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.
It's been 5 months since my last blog. Life seems to sail by so quickly these days, but writing fuels and heals my soul, and is something I want to re-embrace in this season. I woke up at 3 in the morning, unable to sleep, and that, for me, is the indicator that much is heavy on my heart, so today I need this outlet. I need to let myself cry.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Ache hurts more in silence, so it has always been important to me to shine a light on the darkness of loss and pain. I am not alone, and neither are so many of you. Your loss is real. Your grief is real. Its valid. Its okay to acknowledge it, experience it, and let your tears flow too. Its okay to sit in your car a bit longer tonight, linger in the shower, light a candle, curl up in your bed, go for a walk, or do whatever you need to allow yourself a chance to honor your baby and grieve that deep down missing piece of your heart.
Kevin and I grieve so different. Our relationship is beautiful, I often step back and watch how seamlessly we handle things together without words. Its like a dance for us now after 15 years of marriage, and over 22 years together, we just twirl side by side to accomplish whatever is ahead of us. Our humor and how we see the world is so perfectly matched. But, we also differ, and so often those differences complement each together. In grief, we differ. Kevin's heart was shattered - as I watched him dance and sing carrying Koen in the hospital, as I walked next to him when he carried his casket to the grave - he was broken. His jovial spirit took a hit, his ever present immaturity (and I mean that as a compliment, because he is so fun) seemed to grow up over night. Life was no longer as funny and lighthearted as it once was for him. He is still Kevin, still so fun, but it shifted. And then we had Tobin. Tobin picked the pieces of his daddy's heart off the ground and put them back together. Tobin arrived, and Kevin's smile returned. He has still been forever changed, and he still aches, but after that emotional year, he moved on, pushed forward. He carries so much stress on his shoulders on a daily basis, and he does it with ease most days. I think he was predispositioned to that, but I also think this was a gift from Koen to Kev. He knows what matters now, his perspective on life is ever present. And in his Kevin way, which makes him the perfect partner for me, he is consistently constant every day.
My grief has been different. I still remain constant on the outside, or at least I try, in an effort to keep our house stable and safe and consistent for my two boys here on earth. But internally I can be a roller coaster. Fine for weeks, months even, and then something will send me plunging down a big hill, or send me on a wild twist. This seems to be the only place I have shared my roller coaster ride. I'll let Kevin know I am having a sad day, or hard moment, but I often don't expand, not wanting to pile more on his already heavy shoulders. And it often feels so personal, so hard to relate or explain, just this ache, often flashes of visions - from that day or months after - or from what would have been. And its sacred, and beautiful, because my ache is what I have from Koen. Some days I want to swallow down my hurt, and other days I want to wrap up in it and snuggle in it with Koen for awhile.
Kevin and I are often in our own corners of grief. But last week we had a simple, sweet, no tears, conversation about Koen. Our Tobin is a wild man, his mission in life is to be a goofball, and he is very successful. He is like Kevin, but not entirely, he is enormously creative - much like me at his age. He has a carefree spirit like Kevin, but when coupled with his creativity from me, he often lives in the clouds. Unaware of so much, and often unaware of his appropriateness. Kevin was a funny kid, but it sounds as if his appropriateness meter was far more fine tuned than Tobin's. Kevin was funny, but chill. Tobin is not chill, he is chill in that doesn't stress about anything, but he has never been described as low key. Kevin and I were laying in bed after a long day and Tobin, our little Tazz came wildly spinning in. We glanced at each other and laughed, and I said, maybe Koen would have had your chill like you. Koen was calm in utero, so calm, that I didn't notice his decrease in activity until it was too late. He had his dad's tight curly hair, maybe he would have had the personality to match too. For a second, with smiles, together we dreamed what Koen would have been like. Something we will forever wonder. It was a precious moment that I will treasure.
Tobin talks about Koen all the time. He talks about heaven a lot too. I wonder if they know each other? Tobin gave us multiple scares while I was pregnant, at times it seemed like the possibility of burying two babies in one year was likely for us. I wonder if Koen was with Tobin in womb keeping him safe? Today I am going to give myself permission to cry and wonder, and snuggle in my sadness with Koen for bit. And I am giving you permission to snuggle with your lost baby too. All my love.
I went down to the lake this week to see the sunrise, and there was Koen, saying “Good morning momma, I colored you a blue heart in the sky.” See that little reflection above the waves? I like to think that's my 6 year old angel visiting me in one of the places I find the most peace.
I am not normally a crier, but the last few weeks have found me in a place where tears are easily falling from my face. I am staring at the clouds, the leaves blowing on trees, relishing each snuggle with my boys in a way that is more intentional and true. I am grieving. This Memorial Day marks 6 years since the birth and death of our son, Koen. May 27th fell on Memorial Day 6 years ago too. Six seems so grown up, so big, I try to picture what he may look like, but his face seems distant, hard to see. I never got to experience six-year-old Koen, and for that I grieve.
A few weeks ago, a woman who holds the most special place in my heart, was met with the news that her daughter, was killed in a car accident. This young woman was days from celebrating her first Mother's Day with her infant daughter. I am grieving Koen, but I am also grieving the loss of this beautiful soul who loved Jesus with every ounce of her being. My heart shatters for this family. This family who serve and love our creator, and have experienced more loss than most of us can imagine. My friend lost her husband suddenly 14 years ago, and she arrived in to my life shortly after she experienced this loss when we moved to California. Her faith, her wisdom, and her service, all while raising her children as a single parent who was grieving impacted me so that it pulled me back in close to Jesus. I was experiencing heartache at that time, which made me question Jesus, but watching her life was the reminder that Jesus was not the cause of my hurt and pain, the world was. I began to grow and trust that Jesus was there to hold me during my ache, and He did. I began seeking Him and relying on Him in my daily life.
We moved away from California and shortly after we arrived in Michigan I became pregnant with Koen. And as soon as we heard the news that Koen was dead inside of me, I sought God's face. There was no other way to endure my heart being ripped from my chest while my precious baby boy was simultaneously being ripped from my womb. Via social media this special woman spoke wisdom and truth to my grief and loss 6 years ago.
I have been wrestling with God these last few weeks. Wondering how He can allow tragedy to strike twice to those who love him so immensely. I think I have tricked my mind, probably because I needed to believe it, that I had lost one child, surely I would not face another tragic loss of that magnitude during my life. But this world, this fallen broken world, does not work according to Jackie's plans. Heartache and loss and bad news can face us at any time. During the funeral of her daughter, my friend shared Proverbs 3:5-6:
"Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
We may never understand, but we can continue to acknowledge Him, seek Him, hope in Him, and He will be there to hold us while we ache and grieve.
Grief of this magnitude cannot be fully understood until you have experienced it. Have you watched the movie "Inside Out" where they talk about your core memories and the impact those memories have on your entire life, how you see things and approach life? Loss of someone who makes up your heart at your very core impacts you in that way. It shifts your perspective, changes how you interact, how you approach things, your faith, your empathy. In so many ways my grief has made me who I am. So yes, I continue to cry six years later, and empathize greatly with a fellow mom who is burying their child. My heart will forever ache, miss, and long to be with Koen. But every single day I will acknowledge my loving God, hang on to His mighty hand, and watch him straighten my paths as I make the choice to walk forward with Him each day.
Five years ago today, less than 11 months after burying Koen, I was admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks pregnant with Tobin. We were told to prepare ourselves, that he was coming early. "It will be a miracle if you make it to 32 weeks", but if I could make it until then the pressure on my cervix would switch to my pelvic bones. Tobin was born at 37 weeks, and only then, because my body had proven to not be a safe haven. He needed to reside in me just long enough. Tobin arrived safe and healthy and full term, a miracle.
Koen has shaped me, my beliefs, my stance on different things. But my pregnancy with Tobin, and the miracle of his safe arrival, and the trial of each day praying he would stay safe, has also impacted me. I get to live with a miracle, a testament to faith, and living proof that "God is good" (just as his name suggests). And I also battle the anxiety, caused by the darkness I experienced with both those pregnancies. Such a juxtaposition. Holding death in my arms and fearing that I would again, both brought me closer to God and made our frailty on this earth so real, at the same time.
So I worry, even when I know I should trust, about myself, Kevin, my boys. In those moments I have to make a choice to turn to Jesus, and to get up, when I feel the weight of it all pulling me down. Some days that is easier than others. Some days that weight is so heavy, and it is difficult ti battle back. Yesterday was one of those days. I know its April that I spent in the hospital, but try not to hang on to the dates, but I think at my core I can feel the season of grief and anxiety approaching. It was no surprise when I saw in my memories that today was one of the scariest days I have ever experienced. Five years later, and there is still so much I have buried, unable to process.
And then Kevin walks in a reminds me that I can get up, and am strong. And Tobin's feisty spirit and cute smile remind me that he faced adversity before he even took his first breath, and won. And Hackett delivers me sunshine with his sensitive heart and love for his mom - walking by my side in a night time stroll, dribbling his basketball the whole way.
They help remind me to trust, to face the scary and deal with it, even when its hard and heavy. This is my reminder to you today too. We can do hard things and reach the other side, there may be bumps and bruises, but with God holding your hand, you can get there. The sun may set, but it always rises again in the morning.
I have shed more tears the last few weeks than I have in a long time.
No matter what your political affiliations are, I think if you watched any moments of President Bush's funeral, you were impacted. Watching someone who has lived a full life, and is so adored by his family and friends, and to see that genuine love and sadness poured out - not for show, but because its real - so publicly is impactful. Grief gets me. Funerals get me. Genuine heartache gets me. My own mortality gets me. It make me introspective about my own life, and our greatest loss - Koen. In this season where our schedule is so jam packed, to do lists so long, I am reminded of what truly matters. Its not the stuff, its not the over the top, its the not the money spent, its not the food (well, it kind of is) - its being there. Engaging, face to face conversations and love shared, kids playing together, laughter, snuggling, and making those memories. One day, that is all my kids will be left with. Not Pinterest decor or styled outfits, but memories of just me spending time with them, speaking to their lives, laughing with them, faith instilled in their lives. My desire is to live with the values that this amazing man did (and you won't see me in the White House, so I am not referencing anything political, but him at his core). With integrity, kindness, a love for Christ that just showed and wasn't preached, the perseverance to go on and embrace love and life more each day - even after burying a child, to lead with love, to be an uplifting friend, not harbor bitterness, and to love my spouse and kids above all else on this earth. His death has left me sad, but so inspired to focus on what truly matters.
Koen is buried 2 hours from our current home. A few weeks ago we went for the weekend to visit with friends, and I packed my family with all the things for the weekend. While driving, I remember I had forgotten to pack for Koen ... his Christmas trees that I leave at his graveside each year were left waiting in the garage. Mom guilt at another level, instantly washed over me. As I prepare for Christmas with my two earthly angels, I only had one thing to do for my heavenly angel, and I had forgotten. God, and his grace swept in and lifted my self-inflicted burden. I had just driven past a roadside stand selling grave blankets, it took me 15 minutes to decide, because really how do you make it all better with pine bows and decorations? But bringing Christmas to Koen in a small way, does help my grief. His forgotten trees, are not for him. This grave blanket that snuggles him in, is not for him. Its for me. And because of the snafu, I got to take it to him by myself. I have not been alone at his grave in years. I got to be with just him, and my guttural grief and tell him how much I love and miss him. And that is what matters. Koen continues to teach me, and remind me about what is important, what matters, in this life.
Merry Christmas my dear friends. Focus on what really matters in the weeks ahead. Its not the stuff, not your to do lists - its your presence, your loved ones, and gift of our savior.
This year has had some unanticipated twists and turns for me, with a few health surprises (for both myself and the boys - but all is okay), over committing myself to things, and not anticipating what the demands of my boys would be - and this year it was extraordinary great for both of them. I am tired, and depleted.
I have been so honest here with so many of my struggles, but haven't shared this one in much detail before. I have struggled with anxiety my entire life, and sometimes when it is great, it can be coupled with depression. One way for me to manage it is to stay busy, but it is a delicate balance between busy and too busy for me. When I am too busy, and feel the demands of the commitments I have made and potential of letting others down, it can cripple me and make my anxiety even worse. I have done this to myself this year.
I am slowly backing away from my over commitments, because in trying to be healthy, I have drained myself for those who matter most my little family ... and myself. Tobin will be leaving me soon to go to school everyday, and right now my days are spent so busy. I am not enjoying and engaging as much as I did with Hackett, and feel that guilt. Raising a miracle baby that you are eternally thankful for, while grieving a child you have lost, comes with much guilt. I find myself second guessing myself far more than I should. It's beautiful, and hard, and tangled. Tobin brings SO much joy, and so much fire. That spicy side needs more of me. And that joy needs me patient enough to just savor and enjoy it. Hackett is busy, and his schedule keeps our evenings and weekends hopping. I want to enjoy these moments, savor them as they are passing far too fast for me. As a mom, a parent, it is a constant juggling act, isn't it? I know you all in this same stage, or having lived this stage, can relate.
I also need to make my physical health a priority, and not put myself last on the list. I want to enjoy my family for many years to come, and to do that, I have to take care of myself. I am trying and making strides as I prioritize.
In trying to keep Koen's memory alive, and his little life present, I have added to my stress. After his death, I seemed to have the best grasp on what was important, and what to say 'no' to. But my depression and sadness was present then too. I have pulled myself from that dark place, with the help of Jesus, but now I need to swing myself back so I land somewhere in the middle. My desire is to be my healthiest, not overwhelmed, and able to embrace the small moments without guilt. I have committed to so many of you to make beautiful Christmas ornaments this year to honor Koen. All of yours are prepped, pieces cut, orders organized. This year flew by, all while I was treading water. It is just not realistic for me to enjoy the next few months, and to embrace life the way Koen taught me, while trying to keep his memory alive at the same time. They will come to you ... eventually ... when it brings me joy and not stress. I am sorry, and know you will understand. It is me who is harder on myself than I need to be. Thank you for loving me, and Koen, through every step of my grief, as I am still learning and growing and sorting through it all. Still trying to figure out how to balance my life for my angels on earth, with my angel in heaven.
Motherhood is beautiful, but exhausting. On a level that can't even compare to anything else. Cooking, laundry, taxi driver, all take time and energy. But its things beyond the "typical" chores that seem to deplete any and all reserves for me.
Kevin struggles to sit on the sidelines of any sporting event, sure that whatever he yells may will the players to suddenly make the perfect play, or protect the ball, and bring home the victory. I am learning more with every year that I am on the sidelines of Hackett's life. (I spend a great deal of time on the real sidelines watching him play, so maybe that is why this correlation is relevant for me.) I can't run with him, and hold his hand anymore like I can with Tobin. I can't make the play for him, or protect the ball, or stop him from being fouled. I have to stand there and just watch the game unfold. I can yell suggestions, or special plays he can try, but he is in the middle of the game and can't always see or hear me. His victories are so much sweeter, because they are now all his own. But watching him struggle, trip, and get scored on, and not being able to step in and fix it. Or wave a magic wand. It is painful; exhausting. I sit on the sidelines and second guess myself, feel responsible that I haven't prepared him enough for the game. Win or lose, he always bounces back, and I hope learns for his next match. And I have to trust that all the skills he is honing on the field will prepare him for when I am no longer on the sidelines of every game.
(Just so no one worries, Hackett is perfectly fine, he is just growing up, and its just not easy - for him or I.)
As moms, I don't think we talk enough about our own insecurities and failures or blunders or just how emotionally spent we are at times. The baby years are rough, but as I experience preschool years at the parallel time I am traversing pre-teen, both exhaust me, just in different ways. Tobin pooped in his cotton underwear ... twice ... today. So. Much. Patience. Is required daily.
I think in part, we are so so depleted, because our love is so great, that we give so much of ourselves. It is love, in a form all its own.
If you are feeling weary with me tonight, look at Jesus promise. Going to bed handing it over to him, and grateful for a new day.
“Come to Me, all of you who work and have heavy loads. I will give you rest. Follow My teachings and learn from Me. I am gentle and do not have pride. You will have rest for your souls. For My way of carrying a load is easy and My load is not heavy.” Matthew 11:28-29
Life is hard. We are often dealt circumstances that leave us with our arms in the air, filled with frustration. Or with the feeling of being punched in the stomach. Or with such a heavy weight that our chest feels so constricted that is difficult to breathe. Or that overwhelming feeling that makes us feel small and alone. Or so anxiety ridden that sleep and rest are hard. This life is so hard, so painful. That hard and pain is inescapable on this earth, at some moment or point in your life, things will happen, news will be given, fierce heartache will come that will drop you to your knees.
This world, this country, and often our families are far from perfect. We don't live in a world that is filled with constant sunshine and rainbows, we do get to bask in their glory some days though (isn't that amazing?). I have been reading Romans 8 a lot this month. It was written by Paul to the Romans, with the intent of helping them to fully understand the grace that has been given to us by Jesus, as they understand the Christian faith and instructions as they begin to establish the Christian church in Rome. Can you imagine being a Christian at this time? Your savior was crucified and now you are not joining the cool kids lunch table where things seem to coast by with ease, you are swimming upstream against adversity. Life is hard. Believing is hard. How do you think they rested at night?!!! Jesus never promised ease, or perfect. But he promised to be with us while we endure in this life. And he promised us beauty will come, if not here in this life, then in the next with him.
The Message is just a version of the bible, put in to words that sometimes make the language a bit easier to understand. So can I drop a little easy to understand bible on you?
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
We cannot do all the hard alone, it is a dead end. I have run my forehead into the wall on the dead end far too often, it never ends well. When I stop banging my head against that wall, and say "Alright, Jesus, you take it" and focus on him, that weight slowly lifts off my chest, my heart aches less and less, I can breathe, and enjoy that spacious free life. When life floats along with relative ease, I find I slip so easily in to my own world, but when I trip and stumble, I reach up so quick and grab his hand. Just like Tobin right now!
That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
Right now it may be hard times for you, but he has you in his hands, and while he holds you, look ahead with excitement, the beauty is coming.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
(When Paul speaks of pregnancy here he is referencing the anticipation of new life coming.)
If you feel tired, he is right alongside you. You don't need the perfect prayer or need to know the perfect verse, you just need to cry out in your ache and weakness. He's got you. He will work this hard in to good. I promise, some good will come, even if you don't get to view it in this life - you will when you join him in your new life.
I am a living, breathing testament that beauty is coming. I have ached, and I still do, but most days I am living in that open spacious life, and embracing it with wonder. These two blessing here on earth with me, and knowing that some day I will dance with Koen in my arms while Jesus watches over us and smiles. How can I not live in wonder?! We need to teach our kids that life is hard, but with God alongside them they can solidly stand on two feet and take the blows that are sure to come. And that beauty will come, and when they see it they experience that beauty to embrace it.
So grateful that I found my beauty again recently. It has helped restore my joy. Most days I feel lighter - like I can spin around in a circle, hands up in the air joyously, in that open space God has made for me. He’ll bring you beauty and make an open space for you too, you just need to cry out and let him come in. He's always there, and so am I.
Early Wednesday I woke at 2 am, plagued with a rare bout of insomnia. I have always been grateful that sleep has allowed me an easy respet the last 5 years, and having one night awake gives me so much empathy for those who battle with this on a regular basis. My mind was playing hopscotch, not staying on one thought for long, and then somehow making a connection and jumping to yet another box. It starts with to do lists, and the normal run of the mill items, and its fine. Suddenly, I land in a box I haven't visited in a while. A box that is hard. And real. And I am watching nurses search for Koen's heartbeat, and them telling me they had it. Another nurse coming in moving the monitor all over, making it seem as if its the monitors issue, and not my baby's problem. My doctor being called in from a Memorial Day picnic to deliver the news to us of Koen’s death. I hop again, trying to remember how my mom even got to my house from Chicago that day. Why do I need to remember that? Why do I feel the need to? Why are some things etched in my memory so vividly, and others so foggy? I want to remember everything, every detail, every moment. Its all I have.
I used to hopscotch through these memories while reading a book, (maybe that is why I haven't been able to complete a book in years .. too much mind space), or even mid-conversation with someone, typically at the most unexpected moments. Its been almost five years, and I don't go to that guttural painful place, a place I used to forced myself to replay almost daily - fearful then that if I stopped replaying the memories that his little hand would slip out of mine even further. I think of Koen every day. Every. Single. Day. But in different ways. He makes up part of me, my heart, my life, my outlook, my empathy, my faith. I am grateful to have moved, most days, from the ache in my heart, pit in my stomach place, to a place where peace and gratitude, for all three of my boys, resides. All three that I love beyond any earthly capacity.
Before I went to sleep Tuesday night, I learned of Barbara Bush's passing. I never knew that they had lost a 3-year-old daughter to leukemia. Tobin is three. Losing Koen was earth shattering, but if something was to take Tobin from me now ... after knowing the ache and pain that can exist, but only tasting it ... I cannot fathom how breathing would even be possible. Barbara brushed her daughters hair as she took her last breaths. The oldest child, George W, took on the role of lifting his mothers spirits while she was in the midst of her devastation. So Wednesday, in the early morning I read more of her life, while trying to escape my hopscotch, but it only made me jump in more boxes. Thinking of how excited Barbara must have been to see her daughter again. Thinking about the impact Koen’s death had in me, and then on Hackett, what role did he have to take on for me? How will that shape him as an adult? He loves me hard, and always makes sure I am okay ... even asking me today ... is this why? He knows I am not invincible, he's seen me on my knees, in and out of hospitals, hooked up to IVs, and tears in my eyes when it doesn't make sense.
I no longer reside in a dark and sad place, but those squares never go away. I will always jump to those memories, and relive the pain. Relive the beauty. And say goodbye to Koen, again, in the middle of the night. But on most days, most hours, most minutes ... it is well.
Find your tribe. A mantra that I see popping up on cute jewelry and wall hangings. But our society has changed and evolved so much, that it leaves us all alone. We often don’t live near family or in the community we grew up in. We don’t build on family land or have grandparents that live in our homes. The large majority of women are not at home during the work day, no time to sit around and play Bridge, drink coffee, and gossip with neighborhood ladies - like my tells me her mom did. My grandparents were Detroit transplants from Iowa, and their community and family was the neighborhood. Kids roamed free and hopped from house to house, playing in the middle part of the block ... no fences. Now we fear letting them outside and sometimes don’t even know our neighbors names.
I think most of us, maybe at all levels, but I feel like I can speak for my peer group - mom’s with kids in our homes, are on an island much of the time. On an island where we hear of threats constantly that make us worry, and fear for our babies - of all ages - safety. We are momma bears on an island, standing on our hind legs and big bear claws wrapped around our kids. Its difficult to breathe easy, and without a tribe of other momma bears around you. Mommas Bears of all ages that help watch over all the cubs, calm your fears, and reassure our crazed momma bear mental states when we hear our baby bears are being treated unfairly, when we hear of another school shooting, when we feel that we aren’t enough and are failing, or when tragedy strikes and we can’t stand alone.
God gave us the most beautiful gift, friends. Kevin is truly my best friend, but he doesn’t always understand my momma bear, my lonely heart, and need to talk-cry-laugh through the things spinning in my head or hurting my heart.
Finding “my people” isn’t easy for an introvert like myself. I have to awkwardly wave and smile for quite a long time before I open up. Hackett is now living in his 4th home, and town, since he was born. I have had to search for my tribe as mom four times now. It doesn’t come right away and sometimes isn’t even in the town we live in. It takes time and has forced me to come out of my shell and introduce myself to new people. My ever faithful God has brought people to me, and not always in the most expected way either. Even as I have moved geographically, my tribes have let me continue to be a member, and have loved and supported me, and made me laugh, even from miles and miles away. I often pick up my phone and see 72 missed texts, and smile because I know something is either hilarious or someone is being showered with the love and support they need.
My tribe from CA sent me so much support when Koen died. That day while I was waiting to deliver him, they were there, praying and crying with me from 2,000 miles away. Having moved just one year before Koen’s death, we had just started to find our new tribe and these sweet families surrounded us as if we had been friends for far longer. In many ways it helped me meet more amazing people. It is those that sweep in, even when they don’t need to, that you want by your side for life. My tribes carried me when standing was so hard. Our latest move was not preplanned and not part of my plan, but I trusted God. Once again, he stepped in and has given me the opportunity to do a side gig while I stay home with Tobin. The biggest perk of this “job” is the friendships, so many virtually, that have blessed my life and given me joy daily.
If you are blessed with an amazing Momma Bear circle, keep your door open, look for opportunities to extend kindness to that lonely bear in the corner. Its what we teach our kids and what we should practice as women. Look for lonely bears with or without kids, and of all ages. Who knows what blessings will come when you grow your tribe. Or maybe they may not blend beautifully in to your tribe, but they could become a new beautiful part of your life. Kindness is the new cool, practice it.
I have been tribe-less before and always feel so alone when we move. It is hard, hard when my fellow momma bears can’t help me watch over my cubs, hard to watch other tribes and know you are excluded or don’t belong or won’t be let in. So if you find yourself without a tribe, pray for one and extend yourself to an uncomfortable place, and know its like dating - you may not find the perfect fit right away, but keep fishing. A tribe is so worth search.
I am Jackie.