren't capable of reading the following without those judgmental thoughts about me - or prideful ideas about yourself and how you would do it better, or sending me an email attempting to exhort me to better "obedience",  just stop here - because I'm about to be real because I need to be - not because you will think it's "right" or impressive. 

I am so tired of trying to explain why all those things listed above are inaccurate.  I hate feeling like I fail God every time someone feels the need to correct my way of thinking when I talk about Rachel, like I have the wrong perspective or need to be reminded that it's okay that she is dead.  I truly believe people are just trying to help me.... but anyone who knows me - I mean really knows me - knows that faith is not something I struggle with... finding a silver lining is not something I am not able to do - I just prefer to do it myself!  (as do most people)  But some days, I just long for someone, anyone to just be human with me.... no advice or opinions or even a promise to spiritually fancy sounding pat answers... but to sit in it with me... like really care about how hard it is and not judge me for being disappointed with the trials at hand.  Because here it is.... I'm feeling a little like I think we could have used a bit more time off before another big trial.  I'm feeling like I don't actually care about what God might be able to pull out of this that is good... I don't want to do this.  I am thinking there is probably someone else that has had a less eventful couple of years that might be better able to handle this. 

Things are HARD right now.  My medical issues. Matt's hand and enough hours at work to keep us from qualifying for temporary assistance, but not enough to pay our bills,  Lots of little kids.  Changing our church.  Not being able to get to the cemetery or do things I want to for Rachel. Van repairs.  Medical bills.  Trying to keep up with the house, tons of doctor appointments for everyone and errands with 5 of my kids in tow, homeschool, failing miserably at keeping up with Rachel's nonprofit, and on and on.... I've grocery shopped once since Ezra's arrival.  Today I went there, parked and realized it would be a nightmare with Ezra and Asa both crying and I left (cause I'm getting smarter). There aren't enough hours in a day, but I'm not sure I'd want any more hours!  All of this is putting a lot of stress on our marriage and after we just had the best year of our 11 years together, that's really sad to me - I covet your prayers for us. 

I just wanted to come home with my sweet Ezra and sit and nurse.... I feel like he is growing so fast and I am missing it while I'm busy with everything else and I'm grieving that too. 

But I have found myself missing Rachel a lot lately.  I have been feeling really heavy hearted that I didn't do anything for her D-day anniversary this year.  I have been reliving a lot of what I went through when Asa was a baby now that Ezra is here.... and that was so, so hard.  I look back and cry for how much it hurt to have Asa right after I lost Rachel.  Matt says he thinks I would have had just as much pain had I waited longer before having Asa because either way, I needed to grieve what I was missing with Rachel - and in fact, he thinks that feeling my way through that might have helped me actually grieve some things I needed to - but wow, was that hard.

The other night I kissed Ezra's neck and it was warm and all I could think about was how cold she was.  That kind of stuff happened all the time with Asa.  I'm thankful to not be so overwhelmed with sadness for every step of this journey with Ezra, but I still feel like I am missing Rachel in a deeper way since he came, just not in such an outward way.  But with Rachel being older now, I also get much less recognition of her and that is very hard too.

Basically, it's all really hard - there is no getting around it.

Isaiah went to my Dad's for the day today and as he was pulling away in the car with him, he looked out the back window and said "See you when we have ice cream together." (they were coming back in the afternoon to get us for ice cream) and I started to panic...  my mind went straight to this might be the last time I see him... what if that's the last time I hear his voice? what if he never comes back? and I waved and signed "I love you" to him and him back to me.... and I fought the anxiety all day.

You see, what I've learned about God's plan is it has nothing to do with my happiness.  This is why I hate it when people say "don't worry, trust God" because I was trusting God fully when I put my little girl in the ground and covered her with dirt. And I've trusted Him ever since through the most painful experience I have ever walked through. I trust him, but I'd like to avoid that amount of pain coming my way again. But I know I can't.  People who trust God have horrible things happen to them every single day.  There was no guarantee when I became a Christian that my life would suddenly be 'good' - because HIS ways are NOT my ways. My idea of good isn't always His.  And I'll be honest...  I hate that.

Today I heard a song that I had heard on a drive to Maine Med while I was pregnant with Rachel.  I can still remember exactly what field we were driving past as I heard it for the first time that day....  As the lyrics played today, I could remember how I felt in those months before she came - and other than knowing now how her story unfolded, not much has changed.

Alone in a crowd.  Joy and sorrow mingled.  Time flying while standing still.

Now though, I struggle to even want to pray.  So today, as the song played, I just asked that He would hear the cry of my heart when I don't have the words to speak.  That somehow soon, He would bring relief in the form of assurance that He is in this.  Cause I'm just not feeling it.  I'm not feeling Him.  But I know He's there.

"Hold My Heart"
How long must I pray
Must I pray to You
How long must I wait
Must I wait for You
How long till I see Your face
See You shining through

I'm on my knees
Begging You to notice me
I'm on my knees
Father, will You turn to me

One tear in the driving rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart
One life, that's all I am
Right now I can barely stand
If You're everything You say You are
Would You come close and hold my heart

I've been so afraid, afraid to close my eyes
So much can slip away before I say goodbye
But if there's no other way
I'm done asking why

'Cause I'm on my knees
Begging You to notice me
I'm on my knees
Father, will You run to me, yeah

One tear in the driving rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart
One life, that's all I am
Right now I can barely stand
If You're everything You say You are
Would You come close and hold my heart

So many questions without answers
Your promises remain
I can't see but I'll take my chances
To hear you call my name
To hear you call my name

One tear in the driving rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart
One life, that's all I am
Right now I can barely stand
If You're everything You say You are
Would You come close and hold my heart
Hold my heart
Could You hold my heart
Hold my heart
Here's the video...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Her Weight in My Arms

My friend Lisa has a ministry called Birthweight Buddies, where she takes stuffed animals and fills them to the exact weight as your baby and then decorates it especially for your little one. 

I talked to her back before she officially started it about getting one for Rachel... and I knew it would eventually show up.... But I had no idea it would be today.  After the way the last couple of weeks have gone, I was a little nervous to open the box when I got home and saw it waiting on the table.  I honestly feel like I don't have it in me to cry anymore.  It feels like I just don't have time for it.  So, I usually avoid it.  And I knew if Rachel's Birthweight Buddy was in there, I would cry...

I opened the box, which was filled with a bunch of things for our whole family, and saw it immediately.  I pulled it out and the first thing that came to mind was that I didn't remember her feeling that heavy....

I couldn't remember what she felt like.....

Without even thinking about it, I turned the bear sideways and cradled it in my arm.  Matt was watching me, but was not aware of what the bear was. I stood there for a moment and just stared off as I planted my feet firmly beneath me wondering what it would be like if it was really her.

I closed my eyes and started crying.

And cried some more.

And some more.

I walked into the livingroom and sat on the couch and cradled this bear with a daisy in her hair and I couldn't stop crying.  Matt sat next to me in silence watching my lips quiver as her handprint necklace got covered with my tears on my chest.  I started to feel like a freak hugging this stuffed animal, but I wasn't ready to let her go.... so I closed my eyes and just felt the weight of her in my arms again.  Ezra was sitting near by and he started to grunt....  I'll sound crazy, but I'll admit it, I pretended she was here.

Oh dear God, it felt so good it hurt.

Matt started checking the bear out, commenting on how nicely made it was, and when he lifted one of the feet and felt its weight, he realized... "This is the bear?" he asked.  I just nodded and cried.

The instrumental song playing on Pandora caught my attention and I looked up to see it was called "December".....  the next to play?  The one I recently blogged about, "Quiet Beauty"....  the next?  "Blessings" by Laura Story.


We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home

It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise
I opened the rest of the bag for Rachel and was so emotional.  Beautiful little things that said "Rachel" so perfectly.... and as I looked at each one, I just cried.  I am so thankful when people remember her with me still.  I'm thankful that I have friends and family who "know" her for as much as they can without ever meeting her. 
I had put my Rachel Bear in Ezra's carseat cause the seat was sitting on the table and it seemed like a safe place for it while I opened the other goodies.  Des came in and asked about it.  She picked it up and put it up on her shoulder like she does Ezra. 
"It feels like a real baby." she said as her body naturally swayed as if to rock the bear to sleep.
I remembered being in church for weeks and weeks after Rachel died and I would catch myself swaying during worship - like my body knew I was supposed to be rocking a newborn.... and when I would realize I was doing it, her absence would burn through my soul.  Watching Des sway brought me right back to those days... 
"I can't believe she weighed this much" she said as she rubbed the bears back.
I just cried.
Somehow remembering what it was like to feel that pain so freshly while getting to hold a little bear with her weight and length - even with the tears it brought - was what I needed.  I put her little lamb with it, just like in the picture of me and her together - and remembered she is also buried with a little lamb just like it...

I had heard of people responding like this when they received their bears or other memorial items and always thought it was weird and that I'd never do that....well, I guess we'll add this to the list of "you don't know until you get there" experiences....because I totally did everything I didn't think I would without thinking twice - and I can't tell you how much  I needed it. 

My heart needed to feel her weight in my arms....and to cry over how much I miss it there. 

 Thank you, Lisa - you're such a blessing.  A true gift from Rachel to me.  I thank God for your friendship.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Little Girls Shoes

Every once in a while, little things catch me off guard.

Today it was little girls shoes.

For a moment I felt like I was right back at the beginning... at my first trip to the store after her diagnosis... when it became apparent to me that little girl shoes would always hurt my heart. I didn't stand in the isle and sob like I did back then, but I wanted to.

Some would call that growth, I call it survival.

Funny thing is that this photo isn't black & white, although it certainly appears it... but the missing color.... well, it makes sense to me.  That's how I feel.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lily's Getting Her Stone!

Time is getting away from me... I wanted to write a bunch of stuff about this latest fundraiser we are doing to memorialize August 4th, the day 3 years ago that we got Rachel's diagnosis.  I had so much to say - so many thanks to give - so many blessings along the way.... but it's been such a hard couple of weeks, I just don't have it in me anymore to write it all out.  So, I'm going to just fill you in on the facts and leave out my feelings.

We asked people to donate towards a headstone for a little girl named Lily.  Her mom Hannah still owed $959 plus the install fees of $250.  She's been working at paying it for a long time and was half way there....

Like always, you guys rose to the occasion and helped me to accomplish what God put on my heart.  With the $143 I will donate from Rachel's account, we will be sending $823 to the memorial stone company to apply on Hannah's account for Lily's stone!  On top of that, I was unaware, but we finished up the fundraiser the day before her birthday, so I was able to give Hannah this good news on her 24th birthday.  It was a great birthday gift :)

When I shared with Hannah that we had a few donations on the first day, she said "It's amazing how many people love Rachel."  And she's right.  It's amazing.

THANK YOU to everyone who continues to support me on this journey, if even just by reading along and praying.  Thank you to everyone who pitched in to get us so close to paying off the stone for this sweet baby girl. Thank you for being an encouragement to me during a hard time and also an encouragement to Hannah as she is so blessed by your generosity.  Her mom was very thankful as well. Thank you for finding worth in the things that God puts on my heart.  Without all of you, I could do none of this.  Thank you for loving Rachel.  Thank you for helping her legacy to continue to bless others and to honor other babies gone too soon.

If you haven't donated and have it on your heart to do so, don't hesitate to contact me as she still has around $380 to pay it off and to get it installed.  It's not too late!  But I want you all to know how thankful both her and I are for all you have done to help. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Stand in the Rain

I started a post the other day to share how our day on August 4th played out and ended up putting it down for the night, expecting to go back to it the next day - well, let's just say it's been an eventful week I didn't get back to it.

Many of you know the stuff that has been happening from facebook... but I'll give the run down for those who don't.

I had been having some high blood pressures and issues with swollen feet and legs - along with horrible migraines earlier in the week.  On Friday, I went to the ER locally because my blood pressure was extremely high.  They sent me away saying I was fine.  The next day, I woke up and it was even higher.  I called Maine Med and they wanted me to come up there to be monitored for the day.  Again, they sent me home saying I was fine. (I've since been put on blood pressure medication after a follow up appointment on Tuesday - My obgyn thinks I had undiagnosed postpartum preeclampsia - please pray this all clears up soon... I just want to enjoy my new baby)

I was discouraged that I had spent the whole weekend in hospitals when I wanted to be getting things ready to decorate Rachel's grave on Sunday.  We stopped at a Walmart at 9pm to get fake flowers on the way home from the heart was just aching to do something for her for this anniversary since I wasn't doing the race and I was running out of time...

August 4th started off like it did 3 years ago... me being naïve and thinking that the plans I had made would actually come to be.  I was determined to make the day special and light hearted.  I was determined to make it meaningful and enjoy our family time together.  I was determined to smile when my heart really hurt.  I guess not really much different than any other day of my life, but for this day - the 3 year anniversary of her diagnosis - I wanted it to be special in a way that would ease my pain.  Expectations can be so dangerous.

We left the house way later than I wanted to and decided we'd better get lunch first.  On the way, the song on the radio reminded me to keep the tears tucked away.... or else if I start, they might not stop.

"She never slows down.
She doesn't know why but she knows that when she's all alone, feels like its all coming down
She won't turn around
The shadows are long and she fears if she cries that first tear, the tears will not stop raining down"
I held them back, but a few escaped my eyes without anyone in my family noticing. 

We ate at Roger's Pizza with gift cards that Options for Women had sent as a welcome Ezra gift for us.  They gave us $30 and our pizza came to $30.43.  Our portion... .43 cents!  Imagine that, hi Rachel!   She's always with us everywhere we go....

Matt went in and ordered and asked her to let us know when it was ready and we waited outside to avoid the before meal craziness that always ruins meals out.  It worked like a charm.  The boys ran around in the grass, Des & I sat in the AC in the van and I nursed the baby so he wouldn't want to eat as soon as I was trying to.  When they called us in, the table was ready to go, the kids had energy out, the baby was content and we just prayed and ate.  It was all going so well. 

We decided to play a song on the jukebox.  I made a mistake... I picked "Don't take the girl"  The last part is talking about them having a baby and the mom was dying.... but as I listened along, all I could think of was my reaction on August 4, 2010.... "Please God, not my baby girl.... please let me keep her, please...."  and I had to fight the tears again....

"Johnny hit his knees and there he prayed
"Take the very breath you gave me.
Take the heart from my chest.
I'll gladly take her place if you'll let me,
Make this my last request.
Take me out of this world
God, please don't take the girl"
We gathered our stuff and went to Rachel's grave.  As expected, it was a mess as I haven't been in almost a month.  We started cleaning up and about 5 minutes into it, Matt sliced his finger open with his utility knife and was bleeding everywhere.  We left everything scattered all over the place and I brought him to the ER thinking he'd get some stitches and be on his way. 

I went back to finish Rachel's grave while he was waiting and I felt one drop of rain.... I said "ooh, it's starting to rain." and before I finished my sentence, it was a complete downpour.  I could not believe it.  Was God serious?  Matt's in the ER and I'm stuck in the rain all by myself with a van full of kids trying to clean up my daughter's grave....  I know I can't always have my way, but why did God have to take away the sun that had been shining ALL DAY until that very MOMENT when I was there and trying to make it pretty?  Why all this on August 4th?  I tried to put a spin on it... "There must be a rainbow somewhere" I heard myself say... there was sun all around, it was just pouring on me....  "I just can't see it" I continued softly.... and that was it - I started to cry.  And I couldn't stop. "Ironically" on this video, all you can hear is the first part.... there must be a rainbow somewhere....

I got a call from Matt saying I shouldn't wait for him, to go home because he had to have an x-ray and see the hand surgeon because they thought he hit his tendon.  I cried harder.

I cried for the longest I have cried since I first lost Rachel.  I could not stop.  It was hours - six of them to be exact.  And if I really put a reason to why I was crying?  Well, it was because all of my plans were falling apart in front of my eyes and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.  The same feeling I had 3 years before on this date.

I remembered the song from earlier....I knew once the tears started, they'd be hard to stop....the rest of the lyrics ran thru my mind...

So stand in the rain
Stand your ground
Stand up when it's all crashing down
You stand through the pain
You won't drown
And one day, what's lost can be found
You stand in the rain
I feel like I've been standing in the rain for 3 years.  I've put so much effort into dancing in it... making it lighter... more carefree...more beautiful. But this day, all I could do was stand.  Survive it.  Believe that the storm would pass.  But I just couldn't dance in it.

I pulled myself together long enough to get her grave looking as pretty as I could without Matt's help.  The sun came back out and I was able to get a photo of Ezra's first time at his sister's spot.  And maybe this is all part of my 'dance'....  maybe dancing in it is less about knowing the steps and making them look easy and more about following His lead....even if I jumble it up at times.

I left 3 daisies for her - one for each year since I began this journey with her.  Unfortunately, I noticed that we also have some blood stains on our stone now (right by "girl") where Matt's cut apparently sprayed.  I'm hoping I will be able to get it off the next time I go since this photo was taken after the rain storm and it was still there.... 

So, Matt returned home after his ER visit with news that he might not be able to use his hand for up to 3 months.  Neither of us saw anything like this coming.  And honestly, it took a couple of days to come to terms with what that would mean for us.  And since we still have no way of knowing exactly how long he can't use his hand, we still don't know what this means for us. 
What I know is that I kept questioning.... "Why August 4th?"  As if it wasn't bad enough that I had to get the news that our daughter was going to die 3 years ago... or as if calling off her race this year wasn't heart breaking enough.... or as if I could really handle all of this on top of having a new baby and the financial stress we already had with our van repairs we need, along with all the medical complications I had been having....  I mean, how much did He think I could take?
And then I realized "Why August 4th"....  because August 4th might hold the reminder of the worst words I have ever heard in my entire life.... but it also holds the beginning of an unbelievable journey where God proved Himself faithful over and over and over again and provided in ways I never imagined possible and loved me in ways I never knew existed and surely didn't deserve. 
When I think of August 4th, I think how hard and heartbreaking it was - I know the endless road of pain ahead of me - and then I think about how on that day I had no clue at all how anything good could come of it - but He did it.  He made something good out of it.  He turned in ashes for beauty and gave me eyes to see it.  And when I think of that and how far worse losing Rachel has been than anything like what we're up against now, I know that He used this all happening on August 4th to remind me that He is in the details and He will meet us in this.  I have no doubt in my mind that He will.
I might still be a human being with real fears and feelings - and heck, I'm not even afraid to admit it - but believe me when I say that if there is one thing I have learned through the death of my sweet little girl, it's that God never fails me.  No matter how hard the road.  I've also learned the hard lesson that just because I have faith in Him does not mean that I will get what I want or that He will make everything in my life just go smoothly and without pain.  But somehow He grants me peace even so... and somehow it is all still well with my soul.
So, I continue to stand - with arms high, heart abandoned, and soul surrendered - as I walk through each day of a plan unlike my own.  Knowing that everything He chooses for me is for my good and His glory....I stand firm in His promise that this is all temporary, that heaven is my real home - and secure in the knowledge that even if I am crying like a baby when it's pouring, He loves me and understands.  I'm so thankful to serve a God Who is aware of our suffering and has grieved and cried real tears too.
I heard there was a double rainbow that day....Although I looked for it, I couldn't see it from under the dark cloud that hovered over me, but I know that many people who did were thinking of me and my girl and God's faithfulness to us through our trial.  Rachel isn't forgotten - and I'm okay with standing in rain to make sure that she isn't.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Between Sunsets

I have had a horrible day - I just started writing about it and realized if I don't go to bed while Ezra is sleeping, I'm going to set myself up for another hard(er) day tomorrow and so I'm just going to share one quick thing and then share about today, tomorrow......

I have a baby loss friend I met through my blog who has a daughter named Rachel.  Her Rachel was born on August 4th.  The other day she sent me a photo she has from her Rachel's 11th birthday at Canobie Lake Park.  With it she wrote:

"This was taken on August 4th 2010 at Canobie Lake at sunset. The sun rose on one way of life for you and set on a completely new way of living. This sunset is for Rachel Alice."
Her words, so true.
Last night when Matt came to get me from Maine Med, I had parked (I drove myself and he got a ride to pick me up later) right by where we were when I had to leave there without Rachel - at the top of the parking garage.  We had just walked down "the hallway" and we came out to find the most perfect weather and the sun setting.  I remembered Monique's words and thought about how clueless I was on August 3, 2010 that the next day would change my life forever....

I remember that night like it was yesterday - and how afraid I was of the sun setting and having to try to sleep with this new horrible reality I was living.  I wanted it all to be a bad dream.  And when I woke up on August 5th, that was the first thing I thought.... please tell me it was just a nightmare.... but as I looked around the room, I realized it was real.... and that I had to live it.
And so I have for the last 3 years.  Today proved to be harder than I was even expecting and I just can't help but wish I could rewind time to that last sunset.  The one before I knew she wouldn't stay.  The one before I knew the pain I know now.  I wish I could sit under the sunset of August 3, 2010 again with the perspective I have now....along with the innocence I had then....and daydream about my life with my new little girl.  But with that sunset, went all of those hopes, dreams, and simplicity of life.
The sunset at the top of Maine Medical, the only place where Rachel lived outside of my womb, reminded me to soak up those days... those moments.... because just like in 2010, I don't know what the next day holds - or what will change between this sunset and the next - and the colors only last so long before they fade into the night.

And so when the sun set, I looked at my new little blessing that I was driving home with and thanked God for another sunset with him.....knowing it's the only one I'm guaranteed...  while I deeply grieved what the next day meant for me - and the fact that I couldn't escape it then and I can't now - no matter how beautiful the sky was the night before. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Can You Help?

I got a call yesterday from a young man wondering if Rachel's Race was still on this year.  I hated hearing the word "no" come from my mouth.

He then asked if there was a way he could donate because Rachel's Legacy is something he would like to support.  I stumbled over my words and didn't have a solid answer as to how he could do that.  Um, that's the wrong answer!  Of course you can! is what I should have said.

But anyway, I've been working on a raffle fundraiser that I wanted to use the proceeds to help out another mom in purchasing her daughter's headstone.  Unfortunately, it's been slow going because you need a permit to do a raffle and there is a time requirement for the non profit to be incorporated before you can get one.... and Baby Rachel's Legacy is still short of it.

I've also been trying to figure out what I should do and how I should spend August 4th.  In a little while I am on my way back to the hospital in Maine to be monitored for my high blood pressure and bad headache... and am hoping that I won't still be there tomorrow....but I don't know for sure yet.  If I am home, I wanted to do something with Des and then go get Rachel's grave cleaned up since it's been weeks since I've been able to get there.

But as usual, any time my heart is heavy for Rachel, I get the unquenchable desire to do something for someone else.  And so I have a request to ask of you all in helping me to honor Rachel in the best way I can figure out from where I am at right now....

Each August for the last 2 years, we have had over 200 people come to her race.  We have donated over $9,000 each time.  And I will not be able to do anything like that without a big event - However, I feel that God has something more intimate and just as "big" for a special young lady this August.

Through my blog, I have been given many friends.... one of them is Hannah Rose Allen.  She is a young woman with an amazing story of how God used her first baby, Luke, and her devastating choice to not keep him to help her choose life for her second baby, Lily, who unexpectedly died at birth after a normal pregnancy.  She now uses her time and talent to write and speak to groups about the truth of abortion and the blessing of choosing life - even when you don't get to keep the life you were lent.  She shares how God used both of her babies in heaven to bring her back to a relationship with Him and it's a beautiful story.... that I can so relate to.  You can read about her (and should!) HERE

Hannah's daughter Lily died in March 2010 and she still does not have a headstone for her.  On top of that, she is buried in a different state than Hannah currently lives and so she is not able to care for her spot.  Both of these things break my heart.  She has a friend who does bring decorations there for her and sends her photos, but it's not the same as being able to care for it yourself as a mother. 

Our headstone on Rachel's spot cost $2900.00.  Of that, Matt and I only spent $125 of our own money.  A few different friends of ours at Grace donated the rest.  We have been so blessed to have that beautiful stone there. 

Hannah is currently still working on paying off Lily's stone.  She still owes around half of the $2400 the stone costs.  One of the things I had planned on doing this year with Rachel's non profit was to have a scholarship fund for people who needed help with headstones.  That fell by the wayside with the race back in March... but it's on my heart very heavy for this little girl.

I currently have 286 followers on this blog.  If half of you (143!) donated between $5-10, it would cover the rest of Lily's stone.  But I truly believe that any amount at all would be such a comfort to this young childless mother's soul. 

So, today being the 3rd.... and tomorrow being August 4th.... and with a heart to give to someone in my pain, I ask you to consider joining me in donating to Lily's stone.  Here is what she picked... It's really perfect and so beautiful.

Hannah had set up a donation site, but today realized they take 8%!  So, to make a contribution towards Lily's stone, you can use the Paypal Donate button on the right side of my blog or send me a check.  You can do that by making it out to "Baby Rachel's Legacy", writing "Lily's stone" in the memo and sending it to:

Baby Rachel's Legacy
PO Box 454
Rochester, NH 03866-0454

(any donation can be sent there)

If you choose to do it through check, please leave a comment here or email me with the amount you plan to send so I can add it all up for an August 4th donation in Rachel's honor.  My email is 

UPDATE: I have decided to leave this open for the week so that people have a chance to see it if they haven't checked my blog.... We have had 9 people so far! Thank you!!

Thank you for always supporting me in the things God puts on my heart.  On my own, I could never have done any of the things I have done in her memory - and it's those very things that make the pain easier to bear.  Believe it or not, there is something about blessing others that lightens my load.  As much as I love knowing I will see Rachel again someday, it is not those thoughts that help me get through this life without her.  It's knowing that she didn't die in vain... that God is using her and my love for her to change the world... and I could not do it without you.  I couldn't do it without you reading along with my journey, praying for me, loving and supporting me when I am unlovable... I couldn't do it without you remembering her with me, sending me encouragement and always rising to the occasion when  I have a date to mourn or celebrate... or both. 

And so on August 4th, as I mourn the way that day 3 years ago broke my heart, I also praise God for all He has done.... through my pain and in the deepest, darkest of valleys.... that I could have never seen coming back then and am so grateful for today.  Her life - and death - changed the world. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Day 6

I've always been a dates person... anniversaries (both in my life and others lives) stay in my mind without much effort and I remember them.

Until 2010, August 4th was the day I remembered as when I got my first driver's license in 1995. Seems silly, but I remembered that every year when it rolled around.

Obviously that anniversary ranks low in importance these days since I got Rachel's diagnosis.

I can tell you that August 4th 1995 was a Friday.  And August 4th 2010 was a Wednesday.  Why?  It's just how my mind works.  I'm a details person.

Yesterday I was looking at the infant photos I have of Asa - He was 5 days old on that Sunday.  Ezra was 5 days old yesterday.  They look so  much alike.  Time seems to be flying by and before I know what happened, he won't look like a newborn anymore.  This time is so sacred.

I was sitting on the couch with him last night and staring at his perfect little head and face.  I started thinking about Rachel and began picturing where her face ended as I stared through his... her long curl of hair on her small it made her appear to be missing such a prominent part of a baby's body.... and how much they actually look alike, from the eyebrows down. 

And no matter how many times I tried to stop myself, I just couldn't.... my mind went there....  the inside.  Her brain stem.  How I hate that I know what one looks like.  Wondering what the part she was missing looks like inside of Ez's head.  Hating anencephaly. How hard this has all been. And I just cried.  Hard. 

When Matt came down from putting the kids to bed, he asked what was wrong and all I could say through my sobs was "I was looking at his head......" and he responded "It's pretty cute, huh?"  and I could find no other words except "I can't believe she didn't have her head."

And I can't.  I can't believe it. 

I went to bed with huge puffy eyes and covered with Rachel's blanket, prepared for a night of nursing and changing diapers.  I woke up this morning feeling tired and the first thought on my mind was that Ezra is 6 days old today.... and it hit me....

She would have been 6 days old on a Thursday too.  And on that Thursday... December 9, 2010... 6 days after she was born, I buried her.

I didn't sleep that Wednesday night in December either.  I was up all night working on a slide show and a letter I wrote her to read at her funeral.  I finally went to sleep that morning, her scent still fresh on her blanket as I clenched it tight to my heart, around 3am.  I woke up puffy faced and tired.  No baby to nurse.  No baby to change.  No baby to love on.

I left the house that morning and stood between a beautiful tiny casket that held a piece of my heart and a room full of people and I did everything I could to share who she was to us, how much we loved her, and how good God is.....  And then I had to leave her in the ground.  That afternoon, I returned home knowing I'd never see her again this side of heaven and while the rest of the world felt like the hard part was now over and I should start getting better, I knew the hard part had just begun. 

Something changed that day.  I changed.  My heart changed.  My life changed.  The people around me changed.  Well, I guess everything changed that day. 

Today, 6 days after Ezra's birth, we went to the park and the library.  I wish I could say that those things were simple, but they aren't.  Because in my heart, I cannot avoid the truth - and the truth is that she is still gone and that is always on my mind.  While I do all my 'normal' life stuff, there isn't much more than a few minutes at a time that will go by without her entering my mind.  Just like all my other kids.  She is one of them, no matter where she is. 

No matter how much time passes - and I cannot believe that it has really been 3 years.... or how many other children I have - and I cannot believe that I've really had 2 more babies since her... August 4th will always hurt.  It will forever remain the day that I heard the worst news I have had to hear in my life - and the day that began the hardest journey I would ever have to face.  And this year I have no race to distract me from the reality that there was nothing I could do to change it.   

All I could do was walk it, clinging onto God and letting Him work through me because I couldn't allow the pain to get in the way of His eternal purposes for my little girl's life.  I couldn't let her just die and be gone.  I couldn't let it all just be sad.  But I'd be lying if I said that I didn't have to dig down deeper than I even knew I could go in order to keep going.... or that some days I still do. 

I could use extra prayer if you think of me this weekend.  My heart is heavy as Sunday approaches.