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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ever closer

     It has been looming in front of me, for the past few months. I knew that it was approaching, yet I tried to forget. My focus shifted to so many things, but I never allowed the reality to truly sink in. Yet here it is, we have entered into the month of June. The month of my daughters birth. The month of hello, and the month of goodbye. The month that forever changed my life.
     Sometimes I still wonder how we made it this far. How I have managed to carry on, even though I feel like my heart is still missing. I wonder how I continue to smile, and to laugh, and to feel true joy in my heart. I wonder how I manage to get up each morning, to the silence of the house around me. I wonder how I get past the ache that I feel each day, when I realize that my arms are still empty. I wonder how my heart continues to love, when it has lost so much.
     This month should be marked with happiness, with joy, and with great celebration. A one year birthday is a really big deal. It is a day where I should be snapping pictures of my sweet little girl, as she greets the day with bright eyes, a wide smile, and those joyful baby noises. I should be decorating the house in pink, planning her birthday party, and shopping for a special birthday dress. I should be reflecting over all of the accomplishments and milestones that have occurred since the day of her birth.
     Instead, I walk into an empty room. A room that never held my precious daughter. A room that was filled with so many hopes and dreams. A room that will now forever only be, a should have been. Instead I open my carefully sealed dresser drawer, and pull out two beautiful pink dresses. Dresses that I bought many years ago, when having a baby was only a hope for the future. Dresses that are marked "one year" and would fit her perfectly during these upcoming summer months. They will forever bring tears to my eyes, and pain to my heart. I should be dressing her up, and watching her toddle through the grass in the sunshine. Instead I open up the mailbox, and find an Oriental Trading magazine. It is a "first birthday" edition, with a happy looking little girl smiling on the front. Surrounding her is a cascade of pink birthday decorations. I never receive Oriental Trading catalogs, so why now? Why this? Instead of eagerly flipping through the pages to find the perfect decorations and themes, I threw it angrily across the room. The rest of my day spent in heartbreaking tears, as I faced the awful, painful, heartbreaking reality. My daughter is not here for her birthday.
     As I look at the date today, I realize that at this time last year, we only had ten days left with Caroline. We had no way of knowing when she was going to arrive, and we prayed with all of our hearts to be given until her due date at the end of July. But God had other plans for her birth. He had her life in His powerful and mighty hands right from the very beginning, including that early Tuesday morning. He knew exactly what moment she would enter into the world, and how many breaths that she would take. He knew that we would fall in love with our sweet little baby as we marveled at her tiny features. He knew that she would fit perfectly in our arms. He knew that there would be joy as we celebrated her life, and spoke gentle loving words into her little ears. He knew that she would be loved by so many, and held with such care. He knew that the tears would fall, and He held each one in His hands. He knew that saying goodbye would be incredibly difficult (the hardest thing we have ever been asked to do), and somehow He filled our hearts with peace. He knew that the ride home would be lonely, and dark, and painful, and yet He filled us with His Presence. He knew that we would ache to hold her, touch her, and care for her, but He gave us the love and support from so many. He knew that there would be tears, screaming, anger, questions, and sadness, but He never abandoned us. He knew that the silence would be deafening, and that the time seemed to stop, but He gave us the strength to keep walking forward, one step, one moment, at a time. He knew. He was there. He provides.
     The next ten days leading up to what should be Caroline's first birthday are not going to be easy. I know that there already have, and probably will continue to be moments when it hits me very hard. Those little triggers are so unexpected, and out of my control. I know that the days will be filled with memories of one year ago, and the sadness of all that we have missed. I wish with all my heart that it could be different. I wish that she was here with me right now. But reality sinks in once again, and I have to make a choice. The same choice that I make each and every day. I choose to focus on the blessings, the joy, the memories, and also embrace the grief. I choose to take another step forward, one day at a time. I choose to remember my daughter, and to celebrate her life. I choose to focus on my blessings, and thank God for giving me joy in my heart. I choose to live life to the fullest, because I know that is what she would want. I choose to be sad, and angry, and hurt, and to just feel, because I know that it is all a part of grief. I choose to love her more and more with each day that goes by, because she will always be my heart.
     As I anticipate the arrival of June 17, I do not know what to expect. I do not know how I am going to feel, or what I am even going to be able to do. There is once again so much unknown. It is hard to prepare yourself for a day that scares you completely, that breaks your heart all over again. All I want is to have her here. I want that so badly. But knowing that she is not here, makes me want to remember her in a special way. As her mom I still feel like my job is to protect her, to take care of her, and to honor her. I know that those feelings will never go away. So on her birthday I feel like it is important to do something special for her. I do not know what that is yet, but I am praying for God's leading.

     I know that the days to come are going to be really tough. I have already had some really rough days leading up to the month of June. But I am so thankful for God's faithfulness to me. He has truly brought healing to my heart during the past year. Even though it has come through tiny baby steps, and sometimes I feel like I take a giant step backward before I can continue moving forward, I truly feel that there is hope in front of me. One of the greatest sources of healing has come through Caroline's little brother. Noah has brought so much joy back into my heart. As I feel his precious little kicks and movements, I thank God for the gift of his life. I am so grateful that God has blessed me with this sweet little boy, and I eagerly await the day that he is placed in my arms.
     I also feel healing in my heart when I sit outside. When I smell the lilacs, feel the gentle breeze, see the puffy white clouds in the sky, and hear the birds chirping happily. Those simple blessings bring joy to my heart, and they fill me with hope. Also, weekends with my family and husband up north by the lake, celebrating our 5 year anniversary, beautiful flowers, and of course, ice cream! These things have all become a part of my healing journey, and I will never again take them for granted. I am so thankful that God has brought all of these moments of joy into my life, as they mix with the sadness and grief. Before walking down this journey I never would have understood how you can have both at the same time. After all, when we are happy we are not suppose to be sad at the same time. Yet that is the journey of grief. It is a dance. It is a constant mix between sadness and joy. This has become my new normal, and although it is far from easy, I know that it is going to be okay. I cannot imagine my life any other way. It is because of Caroline that I can miss her so deeply it hurts every inch of my body, and yet I still smile. She has brought such joy to my heart, and I will forever be thankful for her. As I approach her birthday in just ten short days, I know that there is going to be much sadness, and much grief. I know it is going to be really hard. Yet I am thankful for the glimmers of light that continue to shine through. I am thankful for the hope that comes only from the Lord, who continues to be my strength.

 Though the Lord brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.                                              Lamentations 3:32

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I hope in Him!"
                                                                   Lamentations 3:22-24

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