Sunday, September 28, 2014

An Unusual Peace

You may think that this post is about Andrew's recent birthday (ELEVEN!!), but it's not.
I chose to only write about that day in his journal- not here.

This post is about something that happened just last week- and when I heard the words "Unusual Peace" at church today, I couldn't help but be taken back to that moment.  I realized it was time. To take a moment, pause and exhale (through my words).

You see, I am not someone without worry. In fact- I DO worry!  I worry about things like money (although I don't really need to), my children's happiness, political changes that affect my job~
But when it comes to those serious things you think I SHOULD worry about~ I don't.
I have had an "Unusual Peace."

And I've had it twice now.

The first (obviously), I've mentioned many times before on here.  The night I became a mother. The room was quiet. I knew he was gone and yet I had the strangest feeling of peace.  That everything was going to be OK.  I don't understand it now, I didn't really think about it then. But that's what it was.
An Unusual Peace.

So on to that second time~

Ironically, it started back on September 15th~ the eleventh birthday of my boys.  As I do every year, I went to my OB and then I went for my first mammogram~ a baseline. It was no big deal and after I spent the afternoon in the garden, talking to Andrew, lighting his candles and watching his balloons soar as tears streamed down my face.  But there was a peace.  An understanding.  When I look back at the entry in my journal, I wrote about the word "stay."  I had heard it so many times on the radio that morning and it stuck with me.  I had so wished him to stay but that afternoon I felt he had, he never really left me~ not really. An Unusual Peace.

But those moments surrounding Andrew have happened before. None like that first September 15th, but they have happened.

And then~

I got a call later in the week that I needed to come back for a second mammogram.  While they told me the first time that they had gotten 'good' pictures and that I'd probably see them next year, they asked me to come back.  I figured once they REALLY looked at the pictures perhaps they realized that something was blurry (or something).  I have no history of breast cancer and I was checked a few years ago for something that turned out to be an inflamed milk duct.  
When I went back, it was clear to me that their call was not about blurry pictures...

This time there were more pictures than my first time and when I was done (and the 'good' pictures were taken), instead of having me get dressed again, I was asked to sit back in the back waiting room in my gown.  I watched as three other women who came after me, got dressed and left.  I thumbed through magazines trying not to think about it~ but I was.

Another lady then came to get me and said they needed to do some ultrasounds.
I was right.  This was certainly more than a 'blurry' picture.

I walked calmly to the dimmed room and watched the screen of blacks and grays emerge as she did my ultrasound.  This was so different from ultrasounds I have had before- no blinking heartbeat or outline of a baby~ just an ocean of grey blotches- 

At one point, she zoomed in and clicked a button on her machine that brought up a rectangle around a certain area.  The screen lit up in color around where she had zoomed in and I piped up, "Is that showing blood flow?  I seem to remember that from the ultrasounds I had when I was pregnant."  She let me know it was and that that was good.  What she was looking at was a lymph node because the blood was present.  I exhaled a bit and thought about that enlarged milk duct.  How my breasts were amazing!  They had fed four of my kids after all- kept them alive.

She did a similar thing to my left breast.  I heard the click of the button but unlike the first time, the color was not present.  I didn't really know what this meant.  I had this feeling that this ultrasound was bad news, but I couldn't be sure.  There was no denying the bad news when I saw Andrew or E- their chests silent~  but this... I didn't know what it was but I assumed it was bad. 

She gave me some towels to wipe the gel and told me to lay back and take a little nap.  She'd be back as soon as she spoke with the doctor.  When I asked her if she would tell me if it was bad news, she said they absolutely would.

I watched her leave the room as I laid my head back on the table and let my eyes close.  I tried to process everything that had just happened and what I felt was probably happening.  They had found something.
Where I normally should have been crying or worried or scared~ I wasn't.
It had found me.
That Unusual Peace.

I remember lying in that same hospital. Staring at a ceiling and feeling it.
Laura, you're going to be OK.  I got this.
I thought about Jeff, and the kids and that began to worry me, but then I heard it again. I felt it again.
That Unusual Peace.
I was quite calm as I thought about how I would tell my husband, my parents, my children.
I thought about who I would try to get to sub for me if I was too sick to teach.
I thought about what a strong lesson it would be for others.
Me~ I've already learned this lesson.
I talked to God.

I would think about my husband~ the kids~ and I still went back to that feeling. This was going to be OK.  Bad things can have the happiest of endings.  Andrew taught me that.  These horrific things can grow you and change you and open your eyes to the most incredible of blessings.
I got this.

I sat and listened to the ticking of the clock and with each beat I felt it. Peace.  I willed it to grow. 
And it did.

The door opened and the ultrasound tech who had examined me said I was all set and could go.
She said she'd see me next year.

That was it?
That was it.

And then I worried.  Something had to be wrong.  They didn't call me back for more pictures and THEN ultrasound me if they didn't see something! But, I thanked her, wrapped my arms around me and headed back to get dressed.

So much like that night- the peace- and then the worry that following.  The wonderings.

I plan to call my doctor and ask more about the results.  What prompted more testing? Why had they ultimately decided to just let me go?  SHOULD I be worried?

I try to go back there~ to find it~ that Unusual Peace, but it's gone again.

I know it will find me.  It always does in those moments and places where and when I need it most.

And should you need it,
I pray it finds you too.
That it will let you know~
You got this.
Don't be afraid.
That Unusual Peace is there for the taking and I can tell you without a doubt.
There is nothing better.

I went back to Andrew's journal. The one word I kept hearing.
He never left.
Unusual Peace.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Top Ten Things You Should Know

Tonight I sat through Joey's LAST curriculum night of Elementary School.  

It is September and of course my mind is all over the place.
Tomorrow is the six year anniversary of my losing E.
September 15th with be the 11th year anniversary of my kissing Andrew goodbye.

But tonight, I thought about Joey.

As we were leaving his school, we saw a piece hanging in the hallway.  "The Top Ten Things You Need to Know about Joey" it read.  I have to say as I went over each number, I secretly loved that he remembered his brother.  I also openly loved that his brother wasn't the number one thing about him. Finding a balance between Joey and Andrew has been difficult at times.  Andrew is a part of his story, but there is so much more to him.

He is Joey.

10- He makes comic books on his desk.
9- He likes all kinds of pasta and soup.
8- He's been to Fort Mackinaw.
7- He saved his brother's life.
6- He's been in an underground cave.
5- He used to live across from Commerce.
4- He was born with a twin brother that died.
3- He has a pet baby parrot.
2- He lives close to most of his friends.
#1... He ran in a 5K race.

Reading his list made me smile.  Of course I knew all of these things (and so much more) but what HE chose is what made me smile.  I could add a million more things that you should know about Joey, but instead I'll add to what he already told you~

To me.
He is Joey.

10- His mom loves how talented he is at drawing the expressions of others through his art. He is amazingly talented and was able to read (and draw) expressions at a very young age.
9- His mom loves that he says her mac-and-cheese is the BEST- especially because it is one of the only things she cooks (dad is the chef) and comes out of a blue box.
8- His mom loves his interest in history.  Something that the two of them share though perhaps he doesn't know it.  She also loves that he questions the same current events that she does.
7- Not only did he save one of his younger brothers when he fell in the water before he could swim, he saved his mom when she was drowning in her own grief.  He continues to be an anchor for her.
6- His mom loves that he has a sense of adventure and while he really has been in an underground cave, she loves that he can create all sorts of caves in their house even if it's with some sheets and cushions.  He has an AMAZING imagination.  One that she hopes he will never lose!
5- He used to live in the house where he and his brother grew in his mom's belly.  She would sit in that rocking chair and sing to them and read them both books.  They would kick and get so excited when they heard her sing (or perhaps they were telling her to stop). :-)
4- He was born with a twin brother that died and his mom LOVES that he remembers that but LOVES even more that he is JOEY. JONASEN. JOE. The one who was meant to stay and be here and be all these amazing things.  She loves that he stayed.  He has important things to do in this life.  He's already done so very, very much (see 7). She can't wait to see what his future holds and enjoys every minute of the journey with him (well... most minutes). 
3- He has a mom who is obsessed with animals... dogs... fish... tortoise... bird... She hopes Joey never asks for a snake or tarantula!  She loves animals~ but not all equally.
2- One thing his mom hears again and again from his friends' parents is how kind he is.  How well mannered he is.  How sweet he is to others.  While she already knows all of this, hearing it from others makes her swell with pride.  
1- His mom LOVES that he runs and is healthy.  She also has begun running and makes sure to put in at least a half hour of exercise before she starts her day.  While walking in the summer, a man saw his mom walking and told her, "That's the most important thing you're going to do today!"  She remembered that and tells herself that on days she doesn't want to hit the treadmill- which is almost every day.

Running on the treadmill to be a healthy mom WAS the most important thing she did today.
The most important thing she will do tomorrow is read her son HER top ten "Joey Take" on Joey.

He makes her smile.
He lightens her spirit.
He makes her dance, and sing, and love.
Because he is.

Monday, September 1, 2014


Although I'm a teacher and still trying to cling to that "not knowing what day it is" mode, I woke this morning with a strange feeling.  And I remembered.

It's September.

It's been eleven years and I still don't know how I feel about September.

It's the month I lost my son.  Learned what it felt like to have a piece of my heart die.  The month I held him, loved him, turned from him as the nurse placed him in his bassinet so I wouldn't have to see him leave me~ forever.

It's the month I became a mother. Looked into the eyes of my son. Learned what it felt like to have a piece of my heart beat outside my body.  The month I first held him, loved him, nursed him, took him home to start this great adventure of life together.

September is when my life ended.  September is when my new life began.
A story that often has two parts.
Sadness.  Joy.
Anger. Forgiveness.
Pain. Love.

Early on I believe my brain made a choice.  Even in those early moments, seeing that beautiful pink baby at my side~ knowing he was getting colder~ staring at those eyes~ knowing they would never open~ I made a choice.

I would not waste this.  I would make him matter.  Always.

Yesterday I was in church and the message was "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

I have found myself asking that same question over the years.

When my friend's mom was diagnosed with cancer.
She lost her son.
Her husband had a stroke.

Another friend struggled with infertility for years.
Finally became a mother to a beautiful little girl.
Her daughter diagnosed with cancer at six week old.

And just this morning learning that my friends' seven year old daughter died last night.  
A little girl who survived when her triplet brother and sister did not.
She's now reunited with them.


There are so many questions that I have, that I know will never be answered.
So many "Whys?"

That first September, I experienced my worst and best moments.  Separated only by one minute.
10:35.  10:36.

That first September I chose to make him matter.
To "Not waste the Pain."
To make Andrew count.
To learn from him.

And this September, I plan to do the same~
As I watch my eleven year old start his last year of elementary school.
Play on the soccer field.
Tickle the ivories.
Smile. Laugh. Hug.
As I watch one, I will also remember the other.

September Sucks.
But how grateful I am (and always will be).
For September.

(Please keep Rick, Kathy, and Cali in your prayers as they are missing their daughter/sister so very much. God-speed sweet Morgan. Dance and run with your siblings. Smile. Laugh. Hug.)