Sunday, October 14, 2012

September 29

The year anniversary of Jonah's death was September 29th, and here we are two weeks later, without a single commemorative word written about his passing or his life.  The thing is that I have felt pretty good for the past month.  I felt somewhat normal, even happy.  As his death date approached I felt an external pressure to dive back into grief.  I felt compelled by some sort of unspoken rule to relive his funeral, to release balloons, to be some sort of death party planner.  Honestly, I just didn't have it in me, which made me feel like a bad mother.

For me that "bad mother" feeling is a little funny.  When I was a full-time busy mother I rarely felt like a bad mother.  I know that is unusual.  Mothers are supposed to be riddled with mommy-guilt.  But I wasn't.  I knew I was doing my best.  Even the day Jonah died, the day I gave him a fruit snack that killed him, I didn't feel like a bad mother.  I tried so hard to save him and loved him so deeply, I could not feel the guilt of motherhood.

But on his death day, as friends and family remembered Jonah and came to comfort me, and I went about my normal business without tears I wondered what kind of mother I am.  Maybe a mother in denial.  Maybe a mother who has cried all her tears.  Or a mother who is trying to be brave and move forward.  Perhaps a mother with a heart that is hardening to keep pain at a safe distance.  It is hard to say.

As I turned my heart over for a deep analysis I recognized that the date, September 29, meant very little to me.  That sounds strange I know.  How could the day my only child died not hold significance.  I'm not really sure.  To me it felt just like a number on a calendar.  What significance is there in 365 days passing...why not a nice round number like 350 or 400.  The countdown seemed somewhat arbitrary because I have mourned Jonah's death each day since he left us.  So today, 380 days since his passing, I'm writing to tell you that I miss him deeply, daily, like a good mother should.

I missed him as I sat in a cheap motel room in Sheridan, Wyoming reading the journal I kept of his short but beautiful life.  I discreetly wept in the "happiest place on earth" as I soared through the air with my niece Lilah on Disney's Dumbo ride.  All I could think about as we dipped and flew was how much Jonah would have loved that ride.  I mourned when I saw my grandma's black office chair, where he once spun in dizzy circles with his dad.  And as I watched my two sweet nieces play in a tiny stream I ached to see him splashing and playing at their sides. 

My days are filled with memories and moments and missing.  I mourn his loss each day, and don't expect that to change.  When I feel his absence the most I often turn to Jordan and say "Jonah would have loved this."  I have learned in loss that grief does not come on scheduled days.  It does not understand anniversaries or special occasions.  It's fullness comes in the quietest moments: when my head finds the softness of my pillow, when I catch a glimpse of a drifting blue balloon, or when I hear the sweet giggle of a child.

My daily prayer, as I miss Jonah's smile, is that joy will come in the same way. 


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I testify that because of Him, even our Savior, Jesus Christ, those feelings of sorrow, loneliness, and despair will one day be swallowed up in a fullness of joy. Shane Bowen, Because I live, Ye Shall Live Also

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Related

The other day an old lady tried to touch my face at the DI (thrift store).  Somewhere between the abandoned Health Riders and vintage suitcases our paths crossed.  She slowly shuffled toward me in her red house dress, and I noticed her wispy gray hair and the almost transparent nature of her skin.  She seemed too fragile to be wandering such a junk cluttered aisle.  I pressed myself into the exercise equipment so she could pass by me, but instead she reached for me.  Not in a creepy way.  Her hand gently moved toward my face in a slow, loving way; as if I were her child. 

What should I do? I thought. My brain tried to process the appropriate reaction to being touched by a stranger at the DI.  Honestly, I'm surprised it has never happened before.  Anyway, before her hand reached my cheek it was caught and gently retracted by the young woman who walked beside her, and apologies followed.  No need to be sorry, I said and they continued their tedious journey.

I instantly felt a twinge of regret, really strange regret.  If only she would have said something to me, I thought. 

When Jonah was a few months old I had a similar moment while we waited in a hospital.  I wrote the following about it in my journal:


We went to see Dr. M today and had to wait for a long time in the hospital hallway.  This elderly woman was wheeled by and it was clear she had some dementia.  She kept asking if she knew the people in the hallway and her son said "no mom...you don't know any of these people." 

Then they went further down the hall.  A few minutes later while her son was distracted she made her way back down towards us, slowly using her feet to move the wheelchair forward.  She stopped right in front of us and smiled at Jonah.  He gave her a big smile.  I told her his name and asked her what her name was.  She said "Beverly." 

Then she said, "Does he (Jonah) have a hole in his mouth?"

A little taken aback I said, "yes...he does...how did you know." 

She said, "Because I know him, he is my relative."

It was pretty crazy.  I don't know how she would know that or even ask about it.  You can't see it from the outside.  I like to think that Beverly does know him! 
 
As I continued my search through second-hand clothes and mismatched dishes I thought, What if I missed a Beverly moment?  What if this seemingly senile woman in her red dress had something important to tell me; something that she could see that I could not.  I wondered if she could have given me a message about Jonah, or about God, or about my life.  I find that in my grief I am constantly looking for experiences to reinforce my belief in an afterlife...some sort of evidence that can transform my hope into faith and understanding.  

I like the idea that those who seem to lose their grasp of this life have a greater understanding of the next.  I loved that even if she did not have a message for me, this sweet old woman felt moved to reach for a stranger.  Perhaps she craved the softness of human touch.  Maybe she could see the invisible heartache that is buried in me and felt compassion.  Or maybe she knew me...like Beverly knew Jonah.  Maybe we are related.
 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hard Things

Last week I made my way north to Salt Lake, curved around the east side of city, and arrived in the foothills of the Wasatch Front.  It is a familiar drive for me.  My grandparents lived in those foothills for most of my childhood, and the neighborhood still reminds me of picking warm summer raspberries, and enjoying my grandpa's homemade apple juice.

But last week as I drove through the familiar, the warm sun seemed to melt my nostalgia leaving me with the underlying uneasiness it temporarily masked.  I arrived at Primary Children's Medical Center for an unexpected interview, and felt afraid.

Whenever I visit a place that is charged with memories of Jonah I feel nervous. I just don't know what to expect, or how I will react.  The pain I feel is so lightly buried.  I never know what breeze of memory will uncover it.  

Our last visit to Primary Children's was when Jonah had his cleft palate surgery.  He was 9 months old.  I felt prepared and relatively calm as we entered the hospital as a family.  Jonah was as curious and energetic as ever.  We laughed as he charmed the pre-op nurses with his dimpled smile.  We took pictures of him in his baby-sized hospital gown.  Then we tried to entertain him - and ourselves - as we waited and waited for his surgeon.

The doctor and our anxiety arrived together.  We looked at each other as if to say, "this is really going to happen."  Jordan and I gathered Jonah and his things: blanket, binky, and diaper bag.  Then we slowly made our way down the long sterile corridor. When we could go no further, we squeezed him and kissed his sweet cheeks as we handed our precious child to the anesthesiologist.  Jonah didn't seem to mind.  He always loved new people.  He smiled and admired this new face, while we tried to maintain our brave ones.  As the doctor walked through the operating room doors she said, "don't worry, we will take care of him."

We did worry.  What if he was scared?  Would he feel abandoned and alone?  At the time it was the hardest thing I had ever done.  We stood for awhile peering through the flapping doors, until they finally shuttered closed and came to a rest.  Jordan and I immediately fell into each other's arms and wept.

So last week as I sat in the parking garage of Primary Children's - working up the courage to walk inside - I thought about that moment, and all of the others we experienced within the walls of the hospital; the helplessness of watching our child in pain; the joy of his quick recovery; the carefully considered follow-up visits and consultations.  This place represented for me a physical manifestation of our plans for Jonah, of all the heartache of ever having to make such plans, and the pain of a future that would not be. 

I took a moment and said a prayer that God would give me strength and I stepped out of my car.

I smiled when I walked past the garden where we wandered last summer as we waited or an appointment.  I read the familiar plaque above the doors.  It reads, "the child first and always." I breathed deeply and walked through the revolving doors.

Once inside I instantly felt the pain of memory. But I also felt the peace of being in such a special place.  I felt gratitude for the kind people who helped us.  I felt proud for choosing to face my fears instead of avoiding them.  I felt brave and reassured that I can do hard things.

In the last two years I have done so many hard things; some that are very public and some that happen within the sacred space of my heart and mind.

I never thought I would have a child with a genetic disorder. I never thought I would have to learn to feed him in a special way and help him learn sign language and put him through painful surgeries.  I never thought I would watch him die in my arms.  I never thought I would sit in a mortuary discussing the details of my own child's funeral.  I never imagined I would have to dress his lifeless body.  I couldn't anticipate that I would have to try so hard to be happy.  I never thought I would have to work so hard to preserve my marriage.  I never imagined how hard it would be to answer the question "do you have any children?"  I never thought it would take so much courage to visit my friend Katie in her home (we were at her home when Jonah choked), or to go see my mom in the hospital, or to have a simple meeting at Primary Children's.

And yet, in the past two years I have found the strength to do hard things.  I have found it in the generosity of my family and my friends.  I have found it in the kindness of my husband.  I have found it in the charity of my neighbors.  And most of all I have found it in the knowledge that I am a child of God.  I am his daughter, and he loves me as much as I love Jonah.  He is my strength, and I believe I can do all things through him...even hard things.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13


Monday, August 27, 2012

Simple

One afternoon last fall, after Jonah passed away, Jordan and I sat quietly eating french fries among the red and white palm trees of our local In-and-Out.  We didn't have much to say to each other.  Both of us still felt quite shattered and tired, so we just ate in silence and listened to the energetic conversations of the people around us.

Near us two young couples sat and discussed the details of a recent engagement. The description was theatrical; full of dramatic pauses and hyperbole. The new fiance started with a comprehensive synopsis of important events and dates in the couples dating history. Then she began a step-by-step description of her boyfriend's clever deceptions and misdirections, and finally she shared her astonishment when she was led to the very park where they shared their first kiss. The excitement in her voice intensified as she described the candle-lit path, her kneeling boyfriend, the enormous glittering ring he brandished, and the hidden photographer hired to capture her reaction.

As I listened I thought about my own engagement six years earlier.  It was so simple.  After two years of dating - and breaking up - Jordan finally asked me to marry him.  It was a cool summer evening, and we sat talking and kissing on the grey weathered wood of his mom's back porch.  There were no fireworks or surprises, no elaborate plans, and no eloquent speeches.  Just the words, "I really love you, will you marry me?"

I thought about how scared I was to say yes.  I was afraid of divorce and disappointment.  I was afraid of heartache and instability.  I worried about making the right decision, or rather making the wrong decision.  I was afraid of the pain a poor decision would carry.  I wanted my happiness guaranteed, and yet despite all my fears I said "yes."

My understanding of pain was so naive six years ago.

As I listened to the bubbly couple beside us, I thought
"Do you know how hard it will be?"
"Do you realize what you are doing?"

Then I looked across the table at my silent heartbroken husband.  I thought about the day we were married and how peaceful I felt as I stood beside him.  All of my worry and apprehension seemed to melt away when he held my hand in the temple.  I thought about all the times he drove hundreds of miles to work in cold and dusty and dirty conditions to provide a comfortable life for me.  I thought about the first time he held Jonah; how he radiated love instantly despite Jonah's complications.  I remembered the beautiful moments we shared together as a family; the walks up the canyon; Jonah's first time in a swimming pool; giggly chases around the living room couch.

When Jonah died, and I was waiting for Jordan at the hospital, I wondered what would happen to us.  Could our relationship survive something so devastating?  Would Jordan blame me for Jonah's death?  I could not bear the idea of losing Jonah and Jordan.  I wondered how we would ever recover from such sorrow.  But when Jordan arrived, and he realized Jonah was gone, I was overwhelmed by the love he showed to me.  There was no contention, no accusations, only pain and tears.   

All of this flooded my heart and mind as I ate my french fries, and I thought about this newly engaged couple.  I thought about how at one point in my life I may have been jealous of such a romantic story.  But instead I wondered if they understood how simple love can be.  It can be as simple as saying "I really love you, will you marry me?" It can be as simple as forgiveness and kindness.  It can be as simple as holding hands in the midst of intense pain.  Did they know they should be jealous of us?...a silent heartbroken fry-eating couple beside them.

Probably not.  But I knew.  I thought about the complicated package of beauty and joy and pain that arrived in my life when I said yes six years agoI would say yes again today.  I am so grateful that I was brave enough to walk into the unknown with Jordan.  How blessed we have been to learn to love in the simplest of ways.


Among the blessings of love there is hardly one more exquisite than the sense that in uniting the beloved life to ours we can watch over its happiness, bring comfort where hardship was, and over memories of privation and suffering open the sweetest fountains of joy.
George Eliot




Thursday, August 23, 2012

For Good

This summer has been unusually musical for us...well for me at least.  I have been immersed in the kindness of friends with artistic connections, and as a result I have seen more than my fair share of plays and concerts.  I say for me because I have, for the most part, charitably spared Jordan from the agony of attending the theater.

The first year Jordan and I were married I was finishing my graduate degree and working with the Utah Shakespearean Festival.  As a perk I got a few free tickets to the festival each semester.  One summer evening when my parents were in town I thought it would be fun to see a play.  I should have been more selective.  We saw Johnny Guitar, a campy western musical with singing cowboys and melodramatic showdowns.  Honestly, Jordan has never been the same.  Every time a pair of theatrical tickets comes our way I see the fear in his eyes and sense the flashbacks of dancing cowboys joined in song. His relief is visible when I say "I'll call a friend."  Shortly after the Johnny Guitar incident I realized that musical theater wasn't our thing.  Hiking is our thing.  Going to thrift stores is our thing.  Eating delicious cheese is our thing.

Anyway, I have seen a lot of great plays this summer and been reminded why I love the theater.  When I was at BYU, studying humanities, a professor told me that we were really studying the good, the true, and the beautiful.  I feel like my year of heartbreak has made the good, the true and the beautiful even more poignant to me, and as a result I have cried at some point in almost every performance I have seen this summer.

I know it is super cheesy, but I secretly cried into my program as Mother Superior told Maria to "climb every mountain."  I wiped a single tear from my cheek when Eliza Doolittle could have danced all night.  I choked back tears when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang "He Has the Whole World in His Hands," because I really believe that He does.

The only performance I didn't cry in was Phantom of the Opera, where I felt like screaming at the star-crossed lovers, "You don't even know each other!!!"

My musical summer ended last Saturday when I saw Wicked with Jordan's mom.  I didn't know much about the play before we went.  I could have spouted off a few impressions: witches, green, Oz, etc..  All I knew was that other people - musical theater people - love it.  I heard a few song snippets out of context, and didn't really expect the whole experience to live up to the hype.  But it did, and I discovered that I really loved the whole thing.

I loved the message and the music and the humor.  But most of all I was moved to body-shaking sobs when I heard the song "For Good."  The lyrics really struck me...

It well may be  
That we will never meet again 
In this lifetime  
So let me say before we part  
So much of me 
Is made from what I learned from you  
You'll be with me 
Like a handprint on my heart

I couldn't help but think about Jonah.  About how his short life has shaped me and changed me for good.  I know that I am better because I had the opportunity to be his mother. I am also better because I have experienced the excruciating pain of losing him.  There was so much that was good, and true, and beautiful in that song.  I left feeling so grateful that I have been changed for the better by the unique life of my sweet Jonah.

And...I was grateful that it was better than Johnny Guitar!  Thanks to Sara K., Sara S., Melanie, Mike and Dave, and Logan and Linda for giving me so many opportunities to cry this summer.


 






Monday, August 13, 2012

Black-eyed Susan

Ten months without Jonah came and went without a single written word from me.  The pace of my mind has slowed dramatically.  I used to have so much to say, and now my mind seems to be resting and recuperating.  I hope that is normal and natural.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm repressing something; if I have created some sort of impenetrable emotional dam.  I once described grief as a river, full of rapids and eddies.  Now it feels like I have reached a vast reservoir, an expanse of flat water where I can drift for awhile.  Honestly, it is a nice change.

I have noticed this month that I am considerably less philosophical and much more nostalgic. The subtle changes of fall are reminding me of my final weeks with Jonah. 

This time last year Jonah had mastered the art of walking...and running.  He was always a busy boy and curious beyond belief.  But when he started walking he was unstoppable.  I felt so content (and exhausted) as I spent my days chasing him, and climbing to the highest parts of the playground. 

One day in particular keeps coming to my mind. My parents have a sinuous walkway that leads to mustardy-yellow front door.  I sat at the top of the winding cement ramp and watched Jonah tip and toddle down the path through a forest of Black-eyed Susans.  He loved to turn and look at me.  The pride of his accomplishment radiated from him.  He would pause every once and awhile and wait for me to chase him the rest of the way.  I remember his sweet giggle; his blue eyes;  his curious smile and adorable dimples.  My arms can almost feel the motion of catching his little body, and twirling him in the air.  I remember the soft warm light of a fall afternoon, and how grateful I felt. 

My parents Black-eyed Susans are in full bloom right now.  They have infiltrated every available inch of soil.  When I walk up that winding walkway, through the maze of yellow flowers, I am reminded of my beautiful boy, his rambunctious spirit, and how blessed I was to spend my days with him.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Panic

Sometimes Jordan and I just end up at Costco.  I can't explain exactly how it happens.  One thing leads to another and we find ourselves strolling up and down the wide cemented aisles, stalking the free samples, and wondering what item we could possibly need in bulk. 

We originally got our Costco membership to buy things like diapers and formula for Jonah.  Now we usually leave the store with a something like a year-supply of batteries, a 10-pack of Oreo's, and a gut-wrenching reminder that we are now just two...and not three.  We don't go out of necessity, but out of ritual. 

As we left Costco last week, with nothing but a paper cup of hummus and a pita chip in hand, I watched a woman rush past me down the aisle.  At first she just jogged behind her giant shopping cart and sternly yelled out her daughter's name.  "Maria!"  When Maria didn't come she suddenly became less self-conscious, less stern.  She began running and crying out. "Maria!"  She ran like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, up and down the aisles, and we watched as the panic of the possible engulfed her.  Her daughter was gone.  Lost.  Maybe wandering.  Maybe stolen.  Her husband's panic followed suit as he sprinted to the other end of the store.

I watched them and was frozen in place by their urgency, because it reminded me of my own.  I stopped walking and my heart raced.  I remembered the moment that I realized Jonah was in trouble;  the feeling of trying to save him, sweeping his mouth, and pounding his back.  I remembered reaching for my phone as his body became limp.  I could see myself running with him in my arms to the front yard, crying for help.

As I relived my own panic I found that I could not help these worried parents or continue shopping.  I just prayed.  I prayed that Maria would find her mother. 

The staff at Costco quickly mobilized and found the little girl.  We heard a scratchy Walkie-Talkie report that she was located by the giant teddy bears.  She was fine.  But the panic stayed with me in a profound way.  As we made our way out to the parking lot my chin quivered, and I told Jordan, "that moment...that mom's panic...hit me so hard." 

Before Jonah died I would have felt sympathy or mild concern for the mother of a lost child, but after losing Jonah I felt her panic as if it was my own.  I have never felt so deeply for a total stranger.

We are often taught that Christ died for us, that he suffered for our sins, and that he felt our joys and sorrows.  We testify that he truly understands us.  We talk about His Infinite Atonement.  I have always believed and testified of these things.  But when I stood in Costco and felt the deep and heart wrenching panic of a worried mother, I understood more deeply how Christ feels our sorrows.  He knows our heartache, because His heart has been broken.  He knows our pain, because He endured incredible pain.  He feels our panic, our frustration, our anger, and our disappointment, because He experienced those emotions.  I don't claim to comprehend fully Christ's ability to succor us, but my unexpected moment of empathetic panic taught me that deep empathy is truly borne of experience.


Jesus' perfect empathy was ensured when, along with His Atonement for our sins, He took upon Himself our sicknesses, sorrows, griefs, and infirmities and came to know these "according to the flesh" (Alma 7:11-12). He did this in order that He might be filled with perfect, personal mercy and empathy and thereby know how to succor us in our infirmities. He thus fully comprehends human suffering.  Neal A. Maxwell

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thank You!

I am not feeling eloquent today.  I have sacrificed my brain and my writing to the worship of summer in all its light and glory.  I have been spending my energy in my garden and in the mountains and I have found a new kind of healing there.  I'm sure that when the cold and dark of autumn come I will return to my computer and this blog more often. 

Even though I don't feel like writing I want to say thank you.  Thank you for making Jonah's birthday so beautiful for me.  I was amazed by the unexpected response I got to my request for simple acts of kindness.  Thank you for sharing my request with others.  Thank you for doing small acts of service, and thank you for telling me about it.  I felt my dread turn to anxious anticipation as Jonah's birthday approached.  I felt so excited to hear about your adventures in kindness.  As I sat on the fence about whether to mourn or celebrate, your messages pulled me towards celebration.  I am so grateful.

As a family we began our day early with a race through lavender fields.  Then we gathered together in the evening to eat lots of comfort food and cake.  We even blew out candles and sang "happy birthday."  Our focus was not on what we lost, but on how blessed we all felt to have Jonah in our family.

My day was filled with lovely messages coming arriving via the mail, facebook, my phone, and at my front door.  I shared them with Jordan and cried as I read them aloud.  Here are some of the simple and beautiful things people did.

I just sat with Maggie and watched her favorite movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks, for the 500th time, because I know that you would have done the same thing with Jonah.

I tried to be patient when someone cut me off in the parking lot and it made such a difference

We took the time to help a couple visiting Beijing at the airport to catch the train between terminals...remembering how overwhelmed we were when we arrived here. Big and small, love is what it is all about.
 
In special memory of Jonah, my kids and I gathered a bunch of children's books and donated them to The House of Hope where mothers come with their children when they are trying to overcome addictions

We took some cookies to some neighbors we had not met yet.

Watched my sister's kids for a couple of hours so she could help her in-laws move into their new house 

Wrote a thank you letter to the person living at a house that I pass often that has a beautiful yard I really enjoy seeing. 

Thought of you today and bought my Mom chocolate! 

We donated to asilaymedowntosleep.org, a nonprofit that took beautiful pictures of my friends' baby who lived 58 hours. 

I was hand-washing my lunch dishes and started to grumble about the many other dirty dishes in the sink that didn't belong to me (the joys of living with young college roommates), and then I remembered, good deeds for Jonah today! So I washed everyone's dishes and ended up talking about him to one of the girls 

We were at breakfast at the beach this weekend and gave our extremely overworked waitress a tip that was the same amount as our meal.

I read an ABC book 4 times to Drew then thought of you and read it again.


I have been working over 70 hours a week between my two jobs, (doctor's hours without the pay) and my sacrifice is picking up hours for someone who desperately needed to trade hours,no one would respond to her pleas. 

We made cupcakes and passed them out to our neighbors at the campground.

my brother and sister-in-law are currently enjoying an evening out while their four kids are with me and my husband 

I took two of my friends who are mentally challenged (but living in a group home and employed) to the Springville Museum of Art for the annual Quilt Show.

I clicked on the Donate Life button on your blog and donated some money in Jonah's name.   

I spent the morning with an elderly friend of ours. He is 83 and has no family to speak of. We have become his family.


My friend Katie was on a pioneer handcart trek (totally a Mormon thing) with the youth of her congregation on Jonah's birthday, she told them about Jonah and asked them to do an act of service while they hiked.  They each wrote me a note explaining their service.  My favorite is from a teenage boy named Tucker.  He said,

I carried somebody across the Sweetwater [river], just as I would have done for you.

These are only a few of the messages I received.  I loved that so many people just took time to listen to someone in need, to express love, or to play with their children.  Those are the moments that have the most impact.

It is an amazing feeling to know that my little boy, who only lived on this earth for 14 short months could be the catalyst for such kindness.  It is overwhelming and incredibly healing.  Being his mother and experiencing such loss has taught me how to love more deeply than I thought possible.  Thank you for turning my simple request into such a beautiful ripple of love. 

We miss you Jonah and love you so much!


Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 
Matthew 22:36-40


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mirror

I haven't cleaned my bathroom mirror for nine months.  The other day my eyes were finally opened to it's filth; layers of toothpaste, dust, and water stains speckled its surface.  I was in the throes of a manic Saturday, in which I felt compelled to clean everything.  I vacuumed every room, dusted floorboards, wiped grimy fingerprints from door jams, and freed the ceiling fan from dust bunnies.  I was thorough and efficient until I saw the bathroom mirror.  My eyes scanned it's surface and I wondered if I was brave enough to wipe it clean.

My angelic sister-in-law, Leah, was the last person to clean my mirror.  She appeared the day after Jonah's funeral to "help" me clean my house.  The whirlwind of visitors, and meals, and grief turned my home upside-down and I desperately needed order.  I needed the peace of clean house.  Without hesitation she scrubbed my toilet, and mopped my floors.  She organized and sanitized while I wandered around aimlessly, occasionally picking up Jonah's things.  The emotional weight of each item eventually anchored me to the comfort of my couch, where I spent the rest of the afternoon staring at the ceiling.  I wasn't much help.  But at the end of the day, the material realm of my home seemed right again, even though everything else seemed wrong. 

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed and took a hot shower.  I forgot, as usual, to turn the fan on, and the bathroom filled with a thick and heavy steam.  I followed my mindless routine: dried my arms and legs, wrapped a towel around me, twisted my hair into a turban, and looked into the bathroom mirror.  I was shocked.  Five or six perfect little hand prints were scattered across the  my newly cleaned yet clouded mirror.  My immediate thought was of Jonah.  I felt like they were his.  My heart accepted them without reservation as a lovely sign from my sweet boy.  I stood without moving, and my breathing slowed.  I hesitated to open the door, knowing the cool air would destroy the humid sanctuary of my bathroom. 

Then my brain started churning.  I recognized that I was in the depth of grief, and wondered about my mental state.  I began thinking of all the possible explanations.  Perhaps my niece and nephew wandered into the bathroom after Leah cleaned.  Then I contemplated forensic testing...  I thought about measuring the prints and comparing them to the prints we took the day Jonah died.  I tried to eyeball their size and shape and to make a mental match.  I contemplated how I could know for sure how the prints appeared before me, and who they represented.

And then I stopped.  My heart and mind collided and I realized that it didn't matter.  Those little hand prints made me think of Jonah.  They made me feel him for a moment, and I loved them.  

The next time I took a shower I placed my own hand print next to his.  And each day that followed, as I have prepared myself to face a world of grief, I have been greeted by five little fingers hovering over my heart in my reflection.  I have felt strengthened by the symbol.  Those perfect prints remind me of love, and that is why I haven't cleaned my mirror.  I haven't felt capable of erasing them. 

But Saturday I felt strong.  Not strong in a pretend way, or as a way of overcompensating for sorrow.  I just felt like I had finally internalized the strength, and hope, and faith that those hand prints represented to me for nine months.  I felt like I could let go of the outward symbol and still feel all the love and peace that is represented in his sweet little hands.  As I contemplated letting go of this source of strength, I felt confident and peaceful.  To me those emotions felt like healing, so I sprayed some Windex, wiped the surface, and gazed at a newer brighter reflection of myself. 


The Japanese say that when the spirit departs, it will return once more to the home and leave a message for the person in greatest need.  Chieko Okazaki
 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Gift

Jonah enjoying his birthday cake!
I have a request.

I am trying to figure out how to get through the next week intact.  Jonah's second birthday is quickly approaching and I don't know how it will feel to experience July 14th without him in my arms.  It scares me.  I don't want to descend into sadness, but I know it will be a difficult day.  How could it not be?  I can already feel the heartache swirling inside of me.  I don't know if I want to be with people, or if I would rather be alone.  Should I have a party, or slip away with Jordan into the wilderness?  I've never done this before, and Pinterest is no help for this kind of thing.  

As I've thought about what I want, one idea has surfaced again and again.

I want you...my friends, my family, people I've never met who read my rambling words, to do something good on Jonah's birthday. 

I want you to give him, and our little heartbroken family, a gift.  On Saturday, July 14th, do something kind. Reach out to someone in need. Tell someone you love them.  Buy your mom flowers.  Pay for someone's groceries.  Whatever you feel moved to do.  Keep it simple, and be generous with your heart and spirit.  Think about people who need to feel loved and then act accordingly.  You can work anonymously or share Jonah's story.  Tell those you serve about Jonah's beautiful and giving spirit. 

I'm giving you some time to think about this, but it doesn't need to be planned.  Act on those quiet generous feelings that you have within you.  I would love to hear what you do!  I think hearing about pure love being multiplied across the world in Jonah's memory will carry light into a difficult day.  So send me a message, or call me, or let me know on Facebook.

I too will try to think of an adequate gift I can give my sweet boy on his special day. 



For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me.  Matthew 25:35-40

Friday, June 29, 2012

Missing

Last Saturday I sat in shade of my sister's garage while she had a yard sale.  It was boring, and hot, and ordinary.  We sat for hours and looked at magazines, ate donuts, and made up arbitrary prices for forgettable items.  I felt fine.  I felt normal.  It seemed like just another morning, but then in a moment it changed for me. 

Towards the end of the sale my amazing friend Katie arrived with her three beautiful children.  They quickly discovered the few remaining toys, while we chatted about ordinary things.  I watched as Katie's youngest discovered my niece's charcoal gray baby bunny.  She delighted in touching it's soft fur.  She seemed to experience simultaneous joy and hesitation as she dared to touch it.  My eyes followed her expressions, and I instantly ached for Jonah.  I missed him so much I couldn't hold back my tears.  They seemed to rise like a flash flood and could not be contained.  I sat on the step of my sister's house and wept for the memories I am not making with my sweet boy.  I mourned the chance to see Jonah discover the softness of this bunny's fur.  I longed to have him with me in such a simple moment.  I find in grief it is sometimes the quiet, simple moments of life that are the most painful.  They seem to magnify what is missing in profound and unusual ways.   

I have thought so much this week about what Jonah would be doing now.  What words would he know?  What mischief would he pursue?  What food would he love this summer?  Would he throw horrible tantrums in the grocery store?  Sometimes I try to imagine him in the faces of the toddler's I see in the store or in my neighborhood.  But it doesn't satisfy my curiosity.  I know that he would have been more trouble, more fun, and more beautiful than my simple mind can imagine. 

To escape my yard sale sorrow I dragged Jordan to Great Basin National Park to find some solace and hike a mountain.  The hike was relatively simple, but the wind was ferocious.  Jordan estimated it to be about 60 mph at the saddle.  The wind left little energy for conversation, so as we hiked I thought of Jonah.  I thought about his upcoming birthday, and how I should remember him.  I thought about the pain that plagued me through the weekend.  I thought about the gaping hole in my heart that seems impossible to fully heal.  And then amidst the constant roaring wind and my busy thoughts I was delivered to a moment of peace and clarity.  My mind seemed to rise above the physical stress of the moment, and as I walked I had the sense that Jonah was with me.  I can't explain how.  New thoughts entered my mind, and I knew in a completely intrinsic way that our hearts, his and mine, were connected for a time in the chaos.  The moment was so beautiful that the tears welled up in me as I picked my way over the rocky windswept slope.  Like before the tears came suddenly, and unexpectedly.  Only this time the source of my tears was not the cavity left by Jonah's absence, but the strange moment of healing created by his unmistakeable and beautiful presence.


Be still and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10

Friday, June 22, 2012

Stars

I woke up abruptly at 3:00 am last night, just as I was about to sink my teeth into a dreamy whip cream smothered Belgian waffle.  Suddenly I was wide awake and hungry.  I tried to fall back asleep, but soon found myself wandering to the kitchen to have a yogurt.

In the past two years I have made this midnight trek many times.  When I was heavily pregnant with Jonah I couldn't sleep, my hips hurt, and I was hungry all of the time.  I would toss and turn, trying to force sleep to come, and then finally succumb to a sleeve of Oreos or a bowl of Marshmallow Mateys.

After Jonah was born I would hear his cry in the night, pry myself from the warmth of my bed, and stumble to the kitchen to warm a bottle for him.  I remember leaning over the kitchen sink feeling a  new level of exhaustion.  My eyes were barely open, my coordination gone.  My critical thinking skills vanquished by short two hours stretches of sleep.  Often, as I waited, I would try to remind myself to turn off the lights, and look out the window at the stars.  At 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning the stars are vibrant.  Simply amazing.  I tried to appreciate that I could witness a simple moment of intense beauty because I wasn't sleeping.  I always stood for a moment in the dark, and let my eyes wander over the glowing constellations.

Last night I remembered that feeling.  The feeling of being awake, when the world around you is asleep.  The feeling of being alone, and quiet, and surrounded by the night.  I thought about the stars that I have seen this year, as I stumble through my personal darkness.   I recognize that it is the darkness that allows me to see the love of my family.  It is the darkness that lets me witness the kindness of my friends and neighbors.  It is the darkness that illuminates the depth of my love for Jordan and Jonah.  And most of all it is the darkness that has opened my heart to God's love for me.  I often feel that I would rather be lost in quiet, peaceful, slumber with the rest of the world.  But I am grateful for the few quiet moments when I see the light and wonder of the stars. 


To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes.  Thomas Carlyle



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Projects

Tonight I sat on my back patio eating sweet cherries and dark chocolate chips with a day's worth of projects scattered across my lawn.  I spent the day spray painting candle holders, disassembling thrift store chairs, and planting various succulents.  I can't seem to stop myself from buying succulents.

When Jordan is gone I try to get a lot done for two reasons.  First, I need a good project to keep me from crawling back into bed.  Second, Jordan and I together are possibly the slowest decision-makers on the planet.  I took us three weeks to decide where to plant our blackberries.  It took us a year and a half to find a suitable house to buy.  And we have been debating the pros and cons of raising chickens for about 4 years.  I anticipate a definitive decision by next summer.  We are both careful and deliberate, but sometimes my creative soul likes to put a nail in the wall without measuring, or buy a plant just because it's beautiful.  So I tap into my creativity and work on projects when Jordan is out of town.  I am sure this worries him a little.

At day's end I admired my completed projects.  I managed to avoided the sadness that sometimes settles on me when I am home alone with my thoughts.  As I gazed across the evidence of my productivity I couldn't help but remember last summer's project...singular project.  I managed to salvage an old wooden picnic table from my mother-in-law's back patio.  It was in pretty good shape, but needed to be sanded and painted.  Jonah was finally taking regular naps, and I thought it would be a simple project to tackle.  I was wrong.  It seemed to take forever.  When you are a full-time mom your window of productivity dwindles significantly.  My window was unpredictable at best.  I would sand one leg of the table, with a baby monitor strapped to my waist, until I heard Jonah stirring in his bed.  Sometimes I would ignore him and keep sanding, hoping he would fall asleep again.  He never did.  The next day I would sand a little of the table top, or begin a coat of paint, once again to be interrupted by sweet mumbles or cries.  As time passed I slowly whittled away at this simple task in my rare and quiet, solitary moments.

I felt very attached to finishing that project.  I needed some evidence that I could accomplish things and be a mom.  I think everyone wants to feel accomplished.  But today as I looked over the multitude of completed projects before me, and gazed at my community pool blue picnic table, I had a small regret enter my heart.  I wish I would have been more accepting of the season of motherhood.  I wish I would have done less, and set more projects aside.  I wish I would have hurried into pick up Jonah as soon as I heard his little coo.  I wish I would have spent more time holding my sweet boy, even if my picnic table would have remained unfinished.

I know it is an unrealistic wish.  We each have a need to be doing things that are fulfilling to us as individuals outside of our roles as parents.  Projects for me brought some measure of fulfillment, and I was a good mom.  I gave my heart and soul to Jonah, and put his needs first.  But childhood is fleeting, and life is fleeting.  Despite acknowledging my best efforts I still feel moments of lingering regret.  Tonight I find myself longing for another minute to stare into Jonah's sweet blue eyes, instead of admiring another project completed. 


If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly. Thomas S. Monson


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bacon

Our house smells like bacon tonight. The salty scent is a sure sign that today has been a difficult day for me.  It seemed like a normal day. I went to yoga this morning, lunch with my dad, visited Jonah's grave and spent some time working. My intention was to make a healthy dinner tonight. By mid-afternoon frozen chicken was thawing in lukewarm water, but my body felt magnetically drawn to the couch, then to my bed, then to some version of the fetal position; not to sleep, but to mourn. I felt drawn to being surrounded in silence and warmth and softness.

Jordan came home and found me curled up, crying, looking at pictures and videos of Jonah on my phone. He asked me what was wrong, and I couldn't pinpoint it. "Some days are just so hard," I said. "I'm checking out for awhile." Then I sunk deeper into my pillow, and pulled the covers up around me.   

In moments like these Jordan never tells me things will be better. He never says everything will be alright.  He is too honest to comfort me with cliched phrases, and beautiful ideas.  Instead he started making dinner.  Not the half-frozen chicken in the kitchen sink, but bacon and eggs, his specialty.  Somehow the smell of bacon has become the equivalent of love for me; a symbol of true understanding and service.  It is a dangerous connection, I know. 

His simple dinner gradually lured me from the comfort of our bed, to the kitchen table. Once full of saturated fats, he convinced me to go for a bike ride in search of a wild cherry tree.  We found one, laden with bright red, glossy cherries, and we puckered at the shockingly sour fruit.  Then we coasted down the canyon toward the setting sun.  I felt myself being drawn back to life again and away from the solitary sorrow of my room, by the smell of bacon, and the taste of sour cherries, and by simple acts of love.

One does not fall in or out of love. One grows in love.
Leo Buscaglia


video

 One of the videos from my phone.  I love the joy of this video.





  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial

On Memorial Day I didn't know what to take to Jonah's grave.  I felt like I was supposed to take something.  That is what a good grieving mother would do, right?  Surely I could create something meaningful, or at least beautiful, in remembrance of my only child.  Maybe I could take one of his toys, or a picture of our family.  I thought about buying some blue balloons or replacing the wind-worn pinwheels that line his headstone.  Maybe flowers would bring some life and beauty to our little cement and marble slab.  For days I mulled over my responsibilities and desires, and came to the simple conclusion that grave decoration is not for me.

Don't get me wrong.  My heart is healed and strengthened by the small heartfelt mementos that I find at Jonah's grave.  They are evidence to me that you have visited my sweet boy and that you still think of him.  I hope to continually find beautiful little treasures when I visit Jonah's spot.

But there is something so fleeting about the gifts I bring.  I see how they are worn and weathered from one visit to the next. The pinwheels are covered with grass clippings and spin more slowly each day.  The little toys gradually lose their bright color in glare of the sun.  Even the most vibrant flowers wilt and die.  Each item I bring sends a subtle message that death is persistent and inescapable.  I've decided that I do not need more reminders.  I want instead to create a memorial that will last; one that will withstand the eroding forces of time.

So Monday morning, instead of taking flowers to the cemetery, I began to climb Maple Mountain.  I hiked until my legs wobbled and my lungs burned.  I pushed and pulled myself up patches of snow and crumbling rocks.  I tried to stop and noticed the life around me...small purple sedum creeping through the crusty snow, and white aspens towering above us.  After a particularly difficult and steep section I looked up the slope to see Jordan's hand reaching down to help me.  I felt so much love for him and thought about the difficult mountain we climb together each day.  As we approached the summit I kept my eyes on his steady steps, until the intensity of the incredible view lifted my gaze.   

This is the memorial I want to give my precious Jonah.  The lasting gift I can give him is the choice to live a good and abundant life.  I want to climb more mountains.  I want to see the beauty that surrounds me.  I want to spend more joyful and peaceful moments with his amazing father.  I want the joy I felt in being Jonah's mother to radiate into my new life.

At the end of our arduous day, after scarfing down pizza, we went to visit Jonah's grave.  I sat in the cool green grass while Jordan washed and swept the letters of Jonah's name.  We admired the sweet and simple gifts that were left in memory of our little boy.  We brought nothing tangible with us, but carried a feeling of genuine love for each other and for him.  And when we left I took the beautiful flowers that decorated his grave with me, to plant in our garden as a living reminder of our beautiful Jonah.

video
 Our little mountain climber



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Charity

This week charity arrived on my back patio in the form of a profanity-riddled flamingo plate.  That's right a profanity-riddled flamingo plate. 

It's no secret that I had a difficult week last week.  I felt overwhelmed and angry.  I was tired.  I'm sure you could tell from my last post that my coping skills were dwindling.  I spent a few days in a funk, and let my mood match the stormy weather. 

On Friday afternoon I took a long nap, and when I woke up Jordan told me there was something on the back porch for me.  "What is it?" I said.  "Something about going to hell, " he said.  This obviously peaked my interest, so I pulled myself up off the couch and went to the back porch. 

There I found stacks of colorful dishes placed neatly on our bright blue picnic table.  Each plate was defaced with scrawled red profanity (nothing too intense...mostly "hells" and "damns"...we are Mormons after all).  Some were dainty tea saucers, others were more substantial dinner plates.  My favorite was a cream colored plate with a dark brown border.  In the center two pink flamingos are standing under a palm tree.  The red writing on this plate said, "Damn these happy flamingos to hell!"

I laughed out loud as I read each plate, and then I felt overwhelmed by this simple and unusual act of charity.  I knew that the bearers of these plates were seeking to soothe my heart, and acknowledge my pain.  I wrote in my last post about wanting to break dishes, but feeling too responsible and disciplined to do it.  These women heard my cry, and instead of trying to talk me down, they brought me dishes I could break without hesitation.  Perfection.  

As I sat in church today I thought about Paul's letters to the Corinthians.  Paul wrote beautifully about charity, and all of its qualities.  Charity is kind, it envieth not, it seeketh not her own...  In all Paul's wisdom and pondering I doubt he could have envisioned a defaced flamingo plate being a vessel for God's pure love.  But that is exactly what it was for me.  These stacks of thrift store plates reminded me that God loves me and that I am supported in my trials.  It was just the message and gift I needed.


Charity never faileth.
1 Corinthians 13:8





Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reality

I sat in a small office yesterday afternoon crunching very large numbers with a financial counselor.  For a moment my eyes wandered past her, to the framed art hanging on her wall.  It was so strange I couldn't look away.  

The artist depicted a mother and baby floating in a pool of rippling forest green water (yes, forest green).  The oddly-proportioned mother's arms and hands encircle her child, and then... another pair of gigantic, disembodied, very hairy hands emerge from the water around them.  These giant hands looked as if they are scooping her up.  I'm sure they are meant to be God's nurturing hands, but to me they look like the hands of an irritated old man about to slap an unsuspecting fly.  Fertility clinic Rorschach test?  Perhaps. 

I was snapped back from my psychoanalytical art critique by the following sentence:

For the price of $17,500 you get three fresh, three frozen, and the guarantee of a take-home baby, or your money back.

Suddenly, I felt as if I was about to order an extra-value meal.  I'll take three fresh, three frozen, and one take-home baby, to go... 

It was at this point that I realized what a strange world I am entering.  A world of test tubes and vials.  A world of frozen babies.  A world in which I can get pregnant even if my husband is out of town.  It is a world I hoped to avoid, but it is quickly becoming my new reality.

I have already added to my new reality that I am a childless mother, who carries a rare genetic disorder.  I have a 50% chance of passing this disorder onto my children.  I am trying to accept that wanting a healthy baby is not a rejection of my only and very special child.  I am trying to accept that I am a paradox; a young woman who is fully capable of having a healthy pregnancy, yet I spent my afternoon discussing egg retrieval, and hormone injections, and payment plans.

I held it together, and felt pretty good through the appointment.  I tried to stay focused through the financial consultation.  I even laughed as Jordan and I filled out some of the very personal paperwork.  But as the day progressed I began to feel angry.  I felt angry that losing my sweet child is not enough of a trial.  Angry that others around me seem to be so quickly and abundantly blessed with children. Angry that I have to grieve and navigate incredibly difficult moral and financial decisions.

By early evening I felt like ripping whatever was in my hands.  I was tempted by the cathartic motion of smashing dishes on the kitchen floor.  An irritation and anguish rose inside of me that I could not fully voice or silence.  My anger was a whirlwind of intense frustration combined with heartache. 

I tried to tell God that all I wanted was to be a mother to Jonah.  Doesn't He know that I would have been so content just to care for this sweet boy?

Unfortunately I am far too disciplined and peaceful to destroy my possessions in a fit of rage.  And anytime I try to scream, it comes out so pathetic that I resolve never to do it again.  But last night I chose to sit with my anger for awhile; to really feel it; to let it burn instead of dowsing it immediately with gratitude or tears.

This morning my anger has mellowed into the soft heat of burned out coals, and the tears have have helped to dowse it.  I can feel the love of God again, instead of feeling like a fly on the water.  I can recognize my gratitude for the technology that is available to help us.  And I feel like my anger has cleared a place for my new reality to settle in. 

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. 
Maya Angelou

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Intervention


Yesterday I knelt for a moment, eyeliner in hand, on the white rug of my bathroom floor.  I felt overcome with questions in the middle of my morning routine.  Mostly the usual questions.  Mostly beginning with "why?"  "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  "Why are families separated by death?"  "Why couldn't Jonah stay with me longer?" and "Why would God take the mother of three young children?"

Moments earlier I learned about the death of a young mother; a mother who used to bring her little boy to my art class.  Her name was Alice.  I did not know her well, but I remember her kindness when Jonah died, and I remember her amazing smile.  She was one of those women who seemed genuinely joyful.  This beautiful mother recently gave birth to her first daughter, but shortly after her body was overwhelmed by infection.  She passed away, leaving behind two little boys, a sweet baby girl, and a heartbroken husband.  I have found, since Jonah died, the grief of others brings a new heaviness to my heart.  And once again grief brought me to my knees. I asked God to help me understand His purposes.


These "why" questions mingled in my head all day as I thought about Alice.  I thought about her as I planted marigolds. She stayed with me as I made dinner.  And when I closed the blinds in Jonah's room I thought of her husband putting his children to bed, and returning to his own empty room.  I couldn't help but wonder why some prayers for healing are answered, and some seem to drift into a vast and vacant universe.  When and how does God choose to intervene?

In the cool of the evening Jordan and I set out on a directionless bike ride.  We meandered toward the canyon, through neighborhoods, and past the city park.  My questions ruminated with the wheeled motion of my bike and body. As the sun sank, and we turned home, we came upon my lovely neighbor, and had an unexpected but beautiful conversation.  She is a woman I admire greatly.  Lately her days have been filled with the difficult task of helping her son wade through cancer's final days.  He is only 23.  We spoke about the beauties of life and the difficulties of death; about the many practical choices and the constant spiritual questions.

As our conversation surpassed the setting sun a scripture came to my mind. 

For this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Moses 1:39


All of the questions of my day seemed to filter through the words of this simple scripture.  My mind felt calm as I suddenly and deeply understood that although we often hope, and wait, and pray for God's intervention, He has already intervened on our behalf.  He sent His son to die that we might live again.  His most important work is not to prevent death or pain, but to overcome it.  I felt peace and hope as I contemplated the meaning and promise of that scripture. 

After a few discreet tears and a hug between grieving mothers, Jordan and I peddled home in the dark.  As I approached the lights of my home, I noticed my mind felt clear and my heart felt lighter.  That lightness stayed with me even though a world of pain seemed so present. The weight of my grief was once again balanced by the simplicity of my faith, and by the gift of God's divine intervention.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Motherhood



Motherhood was once my own selfish pursuit.  When my son was only a beautiful idea, I viewed him as a gift.  I daydreamed about the baby clothes, and soft blankets that would fill our home. I imagined cuddling his tiny body, and pictured the happiness that would arrive at his birth.  I was not mistaken.  Jonah brought a new level of love to our home. But I quickly discovered that motherhood was about more than the joy of a new baby.
My young heart could not anticipate the worry of motherhood.   When Jonah was born we knew something was wrong.  I remember time slowing as the doctor placed Jonah’s long, gooey body on mine.  I gazed at my little stranger, at his red and swollen face, and then noticed his tiny ears.  They were folded, like a flower petal, ready to open.  My mind froze for a moment, until the nurses scooped him off my chest, and I heard the words "cleft palate" and "treacher-collins syndrome."  I told my mom I was so worried, and she soothed me with her gentle words.  The motion of the nurses quickened, and the anxious concern of motherhood settled on me.
When we came home from the hospital my worry was replaced by work.  I knew I could not change our circumstance, but I could work hard to make Jonah’s life beautiful.  So I changed diapers while being tied to a whooshing breast pump.  I met with surgeons, and tried to interpret their jargon.  Tummy time, naptime, bath time, and bedtime began to trump all other activities.  As Jonah got older I chased my naked toddler through the house, laughed at his funny faces, and tried to keep him from throwing everything.  I lost myself in the crazy work of motherhood, and was so grateful to be a mom to such a special boy. 
On a crisp September morning my view of motherhood shifted yet again.  I sat in a sterile hospital room holding my son's precious body.  The words "there is nothing more we can do" seemed to come from a distant voice.  I sang him our lullabies, and whispered in his ear.  My fingers traced the slant of his eyes, and rolled across his folded ears.  I wept, and wailed, and wondered why.  I grasped my chest as I felt my heart being torn from my body.  I knew in that excruciating moment that my heart was tightly sewn to Jonah’s, and that the two could not separate.
Now, seven months later, I continue to feel the tug of Jonah’s heart on mine.  I feel it as I enter the space of his too quiet bedroom, and almost hear his sweet giggle. I feel it as I clean his headstone, instead of reading stories.  I feel it as I search for peace.  It is painful to have your heart stretched across eternities. Yet the pain reminds me that my heart is inextricably tied to his by the worry, work and love of motherhood.  Most of all, the constant pull of my heart to his reminds me that I am still, and will always be, Jonah’s mother. 

Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.  Elizabeth Stone 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Endurance

I couldn't write a blog post on the 29th of April.  Each month as the 29th rolls around I reflect on the passage of time, on another month gone.  But this month, I sat at my keyboard and watched my fingers type whole paragraphs only to be deleted.  I kept writing "seven months" and couldn't get past those two words.  I typed them over and over...not like "The Shining" or anything, just a few times.  I couldn't help but wonder, as they appeared and disappeared before me, which direction I am supposed to be counting.  Is this arbitrary measurement of time moving me towards some finality, or is it merely a record; is it a countdown or just another tally mark on a prison wall?

I was told after Jonah died, that it takes about a year for your mind to accept a devastating loss; that the first year is the hardest.  It seems true.  My mind still does not fully accept or comprehend that Jonah is gone.  When I visit his grave and see the name we chose for him carved in granite I have to remind myself that his body is beneath me instead of beside me.  When I hear the words, "when Jonah died...", follow my breath it takes me a moment to realize the depth and consequence of what I'm saying.  My mind cannot process it, even now, after seven months.  When I am alone it is hard not to feel like he is waiting for me somewhere: in his car seat, at grandma's house, or in his crib.  My heart says, he is really gone, while my eyes scan the corners of his room.

I have subconsciously embedded the year mark as an important milestone in my mind.  So as the months pass I feel like maybe I'm one step closer to a united heart and mind. Until now I have viewed these months of grief like they are the excruciating nipple-bleeding miles of a marathon, painful and challenging, but finite.  But on the 29th, as I typed "seven months," my perspective changed, as it often does.  I realized that I do not really know or comprehend the true distance of the course I am following; there is no clear finish.  Instead I find myself in a state of endurance, a quality which has never been my strong suit.  I seem better suited to short bursts of effort, followed by a nap.  To endure with no promise of quick or timely relief is new territory for me, but seems to me the true nature of grief.

The things we are asked to endure in this life rarely have a definite end.  We each struggle to move forward through our personal struggles with addiction, illness, depression, failed marriages, wayward children, disappointment, pain, and loss.  We long for the promise of pain being lifted, and challenges being removed; a finish line.  But I have come to understand this month that what I have really been promised is strength to endure.

In the New Testament Christ taught:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11: 28-30

We are not always promised that pain will be removed, but that our burdens will be jointly carried.  Our rest does not come from stopping, but from sharing our load.  In my weakest moments I feel the truth of that scripture.

I can no longer view the months that pass as a countdown; I view them as a measure of my strength; they are the measure of a distance traveled.  They show me that I have endured seven months of heartache and grief, and I am still moving.  I have endured great pain and loss, and yet I am still able to love.  The passing months are tally marks, but not on a prison wall.  They are marks on my soul.  They are evidence to me of my new-found ability to endure.