Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Today I strapped on my shoes, bundled up, put my music in my ears and went for a walk. I love going walking. The fresh air- the time I spend with myself. Time with my thoughts. Time with God. Most of my 'moments of pause' happen when I am walking. Today was no different.
Recently I read something that stuck with me.
"Not everything happens for a reason."
It made me sad. And yet I understood it.
What reason is there for suffering? What reason is there for the death of a child? What reason is there for hope and then having it snatched from you- right beyond your grasp? There are so many things that I do not know the reason for.
I think that the quote was right. Not everything happens for a reason...
But then again... It can...
I could have chosen to take my feelings of loss and despair and keep them to myself. I could have chosen to deny Andrew's existence- most of the people I know now would have no idea that I had a son- that I lost a son- even my children would not know had I chosen to keep this pain to myself.
And I did ponder it... though only for a moment... Would it be easier if Joe never knew he had a twin? But then what about his birth certificate? What about those pictures of me pregnant- with two full term babies...
And yet I had a choice. I could have kept it. I could have 'crossed those bridges' when they came. I could have chosen to deal with "it" in other ways.
But I didn't.
The night that Andrew was born- the moment I kissed him that last time and turned away as they took him from me- that silent night- I knew. I made a promise. I would give this reason. I would say his name so that everyone I knew would hear it. I would not forget that baby. And I wouldn't let you. I decided to give it reason- though at the time I had no idea what that reason would be- how it would look- what it was.
Isn't that life?
We choose what to give reason to and what not to? We can choose to hold on to pain- or to let it go. We can choose to share our grief with others- or keep it to ourselves. We can choose to say their names- or simply feel them in our hearts. And it is our choices that make us who we are and how we choose to impact others.
No. Not everything has to happen for a reason. But he did. He happened. And because of him...
I know pain.
I know love.
I know forgiveness.
I know grace.
I know peace. True peace.
Because of him...
Twins are born before their (40 week) due dates.
Families who have lost a twin will have a picture of their twins together.
Parents in this journey will be able to meet someone who has been there and can walk with them through this.
Because of him...
I have three other children who would not be here.
Because of him...
I am wiser.
I am kinder.
I am more patient.
Because of him I have met some of the most amazing people who have walked this earth. People I would not have known, had I not chosen to share him.
Because of him...
I am a better wife.
A better mother.
A better teacher.
A better friend.
Give meaning to the life that has changed yours.
Don't keep it to yourself.
Over my years, the reasons keep coming and I can share a smile with heaven knowing I got that from them. Do I miss them? Yes. Do I think about them still? EVERY day.
But 'tis the season to give.
And today I give you my reason.
My reason for living and moving and waking up each morning.
They have shaped me and made me who I am and- though a work in progress- I will embrace it.
And give it reason.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
To watch this on YouTube, click HERE.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The First Christmas without their mother.
Perhaps the person they are missing has been gone for months- time for the outside world to go back to 'business as usual'- back to 'life as we know it'- back to 'normal'.
But for most of those people- the first Christmas will be anything but normal.
It may be the anxiety of wondering what they will feel on that first Christmas. The hole left from the person who was for so long- a part of the gatherings- or the person who was dreamt of- who would be there amidst wrappings and laughter- the first Christmas.
For me that first Christmas happened only months after he was gone. I hardly felt like celebrating but I went through the motions. I felt I had to. After all, I had much to be thankful for- there would be one more stocking added to our mantle... but I had wanted two.
I hardly knew how to feel- happy- sad- blessed- cursed- And though I tried to get a grip on my emotions, I look back now- eight Christmases later- and I wonder why. Why did I have to 'understand'- why did I have to try to 'feel' something- for hadn't I learned- even in those few months that had aged me more than all my year's previous, that feelings are not right or wrong- they simply are?
A man approached my husband recently. His wife had lost a baby. As my husband was telling me the story I winced when he said, "It was early- only ten weeks or so..." And instead of jumping on what he had said- sharing with him that it does not matter 'how long' I simply asked, "What did he say?"
"He said that they had lost the baby a while ago and that he had recalled us losing a baby(E). When I asked how he was doing, how she was doing, he said, 'She's getting better. I think she'll get over it soon.' to which I replied, 'Really? I don't think I'll ever be 'over it'."
And so I got to thinking... what makes us so different? What makes one grieve a lifetime and another's world start suddenly spinning again?
I don't know.
But I do know that though you may not see it. There is a chance- that that first Christmas- and perhaps even that eighth Christmas- they may be thinking- wondering- dreaming of what it should have been like- what it could have been like-
That First Christmas.
Thinking of you on your First Christmas- your 91st Christmas- and all those Christmases in between- missing them.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
If you could have chosen for Jonasen to be a singleton so that you would not know the pain of losing a child, would you?
It's an easy question. One that I can answer without skipping a beat.
Jonasen grew with his brother. My heart grew for Jonasen and his brother. For them, I am thankful.
It is an odd thing to say that I am thankful, so I feel the need to clarify. I am not thankful that I never was able to see the color of their eyes, soothe their cries while holding them to my breast, laugh at them as my heart burst with pride... because those are things I will never have.
But early on in this journey, I made some conscious decisions. I decided that I would thank God for what I do have, because for twenty minutes on that fall night, the doctor had told me what I didn't have. He told me that I had lost them both. But he was wrong, and for that I am thankful.
I am thankful that Andrew and E have made me pause. I can see the beauty around me, and I know there is a God. And I know He has my children. Prior to being their mother, life went fast. They have allowed me to slow, to remember, and to be thankful.
For every second, every day, every moment that their heart beat in me was a miracle. I am saddened that for some they didn't even have that- though they dreamed of it still.
Driving home from church today, I was quiet. Thinking of all that I am so thankful for- my sweet angels included- when I thought of him. Wondered how he was. It had been years.
I remember hearing about it. A man had lost his wife and son. She had died in childbirth. I remember being at a loss. A complete and utter loss. I spent two days thinking about him non-stop and finally grabbed a pen, looked in the phone book, found his name and penned a card. I felt I had to let him know, that I was thinking of him, praying. Though my words seemed so small, I had to do something. I signed the return address, "A Stranger Who Cares".
Two days later, my phone rang. The voice on the other end was one I did not recognize. When he said his name though, my heart stopped. For I had just written his name on an envelope. After stating his name, he said, "You were wrong. You are not a stranger." As we spoke, I learned that he lived next door to a friend growing up. Suddenly I pictured a young blond boy with a head full of curls. I remembered.
He spoke, and I listened. Tears streamed down my face as he spoke of his wife. She was so excited. It was their first child and she was beautiful. Pregnancy suited her and she glowed when she entered the room. He remembered how she looked that morning, the look on her face. She was concerned. She could not use the bathroom and so late in pregnancy, she found it odd.
They went to the hospital and it was there that they learned. She was sick. Something was terribly wrong and there was rushing and efforts made. He stayed with her still. And then they told her. The baby was gone. He told me of the tear that fell from her eyes. He knew she'd be going too. She could not let her baby go alone. And she did.
I found it hard to breathe. The way he described- it was the ultimate love story. He spoke of how he imagined them together. He never did see his son. He could have, but figured he should stay with his mother, in the place that had been a safe haven for him for those days, months, and moments when he kicked, and grew and listened to their voices, felt their love. They were buried together.
And though his world had suddenly changed more than anything I could imagine, he spoke so highly of his wife's love for their son. In that moment, he did not focus on his grief, he focused on her love. He was so proud. He was so thankful. For she was grace, she was beauty, she was an amazing mother.
So this week, as I reflect and think about all that is good in the world. I think not of loss and sorrow- but what can be left in spite of it. I think of strength, of healing, of grace. I hope that it finds you this season.
And I hope that despite your sorrow, you can look to those heavens, know there is love- know they are safe- and know they are there- just a whisper away.
Thank you Andrew.
Thank you E.
You have opened my eyes to a grace that is given so freely that sometimes I feel that it overflows to those around me. You have made me a member of a community where I have met the most amazing and inspiring people. You have changed my life.
For the Better.
And for that, I am thankful.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Today we were talking (as You and I often do) on my way into work. It was such a beautiful sunrise and the way the sun broke through the fog was breathtaking- I sometimes lack words. And I did- silence- but the tears said it all and I know you read my heart, felt my exhale. Of course it made me pause- and made me think of him, of them, of You.
I sometimes wonder, why me. Not why you chose to give me Andrew or E, or why you chose to take them away (though that of course is a question...) but I was thinking about my faith, and I wondered, "Why me?"
When I listen to others who are struggling with You, angry with You, crushed with You... I nod. I understand fully and completely. I know that You nod too. You've felt it too. You felt it when it was me.
But I sometimes wonder why me? Why was I able to be so angry with You, scream at You, and then in moments feel that sweet release? Feel as if You scooped me up off that floor and held me. Feel as if You carried me. Why me? Why not them?
I wish somehow I could tell them to wait. That it's ok. That You will be there for them tomorrow, in a year, or in a decade. I wish somehow they knew that the best thing about You is that no matter how angry we get, how furious... You are always there waiting, feeling what we feel, ready to embrace us again, and carry us.
So tonight Lord, there is someone out there. Someone somewhere who is ready. They are beaten and battered and they have nothing left. I pray that You would find them and scoop them up off that floor, like You did me, on so many dark nights.
And if they aren't ready for You, I pray that You would send them someone. Someone to listen and feel. For a child's absence can feel so suffocating, so lonely, even though You are right beside us.
I feel Your peace tonight. I pray that they feel it too. If only for tonight. Sometimes that is enough.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I didn't say anything at all. I simply went downstairs, kissed my children goodbye thanked my mother for watching them and left for work. I phoned my mother when I got to the car. I told her the news and asked her to take care of Rocky after she got the kids on the school bus. She did.
I thought about Rocky all day. I thought about Joe. I dreaded breaking the news to him and ran a million ways that I might tell him, through my mind.
There wasn't a good time to break the news to Joe. While playing after dinner I finally couldn't take it anymore. "Joe," I said. "I have some sad news. Rocky died." "He did?" To my surprise, Joe didn't seem very upset. I breathed a sigh of relief and said that perhaps we could get a new fish soon, since he really did such a wonderful job taking care of Rocky while he was alive.
Our night continued as usual.
And then I heard it. Sobs. Coming from Joe's room. I ran up the stairs and saw him. Head on his dresser next to an empty tank. Sobs. I gathered him in my arms and carried my seven year old to the glider in his room and just held him as we cried.
I remembered. I went back to the emptiness of the room. The crib being gone, and the chair. I remember how it sent me into uncontrollable sobs. Uncontrollable heartache. I watched him cry and I knew how that felt. And while it was 'just' a fish. Sad is sad and my dear son's heart was breaking.
Joe couldn't talk. He tried, but the words wouldn't form. And so we prayed. We thanked God for Rocky the fish. We thanked God that he was such a good fish to Joe and we asked God to take good care of Rocky. And that is when Joe's sister asked if maybe God could give Andrew Joe's fish... perhaps he would like to watch a blue Betta. Suddenly I had an image of another seven year old, head in his hands as he watched a blue Betta flutter and glide. I wondered if Andrew would have liked a fish. If he would have chosen a blue Betta like Joe's... Another question I will never know.
And as my mind was going to that place, Joe's sobs subsided and he said, "Mom? Do you think I could write about it?" I was so completely shocked that for a moment, all I could do was nod.
Joe has no idea that I have been writing letters to his brother. He has no idea that it was through my writing, my letters to Andrew, that I found my way. It was through my writing that I learned about my grief, found my way, found my peace.
And so I watched as Joe took his pencil and began to write. He wrote in silence for a while, drawing pictures and then forming his thoughts into words. As he began tears steamed down his face still, but I watched as after a while his breathing calmed and his pencil flowed. I watched as a smile crept across his face, remembering... dreaming...
He found soup for his soul in the form of a pencil.
And tonight I found soup for my soul in the form of a seven year old writer.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
His brother's name.
And we both kissed it and knew that it would soon make its journey past the clouds to the heavens. It would fly to the sky where Andrew could see just how grown up his twin was. See how he could write his name. How much he has grown these last seven years. Seven years since they shared that space together, listening to the beat of my heart.
We were in a sea of blue, pink and white balloons when I saw it. Andrew's balloon slipped through Jonasen's hands and meandered it's way up into the crystal blue sky. It was a beautiful sight. I watched as it's string danced in the wind. I watched as it seemed to get smaller and smaller as it traveled further away from us. And then I watched as my little boy flung his arms around me and sobbed, "It left too soon!"
Left too soon.
All I could think was, "Yes, it left too soon. He left too soon."
And I know that there is not a mother or father on this earth who wouldn't have given the world for one more hour, one more minute, one more moment with their precious child.
But those who were there- gathered at the garden- all knew that feeling. All lived it. For all of us had a child who had left too soon.
I gathered Joey in my arms and we cried. He for the balloon that left too soon, me for the boy. I turned him around and we looked at the sky and I whispered, "Watch it Joe. It's going. It's on its way. Watch it."
We sat and cried and stared, watching the lone balloon as it traveled further and further away on its path- and finally- it was gone.
After a moment he turned to me and said, "You know what mom? I think that Andrew is up there." And with a gesture he said, "And he just scooped his arms through a cloud and gathered up his balloon. I think he liked it."
I think he liked it too.
But there was another balloon left to set sail. Ali Jane held tight, not wanting to let it go. Wanting to hold on.
Wanting to hold on, until it too left, and we watched, and wondered and imagined... two arms reaching down through the clouds, smiling at her very special balloon. With one letter on it, written by her sister.
Where do balloons go? It's a mystery you know. But just hold on tight, until it's time, to let go...
Friday, October 1, 2010
I often wonder when I got here.
-The place where peace lives.
Today I looked all around me and saw what was good. I saw white fluffy clouds in a brilliant blue sky.
I saw leaves beginning to change as one season ends and another begins.
I heard laughter in the distance.
I felt the sun.
I saw life.
And I felt peace.
I remember when I couldn't see the stars. It didn't matter how bright they were, I could not see them. I remember when I couldn't hear the laughter, because my pain was much too loud. I remember when I could only think of him, his absence- and cry. And had He grabbed me by the hand and led me to that place, I don't think I would have seen it. I would not have arrived. I wasn't ready. My heart was not ready.
Today I thought of him, as I so often do. And while I wondered what he would be like, what his dreams would be, and of course the color of those eyes- I would have given anything to gaze into those eyes- ah if just for a moment...
Today I thought of him. I felt peace. Perhaps that is odd, but knowing he was beyond those clouds. In a place far better than here. Beyond those clouds but just a whisper away... Beyond but watching. Watching with those eyes... Watching from that place. Sun on his face. And I know that place because sometimes I feel it. The place where peace lives.
I wonder when it was I got here. Did I wake up and find myself here? Or was it gradual? Did I arrive so slowly that I didn't even notice my leaving? Did it find me or did I find it? Did it tiptoe across my heart, find it's way into my soul? Did it sneak in on my breath? Find its way into my clenched fists? Lead me here? Soften me?
When did I arrive? And perhaps more importantly... will I stay? For if there is one thing I have learned traveling this road, it is that feelings aren't right or wrong, they simply are- Feelings- not to be controlled- but to be.
There are days where I question- where I wonder, why me? why you?
And there are days- like today- when peace finds me and I think, 'why not me?' Because I know that he's there. Beyond those clouds. Sitting in a field of gold, watching the most amazing sunsets of purples and oranges- Oh yes. He is there. But he's not alone. Where peace lives. Close my eyes and I can see it. Today I live there too.
I thought of you today.
Said a prayer.
Hope you find your way soon- or that it would find you.
But until then, I will walk beside you on this road of uncertainty. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring, but being thankful for today. I walk with you on this journey- for though it can feel so very lonely, I take you by the hand, lead you there, though you may not feel it yet.
Yes. You will find it. Or it may find you. When the time is right.
The place where peace lives.
And I am so very thankful for those moments- The moments I find it... or does it find me?
Does it matter? For today I have arrived in that place.
And with him beside me- whisper thank you- because he was. And for today, that is enough.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I was in a white T-shirt and khaki shorts and they were the only thing that I could wear at that point. You and your brother were getting so big! I had to sleep sitting in a chair because you were so heavy on my lungs.
Seven years ago, I wondered if today would be the day. My calendar had a big circle around the 22nd. I was sure that was the day you would be born. 40 weeks.
Seven years ago, I got a call. She said it was time. I nearly ran through the hospital. I couldn't wait to meet you!
Seven years ago, I changed. You were gone. He was here. But I didn't know where I went... I sometimes wonder what happened to me... Where did I go?
Today it was warm. The sun was out. I bought your balloons and I drove to your garden. And then it happened... I just started saying it. Saying it out loud.
"Andrew! Don't forget your backpack!"
"Andrew, what kind of ice cream do you want?"
"Andrew! Go to your room!"
"Andrew honey, what book do you want to read?"
"Andrew... Oh God my sweet Andrew... Do you know how long my heart has somehow continued to beat? Continued to keep me going? Continued..."
How did that happen? How is it I am still here, and you are not?
I said your name over and over because for seven years I've dreamt of saying those things. Saying those words and so many, many more. I've dreamt of calling your name... and of you calling mine.
My tears fell today and like those nights that I spent alone calling your name, I wondered if they would ever stop. Seven years. Seven.
But I sang to you.
Blew out your candles.
Wrote to you.
And sent seven balloons with seven kisses to a seven year old who I miss more than anything...
Did you see my message on that balloon? I wonder what the answer is... How can I hold you so close each and every day- and yet miss you so?
Perhaps the answer is love.
For there is no other word that comes to me tonight.
Seven years after I first held you, touched you, kissed you.
I love you my son.
Now more than ever.
But tomorrow I will miss you more.
Happy Birthday. Thank Him for the sun. Thank Him for the birds and the butterflies. Thank Him for you.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I was driving to school.
I had been bleeding, but I had seen that heartbeat. I had seen it three times.
As I drove I could think of nothing more than getting through the day. Coming home. Resting with my feet up.
It was in the afternoon that things began to change. I felt some cramping and an urgency to call my doctor. I took my students to my friend's classroom and got on the phone. It was the third time I had called, needed to know it was ok. I needed to be home and yet I put on my smile and pretended all was well. As the students wrote in their notebooks I picked up mine. I begged and pleaded in my own notebook- a note to God. Please, please don't take this baby...
As the bell rang, I walked to my car as fast as I could without putting strain on my body. I needed to be home. Five minutes into my drive, I knew I wouldn't make it. I drove to my childhood home, my parents' home, and climbed up the stairs to my old bedroom. I curled up in a fetal position and prayed. I rocked and prayed.
But there was so much blood.
I had never experienced such physical pain. I cried but refused to take anything to dull my pain. I could do this for my baby. My mom was worried. My dad was worried. I cried out loud as they watched. I begged out loud.
But there was so much blood.
I called my doctor and she calmed me. Said to lay and be still. She would pray, but for now all I could do was be. Be still. I could go to the hospital but the added trauma of an examination would not be good for my baby. I cried with her.
And there was so much blood.
The pain. I wanted to leave but I was a prisoner. I could not drag myself further than the bathroom. I climbed back into my bed. And then I called.
I called my friend. A friend who had lost so much. Sons. But she had a daughter. She had bled. There was so much blood and yet her daughter was safe. Lived despite going through such horror. I called her.
I cried and asked her to tell me her story. There was so much blood, but she lived. There was so much blood, but she was safe. There was so much blood but she is here.
I clung to that. Clung to her sweet words. Clung to that hope and prayed.
Four hours later, I felt I could go. My mom drove me. My children were in bed. My husband was so worried. But I felt better. I clung to hope.
But there was so much blood.
Two years ago tomorrow we went to the doctor. Looked at the screen. And hope was gone.
There was just so much blood.
My sweet baby E. I think of you now and I picture you. A child who could walk. A child who can smile. A whole child. A child who knew that I stayed in that room and cried and begged and pleaded for you to stay... and yet you didn't. But had love been enough, you would be here. Asleep in this house. Fast asleep... But for some reason you were sent to my life for just a moment. Such a brief moment... but you left something. Peace. Your brother is not alone. He has a hand to hold. You have a hand to hold. And I feel in my soul you heard my heartbeat, felt my rocking and heard my prayers. You knew my love. You know it still. Today I look back and I wonder... what might have been had you not left me.
Two years ago.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
September: The month the heartbeat stopped. And I held his precious body. Kissed him goodbye.
September: The month the heartbeat stopped. And I could only wonder... What would have been... Who would have been...
As a teacher, this is the month there is a flurry of activity. Setting up a new classroom. Wondering what will come of the future year. Meeting the little faces that will change me.
And then it hits me.
It's another September.
Seven years ago today his heart still beat inside me. I remember wondering if it were possible for my body to stretch any more. It was hard to breathe. But I assumed the longer they were in, the better. Seven years ago today, I was different. I was excited. I was whole. And he was still here.
Three years ago today there was another's heart beating inside me. And I wondered who this last child would be? I had a feeling it was a girl. I felt great and looked forward to a March birth. Never one to hide good news, I was telling others, asking for their prayers- For though losing a child could never happen twice, I was beginning to bleed. But I was hopeful. I was broken, but healing. And that heartbeat was still here.
But it was September.
I would say that September is a horrible month. One I'd like to forget. Skip all together.
September was the month I first became a mother. The month my precious Jonasen entered my life. The month my transition to strength and grace and forgiveness began.
For now I will welcome you. For I've tried to escape you and yet you still come, again and again... For seven years I've prayed you'd forget, yet you always come. And I always find myself here. Torn. Wondering how I should feel about you. Wondering still.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Laying in the sun.
Basking in our youth.
Dreaming of the future.
We would be teachers. (check)
Marry the men of our dreams (check)
Have babies and live happily ever after (well...)
We were dreamers.
We would lay in the lake.
Dream of our futures.
And wonder where our lives would lead us.
When I think about those times I think of the poetry that I had plastered along the walls of my room, the song lyrics that spoke to my soul, the dreams that I had of the woman I would grow to be. Wondering what events would shape her.
As I think back I am drawn to one particular poem. One I have read so many times, I believe that it lives in me still-
After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn love doesn't mean leaning and company doesn't mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts and presents aren't promises
You begin to accept your defeats with your head up and and your eyes open with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone else to bring you flowers
And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong and you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every good-bye you learn.
Author: Veronica A. Shoffstall
Twenty years later we can remember those moments.
Those girls we once were.
Think of those words.
The words we spoke so many times.
A simple poem.
See their truth.
Feel their power.
For tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans.
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
But you learn.
You do learn.
And we have learned. Having spoken a goodbye that we never could have imagined- never dreamt- never had believed would lie in both of our futures...
But we plant our own garden and decorate our own souls.
Because we know that's what they'd want us to do.
Because there is a place that is so serene and beautiful and our's. A place within us that dances in the sun, sings their names knows our peace.
When you're ready.
It's there for the taking.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
My children were at play outside. They were running and laughing in the summer sun- but it wasn't this that caught my attention.
As they were at play there was a butterfly. One that seemed to frolic with them. Dance really. And while I know it is just a butterfly, it made me think of him and wonder.
Andrew would be turning seven next month! SEVEN! He'd be reading, riding his bike and probably writing like his brother. I wonder what he would say.
I watched Joe and the the butterfly that seemed to chase him, chase all of them, join in the fun.
And then to my delight another butterfly came and suddenly the laughter faded and I just watched the dance. Delighted in it. It was beautiful and peaceful. They would rise and fall, flutter and glide. They were a pair. And as I watched my heart grew.
Suddenly I had an image that I hadn't had before...
Our baby E would have been walking by now. As odd as it is, I remember feeling sad that Andrew did not have the joy that I see in our children as they play together, laugh together- but today that feeling left me. For in my mind, I could imagine him running. Running hand in hand with a toddler- what would have been our toddler. I could imagine him helping and guiding and supporting and laughing.
I could see their outline. The sun in the distance keeping them a shadow to me. But I saw them. I watched the dance. I heard the laughter.
I know he's there. I know they're there. They have been there with me, dancing around me, celebrating with me, cheering me on. They have been there all along. Supporting their mother as she learned to live again. To breathe again. To feel again.
They've been there all along.
I hold them close and yet they soar.
Tonight I saw it all.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Just a hat.
But seeing it- wearing it- brought back a flood of memories.
His mother was diagnosed with cancer. Our boy was gone. His father diagnosed with cancer.
Given a year.
He didn't quite make it that long.
My father-in-law had a personality larger than life and when I close my eyes I can still picture him- see his contagious smile- hear his boisterous laugh.
I miss him.
That last year of his life was so very hard.
I watched as he began to fade. A man that was so full of life was losing his.
A week before he left, we were all there. We sat in a crowded room and watched and prayed. Prayed that by some miracle of God, things would get better and that once again he would be sent home. Home to heal. Home to live.
But as time drew on, we knew it was the end and the nurse told us it could be any time. That some leave quickly. Others stay around for something... someone...
He didn't talk much that last week in the hospital. His breathing was labored, but he was comfortable. The medicine gave him sweet relief and for that we were grateful. I remember we brought Jonasen- weeks shy of his first birthday. He noticed him. He noticed the presence of our little boy. The one who had visited him so much in that year. Had he heard him crawling? He said something about our Joey. And though it was August, he asked if it was December.
Did the others realize like we did? December. December was when she would be born, another grandchild. The one that was growing inside of me. We were months from December, and we knew that he wouldn't make it to the first snow. My husband and I looked at one another.
I watched him closely in that time. My husband. Watched him. He had lost the son he named and now he was losing his mentor. His father. He was fragile. His faith was fragile. In the span of a year he had lost so much. I watched him and I had no words. I just took his hand. I took his hand and was still. So much. That one year aged him. Aged us. Though only in our late twenties, it felt as if we had lived a lifetime.
We stayed as my father-in-law's speech left him.
We waited. We prayed.
It was at that time I also thought of Andrew. -Though he was never really far from my mind- I missed my Andrew. A boy that would be turning one just that next month. Instead he'd be celebrating his first birthday in the heavens. Without me. I thought of my Andrew and wondered about his eyes. What color were they? I looked at my father-in-law and knew that he would learn those answers about our son. His grandson. Soon.
The nurse told us it could be minutes, days or weeks. She encouraged the family to go home, shower, leave the cold sterile room that had become the place that held their days and nights. A room that they wanted to leave, but not without him.
And so the family took turns. But someone was always at his bedside.
And that's what I remember.
Just the two of us.
My husband and I.
We sat at his bedside.
One on each side and he spoke,
"Dad. It's o.k. you can go home now. I heard you mention December. And I think I know why. But dad, it's o.k. This baby will be born and you can watch. You can watch from the heavens. Right now you need to go home. There is another grandchild that needs you. He's waiting for you. We're going to take care of mom. I promise you. You need not worry. Go home. Hold my son. Tell him that we love him. That we miss him. That one day we'll see you both again."
I looked at my husband with tears running down our faces. And though his faith was fragile. Though he was so very, very angry, and hurt, and shattered. I knew that still he still believed. Because that was all he had left.
It wasn't long after my husband spoke those words, that his father's breathing changed and while that could have meant nothing, it could also have meant something. And so my husband called his mom. She rushed to the side of her beloved. Touched his arm and whispered, "I'm here."
It was with his love at his side, knowing that she would survive, that he took his final breath. They sat there for some time. And I felt I should go. That I had witnessed something so tender. So sweet. That I should not have been there. It was so peaceful. So very, very peaceful. I left the room and walked down the hall. I sat on a bench and I cried. I looked to the heavens and said, "Grandpa's home. You are going to love him!"
He was home. Home with his grandson.
I am blessed for having known him for the time that I did. I wish I had had longer with him- as did everyone who knew him. But I also know it was time. A time for suffering to end. A time for a new beginning. And I know he held our son. He told him.
He watched that December, as his granddaughter was born. He smiled with Andrew from the heavens. He knew it would be alright. And it was.
An odd thing. Just a hat. But I remember and think of him still.
Thank you for that moment. Yet another moment in this journey that lets me know that there is a heaven. And that he's there.
Monday, July 12, 2010
By now I know that Joe has no memory of it.
No memory of sharing a home for nine months with his brother.
And while I have pictures of them, videos of them kicking at each other, writings to them- my own memories of that time, those images, and those feelings- are also starting to fade.
Starting to blur.
I worried early on that he would be forgotten. People may remember that I had a son- once... Wasn't he a twin? Which baby had the twin? What was his name? Or was it a her?
I couldn't let that happen.
I wouldn't let that happen.
And so I started to say his name. I spoke it often. I spoke it often so that they would hear it. I spoke it often so they could say it. I spoke it often so that they would remember.
And they did. And they do. And when I hear someone say his name, it makes my heart burst that he- MY son- ANDREW- was not forgotten. Even as the days and months and years pass. Even when the world started spinning again. He was remembered. He is remembered.
But I spoke his name.
And I spoke it often.
I don't talk about him as often as I once did. But others know. They read my words here. They see his name in our home. But I don't feel the need to say it as often as I once did.
But I watch him. I watch Jonasen.
My Nana Jonasen, (1/2 of the couple he was named after) is forgetting. She is not just forgetting my Andrew, she is forgetting others... the names of my living children... the things she did that day. And so we visit. We visit often and I find my children 'testing' her. Asking her what their names are through giggles. She answers them and (more often than not) remembers their names with a chuckle.
And then he does it.
He says his name.
After going over all of his siblings names (and sometimes mine too) he will add, "And then there is my brother Andrew, Great-Nan. Do you remember? He was my brother who died. He and I were born on the same day. He's in heaven. His name is Andrew. He's six just like me."
And I watch her.
I watch her as she nods and remembers.
Perhaps she remembers the night she got the call. Learned of their births. Of his death.
I watch her and I want to save her from reliving that horror. She had experienced the death of her own son, and then great-grandson. I don't need her to remember...
But he does.
He says his name. Speaks it often. So that she will remember. So that she won't forget. And as I watch him, I remember me. In that time when I did just what he did. For perhaps the same reasons. I watch him. I remember me. I remember him.
And though now it is only with his great- grandmother, I wonder if he'll start doing it with others. Or it will be enough. Enough knowing that we remember.
Time will tell.
But for now I will watch him.
And remember me.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
I had this written in my bedroom as a teenager- when the world seemed so full of material and "stuff". As decades passed, these words remain true to me still. The greatest things in life are not things.
My grandma passed away when I was just a year old. I have no memory of her and I feel sad about that. But she had a sister- my beloved Auntie Irene. Auntie never married, nor had any children. She listened to her mother who didn't want her to marry. The man she fell in love with was neither polish nor catholic and my Auntie, though in love, listened to her mother- took care of her mother and lived most of her life in her mother's home.
My Auntie Irene.
We visited often and wrote letters frequently. She was more than just an 'aunt' to me- though she would sometimes make comments that she was 'just' that... an aunt. Later when she grew too old, too fragile, to live by herself, she moved to our town. Though she missed her home, I was secretly and selfishly happy. A woman I had grown to love and respect was now living so close and because of that, I enjoyed Tuesday dinners with her each week and grocery shopping trips with just the two of us. Over that time, I gained more than I could imagine. One of my childhood mentors had become a friend.
My Auntie Irene.
I remember her face when I rushed to her apartment and held out my hand. She looked at the diamond, tears in her eyes. She was so happy for me, and yet I could see that she was also sad. Sad for herself. "It's so beautiful," she whispered. "It is just what I would have wanted."
My Auntie Irene.
We laughed together, and as she aged I would care for her, wash her feet, tuck her in bed, kiss her goodnight. As she became more and more sad about her life's circumstances, I gave her a journal and instructed her to write in it something she was thankful for each day.
On the day I took a test- a test that would tell me that in nine months another amazing woman would be born, we buried my sweet Auntie.
My Auntie Irene.
Who never wed.
Never had children...
But oh she did!
She had us!
She had me!
I can't imagine my life without her influence- without her laughter- without her guidance. I can't imagine my life without her! I sometimes wonder what if she had married, had children of her own... would she have loved me as much? Would our relationship had been as special? Would I be exactly the person I am today? Perhaps not. But the 'whatifs' do not matter now. The truth is that she loved me as if I were her child. She loved me as if I were her own. And I only pray that she knew how much I truly loved her in return.
The children that grew inside us, are not all in our lives. But children will be in our lives- if we choose to, we can be that someone- like my Auntie. We can change someone, love someone, mentor someone, share ourselves.
I do not know why my Auntie's life went the way that it did. I do not know why she passed on a lifetime of love. I do not know why. But I do know that God put me in her life for a reason and she in mine.
There will be others. Perhaps that is why. There are other lives to touch and mentor and share with. And though we wished we were touching and mentoring and sharing with the ones we are missing, I sometimes wonder if there is someone else out there that needed us more. Needed me more. Needed you more.And one day those children will grow up, and reflect and be so grateful. Grateful that the greatest things in life, are not things. And that God gave them a gift, YOU!
In that journal my Auntie wrote many things she was grateful for. She wrote that she was grateful for me, but I was oh so much more grateful for her. And I pray that she knows that. But one day I will tell her, and tell him, and tell baby E.
I love you sweet Auntie.
Thank you for being so wonderful to me.
Thank you for holding my babies until I get there.
I'll see you in my dreams.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I'd also like to wish a happy father's day to an amazing dad I know an ocean away. His words have taught me so much and while I do not want others on this journey, I'm glad that he is walking it and sharing himself with those who need it. There is no doubt that Abigail is looking down and smiling at the amazing Dad God chose for her. Happy Fathers Day!
So dads everywhere,
Wishing you peace.
PS. Please grab Nan and Mike's button and put it on your blogs for others to learn about it and if anyone knows how to make a blog button for un-tech savvy me, shoot me an email. Thanks all!
I've been watching.
I've been watching you for almost seven years now. I remember how your face looked the moment you learned that I was not going to be coming home with you. I remember how you prayed to God that somehow there was a mistake, that they were wrong, that I would grow and flourish in your home, with you and mom.
I watched you. I was with you when you hurt. I wish you could have felt me. I was there next to you all along and my only wish was that you could feel my arms as they wrapped around your neck. Could you feel me there? I know there was so much that you wanted to teach me, but I'm here to let you know I've been watching. And you've been teaching me still.
You have been a source of strength when you didn't think you could be. I know that you remember me in quiet times in your way when no one else sees. I have watched you and I hear you. I hear your prayers, your songs, your words. You have shown me that a father's love is a love that cannot be broken.
I want you to know on this day, Father's Day, I am remembering you. The one who wanted me and wants me still. I want you to know that I'm watching as your love continues to grow. I hear every word, I know every wish. I want you to know that I'm watching and waiting. For I know that one day we'll be together again and then I will be able to show you, return the love you so unselfishly have given. You've given of yourself. You've given to mom, to my brothers and sister and you've given to me.
Close your eyes dad. Know that I love you. That I miss you and that I look forward to that one day when I can look into your eyes and tell you that.
Happy Father's Day Dad.
You're amazing and you're not forgotten.
Not by me.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
She's never known a pain like this. For months she carried them. Dreamed of them. Wished for them and in a matter of moments it was gone. A bad dream. And while she tried to wake up, she couldn't. Sometimes she tries to wake up still. A bad dream. A terrible dream. And perhaps if she tries hard enough she can see him, hear him, wrap her arms around him... but he's always beyond her grasp- beyond- and it hurts. It hurts that he's gone. That he's not coming back- pain like this. Hurt.
She stands alone. Wondering if anyone has felt this way. Surely no one who has lived. Felt this way. Cried these tears. Tears that don't stop. Tears for him. Tears for her. Tears so she'll remember. Tears that they may forget. Tears that come still when others think they have long since dried up. Alone.
All that she's done is fail. Looking around she sees children. Everywhere. Children laughing, and smiling. Children who are full. Children who had mothers who brought them here safely. Kissed them in the night. Held them close. She failed him. He's gone. And had she gone in earlier- done things different...
Hang onto hurt. She did that. She did that for a long time. And when she finally began to let go, loosen her grip on it, it was too much to bear. She crumbled. Her grief was her's. A way to feel close to him again. To show her love for him. Can you let go and still hang on?
If you've been there, you know
If you're still there, hang on.
We're all dealt our lumps of coal.
But what you do with it can turn beautiful.
Peace. Peace from a little boy who sent it to her on that dark September night. The night he was born to the heavens. She felt a peace she will never forget. A peace that she will hold onto until the day she joins him. A peace she can see when she closes her eyes and can see them. Walking hand and hand into the most beautiful light. Laughing. running. Because they know. They know her love still.
You're not alone. She has an ear. To listen and to cry and to feel. To feel deeply because she's been there and she knows the pain. The pain of being so close and losing it all. The pain of dreams that are snatched away before they've even begun. An ear that will never let you feel alone.
A voice. To share her story of the deepest pain and the greatest love. The pain of a mother who lost but gained. Gained the love of a boy who knew her love before he took his first breaths- in a world beyond her own. The love of a boy that felt her heartbeat, knew nothing but warmth, nothing but love. She'll share his story. His lessons. His life. Because it mattered. It matters still.
Moments. Moments to pause and remember and love. Know that it doesn't end here. This is where it begins. This is where your story starts. Look at today. At your choices. Choose the one they'd want you to choose. Choose the one you gave them while their heart beat inside of you. Choose Love.
It's beautiful. Isn't it?
There's a life outside of your madness
And there's a face behind every scar
There's a love overflowing with gladness
Get out of that place that's restraining your love.
They'd want you to.
If just for today.
If just for a moment.
Friday, June 11, 2010
I always have.
Even that night.
Six Septembers ago.
I talked about how blessed we were.
The peace I felt.
And it was all true.
But that is not the whole story.
There was an ugly me.
Gripped by the pain of what had just happened.
Gripped by the horrific thought that my baby was dead.
Dead in the next room.
And I couldn't bear to see him again.
Not that way.
There was no peace in that.
And I hear of people who are pregnant.
Pregnant after years of trying.
Pregnant with multiples.
And I am so happy for them.
And still- almost seven years later-
I feel it creep upon me.
Why do they live?
or more importantly...
Why didn't he?
Jealousy rears its ugly head.
And normally I keep it at bay.
In those early years I would write in my journal.
The ugly me.
I would write through the pain-
The ugly me.
I worked through it and learned more and more about her.
When she would come.
And sometimes I welcomed her.
And needed her.
But every time- When I felt she would swallow me up-
my words would pour out upon wet pages
and the waves would subside.
And that peace I felt.
That peace I felt in that room- six Septembers ago-
I know that my reality is this.
This is my reality.
All of it.
Comes and goes-
Ebbs and flows-
The Ugly me.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
We are the sum of our parts.
The sum of our experiences.
There is a reason why I keep his pictures in my room. For my eyes only. For only those who ask to see him. Those pictures are him. But they are not him. Not the way I remembered him. Not the way I see him now- six years old.
I keep his pictures in my room.
It's what's right for me.
There is a reason why I announced my pregnancies early. I shudder when I hear that they've waited to share their exciting news. The news of a new baby until that 12 week safe zone. Is 12 weeks safe? 20? 39? Safe? I had no safe zone. I needed your prayers from that moment- from the moment I saw two lines.
I announced my pregnancies early.
It's what was right for me.
There is a reason why I may leave early from that baby shower. Hearing the excitement, that the clothes are washed and put away- hearing that brings me back- reminds me of a girl I used to know- a lifetime ago- and sometimes I miss her- and sometimes I may feel that sorrow- that longing to feel what it would be like to be her once again- it brings me back and I may not want to share it with you.
I may leave early.
It's what may be right for me.
There is a reason why I speak his name. To remind you. To remind me. That I once was in love with a little boy that may just have lived in my home had I went just one day earlier. Just one sweet day. I once was in love, but he broke my heart and took a piece with him. I love him still.
I speak his name.
It's what's right for me.
There is a reason why I say I have four children at home. At home. Two words you will always hear me add. For two are no longer living in my home, but in my heaven. I forgot those words once. I will never forget them again.
I say those two words.
It's what's right for me.
I don't expect you to know or understand
why I do what I do,
say what I say,
or think what I think.
I am the sum of my parts.
The sum of my experiences.
What I do is not wrong or right but it is-
What's right for me.
And the sum of my parts changes- with each life I am touched by- whether I knew you for a moment or forever. I was changed. Changed by you. And along the way I've learned that what may be right for me, may not be right for you.
And that's ok.
They may not understand now.
They may not understand ever.
But you are the sum of your parts- your experiences.
What's right for you.
Monday, May 17, 2010
A page from that first journal.
The first page.
A page written in my mother's hand.
A page from the story of my life.
The truth is that my story began long before September 15th.
There have been many chapters in my life.
I look back now and my life is a book.
A book full of chapters.
I look back at some chapters and I wonder what my character was thinking- I laugh at her mistakes and nod, knowing that she would learn from them. I smile at the times her heart was broken and she thought she would never get through- because I know that she did. I've seen her grow from child- to adolescent- to young adult- to woman. Her transformation before my very eyes.
I look back at some of the supporting characters and know that while they may have been in the book for just a chapter or two- there was a reason for that. There was a reason they were there, there was a reason why they no longer are- a chapter.
I have made peace with those chapters. Those characters I thought would be there until the end of the book, but I now know they will not be. And that is ok now.
But- I used to stay up at night, thinking of those characters. Wondering if somehow I could rewrite those chapters- make things different- change things. But in the end I know that the story was written and there was a reason for it- each laugh- each tear- each rage- all of it. It helped shape that main character. It helped shape me.
And then there was September 15th. It is a chapter I have read over and over and wished somehow that that chapter, that chapter, could have been different. I look back at September 14th and wonder if there was something she could have done- that would have had September 15th ending a different way. But there will be no revisions- no editing. The truth is the character did all she could. She carried two babies for 39 weeks. Two babies who were alive and kicking on September 14th. She had no idea what she would find on the next page and she did everything in her power-expecting September 15th to be written differently. Everything.
September 15th. Such a chapter. A chapter that has totally reshaped her character. A chapter that she looks back on still. Flips back to and learns. There is so much there- so much she is still discovering- so much still there to learn- September 15th- the reason she understands that some characters will not remain for an entire book- September 15th- the reason she understand that some new characters will be there until the final pages.
I look back and I learn.
And yet I read ahead. For I know that the best chapters are yet to come. I know that- as with every great book- as exciting and wonderful and painful as one chapter can be, the next is always better. Always.
One big book.
Still being written.
And I know it will have a happy ending.
Not the end.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I think of those with children at home. People like me. Pins upon our blouses. We wear a smile. But there is something hidden. Something we keep from you. Tomorrow we will go through our day thinking of that person. The one who made us a mother. The one who you don't see. You may not even remember. But we will.
Especially on Mother's Day.
I think of those who have no children at home. At least no children that you can see. They go to the stores- see the signs, the flowers and the cards. They watch the strollers and carts and want to scream, "I am a mother!" "I am a mother too!" But no one else sees. No one else may even remember. But they will.
Especially on Mother's Day.
And I think of those with no children at home. And none in the heavens. I think of those that prayed for months. And months turned into years. And years turned into decades. But no one came. They have done this before. And they will do it again. Remember the struggle. A struggle that no one else sees or may even remember. But they will.
Especially on Mother's Day.
We all had dreams. Dreams of breakfasts in bed, fists full of dandelions and painted plaster creations. Dreams of laughter and hugs, and sticky kisses.
Dreams of being a mother.
And we will remember those dreams.
Especially on Mother's Day.
Our journeys to 'Mother' may have taken different paths.
Paths we wished would have taken us a different course.
But we will all wonder, "Why?" And remember.
Especially on Mother's Day.
We are in this together. We are different but the same. We are in every city, state, country and Continent. We will close our eyes and dream, and remember, and wonder and wish-
Especially on Mother's Day.
Wishing you peace,
Especially on Mother's Day.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Years before I became a mother- or even a wife- I received a gift of a framed picture of a rose. Underneath it were the words, "I can complain because the the rosebush has a thorn, or rejoice because the thorn bush has a rose, it's all up to me." I love that quote still and find such truth in it and it still sits upon my desk- A reminder when I start to feel like I'm stuck in the thorn bushes of life.
It's so easy.
It's so easy to get lost in your grief- to get stuck in it. The truth is that there is nothing in this world as painful as losing someone you love. And when that someone is your child- there is an added sting. Our children are supposed to outlive us- not the other way around.
For a long time I only saw the thorns.
It was hard to see the roses.
I couldn't see them.
They didn't exist for me.
Why- Why after 39 weeks of an amazing pregnancy- Why would God not spare him? Not let him come home to us? There were no roses in that!
But the seasons passed-
And the roses bloomed and I began to see them.
I saw the roses- I saw you- I saw people who came- people who remembered- people who said his name- people like you- an entire community- I close my eyes and I can see fields of flowers- fields of blessings that all came-
because he didn't.
It still pains me that he isn't here.
It pained me today.
He missed the game today.
The one he would have played with his brother.
Their first ball game.
But he was there- watching- looking down- from his own field of flowers- that beautiful place where he waits for me. Where they wait for us- looking down- sending us roses amidst the thorns. Showering us with them- if only we open our eyes to them. Look to the heavens- tell them you're ready! See them!
Thinking of those around the world tonight and remembering.
And sending kisses to my little ball player in the heavens.
Did you see your brother today?
He said your name- spoke about you.
Makes me think you were there-
in the fields-
Thank you for that.
Monday, April 19, 2010
I wish I could see it.
Could tell you it is going to be right.
And all will be well.
Sometimes I sense it.
Can feel it for you.
Feel that peace.
I wish I could bottle it up.
Send it to you.
Pour it over you.
Drench you in it.
It was so hard.
Who is coming?
Building your family.
It seems so easy.
Live happily ever after.
But for us...
It wasn't so easy.
Because plans have a way of falling apart in mid-flight.
Crashing before our eyes.
Breaking our hearts.
But I have been there.
And picked up the pieces.
And it happened.
It does happen.
It will happen.
There is a baby in my house.
A baby who lives.
Because they didn't.
A baby who was worth it.
It was so hard.
But he was worth the worry.
Worth the wanting.
Worth the waiting.
Worth the wondering.
He was coming.
And he stayed.
And he stayed.
I wish I could bottle it up.
Send it to you.
Pour it over you.
Drench you in it.
Sometimes I sense it.
Can feel it for you.
Feel that peace.
I wish I could see it.
Could tell you it is going to be right.
And all will be well.
All will be well.
Someone will come
And you will know
Monday, April 12, 2010
For early in my journey it seemed that nothing would help.
Nothing could patch up the hurt that I felt.
The pain that I felt.
When I pictured myself becoming a mother for the first time, never in my wildest of dreams would I have guessed that my reality would be what it was. I suddenly became a woman learning to find her way. Trying to balance celebrating life with a beautiful son, while grieving another.
I felt guilty when I would cry or be sad. I had met people on a similar journey who had no living 'patches' of their own (yet) and when I would look into the eyes of my living, breathing miracle- well- crying felt like something I shouldn't do- for I felt blessed. Blessed that God had sent us two so we could keep one.
As crazy as those words were- I needed to find something- anything- to explain why it was that God had called my baby home. I sought reasons- prayed for them- but at the end of the day I knew that I really never will know 'why'. And all my 'reasons' were never enough. And that is something that I am still trying to make peace with. Still. Over six years later.
And it was in his garden that I sought answers- prayed- cried- wrote and screamed at my God. It was in that garden that I found my breath again- spent countless hours and days- rocking and sobbing and writing.
Writing him. Writing letters to a boy I won't meet. Not in this lifetime. And that is so very, very hard to accept. But I have to. It is my story.
My words here now are to explain my path- where I've been- and where I'm going- in hopes that someone, somewhere will feel a peace from it. That it will be a sort of patch to know that good does come from sorrow.
And for those who know me (or don't) who have never had the pain of losing a child- my words are to help you understand- that while time will provide patches and scabs over our severed hearts- they will never truly be healed. But you to can help. Say their name and just be.
Be an ear.
Be a patch.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
When Joey started school, did you have a conversation with the director/teacher? What other things if any, did you do?
Joey actually went to preschool at an extension of our church and while I (assume) most knew about Andrew, I did not know his teacher well and so I did tell her about their story. I wrote everything down because I wanted to make sure that everything that I felt needed to be said, was. I also wanted to make sure the teacher had that paper to reference if she needed to- and being a teacher myself, I appreciate all information I get from parents that helps me better understand their child.
When Joey went to kindergarten, I again knew his teacher and have been in regular contact with her. She has shared with me when Joey has talked about Andrew (and yes he has) and how it has gone. I will be writing another letter this summer for his first grade teacher and every year he is in elementary school. I have learned that 'Andrew' has meandered his way into Joey's thoughts throughout his six years and I know he always will. I think it is important to make sure that those educating Joey will know about this very unique piece of him.
That being said, I will also let my younger children's teachers know too. Sometimes they include Andrew and Baby E in their pictures (and sometimes they don't) But I want the teachers to know my family's story- to know that these siblings my children sometimes talk about are not imaginary friends or figments of their imagination.
(And as a side-note, Elizabeth I imagine it is hard that the director had (I assume) healthy twins. I have found that most of the parents that I know that have intact twins have been very supportive of us... but I encourage you to write a letter and explain everything you need to.)
Can you remember when you first discussed Andrew with Jonasen?
I can. It was that night in the hospital. Andrew had left us forever, my husband was asleep on a pull out chair, and I held my son, hours old, in my arms as I told him his story. I told him that his brother- who had shared all that time kicking him- had gone to heaven- that we would see him again, but not until we are (God-willing) very old. I remember those quiet moments still. Looking into his little eyes and grieving for something so big.
Throughout Jonasen's baby and toddler years I would say Andrew's name in prayers. I would say, "God bless mommy & daddy... and my brother Andrew in heaven"- I did not want there to ever be a moment where I sat him down and said, "You know how on your birth certificate it says you are a twin... well..." And so Andrew's name has always been in our house- and it always will be. Doing it like we did- every day- so innocently allowed me to be comfortable with it- to talk about Andrew without tears. In doing so, Jonasen (and his siblings) have felt comfortable asking questions and not worrying about upsetting mom or dad.
Talking about Andrew in this way- (always) was one of the best choices we made in this journey and one that I have NEVER had second thoughts about.
Have you always mentioned Andrew to him and how did he grasp and come to terms with his twin's death?
I don't know when Jonasen grasped the idea that he had a twin brother- or if he fully has yet. He has a set of twin boys in his kindergarten class now and he talks about their eyes sometimes and how they look alike. All of my living children had blue eyes, and Jonasen is the only one who has brown eyes. He has asked me about Andrew's eyes and I can't quite answer them- just tell him that one day we'll know. Because our faith as a family is so strong, there has never been any doubt that one day we will see Andrew again. I think that that has been a comfort to him. I also told him that like God can read our thoughts- perhaps Andrew can hear them too and if he ever wants to just talk to him, he can. And he does. He's talked before about his "walks with Andrew" and while they make me sad, they also make me happy. He's finding his way and I'm ever so proud of that.
Has he asked any questions about his brother and the circumstances of his birth that have surprised you?
Not yet. He asks me to tell the story of his birth often. And I do. He knows that he is the only one in the family who had a brother with him in my belly- he knows that his brother was born first and that God felt it was important to call Andrew home before we got to truly know him. Though we don't know why. He knows that God felt it important for Joey to be on this earth with us. I have written his story in his baby book and in journals of notes I kept for him for later when he is better able to understand it.
His questions don't often surprise me- as I expect them to come- but I am always caught a little off guard when they do come- without warning often. That I haven't gotten used to yet...
Did Andrew's death change how you and your husband envisaged your future family?
Yes and No. When we were married we always dreamed of having four children at home. When I first became pregnant and it was with twins, I had assumed three pregnancies to get those four children- not five-and with two losses. Getting pregnant again (each time) was terrifying- and my husband was scared too. At the time I think he was happy just having Jonasen and his sister- I really pushed to have that original dream of four at home. We now have four children at home and my tubes are tied so there will be no more fears of pregnancy for me.
Did you both feel that you wanted subsequent children? Was it something you spent a long time discussing?We knew that we wanted more than one child. We had always dreamed of having a larger family. After I lost Andrew, I wanted nothing more than to be pregnant- and I did become pregnant just seven months after we lost Andrew. While I wanted nothing more than to be able to say that I had 'children' (plural) I was afraid to 'try'. Our daughter was not planned but I knew there was a possibility of her coming if God wanted to give us another child at that time- (She was conceived while out of town and we had no birth control with us...)
What we did spend a long time discussing was the fear of losing another-and that fear was gripping. I wanted nothing more to get pregnant and grow our family time and time again. My husband was more hesitant and he feared we would lose another. Especially after losing Baby E he was petrified. I felt that I had to talk him into trying again... I did go on to have our last child after that. Knowing that was the last time that I would be pregnant was freeing. We decided that either way- baby in heaven or baby on earth- that would be the last. Before, I was worried I would always want to have 'one more baby' trying to fill something that couldn't be filled. After my last son's birth all desires to become pregnant again have suddenly vanished. That has been very peaceful too. In the end I have four children at home- but in an odd sense I feel very blessed to know too that two are waiting for us- watching us- and proud of the family we have become- very strong- very intact- we are survivors and are so much stronger for it.