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.
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.
I am Jackie.