Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Day of Remembrance...Honoring our Children

Today is National Pregnancy, Infant and Child Loss Awareness Day...a day that we come together as a loss community to remember our children that are absent from this earth, but very present within our hearts and minds...

This past week, a mother stood across from me and the words "I am a child loss mom too" came out in the middle of a conflict that we were trying to resolve.  It was at that very moment, that the conflict didn't really matter anymore, but her pain did  Her pain met my passion and everything else became so small...

I am going to share our story today...everyone meet "Jacob's mama." 

After a couple of days passed, I reached out to her understanding the pain and the heartache she felt.  I wanted to let her know I was always willing to be an ear for her if she ever wanted to share her story, her son, with me.  

I also knew I would be doing something special for our Matthew on October 15th, the National Day of Remembrance, as I do every year, and I wanted to extend the invitation for her to join me...

Unsure of how she would respond, I wanted to ask her to participate in this beautiful moment.  I didn't know if she had ever done anything like this, however I followed my mama heart and called!

She said yes!  

We planned to meet at the beach and have a moment of mama reflection time that our babies so deserved.  It was me and my friend...a couple of sticks and two hearts that knew the sting of kissing our boys goodbye...

We talked, we shared stories, there were tears...there was healing.

Although we have known each other for quite some time, I did not know that she lost her son...until the day she was brave enough to tell me.  That day changed our friendship into a bond that only child loss mothers understand.  I say "brave" because she was brave to tell me.  It is hard to say those words to someone...for with those words come memories and pain...but what I have learned is with those words also come healing...

I was so happy she was able to tell me...immediately, all other issues at hand were gone.  It didn't matter that we stood on opposite sides of political didn't matter what her beliefs were...what mattered was her heart.  It mattered that her heart hurt and I could reach out to her to bridge the gap with love and compassion...and she was a willing recipient.

We each wrote our son's names in the sand...the moment of remembrance was very special and sacred, tender and was even more special when two butterflies flew between us.  We smiled. 

As we stood by the ocean's edge, we talked about how our differences didn't matter to us...we knew that agreeing to disagree was part of life, as was death...and compassion for others and each other is what changes people and perspectives...

We agreed to disagree and still love each other and support each other.  And it was right!  It was good!  It was simple!  It was simple because caring for someone else that you know has experienced pain is simple!  It is compassion at work!  Love on duty!  It is who we want to be!  It is who we want to raise our children to be.

This world is tough enough...

This world is full of pain...

And this world is full of people that are hurting...

I am convinced that when we open our hearts and extend our reach to others, we will find someone that needs a hand to hold, someone that knows our pain as well...and when we do, if we take the time to show compassion and love, gaps will continue to be bridged along the way!

We need gaps bridged!  

The most sacred place of my heart, I opened to someone who is on the other side of the political  arena as me...and y'all know what?  It wasn't scary, it wasn't hard (at all) and it was beautiful!  

This was a first for Jacob's Mama and I believe it began a whole new healing process and outlet for her heart!  This is why I love to do what I do!  There is such an incredible joy in my heart when I can connect with mamas that share their pain and their children with me, I am honored.  I was very honored to spend time with Jacob's Mama and learning about him, his story and his precious life.  His mama loves him very much!  

As I close, I think of the thousands of mamas I have hugged, talked to, cried with, shared with, and eaten chocolate with and my heart is full...full because I love them all and full because I haven't forgotten any of their children. 

So, on this special day of remembrance and awareness, I send out love to each and every one of you that know the pain of child loss...and I want to give a special thank you to Jacob's Mama for being brave enough to take this journey with me today!

And I thank our boys for bringing us together!  There were no lines drawn in the sand that we couldn't cross because the love we had for our boys and other hurting hearts made sure of that!

You are not alone!  I promise, you are not alone!  

Signing off with great hope and love...

Matthew's Mama 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Three things...

It's been quite a while since I have shared but some things are just revolving around in my head lately and that usually is my sign to take a moment or two to write...

Thus, here I am.

This has a lot to do with just three simple things that I feel like many may be battling right now, but are completely unsure how  to digest or process what they are feeling, what they are experiencing or how to begin to heal, so I dive deep into a pit of rawness to try and reach out to those of you who may need this.

Before  you read any further, please note, this place of darkness, this place of extreme heartbrokenness was due to our son's passing bringing grief and all that comes along with it.  Losing a child takes you places nothing else will...and some of those places are just great big horrible pits...scratch that, a lot of those places are great big horrible pits...

And when you are in those pits, hope can become so far out of reach, faith can be hard to hold on to and questioning God is certainly sure to accompany you in that pit.

Matter of fact, even when you are out of the pit, some days you do all of the mentioned above.  Sorry, y'all, but even as I stand firm in my faith now, I am a real human being that knows the agony of losing a child...let's just say, God's grace is over abundant for me and carries me through on the worst of days.  Always has, (even when I didn't know it) and always will.


Back to why I am here today...those three things...THESE ARE DEEP!  Diving right in...

1.  After Matthew passed away, there were many days I didn't want to live anymore...NOT days where I wanted to take my own life, but days I begged God to take me.  Begged.  Yes, I begged God to take me.  I am so very grateful that God never left me, that He never took me and that He in His infinite wisdom knew the plans He had for us!  Amen!

2. When I decided to let the world know "I was okay" after such traumatic loss of our son and the trauma and injuries left to my body was the day "I became someone else."  I pretended to be the "person I once was" because it was much easier than being who I was left with, the one with a broken body and a broken heart.  So I pretended for the entire world I was okay.  There was no strength in that, I thought there was at the time, but I was so mistaken.  The real strength, God given strength emerged only when I told God I needed HIM!  The real strength was admitting my weakness and allowing God to use my brokenness to minister to others.  And that my friends is where my healing began, telling the world through my book I was broken, both emotionally and physically broken.  I needed to share my testimony with others so when they saw me, they saw the complete miracle that my life is, the fact that I can walk should just make you go "wow!"  And the fact that I can walk in heels, well, that, that just makes me smile!  And Jesus knows I love my heels and that I love to smile!

I knew Matthew's life had  purpose, my pain had purpose, and that the passion I had for other mothers who were also hurting was enough to make me want to share the worst (and best) of days in hopes to encourage others along the way. 

The last one is random I know, but one that I don't know if I have ever shared on my blog.  I am not sure why today I am sharing it and I may never know the reason, but God does and I trust Him with that.

3.  The one question in my heart that I was so afraid to ask my doctor was "Did my son suffer as he was dying?"  His response, "He probably felt like you did."  He was referring to the way I felt when I was bleeding to death...I just cried and cried and cried knowing that our son, our baby, our precious little one could even possibly feel the way I felt for one second of his life, much less all of it. It was one of the hardest questions I have ever had to ask or hear the answer to.  I know there are so many mothers and fathers who are sitting beside their sick child right now that would do anything in the world to trade places with them...I'm so sorry!  I pray for you daily, all of you, those that I know, those that I don't know...I pray for you.  I pray for your children.  I pray for cures, for  hope, for happy moments.  I pray for healing.

I pray for those who struggle with guilt of an illness or a death of their child....

My son died so that I would live and guilt has accompanied me a time or two... or three thousand and forty-five. I would have given my life, all if it, so that Matthew could have lived.  But I didn't have that choice, I didn't get to lay my life down for his, instead he laid his life down for me...he was my first blood donor...he was "my hero."

And I honor "my hero" by sharing our story with you all.  You may think I give TMI sometimes when I share the really, really bad moments, days, but y'all, these moments EXIST after loss!  They EXIST in the hearts and minds of those hurting!  (even if you don't know it!)  And I must share the HOPE that I have! The hope that Jesus has given to me, the hope and healing that our story can offer to others!  And that is attached to REAL, AUTHENTIC LIFE AFTER LOSS!  Nine years later, I still struggle sometimes, but God's grace, His mercy never, ever leaves me and always carries us through.

There's a song "Nothing Greater Than Grace" by Point of Grace that touches my heart every time I hear it.  I kept it on replay for probably about a year of my life...I will leave you with these lyrics.  I send my love and my prayers to each and every one of you today and always...there is nothing greater than grace!

So don't lose hope, don't let go
Don't give up, you are not alone

There is no valley, there is no darkness
There is no sorrow greater than the grace of Jesus.
There is no moment, there is no distance,
There is no heartbreak He can't take you through.
So before you think that you're too lost to save,
So before you think that you're too lost to save,
Remember there is nothing greater than grace.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Anchor STILL Holds, nine years later...

I had to take a moment of my time today and share a little of what is on my heart on the ninth anniversary of burying our son.

Perseverance.  Hope.  Sorrow.  Joy.  Peace.  

We have had a lot of bad happen in our lives and a lot of good happen in our lives and as I reflect upon the darkest of times, I remember singing "The Anchor Holds" by Ray Boltz.  Today, on this day of remembrance of so many of those tragic times in our lives, I sing it with tears rolling down my face because that "anchor" that I used to sing about in tears of depression, sickness, fear, grief, is the same "anchor" I sing about today with tears rolling down my face...and that "anchor" holds!  It really, really does! 

I have been young
But I am older now
And there has been beauty
These eyes have seen

But it was in the night
Through the storms of my life
Oh, that's where God proved
His love to me

The anchor holds
Though the ship's been battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn

I have fallen on my knees
As I faced the raging seas
The anchor holds
In spite of the storm

Sorrow has perched upon my heart and invaded my thoughts, my heart, my being, and there are days it still does, even nine years later, but along side of sorrow resides joy, peace and love that fills my heart with hope, eternal hope.  

I remember people used to always tell me "sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning..." You know that Bible verse...Yep, that one!  I remember waking up in the mornings and screaming at God "WHERE IS MY JOY???"  And then the rants to God continued as I just wanted the sorrow to go away!  I wanted JOY back!  And y' day, I realized I had THAT JOY again! It was MORNING!  Not literally, but definitely scripturally! 

As I listened to Steven Curtis Chapman's new song today "The Glorious Unfolding" I had goosebumps from my head to my toes.  Because the story isn't over!  And looking back, I see the BEAUTY of it all,  even in the nights I spent weeping over Matthew's death...I see the beauty in the ashes...  

I see in the darkest of moments where God just held I screamed, as I cried, as I cursed death and the pain it brought to our family.  

I see life slowly evolving over the years...I see flowers blooming in places I never thought they would grow again...this friends, is hope coming alive and as it does, joy travels back in...into places that are so desperate for life!  

And that joy is God-given...and cannot be taken by anyone or any circumstance.  That joy can reside even on days when I am in the dumps!  And yes, I have those days!  Many of them, actually!  I just know that when they come, they will also go...and at the end of the day the "anchor" holds!

So today, as I look back on the past nine years, I see the sorrow, I feel the pain yet I see "The Glorious Unfolding" before my very eyes...and that is a beautiful gift from the one who has held me through it all!

If you are struggling today, if you are hurting and this is your darkest day, hold on to the "anchor!"  I have been in the darkest of places and He never left me, not once!  

I am grateful for the days ahead, grateful for life and surely grateful that I have the hope in my heart of being with my son again on the other side of heaven. 

For my sweet baby boy, I love you, I miss you...and as fitting as the end of the video of "The Glorious Unfolding" is, I will end with this... "I'll see you in a little while..." (big mama tears)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

HOPE & life after loss...

The bitter reality of life is that death is a part of it. Children die every single day leaving parents to do what no parent ever wishes to do...bury their child. I have seen a mother in her 90's cry over her daughter's casket and I have been the mother crying over my infant son's casket...I am here to tell you friends, it doesn't matter how old your child is, how old you many years you had him or her with you, how many days, or if you ever got to say "hello" before you had to say "goodbye..." loss is tough. Losing a child at any age is tough. There are no words I can write here for those that understand just what I am talking about except for I am so sorry...

Death is part of our lives, it is a part of life...and to be honest friends there are some days I just want to say "God, please no more." And as fast as I can say that, my heart is nudged back into place accepting that as much as death is a part of life, so is our hope. And our hope of heaven leads me right back to the place of a mother that will one day see her son again and with that, peace settles right back in.

Within our community, there are families hurting right now as they struggle with the loss of a child and I am here to tell you that after nine years I still struggle with it too. I struggle with the loss of our son and I struggle with the losses of children surrounding me. But in the midst of all of the struggles, God is there. His peace and joy reside even when the circumstances tell me differently. 

My heart hurts for all who know the pain of losing a very much. My mama heart wants to just hug all the mamas out there right now and give them cookies and Kleenex and just sit a while with them, even if in silence. Just to sit a while...and let them know I care and I am sorry for their pain, their loss. So very sorry.

My love and prayers to each and every one of you tonight...may the hope within your heart shine bright enough for you to see it, to feel it, to believe it and to experience it. XO!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nine Years Later...I Love Him Still and Always Will

  1. Nine years ago our lives changed forever.

    It started as one of the most beautiful and anticipated days of our lives as we were bringing our second son into the world.

    It ended with his death and leaving me with permanent physical disabilities that would claim much of my health and also strip away my career as a result.

    Matthew lived 25 minutes before he went to heaven. Ultimately, he lost his life saving mine. He was my very first blood donor and no one would know it before it was too late for him.

    I lived miraculously. I was on life support for four days, flat lined twice, DIC, two emergency surgeries and the list goes on. By all accounts, I should not be here.

    Life would never be the same. Emotional and physical pain would accompany me and change the dynamics of all that we did, what we knew, what was. Everything was different.

    Doctors, hospitals, procedures, meds, physical therapy all became part of our lives permanently the day we left the hospital without our son.

    Life was never the same.

    Matthew died the day before my 31st birthday.

    Tomorrow is my 40th birthday and also the 25th anniversary of my nephew's passing. My birthday stinks...I don't like to celebrate my birthday but I celebrate life. The life I was heart hurts for the lives that were taken away.

    Matthew should be here blowing out his candles and reality is he is not. I miss him and I miss him growing up and doing life with us in our home but he is in our hearts forever. This home is just temporary...and that is a good thing. One day...forever eternally is going to happen. That gives my heart so much hope.

    As much as I miss Matthew, I would do it all over again to be his mama...even bearing the physical burden of pain and disabilities. Once again, this is temporary here on earth. I would do it all over again.

    I know that the struggle of grief and pain is real, I am no stranger to it. But I also know that through it all, even on my worst and saddest days, I have joy in my heart and peace that surpasses all understanding. That is God given and I am grateful.

    So today I can wish my son a Happy Birthday in heaven with joy in my heart and the peace that I claim daily. Sure tears in my eyes...that's a given...and probably some cookies in my hand...but full of hope in my heart I am going to get through today and tomorrow...and the rest of my life.

    Turning 40 seems so overrated. Surviving the death of my son at 31 and the physical and emotional hell that I have been through gives me the ability to laugh in the face of this thing called age.

    Life is a gift that everyone doesn't get to unwrap or keep...

    Life is precious.

    Life is never the same after losing a child.

    That, that I know.

    The pain of losing Matthew has taken us many places and been messy but God has taken the mess and made it beautiful.

    We thought we had a lifetime to make memories with Matthew...

    Love those around you today, don't wait thinking you have tomorrow or the rest of your life....

    Don't wait.

    If Matthew were here today he would want us to live, to laugh and to love and that friends is just what we plan to do...

    For our sweet boy, we love you, we miss you muches! I can't wait to squeeze your cheeks and hold you and never let you day I am going do that! I am going to never let you go! So run around heaven all you can til' I get there because then you will be stuck in mama's arms and no one will tell me it's time to let you go again!

  2. Happy 9th Birthday to you Matthew! Our lives are so much better because you lived!

    PS...I loved you first, I love you still and I always will! Always!

Friday, June 20, 2014

July 2nd is heart knows it...

Just having a SAD day...

You ever have one and not know why?  Nothing really to blame it on... just sad.

Well, I do not have to look at a calendar to tell you why my heart is on the brink of tears so often these days.... because I KNOW what the calendar says... and it says July 2 is approaching like a freight train.

And literally the closer the freight train gets to me, the heavier my heart feels.

That freight train runs full throttle for me.. from the beginning of June until July 24th... Matthew passed away on July 2nd, and we buried him on July 23rd...

You see, when a mother (or a father) buries their baby / child, their hearts ALWAYS know when the day of the anniversary is drawing near...  Within our hearts are like little clocks that tic and toc as the hour draws nigh... tic toc... tic toc...

You can hear the silent rocking chair sway... back and forth.

But no crying... at least not tears that you would expect to fill the nursery... not an infant's tears but a mother's heart wrenching groans...

Tic toc...

If we could only rewind the time... WHAT IF?   If you lost a child, I know you have replayed the scenario time and time again... "IF ONLY..."  If only you knew... and the what if's...

NO matter where you are, what you are doing as the clock is ticking your heart is very aware of the time...

One minute closer to the time of death proclaimed on that horrible piece of paper, the death certificate...

Tic toc...

Sadness, spontaneous tears and buckets of crazy ups and downs are swept in uninvited, yet at the same time, embraced.

How does that happen?  You may wonder if you have never experienced the loss of a child...

It just does.

Grief is no respecter of persons.

I must be honest with you... I have been no stranger to grief now for almost nine years... and I think that when you lose a child you lose part of you, forever.  And as much as people would, and do 'suggest' to me to get over my grief, I don't want to.  And if that shocks you, please keep reading...

You see, part of being Matthew's mama is very painful, because he isn't with me and I miss him... and as much as God has helped me and healed me, I am forever going to miss him and that makes my heart grieve.  I will never quit missing him, and I never want to quit... so my heart grieves my baby and that is how it works.  I am just doing the best I can and when grief comes, I embrace it... and let it flow.

It is just as natural as it is loving someone.  You cannot stop that either.  It is natural for my heart to feel the grief of my baby just as it is as natural for me to love him more every day!

As my heart is doing the countdown... I loudly hear the tic toc... and the echo of the silent rocking chair going back and forth...  as much as I don't want to feel the pain, I do not want to miss it.

Sad... I am sad today.

Tic toc... tic toc...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Today was a rough myself grace

Today was a rough day.

Won't even try and hide that.

Really rough.

Matter of fact, so rough I came home and went to bed for three hours.

Surgery day.  Not for me, but for my brother-n-law.  What???  Why was his surgery so rough for me, you may be thinking...well...because his surgery was in the very hospital that Matthew died in.

Matter of fact, about thirty feet from the surgery waiting room stands two double doors to "The Birthing Center."  Yep, step outside in that hallway, and there it is, the place that takes my breath away just to see it.  The place where my life crumbled, fell apart, the place my son lost his life and I almost lost mine.  I was right back there...

I remembered walking in healthy and happy (and enormously pregnant) the day we had Matthew... I remembered leaving in a wheelchair without him with a broken body and a broken heart.  

In all of the chatter with those surrounding me, I heard nothing least not words they were speaking.  I just heard silence...the silence of my baby not crying, the echo of tears falling to the floor...

As mouths moved and talked to me throughout the busy morning today, I was present, but not really...the past came flooding back to me like grief often does but in monsoons and not so much waves.  I found myself angry and full of hurt and sadness.  I had a moment.  And it kept coming back again and again.  I didn't want to be by anyone and actually walked down the halls of the labor and delivery floor just sinking it all in, the grief.  I couldn't run from it because it surrounded me, literally, so I let it be, I embraced the hurt, the pain and let it just take me where I needed to go...The pain in my body radiated with each step, but I kept going.

There was a man walking the hall with a blue wreath in his hand...I knew where it was going and I got sick.  Literally sick.

I didn't get to hang a baby blue wreath on my birthing suite door, but rather a black wreath of on my business door was hung letting all know tragedy came upon our family.

Then at the end of the hall way, a family was eagerly awaiting their families new arrival.  Gulp. I thought as I walked past them how our families smiles quickly turned to tears and screams of sorrow in that very same place.

I wanted to tell the new mom at the end of the hall way how blessed she was her baby girl was healthy and alive...

I went  into the bathroom and there it was that soap.  The scent of the soap catapults my every being back into that time.  It is amazing how a scent can bring you right back to places.  I don't want to go back anymore...

I hate that soap.

Every floor and every sound that accompanies the hospital were just playing the song louder and louder in my head, "my son died right heart broke right family held our dead son in their arms right there in that room while I was in the operating room and doctors were saving my life..."  You know, that song.  It is a "sucky" song.

A very "sucky" song.

But it is my song.  At least part of it.

You may be wondering why I would go back to the very place that holds so many tragic memories and well, the answer is because it is a place that our families and friends are taken care of in while they are sick, needing surgeries and medical emergencies often bring us back there...sometimes it is just harder to handle than other times.  Today was one of those harder days.

This is our local hospital and I cannot run from my friends and family that need me when they are sick or hurting.  I have many friends who work there and seeing many of them today did make me smile, briefly, but they did make me smile.

I got grounded really quick when we visited my good friend waiting to have surgery in the later part of the morning, her 14 year old daughter with Sanfillipo Syndrome was in Hospice care while she was having her surgery.  My heart throbbed as I looked at my friend and saw the concern in her eyes and heart about her daughter and it grounded me.  See, Sarah, her daughter has a terminal illness that will claim her little life very soon, unless there is a miracle; and there is nothing her mama can do, but love her and take care of her until the day she joins Jesus in heaven.  That hurts my heart.  I found strength in encouraging her realizing that we don't know what will happen tomorrow, but God does and He is already there.  

After a successful surgery we were all in tears on the way home remembering those tragic moments...and sis said it best, "it's a cry day." 

Places we visit will ultimately bring back memories, some good, some bad...and that is just part of life.  And death is part of life, a part of my life and to be standing in the very place that death came upon our family broke me down today and I felt much anger, hurt and lots of other crazy stuff too that I didn't really know I still had in me...but I guess I did.

So I have emptied all that bad stuff out (once again) and loaded my heart back up with heaping scoops of grace...but before I could do that, I had to give myself a lot of grace to say it's okay that I had a bad day...It's okay.

When my husband walked in, he hugged me and said "I'm so sorry..."

Me too.  Me too.

As I laid in bed trying to get over this yucky feeling, I thought of the very first time I held our little Will...and that did it.  I smiled and got out of bed.

God, thank you. 

I am a blessed mama.  (and so very grateful)