Thursday, December 29, 2011
This morning I went to the chiropractor. I treat him like a therapist. He asks me how I'm feeling (referring to my neck or hips) and I tell him that I'm tired, that I don't feel like running, that I lack motivation. Today he asked me what my new year's resolutions are..."to try to be happy" I said. He is a kind man. He listens, sometimes we talk about Jonah, and then cracks my neck in a horrifying way. I always feel a little better emotionally and physically when I leave. It is amazing to me how our bodies are tied to our emotions. Right after Jonah died I found that I was so sad I couldn't eat, and I felt like throwing up all the time. That feeling returned to me two nights ago. I felt overwhelmed by grief, by self-pity, by the world, by the subtle reminders that in an instant my life transformed from joyful to devastated. I felt out of control.
Grief is full of metaphors. Some have said its like sinking in quicksand, like bubbles coming to the surface, like a roller coaster, like climbing a mountain. In this third month it feels to me like learning to walk a tight-rope. Each step forward is timid, unsure. There is fear and adrenaline. I am constantly seeking balance. But how do I balance remembering my sweet Jonah, while moving forward? Each step forward seems like a step away from him, from my life with him.
I look at his picture on our fridge and stare at his beautiful blue eyes, and at the same time I feel the need to look away. His eyes, for me, carry such intense pain and joy. I long to remember his smile, his laugh, his hair, his dimples, the way his body rested on mine. But when my mind drifts to these memories, they are followed by a memory of the panic I felt when his body was limp in my arms. How do I balance remembering and forgetting?
There are days when I cry a lot, when I search his room for his smell, when I read the journal entries of his short life, when I talk of him joyfully. Then there are days when I shut down. I can't talk about anything, especially Jonah. To me these emotions feel like the rapid sway of a tight-rope under my balancing body. My fate lies in my ability to regain my balance, to stay centered. I try to gain control, and I fear over correcting and falling.
I am trying to find balance in slowing down my pace and in being deliberate in my steps. I breathe deeply, and try to focus on the things that are within my control. I have never been to alcoholics anonymous, but the serenity prayer runs through my mind.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
If only my heart and mind could find the balance of this prayer. That would be beautiful, peaceful. Instead I find myself feeling more like Frank Constanza yelling "Serenity Now!" A little frenetic.
I guess I will have to accept the frantic sway of the tightrope until I learn to balance. I will make subtle moves, simple steps. Maybe someday it will become second nature to me. Until then I will continue to miss Jonah deeply, to be blown off course by the slightest breeze of memory, to freeze momentarily in fear, and to slowly move forward.
Monday, December 26, 2011
This Christmas we received the most amazing gift from Jordan's brother Quinn and his family. They gave us two framed pictures. The first was a photo of Jordan holding Jonah. It is so sweet. The second is an amazing picture of my sweet family taken at Jonah's baby blessing. When I saw it my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude. I just wept and stared at the beautiful moment Quinn captured for us over a year ago. I am so grateful.
I received so many thoughtful, and beautiful gifts this Christmas. But this picture, this physical reminder that we were once and will always be a family, is the best Christmas gift I have ever received.
Friday, December 23, 2011
I sang to him even before he had his hearing aid. When he was a newborn and crying I would hold his soft cheek against mine and sing "Baby Beluga," hoping the sound would travel through our connected bodies to his perfect inner ear. It always soothed him.
At night he would drink his bottle and play with my hair while I sang to him. I sang him the same songs over and over: You are My Sunshine, Baby Beluga, I am a Child of God, I Know My Savior Loves Me, and He Sent His Son. I often thought I should sing him something new, but I could never think of anything else to sing. In all my years of teaching, not to mention being raised by a preschool teacher, it surprised me that I could not think of any other songs. So these were our lullabies.
In the hospital, as I held his body, I sang him these songs again. My singing was stifled by tears and anguish, but I still sang to him. It was beautiful. The lyrics found new meaning to me as I sang...
You are My Sunshine
You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away
I am a Child of God
I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday
I Know My Savior Loves Me
I know He lives!
I will follow faithfully.
My heart I give to Him.
I know that my Savior loves me.
I will never forget the sacred sweetness of singing to my baby Jonah one last time. Lately I have been thinking about Christmas and one of these beautiful lullabies is floating around my heart and mind, He Sent His Son. Those four words are so significant to me this Christmas. John 3:16 reminds us,
For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
This is an amazing scripture. The phrase that He gave His only begotten Son pierces my heart, as I think about losing my only son. I am grateful for the promises of Christmas. I am grateful for the hope of everlasting life. I am grateful He sent His son.
At the end of the song it says...
What does the Father ask of us?
What do the scriptures say?
Have faith, have hope, live like his Son,
Help others on their way.
What does he ask?
Live like his Son.
I am trying this Christmas season to have faith, to have hope, to live like His Son, and to help others on their way. So far it has been a season filled with simplicity, love, and beauty. I hope you can find peace in this simple lullaby, and have a meaningful and merry Christmas!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tonight I find the phrase "a better place" bouncing around in my brain. I have struggled to discern what I feel when this phrase is used, because it is used often. On the one hand I have to believe that Jonah is in "a better place." The alternatives are unacceptable. My heart would plunge into despair if I believed for a moment that his existence ceased, or that he could be somewhere worse. My hope for heaven and reunion is what keeps me moving forward. It should bring me comfort to know that he is somewhere without pain, without heartache, full of love and beauty. Sometimes it does.
But usually when I hear people say that Jonah is in a better place, my immediate unfiltered thought is "what place could be better than here in my arms, in my home, in our family." I still miss him so much. My mind cannot fully comprehend "a better place". There are days when the phrase makes me feel selfish for craving my little one.
Please understand that I am grateful for the kind words spoken, for the difficult effort, the service given and the shared hope of "a better place." But sometimes it is easy to rely on common phrases in difficult conversations. I have relied on those phrases myself. I am especially grateful for friends and neighbors who come without too much explanation or consolation, but rather listening ears and open hearts. They allow me to be here, in this difficult place, without hurrying towards eternity.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
|The view from our backyard. Worth the wait!|
As I've worked through this irritation I have been reminded of my own meltdown moments. The times when I thought I was facing enormous obstacles, difficult decisions, and uncertain futures. At the time life felt totally overwhelming. Most of these memories are full of uncontrollable melodramatic crying.
In college I remember sobbing in my dad's office when I felt like I should break up with a boy that I thought I really liked (we only dated for three weeks). A year later I found myself sitting at the bottom of the stairs in my parent's house, with my head on my sister's lap, weeping because I told Jordan it was over (obviously the break-up didn't take). When we were newlyweds I cried because I thought we would never find a house and we would end up living in my mother-in-law's basement forever (we lived there for just over a year and finally found the perfect house in a great location). I was devastated when I miscarried my first pregnancy. And then I cried because it seem to take so long to get pregnant (only 9 months). When Jonah was born and diagnosed with Treacher-Collins Syndrome I fell apart in the shower because life seemed so unfair. I was so worried about the challenges my baby would face, and how it would affect our lives (little did we know how much beauty and light he would bring to us). This little recap makes it seem like I cry a lot...oh well.
The day Jonah died I learned what it meant to cry. I discovered the true nature of sorrow. All of life's previous challenges seemed insignificant, like little pebbles compared to the giant boulder I now carry. Each day I hear myself saying "this is too hard" and "I can't handle this." But then I remember that I have heard these words come out of my mouth before. I have doubted my capacity to manage challenges that now seem so simple. And each trial has been followed by unimaginable blessings of beauty and abundance. I am still here, I have been strengthened by my trials, and I have had happiness and joy that I never anticipated.
So I want to apologize. I am sorry for judging your challenges. I know that life can feel ridiculously hard, no matter what stage you are in. All of life's small and medium challenges prepare us for the big ones, increase our capacity. It is all relative. I will try to remember that you are facing the most difficult trial of your life so far, and there is no need for comparison. As I reflect I am grateful that my ability to cope has increased, but that knowledge comes with fear of the future. I wonder what challenges lie ahead, and hope that losing Jonah is not preparation for something harder. I hope this is as hard as it gets, and at the same time wonder what unknown strength lies within me.
That which we persist in doing becomes easier - not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thursday, December 15, 2011
As soon as we got home I gathered up Jonah's blankets and his favorite monkey. His smell became like a drug to me. I crawled into bed, and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon. Afternoon faded into night. All I could do was cry. No. Wail. My sobbing left no room for the silence I feared.
For the next week we were surrounded by friends and family. We talked, we cried, we listened, we remembered. As soon as one person would leave, a new person arrived. It was truly a blessing and made those first difficult days go by more quickly. But eventually everyone returned to their own lives. Back to work, to school, and to families. I soon found myself surrounded by the silence of my own home, the experience that terrified me. Yet when all my distraction disappeared I discovered the silence was so beautiful.
In the silence my mind wandered to memories and moments I had forgotten. I pondered my purpose. My thoughts found clarity. I read. My tears flowed. In the silence I tried to ask God real questions and seek answers.
Earlier in my life I think I would have filled the silence with music, television, or conversation. I was one of those college students who would say "I study better with the T.V. on." Definitely a lie I told myself. Silence seemed like the poster child of a uninteresting life. Things are different now. I want to guard my silent moments and keep them for myself. To me it is peace.
Each morning I wander into Jonah's room and open the blinds. I kneel in his room and ask God for strength. I ask for opportunities to feel Jonah near me. I ask for revelation. I stay in there in the silence until I feel ready for the day. I don't think I will receive these things, or feel his lightness upon me, if I busy myself in distraction and noise.
Of course I would trade these peaceful moments to hear Jonah's little voice, or his giggle. I would love to hear the repetitive music from his favorite videos. I wish I was dancing with him in our living room right now instead of typing this. I long to hear him say "Momma" one more time. But I know those things will not be part of my life today.
I know that some silence and stillness are required of me now. Not all the time. There is time for laughing and conversation and music and TV. We are not living like monks, although I'm beginning to understand them. I want to be ready for inspiration. I want to make room for silence in my day. I am not afraid of it anymore.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Why Monday? Monday was the day Jonah was scheduled to have a major cranial-facial surgery. His surgeon planned to take a bone graft from his skull to build up his cheek bones to support and realign the orbits of his eyes. We would have spent the better part of this week in the hospital. When the surgeon described this procedure to me months ago I felt like throwing up. It was so hard to think of putting our Jonah, our beautiful healthy child, through such a difficult operation. It was hard to think of a doctor changing Jonah's appearance, because I loved him just as he was. But we put our trust in the surgeon, had faith that it was the best thing for our child, and put the date on the calendar.
So Monday morning I couldn't figure out how I should feel. Should I feel grateful that Jonah did not have to go through such a difficult surgery? Should I resent the fact that I am not in the hospital with him right now? Should I wish in my heart to feel the fear of sending my child into surgery? It was just too much for me. I couldn't bring myself to feel grateful that he wasn't having surgery, and I couldn't wish that he was alive to experience such pain. So I chose to feel anger.
When I'm angry I don't really lash out at others, I just shut down. I stop talking. I stop writing. I just stop and feel sorry for myself. I let myself feel frustrated for a moment by all of the challenges we have faced in the last two years. I begin to label the things I hate. I hate that Jonah died. I hate that our bodies are imperfect. I hate that I carry a genetic disorder that I could pass onto my children. I hate that other people in the world are careless and negligent of their children, and yet their children live. I hate that with all the medical technology in the world, no one could save Jonah from the tiny fruit snack I gave him.
I am academic enough to acknowledge that anger is a normal part of grief. But as these moments of anger have come I have found that there is a difference between feeling angry and being angry. Letting myself feel anger is cathartic. It is like a good cry, it releases the built up frustration of living in a world that is beyond my control. But being angry is something different. It is not a release, but a holding on. It is choosing to dwell in the difficulty of that which is beyond our control. As I laid in bed, wallowing in my misfortune I recognized that I do not want to be angry.
Monday night I was able to tell Jordan how frustrating life is, of course he already knows. He made dinner for me (egg, cheese and bacon biscuits) and bought me a cherry coke. He got me out of the house and reminded me through his presence that I have so much to be grateful for. That gratitude seemed to expose my anger for what it really was: sadness, heartache, disappointment, and longing to be with my beautiful, perfect boy.
Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
As for me, when people ask what I've been up to I can't think of anything. I'm busy all day and do a lot, but not much to talk about. Jonah is my life now. Everything I do is for him, and I don't mind.
When Jonah was born I began losing myself. Each day he lived I learned to give up a little more of what I thought fulfilled me in exchange for what he needed from me. I gave up going to lunch with friends at the drop of a hat. I gave up professional achievement. I gave up sleeping in. I gave up shopping for clothes, and I gave up going on adventures to exotic places. I'm pretty sure I gave up important parts of my brain.
In exchange I got sleepless nights and days, dirty diapers, poop in the bathtub, dinner thrown on the floor, doctors appointments, worry, and the most intense heartache I have ever experienced. I also received dimpled smiles every morning, first words, first steps, beautiful giggles, bright eyes, and an intensity of love and emotion I didn't know was possible.
I do not want to make mothers feel guilty. I have good friends and good mothers tell me they feel guilty for not enjoying every minute of motherhood when they know it is a precious gift. I won't say that I cherished every minute of motherhood. It is hard to wake up every three hours. It is hard to haul a car seat everywhere you go. It is hard to pump breast milk for 8 months. It is hard to make dinner while a toddler demands your attention. There were days when I longed for Jonah to sleep so that I could veg out and watch Survivor. Sometimes when I could hear him waking up from a nap I would freeze like a deer in the headlights hoping he would fall asleep again. Motherhood is hard, often mundane work.
I just want to say that it is sacrifice that creates pure love. I felt more love in the short 14 months Jonah lived than I have felt in my entire life. I believe it is because I gave more of myself and my time to him than I have given to anyone else. Now my time is my own again. I can sleep or travel or work or play. I could pursue a career, or a passion. I am free to find fulfillment in my own endeavors, and yet I long to lose myself in motherhood again.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 10:39
Sunday, December 4, 2011
The second gift came just after we arrived home from church. The doorbell rang as I was making meatloaf. Hands filthy, I quickly washed them and rushed to the door, not sure who to expect. I opened the door to unfamiliar faces, a mother, a father and a son. The mother said, with tears in her eyes, that they heard about Jonah's passing and had a gift for us. On the porch was an adorable Thomas the Train Christmas tree from the Festival of Trees. This was no ordinary tree. This amazing tree was decorated by a family who lost one of their twin boys shortly after he was born. The card that came with the tree read:
This tree is a tribute to the love that a little boy has for his precious twin brother. Joshua and Caleb were born 5 years ago. Joshua stayed 5 weeks in the NICU and came home to his family just in time for Christmas. Caleb's stay in the NICU was for 3 short days before he returned to another home. As Joshua has grown, he has developed an awareness of Caleb and a desire to share the things he loves most with his buddy. Joshua loves trains and has donated his favorite Thomas to this tree. Caleb's other brothers and sister have also placed a train on this tree for Caleb.
Sometimes the emotion I feel seems too much for my body. I was so moved. The tree was purchased for us by the Live W/Elle Foundation, a foundation that was started after the tragic death of a beautiful 15 month old baby girl. It was brought to us by this kind and humble family.
I have truly been blessed with many gifts in the past 2 months. It is a gift to recognize that sorrow and heartache come to so many lives, that although my loss is unique my sorrow is not. It is a gift to know that I am not alone. It is a gift to be the recipient of Christ-like love and service from friends and neighbors, as well as total strangers. It is a gift to receive service that is given without the expectation of recognition, or reward. It is a gift to find connection with other mothers and fathers and families who have lost loved ones. It is a gift to feel true love poured out upon me. These are gifts given to me by my Heavenly Father, who loves me, and knows me. They come to me through His children, who know Him and love Him. I am so grateful.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
My breath --
Begging an answer
I saw the bright
Quick streams of light
Sing gold across
And it came to me then
Is the night:
For only from dark
Do we know dawn
the memory lets
One small solace in.
If we must endure an end
To know the endless --
will I let you go:
that when I see you
Standing at the door
To that more
In your embrace.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I can't seem to get out of bed in the morning. It takes me a while. Usually I read until my back hurts and then I'm so uncomfortable I get up. This morning I grabbed Stand a Little Taller by Gordon B. Hinckley, it has a scripture and thought for each day. I flipped to November 29 and read the following scripture from the Book of Mormon:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27
I have read this scripture many times. I always thought it applied to specific weaknesses. For example, if you are not good at public speaking, humble yourself, rely on God, and He will help you be a good public speaker. Although I think it can work that way, I have a new view of it's meaning.
In the last two months I have been shown my weakness. My mom had a heart attack over the weekend, my sister has five children and is getting divorced, my son died, my dear friend lost her baby at 20 weeks, and other members of my family are struggling. It is very clear to me that I possess very little control of the world around me. This lack of control has been very humbling. I realize that my weakness is not a singular character flaw, it is a state of being.
Many people have told me they are impressed that I have turned to God in my trials. My response is that I am too afraid to go it alone. I feel so vulnerable and defenseless, like anything could happen in life, and I really need help. I need to be strengthened. I feel stronger when I pray for help. I feel stronger when I read God's promises in the scriptures. I feel stronger when I go to church. I feel stronger when I attend the temple. I have turned to God because I want to feel strong again. Honestly, I don't know what else to do. So I try to be faithful, and believe that God's grace will help me feel strong, that my constant weakness will eventually become my constant strength, and that maybe some morning I will want to get out of bed.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
On October 21st my kind father-in-law, Mark, and his wife brought us this sweet blue balloon attached to a little blue pumpkin. It was such a lovely gift and reminder of Jonah.
Jonah absolutely loved balloons. At the grocery store he would spot balloons, then lean and steer Jordan over to see them. He wanted to touch them, pull on their strings, and try to taste them. We never left Harmon's without a balloon. On the day of his funeral we released 100 baby blue balloons for Jonah. I think he loved it!
To my surprise I woke up the day after the balloon arrived and it was still floating. What is the average life expectancy for a balloon? 1 or 2 days? We left town for 10 days, only to return to a perfect balloon floating high. 20 days later it was still floating. This blue balloon floated, without drooping at all, for a month!
This may seem silly to some people. Maybe you could explain it away as a fluke, amazing high float, a high quality balloon, etc... But to me it is a miracle. I think Jonah loved this gift from his Grandpa and kept his balloon floating! I like to think that he knew it would lift my spirits to see it floating and defying the odds every morning. In the end, how the balloon continued to float is irrelevant. Each day I saw the balloon I smiled, and that was a miracle.
I know that we have the opportunity to see miracles in our lives everyday. It is our choice to notice them or to explain them away. I have seen many small miracles in the past two months, and it has brought me happiness in the midst of heartbreak. This everlasting balloon is only one example, and it feels like a perfect gift from my beautiful boy, and his loving grandpa.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Little did I know that I would lose my sweet boy only a few weeks later. As I held Jonah's beautiful body in the hospital a nurse gently asked if we wanted Jonah to be an organ/tissue donor. She told us he could still donate his heart valves, even though he had been deprived of oxygen. I immediately thought of Ruby. I thought of her beautiful family, and said "Yes."
It is an amazing feeling to know that your sorrow can be transformed into joy for another family. Ruby's story made a difficult choice easier for us. Her amazing parents are on a mission to raise awareness about organ/tissue donation. In their grief they have managed to find hope and ultimately save the lives of children and adults waiting for transplants. They are incredible examples to me.
You can learn more about Ruby and the facts about organ/tissue donation on their website. http://www.rubyjanefoundation.org/
If you live in California you can participate in their 1st annual Run for Ruby in January.
You can register to be an organ donor here.
Friday, November 25, 2011
I realized that the heart of the holiday is not tradition, it is family. Even though I was surrounded with friends and family that I love, it was so evident that my family was not whole. Jonah was absent and my heart was with him. As I made conversation I could imagine myself chasing him up the stairs, or changing his diaper in the hallway. I wondered what food he would have gobbled up. I wished for the excuse to leave and put him down for a nap. Instead, I sat. I ate my food. I thought of something to be grateful for, and I tried not to cry.
When Jordan and I finally came home last night, we crawled into bed, talked about how hard the day was and said a prayer together. After we prayed I laid in bed thinking about gratitude. It is not necessarily hard for me to find things to be grateful for, it is just that the cumulative impact of all those good things only seems to make a small dent in the grief I feel. My health, Jordan, my home, Jordan's job, my family, good food... As I listed these things I remembered the last night I had with Jonah.
The night before Jonah died he woke up 3 or 4 times. This was unusual for him, and I had recently gotten used to sleeping through the night. Each time I got up with him I tried to figure out what was wrong. He wasn't teething. He had a dry diaper. He wasn't hungry. He wasn't grumpy, just awake. Each time I would hold him and kiss him and put him back to bed. The last time I got up with him it was about 4:00 am. Normally after the 3rd wake up I would have made him a bottle and given it to him in his crib, and gone back to bed. I was so tired, but I felt like I should hold him. I pulled him out of his crib, grabbed his blanket and sat in the recliner with him. He was wide awake. He laid on my chest for awhile, and then popped his head up and looked at me with the brightest eyes. He began to scoot off my lap like he was ready to play. I said "no, no, it is time to sleep, come here." I pulled him back on my lap and he smiled. Then he cuddled into me and laid his sweet head on my chest. Something inside me told me not to worry about sleep, and to enjoy holding my sweet boy. We laid together for a long time. I stroked his wispy hair and breathed in his little boy smell. When I finally put him down in his crib, he was still awake. He looked at me and I signed "I love you." Then he turned and snuggled into his blanket. This is one of my sweetest memories.
I am so grateful. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to be a mother, to be pregnant, to feel his life grow inside me. I am grateful that I was able to stay home with him and be with him every single day of his life. I am grateful that I tried to soak up every minute I had as his mother. I am grateful for the sacrifice of motherhood and how it tied my heart to his. I am grateful that I was with him the day he died, that I was the last face he saw, and that I could hold his hand as he left this life. I am so grateful for the sweet whisper of the spirit that told me to stay and enjoy my little boy one last night. Most of all I am grateful that I listened.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I never really understood the ritual of visiting graves at the cemetery until Jonah died. It is so healing to have a distinct and separate place to go to remember him. I love that I am alone there, that I can cry and no one questions my tears. They are expected. I love to watch Jordan clean the headstone and continue to care for his child. I love it when people tell me they stopped by to see Jonah, because I want everyone to remember him and how beautiful he was.
When I visit Jonah I like to walk around and visit the other children at the cemetery. There are far too many. I see their beautiful names...Isola, Bradley, Claire. I read their birthdays and death days. I think about each of their mothers carefully choosing a name, celebrating their birth and experiencing the grief I feel now.
When I think about these graveyard mothers I realize I am not alone. Is it strange to find comfort in the graves of other children? I realize that death, and even the death of children, has always been a part of life. So why did I feel so immune? How could I think I would avoid such heartache? Now I see death all around me. I feel the pain of others more intensely. Part of me wishes I could crawl back in my cocoon, that I could cover my eyes and not see. And part of me is grateful for the knowledge, for the ability to see. I hope the purpose of pain is to help us see the world around us more clearly, to open our eyes, and enlighten our minds.
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
The day Jonah died my faith wavered. I found myself asking "who is God?" There was so much pain in my heart that it was hard to find a good answer. C.S. Lewis says "You can't see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears."
It wasn't until the sharpness of the pain had subsided that I could see and remember the goodness of God. I began to think about the day Jonah was born. It was an amazing day. I remember starring into his dark eyes and wondering where his soul came from. I knew that his body had grown and developed inside me. But the spirit that gave life to his body was not my creation. I knew, deeply, that God was the father of Jonah's soul, and that he was a gift to me. On July 14, I believed that God was infinitely good.
I realize now that in order to deny the goodness of God, I would have to deny the incredible feeling I had the day Jonah was born. I cannot. The feeling was too strong. My life has been sprinkled with small moments of clarity like this one, moments when truth seemed to settle in my soul and become knowledge. I have come to believe God is like any good parent. He knows the path of least resistance rarely creates strength and understanding in children. I do not believe he throws obstacles in our way, but sometimes he lets us struggle and experience difficult things. He knows that we learn when our souls are challenged, when our hearts are broken, and he would not deny us that experience.
And yet he also knows our pain, and is compassionate. The other night as I tried to fall asleep, tears flooding my eyes and pain in my heart, it was almost as if someone whispered to me "Be at peace. There is so much to look forward to...your life will be beautiful." I felt the goodness of God fill my heart, and the truth of His words found place in my soul again.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Lord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother
She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh and Life ain't always what you think it ought to be,
no Ain't even grey, but she buries her baby
And this is how the weeping happens, triggered by the simplest phrase or song. A song I would have dismissed as sappy at any other time in my life. The reaction is sudden, it is unpredictable, and it is not pretty. The word weeping itself is far too delicate to describe the reality of the situation. The reality is convulsive, crumbling, and full of snot. It is physically painful. It makes my forehead hurt, and trying to hold it back hurts even more. I always feel better after this kind of crying, but I don't enjoy it...it is like touching a bruise, you want to feel just enough pain to remind you of the original wound, but at the same time know that you are healing.
Here are some other songs that trigger the weeping...
He'll Carry You by Hilary Weeks
Not Enough by Emmylou Harris
Godspeed (Sweet Dreams) by The Dixie Chicks
Consider the Lilies by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
I know people wonder if I want to be around children. They wonder if it is too painful. It is so painful...but everything is painful. It is not just children that remind me of Jonah, but Walmart, and our car, and every picture and toy I have in my house, and the sounds of dogs barking. Everything. There is no escaping the things that make me think of him, and I don't want to stop thinking of him. I have accepted that the pain I feel is the price of memory.
Despite the pain I long to be with children. I love their honest and direct questions. I love that a child will hug me without hesitation. I love that they don't pass judgement. I love that my nieces and nephews talk about Jonah so freely. I love the simple drawings and flowers they make to brighten my day. I love that they don't know what is "proper" or "acceptable" behavior. Children act immediately and without fear of judgement.
I wonder what Janice's mother would have thought of such a question. Would she have apologized on her daughters behalf for being too personal. Or maybe gently pulled Janice aside to remind her about being polite. I hope not...I hope she would have waited patiently for my answer, like Janice, expressed her love, and then praised her daughter for reaching out to someone in need.
It is hard to know what to do for someone who has experienced loss. I have often stopped myself from reaching out to someone because of fear of imposing, offending, not knowing what to say, or not knowing what to expect. Now I would say it is always better to act, to do something, and that we are given the urge to help for a reason. Here are some of things that people have done for me that I have loved.
Notice: The morning after Jonah died people began ringing our doorbell. Most came with food, some came with words of comfort, some tried to offer explanation, some didn't know what to say, but each came because they noticed that someone who was so important to us was gone. When you lose someone it seems as though the whole world should stop and notice, but people continue driving, shopping, laughing... I was so grateful for the people that stopped their lives for a moment to tell us they noticed our loss. I cried with each new person that came until I ran out of tears, and then they cried for me.
Service: Almost every person that came to our home asked "Is there anything we can do?" I think everyone feels helpless when tragedy strikes, and it is our impulse to do something. Our dear friends told us that as soon as they heard about Jonah they started making cookies because they didn't know what else to do. I love that. Our family, friends, and neighbors were left to their own devices to find ways of helping us and healing us. Here are a few beautiful things they have done for us...
- shined Jordan's shoes for the funeral
- shared books that helped them during their own loss or grief
- brought beautiful flowers
- gave me personalized jewelry to remember Jonah
- wrote down tender memories of Jonah
- arranged meals for my family
- set-up a bank account to help with funeral and medical expenses
- gave us gift cards, so Jordan and I could spend time alone together
- donated money
- helped me get ready the morning of the funeral
- brought me waterproof mascara
- sent me pictures of Jonah
- called all of Jonah's doctors and specialists
- brought healthy drinks, because I couldn't eat anything for days
- traveled great distances for the funeral and to be with us
- created beautiful art to remember Jonah
- asked me to go walking in the morning
- arranged the food for the funeral
- continued to invite me to lunch (even though I didn't feel like going for awhile)
- brought a Costco pack of Kleenex, and Tupperware for leftovers
- called me
- brought soothing music
- put Jonah's pictures into a beautiful photo album
- took beautiful pictures of the funeral
- made cookies, bread, and other comfort food
- put all of my videos of Jonah on a DVD
- visited Jonah's grave
- helped me shop for a dress and shoes to wear to the funeral
- took care of my other family members that were struggling
- prayed and fasted for us
- helped me clean my house
- helped me plant bulbs to brighten my yard in the spring
- offered legal advice to help with insurance
- arranged to have balloons at Jonah's grave
- wept with me
- donated picture frames to use at the funeral
When I think of the Savior, I often picture Him with hands outstretched, reaching out to comfort, heal, bless, and love. And He always talked with, never down to, people. He loved the humble and the meek and walked among them, ministering to them and offering hope and salvation...As we emulate His perfect example, our hands can become His hands; our eyes, His eyes; our heart, His heart.
I don't know when I will be able to send you a proper personal thank you note, but I hope until then this note will do. Thank you!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Things I love about sweet Jonah:
- His sweet innocent smile
- His laugh
- The way he shared his favorite blanket with everyone so that they could feel the comfort it brought him.
- His stinky face (:
- When he would sneeze at dinner, we would laugh and get the nastiest looks from him
- His dimples
- He always made me laugh
- How he taught me to look at my life so differently
- He was always smiling or laughing at something
- When he would flick his bottle off his teeth to make it squirt
- How he would stare at perfect strangers until they had to become close friends.
- He could always tell when something was wrong..so he would come cuddle
- His imperfect body but perfect tiny little spirit
- I loved how everytime I saw him i would clap my hands and say come here baby...he would instantly take off and run into my arms.
- He loved kittys
- When he would bounce every time he heard music
- Even when he didn't have his Baha on, he could still understand what you were talking about.
- When he would throw his blocks at us (:
- He always had something in his hands to throw.
- I fell in love with the way he looked at Lynzie. They were best friends and nothing could replace that.
- He always did something funny to make us all laugh
- He always had a sweet little spirit.
- That boy could read for hours. He was always moving around but the second you started reading to him he would sit and listen.
- He was always so proud when he would go down grandma's stairs. he would sit at the bottom and clap for himself and sign "all done."
- He would always jerk his body from side to side to get you to move somewhere :)
- He loved watching the fan in grandma's kitchen.
- The SADDEST cry when he was a newborn
- He would always look for us when we would laugh at something funny he did.
- How he changed all of our lives, even though his wasn't long enough.
- I love how I was so proud to call him My cousin.
- He was always running and climbing things
- His Baha (hearing aid)
- The bug hat with the hole for the Baha
- He signed "more" with his thumb hitting the palm of his hand
- He taught me to love with everything I have.
- His first word caught on video ( momma )
- He looked at everything in awe.
- He was so amazed by everything
- He brought our family so close
- He was the best thing that ever happened in my life.
- Even though his physical body wasn't perfect, in my eyes..He was more than perfect.
- He loved running around outside
- Jordan called him "Floody" when he was in Julie's stomach (:
- In the hospital the day he was born, Lynzie said "Mommy, Heavenly Father makes everyone different"
- He is everything to me. My whole world.
- I love that when we were in the hospital the day he died Julia looked down and sang, with tears running down her cheeks "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy. when skies are grey, You'll never know dear, how much i love you, please don't take my sunshine away"
- I love that we sang primary songs to him the day he died.
I loved this sweet boy with all of my heart. he was my whole world and i would have done anything for him. i was so so so proud to have him in my life and i don't know what i would do without being a part of my life. i feel like the luckiest person alive to have been such a big part of his life. I am so blessed that i was able to see him every Sunday night. I am so blessed that i got to see him all the time. I feel like the luckiest person alive that i got to spend so much time with that little sweet heart. He will forever be in my heart. I love my sweet Jonah Ramsey Hall. I know now what love is because i had so much of it for that sweet little boy.
Here are some quotes that I love from the book...
"If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild."
"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."
"And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness."
“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't."
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Soon we were joined by another couple (Larry and Val) and we easily fell into simple conversation about Jordan's job, living in Utah, Larry's vacation home in Mexico, Val's job as a massage therapist, and after awhile the conversation naturally came around to me. I had been quietly soaking up the warmth of the hot tub, only contributing to the conversation superficially, and letting Jordan do most of the talking (which is his absolute worst nightmare, but he seemed comfortable enough taking on that role for a night). Eventually Larry asked me "Julie, what do you do?"
Such a simple question, but one I could not easily answer. What do I do? I found myself instantly debating how much to tell this new hot tub acquaintance. Do I tell him I'm a mom? If I do will he ask about Jonah, and then do I tell him that he died? Will he want to know more about Jonah or will the conversation take an awkward silent turn? And then will I start crying in this hot tub? Then will I have to get out of the hot tub? I was sure that the "childless mother" answer would be more than this pleasant couple bargained for, with such a simple question. So I said something about being a business owner...preschool...art classes...blah blah blah.
Afterward I felt so sad. Being a mother to Jonah is the greatest job I have ever had. It is the title I am most proud of...my dream job. It is the hardest job I have ever had. I literally gave everything to the work of being a mother, my body, my sleep, my mind, my heart. It required me to stretch my capacity and develop new skills. I had days when I felt unqualified, incompetent, and sure I had missed some important training meetings. Despite all that I wanted to be a great mother. When I think of the other jobs I have had they all seem so unnecessary, so trivial. It felt like a betrayal to leave motherhood off my verbal resume, just to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
So last night, I found myself in a similar situation, with new acquaintances. The question came to me again "Julie, what do you do?" This time I felt the same hesitation, and a twinge of sympathy for the one who asked. I said "I am a mom, to a beautiful little boy, he died 6 weeks ago. So right now I don't know what I do, but I'm trying to figure it out."
As you can imagine I got astonished looks, and condolences, and then the group slowly dispersed into smaller more comfortable conversations...not knowing what to do or say. I can't blame them, I probably would have done the same. They were not prepared for my answer.
It was awkward, but I felt so peaceful. It felt honest. I would rather have hundreds of honest awkward moments, than one comfortable yet shallow conversation. I hope you feel the same. When we ask someone to tell us about themselves, to tell us who they are, are we really prepared for any answer, or will we only accept the expected?
I appreciate people who hear my honest answer and want to know about my heartache. I am amazed by people who are not afraid...who ask about Jonah, even people who ask how he died. I know most of these people have experienced their own grief. I would rather walk from a conversation crying, than feeling the numbness of not mentioning his name.
I have promised myself that I will continue to tell people about my heartache when they ask who I am, because it is a huge part of who I am right now. I hope that when I ask you a seemingly simple question about "how you are" or "what you do" you won't be afraid to tell me the truth.
Monday, November 14, 2011
My family came to see my grief, for it was a new part of our family. They wept. My mother held it tenderly, and spoke softly. My neighbors brought casseroles and bread to sustain us. My friends asked about it and shared their tips for bearing grief.
Taking care of my newborn grief is demanding. It wakes me up in the middle of the night. I carry it with me everywhere. I long for a simpler time when my heart was not burdened by so much responsibility.
I measure the life of my grief in the same way I measured Jonah's life. At first I counted every minute he was with me... then each hour. As time passed each hour became less significant and I measured more generally by days, then weeks. I hear a sad echo of my former self saying "It has been 3 days...It has been 2 weeks....now 6 weeks", and then I wonder how I have survived for any length of time without him.
I know that there will be milestones, holidays, special occasions. I will watch my grief change, and transform. Maybe I will be impressed by the things it can do, maybe I will be more exhausted than ever. People say in time I will forget the sharpness of the pain I experienced that day. That seems impossible to believe right now.
I do believe that there is opposition in all things. Our pain magnifies our joy. For now, I desperately long for, hope for, and have faith in future moments when new joy will be born to match my grief.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
The moment I knew Jonah was leaving this earth was the moment I felt my faith and everything I believed in being ripped away from me. I questioned everything. I have wept everyday since he died, and wish I could hold him again. As I have cried and prayed and sought answers I have found some truth, and so much comfort. I am not yet at the point where I am grateful for this trial, although I believe that can happen, but I'm grateful for what I have learned.
I was with Jonah when he died. I watched him choke and struggle and slip away from me. That memory is so vivid that I feel it happening again when I close my eyes at night. I see it, I feel it, and it causes a rush of adrenaline to flood my body. It has been horrifying and each night I know this memory is coming. But each night I pray to God to comfort me, to give me peace, and the peace comes, like a warm blanket wrapped around me and I sleep. I prayed that God would help me let go of that memory, and I felt impressed to write it all down, every detail, in my journal. I did that yesterday and last night I laid in bed without my heart and mind racing, at peace.
Mourn with those that mourn
I have great admiration for everyone who has made the effort to reach out to us. The support and kindness we have received is overwhelming. It is hard to know what to say, especially when you have not experienced something like this. I have found that it is so meaningful to have people cry with me and to recognize that Jonah is gone. That does more for me than having someone try to explain why it happened or where Jonah is now. Those answers will come to me eventually. The knowledge that people all over the world wept with me at his passing and prayed for our family is indescribable.
I believe that life is full of trials, and none of us will escape hardship or death. I also believe that God is a God of miracles. Almost instantly I was able to see small miracles in the experience of losing Jonah, but I found myself saying "God, that is not the miracle I wanted." The miracle I wanted was for Jonah to be restored to health, to live. On the surface it seems like such a miracle would have done more for our faith than this experience of trying to make sense of his death and grieving. Over the past month as I have studied the scriptures and have thought about this. I have found many examples of people who saw angels, or incredible signs from heaven only to doubt them later. I can relate to that. After Jonah's funeral there was a beautiful rainbow that arched over our home. It instantly felt like a sign to me, almost perfectly biblical. A sign of peace and promise, but I felt myself doubt it as well. Perhaps the rainbow was a coincidence, simply a natural occurrence. I wanted another sign to back that sign up. I can see how relying on signs and miracles becomes an addictive game. On the other hand, the slow and steady work of praying for answers and comfort is a refiners fire. As I have worked at grieving, and understanding, I have felt a steady strength that I cannot deny. I cannot say it is a coincidence. I can only say that it is the love of my Heavenly Father. That he sends me comfort and helps me get out of bed each day. I don't understand why this happened, but I know that God loves me and is sending me small miracles each day. Sometimes believing is seeing.