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Friday, February 27, 2009

Murky water

A few days ago Marc and I went on a little hike out at the Lake in our Small Town. It's interesting to keep track of the water levels, since it's usually a pretty good indicator of what our water conservation efforts will be in the coming months. With all the rain we've been getting this month, we were surprised to find the Lake still to be much lower than we've ever seen it.

The Lake - February 2009

It was interesting to come across a photo the other day of the Lake from a day-hike that Marc and I went on a year ago. The island in the upper left corner of the photo below, is the same "island" in the photo above, just from a different angle. As you can see, the water level is drastically lower, compared to its levels a year ago.

This is from February 2008. A year ago. But, somehow, looking at this photo feels like a lifetime ago. What happened to our life? Even though the situation we found ourselves in a year ago wasn't easy, in the least, I look back now in envy of how simple life seemed. Had I only known. Every time I look at this photo, now knowing what I know about what was around the corner, it seems to scream - Entering the Lone and Dreary World.

There are different aspects of this photo that seem to capture so much foreshadowing of things that would lie ahead of us, emotionally. The rocky path, the murky waters in the foreground and the beautiful horizon off in the distance. I had no idea back then, a year ago, the rocky path we were headed towards, the painful waters of grief we'd have to go through, the mountains yet to climb.

The last few weeks have been really hard for me, which is the main reason for my absence around here. I can't really put my finger on the reason exactly, other than the fact that grieving is hard and it's exhausting and it never sleeps. It's confusing, it's consuming, and it's heavy. I've found myself smack-dab-in-the-middle of the grief, wanting to hurry and find my way out. It isn't fun. I don't enjoy it. But, sadly, there is no easy way out. No matter how I try to stall or bypass the grief, it will always be there until I've gone through every feeling, and processed every emotion.

And, let me tell you - there are some surprisingly complex and painful emotions to be felt. I didn't expect to feel some of the feelings I'm going through right now. I thought that I was somehow above, and stronger than, some of the more awful stages of grief. Like anger. But, the truth is that I am angry. There, I said it.

I'm angry about the very young girl down the street who has a healthy baby boy - a baby who is such a burden to her that she has left him to be raised by his grandmother. I'm not angry at her personally... just angry that she got a baby that she doesn't want.

I'm upset at that woman much further away, who got 8 healthy babies to add to her 6. Why couldn't my two come healthy and stay, like hers? Was that too much to ask?

I'm mad that we've been stripped of the innocent bliss and joy we felt early on. As newlyweds, we had so much we looked forward to. We had big plans and bright dreams... so many of which revolved around the little ones we hoped would call us "Mommy" and "Daddy." So many adventures that remain undiscovered still today. Our dreams were so innocent and we felt what-we-thought-was-joy, as we worked to make those innocent dreams come true. There are so many young couples who start out just like us, but who seem to have all their plans work out so smoothly and easily, even if not as perfectly as they had planned. Do they even realize how lucky they are? It's painful to think back to those early days... I really had no idea what was ahead.

It has been lonely to realize how few understand my broken heart... not just the brokenness from losing our twins, though that has broken the biggest part of my heart... but, the broken dreams that have plagued us for six years. I know it doesn't even compare to some out there, but for me this is hard.  

I hate this current stage of grief I'm in and I hope I can get through it quickly. But, through it I will have to go, carefully paying attention to and then purging every painful feeling I feel, hoping it will bring me closer to what I'm so desperately hoping is a beautiful horizon waiting on the other end of this experience.

As painful and as lonely as these murky waters are, I count my lucky stars to have Marc so faithfully holding my hand through this. I cherish him and the sacred relationship we share more than I can ever express.

The deep pain we've experienced together is only making room in our hearts to fully experience True Bliss and Real Joy, whether in this life or the next. I'm convinced that whatever "bliss" and "joy" we thought we felt as newlyweds, we'll find they were only imitations of what we will feel once we come out on the other side of these dark and cheerless waters of grief. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pouring Rain

"May the sun bring you new energies by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away any worries you may have. May gentle breezes refresh your soul and all the days of your life, may you walk gently through the world and know its beauty."

The rain and I share an interesting love-hate relationship. There are times when the rain seems to bring with it a heaviness that makes me wish it would just go away, and bring the sun back. There are other times when it comes and is welcomed with open arms. Lately it has been the former. But, for some reason, today it has been the latter.

This afternoon it was coming down so hard and so fast that it was immediately flooding the gutters, and I felt the strongest urge to be outside in the down-pour. Deep inside I was totally convinced that standing in the middle of a blanket of rain would surely wash away all my worries.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Security Blankets

Brent Top, a professor of religion at BYU, gave a talk at Education Week last summer that I listened to a few months ago. (If you're interested in listening to the entire talk, let me know.) I was touched deeply by much of what he talked about. But the following quote has resonated deep within my heart, over and over again. 

“I can now see that the Lord was trying to teach me a valuable lesson, but before He could teach me, he had to get my attention. Really get my attention, so that I would truly listen and learn from Him. Often God gets our full attention when he strips away our security blankets, whatever they may be, and exposes our weakness, insecurities, and inadequacies, in such a way as to literally force us to our knees. I am convinced that each of us, if we are faithful and we earnestly strive to be true disciples will be forced to our knees at some point in our lives, perhaps many times. As painful as those times may be, they may be among the most significant learning periods of our lives, and the most powerful evidences of the Lord's grace and tender mercies.”

Facing the stark reality of our infertility a couple of years ago made me feel stripped and naked, which I mentioned, in part, here. But, whatever I thought it felt like to be stripped a year or so ago is nothing compared to now. And, who knows, maybe two years down the road I'll look back at this period and wonder why I was having such a hard time. Hard has become a very relative term... what was once hard doesn't seem nearly as crippling now.

But, even as I'm struggling through this period, I know there are many out there who are also going through their own struggles. There seems to be a wide-spread movement through every family and in every country around the world; a movement of people being stripped of their security blankets. Stripped of jobs, stripped of money, stripped of homes, stripped of possessions, stripped of power and status, stripped of family, stripped of any other thing that holds value to us.

We all have different security blankets. We all have different struggles. The one common factor that remains constant through each person's individual situation is the need for a personal, real relationship with God.

He has my attention. More than ever before in my life.

And, just so you know - He has not slacked in responding with grace and tender mercies.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why I deserve chocolate at midnight

image credit: The Pioneer Woman

Marc is working late, finishing up a project. I'm staying up with him, to keep him company... at least for as long as my eye lids will permit. For now I'm happy to sit here with my laptop, being soothed by the calm drum of the rain on the skylight.

The sun was actually shining this morning when we woke up. I love being woken by warmth and light, and the birds singing. It makes it feel like this long winter is almost over. I know "winter" here is nothing compared to other places, but there is part of me that feels like it has been winter since July.

We met with our tax person today - Sandy. As far as taxes go, it wasn't anything to celebrate, that's for sure. But, crazy story... turns out Sandy has twin boys. It's unbelievable how often we run into people now with twins. As she was reviewing our P&L, she noticed our section for "funeral expenses." Before I knew it, I was telling her about our twins, and then she was sharing her story. Few words needed to be expressed... there was an unspoken understanding of pain and heartache, though her pain has matured by 15 years and our stories and outcomes were quite different.

At her recommendation, after leaving her office, I made my way down to the Social Security office. As I sat in the waiting room, I played through my mind how my conversation would go. I would just very casually explain that I needed to apply for a social security card for my daughter. Simple enough. I wouldn't need to go into any detail. I didn't want it to be hard. I didn't want to get emotional.

Then my number was called. I handed "Sheryl" the birth certificate and gave her my simple pre-rehearsed request. I wasn't prepared. I should have expected that there would be questions. People always ask questions. Questions that appear, on the surface, to be simple and uncomplicated.

"Oh, okay. So, is your baby at home?"

Oh crapiola. Hurry, think of an easy answer. But, make sure to keep your voice low so that the other 20 people sitting behind you, waiting their turn, won't be included in this very delicate and private conversation.

"Um, no. She didn't make it," desperately hoping that would be enough for her to catch my drift.

Totally confused look all over her face.

I don't even remember what I said at that point. I was sure that everyone in that room was straining to hear every last word that came out of my mouth, because I swear it got pin-droppingly silent. Whatever I said, I must have given her a satisfactory answer, because suddenly she was nodding her head apologetically.

It turned out that having a birth certificate wasn't enough. I needed a second proof of identification. How in the...?? It was at about this point that I wanted to walk myself speedily out the front door, wondering why I put myself through these awful situations. I did actually do just that, making sure not to make eye contact with any of the curious members of my personal audience. No curtsy today.

I left, though, only to return 23 minutes later with their requested second proof of identification. I was relieved that, by the time I returned, I had the place to myself. Just Sheryl and me. No waiting, no audience, and all the awkward questions were already out of the way. I brought whatever I could think of that would satisfy their requirement, to prove I had a daughter that lived for an hour. But, I can't ever just leave it at that - I had to at least mention Emmaline. As long as she knows about one, she has to know about the other. Of course, I've learned to keep it brief... people don't like hearing about them. It makes people very uncomfortable.

I was glad to leave, having everything over with. But, once in the car, I had my usual release that follows events like that. I hate that I can't wish the pain away, that I can't wish for a normal life again... because that would mean going back to life BT (before twins). And, as broken as I feel, I wouldn't want them to have been born into any other family. They are mine. I am theirs. Forever. (And, Marc is most definitely included in that, too... "we are theirs" just didn't sound right.)

So, I came home, crashed on the couch. Exhausted. Then, with a break in the rain, I spent my afternoon in the garden - my favorite place to go lately. It is teaching me about grief, about healing. I'm glad it'll still be there tomorrow, waiting for our afternoon appointment. The garden and the grief.

For now, there is leftover chocolate sheet cake calling me. And double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream. The perfect midnight snack to close a day like today.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

After a very unseasonably warm January, February has brought with it rain. We really need it, so I don't mind it. To celebrate the rain today, I curled up on the couch with a blanket and a movie. The Five People You Meet in Heaven. As far as movies go, it was pretty good. I guess one nice thing about it was being able to reflect on some of my own thoughts and feelings.

I don't know what the deal is, but for the last month or so I've had so many thoughts swirling around in my head, but totally unable to make sense of them. The movie was both a welcome distraction from the constant pressure to make sense of everything, as well as a helpful tool in getting me to look at my thoughts differently. 

Anyway, there was a quote near the end of the movie that really struck me. The main character, Eddie, meets his wife in heaven and he's expressing his sadness in having lost her and missed out on time with her. And this is her response: 

"Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that's all. You can't hold their hand, you can't tousle their hair. But when those senses weaken, another one comes to life. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You hold it, you dance with it. Life has to end; love doesn't."

One aspect of our loss that has been incredibly hard to deal with has been the fact that we really only have one memory to hold onto of our daughters. And, the fact that that memory is filled with such intense feelings, makes it that much harder to think about. I find myself wishing that we could have had just a little more time. Just a few more memories to get us through. It all just happened too soon and too fast.

But, the part of this quote that really rang true to me was this idea about new senses being strengthened with loss or death. While we clearly lack the memories, I have still found myself seeking to strengthen other senses. There is a need to connect to and understand the language of the Spirit; a hungering for quiet moments to feel a little bit closer to things eternal. It has never felt as urgent or as much of a priority as it does now. And, I'm really grateful for that - grateful for the yearnings, grateful for the awareness of the knowledge and the peace that are available.

And, really what a comfort to know that though life {as we now know it} does have an end, love doesn't.

But, that's a whole new topic for a different day.