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Friday, July 24, 2009


Youth Pioneer Trek, May 2009


One that goes before, showing the others the way to follow. 

In the state of Utah and in lives of Latter-day Saints across the world, today is an important day. Pioneer Day. We celebrate those who have gone before, and particularly the sacrifices that they made along the way. 

For the rest of my life, Pioneer Day will never be the same. It was on this day last year that we laid our daughters to rest. We didn't choose the day because it was Pioneer Day, it just happened to be the day that was going to work best for family members to gather. I've been thinking a lot today about the events on this day one year ago - the private viewing with our family members (which will forever be one of the most sacred of my life's experiences), the memorial service, the graveside service, the time spent with family, the comfort that literally carried us through all the events of that day.

I remember it was a long day. I remember laying in bed that night feeling reassured that we had made the right choices for us that would help us properly grieve. 

Today, a year later, while I've reflected on some of the events and experiences from the memorial service for our twins, I've also been thinking about my pioneer heritage. There are some incredible stories in my family about relatives that made unimaginable sacrifices, leaving family and security. I recognize that many of my blessings today are a direct result of the choices made by my ancestors. I plan on meeting them one day, thanking them for their sacrifices, mingling my tears with theirs.

But, today I'm grateful for certain other pioneers in my life that might not seem as obvious on the surface. As we've gone through some crazy months of unpredictable emotions and experiences that have left us confused and numb, we've been blessed by the company of a few who have already walked this path. These are people who have grieved their own losses, who know the twists and turns, who understand our heavy hearts, who have been willing to walk the path with us, showing us the way. I'm convinced that divine intervention has played a role in allowing our paths to cross with some of the most compassionate and empathetic people we have ever known. These are pioneers with whom we've already mingled our tears with theirs. 

As my thoughts have turned to these different types of pioneers, I've thought of my girls. They, too, are pioneers. As they've gone before us to a new place, they've inspired us to want to follow their lead, doing whatever is required of us to get to where they are. And, we will do anything to make it there. 

I'm relieved we made it through the heaviness that resurfaced last week... I seriously wondered if we would. It's a relief when the calm returns and we remember again what it's like to breathe without the panic. On this Pioneer Day, I feel especially relieved to have people in my life (past, present, and future) who are personal pioneers, trailblazing the path ahead, helping me make progress in my journey to a better world, leaving me with the hope that I can also be a pioneer for those yet to follow.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


I was happy to get an update today about my little nephew. First order of business - his name is official now: Lucas Collins Christian. He is home now with his family and adjusting to life in the real world.

Thanks to the wonderful world of skype and the magic of video chat, I got my first glimpses of little Lucas, his head of dark hair and his pleasant disposition. (The photo below was snapped through skype.) 

I was trying to capture Audrey's sweetness in adjusting to her little brother. She started inconspicuously by gently rubbing his knee, then moved to pointing out the animals on his sleeper, 'meowing' as she pointed to the tiger. Then, came the big move of touching his little hand. She was so sweet with him. I'm sure this is only just the beginning of sweet moments they will share together, and only the beginning of our attempts to capture those moments.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Newest nephew

I've been thinking a lot today about a little boy. A heaven-sent little boy; a little boy who has possibly had interactions in the last year with our little girls, his cousins. He's scheduled to make his arrival tomorrow morning to the loving, waiting arms of my sister and her husband. I live far away and won't be there to welcome him. But, you better believe it's high on my list of priorities to spend some quiet moments with him, hoping he'll whisper in my ear all the mysteries of heaven. Or, at the very least, that his presence will bring some reassurances.

I'll be thinking of my sister tomorrow, and the sacred experiences that will come with the arrival of her son, wishing I could be there with her, like she was for me a year ago. While many of our family members gathered around us for the girls' memorial this time last year, Mandi was already in town to help me post-surgery and was at the hospital with us the night of July 16th - the night Elliana and Emmaline were unexpectedly born. She felt what we felt in that sacred place; she held our girls. And, she held my hand at 4am the following morning when I woke up in a panic. There are no words to express the love and relief I've felt for her presence in my life, especially that night, such a big moment in our lives.  

For that reason and so many others, I wish I were there with her for this big moment in hers. I feel confident that the dawn of a beautiful morning is around the corner, with the welcome of a little Mr. Christian. I wonder if he already understands how blessed he is. Not only does he have the most compassionate mother and generous father, he has the most adoring big sister. Not to mention an aunt and an uncle with lots of love to give.

And... a very cool sports bathroom.

Welcome to this adventure, little man. Can't wait to meet you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Good Hands

It's been a long, long year. I'm pretty sure the longest of my life. We've gone to some dark, scary places that have caused my heart to {almost} faint with fear and where the burden of pain has pushed me to the very edge of despair. For the most part I haven't taken anyone to those dark places of grief. It feels uncomfortable to expose people to it. I'm mostly afraid that rather than holding my hand down that path they might try to convince me not ever to go back there. But, they don't understand that going there isn't a choice for me.

Working on healing my broken heart has reminded me of Dante's Inferno - the deeper you go down the rings of hell, the more awful and scary it gets. I haven't enjoyed going to those heavy places. I dread it, in fact. I put it off, I avoid it. But, I went there this week. I had to. And, maybe for the first time I wanted to. As hard as it is to go deep into the painful crevasses of my heart and relive the births and deaths of our daughters, I want to be flooded also with the reminders of the sacred, the beautiful, the perfect moments we had with them. To remember one part is to remember it all. For now, at least. Maybe that will change with time.

For the last three days my heart has felt heavy, I would almost dare say more broken than it did this time last year. I wasn't expecting that. I thought I had been feeling stronger, I thought the healing I'd found felt more permanent. Revisiting my heart, going a little deeper than normal, I see the wounds are healing... and while that is something to rejoice in, it's clear that the gaping holes remain. Evidence of my two little girls. Their absence is felt. Daily. The burden of losing them is ours to carry. Daily.

{I wonder sometimes if the empty holes are only magnified by our childless state. I wonder if it would be different if we had other kids to focus on. Maybe or maybe not? Not that it really matters anyway.}

People of all different levels of expertise have offered to fix me; in most cases that has just meant a shortcut of some sort through grief. I'm sincerely touched to know there are people who love me enough to want to take away my sorrow. Feeling such love, even from some who don't even know me, has strengthened my assurance of one very important fact - if some imperfect human being feels that desire so strongly, then how much greater that feeling must be for one who is perfect.

There is a certain Head Physician I've come to know a little bit better in recent months. Not only does He accept all patients with all different maladies, He knows each one perfectly. He knows me perfectly and He loves me perfectly. I sense that of everyone who is pained at my pain, it is He who feels it most. I feel confident in His hands, knowing that He is the only one who can truly heal me and fix the hurt I feel. I trust He knows how {and when} to best fix me. I've learned that He is always available... for me. Even in those dark, scary places I've had to go through, I've found Him there. I've recognized that He has gone much deeper than I have or ever will, He has carried a burden much heavier than my little bundle of pain, He knows the loneliness of the path much more poignantly than I can ever imagine.

Because of all of that, even on my smaller scale, He knows how much I need Him in those scary, lonely moments. And, even though I sometimes question if I'll ever find Him there again, I have learned of His consistency. He always is. For me. It's as if I'm the only one He's there for, and yet I know there are throngs of others seeking the same healing from His hands. Still, I feel His concern and awareness of me on such an intimate level.

I've wondered lately how it would be possible to know Him, to really know Him, if I didn't have to pass through any heartache. It's that precise heartache that makes Him available on a more personal level, and more importantly makes me aware of my need to make myself available to Him. How can I be disappointed by my broken heart and shattered dreams, when the result is the chance to walk with Him? I don't want to miss that opportunity, even if it means I have to meet Him along the painful path that leads to true healing. 

I have my heart bundled and bandaged, handing it over and trusting in the care of an omniscent God who loves me as His daughter. If His love is anything like the love I have for my girls {which I'm convinced it is and then some}, then I have nothing to worry about. I'm in good hands.

Elder Maxwell said it best: "To go to the very edge is possible, of course, only when we believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God. When we understand that all things are present before His eyes and that He knows all things past, present, and future, then we can trust ourselves to Him as we clearly could not to a less than omniscient god who is off somewhere in the firmament doing further research."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A battle of emotions

Weeks and weeks have passed and there is so much that has gone undocumented in the last few months -

time spent with a friend since birth (the photo below is from our childhood),

our birthday weekend getaway,

our second pioneer trek,

and a family reunion.

Just to name a few. The problem is that I've felt too exhausted lately to even make any attempt to write much - not that writing itself is exhausting, but confronting complex emotion is. And, now that we've entered July, the dreaded month, I fear only to be even more overwhelmed by this battle of emotions.

And, a battle it is.

There are the painful feelings of dreams snatched away, the jealous feelings of watching the other women at church as they playfully tend their cooing babies (and then the incredible guilt that follows the jealousy), the fears that (for some reason unknown to me now) I may not have the blessing of motherhood in this life, and mostly the incredible aching to have my little girls here still. I wanted them so bad. I waited so long for them, I was so sure they would make it.

The battle then comes from remembering that they did make it. They made it here and then they made it quickly back Home. Their brief appearance is enough of a reassurance that they are ours and will be ours forever. While there is still a battle that rages in my heart, I'm learning to be at home with such contrasting feelings, recognizing that great sorrow is evidence of great love. We have been blessed with an ever-present feeling of love and comfort that has seemed to come straight from heaven. We find peace in the sacred experiences we've had that we couldn't have known through any other way.

It was a year ago this week that we first found out that our girls had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. I can still feel the panic in the days that followed their initial diagnosis. In the midst of that panic I received priesthood blessings full of promises, things that I didn't understand fully at the time, things that have since brought me great comfort.

It's that comfort that has helped us get from one July to the next. Our fourth of July last year was pretty dismal, making this year not quite as bad. As the sun set and the evening breeze floated down off the hills, Marc and I decided to hop on our bikes and ride to the cemetery. While we were there we quietly discussed some ideas we've had for how to appropriately remember Elliana and Emmaline on their birth day. We want to do what feels right for us, and that is hard to figure out when there are feelings that still feel so fragile and experiences that we hold so sacred. But, I think we made some headway while cruising the empty streets back home. 

It was when we were just a couple of blocks from home that we passed a beautiful, old church made of brick. As I was admiring its construction, I noticed their "Welcome" sign that changes weekly. This week it said, "Celebrate the gift of the Holy Ghost." While I don't frequent this particular church, I appreciated the reminder and recognized in my heart the reason to celebrate such a gift. It is this gift that has been our constant companion through the ups and downs of the last year.

As we face the battle of emotions that will no doubt continue to surface in the coming weeks, I know I can trust in our past experiences in facing hard hurdles that we won't be alone. We haven't ever been abandoned and I know we won't be now. Among the angels that will comfort us, we now have two with a vested interest in helping us get to the other side.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

- Psalms 91:11