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. :)