Hard Things


I read recently that life is a series of losses.  The losses we experience over our lifetime are not only the result of physical death; they include less tangible disappointments as well (missed promotions, loved ones moving away, lost opportunities).

Each successive loss can complicate things.  A new loss, whatever its nature, will often dredge up old feelings or intensify fresher hurts. And when they seem to happen in rapid succession, they can be completely overwhelming.

Last week was a week full of hard things.  I'm still a little emotionally tuckered out.

My husband's uncle was killed in a car accident a week and a half ago.  The shock of that brought back some feelings.  I remember that wonder of how I had come face to face with tragedy.  And I thought of the aunt and cousins who were now faced with the same wonder.  And I hurt for them.  I hurt for me.

Kristen's gravestone was finally installed this past week.  I had a picture in my mind of what it would look like...her beautiful face etched on a piece of black granite.  But I have to say that I was not prepared for actually seeing it at her spot.  Her eyes seemed to look right through me (that artist did an AMAZING job on the etching), and that made me miss her even more.  As I sprinkled flower petals around her spot, I felt the feelings of that hot, windy August afternoon last year wash over me.  Then, as I focused on that stone there in the cemetery, it somehow all seemed more final.

In the midst of all this, I received word that my grandmother is nearing the end of a long battle with her failing heart.  I spent some beautiful moments with her on Sunday, holding her hand, listening to her talk.  For a time, I was 12 years old again, snuggled up next to her, staring at the ceiling and just talking.  We talked about my granddad (her husband who died when I was in high school), we talked about Kristen, we talked about my mom (her ex-daughter-in-law).  She's ready to go, whenever the Lord takes her.  And as hard as it was to leave, I'm grateful for the beautiful moments I had with her that day.  I love you, Grandma.♥

September 2009
Those things are hard things.  But, as always, God sprinkled a few blessings in among them.
  • A sweet aunt told me as she clasped her hands over her heart, "I keep Kristen in here."
  • Another aunt lovingly made a beautiful shadow box of photos to remember Kristen.  I never knew.
  • Despite the tears that I couldn't keep from falling, I got to hold my cousin's sweet little baby girl.
  • The continued support of my husband's parents reminded me that I have the best in-laws ever.
Yes, there are hard things.  Yes, they hurt.  Sometimes they hurt a lot.  But God is always good and always there.  How blessed am I!



Last year on October 15th, a friend brought by a candle for me to light in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  I was grateful, not only for the candle, but for her thoughtfulness.  She remembered me as I remembered Kristen.  

As this day of remembrance is here again, I remember that friend, who has suffered her own pregnancy loss.  I barely knew her when she experienced her loss, but as I light that beautiful candle today, I remember her and the sweet baby she never got to hold.

I also contemplate the moms that know the pain of losing a child.  Some never got to hold their child.  Others did, but had to say goodbye much too soon.  May God shower you with His grace and mercy this day.  Whether it's been a few weeks, a few months or even decades since you had to say goodbye, I remember you this day. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. -John 14:27

An Elephant in the Back Yard?


Today is the anniversary of the day we found out that I was pregnant with Kristen.  The weeks that led up to October 10, 2008 found me generally not feeling well and having hot flashes ("personal summers" as a good friend of mine calls them).  I won't go into all the reasons why, but I truly believed that I was experiencing early menopause.  That's what led me to make an appointment with my OB/GYN.  Imagine my surprise to find that I was not going through any kind of menopause, but was pregnant!

Will had called me at lunch that day, knowing that my appointment had been that morning.  I didn't want to tell him this unexpected news over the phone and tried very hard to put him off until he got home that evening.  I could sense the worry growing in his voice, however, so I said, "I didn't want to tell you like this, but I'm pregnant."  (There was a long pause on the other end of the phone...)

At this point we already had two daughters who were well past the stage of relying on us for everything.  They could do most things by themselves, and we had all grown very accustomed to that level of independence.  The girls helped with chores around the house and were capable of conversations beyond their years (my dear sister-in-law has said many times that her talks with Emily, even when Emily was only 6 years old, were far more intellectual than many conversations with her friends!).  The thought of starting all over with a little one was a 180 degrees from where either of us thought we were headed.  We were perfectly content with our family of four.

After the initial shock wore off, we shared the news with the girls over supper.  I'm not even sure exactly what day it was, but I do remember going through our traditional goofy question ritual.  I'll explain.  Most evenings when Will arrived home from work, the girls would meet him at the door with hugs and squeals of delight at seeing their daddy.  Grace often continued the welcome with, "Guess what, Daddy!"  It became a game of Daddy coming up with silly guesses and generally concluded with a comment of "There's an elephant in the back yard!"  (By this time, Grace had often forgotten what she wanted to tell him in the first place.)  That night, over our chicken and noodles (with mashed potatoes, of course), we told the girls that we had some news to share with them.  The guesses began!  Grace thought we were moving, and was relieved to find out that we weren't.  Amid laughter after hearing the obligatory "There's an elephant in the back yard," Emily shouted, "Mom's going to have a baby!"

Will and I exchanged surprised looks across the table and then told them, that yes, we were going to have a baby.  That was such a special time, one that we have a hard time remembering together, even now.  The joy that was shared around the dinner table that night seems to be overshadowed by the great sadness that has taken up residence here.  I pray that there will come a day when we can share in that memory as a family and smile, even laugh...perhaps over chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes.

Grace for Grace


Daughter #2 has always had a flair for drama.  Because of that, I find myself sometimes ignoring her theatrics, chalking it up to her role as "Drama Queen" at our house.  She had a role, however, that she cherished, one she looked forward to with months of anticipation, one she took very seriously, one that was ripped away from her just over a year ago...her role as a big sister.

I was a mother before Kristen; I still have two living daughters.
Will was a father before Kristen; he still has two living daughters.
Emily was a big sister before Kristen; she still has a living sister.
Grace was not a big sister before Kristen; what does she have now?

We all miss Kristen so very much, and the fact that I have two living daughters certainly doesn't take away the pain of losing my baby.  Our roles in the family, however, were not defined, as Grace's was, by the birth of Kristen.

I've written before that surely no one was ever more excited about becoming the middle child than my sweet Grace.  She talked incessantly in the months before Kristen arrived about all she would teach her, all she would do with her baby sister...her baby sister.  That same baby sister elevated Grace to a new role in life, that of a big sister!  She now had something new in common with Emily and with me.

With Kristen gone, Grace no longer has a physical confirmation of her role.  Of course, Kristen is still her baby sister, but it's awfully hard to be the big sister you always wanted to be to a baby that isn't here anymore.  It's exactly that hard reality that leads to her emotional meltdowns.

Bless her heart, she had a big one just last week, the day before my niece was born.  She certainly doesn't understand why other people can have babies, but we can't, especially since all she ever wanted was to be a big sister.  I'm right there with her in not understanding, but I continue to pray that she learns to trust that God knows what He's doing.

Now that little Sonny girl is actually here, Grace seems better.  My dear sister-in-law brought to my attention something I hadn't considered.  Everything about her pregnancy must have seemed very deja vue to Grace.  (My sil lives just 30 minutes from us, and we see her a couple of times each week.)  The anticipation of it all was hard on all of us, but perhaps more so for Grace.  Once Sonny was born, however, Grace could see that this baby was an individual, her own person.  She looks very different than Kristen.  Sonny has a head full of black hair.  Kristen had a head not-so-full of very light fuzz. :)  Kristen is Kristen.  Sonny is Sonny.  And Grace is Grace, with her tender heart that's still trying so hard to love the God that didn't answer her prayers as she had hoped...the Grace who is still the reigning drama queen of the house...the Grace who, by the grace of God, now has a renewed role...older cousin.

May He grant you the grace you need, dear Daughter, to come through this very dark place a stronger person, one with even more compassion, one who understands that the trials of this life can lead to an intimacy with your Heavenly Father that you never imagined possible.

Grace for Grace is my prayer tonight.