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

Thank You For Your Service

I am the proud daughter of a military veteran.

I am the beaming mother of a son who served and the aunt of a nephew currently serving. 

james at pikes peak

And while others argue about why and where we send troops and fight wars, I  pray that wherever they go and whatever they do, they return home safely.

Read the rest here: The Value of Veterans

Fear of What You Know Is Impossible to Ignore (Lightning DOES Strike Twice!)

I was reminded today how close fear sits to the door of my heart and to the door of the hearts of many bereaved parents.

Once again a mom shared an experience of not being able to get in touch with a surviving child and how that quickly spiraled downward to a frenzy of fear.

To some it may seem like an overreaction. But to those of us for whom the one thing you think won’t happen, HAS happened, it made perfect sense.

Read the rest here: If It Happened Once, It Could Happen Again

So Close And Yet So Far

I’m not usually a person who sits frozen when something unexpected or even something awful happens.

But the events in Uvalde, Texas have paralyzed me.

So many parents, grandparents and siblings thrust into the horror of loss and sorrow in a mere forty-five minutes! How does a heart process that when it knows exactly the long, awful road those families are just beginning to tread?

This isn’t about me, though, it’s about them.

It’s about the dozens and hundreds of people whose lives are touched by the tragic deaths of children and teachers who woke up that morning thinking the school year was winding to a close and looking forward to a summer of freedom.

Instead those families have been circled by chains of grief and will spend the next months and YEARS trying to figure out how to live when their worldview and hearts have been shattered.

I can identify with that.

Dominic was killed weeks shy of his twenty-fourth birthday and an even shorter time shy of finishing his second year of law school.

It was supposed to be downhill from there.

It was three days short of the end of the school year for those precious souls trapped by an evil young man in a classroom with no where to go but Heaven depending on where he pointed his weapon.

How does a parent process that?

How does a mama or daddy keep from lamenting how very close his or her child was to escaping this awful end? How does anyone not count the days and hours and moments that might have meant the difference between life and death?

For those whose hearts have been spared-I am so, so thankful.

For those of us who KNOW- I am so, so sorry.

You have probably also been paralyzed and horrified. You know the long, torturous path stretching before these parents. You know that there are no shortcuts, no detours, no magic to make it less painful.

Your breath has come in gasps interwoven with prayers for grace and strength.

You’ve avoided blaring newscasts and only checked intermittently for updates.

You may have cried, like me, in the shower or in a corner because the idea of another parent joining this “club” always makes you sad.

It’s especially difficult knowing that the end of the school year was so. very. close. The opportunity to do that kind of damage was nearly out of his reach.

And yet.

Here we are.

Again.

Patience Appreciated!

I wrote this a few years ago in response to post after post across social media of (mostly!) moms lamenting the fact their son or daughter would soon be moving away or off to college. 

I get it!  

When you are used to having your kid around it’s tough when he or she leaves the nest.  

But there is a vast difference in having to work a little harder to stay in contact or arrange visits and never being able to speak to your child again. 

It’s an adjustment to compare calendars to find a day your family can celebrate together but it’s heartbreaking to know that one chair will always be empty at every family gathering.  

Read the rest here:  Please Be Patient With Me

I Want To Live Unafraid

I had never been afraid of speaking in public.

I had never been afraid of strangers.

I had never been afraid of heights.

UNTIL.

Until I had children and then I was afraid of nearly EVERYTHING for them.

I didn’t want any harm to befall these tiny humans carrying my heart outside my body.  I wanted to protect them, to cushion them, to wrap them in a bubble so that nothing bad ever happened to them.

As they grew, I learned to let go- a little at a time.  I learned you can’t prevent the scrapes and bruises and heartaches and disappointments of life.  And I learned that a little “harm” made them stronger.

I forgot most of my fears and was again unafraid.

UNTIL Dominic was killed.

Read the rest here: Unafraid

Mother’s Day 2022: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day

I post this around Mother’s Day every year since my daughter, Fiona, wrote it in the voice of her brother who is in Heaven.

It helps my heart sort the mixed emotions that this day stirs up.

I’m not ONLY a bereaved mother. I’m a mother and grandmother of earthbound children too.

I’m grateful for all of them. So very, very grateful.

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this several years ago, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

Read the rest here: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day.

Holidays Can Be Hard-What To Do About Mother’s Day

This will be the ninth Mother’s Day since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Every year has been different because families continue to grow and change and the world turns and life marches on.

Every year presents unique challenges and particular paths that must be navigated anew. It’s always an emotional roller coaster.

The Captain, March 2019

Three years ago our family welcomed a first grandchild. His frightening entrance into the world made his life all the more precious and Mother’s Day gave us a chance to celebrate him, his mama and the fact that his story has a happy ending.

The Captain, April 2020.

In March we welcomed his brother-also a bit early but not nearly as perilous! Once again we give thanks that things have turned out well.

Coming home!! Big brother is so excited.

This year I’ll be a motherless child when the sun rises tomorrow. For the third time in my life, I won’t be able to see or telephone my own mother. Another light and life lost from sight.

Dominic and Mama in Heaven together.

Julian, Dominic, Mama, James Michael & Fiona

Every year my living children work hard to celebrate me even when they are unable to make it home.

I always feel loved.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fiona-and-brandon-wedding-boys-and-fiona.jpg

So what’s a mama to do when her heart is torn between the very great and beautiful blessings of her living children and grandchildren and the very great and devastating sorrow of missing her child in Heaven?

Since discovering there is an International Bereaved Mother’s Day my heart has taken advantage of having a day to think about and honor Dominic and then another day to think about and honor my living children.

I also rise early enough on Mother’s Day to have time alone with my thoughts and feelings.

I walk my heart through the upcoming hours and “pre-grieve” moments where I’ll be looking for Dom among the faces at the table or around the room. I remember the gift of his life and place it in context of the gift of each of my children.

I thank God for my family.

Thanksgiving years ago, when we were all younger and all here on earth. One of my favorites. 

And then I get up, get dressed and open my heart to the love I have in front of me.

I never, ever want my living children to think that their brother’s ABSENCE is more important or more precious to me than their PRESENCE.

My mama’s heart has room for all of them as it always has.

And as it always will.

Mother’s Day 2022: A Letter to My Living Children

I shared this for the first time five years ago.

Before my mother’s illness and death, before the frighteningly early arrival of our little Captain and the less-frightening and less early arrival of his brother, LT, before an overseas deployment, a destructive hurricane, Covid19, and too many other stressful events to list.

I have watched my kids meet every challenge-sometimes with grace, sometimes with grit, sometimes with both.

They are different people than they would have been if Dominic still walked beside us. They know things their peers can’t even guess.

We all lost so much when we lost Dom. But we still have each other.

And that’s a treasure.

I never thought it possible to love you more than I already did.

But I do.

Your brother’s untimely departure has opened my heart in a whole new way to the glory that is your presence.  It has made me drink you in like water in the desert.

Read the rest here:  A Letter To My Living Children*

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