Grief Roulette

Today was the day 4 years ago that the doctors told us that Katie Grace was dying. I know this day is coming every year. I know what putting her to bed each night wondering if we were going to have her in the morning felt like. I know what it was like holing up in the house trying to soak in every minute of every day you had. I know what it’s like to just sit and hold your child trying to make the next 72 hours last a lifetime. I know what it was like to know she was done. I know when she breathed her last breath and what I felt when she died. What I don’t ever know is what I am going to feel each year when this time comes around. Death is simple, its grief that is more complex. It’s like a roulette wheel, you just don’t know where the ball of emotion is going to land.

In the first years of grieving, I think I wanted a timeline. A structure in which I could expect something. In true to me form, I wanted boxes in which I could check off the grief process. I wasn’t aware that I wanted that but I did. It wasn’t that way when I was logically looking at death. I knew Katie Grace was going to die at some point, I was intentional about my heart and emotions when it came to death but you see I was looking at just death. I didn’t consider that grief was a whole other beast. I did not give grief the respect that it quite possibly deserves.

Today as I write this I think I might finally begin to grasp the respect that it deserves.

You see this year I am not looking at myself to define the emotions of the next couple of days. I am not trying to box myself with expectations of what year four should look like. I am not analyzing the time passed and declaring I am here this year. Instead, I am looking at the roulette wheel of grief. I am watching the ball spin around and giving it the space it needs. I am not placing my hands on it or willing it or hoping. I am simply watching it. I guess you could say I am trusting grief. Not because I understand or have any form of control but because I respect it.

My mom and I call grief “a sneaky bitch”, it’s our inside joke whenever we are processing and need a good laugh in the middle of our tears. We joke about how it sneaks in at sometimes the most inopportune times, like when you are telling a story you have told a thousand different times but this time randomly leaves you in tears. Or when someone asks if I just have the one child and asks don’t I want more and I can’t laugh it off; instead the tears just fall. Or when Isaac comes home from school emotionally exhausted and it boils down to he misses his sister. Or how randomly you remember you should have an 8-year-old and you don’t and the overwhelming sadness makes you catch your breath. Grief, its sneaky like that. Also, it’s true. A kinder way of saying that, is grief is a mystery, a roulette wheel. It is as I am learning necessary, important, and valuable to respect. I most likely won’t ever understand it. I won’t be able to box it or capture it. I simply will be able to respect it and that matter-of-factly is enough.

I scrolled TimeHop today and the images I captured and words I penned fell before my eyes. I didn’t cry. I didn’t mourn. I missed. I loved. I appreciated. I don’t know if I will feel the same way tomorrow morning when I repeat the process. Or the next day. Or the next. I don’t know how or what I will feel on the 1st when we wake up in 2019 and will we know that this is the day we said goodbye 4 years ago. I don’t have any expectations or preferences. I am just simply standing in front of the roulette wheel at peace, respecting grief…..trusting it.

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy

It was the next thing I did after I pushed the start button on our coffee pot. It wasn’t your normal end of the season shirt. Generally, I pass those ones on to Goodwill. It wasn’t even one of those I am so much smaller now I can’t wear this shirt kind of shirt. It wasn’t even a shirt, it was an undershirt. One of those skinny strapped tank tops that you wear for layering purposes. I have had it for almost 9 years. Yeah, I know…too long. I couldn’t get myself to the place where I parted with it. It’s not like it was any good anymore. The elastic on the bottom was stretched out. There were holes, the fabric so thin it was see through. I had gotten all the use out of this shirt, I was going to get. Yet still, I couldn’t seem to let it go.

Until this morning.

I have been sitting in this place emotionally where I am just letting the heartbreak of having a child who died, be. I am allowing my heart to take this journey and process however that may need to happen. I have no time frame, no clue as what to think or feel, I just am where I am. Open, present, and engaged with my heart for whatever it may need. Last night I decided to do what I call hibernate. It’s basically where I ditch the boys, snuggle up in the back, and just breathe. Sometimes I write, sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I watch tv. I don’t know what is so life-giving about that for me. There is just something about not having to be responsible for anybody. When I hibernate, Charles and Isaac run the house. They navigate meals, bedtime, or whatever is in the schedule. It isn’t always Isaac’s favorite, he loves it when everybody is together. He also gets it and always finds a way to sneak back at least 3 or 4 times for a quick kiss and snuggle. Don’t even know who I would be without that kid! So last night, hibernating, I end up watching some tv. It was Thursday, or course, Thursday. Grey’s Anatomy was on. Now I have not been a fan of Grey’s Anatomy for many years. I like the old school Grey’s, like McSteamy and McDreamy days. Matter of fact when Katie Grace was born, I went back and binged watched the older shows. There was something incredibly therapeutic about it; it was as if I could release my pain through Meredith Grey. The ache in my own life was too much but I could feel it through the dark and twisty life these writers gave her.

It’s been a hot minute since I have tuned in. Until last night in my hibernation. In the episode, they were showing a scene between Owen and Amelia. It’s a long twisted story I don’t want to get into and isn’t relevant to this story. Here is the part that is, Amelia was talking about a child she had that had died. Apparently, when she and Owen were married, he wanted kids and she wasn’t ready, part of the reason was facing the death of her son. As they were talking, she said something about finally being able to say his name, the freedom that it brings and the fact that the memory of him isn’t lost when more children are born. I can tell you 100% that is not what I expected to watch on Grey’s Anatomy. I just cried. I sat in my bed and let the tears fall. Somehow, someway, this fictional character on this fictional show gave my heart permission in a way my mind has not been able to.

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy.

That undershirt I threw away this morning, is the last article of clothing I own that I wore when I was pregnant with Katie Grace. It seems so nonsensical to feel so connected to an inanimate object. It’s not like I don’t have things of her’s stored away in storage. Items I thin out each time we move or in each new season. I have at least 3 boxes of her. This undershirt though, I could wear it. I could put it on and remember her. I can remember being so massively pregnant with her. I can be in shock that this shirt, was able to cover her in my belly. Somehow this shirt became a connection to not just my pregnancy but also her.

I have tried to throw it away before. I just couldn’t get ever get close enough to the trash can to let it go. This hitch would happen within my heart, and I would go, awe there is no harm holding onto it. My mind would be speaking another story, reminding me how trashed it is. How there are holes and barely any fabric left. Yet still, I would put it back in my drawer and keep it in my rotation of undershirts. My heart unable to follow with the logic of my mind.

Things are changing though. This healing process, the timing that life has given, change is here, my heart is finally catching up to the logic of my mind. The more I stay in this place of heartbreak, sitting freely, safely, and fighting the impulse to be anything but present; my heart is fully feeling and healing. It is also releasing. It is letting go. Gah! It still makes me cry to write it. I don’t want to let go. That momma in me, that bear that fights, I want to hold onto what I know with her. I want to keep what life gave me. Life already took her, it can’t have anything else.

Yet in true Katie Grace form, doing what isn’t natural as a parent has been the only way to do life and death with her. Fighting to keep your children alive, healthy and well rounded, that is the intuitive drive. Not with her. It was almost always about letting that intuitive drive go, finding who she was, and following her lead. Here she is again, leading me into life, just as much as she led me into death.

Seven or so years ago, I was a new mom with a brain damage baby, weeping through Grey’s Anatomy because it was the only way to release the overwhelming pain of what my world was. Here I am today weeping through Grey’s Anatomy on a Thursday because of the overwhelming pain of letting go was too much for my heart to bear on its own. It’s a full circle. The embracing and the releasing of life and what it holds, the good and the bad.

Leave it to life.

Leave it to Katie Grace.

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy.

P.S For my die hard Grey’s fan, I wrote this two weeks ago so it was not last Thursday episode. Just clarifying 😉

 

A note to my daughter

Dear Katie Grace,

I am breathing today. My lungs are expanding and closing yet it doesn’t seem like they are ever quite filling up with enough oxygen. There is a sadness that is dampening their process, taking some oxygen for itself, leaving me just the slightest bit suffocated. I know it’s you, I know it’s my bodies way of feeling the emotion. I want to find you, you know. I want to search this world far and wide to find you, to be able to hold you again. I want lay face to face, nose to nose, to match my breath to the sound of your oxygen machine, to brush my eyelashes against yours…..to steal more moments. My mind knows you’re not here, it knows that you weren’t stolen, I just want to pretend so that I can fool my mind and clasp onto counterfeit hope.

You know what else I know. I know this sadness is stealing away inside because I am coming alive. I promised you, Katie Grace, when you came into this world and stood your ground of love and destiny that I would do everything within my power to be the best me. That I would fight for emotional health and freedom. I planted my feet daughter, deep into the ground, drawing a line that declared I would not stop until I became who I know you saw me as. Your presence relentlessly pursued me, like an announcer on a megaphone yelling volumes of my value and death never silenced that.

Today as I sit here, I see what you saw. The me without the pain, the me without fear, the me without doubt or reserve. I understand now more than ever why you came. I am slowly grasping the pieces of the bigger picture, gently putting together the me I saw in your eyes. The me, who you trusted your broken body with. The me who you knew would draw the line, who would plant her feet deep into the ground, and I want to hold you. I want to wrap you up in my arms squeezing you with gratitude. I want to kiss your cheeks and let my tears speak their thank you. I want to share in this with you. You are not here though. You are running the fields of freedom in heaven….probably giving the Lord a high-five and celebrating with Him.

This note is my squeeze. The words are my tears speaking their gratitude. Daughter, there will be no amount of thank you’s or I love you’s that could ever adequately convey my adoration and gratefulness for you. For how you came into this world, for your tenacity while you stayed in it, or for your resoluteness in who I am.
I love you

Momma

Welcome 2017

I have pondered about these next 48 hours since we celebrated since December 16th.  What to do, what not to do, do we celebrate, do we not, do we stay quiet, do we go loud, what do we do.  In about 28 hours, it will have been two years since we sat huddled around that olive-green love seat that held my mom, cradled that red-headed 4-year-old, watching her breathe her last breath.  Although my brain has run wild with the what to do thought, my body made the decision this morning when I woke up with the stomach bug.

Staying quiet it is.

Between my short naps and brief reprieves, I find myself scrolling through all the Facebook memories and Timehops I can.  I read and re-read the moments we shared and the comments that came after allowing them to take me back to that time. I have noticed that as I sit here, my perspective has changed, the walls of my heart have expanded. Notes left by friends expressed so much love, so much compassion and caring, but I was in survival mode and could only comprehend a fraction of what was poured out. As I read these thoughts now, I can feel the tenderness, the devotion, the love more than ever. Katie Grace didn’t just give me a chance to be loved by her, but she gave me the chance to be loved by my community.

We seriously underestimate the value of letting people love us, God didn’t though; He never has. I wonder if God the Father looks at Jesus, the way I look at Katie Grace, in awe of what her sacrifice gave me. When Jesus walked into the fullness of his destiny and sacrificed his life, he opened the door for us to the Father. He gave us the ability to expand our hearts, and in that He exposed the vastness of God the Father’s heart for us. It allowed us to walk in the fullness of God the Father; to grab revelations of freedom, of wisdom, and of love. Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t just give the Father to us, it gave us to the Father. It opened the door for Him to receive our love freely, and for us to receive His love freely. I can no longer look at the sacrifice of Jesus, without seeing the greater sacrifice of the Father. Much like Katie Grace and her sacrifice gave me the chance to be loved by community in a way not all have the opportunity to be. Will we ever be able to fully comprehend the sacrifice of God the Father in the laying down of His son’s life, so that we can share in a mutually loving relationship? Will we ever be able to grasp the love The Father looks upon his Son with, as he relishes in relationship with us? As he hears our worship and chats with us in our prayers, knowing that that door is open because His son said yes to laying down his life. I don’t know but as I look upon Katie Grace’s picture and reflect on what her life gave me in the ways of love and relationship, I can say I think I have a glimpse, and that glimpse simply easily stops me in my tracks and fills me with emotion that there is no words for.
Tomorrow I will wake up in 2017 and it will be the day my daughter breathed her last breath, and I will be grateful. That is my word for 2016, grateful. Grateful that Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t just give the Father to us, it gave us to the Father. Grateful for Katie Grace and what her sacrifice gave us, a community of people who said yes to love, and expanded my heart in understanding value, worth, and the depth in relationship. A love that stood during my inability to comprehend and stands today as a reminder. As I look at 2017 and the word that it will bring, I will carry the gratefulness of 2016 with me into it. I will hold onto the revelations and my expanded heart, full of gratitude.

Today you are 6

Dear Katie Grace,

Today you are 6.

This day 6 years ago you blew into our world, according to us you were 2 weeks late, however you were perfectly on your time.  A time frame we continued to live on all the days we had you.

If I were being forthright I am not quite sure how to celebrate you today.  Last year was simply the 1st year and it was so mixed with the beauty and sadness of your graduation, I think we just got by.  This second year seems to demand something different from me, its like a call from within to know how we are going to remember you every year.  You  know what would be the most like you, is to make the tradition a thing we revisit every year.  To be consistently inconsistent.  I mean for all who knew you, they know, that was your MO in life.  Grammie and I always said if you were anything but tenacious, it was consistently inconsistent.

We miss you here.  Although we are joyful always in where you are and who you are with, our flesh can’t help but miss your presence.  Your brother misses you sooo much.  He is continually asking us for another sibling,  we are doing our best but maybe you and the Lord can send us some help on that one.  You left an imprint on his heart that I don’t know if we will ever see the fullness of until he is grown.

This year has held a lot of changes for us, we have rested in a way we haven’t in years.  Our little family of three has connected and grown in who we are.  We have you to thank for that on many levels.  I believe a part of your destiny was to come and love us until death with every piece of you so that we had the opportunity to step into who we are.  You are ingrained into us, and as much as we try we can’t help but talk about you.  About who we are because of you, about what we know because of you, about how we were and are loved because of you. If you hadn’t said yes, and let this day be your birthday, we wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

Thank you baby girl for saying yes to life today.  To coming on your own time and doing life on your own terms.  For choosing us as your family and gracing us with your presence.

We love you with all of us.

Momma, Daddy and Isaac.

 

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