Wednesday, January 20, 2010
When tragedy occurs I go through the same process.
I choose to ignore it. If I don't acknowledge it, it doesn't exist. If it doesn't exist, I don't have to compare it to my own tragedy and loss. I don't have to spend hours reliving the day we lost our girls.
I try to control it. I convince myself if I could just get on a plane and hold those orphaned children it will all be okay. If I'm in the midst of it and I can decide who gets the supplies they need it will be okay.
I obsess over it. It gets into my head. I have a hard time appreciating the joy that's right in front of me because of all the devastation.
I give. Everything counts and technology makes it so easy to give in any way you can.
I pray. I pray for those who have lost loved ones. I pray for those left to put it all back together. I pray for the people who have so easily given of their time to help. I pray the next time a tragedy happens, I'll start praying and I'll remember how powerful God's grace can be.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Words aren't coming easily this morning.
I'll leave you with one of the last photos taken of Ellie and Kate together.
Our girls are just as much a part of me today, as they were the day they were born. For that, I am grateful.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
There are still things that catch me off guard. I've gotten very savvy with my grief. I'm pretty good at putting my pain on hold; attending to it when I can't ignore it anymore. Grieving is exhausting . . . but entirely necessary and healing.
Tonight I unpacked a container of clothes. As I was putting them away I saw my shoes. The shoes I wore on the day of Ellie and Kate's funeral. I haven't seen them since that day. I put them on and tended to my broken heart.
I desperately try to imagine Ellie and Kate in my mind as they would be today. I imagine how their voices would sound. I try to picture how they would hold a pencil as they do their homework. Simple things I only have my imagination to give me.
There's a chill in the air - the first of many reminders of that day. Sometimes I need to write - to open up a wound I know will never completely heal. I need my girls to hear my words and see my tears and know they make me proud. They make me strong.
I am blessed. I now get to put away my shoes and tuck in three beautiful children. I also get to talk to Ellie and Kate in my prayers and see them in my dreams. Good night.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I’ve often said my heart lives in a place where joy and sorrow meet. It’s a small little place in my soul where all my blessings and heartaches come to mingle. It is bittersweet. It is my life.
I take comfort in this place. It reminds me of all I have and all I’ve lost. My joys and sorrows know each other well. They’ve spent years learning to coexist.
I am thankful for this place. I am thankful for a loving God who provides me with the strength and peace to take up residence in this place.
I am blessed.
Monday, March 17, 2008
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak about some of my experiences with a wonderful group of women at a local bible study. Below are my notes from my talk with them.
It has been over four years since we lost our beautiful girls, Ellie and Kate. In losing them I found one of God’s greatest gifts . . . his gift of Grace. I didn’t recognize what His Grace was at first, but as with any gift, it had to be opened and received with a willing heart. [I don’t want to spend our time today talking about the details of the accident or the unbearable pain of losing my children – a lot of you are mothers so you have probably already imagined it in your mind – I am living your worst nightmare, and I know because it was mine, too.]
I don’t remember making the conscious decision, but somehow through the darkness and the pain, I decided to accept and unwrap His gift. He says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
I would like to tell you how this journey I am on helps me understand these words are true – His grace is sufficient for us.
Shortly after our loss people would ask me questions I didn't know how to answer, “How are you able to function?” “Why do you think this happened?” “Are you mad at God”. And the toughest statement, “I would not be able to go on if it happened to me”.
I didn’t know what to do with this statement – was there something wrong with me because I was going on? I was getting dressed and going out into the world. I was having lunch and dinner with people, and occasionally I would even smile or laugh. It did not mean I was not in pain – that the ache I felt to hold my girls wasn’t real. Did it mean I did not love our girls as much as I should have – that being a mom wasn’t what I wanted – that on some level I felt I deserved what happened because of previous choices I made in my life.
As I tried to answer each one of these agonizing questions, one thought kept coming into my head “God is not a vengeful person – he doesn’t want to see me in this much pain, but while I’m here, while I'm wallowing around in this darkness, maybe I should sit still and listen. He could have something for me in this place. I was experiencing the “Amazing Grace” God offers to us if we are willing to accept it.
Could it be other people felt they couldn’t go on because this tragedy didn't happen to them – they didn’t need to receive the grace I’d been given. “Amazing Grace” was a hymn I sang to Ellie almost every night of her life. I didn't understand the full meaning of these words until I was in the midst of the unimaginable – losing my children. I was now a mother without a child to hold - I had to hold on to something. I chose God.
Over the years I've been writing letters to Ellie and Kate in a journal. I know it’s been a huge part of my healing process. I’d like to share an entry with you from about 6 months after the accident:
Dear Ellie and Kate,
People often ask me how it is I can go on. My first response is usually, “because my girls would want me to”, but I know in places I haven’t allowed myself to go yet it is something much bigger than that. Of course, I know I’m still in shock and people are praying for us - but is that enough to get me out of bed every day?
I feel so loved and protected. Maybe the love you two are sending me from Heaven is bigger than the love on this side - maybe when I lost you the love we felt for each other multiplied and is filling in those deep pockets of despair and hopelessness – maybe its God.
At the time of this entry, I didn’t truly understand the power of His Grace. I don’t claim to totally understand it now. My grief and loss do not define me, but they’re changing me. Change is definitely a process and there are times when I find myself back at square one – shaking my head – trying to understand why I can’t just “get it”. How can it be what I’ve gone through somehow isn’t enough to teach me all the lessons I need to know? I guess I'm a perpetual work in progress.
I was a person who needed to control all situations involving my children. I carefully orchestrated play dates so there were no tears, bumps or bruises. I rarely “allowed” anyone other than myself to drive them around and when they were in the car with someone else, I paced the house with worry. God knew what he was doing when he put me behind the wheel of our car that day.
I would imagine the worst-case scenario and convince myself I would be okay if something happened to them. It was a defense mechanism I created to protect myself, but now I know it was keeping me from living a full life with my girls. When you're so worried about something bad happening – it's hard to experience all the good around you.
Now I know I can worry all I want, and He probably expects me to, but I don’t need to. I have learned know matter the circumstances, He will come along side me and take over those burdens for me. I no longer try and control all our family’s situations. When my children are not with me I don’t pace and worry. I pray. Not always for their safe return, but for my ability to trust in Him. To allow my circumstances to gently remind me I’m not in control.
There are times when the pain of losing Ellie and Kate is so intense it takes my breath away. Times when my mind can’t comprehend or process the magnitude of what’s happened. Times when fear and anxiety have such a tight grip on me, I can’t seem to wiggle myself free. It is in these times I turn my face towards God. I soak in all the grace he has to offer me, because I know it sustains me. I know it is sufficient.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Logically I know a house is just a structure, but this house and the memories it holds are precious. I know memories will travel with me to my next destination, but this house - our home - will always be more to me than a structure.
We bought our home in the Fall of 2002. We'd seen a lot of different places, but knew instinctively this was the home for us. Right away we made a few changes, but it felt good. It just seemed to fit. In a little over a year, my feelings would change about our home, and I'd know for sure it was more than just a structure.
After we lost Ellie and Kate we weren't sure if we should or could stay in our house. There's no guide for parents who lose both of their children on the same day - who go from having a house full of life to an broken and quiet soul. There's no one to discuss the pros and cons with. Not many people feel comfortable handing out advice to bereaved parents.
We didn't know what to do - so we did nothing. Grieving is exhausting - just deciding what or if to eat was the biggest decision I was struggling with back then. Through the shock, through the numbness, and through the healing . . . we stayed. The same house, that just a few days prior was full of joy and laughter, was now unbearably quite. And yet, it was still so full of love and memories. . . . we stayed.
For months to come I would find little fingerprints on windows and doors. I would find little toys and "treasures" Ellie tucked away in some obscure place she alone was privy. As I would wander through the house at night in a grief-stricken fog, I could still see them sleeping in their beds. I could picture them playing with their toys and eating breakfast at the table. I wasn't ready to let those memories go. I wasn't willing to let someone else live in my house - the house where I played, cared for, and loved my girls. I was afraid the least little shift in my thinking, in my being would make their voices, their smiles, their spirit disappear from my memory.
I don't remember the exact moment or the conversation, but we decided to stay. Staying was going to be hard. Spring was coming. I knew it wouldn't be long before we'd hear children laughing and playing at the park behind our house. I needed something to drown out those sounds. I needed a distraction. We decided to stay, but needed to make our house different. We decided to remodel. The process was definitely stressful, but the distraction was helpful.
Four years have passed. Bedrooms once providing shelter and comfort to our little girls are now occupied by their siblings. Their brothers and sister - too young to understand now - will one day know their sisters. We'll help them understand there were two little souls, who came before them, that taught their mommy and daddy how to love bigger than they ever imagined. Davis, Meg and Kale remind us how fortunate we are to be parents. We are blessed to be able to provide them with a comfortable home and hearts full of love and hope.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
When I feel anxiety start sneaking in trying to take hold, I reach for my trusty Calm My Anxious Heart book. This book has been with me a long time. It was the first Bible Study I attended after losing Ellie & Kate - it was meaningful to me then and continues to provide me strength when I need it (which is pretty much on a daily basis).
This morning I flipped through and came to a chapter on worry. Dillow writes about her Anxiety Box in which she writes out what is causing her anxiety on a small piece of paper and places it in a beautiful heart-shaped box tied with a ribbon. Honestly, I do not have the time or patience to practice this habit at this stage in my life. However, it is comforting to know our anxieties don't have to be presented to God wrapped up in pretty packages - he takes them anyway we deliver them to him: broken, interrupted, and confused.
Matthew 6:25-34 (New International Version)
Do Not Worry"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Snow has been part of the background during significant events in our lives. Snow began falling as I began labor with Ellie and blanketed the ground when we brought her home two days later. The day before I was induced with Kate, Bob spent hours digging us out so we could drive to the hospital. When all was said and done he may have been more tired than me and came close to missing her birth - he is the only person I know that can fall soundly asleep sitting up in a hospital chair! The days surrounding the girls' memorial service and funeral were covered in snow, which was probably a big inconvenience for a lot of people. Bob gently reminded me of the role snow had played in our lives up to that point and somehow it seemed to make sense.
Freshly fallen snow makes the world feel so quiet and still - Bob and I will forever be connected to snow and will always be reminded of all these memories when the first snow of the year falls. Today was a good snow day - I'm sure there will be many more to come!
Monday, December 3, 2007
It has been four years since we lost our daughters, Ellie & Kate. Everything about that statement is unbelievable.
I am healing. My heart lives in a place where sadness meets joy. I am blessed with a marriage that provides me with incredible strength and love. We have been given the gifts of Davis and Meg who bring us much joy and hope. There are things I struggle with – there are pictures of Ellie and Kate that bring me to my knees and there are memories to painful to recall, but I know that I am growing… through adversity we grow in faith, we grow in strength, and we grow in love.
"There are no words" is a phrase I've heard a lot - I used to agree until I read a passage that was shared with me by my friend Sarah Batley from Carol Kent’s When I Lay My Isaac Down. I know these words - I have felt them, cried over them and spoken them to others - these words are true and helpful for anyone who has experienced any sort of pain:
"There are some tragedies that are too big for a heart to hold, and they defy any description that makes sense. Time weaves its way through the shock, the hurt, and the inexpressible feelings, and one day you discover that in the process of daily survival, you have instinctively made decisions (good and bad), defined your theology, formed an opinion about God, and determined that you will either curl up and die emotionally or you will choose life."
"The terrifying but truthful fact is that, in choosing life, you realize it will never match the kind of life that was in your carefully thought-out plan for your future. It will force you to view people around you differently. The brokenness will challenge you to new levels of personal compassion. It will melt your pride, diminish the importance of your carefully designed agenda, and it has the potential to develop an unshakable faith that defies rationality."
We can not always change our circumstances, but we can allow our circumstances to change us in a positive way. God has given us the ability to make choices and to choose how we react to all situations. I choose to live.