Brokenhearted

“That’s really the question you are going to ask here….at Zaxby’s?” Isaac said his opinion apparent in his tone.

“Uh yeah,” was my only response. I didn’t see anything wrong with the question I asked. Yet again I also didn’t realize what emotional door I was opening or the conversation it would lead to.

Before I get into that I have to tell you I have been pondering this question my friend T asked me almost two months ago. We were on our six-hour drive to Kentucky, we started talking about kids and babies. She just said, “I know what your boys want but you know I don’t ever hear much from you about what you want. Do you want another baby?” I guess I knew that I hadn’t really talked about my own thoughts about it, I just kind of went along with, “What, yeah of course I do”. Her question made my heart sit up inside and look around though. What I saw was this spot that I don’t really actually talk about. I have talked around it, discussed aspects of it, but I haven’t verbally revealed that spot. That’s curious for me, we all know I talk about everything. I analyze everything. I find the smallest emotional issues and I dig into it, pushing it around, feeling it, doing everything to understand and come to a place of resolve. This though. I have just left alone.

Now that I am aware though, I have been looking at that spot for two months. I have talked about not talking about it. I have poked it a little bit, pushed the outside of it to see how tough the skin is, but I haven’t dug in.

Well until that moment at Zaxby’s.

We were just sitting there, the three of us, as it usually is. This question just popped into my mind out of my mouth: “Would you guys be okay if it is just the three of us? Can you be content if this was just our family?”. I didn’t expect my voice to crack or my eyes to well up with tears but they did.

They both responded with a resounding yes. Then Isaac asked his, “Really, here.” question. Then Charles paused and said “Wow, wait, I think yes. It just hits me in this spot to think that we wouldn’t have anymore.” (Did I swoon? Or course. I love a man who can identify his feelings and communicate them). We finished up lunch, hopped in the car to finish our drive to see his family in North Carolina.

The next hour was filled with the emotional banter of two parents trying to figure out where their hearts are. Charles kept asking me “What do you want? Do want another baby?” I kept replying “This isn’t about whether I want another baby. Of course, I want another baby. I wanted 4 babies. I wanted to have more than one right now. I wanted to keep both of the ones I had. This isn’t about wanting another. This is about can I accept how life is playing out with regards to our children.”

You see if I ran the world. I would have 4 kids, living in a house somewhere in the country. They would play outside all day and we would have family dinners at night. I would be spending my day’s navigating emotional conversations between them giving space and guidance, to help shape them into the phenomenal beings I know they were made to be.

I don’t run the world though. I don’t have 4 kids and a house in the country. Nobody is playing outside all day to only come in for family dinner at night. I am not spending my days navigating conversation between amazing little people we have been entrusted with. I am a mom of a 10-year-old, trying to figure out how to not be too much most days, and too little the other days. As Charles and I processed, I realized I am a mom who is having to figure out if it is okay to bring another life into the world who doesn’t know the life who left early. If a baby joins us, they won’t know Katie Grace. They won’t have the opportunity to hold her hand or kiss her cheeks or be in her presence. They will come into our family and never know this precious soul who changed who we were. It aches my heart in a way I don’t have words for.

In all honesty, when I first started writing this post I had to stop. Grief showed up in a deeper way than I had expected. I thought I had grasped something during that conversation with Charles, and I did, it’s just that there was more. As the words of the story left my mind and heart, this space opened inside me, and I realized….it isn’t just about can I accept how my life is playing out in regards to children.

It’s about my heart being broken.

We see professional athletes run on injuries or people in stressful situations whose mind pushes the pain of broken limbs or sprained joints out of the way to get them to safety. Our hearts are no different. I was dedicated to living life with Katie Grace, committed to loving her with all that I had even when I knew it was going to hurt at the end. For her entire life, I wrestled with the consequences of loving her thoroughly. Always seeing death looming around, letting the expanse of the impending pain known. Relentlessly I battled back somehow discovering the grit to keep pace with my girl, making sure that when she crossed the finish line of her life, she wasn’t alone. Her race is over though, and rightfully so, my place beside her is also over. All the injuries I suppressed, all the pain I pushed to the side, they have slowly made their presence known. I just didn’t realize how broken my heart is. I think because I processed so much to be so strong beside her, I just figured I was okay, my leg wasn’t that broken.

It is though, I gave that girl all of me. I fought self-preservation to stay wholeheartedly present and madly in love with her unto death. I went against norms to embrace new normals to make space for who she was. I raged against sterile environments to make memories with her, knowing they were going deepen our connection, hurting more when she left this world. I did what parents do, I did the hard things so that she had the best of what this world offered her.

Katie Grace was still with us when I made the decision in my mind that I would have more. I actually blogged about it because it was one of those I won’t live in a sterile world because I know something painful is coming moments. I just decided the trauma of her life wouldn’t stop me from bringing new life. So we stopped preventing and just decided what will be will be. That is where we have stayed for the last five years. It has been easy to write off the lack of pregnancy as life was stressful, or busy, or my body just not being ready.

Now here I am, finally realizing how broken my heart is. It cringes at the thought of loving a new child, not because they are not wanted but because it knows fully the depth of “what if something” happened. It is awakened the vastness of pain that comes with saying goodbye to a child too early. I think also, having another, is truly letting go. Bringing new life into this world, growing our family, is a huge step of moving forward. Right now we are this unit, this tight family of 3 who knew her, loved her, held her, and in a way it keeps her with us. This tender broken heart might just need time to let pain breathe now that it has been brought to light. Maybe all these years it hasn’t been a deficiency in my body but I simply needed time and space for my broken heart to heal

Time is simply something you cannot rush. I know we like to, especially in our culture these days. Yet you can’t rush it. Time is what gives us the space for our memories, our hurts, our victories, our failures.

Right now, I am breathing. I am let the tears fall. I am looking at this broken heart and letting it breathe. I am giving it permission to fully grieve and although it hurts my fingers to type, I am giving myself permission to move on.

I am leaving this post with a song I listen to strategically. It’s a song Isaac and I played almost every day after Katie Grace died. I would pick him up from school and when we hit our neighborhood, I would open the sunroof on our blue van, let him stick his head out the window, and play this song as loud as I could. Take a minute, listen to the words, they will tell you why.

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.

We have decided

Death is a word that is common in our house.

“When Katie Grace dies,”

“Momma is Katie Grace going to die.”

“We have to plan for her death”

“Gosh I don’t know how we are going to do this. Preparing for the death of your child is unlike anything I have ever experienced.”

We talk a lot about death in our home. It has kind of become our norm. We are growing weary though….so exhausted….of using that word.

Charles and I just have to wonder….is she really dying?

Websters’ dictionary defines death as: the end of life : the time when someone or something dies

: the ending of a particular person’s life.

Is Katie Grace last breath here on earth really the end?

We have decided that it isn’t. Death isn’t the end for Katie Grace.

Jesus conquered death when he died on the cross. He took the power out of it being the end of someone’s life.  He gave death a whole other meaning.  Death has always carried this level of sadness….a power almost. It is something that is avoided, feared, mourned, and hated. Jesus redeemed all of that.  He took away the power of what death does and we are missing a piece of the Kingdom when we don’t make peace with what He.  He didn’t empower us with only a physical power over death but with an emotional one.  He gave us the ability to be sad and rejoice at the same time.  He gave us hope admist the sadness.  He opened the doors to Heaven, showing us there is no end for those who know Him.   It’s like running a race…..when someone crosses the finish line we rejoice. We clap, we say congratulations, we jump and scream….we rejoice.   We don’t cry, or offer our condolences….we don’t mourn that the race is over…..we rejoice.  In a way death should be treated much the same way.  My Katie Grace is running a race…she is on mile 20 of a 26.2 marathon and when she crosses that finishing line. I have decided to REJOICE.

We have decide to call it a graduation.  Katie Grace is simply graduating from her place here on earth..to her place in heaven.  Her life isn’t over….her purpose isn’t over.  The only thing that ends is the limitations of her physical body. When her race is finished, we will lay her physical body to rest.   It’s not that we won’t miss that physical body.  It’s not that we aren’t sad or aren’t  going to want her back.  We will feel all of these feelings, we will weep. We will want one more day, one more moment, one more sloppy smile, one more pitiful cry, one more moment to swing, to snuggle. We will want.

Then we will decide to rejoice.

Praticality

It has been an interesting journey back to any kind of normal for us. Charles and I have grown accustom to it taking us time to emotionally and physically recover from hospital stays.  It is a part of the journey.  This time was different though.  There was a bleakness that seemed to linger over us.  We were getting up, starting our day, grocery shopping, going to work, family dinners, working on house projects, catching up with friends, etc. etc. etc.  It was just hard.  Like each movement was a step closer to an end we know is coming.  Last Monday was the first day I had felt any kind of normalcy.

Sitting in the stillness of that normalcy, I grasped a piece of why this recovery time was different.  It was 5 days of talking about the passing of my daughter in such a practical way.  It was the various discussions with this doctor and that doctor, with this nurse and that nurse, the rational conversations between Charles and I.  It wasnt that we didn’t have our breakdowns and “lose it moments” , they were just few and far between. There isn’t a bunch of room for breakdowns when you are doing long-term care, especially when you are in the hospital.  When you get those moments for breakdowns they are like these gaps of air, a bubble of space provided for you to just lose it..to breakdown and cry….to say all the things that scare you…all the things that hurt you…all the loss you feel.  Then the bubble moves and life goes on.  You begin to breathe everybody else’s air…..the life moves on air…. and you have to be practical.

When we are home there are a lot more bubbles and a little less of everybody’s air.

This is what made this time different…at home there was more of everybody else air.  Katie Grace care requires it of us. You see we want to be prepared for her graudation.  We want to make sure that there is as little stress as possible and that requires practicality today. Practicality that requires phone calls to funeral homes, discussions of cremation or burial, if we bury her can I live in another state with her body laid to rest in California? questions,  preparation to sell the house, not placing Isaac in private school, finanically trying to save…etc. etc.  Practical steps and questions.

Many of the big financial decisions that Charles and I made were for the better for Katie Grace. She needed more space for equipment, nurses, teachers, so we bought a house. She needed a smoother ride down to Sacramento so it didn’t wear her out so much….so we bought a newer van. I wish I could say that we could do those things because Charles and I were so smart and had a savings and huge emergency fund. Wish I could tell you we fell in love with Dave Ramsey years ago…..however we didn’t. That’s a whole other story….if your dying to know you can read alittle about it by clicking on the Charles and Katie page . We started late in the game of life. By the grace of God he opened a door of provision that provided for us to do what we needed to be able to take the best care of Katie Grace. That way was with IHSS, a service originally set-up for the elderly to be able to stay at home and be cared for by family members but became extended to families like ours. It has blessed us alot. It has complimented Charles income to help us be able to provide the things that Katie Grace has needed. We know that when she graudates, we will lose IHSS, and that within itself is fine. Practicality calls us to be prepared though. I don’t want to ask my 6 or 7 year old to bury his sister and then have to move. I don’t want to be emotionally recovering from her graduation and job searching at the same time to simply make bills. I don’t want to try to figure out how we are going to pay for her “graduation cermoney”. We want to be able to celebrate. We want it to be about her and her life and what she has done and who she is.

So we are being practical now. As much as we can emotionally and financially throw at getting the house ready for sale, we are. We are storing as much as we can also into savings. All of our steps at this point are practical steps towards a graduation we know is coming. Bubbles of everbody else’s air.

All I want to do is forget practicality. I want be free. I want to plan trips. I want a money tree to grow in my backyard….so I can just grab what I need and go. I want to take a train ride down to Southern California for Christmas, rent a house and spend what could possibly be our last Christmas together surrounded by my sister and her kids. I want to see Katie Grace face as she rocks with the motion of the train….share in the views…watch her and Isaac travel together. I want to take her to Seattle. To have her bundled up in the cold….her favorite thing ever. I want to take her to Mt. Shasta….sled with her…have her be there to watch her brother possibly learn to ski.

I want to reject practicality and just live. Build memories. Moments that I will treasure until my graduation day comes.

Life demands though. Responsibility’s require. Practicality insist that we plan.

So we will. We keep moving on….breathing in the everybody else’s practical air.

2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months…..

When we left the hospital on January 15th 2011 a month after Katie Grace was born, the doctor basically said “two day, two weeks, two months or two years…she will show you what this will look like.” As Charles and I process this whole lung business…I find the thing that we are saying most to each other is:

“One month, two months, six months, or a year….she will show us what the rest of this journey will look like.”

Her life is like the most beautifully written book. Her beginning was traumatic and dramatic, there has been character development, a story build up, and as we come into this next season a conclusion.

You wouldn’t know by looking at Katie Grace how bad her lung is. She is so present in this life. Her eyes are wide open, she is alert to everything around her, and she still flashes us those smiles now and then. Its hard to imagine that in a flash that lung could grab an infection or it could collapse altogether spiking her CO2s. And it is hard to guess any kind of a time frame. She has lived with and managed this lung for 5 months pretty impressively. We have the possibility of getting home with a by-pap machine and it could help her, it could possibly even clear some stuff slowly over time. We simply have no way of knowing.

All we really know, is that we are going to keep living. We are going to keep kissing her face, asking her to do trips with us, snuggling her, and enjoying her. We are going to continue to wade through the grief….every time it starts to creep up on us. We are not going to stop loving or living….whether it be one month, two months, six months, or year.

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