Friday, January 6, 2012

730 days

I had never really thought about how many days are in 2 years. I suppose I haven't had a reason to ever keep track of days to that length. 730 days...that's how many days are in 2 years. 730 is the number of days it's been since I held my precious baby boy alive. As I see that number staring at me, I can hardly believe it. I can remember in those initial days and weeks wondering if I'd make it to the next hour or day. It's amazing how much pain the human body can endure. And here we are 730 days later and we're still here-living this life. Aching for our son and longing for heaven, but here with 3 beautiful children and enjoying each moment we have here together. To that I can say, we are living proof of God's grace,faithfulness and love.
Great is thy faithfulness...
It's been 726 days since I held Graham for the final time. We buried him on January 10th. I will never forget when they brought Luke and I up to an area in our church where they had him. I still try not to make eye contact with that room when I'm at church. It hurts too much. The place where we had to say our final goodbyes. How do you do that?! How do you tell your child goodbye? I remember wanting to just take him and run and never look back. I wanted to keep him with me, where he belonged. The finality was so hard. I remember our Pastor telling us it was time-time to let go of his physical body. Time to put him back in the casket. It wasn't long enough and then again, there is no amount of time that would have been long enough! And that was it....we placed him back in the casket and they closed the lid and that was the last time I saw the face of my precious child. So many of those moments and days are a blur. I was given so much medicine just to function and yet I remember certain things with such great detail. So much of the time it still feels surreal. I think, "Did this really happen to us?" There is nothing more horrible than burying your child. I still have to pray to not slip into a life of resentment and judgement wondering, " Why us, God?"
When I look in the mirror on our dresser in the bedroom, I can still see Graham propped up on my chest. I used to hold him like that until he'd go to sleep many times and I'd peek in the mirror at him to see if his eyes were still open. He was beautiful with his big, brown eyes and he always looked so content to just lay right there on me. I'm so grateful that many times I just held him. I can still feel him there. I'm not sure I will ever look in our mirror and not see his sweet face.
As I sit here tonight and into the wee hours of the morning I feel so much pain and anguish. We ache so much for our son. We have 2 children that miss and talk of their brother daily and a precious baby girl who will never know her brother...just of him. We have learned the importance of living out each day and moment fully never knowing that they may be the last. James and Lauren talk often about what Graham is doing in heaven. It often times makes me teary eyed, but usually makes me smile and even laugh. They have such an amazing picture of what heaven will be like. It's so refreshing for me and such a beautiful reminder.
The loss of Graham was and still is so horrible. I will never understand it. I have discovered though that although I had no power to determine the course my life would take, I do have the power to choose how I respond to it even though it is hard and it hurts. I continue to pray that that although the loss of Graham is a horrible chapter of our story and always will be, the book itself will be good. I've just had to change my definition of what a "good life" means and looks like.
Here are the ways I have seen God's faithfulness: James and Lauren are amazing! They laugh and love each other and others greatly. They talk daily of their sweet brother in heaven. We were blessed with our sweet Landry and what a precious blessing she is. Luke and I are still together and thriving in our marriage. We've had amazing friends who have cried and laughed with us and family who has met us each step of the way during these difficult 2 years. Although it feels we have lost so much, we are clinging to His faithfulness in our lives.
When I feel as though my heart cannot bear any more hurt I am reminded of this amazing quote from Randy Alcorn's book Heaven:
"The most ordinary moment on the New Earth will be
greater than the most perfect moments in this life...those experiences
you wanted to bottle up or hang onto but couldn't. It can
get better, far better than this...and it will...."
This is the hope I cling to each day, especially in the dark, dark moments.
It reminds
me of the great hope we have. So in these times when I feel as though the wind has been knocked out of me, that I cannot possible cry any more tears or ache for my beautiful son any more,
I must remember that there will be a day when the Lord will make everything perfect and right and we will run to meet Graham. For all of you who are walking with us, I can't wait until you get to see him again either. The kids, Luke and I always "fight" over who's going to be the first one to Graham. James seems to think he is going to beat Luke because according to him, "I'm a fast runner!" Bless his sweet heart. I dream of what that reunion will be like.
So as I stare at my son's grave with sobs that cannot be suppressed, I remind myself of God's promises...morning by morning new mercies I see...
I must walk in faith because I don't want it any other way.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Cards

My blog has taken a back seat to the rest of my life right now, but I PROMISE to get back on the horse again....this post is going to be about our Christmas cards that I will order through Tiny Prints...the same place I ordered Landry's birth announcements from and LOVED! They have such a great selection. I'm thinking about using this card this year...obviously with pictures of us. Although this family is pretty cute too! :)
Traditional Wonder Christmas Cards

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Landry Kate

Landry Kate
May 5, 2011

3:11 p.m.
7 pounds 6 ounces

20 inches long

Here is our precious little angel. Life has been wonderful and busy since she arrived. I've had sleepless nights, made dinner, changed kids' clothes and wiped bottoms one handed. I've changed many diapers, wiped up lots of spit and yet wouldn't change a thing!

(sorry for the weird spaces in this post. I can't get it fixed!)

Thankfully, I had an amazing labor and delivery. Thank you for your many, many prayers. I was quite anxious going into the hospital and flooded with emotions. As we walked to the elevator and pushed "3" it really set in. We were doing this again...having another baby. I was overwhelmed with so many emotions. The smells brought back so many memories. I saw the nurses I had when I delivered Graham. I wondered if I was going to be able to do this again. "How many children do you have?" I struggled to answer that question. This was/is my 4th child. Joy, fear, excitement, sadness. My emotions were all over the place. I had amazing nurses and midwives that day. They were absolute God-sends. My birth was amazing and obviously quite emotional. Landry came out alert and hungry and stole my heart immediately. She was here. Perfect and such a special gift to our family.

Each time I see this picture, I imagine it with our Graham in it. We felt his absence, but know he was looking down from heaven and smiling I'm sure.

It was SO important that my mom and sisters be with me soon after her birth. They have gone through the trenches with me and celebrated with me during this pregnancy. They had prayed for Landry for 40 weeks and 4 days.

She loved being swaddled and in her swing, so this is what she looked like (a hot pink burrito) when she wasn't eating (which wasn't much) the first few weeks.

The kids laugh so much at her funny faces. Here is just one of the ones the kids would get a kick out of.

They're so happy and proud!

James always wants to be right next to her which means he is usually in the pictures of her. I have to "kick him out!" :)

James is always kissing/smelling Landry's hair. It's pretty sweet. He has asked me on several occasions if he can marry her. I've had to try and explain to him that we don't marry our sisters. So then he asked if he could go ahead and marry me. I had to tell him we don't marry our mothers either. Poor kid was devastated :)

Here we are on the 4th of July celebrating America and grateful for the freedom
we have been given to live in this country.

Some facts about our Landry:

She is quite pleasant (the easiest newborn of the 4)

She gets greeted, kissed, hugged, and talked to by James and Lauren each morning the second one of her eyes opens.
She gets kissed at least 50 times a day... bare minimum.
She loves her play mat. Especially the blinking musical star that hangs above her.

She coos and smiles like crazy. This always makes the kids go nuts! They just love it!
She loves to be snuggled up and has gotten quite spoiled :)
She likes to be moving. She doesn't mind her car seat as long as the car is moving. Blast those red lights! :)

She still sleeps in her swing. It eases my mind a bit more than laying her down flat although we are hoping to transition her to her bed soon so she can be monitored.
She enjoys being outside and loves to take walks. Therefore, she fits in even more perfectly in our family :)

She loves to see what's going on and loves to be held facing out.

She loves to be in just a diaper.

She loves to eat, but is pretty petite like all of my other babies were.

We are so thoroughly enjoying his baby girl. She has brought our family a breath of fresh air. The kids just adore her and love on her all day long. I've had to stay on them about not trying to give her lovin' when she's asleep because she has started waking up. She often times has crumbs of food in her hair or something sticky because the kids just can't get enough of her even when they are eating :) Her hair smells like Cinnamon Toast Crunch each morning from James kissing on her :) I can't put into words the way I/we feel about her. I'm just so grateful for her. James tells me often times that he wishes Graham was still here and wishes Landry could see him. They both still talk of him to often. My heart still hurts. I too wish Landry knew her brother. I wish that she had one more brother to get kisses from each day and protect her from the boys someday. I still miss Graham in an unbelievable way. I still cry for him, ache for him, talk of him and wonder how he would fit into our little family right now. I will post on the grief side of things since there are some who follow this blog for that reason. I still grieve for him each day, but am so thankful for this new, precious life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Lord willing, tomorrow we will meet our baby girl. The baby girl that has been prayed fervently for for quite some time by us and by many of you. I got the May baby I prayed so hard for over the last several months. I've always wanted a May baby. Partly because I'm a May baby and I just think it's a great month. After we lost Graham and began even discussing having another baby, I prayed for a May baby. I wanted the baby to be born in a different season than Graham was and in the season when we lost him. When I think of May, I think of the guarantee of warmth right around the corner, sunshine, fresh green grass and blooming flowers. I think of new life and fresh starts. Thank you Jesus, for my May baby.

There is such a wide array of emotions swirling in my head and heart right now. Excitement...for this miracle and life that's been growing inside of me for 40 weeks and 3 days. Anticipation...of the joy she will bring to our family and to our lives. will I be at peace? How will I lay her down to sleep and walk away? How will I not worry every second of every day if she is breathing or not? How will I turn this fear over to the Lord? Guilt...that we are having another baby. That Graham will no longer be the last memory we have with a baby. That in one sense we are opening up a new chapter of our lives and choosing to move forward. Vulnerable...that again we are choosing to give life and love again knowing there is a risk. Risk that she won't be with us as long as we pray for her to be. Fear...that when I nurse and rock this baby girl I will be thinking of the last time I did that...with my Graham and that will widen those already gaping holes in my heart. It's so hard to know what it's going to be like to deal with the emotions that I know will come as we have a precious little life to hold and nurture again and sometimes the unknown is the scariest part for me. This is when I wish there was a manual that told me what would happen next.

I went to the cemetery tonight for the last time before this baby arrives. Tonight I could have curled up on the grass next to his black granite stone with his face printed on it and cried for a long time. I told him that his little sister will be born tomorrow. I let him know we will never stop loving him, or thinking of him, or longing for him. I told that I wish I had to buy one more big brother shirt and that I wished I was packing a bag with his little jeans in it too. I asked him to help watch over the new baby as well as James and Lauren and keep them safe and to give me a special peace. I told him how much James and Lauren miss him and what a good big brother and sister they will be to her just like they were to him. I told him I wish I wasn't visiting his grave and placing flowers at the base but instead doing last minute meal planning. I told him I wish our van was filled with 4 car seats right now instead of just 3...I told him that James reminds me that Lauren will be sitting where he did when we brought him home from the hospital. I told him he will always be my precious baby...forever and ever and always...and I cried some more...

So as we await this arrival of this precious gift, this answer to our prayers, our hearts are still heavy as we think about Graham looking down from heaven instead of running around a hospital room with his matching big brother shirt on. I am so grateful for the chance to give life love even if it does mean the possibility of loss. As we enter this new stage of our family, of our grief, of our lives, I am excited and yet fearful for these upcoming days, weeks and months. Loving a child as deeply as any mother does is so scary, especially if you have lost one. I pray to Jesus that I will soak up every second of every snuggle, every 2 hour feeding, every diaper change, and fussiness, every ounce of craziness and turn over my fears and anxiety to Him knowing He is the ultimate giver of peace.

So tonight, I go to bed for the last time as a mother of a family of 5...because tomorrow my friends, I will Lord willing be a momma of 4...we will be a family of 6 and although it hurts deeply that Graham isn't here sharing this new chapter with us, I am grateful God saw fit to bless us again with a new life.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What spring means to me...

Spring means we made it through our first full winter without our Graham. We survived...we did it. Not without long nights and lots of tears, but we made it. The bitter cold and snow is gone. The long, bleak days and nights have turned to longer, prettier nights and sunsets. I can hardly believe that spring is here. Spring also means the arrival of our new baby girl. When we found out we were pregnant last August, spring seemed so far away...3 seasons...and now, here we are. We're getting ready to have a newborn again. (squeal) Diapers and wipes are slowing making their appearance into the house again. Little baby clothes are hanging in the closet and onesies are neatly folded in the drawer. Spring means new beginnings and new growth. New opportunities to grow and strengthen. As I was out at Graham's grave site over the weekend, I noticed how much more new grass was coming up around his plot. I was so grateful for the bright green patches of soft grass as the muddy, brown grass was such a daunting reminder of the freshness of our loss and yet it's the reality that we have been without our Graham long enough that there is newness in the earth. The dirt isn't freshly turned over anymore. The cuts in the earth aren't as predominant. Spring is here.

Thankfully I had a lot to keep me more than busy/exhausted this winter. I took on a tutoring job through the government as well as keeping the 10 kids I tutor privately and ended up biting off a bit more than I could chew. I made 30 lesson plans each week (Monday through Thursday) for all of my students. It was brutal! At 2:00 a.m. I often times wondered if I'd survive. Thankfully my family helped fill in many gaps with meals and helping watch the kids. The extra income allowed us to make great gains on the financial burden that losing Graham brought us, so for that we are so grateful. Although it was a difficult 4 months, I am thankful that I had lots to keep my mind and emotions somewhat preoccupied. And because I had so much to keep me busy I failed miserably at keeping up with the blog. For that, I am sorry...

We are doing seems a bit surreal that we are in the final few weeks of my pregnancy and getting ready to add a sweet new life into the world. With the excitement has come a great deal of anxiety and also many new, raw emotions. As I think about what it means to be a mom again to a baby, I'm flooded with memories of my sweetie-boy and that is so very difficult for me. I haven't gotten anything out yet. Partly because our house is up for sale so putting things away for showings is difficult and probably even more so because I'm not quite ready to face all of those "things" that I last saw and usedwith my Graham...I guess I'm not quite ready to face the memories head on...not until I have to. There are some things we have chosen not to use again and yet other things it only makes sense to use...once again, I find myself in a constant balancing act. I spent some time at the cemetery over the weekend and sat and cried and thought and prayed for quite a while. I know we are honoring Graham by bringing another baby into this world and yet I struggle feeling as though I am betraying him. This may not make much sense, but there is guilt surrounding having another child. I'm "ready" to snuggle, smell, nurture and raise another child and yet there is something within me that doesn't want to let go what I last had with Graham. Like it's sacred...

The kids are soooo excited (huge understatement) about their new baby sister. They talk to her and about her constantly. They hug and kiss my belly constantly and remind me how big I'm getting (thanks kids). I've taken them to all of my doctor appointments this time and they love to hear her heartbeat. James has come a long way with his initial fear and anger of her dying, but not before many, many tears, prayers and deep conversations. I'm sure he will continue to work through those emotions as will I. He still asks a lot of difficult questions and has said several times how much he still wishes Graham was here with us. And here we are 15 months later and it breaks my heart every.single.time. I am grateful that he does talk about it...about Graham...about his fears and questions and most times I am struggling with those very same ones. He did tell me yesterday while playing outside in the 80 degree weather that he was sure Graham had a tan up in heaven (that's my boy). That made me smile and giggle....he thinks of the sweetest and littlest things that boy...

James and Lauren are doing well. They continue to bring us so much joy with their sweet spirits, thoughtfulness and livelihood. They keep us humble and grounded as we deal with battles and stresses of parenting, but warm our hearts constantly and bring much laughter to our days. They are growing so quickly and both getting so big and independent. James loves school and his friends and Lauren likes to tell people she is "homeschooled." So if homeschooled means you get to paint, color, watch Cinderella, and read books 3 mornings a week for 3 hours with your mom's undivided attention, then I suppose she is homeschooled ;) They play very well together most of the time and are each other's best friends.

Luke and I just got back from a much needed vacation with just the two of us. We went to Bradenton, FL for an entire week. It was amazing! We decided to drive the 19 hours much to the hesitation of my midwives considering I was 36 weeks pregnant but had such a great time. It was the first time we have been by ourselves for any length of time since losing Graham and I would say it was the best thing we could have done. It gave us a chance to just "be." No expectations, no responsibilities, no reservations...just be. I felt more like myself than I have in 15 months. Simply for that, it was worth it. The "old" me is not completely gone as I have felt for so long that it was and I found a great deal of comfort in that.

We are making gains in this journey of grief. It is still difficult and there are days and nights that are much harder than others. We still find ourselves continually talking about and wondering how our family would be different if Graham were here with us and again what he'd look like, sound like, be like. We still question and plea with God to somehow "save" us from all other heartache. I sang a worship song at church a few Sundays ago for the first time since we lost Graham. I still can't do it consistently, but it was a big step. I have to truly "believe" the songs I'm singing now. I can't just sing to sing. It's different. Therefore, I can't always do it. I also don't cry every Sunday like I did for so long, but still have Sundays when I simply cannot stop crying. I know so many of you are continuing to pray for our family especially as we anticipate the arrival of this new baby. We are praying for a safe and healthy baby and also for our/my emotions as I know it will bring back so much of what we remember about Graham. Please pray for an amazing peace that we know can only come from the Lord. Please pray too for the adjustment with James and Lauren and for them to have peace as they are also scared about having a losing another sibling. I will keep you posted on her arrival before she begins to crawl ;) Blessings and love to you all!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

365 days...

365 days....that's how long it's been since I've held, smelled, kissed on, loved on, snuggled, fed, bathed, soothed, or looked into the eyes of my Graham. I can hardly believe it...believe that I'm still walking, breathing, the pain has been and remains so great. Never in a million years did I think that on January 6, 2011, I would be writing a post on my first year of this journey of grief. I'd much rather be writing New Year's Resolutions that I don't intend to keep. As I sit here today I feel devastation...devastation beyond words and sadness of all we have missed out on since we lost our Graham. Anger...anger that he is not here with us. That James and Lauren have missed out on the joys of their baby brother. Fear...fear that I won't pull through the pain and let him go completely and fear of what letting go means. Speechless...speechless (still) that this has happened to us...that as long as we are on this earth, we will not have our Graham. Hope...yet I do have hope that we will be reunited with him again and will be with him longer than we were without him.

I'll never forget the horror of that night one year ago. It was especially cold, snowy and a bit icy. When I left the library from tutoring I had to stop at a gas station to clear my windshield again. I drove home slower than normal on the winding country roads. I came home excited about life, anxious to see my kids and literally in an instant, my world was shattered, shaken, turned upside down. I'll never forget the feeling I had when I walked into our bedroom to wake Graham. I can't describe it, but I knew as I walked through that door that something was wrong. I will never forget the sound that bellowed out of me when I found Graham not breathing. I can still hear it. I will never forget how difficult it was for me to dial 911 because my hands were shaking uncontrollably and James running around confused at the chaos. I will never forget the sheer panic as I watched Luke perform CPR on my baby boy...desperately trying to breathe life back into him. I will never forget begging the dispatcher to make the ambulance get here faster. It felt like it took forever although I know now that it did not. I will never forget hearing the sirens and seeing the lights turn onto our road. I will never forget the EMT who burst through the door, a friend of ours, and begging for him to save my Graham. I will never forget the look on my parent's face when they walked through the front door. They didn't know what had happened, just that there was an ambulance headed to our house. I cannot imagine for them what panic must have risen within them. I will never forget the sheriff telling me to calm down as I rocked back and forth on the floor. What did that mean? How could I calm down? I will never forget the amount of people piling into our house...none of which I knew, recognized or could offer me any hope or answers. I remember laying on the floor in a heap and just seeing muddy wet boots everywhere. I will never forget waiting desperately for someone to come tell me a miracle had happened and my Graham was okay. I will never forget Luke crying out to God not to take his son. I will never forget the sheriff who came in and walked slowly up to us taking off his hat. At that moment I knew what he was going to tell me....Our son was gone...gone...a word you want to hear only when referring to a missing license or book, but not your child. At 9:20 p.m. every parent's worst nightmare came true and we have lived and we are living to tell about it. When I think about that night and the horror that we had to endure in the days and weeks following, I do wonder how we are still functioning. It seems that just one of the things we endured would send a sane person into an institution, so the magnitude for so much horror is just unfathomable. I know so much of this is due to your prayers. I will never forget how I started vomiting and couldn't stop and how my mom was trying to help me get pajamas on. I will never forget waking up at 6:30 the next morning after just a few short hours of sleep because my chest was in pain and engorged. After all, I was supposed to be nursing my baby. I was groggy from the sedative and could barely open my swollen eyes. I wondered if it was a nightmare. Then, I looked over on the other couch and saw my mom was there sleeping. I remember just crying out....knowing then, that I was living a nightmare. I remember trying to read and snuggle with James on the night after because he wanted me and needed me. I wanted to pray with him like I always did, but couldn't...I didn't know what to say to God. I remember laying there trying so hard to hold it together wondering if our kids were going to be okay...if they'd survive such tragedy and how I would explain this to them. I wanted to hold James and never let him go in a way I had never felt or experienced. I remember lots of of people in the house and nowhere to go. I remember everyone just watching me, wondering what I was going to do or say next. I remember just trying to put one foot in front of the other. I can't tell you how many times I have sobbed in the fetal position crying to Luke or my mom, "I can't do this. I really can't do this." I remember trying to take a liquid medicine to dry up my milk, but vomiting as soon as I swallowed it and everyone trying to get me to eat and drink. I remember my body not knowing what to do with all of the new medicines being dumped into it. I remember the panic attacks when pieces of denial and shock wore off. I remember that night so clearly...I wish I didn't, but I do. It's changed me...

We've been haunted by the clock and the calendar for an entire year now. They 6th and the 23rd of every month and all of the holidays and milestones in between. The last few weeks have caused me to fall into the pit again as we grieved for our son during the holidays knowing that shortly afterwards, we'd be faced with today. The date that changed our lives forever. I have found myself constantly thinking about what we were doing last year at this time. It's amazing how much I've been able to remember...vividly. And again, I'm so grateful for the perfect, beautiful, priceless memories I have of and with Graham on that final day.

Honestly, 365 days ago I thought I would have "felt" better than what I do right now. Obviously I didn't have a clue and the pain was so intense, breathing seemed like an accomplishment each day. Although we have survived this first year, I still miss, love, long for, think of our Graham the way I did in the beginning. And quite frankly, I just feel different. I don't sob uncontrollably every night as I did in the beginning and yet so much more feels as though it bottles up in the depths of my soul. My soul feels different in a way that I cannot put into words. I'm realizing it's okay that the pain isn't gone because again it's a reminder of our sweet son. I'm just having to learn to live with it and it's a very different feeling than I'm used to having. Trying to balance the sorrow with life.

I still struggle with my false sense of control. I want so much to put a tight grip on all things that mean anything to me....James and Lauren especially. I struggle with feeling very much out of control and have to choose not to dwell on the "what-ifs" that seem to plague me if I allow them to creep into my mind. I have to step back and give them over the the One who created them which is so difficult to do especially since we have lived through the horror of losing a child. I've joined a "club" no parents wants to be a part of.

I have moments constantly when I imagine how Graham would have been. Often times it's when I am around children who are close to the age he would be now. I find myself almost zoning out and thinking about things a sane person probably would not. Sometimes I almost have to catch my breath because the thoughts and feelings are so overwhelming. I still hold my breath when I go into a store as I try not to look at the baby boy items.

Losing Graham has changed me, it has changed our family and it has changed many people around us. Right now it feels like most of it is for the bad and yet I have a hope of heaven unlike I had before. I have even more of an appreciation of the little things in life and when my kids are throwing tantrums, it's easier for me to know that it won't last forever and at least I have the opportunity to discipline and teach them. The head sheriff talked to us several weeks after losing Graham and told us he had never seen his men affected by a tragedy as they had ours. Most times I still wonder, "Why us, Lord? How is this part of your plan?" I will never have an answer and even if Jesus himself told me the "plan," I'm sure it would not make the pain any less. I will continue praying that in time Graham will live up to his name and reach thousands for Jesus just as we had prayed. Again, this wasn't the wasn't the way it was supposed to be, but I pray that we will embrace our hurt and loss as well as our healing and point other's to Jesus.

Again, if you are reading this blog post, you have more than likely played a significant role in our lives over the last year. Whether it was openly with meals, cards, flowers, goodies or McDonald's cokes, or silently with prayers for healing in our family, we really cannot thank you enough. My words in this blog cannot do our gratitude justice. I do know that it is your prayers that have allowed us to be "doing" life a year later. They have carried us through dark, dark days. Thank you for lifting us up to the Father when I had no words. Thank you for interceding on our behalf.

Please DO NOT stop praying for us. Although we have survived the first year without Graham, our hearts are still broken and our emotions still on a roller coaster ride, especially as we anticipate the birth of our little girl. We don't want to walk through life simply surviving this loss. We want to use it to minister somehow to other hurting people. Thank you to my mom for emailing me every.single.night words of encouragement, wisdom, her thoughts and for writing to me in a journal every day and rotating them so I could have a new one to read each day. That's amazing! I don't know what I would do without her. Thank you mom for letting me call you at all hours of the night and sob uncontrollably. Thank you to my family for standing by us as we have had literally nothing to give in return and for hurting with us. For understanding how difficult family get togethers and birthdays would be and for trying to make it as easy as possible. For our friends who have continued to love us, make us laugh, and let us cry...thank you for meeting us where we were/are at at this moment. And lastly, thank you for those of you who we have never met who have committed to praying for our family.

One of the most difficult things I have had to come to grips with is that we are not guaranteed anything in this life, and without the hope of Jesus, I would have been swept away with the gigantic tides the last year has brought me.

I'm going to end with this quote from Gregory Floyd who said, "Our faith gives us the sure hope of seeing him again, but the hope does not take away the pain." Thank you again for walking this journey with us. We love you!

Monday, November 22, 2010

This time...

is so very we continue to live each day without our Graham. With every day closer to Thanksgiving means a day closer to Christmas and a day closer to the anniversary of Graham's meeting with Jesus. None of which I feel like I can bear. My soul still hurts so deeply and longs so much for my Graham. It's so difficult to be constantly plagued with the "last year at this time..." thoughts. My life is divided into the before and after and I have to consciously work every day, often times every moment, to live the after. People have asked me how I'm doing...if things have gotten easier. Honestly, no, I don't think things have gotten easier at all. The biggest difference is that now I feel I've learned to manage my grief a little better. I've learned to control it a bit more...but I still ache for him in a way that words simply cannot describe. I've learned to be strong on the outside even when I'm a mess on this inside. I look at toddlers and I wonder what his laugh would sound like, what his cry would sound like, how much hair he'd have, what his little personality would be like, what foods he'd like, what toys he'd play with, how the kids would be with him. These are all things I'm left to wonder about and the farther we get away from his time with us, the more difficult it is to imagine....and that is more difficult than words can even describe.
I love the holidays. I always have, but this year is so different. It is so memories with James and Lauren and yet the ache of missing our Graham. Everyone wants to know our plans and quite frankly, I don't want any plans. It's almost like in my mind if I can avoid planning it, it won't come and we won't have to endure the pain of the days where the world seems to be celebrating while we hurt. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on how much we have to be thankful for and although I am SO blessed, I can't help but feel the bitter absence of our Graham. As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, I realize though that I am so eternally grateful for my 14 weeks of life with Graham. Although I wish with everything in me it were longer, I wouldn't trade this pain and grief for not knowing my son.
We are beginning to put together ideas for the kids for Christmas. James and Lauren both have birthday within 6 weeks of Christmas so we have to put careful consideration into what we get them simply because this is it for the year. It is so difficult to know we will have an empty stocking with Graham's name on it and less presents under the tree. I think about all of the things we would have gotten Graham this year and about the unused Christmas gifts we had for him last year. I want so much to be creating 3 wish lists for my kids this year. Again, a difficult reminder of what is gone. We have decided to "adopt" a child in honor of Graham this year and purchase gifts for the child in a family. We will wrap the gifts and deliver them as a family to the child. We'd like to have the kids help us choose the gifts. This is something we'd like to do as a family to keep Graham's memory alive and to honor him.
The Christmas lights are starting to go up around the neighborhood and each time I pass a house with lights lit, my eyes well up with tears thinking about celebrating Christmas without our Graham. James and Lauren are so sweet... especially when it comes to speaking of Graham. James keeps telling me how big he thinks Graham is now and still what he thinks he's doing in heaven. Yesterday he said, "Mom, I think Graham is probably as big as you because he's been gone a long time." That was so hard for me to has been long and I hate knowing that it feels that way for James too. Every time we pass the church where Graham is buried, they excitedly wave and say, "Hi Graham-Bam or Hey Wam-Bam..Miss you Grammie." Again, these are such precious, but heart breaking moments.

I've realized something recently....grief is such a private, isolated matter and yet a very public one as well. It has and continues to affect the relationships I have with my friends, family, and world. But it is in my solitude that I am most obviously affected by my loss. Although I know I will never return to "normal" it has still been difficult for me to accept what now is the new norm. I feel so different than I used to...physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I'm certain I've aged 10 years in the past 10 months. I can't help but wonder how I'd be feeling if Graham were still with us.

We are continuing to try and leave our hurt and sorrow at the feet of Jesus. It's so hard not to question and wonder as we look around and see mother's who don't seem to care for their children. But we must remind ourselves continually that God is in control and this is ultimately part of His plan. Thank you for your prayers...please do not stop. We know that your prayers are the reason we can still get up and breathe each day. The next couple of months are going to be some of our most difficult. We again are so grateful for you....

It's Fall Folks....

I can hardly believe we are heading toward the end of November. This fall has gone quickly and our schedule has been full! James started Pre-K this fall and although the adjustment was very difficult for him (therefore for me) he has grown quite fond of it and his friends. His first exciting event was his school field trip to the fire station. Of course, he was dressed up for the part head to toe. He was almost as excited about riding the big school bus and not having to wear a seat belt as he was to go to the fire station. That's what it's all about... :)
These are his little buddies...the 3 will more than likely see all three of them together at school.
The Apple Orchard
We also got to go on a field trip with James to the apple orchard. I had a really difficult time because because a year ago we took all 3 of the kids there...Graham was just 2 weeks old and it was his first big outing. I really struggled emotionally ahead of time and as I was there with the kids, but am so grateful I got to share a fun experience with them both. It was a big step to overcome, but the payoff of making those new memories with the kids made it worth it.
Lauren loves that she gets to tag along on the field trips with us :)The kids learned how to properly pick an apple. Twist, twist, and pull up
to the sky. They were both very proud of themselves for doing it all on their own.
James gladly because a live scarecrow on the hayride as we journeyed back to the pumpkin field. I was picking straw out of his clothes for the entire day....

Mommy+Daughter=some pretty precious moments....

Lauren and I have enjoyed many quiet mornings together snuggling, having tea parties, coloring, doing puzzles, reading and even watching some Disney Playhouse. We also run lots of errands with random stops at Panera for a bagel or at Starbucks for a breakfast sandwich. Although the quiet mornings have been difficult for me, I have so thoroughly enjoyed our time together. These have been such special moments. We are both always ready to go pick James 10:30 Lauren is usually begging to get James.

Trick or Treat 2010

The kids enjoyed a great time of trick or treating this year and we actually did it twice. Once in downtown Goshen and then again in our neighborhood. James' fire helmet got a bit heavy, so it only lasted until the first house. I love that their costumes reflect their interests...a fire chief and a fairy princess (Lauren calls her wand her fairy it!)
What he does, work, work....Ever since James was a little boy he has enjoyed working...especially outside. He looks forward to going to Grandma and Grandpa Carpenter's house during the fall and helping cut and stack wood for the stove. We had a wonderful weekend working and making Carmel and candy apples as well as homemade Chinese food. We decided that needs to be a fall tradition!

We have had many more excited events, but these are just a few to keep you updated on the kids. Once again, I'm sorry I'm failing so miserably as a blogger these days. Life keeps getting
the best of me...I will update soon on Lauren's princess birthday party! It was lots of fun!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Glory Baby....

It's so difficult to look at this picture from a year ago and know how thrilled we were to have welcomed another baby into our lives...and now we sit here still feeling so much pain and emptiness as we are left to wonder what our Graham would have been like on his first birthday...

The several weeks leading up to his birthday were actually much worse than I had anticipated. They were full of a variety of emotions...lots of tears, sheer devestation and hopelessness. I usually begin planning the kids' birthday party weeks (ok months) in advance. The devestation of ordering balloons for a balloon release instead of for him to play with and squeal at ripped my heart apart. I wanted so much to be choosing the perfect party decorations and choosing an outfit for him that would match the theme (yes, because that's what I do). I wanted so much to be giving gift ideas to our friends and family and then scrambling to figure out the perfect gift from us. I wanted to take James and Lauren to the store and have them pick out something he would have loved. Instead, we were trying to cope with the fact that we would not be celebrating his first birthday in a way that I had ever dreamed. We would not have the chance to do any of those spectacular things that come along with watching your child grow up. Again, sheer devestation at what we had lost....

I had a dream last different than any one I have had up to this point. Often times I have nightmares of the night we lost Graham or of losing James and Lauren. They're really quite dreadful. For the last 9 1/2 months I have continually begged God to let me just see Graham one more time. I find myself continually disappointed that it has not happened. Last week I had a dream that Graham was given back to us at the same age he was taken from us. He was even in his Christmas jammies. It was under the condition that he live at the hospital. Of course I wanted to be with him all day long, sleep by him, hold him, spend every waking moment with him, but the nurses kept telling me that I needed to go home. And I begged and pleaded with them to let me stay...I couldn't ever leave him again. They didn't understand... The dream was so real. I remember the joy I had when I realized he was being given back to us. But the reality of waking up to exactly what it was...a dream, was simply devestating to the core. I woke up almost in a panic and realized quickly that my Graham was not given back to us. I have wondered if that glimpse of joy I felt in my dream was just a glimmer of what it will be like when we are reunited with Graham in heaven....I can't even imagine how wonderful that will be and trust me, I think about it an awful lot.

I don't know how heaven works and how old Graham would be, but there are things I've chosen to believe about heaven and Graham's life in heaven because it's easier for me that way. Therefore I believe that Graham had a big 1st birthday party in heaven. I'm sure it was incredible and the angels weren't stressing about getting the cake just right. ;) I do think though that my party would have ranked a close second to his party in heaven. I just wish with everything in me that we were able to celebrate with watch him dive into his cake and manage to somehow end up with frosting in his ears. I wish we could have watched him open his presents and try and eat the wrapping paper. I wish we could have seen him bat at his balloons and squeal with delight as he opened new books, stuffed animals, and toys. I wish, I wish...

We had a celebration in honor and memory of our Graham William on the Saturday following his birthday. Close friends and family joined us for a very emotional, yet beautiful evening. It was full of tears and brokenness and yet I really felt like we were honoring and celebrating his 14 precious weeks of life. We ate dinner together, watched the video full of pictures and video clip of Graham's life then made our way out to the cemetary for prayer and a balloon release.

Here are just a few pictures of our evening...

14 white roses representing his 14 weeks of life...and white roses meaning new beginnings...

In leui of gifts we asked everyone to bring a children's book to donate in honor of Graham. We are taking them to Riley's Children's Hospital knowing that they help children from all over the world. We collected over 100 books...what an amazing way to honor our baby.

James and Lauren each picked out a piece of pottery to paint for Graham. James picked out a horse and Lauren chose a dragonfly. Perfect pieces from their hearts. They turned out beautifully and the kids left them so lovingly at Graham's grave. That was one of the hardest parts of the evening actually...watching them so carefully place their gifts at his grave.

If you look carefully you can see the balloons heading toward heaven...balloons honoring our Graham. The kids loved that so many balloons were sent to heaven just for him....they thought Graham would think it was so funny.

I think this is just a beautiful picture of all of my children.

I debated whether or not to include a picture of his headstone on my blog. It is such a beautiful and intimate thing, but I know there are many of you who have asked to see it and would never have the chance otherwise. It's so beautiful and breathtaking especially in person. One of my friends referred to it as "majestic." I still hate with every ounce of breath in me that we even had to choose this and still find myself in disbelief that this is the headstone of my precious baby, but I think it's a beautiful structure.

Thank you so much for those of you who prayed your hearts out for us and for the entire month of Septmeber and specifically the days leading up to his birthday. Thank you for wishing him a Happy Birthday. The week was agonizing and yet I cannot imagine having gone through it without the hope of seeing him again and your prayers. Once again we are humbled and amazed by the body of Christ. We survived one of the hardest milestones of this baby's first birthday. The milestones are not over and the next few months we are plagued with the holidays and then the anniversary of his meeting with Jesus. Again, when I think about it I wonder how I'll survive. I don't feel like I can, but that is when I try and surrender my fears, anxiety, hurt, and sheer devestation of our loss at the feet of Jesus.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It is Well with My Soul...

Wanted to show you one of my favorite pictures...this munchkin always had his fist in his mouth. And I love that you can see his big, bright eyes....miss this precious boy so much! I can see
his slobber marks on his shirt and just ache to put a new, dry one on him.

We sang It is Well with My Soul at church on Sunday...I cried the entire time. Luke and I had this sung at our wedding and debated on having it at Graham's memorial service. It has always been a special song to us although it holds such a different meaning than it did 8 years ago as I got ready to walk down the aisle. I have begged God over and over to make this song real in my life. When I think of the phrase...when sorrow like sea billows roll...I realize it is the perfect picture of my pain. And yet I want to say and believe, it is well with my soul. I pray this will
be more real in my life than we could have ever imagined. We are trying to
see God in the midst of the pain...knowing beauty will rise from the ashes...

Our grief is hanging on. Most days I wonder if I will ever creep out from underneath its shadow. Although the shadow is most definitely there, lately, I have been able to at least see where I'm walking. The last week and a half have been the "best" weeks I have had up to this point....this is the longest stretch I have gone without falling into a deep, dark slump. It is the first time I have had several days in a row when I felt as though I could actually breathe...that I didn't have a cement block on my chest. I am so grateful for that and yet in this time I find myself once again feeling like a stranger in a foreign land. I've grown so accustomed to the unbearable pain that having 10 days of it easing up is almost uncomfortable. There also comes a level of guilt even though I know those are just lies, for me they are a reality.
Grief has so many complex emotions and working through them all remains exhausting.

I still think of Graham every minute, miss him, cry for him, long for him, talk to him but the hope of seeing him again someday has been more real to me right now than it has in 7 1/2 months. I hope reading this line brought a smile to your face because several months ago I couldn't fathom finding peace...ever...this is because of your prayers. I remember
walking past his crib a few weeks ago (which is in our room so I pass it frequently)
and for the first time I didn't feel like I was going to throw up or pass out. I felt
almost an inner calm. It was in that moment that I knew healing IS taking place. Often
times I don't feel as though I'm moving forward at all, so it was nice to be able
to see "evidence" of some gains. I'm sure it won't be that way every time, but it happened...
I felt it...
Everyone continues to tell me it does get better. So it must, right? I hope so...I must
believe that it does. And yet, there is something strangely reassuring
knowing that I will always have this empty space in my heart because it means I will never, ever forget Graham. Nothing and no one will ever be able to fill that
very special place I hold for him.
He's my son, my precious baby boy... he will be that forever and ever.
It feels as though I've been grieving forever. I'm still encountering so many firsts...One thing about grief that I never understood is that it's so encompassing. It's not just the ache and the tears that come on holidays or the 6th or 23rd of each month. It's the everyday life
experiences that are constant reminders of what we have lost...what we are missing...I know
that for the rest of my earthly life I will encounter things that will make me long for my son. I'm
continuing to pray that eventually they will not paralyze me like they do now.

I was watching James at the pool several weeks ago and he went to jump off the
diving board for the first time. Exciting right? Absolutely! But after beaming ear to ear I began joy immediately turned to sorrow because I realized I will never see
Graham jump off the diving board. Those types of experiences
while seeming trivial, continue to fuel my grief. I feel as though my entire
life will be full watching James and Lauren "do" life without Graham.

I often times find myself overwhelmed with how I will make it through life with this gaping hole in my heart. Yes, I know the pain will lessen and the emotions will not be so
raw, but the reality is I will ALWAYS, always miss, love, long for, and ache for Graham. I have to constantly remind myself to take it a day at a stay focused on today... otherwise
I get too overwhelmed.

I'm learning and trying to incorporate my grief into my everyday life so that it doesn't
dominate my life. Right now it is still the first thing I think about when I wake up in
the morning and the last thing I think about when I fall asleep at night. I have felt a sense of renewal over the last few weeks of my body and spirit. I haven't felt so exhausted.
I'm so grateful for this breath of fresh air although wondering when it will end offers a great deal of anxiety. I'm trying to embrace this time knowing that possibly soon
I will be faced with those days and moments again when the tears won't stop,
when my prayers seem unheard, when God seems so far away,
when breathing is work, when I feel alone and hopeless,
when I wonder how I can go on.

Many of you have asked for specific prayer requests so here are a few:
September is right around the corner. Graham's first birthday would've
been on the 23rd. My emotions are already quite fragile as the anticipation
of this date draws near It's going to be really hard.
Please just say extra prayers for me during the next several weeks. Pray for
comfort and a sense of peace that we know can only come from the Lord. But also pray
for extra patience, extra laughs, and energy.
His headstone is also due to be completed by the beginning of September as
well as his memory trunk. We are so grateful to have these things completed
as we want to continue to memorialize Graham, but again it's the brutal reminder
of his absence...of the finality of his life on earth.
Finally, please talk to me... Please ask me how I am doing with my journey through grief
but also what's new in my life. Ask me about James and Lauren and how tutoring
is going. Ask me how many McDonald's cokes I've had that week (okay, maybe don't ) ;)
Tell me things you remember about he looked, when you remember
seeing him last...don't be afraid of making me cry. Sometimes I will, but that's okay.
Don't feel badly about it. I don't mind offers a great sense of continued
healing. Some my greatest moments of encouragement have been when
people have told me what they remember about Graham or that they
think of him often. It makes my heart swell and my spirit soften knowing that others
still think of him and remember him. And I want to hear what's going
on in YOUR lives....I don't want it to be all about me and my sorrow. You are
important to me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you...for your prayers, your notes, and your continued
thoughtful gifts. ...THANK YOU! We are humbled and amazed by the prayers and
support we have received. I would love to do a blog post
sometime on the amazing, thoughtful things people have done for us...for me. It's
really quite amazing. You are all really Jesus-with-skin-on friends.
We love you all...more than you will ever know and you hold such a special,
special place in our hearts.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Living....'s been 2 whole months since I've updated the blog. A lot has happened since then and yet a lot has stayed the same. We have been keeping very busy doing fun, summery things and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful for summer time for two other reasons: water and sunglasses. They are the two perfect ways to disguise tears and for that, I am very grateful. When James suspects I may be teary eyed he makes me pull down my sunglasses and says, "Mom, let me see your eyes." It is sweet and sad all at the same time.
Here are some things that have kept us busy....water balloons, many trips to the park and pool,
lots of time outside pretending to fight fires, maintain farms, play baseball, soccer,
basketball, tennis, sidewalk chalk, bike riding, garden maintenance, fishing, playing with cousins and friends, soccer camp, the 4-H fair...
James and Lauren are doing so well. They are just fantastic kids...not only do I love them with all my heart, but I thoroughly enjoy them. They make me laugh and they make me
smile with their funny comments, their snuggles, their hugs and kisses, and their love for us, for each other, and for Graham. James is starting Pre-K next Wednesday
and I can hardly believe it! I'm even more emotional about it than I anticipated I would be. I am so excited for him to go and learn and meet new friends, but it's one more
step toward growing up, toward not needing me the way he always has....

I'm looking forward to spending some special time with Lauren while James is at school. She so thoroughly enjoys one-on-one time with us. I plan to do lots of fun things with her. I also get scared about staying busy and keeping myself occupied. When I have just one of the kids with me it seems to be an even larger reminder of what is missing...
our Graham. I'm nervous about this transition stage, but am going to do my best to use my time to invest purposefully in Lauren.
Here are several pictures that show bits and pieces of what we have been doing this summer...
I will try and start doing a better job updating the blog so you don't have to read an entire
BOOK when I do update ;)

We took James to the rodeo! What a treat that was for him! And, we had "special" seats which
made it even more spectacular! We had such a great time with him
Riding a pony at the fair...

Sitting on tractors while waiting for the rodeo...

Riding rides at the fair in the fun....

James "teaching" me how to fish...hilarious! :)

A lot of snuggle time with the 3 of us...

Dress up...

James going off the diving board without floaties. He is SO big!

Swim lessons...

Soccer camp...

Swimming at Grandma & Grandpas....

Fishing at the pond....we caught a fish almost every time we cast the line.

Beach fun...

I will update soon on how I'm doing with life...with my grief journey...
I hope you are all doing well and enjoying your summer!