Thursday, July 11, 2013

Makeshift Backyard Memorial

Last year one of my fresh start goals for my kids and me was to enjoy the great outdoors and the nature that surrounds us. The first step, for me (with help), was to start with our very own backyard. Noah LOVED anything that had to do with the outside so I was eager to help start anything that might be of interest to him. So, we (with guidance) started our own little garden that Noah Dean enjoyed so very much. 

He loved planting. He loved watering the flowers. He just loved being active outside and I loved watching him immerse himself in the upkeep of his house and watching him learn. He even bought this little lighthouse (that now lights up my front porch) from Cracker Barrel for decoration in his garden. 

The summer, that was upon us, held so much promise...or so we thought. Who knew, at the time of this picture, we would only have Noah Dean just a few more months.  

A few months ago we came up with the idea of doing some type of garden in my backyard as a quiet, peaceful place to be able to sit, reflect, enjoy and even to cry. We didn't really know where it would be or what it would look like and I was still so hesitant about doing anything in my backyard so we just held onto the idea till we knew what to do. 

As we prepare for Noah's headstone to be put in place and as the holiday decorations have come and gone, we took some of the older items from his gravesite home with us. Those things were given in such love and I spent many moments gazing at those items, with so many feelings, as they adorned Noah's final resting place, so we were not quite sure what to do with them once we got them home. Something else we just held onto till we knew what to do. 

On Noah Dean's birthday, one of my good friends, Buffie Simerly gave me a beautiful white hydrangea in his memory and we just recently planted it. And then everything just came together for a little memorial for Noah. The idea of a garden and the items from the gravesite, both of which we had held on to, and then the hydrangea. 

Noah LOVED my dad and LOVED that my dad gave him matchbox cars and a few dollars every now and then so he could buy, for himself, the candy I would hardly ever allow him to have. I brought some of those home to relive the joy he felt when he received something as simple a few dollars and a couple cars. 

Last spring Noah and I attended the Chik Fil La Mother/Son Knight Event. He presented me with a Spider Mum. We took it home, put it in a vase and he was so proud of it. That flower was so beautiful and seemed to last forever. 

Each Sunday our church has flowers at the altar that families can purchase to remember or honor a loved one. I do this for Noah on his birthday and for July 4. I chose this past Sunday for ours since the Sunday before the church was decorated in July 4 decorations. I didn't make a request for any type of arrangement and to my surprise it was full of Spider Mums and yellow roses (one of Haleigh Raye's favorites.) I took them to the cemetery and brought a few home for us to remember yet another memory. 

For so long I couldn't even walk in my backyard without being emotionally overwhelmed by so many memories. From seeing Noah run around as a baby, to closing my eyes and hearing him say, "I can swing myself, Mommy" to his last days of watching him ride his bike around the house over and over...and over and over...thinking those endless summer nights would never end....

I can still look out there and see him now and if I try hard enough and let myself go there, I can see AND hear the same time. A precious privilege I took for granted. 

This memorial is not right in the middle of the backyard and is not always in plain view. It's off to the side. Just like his memory is to me. Not always seen...but he is always there...just off to the side. 

So, what better place, then my own backyard, Noah's own backyard, to have a small memorial place for him where I can relive so many memories of days gone by and where new memories are bittersweetly being made. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

And onward we go....

And a year has come....and a year has gone and onward we go.

Many, MANY times I get responses from people saying, "I just don't know what to say to you" or "words don't seem adequate." And now...that is the feeling I am left with when reflecting on friends (even those I have never met) and family who remembered us yesterday and the entire past year. Whatever way it was, it was yours and it is deeply and humbly appreciated and accepted. I tried to respond to each and every one and as the day wore on and as emotions became more uncontrollable within me, I couldn't seem to muster the energy up but please know that I read every single one of them and they carried us through our day.

I have to say a HUGE thank you to my friends who didn't even think twice about picking up and traveling with me anywhere I chose and doing whatever I felt like I needed to do and even getting me a birthday cake. (But luckily they knew me well enough that I DID NOT want a "Happy Birthday" song) so we just set around like good friends do and shared chocolate cake. Well, those that like chocolate did.

Our whirlwind adventure these past two days concluded last night with family and friends gathering at my parents' house and, at the end of the day, I felt so blessed.

To someone who has became one of my closest friends this past year, Angela, whose story can be found here, "We made it!!!" and I am so proud of you and so thankful you had the courage to knock on my door one night and I'm even more glad you stayed around even when I shut the door on you while I was trying to figure out exactly who you were.

Tomorrow is July 6 and will be my second birthday without Noah. I now know what his absence in my life feels like. I have an idea of the feelings I will experience throughout my lifetime now.

So, I'm almost at a point wondering what is next. What do I blog about now? I'm a worrier and someone who pre-dreads everything. Now that all the first anniversaries are over with, what will I worry about? What will I dread next? Am I going to let the worry and fear overcome me and not try to live my life and overlook the good that is before me.

Once, when I was so convinced that I might lose Haleigh Raye I couldn't even concentrate or enjoy the setting I was in, I was asked this, "Did you ever worry about something happening to Noah and Haleigh Raye before July 4, 2012?" My response was, "why, yes, of course I did." I was then asked, "and how did all that worrying help you cope with the loss of Noah. Did it make it any easier? Did it do anything for you other than taking away the precious time you were spending in worry?" Of course, the answer was no. There was not much of anything that helped with the loss of Noah except just learning to live through it and I don't think the dreading or worrying about the next tragedy in my life will help me deal with it any better. So why let myself get to that point. I totally understand that is something that can be easier said than done but, with faith, mental discipline and support, I believe it can be done and I am proof of it.

So...onward we go. I have found my passions in life and I'm ready to immerse myself in those.

  • I want to share my faith with people, however God uses me to do that, I am willing and I am ready. 
  • I want to share Noah's testimony and keep his memory alive as best I can while at the same time not living in the past.  
  • I want to watch Haleigh Raye grow up and guide her to the best of my abilities and make her feel so loved and show her she is #1. Because, to me, she is. 
  • I want to be an encourager to friends, acquaintances and strangers. I want to be the best friend to those who surrounded me this past year. I want to look people in the eye, listen to their story, reflecting on how far a kind word can carry someone and remember most of us are one of three different type of people. There are those who coming right out of a storm, those who are in the middle of a storm or those about to go through a storm. 
I understand, with the help of others, "We made it this far. And I won't let all this pain we suffered through for be in vain and with all I have in me I will make sure Noah Dean lives on in different ways."

The ending of one of my favorite poems I remember memorizing in middle school sums my goals up.  "I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep."

So onward we go. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

He will restore the years....

"I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..." 
Joel 2:25 

This has always been one of my favorite verses. To me, it meant, no matter the strife we face, the hardships we endure, the trials we undergo, they would someday be worth it. We would be rewarded. We would be restored.

This quickly became one of my least favorite verses after last summer. 

What had happened was unimaginable and the aftermath that followed was nothing short of complete devastation.  I didn't want to go through what I was going through. I didn't want Haleigh Raye or my family to suffer through this unthinkable loss. I remember vividly crying out, "please God don't ask this of me, don't ask this of my family." To this day, I can remember calling my dad from the ER trying to tell him to come to the hospital and I have imagined him a hundred times just setting there enjoying his July 4 and then my call came....

After a few months my mind kept coming back to this verse and I couldn't even fathom how, what had been taken from us, Noah, could be restored. There would never be a replacement for him. There would never be a restoration that could take place. 

Reflecting over this past year I feel I have come full circle on so many details about life and have so much to be grateful for. 

I have learned what true friendship means. The friends I have gained during this both near and far, the relationships that have been strengthened, the encouragement I have received. They renew me. 

Slowly and daily I feel more confident in myself. In my ability to "make it" especially when there were those days I just want to "end it." My life. I have made it my own and accepted what it is and what it will be and still have hopes to what it can be. I have reclaimed it. 

My love for Haleigh Raye. Seeing her each day, knowing that she has a full life ahead of her, she needs me, she loves me and I love her and how if I can't be strong for any other reason, I need to be strong for her. I owe it to her. Having her revives me.

His grace. It saves and redeems me. Simple as that. 

And His promise of eternity. what will restore the years.