Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Goodbye Card

It's been a year since my Grandpa died.

The last time I saw him sitting up, before the cancer completely took over his brain, I had told him I was expecting again and he said to me "Good luck with your baby, I hope you have a big fat girl."

I did.  And I think he knows it.  Ironically, she was born on Christmas Eve, which all my life growing up was one day of the year we always went to Grandpa's house.

Tonight I have done a lot of reminiscing.  The awesome man he was and the horrible way he died.  I've thought a lot about how hard it is to wait for someone you love to die... and I feel like my family has had to do it way too much in the last 5 years.  First Uncle Dale in 2010, just a couple of weeks after we got Rachel's diagnosis... then we waited for her to die for four long months... then my Papa in the fall of 2014 and Grandpa just 6 months later, with their cancer diagnoses overlapping.  It's been overload watching so many people we love have their bodies shut down a little at a time, with so much physical pain.

My Grandpa was given much longer than he actually made it... which with how bad he suffered, I wouldn't have wished another day on him.  For us though, that day was dreaded and is still so, so sad to think about.  I had bought him a card, but seriously struggled with knowing which kind of card to buy - a 'get well' when he was just told he won't?  A 'sympathy' when he wasn't dead yet?  I was so overwhelmed, I was in tears in Hannaford trying to pick it.  It sat on my counter for weeks and weeks because I knew I wanted to write in it, but couldn't get myself to do it... I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

Then the call came.  My mom telling me I needed to come and see him and say goodbye.  I sat down to write, unsure if it was too late to share my heart with him.  I went over and sat next to the hospital bed in his living room... positioned in the same place Uncle Dale's hospital bed was when he died a few years earlier in that same room.  He welcomed me with "Hi Beautiful" my entire life, but this day, he looked at me when I walked in and said "Goodbye Baby."

I am so glad I got to tell him that I love him and was going to miss him because he never got to read my card.  I didn't say all the things I had written, but I cried with him and for him and held his hand and kissed his face and told him I would miss him so much.  He was so ready for the pain to stop... but had cancer not invaded his body, he would have stayed forever happily on this earth because he loved life.

So anyway, things got very difficult with family in the days following his death and I ended up taking the card home with me the next day after he was gone.  He was never going to see it and I didn't want it to be thrown away.  It's sat in my bill drawer since where I see it every time I open the desk.  I wanted to share it, realizing that only family will know what some of this stuff means, but just to explain a couple of things - my Grandpa dressed as Santa every year at the Elk's club for their Christmas party where they gave kids presents.  We knew he was Santa but my mom swore she'd kill us if we told the other kids.  He LOVED kids and kids LOVED him.  Every one of them.  And chocolate... he had a big stash of chocolate in his house and although he loved it for himself, he would let us take the last piece if we wanted it.  He said his Dr told him it was good for him to eat dark chocolate and then we'd joke about how they didn't mean quite so much.  He made sure my kids got real sugared up before returning home.  He also delivered pizza for years and when we were kids we would call up and order pizza and say "Can my Grandpa deliver it?"  And they'd say "Who is that, Frankie?"  Yep - the oldest pizza guy and he still drove the fastest....  And the last line, he often called me "kid"....

So, Grandpa... this card is for you...

I bought this card weeks ago, months ago maybe.  And it's sat here waiting for me to find words to write to somehow express what my heart wants to say to you.  And I can't find the words.  There aren't any adequate.  And I don't even know if you will be able to read this anyhow.  All I know is that you have been more to me than a "Thank you" would cover.  But, thank you for your songs, your laughter, your jokes, your chocolate.  Thank you for always being happy for me when I'm having another baby.  Thank you for being at birthdays and stopping in to say hi to me on random days when I needed a smile more than you knew.  Thank you for calling me beautiful and for giving me your gift of writing.  Thank you for your service to our country and for sharing some of your experiences with me.  Thank you for yummy meatballs and pizza deliveries.  Thank you for dressing up in a red suit to make kids smile.  If there ever was an old guy that kids love - it's you... and this Kid is going to miss you like crazy.
I love you,

I wish I would have gotten it there sooner - that maybe he could have read it or had it read to him.  But I think he knew all of these things... I hope.  I wish I could see him hold Eden.  I just know he would have been thrilled that I had that 'big fat girl' after all.  He was so sad for me losing Rachel and after he lost Dale to cancer, it was like we shared a new bond.  He was so supportive and never afraid to talk about her with me.

A couple of weeks ago, walking into church, Sam took my hand and asked if I remembered Bumpy's funeral. (that's what the kids call him)  It was rainy and I think it reminded him of that day.  I said yes and Sam responded "But now there are more baby funerals than there are adult funerals."  He had me in tears as I walked through the doors that morning.  My kids know more reality than I ever wanted to know myself.  Babies die.  A lot.  

The day of Grandpa's funeral, after we got home, there were the most beautiful rainbows EVERYWHERE.  And I mean everywhere.  They were posted all over my Facebook page.

There is hope.  Jesus conquered the grave.  And all those who call on His name shall be saved....

I believe Grandpa is with Rachel right now.  And I will not be surprised at all if God reminds us of that hope tomorrow (today!) with a rainbow.  It's a sad day down here, but I bet there is a lot of dancing going on up there. ♥

Friday, June 3, 2016

Unto the Great I AM

It's been 5 1/2 years since Rachel was born.

A long 5 1/2 years to go without holding her.

Lately I've been missing her a lot.  I have been in a pretty good place though... I feel like Eden is so much part of my journey with Rachel, it's hard to describe it.  I often want to blog about what I mean by that, but words escape me.  It's just so intense and personal - not that everything else on this blog isn't - but in a way that it's hard to properly describe.  All I can say is that God knew the exact time that my heart would be ready for and blessed by another little girl.  This is it and it's amazing.

Today I went to the gym.  I haven't been able to do much because of my blood pressure.  It goes crazy on me when I exercise.  But I have found something simple that is a great workout but a short one that keeps my teeth from buzzing and me from getting a horrible migraine (I know that sounds strange, but that's what has been happening every time I work out.) and also doesn't hurt my joints - or mess with my diastasis recti (that's a technical term for the disaster we call my stomach muscles thanks to multiple babies close together)

I hadn't yet realized it was the 3rd, but I did know I was more sad than usual.  It's funny how grief knows what day it is before I do.  June 3rd has been a hard day for me every year since she left.  I planted a bleeding heart on June 3, 2011 because that anniversary was extremely hard and my heart felt like it was truly bleeding.  Today, I found myself constantly thinking about her.  I usually listen to Jamie Grace when I work out, but today I decided to listen to Chris Tomlin. I got done exercising and as I walked down to get the kids, a song that I had picked for special music at Rachel's funeral came on and I started to cry right there in the gym.

In my mind, I was right back in my kitchen the day I picked that song for her funeral.  I was very pregnant with her and it came on and I fell apart in a sweetly painful time of worship all by myself...  Just me and Rachel...  I thought back to that day and was once again in awe of how beautifully God carried me though those hard days.  Waiting for my baby to be born and die, I was more in love with the Lord than ever before - because I needed Him more than ever before.  It hurt SO much.  Constantly.  And He loved me so well through all of that longggg and horrible 4 months and somehow made beauty out of it.  He used it.  He used me for His glory.

I asked Erik to sing that song at Rachel's service and he learned it just for her... and it was perfect...  I wanted every believer that came that day to be encouraged and every unbeliever to know why we were still standing...  I wanted people to understand why I chose to carry her to God's determined timing of the end of her life on earth.  Some didn't understand why I would put myself through that - when I was given a "way out".  And some thought I did it because I'm a Christian and had some rule that said I had to.  I believe in the sanctity of life.  I believe that every child is made by God.  I believe it's not right to take a baby's life.  But that's not why I carried her to term.  I carried her to term because she was a gift given to ME and *I* was... AM... her mother.  It is my job as a mom to care for and protect my children... at any cost to me.  And so I did.  And I would again.  And I would praise God just the same though it all.  For a God who loved me enough to pursue me in the depths of my sin and shame and bring me to Himself and welcome me into His family and give me a way to spend eternity with Him - and Rachel.... I am honored to have a chance to glorify Him through my pain.  I only wish I did it more perfectly.

I feel like the last 5 1/2 years, I have been in a grief fog that is finally lifting... and I woke up from it with 3 more kids and all sorts of health issues.... and she is still gone.  It's unbelievable how much has happened in these short - yet very long - years, including both my grandfathers dying last year.  I do feel like I'm finally getting my feet back under me, but I'm also seeing the reality of all that has happened to my family outside of my "survival mode" eyes and it's a different type of pain.  Some times when I read old blog posts, I cry for me - for the girl I used to be.  I feel sad for that girl as if it wasn't me... because I am so changed.  I am not the same person I was then.  That's a good thing.  And I know it probably sounds odd to say I feel sad for that girl, but even with it being me, I still can't fully understand how much I was hurting then because I think if it was me carrying all that pain, I would have died from a broken heart.  I don't think I could have continued to walk.  But it wasn't just me... and that's why when I read my own words, it doesn't feel like it was - because God Himself was using me... my pain... my little girl... and our journey of joy and sorrow together to show the world what He and His church can do with imperfect people.  He even showed me.  And for that, I'm thankful.

I'd give anything to go back to August 4, 2010 and hear "It's a girl!" and not have that followed up with bad news.  I'd give anything to go back to December 3, 2010 and give birth to my baby and not watch her die in my arms... to December 4, 2010 and not have to let a funeral home take her from me in the hospital.  I'd give anything to go back to the anniversaries that followed and celebrate her birthdays and half birthdays and milestones and the millions of little things in between.  I'd love to not have a blog named after her... or a non profit that pays for headstones and baby caskets and urns.

But then I wouldn't be who I am today... and although I'm still far from perfect, I can see how God used all of this, even the pain and my failures, to make me more like Jesus.  The Uncreated One... the perfect, sinless Lord who laid aside His royalty to wear a crown of thorns.  He is worthy.  He is good.  And He has victory over the grave that separates me and my baby girl for now.  Until we meet again... where will will bow together with grateful hearts unto the Great I AM.

                                                          "Uncreated One"

Holy Uncreated One
Your beauty fills the skies
But the glory of Your majesty
Is the mercy in Your eyes

Worthy Uncreated One
From heaven to earth come down
You laid aside Your royalty
To wear the sinner's crown

O Great God, be glorified
Our lives laid down
Yours magnified
O Great God, be lifted high
There is none like You

Jesus, Savior, God's own son
Risen, reigning Lord
Sustainer of the Universe
By the power of Your word

And when we see Your matchless face
In speechless awe we'll stand
And there we'll bow with grateful hearts
Unto the Great I am