We plan to create a memorial garden in our backyard soon. I have an idea in my head of what I hope to do and am excited to get started on the landscaping we have to do before we can put the flowers and bushes in. There's something healing in doing something physical with pain. With creating a thing of beauty to replace the ugliness of the memories around cancer and loss. I think this garden will be a start. It will be wonderful to have a place to go to reflect and remember Grace and the lessons we learned in the short time she was ours to hold. But wish us luck. It's a big project.
Even with the beauty of spring, I'll admit it's still hard to move forward. I feel kind of guilty for not sinking into a deep dark hole... one that very realistically wants to suck me in. I've heard of mom's who after losing a child become deeply depressed, hopeless and in need of some serious medication. Part of me thinks "Wow. They must love their child more than me. I laughed at a nonsensical joke my 3 year old told me this morning and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face this afternoon. My heart soared as I heard a song on the radio and couldn't help but raise my voice with it praising God for his love and mercy." Knowing where Grace is right now makes the ability to move forward possible.... and only that knowledge. I just finished reading a book called "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo. It's about a boy who almost died just before he turned 4, then later started sharing with his parents about his experiences in heaven. In his childlike way he shares about sitting on Jesus lap, meeting family members who were there and many other things. I've never doubted the existence of heaven but this book really made me think more about what it must be like for Grace right now. She is alive! Not in the grave we put flowers on a few days ago. Not in the still cold two dimensional photos hanging on our walls. She is laughing and playing in the very presence of God. I can miss her, and I do so much it hurts. But to waste the rest of my life by allowing darkness to hide me? Grace would be so mad at us throwing away such a God given gift. Moving forward is the only direction we can go.
I recently came across these pictures from Grace's baptism. It brought me back to the wonder of watching her faith develop. She asked Jesus to be her Savior and Lord just before she turned 7. It was cool because for a couple months you could tell she was thinking about God and how He really fit in to her life. For awhile she said she didn't believe he was real, but she kept asking questions and we just tried to answer as simply and truthfully as we could. I never wanted to push her to believe... it had to be driven by God himself. Then one night before bed she told me she knew God was real and that she loved him. We talked about how God could be a part of her by asking Jesus into her heart. She said she really wanted that so we prayed together. When she was 8 she started asking us when she could be baptized. We'd never really talked about baptism with her before. I honestly thought she was too young to get it, but she kept bringing it up. None of her friends at church were doing it, so it wasn't peer pressure. It was the holy spirit in her prompting her to show the world her love for Jesus. So in September 2009 she followed her heart into Forest Lake and our pastor baptized her. She was so proud on that day.
It was only a month later when we learned she had stage 4 cancer and our world was flipped upside down. Grace told us the night before we went to that fateful doctor appointment that her "cancer hurt". She already knew. The holy spirit was whispering in her ear, preparing her for what was to come. You know, through everything she rarely complained. She found joy in everyday things and loved life. One day in the hospital she was sweating and feeling shaky while getting a really nasty chemotherapy. Instead of worrying about it (which I was at the time) she thought it would be cool to see what she could get to stick to her bald head. She managed a piece of paper, a plastic spoon and several other things sitting on her bedside table. The gift of the holy spirit gave her the ability to trust and deal with her reality. The faith of a child is such an amazing thing to see. There is no "junior" holy spirit, or "junior" faith. Kids get the real thing... in fact I think they understand the love of God more fully than we do. No wonder Jesus has a special place in his heart for kids.