Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Saturday Tim and I went to a local garden center. We enjoyed a private visit with the owner because it was a slow day. She is a very sweet lady who had been to our church's yard sale for First Candle in the fall. We mentioned recognizing her from that event. I shared with her why we held the yard sale and where the money had gone.
It was nice to be able to share about Cara, about why we lost her and the reason why more research around stillbirth is needed. I said it's hard to have a $700 price tag on your daughter's life. She got it, she embraced us in our pain, and was incredibly sensitive.
As Tim and I pulled away, it clicked for me. We had raised exactly $700 at the yard sale. The exact amount that would have saved Cara. I can only hope that our collective $700 can save much more than just one baby. And even if it saves only one, it would have been worth it, because as I know so deeply, Cara would have been worth it.
Today is First Candle's Day on the Hill. I hope there is an army of broken parents storming the Capitol. We would have been amongst them, but a life situation kept us home this year. I will make it there one day though if this fight for more legislation must continue. Cara, you have my word.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Tonight, we are going to back to the last restaurant we ate out at before Cara's death. Cynthia asked if we could go there last night. At first I was hesitant, but the more I think about it this morning, it will be good to go there. Because it's a place where we can cherish a memory that we have with Cara.
We celebrate Cynthia's birthday today with Cara. Because I know Cara is smiling down on her Mommy, telling her what a wonderful Mommy she is, and how much she loves her.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Our friends and family gathered at 9:00 for a service of remembrance. Our pastor shared several prayers and our friend C read Psalm 130 and Luke 18:15-17. Tim then read a letter he wrote to Cara (well we shared reading it because Tim was overcome with emotion). Then a few people with us shared some reflections about Cara.
Most touching to me was our pastor's reflection about communion at our church. Each week the children come bursting through the doors from children's church and race down the aisle to the table. He said after Cara died, right around Easter Sunday, he had this vision of Cara also bombarding the table with the same fervor as these young living hearts.
The rest of our day was spent gardening as planned. All I can say is we are once again overwhelmed by everyone's generosity. I did not think it was possible to recreate the same feeling that we had the week we lost Cara, but our community has once again lavished us with love. Our gardens (plural) are full because of the kindness and generosity of those around us. We are overflowing with flowers, and it was the perfect outlet for us to cultivate life back into the land.
I'll post pictures once spring is in full force and the rest of our garden blooms, but know that I spent 3 hours out there today and Tim was out there for 5. We are so blessed by all the sweet tributes to Cara. Cara's garden is almost entirely made up of gifts we received from other people, and it means so much to us to know our family and friends have created that space to remember her.
This morning was harder for me than I expected. I felt like I was going to be able to take in the service without a heavy heart full of pain and grief. Well, my assumption was pretty far off. As soon as our pastor started the service I felt like I had been transported back to a year ago. All the memories of this last year without Cara came flooding back.
I hadn't expected this, but as Cynthia and I got ready this morning and drove to the grave site it felt like deja vu. Like we were back at the morning before Cara's funeral, trying to muster up the strength to get out of bed. The memories from last year brought back a strong sense of emptiness again. I really just felt like "here we go again"...like the house will seem way too quiet again or how will I ever go back to work?
Cynthia and I talked about this after the service which was helpful. She was in a place of peace and hope which encouraged me a little bit.
After lunch, Cynthia and I started working in Cara's garden. We had so many wonderful flowers that were all given to us for Cara's birthday. What a wonderful gift.
Around 3:30 pm, Cynthia went inside to take a nap. Now it was just me working alone in Cara's Garden. Our friend says that "gardening is a conversation with God." I love that. I added on to his thought today that gardening is also a conversation with the saints.
So, I spent some time talking with Cara as my hands dug holes in the soil and planted the flowers in the garden. It was in this moment, that I felt a deep sense of peace and hope for the first time all day.
It felt like Cara and even God were saying to me to just enjoy this new chapter in our lives, just as easily as it is to enjoy the beauty that is bursting forth in this garden. I felt like Cara's spirit was close. I felt like she was saying that she will always be close to us, that she'll always be a part of our family, and that she is hoping for new life in our family too.
It was one of those divine moments, where I can say with certainty that Cara was there.
I want to end by sharing the letter that Cynthia and I read this morning. Again, thank you to all our family and friends that stood by us today. We are touched and deeply humbled by your love and support.
A letter for Cara, one year later
March 18, 2009
Dear Cara Grace,
We gather together this morning with family and friends, to remember and honor you.
Our hearts are heavy when we think about how much we miss you. When we think about what would have been. Today, you would have been one year old. A growing, little baby girl with a full, dark head of hair (just like mine) and your mom's beautiful eyes, mouth and hands. You would have been bouncing up and down, smiling, and taking in the world as only a one-year old does.
We had so many dreams for you, Cara. Dreams of caring for you. Dreams of watching you grow from a baby to a child, and from a child into a beautiful woman. We dreamed about the day when you'd start to walk, or wear your first Easter dress, or get your first crush.
Your mother dreamed of holding you in her arms, and caring for you in the special way that only a mom would in the first few months of your life. She also dreamed of going on "mother and daughter adventures" with you, and being a listening ear for you as you grew older and went through the joys and sorrows of life.
I dreamed of showing you all the world had to offer you. I was ready to show you music, nature and sports, and watch the wonder in your eyes as you experienced all of these things. I was especially excited to teach you about music, and hold you in my arms and dance around the house with you to whatever crazy song came on the iPod. I was ready to gently guide you through your teenage years and help you blossom into a beautiful woman.
It could seem, Cara, that all our dreams for you have been dashed. But I don't think that's right. I don't think that's what you taught us over this past year.
You have taught us that our dreams, that were bound to your physical existence with us, were way too small. You have shown us that even though your physical life on earth was cut too short; your spirit, that is fully alive in Christ, is still very present in our hearts and minds. Your gentle spirit lives within us and reminds us of "the gift to be simple." Your legacy challenges us to love each other more and walk through each day with a new sense of hope and purpose. Because of you, Cara, our "beloved friend who offers grace," our lives are forever changed and marked by you.
My dear Cara, as we reflected shortly after your birth, while your precious life was only known to us in the womb, you have already changed and impacted more people than we as your parents could have ever hoped you would. And now you are in the presence of our Father who loves you completely, perfectly, wholly, something we would have only aspired to do.
We love you, Cara. You'll always be our little girl.
Monday, March 16, 2009
It was a pretty normal Monday. Dragging myself out of the bed after a full weekend of making final preparations for the arrival of our firstborn daughter, Cara Grace. Anticipation was in the air. I said goodbye to Cynthia that morning thinking that at any time my cell phone could ring while I'm at work and I'd have to go rush home to take Cynthia to the hospital. Little did I know that fateful call would come but for all the wrong reasons.
I just got back to my desk after lunch when my phone rang. Cynthia tells me she hasn't felt Cara moving this morning and she's upset. She has a call into the OB-GYN but they haven't gotten back to her yet. I tell her to go drive to the doctor's office right away. I'll meet her there and we'll check this out.
I scramble and rush out the door. As I'm driving on the highway my pulse is quickening and my thoughts start running..."this can't be happening...everything will be alright...maybe we'll deliver today." I remember thinking in that moment that maybe the worst that happened, but that "no, everything would be OK."
I got to the doctor's office before Cynthia and tell the receptionist what's going on and they say we can do a non-stress test right when Cynthia gets here. Cynthia arrives in about 5 minutes and we head right into the room.
The first nurse listens for a heartbeat. Says she doesn't hear anything but makes some excuse that it could just be the equipment. She goes and gets Dr. S.
Dr. S sets up the ultrasound machine. We see a blurry picture of Cara but no movement. Nothing. No heartbeat. She tells us she "doesn't know why this happened but there's no heartbeat." She doesn't have to say the words...we immediately know Cara is dead, she's gone. Cynthia keeps saying this can't be right, that they need to take Cara out of her belly immediately. I fall to my knees and place my hands on Cynthia's belly...shocked, numb, broken, hurt...."this really can't be happening."
Cynthia and I hold each other. We cry. We're in a state of disbelief. This just can't be true. Cynthia summons up the strength to call her mother. I hear her mom's shock. Their dream is dashed.
Cynthia and I shuffle down the hall to Dr. W's office. Dr. W is a soft-spoken, kind, wise, doctor. He says he's so sorry this has happened since it is the worst thing that could ever happen to someone. We didn't know quite yet how true his words were. Dr. W explains what our options for delivery are. Deliver naturally, c-section is an option but not recommended. We choose to deliver naturally. Dr. W encourages us to go home and they'll call us when they have room in the hospital. The hospital is busy right now delivering healthy babies.
Somehow, Cynthia and I drive back home. How did we have the strength to do this? How did we not lose it right there? Did we need to just be home? Probably so.
I don't remember the car ride too much but I do remember walking into the house. It had felt the most quiet than ever before. Empty. Totally empty. Cara's cries would never be heard here.
Quickly, Cynthia and I were drawn up for Cara's nursery. This was the place we felt closest to her spirit. We sat, huddled up in Cara's rocking chair and wailed. She can't be gone. How are we going to live without her? How are we going to get through this? This is a nightmare. Cara, we love you. We can't believe you're gone.
After some time in Cara's nursery, we went back downstairs and quickly made a call to our pastor. He was expecting a call of good news and asked "if we had some news" with a sense of excitement. Quickly, I told him "Cara's died." He said "oh no" and said he'd be right over.
Pastor G was quickly there to offer sympathy and comfort in such a special way. He cried with us, prayed with us and even helped us start planning a way to honor Cara at her funeral. Almost immediately, we wanted to think of practical ways to honor our beloved daughter.
Within a short time, the house started to fill up which was a really good thing. Our friend and pastor L and our friend M. We huddled together. They provided the strength we needed to get through delivering Cara. They were a perfect friend, there for us to express our grief and pain.
Around 9pm we got the call. The hospital was ready. It was time to leave...
Sunday, March 15, 2009
March 15th is a very difficult day for me. Well I suppose the 16th through the 18th will be difficult. Looking back we believe that March 15th was the last day Cara was alive. While, I didn't realize she wasn't moving until the 17th, the fact that she was likely gone of the 16th is extremely difficult for me.
I have come to terms with the fact that she had likely died by the 16th, but still it hurts me to know I wasn't more attentive. There some specific times that day (the 16th) that I thought it was weird she wasn't moving. In church, she was usually so active and I know she didn't kick that Sunday. I came home after church and laid down on the couch to take a nap. Tim asked me if Cara was kicking. "No," I said with a smile on my face, "she's going to sleep too." Then later that night we met friends from out of town for dinner. I was talking about Cara and thought it was strange she wasn't showing them her normal activity. It wasn't until after we learned that she was dead that all of these events came together for me.
I just didn't realize that losing Cara at that point was even a possibility. I had not been told to monitor her activity or her kicks. I'm fairly certain we could have saved her had I known to kick count, because looking back I realize that she did slow down. Again another difficulty reality.
Back to the 15th...on the 15th Tim and I spent the entire day preparing the house for baby. The months leading up to Cara's birth, we had taken on several projects in our home. The 15th was final prep day - cleaning those last few closets, preparing the crib, and general organization.At one point, I collapsed in the rocker in the nursery and spent some time gazing out the window at the Bradford Pear in full bloom. I pictured myself there with Cara in several days, nursing and gazing at that same tree. It was in that dreamy moment that Cara was kicking and I asked Tim to get the video camera. We have some footage of her last few kicks as a result.
Later that evening we went to my parents' house for pizza and to spend some time with them. My mom's cousin, who she was extremely close with, had died the day before. My parents were leaving the next morning to travel 6 hours to be with family. I was under strict "hold the baby in" instruction until they returned. During dinner, Cara's foot whipped from one side of my belly to the other. Perhaps one last distress kick? I don't remember any other movements after that one although I'm sure there were probably more. I suspect she probably slipped away sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
And so March 15th falls on a Sunday this year. This same Sunday last year was Palm Sunday on the Liturgical calendar. As I followed the procession of palms into church, I unknowingly laid my little lamb at the foot of the cross.
I recently listened to a podcast of a sermon preached by Peter Gomes on March 16, 2008. He said this in relation to Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
"In order to take it all in you have to consider all the parts, you need the weeping at the tombs, the sweat, and the blood, you need all of that together in order to appreciate fully in what dawns as fresh as the morning next Sunday. There is no joy without suffering, there is no victory without struggle. In this week we call Holy, we are reminded of that. It is all part of that other dimension through which we must travel. You must be here on Thursday and Friday and Saturday. But there is a lot stuff between now and then to take in if you want a full share of that full new dimension you need to participate. You can't just leap from Sunday mountain peak to Sunday mountain peak, you have to walk through the valley."
And walk through the valley we did that week. We found some respite on Easter Sunday when we were back in church celebrating the resurrection and the hope we have that our daughter lives on. However, in many ways we continue to walk through the valley.Those same palms we carried that Sunday a year ago were burned and used for ashes on Ash Wednesday just a few weeks ago. "From dust you have come and to dust you shall return." A poignant reminder of the palm I carried with my daughter who was later that week returned to the dust of the earth. A year later her mark still boldly displayed on my life.
I sit here weeping as I think of that last little kick. I can't believe it's been a year since I last felt her alive inside me. Every day her absence is known in my life. It consumes me less than it did in the early days, but ever present it is. I would give everything to rewind to one year ago at this moment, to realize the distress my poor baby was in and rush to the hospital so we could save her.
Friday, March 13, 2009
*I'm extremely thankful that I had our beautiful little girl, Cara, and for the time we spent with her. We held her for a little over twelve hours, and I continue to cling tightly to those memories. She was completely perfect, and I'd give anything to go back to that day. As marked with pain as it was, there was still deep joy in meeting our firstborn and marveling at her beauty.
*I'm grateful for the nurses and doctors who cared for us that day. There are certainly aspects of our care that I would have changed, but for the most part it was more than we could have hoped for.
*God sent us a living angel via one of the nurses who shared with us the most profound advice to aid our grieving. Tim asked her how we should grieve this. She said with tears filling her eyes, "I have never lost a child, but if I was in your situation, I would want to tell her everything I had planned to tell her." And so that's what we did after our family and friends left for the evening. We sat with Cara for several hours, all three of us in my hospital bed, and Tim and I told her everything. Some things were funny and some more serious. We cried, we laughed, but most importantly we wrote those thoughts down as we shared them. We forever have the words we said to our little girl that day. For that I'm so thankful. I can remember very little of what I said to anyone that day, but those thoughts will forever be a part of me. I most remember being in awe of how beautiful she was and deeply, deeply broken at her loss.
*I'm thankful for the physical memories we have of our time together. The hand prints, feet prints, lock of hair, pictures, and the outfits. She wore three outfits in one day! Her mother's daughter!
*This next thought is one that continues to warm me to this day. I'm extremely, extremely thankful for the care we received from our community. While that week was deeply painful, I would go back to it in a heartbeat just to feel that amount of love and provision. Before we even returned home from the hospital, our freezer was packed with food. I remember at one point weeks after we lost Cara finding a lasagna that I had no idea was in there. We literally did not cook for 3 months! While this was an immense need that was filled, there were other details that we didn't have to think through. Any army of women organized a full buffet for the reception after Cara's service. It is often said that when Southern women need to help, they head to the kitchen. We reaped the benefits of their efforts for days. I didn't give a single thought to the reception, because I knew it was in capable hands.
*The cards, flowers, and gifts we received are all treasured possessions. I still have not come to a place where I can go through them again. The leader at Compassionate Friends tells me that this is ok, and when the time is right, I'll be able to go open up those memories.
*I'm incredibly humbled by the friends and family who travelled for Cara's funeral in the midst of a holiday weekend. Their presence uplifted us in ways they must have seen evident as they filled our house. We spent a lot of time crying, but oh, did we also laugh! We had not been together as that group before, and we may never be again. Those are precious, precious memories.
*I'm thankful for our church that physically embraced us on Easter morning as we came to celebrate the resurrection in a way we had not intended the previous Palm Sunday. We barely made it through the door before we were surrounded. I remember standing in the middle of the aisle, which was as far as I could get, because person after person continued to meet us with a hug. It's an embrace that still reaches out to us every Sunday.
*And finally, I'm thankful for a wise man who continues to provide us counsel to this day. We stumbled into our counselor's office two days after I delivered Cara. I remember having difficulty climbing the steep steps to his office and once I entered collapsing in the chair in deep sobs. Getting the story out was painful that day, but it continued to be even harder in the following weeks. We have stuck with our visits and are in a significantly better place as a result. He has helped us learn to manage the pain and situations we never thought we would be in.
I'm sure my list is missing many other things I'm truly thankful for, but these reflections take me back to the heart of that week when we met Cara and released her back to God. I miss that little girl desperately every day.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Many people at Compassionate Friends have often said the second year after their child's death is harder than the first. I'm starting to understand why this is so. For me, this past year was our first year without Cara. It was our first spring without Cara, our first summer, fall, winter, Christmas...And in many ways, we experienced those firsts in a state of shock and numbness to the harsh reality that Cara is gone. We experienced the pain of not having Cara here, but the finality of it all took months to start to set in.