Friday, April 26, 2013

With or Without

I can feel each and every beat of my heart, each breath I take. It is as if my heart and my lungs are being held in place with barbed wire, so that each time they move, I am cut. With each deep breath I try to take, I taste the metallicness of blood dripping on rusted wire. Except that's not what is happening at all. It just feels that way.

Firsts are usually celebrated. First time you found out you were pregnant. First time you heard the heartbeat. First time you found out if it was a little boy or a girl. First delivery. First cry. First feeding. First diaper. First time rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking. First time saying mama. First time riding a bike, going to school, putting the ponytail in all by herself. First dance recital, first sleepover.
I find myself now navigating this precariously fragile world of Firsts Without.

First spring day where she isn't going to ride her bike. Instead, the bike is just going to sit there. Waiting. Waiting for a girl who cannot come.

First time going to Anchor Inn and not ordering a cheeseburger because she isn't here to eat it.

First time being woken up by a storm and realizing there will be not footsteps scurrying down the hall, the door will not open, and her slender body will not fold back the blankets and slide in close.

I feel overwhelmed by Firsts Without. I could drown myself in Firsts Without: first time going to the gas station without. First time grocery shopping without. First time going to the dentist without. Without, without, without.

And then I think: did I realize there were this many Firsts With?

Did I seek out and take joy in the first time my child stood on tiptoe to fish out the mail? Or did I only notice the "important" firts? Did I seek out and take joy the first time I walked into Bed, Bath and Beyond holding the hand of my child? Or, instead, did I rattle of a list of rules: hold on to my hand, don't touch anything, don't get lost. Did I sit back and take notice of the first time she snapped her pants all by herself? Or did I just note how my life got that much easier now that she was one step closer to self-sufficient?

Why do so many of the Firsts With seem overlooked... while all the Firsts Without seem glaringly obnoxiously cruel and hurtful?

What causes us to overlook the plentiful ordinary Firsts With? Do we convince ourselves they're not that big of a deal? Are our lives too busy? Are we that all-consuming that we forget to even take notice the first time she puts a stamp in the right corner of an envelope? Or the first time she squeezed the toothpaste on without oozing half the tube on counter?

What would happen if we slowed down? What would happen if we all took a Mommy Time Out, pushed everything out of our head and just watched with? Today, I challenge you...

I challenge you to take the most beautiful First With you can take... for the next twenty minutes forget about the laundry and the dinner that must be made; forget about the bills and the garbage and the sticky stuff on the kitchen floor you can't identify. Instead, for the next twenty minutes, get on the same level as your child. Lay on the floor, sit on your knees, climb up the tree house take a seat and criss-cross-applesauce on the rough plywood floor.... and really look at them. Memorize the curve of their neck and the mole by their left temple. Watch their fingers as they put together Lego's and drink in the way their lips move when they talk. Take a mental photo of that unruly cowlick, the pointed elbow and the feet that surely one day they'll grow into.

For the next twenty minutes, take full and complete notice of how truly beautiful, how truly wonderfully made this child is. Your child. Do it now. Because you will not have the opportunity when you are Without.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tomorrow, Six Months Will Have Passed Without Her

Worn by Tenth Avenue North

I'm tired

I'm worn

My heart is heavy

From the work it takes to keep on breathing

I've made mistakes

I've let my hope fail

My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest

So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win

Let me know the struggle ends

That you can mend a heart that's frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise from ashes of a broken life

And all that's dead inside can be reborn

Cause i'm worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up

But I'm too weak

Life just won't let up

And I know that you can give me rest

So I cry out with all that I have left

Oh, Let me see redemption win

Let me know the struggle ends

That you can mend a heart that's frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life

And all that's dead inside can be reborn

Cause I'm worn

My prayers are wearing thin

I'm worn

Even before the day begins

I'm worn

I've lost my will to fight

I'm worn

So heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption wins

Let me know the struggle ends

That you can mend a heart that's frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life

And all that's dead inside can be reborn

Yes, all that's dead inside will be reborn

Though I'm worn

I'm worn.

Lyrics to Worn by Tenth Avenue North

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Remind Me Not

I walk around the corner, glance to the right, flip the channel, check my newsfeed, and get stabbed in the heart. My eyes bleed tears that burn my cheeks. Throat clamped shut I cannot breathe, cannot speak, cannot understand how the gangly, awkward teen with the thick purple plastic framed glasses who just wanted to grow up able to walk tall through the day has morphed into a Mother Who Has Lost.

It takes me by surprise each and every time. I feel like a fool. How can my hurt be so acute, so crippling, and yet I find myself checking through the doorway to see if her Sunday School class has let out. I stop myself short before reminding Matt that he should make sure her bike tires are pumped full of air. I foolishly suggest something I know she would love. And each time it hits me: she is not here.

My soul is not mine.

At least, it doesn't feel like mine, doesn't fit like mine. I once took a sweatshirt that wasn't mine home from a college party. I could never wear it because each time I put it on I knew it didn't rightfully belong to me. I wasn't meant to wear it; it wasn't mine. I try to fight, arms flailing, back arching, head ducking -- and yet someone insists this wounded soul is mine to wear. I don't want it. Take it back! TAKE IT BACK!

I struggle with normalcy... or what others perceive as normal because I don't think complaining about overcooked steak deserves anger and rage and I don't think the middle finger deserves to be flipped because someone didn't realize it was their turn at a four way stop and I don't think people of power show be purposefully demeaning to others. Instead I only want to walk in the sun and attempt to plant purple calla lilies and leave sliced apples for squirrels and laugh too loud at the wit others share. I want to paint my bedroom bright and I want flowers to replace my grass. I want music to accompany the wind and good food to be found in great abundance. I think if I try super hard to paint my world light that light will flow to others around me and once I'm surrounded by light and love then I will never hurt again.

Except I will.

Because that's what grief is. The reminder that she is never coming home. And sometimes that reminder comes at church during a song about blessings and sometimes that reminder comes as I'm folding laundry because she would always come and sit with me. Sometimes that reminder comes when I try to picture a vacation and sometimes that reminder comes when I turn out the light. It happens when I'm grocery shopping and cleaning the bathroom and walking into the library and backing out of the driveway and painting my fingernails and watching the Brewer's play and flipping through a magazine and waiting for a table at a restaurant... my soul whispers, "she is not here."

And it'll be that way every single day until God calls me home.