Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Will the baby kick when we visit Cara?

We were on our way to deliver flowers to Cara's grave that our friends A, R and their boys J (5) and T (3) who were visiting from out of town.

I was riding next to J in the car when he turned to me from his carseat. "Will the baby kick when we visit Cara?"

"Yes," I said. "She loves when we go to visit Cara."

T asked, "Mommy, how did Cara die?" I heard R from the backseat, "Remember what Mommy told you? Cara was in Aunt Cynthia's belly and she had to go to the hospital so the doctors could help get her out."

J and T were trying to process the situation around Cara's death as best they could. When we got to Cara's grave, we all sat on the ground around her little space. J looked at me and said, "Is the baby kicking?" I said, "Yes, she gets excited when we are here."

His replied, "Well she shouldn't, because Cara is dead."

It was obvious that R and A wanted J to be sensitive to us. His comments didn't bother us at all, because we knew he was just trying to understand the situation. A pulled J into his lap, and J asked why there were two crosses on Cara's grave.

A went on to give a mini-children's sermon to the boys about death. He asked them why it was important that there would be a cross on Cara's grave. They said because Jesus died on the cross. And then he asked what happened. They said that Jesus went to heaven.

A told them that's why it was so special that Tim and I visit Cara on Sundays, because Sunday is the day we celebrate the resurrection. He shared how Jesus said that one day we will all be raised and that our bodies will be healed at which point, J asked, "And we'll get to hold her?"

I kept myself together until then, but the thought of getting to hold Cara again sent me into a downpour of tears. I watched as R responded the same way. Tim came and sat next to me putting a hand on my leg. The three of us sat that way as we watched this lesson unfold for the boys.

The boys asked how old Cara was and we told them she was just a baby. "Not 1?" the boys asked. We explained that she was alive in my belly for 9 months.

It was the first time Tim and I were really confronted with the grief of our daughter through the eyes of a child. We are so thankful that our friends were sensitive and open to discussing it with their children. It helps us to see these tender moments, because we don't know how we are going to answer these questions. The boys had been asking me some questions when R and A weren't around. I struggled to find answers for them and also wanted to be sensitive to the responses their parents would give. R said to me later that she often doesn't have an answer, because frankly we have all have a lot of questions about Cara's death.

We ended our time around Cara's grave with some belly rubs to feel the baby's kicks. J was scared to feel the baby move, but T got a little baby bump. They are sweet, sweet boys and we were thankful for this moment with them around our daughter's grave.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What is it?

Last Sunday our friend A, Tim and I journeyed 15 minutes down the road to visit our dear friend L at her new church. It was a joy to see her in her new home and realize that ultimately she is going to be ok there as much as I would love to have her back at our church! In typical L fashion, she preached a truly inspired message. The woman clearly has a gift!

The sermon was based on Exodus 16, when the Israelites are in the desert hungry. They grumbled and complained. We should have died in Egypt, at least then we had food and weren't hungry. God told them he would provide in the midst their hunger by sending meat at night and bread in the morning. Quail arrived in time for dinner and when the morning dew lifted, it revealed thin flakes of manna. The Israelites looked at each other and said, "What is it?" Even after God told them it was coming, they still could not comprehend. Sure it may not have been "pots of meat" they had feasted on in Egypt, but it was sustenance for that leg of their journey.

L went on to share about some manna moments. One most poignant was after she delivered her son. She was staying on a mixed floor at her hospital where mothers who have just delivered babies are in rooms right next to people who have just had surgery. The last night they were there, baby W screamed through the entire night. L couldn't help but feel concern for the poor person in the room next to her who likely was desperately in need of rest.

In the morning as they were leaving, a woman came out of the room next door. She asked L if she was the one with the baby to which L sheepishly replied yes. The woman said, "My friend is dying of ovarian cancer in this room. She listened to your baby all night and said it was the sound of new life." Manna.

This past week I learned a friend is in the midst of a devastating situation. It's the kind of news that kept me up at night hurting for my friend, trying to make sense of it, unable to to wrap my head around the situation and what the future will look like for him and his family. The one thing that I have sensed through all of this is that his relationship with his son is stronger than it has ever been. In the midst of what would cause some to crumble, he has clung to his child and found hope in the love he has for his little boy. Manna, food to sustain him for the journey.

Tuesday we had the pleasure of seeing our baby girl once again on an ultrasound. It was a brief reprieve as we enter an even more emotional time of the third trimester. We were amazed by her beauty and how we can already see some semblance between her and her sister. Manna, food to sustain us for the journey.

It reminds me of a sermon our pastor, G, preached about this time last year. The text was Genesis 22 when Abraham is sent to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac, the son that he had waited his whole life for. Isaac even asks on the way what they will sacrifice. Abraham responds that God will provide. Just as Abraham raises the knife above his beloved son, God provides a ram for the sacrifice. G went on to say, "the God Abraham knows is not one of plans, but of promise."

I hear so frequently in the midst of horrible situations, "God has a plan." I just want to say, did God plan the death of my child? Did God plan the sickness that has ravaged your body and left you at times virtually lifeless? Did God plan your divorce? God planned that? That is no god that I want part of. God didn't plan the pain, the brokenness, he offered the promise, the dream of life restored.

God did not plan Cara's death so that he might offer us our new child's life. I want to be clear that this little baby kicking fervently inside me is not the answer to losing Cara. She does not absolve that pain for us. There is no way that she could erase the last year and a half of living in a house that is far too quiet, void of our firstborn child. God did not plan our miscarriage in September to pour salt in our open wounds.

However in February, he offered us manna, a promise. For even now, though known only to us in the womb, our wished for child has already been our manna, food to sustain us for the journey. With this new little babe in our lives, perhaps we will be able to survive a life that some days still feels unlivable. She is our promise and our hope of some life restored.

Sunday L concluded her sermon by challenging us not to ask "What is it?" but to look at the manna and say, "There it is."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Coldplay...an incredible night

I got to see Coldplay in concert on their Viva la Vida tour and it was just incredible. It was much more than a set of songs, it was an experience. What it made it all the more special was to be there with an incredible group of friends from church that have graciously stood by Cynthia and me over this past year and a half.

The Viva la Vida album has a special place in my heart. When this album came out last summer, just a few months after Cara's death, I was excited yet hesitant to listen to it. At the time, I was at a point where I wasn't able to "enjoy" music. It was a heavy point in my grief journey where music to me was simply therapeutic - a way to grieve and to connect with Cara. But when Viva la Vida came out last summer the melody and rhythms in that album brought me some healing. As I listened to the album, I felt glimmers of hope, peace and maybe even joy.

The opening track on the album particularly spoke to me...Life in Technicolor...

Several months later, I shared this song with a friend in a "feel-good" mix I made for her to brighten up her days as she was going through a difficult battle with cancer. This dear friend leaned over to me during the concert last night and told me how much this song helped her push through the days when she was really struggling. This song gave her some hope and strength.

Her comment reminded me about how much of a gift music is to our lives. When we grieve, when we fight against sickness, and even in our best of times, music is often there, touching us unlike anything else can. That is the gift of music.

Music also transcends our being. As another friend told me as we walked back to our car after the concert, she felt unbridled joy as the concert went on last night. Somehow, almost magically, when we hear that perfect song, music invades our entire being and we're changed and uplifted.

It was such a gift to stand together with an incredible group of friends on a beautiful summer night under a full moon and simply get lost in the music. To let every beat, every word, every melody take hold of you and stir something up deep inside of you. In a way that only music can.

The night was a memorable, one I'll never forget. During the show, I couldn't help but keep looking up at the full moon and a bright little star just to the right of the moon. I knew that Cara was close...that she was up there somewhere and somehow, looking down with joy on us all.

I love you, Cara. I miss you so much, but I'm thankful that you're always close through the simple gift of music.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Grief, Pain and Pregnancy Hormones

It's a horrible combination.

I could manage pain before the grief. I was learning to manage the grief before the pregnancy hormones. Then the horrible combination of all three started to intermingle, and it leaves me a soppy mess.

I remember saying to our pastor the day we found out we lost Cara that I couldn't imagine anything hurting worse than that. How I didn't want to have another hurt because it surely would take me back to that moment.

As I suspected, it does. The slightest hurt sends me into a downward spiral of "why me?" WHY ME, damnit. I did nothing to deserve this, yet I will live the rest of my life without my daughter. I want her here with us so desperately.

As we begin preparing for our next little one, I face so much fear. It was easier for me to deal with the pregnancy in its early stages than now as it nears the end. What if we have come all this way to lose another baby? I came home from shopping Friday night, bags filled with clothes for her all around me on the floor and completely fell apart. "Tim, what if she doesn't make it? What if I have bought all these things for her and she doesn't live?" I cried. Tim encouraged me to make some new memories for her, but it is still very hard for me.

I suppose in some ways I'm confronting what I dealt with in losing Cara. We had everything ready for her. The nursery was set, the clothes were folded and tucked in their appropriate spots. Then in a flurry the week after we lost her, I pulled everything out that could be returned and sent it back.

I don't want that feeling again. The feeling of sitting here, ready for a baby, and what if she doesn't come home with us? So many emotions, so much pain, grief, and if we are honest, hormones...

Friday afternoon I was listening to a nursery mix we put together for Cara and will now use for our next baby. One of the songs is an instrumental version of Yesterday by the Beatles. As the words floated through my head, I realized how true it was for us and how much I longed for our "Yesterday". The lyrics that spoke to me...

Yesterday, All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Why she had to go I don't know...

Yesterday, Love was such an easy game to play,
Now I need a place to hide away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

An avoided subject

I had a conversation last week that has been on my mind...

I was getting my haircut during lunch with a really nice stylist. We talked about the economy, healthcare, and then of course family came up...

"Do you have any kids?"

I had a feeling this question was coming. It occasionally has during my 15 minute haircuts and I just have a hard time getting into the conversation in this situation. I clammed up (darnit!) and kinda avoided the question directly...

"Well, we have one on the way."

Darnit, why didn't I mention Cara?

"Are you going to have a baby shower?"

Here's my chance.

"No, we already had a baby shower for our first daughter that was stillborn a little over a year ago."

The pretty awkward conversation continued on from there. The stylist went on asking me about Cynthia's due date and a couple other typical questions.

I was a little taken back at how quickly our conversation "moved on" after I mentioned Cara's death. I don't fault the stylist because I'm sure she was shocked by my news, and in a way I fault myself because I know I didn't dwell on it too much either because my lack of repsonse to her first question was hard and frustrating for me.

This whole exchange later reminded me of how death, grief, and suffering is often avoided and ignored in our society. On the whole, we just don't like talking about "bad things." We'd prefer to just "move on." In too many cases, the suffering and sick are ignored.

I remember feeling this strongly after I returned to work two weeks after Cara's death. The office environment seemed so sterile and dry. Less than a handful of people actually stopped by to see me or took the time to really ask how I was doing. Suddenly, I realized how taboo death and open, honest grieving was in the workplace.

All of this just makes me equally sad and frustrated. Why do we avoid death? Why do we act like it doesn't happen or that it can't ever happen to us?

My only guess is that with all the technological advances in healthcare over the years and the way in which death has been moved away from us (from our homes, places of work, etc.) and into hospitals and funeral homes, it all just seems so foreign and unknown to us. We tend to think in the back of our minds that no matter how bad things get, we'll find a way to get through the sickness or pain. But what happens when all the technology and drugs in the world just don't work? Or what happens when a baby dies for no clear reason?

My prayer in all of this is that we all would all become more open and familiar to the pain, suffering and even death that is all around us. This isn't a morbid request, but rather a prayer. A friend reminded me on her blog that our Pastor says that prayer is "being aware." And it seems like in being aware, when we care for the sick we find new life and glimmers of hope in the process. When we don't ignore the pain, we are somehow deeply blessed in the process.

I don't want to avoid the subject of death, and I don't want our family too either. I want us to know that there are people everyday that are suffering and hurting that need prayer, that need someone to go and care for them to offer them a healing hand and an open heart.