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.

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

This time last year

This time last year I was driving, you daughter, to my Aunt’s house, knowing it was possibly the last time your extended family was going to be able to see you.

It was hard trip.

You didn’t feel good.  You had acquired additional medicines and equipment. Packing was a full time job and more then a chore. Yet it was important.  It was meaningful to sit with our family and be grateful.

This year, Katie Grace, we are home.  Your Rebekah is cooking up a storm  in our kitchen, and we are filling our home full of friends.  There is so much to miss without you this year, yet as I sit here snug on the couch watching the fall colors blow in the wind, I am nothing but grateful.

I am grateful for every Thanksgiving I had with you.  That in this world I had the opportunity to know you.  That I have stories to tell of you, like that one time we went to Aunt Nancy’s and we forgot the pole to your stroller that held your kangaroo bag with your food.  So we had to create something on Aunt Nancy’s porch with a nail.  Or that time that you were just irritated with everything and nothing I did helped, so your dad took you and were as happy as could be.  For that alone, that I could watch you love him. Even in your brokenness….everyone knew he was your favorite. I am grateful to have a history to look back on, one where I can talk about your love for your family, your tenacity for your destiny and your laughter. Last night as we walked through Target, grabbing a few items for today, we passed the freezer section, and your dad couldn’t help but say Katie Grace loved this part of Target.  Just like that you were there with us.  Walking that aisle.  Helping us prepare for this day.

We are going to sit down today to eat, and although I will not see your physical body at the kids table. I will know you are with us.  I will see you here and I will remember our history.  I will be grateful that we have a history.  That I have stories to tell and memories to hold.

“How precious are my children who remember to thank Me at all times.  They can walk through the darkest of days with Joy in their hearts because they know that the Light of My Presence is still shining on them. Rejoice in this day that I have made, for I am your steadfast Companion.”- Sarah Young, Author of Jesus Calling. 

 

Present

The fight between overcast and sunny was an aggressive one. The sun relentlessly pushed against the clouds fighting for the space to shine. The black pavement slowly began the rise to hot, my shoulders felt the few rays of sun that made their way in between the clouds. Hot pink ear buds roared music into my ears as my feet moved quickly upon the warming pavement.

I was finally alone. Isaac was at school, Charles at work. It was just me, music, and the battling cloudy sky and sun. I moved swiftly letting the music set my pace, mumbling out my worries, words just falling out, unconcerned with rational cohesive thoughts. As my rant came to an end, I heard it. A still small voice. It sounded much like my own but calmer. More rational. I turned the music down two notches. Again I heard it. Again two more notches.

“I want you to stay present.”

“What,” I responded this time.

“I want you to stay present.”

“You want me to stay present,” I asked, turning my music down to almost nothing.

“Yes. I want you to stay present,”

“What on earth does that mean,” I asked; the distaste for what that might mean apparent in my tone.

“I want you to sit in the moment. When you prepare for what you are going to say in an argument or conversation. Or you decide what a person will say or do,  and then decided what you will say in response. You are taking from the past and writing it into the future. You have already decided that the person before you is also the people behind you, and they will do what others did.”

“I have never thought of it like that before.”

“I know. It’s why you have continued to write people beside you into a story that is already behind you. You do not need to have all the answers for what is to come, you simply need to know who you are and be free to answer in the moment. You simply need to be present.”

My feet hadn’t stopped their quickened pace until that instant. Until his words began to sink in. Until I began to grasp that although my love for planning is a nature thing, a way that I am wired and it is good; I have used it all these years as a tool to defend myself. To make sure I always know what is coming, and be prepared for it.
My feet never quite picked up their quickened pace after that conversation, and there was little else said after those moments. It was just me and my thoughts, trailing off down a rabbit hole of revelation.

And as I have thought about it this is what I have come to.

There are a few places where it is good to be prepared, to know what to say. When you are giving a speech, when you are preaching a sermon, when you are presenting a paper. It is expected for you to know what to say. However, in the intimate things of relationship, nobody likes to be boxed. To be judge on the wrongs of others. Staying present, letting people tell you their story, it gives them the chance to write their story. To make their own decision of who they want to be in your life.

In Exodus 4 you can see even with Moses, as he spoke to Pharaoh, God asked him to stay present. Moses knew the Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened, that he would not relent yet he had to stand before him and ask him, over and over, as if he didn’t know. With each plague he offered an opportunity for Pharaoh to re-write the story.

Emotionally staying present gives us the chance to build our trust with the Lord. You see, if we keep re-writing the past into the future, we are spending our relationship with God asking him to change the same thing over and over. We don’t stop and give him the opportunity to show us something different.
For example, I have trusted few men in my life. I have met few men who deserved trust nor did they work to earn trust from me. Trusting men simply wasn’t a life experience I had much of. If you were a man in my life and I did trust you, I can guarantee you they worked really hard for that trust. Being transparent, it has been something that has bugged me about myself, yet I didn’t always know how to change it. Men are human, they make mistakes, but any mistake made by a man who was my friend, was pretty close to unforgivable to me. It automatically put them in this box, and I took their present mistakes and wrote them into past characters in my life. Today, as I have sat in this revelation, what I believe I am more empowered to do then ever before. Is let a present mistake be a mistake. It doesn’t write them into the past character’s of my life, but it makes them simply human. And I can talk to them about the mistake, and then give them the chance to handle it in the now. Surprisingly, not all men are untrustworthy and evil. They are simply human.

To stay present, is to trust God with your now. It’s not to say I hope the past doesn’t become my future, but it’s to say, I have a chance to see something new and I will see it. I will feel the now and let who is in my life presently share in my now.

I have never felt so out of control, so at a loss for words. I also have never felt as grown-up or as free. No longer do I look to my friends/relationships to undo a pain written long ago. I simply let them be my friends/relationships.

In the present.

60 days

Today is March 1st.

It has been exactly 60 days since Katie Grace graduated.

And I am still a mess of emotions trying to figure out this beast called grief.

There is this song that has been on repeat in the car since the graduation. I just now watched the video, and proceeded to crumble into a teary eyed mess on the floor.  The song, is “I Lived” by OneRepublic.

Katie Grace dances upon the lyrics of this song.  Her sweet soft feet touching each word as they play into my heart. It has become “our song.” She came into this world and lived.  She could only do so much and she did it.  She did it with every piece of her.  And it called me out….to live….to embrace the marrow of life.  To take in the depth of each moment, let it be what it is and let it change me.

The bad stuff

“I hope that you don’t suffer but take the pain.”

The good stuff

“I hope when you take that jump you don’t feel the fall.”

The  scary stuff

“I hope when everybody runs you chose to stay”

The stuff that wrecks you to your core.  The hurt that hurts so bad you aren’t sure you can survive. That becomes an ache in your soul you don’t know if you can live with it.  The ache that makes you question the decisions that you made. The one that shows the jealously in your bones when mother’s embrace their daughters.  That one that screams unfair as other 4 year olds run and play around you.  That wants time to stand still, for the moving on to stop, in hopes that it means she will come back.  The one that knows that it isn’t going to end in a year.  That time won’t heal this wound, it may soften it but it won’t heal. Prom will come. Weddings will come.  Milestones will come and she still won’t be here.

“I hope when you fall in love it hurts so bad.”

And yet in the middle of the despair I feel her calling me to live.  To suck out the marrow of life.  To sit on this fence of duality.  Touching happiness and sadness at the same time.  To be exhausted and energized.  To want to hold on and let go.

To count it all joy.

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