Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cincinnati Walks for Kids

We attended our third Cincinnati Walks for Kids today in memory of our sweet Charlie. This event got me out of the house and into the world so to speak the first September after we lost Charlie in July.  For me it was the only tangible way I could thank all the people that loved him so big in the hospital. 

Today we all arrived in our "Charlie's Angels" t-shirts and once we checked in and picked up our t-shirts we started towards the rolling start.  The music was playing and everyone seemed in good spirits.  For whatever reason I just can't get my mind in a good place when I am near Children's Hospital.  It is one of the places that I can always expect a grief attack.  Today as we started walking I looked at my dad and said, "I hate this day."  And if not for the positivity and the joy that seems to permeate from the people surrounding me on this day I think I would walk the entire loop through the zoo with big alligator tears rolling down my cheeks.  Instead I had my family with me today as we put one foot in front of the other for all the kids.  Our "Charlie's Angels" group has dwindled a bit over the course of the last three years but the place in my heart will never shrink.  The place I have in my heart for my boy is bigger than ever.     

We will always walk for Charlie and the research they are continuing to do for us to have answers, but now we also know that the children in the hospital and the families that still have hope for tomorrow need our support even more.  They need us to walk and raise awareness for all the awful things they deal with on a daily basis.  I pray often for the family and/or families that have also lived in our room in the PICU.  I hope today made a difference for someone inside those walls tonight.  


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It Comes in Waves

There's this thing about grief; you can't fix it and your desire to have your person back never really goes away. I wish it were different for those that I now see reeling in the aftermath of death.  I wish I didn't know how they felt and I wish I could change it for them.  God doesn't want us to experience pain.  He never intended for us to experience grief.  That alone gives me comfort but it doesn't change that we feel it; every single emotion.  

We have a family in our community that has recently experienced the worst kind of pain.  Their entire life as they know it has changed.  They were forced into this club.  I wish I could close and lock the door to this club. I don't want another sweet soul to enter.  

But they do.  And I can do absolutely nothing to stop it.  In the place I am in I can't help but feel like I have some authority in the arena of grief.  Again, not because I particularly want to but because it happened to us and we had to embrace it.  So if you have someone in your life dealing with grief just sit with them.  I can't say it enough.  Listen to them, cry with them, sit with them.  They do not need or want anything.  Nothing is going to be able to rewrap their perfect gift that is now in shreds on the floor.  You need to know this as well, you will feel like it is not enough.  The person grieving will absolutely feel like it is not enough.  But it is all we have to give and it is enough to sustain them.  Believe that you and your desire to sit with them and listen to them is enough even when it doesn't feel like it.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Llama, Llama Nighty-Night

I walked through town with a dear friend last night.  I think the many miles we've walked together has trained our stride to be almost identical.  We don't miss a beat when we hit the pavement.  Last night, however, we changed our route.  We drove through town and found a spot to park near Tower Park.  I grabbed the Anna Dewdney book Llama, Llama Nighty-Night from the seat next to me and jumped out of the car.  Since I have learned to lean into grief, I know that when my heart physically hurts the only way I can be close to Charlie is to physically be close to him. I am still so thankful to have friends that know when something is not exactly right and say, "Absolutely!" when I ask them to walk through a cemetery late at night.  

Once we arrived we stopped and sat at Charlie's grave.  This sweet friend sat right down, turned on her flashlight on her cell phone, and waited for me to read the book (out loud y'all).  I don't think she thought twice about it, in fact I think she kind of enjoyed it!  She sat with me at my son's grave and listened to Llama, Llama Nighty-Night.  That was my mourning booth last night.  It was where I needed someone to just be with me.  If you want to be a friend to someone that is grieving sit with them in their "mourning booth" wherever that may be.  

Since Anna Dewdney, who wrote some of our favorite books, lost her fight with cancer I wanted to make sure Charlie was familiar with those books.  I had this feeling that she would have a crowd full of little ones sitting around her at some point sharing some of her favorite stories about Llama Llama on the golden streets.  This is where grief is weird and should not be judged.  I had this aching, sick feeling that I wanted to be the first person to share her books with my boy.  I wanted him to hear her books from me first.  I obviously know he isn't there when I'm visiting the cemetery and I know that I don't need to be the one "doing" for him anymore but this momma is desperate to parent and love and do for my baby.  Macy and Johnny heard a Llama, Llama favorite that evening and Charlie should not (and absolutely would not) be left out.  

We love reading in our home.  It takes us to special places and teaches us new things.  There are endless places to see and visit in books and there are so many things you can learn and understand when you read books.  John and I, both being teachers, see when "teachable moments" grace our presence and we can't help but take them.  Our world, as we all know, is not perfect.   So as a family we decide daily to embrace the blessings and mourn losses.  We wholeheartedly believe in "a time to dance and a time to mourn."  

So when a beloved author dies from a horrible disease I want my kids to understand that she is gone and her family misses her.  I want them to know that she left a mark on the world.  She shared her gifts and talents with others in a positive way.  I want them to know that she will continue to make children smile because of her gift.   I want my kids to know that it is alright to be sad and in the very same breathe it is alright to celebrate someone's life.        

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

We Are Not Alone

Last year when I attended the grief group through our church, Crossroads.  I learned more than I thought I would and I took away from that group more than I ever thought I ever could.  I remember specifically one of the men in our group, Ben, speaking so candidly about his wife and his grief surrounding her death.  As he spoke he explained that it helped him to share his grief story with others.   His particular story went viral and while that was not his plan, it helped him grieve and God knew it would be a tool to help support others as well.  Ben's story can be found here.  His story captivated me and I spent the next couple of groups thinking about what he said.  It was stuck in my mind and for good reason.  For so long I had kept Charlie's story to myself.  I talked about Charlie when someone asked (and not many did) and I cried to myself often times alone in my closet curled up in a ball on the floor.  I realized I wasn't helping myself or anyone else by letting this be the only outlet for my grief.

So at that point I prayed.  I prayed a lot.  I asked why God had chosen me to do this.  Why do I have to do this?  Why do you want someone as weak and frail as myself to carry someone else in these circumstances?  Why did Charlie die?  Why can't someone else take care of this?

Eventually my prayers (and my OCD tendency to get my email inbox to zero) brought me back to an email that I had saved about grief group.  As I read the email I knew that I needed to follow this call and hit reply to an email Karen had sent.

I've said this before but it isn't about me.  It's about living through something as difficult as we did and learning that you can be empathetic towards others in similar situations.   I am able to put myself into someone else's deep dark rain storm to help them not feel alone.  I wanted someone like me to just sit with me.  I am now able to be that for someone else.

I start as a leader of the grief group for infants and toddlers on September 22nd.  If you know someone that needs someone to sit in their "mourning booth" with them, please send them my email address.  Have them read my blog.  Tell them they are welcome to come with me to our first group.  It's so important for us to love others through this and help others know they are not alone.    
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