Living Out Loud

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June 2011, photo courtesy of Shelley Paulson

Right before Mattie was born, I had a stirring in my spirit to start speaking publicly. I had even started looking into some possible opportunities and had started writing in preparation.

Even after we were matched and expecting Mattie, I had pictures in my mind of John sitting with a beautiful little boy on his lap in the front row while I spoke.  I literally would visualize this and it made me smile.

Then our boy came.

He was everything we had ever dreamed.  We fell in love. Hard and fast.

But he needed us more than we could have ever dreamed.

And we needed him more than we could have ever dreamed.

And at that moment, whether conscious or not, I made the decision to live our lives out loud.

I had always been very real about our lives on this blog and on social media. I shared it all. The joys. The crazy insanity. The painfully hard.

But with Mattie, it felt sacred. Like a platform was being rolled out before me.

I chose to step out onto it.

Little did I know that in choosing to live this journey out loud with a little boy know as “Mattie Sam”, that the world would be changed.

Little did I know the story that I was sharing with you day to day would be much shorter than the dream my mind had woven about what this boy’s life would be.

How did he change me?

How did he change you?

It’s my turn first…..

Mattie changed the way I look at the world. He redefined my values. I have never know a single soul who enjoyed loving the way that Mattie did.

He thrived in a place of love.

He didn’t really know how to do much more than love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…..And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Cor 13:4-8, 13

“But the greatest of these is LOVE.”

Why did nurses who weren’t in charge of his care stop by his room just to spend time with him?

Why was “I just need some time with Mattie” a common phrase around our house?

Why did those of you who only knew him “virtually” say that just seeing his face on Facebook made your day brighter.

Is it possible that when a life is not cluttered by “things of this world” that Love beats more loudly?

Is it possible that a child who has suffered pain and struggled to live and breathe might have the capacity to revel in the beauty of every moment, somehow knowing that those moments are precious?

Mattie taught me to love. He taught me to slow down. He taught me to truly appreciate the little miracles of life.

He reflected God’s love to me. He was capable of touching my face and changing my heart beat.

He taught me that we are all created to love and be loved, and that our capacity for that love is only hindered by the weight of the world that we allow to settle in our spirits.

He taught me to let go of so much, so that I could contain more of that love.

He never took much notice of the tubes and wires and machines, things that could have been a focal point, a distraction.

He just lived a life of LOVE.

And so now it’s time for me to once again allow my son to be my teacher.

Grief is a strange beast. It’s unpredictable and terrifying. It’s consuming and as heavy as a blanket of lead across my shoulders.

I have to walk through it. I have to feel it.

I don’t know how it will look tomorrow. Or next week. Or in 2 months. Or in 12 years.

What I do know is that as I grieve, I want the lesson of love to be in the forefront of my mind, leading the way.

This valley of the shadow of death is a place where I have to close my eyes to see beyond the pain. I have to close my eyes and literally breathe in the Love of the Comforter.

So if you wonder why I’m grieving out loud. Just know that I’m just trying to breathe. And for me words come as I breathe in Love.

So just as I lived my journey with my son out loud,  I’m going to live my journey learning to be without him out loud too.

Now it’s your turn…..

Breath of Love

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I breathed breath into your lungs, watching your chest slowly rise and fall.

I had breathed for you so many time before. Watched your lungs fill with air, because my hands gave them breathe.

But your heart. Your heart was your own. Always yours.

You gave it freely. You poured out love from deep within. Never holding back.

Your love was fierce.

You never needed me to remind you to love.

You just loved. Every minute of every day. With every beat of your heart.

LOVE.

I remember it.

So clearly.

I looked into your eyes. I kissed your face.

I told you were brave and strong and kind and good.

I told you that I loved you.

I squeezed breath into your lungs until your heart stopped.

And then they tried.

But your heart had slipped into a place that was so full of love that you became love.

You abide in Love. You linger in the breathe of Love.

So now, I breathe even more deeply than before.

Love.

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Photo Courtesy of Aaron James  2012

Corners

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In every corner of my house there are reminders of you.

Your bath toys.
Oxygen tanks.
Your walker.
Your highchair.
Your books and toys.
Baby food in the refrigerator.
Shoes on the floor.
Your clothes in the hamper.
Your wheelchair in the van.

In every corner of my mind there are pictures of you.

The way you crawled across the floor.
The way you peeked around the corner.
The way you reached up for me to hold you.
The way you laughed so hard you couldn’t hold your head.
The way you turned the pages of our stories.

I inhale and I breathe in scents that were uniquely you.

I close my eyes and I feel the way you touched my face. Your hair brushing across my cheek.  Your head resting on my chest.

In every corner. In every moment.
I still feel you.

Grace and Grief

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There is nothing shallow about the human emotion called grief. It is deep, so very deep and raw at the core.

It is almost impossible to bear, but necessary to bear all the same time; because at the same depth where grief resides, love also resides, as equal and as fierce.

My grief is so intense, because my love was so fierce.

Sometimes it lays across my shoulders like a light blanket, gently there yet ever present.

Sometimes it crashes in and consumes me, like a tidal wave, where it takes my breath and crushes my body under its weight.

And then grace comes in, just a freely as the grief.

It carries me. Comforts me.

Allows me to smile for a moment.

Grace allows me to remember my son without the pain consuming my heart.

Grace allows me to embrace my seven other children in their pain, to wrap my arms around my sobbing husband.

Grace allows me to wake up and make my bed. To put food in my mouth.

Grace allows me to turn my face to the One who knows me and shelters me under the shadow of His wing.

 

Breaking The Chains of Fear – Celebrating Life With NO Fear of Death.

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A note from Dorean Beattie: I am babysitting Tracie’s blog while she takes time away to be with her family in this time of grief. Today’s guest blog is by one of Tracie’s friends, Shaleen Kendrick. While I know Tracie would feel awkward about what is said about her in this post, I also know she would want how Mattie’s story has impacted another mother to be told.

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Lord,  where do I start thinking about this week. Through all the pain and hardship we have ensued over the past 5 years I knew it could always be worse…one of my children could die. Fear. My greatest fear.  The Lord used the past five years of my life to break the chains of fearing pain. But the last chain held fast – fear of death. One of the many blessings the Loux family bestowed upon me this week was to break this chain of fear.

What a f*~+ed up week.  The only way to accurately describe this is the juxtaposition of HORRIFIC and HOLY.

I’m so impressed with my beloved friends Tracie, John and their children. I am not proud of how they walked out this week, because proud has a way of giving credibility to oneself, and I have nothing to credit myself for here. I am impressed, because impressed means:

1. to affect deeply or strongly in mind or feelings; influence in opinion

2. to fix deeply or firmly on the mind or memory

Tracie, John and their children have affected me deeply with how they chose to lived out of WHO God made them to be…through the most horrific event a mother, father and family could imagine.  And it was Holy to witness.  They have had a profound and life changing influence on my opinions regarding who My Savior is in death. They have fixed deeply and firmly in my mind what it means to walk through death with grace, hope, faith and an unquenchable love for our Father and for others.  As memory fades the four images I will always carry with me are:

A Deep Understanding Of Who God Is:  As Mattie’s celebration of life began Tracie’s older children took the stage with a quiet and humble confidence in who they are and who their Savior is. They joined the worship band and began to play.  Mattie’s adoring sister Amy belted out the most memorable and haunting rendition of “Oceans” I have ever witnessed.  As I stood at Tracie’s back while she sat in the row ahead of me her head down and holding on, The Lord “spoke” to me “lay My hand on her”.  I stepped forward and grasped her right shoulder, Carolyn stepped forward grasping her left shoulder.  As we sang about our faith having no boarders, walking on water, going where we willingly would not have gone, and calling on the Name of The Lord … Tracie’s hands flew up. Reaching to the heavens. I watched a mother worship her Lord, with every fiber of her being, as her son’s beautiful body lay without breathing the air of this world a few feet from her.  I watched a husband grasping his beloved’s hand while he too laid it all on the line for his Savior. I watched sisters and brothers worship with courage and abandonment while suffering. They were the same behind the scenes. As we sat in their living room for hours on end they wept, they worshiped, they questioned, prayed, clung to one another, and loved.  Their deep understanding of who God is lead them through the mystery and pain of death.

A Commitment To True Love:  I stood transfixed as John took Tracie’s hand in his and began to articulate true love for his wife and his children. They stood on the stage above their son clinging to one another.  He honored his wife’s courage, tenacity and nurturing spirt and spoke along the lines, “we have seen hard you and I. This is by far the hardest. The statistics are against us in something like this, the statistics have always been against us. Tracie I love you. I choose you today, and I will choose you everyday after today. You are my love.”  Then he turned to his children and spoke directly to them. He called out who God had created his children to be. He knew their inner being. He knew their inner fears and he spoke to each one of them “your father is with you, your father will wrestle with you, your father knows you”. It was one of the most accurate and powerful reflections of the HEART OF GOD i have ever see .  GOD OUR BELOVED AND GOD OUR FATHER.  They know what TRUE LOVE is. True love for God and true love for one another. They are committed to it, even in death.

A Passion For Life:  By the world’s standards Mattie had nothing to contribute.  I was once privy to a conversation where a mother said her greatest aspirations for her child were that he would be “a contributing member of society”.  Oh how broken and blind our world is.

Mattie’s sisters stood before the world and declared the truth about who God created Mattie to be.

“Mattie was created to love and to be loved” declared his sister.  Every life is valuable and worth fighting for.

Mattie’s life was valuable and worth fighting for, and the Loux family knew it. This boy, who’s body was broken from the moment he took his first breath, left behind a legacy of passion and love I aspire to. And he did it in less than 4 years.  Can we say the same?  My grandfather lived over 70 years and I’m 99% positive he did not impacted one person with love.  He left behind a legacy of destruction and pain. I never shed and tear for him.  I wept for Mattie.  A boy I never met in person, but who I knew.  A boy who never spoke a word, but loved with every beat of his heart.  A boy who struggled with each breath, and never had a voice.  His family was his voice, proclaiming to the world his original design, and the world was changed.  Mattie a 3 1/2 year old boy with special needs: changed the world.  Mattie’s legacy of love is left behind. His life was valuable and worth every moment.  Isabelle, his loving sister, boldly proclaimed, “It was all worth it. His life was worth fighting it.”  This proclamation from an courageous, captivating, memorizing adolescent woman who in the midst (not absence) of suffering, deep pain, and questions for her Creator.  What will my legacy be?  What will your legacy be?

Inviting Others In:  Finally, I walk away knowing the value of inviting others into your pain.  Tracie invited me into her life years ago. And she kept inviting me in ever since. When she texted me about Mattie being called Home, I didn’t hesitate booking my flight out. I wasn’t sure how she would want to grieve and wanting to be sensitive I continually asked questions, giving her freedom. She consistently invited me into her pain.  Through her invite God transformed my heart. Through her invite to guard her back against the Enemy in prayer, to sit in her living room while they wept and shared, to stand at the grave site, to worship The Lord along side of them:  the chain of fear was broken. 

Fear of death has no hold on me today.

As I fly home I hold Layla in my arms. I was marked by Gratitude through her. I learned to place my Hope in The Lord through my other daughter and after all this my faith truly knows no bounds.

I do not wish for death, but when it claims me, and my husband, and my children…I will throw my arms up to the heavens. I will follow Tracie, John and their children in abandonment, worship, faith and trust in Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. Amen

written by Shaleen Kendrick

You’ve Always Been My Boy and I’ll Always Be Your Papa

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Here are John’s remarks from Mattie’s Celebration Service. Well, at least most of them…. some of his spontaneity may be missing!

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I want to share with you some memories I have of Mattie, first from the hospital and then from our home.

Memories from the Hospital:

The boy could sure hold his liqueur! (Many times in the hospital Mattie had to be sedated in order to keep him from pulling out the many tubes and lines that were in him when he was critically ill. ) Just when we thought we had given him enough to keep him still for days it was as if he would look up at us and say “ That was nothin! What else you got?”

Mattie stopped traffic in the hallways at the hospital. When he was feeling well he would play on a mat on the floor with his toys and flirt with people (mostly pretty nurses) as they went by. He got more drive by love then any kid I know.

I’ll always remember the many doctors rounds when everyone was trying to figure out what his deal was on many occasions we would all look at each other, shrug our shoulders and just say “Hey, it’s Mystery Mattie”.

Memories from Home:

These are some things I will miss about you son.

I will miss your amazing smile that brought healing, hope and peace to all of us in this room and so many more that could not be here.

I will miss the 1000 silly faces you could make in just a few seconds.

I will miss your stinky trach neck in the morning.

I will miss chewing on your neck and making you laugh so hard.

I will miss having you grab both my hands, putting them together & wanting me to make them clap really fast and loud until you were literally cross-eyed.

I will miss the way you laughed at loud noises. Like laundry being snapped while being folded , plastic bags ruffling, doors slamming. Your brother and sisters running wildly through the living room.

I will miss all your little squeaks and noises you would make and the way you would smile when I made them back to you.

I will miss the way you would look one direction and then reach up quickly with one hand and pull the skin under my chin.

I miss the way you would attack my face when I would lay my head on your lap.

I will miss your handsome singing voice, and OH how beautiful it was.

I will miss the way you would uncontrollably laugh for no apparent reason. You would see something and it would just crack you right up. I’m convinced you saw angels (maybe your Uncle Derek) as you were close to that realm so many times in your life.

I will miss seeing you non-nonchalantly sitting with your chin bouncing on your crib rail and your legs hanging through the side rails.

I will miss flicking your lips, and you looking up at me when I stop flicking your lips as if to say “ Dude, you got one job here, let’s focus.”

I will even miss the way you hated to poop – We were working on that, I had lots of talks with you and tried to convince you that someday you might even like it as it might be the only time you can lock yourself in a room to get peace from this crazy bunch of people. It was just downright sneaky how you got out of that my son.

I will miss you crawling out the bedroom door to the top of the stairs to see what excitement was going on downstairs.

And Oh how I will miss hearing multiple times a day someone yelling from your room “ Oh my God, you are soooo cute”!

Family:

Tracie : I SO want to honor you today . Matties story was heard around the world because of you. No one fought as hard for Mattie as you did. I’m SO proud of you, you’re my hero. You dove head first into learning everything you could learn about Matties medical condition. If a trach change was an Olympic event, I would put you up against the top PICU nurses in the country.

The statistics may be against us right now, they have been against us quite a few times in the past as well. We have been through some REALY hard stuff in our marriage, this definitively being the hardest. In the past, we decided to keep choosing each other and today I choose you again. I love you so much.

Nick: My deep thinker. I loved the way you & Mattie would play and tease one another. I loved hearing him make you laugh. I saw you morph between big brother and a father figure. Your gonna make a great father someday son. Nick,you will wrestle with questions over your brothers passing that you may never get answers for in this life but know this I will wrestle with you.

Amy: My daughter and friend. The way you interceded for Mattie last year when he was so sick touched me deeply. You sang and prayed over him. Your tenderness and motherly instincts have grown over the years you were with Mattie. If it was possible for me to love you even more, I did because of the way you were with him.

Taylor: My tender strong Tay. You had a special love with Mattie. Mom came down the stairs just a couple of weeks ago and said what a special and unique love you had with him. We all saw it and it was so precious. Plus he got you out of the basement more! I love you Tay my Tay. Your Dad sees and cares about your broken heart. I’am with you son.

Isabelle: My beautiful Belle. You were the only person who’s name Mattie could really say “Belle, Belle”. Of course he could sign your name as well but most of the time his hand placement during the sign was a little off so he ended up signing the other “b word”.  Yours was a beautiful, musical romance. He was your peace, He was your silly release. This Papa has your back baby girl.

Elia Jane: My LILI Lou. You were Matties “ little momma”. You took such good care of him. He felt SO loved by you. Thank you for loving Mattie so well.

Emma: You were such a good big sister to Mattie, always concerned for how he was doing and if he had everything he needed. Thank you Emma.

Aiden: You were the bestest pal a buddy could ever wish for. Buddy was a part of you, he was you in so many ways. I remember when buddy was just a baby and you looked at him and said “Buddy, Me … the same”. I will carry you through this my precious boy.

And finally …

Mr. Steve, (Matties night nurse) every night you would see me tuck Mattie in and whisper something in his ear. You may have thought it was a prayer but it was really more of a fathers affirmation to his son. I’d like to share it with you now.

You are the sweet son of my love.

You are strong and brave, gentle and kind, and SO smart.

And I love you from the from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.

From your sweet little eyes to the tip of your nose.

And I’ve always been your Papa cause you’ve always been my boy.

Cause you’ve always been my boy and I’ve always been your Papa.

I love you Mattie Sam.

You are my BIG, STRONG, handsome, kind, and gentle son; and I’m SO proud to be your Papa and I’m SO SO glad that your my boy. 

 

Celebrating My Son

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Here are my remarks from yesterdays service

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I’ve been writing a book about my children for the past few years. And in the preface it says……

I am writing a story that is still being written. I don’t even know how this story ends, but I am so grateful that it is being written and that the story of my life was woven into the story of the lives of the incredible children you are about to meet.

But this is not the ending I would have chosen for the story of the life of Matthias Samuel Loux.

 

But God is good and His mercy endures forever.

Once there was a child, formed in his mother’s womb.

Created by God.

Fearfully and wonderfully.

Before he breathed his first breath,

His Maker knew him.

He called him by name.

He breathed LIFE over Matthias.

He dreamed a dream,

And Matthias became.

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

Nothing was hidden from Him.

The One who created Matthias saw it all.

He began writing. A story. His story.

A story called “Matthias.”

As He penned each word,

He was pleased.

And then He sat back and watched the story become all that He dreamed it could be.

He laughed.

He cried.

He took great delight in watching his destiny come to life.

He watched every step.

Even from afar, He saw Matthias.

And He delighted in him.

He directed him.

Protecting him in front and behind.

His hand was upon Matthias.

He kept him steady.

He was the light that led Matthias’ way.

He held out His hand, and He never let go.

He sat back, eager to enjoy the story unfold.

Knowing every word from beginning to end, yet still, He delighted in his journey.

The wonderful works of His hand.

Free to become everything He created him to be.

Dancing into His story.

 

I don’t understand why my son’s story changed on August 21st.

14 months ago, we watched our son’s heart stop. And we got a miracle.

This time. His heart stopped. And it never started beating again.

But for Matthias it was just the beginning.

Today my son can walk, and dance, and run.

He can sing and he can laugh…… so loud it shakes the heavens.

My son has no scars, no pain, no tubes, no wires.

No machines beeping in the night.

 

Here is what I am CELEBRATING today…….

3 ½ year of life with the most amazing child on the planet. A child who changed me. Anchored me. Steadied my heart during so many storms. A child who could still my heart and steady my breath with just a look and a smile.

I am celebrating the child who taught me how to breathe.

I want to thank each of you for being here.

You are here because Matthias touched your life in some way.

Some of you only know him through Facebook, some of you dear precious ones have cared for him as your very own through sickness and in health, some of you have taught him and helped him reach milestones that are to this day miracles, every one.

But you are here because you are changed. We are all changed.

Changed by a story that God wrote about a boy named Matthias Samuel Loux.

I promised my son yesterday that I would keep on living. That I would keep breathing.

I promised him that I would walk through whatever the rest of the story God is writing for my life.

And I ask each of you, to live and breathe and walk, and hold close to you the lessons that my son’s life has taught you.

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Thank you all for listening, caring, loving us, and letting us walk out this journey of grief.

We feel your love and prayers.