As the school year comes to a close this week, the flood of emotions are upon me. ALL THE FEELS. I can't even seem to make sense or unscramble them all. The excitement and pride of what the boys are becoming, and the joy it brings me to watch their lives unfold is indescribable. I have had a little boy in my house for 15 years straight, just has Hackett was transitioning to a big 2nd grader, Tobin arrived. I got to start it all over, which at the time seemed daunting, but now I see what a gift it was for me. I have had 15 years of sweet snuggles and little boy hands in mine. 15 years of pretend play noises and wanting to be near mom.
Now Tobin has two giant front teeth, and we see him transitioning to this more grown up boy stage right before our eyes. His pretend play still exists, but with his door closed, less animals, and more Star Wars. He now spends hours reading and writing with his imagination. He will be ready for second grade next year, more independence, and all that comes with it. I'm letting go little by little.
And Hackett. One year of high school just days from being done. It's hard to believe he once was little. Now six feet tall with broad shoulders, muscular legs, and deep voice, he could pass for 18. He has come into his own this year. He has overcome trials and celebrated victories and it has been an honor to watch it all from afar. The texts for rides will end in six months when he gets his license. He is starting to look at colleges, and is asking how to make some of his favorites foods, as he prepares in small ways to leave our home. I'm letting go little by little.
This is what motherhood is, isn't it? We watch them sleep on our chests and then let them go when we lay them in their cribs. We watch them toddle while hanging on to our fingers and then we let them go to take steps on their own. We watch them walk in to school for the first time and then let them go to learn and make new friends. Our grasp just keeps loosening with each year and each stage. When we went to the park when the boys were toddlers I would hover, always ready to grab a hand or be ready to catch as they climbed. They would gain confidence, and I in them, and I would step back. No longer hoovering and holding, but watching from further and further away. Little by little. I'm outside the fence now of Hackett's life, just watching his adventures and confidence grow. He's leaving the park soon and he will be ready. I'll let him go and just watch with tears in my eyes, the biggest smile on my face, and pride in my heart.
Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Nine years ago today our precious Koen was born. Last night Kevin and I were talking about Koen, how it felt like it was so long ago and just like yesterday all at the same time. The years go by without milestones for us to mark the passing time. No baseball games or field trips or morning snuggles. I ache for the little simple moments that we never had with him. But what a gift he was. I would want to rewrite his story so that he is still here with me, but I never wish that Koen never was, he was a gift. All three of them are. What an honor to be their safe place, the one they turn to in their joy and sorrows, where unconditional love flows freely. I don't take their lives, no matter how short, and my role in them for granted. They are my greatest gifts.
Koen Wayne, our Little Muffin, it has been 8 years since we held you, kissed you, said goodbye to you. I miss you. So much. My arms still ache to hold you, and how I long to kiss your sweet curly hair. Loving you and losing you have made my eyes see clearer and my heart feel deeper. What a gift you are and what a gift you gave me.
My thoughts have only been of you today, and while trying to wander through my day and thoughts, Jesus brought me this scripture:
"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can." Ecclesiastes 3:11-12
Everything, the totality of it all. The whole scope from beginning to end, not just what I can see with my human eyes. Koen's life and little legacy is beautiful. Tobin's life is beautiful, and I can't imagine our world without him. I don't understand the why, the reason, but 8 years later I can see the beauty, even amongst the ache and longing. Some day when I am walking through heaven hand in hand with Koen I will see the ripples of his short life and Tobin's life and the scope of God's work from beginning to end will become clear.
"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace."
Today it is a time to grieve, and to think of you even more than normal. I will continue to live my days happy. I will continue to see you in Hackett and Tobin’s faces, and in the sky and the water and the trees. Because of you, my Koen, everything is more beautiful.
I breathed a sigh of relief today as I drove home from receiving my vaccination. Anxiety has ebbed and flowed my entire life. When it is triggered the mental exhaustion of it is so heavy. Health issues have become my kryptonite since Koen's death. This year, the weight of my fears has been heavy. My body has failed our family in the cruelest way. Koen's cause of death was not because his body was imperfect, but because mine was. After some digging in therapy I was able to pinpoint that any small issue makes me fear that my body will fail again, with only little warning. So I am hyperaware of every imperfection and internal feeling trying to cut death off at the pass, for fear of leaving my boys. I was given the gift of relief today. Such relief.
This week, these past few months, this last year, it's been a lot. It seems with every turn it has been constant waves of emotions that we have all had to process, sort through, understand, and grieve, all while attempting to survive and press forward. Our lives seemed to slow down, while simultaneously speeding up in other ways depending on your situation, with new or increased demands. We were forced out of our predictable routines that provide many of us with comfort. The rug was pulled out from under us, and a deck of cards tossed in to the air. We found ourselves lying on the floor trying to make sense of these shuffled cards we have been dealt. Just when we thought we could get the deck in order, more cards were tossed in our face. Over and over. Again and again.
While thinking and praying this week, these thoughts keep being brought to my mind. Sharing for myself, as I need these reminders, and with the hope of sharing these lessons with my boys when the time is right.
We don't deal well with feeling uncomfortable in our society. We don't deal well with disarray. We don't allow our minds the quiet space they need to sort through our thoughts. We seem to be so uneasy with our own feelings that we fill the quiet with noise, and drown our thoughts in any distraction we can find. We avoid the tears, swallow them down, and stop the necessary process of allowing our minds to work through, to learn, to grow, to get a handle on what we are feeling. We just keep swallowing and pressing onward, but eventually that pile buried in our stomachs turns to anger and frustration. This year I have witnessed the displacement of sadness and ache and fear, as it twists and morphs to the spewing of anger. Rage is tossed like confetti in online forems. Violence from those who feel that is their last resort and only answer.
You have to sit with the grief, sadness, and fear - and there is so much of all those things this year. You have to feel it, experience it, cry it out, journal it, civilly talk through it with those close, and process it. Escaping it is only temporary.
Differences of opinions and experiences is beautiful. Differences is what our country has been shaped by, the balance of it needs to be embraced. We have to be grounded in our own deep feelings to not feel enraged by someone else having a differing opinion or belief. That unstable footing at our core is what so quickly tosses so many in to fight or flight.
I am intimately accainted with grief, it cannot be escaped, it will continue to pop up until you slowly work your way through it. To process it, you need to sit with it. Feel it wash over you. It doesn't even have to be a long period of time all at once, that is exhausting and why we tend to run from it altogether, but allow yourself to make time for it.
I am reminded this week that I am called to love God, and to love people. I don't know what the answers are for this year, but feel like healing can only begin to come when we chose to invite God in and to love people. If we all did that in our homes and communities imagine the restoration we would see. And that healing starts within our own hearts, our own lives.
This passage is a letter from Paul to new Christians who were facing dissension and disagreements within the church.
2 Corinthians 3:2-5
The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.
We need to be like Daniel and continue to trust God and stay the course, even in the fire, and he will be with us. As I was sitting with my grief this morning, I walked down to water and saw this freighter. The enormous ship in the distance was staying the course even in the cold and waves and wind.
I have been a mom for fourteen years now. You made me a mom. You opened parts of my heart that I didn't even realize existed. I fell in love with you with every ounce of my being. I remember putting you in a shopping cart as a baby barely able to sit up in the seat. I would walk around the store with you in awe that you were mine and that I was a mom to such an incredible little human being. You continued to be my shopping buddy, almost every day in California you and I would venture out to all the different stores that we had right out our back door. I remember at the time thinking that moment would last forever. That I would forever walk through parking lots with you holding my hand. Then I blinked and your 13th year of life happened all during a global pandemic. I watched the world shift and change while watching the same happen with you in my house. Your voice shifted, you grew taller, your humor developed, your confidence flourished, and you grew even taller. You don't put your hand in my hand any more, now you come up beside me while I am making dinner and rest your head on my shoulder. You verbalize your gratitude for each small thing I do for you. You are happy to help with chores, quick to swoop in and do the heavy lifting. You ask about my day and intentional questions about me. You have grown in so many ways, but this year I see what kind of man you will be and I have never been more proud. If you love your mom this well, how well will you love your wife some day? I know my days will soon be numbered as your number one girl, so I will savor it as long as I can. I am celebrating the sadness of you growing up far faster than I thought possible.
Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. A day to remember those precious babes that were lost far too soon, and the hole and ache in so many parents hearts. Also a day to help end the stigma, and the suffering that so many do in silence, alone. One of the sweet gifts of my own healing in this space was hearing from others, many who ache alone. You are not alone, your loss every bit as significant, and heartbreaking. And I am so incredibly sorry.
Thinking about Koen even more today, and my rainbow that is Tobin. Sometimes guilt mixes in, knowing that without the loss of Koen, there would be no Tobin. And I cannot fathom life without my ray of sunshine rainbow. I opened my bible this morning to Genesis 9, reading the story of God's promise: "When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds" (Gen 9:14). How often I look to the clouds and see a heart and remember Koen. How often my heart is wrapped in the love and joy of my rainbow, my Tobin. As I continued to read, verse 20, made me stop and pause and Jesus revealed a new meaning to me. It states: "After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard." In the middle of grief, in the middle of the storm - the flood, you feel as if life cannot go on. But then it does, and with that comes guilt. And not all of us are given a rainbow baby after the loss of a child. How do you heal your broken heart? How do you continue? After the storm of grief and flood of tears, you bravely step of the boat of grief and you begin to live. You cultivate the ground. You plant a vineyard. And slowly the sun starts to shine, and your vines begin to produce fruit. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes a season, sometimes many for plants to bear fruit. You have to cultivate, and work the ground, and let the sun shine upon you.
"The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace."
May you feel that peace today. All my love.
My rainbow shouting from the top of his lungs the rainbows beauty.
My constant sun, even in the middle of the storm.
May the Lord make his face shine upon you.
Time has helped to heal, writing has helped get my emotions out of my spinning head, Jesus has brought me peace, but my heart will forever ache, and my brain has been impacted. I think I will always feel broken, different, changed. To those that have followed my journey, I have been very transparent about my broken heart, but I am not sure if I have fully expressed in the recent years the impact of the tragedy of loss of a child has had on facets of my life that you may not think about.
I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as I imagine most of my fellow mommas and daddies in loss do, and I am sure it impacts us all in our own unique ways. It haunted me hourly at first, and has slowly over time lessened. I thought with the lessening, the haunting and impacts on my brain would eventually go away. It has not. When it comes in a wave, the water rushes over me, I panic. I try hard to get to the surface, and as soon as I do, I run from the water, wanting to leave it quickly. The sensation of that feeling is so unsettling. For me, it is not just sadness, but often irrational fear. In just the past few weeks I am learning I need to sit with it, grab a floatie, and calmly ride the waves. I need to understand it. I need to process the panic and fear for what it is, instead of retreating. Running from it has not helped to heal my brain patterns. I started counseling again to help me process much of this, and I haven't even dove deep in to these issues yet there, but just the act of getting help has made me more introspective about my feelings.
The week before Koen's death, I didn't feel quite right. I made multiple calls to the on-call doctors that week, and it was just believed that what I was experiencing was typical. But it was not typical for pregnancy, what I was feeling was Koen dying inside of me. The guilt of that. The weight of that. The what if's. If I don't feel well now in my normal life, I panic, and become knowingly irrational. God bless Kevin and my care provider, both of whom are incredibly patient with me. I sat with that panic this month, instead of escaping it as quick as possible. I have finally put together some of the pieces of my brain wiring. My PTSD has me needing to immediately determine the cause of my ailments, delaying that determination, for me, means death. And because my body is no longer a home for a baby, in my brain it means my death. Leaving my boys motherless is more than my panicked brain can bear and it leaves me spiraling.
This feels incredibly raw to share, I think I am more comfortable sharing my broken heart, than my mental broken-ness. But tragic loss not only breaks your heart, but parts of your brain as well. My prayer is that facing this fear head on and having a greater understanding will help me to rewire the paths my brain takes when those waves come roaring at me. I want to stop fighting the waves, and self-talk my way on to a floatie, ride them until they calm and the hope filled rainbow appears.
(Thanks to my dear friend, B, for sharing this "Waves" meme this week and giving me the visual I needed).
Seven years ago we rushed to the hospital with little 6-year-old Hackett in tow on the morning of Memorial Day. He waited alone in the waiting room as Kevin held my hand and we watched our doctor search for Koen's heartbeat. I labored the rest of the day and delivered my little curly topped Koen that night. We haven't touched or held him in seven years, and my arms still ache for him, my heart still misses him, my eyes miss watching him grow, my ears wonder what his giggle would sound like, and my lips miss kissing his curly topped sunshine smelling head.
I awoke longing for him today, and spent a lot of the day in my own head reliving the day, as I do often. Koen's brief life brought mine into perspective. When I think about him, I am a better mom, a better person. Watching my earthly boys today through my Koen lens made me even more acutely aware of how fast the time goes. Hackett was just a little older than Tobin is now when I had Koen, and in a seven year blink his voice is deep, his face more man chiseled, while standing he can look me right in the eyes, and his arms are on top when we hug. As Hackett and I talked today about our summer plans that we will postpone until next summer, he said "I'll be heading to high school next year". I was trying to keep a lid on my emotions today, but the thought of him being that grown up, and today even more aware of how fast time flashes, a tear rolled down my cheek. I had to say goodbye to one of my babies before even bringing him home, and the thought of watching another bird fly out of my nest, just feels like too much, especially today. But just as Koen's life brought me clarity in to so many aspects of my life, preparing for Hackett's launch gives me pause and reminds me to embrace, savor, and keep doing the work of raising him to be a kind and strong man. In another seven years he will be in college and Tobin will be 13. I will miss them saying "mom, watch this" at least a thousands times a day, because right now, in this precious moment of time, I am the girl they both want to impress. I will miss having them both in my home every night, I will even miss having them quarantined with me for months. And I will forever miss having all these little moments with Koen, because life with him went even faster. No matter the amount, it’s never enough, it’s always too fast.
This week has been heavy, hasn't it? Mentally, I think we are all collectively, as a nation, just treading water, trying to keep our heads afloat. And all the while attempting to keep a calm exterior, while kicking with all our might to hold our kids above the water too, as they have been with us every second of every day (or for many the worry of how they are doing at home without you while you continue to work and go on). It's a lot. It's so much. It's exhausting. And it's okay to not be perfect, to not knock it out of the park every day. It's okay to to just hang on the best you can and make survival the goal for each day.
Fear is an awful beast, one that can creep in with every news story, scroll of your feed, or new statistic released. It can pull you down in to that dark hole of despair and anxiety so fast. It is evil. This week, I find myself grateful that Jesus was sent to overcome evil, to overcome fear.
"God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. For every break of the day, God will protect it. The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God's voice thunders, and the earth melts." Psalm 46:1-6
He is our safe place, especially in times of turbulence, when it seems like the earth is crumbling around us. When we feel like we may drown, He is there to reach down and hold us, hold our kids so we don't have to.
And that holding of us, and protecting of us, may not include warding off COVID-19 in our country, state, city, or even our household. We live in a fallen world, it is not perfect. Hardships and heartaches exist here, and having faith in Jesus does not grant us immunity to that. What it does give us is peace. A peace we need to seek throughout the day, sometimes throughout the hour.
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for what he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. " Philippians 4:6-7
I have not been above the scared and sad this week, it is very present, but I keep choosing to seek Jesus, and seek that peace, that comfort, that rest. This up and down ride of emotions and constant minute by minute reliance on God, has brought me back to the scariest and most sacred year of my life. The months following our son Koen's death, the world felt like it was crumbling around me. Being with others was hard, so I did my own social distancing, because at that time it was essential for my survival too. Most days that summer it was just Hackett, our oldest son, and I, just quietly navigating life together. I couldn't come up with lesson plans or crafts, my main focus was on getting out of bed and making sure we were fed. My patience wasn't perfect, and tears streamed down my face doing ordinary things. It was survival for us that summer, much like it is for us all right now. And you know what? It is probably one of my favorite summers. There is beauty in the hard, because it is like being fit for glasses you didn't know you needed. Suddenly, you see the world in a new light. Your priorities fall in to perfect alignment without even thinking, you now know what is important and valued. In solitude you are able to take a step back and savor and enjoy the small moments. During the ache of uncertainty you get the gift of see the purity in others hearts and spirits. This week, and the weeks ahead may be hard, but in a year you may find yourself wishing you could go back to the simple. To the place where you knew what was important and you clung on tight to it. You will see the beauty.
Shortly after we lost our son, Koen, I was pregnant again. This time with our third son, Tobin. His pregnancy was difficult, I was taken off work at 16 weeks, and admitted to the hospital at 21 weeks. They prepared us for his very early arrival, my specialist telling me that if we made it to 31 weeks it would be a miracle. My job? Lay down and stay calm. If I could do those things I had a greater chance of keeping him growing and safe. Every morning I woke alone at the hospital early as the nurses and doctors made their rounds, and from the moment my eyes opened I started praying. I sought Jesus peace, and in the moments where I was still experiencing eminence heartache over my loss of Koen, all while fearing the potential of losing Tobin, God gave me peace. Peace beyond my understanding. I laid there, most days very alone, I was about as socially distanced as possible those 3 weeks, and I was given peace. It was just the Lord and I in that hospital room, I needed Him, relied on him to walk through every minute of the day, and He was there. It was such a sacred and beautiful time, when by all accounts it shouldn't have been. This time in all of our lives can be filled with peace, if we invite the sacred arms of God to wrap around us. And we can look back on this time in the years to come with the strange dichotomy of turmoil that was overshadowed by peace and beauty, because we slowed down and embraced the quiet with our family and with our Lord.
I have had these songs on repeat this week and wanted to share:
Tobin, our daily God is good reminder.
I am Jackie.