Where’s Waldo?

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There is a terrifying panic that sets in when loss is greeted by the potential of more loss.

On Friday evening around 9PM our dog Waldo escaped unknowingly from our yard. We have been searching for 3 days non-stop and have exhausted all means of communication. We have reached out to local news (and are waiting), we have contacted shelters, vet clinics, pet finder groups, and utilized social media and Facebook groups. We have searched our neighborhood and surrounding areas, gone door to door, hunted through the thick woods around our house.

Waldo was a gift to our children when Mattie passed away. He was medicine to sad souls. He cuddled in when sadness hovered near. He was our “therapy dog”, excellent at serving up huge doses of “puppy love”.

As we approach the one year mark of Mattie’s death (August 21st), we really need our puppy back. Our Little ones do not need another loss. None of us do.

Please help us by liking our page on Facebook: “Where’s Waldo: Missing Therapy Dog”

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Under the Sweet Gum Tree

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I lie here under the sweet gum tree,

My back against the earth.

Deep brown covered with a blanket of green.

Rock and dirt and the prickly seed of the tree pressing against my flesh.

Below me lies an empty house,

That held a light-filled child.

Rising high above me beyond the shadow of this tree,

A crystal clear sheet of blue,

Reminding me of eternity,

And the never ending spirit,

Of a boy,

Who lived in a house,

That now lies beneath me.

So I breathe in the brown, the green, the blue.

The earth, the stone, the rocks that pierce my flesh.

I breathe in,

Life,

And a spirit that lives on.

Because once a boy lived in a house,

In my ams.

And now that boy lives in a heart,

Inside my house.

So under the sweet gum tree,

My back against the earth,

I breathe.

 

 

 

Beauty Speaks the Language of Love

We mounted the mud covered machine and took off through the woods over well worn terrain that whispered tales of the mischief of children, the adventures of men pretending to be boys, the expeditions of great hunters, and the pensive wanderings of soulful hearts.

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Light and shadow danced through the trees. Our heart beats matched the unsuspecting rhythm of the trail. The air was fresh and clean. It smelled of life, reminding me to breathe.

We rounded corners with surprises at each bend and made our way to the top where light exploded in fields of yellow and green, spattered with purple and orange and white. To say the sky was blue could redefine the word itself. White clouds floated as effortlessly as ships on a tranquil sea.

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We stopped to breathe it all in. And for the first time, I felt the nearness of my son, as if the distance is not as great as the pain of the world makes it seem. I spoke his name, and I smiled at the sky instead of shaking my fist.

Life on that mountain painted a picture of peace and love and hope. Beauty spoke. She whispered words of love.

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And I was listening.

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Photograph courtesy of Sara LePage

Today we celebrate 25 years of marriage.

In trying to choose one photo for this post, this is the image that kept coming back to my mind. There are thousands of images from the past 25 years of our lives together. Every image marks a moment in time, important moments that helped shape who we are and who we have become. We have weathered some pretty intense storms in our marriage. Many of them are things that would have taken others out. We aren’t so special, we just chose to fight for something that had a greater value to each of us than the pain of a moment in time. We chose to love unconditionally and hold on tight. With each new day, we chose each other.  For 25 years we have chosen love.

This photo marks a moment in our marriage that has changed it forever- saying good bye to our son.

I remember this moment, the day of Mattie’s funeral, John turned to me and spoke some incredible things to me. His words were like cement, solid and strong, stabilizing.

We have been talking a lot about how life has changed. Things are not as they used to be. We are wrestling with many of those changes and trying to find a place for the “after Mattie’s death” part of us. We’ve looked intently at who we were before he was born, who we were during his life, and who we are now after his passing. Some of the changes are startling. Some of them uncomfortable. Some of them frustrating.

As we sat in a grief therapy session this past week, we talked about our marriage- the before, the during, the after.

And this is what I know for sure. What we had prior to Mattie coming into our lives was good- full of commitment and desire for growth. What we had in our marriage during his life only deepened because we linked arms in a more concerted way to love our family well and care for Mattie’s needs. And now, we cling harder than ever. We spend more time together. We talk more. We are digging in deep to matters of faith and loss. We are more dependent on each other because to be honest there is no one who knows me better than he does and no one who knows him better than I. I can read his face. He can take one look at my eyes and he knows what I need.

The day Mattie died, he held me and said, “You’re not going to lose me.”

The day we buried our son he said, “I choose you again today.”

There are days our grief collides and neither of us have much to give and there are days one of us holds the other up.

But every day, we embrace and commit to each other, “I choose you again today.”

 

 

 

 

Not Just Muffins

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These may just look like muffins to you. But there is almost more to every photo that what the eye can see. There is always a story.

I could have just posted this on Instagram with a caption like, “Made muffins for the kids.”

But that wouldn’t have been the whole truth.

I woke up with so much pain in my heart. Pain over what has been lost and pain over all of the collateral damage. I’m having a bit of an identity crisis if you must know.

When I lost my son, my world shifted on its axis. Everything has been touched by grief and loss. My personality has been altered, the way I function in life has changed, my strengths and abilities have been impacted dramatically, the way I process life is no longer the same. The things I used to pride myself on doing so well, are mediocre at best under my self-judgemental eye.

I’m trying to get to know myself. I working hard to have grace for myself and loosen the expectations I carry. Trying to discover something called self-compassion. Let me be real, I would never be this hard on anyone else. Never.

It’s very easy to feel like I’m failing. The highly driven, perfectionist in me knows a different way, but the battered and bruised woman that I am is walking with a limp.

So this morning, I sat in bed in the dark not knowing how to move. I scrolled through Pinterest and saw a friend had posted a recipe for Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins. I pinned it too. I texted that same friend an SOS like I have done many times before. She told me to get up and get out in some sunshine. She’s allowed because she’s that kind of friend.

So I got up. And instead of just looking at a pinned photo, I made those muffins for my kids mostly to remind myself that I am still a good mom.

And then I took myself outside with a cup of coffee to sit in the sun and look at some green to remind myself that I am worth it and to give myself what is easier for me to give to others. Grace.

PS. the kids love the muffins, you can find them HERE.

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Survived

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I’ll never forget seeing this line in Mattie’s obituary,

“He is survived by father, John, mother, Tracie, brother and sister-in-law, Nick and Amy, brothers, Taylor and Aiden and sisters, Isabelle, Elia and Emma.”

Survived.

He was gone, and we survived.

It didn’t feel like survival. It felt like a crushing collapse of pain had settled on our family.

On August 21, 2014, I woke up got my nails done, ran a few errands, and packed my bags for a weekend getaway with my husband. The first one in many years, I couldn’t remember the last one. Our son Mattie was almost 4 years old. He was born with Down syndrome, and had spent the first year of his life in the hospital overcoming multiple illnesses, two open heart surgeries and a tracheostomy. He finally came home just before his first birthday and though the years to come would bring many hospitalizations and very terrifying moments, our lives had been filled to overflowing with love and joy and the celebration of his life. The 14 months prior to this day had been a dream come true. His health had dramatically improved, we went on a miraculous family vacation for the first time, and we felt for the first time that he was stable enough for us to travel away for a few days.

As I was closing up my suitcase, Mattie’s nurse gave a call for us to come. We walked in to see our son’s blue face and the familiar panic in his eyes as he struggled to breathe. I jumped into to give rescue breathing, and we called 911. With my hands on a bag that forced air into his lungs through his trachea, we transferred him to the ambulance where minutes down the road his heart stopped. I worked with two paramedics to help restore life to my son’s limp body, but life would not return.

My son was gone. My beautiful, brown-eyed boy had slipped out of this life and into the next.

And we “survived” his death.

It has been almost a year since his passing, and here we are, surviving.

We are the ones left behind. We outlived our son. Parents should never outlive a child.

We are the ones who “continue to live in spite of danger or hardship,” the ones who “continue to live in spite of” intense pain and grief.

I have learned that grief is as deep as love is wide, and that sorrow exists because of the power of love’s impact on the world.

I have learned that there is space in the human heart for joy and pain, peace and anger, and hope and sadness to all reside. And I have learned that to truly survive such unspeakable loss, we must allow ourselves to feel them each completely.

I will survive because of Love. For this beast called Grief is not stronger than the power of Love.

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Once Upon a Dream

She crawled under the rumpled sheets of her unmade bed. She laid her head on the pillow and prayed for sleep to come. Her heart spun with anxious thoughts and pain pressed in hard and fierce.  So much loss. The ache so deep. She breathed in, praying that the nightmares would stop.

The swirl came and she felt her body sink into the comfort of the place called her bed, she breathed once more and slipped into the depths.

She found herself carried to that place where the spirit wakes, fully alive under the weight of the body’s rest.

Light surrounded her, sound and beauty, color and form, and she narrowed her focus to a particularly bright spot in the forest.

She approached, her head tilted to the side. Her eyes narrowed, focusing in on what seemed familiar and sweet.

She heard hushed tones, whispers. The mist swirled around her ankles and she felt like she was walking on air.

She saw them.

The two of them.

They were seated on a mossy log, she could see their forms take shape before her very eyes. The mist began to clear.

She lowered herself, and sat quietly. It felt sacred, and she knew she was only an invited spectator.

As the mist fully settled, she gasped. And with that gasp her heart filled with love and light and strength.

She saw him from the back. His brown curls were glowing, his form was sturdy and strong, the tilt of his head so familiar. She saw the slope of his cheek from the side and she knew for sure.

It was him.

His arm was fixed firmly around a little girl, her spirit was so light and pure, radiant.

He leaned in close to her and he whispered.

She leaned forward so she could hear,

“Oh let me tell you about them! You’re going to love them. And they are going to love you. They are so good, so very very good. Take care of them for me.”

And that was it. A whisper. A promise.

And love swirled all about, wrapping her deeply as her spirit returned and her sleeping body soaked it all in.

She awoke.

And she knew.

Love was sending Love.

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Photo courtesy of Charlie Hibberd

This dream was a gift to our family. And the reality of it has entered our lives. Millie is here. Love sent Love. Spoken into being by her Creator just days after our Mattie Love passed into Eternity. Our Millie Love was sent- a gift, one we will treasure every moment of every day.