Friday, July 29, 2016

Open the Door

Sometimes when I think about fall arriving (I know, I know it's still JULY, but I am already craving infinity scarves and hot Starbucks bevis), I think: THANK GOD. This season of life has been a rough one and I'm ready to wave bye and kick it out. There was great stuff, too (like buying our first house, wonderful times with family and friends, and seeing two pink lines on a pregnancy test) but there was also a lot of junk. This school year made me question and doubt my teacher heart. We spent way too much time in hospitals the past few months between AJ's mom's sickness and my water-breaking induced bedrest. Oh....and our daughter died. Even typing those words, I sort of still can't believe it's true. A year ago, heck, even 8 months ago, the word "daughter" was not even on my radar. And "died?" Forget about it. Life can change so very fast. It's a wonder our hearts are still beating. AJ asked me yesterday, "Will life ever be the same again?" I looked at him and gave him the answer we both knew: No. It won't. Pastor and author Levi Lusko describes life after the loss of his daughter as one in which he will always "walk with a limp." That is the best description for life after loss I have found. You're still moving forward but something is always different and odd about it.

   The day we buried Hadley I woke up early and furiously wrote in my journal. I wrote that I feel like I'm living in the waiting room. There's something to all this, but for now I can't see that so I just wait. And if you know me, waiting is torture for me. Pausing is a challenge for me. Stillness is difficult for me. Patience is tough for me. While I reluctantly wait, I look back.  I look back at the storm, at the hell that was June and July. Thank goodness we're out of that. Thank goodness we don't live in the hospital anymore. Thank goodness Hadley is free from suffering and pain. But one of the thousands of lessons I have learned recently is that just because something is in your rear view mirror does not mean it's not existing in the present in your heart and mind. It's important to look back, to think back, to remember. But I do not want to pitch my tent and live there, I think. Too much pain there, too much heartache, too many desperate pleas with God and guttural cried from my soul. No thanks, let's put summer 2016 in a closet and slam the door.

    Last night AJ and I made our Fall 2016 "Bucket List." We had a few laughs over what constituted a bucket list item. I added things like "clean the fridge," "buy a fire extinguisher," "go meatless once a week." He added things like "day trips," "go to a concert," "lose 15 lbs," "try a hard hike." I think he is much more aligned with what a Bucket list actually is! The point is, we are hopeful and excited about the future. Summer 2016 is going to be packed away tight, behind that door. Let's add a lock, too, for good measure. People have inquired (in respectful ways of course) about our future as parents. About Hadley's beautifully prepared room. I will say this, physically and mentally, we are not ready to get pregnant anytime soon. That's tough. Remember when I said waiting was hard for me? I asked my doctor, in my hospital bed, my C section incision burning with pain, "So, uhh, can we try again, like soon?" My answer: Wait. Ouch. And her room? Well, it's beautiful and perfect. I won't post pictures because for now it's sort of a private little space, but my pinterest-y vision came to life perfectly and it's fit for a princess. I told our counselor, through frustrated tears that I wish I could just chop that room off our house. It's supposed to be behind that door, remember, locked tight with the rest of the summer? She reminded me (and I've reminded myself a thousand times since) that Hadley's room was lovingly prepared for our child. It was an act of parenting before our child was born. It was meant to be Hadley's but I know she wouldn't mind sharing it one day in the future with her little brother or sister. That room is "for someone" That mysterious "someone" is meant just for us and all our hopes and dreams and fears and future are tied up to that special little someone. We have hope for the future, but for now, we must heal. Healing and hope go hand in hand I've decided.

Lately I've been  making sure the "door" to the past is firmly shut. I test out laughter and find it comes easy. I snuggle with AJ and find it feels like home, when I was convinced a mere few weeks ago I would never feel home again. I can be silly, and me, and think about desk arrangements for next year. I try on contentment and peace and even joy, too, and find they all fit perfectly. I look in the mirror and see the physical scars healing (not as quickly as I would like, go figure) and I smile knowing the inside scars are healing up nicely too. I jiggle the handle. Yep, still closed.

But sometimes the door is loud and big. It's not easy to ignore the door. After all, I know what's inside. It taunts me, and sometimes I see or hear something like a baby's cry or the countdown to my due date on my phone (18 days) and the door jiggles and even though there's a lock on it, I fear that what's inside will come crashing through and attack me. And sometimes it does. The hot tears fall and I curse the universe, I look at her pictures and my heart and mind and soul cry out "WHY?" The pain is palpable. I crave feeling her in my belly, soft kicks, and reassurance of life inside. I swear I can still smell her soft head and her silky skin. I can feel her tiny hand gripping my finger and it's then that I realize, yep, the door has swung wide open. When I finally calm and hold tight to platitudes, verses, prayers, and really amazing people, I quickly and quietly shut the door again.

I've found that at times instead of crashing open and breaking the lock, the door invites me to look closer. There's light coming from the cracks. It breaks into the room in odd shapes and sharp lines. Light? How can that be? There's just a load of hurt, tears, and suffering in there. It's supposed to be dark. Me, the girl who is impatient and on a constant quest to move forward, purposely added a lock, prepared to walk away from the door and never return. But the light is gripping. I know instinctively where the light comes from. It comes from the immeasurable love I felt holding my daughter tight and looking at her perfect face. From the wonderful people in our lives, our strong families and the pure goodness I have seen exhibited this summer. People have blown me away with kindness and have been the hands and feet for Jesus. It comes from the dozens of miracles we felt and experienced. It comes from my heart as a wife and how my love for my husband has grown and matured and deepened. It comes from the gratitude I have for memories. Whatever happens in my life from this point forward, I have known true, enormous, unconditional love and I have been forever changed.  It comes from a deep well of abundant grace. Yes, there's light there. Even in a scary place. I twist the doorknob and walk forward letting the light consume me. To the girl who wants to move forward, I know that the only way forward is through.

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