How to Embrace Life after Loss

11 years ago, we heard a cry that resembled that of a bleating sheep.  It was music to our ears. The delivery room was filled with people, and we all cheered!  He was here!  We had waited so long for this moment.  After 30 weeks of bed rest, experimental infusions, and whole lot of prayer he was here.  He had zero kidneys.

Elijah Praise weighed in at exactly six pounds.  This was the precise weight needed before the doctors would even consider doing surgery for peritoneal dialysis.  It’s shocking looking back now, knowing if he had even been an ounce under weight, his life would have only lasted a few days.  He made it six and a half amazing months.

Today, I am not going to focus on all the surgeries and worry.  Instead I want to write about the joy that his life brought to all of our lives.  Everyone used to say that he was blessed to have us for his parents.  I disagree.  We were the ones who were blessed to have him as our son.

He had the sweetest demeanor.  For all that he went through, I don’t remember him being fussy.  He had this way of charming everyone around him.  He had the most beautiful blue eyes and his daddy’s double-dimpled smile.  When he looked at you, it was if he was staring into your very soul.

He loved music, particularly John Denver.  Maybe I liked it more, but his music seemed to soothe all of us.  Looking back on his videos, when the days were good, we made them fun.  I can’t help but wonder what he was thinking.  We were fools for him, and loved every moment.

I started reading Winnie the Pooh to him only a few days after he was born. We made sure to have lots of books and show him all the colorful pages.  He loved his musical mobile and seemed genuinely surprised every time a new frame came around.  We prayed, sang, and wept over him.

Seth and I agreed after he passed, that we wanted him to be remembered with joy.  I took a lot of time openly grieving, for the very purpose to expose the reality of our loss.  Now that we have our kids we wanted to strive to remember our children with happiness.  We do this so that they will not be afraid to talk about them, be fearful of death, or feel burdened by their memory.

So far it has worked really well!  When they hit teenagerdom I might be singing a different tune.  For now, they love Eli’s day.  Being this year we have all been struck down with the plague, so we will have to wait a few days to do our usual celebration.  Even as I padded down the stairs this morning, I was greeted by two nasal voices squealing, “It’s Eli’s birthday!!  We are going to have root beer floats, and maybe go ….”  As they chattered on, I got so excited to see their excitement.

So here is what we do to honor our kids memories.  We talk about them.  I will be honest, the first ten years I cried a lot.  However I found talking about them lessened the ache.  I think a mother’s worst fear is her child dying. Her second, her child being forgotten.

We also try not to set a heavy standard.  That way if things shift or flex, then we aren’t disappointed (like say the flu bug from hades).   We do try to get out to the mausoleum.  Since this has been a way of life for our kids, they are not bothered by a cemetery in the least.  The kids love to make cards, sing songs, and yes, even dance.

Depending on how we are handling things, we pull out the pictures and movies.  I have loved having FB for this.  I tend to post a video and share my memories.  I love the likes and the comments.  The kids love showing their brother off.   We let the kids ask any questions that they want.  Every year they are be coming more inquisitive.  We always answer honestly.  Truly, kids are much more resilient then adults give them credit for.  Then, we try to go out to eat and talk about all the happy memories and what we wish he could be doing with us now.

Most people have cake on special occasions. We do something a bit different.  Elijah was on a special formula to balance his levels.  He wasn’t supposed to have anything but the formula.  A couple of weeks before he died, we took him to the mall.  We went shoe shopping and then headed for the food court.  I ordered an A&W root beer float.  We sat in front of the carousel and let him watch the ponies bob up and down.  He was mesmerized.  I scooped off  some of the vanilla ice cream and fed it to him.  He loved it!!!  I gave him a few more scoops of yumminess while Seth and I watched in amazement.  I wish I would have given him the whole cup.

Since he loved it so much, we try every year to have root beer floats. I know he would want us to think about his life and celebrate.  I say this for those of us who may be further out in our grief.  For those of you who are fresh in it, this may not happen for a while.  It took me a long time to get to this point.  Allow yourself grace and time.

I will tell you that some moments I do want to cry.  There is not one single day that goes by that I don’t wish he was here.  That’s a big misconception among people that time makes that feeling go away. It doesn’t.  We just don’t talk about it as openly.  I cry for what we had and for what could have been.  I have to remind myself that Eli would want us to live each day that he couldn’t, to the fullest.  He wouldn’t want me laying in bed all day and associating his name with pain.

Nope, not Elijah Praise.  When I hear his name, I think of miracles, prayers answered, and G-d’s kindness in extending us our son.  His life forever changed the way we look at life, and how brief it really is.  So when I think of all he could have been, I am quickly reminded, he was the best Eli we could have ever had.  He encompassed so much love and one day we will be together,  without all the tubes, and this time he can eat all the ice cream he wants.

Happy Birthday Elijah.  I am so thankful for every day that you fought so hard to live.  You will NEVER be forgotten and forever loved.

We put this montage together years ago, so it’s far from professional.

7 Steps to Combat Panic

Panic attacks.  If you have ever had one, you know how paralyzing they can be.  It’s a subject that is becoming more talked about, but has a huge stigma attached.

As a child, in my comfort zone I was peppy, loud, and yes I even harbored a spicy temper.  Outside of my zone, I was quiet, worried, and just plain terrified.  I wouldn’t say one particular event made me this way, I just was.

What I do remember, was my very first panic attack.  I am one of those people who didn’t need an alarm clock.  I would stay up late and be so worried I was going to be late, that I hardly slept.  When I did get up, I always felt rushed.

I was old enough to fend for myself at this point and I don’t remember my parents hassling me to get ready.  I have always been hard on myself and tried hard to please everyone I could.  This one particular morning I was running unusually late.  My heart was racing.  I was dropping things left and right.  I couldn’t find what I was looking for and it all just came to a head.

I sat on the floor and sobbed.  I am not much of a crier, so when I do, it’s bad.  I remember my Mom and Dad standing in my bedroom door asking what was wrong.  “There’s never enough time!”  I sobbed with every fiber of my being.  When the waterfall of tears finally stopped, I looked up to see my Mom and Dad just looking so bewildered.

I can’t remember if they had me go to school or not.  We never named it.  At that time, I had no clue what it was.  Looking back knowing what I know now, I see it as plain as daylight.  It was fear enrobed in panic.

Growing up, I would say most people would describe me as bubbly, outgoing, and sweet.  What they didn’t know was how much fear has driven my life.  By the time I graduated high school, I would say my fear was masked with a giant wall of independence.

I normally have a few really close friends, but kept most others at a distance.  It was hard to let anyone in, as when I did, I held nothing back. I love with my whole heart, and probably smother the ones I love.  I can’t help it! I just love people!

I learned what “don’t throw your pearls to swine,” meant the hard way.  It’s hard for those of us who wear our hearts on our sleeves.  I have to remember, not everyone was made to be so transparent.

As life went on, I encountered mass devastation.  We moved around a lot as a kid. I got sick a lot (now we know why) and it was lonely.  3 months after we got married, our apartment building caught on fire in the middle of the night and that seemed to set off a succession of full on panic attacks.

With life’s up and downs, these pain in my behinds rear their ugly heads when I least expect it.  For me, I can be having one major catastrophe after another and I hold it together just fine.  Oddly enough, it will be out of the blue when fear grips my heart and practically throws me to the floor.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t get a breath in and I have to run for my life!

As a Christian woman, it’s been hard dealing with these suckers.  I feel as though we are trained to believe that if this happens, we have let sin in our life.  Sweet one, this world is a tough place.  We have stressors pulling us in every direction, like never before.  We are told we need to have it all, and make it look like we are keeping it perfectly together.

This is what I love about my faith.  G-d accepts me just as I am.  A broken, stressed out, mess.  He doesn’t see me as faithless.  Instead He knows my heart and how much I want to be everything I can.  So when my pride takes control, He reminds me that I need more of Him, and less of me.

Do I think panic attacks are spiritual?  Yes I do, but not in the way most would think.  I don’t think G-d punishes me with them.  What I do believe is that somewhere along the line, I believed a lie.  Whether it is: I am not good enough.  I need to do more.  Everyone else can handle it, so I should.  What’s going to happen?  How am I going to make it through.  I could go on and on…

So what does this basket case do when I am faced with panic?   Here are 7 simple remedy’s I use.

  1. Get some praise music on ASAP!  I will find one of my favorite Christin music stations and sing as loud as I can.  It may sound crazy, but I have had some doozies where this has really helped.  Where there is praise, G-d is there!  David wrote many of the Psalms.  They were meant to be sung and in alot of them you can tell he was having some pretty rough days.
  2. Find a prayer partner.  Confide in a trustworthy friend who understands and deals with panic.  I have found my best help being with my friend who has walked a similar path.  I can be honest and know she will drop everything and just pray with me.  When we don’t know how to pray, count on the Holy Spirit to help you through.
  3. Quote scripture.  If you are prone to panic attacks, when you are feeling good, memorize scripture.  The bible really has been my best counselor. I have found so many verses that speak to my situation and we are to always armor ourselves with the word of G-d.  When our son was in the NICU, we were taught to memorize scripture to be ready for combat.  Think of it as your sword to slice and dice those lies.
  4. Aromatherapy/Acupuncture  Seriously, YES!  I fought it too.  Essential Oils have made a world of a difference for me.  I have found them to help like medicine without the nasty side effects!  I don’t know how or why, but they work.  As for acupuncture, I was worried about the needles, but I have found them painless and very helpful.  I do use acupuncture for other health issues and it has helped tremendously and again, no side effects!
  5. Exercise.  Yes, I know you want to beat me with your flip flop.  I hate it, but it is true.  Exercise calms the body down.  I am not a doctor, but I have found it wears down my nerves in a good way. Seriously, I have had to walk up and down the street at 2 in the morning while making my husband watch to make sure I didn’t spontaneously combust!
  6. Go limp/let time pass/breathe. Insert my least favorite word, patience.  Patience is the key.  If we have patience with ourselves and others, we can release the panic of the pace and just rest.  Rest is something that is hard to come by in this day and age.  We aren’t Wonder Woman, and were never meant to be.
  7. Talk to your doctor.  If all else fails and you aren’t getting any relief, make sure you talk with your doctor or counselor. Sometimes seeing a counselor who is trained, can help you sort out overwhelming issues and help you come up with a plan of attack or find the root of the issue.  G-d has given doctors wisdom to help us in this fallen world.  This has nothing to do with being faithless.  G-d is the author of life, and if medicine can improve your life, go for it.  It doesn’t mean it’s forever.  G-d uses science to help us.  As long as we are still praying for wisdom, we can be thankful for the miracle of modern science.

I am writing this in the middle of a really difficult week.  I have been feeling so overwhelmed with Autumn’s pounding pace.  When I flip on the news, it’s hard not to be afraid of all that is or could be happening.  However, we know that G-d created us for this very day.  We can’t add one hour of our life by worrying about it.  In fact, it is the very opposite.  We need to give ourselves grace to be human.  We need to give each other support in our community.  Most of all, if we are living in fear, then we aren’t living life with the joy, peace, and hope that G-d wants for us.

Most of all I want you to know, you are NOT alone.  Most of us want others to believe that we all have it together.  Girlfriend, we are all a mess and that is why we need Jesus to pave the way to our sweet loving Father.  Imagine a world where we all lay down our masks and accept ourselves where we are at this very moment.  Peaceful, right?  We will get through this, we will be able to assist others and let them know we too have walked a tumultuous path, and we will be stronger for it.

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And I Could Not Ask for More…

Have you ever have it  where you are sitting in a moment, and you can almost hear music to a song playing in the forefront of your mind? Certain instruments come to a crescendo and you feel your soul dance with the melody as your bask in the glorious rhythm and it feels so good…

When Seth and I began to date, I heard this song on the radio and I just loved it.  He and I had no similarities in taste of music, but I went on and on about how much I loved it.  I was working in a crisis home for developmentally disabled and violent offenders with sexual tendencies, and to say the least, it was stressful.  As I was leaving one night, I found a CD pinned underneath the windshield wiper.  I had never heard of the man before, so I was bit befuddled.

I ended up calling Seth and he shared with me, that he and his friend Nate had called the radio station to find out the name of the song and singer of my favorite song.  I knew at that moment, he was mine.  I must have played that song a million times and still when I hear it, it takes me to such a beautiful place in my mind.

As summer is winding down, Autumn is gearing up at a heart pounding pace.  I think any Mom with their kids being school age, goes through a myriad of emotions (homeschooled, private, or public) as you realize the stages we have left behind, and overwhelmed by the ones ahead.

I found myself reflecting on this summer with a heart filled to the brim with gratitude to G-d.  He works in such mysterious ways.  The past 4 years with my own health, has been such an uphill battle.  There have been days that I felt my life slipping through my fingers, like sand through an hour glass.  I remember days where I never thought I would be able to walk, drive, or even sit at a table and eat with my family ever again.  Honestly, I felt like G-d had forgotten me.  Or worse, He was ignoring my prayers.

We have gone through so many tumultuous things, we ALL have.  In the thick of the tempestuous storms, you can’t help but wonder, am I going to make it through all of this?  At that moment, an hour seems like an eternity.  The sorrow, the anger, the loneliness seems as though your hands and feet are bound eternally to the ground and your life is going nowhere.

Looking back now, on each instance, I see G-d’s miraculous fingerprints all over my  life.  All those times I was convinced He hadn’t answered my prayers and that He had even, dare I say, forsaken me.  I didn’t get the instantaneous healing.  I didn’t get the face to face encounter with a heavenly being.  I didn’t even get this unending peace that I have so yearned to have.

No, my healing has come in a different form.  G-d has been teaching me the art of patience in an instantaneous society.  I see that he has and still is binding up every single wound that has been inflicted, both oozing and some fully scabbed over.  He has been tending to wounds that have been festering far beneath, that have been silently promoting such toxicity to the very core that even I wasn’t aware. I was sick for so long, in my body and in my spirit.

I would love to tell you I am 100% better, but we live in a fallen world.  What I can tell you is that having to live through my worst nightmares, has made even the most mundane day, seem extraordinary!  As I gathered with family and friends this summer, I kid you not, my heart was just drinking it all in.   It was bliss seeing everyone do their thing, and just sitting back and listening and sharing in the moments.

Family seems a whole lot more meaningful.  It’s beautiful to see each individual person for what they are worth, and how truly priceless they really are.  Money comes and goes.  Status ebbs and flows.  But the love that is there between family and friends, those are true gifts from G-d Himself.

Whatever you are going through in this life, no matter how hard it may seem, G-d loves you.  I know it feels as if you are a tiny boat in a monsoon and the storm is raging. You may feel as though circumstances are tossing you back and forth like a rag doll in the wind.  But I assure you, there is peaceful waters up ahead.  There is the sun just waiting to break through the darkness to shine hope in a hopeless situation.  Hold fast dear one, as the promise that is held for you is more beautiful than any rainbow in the sky.

I write this to you, as a woman who still rides the waves of the high sea.  Yesterday was particularly bumpy.  What I can tell you is to cherish the moments, no matter how big or little they may be, and thank G-d.   He can do abundantly more than all we see, ask, or even think He can do.  We have buried our children, and I almost was buried myself, so know I don’t say these words lightly.

Tonight I got to enjoy a bike ride that I thought I would never be able to take again.  As we peddled with the evening sky bursting with color, I found myself thinking, “I got all I waited for, and I could not ask for more.”

In with the New

October marks the anniversary of me becoming a true writer.  I have wanted be an author since 2nd grade where I got to publish my very first book, “The Very Big Problem.” Okay, so it wasn’t in house publishing, more like my teacher gathered up my pages of my so called plot and my scribbles called art and laminated it.  To her credit, it even had a plastic spine on the side!

It wasn’t my best piece, but the one who spurred on the idea of becoming an author was my late Grandma, Esther.  I remember proudly giving her my pathetic book.  She held it like it was gold.  She carefully read through each page with great interest.  She oohed. She aahed.  She made me feel like I was truly gifted.

Being a plain Jane wall flower, I was content fading into the background.  I never saw anything significant about me.  My sister and I still razz each other about the movie “A League of Their Own”, where the two sister’s are bickering about how the oldest sister was named “Dottie,” while the younger sister felt everyone had referred to her as “Dottie’s sister.” Oddly, both of us felt we were Dottie’s sister and not actually Dottie.

I never really felt outstanding in anything.  In college, my favorite was English.  I loved the creativity of writing.  You could make your stories radiant and unique, nothing of which I identified with.  So when the class was done, I put away my writing pen (gasp, I actually used a pen and not a computer!) and closed my book.

After our second child was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) my husband and I were living off of prayers.  However this was back before cell phones were all the rage, and we actually had to use a pay phone (so gross).  It was really difficult trying to keep everyone in the loop while digging around for loose change to give updates.  We were approached with a new idea from the hospital, The Carepages.  I had no how revolutionary the idea was.

There was only one computer in the whole NICU and being that my son’s prognosis wasn’t good, I didn’t want to miss a second.  I believe Seth started the pages, but after a few times he dropped it in my lap.  What I didn’t know was he had given me a gift.  I started my love affair with writing.  Behind the computer screen and clacking keys, I was able to let all my insecurities go and just share my heart.

I wrote pretty much daily for the first 4 months, being that Seth and I had practically moved into the hospital to be with Elijah. Each day presented details we never thought we would be dealing with.  We reported the doctors words each day, accompanied with dialysis updates, blood gases, BP #’s, surgery updates, but most importantly the gift of sharing G-d’s miracles through our son Elijah Praise. Let me pause a moment to gather myself.

Through the Carepages we were able to engage prayer warriors all around the world for our little guy.  I was able to describe his sounds, smells, his personality with such crafted care.  I am so thankful to Carepages, because since he has passed away, I can look back on what I wrote and see G-d’s finger prints all over his life.  He would be 11 on September 30th of this year.

Writing became my therapy through his life, his death, my grief, and later even my battle for my life.  I abruptly stopped writing months ago.  I needed to reboot and remember why I am writing.  I want to be intentional with each post and not just blog to blab.  I wanted to be real, but with G-d’s purpose in mind.

So, here we are.  Brand new blog space and plenty of things to write about.  I dedicate all my posts to G-d my Father.  He has blessed me so greatly.  Even when I gave up on life, He never gave up on me.  Blessed be the name of the Lord, because He gives and He takes away.  No matter what, Blessed be His name.