In loving memory...


Today makes 9 years since my big brother died. I'm left with a handful of photos and a heart full of memories.  These type of anniversaries are never really easy to deal with.  There is a heavy sigh in my heart when I think about that day and the days since without him.  Loss is never easy, but it, more than most anything, has the ability to shape us, change us, for good or bad. There have been three significant losses in my life that have deeply shaped my adult life.  Losing my brother, miscarrying our baby at 15 weeks, and, recently, the loss of my grandma.

Death is not easy.  Grief is not easily overcome.  But as I have learned with each of these losses, pain without a purpose is pointless.  We can let the pain consume us, have death prevent us from living or we can push through, move forward and live more intentional, more fully and pass that onto others.  I hope I am doing the latter.

Each of these losses happened at different points in my life - I was 24 when I lost my brother.  Married for three years and experiencing  motherhood for the first time.  Kaylee was 4 weeks old when Sean died.  It's funny how I remember some details about that day so vividly - the weather was cold, the sky overcast, I was sitting in bed feeding Kaylee and watching TV when my dad called. It was unexpected.  My mind couldn't even process the words my dad, though his crying, was saying  I had just seen my brother the week before.  He sat with me on the couch and we snapped pictures of him holding Kaylee.  He had just proposed to his long time girlfriend.  He was weeks from celebrating his 30th birthday.  I remember hanging up the phone and going numb, calling Mike in a panic and sobbing into my newborn babies blanket.  I wasn't ready to lose one of my best friends, the person who understood my quirks and always knew how to cheer me up. The rest of the day was a blur.

When we miscarried, I was 27.  I was finding the balance of mothering two small children (Kaylee was 2, Naomi was 13 months)  The pregnancy had been normal (full of morning sickness, weight gain and exhaustion)  I went into my 15 week appointment with no concerns.  My midwife and I joked about mistaking gas for baby movements.  We had already heard a healthy heartbeat the last appointment so we were both surprised when no heartbeat could be found this time around.   The OB came in with a sonogram machine told me the baby was dead in a matter of fact type of way. There before me were the first pictures of our third baby - a baby we had been praying for and planning for, a baby that was gone before we could even meet, a lifeless black and white image on a tiny screen. I wasn't ready to lose my baby, to say goodbye to a life we had been praying for, to not see who this tiny person was till heaven. The rest of the afternoon was a blur.

Now, I am 33 with four children and a 5th on the way via adoption.  We are in a steady groove of life.  My grandmas health had been on the decline for years.  There were several times we thought "this would be it", but this time was definitely different.  She stopped eating.  She stopped drinking.  Her eyes glazed and her memory gone.  She slept.  She groaned in pain.  She asked for her mama  She stroked my hair thinking I was nothing more than a stranger that had come to visit, or a younger version of my mom.  My mom and I sat by here side counting the breaths she took and the seconds between breaths she didn't take wondering if the previous breath had been her last.  We finally left her side at 10pm and got the call at 4am that she had passed.  I got there first and held my breath as I walked down the hallway to her room.  I stood in front of her closed door and buried my face in my hands and wept - I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the woman who had given up everything to raise me.  The rest of the day was a blur.

Although these losses were different - different circumstances, different times in my life, people of different significance to me - they all have something in common - they took me by surprise.  I wasn't ready.  The pain of each took my breath away, crushed my heart, and had me feel emotional pain in a physical way.  But like I said before, pain, without a purpose, is pointless.  Those days were a blur.  Those emotions were intense.  The aftermath of each still effects my life today.  But you don't have to stay in that blur.  You don't have to stay in that pain.  

These loses have shaped who I am, and while yes, I have had my "why God?" moments, He is also the one that held me together in the midst of all these.  When I couldn't communicate the pain, I know He understood my cries.  When I had no answers for my grief, I knew had all the answers in His hands.  He was there in each of those moments.  He held me as I wept into Kaylee's blanket, He was next to me as I sat alone in the doctors office, He stood with me in that hallway.  He has used that pain in my life to grow me, to send my roots deeper, to make my dependence on Him greater.  He has used that pain to help me love better, to empathize, to be more compassionate.  He has used that pain to create in me a longing for eternity like never before.

I would not be who I am today without the losses I have faced in my life.  I love this quote and think it sums up what I have learned though the years best: 

Measure your life by loss and not by gain,
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.
For love’s strength is found in love’s sacrifice,
And he who suffers has more to give.  


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