Friday, November 30, 2012

The Places We Fall Short

Today the calendar says it's the final day of November.  Where does time disappear to when it flies away?  Every night I take vitamins before bed, and as I reach up for the bottle I feel like I'm in a scene from the movie Groundhog Day.  A perpetual repeat of time moving so quickly it feels like dejavu!  Didn't I  JUST do this?  Where did today go?

December is just beyond the next vitamin dose.  In the midst of wonders surrounding this holiday season my mind struggles as I try in vain to not replay the events that were happening in our lives just 2 short years ago.  Joe and I were beginning to have to think about saying our goodbyes then, as we watched the strength of our always life-over-filled girl fade away.  Hospice nurses became a part of our daily routine while we were still pleading with God for a miracle.  She rallied when my friends from church came and sang her Christmas carols, whooping it up for Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer.  But December 7th, 2010 is engraved on a tombstone in a small cemetery with her name on it.  I know because I was there the other day.  We brought the girls out to take down the autumn wreath and replace it with a small Christmas tree. It has multicolored solar powered lights and we each picked an ornament to put on the tree.  Sometimes I still have to go to the cemetery just to be sure this isn't just a big misunderstanding.  It still seems like she can't really be gone. 

I suppose most people assume by now we've moved forward.  I'm tired of saying it hurts as much as people are tired of hearing it hurts, so we do each other a favor and pretend we're all fine now... but let's be honest... 2 years was yesterday, and still will be tomorrow.  

Despite the Malia sized gap in our hearts, life does keep moving and we with it.  Madi has really blossomed the last few months.  At 9 1/2 years old, I cannot believe how tall she's gotten!  She's outgrown Malia which is strange in so many ways.  We've had to buy all new clothes because none of Malia's clothes fit her anymore.  To be honest I'm glad for that.  Laundry was incredibly hard for me.  Each item of clothing would bring flashbacks of memories from a day she had worn it.  I'd find myself clinging to one of her t-shirts, jeans or sweatshirt while standing alone in the middle of the basement -tears streaming down my face, swearing at the laundry and all it's painful memories.  For now Malia's clothes are put away and it's back to Madi's clothes I'm folding.  I'm so proud of Madi's laughter and quirky humor, for her creativity, sweet spirit and joy in life.   She misses her big sister, and lately the girls have both been talking a lot more about Malia again.  I wonder if the "anniversaries" are hard on them too.  They don't seem sad, just reflective.  When we told them we were stopping out at the cemetery the other day Madi says, "Oh good!  We haven't been there in awhile."   Malia is showing up in pictures they draw and stories they write and even in play time.  Yesterday 5 year old Marissa wanted to pretend that I was God and she was Malia.  At first I was about to decline (how could I possibly play the role of God?  Talk about big shoes to fill), but then I realized what a great opportunity it was to give Marissa Joy a glimpse into what we know of heaven.  So we pretended to play together there as I showed her around the city, we swam in the crystal sea, slid down rainbows and I spun her in happy dizzy circles the way I would spin Malia when she was little.  Turned out it was good for my heart to picture Malia enjoying God's company too. 

I still struggle with trying to find the balance between keeping Malia's memory alive for my other kids, with needing them to know they are no less valued rhan she was.  I wonder what it's like to live in the shadow of a sister as well known and well loved as Malia was to so many people.  Yet, I think they are secure in who they are and know their value.  They certainly get enough hugs and kisses.  Joe and I can't keep from smothering them with affection.  The gifts they are cannot be taken for granted after the losses we've experienced in life.  I guess all we can do is the best we can and pray God fills them up in all the places we fall short. 

I wanted to do Christmas Cards this year but the thought of taking family photos without Malia in them was harder than I expected it would be.  We found some ways to incorporate her into them though, which helped my heart a lot.  In a few pictures her favorite stuffed toy (Picachu) stood in for her, in others I wore one of her hot pink flowers on my lapel, and in the Christmas card photo, we actually held a life sized photo of her.  Next time maybe I'll be ready to take pictures without her in them.... but I'm not there yet.  Have I mentioned this grief thing is hard?   Here's our Christmas Card direct to you and your family...

Please pray for all of us in the coming week.  This upcoming anniversary is going to be tough, but we always find strength through your prayers when you lift us up.  Thank you for continuing to follow our story.