Sunday, December 21, 2008

Marley & Me

Greetings from the mountains.

We are already enjoying our time away. This afternoon we spent time lunching in the local town, then perusing the local art galleries trying to secure some last Christmas presents.

We arrived to the house late this afternoon and have been relaxing ever since. My book of choice for the next few days is Marley & Me.

I was reading another book that I just couldn’t get in to, when Marley & Me sucked me in. The book is written by John Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Page three he writes about his childhood dog, “My mother would later tell me, ‘In fifty years of marriage, I’ve only seen your father cry twice. The first time was when we lost Mary Ann’ – my sister who was stillborn. ‘The second time was the day Shaun died.'"

Nothing like connecting with me in the Preface. He goes on to chronicle how he and his wife secured the newest member of their family, Marley. And how Marley goes through the highs and lows of their marriage with them. Marley for me is a cross between our two cats, Cierra and Kenzie. All the weird, quarky Marley moments attributed to Cierra and the sweet, tender moments attributed to Kenzie.

I’ll digress for a minute to say those girls have been my lifeline these past nine months. I read blogs of women of have experienced the loss of a child and say how they couldn’t go on without their living children. I feel similarly about my cats, to the point I said to Tim last week, how do people come home with nothing to love on…no child, no animal. Let’s just say our girls have gotten their fair share of attention these past few months.

The similarities between Grogan’s story and ours are uncanny, down the murder that occurred feet from their home right before they moved into their first house. A murder which no one, the seller, the agent, or the inspector, spoke of until they moved in. Our story involved a young girl. Sparing the details, I’ll share that I used to look out our back window those first few weeks and become very upset. It was February and Tim would always say to me, “You’ll plant some flowers in the spring out there as a way of honoring her.”

Grogan goes on to tell of the excitement of their pregnancy and how Marley rejoiced with them. And then how Marley grieved along side them when they lost their precious baby to a miscarriage. Animals are uniquely sensitive to our emotions. Recently Kenzie had a lot of bloodwork done. The doctor said, “I want to check her blood levels against what we saw in March [their bloodwork following the plant consumption after Cara’s death.] It showed that Kenzie was very stressed.” “Yes,” I said quietly, “that’s when we lost our daughter.”

I remember those days following Cara’s death. At one point with a room full of people, Kenzie, who under those circumstances would normally have made her presence scarce, climbed in my lap, as if to say we need each other now.

One more Kenzie story before I sign off. Our beloved cats are banished to the laundry room in the evenings, because their hyperactivity seems to display around 2:00 am. On the weekends, whoever wakes up first, will let the felines out for their breakfast and morning frolicking. Kenzie, who is not content until both of us are up, will go upstairs to meow at the bedroom door until the sleeping spouse arises. A spouse who is greeted with a glimpse of Kenzie’s tail flying down the stairs which communicates, “we are all up now, let’s play.”

In the months following Cara’s death, we noticed something strange about Kenzie. We will both be awake, and yet Kenzie will still be upstairs crying. A couple of times I have gone up there to tell her that everyone is up, and I find her outside the nursery.

As we sit in our mountain cabin each devouring our books, we occasionally stop to reflect how we are ready to know our next chapter. We have lived some beautiful chapters already, the story of a pregnancy filled with love and anticipation followed by pages of heartbreak in burying our daughter and finding life without her. She is very much a part of our lives. We are three. But we are ready for the next part, the story that continues to unfold for our family. What does it hold? When will we have some direction? Some indication of that which we so desperately long to have?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

9 months

Hard to believe. My stomach drops when I let it sink in. We had 9 months of life with Cara, and now we're living into 9 months of death. It shouldn't have been this way. We miss our baby girl so much.

Cynthia and I were talking last night about how over the past couple of weeks we've been moving into an acceptance stage in our grief journey. We shared this last night and I share this now with so much reservation. Because here's what acceptance doesn't mean. It doesn't mean "we're over it" or "we're moving on." It doesn't mean that the grief and pain is over. It doesn't mean that our grieving and mourning stops here. It doesn't mean that we forget.

But it does mean that we are starting to accept and live more into our new reality of a life forever marked by Cara. It means that each and every day we'll wake up and think of what could have been with our firstborn, baby girl. It means that the pain and grief from life without Cara will be present the rest of our lives, but it just won't be quite as raw. It means that Cara will be an integral part of all our family traditions for the rest of our lives. It means that Cara's brothers and sisters, and extended family and friends will know Cara, and hear many stories about how she changed us forever.

I said to Cynthia last night that I feel like this past year will be big blur when we look back. Cynthia quickly corrected me and rightfully so. She said that she thinks we'll remember this year more than ever in the years to come. She described this year as the richest and fullest year we've ever had...

We experienced our first pregnancy and the birth of Cara. And even though there is so much pain from her death, her life brought so much richness into our world. 9 months later Cynthia and I can say that because of Cara our marriage is so much stronger. Because of Cara we have taken better care of ourselves emotionally (through counseling) and physically. 9 months later, because of Cara we have slowed down the pace of our life so we can enjoy the richness of hikes, bike rides, birdwatching, gardening, quiet moments in our house, vacation trips, our church community, dates together, and visits with family and friends. Because of Cara, I'm pursuing a vocation that is closely linked to my passion for music. Because of Cara we're starting a Healing Ministry at our church. Because of Cara life is rich and full of more purpose, hope, peace and love than we've ever known.

Because of Cara...
Cara will continue to bring many more wonderful things into our lives. It doesn't stop here, it doesn't stop at 9 months.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Call

Cynthia and I watched Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia recently and were both touched by the song at the end of the film, "The Call" by Regina Spektor.

The songs plays as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy leave Narnia.
Watch and listen to it here. (Just listen if you don't want to see the last scene of the film).

This song struck a strong connection between Cara and us. It seemed like Cara was saying these words to us...

I'll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye


The Call
It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought

Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder
Til it was a battle cry

I'll come back
When you call me

No need to say goodbye

Just because everything's changing

Doesn't mean it's never

Been this way before

All you can do is try to know

Who your friends are

As you head off to the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light

You'll come back

When it's over

No need to say good bye

You'll come back
When it's over

No need to say good bye..

Now we're back to the beginning
It's just a feeling and no one knows yet

But just because they can't feel it too

Doesn't mean that you have to forget

Let your memories grow stronger and stronger

Til they're before your eyes

You'll come back
When they call you

No need to say good bye