Best Christmas Gift EVER

I’ve had plenty of beautiful Christmases.

I’ve had almost a decade of more somber ones.

But when our pastor recently asked, “What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?” I didn’t have to think hard at all.

It was my daughter, Fiona.

She wasn’t born ON Christmas but a week before-today is her birthday-and I was oh, so glad to finally hold that tiny bundle in my arms instead of in my belly.

My first successful pregnancy (I’d miscarried a year before) was a long, hard and difficult one. I never achieved that “glow” so many women enjoy while hormones guaranteeing baby’s health and safety surged through my system.

Instead I was desperately ill for the first four months as I wrapped up my college degree. (In hindsight, taking biology at six in the morning was a bad choice.) I spent many of those days in close communion with the toilet or a bowl when I couldn’t muster the energy to get to the bathroom.

I had a few short golden weeks before my body revolted once again and I developed a serious case of preeclampsia. Now my doctor visits were weekly and included fetal monitoring.

Back then there were few interventions for this condition so it was wait and see, wait and see all the while I counted days and weeks until I could reach the magic “thirty-four week” mark of likely viability.

Thankfully, we made it!

But then that little Miss decided to assert her personality and refuse to make an entrance.

So…finally…I was scheduled to deliver ten full days after her due date of December 8th.

It was a long day of pitocin, contractions, no progress and a swift trip to the OR for what ended up being an emergency C-section. Drama all the way!

She was here, safe and sound, in my arms at last.

There are lots of things I don’t remember in detail about that day or even the week that followed but I remember this: I knew in my bones that life would never be the same. This precious child made me a mama and my heart would forever be wrapped around hers.

I’m so very thankful I had the blessing of three more little ones after that.

I’m grateful for the lives they’ve lived and the ones they are living now.

I miss my third-born, Dominic. His birth story is woven just as firmly into the fabric of my being as Fiona’s and that of her other brothers.

I can’t pick out his threads without unraveling the whole cloth.

And I don’t want to.

I celebrate today the gift of motherhood and the gift of children.

Even when one of them leaves too soon.

Love is always costly, but love is always worth the price.

Birthdays Can Be…A Little Complicated

Today is my birthday.

And while I am truly grateful for another trip around the sun, since Dominic left us it’s not a simple celebration of life lived and the hope of years to come.

The last birthday I had with an unbroken family circle was a lovely surprise party for my fiftieth held in Dom’s apartment.

Nine years later and it seems a lifetime ago.

Read the rest here: Birthdays Are…Complicated

I Am Sorry…

My son’s death is a point in time for people outside my immediate grief circle. It’s a date on a calendar. There is a period after his name.

But it is an ongoing experience for me and my family.

We don’t only remember on birthdays, holidays and anniversary days, we can never forget.

Yet often others do.

Read the rest here: I’m Sorry

Birthdays and Other Reminders That Life is Fleeting

When children are young and growing every birthday is a celebration. And it absolutely should be!

But when you’ve walked a few (0r more than a few!) years on this old world, birthdays begin to morph into something else.

They remind a heart that life is short, that not all of the people we love will enjoy fullness of years and even those that do seem to leave us way too soon.

Birthdays-after precious people have run ahead to Heaven-mark one more year without them.

Instead of cake and balloons, flowers and presents, we sit with silence and absence, memories and wishes for more time…

Today my heart hurts more than usual.

It’s my mama’s birthday-the third one we will celebrate without her here to blow out the candles.

It’s also the third anniversary (do you call it that?) of the day Papa had to call an ambulance to rush her to the hospital.

She never came home.

Read the rest here: Birthdays and Wakeful Nights

Today is Dominic’s Birthday

Today is Dominic’s birthday. He would have been thirty-two if he lived.

I find as the years roll by it becomes increasingly difficult to “age” the person I last saw into the person he might have become. Oh, I can guess-but that’s hardly worth doing since we all know life rarely follows a straight path.

And that’s what defies language and steals my breath. On milestone days especially, I’m not only mourning what I have lost but also what I will never know.

It would surprise my mama most of all that on this day I’m at a loss for words.

I regularly embarrassed her with my non-stop commentary as a child. I told stories about what I heard and saw (and what my young mind THOUGHT it heard or saw) to anyone who would listen.

But I realize now there are moments too sacred, wounds too deep, experiences too precious for words.

Either you are there and share it-or you’re not-and can’t imagine.

This is one of those times.

Dominic would be thirty-two years old today if he had lived.

Read the rest here: At A Loss For Words: Another Birthday Without You

Birthdays Are…a Little Complicated

Today is my birthday.

And while I am truly grateful for another trip around the sun, since Dominic left us it’s not a simple celebration of life lived and the hope of years to come.

The last birthday I had with an unbroken family circle was a lovely surprise party for my fiftieth held in Dom’s apartment.

[Nine] years later and it seems a lifetime ago.

Read the rest here: Birthdays Are…Complicated

The Gift of Celebration

If you’ve just joined this awful “club” the thought of celebrating anything may make your heart shrink and your eyes fill with tears.

I understand!

That’s precisely the way I felt for a very long time. Not because I didn’t think there were still oh, so many things and people worth celebrating, but because I couldn’t remember what joy felt like much less experience it.

My heart was filled to the brim with pain, sorrow, longing and fear-there just wasn’t room for anything else.

Still, I kept up the discipline of celebration even when I wasn’t feeling like celebrating.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, as I picked my way through memories and feelings and did the  work grief required, I made space in that broken heart for other things.

And now I can testify that celebration is once again a gift!

I not only mark the big things-like birthdays and holidays-but also the little things-like making muffins with my grandson.

Any and every excuse for a photo or a cupcake!

Today is my oldest son’s birthday and his dad and I are here to celebrate it with him for the first time in I don’t honestly know how many years. I am happy to make him a yummy meal (or take him to a favorite restaurant) and buy a special treat to mark the day he said “hello” to the world.

And I’m more than happy to spend time with him and watch as he pours into his own son some of the love and life we’ve poured into him.

So if you aren’t “feeling it” try faking it or at least showing up.

Eventually there will be a moment when your heart once again embraces joy.

Then hold on with both hands! ❤

Birthdays and Wakeful Nights

Today my heart hurts more than usual.

It’s my mama’s birthday-the third one we will celebrate without her here to blow out the candles.

It’s also the third anniversary (do you call it that?) of the day Papa had to call an ambulance to rush her to the hospital.

She never came home.

Our last visit just a couple of weeks before Mama’s stroke. All the grandmas and Ryker.

These past two years have been hard. Mama’s death plunged me back into deep grief for her and for Dominic. It tapped the wound that had begun to scar over a bit and the feelings I’d learned to push down bubbled back to the surface.

I’ve just now begun to sleep through the night again most nights. For much of the past two years I’ve been waking two or three times in the dark to vividly awful dreams-my family in peril and no way to help them is the theme over and over and over.

I know other motherless daughters.

Somehow knowing Mama isn’t available on the other end of the phone or sitting in her chair, waiting for me to come through the door at the farm, makes me supremely vulnerable.

One less generation between me and whatever the world might throw at me.

I know she is healthy and whole, happy and full of joy in Heaven. I know she’s reunited with her own mama, her siblings and Dominic.

On good days, that’s enough to make the missing bearable.

But on days like today, when we should be celebrating another year together but can’t, it doesn’t help all that much.

I miss her.

I miss Dominic.

I miss the me that used to be ignorant of what death steals from the living.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mama. We’ll be there soon. ❤

STILL At A Loss For Words

Today is Dominic’s birthday. He would have been thirty-one if he lived.

I find as the years roll by it becomes increasingly difficult to “age” the person I last saw into the person he might have become. Oh, I can guess-but that’s hardly worth doing since we all know life rarely follows a straight path.

And that’s really what defies language and steals my breath. On milestone days especially, I’m not only mourning what I have lost but also what I will never know.

It would surprise my mama most of all that on this day I’m at a loss for words.

I regularly embarrassed her with my non-stop commentary as a child. I told stories about what I heard and saw (and what my young mind THOUGHT it heard or saw) to anyone who would listen.

But I realize now there are moments too sacred, wounds too deep, experiences too precious for words.

Either you are there and share it-or you’re not-and can’t imagine.

This is one of those times.

Dominic would be thirty-one years old today if he had lived.

Read the rest here: At A Loss For Words: Another Birthday Without You

How Do You Mark Milestones After Child Loss? Here Are Sixteen Ideas.

I’ve found myself in a bit of a writing funk these past weeks. Once January draws to a close (a short reprieve from surviving the holidays) the calendar barrels on to the anniversary of that fateful day.

This will be the seventh time I’ve weathered that period where I mark all the “lasts” and try to honor Dominic’s life and not only focus on his death.

For someone who used to be able to draw up a game plan for any occasion, I am still out of my depth when it comes to commemorating the date of my son leaving for Heaven.

So I’m sharing this again-as much for me as for anyone else. It’s just plain hard. But I hope these ideas help another heart find a way through the minefield of remembering.

Read the rest here: Child Loss: Marking the Milestones

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