Of Course I Don’t Resent You

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It doesn’t make me sad to see you with your healthy child.

It doesn’t make me sad to see your family celebrating life.

My stomach doesn’t turn when I see your child achieving milestones that mine never reached on this earth.

I don’t cringe when I see pictures of new babies, or happy family photos with everyone present.

I don’t.

Not one bit.

Here’s why. Life is beautiful and magical. Every single life.

And that is what Mattie stood for.

The beautiful truth that very life matters.

Even a broken little boy with tubes and a long list of medical conditions.

He mattered.

From the day we heard about his little form, growing in another woman’s womb, we said, “Oh yes, little one, you are loved and you matter. Unconditionally, you are ours.”

Mattie taught me to treasure every moment, to not take one smile or hug for granted.

So when I see you with your beautiful treasures, your miracles, your gifts, how could I  be sad?

I couldn’t possibly resent you.

Because every life matters.

Your child matters.

You matter.

So I rejoice, I smile, and I pray for hope and fullness of life for you and yours.

But I ask you one very small thing…..

Please don’t take even one moment for granted.

Don’t overlook a single smile. Don’t be in too big a hurry to take one more hug offered by that precious one that kept you up all night. Don’t worry so much about dirty hands and a messy kitchen floor. Don’t fret over laundry left unfolded or pancakes for dinner because you’re just too tired.  Don’t sigh at the countless tugs on your shirt tails.  Don’t beat yourself up if you lost your temper, just say you’re sorry and read them a story.

Take more selfies. Jump on the trampoline. Go to the playground. Lay on a blanket in the backyard and read a story. Pack up a picnic. Slow down and look into the eyes of those you love, soak up every feature, the curve of each nose, the flecks of color in those one of a kind eyes. Run your finger through their hair and remember the texture, the smell. Put your face in the crook of their neck, breathe deeply, and whisper into their ear a love story that only you can speak to a heart that melts at the sound of your voice.

Every child matters.

You matter.

So let me whisper to you for a moment, “Life is a gift and you are part of that great gift. There is no one who can touch the world like you do. You are beautiful, and strong and you matter. Live well. Love big.”

Thank You for Being…..

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As a mother who is facing her first Mother’s Day without one of my children, I want to help you love well.

There are many things you could do. Many things that might be meaningful. But I’m going to make it super simple.

Mothers  who have lost are hurting this weekend. You can choose to ignore because it’s awkward and uncomfortable, or you can choose to be love.

A broken heart wants three things:

1. To know you haven’t forgotten.
2. To hear their child’s name.
3. To know that their love mattered.

So let me make it simple.
1. Write down the names of women you know who have: lost a child, lost a mother, or who are longing for a child and still waiting.

2. Find a small token, a gift, if possible. I don’t care what it is: a single rose, a card with a $5.00 coffee gift card, something simple. (If you live nearby)

3. Write these words on a card or note paper, and if you can say them outloud. (Make a phone call or send a text if you’re far away):

Here are some samples:

– Thank you for being Mattie’s mom. Your love is big and watching you love Mattie changed my life. I wish he could be in your arms today.

– Thank you for being a beautiful daughter to Sue. I know today is not the same without your mother. Her love is reflected in you.

– I know today is filled with sorrow for you as you long to be a mother. I want you to know that I’m so sorry your wait has been so long. You are beautiful and I love you.

Find words from your heart. But say them, write them, or text them. You can do it.

Be love!

Love Like You’re the Only One

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It’s Mother’s Day Eve. That’s not a thing, but the reality of Mother’s Day has been pressing on my heart for days.

I’m sitting here watching three of my children play. I have three others that are virtually grown and have become amazing adults.

They all amaze me.

Nick is about to become a father. He has already embraced the role of husband with wisdom and strength and passion. He’s a good, good man. Creative and brilliant. Compassionate and full of grace. My heart soars.

Taylor is entering a new stage of independence. He’s such a self motivated, committed, and creative soul. He’s quiet, yet wise. Introverted, yet hysterically funny. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat because I know I’m about to be blown away!

Isabelle is walking through a journey that could take some people out, and she’s allowing it to shape her and strengthen her. She’s so incredibly perceptive and strong. She gives to others even in her own weakness. She is a gift of never ceasing poetry. Her voice will speak to the ages.

Elia is a package of life and joy. She fills my heart with so much gratitude. She creates and writes and thinks deeply. She serves and loves and pours out her heart to others.

Aiden is a fire cracker that  keeps me on toes. His huge heart has a big ache because he loves with all that he is. He makes me laugh and makes me pull my hair out at the same time. He is stubborn and tender, and can flip at the drop of a hat.

Emma is a stunning miracle of redemption. Proof that God can make beauty out of brokeness. She is my reminder that God is love. She is learning to live with an open expressive heart. And she is hysterical!

My beautiful Amy entered my heart, and became my daughter and my friend. Tears just flow when I think of what this beautiful woman has brought to my life. To love my son with an open, safe love. To speak hope to my heart over and over again. She is a vessel of beauty and grace and strength. Oh and did I mention that she is carrying my granddaughter? My beautiful Millie who has already won my heart.

My mother’s heart is deep and full of love for each of these gifts of mine.

And at the same time, my heart aches with unspeakable pain.

Because of one.

To bear the pain of loss doesn’t diminish the love I feel for these beauties of mine. It doesn’t make me love less. I’m all in. 100%.

But because I love one more, a sweet boy named Matthias, I also love with pain. Love doesn’t end with death. I will always love a boy who changed my life. I will always love a boy whose smile shook my heart. I will always love a boy who loved music and stories and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I will always love a boy who spoke a million words with the tilt of his head and a sparkle in his eyes.

And because of that love, I grief.

I am not less of a mother or less of a lover of these children because of the loss of one. I love more.

And I grief.

100% the pain of loss. 100% love.

And yes, it’s as confusing in the heart as it is on the page.

So if you know a Momma like me who has lost one of her loves, don’t assume that someone or something else will fill that void. That is a sheer impossibility. There is no replacement for a human soul. We are all exquistely irreplaceable  and fill a beautiful place in this world. We are as unique as our fingerprints. And we are destined to mark the world with our love, one print at a time.

There is no one like you.

No one to love the world the way that you can.

Matthias lived a life of loving the world like only he could. His fingerprints were everywhere. Beautiful love shaped fingerprints.

So, today, I ask you to love like you are the only one. Love like your fingerprint matters. Love like your touch is irreplaceable.

There’s no one to fill your spot.

Love big.

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Learning

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“What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us” -Helen Keller

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I’ve always been a teacher. From the time I was little, I thrived in the “classroom”, whether it was “bossing around” neighborhood kids when I was 5, organizing play and creating backyard theatre, or the basement classroom I put together when I was a bit older to teach all of the “little kids” during the Wednesday night family Bible study in my parent’s home.

I went on to pursue a career in education and taught art for 10 years. I’ve taught women’s groups, children’s ministries, I’ve spoken in churches and classrooms of all kinds.

I’m a mother, so by default I get to teach every day. Life lessons. Practical skills. Hard stuff. Fun stuff. Motherhood is teaching at it’s very finest.

I also love learning. I loved being in the classroom both as a teacher and as a student. I still love sitting under the teaching of passionate hearts. I read. I observe. I expose my mind to ideas.

I’ve always learned the most, however, in those “ah-ha” moments that just come through living and really allowing myself to experience life. I’ve taught some of the finest lessons “off the cuff” simply because they bubbled up in my heart in a moment.

Once again, I find myself in a classroom. Sometimes sitting at the desk and taking it all in. Sometimes standing in the front of the class pouring out my heart.

This classroom of life doesn’t hand out a syllabus. Much of life is like a pop-quiz. Like a multiple choice test with answers that aren’t necessarily right or wrong.

This time, I’ve been handed a textbook called, “Grief”, and the pages are blank.

I am both the writer of this text and the observer.

In living, I am learning.

In breathing, I am expanding my soul.

In speaking to you, I am validating the journey of my heart. It becomes real as the words hit the pages.

I am student. I am teacher.

I decided that I would learn and that I would allow every each experience in my life to make me stronger and wiser and more compassionate. I have experienced pain in relationships, beautiful miracles, life’s disappointments, great triumphs, the beauty of deep love, and the pain of unspeakable loss. These places have been my classroom. The places are where I have learned the most about who I am, who I long to become, and the beauty that can come by embracing the place of both joy and pain.

I will always be a mother who has lost a son. That will never change. The thought of it will bring pain for as long as I live. As I close my eyes and see his face, my chest will cave, my breath will catch. It is now part of my experience in this life. It is part of who I am, and it is shaping who I am becoming, but is not my equivalent.

I promise you, I will not be destroyed. I will live. I will learn. I will become stronger, wiser and more compassionate.

Every experience in this life has the potential to create beauty.

EVERY. SINGLE. EXPERIENCE.

I’m not just spouting off platitudes here, my friends. This is truth.

I know. I’ve lived in before in so many other parts of my story.

I’m living it again in this one.

Don’t Look Away

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Dear Friend,

I know it’s hard to see someone you love hurting like this.

I know that you’ve tried to imagine “what if” this had happened to you, but you stop yourself because who wants to play a nightmare around in their brain. It’s to hard to go there. I don’t want you to imagine this hell, really I don’t.

But if you look away from my pain, you might miss out on a lesson in love that could change your life.

I know you scroll through your Facebook feed and look for funny videos, good recipes, pictures of your newborn niece, an interesting blog on politics perhaps, or maybe just some good fashioned Hollywood drama. I know you want something to make you smile or laugh. Maybe you just need a few minutes to forget your own reality.

So you scroll, and without asking for it, BAM, there’s one of my updates, and it’s not always happy.

It makes you catch your breath, wince. And if you really know me and love me deeply, it makes your chest hurt too.

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You want to fix it and you can’t.

Maybe you wish I would be more private.

Maybe my pain reminds you of your pain and it’s just too much.

Maybe my pain makes you fear for the “what could be’s” in your own life.

Maybe you hid me from your newsfeed. Heck, maybe you unfriended me, I don’t know.

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I don’t want you to look away.

Not because I want sympathy or pity.

Not because I want you to make it better. Trust me, you can’t.

I want you to look because I want you to know that Love Matters.

Loving deeply has cost us.

And someday, I assume loving deeply will cost you as well.

I want you to know that when that happens, you are not alone.

I want you to know that feeling loss is as important as feeling love.

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I also want those beautiful souls who have crossed my path on this journey called grief to know that they are not alone.

Because being alone in this kind of pain should never be.

I’ve lived out loud on this blog for quite sometime. Someone once asked me when I decided to be so public about my life journey. I don’t really know honestly, it just happened. It’s not about me though, it’s about LOVE. If my story tells you that LOVE MATTERS, then at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Don’t worry about having the right words. There are so many choices. And mostly, you can’t get it wrong. I’d be lying if I said that people’s words have never hurt, but honestly I set that aside pretty quickly and hold on to the ones that blow a breath of love across my heart.

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See? It’s not that hard.

Thank you to all of you who have chosen not to look away, even when it’s hard.

Love Matters.

Is It Getting Easier?

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They ask, “Is it getting easier?”

They mean well.

People want it to be easier. They want to think that it’s “getting better”, “getting easier”, “not as hard”.

It isn’t easier. It isn’t better. It is hard, every single day.

In many, many ways, these past few weeks (maybe months) have been harder than the first few weeks.

Grief progresses, but it is sloppy and unpredictable, and oh so very painful.

I disagree with this popular “7 Stages of Grief” being called “stages”. Excuse me, but that’s bullshit. (Yes, I swore. I don’t know a better word today.)

I understand the premise. I’ve felt and experienced many of the so called “stages”, but they are not STAGES, and shouldn’t be called “stages”.

I don’t think grief is that linear, that orderly. I don’t think you “make it through” those stages and WAHLA, you’ve survived.

There are no steps. There are distinct elements to grief, but the way they choose to fall, the way they ebb and flow is as unique as the heart carrying the weight of it all.

Grief swirls. Grief rolls like the tide. Grief crashes like waves. Grief falls and blows and drifts like snow.

Grief is now part of me. Part of my life experience. Part of who I am.

I will not ever be the same. I am permanently changed by grief.

I’m having to get to know myself in a new way.

I will find my way, but I won’t “get over it”.

I am forever marked by both love and loss.

I’m not wallowing in it. I hope people don’t perceive it like that. It is part of the fiber of who I am.

I can’t will it away or make it “less” just by trying harder.

And I wouldn’t want to.

I can’t “let go” of grief any more than I can let go of love.

I’m sorry if you love me and are having to watch me live in so much pain. I’m sorry if you’re one of the ones that get the desperate texts when I’m falling apart at the seams. I imagine watching me grieve feels horrific. Thank you for being there in the depths of this with me. You don’t have to know what to say.

I imagine one day that there will be a quiet strength that slowly rises out of depths of this pain and settles in my spirit.

I imagine that one day I’ll be able to give again.

But for now, I’m grieving deeply. 8 months of deep, crushing pain.

You will see me smile. You will see me celebrate life.

You will see me loving the ones dearest to me.

Celebration and Mourning coexist. I am both. Always both.

At times, one will suddenly overtake the other, and for a few moments I will Celebrate with full strength. And then in other moments, grief will take over, and I will Grief with all of my being.

It’s ok. This is how it works.

I am a woman who loves, celebrates, grieves, breaks, stands up, walks, falls down, carries love, is buried by pain, lifts her head high, and crawls into a cave.

I am a woman who is becoming.

And, no, this is far from “easier”.

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In This Family, No One Grieves Alone

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To comfort one who shares your grief gives your heart permission to grieve, and allows you to feel known and understood in the middle of your deepest pain.

They pronounced his time of death, August 21, 2014, 9:30PM. They called us into the room and as I cried out in pain, my son’s lungs dispelled the last bit of oxygen that was trapped within. I heard myself almost as a spectator to my own pain, “My son, My son, Oh my son!” John and I wept. I lay my head on Mattie’s chest. John’s arm firmly around me. He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “You’re not going to lose me.”

Moments later, we would have to break the news to our children. We walked into the room where our four oldest sat waiting for us, they stood, and we dropped to our knees. I can’t remember what we said. Maybe we said, “He’s gone.” Maybe our faces said the words we couldn’t utter. They wrapped themselves around us.

It’s hard to remember who was holding who was holding who, but we were all one, love wrapped around love wrapped around love. And though words would fail us, we promised our children that they would not grieve alone. I remember being so emphatic as I said, “No one in this family will grief alone. No one will hide their pain. We are in this together.”

The following day, I was sitting in the living room, and Amy came to get me. She said, “John’s in Mattie’s room, and I think he needs you.” I found my husband weeping on the couch where we spent countless hours loving on our boy together. Our children followed me and again we wrapped our love around each other, and we mourned.

Perhaps it is significant that my beautiful husband was the first to weep in our home, telling us all in his frailty, “No one in this family will grief alone. No one will hide their pain. We are in this together.”

He would speak clearly to each of us the day of the funeral, and commit his love to us. You can read his words HERE.

He would protect us in the days to come and shelter us in his love.

He led the way for grief to have a place in our home.

And now, here we are almost 8 months later, still grieving together.

So today we were all just trying to get through the day, trying to make the best of a day that felt very empty. Tears and sadness flowed from one to the other. Aiden cried as he got out of the shower. I dressed him and took him to Mattie’s drawer to pick out one of Buddy’s bow ties. Emma was crying at the drop of a hat, not even knowing why, until she suddenly burst out, “I miss Mattie”. All three of the Littles, clean and dressed sat in the living room, looking at photos of their sweet brother.  Taylor and Isabelle gave hugs that said they knew. Hugs that said, we feel it too. Meanwhile Amy and Nick were making dinner to take the pressure off of me, preparing a place for us to be together as a family today.

I kept moving forward trying to make the day happen. John and I snapped at each other a few times. It doesn’t happen often with us, but sometimes grief gets snippy. Aiden asked for John and I told him, “Daddy’s upstairs, go hug him, I bet he could really use a hug.”

I watched Aiden start up the stairs just as John was headed down. Both my boys in their blue shirts and ties looking handsome and oh so terribly sad.

Aiden glanced into the eyes of his daddy and said, “What’s wrong, Daddy?”

John replied, “I’m sad. I miss Buddy.”

John stooped down. Aiden reached around and held his daddy, stroking his back, his head, with no words because none were needed. Love wrapped around love, wrapped around love- to be known and understood. And I watched as my husband sobbed in Aiden’s arms, grieving his own loss and carrying the weight of AIden’s grief as well.

Because in this family, no one grieves alone.

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