Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dec 31, 2013...Just one more day….

Just one more day…

I have just one…more…day.

One more day that I can say, "Last year I watched Noah play baseball."

Not in a dream.

One more day I can say, "Last year I sat down with Haleigh Raye and Noah."

And it isn't my imagination.

I watched them fight, I watched them love, I watched them play.

In real life.

Now I watch her live but I also watch her grieve.

One more day I can say, "Last year I watched him sleep, I felt him breathe on me, I smelled his skin."

And I'm not having to conjure up a memory.

Just one more day I can say the words "last year" and relate it to things I did with him.

What I wouldn't give for just one more day.

Just last year he was here. He was alive. He was real.

Now, as I see it,

It's still just one more day

One more day closer to heaven.

Just one more day closer to Noah.

Some of my favorite pictures. 

Taken just…last…year.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  Revelation 21:4

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Special moments, special friends…special memories

The days that followed our July 4th, 2012 were nothing but a blur for me. Noah's room was carefully packed up and stored away for me to go through when I was ready. That time still hasn't fully come for me but I think it will.  Someone had the forethought to put some of his most used and important items in a box and stored it in my attic for more immediate access. His glasses, his toothbrush, legos and bracelets were a few of the things put in this box and one of his most treasured recently acquired items. A fire starter kit. 

Noah was all boy. He loved rough housing, could live outdoors if I let him and would have probably never took a shower unless I made him and…he embraced the idea of learning to navigate the great outdoors even if it was just his own backyard. 

So when Pastor Tim, our children's pastor, told the boys at church their reward for working their way through their AWANA book was a boys' campout AND a fire starter kit Noah was bound and determined to learn that last verse (even if he was still trying to memorize and recite verses on the way to the campout.) 

Well he earned it and everyday I would look out and he was trying to start a fire. I quickly learned what a big deal this was to a 10 year old boy. Every time I did a load of clothes he had me saving lint from the dryer. According to Noah the lint made the fire easier to start. I wondered where he got that idea but discovered he was actually right. (Many times I wanted to ask him where the lint would come from if he found himself trying to survive in the middle of the wilderness but I decided not to spoil his fun.) He loved it so much we even built him a fire pit so he could start fires a little more safely and I wouldn't fear my house would be object of his new found skill. 

So last fall when I came across the fire starter kit it had been suggested to me to give it back to Pastor Tim because of how very special it was to Noah and it was because of him that Noah got to feel like he was a true survivor man. Fire starter kit and all. 

Well time passed and the fire starter kit set. I walked past it many times and thought next week I would give it to Pastor Tim. But I couldn't figure out how I wanted to give to him. What I wanted to put it in. Did I want to write a long letter thanking him for being the only children's pastor my kids knew. The one who led their father and me in baby dedications, the one who baptized them. 

I just wanted it to be the right time and in the right way with the right words. Besides family and my best friend Tim is the only person who can say they came to the hospital the day Noah entered this world and...came to the hospital the day Noah left this world. 

So we thought and thought…and decided simplicity was the best. 

We engraved the box with Noah's initials and wrapped it in one of his drawings, framed my favorite two picture of the two of them and adorned it with an ornament with one of Tim's and Noah's 
favorite verses. 

"For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Noah wrote that verse in full just a few weeks before he died. 

Thank you, Pastor Tim, for leading him to believing in this verse. And behind him so many serve to help make our preschool and children's ministry what it is. I am beyond humbled at the numerous volunteers that are constantly and consistently giving of their time. I know it gets tiring. I know it seems thankless. I know it can seem tedious. 

But trust me. It's not in vain. 

It helps this mom sleep at night. 

So. What did Pastor Tim think of this gift you ask?

It was no doubt special to him and we exchanged stories of Noah. Like the time Noah threw a piece of ice and hit Tim square in the forehead (picture the most dramatic David and Goliath moment.) As Tim rose up with blood on his face Noah turned around and looked at me like, "I've killed Pastor Tim!" Or the time Noah was much younger and ran up and hugged him and told him he loved him. And who could forget about the day of his baptism and him asking Pastor Tim if, instead of walking down into the water, he could "do a cannonball" into the water. Pastor Tim also clarified with me it was him who told him about the lint. No wonder Noah was so adamant about using lint. It came with the highest of recommendations - Pastor Tim's. 

Special moments, special friends and, oh, so special memories. 

Death can not take that away from us. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Joy in the Moment

The holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving today, Christmas and then we start a brand new year.

How will you spend these next few weeks? 

Some may create new memories. 
Some may relive memories of holidays past. 
Many…will do both. 
Many already do their very best to try and get through a day but the holidays seem to put extra emphasis on the losses we have suffered and the pain we endure.
Sometimes it is all we can do to just breathe much less find a joy that is more than fleeting. 

By now many of us have learned that the things in this life are but a moment. 
A visit with a neighbor, a hug from a grandchild, an encouraging word from a friend. Even our favorite meal is fleeting. But there is joy to be found in each of these. 

This week we had family and friends over to help us with our Christmas tree but the night before the house got busy with people and activity it was just Haleigh Raye and me. On a whim I decided to get down every single Christmas box I had stored. I could have been the main focus on Christmas Hoarders. By the time I got everything down and out it looked liked my dining room had turned into a makeshift Christmas trinket shop. I sifted through it all feeling like I was transported in time and, needless to say, many feelings came over me. Then I came across our ornaments. Ones we had been given, ones the kids had made over the years and special ones we had picked up over time. And then I came across a candle. Given as a present, it was one of those things I knew would look just right…someday. So I never bothered to get it out of it's original box. Each year as we went through all the Christmas storage the kids would get it out and ask me to burn and display it. But I never did. I was waiting for the right time. The right occasion. Each year it got packed back up and stored. And so…the joy of the moments of watching that candle burn, even as short as it might have been, never came. I never allowed them to. Too busy, too trifling or too frugal with something as small as a candle but for whatever reason it was never used. 

I missed the joy of that moment I could have shared with my kids. I missed giving them joy. I missed watching their joy. Even if it was something as simple as burning a candle. 

This season I challenge each of us, (including myself), to find the simple joys. There are struggles, there is pain. There is heartache and there is physical ailments. 

But there are also little hands that want to help. A face who wants the book read one more time. A senior adult who wants to share. A person that really wants to tell us how they are doing when we ask. 

Or the candle that needs to be burned…
even if just for a moment.

(And this candle that reminded me of so much will probably burn all season long.) 

"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints."  Philemon 1:7 

And as we say at my house...
Merry Thanksgiving and Happy Christmas to you and yours!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

I miss Noah. And I want him home.

I miss Noah. 

And I want him home. 

And I don't think it is getting any easier. 

I don't want him running on streets of gold. 

I want him on the streets in front of my house. 

I don't want him to be in his eternal home. 

I want him in my home. 

I don't need him to be my guardian angel in heaven. 

I want to be his guardian parent on earth. 

You know, like how it's supposed to be. 

Job loss, divorce, arguments…those can be overcome and maybe even, in some cases, rectified. 

The loss of Noah will never, ever seem anything but unfair. 

Who deals these cards anyway? Was someone watching when I would play, "I can only imagine" as his lullaby night after night knowing years later that very song would play at his funeral? And how many people can say, when casually listening to the radio, "oh hey, that was played at my son's funeral" and be confronted with bits and pieces from that day. Yay for us for picking popular and comforting songs. But could I go one day and not hear one? When I bought the swimming trunks he wanted was it known somewhere that he would die in those?

All the boy wanted to do was jump off into the lake and swim and play. So did three other kids that day. How many millions of people have done that prior? How many millions have done that afterwards?

And to be electrocuted? Seriously? That's how it had to be? A finality of death associated with murderers. Not four children. 

When will accountability take place? Acknowledgement? 

But, in the end, even if all these questions are answered and closure commences, this fact will forever remain.

I miss Noah

And I want him home. 

Oh and grief? I'm over it..and I want it gone. "Hey, fate. How about a trade." 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Noah's Chocolate Milk

I woke up this morning and thought about all I needed to get done today and this week...and then started to think about getting Haleigh Raye up and going. Slowly, while all was still quiet and the day was not yet light, I reflected on what used to be my normal routine of getting them both going in the morning and how things have changed. Noah may be an angel now but on earth he was all boy with what seemed like an endless amount of strong will and energy and a little bit of stubbornness (that he did not get from me.  )I miss it all none the less. Our mornings are quieter, the hassles are less. If I don't set down with her, she sets across from a seat that can look very lonely early in the morning (well anytime of day for that matter) especially when it was his and his only for so many years. I always drink chocolate milk in the morning before I have coffee but today, after thinking about mornings with him, I made Noah's special chocolate milk which consists of a little milk, a lot of chocolate, freeze for 15 minutes and then serve. Haleigh Raye tasted tested for me and said it wasn't as chocolatlely as his was...but I was close. After I finished it to the last drop I started thinking no wonder Noah had so much energy after a glass of chocolate milk. He was on a chocolate high and, at least for the new few hours, I will be on one too. Sometimes you need encouragement to get through the day, sometimes you need a hug and all the time you can use prayer...but sometimes...you just need a glass of Noah's Chocolate Milk! 

(And, yes, I do drink from a Beverly Hills 90210 glass.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." - John 1:5

"At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don't really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man's life. I was happy before I ever met H. I've plenty of what are called "resources." People get over these things. Come, I shan't do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden job of red-hot memory and all this "commonsense" vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace."

C.S. Lewis - A Grief Observed

Another season is upon us. 

It's now been a complete year and I have experienced the fullness of 4 seasons without someone I thought I would have a lifetime with and, not only that, but I thought he would have a lifetime as well. 

There really are so many things we have around us to be grateful for. I remind myself of that quite often not only because it is true but I have to find, search, dig deep for the good in the circumstances or depression and sadness will prevail. And there really is much good in the world. In our world. Haleigh Raye is thriving in so many aspects of life. She just wrapped up performing in a play in our community and loved every minute of it. We finally have a routine that is working for us. School is in full swing and the intensity has picked up but she is maintaining her own. Our church is about to move into a new building for our preschoolers and children and I couldn't be more excited about the opportunities that lay ahead for us to serve more families. 

Of course, even with all this upon us, there are still some memories, there are still times that can sneak up, catch me off guard and cause me to fall off balance. These moments often occur when I think I am just at the point where I have it all together. 

But that feels like the story of my life.

One of my biggest fears has been that people would forget Noah and his spunky self. But that fear has turned to myself and that I am forgetting him. I can't recall details of him. I have to set and think about his laugh. His face had a scar on it but where exactly was it?  And what was it he would do when I knew he was trying to get out of trouble -- wouldn't he tilt his head a certain way?

I don't know for sure. I can't remember. His demeanor, his personality...it feels like it is all colliding with a boy my mind has created along with the real Noah that actually did inhabit my world for 10 fleeting years. 

In the dead of the night is when it can hurt the worst. I want to recall him. But the memories, paired with the silence and loneliness of a day's darkest hours are without a doubt the scariest moments. The craving to remember overwhelms me. But the need to rekindle his memory is up against the fear of the feelings of loss those moments inevitably bring and it's enough to make me stop, not allowing myself to go on to my dream.

This happened to me just this past weekend. After finally getting a restless and sick Haleigh Raye to sleep, rest eluded me and my thoughts turned to Noah and I asked myself the question I find myself asking several times a day, causing me to lose concentration and making my task at hand altogether  mundane. "God, what is Noah doing right now? Right this very minute. What has he done today?" Of course that pondering led to other memories from his toddler years to more recent ones and I realized there was gaps in what I could recall. Had the normal passing of time done that? Had grief impacted what I could remember? Death had taken so much from me already. Were detailed memories dying too? 

After wrestling with those thoughts I prayed for God to not let me forget and then... I fell asleep. I actually woke up and as I was texting these fears to someone I got a random text that included these words:

"Good morning, Jessica. I didn't know if you had/saw this picture. Love ya!"

I don't know who took this picture and I don't know how long it had been out there but it was one I had never seen before. His glasses. Oh, yes, I remember those glasses. And that goofy, short hair cut he got. Yes, I remember that too! Look at his pose! He would do that at times especially at pictures. And the armband he wore. He wore it for months. The shirt. I have it.

It was exactly what I had asked for at a time I felt helpless. 


Darkness surrounds me and steals Your blessings.  I am defeated and in the grasp of the enemy.  But Your forces are at work in the world, touching others through Your divine inspiration.  Oh me of little faith.  Believing the lie. Taken by darkness and fear.  God let me see Your light.  And praise be that You stir others for my delivery.  Forgive my weakness and self pity, I pray.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The smallest of things can bring on the hardest of emotions.

It all started with a new box of toothpaste, or at least, what I thought was a new box of toothpaste. Well, no, now that I think about it, this all started with me cleaning out my cabinets. Such a mundane but routine task I had neglected for quite a well because, honestly, I don’t have a lot of food anymore. I rarely shop like I used to and never ever do I buy in bulk as I so often did. Why should I when it is just Haleigh Raye and me and we are not huge consumers…of anything it seems..except maybe data on our phones. 
So when I recently cleaned out shelves around my house I realized the expiration dates.  January 2013. April 2013. December 2012. July 2012. Yes, some even went back to May 2012. It was at that moment I became conscious of the fact that I have to be the most sentimental person alive. Or at least that I have ever come into contact with and I cried at that. I cried and cried. Not because I felt like I was wasting perfectly good food when other people were in need of it, that was a small percentage of it too, but I knew that when I shopped for those items I had shopped with Noah in mind. And, sentimental me struck again, when I thought, he probably even ate out of some of this. Oh good grief. I had no reasoning. I wanted to save it all. Even the toothpaste, which I had found fallen behind other items, had expired in January 2012.
And then I think I started just a sad, downward spiral of my emotions and hit every single stage of grief in just a few days worth of time. Is this a normal part of grief? Or am I at the crazy stage? Or am I just clinging on to whatever memories, thoughts of Noah I can remember, or to a life that involved him in my everyday schedule.
Add to all these upheaval of emotions that I had to help Haleigh Raye , once again, deal with what she experienced on July 4th. One morning, there was a horrible wreck on the side of the road. With it being on our way to school we feared it might be someone we knew. As Haleigh Raye looked for familiar faces or cars she saw someone being worked on. Immediately she had tears in her eyes as she recalled seeing her own brother being worked on at the dock July 4th. Her next words were, “I hate what that family is getting ready to go through” and I knew she meant it. She hated it and her heart went out to them and it affected her throughout the rest of her day. Then a few days later she was setting in a service and someone gave their own testimony about dates that had affected them. Unaware that Haleigh Raye was among the crowd, July 4th was addressed and how the impact of that day left a rippling effect. It ended up being a very inspiring and encouraging talk but just not one Haleigh Raye could set through nor would I ever expect her to.
And there I was with all these feelings. Angry at what took Noah away and it never being addressed with me. Sad that Haleigh Raye had all those last visions of her brother. Depressed that he was never coming back to everything that he left behind, food, toothpaste, toys and all. 
So I did what I had wanted to for a long time. I wrote. I wrote and I wrote the longest sentences to what I feel was part of the reason Noah isn’t here anymore and then I condensed it. It felt like I threw it out to the wind and I have no idea if anyone caught it or not. I would like to think so but...I may never know.
Of course the week went on and onward we went. Haleigh Raye and me both bounced back to our normal (at least the new normal anyway) selves and routines carried on because life, as we have all learned, does go on. Luckily we both try to stay pretty busy with our lives so that we don’t allow ourselves to get stuck in one phase of grief or the other. The friends that have surrounded us are nothing short of uplifting and confidence builders. The family we have is unwavering and always there. And then there is our faith. Our faith has been shaken to its very core and we have questioned so many things we never even gave a second thought to because it wasn’t put to the test in such a deep, challenging way...until now. 
A few weeks ago Haleigh Raye sang with the youth choir and, of course, I watched all the youth but especially her as she sang with joy and happiness and I knew she truly believed what she was singing. I see her live it out every single day. The words to the song have came back to me over and over and over and over these past few weeks as we have faced these scenarios. What meaning these words have now. 

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

We have a choice how we respond. Among a variety of responses, we can respond in denial (which I’ve been known to do), we can respond in sadness (which I’ve definitely done) and/or we can respond in anger (got the t-shirt on that one.) 

But it is when we get stuck in those negative stages is what sets us back. And so just like the song says, "my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be YOUR name. That is a choice we make. That is a choice we have. That is the free will we are given. 

(Click on link to be taken to video.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fingerprints that wash away but thankfully the memories never do.

"Tiny hands, tiny fingers, that always want to play,
That never stop exploring that wonder of today,
Tiny hands, tiny fingers, that from the very start,
Will reach out for tomorrow yet always hold your heart."

This past Saturday I was working around my house cleaning here and cleaning there. After a morning of work I lastly came to my front storm door that is all glass. I remember this door being one of the first things I installed when we moved into our house because the other one was old and you couldn't see out it very well. I wasn't thinking about all the tiny handprints that would be all over my door for years to come and me, being the OCD person I am, feeling the need to constantly clean it almost everyday. My kids LOVED this door and the view it provided them. They would set and watch the weather, other kids play, the mailmen come and go and, one of their favorites, the city dump truck as it would cruise through the neighborhood. 

As I was cleaning away, on a door that didn't need as much attention as it did a few years ago, I was reminded of those long days of cleaning that glass along with a million other things I had to get done with two preschoolers who were 18 months apart. I felt like the days would never end and it was just minutes between waking up in the morning to lying down at night. The day flew by that fast and they, along with the demands of life, took all the energy I had. 

Honestly I don't know how I did it and I don't know if I could do it at the age I am now. I remember all those seasoned mothers who told me, "this is just a season" and "this time too shall pass." Easy for them to say. They looked put together, even had their hair brushed and were on time for events. They were actually setting down and enjoying their meals. I, on the other hand, felt like I had been in a mud wrestling competition with two untamed horses. They could be the sweetest things but, at times, I looked at the two of them and seriously questioned their maternity. How could I have produced such creatures that did such things and caused me to act in a way I never would have?  Sometimes the only reassurance of control I had was to remind myself I had a measured out portion of Benadryl for each child ready to be inserted into their mouths within a moment's notice. 

I've always felt called to being in the ministry and I truly enjoy it. It has been a privilege for my kids to get to be loved on by so many of our church members and they have always been there to give me encouraging and loving advice, but there was sometimes, I am sure even they questioned my mothering skills during those preschool years. I can recall, one evening, a church member coming up to me during our Wednesday evening meal and telling me "how well behaved your children are." I was glowing with pride and almost missed the last of the sentence when this was added, "compared to last year. They are actually setting down and not throwing their food at people." The pride quickly dissolved and I thanked her for, what I think, was meant as a compliment.

Oh, the memories. Oh, the joyous times. Oh, the rushing around, the seemingly never ending household duties to take care of.

Washed away...just like those handprints.

Life, for me now, is so different. My laundry is caught up. My to do list is shorter...and gets checked off each day. My house stays clean and my schedule is manageable. There is extra time for one more cup of coffee in the mornings. I can actually set down and watch a tv show from start to finish. I no longer have to hide my desserts for fear of little mouths wanting it. I used to request, "could someone please just give me 5 minutes of peace and quiet?" 

Sure life is busy with a teenage girl but those 5 minutes of peace and quiet are far too easy to come by now. Those handprints are gone and the glass is all clean, but the memories they left behind will most certainly last and carry me through a lifetime.

So mommas and daddies with little ones remember wise words I was once told. "This is just a season" and "this time too shall pass" cause it surely is and it surely will. 

But always, ALWAYS keep the Benadryl, or something of like nature, close at hand. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Healing through doing...

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”   - C.S. Lewis

How true these words are. Physical pain is something that can be treated. It seems there can be a fix or a remedy for what ails one or a treatment plan can be put in place. If one has a broken bone, surgery or a cast is usually the next step. 

But what about a broken heart? There is nothing that is guaranteed to work. There is no prescription. There is no over the counter medicine. Not even an old wives' tale that will cure this ailment and sometimes the symptoms can't even be expressed. 

Last summer after July 4, I can remember feeling everything made me sick. To look at anything was nauseating. To set up and see the world going on around me was terrifying. Loneliness filled my days and fear stole my sleep. There were times I wouldn't even want Noah's name said or any reference to him. Just the slightest memory of him overwhelmed me. And the future. What future? I couldn't even fathom a future. It was literally, at times, hour by hour, even minute by minute.  "I feel like I am the sickest I have ever been and nothing in the medicine cabinet will help me" are words I recently found scribbled in a journal from last summer. 

14 months later and I find myself still with that exact same feeling. It truly is like an amputation. I will never not feel like something is missing. 

Because something is. Someone is. 

All this love I have for him just didn't go away on July 4, 2012. His death didn't stop me from being his mom. The need to do something for him is still there. The desire to talk about him, the stories to share about him are as present now as they were July 3, 2012. 

I've caught myself, a few times, reminiscing with others about Noah and his antics and realize I think I just told this story a few weeks ago. To others the stories will be the same ones over and over as the years go by. 

To me, they are all I have. 

His memory is what I hold onto to...I guess that's why I'm always reminding others he lived. Stories of how he was all boy. How he was so fun. And he was mine. 

So....I look for ways I can do something, anything for him now, and I know it's not really him I am doing it for. It's for me. It's helps me deal. It helps me cope. It helps me heal. 

Noah loved being outside. He would have rather been outside playing, biking or on the baseball field than anywhere else. He also took up gardening and landscaping those last few months. He was slowly learning to see and appreciate God's creative beauty around us. 

Often he would surprise me with flowers and be so gentlemen-like when he presented them to me. Look at him in this picture. He has the best hair. He has the brownest eyes and had the tannest skin. Had/has. Which do I use. If only I could go back to this minute...this moment....

Actually being outside with him, watching him play, watching him work are some of the last memories I have with him. 

A few weeks ago his headstone was installed. Finalizing it had been a long, emotion filled process that took so much energy, time, consideration and prayer.  But it kept me occupied. It forced me many times to search for verses that, not only displayed his faith, but would sustain us in years to come and remind us of Noah's life and His promises. 

But the mother in me still wants to be able to do something for him.  So recently, as I sat looking at his and Nate's completed monuments, I felt a desire to beautify the earth surrounding the distinctive stones just as Noah had beautified the flower gardens in our backyard in the weeks before he was taken away.

So we cleaned...

And we shined...

And we (ok, they) prepared the ground.

And we mulched and planted... 

And, in doing something that Noah had come to enjoy, we helped each other heal. 

And there is still much to be done...luckily. :) 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Don't take it for granted

In Noah Dean's short 10 years on this earth I confirmed many dates and times for him. From dentist and doctor appointments, playdates, practices and, as many parents know, the list is endless. After his death we had to cancel many of those that were already scheduled out in advance (me being the planner I am.) Then we went on to make and confirm different types of appointments. From a time to pick out his casket, the service, his headstone, even reviewing investigative reports and meeting with experts to find out what in the world happened that day and now we still meet to find out what we can do to make sure no one else suffers a tragedy like what we experienced on July 4, 2012.

Today I confirmed yet another appointment. The date and time for his headstone to be installed. Yes, that is an option to be able to watch it go up. I think I dealt with all the administrative parts of it for so, so long, the emotional part hit me when I saw the number and heard the words, "we have the monument ready for Noah."

I felt like I didn't even blink and he was gone. My child was taken way too soon.

Parents, don't take it for granted. Don't be frustrated when they cling to you and you can't get on with your day. They didn't ask to be brought into this world.

Don't roll your eyes when the school calls you with a sick child and it interrupts your work day. Let your child know that THEY are not the interruption. Your work day is.

Find out what they enjo
y and immerse yourself in it. Ask questions, get down on the floor and play. There are a lot of things I learned about Noah and what he liked AFTER he died. Irony at its finest. 

Encourage them and help them better their skills. Strengthen what they are good at so they won't feel as incompetent when their weaknesses come up.

Find the good in life. From the simple things of bird watching to delivering food and fellowship to a shut in. Teach them empathy and compassion for others and the world we live in. 

Don't take a single second for granted. From rushing out the door in the morning, to the last goodbye as you drop them off at school to kissing their forehead goodnight and telling them, truly looking them square in the eye, how very much you love them and how you are blessed God allowed them to be in your life. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

My One Sided Conversation with Noah

Recently I found myself cleaning out Haleigh Raye's clothes in her room. I got so caught up in trying to get finished it was not till I was almost done that I realized I was sitting in the very same spot I had saw Noah, over 1,000 times in this course of his short lifetime, playing with his toys. They were plentiful and lined them all up against the four walls.

And that realization hit me like a ton of legos.

I was setting right where he had set one of the last times I saw him.

Last times I saw him. Those words hurt. Those words ache. Those words shouldn't be said.

So many times I flippantly walked by him as he sat there. I can remember him glancing up at me or him being so into his toys he didn't realize I was mulling around his room. I think about how many times I looked at his room and thought, "oh, how I wish he would get this stuff up."

What is it they say? Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

What an understatement for my life.

Right after July 4 there was the question of what to do with Noah's room. Keep it the same, let me come home and go through it when I was ready (I stayed at my parents' house for about 2 weeks and was ready to take up residence there but I was asked, no, I was told I was going back home and that Haleigh Raye needed to get back to a routine which we did...very, very reluctantly.) Haleigh Raye had a decision in how to proceed and it was decided his room would be carefully packed up (after several, SEVERAL pictures were taken) and put in storage until I was ready to go through it. Then came the decision of what does his room turn into. A setting room? A study? An empty room to represent the emptiness we felt with him not being here anymore.

July 4 at 11:00 A.M. I walked out of my house with his room like this...

And just a few weeks later walked into this....

The final result was a second more grown up bedroom for Haleigh Raye.

The room is beautiful and fits her perfectly. I am beyond grateful for the 50 or so people who worked tirelessly for 3 days straight flipping, not only Noah's room, but my entire house. Haleigh Raye had a lot of input in the colors and setup of her room. I was incapable of making these decisions and honestly didn't care but I never ever have once regretted what was done. It was the best decision made regarding his room and my house and the people who made this decision were the ones, without a doubt, who knew me best. Just a week after July 4th all the old went out of his room and all the new went in her room...except for his television. His loved, flat screen t.v. was the only thing that remained in there of his. (We eventually moved a few things back...little by little.)

It has a special sound it makes when it is turned on and off and sometimes when I am asleep in my room and she has turned her t.v. on (or off) that sound wakes me up and I think "he's turned his t.v. on to watch his favorite show" or "he's turned his t.v. off and any minute now he will be walking in here asking to go outside."

But...of course...then I really wake up and I remember.

This particular day of cleaning out, I had spent a little more time than normal working around her room. I never hang out in there for long either. I avoid it when I can and Haleigh Raye really doesn't spend a great deal of time in her room. She's usually out and about throughout the entire house.

As I neared completion I sat back for a moment looking around the room. There are these long marks on the floor that had been there for as long as I could remember and they took me back to him setting there. Building a castle with legos or cleaning up after a massive carwreck involving his matchbox cars.

And that's when I had this overwhelming feeling.

To talk to Noah.

It was something I couldn't shake and was I felt compelled to share with him just like he was there before but this time with so much emotion that it took so much mental energy from me I was exhausted later.

I journaled my thoughts later and my one sided conversation with Noah went something like this:

We miss you. We miss you so. We talk about you often. I try to remind people about you not because I am stuck in the grief process of denial but because I don't want them to forget you. I wake up thinking about you, wondering about you, wanting to go and wake you up. I go throughout my day reminiscing about days gone by. Memories that have passed us. I think about what was, what could have been and what should have been...what should be. If you see me smiling and laughing please don't think you have been left out or forgotten. You are always there and I wear your picture around my neck every single hour I am awake. Know that I understand if I am going to make it in this world and be a productive member of society I can't keep looking back and think about the supposed to's. I have to focus on the what is. 

I keep up with your friends both at school and at church. I try to find out what 11 year old boys are into because now you would be 11. Do you have an age in heaven? Do you do anything in heaven for your birthday or is the day you went to heaven now the day that is celebrated. We don't celebrate that day. I will never celebrate July 4th no matter what anyone tells me. It's marked with such sadness that I don't ever see being able to get past. 

Do you see Haleigh Raye? Oh, how she's grown. She is such a different person than who you knew. Do you hear her prayers? Do you see her questions about you and why you aren't here anymore? Does God pass on my thoughts to you that I ask Him to tell you? Do you know what happened that day?  Did you realize what happened? Did you hurt? My first words to anyone knowledgeable in how you died is, "Hi, how are you. Good to meet you too.  Did my son suffer?" Do you know I want accountability for your death. Do you know it didn't have to happen. Probably doesn't matter to you but it does to me. Do you see my anger at your death? That I know it didn't have to happen. That it could have been prevented and not one person/entity has said, "I'm sorry." In fact it feels that I'm avoided like the plague. I just want someone responsible to say something. 

Haleigh Raye celebrated her 13th birthday and it was the best time we had in a long time. There was no sorrow just utter joy and it was all for her but you were not forgotten. I've always said if the veil is lifted for you to see us it would be when we are in complete happiness and that night we were. Were you able to celebrate with us? I'm trying my best to be the mom to her I can't be to you anymore. People always tell me, "Noah would want us to enjoy life, the lake, etc..." You were 10. How could even you know what you want us to do? But, there is one thing I will never ever doubt you would want me to do. You loved your sister with all your heart. You did. You were her protector. You shared so much. You shared secrets and many times she will tell me something you all did together that I never ever knew. Oh, how I love to hear those stories. If there is anything in this world I know beyond a shadow of a doubt you would want me to do and that is to take care of her in every single way I can. I promise you with all I have in me I will be a mother to her for both of you and you will be proud of how I take care of her not only for her...but, to me, I am taking care of you too. 

Your always welcome to me, Noah. I pray every night to dream about you. Whether it be now or 10 years from now. Your always welcome to me and I will always miss you and a part of me is gone that will never ever be replaced while I am on this earth. But one day, I hold on to the promise of the joy that will come in the morning. 

And until that morning arrives onward we will go.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How do you choose the right words for your forever 10 year old son's headstone?

A few months ago I mentioned, at the end of one of my blogposts, the difficulty in deciding on a headstone. As a parent there are many scenarios that play out in your mind as you journey through parenthood. "What will I do for my child's birthday? What school is best for my child? Is homeschool or public/private school right for my child? What is the best method for discipline?" These are just to name a few. The list can be endless and I was definitely one who tried to explore every possible situation I might face as a parent. Yes, I was (and still am) a thinker and a worrier. 

But never did I think about choosing a headstone for one of my children. I remember one time, well before July 4, 2012, waking up sobbing after dreaming about losing someone close to me. I recalled the dream later and remember thinking, "how would I ever deal with the loss of one of my children?" I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind not even being able to comprehend it. Not wanting to comprehend it and went on about my day. 

So many decisions had to be made just days after Noah's death. "Would we do one service for Noah and Nate? What music do we play? Who sings? What clothes do we dress him in? Where do we bury them? Do we see Noah or is that too much?" We were a young family who, besides the fact we were not emotionally ready, we were not financially ready for any of it.

I will be very honest. I was probably the least one prepared for any of this and I had no reasoning about me. To say that I was mentally "out of it" would be an understatement. I couldn't make any decision. Choices were made for me and no one knew if it was right or wrong but who knew what was the right thing to do at time like that. It was like we were all operating in a fog not being able to see very far ahead. There was no rule book for us to go by and then, even if there was, one had to factor in all the emotions that followed our situation. So many people involved. So many feelings carried over and were intensified by Noah's and Nate's deaths. 

Fast forward months later and as time went on I got a little bit stronger in many areas of my life. In my parenting, in my ministry, in my relationships and most importantly, in my own spiritual journey. I still am not anywhere I was a few years ago but I've come to realize that may not be such a bad thing. I don't have to balance a million things at one time. I don't have to pretend to have it all together. I am becoming who, I believe, I was meant to be. Faults, failure, a few successes and all. 

But there was still the headstone issue and, for lack of a better term, it kind of hung over us. I wasn't ready to memorialize him in such a permanent way. And I'm still not...but it had to be done. It needed to be done. For Noah, for his family...and for closure in this aspect. At home, I wanted some sort of rememberance of Noah for us. So we created our own little memorial for him and that was very appropriate...but still......

A headstone had to be ordered. 

It had to be decided on. Words that would last forever needed to be chosen. Scripture that represented Noah,his life, his faith, his family's faith. It was time and it was left up to the two people who knew and loved him best and there was no avoiding it, sooner or later, it had to be done. 

But how?

How do you sum up Noah's life on a piece of stone so that years and years later people will get some sort of idea of him and know how much fun he was. How much he was loved and how he believed? How do I represent him well so that when Haleigh Raye's own family see this they come to understand something about a boy they never knew but is so much a part of their heritage and their life. 

I finally decided I can't. I have to do the best I can with the space I have and just hope that people will get some sort of glimpse of the Noah Dean we all knew. 

We struggled with this for months. It was thought over, prayed over, discussed over, and, more than once, was a source of frustration. Rough drafts were drawn up and rough drafts were discarded.  Too formal. Not formal enough. Wording didn't make sense.

But slowly it evolved. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

This was one of the first verses Noah memorized in AWANA and was probably the last verse Noah wrote just a few weeks before he died and taped it to his bathroom mirror.
He knew it by heart (even if he couldn't quite spell it all correctly.) He knew what it meant. It was written on his heart. 

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

I love this verse. We included it, not necessarily for Noah, but for us when we visit the Noah we knew. It encourages us to wait and be patient and to put our faith in the Lord and He will renew us and it's true. When I try to do it on my own, I falter and fail. When I ask for strength, that can only come from above and I work from that, I am renewed. 

With each birthday, no matter whether it was a family or family and friends party, I always did homemade invitations for the kids. I would make up a cute little poem about them.
They couldn't wait to see what the invitation looked like. I admit I lack in creativity but I did have fun doing them each year and I think they enjoyed it too (or perhaps they enjoyed watching me entertain myself as I spent days thinking of little rhymes.)
As Noah's birthday rolled around this year, I realized that was something I would miss and I wanted to be able to do just one more for him from me. And then it hit me. I can do one more because he is really is having the biggest celebration. The mother of all birthday parties. He's in heaven. How much bigger does it get? So I went to work on a cute little poem for....his headstone. 

I wanted to somehow incorporate a verse that has saved me time and time again when I couldn't reign in my emotions and wanted to know why? "Why did this happen? Why was it Noah? Why did you allow it God?"
This is actually my own version and it sits in my living room. It is one of the verses I remember my pastor reciting these words to me very early on. My friends said it to me over and over. We prayed over it so many times and it's on notecards in several places for me to run across as I go about my day. I would cry out to God, "promise me one day I won't be puzzled anymore. I will understand just like Noah does now."

When I asked Haleigh Raye if she wanted any input on the headstone, she answered a very resounding, "NO!" Despite her reluctance to participate, I wanted to make sure she was included somehow and asked her if I could include her signature word, "LOVE!" which is what she says before leaving someone in case something happens to one of them goodbye is not the last word exchanged. With enthusiasm she responded, "YES!"(She actually started saying "LOVE!" before July 4 and one of her biggest regrets with Noah is that was one time she didn't say "LOVE!" but rather "see you in a minute!" Reflecting on her final words to him maybe, when we see him again, it will feel like it's just been a minute.) I knew, with her blessing,we had our last line. It was encouraging, it was positive and we meant it. 

And this....was our final result. 

Nate, no doubt, got his creative talent and artistic abilities from his mom and when she designed Nate's headstone as a Lego Monument, I was grateful she let us use the idea too. Their headstones match and are beautiful. Noah's etching begins this week and should be ready in just a few weeks. 

I have no doubt when Noah stood before God he earned the "Well done, good and faithful servant" not only for what he did while he was living but what he continues to do even in death. His memories, his testimony lives on. At 10 years old he left a legacy it takes some people a full lifetime to build up, if that. 

Our church used this song when Noah was a baby as we entered the early stages of building our children's building that opens in just a few short weeks. No doubt his and Nate's absence will be felt as we enter those doors for the first time and the years afterwards. But, with all I can and until the Lord calls me elsewhere, I will do my absolute best to carry on a legacy.