Monday, March 27, 2017

I Left Three Behind at the Grave

On this date 7 years ago, I left my little girl's tiny and perfect-but-without-breath 7 pound 9 ounce 21 inch body behind in that grave in a cemetery in Virginia.


That was crushing.

But I was thinking today that what made that day even more heart-wrenching was that I left not just one behind at that grave, but three...

I walked away from who I was before Lily. I walked away from who I might have been. So many facets of my being were utterly uprooted and transformed as a result of her death (and life).

And I walked away from her daddy, from him ever being in my life again. As I shared in a poem I wrote a few years ago:
"When her perfect heart stopped beating
The pulse of our love ceased too
I didn't just lose our little flower
I lost the both of you"

There were many endings on March 27th, 2010.

But what I have found in the years since that I couldn't see then is that on that same day, there were also many beginnings...

The beginning of Lily's legacy.

The beginning of an earthly ministry, born out of loss, and of course lots of love, for the glory of my King.

The beginning of the Lord weaving healing, restoration, and redemption so beautifully and unexpectedly, in such a way that would make me love Him more through the anguish of goodbyes and agony of regret.

On that early Spring day, I didn't see how Spring would one day come to my soul again. Like the sun causes flowers to bloom in Spring, the Son shined on this Rose's heart and caused it to bloom once more. In the midst of so many losses, He himself was and is my gain.

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." -Isaiah 43:19 💕🌸 🌹

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Days Nobody Remembers

Days like today are the days nobody remembers... nobody but me that is (and a couple family members). Today is March 27th and to most, it's just another Spring day. But for me, it will always be the day my daughter's body was layed to rest beneath the Virginia earth. To me, it will be the day I watched as her tiny white casket, inside her cozy Moses basket, was covered with tears, rose and lily petals, and dirt. And I had to leave her there. I had to walk way, with a piece of myself in the ground. There's no way to describe the aching and the emptiness of that moment. My arms were lost. It was over... really, truly over. I was just barely out of my teens when I buried my baby.

As my friend Sandra who buried her baby daughter 16 years ago on this same date wrote, "I planted a seed in the ground in a cemetery that I must wait to see bloom in Heaven."

"...life ain't always what you think it ought to be, no; Ain't even grey, but she buries her baby. The sharp knife of a short life." -The Band Perry


This was one of the songs that was played at Lily's Burial Service. It was the final song, ending the Service on a hopeful note. That harmonica and those lyrics take me right back. I shared with JJ Heller what this song means to me and she actually responded.


"Your Hands" by JJ Heller
I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That You would take my pain away
I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh, Lord before these feet of mine
When my world is shaking, Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands
When You walked upon the Earth
You healed the broken, lost, and hurt
I know You hate to see me cry
One day You will set all things right
Yeah, one day You will set all things right
When my world is shaking, Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands
Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding me
They hold me still


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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Taking Her Home and a Letter

7 years ago today, Lily was taken over state lines from North Carolina where she was born to my home state of Virginia where she would forever remain on this Earth. I sat in the car beside the little white box that held the outer shell where the most precious soul once lived. The Jewel "Lullaby" album softly played in the background as I put pen to paper and scripted a letter to my beautiful girl that I read at her Celebration of Life Service that evening. Family and friends gathered together in her honor, where people read things they wrote, songs were played, and tears were shed. ❤️

This is that letter that I shared:

Dear Lily,

My little love. My constant companion. My precious flower. You whispered "goodbye" before I had a chance to say "hello." I'm left with a bruised heart and shaken dreams. Empty arms desperate to be filled with you. When I heard those words, those dreadful words, that your heart was no longer beating, it was like I was suffocating. I keep having to remind myself to breathe...Why is it so hard to breathe?! 

I couldn't cry at first...I was just shocked. My world was shattered, crumbling around me. Somehow the physical pain didn't seem to matter much anymore. You went straight from my womb to the arms of Jesus. Why did you have to go? Doesn't He know I need you here? Doesn't He know that you're my world? And yet life goes on. I still hear laughter. The moon still rises and the sun still sets. But, I won't forget. Even when I smile, thoughts of you are always dancing in the back of my mind. Shouldn't the whole world just stop? Mine has. How does the wind still blow? Doesn't it know you aren't here?

Oh, the plans I had for your life. All the things I wanted to show you and teach you. I longed for the day you would finally fill all those clothes that are just for you. I waited and waited to see that beautiful, toothless smile I'd imagined so many times before. The way your eyes would sparkle. I would rock you for hours and softly sing sweet lullabies in your ear. I can't help thinking of all that could have been. All that was meant to be. You should be at home in your Moses basket now, not in that little white box.

What will life be like when what should have been your firsts come? Your first 'mama,' your first grin, your first giggle when you’d see me coming to get you out of your crib in the morning, your first tooth, the first time you'd crawl…and walk. Your first Christmas and how your eyes would light up with all the beautiful lights and decorations. Your first birthday and how you'd get cake all over your special birthday dress. Your first trip to the beach and mountains. As the months pass, I will wonder how you might have looked...growing so fast. Would your hair be curly? Who would you look like? Would you be talking yet? Walking yet? All that could have been...should have been. Yet, it will never be. This ache in my heart will remain because I'll never get to see all these firsts...and seconds and thirds. I'll never get to see my baby girl turn into a beautiful lady. I'll never get to hold her baby. Parents should never have to bury their children. That's not how it should be. It seems so unnatural.

My little blessing from Heaven, blue skies turned to gray when you slipped away. A piece of my heart left with you. Sometimes it feels like people are already forgetting you. But, I won't forget. So, don't feel like you're missing out on all the fun. Because wherever I go, there you'll be too.

My sweet, sweet Baby...You have changed me forever. You have left a footprint on many hearts. Someone so tiny has accomplished so much! More than a lot of people do in a long lifetime. How precious you are to God! And to me! In a matter of months, I went from looking at you as a burden to loving you more than I ever thought I could love anyone. My world was built around you. Now, I can't imagine the rest of my life without you by my side.

I miss every little thing about you and everything that reminds me of you. I don't want to forget a thing. Feeling you kicking in the middle of the night, joking about you, talking to you, calling you by your nicknames (Spud, my little flower, Lily Kat, Lilliputian, Lilykins, L.O. (Little One), Lily Kate), hearing your sweet heartbeat, seeing your chubby cheeks on the ultrasound screen, and being so amazed as I saw God form you inside of me. My belly grew as my love for you grew. I even miss waking up a thousand times every night for nine months to go to the bathroom and waddling around like a penguin. It's funny how all these things that used to annoy me are now the things I long to experience again. Just the comfort of knowing you were inside me - living, growing, thriving...In the safest place you could be. You were always with me...always protected.

God's hand was on you while you were in my womb. He saved you and you saved me. Thank you. I want the world to know how wonderful you are! The beautiful legacy you leave behind will never be forgotten. YOU will never be forgotten, precious Lily. My love, you are so pure, so precious, so tiny, so perfect. When I held you in my arms I had a taste of something truly divine. Such a sweet spirit. When I looked into your face, I saw the face of my Jesus. I glimpsed Eternity. I am so blessed to have known you. You will never have to know this world marred with pain and sin. You will forever be pure and innocent. I am proud to call you my child. Proud that God would choose me to carry you! A princess.

For now, I will have to hold onto the memories of you. The bittersweet memories of your little button nose, your little fingers and toes. How perfect you were. Every last detail of you just right. I will cherish these memories forever. For now, I'll have to hold onto the little keepsakes - the journal I wrote for you, your precious footprints and handprints, and pictures. They are not enough, but will have to do...For now. Because I know one day I will meet you at the gates of Heaven. Will you wait for me there? On that day, my Jesus will place you in my arms and I will finally be able to hold you, sing to you, smell your sweet baby smell, and look into your lovely blue eyes. Until then, I know He'll take good care of you. Until then, I will cling to the One who holds the world in His hands. Thank you for changing my life. I will never forget you little one, my precious angel who was simply too beautiful for Earth

Love, Mommy



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Thursday, March 23, 2017

One Last Kiss

It was on this date in 2010 that I last saw Lily and gave her one last kiss "goodbye," until one day a forever "hello."






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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Her Hand in Mine

This is a photo I've never shared before because it's blurry and not the best angle... However, each time I look at it, memories of Lily's birth wash over me.

This may have been the first photo taken of Lily, literally right after she was born. The time stamped on it may very well be 4:24 p.m.

The moment is so clearly etched forever in my memory, when her perfectly formed body was delivered into this world, no longer a part of my body, after all those months with her as my constant companion, my budding flower.

Here's this moment we dream of all our lives, we who since diapers ourselves long for one day having babies of our own.

Those dreams never consist of how March 16, 2010 unfolded for me. How in that miraculous moment when a new life emerges from the womb, that instead of being greeted by shouts of delight and celebration over sweet newborn cries and a scrunched-up face and curled-up body, we see our loved child, who we also have imagined meeting for months, once so full of life within us, now lifeless, limp, and silent. That somehow deafening silence that pierces your heart. All you hear are your own wails and pleads to God to please make this all be just a bad nightmare that you'll eventually wake up from.

When Lily was born, they held up her perfect little body and I gasped in adoration and heartbreak all at once. And the tears seemed they'd never cease.

The love overshadowed the pain in that moment when they placed her on my chest, right around the time this picture was taken. I gentle cradles her delicate form and held her little hand in mine, almost like I'd hurt her if I wasn't careful. But it was only my heart that was hurting. And she would never be hurt by anything in this world.

I held her and I reveled in the beauty of her most angelic features and how she looked like my mini. I rejoiced that I was given the gift of her life and the joy of the adventure of carrying her for nearly 4 seasons. I sobbed. I clung to Jesus, and find myself still clinging because I know He is the only One who has carried me for the 7 years without that hand wrapped around mine. He is a good, good Father, who gave me the gift of a baby, my baby who changed everything. ❤️


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Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring is Coming

This is a post I originally wrote and shared in 2012. I am reminded of it each year around this time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spring is officially here and for me, it's a bittersweet time of year. It reminds me of the time Lily came...and went. She was born just days before Spring started. 

In the first few weeks after losing her, all the flowers were blooming beautifully and the sun grew warmer on my skin. The birds were happily chirping along, preparing nests for their wee ones. It felt wrong that life was marching on and the seasons were changing, even though she wasn't there. It felt like everything was supposed to stop since her life had ended. 

With the promise of Spring, came the promise of Lily. Like the new life bursting forth from the earth, Lily was new life. Spring and Lily...they came together.



I see the hand of my God in choosing for her to be born right before the genesis of Spring. He silently speaks with the vibrant colors, fresh smells, and the beauty of the season. There may be pain, there may be sorrow, there may be winter...oh, but in Him, we have the hope and the certainty that joy and Spring are coming! 

There have been so many of these reminders in my life. Like on the day she was born, it was dark and gloomy out and seemed to reflect the heart of God grieving along with us. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and a hint of blue could be seen. And it reminds me of this dance of sorrow and joy and how this whole journey is marked by both kinds of tears.

With Spring comes new life and fresh hope. Even here on Earth, the Lord is bringing beauty from ashes. There is Spring even here, in this fallen world. The Lord is giving me a life and a purpose through Lily's life and legacy. What the world would look at as hopeless, God has turned into something so breathtakingly beautiful. In the midst of darkness, He brings glorious light. He uses the very things the enemy means to destroy us with and brings glory to Himself. He uses all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). He brings new life out of tragedy and heartbreak. Even with the pain, I would never choose another way. 

I am honored to have been chosen to be Lily's mother. I am honored that God would choose to speak His promise of everlasting life through Lily's and my story. She was born on March 16 (3:16) and yet again, He silently speaks His promise of Spring...

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16 

Not only does God somehow, some magnificent way bring beauty and Spring here on Earth, but He reminds me that Spring is coming. Eternal Spring. Life with Him forever. But, forever doesn't have to begin when I die. I have Him now. I have His promises now, even though I don't tangibly have them all yet, I do have them, for He's promised them to me. And I trust Him. Even with the loss of Lily, I can have the hope that this sorrow is only for a short while longer. Then I will be with my girl for all of Eternity! 

My mom saw a glorious rainbow this morning, stretching all the way from one side of the sky to the other. She said the colors were so vibrant and amazing. How appropriate for this first day of Spring. 

So with this change of season, may we each cling to the Hope that is Christ. May we cling to the promise that He can and will bring beauty and Spring out of sorrow and Winter. Both here on Earth...and for all Eternity. 

Spring is coming. Hallelujah
  
"Our LORD has written the promises of the Resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in Springtime." -Martin Luther

"Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning." -Psalm 30:5

This is a song from Steven Curtis Chapman's album, "Beauty Will Rise," that has been most instrumental in my healing journey. It flowed out of the Chapman's loss of their own precious daughter. This song reminds me so much of Lily, Spring, and the promise I have in Christ. 




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At Least They Are

This is something I shared last year that I was reminded of.

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Somehow between each of Lily's birthdays, I forget how there's a let-down in the days after March 16th. 

I think people could assume that because March is a difficult month for me, that I am glad when it passes. Yes, it is difficult. But I find myself in one moment wanting another March to hurry up and pass quickly by and in the next moment, I love how close it makes me feel to Lily. It's a seesaw of mixed emotions.

There are many people who reach out to me in March, especially on Lily's actual birthday on the 16th, so when the days that follow come, I feel a wave of loneliness wash over me. As I've written about before, it feels like on March 16, people remember her more and understand my missing her more than they do the rest of the year. Because I do miss her, every day of every year. Not just on the 16th day of the 3rd month.

I was also wondering how many people would actually think of Lily on her birthday if I didn't share publicly as I do. Would anyone besides my family care? That's honestly a sad thought because it hurts that it's up to me to make sure people don't forget. I wish they would remember all on their own. And maybe some would. But not all. Not like they would remember if she were alive and here, present in photos, conversations, and life, instead of only present continually in my heart and thoughts.

The love I receive this time of year reminds me why I share. There are times when I wonder if it's worth it to be raw and vulnerable as I am, pouring out a piece of my heart and soul each time I write. Sometimes I feel exposed, like people can know so much of who I am, without me even knowing they are here. But then I will receive a comment or an email from someone who is reading, someone who cares, and it reminds me why I do share. It reminds me this is meaningful and purposeful. 

Even if others are only remembering Lily because I do, at least they are. I can be left disappointed by others when they don't acknowledge Lily's birthday. But instead of thinking of those who don't, I want to focus on gratitude for those who do! Oftentimes I find that the people I would least expect to remember are the most thoughtful.


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