Life gives you two choices when you suffer a tragedy: give up or survive.
I woke up this morning and realized, WE SURVIVED.
By God’s grace.
The Holidays have came to and end, 2016 has begun, 2015 is over and here we are as a family, not completely whole, but not completely broken either. We made it to the other side of our first Holiday season without you. We survived.
Here’s to surviving without you baby boy. God only knows I’d rather have you here by my side, but for now, for the rest of my days in this lifetime, I’ll survive.
This evening as the sunsets and unfamiliar feeling overwhelms me; I hate you. I look at you sitting on my nightstand and all I want to do is throw you away; I don’t want you. I don’t want the empty bear the holds my child’s ashes; you’re not breathing, you’re heart doesn’t beat, blood doesn’t run through your veins. I want my Everett, not my Everett Bear. I want my child back.
As Halloween begins, so does another restless night filled with dreams of you. This year, Halloween is yet another reminder of a milestone you’ll never get to reach, another reminder of what our life could have been, and the pain is almost unbearable.
October is over. Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is over. But you’re still gone. This month of reflection didn’t bring you back. It didn’t miraculously heal my aching heart. It didn’t make my family whole again. I’m not “okay”. I’m not “fine”. This is the reality I live in now. My child died. My heart will never be whole again.
I’m broken, but I’m still breathing. I’m not stable, but I’m not crumbling either. I proudly wear the scars your life left on my heart. I proudly call you my son. And I anxiously await the day I meet you at Heaven’s gates. The roar of a bereaved mother’s love and pain will forever be inside of me.
I am strong.
I am a child loss survivor.
I am an angel’s Mommy.
I am 1 in 4.
But I am also so much more. I am a mother to two babies I get to hold in my arms on Earth. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a friend and confidante. And because of that, I live on. Your legacy will not be my destruction; I will rise out of the ashes left behind and create a legacy you can be proud of. Your memory will not die, but will graciously live on through the lives of those that loved you. And let me tell you baby boy, so many people love you!
As I wrap up this month’s Capture your Grief Challenge I am reminded of this:
“Grief never ends, but it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith; It is the price of love.” –Author Unknown
Three months ago today, we lost you. Only God knows when you truly left this world, but you were born sleeping on July 30th, 2015 at 1:06 am. Your precious body weighed only 0.74 oz and measured 4 1/4 inches long. You fit perfectly into the palm of our hands. Who would’ve known such tiny footprint could leave such a huge imprint on our souls. Until we meet again baby boy. Mommy and Daddy love you, always and forever.
For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. -Psalm 139:13-14
Everyone goes through moments in their life where their world is rocked to its core. Moments that rip away your innocence, break your heart into a million pieces, and leave you breathlessly screaming for answers. In these moments we are left with a choice; do I turn to God to help ease my suffering or blame God for it.
Losing Everett was my moment & will always be my moment.
In the beginning there are days that you can barely breathe. Days that the fog never lifts. Days where your anger makes you question every aspect of everything you thought you knew. Days that turn into nights that turn into weeks of suffering through the reality that is now your life.
In my moments of desperation the darkest thoughts slip through to the surface of my mind. The stark reality of losing a child is beyond words or explanation and rips apart your very soul. A soul that can only be healed by one thing and one thing alone, its Creator.
It is in Him that I will heal. Through Him that I will find the peace my heart needs and the courage to bring another miracle into this world. It is because of Him and His sacrifice that I will see my sweet angel Everett again. It is because of Him and through Him that I will hold my baby in my arms again and my family will once again be whole.
We may not fully understand what took Everett from our world, but I do know this; God did not take our child from us. He may have allowed his spirit to leave this world, but I can guarantee He welcomed Everett into Heaven with open arms and will watch over him until we meet again.
Four months ago, before the fated day we found out Everett’s heart had stopped beating, I was anxiously planning all the cute pregnancy photos we should take and how to do so without taking away from our recently promoted middle child’s 1 year photo shoot with the talented T. Marie Photography. Dreaming of how big my 6 month baby bump would be and all the adorable ways to announce if we were adding a little Mr. or Mrs. to our growing King crew. You see I am that Mom. The over sharer that uploads way too many pictures of her children on social media (Yes, I am aware of what I’m doing & No, I do not plan on stopping). The one who has her kids faces plastered over practically every free wall in their home. The one who gets yearly family photos taken several times a year and would pay whatever the cost for those priceless moments captured in time. The one whose life revolves around her children. Being a mother is my identity, it is what I was born to do; it is ingrained into my DNA.
My children are the life force that runs through my veins; their love and laughter is what fuels me through my hectic days and living without one of them is the hardest things God has ever placed before me. I wake up every day to a world where one of my children is dead. I know, I know, harsh words, but that is the reality that I live in and a lifetime of memories with my sweet sunshine babies won’t change that. Everett may have only lived 20 short weeks inside my womb on this Earth, but he is just as much a part of my soul as Jack and Lucas are. His DNA will literally forever be entwined with mine; it is called maternal fetal microchimerism and it is the most amazing biological after effect of pregnancy. The emptiness in my womb his death left behind is constant aching reminder of the life we must live without him.
In just three short months without him, that life has taken a toll on all of Everett’s family; but it has been especially hard on me. I am not the same mother, wife, friend, or person I used to be. I will acknowledge that some of that change has been for the better but the fact of the matter is, my reflection is no longer my own. Everybody grows and changes over the years, but this change was drastic, sudden, irreversible and unwanted. When I look in the mirror I no longer see the woman I used to be staring back at me; I am unrecognizable and everyday I pray to catch glimpses of my former self peaking through the dark clouds surrounding me. I pray to see the rainbow at the end of the storm; a sign of the promise God made to his people, a sign of His never ending love.
I found myself sending up that same prayer of hope in our driveway as I held onto the only piece of Everett we have left; our Everett bear. Instead of capturing my growing baby bump that day at Lucas’ 1 year photo shoot we would be capturing our family without Everett. Our Everett bear would replace my growing belly and represent our missing piece. I prayed that Tiffany would find the perfect way to honor and memorialize Everett and that I could look at these pictures and see love and light in our eyes; not pain and sorrow. I longed to see my family whole; not broken up and separated into the dead and living. I wished beyond all logical thought that somehow, someway, I could look at our family photo and not see a family ravished by the loss of a child.
Let me start by saying this: I know Tiffany is not a miracle worker, but I do believe she is one of the most genuine, caring, empathetic, God driven women I have ever met and that God sends people into your life for a reason.
That day, Tiffany captured our family; not a family torn between Heaven and Earth, not a family lost and finding its way through a life without one of its members, not a family trying to mend their broken hearts, but our family. She patiently (what can I say, my husband and children don’t love pictures as much as I do), captured the beauty behind our emotions. She capture smiles, tears, and tender moments of love. The pictures we received from Lucas’ 1 year photos where everything I dreamt of, everything I prayed for, everything our family needed. They will forever be loved and cherished just like our sweet baby boy and will serve as a reminder that God hears our prayers:
Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth. -Genesis 9:16
The journey through grief is just that; a journey. Everyday I wake up and chose life; I chose joy, I chose sadness, I chose love, I it all. I chose everything that comes with being a mother because you can’t just accept part of your child and that is just what Everett was, what Everett is; my child.
Denying a part of my grief would be like denying a part of him so I chose to embrace it, just like I would’ve embraced him.
The day Everett was born into this world was the hardest day of my life. I could not stomach the thought of being away from him. My head, my heart, and my body all told me I had just brought a precious life into this world and my motherly instinct would not let me see it any other way. I knew deep down that Everett had already left his body, but the thought of burying him in the ground somewhere we could be thousands of miles away from in a few years literally made my stomach churn, and still does to this day. Call it what you will, but neither his Daddy nor I could bear the thought of arranging a funeral, picking out a casket, or buying a plot for our angel. We just couldn’t and I don’t know that we ever will. We chose to cremate our precious son’s body and keep his ashes with us until we leave this world; to be entombed with his family when our time on this Earth comes to an end.
Everett’s ashes now lay inside an urn tucked tightly into a bear we made at Build a Bear on our honeymoon. A bear that has been by Jack and Lucas’ side since the day they were born and included in their newborn photos. A bear that has played a special part in our lives even before it became our 3rd son’s final resting place. A bear we now lovingly refer to as our “Everett Bear”. Our Everett Bear sits on Mommy’s nightstand and is a physical reminder of the Guardian Angel watching over our family awaiting the day when we can all be together again.
Our choice to cremate Everett left us without a grave or physical marker to go to in order to feel his presence. We needed that; a place to go to to be with Everett; to pray for him, read him stories, talk to him, and sit in his presence. As we planned Everett’s memorial we decided we wanted to build something that could easily come with us if our family ever moved. We’ve had an old wishing well in our yard since the day we bought our house and have been talking about redoing it ever since. What a perfect way to memorialize our son. We stained, painted, an re-roofed the wishing well, made it into Everett’s wishing well; a place we place our wishes for our son. Everett’s statue sits on the ledge of his wishing well and inside sits a pot of forget me nots we planted in his memory. Beside Everett’s wishing well sits the prayer flag our family and friends made for him at his memorial.
This is our sacred space; our spot to “be” with our baby boy. Everett’s memorial proudly sits in our front yard by the hedges that line our house. It is the first thing you see when you come to the King household; a constant reminder of his presence in our home, in our lives, and in our family.
Today’s post was especially hard for me to write as thoughts whirled around my head, but refused to be put onto paper. Even now, I write through tear clouded eyes and mascara stained checks. I tell you this not to make you worry about my well being or to gain your sympathy, but so you know the truth that is a bereaved mother’s reality. Remembering and honoring a life you no longer get to hold is a double edged sword; honoring Everett’s short life and acknowledging our angel in Heaven makes my soul soar and my heart swell, but the reality is, I am doing just that, remembering him, and those memories are all I’ll ever have. I don’t finish a post early in order to pick up a hungry newborn needed to be nursed back to sleep or get interrupted by the sweet sounds of his cooing. I am a bereaved mother. And unlike his brothers (whom I thank the Lord every day for allowing me to hold here on this Earth), my third son will spend his life in Heaven and the reality of that slams my soul back down to Earth faster than I ever thought possible.
The martyr in me wants to perfectly articulate to the whole world exactly how my life, my heart, and my faith were shattered into a million pieces the day we found out we’d lost our precious baby boy, but the mother in me knows that reality isn’t ours. We are blessed; we have two children here on this Earth we get to love and hold every day. Two children who, alongside my husband, keep me from losing myself in grief, piece back together the majority of my broken heart, and renew my faith in our Lord and Savior. But, despite these precious souls I have been entrusted with, a piece of my heart remains scattered, searching for the piece of our family’s puzzle that will never be completed while we walk this Earth; a fact that often weighs heavy on my heart and leaves me guiltily wondering:
Are my children not enough? Is my husband not enough? Is my faith not enough?
And now is about the point where the message behind today’s subject slaps me across the face: forgiveness and humanity.
I may be a mother with a super human ability to juggle what seems like a million tasks, run a day care, keep the house clean, and get the kids fed, bathed, and in bed on time (okay, okay, I admit, my husband helps too); but I am only human. I have flaws; about a million of them, and I choose to forgive myself for those flaws. I forgive myself for the days where my grief overshadows my joy and for the days when my grief isn’t even an after thought. I forgive myself for everything that I do not have the strength to do in honor of our angel, and for everything that I do (as it often feels like I am betraying my living children by honoring their brother in such an outspoken way). I forgive myself for putting my living family above my son in Heaven on days where I am stretched too thin. I forgive myself for the days I look at Jack and Lucas and all I can see is the moments Everett should have been a part of and for all the moments I enjoy without Everett here with us. I forgive myself for all my short falls and embrace my imperfections. I am only human. You are only human. We are only human.
So, to all those bereaved parents out there who struggle with the balance of appreciating the lives you get to hold here on this Earth and honoring the ones taken from you too soon. I stand with you, you are not alone. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Honor yourself. I promise you, by doing so you will honor your angel looking down on you from Heaven proudly telling his baby angel buddies, “See that family down there, those are the ones I call my own.“
The day we returned home empty armed from giving birth to Everett our yard was scattered with beautiful white butterflies. As I gazed at them fluttering around us a sense of peace surrounded my heart; taking away my grief for a fleeting moment and surrounding me with warmth and love. I will forever see those perfectly tiny butterflies as signs from above; our sweet angel’s butterfly kisses sent to tell us that he is safe in God’s arms. Everett never had to experience the pain and cruelty of this world and like the signs he sends us from above his soul remains as clean and pure as the day he was conceived.
Awaiting the day I hold you in my arms again. Until then I’ll continue to visit you in my dreams. Mommy love you Baby E.