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.
Six years ago today our moving truck left California loaded with our entire house. On February 4th, we pulled out of driveway, in Brentwood, for the last time. It has me reflecting on our life, our journey, the impact - both positive and negative on our kids.
Ask Hackett where he is from, I am not sure what his answer will be. Last year at this time, I watched him get stumped by that question. Its a question that should be so easy, but for him, so many layers. Where was he born? Where is he most recently from? Where he lives now? I think, just recently, he is feeling more and more connected to our life here, 18 months post (our most recent) move. Last night we went to the varsity basketball game, and he was sporting some "Pirate" gear (even thought the "Lancer" sticker is still on my car - even my car is confused!). I asked him as we walked in, "are you a pirate now?". His reply, "I still have some Lancer in me too." And I think he always will. Me too.
Our hearts seem to spread across the country in a few different towns that we were lucky enough to call home, even if it was only for a few years. I am a planner, it is how I manage my stress, but Kevin's job, and this life we have doesn't allow that. I don't know where Hackett will play sports in high school, where Tobin will start kindergarten, or what high school either of them will graduate from. Its not easy to be on the outside, trying to figure out where we fit, starting over - over and over again. Especially for my introverted-self. Yes, I am a complete introvert, but have been forced out of that box for survival. It seems easier for Kevin, he has a servant heart, and freely gives of his time at each stop. Today he sported his HB shirt and worked from morning until night as our town hosted basketball games.
In so many ways the blessings outweigh the hardships. Our moves have made our circle grow. I have had the honor of making forever friends, people I would have never met, lives that would never had poured so much love in to my life and my family. As I have lived and know so well - with great love comes great loss. And every time we move, I leave those I have grown to love big, and with that great loss. We may not know where we are from, but we know we have been blessed with each move, each new group of people we have met. We are who we are because of meeting so many of you, you are where we are from ...
I LOVE Christmas. I love the snow outside, the warmness of the lights, I purchase gifts way in advance because I get so excited for the season to begin. Since Koen died, its different. I love it, love it so much, but it is difficult to embrace the warmness and love when there are so many reminders of my the large hole in my heart. My whole heart no longer resides on earth, and I feel that missing part in an even more real way at Christmas.
I used to love decorating the tree, I have such fond memories in my own childhood and in Hackett's younger years, but now I seem to struggle every year. Our traditional memento when we travel is an ornament. Each year we purchase our boys and ornament that somehow represents them in that year. So hanging up ornaments is a walk down memory lane. I have Koen's baby ornaments and each year I add an angel ornament to his, now growing, collection. So putting up our tree, and the tree itself represents my sad. And if you are reading this and are fortunate enough to have not lost at your core, you will understand some day. Unfortunately it is not a feeling we can escape in this earthly life if our lives are rich and full. But you may be thinking, "don't hang the angels" or "put those ornaments away then". The ornaments represent the realness, the pain and ache that I will experience angel ornaments or not.
(Sidenote: I have tried to busy myself this year making ornaments in Koen's name and honor, it helps to fill my heart and keep my mind focused, but the irony of this is not lost on me.)
As I watched families post their tree decorating on Facebook, it all looking so magical and perfect, I got angry. Want to know how our tree was decorated this year? It took two days. I snapped at Kevin, barked at Hackett, and cried. We seemed to take shifts, there was no togetherness, no priceless pictures. Koen's first Christmas I spent on the couch watching the boys decorate while I smiled, trying to hide my sadness, while tears rolled down my face. After our tree was decorated this year, I had to apologize. In my grief and loss, some things and moments have been stolen from me. Moments so simple, so taken for granted, can slap me in the face. Slap me so hard that I don't even know what hit me for second. Sometimes it takes me awhile to sort out that my patience is not in existence because the realness of my baby missing his fourth Christmas is so very real. And I miss him. My memories are getting fuzzy of holding him, feeling his skin. I ache for him.
Then Jesus whispers in my ear, "he's here". Koen is with Jesus, and Jesus is always with me. What Christmas preparations does my Koen get to help with? What a celebration he must get to witness. Koen is okay, its me who is not.
We went to see the movie Star a few weeks ago and while I was watching the scenes with Mary and Joseph it hit me how hard life is. Jesus is with me always, but life is still hard. Mary had Jesus in her belly and life was still excruciating. The travel in her third trimester alone would have been more then I could have endured, but then to reach your destination and still have no place to rest, no place to deliver your baby? God gave Mary his son to carry, and she was still faced with obstacles and hard, even though Jesus was literally with her. In this life we face obstacles, pain, suffering, and hard, but Jesus is with us too, every step of the way. He is not the key to a seamless perfect life, he is the key to finding that peace again. So if you are hurting this Christmas. Feeling the ache of loss, missing those you have lost, struggling to find the happy because of the hard. You are not alone, Jesus is with you. He's here.
I have not written since May. I write when I need to cry and process, and this summer was good - busy - but filled with joy and peace. This week though my peace seems to be shattered. I quite literally feel like throwing up. My insides are torn up at the horror that occurred in Las Vegas. How many families sent their babies and spouses off for a night of fun only to have then gunned down in such a senseless and sick way. I can't watch the video footage, I can't watch the news, can't look at the pictures, and read the stories. I am just filled with too much pain for them. Too much worry for our future. No where seems safe - churches, airplanes, movie theaters, schools, hotels.
A blog I wrote two years ago popped up in my memories this week, where I pleaded with Jesus to keep my two babies here on earth safe. It seems to be my daily plea. I have endured loss, and I am not sure I could face it again. I can't climb back up from the depths again, its too painful, I am too attached, love them far too much. I fear my heart would break and be un-repairable. How many parents have lost their children this week? Oh, I ache.
I find myself asking Jesus, WHY????
There are so many things I don't understand, and never will. But turning to him, even in my anger and frustration and horror is the only way I know to cope, and the only way I find peace ... maybe not today, but in the days ahead. The morning after I delivered Koen a nurse that I only saw once, whispered to me "we live in a fallen world, sweetie". It continues to be the only answer that make sense. God had beautiful plans for this world when he created Adam and Eve. But having someone love you and honor you by fear and forcefulness doesn't feel good - does it? Having someone love you and respect you for you is one of the most fulfilling feelings. God didn't want to force us to love him and honor him. He allowed choice, and in that choice evil crept in, the evil that is always lurking. Adam and Eve chose to disobey, and with that came consequences. They were cast in to the world. This world where God is ever present, but where evil is allowed to roam, where choices can be made, where diseases exist. Where a bacteria is present that killed my baby, where a crazed man took so many innocent lives, where cancer plagues my friend laying in the hospital, where hate lives and multiplies. I think God's heart was broken by Adam and Eve, and he ruled with a mighty hand - like we do sometimes as parents - but then he was ready to just let us run to him when we were hurt. He chose to give the human race grace, he wanted to hug us up and love us and be there in a moment when we needed him. He sent Jesus. And now in this world God is there with open arms waiting for us to run to him, seek refuge in his arms, and choose to love him - despite the hurt and pain and even our questioning. We were never promised perfect here on this earth, but we promised forgiveness and love and heaven.
This is what I cling to, someday I will know this, and Koen will be with me then:
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4
I can't make sense of this my friends, and I will continue to grieve the horror. But I have to give it to God, or I will live in constant fear and pain, and life is far to precious.
On the night Hackett chose to be baptized, and let God carry it for him. Jesus and Koen painted the sky for us in celebration. One of the most magical nights of my life.
I have to trust that Jesus will hold these two and protect them, I can't fathom life without them. Its too heavy and hard to fear ... you can have it, Jesus.
Four years ago today we attended a small funeral for our tiny son. It is such a surreal experience. A week before I was washing clothes for Koen and organizing the closet in his nursery, and just days later Kevin was carrying his body in a casket. In one week, I gave birth to my stillborn son, left the maternity floor with no baby in hand, met with a funeral director, chose clothes for Koen to be buried in, picked cemetery plots - not only for Koen - but for Kevin and myself, met with a pastor to officiate our son's funeral, and strangely told the series of events surrounding Koen's death while maintaining composure to those I came in contact with. In my alone times sat in Koen's nursery, rocking in the chair, squeezing stuffed animals fiercely - I needed to hug something because my arms physically felt empty - while staring at an empty crib, and at times feeling such a heavy weight on my chest that I found it difficult to speak or even breathe. That grief, that week, and the weeks following are so sacredly cherished for me, as crazy as it sounds, I long for that feeling. That extreme grief is so closely tied to Koen in my memories, if I can feel that grief again, then I can almost feel his tiny body in my arms and see his face that I covered in kisses. I think I also long for that feeling, because mixed in to that grief, was Jesus's hand holding me. I have never felt so close to death, so close to Christ. That time was sacred for me.
I miss Koen. And will every day while I remain on this earth. But four years later, I can say - on most days, it is well with my soul. In the last month I have learned the history of that beloved classic hymn. It was written by Horatio G. Spafford. He was a lawyer and businessman in Chicago and a father of five, four girls and one boy, in 1871, but that year lost his son to pneumonia. In 1871, his business also experienced loss in the Chicago fire. His business recovered, and in an attempt to bring some joy back to his family he planned a trip across the Atlantic for a holiday in Europe. Business delayed him, but he sent his four small girls and wife ahead. Four days into their voyage, their ship, the Ville du Harve, crashed in to another large ship. Within 12 minutes the ship sank. Spafford's wife, Anna, was found floating and was rescued by a small row boat. All four of their daughters, were all lost at sea. Within two years this couple lost five small children. I cannot fathom. Anna traveled alone on another vessel for 9 days to Wales. No cell phones or email to communicate the horror to her husband. When she arrived in Wales she sent a wire to her husband that began "Saved alone, what shall I do?". Spafford journeyed across the Atlantic and while on that journey he wrote the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul". He and his wife started over and had three more children, losing yet another to pneumonia. They buried six of their eight babies. I cannot fathom the holes in their hearts, yet their faith remained.
I remember singing this song from the hymnals at Novesta Church of Christ as a child. The words always spoke to my anxious heart, but never cut me to the core like they have this month. Spafford was in agony, in pain that I cannot comprehend, but my guess is he was feeling that same extreme grief, mixed in with Jesus holding him that I also experienced. I believe Jesus must have been calming him, reminding him that he could nail his pain and heartache to the cross, begging Stafford to allow Him to carry his suffering. Telling him that he saw him in his helpless estate. Jesus suffered for us, so that He could carry our suffering. That kind of love descends down and wraps us up when we are hurting the most.
While I lay in the hospital on bedrest fearful that Tobin's life would also be lost, I clung to this scripture:
"From the end of the earth I will cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Psalm 61:2
Much like Stafford, I was reminding myself, to cling to Jesus, for Him to take away the fear, the heartache. He is there for you to call out and cling to, too. He is the one who can calm your hurt, settle your soul, and give you the peace that is only found through him.
So on this day of reminders of heartache, it is well with my soul.
Late last night, I walked to the mailbox, feeling the perfect air, listening to the birds, and just smiled at the peace of it all. Then in my mailbox I found the most amazing gift, these angel wings with Koen's name. No sweeter gift then remembering and honoring Koen's life.
Life is so hard, isn't it? Some roads seem to hold more heartache than others, but no one has a life free of struggle and pain. Today is May 24th, and I anticipate death arriving in 3 days. I can feel the cloud this week. I have a knot in my throat, a pit in my stomach, and tears on the edge at all times. This Saturday it will be four years since the birth and death of Koen. This is a week filled with much guilt for me. I felt weird all week, had noticed things, felt kicks less frequently. Why wasn't I more adamant? Why did I push through? What if I had noticed? What if he was taken out before death? Why did my body fail and cause the death of my own son? Why didn't God protect him, why didn't he push me to ask more questions? How long was he dead inside my body? The only question I think I can answer, is the last one. I wasn't aware at the time. But I could tell you the moment even that Koen died. My eyes closed as I rode in the car with Kevin and Hackett on our way to dinner on May 25th. I was overcome in that moment, felt awful, and couldn't shake the weird emotional and physical feeling. I think I felt his spirit leave his body and mine. We went to Loon's Baseball game after, and I didn't speak or move the entire game. It's haunting.
Hackett has been struggling at school, life is hard, and relationships aren't easy. He seems settled in our new home and life, but then things occur that make his heartache, and he pines for what was. It is so hard to watch. We want to save our kids heartache and pain, but life doesn't allow us that luxury. I debated sharing this image of Hackett from our Mother's Day with Koen. But he is not shy about his feelings with us, and I know so many of you that follow my story have experienced loss too. So I share to help you see how profoundly impacted our (mine and your) kids are. The loss of Koen devastated Hackett. He is not impacted daily, but when he is reminded of what he lost - not what Kevin and I lost - but what he lost. His brother, his playmate, his hopes and dreams for a sibling - it hurts his heart. I know he flashes back too. He was old enough to remember the turmoil and pain. Old enough to remember his dad carrying his brothers casket to his grave. Old enough to recall his mom being in a fog of grief. It pains me to see. Hurts me to know that his road at young age already has bumps and sharp turns. He made me this book on Mother's Day all on his own. Moving is his narrative in life, but so is feeling supported and loved. It both broke my heart and made it explode with gratitude at the same time.
Life's road is so hard, but when we feel loved and supported by those who walk alongside us it makes it so much easier to bear. I listened to a sermon that had a profound impact on me around Easter, and plan to listen and study more, and share soon. It centers around the scriptures in Luke 24 on the road to Emmaus. Jesus had been crucified, and had just been resurrected. I mean, what a huge moment for Jesus, right? But do you know what he did? He found a sad couple, who were experiencing heartache at the death of Jesus himself, and were walking from Jerusalem down the road to Emmaus back to their home. Jesus showed up on their sad road. He saw sadness on their faces and he walked with them all the way home. This couple saw Jesus as a man during this walk and did not recognize him until he revealed himself to them at the end of the road. Jesus showed up on my road to Emmaus too. Sometimes I don't understand, and don't see him on the walk, but he is there walking right with me during my sadness. And when his preseence is revealed to me I often have a moment where I fall to my knees in gratitude. He was there all along. He is with Hackett walking along side him too. How I wish I could spare Hackett the heartache, but the ability to show him at age 10, that he is never alone on his road, especially when it is filled with sadness, is the best give I could ever give him. You are alone on your road either, my friends. Jesus is walking right alongside you in your sadness too, even if you can't recognize him.
It's Mother's Day. I will never get to spend Mother's Day with Koen, in the real sense of the word. I only had one Mother's Day with him while his heart was beating. The Mother's Days since his death, a storm cloud has hovered. I found it difficult to be fully present, guilt sets in. It has been hard for me to accept our story, this is not how I mapped out my life. But today was perfect. We found ourselves in Midland, which is now 2 hours from our home and Midland is where we left Koen.
My perfect Mother's Day was spent at a soccer tournament in the cold wind of the morning, watching my Hackett, a bit in over his head, but given an amazing opportunity to play at a more competitive level. I was able to watch him overcome his anxiety and play, and that filled my heart with pride. We grabbed a late breakfast from Panera and took it to Koen. I had brunch with all my boys. Picnicking at the cemetery is my new perfect. And that's okay. If given the choice, I would have written our story different, but my story version may not have included Tobin. My version, wouldn't have grown me as a person, wouldn't have exploded my level of empathy, wouldn't have changed my perspective on life, wouldn't have grown my faith, wouldn't have made me slow down to breathe and appreciate the smallest things. I think I have reached an acceptance phase of my grief, although that doesn't mean I stay in that space every day. But today, as we walked through our day together as a family, I was reminded that my day was perfect because I allowed it to be. I didn't fight it, feel guilt, or wish for something else. My boys showered me with love. Completely rained down love over my soul, and its hard to feel sad when given so much love. We hiked at the Nature Center near our old house, and drove through our old neighborhood, but then came home. And home felt like home. We have fully accepted that change too. And that felt perfect too. Your wish, Your will, Your way, Jesus.
Kev made a book for me from Tobin, complete with hand drawn images - which make me laugh and cry. Hackett made me his own book too. Here are both their last pages. Life even in its imperfections, it so amazingly beuatiful. I pray you found beauty today, even in a small way.
My Facebook memories continue to haunt me, while simultaneously helping me heal. Today it was a picture of my first grade Hackett at a class at the hospital for older siblings, as he excitedly was preparing for Koen to arrive. The picture is blurry, but his smile speaks volumes. He had been missing the opportunity of having a sibling, and was over the moon with excitement to not be alone to laugh and play. Overnight that joy was stolen May 27th. It's May now. May is hard. I don't like May. It brings my allergies, and with that reminders of all events leading to Koen's death, even my allergies play a role in the reminders. It the tiniest things that trigger the hurt. May makes my sinuses and my heart hurt.
A blog post of mine from two years ago popped up today too, maybe I can figure out how to link it here. I wrote about missing Hackett's entire baseball season in 2014 (I always hesitate when remembering the year Tobin was born, trying to make sure I don't confuse it with Koen's birth year, even that can be a trigger) as I laid in a hospital bedding fighting for Tobin. Not only did I miss games in 2014, but in 2013 I went to some games pregnant and then showed to to others with no baby and no belly. I was there, but I wasn't there. For an entire year I was physically there at times, but still not present. I was chatting with friend this week about mom guilt and the struggle we have when we can't be all things to our kids and other commitments. I missed an entire year of Hackett's life in so many ways, and it was such a great year. Is there anything cuter than a first grader? Its kind of the perfect age and stage, and I was either counting the minutes until bedtime so I could cry or laying in a hospital bed. There were beautiful moments in between, but that mommy guilt seems to trump that, and instead I often feel the ache of not being present. I struggle missing school events, games, special moments with Hackett. It tears at my heart. I think that is why the grief with Koen, and the loss of a child is so extreme. You take that normal typical mommy guilt, and its amplified by a number that is inconceivable. I missed it all. All of it. Every single moment with Koen is missed. There are no games, no school events, no belly laugh moments. I didn't get any of them. I only got to wash his clothes once. Just one time. No grass stains even. I have missed it all. And in my missing and my ache, I sometimes wonder, am I missing more. In my grief am I missing these two little lives that are in my house right now? I know the answer is mostly no, but it is so hard for me to watch time pass so quickly. No matter how I try these sweet boys of mine just keep growing. I just can't handle the thought of missing more.
My blog post from two years ago:
I write a blog about sadness. I have written less this last year, and you know what? I have been less sad. Not, not sad, but less. It will forever just be less. I will never get to a place of not being sad at some part of my core. I can laugh, feel the wind in my hair, smell the sunshine on my boys blonde hair, and feel peace, calm, and happy, but a single instant later hear a wind chime and be reminded Koen and have tears well up in my eyes. Grief, guttural grief, does not go away. You can find your happy, be happy, feel happy, but the sadness remains.
I love Facebook, I do. It has logged so many memories of our life and I love it especially for that. This week though is a tough one. Four years ago this week, we saw our healthy baby on an ultrasound. Our healthy baby who was growing perfect, my pregnancy without complications. His measurements at our 20 week ultrasound - perfection. Four years ago we learned that Koen, was Koen Wayne Soper, our second boy. We left that appointment, went out for lunch while Hackett was at school. Kevin and I were giddy, texting and calling, and smiling without end. Our excitement was bubbling over. It had been six years since we had Hackett, it felt all new again. On that day, I bought Koen his first outfit, the one I would bury him in. My goodness I loved him. I loved on Koen during pregnancy more than I did Hackett or Tobin. When I was pregnant with Hackett it was as if my maternal instincts didn't kick in until I saw him, that's when my heart exploded. I remember trying to talk to Hackett while I was pregnant, and thought "well that's weird". But with Koen, I knew. I knew how crazy in love I would be with him, and I loved him more from the beginning. Hackett was at school during my pregnancy and it was just me and Koen all day at home. I rocked him in his room, sang to him, talked to him. Loved on him, and told him I loved him all the time. Maybe that is typical with your second, or maybe God gave me that as a gift. Koen and I had time together, peaceful, happy time, even if it was brief. I literally floated on clouds during my second trimester with Koen, life felt perfect. And then it wasn't perfect anymore. It was the farthest thing from perfect. I stayed floating in the clouds though, as I watched the world race by as time stood still for me.
I tried to be less sad, tried to move on. We got pregnant with Tobin, and while he has put my heart back together in so many ways, my pregnancy with him shattered it further. Three years ago I was admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks gestation with our Toby V. It was hard to get too attached to my growing belly while doctors are giving you survival rate statistics that lead you to believe you may possibly bury your second baby in less than a year. I had Tobin's funeral planned in my head, I wanted to be ready the second time. I wasn't ready to bury Koen and had so many regrets, I didn't want to make the same mistakes twice. Our faith was strong, but his outlook was not promising. As my Facebook memories continue to pop up this week and read my blog updates from three years ago, my knees grow weak. Tobin was not supposed to make it to term based on all predictions medically. He is a miracle. Tonight my miracle is calling me "Jackie". "I love you, Jackie. Follow me, Jackie. Jackie, lets read a book." He can talk, run through puddles, and he tells me he's happy almost every day. "I so happy, momma." Does he know? Does he know what a gift his life is? I cry this week, for the loss of Koen, for the pain I felt as I fought for Tobin's life, for the little miracle who leads a happy life. I will forever be sad, but my boys - all four of them (I'm counting the biggest one too) - make me less sad when I realize how surrounded I am by their love.
Jesus has wrapped me in His love my whole life, but He brought me in even closer the last four years. Tears fell from my eyes as we sang this song on Palm Sunday this week, realizing how far we have come. I will forever praise him for carrying me, giving me Koen, and safely bringing Hackett and Tobin to me on earth.
After Koen died, I lived in a fog. A complete haze at times. I was present, but not there. I remember thinking "this is it, this is how it will always be". I didn't think I would ever escape the dense fog I was residing in. It didn't just last a week or two, but months. And even after the fog lifted and there were sunny moments, sometimes even days, it returned often. My pregnancy with Tobin brought another wave of fog. For over a year of my life I gripped tightly to the side of a mountain, clinging, reaching, and barely hanging on. I am sure the only way I kept my grasp is that Jesus had his hand under my feet, keeping me from plummeting down even further. Then we had Tobin. He was safe, we were relieved, we felt joy, and a new normal began for us. It felt good to breathe again, it felt good to pull myself from off of that ledge. You have read my journey as I processed my grief, so you know I did not ignore it, but at some point you make a decision to climb back on the train of life, instead of watching it race pass you. It seems that time heals, and in some ways it does, but truly time just allows you to grow accustomed to living with a shattered heart. I am not all better, even after almost 4 years, I am just better at living with a constant dull ache in my chest. Better at swallowing tears.
As we move further away from Koen's death, Kevin and I are learning that his death not only had a profound impact on our lives then, but also still today. The trauma lingers. We pushed things down out of survival. It changed us, both as individuals and as a couple. Both wanting to protect one another, we went to our own corners in sorrow. I share this knowing others can relate who have also gone through grief, but also to shed light on the fact that there is no time limits on grief and the trauma that someone endures. It gets wrapped up in the very fibers of your heart, your personality, how you are relationally, who you are at the core. You cannot expect others to be who they were in their "before" state, that person - their carefree nature and innocence is forever changed, not gone, but different. I flashback still. Not as often as I once did, but it happens. Some days I am off, impacted by the movie reel my mind plays for me. But my normal daily life is happy, filled with joy and parenthood frustrations, laughter and laundry. Some days or hours are hard though, traumatic even as you reluce memories. Extend grace to those you come in contact, you never know what trauma is lingering in their lives on the day you cross paths with them. Be kind..
I am Jackie.