I've decided to record the next portion of my journey in a new place. Here's the address:
Before I delve into the great depths that are my thoughts, I must share a good piece of news. As most of you know Joy is pregnant again - this being the third time in the last nine months - and we had our 20-week appointment on Monday. In the words of the doctor, “I can deem this a completely normal pregnancy.” Praise God!
For the first time in 14 months that were all focused solely on troubled pregnancy, miscarriage, and the never knowing and always wondering that accompanies a still flickering faith, we have the opportunity to take a deep breath and relax.
This new opportunity brings me to a new step in my healing and my faith. I know nothing in this world has been promised to me accept the love of my Savior and the grace he promised me through salvation. So why do I expect this child to be completely healthy? God doesn’t owe me anything. Yet I still have the expectation of a healthy baby that will live a full life.
I never thought about the term “expecting parent” until recently when my wife wrote a great post about it on her blog. We set expectations on so many things, especially children. This causes me to think even more critically about everything. Is there anything (other than the DMV) that we don’t expect to go well? Should we expect disaster and be grateful when it doesn’t strike?
A new friend introduced me to a great blog recently thanks to a series of posts entitled When a Child Dies. If you want to know what to say, what not to say, or how to act and love on someone who has lost a child, this is a fantastic resource. If you've ever thought you didn't know what to say to me or Joy, PLEASE read this blog. Mike lost his daughter years ago but is able to speak honestly and beautifully about the pain and the struggles. At first I was really interested in his next post, there are 8 so far, but by the second post I was more interested in hearing the comments that were posted by parents who are “part of the club.”
Story after story told of loss, hurt and a terrible struggle to climb back into life. I know that feeling. Others tell of the loneliness. I know this one very well too.
So, as I’ve been trained to do, I took my recent spiritual filter (expectation) and held it up to all of these stories and my current life. What expectations should we have for our family? What about our church family? Should we be able to expect anything there? I find myself feeling guilty about the expectations I have for others that haven’t been met. My mind has officially become a muddled mess of questions and exhaustion.
Tomorrow morning I go in for a shoulder surgery to have a torn labrum repaired. It’s had me in a lot of pain for a while now, so I figured I better get it fixed now so after the 4 ½ month recovery I can hold my baby girl! I’m excited to have four days away from work while I’m healing, but this of course means laying in my recliner for four days. Thinking. My mind is like a small terrier left inside for too long. Without constant attention it runs wild and tears things up. Prayers would be appreciated.
The main part of the human brain is broken into two sides, the right and the left. The left side is the logical, analytical, rational side of the brain. The right side is all about creativity and intuition. 2011 was a right brain year for me.
I’ve been thinking about it most of the day and I developed the opinion that there are left-brain Christians, right-brain Christians, and whole-brain Christians. This theory deserves a lot of time to develop, and it’s not the reason I’m writing this entry. I feel that the development of rigid religion came from the left-brain people, and the ultra charismatic are the right-brain Christians. I’ve decided Christians can’t hear God’s call completely without using both sides of their brains.
I’ve always had a connection to the arts, nature, music and other right-brain things. It’s not just simply about enjoyment. I truly believe the Holy Spirit uses these things to speak to me. Due to the many troubles that came our way in 2011, I used my right brain a lot to hear God. He used nature to speak to me, he used lots of fellowship, and he used music.
So, here is the chronological list of right-brain activities I did this year. God used so many wonderful opportunities for me to see him and feel him in new ways.
Took a great trip to Colorado with Joy. We stayed in a cabin with no electricity or running water for a few nights and loved the time away in the wilderness.
- Spent four days at South by Southwest, an incredible weeklong music festival in Austin. Here is the list of notable bands I saw:
2) Josh Ritter
3) Chapin Sisters
4) The Strokes
5) The Head and the Heart
6) Bright Eyes
7) Snoop Dawg (with Puff Daddy and Warren G)
8) Mayer Hawthorne
9) Caleb Hawley
There were a few others, but they were smaller bands that I couldn’t remember the names of. Needless to say, I saw a lot of great music over that week.
No traveling in April, but it was a very busy concert month for me. I needed the music therapy it provided, and the escape from reality for a few hours was nice too.
11) April 10- Gungor
12) April 14- Keb Mo
13) April 19- Fitz and the Tantrums
14) April 26- Old Crow Medicine Show
15) Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros
16) Mumford and Sons
Maggie was born three days later and life went into a spiral. We spend the next 26 days next to her hospital bed, and then there was the funeral and recovery time at home, then trying to get re-acclimated to work.
We were so blessed to go to Costa Rica in July. A week of time together in a world that wasn’t plastered with sadness and grief was just what we needed.
Got back to the music scene in the hot, hot month of August. My good friends Travis and Joe got me back out to see the following shows.
17) August 8- The Decemberists
18) August 24- Robert Ellis and DAWES (One of my favorite bands!)
Joy and I flew to Wisconsin at the beginning of the month to visit her family and meet her new sister-in-law, and at the end of the month I got to fly to Las Vegas with a few close friends for a weekend away.
19) September 28- Gungor @ Stubbs
20) October 21- The Naked and Famous
As the year began to come to an end, and having recently found out that Joy was pregnant again, I knew I had to get out as much as possible! So, I took a solo backpacking trip to Arkansas over Thanksgiving, which was an amazing trip, and got out to see a few more awesome shows.
21) November 7- The Felice Brothers
- Gill Landry
22) November 11- Sondre Lerche
We took a weeklong trip to Montana over Christmas to meet up with my family in a beautiful cabin in the woods. It was spectacular! The weather was good, the scenery was great, and the family time was wonderful. The last two shows of the year were especially great!
23) December 7- CAKE
24) December 13- Trampled by Turtles
So there it is. My year in review. Six trips and 24 shows, and every one of them gave me a new experience to draw from. Music and travel let me step away from the everyday grind and hear or see life in a new way. The Holy Spirit is in beautiful things, and I experienced him a lot this year. Maybe not at the Snoop Dawg concert, but most of the other ones.
The 2012 concert season begins the week for me with shows on Thursday (The Civil Wars) and Saturday (The Alabama Shakes), and in the second week of February Joy and I will travel to Houston for a long weekend away that will include a Martin Sexton show. I’ve also got tickets lined up for the Polyphonic Spree on Feb. 15. It’s gonna be a good year!
I’m not really sure why I’m still writing on this blog. I sat down tonight to script a new post about my vision quest into the wilderness and realized that very little of my musings have to do with my beloved Maggie, the person this blog was designed for. Instead, my healing is the subject at hand.
Joy recently began writing a blog. I couldn’t be more proud. Her honest words and depth almost always bring on exhausting tears, but at the same time it’s been a wonderful thing for me to read and for her to write. I know her more intimately thanks to this. I guess the internet is good for something.
Also, for those who aren’t part of our Facebook universe, Joy is pregnant for the third time in 2011! We are very excited, yet scared silly. Crazy. I didn’t realize how frightened I was until my best friend called and said, “So I hear Joy is pregnant? Saw it on Facebook.” I hadn’t told anyone but my immediate family. Not even my best friend. (Sorry Ben.)
So, I went to Arkansas for a solo-backpacking trip over Thanksgiving. Yes, it was a difficult decision to leave my wife and my parents for the holiday, and forgoing the culinary riches and football that make Thanksgiving pure gluttonous bliss was hard too. I wouldn’t have gone without Joy’s blessing, and I’m grateful for her willingness to let me go. The lessons I learned on the trail were priceless.
The plan was to finish a 26.8-mile loop in 3-4 days. This included topping 9 mountains, crossing the Little Missouri River 6 times, and 16 creek crossings, all while carrying a 40-pound pack. I had never done a solo trip of more than one night, so the stakes were high. And it didn’t help that I was attempting what my guidebook called, “the most difficult trail in Arkansas” while in the worst physical condition of my life.
Torrential down pouring rain and flood warnings changed my plans shortly before leaving, forcing me to take on the most difficult part of the trail first – the mountains – in an attempt to let the water level of the river drop before the many crossings that lay ahead. Day one was good and I finished 5.6 miles in 5 hours while crossing four mountains. Day two proved a little more difficult. In 7 hours on the trail I covered the next two mountains on the map, trudged through low lying marsh for 3 miles, and waded through fast-moving water in my first river crossing. Seven miles were conquered on day two, and my pace was good to finish on time.
Day three started with a very wide river crossing, depth just over my knees, and by noon I had knocked out four more miles. (For those counting, that’s 16.6 miles in 48 hours. Not too shabby.) I was only a mile from a large recreation area where I was going to stop for lunch when disaster struck. This location was a big milestone, because the final 9 miles after that were pretty flat, but coming down the mountain into the park I turned my right ankle.
Luckily I met a very nice retired couple in the park who gave me a ride back to my car. It was a bitter-sweet ending. I REALLY wanted to finish, but solo backpacking is all about safety and caution. Had I ventured into the final 9 miles on a bummed ankle, who knows what would have happened.
So there’s the physical part of the story. Now to the important part. Since finding out about Maggie’s condition a year ago I’ve become pretty numb. I stopped feeling. I stopped letting myself feel. I simply quit listening to my brain/heart and quit taking care of myself emotionally. Whenever my thoughts began, I turned on the tv or grabbed my phone to pacify myself. Very unhealthy. When I planed this trip I knew I needed to get away to a place where that wasn’t possible.
When I got back Joy asked me, “Why did you have to plan this trip 2 months in advance and drive to Arkansas to turn off your cell phone and the tv?” And the truth is, the trip was a bribe. It was the only way I could convince myself to do it. In the same way my sister bribes her kids with dessert if they eat their vegetables, I needed the lure of the wilderness to let myself be quiet and listen to God.
By the morning of day two, I began to hear it. It starting with the pain in my body, through which God reminded me how poorly I take care of myself physically. By the afternoon I realized how little I do to take care of myself spiritually, and by proxy how poorly I take care of my family in the same way. By night number two I was sitting in the dark nearly in tears as I thought about how much I depend on people to fulfill me emotionally. I’m a wreck.
God spoke clearly to me. He pointed out what I already knew was there in a painful, yet helpful way. This is what finally opened my eyes to what the last year in my life has been.
I believe with all that is in me that God wants to work in us through our pain and discomfort. Transformation isn’t easy, and too many of Jesus’ parables make this clear. (The prodigal son, the vine and the branches, etc.) Comfort is the enemy of growth. We know this is true physically. A man (like me) who sits in the recliner nearly every waking hour he isn’t at work only becomes weaker. I now know this to be so true spiritually. We must place ourselves in uncomfortable places to be used by our Father.
God placed a burden on my heart four years ago about the laziness of many of today’s churches and those who call themselves christians. I’m talking about groups of people who are satisfied with going through the motions of doing what they know while being critical of anyone who doesn’t; the man who calls himself a Christian while never being Christ-like to the world; the person who sees a pornographer trapped in sin and condemns him as less than man, while gossiping to their friend about him on the phone. I believe this inability to get out of the comfortable and into the mess breeds worship that God considers a clanging cymbal or a noisy gong. It’s annoying to him.
My failure to take care of myself has made me the man I just spoke of. While my heart desires to do what I know God wants, my efforts are weak. Simply put, I am broken. I want to spend time with the hurting and the broken. I want to stand up for the weary and trampled. But right now, I’m one of them.
So there you have it. This is what God put on my heart in the wilderness. I stood on a mountaintop in the dark on night two with Elijah in mind. It was Thanksgiving and I was alone. My daughter is dead, my life is a mess, and I stood there asking God what to do. There wasn’t a massive storm or fire, but there was a gently breeze. I spent the rest of the evening in my tent trying to sleep through all of these thoughts, but it didn’t happen. It was a restless night. God answered my prayer with a storm of thoughts. Now I’ve got to figure out how to put it into action.
I came to a realization recently that cleared up a lot of hurt, but it caused even more pain in the process. I realized I am part of the problem.
Joy and I have struggled a lot over the last 11 months; worry and not knowing through the pregnancy, planning for potential hurt once our baby was born, endless days standing helplessly next to a hospital bed watching Maggie’s hurt, and finally a death and a funeral. At times we felt incredibly loved and supported, and at other times we have felt the sting of loneliness, almost as if we died with her.
I’ve learned that expectations are dangerous. I know what I expect from family, friends and church family as we slog through the mire of grief. I hold them to a certain standard, even if I haven’t told them what that standard is. It’s easy for bitterness to grow when others don’t stand up to my expectations, but I now know I haven’t told anyone what I need.
I talked with a good friend on Sunday about this. I expressed how detached Joy and I are feeling and he told me what I already know and have been talking about for months. “We just don’t know what to say,” he told me.
The American culture doesn’t know how to grieve, and we certainly don’t have any idea about how to support others who are grieving. I’ve drawn a parallel to Christianity, and I hope this makes sense. This is a great generalization based on my experiences, so please know I am not pointing fingers. I am pointing out the things I’ve seen in my life and the others around me.
People around us don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything. If we disappear for a few weeks they don’t send cards or messages. They don’t stop by to check on us. They would rather not try, and possibly feel awkward, then try to at all.
Isn’t this the way we are as Christians? It’s really hard to know what to say. ‘I don’t want to possibly drive someone away or scare them off, so I’ll keep my distance or just not say anything.’ All too often I find myself being that guy in my Christian walk. I rationalize my apathy instead of doing what I know is right.
I’ve known for years that a major struggle for me is that I care more about what people think of me and my actions that I care about what God thinks of me. It’s a sad thing, but it’s often true. I would rather fit in than have a moment of discomfort to honor my God.
I am convicted that this is yet one more lesson I’ve learned through Maggie’s death, and I’m sure it’s meant for me to share with others. Look into yourself and ask, “Is this action or lack of action one of self preservation, or is it one of God’s glorification?”
A hundred years ago when someone lost a family member, friends and family would come over and “sit with them.” They would be there quietly showing support and helping out where it was needed. My friend Kevin calls this the ministry of presence. It’s certainly important in loss, but I think it’s terribly important in our Christian walk as well. Just be there in relationship with people. Show up. When the opportunity to say something appropriate comes up, say it. But there’s no reason to force a sermon on an unbeliever who doesn’t know you are trustworthy the same way there is no reason to force a, “God needed another angel” on a grieving parent.
I haven’t written in a while, and I know why. I’ve been hiding from my hurt and trying to fill it with everything but attention. I’m starting to face a lot of it now, so you may see a new post every couple of weeks instead of every month.
I’m planning a solo backpacking trip in November. It’s my vision quest. I’m leaving television, internet, games, tasty food, books, friends, my wife, my dogs, and everything else I’ve used to self medicate behind. I’ll bring my notebook (made of paper, not a laptop) and my bible on a five-day hike. I think of Elijah and his mountaintop experience in 1 Kings 19. He was scared and empty, so he went to the wilderness and waited on God. This is what I plan to do. Please pray for this time. I am in deep need of intervention from our God. My heart hurts and my soul is weary.
For those of you still reading, thank you. My hope for healing is in knowing that God uses my pierced heart to show others his work. I am a beaten sinner, but I know God still loves me and uses me for the good of His Kingdom. This is why I still write, love and believe.
This is just a quick update to let everyone know what we know. We recently found out that the Hepatitis C test came back negative (very exciting). The genetic tests on our miscarried child's tissue came back too. She was a little girl, and her demise was from Turner's Syndrome. It's a somewhat regular cause for miscarriage, so that was a little bit of a relief. We were very glad to know that the doctor doesn't believe it was at all connected to Maggie's death or our genetic make up.
Both of these results are good things and we are grateful. We are now starting over at the beginning, believing that our health is good and that we should be able to have healthy children from here on. But how do you start over with the knowledge and heartache that we carry?
I don't have much to write. I'm recovering from sinus surgery and we are weathering the storm of baby showers, birth announcements and other constant reminders of the child we no longer have. And to add to the trouble, the funeral home messed up Maggie's headstone that was put in the ground this week. Just something else to make this process agonizing.
Thank you for the continued prayers and uplifting notes. Joy's day is always made better with a note from a friend or a card, so thank you.
It’s been a rough month. Sometimes I feel like my life is a soap opera, and that makes it all the more difficult to write blog posts. One of the most difficult realities for me is when people look at me with pity, that slight tilt of the head and pouting of the eyes and mouth that says, “Oh, you poor thing.” I really can’t do that much longer, and I feel like our story only perpetuates those looks. The truth is, things aren’t getting better yet.
After returning from a terrific get-away vacation to Costa Rica that was gifted to us in July, Joy had an accident at work. She was stuck with a needle from a patient with Hepatitis C. We should get the six-week screening back this week, which will tell us if Joy has the disease. So we’ve been dealing with this scare for the last five weeks.
Then, last week happened. Two days before the three-month anniversary of Maggie’s passing, Joy called me at work to tell me she was on her way to the doctor. She had miscarried her pregnancy at eight weeks. We hadn’t even told our families the awesome news and it was already over. We’re still in the initial stages of mourning the loss of our first child and our new source for joy was taken away.
Yes, it was very soon. We hadn’t intended to be pregnant that quickly, but we felt so blessed knowing that we might get to be parents again, something we had only done for 26 days. We had our first ultrasound in hand and were so excited to tell our families over the Labor Day weekend.
After the doctor confirmed the loss of the baby I took Joy to the surgery center for a D&C surgery. The doctor was hopeful that the tissue recovered from the surgery would be helpful in genetic testing to solve our questions on why two pregnancies have been so problematic.
Joy feels well physically, which is a true blessing, but I don’t think either of us has figured out where we are mentally and emotionally. I really can’t describe what the last three months have been like since Maggie’s death, and now adding the loss of another expected life has taken even more out of me. I’m often asked how we are doing, or if things are changing. I really don’t have an answer most of the time.
The only way I can describe my last three months is with the word survival. I honestly feel like I have little to offer and I’ve been struggling through each day. My complete efforts are thrown into my attempts to be a good husband and a good employee, and there is so little time for anything else. I’m physically exhausted all of the time and emotional exhaustion doesn’t help anything.
Music has been my escape and my healer. I’ve had a really difficult time finding anything that relaxes me and helps relieve stress, and music has been the only success. I can close my eyes and escape into a beautiful song that has passion and soul, and that has been the most successful way for me to release the pain and grief.
It seems like a natural reaction for people to offer reasons for our suffering. There’s never a shortage of explanations of God’s plans and what he wants for us, and it’s more often than not that these words are more hurtful than helpful. I know people want to help, but words rarely do. Knowing people love us and care for us is terribly important right now. Simplicity is the key.
So, here is my conclusion. It may be a repeat of what I’ve written in the past, and it may be common knowledge to many of you, but it’s a realization that is becoming more and more real to me every day – something I have to keep reminding myself of.
God didn’t make decisions to take Maggie and our second pregnancy away from us. He didn’t decide that we couldn’t handle it, or that it was too soon, or that it was a better ministry for us to suffer and share with others. I truly don’t believe this is how God works, mostly because of God’s word. We live in a broken world that is filled with sin, and John 12 calls Satan the prince of this world. He is in charge and he has the ability to do terrible things. I believe that is why we have grief and suffering.
God, on the other hand, is actively involved in our lives when we invite him to be. He can use terrible things that happen to us and bring good out of them, but I believe that is contingent on our willingness to let go and allow Him to be in control. Those of you who attended Maggie’s funeral heard a few of the many stories of people whose lives were changed by our story.
So, now we have a fully furnished nursery that is sitting empty and questions about our genetic ability to have a healthy baby. We should have results back from those tests in about two weeks. On top of that, Joy’s long-term health is in question. The only thing we can do is wake up each morning and thank God for yet another day and another chance to glorify Him. This is why we are on this earth, after all.
I beg you for your continued prayers. Even without the added stress of a health scare and a lost pregnancy our hearts are still deeply drenched in pain. Please pray for our willingness to continue letting God be in control of our lives, as well as the healing of our hearts.
Many of you have followed the steps of our journey. A journey of a tiring pregnancy of worry and hope, birth, life and finally death of our Maggie. You have watched us grow, rejoice and feel much pain. Now it is time for us to share our healing.
I had never experienced tragedy of any kind, and never really knew how to be a servant of God's to someone who had, until now. Let me share what I have learned.
The day we buried Maggie was unreal. We couldn't believe we were in a car on the way to a funeral, Maggie's funeral. "How is this real? How is this happening to us?" Stephen kissed her goodbye once more, then gently laid Maggie down into the ground. Now what do we do? We survive.
I think we have been ahead of the game for many who grieve, in that we never once blamed God for our circumstances or felt anger toward Him. We believe control has never been ours. We live in a fallen world where sin and Satan abound. God knows this, allows this, and has hurt with us the entire way. Our grieving is a sadness and longing to know Maggie more. We miss her.
I have learned to cry openly with my husband, a vulnerability that draws us closer. We share stories and memories, look at pictures and sentimental items that are special to us. I don't go many minutes a day without thinking of my daughter, which is both wonderful and hard. I'm learning my limits and breaking points. Young crying infants make me long after her, having never heard her cry. Some times while working in the ER a young babe looks up at me straight into my eyes and my heart breaks, having never seen Maggie's eyes.
Most of the time though, i like to talk about her. I've learned that recognition of my baby and her name is very important. I have not and will not forget her, and this early in the healing especially it is important to me that others have not forgotten her either. I need someone to ask "What was she like?", or, "Tell me about Maggie." But these conversations don't come easily. I understand people don't know what to say - neither do i most of the time - but I need to know she was real to others too.
I have spent a lot of my time reading books on healing and grieving a lost baby (miscarriage, stilbirths, children, ectopics included). Partly this is to consume my time and mind, and for learning to heal, but also to be able to help others when faced with such unspeakable pain.
There is one particular book I want to share and recommend to all of you. It's titled, "Surviving the Loss of a Child, Support for Grieving Parents" by Elizabeth B. Brown. Chances are someone you know will face the heartache and loss of a young one, or maybe you have. This book exposes someones experience of pain, grieving, questioning and healing so that the reader can better understand. It also answers a lot of questions of what to say, what not to say, what to do to help before and after a funeral and how to be a friend. It also gives some information of how other children react to loss of siblings or school friends. It is very helpful, eye-opening information to help prevent the very isolating feeling that great loss provides.
"How are we doing?". I would say OK. Some days better than others, we are surviving. Cards in the mail have dwindled considerably. Every single one is treasured and offers some healing, I beg you not to stop sending them, or to anyone else who hurts with loss or other tragedy. It does make a difference. Everything you have given up, time, money, stamps, meals, conversation, prayers, all offers healing. Thank you.
This is the letter Joy wrote for Maggie two days before she passed away. It's so beautiful. Joy showed her strength and read this at the funeral. What an amazing woman. I love her so much.
My dear, sweet, daughter Maggie,
I am so proud to be your mommy. You have filled my heart with more joy than I thought was even possible. I always knew that me and your daddy would be a part of something great, I just didn't know what it would be, and certainly didn't know that it would be so soon in our time together. Our marriage has been unknowingly shaped for your arrival and how to carry each other in our weakest moments.
I loved being pregnant and taking in every single movement, hiccough, jab at the ribs and even laughing at the ridiculous frequency of runs to restrooms. I loved painting the most beautiful yellow room for you and making sure everything was perfect for your arrival. I loved showing you off every week in black and white or 3D pictures from doctors appointments.
God works in mysterious ways! I'll never forget the night I found out that you were made different than any other baby. One in a million, at least. That night has changed my life and countless other peoples as well. Stephen gave you a special name, Mabee, to remind us of the 'arrested development' of which you were created, but also that God has complete control of our life and it's outcomes and purposes.
Maggie you have been the vessel thru which hundreds and maybe thousands of people have been moved to their knees in praise, prayer and thanksgiving. You have strengthened the weak, created light in the darkness and opened eyes of the blind. I feel so honored, humbled and unworthy to have had such a role as mother to you. I can hardly wait to meet you again in heaven, to hug and kiss you, sing and laugh with you, and hear all about how Jesus carried you and held you in his arms when you could no longer be in my own.
I miss you already. Your tiny toes, blonde hair, button nose, strong hands, silent cry, thin lips, sweet baby smell, curvy hips, soft bottom, kissable belly, I miss it all, I miss you. I love you baby girl.
Jesus hold my baby tight. Keep her warm and safe. Love on her like her mommy and daddy want to. Thank you for sharing your child with me for even a little while and please make heaven extra special for my girl. Come soon Lord Jesus. In Your name I pray these things, Amen.
This post is by far the most difficult I’ve written so far. Those who know me would agree that I’m rarely short of words, but I’ve been struggling with what to write in this post. The problem isn’t that there is too little to say, there’s too much. I simply can’t corral my thoughts in the proper way to make sense of everything that’s happening in my head. So as I’ve done before, I will open the flood gates of my heart and hope something legible pours out.
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned through the life of Maggie is how differently God designed human beings. Not just physically, but emotionally. I’m an emotional guy and it’s always been hard for me to do much of anything without crying, but I’m not crying as much as I would have guessed. I’m tired a lot, but I’m not laid up in bed for hours at a time, and I’m not as inconsolable as I would have thought. I’m just baffled at the way I have reacted emotionally to the whole thing. As a matter of fact, I think Satan uses that to make me feel guilt. That guy really ticks me off.
It’s especially difficult to deal with the lack of emotion when Joy is dealing with it in a completely different way. It makes sense. She carried Maggie in her womb for 9 months. She produced the milk that helped keep her alive for the final two weeks. She is heartbroken. I feel completely helpless in her greatest times of need, and I don’t even understand. I can’t understand. There is a bond missing that I was never intended to know or feel, so I can’t understand what Joy is feeling. This may be the biggest battle we ever face in our marriage. With my incredible ability to over think things on an outrageously deep and unreal level, I can see the evil one trying to use it to tear us apart.
There is another major difference between me and Joy that has cropped up, and again, it’s simply our genetic makeup that separates our reactions.
The things that remind me of Maggie are: Her nursery. It’s still here in the house, and we keep the door closed most of the time, but there are incidents that require me to go in there occasionally. That’s tough. It nearly brings me to tears every time I look at the tiny rocking chair in the corner or the changing table that has never been used. The beautiful flowers all around the house from the funeral make me think of her, and they are on every flat surface we own. There are a few other things here and there that get me choked up, but not a whole lot.
The things that make Joy think of Maggie are: Flowers, our dogs, bees, the kids blowing bubbles from a car window, pregnant ladies, the cry of any random baby, strollers, baby clothes in a store, certain foods, the clothes she wore while holding Maggie, and nearly everything else does too. We were simply designed differently.
I’ve also learned that we aren’t just mourning the loss of our loved one, we are mourning the loss of expectation. We didn’t just lose a child we loved, we lost a baby. You see them everywhere, and although another person’s baby isn’t yours it makes you think of the one you no longer have. Every piece of baby clothing reminds Joy of Maggie even if it’s a stranger’s or if it’s hanging on a rack in a store. We lost almost every experience a parent expects to have.
My grandfather died a few years ago. I loved my grandfather and there are things that still remind me of him, mostly when I smell an unfiltered Camel cigarette, but I don’t think about him every time I see someone wearing a white golf shirt like the ones he wore nearly every day. And I don’t mourn him each time I watch golf, a favorite passed time we had. My guess is that there is just something different about losing a baby than losing any other loved one.
Joy and I are in very different places emotionally right now, but it’s not much different than it was when this event roller coaster ride began six months ago. But when I look back I notice that it was me who was heartbroken then. Joy held me as I wept at night. She was strong when I was weak.
I stopped trying to explain things about this world a long time ago. I have little to offer when it comes to wisdom, but I can look at plain things and describe them, and some things are becoming more plain and clear to me. I mourned the loss of our Maggie over a long period of time. At first it was the loss of normalcy, and I mourned. Then it was the loss of mental capacity, and I mourned. Soon after I mourned the loss of physical abilities. So when we lost her completely on May 25 my grieving was minimized. And it was a good thing, because Joy needed me and she still needs me. When I was weak she was strong, and now I can be the strong one for her.
Most of what I’ve said here is kind of dark and dreary, but I want everyone to know that we are doing well. Even though we are sad, hurting and even depressed, we are making it through with the ability to still give God the praise he deserves. I’ve had a lot of people say things like, “There is no way I could have been as strong as you.” I try to tell people this every time but it sounds very trite, so please understand I say this with the utmost humility. Because I am weak He is strong. I have done nothing great or small, I have only trusted in God. He has sustained me and He has given me strength.
Thank You’s are in order for all of you. We have been blessed tremendously. While the seas around us are roaring God has calmed our ship and most of the time he has used many of you to do it. Thank you for all of the prayers, meals, cards and flowers. And to all of you who have helped us financially whether it be in a card or through the Mighty Maggie Fund, you have been God’s hand of comfort. The stress of medical bills has been eased greatly. Thank you so much for your love.