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Monday, December 24th, 2012
Grief is debilitating at times and my heart aches for those feeling so much of it this Christmas.
It is difficult to reconcile the hard reality of life that people leave it so suddenly. One minute they are there, and the next they are gone. The only panacea for loss I’ve found is to feel it, live it, and talk about it.
As I was doing some Christmas shopping the other day, a memory surfaced that I haven’t recalled for a long time. The baseball hat in my hand took me back fourteen Christmases ago to the baseball hat I purchased for my dad, a cancer patient undergoing his first round of chemo. The hat was meant to cover his soon to be bald head. He never lost his hair. He never wore that hat. He died that Christmas day.
Fourteen Christmases later, that memory still stops me in my tracks. As with the death of any loved one, you never really get over it; you learn to live with it.
As another year stretches between that memory, I can’t help but think of the milestones logged in those fourteen years that were unattended by my dad. It hurts. Sometimes so much that my heart still feels as stunned and craven as the moment I first learned he was gone.
Becoming a parent made me miss my dad in a way I didn’t know I could.
Having a second child heightens the ache in my heart for him. It’s another unattended milestone. Being a parent makes me need my parents more. I wish I could ask him the hundreds of questions I didn’t know to ask him before he died.
Like any who experience loss, I will never get that chance. Instead of letting that grief, that injustice consume me, I remember what I have learned from loss. This is my one chance, my one life, to let my husband, children, family and friends know how much I love them. I never want it to be a question how much I loved them.
While I still miss my dad, the place in my heart that broke after he died feels a little less sad as I watch my daughter with my husband. Their love reminds me that losing great, means loving great.
As I watch my husband with my daughter, I freeze frame the memory to tell her later, just in case she faces the same heartache of losing her dad too soon.
I’ll tell her how they “wrastled” every night before bed as she ran at him yelling, “I’m gonna knock you down!” and leapt at him in a fit of giggles. I’ll tell her how she use to ask for “silly kisses” as he tickled her with is goatee.
He’s quick to tell her he loves her, but someday, after his passing, his voice and words will be hard to conjure, and while I’m certain she’ll know he loved her, she’ll need these memories to remind her just how much.
It is bittersweet at times to bring another life into this world when one of the people I love the most is not here to share in the joy. However, I know that no matter how robbed I feel at times, I come back to love.
His loss reminds me to say I love you more. To be kinder. To be softer. To be forgiving. To choose joy.
Everyday I tell my daughter, “I’ll keep you forever.” I know that one day we won’t always be physically together, but her memory, her heart, I’ll always carry with me. Just like I do with my dad.
One Christmas, fourteen years ago, took my dad, but it gave me the great gift of gratitude for the moments I do get with the ones I love.
To my dad whom I still miss so deeply, thank you.
During this holiday season, I pray you find peace and happiness. May your heartache, grief, or loss, be a little less as you feel the love of family and friends.
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Sunday, December 16th, 2012
Like many, I am reeling from the tragic news out of Connecticut this weekend. It is hard to comprehend that families are living with the reality of what so many of us consider incomprehensible.
I can’t help but think of the horrifying truth that when those babies were born a few short years ago, their parents welcomed and breathed relief at the robust and healthy cries of their newborn. Now, I am haunted by the idea that as those children left this world, their cries went unheard and were replaced by the heart-wrenching sobs of their newly childless parents. It is a horrible juxtaposition. The tears of a tiny, new, healthy baby turned into the tears of the devastated, disbelieving, crushed parent. It haunts me.
I’ve been trying to sort out my feelings about this tragedy all weekend.
I thought I’d read the latest reports to clarify my thoughts before writing but I cannot. To be honest, since the news broke, I haven’t read much. I’ve kept the television off. I cannot bring myself to hear what happened. Every detail I hear makes my heart ache more.
The news does nothing for me. It makes my heart break. It reminds me that I am a helpless to other people’s choices. It reminds me that there is ugliness, brokenness, and evil in this world. It makes me question my choice to bring another child into this world. It reminds me that no matter how fierce my desire to protect my children, I don’t have the power to protect or save them.
The thing that really sickens me about the news is that long after the they quit reporting this story, the families suffering, the town grieving, and all the people hurting will continue to do so. The news will do nothing for them then. It is not just today’s story, it is their lives. It is a national tragedy now, but it will be an everyday tragedy for these families.
I have been on my knees in prayer for the families facing the reality of such a permanent heartbreak. And in those moments of prayer, I remembered that I don’t have the power to save. I don’t have the power to heal, but Christ does. I believe it is my job as a parent to teach my daughters, the one I’m hugging tighter each night and the one growing beneath my heart, to lead Christlike lives.
I am keeping the news off because more important than following the story to me is what I can do to help, as little as it may be. I want to use my time teaching my daughter how to be kind and thoughtful. I want to use my time teaching my daughter that people hurt and it is our job to try and lessen that hurt. I want to use my time to teach my daughter to befriend all, to love all, and to have compassion for all.
It is all too palpable this weekend how short this life can be. This life is all we get. I want to spend it not watching the news of the heartbroken, but helping, and teaching my children to help, the heartbroken.
For more on dealing with the tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:
Image: Broken heart via isak55/Shutterstock.com
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Friday, October 5th, 2012
The best thing about pregnancy is baby kicks.
Those tiny, everyday movements bring me so much joy. There is palpable companionship and instantaneous love in carrying and feeling life.
I know those kicks can be painful at times but mostly, they make me feel safe. There is absolute comfort in the consistent kicks of a new life.
Devastatingly, as I wrote of a friend’s loss this week, another friend lost her baby at full term. I am reeling from the prevalence of what seem like normal, healthy pregnancies turning shockingly wrong.
The difference between this pregnancy and my first is my awareness of the fragility of life. I feel so vulnerable. I no longer have the luxury of naivete like I did with my first pregnancy. Instead, I feel a million reminders, a million signs indicating that I NEED to enjoy each moment I get with my pregnancy because it is all so fleeting.
My heart aches for mothers who lose their children. Even even as I type that sentence I feel guilty, guilty that I don’t know their explicit heartache and as much as I feel bad, I do not know the depths of their grief. On dark days, I let myself give into the fear that I could lose this baby, or our daughter. I panic that I’ll be asked to endure the seemingly unbearable and I won’t survive the heartbreak.
I don’t know the outcome of this pregnancy. I have my obvious optimistic hopes but they could be dashed. The reality is that I do not have control. Perhaps it will all go horribly wrong, perhaps I will join the awful “I lost a child” club or perhaps, for unforeseen reasons, this will be my last pregnancy. I do not know. I do not have control. I do not know how many moments I will get but I’m trying to stifle fear and embrace hope.
Today feels like one of those dark days, so I’m clinging to baby kicks. I need to memorize them. I need to cherish them.
Today, I’m also clinging to the memory that each time we read stories or sing songs, my daughter sits in my lap while her baby sister spiritedly kicks my belly in what I like to think is a greeting to her sister and a recognition of proximity and love. I’m clinging to the moment when I cry happy tears, rocking my two girls, and my daughter asks if I’m sad. I’m clinging to my response that “no, I’m not sad, I’m just so happy to be your mom.” I’m clinging to my daughter’s, “I missed yous” when she wakes up from naps and the sound of her voice as she chases bubbles, laughing unabashedly as the grass tickles her bare feet and she yells, “Hey bubbles, wait for me and sissy boo!”
But mainly, I’m clinging to baby kicks and the thought of them really meeting someday, these sisters, these two girls I love more than life. That thought makes the perpetual fear and anxiety seem worthwhile.
And someday, when life truly is hard and seemingly unbearable, I’ll conjure up the memory of my girls, one strewn cozily across my lap, the other nestled in my tummy, reminding me that life is made up of baby kicks and lullabies and there are still many, happy, simple moments you do get and luckily, you get to hold onto them forever.
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