Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I can...I can...I can...even when I say I can't

Noah LOVED LOVED LOVED the outdoors and LOVED our backyard. It was the only backyard he ever knew. Last spring I made a conscious decision to do many more things with my kids and spending more time in our backyard with Noah was at the top of that list. With Noah's help we started a garden, planted flowers and enjoyed many MANY meals on our back porch. There was such a time, just about a year ago, I felt peace was finally within reach. It turned out...it was about to be quite the opposite.

Just days after July 4 I remember declaring I was not going back home...EVER. I begged, I pleaded, I demanded, I screamed, "I can't do it" but my family, friends and counselor were insistent that Haleigh Raye and me needed to return to her routine and consistency. She needed to return home. "It would be good for us." Well, I'm not going to go on the record at my responses or even the faces I made during these "talks" we would have but it was not the most pleasant of exchanges. At that time I could not even begin to envision me ever enjoying life again much less go back to the house where so many memories would be waiting for me. I was so torn between not wanting to move forward but knowing Haleigh Raye needed me to do just that. And...return home we did. So many special people (some even being strangers) worked tirelessly and literally flipped (redecorated) my entire house in about 10 days. To my own surprise we have slowly found a peace and contentment in a place where I was convinced the memories, that so early on haunted me over and over, would overshadow any good ever taking place. I remember so many people telling me early on, "I can't imagine." Well, I couldn't imagine myself this place I had found myself in. I couldn't imagine laughter in this house. I couldn't imagine peaceful nights. I couldn't imagine waking up on Saturday mornings with only one child and not the two children that God had given me and now had allowed for one of them to be taken away.  But we have found some hidden traces of all that and more and they may not even last that long but they are there. They are there because I tried and I decided (with the help of many, many others) that I could.

The backyard, however, was not something I even ventured out unto until our St. Patricks Day celebration just a few weeks ago and it was by accident I found myself out there. Last night I reluctantly agreed to eat outside which is another something I said I would couldn't do because so many new and fun memories were made at this table watching Noah in his garden, with his flowers, on his bike or just running around. But I had to remember so many memories were made there with Haleigh Raye too...and even more new memories awaited me with her there as well. So off to the backyard patio we went to enjoy dinner...

I have to admit I had a hard time enjoying it and we cut it short but it made me realize it was just another thing I said I couldn't do, another thing I wouldn't do but I ended up being able to because I said, "I can."

This time hasn't been the easiest without Noah and the circumstances that surround his death and even saying that is a HUGE understatement. I go back and hear those people telling me "I can't imagine." And I have felt and still feel the same way. I couldn't imagine losing a child...but I did. I couldn't imagine attending my child's celebration service...but I did. I couldn't imagine returning to the house we shared, the school he attended or the church we belonged to...but I did. We did and are doing it everyday. The problem was and still is I can get so caught up looking so far ahead at what I couldn't do, what I didn't want to do I couldn't see what I needed to be doing at the present moment that was right in front of me. If anyone knows me well especially before July 4 they know I am such a planner with a to do list for my to do lists (yes I said lists as in plural.) I would get such a sense of pride by checking something off my list and still do but, oh, how my to list has changed! My goals are so much smaller than what they were just a year ago. But with each goal I accomplish and with each goal I attempt, just as I think I can't take another step, as I think I can't take another breath even as I think I can't live another day without Noah I am reminded of these simple but powerful words....

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Christ is the most important word in this verse because He comes first but next important  are the words I can. We have to be willing to put forth effort and not set around and say, "I can't, I can't, I can't." The things I have had to do these past 9 months make me shutter just setting here thinking about them. Hearing my son is dead, wondering how in the world can I look at Haleigh Raye's face as we tell her that her brother is gone forever, seeing him and adjusting to this new normal that we have involuntarily had to find our way in. But they have made me realize how true this verse really is because I know now...

                  I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

10 Seconds of Joy


This has to be one of mine and Haleigh Raye's favorite memories and I would venture to say it would be one of Noah's as well (It is on my list of "100 things to ask Noah when I get to heaven."). Everyday when I picked them up at school they would fight (yes, literally fight) over who would be the first one to open and get to stand up through the sunroof (it's a small sunroof so not only having to be last at being up, the last one usually wasn't as comfortable as the one who got up there first.) I remember some days Noah would race out the school door just to beat his sister so he could hit that button and already be standing up by the time she was walking out. It got so bad I had to eventually make a note in my phone's calendar of who went first on what day!  We also had battles over who got to choose the song on the radio, who set in the front seat and who got out of the car first. Any of those sound familiar to you parents? For 10 years that was my life. Especially with Noah. He had to be the first and best at everything and if you knew him for longer than 5 minutes you figured this out VERY quickly. He never stood still. He ran everywhere and he never ever ever wanted to be left out or left behind...of ANYTHING. He did, however, always make sure his sister was never left out as well...he just always had to be a step ahead of her. 

Once we had the matter of who was standing up first settled, I would tell them to pretend they were in a parade and do a fancy wave at all the other cars in line heading toward us. There were days I thought it was so much hassle to do this and keep up with whose turn it was that on some occasions I wanted to scream "NO! We are not doing this and you all only get to do it for 10 seconds if that." But I resisted that feeling and they loved it even if was only for 10 seconds. The sun was on their face and the wind was blowing in their hair. I even think the people we passed enjoyed it as well because they always had a smile and a wave to give back to them. 

By accident I had my sunroof open today. Haleigh Raye noticed it and immediately jumped up and said, "Mommy this was one of my favorite things to do with Noah. Oh, I am going to miss him so much" but without skipping a beat she climbed right up, smiled and did the fancy wave (I was the late parent today and everyone else had gone home so there was no one to wave at her but she did it nonetheless.) I was so surprised I had forgotten they did this and I was even more surprised I never got a picture of them doing it because I tried to capture every moment and it was what we did everyday weather permitting and I assumed it would never end. I assumed wrong. 

You probably know the rest of the story and it did end. That chapter has closed in my life and it hurts. It hurts every day and sometimes can hurt every second of every day especially when a new memory comes back or we relive an old past time.  I am so very grateful for the 10 years I got with Noah. Those are the years I can honestly say I don't know where they went. It's the 10 second memories like hanging out the sunroof that I hold on to and relive and I miss...terribly. 

But it is also the 10 second memories here and 10 second memories there that can be so bittersweet but, yet at the same time, still remind that it doesn't have to end with Haleigh Raye. At least weekly I am in awe of something she has overcame or an obstacle she has faced head on. She amazes me. She strengthens me and most importantly she encourages me to go on without even saying a word. Just her presence is enough for me to realize she is alive and she is living. She has to see she that as much as I miss and mourn the loss of Noah I want to engulf and enjoy the life of Haleigh Raye and take in as many 10 seconds of joy we can find together until those seconds of joy turn into an eternity of life that include all three of us again with the bright sun shining, once again, in our face.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Bittersweet Friendship

Facebook Post From November 14, 2012

Today I am thankful for another bittersweet moment and a new bittersweet friendship that came into my life. As I concluded a “new normal” weekend on Sunday I had just sat down to hear a knock at my door. Being home alone with Haleigh Raye I reluctantly opened it and found a stranger at my door. As I looked at her through my screen door I saw that she noticed my hesitancy and she tried to put me at ease by telling me she was Angela O'Bryan Anderson from Missouri and had been to the UT/MO game this weekend (which explained her cute yellow nails.) I haphazardly congratulated her on her state’s win and silently wondered if she had ended up on my door step for a congratulations from a lifelong true blue Tennessee fan or was there something else she wanted to share. The latter parts of my thoughts were correct and her next words left me frozen and confused. “I lost two kids in the lake…on July 4.” I thought for a moment and vaguely remember being told about her story. There was two siblings who died the very same way Noah did the very same day just two hours prior. But those days were such a fog, the family was so far away and I was dealing with so much here I couldn't really absorb the story and the full effects of a mom losing two children not that I didn't have sympathy for her I was just dealing with the loss of my one and it was about to overtake me. The cause of Noah’s death is one that is rarely heard of and for it to happen to four kids in one day is uncanny but it did happen and the mother of the other two children, who was just a stranger moments ago, is now standing in front of me. Once I took a minute to put all this together and realize what a connection we had I immediately ushered her in, offered her a seat and we talked and talked and talked. We talked for 3 hours while her sweet friend waited in the car for her (Now, don’t worry I displayed southern hospitality to both of these Missouri fans and invited her in as well but she politely declined). Angela and I laughed, we cried, we exchanged stories and we eventually talked about what took our children from us. She was there that day with her kids and I was not and I had many questions about Noah and what quite possibly he dealt with that medical examiners were only able to answer in medical terms that didn't make much sense to me. I wanted to know if Noah suffered…did Noah know what happened to him. Those thoughts stay with me daily and nightly. Of course, she could only share with me her own story and even asked if she could before she went into details. I won’t really know answers about Noah until I get to heaven and may not even be allowed to know them then. But for now I battle the flesh and still live with those questions and wonder why didn't God intervene that day with Noah. Why didn't he have someone put the precautions in place so that Noah wouldn't have went through this. I don’t think that God caused the circumstances around Noah’s death but I can’t help but wonder why. Why did it happen? Why was it Noah? Why didn't someone somewhere know what they were doing. I'm angry but doesn't mean I’m angry at God. Doesn't mean I don't have faith in God. It means I’m human and I want answers surrounding everything that happened that day and the time prior that led up to this death. But with all those questions about God I do know he is God and he is faithful and that he did intercede in my life when he brought this new friend into my life. A new friend that I wish I had never heard of and I wish she never would have heard of me and I wish we didn't have a story to share…but we do. He knew my heart and knew I needed someone with similar circumstances who understood what I was going through and the questions I face and the thoughts that haunt me. So, Angela, I thank you for staying up all Friday night in your hotel in Knoxville and researching us and our story. I thank you for answering the call that was on your heart to come find this grieving mother who needed someone as much as you did. If you haven't read about Angela and her story, I encourage you to do so and add her to your prayers. I know she, her husband and especially their son Garrett, who is discovering what is it like to go from middle child to only child, will be on mine for the rest of my life...probably several times a day.

This is an update on Angela and another hurdle they just crossed and I am trying to cross myself. One thing I personally have learned about grief is that everyone handles it differently and everyone handles the "have to's" that come with it differently...A headstone is not a want or a need...it's a have to. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

9 months then...9 months now

9 months today. I could ask myself where the time has gone but I know. I know where every hour and sometimes where every second has gone. It's been full of missing you. 9 months. For 9 long months I carried you, awaited and prepared for your arrival. I wondered about your life. I imagined what you would look like.  What color your hair would be? Would you even have any hair? What would be your first words? What would you do all day? How would your life impact my life, our community and maybe even our world? Would you be a doctor or a lawyer? Maybe you would enter the ministry. I prayed that you would become a believer and you would change lives and change hearts. I just knew you would. You had already changed mine and, along with your sister, you completed me. Daily people would tell me how you would change my life and my heart. Everyday for 9 months I found myself telling you hello until you could join me in my world. I knew there would be so much of you to share...but I had to wait.

9 long months and I have found myself asking those very same questions in an entirely different way. What do you look like in heaven? Are you the same as I knew you? Will I recognize you immediately? What color is your hair in heaven? Do you even have hair in heaven? If so, is it that sandy brown? Does it turn blondish in the light that they say heaven is full of? Do you still have those big brown eyes that I never took for granted. What were you first words when you stepped over? Were you in awe like they say we will be? What do you do all day? Oh, Noah, there are so many times I long to be right there with you feeling what you experience seeing what you see...but I have to wait.

9 months. In 9 months there are many things I've learned about your life here on earth. You didn't need to live 50 years to make a difference. You did it on your own with your undeniable boyish look, your love of life, your smile and most of all...most importantly of all...your testimony. You entered the ministry all right. Your life was and has become a ministry to so many and especially to me. Not many parents get to see the fruition of their child's testimony come to life but I have. Daily for 9 months at least one person tells me their story and how they heard about you, how you changed their life...how you changed their heart. For 9 months I have found myself sharing about you, back to wondering about you and telling you goodbye all at the same time until I can join you in your world...but I have to wait. 

My best friend sent this video to me last night. Briefly I thought it was going to be just another sad video about death, losing a child and all that goes with it...well it was all that with a very special, unexpected addition. I hope you can watch it in its entirety so you can see why.