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.