Monday, February 21, 2011

Beyond a birthday

"We love you, Grace!", was what we shouted as we released a rainbow of balloons heavenward. Many of them carried handwritten messages of love to Grace from those of us left here missing her so much. Joy's note said she loved and missed her sister. Mae was just wondering if she could have cake in heaven, and said she loved her. (smile) Grace's birthday was a painful day for us, but was made lighter by many friends and family who supported us through it. Thank you so much to those of you who sent cards, made phone calls and left facebook messages and e-mails. They really did help us through another "first" without Grace here.

We ate an angel food cake to commemorate the day of remembrance, and looked at pictures and let some tears fall. Mae had a good day at school. Many of the kids and teachers wore their t-shirts from Grace's benefit as a way to honor her on her birthday. Mae thought it was so cool to see Grace's picture everywhere she went that day. We are so thankful for such an amazing family of friends that surround her each and every day.

I can't help wondering what Grace was doing in heaven on her birthday? I wish more than anything that I could have gotten just a glimpse. I imagined her in the midst of a celestial party with such beautifully alive music playing that it filled everyone up... the swells of sound making everyone move with a joy they could not contain. I pictured her surrounded by our friends and family who are there with her. The sound of her laughter filling the air. Blowing out candles on the shores of a breathtaking crystal sea. Spinning and dancing with Jesus himself. Celebrating God's creation of her and praising Him for the amazing gift of the joy of heaven. I cannot wait to share moments like those with her again...

Mae had an entry in an art and academic fair that evening at school too. We were so proud of her. She had to present her project during the day to an evaluator and just beamed when she got to show it off to her grandparents and auntie at the fair. A child who could not communicate at 3 years of age, and who didn't even understand most of what we said at that point... at 7 years old Mae is a living, breathing miracle. She amazes us every day with her sweet heart, intelligence and love for life.
We are trying to see beyond a birthday without Grace here to focus on a heaven more alive and full with her in it. Our pain for ourselves is forever mixed with joy for her.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beyond Tears

Grief is a powerful thing. I'm not a crier, but I'm telling you I can't shut it down lately. I don't feel clinically depressed... maybe I'm just softer somehow. Seeing Grace's pictures on the wall or her clothes on her sister, the smell of grilled cheese sandwiches, or hearing her sisters casually mention her name. Tears fall as fast as they form. Joy answers her own question when she sees us cry now. "What's wrong, Mommy/Daddy?" is always quickly followed by, "You miss Grace , Mom/Dad?". I'm tired of hurting. I wish I could wish it away. To be happy for Grace's adventure in heaven and move on from the constant ache for her. But I'm her mom, and I know I will never really feel complete again without her here. I don't want to be a debbie downer, it's hard to hang out with people who hurt, but in this blog I've committed to being real... and it really hurts. Most people are moving on to new things, the lessons Grace taught taken to heart but when she wasn't part of peoples every day it's easier to move forward. I hope reading about our journey through tears you can help other families who have lost someone close to them. Healing doesn't happen in weeks, or months... it takes years (based on my experience of loosing my best friend 7 years ago). Complete healing takes a lifetime...

Grace's birthday is this week on the 18th. We've been talking for months about what to do for that day. I still don't know for sure what the day will look like. The girls expect a cake, but it feels weird to celebrate. They assured me they can blow out her candles for her. Do we put 10 candles on a cake? Is she 10? I don't know how aging works in heaven. With eternal bodies, will anyone keep track of the passing of another year? I mean to us she will always be 9 years old. Maybe we put a 10 on the cake and light 1 candle. Remembering her earthly age while celebrating her first year in heaven. I'm likely over analizing this, but I keep thinking if I can figure it out I'll know what to do. I'm thinking we may throw a pizza party for the oncology floor at Children's that day. It was always one of Grace's favorite things to take part in while we were "in"... and the child life specialist always commented that we had to have a party whenever Grace was there. Paying it forward would feel good. The weather is supposed to be warmer here, so maybe we can release balloons at her grave site that day. It was too cold in December to do that and I think the kids would think it was cool. We will also be at school that evening for an Art & Academic Fair that Mae is taking part in. Guess what she's making? Big shocker... a big paper mache rainbow. (She makes them EVERYDAY. It's part of her grieving process I think. Her way of keeping Grace close to her. The picture on this post is one she drew for Grace during her last days here on earth.) It also seems a fitting way to spend our day, looking at Mae's rainbow in the sea of other projects done by Mae & Grace's many friends. OK, so maybe we do have our day planned after all.

I fear a year from now getting beyond tears will still be incredibly hard. Lately I really want to pull the covers over my head and not come out until my heart feels better. Since that isn't an option I will resign myself to tears for now and continue to seek the joy in life Grace so easily found. I do find it for periods of time. Mae & Joy keep us laughing. They constantly remind us we have to keep moving forward as much as we keep looking back. They help us focus beyond tears for a time... thank you, God, for the gift of our girls.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beyond Understanding

Yesterday was over the top emotional for me. I spent some time in the morning with the funeral home finalizing Grace's gravestone. It is sparkly blue and has her name, birth date, heaven date, and the inscription "Dancing with Jesus". I smile through streams of tears when I think of her dancing in heaven. Lets just say Grace had a style all her own, and you can not see her dance in your head without giggling a little. But even joyful thoughts are painful right now. Another reminder that she is beyond the reach of our arms to pull her into a hug. The stone also has an angel casting a rainbow to the world... helping us to never forget God's love through our journey here with Grace. On the opposite side is a butterfly... a symbol of the hope of eternity and our future with her. There's something about seeing her name on a gravestone that hurts more deeply than anything before this. The finality of her being gone from this life makes me weep. I just don't understand.

Shortly after that my mom called to say my sister had been sent to the hospital by the clinic to have her baby. She had asked me to be there when the time came and I had been looking forward to the day with mixed emotions. What if I broke down and had to leave her during labor? I wanted to be helpful, but with my bum arm knew I would be limited. I also didn't want to be a distraction from what was her joy, and certainly didn't want to divide the attentions of anyone else there. My mom picked me up and we were there for the delivery. It was incredibly hard, but I did manage to hold it together for the most part until after it was all done. During labor scriptures were read that had been prayed over Grace, verses we had claimed for her were now being used to focus my sister through her pain. Songs were playing that we sang over Grace, now being sung in preparation of new life entering the world. The baby was born and all was well. Her dark hair and the shape of her nose reminded me so much of Grace in her own delivery room 10 years ago this month. My sister was a rock, and did such an amazing job! I wanted to purely celebrate in the moment of joy with her. The baby is such a beautifully perfect gift from heaven, but my heart was bleeding and I had to bolt. My poor mom. I was weeping in one room while my sister was rejoicing in the next. I was mourning a loss while she was celebrating new life. My mom and other sister went back and forth between us. After asking if it was OK, the baby was given Grace's middle name. I probably shouldn't have been there. I knew it would be difficult for me, but it was harder than I thought it would be and it wasn't very fair to be a distraction to everyone else. I did pull it together long enough to go congratulate my sister and her husband, and kiss the baby's sweet head. I don't understand.

I went from the hospital home, then immediately on to help at a benefit for "Jon" a friend of ours in the midst of his difficult fight against cancer. He is a dad with 5 little kids and a beautiful wife. There was a great turnout and it warmed my heart to see many of my friends who didn't even know "Jon" except through us there to support the family. Many of them were even helping directly with the benefit... including my mom and dad, a friend who's daughter is also in a fight to win her battle against cancer, several friends from church, and a friend who's daughter was Grace's classmate in school. Thanks to all of you! It was an amazing night, and I know the family feels so blessed by it all. So many families.... so many struggles. I don't understand.

I'm trying to pull out a teachable moment here, but am not sure where I am left today. I don't understand the whys of this life. I know I never will. How such contrasting things can exist together... life, death, joy, confusion... but they do. We're each left to sort it out in our own ways, each through the lens of our own experiences. Day's like today I am thankful for my family, friends and faith. To have a rock to stand on when things don't feel secure. To know God understands beyond my understanding.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Beyond the Unlovable

Every person I know struggles with something, and most have recurrent issues... you know what I'm talking about. Those feelings or obstacles that keep coming up even when you think you've gotten beyond them. Inadequacy is one of those deep seeded issues for me.

When I was a kid, I had some issues that in my own mind at the time made me unlovable. I had buck teeth, unruly curly hair, knobby knees and was painfully shy. I got teased relentlessly for a couple years in elementary school on the bus and it's taken a long time to believe God's whispers in my ear over satan's shouting lies. Satan mocks me with, "You are ugly, awkward and have nothing to say that anyone would want to hear". It's easy to believe because I bought into it for so long. But God says, "You are exactly who I created you to be, and in my eyes you are beautiful (Psalm 139: 13-16). You are my child, a princess as I am the King (John 1: 12-13). If I am for you, why do you worry so much about what others think?" (Romans 8:28-31) When I really let these verses settle in my heart and use my spiritual ears to hear the truth of God, I believe it's true.

Satan knows my point of weakness and often tries new tactics to keep me quiet. Guilt tied to the unlovable in me is another twist on a theme. Lately I have had to trust God's voice, when satan has said, "You should have been a better mom to Grace. You got frustrated with her too easily. You didn't say enough to help her deal with fear and sadness and anger. Just because she didn't show it doesn't mean she didn't feel it. You should have tried harder to find the right answer to curing her cancer... You could have done more..." Would have, should have, could have. If I entertain these thoughts as truth for even a few minutes the weight of them crushes me. It breaks my heart and tears fall in waterfall fashion.

I pray for God to help me see His truth from the lies. If I believe the lies I go back to my buck teeth... I feel unlovable, unworthy and useless. God's truth whispers I did everything I knew how to as Grace's mom. I didn't do it perfectly, but I did it well. This is not the end of this issue for me I'm sure... but it is a start in getting beyond the unlovable.