Sunday, July 29, 2012

Isaiah's Story - Part Six

If you are just joining us, welcome.  You may want to click here on Isaiah's Story - Part One to start at the beginning.

To those of you who continue to tune in - even after I haven't posted for a while - thank you.  Your continued love and prayers mean so much to us.

I recently realized that in the last post I forgot to post pictures of me with Isaiah.  Oops!  I guess that is kind of how it goes.  While writing things from my perspective, I don't usually think of seeing myself with him, but instead relive what I saw through my own eyes.  So I guess I'll start with some pictures of Isaiah and his Mommy (which I am so thankful for), and then continue telling about the kids meeting Isaiah.


As the kids came through the door my heart melted.  Caleb (4) and Lydia (2) lit up when they saw me and ran to the bed crying out "Moommmyy" - just like they always do when I've been away.  They clutched their puppy and bunny lovies, proud that they had permission to bring them along.  Matt had definitely thought ahead and allowed them to have their lovies outside of bedtime - knowing that this would be a tough visit.

I was still sitting in the hospital bed holding Isaiah when they arrived.  I gave both kids huge hugs and marveled at how big they looked (any mom with a newborn can attest to being astonished at the size of their other kids after the birth of a new child).  Almost immediately their attention was turned to Isaiah.  Lydia jumped right up and wanted to caress his face, hands, and feet and kiss him.  Caleb was tentative and unsure.  The kids probably responded to Isaiah just like they would have if they were coming to visit their newborn baby brother who was alive...their reactions definitely rang true with their personalities.

Shortly after the kids arrived, a nurse came in and asked if she could have the privilege of giving Isaiah a bath.  I was unsure about it because his skin had already started peeling more, but she was fairly certain she could be gentle enough not cause any further peeling and Matt agreed that it would be nice if he had a bath.  My mom was also so glad that she got to help with the bath...she told me later that it was something she could "do" for him.  We all felt like we wanted to do something for this boy we loved.

During the bath Matt and I focused on Caleb and Lydia and their needs - trying to answer their questions, but mostly loving on them and letting them know that even in sadness, we loved them so much. 

Our wonderful nurse, T, arrived from her home to take photos for us and started taking pictures of our interactions over the next 90 minutes.  We were so blessed by her willingness to come on her own time to capture our family together.  We are eternally grateful for this gift.

After his bath, mom and the other nurse gently lay Isaiah on a blanket at the foot of the bed.  This was maybe the first time I had taken a good look at his naked body, as he had been wrapped in a blanket most of the time.  He was beautiful.  After being washed his hair was no longer quite as curly looking.  I did notice that his skin was peeling in several places like the mark on his nose.  I briefly thought to myself that his skin could heal quickly - that it was not a big deal - but it hit me again that he wasn't alive.  His skin would never heal.

As the kids took in the sight of their baby brother, Matt bent down next to them and echoed his earlier explanations of Isaiah's death.  He was born, but his body doesn't work.  We can see his body, but his soul is already with Jesus (Hallelujah!).  He isn't breathing - and he can't open his eyes or cry.  He looks as if he is sleeping...that at any moment he could wake up...but he won't.  It was so hard for all of us to understand and explain, but they seemed to just take it all accept it in plain terms...this is how it was...they took it so well.

It amazes me that the kids could deal with understanding the loss of their brother in such natural ways.  It seems like adults try to really figure things out as they encounter good or bad experiences in their lives...they try to compartmentalize their grief and attempt to make sense of things.  Kids just take it as it comes.  They ask plain questions, share when they are sad, and don't feel bad if they feel happy for a moment.  They probably grieve in a much more healthy way than adults - in a naive and natural way that we are incapable of.  

Since the evening had been such a blur, I hadn't even thought to change clothes.  I do wish someone would have suggested this for comfort and for pictures, etc., but alas, a hospital gown it was.

After a few photos of Isaiah, the nurses suggested we put a diaper and outfit on Isaiah.  We see this now as a way they were attempting to normalize go through the motions that parents would go through with their new baby as a way to have those experiences to remember with their child.   The hospital had a few donated outfits that we could've used, but since we had our overnight bags, we decided to use the newborn layette set we had purchased in case we had a boy.  It was a sweet elephant set that will always remind me of my mom because she loves elephants.  We decided to dress him in the onesie instead of the sleeper so that we could see more of his features in the pictures later.  T had brought a beautiful, soft blue blanket that she let us use for the pictures (and keep).  This meant so much to us.


The next hour we just tried to facilitate saying hello and goodbye to Isaiah with our children and our parents.  We tried to make the most of every moment, but it was such a surreal time.  We realized that subjecting our children to the hurt of this loss would be hard, but ultimately we thought it was the best choice.  By letting them go through this with us now, we hoped it would give them a solid groundwork to help them through their grieving - now and in the future.  We weren't sure how much they would understand or internalize (we are continually amazed at how much they DO understand and internalize), but we knew even if they didn't understand or remember, having pictures taken with Isaiah would solidify the fact that they got to meet him and that he was their little brother. 

 Our Three Kids!

It wasn't easy taking photos with a 2 and 4 year old - past their bedtimes - in a sensitive situation, but we are so thankful that we did.  It is hard to believe that these are the only pictures we will ever have of our family with all three of our children together - our family of five - yet I am so grateful to have even these. 

Our Family of Five!

As T finished taking photos with us (many more of just Isaiah and some of Matt and I with Isaiah), my heart was so heavy to have to see the kids go, especially since they wouldn't be back again to say goodbye to Isaiah...this was "it."  Obviously Isaiah was already gone and they would see his body at the funeral, but every moment with him just felt so final.  How do you tell a 2 and 4 your old to savor this moment or to memorize the face of their beautiful baby brother?  I was so thankful for their young ages (to buffer this sadness) but still anguished at the thought that they might not remember him.

We helped them say goodbye as best we could and Matt and his parents took the kids home to tuck them into bed before Matt would return to the hospital for the night.  While they were gone my parents helped me pack up our stuff to move to another room.  I didn't know how I would bear yet another hard moment...this time being wheeled through the delivery unit full of happy families while I held my beautiful, yet very still baby.  Thankfully God had shown us so much mercy and grace thus far, I knew that He would continue...but every corner we turned it seemed like we had to face another scary moment or decision.  I kept wondering when this would be "over" - not understanding that it would never really be over.  I don't know if we realized just how many hard decisions were still to come...yet praise be to our Lord who was with us every step of the way.  

To be continued...

Sweet Lydia with Isaiah

Friday, July 6, 2012

More Than You'll Ever Know

OK - enough preaching for a while.  I've always loved this album by Watermark (it also has the song from Isaiah's slideshow - Glory Baby).  This song is for you, sweet friends and family...I think of so many of you in this way.  Your prayers have meant more than you'll ever know.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


When I think about who we are becoming in this journey of loss, I recognize the myriad of things we have lost control over...the planning of our future, maintaining our innocence of loss, the safety of our family, our feelings, etc.  Then I consider what we do have control we will respond.  We have a choice -- and pretty much it boils down to choosing to survive (and even hoping to thrive), or remaining in despair.  Though we have to recognize that we will still experience feelings and waves of grief that will intertwine with our choice to keep living, we really do have a choice.

The truth is that people give us permission to stay there - in that raw state - because it is where they imagine they would be if placed in our shoes.  Before our loss, I would have imagined this, too.  Many may imagine that if they lost a child, they could never deal with it - that they would be lost - devastated beyond belief - possibly not wanting to move on themselves --- and though all of these are true at some level, they can't see beyond the loss to consider having to decide if/how they would try to learn to live each day afterward. 

Desperation/anger/bitterness/pain/sadness - all things that we have felt and are feeling - could describe who we become.  But those of us who have gone through loss can tell you that there comes a time when one has to decide if they are going to choose to be defined by those emotions or choose to survive them and, as oddly as it sounds, try to be BETTER because of their loss.  They realize that who they become is partly based on choice.  This choice is best made outside of those waves of grief - because when the grief is attacking, there is no energy to want to move forward.  The choice must already be made.  One must choose if they want to survive or not survive - be bitter, or be better - be angry at God, or cry out to him and tell him that we don't understand - accepting the love that he extends....for he knows that we just can't see what he sees.  

We are working to make good choices -- choosing to let go of those feelings of anger, bitterness, and sadness when they overtake - when it seems easy to want to be overcome -- because living in those feelings will not bring Isaiah back.  They will not help us change into who we need to become.  Isaiah needs to be what makes us BETTER.  If we allow our feelings to dictate who we become, then the wonderful gift of who he was/is will get lost.  Although people expect and give us permission to live out what those feelings represent, I don't think anyone wants to see us stay there.  Obviously God doesn't intend for us to live without hope - with our eyes focused on what was seen instead of on what is unseen - defined by what has happened to us instead of by how we will learn to appreciate the healing path ahead.

[I do want to interject here that choice I speak of is related to the waves of grief-filled or depressed feelings - not long term depression.  If facing true, long term depression and the helplessness that it brings, one needs to understand and treat it as needed.  God obviously perfectly understands depression - and David in the Bible and many others went through it.  The point of all of this is to say that sometimes I know we can't make the choice to exit depression.  Though periods of depression may come during the grief process, grief and depression cannot be considered one and the same - and I am not trying to do that here.]

The other choice we are faced with is the choice to face our feelings or not.     

Many people tell me how impressed they are by my faith in God and his Word.  I can tell you that this is not by my strength.  Yes, it is a choice to have faith, but all glory needs to be given to God - for it is He that has upheld me - and this is the only way I have survived.  God has not only saved me from sin and death, but from the pit of despair...for all I know to do is cling to him.  I continually try to renew my thoughts in the Lord - especially when I feel attacks of any of those aforementioned feelings.  It wasn't until the past few weeks that I have realized that along with the choice to survive, I also need to make the choice to feel - even the feelings that I initially thought might be displeasing to God.  I'm still working on this.  I so want to honor God through my grief - but I am realizing that grief isn't pretty - and God knows this - and it's okay.

We could decide to gloss over our feelings as they come, or we could choose to fully feel them when they arise -- to allow them to affect us so that we can work through them and struggle with the injustice of this loss in order to find peace.  If we try to ignore or stuff these feelings...telling ourselves that because we know that God is ultimately working all circumstances together for good - and convince ourselves that we can continue living our lives like we did before our loss with our hands and eyes raised to God without paying due attention to the sadness or disappointment we are feeling - in hopes that we can overcome our grief with only "our faith"...we are living a lie.  God created our emotions.  He created the grief process.  Living out our faith in our own strength will not get us through this - HE will.  If we ignore those feelings, they will eventually rise up and devour us.  We need to deal with them - through His strength - as they come.  

We have a choice.  How will this loss change us?  The choice to ignore the feelings is just as bad as the choice to choose to live in the mire of despair.  Though we may have to go through both at times - it is through our choices (and God's strength) that we will stay there or not.  God can handle our questions and cries - our fists in the air because we just can't understand it all.  And when that wave passes - whether with a peaceful heart or through tears or anger - I will continue to praise our God - because he is worthy.  For the glory of Christ and in honor of our son's life - I will choose to feel and choose to survive.  It is what we have to do to be better.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Three Months

Three months ago we experienced an anguishing combination of great joy and great pain as we met and said goodbye to our little boy, Isaiah.  Three months.  If you would have asked me on April 2 how I would feel in three months, I don't think I would have been able to even imagine living each day until July 2nd.  But we have.

Isaiah's smile has been on my mind.  What would it have looked like?  He would be smiling and finding his voice about now...would his slimmer face have stunning dimples like his Daddy's?  Would his voice be silky smooth like his brother and sister, or husky?  What would our days look like if he were here?

Sometimes it seems like we are betraying our child by choosing to live - choosing to survive - choosing to let go of bitterness when it sweeps in - choosing to let go of the anger when it grabs hold - choosing to cry and embrace - trying to grasp hold of the healing that Christ gives.  (I have had many thoughts about our choices in this journey - but I'll save that for another post)

In so many ways it seems wrong to look for some type of healing for this wound.  We know it won't ever be fully healed, but allowing a scar to form will give some comfort and help the wound change -- yet sometimes I wonder if ripping the scab open is a better choice?  Would keeping the loss of Isaiah raw for myself help remind others that he existed?  Would it help remind them that he was loved - that he was lost - that we are, so sad...lest people forget?  I know it is natural for me to want him to be remembered, but I must ask myself the question - does my sadness need to be present in every moment to keep him alive in the minds and hearts of others?  In thinking of what the rest of my life would look like if it were only lived in sadness, I hope the answer is no. 

THANK YOU - to our wonderful friends and family who have taken the time to remind us that you haven't forgotten.  You let us know that you still think about a beautiful baby boy named Isaiah - and you tell us so.  Thank you so much, friends - you have kept me going on many, many days of this journey.

Knowing that you remember gives me permission to allow myself to want things to be better.  To realize that it is OK to receive Christ's love and care - a balm for our hurting hearts - and desire for things to get better -- this is good.

If I think about it - even if, as the months go by, people do forget about Isaiah (which I have read is inevitable to some extent) - though it will make me sad, this has no bearing on the validity of Isaiah's existence or his life in heaven.  Why do I think that helping others remember will somehow keep him alive?  Though I know it is OK to feel this way because I'm his Mom, He IS ALIVE -- to an extent that we cannot comprehend -- and any amount of my sadness or others' remembrance of him (or lack thereof) will change that.  We have lost, but he has gained.  Who doesn't want what is best for their child?  The truth is that even though it is natural to want him with us and we are very sad that he is not a part of our lives here, he already has what is best.  Praise be to God that we know this and can trust and hope for the day that we will meet our child in heaven - ALIVE.

So here we are - three months later - still living.  We are a work in progress, just like before, but our world was rocked after holding this beautiful child that was so much loved - but lost.  As we consider how our lives will look now, I often think to myself that I don't want to "let him go."  I know we need to find a way to live after having lost - and being sad seemed like a good way to remember Isaiah. 

But then I realized that when we choose sadness, bitterness, anger - this is when we are "letting him go" (not that I want to ignore all of these feelings - we do need to fully feel them...more on this in the post about choices).  We are not remembering and holding onto the gift of Isaiah by living that way -- we must grasp hold of the beauty of who he was in order to allow his life to make us better.  Choosing to live IS choosing to honor and remember him.  We will never "let him go" in our hearts.  Living for Christ with Isaiah's existence shaping our hearts is exactly what will honor him and Christ - and help us remember who Isaiah was -- a gift -- not a loss.

I know you are smiling in heaven today, sweet boy, and I can't wait to study your beautiful face.  For now we will try to imagine.  Still missing you.