Category - Grief, Love and Survival

1
Another Birthday
2
Meet Heather
3
There and Back
4
Tears into Dancing
5
Remember
6
It’s Time
7
Feast Day
8
8 Months, 3 weeks
9
Seven
10
Candle Lighting 2010

Another Birthday

I have two daughters.  They were both born at Christmastime, one 3 days before Christmas, one three days after.  Both at 8 PM.  How clever they were, planning that out together before they left Heaven.

I remember that second Advent that I was pregnant, 11 years ago.  I was heavy laden and uncomfortable and I was feeling one with poor Mary, who at the end of her pregnancy had to travel on a donkey to some strange city.  I was in a strange country, though I had arrived by plane. My baby was actually due right before the New Year and I was a little worried that I would go early and end up in the hospital for Christmas.  I thought Winter Solstice would be nice, but the day came and went.

Or so I thought.

Winter Solstice moves, I learned later.  Sometimes it is December 21st and sometimes it is the 22nd.  When I failed to go into labor on the 21st, I just prayed to be home for Christmas and settled in for a few more days of pregnancy.

Philip went off to work on the morning of December 22 and just as I heard the front door close, I felt my water break. I was able to get myself downstairs and out the door fast enough to catch him and call him back.

And so our second little girl was born on December 22, Winter Solstice 2003.  We named her Rebecca Maria.

Happy 11th Birthday, my darling daughter.  We love you and miss you.

Becca

Meet Heather

I’ve met a number of people over the years through blogging and various parenting and homeschooling forums.  It’s pretty cool, getting to know people who are hundreds of miles away, all from the comfort of my home.  Today I’d like to introduce you to someone pretty special whom I met through my blog.

HeatherandLily2

This is Heather (and her daughter Lily). She and I are approximately the same age.  Doesn’t she have the most beautiful eyes?  And her hair!  I love her hair!  It’s so spiky and fun. And the color is just gorgeous, too.  She is far braver than I am, letting her true color show.

But her hair doesn’t even begin to tell you how brave she is.

Heather And Family

Heather and I both had babies in August of 2005. When our babies were three months old, Heather and her family got some of the most devastating news one can ever imagine.  I could wax on about Heather, but I think I’d like you to just watch this video.  It’s only a few minutes long. Don’t worry, it has a happy ending, so please do me a favor and watch.  Just click the link, I’ll wait here…

Heather’s Story

Heather is using her video to bring awareness to this rare cancer. She also hopes to inspire others to cling to hope and to fight through whatever challenges that life may bring.  I think we all could use this reminder.  I, for one, am glad that Heather is here to do the reminding.

Rock on, Heather.  Keep fighting the good fight!

There and Back

We left last week for my grandfather’s funeral.

The flight there was completely uneventful.  Pipsqueak was asleep before we even made it over the Rocky Mountains and didn’t wake up until we landed.  I won the seating lottery when I volunteered to sit next to him and Bip wanted to sit on the other side of me, leaving Philip to sit next to Sir Talks Alot.  Ha!

The funeral was a good one.  My mom asked me and Philip to do the readings and I chose to go first because I know better than to go after Phil.  Seriously, the guy has a deep, rich voice and he reads with great feeling.  I am an accomplished public speaker as well, but I’ve got nothing on Phil.  Voluntarily being the speaker after Phil is one of the classic blunders.

Now, normally I am fine with this.  My reading was one we used at Rebecca’s funeral and ends with “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries him close to his heart.”  I was pretty confident I could make it through, in spite  of the association.  What I hadn’t counted on was the first song also being from Rebecca’s funeral and one that is very hard for us to get through on a normal day without at least tearing up .  And THEN  my mom delivered a very moving eulogy right before my reading.  I was shaky and choked up, but I took a deep breath and took my time.  All those years of public speaking and teaching and teaching people how to teach really paid off. I got all the way to the end, the “He gathers the lambs” part before my voice got shaky.  But I was OK.  No shame in showing emotion.

Phil, of course, was rock steady and he had people (including the priest) asking if he is a lector a home.  Grrr!

Boo was an altar server for the funeral.  He did a great job.  I was proud of him, as always.  Pumpkin Girl and Bip took up the gifts with the other great-grandson who is not mine.  Everyone got to participate, except Pipsqueak, who looked cute and then fell asleep.

After mass we went to the cemetery.  We saw a Navy guy saluting and finally realized that my grandfather was getting a military burial.  Taps, the folded flag presented to my grandmother, the whole bit.  It was wonderful to see him honored like that.

Then it was time to leave.  I hated that part with Rebecca.  Just turning around and walking away.  It is so…final.

The reception afterwards was at a seafood restaurant right on the harbor.  The food was great but seeing all my relatives was even better.  We had a DVD slide show of my grandfather which was so much fun.  His sisters brought a CD player and  played the song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

I learned that my grandfather was the oldest of 8 children (I only remember his 3 sisters).  He returned to the Catholic Church after going on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje with my grandmother.  He really just went along to protect her.  He met Lou Holtz (coach of Notre Dame) on that trip (he was making the same pilgrimage) and demanded an explanation of his coaching decisions in the big game against USC!

Just so you know, he only has three grandchildren. 😉

We had a hard time leaving my grandparents house, we always do.  We feel loved and safe there.  But we did need to come home.

And now we are back.

Tears into Dancing

My grandfather died yesterday. To say he has always been there in my life is like…no duh. But I mean he has always *been there* for me. I don’t like to think he no longer is.

When I was in kindergarten and first grade he used to make me bacon and egg sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and a paper towel for my school lunch. When I grew up, moved away and had kids of my own, he always told me he loved me and was proud of me. And I knew it. I just knew it.

He called me “mija”, pronounced “mee-ha”. It means “my little girl”. My kids and I called him Papa T. It’s short for Grandpa Tony.

He bought me a 49er Starter Jacket for my 16th birthday. Oh how I loved that jacket! I still have it. It was not a Super Bowl years for the 49ers, and he tucked a note into the pocket that said, “we’ll get ’em next year.”


Me, my grandpa and dad, 1988.

He passed away quietly, surrounded by family, in the home he’d lived in for longer than I’ve even been around.

And life goes on. Six hours later, Bip made his First Reconciliation. He asked to practice one more time before we left the house, just to make sure. He had a brief moment of panic as we walked up to the church when he thought he’d forgotten to make an examine of conscious. Then I reminded him that we had reviewed that together earlier in the week. He clung to my hand during most of the brief service beforehand, then lined up with his classmates to go get good with God.

When he had finished, he came skipping out, a broad smile lighting up his face. He was happy and lighter and filled with God’s goodness and grace. He skipped all the way out of church.

Bip, Clean and Shiny

We came home and we celebrated with ice cream, Bip’s choice. We celebrated Papa T, who always said ice cream is good for you because it’s made of milk! We celebrated Bip, who is starting down a new path in his Catholic faith.

Life is like that sometimes. Endings and beginnings are often intertwined. We celebrate what we have gained at the same time we mourn what was lost.

Sometimes our tears turn into dancing. God can be good like that.

Remember

20121208-125503.jpg

The holidays can be a very painful time if you have lost a child.

There is a an emptiness that cannot be filled and these days of love and joy and togetherness just emphasize that hole in your heart.

I have a sign like the one above,but I haven’t hung it since Christmas 2003. I think about it every year, wondering if this is the year. No, not this year. This year it stays in the closet.

2012 might be the year. I think I might just be able to put it out, next to the Nativity scene, on Rebecca’s birthday – December 22nd. We’ll see.

December 9th is the Annual Worldwide Candle Lighting to honor and remember the children who have died. By lighting a candle for one hour at 7 PM, your local time, we can create a 24 wave of light. Will you join me this year? Pray for those family whose grief is new this year as well as for those whose hearts at heavy at the thought of yet another holiday without their child. It doesn’t get easier, really. You just learn how to cope.

It’s Time

Have you seen the movie “Tangled.”  If not, I’m sure you at least know the basic story of Rapunzel.  In the Disney movie, the princess Rapunzel is stolen and lives in the tower until her 18th birthday.  Her parents, the king and queen, mourn the loss of their princess.  Every year on her birthday they lead their kingdom in lighting lanterns to honor her.  For her whole life Rapunzel actually sees these lights of hope, rising in the night sky.  Little does she know that those lanterns are symbols of love and loss and hope…for her.

I cry every time I see “Tangled”.  The animators did an outstanding job of capturing the king right before he goes to light the lanterns.   The queen comes to him, straightens his clothing, gently cups his cheek in her hand.  He tilts his head into her hand and a look of utter grief comes over his face.  He sighs as a tear rolls down his face.

Their beautiful princess is gone, but the love they have for her is eternal.  They hope, beyond reason, that they will find her again.  And so to honor her, they  gather their strength and light the lantern.

It is time again to light our lanterns.

This Sunday, December 11 is the annual Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting.  To honor the children who have died, I ask that you join my family and countless others around the world in lighting a candle at 7 PM in your own time zone.  For the lost princesses and princes who have left us and for the families that will grieve for the rest of their lives.  Please pray for the families, especially for those whose grief is new this year and also for those who do not have a faith to fall back on.  Our family lives with the hope that someday we will be reunited with our lost princess, Rebecca. But many live with the hopelessness of not knowing.  I can only imagine the added pain.

God willing, our children will also see the lights but they will know what they are.  They will know that they are loved and missed, but not forgotten.

Feast Day

Today is Rebecca’s Feast Day.

I can’t tell you how long she has been gone without stopping to count up the years.

As much as we mourn our loss of our sweet baby here on earth, we rejoice with her at her entrance into heaven.  She is part of the Church Triumphant.

Still…it does still hurt.

(The Dance by Garth Brooks.  Click on the link which opens in a new window, then click back here to let Garth sing to you while you read the rest.)

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared beneath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye ?

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have  had to miss the dance

Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn’t I the king
But if I’d only known how the king would fall
Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance

Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance

 

8 Months, 3 weeks

Today Pipsqueak is exactly the same age as Rebecca was the last time we saw her.

What strikes me first is that we didn’t have her for very long. And yet, she transformed our lives so completely. So much happiness in one little body.

The grief doesn’t go away. It doesn’t even get better. It does change though, becomes more manageable. It becomes something that you can live with, more or less. Some days more, some days less. It manifests itself in surprising ways. Even with the two babies that came after Rebecca, she is still missed so very much.

Eight months, 3 weeks. There was still so much left to do.

There still is.

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You can read more about my grief journey here: Grief and Love

Seven

Seven years ago I was pregnant. During that Advent season I was waiting not just for Christmas, but for the birth of my own baby. I wanted more than anything for the baby to come before Christmas so that I could be home on Christmas morning with my other children.

In my own head, December 21st was a good day. The Winter Solstice. Baby and I could be home well before Christmas.

So all that weekend I walked. Walked our neighborhood, one foot on the curb, the other in the street, trying to get labor going. I walked the halls of the hospital after my appointment. I walked all over the PX. Phil followed me the whole time.

Nothing.

So Monday, December 22 dawned crisp and cold, without any sign of labor. I snuggled deep into the blankets as Phil got ready for work. I heard him leave the house and then POP! My water broke!

I rushed – as best as a very pregnant woman can rush- down the stairs and out the front door to call him back. I caught him just in time. We got ready to go, bid Boo and Pumpkin Girl farewell and went off to have a baby.

At the hospital we waited and waited, with nary a contraction. Eventually our baby did arrive – our sweet little Rebecca!

It was a very good day.

As it turns out, Winter Solstice was December 22 that year – I’d gotten my wish. And Becca and I came home on Christmas Eve.

For all the pain of losing Rebecca, God showed so much mercy. The first was that she came before Christmas, the only Christmas we shared with her. I’m glad we had that time with her.

Candle Lighting 2010

Tonight – Sunday, December 12 – is the annual Candle Lighting for children who have died.

At 7 PM in whatever time zone you are, light a candle for those children who have died, so that their light may always shine. As people around the world light a candle, a continuous wave of light is created for 24 hours. We usually place our candle next to a picture of Becca and say a prayer for all the other parents grieving for a child, especially those who do not have a faith to rely on.

This candle lighting is to honor and remember all children of any age, pre-born to adult. I will be praying especially for my real life and online friends who in recent days have been mourning babies they never got to meet on earth. Where there is love and loss, there is grief. (I feel a little awkward linking to their blogs as if to say, hey go gawk at their pain, but Charlotte and Sarah – I’m praying for you.)

Also, for today only, you may go to the Compassionate Friends website (click the graphic at the end of this post or the one in my sidebar) and leave a message of love in the Remembrance Book.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

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