Yesterday, my mom came over and picked up the big kids to take them to a movie. Then she kept them through the night. So it was just Lee and I and the baby, but Lee had to work, so I treated the day like any other, put the baby down for a nap, and broke out the bon bons.
Just kidding. WHAT THE HECK IS A BON BON?!
About midway through the morning, Lee walked in, and he was practically giddy. “Today is a mandatory holiday for my company. Mandatory! They practically ordered me to take the day off.”
Then we both stood there dumbfounded for a few minutes because it’s been a long time since we had a stretch of time before us and nothing to fill it with.
“So,” he said.
“So,” I said.
Then I put the baby down for a nap, grabbed my computer because I’m four weeks behind on all things work related, and I snuggled up under a blanket while Lee laid out on the couch to relax.
Burying a parent is insanely draining. I had no idea. I knew it would be sad, and I knew that there would be moments when the reality of the situation would spill over us like the proverbial pile of bricks, but what I didn’t know was that the mental energy it takes to walk through that fire can suck the life right out of a person.
Add to it four weeks of hosting a teenager who doesn’t speak English, a newborn, and three wily kids and you’re bound to feel your brain begin to melt.
We took the weekend to recuperate a bit, but with little downtime it still felt like life was steamrolling ahead full force, and in the back of my mind the question spun endlessly, “Did all of that really happen?”
Then came the screeching brakes of yesterday. The quiet house that some might find boring actually covered us like a warm, fuzzy blanket on a cold day. It was slow, mundane, and it was beyond exciting. Even Annika felt the charge in the air and responded with a three hour nap and endless coo’s and giggles.
I’m not the best at slowing down. In general I like to plow through life and accomplish ALL THE THINGS before I ever really sit down and be still. Unfortunately, on any given day there are more things to accomplish than I could possibly hope, so most of the time I feel like I’m fluttering around without aim.
Yesterday was good. I accomplished some of the things, and I wrote out the other things that needed to be done. Then I just sat down. I read a little. I watched a movie with my husband. I tickled my baby, and I vacuumed the floors (don’t judge- I find that relaxing).
The mundane turned out to be just what we needed. And in the midst of the mundane, we sat and talked about Lee’s dad. We remembered the happy times, and we laughed over some of the funny memories.
Then we imagined heaven and all that Herb must be seeing and experiencing, recognizing that we couldn’t possibly grasp where he is right now.
Yesterday was good. It was slow and boring, and there may have been a little heart healing that took place.
Do you remember being in awe of nature as a child? Did you ever sit beneathe a black-blue sky dotted with a milliion stars and gasp at the wonder of it all? Did you marvel at a sunset or watch the clouds float by in an array of shapes.
An alligator! An elephant! A one-legged dog!
I remember specifically being around nine or ten years old and we had gone on a camping trip to some Jellystone Park in somewhere Wisconsin. While my parents worked hard to crank open the pop up camper, my brother and I romped in the wooded fields around us as the sun sank lower beyond the trees. And then we both stopped and gasped.
The glow of the moon lifted above the treeline before the moon itself appeared. It was huge and orange and seemed to hover just above the ground, willing us to reach out and touch. I wanted to step forward and cross the expanse of sky to enter the golden, shimmery world that seemed to be just steps away.
As a roaring fire cackled and we prepared to bunk down for the night, I stole continual glances at the moon, which continued to rise up above the Earth, the orange hue fading and morphing into a brilliant white. A diamond in the sky.
I remember the magic of that moment, and it’s not the only time the moon’s nearness has stopped me in my tracks. I love those nights when the moon hovers just above the earth and gives us a closer glimpse of the light that God placed in the night sky.
This month has been a hard one. I’ve felt so small and insignificant, so very far away from all of life. I haven’t even had time to stop and observe the moon, to see if she hovered nearby. There haven’t been moments to pause, to try to grasp the weight of everything happening around me.
Tomorrow I am putting “K” on a plane. I will tell her goodbye, then make my way home from Atlanta where I had to drop her off. For seven hours I’ll be alone in the car. Will that be the time to try and take in this whirlwind of a month – this time when everything changed permanently?
Maybe. I’ll try. But mostly I feel numb right now, so there is a part of me that wants to just put on the ’90’s station and sing it out. A little Mariah Carey, Allan’s Morisette, Boyz II Men, and Goo Goo Dolls could be just what the doctor ordered. And yet…
I know at some point I’m going to have to really dig into where I’ve been this month. It’s been a doozy, and as I continue to feel the sadness, I also feel joy and excitement. I’m looking forward to this year with great expectation, despite the fact that it begins with great disappointment.
So tomorrow I will drive through the day, and as I roll into town, the moon should be ascending to her perch in the sky. And I’ll be looking for her, reminding myself that as the world continues to spin and another day comes to a close, there are so many things for which to be thankful.
I’ll remember, and I’ll feel the sadness and the joy, and I’ll let both emotions find a place inside my heart.
And maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to touch the moon.
Last week I wrote of Love, and of the beautiful, mysterious pain that accompanies such a surrender of emotion. When I typed those words, I formed them in the context of watching my child graduate kindergarten. They were framed in the knowledge that Love requires separation, and in my innocent state of mind, I could only see the separation of parent and child that comes through space and time.
Then we got the phone call no one wants to receive.
There was a mass. The biopsy reveals cancer. We wait and we pray, and we hope for the best – the miracle of healing. Today the confirmation brought unwelcome news.
Stage 4. Metastatic.
Suddenly the pain of Love grew wings and took flight. Lee’s dad – our patriarch, our hero, our mentor, and a steady spiritual guide – now faces a fight that, short of a miraculous touch from God Himself, will result in his passing from this life on earth and into the gates of heaven.
“…Now it may surprise you to learn that in His (God’s) efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks;some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
There is no irony in our present circumstance. We cannot point to these days with a flippant laugh and label them a coincidence. For on the very day we got news that cancer had invaded one we loved, Lee was in process to make a transition at work.
His division was cut loose from the company. We’d known this for weeks, and while the news was met with some disappointment, suddenly it seemed that he had lost his job for such a time as this.
Severance gives him a cushion to absorb the blow of his father’s illness. We have the freedom to leave, he and I, for the weekend, and fly to Arkansas where we will fold into the arms of his parents and brothers and all face this new challenge in the race together.
What a privilege it is…
When we told our kids of their grandfather’s illness, I felt a tightness pinch my heart. My sweet little ones will now taste the sting of illness. They can no longer be sheltered from the fear of grieving and, given the statistics, they may face the searing pain of death far earlier than I would have wanted them to.
And yet I cannot escape the thought that this journey we are about to walk as a family is a privilege. One thought has rumbled across my heart all day as I’ve processed this pain of a Love torn.
What a privilege it is for my children to know the sting of illness and the reality of heaven at a tender age.
We’re gearing up for a road filled with hope and unknowns. We cry out for a miracle, with full belief that God, in His mighty power, is capable of banishing the cancer from Herb’s body with a simple touch of His Hand. We pray for this, that we may show our children the power of God, and proclaim Him to the world.
We accept the reality that God may have a different path planned. One in which we must say goodbye far sooner than we ever hoped or imagined or desired. And if this is the path we must follow, we will show our children the power of God, and we will proclaim Him to the world.
Cancer is an ugly word. It sucks the marrow of joy right out of a soul. But we have been given the grace of time. We pray it will be longer than the statistics predict. We pray it will be sweeter than the treatment’s effects. We rejoice in our current state of jobless unknowns, for it gives us the sweet freedom of time to process.
What a privilege it is to walk this road of grief and hope, for in this trough I feel God so near. He is real, a balm to the sting.
My ten year old and I took a walk today. Hand in hand we made our way down the sidewalk, and his sweet innocence blessed me.
“I’m excited to see heaven now,” he said to me, a smile spread across his face. “I can just imagine it, and what I’m imagining is awesome.”
What a privilege it is to walk this pain. We covet your prayers in the days, weeks, and months to come. They will be hard, and they will be sweet. They will mirror the mystery of Love.
Join us in praying for a miracle – no matter what shape it may take.
He proudly stood on the third riser, second from the end, and scanned the audience. Our eyes met and he grinned, his tiny mouth splitting his freckled face with pure joy and great pride. I pulled out the video camera, flicked open the screen, and as he waved proudly, I recorded the moment for posterity.
And to remind myself that these fleeting moments are worthy to be treasured.
The graduating kindergarten class regaled us with song, clapping and singing their way through the alphabet, the vowels, and the numbers. They proudly showed off all they learned in their first year of school, and I glanced around at the parents surrounding me. We wore matching expressions of pride, of joy, of deep love, and of the pain that comes with knowing a season has come to an end.
Between each song, his little fingers went to his mouth, wiggling furiously at a loose tooth – the first loose tooth. Soon it will fall out, followed by several more, and those tiny baby teeth will be replaced by the bigger teeth that will stay with him (hopefully!) the rest of his life.
Stages passing by as I try not to blink my eyes.
I lay in bed last night, long after the house grew silent, and I thought on this gloriously painful beautiful thing called parenthood. I remembered a few years ago talking to a neighbor whose dog passed away unexpectedly. She loved that dog dearly, and she sobbed as she discussed the final moments with her precious pooch.
A week later, she came home with a new dog – a puppy that looked exactly like his predecessor. I watched as she fawned over the new animal who had clearly become a balm to her wounded heart, and I shook my head in wonder.
“Why would she get another one?” I thought. “Why would she open herself up to that heartache again?”
Dogs get old fast and they die, and it’s sad. Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we open ourselves up to heartache and grief?
As my mind drifted over that memory, I found myself weaving the narrative back to my children. Love is so mysterious and strange. We allow our hearts to be tangled and enmeshed, because the pure, deep joy that comes from love far outweighs the knowledge that love also leads to loss.
My neighbor’s dogs brought her deep joy. She loved them fiercely. She could have chosen, after the first dog died, to not get another. She certainly would have saved her heart from future grief.
She also would have denied herself the mystery of loving in the present.
We love because of the mysterious connection that comes with that love. When I married my husband, I chose to give him my heart, and I did so without fully understanding the ramifications. We’ve chosen to fight for our love, which means we choose, even in the tough times, not to tear away from one another.
But even if we fight to the very end, and we continue to walk this path as one flesh, someday we are guaranteed to be separated on this earth. We will face the heartache of loss.
We give birth to children, and we discover a love so deep and so profound that we cannot wrap our minds around it all, and yet we know that with each passing year, each milestone reached, we are walking toward the grief of separation. We will leave them in a college dorm. We will give their hands in marriage. We will say goodbye to the moment that is right now, and we’ll trade it in for a new normal.
A different kind of love – the kind that comes with separation and distance, and of a life filled with more silence than bustle, with more memories than present experiences.
The hope of any parent is that we won’t be separated by the death of a child, but for some that is a devastating grief that must be faced. And it hurts so badly because the love was so real.
So why do we love? Why do we set ourselves up for this known heartache?
My faith must dictate how I answer this question.
We love because we were created by the One who Loves. We love knowing that love brings both joy and heartache, because the One who created us, His most glorious of creations, faced the same joy and heartache. He faced the beauty and loss of Love first. He designed the mystery of it all. He faced the beauty, the separation, the pain, and the horror of death on our behalf.
But that’s not the end of the story, and this is why I keep opening myself to love. I know, and believe, that this life isn’t all that is promised. I know that the heartache and the grief of separation are necessary, but only for a time.
This post is written to the parents who have walked the heartache of a terminated or disrupted adoption. It’s a unique situation to be in – a club no one wants to join. I want you to know today one very important thing:
Your grief is real, and it is valid.
Perhaps you’re right in the midst of this trial. Maybe it is something you experienced long ago. Either way, the loss of a child through a disrupted adoption leaves a lasting scar.
It’s a mark on the heart that heals, but never really leaves.
When our adoption was terminated, I struggled with exactly how to process it. I wondered if perhaps I was overreacting, if my emotions were displaced and over-dramatic. I feared that people saw me as whiny, and perhaps more emotional than necessary considering the fact that we had not even met the child we were hoping and praying to adopt.
For the most part, this inner strife was self-imposed. I didn’t have a string of insensitive remarks being flung my way to back these these feelings of inadequacy. This was my own struggle, and it gnawed at me for a long time.
Did I really deserve to be so sad over our failed adoption attempt?
I walked through those early days after it all fell apart in a fog. In fact, I can barely remember the month of January, 2013. It is very hazy. Grief does that – it clouds the mind, and shrouds the memory with a sense of heartache that you never really escape.
Every day, I was sure that the people around me rolled their eyes behind my back, ready for me to get over it and move on. I questioned God, trying to make some theological sense of our predicament.
Did we really lose a child, or was there never a child planned in the first place, since He is All-Knowing, and He knew from the beginning that we would not be able to complete the process?
My mind spun throughout the long, dark hours of the night, trying to break it all apart, to make some sense of it all. It was a “chicken or the egg” riddle without a clear-cut answer, and it made me crazy….