Sam from Ezra’s perspective

I didn’t have a plan for how we would tell Ezra about Sam. Sam came before Ezra. Ezra never met Sam. I didn’t feel like we needed to bring it up, necessarily. I wondered if it would come up when Ezra was older, maybe in the natural course of getting to know his parents better. Then during our last move, a photo of Mommy and Daddy holding Sam came out of a box, at the hands of a very curious redhead.

“Who is this baby?” he asked.

Ezra was delighted to learn that he had another brother, and he’s been asking questions ever since. He often asks about heaven, almost like it’s another town, maybe a few miles away. He imagines Sam plays with our dog, Banner, who died last year. Conversations with Ezra about Sam are always adorable.

We went to Sam’s grave a few months ago, and Ezra was leaping all over the place. Not typical graveside behavior, but very much how a boy behaves when he is 1) on a ranch and 2) with his brother. So it felt joyfully appropriate to me. “He’s not here, but his body is here,” we had told him beforehand. That was an acceptable explanation to him. We went on a nature walk.

“I like going to Sam’s grathe,” he said later. Grathe. He also says “brathe” instead of “brave.” Anyone else think your kid’s mispronunciations are wonderful?

So today after I picked Ezra up from Sunday School, he told me that they had learned about Sam. “My big brother is so big! He has loooong hair! And they chopped it off, and he knocked down the towers. Sam was so strong. My big brother was strong.”

“Oh you learned about Samson!”

“Yeah. Samson. My brother.”

I explained that two different people can have the same name, that Samson is not the same person as our Sam. He seemed a little disappointed, which was understandable–the idea of having a big brother who could knock down towers was pretty exciting.

Ezra is always piecing things together, whether information about Sam or any other life thing he’s exploring. So many things are encountered for the first time. After all, he’s only been here four years. His perspective is unhindered, perfectly fresh. It’s adorable to me, as his mother. Just adorable.

I think there’s so much about grief that leaves me with unanswered questions.  I tend to bury my queries when they are beyond understanding, especially when I’m met with more questions than answers. For a child, the whole world is mysterious, a giant unanswered question, and so they approach life with more acceptance, willing to turn life’s mysteries over and over in their hand like a found treasure. Children approach their detective work with a humble audacity–a willingness to accept that so much is yet unknown to them, yet boldly unwilling to stop wondering about it.

Jesus calls us to be like them.

Fellow sojourner, may you resist the temptation to bury your queries of God, and may you walk in the God-given faith of a child. May you be given comfort and even joy as you turn over and over the treasure in your hand, the unanswered questions in your sorrow, the cross you were called to bear. Pray the same for me.


Life and Death

It’s Christmas time. Lovely and joyful. And painful sometimes because Sam is so absent. But so sweet.

My heart was so heavy this morning, to the point of feeling physically painful… Days like these are rare, and difficult. Yet they are comforting in a way because I’m forced to dwell on things that matter. There is a lot going on in my life, lots of comings and goings and changes, and then there is Christmas and my hilarious Ezra and my sweet husband and… just… life.

Letting grief break in this morning, praying for several mamas who are faced with decisions, waiting, or grieving, this song came on the radio. And it felt like a gift, such a comfort to my aching heart, so I thought I would share.

“Contemporary jazz pianist Paul Cardall was born April 24, 1973; suffering from a congenital heart defect, he was given only days to live but defied medical expectations, enduring a series of surgeries and illnesses throughout his childhood. Finding comfort in music, Cardall began piano lessons at age eight…”

Life is such a gift, even in its brevity and trouble. It is such a gift.

Answers to Questions on my Accidental Post

So I had the last post, that random list of questions, in my blog’s queue to be answered and published, and forgot about it. So, on the day it was scheduled to auto-publish, I was on vacation. Whoopsie!

I have to confess, it’s a little daunting to sit down and answer these questions. The grief doesn’t really go away, it just becomes manageable. And sometimes it requires that I set it aside for a moment, to address the life and tasks before me. To pick it back up, even if it’s just to write a blog about it… will I be able to finish dinner? Will it be so taxing, I’ll lose patience with Ezra? Will it open up a wound I’d rather not open right now? I don’t know.

But it’s good to think about these things. It’s good to be intentional with grief, to train it to stay put for a moment, to promise to come back to it to keep it from getting out of control. Stuffing doesn’t work. Letting it rule doesn’t work.

I’m not going to make this a daily thing. I’m just gonna pick and choose what questions I feel like answering for today.

Tell us about your child(ren). As much or as little as you like. Names, birthdays, stats.

I have two children. My first, Samuel, was born February 18, 2010. He had triploidy, and was born still in my third trimester. I miss him. My second, Ezra, was born June 10, 2011. He was and is a healthy redheaded boy, and has been such sweet gift after losing Sammy.

Through your grief process who has been your “rock”?

My husband, for sure. We grieve in different ways, but we grieve the same sweet boy, and that is such a comfort.

Through your grief process what has kept you going?

A lot of things. I needed to grieve well for Steven, for our marriage, for our future children. I think something that really motivated me to dig into the process, especially in that first year, was seeing how effectively those who had grieved well were able to comfort me in my raw grief. Those who grieve well are better comforters than those who stuffed their grief. Everyone experiences loss at some point in their lives. Best to try to come out a better person on the other side.

Do you ever get subtle reminds of your angel(s)? If so what what are they?

Butterflies are a symbol of the resurrection, which is my hope to see Samuel again. I love seeing butterflies!

How do you answer the question of how many children you have?

This is still really hard for me. Just this last weekend, when we went to go pick up a rental car, the guy asked if Ezra was our first. Steven and I looked at one another–we’re never really sure, and we don’t want to betray Sam’s memory OR suck all the air out of the room by telling about Sam to a total stranger. I answered the guy, “He’s our only! He is such a blast!” because 1) it’s the truth–he’s the only child we HAVE with us and 2) I knew I would never see the guy again. People I know I will see again, I tell about Sam. Like, the lady who cuts my hair knows about Sam because I see her every time I get my hair cut, and we talk about our kids, and she struck me as trustworthy. Last Sunday, we were trying a new church, and the nursery worker asked if Ezra was my first. “No, he is my second. My first passed away.” People are generally very kind and say they’re sorry. At that point, I thank them, and say something like, “We miss our first baby a lot, but Ezra is such a joy,” and that kind of changes the subject.

Do you feel you have more good days than bad ones?

Yes. Now I do. At the beginning, one good day would come, and I would be ecstatic. Then, when two good days came in a row, that was a huge deal. Now, most days are really good, maybe sweeter than they would have been had I not had Sam. I know how sweet and precious life is now. A bad day pops up here and there, but it usually isn’t till the end of the day that I pinpoint that I might need to face my grief for a little bit. Life is so full, it’s easy to stay distracted sometimes.

If you have other children how has your loss affected them?

At this point, I don’t really know. I hope it affects him more positively than negatively, but I don’t know. He could never replace Sam, but then if it were the other way around, Sam could never replace Ezra. They are two very different little people. I hope my grief makes my love stronger, but sometimes I wonder if it’s made my anxiety stronger–I hope that doesn’t weigh Ezra down. It is what it is. This is why I’m so grateful for grace.

It is said that Father’s and Mother’s grieve differently. Do you feel this is true with your angel’s father?

Yes, of course. Not only are we different because he’s a man and I’m a woman, we have different personalities. I feel like we’re more on the same page than at the very beginning. At the beginning, everything is so raw, you pick your favorite coping mechanisms, and those are different. And I know that he felt like he needed to be strong for me, so his really tough days came once my good days started to show up.

Does anyone else besides your spouse speak your child’s name?

Yes! I am so thankful to have a supportive family, church, and friends who know that I love to hear Sam’s name.

What have you done to preserve your child’s memories or make new memories of your angel.

This blog is really special to me because I get to talk about Sam and how I feel as much as I want. Outside of this blog, I like to grieve quietly and simply. I have a big box of Sam’s things and photographs that I like to go through on special dates.

Do you feel your child is watching over you?

No… I believe he’s with God. That’s a comfort to me.

If you have anger…..What are you most angry about?

Sometimes I get angry that I’m probably never going to have an innocent pregnancy. I know way too much about what all can go wrong. I get angry when people announce pregnancies without any care for how miraculous it is to actually make it to nine months and through birth without a hitch. I think I don’t even want to talk about it much here… Sometimes it’s good to talk things out, and sometimes it’s best to try to extinguish bitter sentiments before they have a chance to really take root. I don’t want to anyone to worry during their pregnancy as much as I did, so my anger is really actually kind of nasty at its root. Thank God lots of women are happy-go-lucky during pregnancy. It’s such a good thing.

Do you have a song or songs that make you think of your child(ren)?

This makes me think of Sam.

On Birthday’s, Diagnosis Day’s, Anniversaries of Passing. Do you prepare for them?

I know they’re coming. I kind of dread them. Last year, his second birthday, I planned to go on a girl’s day out without telling anyone that it was Sam’s birthday, and that was completely unrealistic. I thought, hey it’s been two years, I should be able to handle this. I ended up cancelling, and staying home. This year, I think I’ll be a little more intentional about it, a little gentler and more realistic. Diagnosis day, December 4… I hate that day. I don’t know how to prepare for that except to just dread it and hate it.

On a scale of 1 to 10 rate your day today and why?

Today was an 8. I am coming down with a cold, or else it would be a 10! We got lots of stuff done to get the house ready for winter, went winter clothes shopping for Ezra, and he was a total riot as usual. Grief-wise, I guess every day is sort of colored by grief because I’m not the same person I used to be. The worst days are when I don’t like the person I’ve become. Sometimes I do long for that happy-go-lucky girl. But I think that’s a big part of the loss–losing some of your old self and accepting the new parts of yourself.

Have you ever corrected or wish you corrected someone about your loss?

I try to be honest, but I always consider who I’m talking to. If it’s someone who’s being disrespectful because they’re a generally disrespectful person, I leave the situation ASAP–they don’t deserve to know the truth about Sam. One time I lost control at a Bible Study in which Steven and I were sharing about anxiety over my pregnancy with Ezra, with people we trusted to just let us be where we were at. There was one older lady there who we had just met, and she started talking about how maybe if I felt that way, I should seek counseling, that I needed help. I definitely corrected her–I WAS in counseling, and it was going well. Just because I was emotional at the time doesn’t mean that I was doing something wrong or needed “fixing” like she said. There have been times I’ve put people in their place, yeah.

If there are any other babyloss mommies who want to ask questions about what it’s like at this point, feel free to comment. I’m happy to converse about it.

My banner this Easter

As I begin to spill words, it is 5:30 on the morning of Easter 2012. The boys are sleeping through the last bit of serene darkness, but I wanted to revel in the celebration of the day ahead before it picks up steam with the sunrise.

In my last post, I shared my prayer that God would provide for us. We were waiting for some income to arrive. First it was a week late, then a month late, then two months late. And then we had bills, and were wondering why God hadn’t shown up for us financially. But He did. In the perfect moment, provision came, and we paid all of our bills. It came in a way that only God could have provided, in one of those ways that not only replenishes the bank account, but replenishes our hope and reminds us of the depth of His gifts. We have a roof over our heads (I love this house…). We have never missed a meal, done without things we need, or even accrued any debt, not even once, since Steven’s unemployment began. We have more support from our friends and family than we could ever exhaust. And the foundation, structure, and binding of our lives is the Gospel. As exciting as all the tangible provision was, our daily spiritual renewal is the most exciting.

The Lord has been whispering something specific to me for the past few weeks, bringing me back to life in areas I thought were simply decaying. It is good to be His child, to be a Christian, to hear from His Holy Spirit. It is good to draw from the deep well that is His grace. This is what I continue to hear, multiple times during the day: Live out of My fullness.

I had not realized how habitually I had been living out of obligation, out of fear, out of shame. It has been one of those times in life when I wake up tired, and not just physically. I am so deeply tired. And so this Divine whisper is so timely. I am unpacking the idea of living out of fullness, day by day, and I have come to anchor my calling of late to the passage in the Bible in which Jesus invites the woman at the well to partake of Living Water, John 4.

Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.

He is the source, and He provides us a way to live that actually has such depth and life that it bursts out of the earth in a way no other well could. I love that. I love that! Day to day life on a broken planet can be monotonous. Like the woman at the well, I gather water jar after water jar working past the weight of shame that is the life of a Samaritan sinner. And I thirst and continue to gather water to quench it. It is both over- and underwhelming, and it feels like quiet agony.

And then Jesus whispers, Live out of My fullness, and invites me to partake of His love, His grace, His mercy. Draw from the well that has no bottom, and even surpasses the surface of the earth. This is the life of the believer. We draw from an unending and unreserved Source. Thank you Jesus.

It is Easter. This is the day we remember. He is alive. And so are we.

Two years ago

Life has been so busy and full and good lately. Our old routine was put through a Bingo cage, and what has fallen into place, our new jobs, our new schedules, our new routine, is just what our weary hearts needed. This is why, for the last week or so, I would have moments of panic. “What is today’s date?” I would ask frantically. It’s only the 12th. It’s only the 15th. It’s the 16th. I was afraid I would forget somehow. So it is comforting to me that, without alarm clocks or calendar reminders, the tears came gently at around 9:00 tonight. Two years ago at that time, I began to go into labor with Samuel Evan, my first son.

I wonder if I had known, two years ago, that on February 18, 2012, I would be living here, would be doing what I’m doing, would be as much in love with Steven as I am, would be as happy raising Ezra, would be at this point in my grief… would I have been able to fathom it?

I think it is important to me to remember February 18 because it is the day to celebrate the little boy who made me a mama. If I forget him, I forget the good part of the loss, and all I’m left with is the trauma, anxiety, and grief that comes with this kind of loss. These thorns still surface two years later, but they so easily get lost in the comings and goings of life. Samuel… my sweet boy… his memory surfaces involuntarily and it refuses to be lost in the din, like a gift I didn’t earn. A gift that is not taken away. Like grace.

I have friends who have also lost children who do really creative things on their baby’s birthday. They release butterflies or balloons. They bake a cake. They sing happy birthday at the cemetery. So beautiful. These things are healing to their hearts. I thought about visiting the butterfly pavilion on his birthday, but decided against it and we went a few days ago, just to go. I realized I actually prefer celebrating him in the quiet, like I have a secret dream that is waiting to be fulfilled.

My secret dream is not Samuel, as much as I miss him. My dream is wholeness, and I love that Jesus makes it so, and that Sam will meet me there.

Tomorrow, I will go about my day, tending to Ezra, working on home projects, enjoying our Saturday. I will wear my memorial necklace, and I will take a moment to look through his photos and belongings and cry a little. Mostly, I will celebrate that Sam happened, that God picked me to be his mama, and that, though the sadness has changed from a gaping wound to a sore scar, Sam’s memory is still with me, even down to the very hour of the beginning of his birth. The blessing stays with me.