Leif’s Story, Day 4

It’s been almost 8 months since we lost our son and–by the wonderful grace of God– so much healing has occurred in that span of time. We’re all in a good place. However, something still compels me to share the valley we walked through because it is flooded with His grace and goodness. And so, today, the story continues if you so choose. 

8/30/17

My eyes opened to another morning. It was tough to get out of bed. Not only was I sore from giving birth, a wreck from waking up every morning thus far to a nightmare, but my chest  was starting to throb. Sunday. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. My milk was in full production. It’s too bad my body wasn’t aware that I had no baby to feed. It only stood as a cruel, cruel reminder. I had to let off some of the pressure—even though I was told not to pump. I couldn’t get mastitis. I didn’t have time to get sick. I had to plan his funeral and nothing was going to stop me from attending it.

As I stood in the bathroom, expressing just enough milk to relieve some pain but not cause my body to produce more, tears ran down my face at how absolutely tragic this scene was. Heartbreaking to watch play out. Gut wrenching to go through.

Clear tears ran down my face. White tears close to my heart.

God, please help me. I’m thankful that my body is doing what it’s supposed to, but I can’t take this. Please stop the flow. It hurts and it only serves to cause me more heartache. Please make it stop.

I walked out of the bathroom and made my way down the hall to the living room. The girls were sitting on the couch watching cartoons. Leslee had started back to his milking routine but had fed the girls before he left. I said nothing and made my way to the coffee pot. Numb. Present physically, but not emotionally or mentally. It was so hard to smile. I stood there sipping my coffee at the counter staring off into space as Taegan got up off the couch and came to stand beside me.

“Are you sad, Mommy?”

I could only look at her as new tears welled in my eyes. I nodded my head and squeaked out the word, “Very.”

“I wish Leif was here,” she sighed with the sincerest look of understanding a 7-year-old can muster. I appreciated her reaching out, her attempt to be my company in the misery. Tough- as-nails, rock solid little Taegan who rarely showed emotion was trying to meet me in the pain.

“Me too, baby….me, too.”

I walked back to the bedroom, coffee cup in hand, to put my make up on. Silly, really…knowing how much I would surely cry over the course of the day.  We would go pick up Leif’s casket from some sweet friends who custom made it and deliver it to the funeral home this afternoon.

I reflected on one of the things my OB had said before we left the hospital…that this was going to be the worst month of our lives. She knew nothing of Leslee’s past, but I was certain she was right about me. So, I found my planner, opened it to August, and crossed out the 27th, 28th, and 29th. 3 days down. 28 more to go.

 

Leslee

 

We had spent a lot of time driving, it seemed, and today was no different. We drove in virtual silence, but that was ok. No conversation was necessary. No questions needed asking when tears would well up. A pat on the leg, a squeeze of the hand, a sympathetic look was the only exchange. I would look at her and wonder what was going through her mind. How she was feeling. How she was processing. I reflected on the “stages of grief” I went through and wondered if Breauna would hit those or whether I could help her skirt around a few based on my own experiences.

I took her out to lunch after we delivered the casket to the funeral home and we talked about the coming days and other things. It was probably the first time we had a conversation without crying. We left and on the drive home, Breauna sat looking up at the sky. Her face was always turned to the window. What was she thinking about? I wondered that a lot. Sometimes, I pressed for an answer and she was always willing to talk, but other times I just left her alone with her thoughts. I had a pretty good idea.

A song came on the radio and she reached to turn it up. I remember the song—“Wild West” by Runaway June—a current favorite of hers. It was the first time since Leif left us that I’d heard my wife sing. I just sat there and listened. To say something might have caused her to stop and I didn’t want that. I sat there and let the low, rich tambre of her beautiful voice wash over me while I rejoiced in my head. She loves to sing. She’s singing! My grieving, heartbroken wife is singing.

The song ended and I couldn’t hold back. “I’m so in love with you,” I told her. “And I’m so happy to hear you singing.”

She turned to me and gave me that little grin she does.

That was my first indication that she was going to be ok. That we were going to be ok. If she was ok, I was ok. I would walk with her through every stage of what she was going to go through in the next month and more, but she was singing… It reassured me. Amidst the brokenness, I held onto the beauty of that moment.

 

***

That evening, after milking, I walked up to the house. All the lights were on and it was dark outside, so the fact that I was simply standing in the yard staring into the windows went unnoticed. It wasn’t my first time to enjoy watching my life—my family—without them knowing. I actually did it quite a lot.  It never failed in giving me a sense of awe. The stunning woman in that house is my WIFE! Wow…speechless. Those beautiful little girls were MINE to shepherd. I definitely didn’t deserve any of this privilege.

I enjoyed taking a moment to stand here and be outside of it. Outside of myself for a moment just looking at my life and reflecting on where I’ve been. Where I am now. What I’ve seen…and the sadness overtook me out of nowhere. What I’ve seen…

I couldn’t help reflecting on the weeks following Luxe’s arrival. Starting at 5 p.m. every single night, she would start screaming and crying and it would last until exactly 8 p.m. I, of course, was always milking most of the evening, so Breauna would have to walk up down the hall and in and out of our bedroom bouncing, swaying, and pacing to somewhat calm Luxe. She wore a path through the house until Luxe grew out of the colic. I would see this each night as I walked up.  Well, actually, I could hear it, too, so I didn’t stand there very long. I’d walk in ready to relief pitch…even if it was only for about 20 minutes.

I remember all that. And this moment looked a lot like that. We’d come home from the hospital. The girls were in the living room. My wife was standing in the kitchen. Hair piled on top of her head. Sweatpants. T-shirt. Everything looked like it should have. Like it would have. But, there was no baby in her arms. There was no Leif… and there never would be. Empty arms was the distorted image I saw through my windows and the pain washed the moment in gray. Even my house seemed to sag from missing something it knew it was supposed to contain. I did my best to pull myself together before I walked in the door.

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Walk, Not Run (The Struggle of Being OK with Less)

4/3/18

I went on a walk today. I had a little time to myself and decided a good dose of Vitamin D was in order to make up for all the depressing, cold, rainy days we’ve had of late.

Walking is hard for me. Walking is an all out struggle. It goes against everything in me to be ok with walking. My natural preset is run. Push. Challenge. Perform. Improve. Learn. Grow. Learn some more. And then do it again. Do. Do. Do.

I’m self-aware enough to know this about myself and realize that sometimes our natural presets work against the very progress we seek, so as I shut the front door, I stepped out on the porch and said a little prayer, Lord, just help me be. And walk with me.

 This is a concept He’s been driving home with me ever since Leif passed away–that action is a comfort zone for me. Action keeps me focused on what’s ahead—always working towards the next ____________…living in anticipation and being underwhelmed with the present. If I can just get to the next spot in the road—the next highpoint—the next whatever…and yet…I can’t finish that sentence because I don’t know what I’m even running towards. I don’t know what happens “if” I get there…I just figure it’ll be better than what I’m dealing with right now. I’ll be better than who I am right now.

It’s interesting how an introspective person has a problem staying who they are…where they are. Has a problem just walking. It’s interesting how I keep coming to the Lord asking him to change me. To grow me. To help me evolve into who He created me to be and yet…never being truly satisfied with who that is. The best version of me is never who I am right now.

Herein lies my ephiphany: Breauna, if you’re just doing all the time—crossing things off a list, living by checkpoints, constantly challenging yourself to be better, faster, stronger, more this, more that, are you ever truly being?

And so we come back to the walking. Walking requires me to just be. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to get my mindset right. I don’t have to perform because walking doesn’t require anything of me. It’s mindless. And yet…my mind runs rampant as it clears. The gravel crunches under my feet, still mush from the rain. The wind rushes through the pines in a hollow. It sounds like a roaring creek and He knows it soothes me. A warm breeze softly caresses my face. Angel breath.  Just be. With Me.

I talked. I talked a lot. He knows my heart. He knows my motivations are pure. I listened. What better insight can one gain than from the One who made them? From the Father who knows what He wants each of His children to be? He created me this way. He created this driven, disciplined, high-energy woman, but the real challenge—the rewarding journey that leads to satisfaction—is not becoming more of that. It consists of learning how to temper it. Tempering my own intensity. It serves me and my personal growth, but it doesn’t necessarily serve others. And He desires that I—that we all–serve others. And in serving others, we have to learn how to walk. We come alongside…and we walk. We slow down. We be present. And we be open and aware to His promptings. Being “busy” with productivity and efficiency leave little space for impact. And impact is my heart’s greatest yearning.

It’s always interesting to me that even in the smallest of ways, God has to get me outside of my comfort zone to do exactly what I’m asking Him to do. On a measly, mindless walk with a long list of things I should be doing, the Almighty Runner—the Ultimate Doer– comes alongside me…and He walks. And He shows me—yet again—that’s it’s ok to be less sometimes. Because, for a personality like mine, that is where the growth is. That is the evolving. Evolving into less. Because less is more. Not for me, but for Him.

 

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The Best Parts of January

At the end of 2017, I decided I was going to keep a detailed log of all the good things that happened in 2018 no matter how small they might be. A log, so to speak, of every gratitude point and blessing. I want to look back and possibly be able to connect some dots in hindsight of where and how He helped us make a comeback. So, this is kind of a numbered, light-hearted update on us.

1.Taegan realized that she liked broccoli. MAJOR breakthrough for my picky, picky eater. I was eating some with my breakfast and she came to my plate and looked at it curiously. I saw an opportunity and went for it. “When I was a kid,” I said, “I used to pretend I was a giant eating tiny trees.” She gave me a skeptical grin, but I could tell it piqued her interest. “You want to try it? It’s kinda fun!” She hesitantly said yes, but only if she could dip it in Ranch. (Ranch makes just about anything edible for Taegan). Next thing I know, I’ve got a little giant eating tiny trees.

2. Luxe had told me through all of 2017 that she was “neva, eva, going on da potty…neva.” I thought Taegan was strong-willed and bull-headed. Folks, let me introduce you to my daughter, Luxe. It’s a good thing she’s charming and adorable cuz good night, Irene…heavens to Betsy…and help me, Rhonda. This. Child. Well, one day Aunt Tanna mentioned to Luxe that if she went on the potty, she’d have a pizza party at Pizza Hut for her. If only all of us had known that’s all it would take! Pizza is Luxe’s love language. However, not only that, but now Luxe’s big sister and her older cousin, Kalyssa, have a very vested interest in making sure this potty training happens because they stand to gain, as well. It was pure genius really! Luxe potty trained in a week and everyone went out for pizza…the added bonus that Marty and Linda got to join us. (Good things on top of good things)

3. I’m kicking my tail in my workouts and it feels good even though I hurt. In my 20s, I worked out because I wanted to look just so. In my 30s, it’s less about that and more about breaking my own barriers. Having a challenge and overcoming it. Proving to myself that I can do hard things in spite of having neck/shoulder issues. Seeing what once was tough—maybe even impossible in my eyes—become easy. This principle has so many applications on so many levels. Mindset matters maybe more than anything. But, January was a rewarding month as far as health and fitness goals are concerned. So, I’m thankful for that and look forward to pushing myself even more.

4. Taegan branched out even more and decided olives could go on her ever expanding list of foods, as well.

5. Luxe started dance class in November. One of my favorite things about being a parent is figuring out the places a burgeoning talent lies in my children and helping them maximize those strengths. Luxe may only be 3, but she’s got some talent. She loses herself in her own little world when she’s dancing and she just creates…and what she creates is good! Dancing brings Luxe joy and it brings us joy to watch her. We’re uncertain if the child can sing. Jury’s still out on that one. But, we see potential in her creativity and desire with dance. So, I started taking her to dance classes. It didn’t go so well for a couple months. Basically, she was a thumb-sucking, frowny observer who never spoke and only shook or nodded her head with a grunt from time to time. If she did happen to be seen participating, she would stop as soon as her instructor told her what a great job she was doing. Just a real pleasure to be around, ya know? A delightful social butterfly, to be sure! I knew she liked it because she would come home and repeat every move and flourish to a T, but she wasn’t going to let her instructor see that…until the end of January when she had “her best day yet!” YAY! Dance, baby, dance…even if it is baby steps.

6. Taegan’s basketball skills and grit drastically improved over the summer! Basketball is Taegan’s jam. She absolutely loves it, but after last year, I worried that she might not have what it takes to be coachable. She had no desire to guard and flat out refused. (It’s that whole stubborn thing again…my girls have it in spades). She was timid with the ball. She melted into a hysterical puddle of tears when a male coach called her out on a mistake in the middle of a game last season and couldn’t pull herself together enough to be put back in. Yes, she was 6, but wowza, that was embarrassing and a little tough to handle for two competitive parents. She showed some real promise even then for athleticism, but I feared she didn’t have the emotional fortitude. (Taegan is an interesting, hard to explain mix of tough and sensitive.) She also didn’t seem to care too much about winning and when you’re playing sports, ya kiiiinda gotta have that desire to be any good. Well, I believe it was just a little too much for her at that particular time because this time around, we’re seeing a different Taegan on the court. She’s trying to get her teammates attention for passes. She’s shooting and scoring points. She’s dribbling up and down the court. She’s guarding and starting to understand that we can be friends off the court and still play to win. And, low and behold, they lost the other night and she went home miffed…stayed that way for the rest of the evening. I’ll admit being secretly pleased that it bothered her so much. That’s what I’m talking about, sister! Sometimes it takes getting angry and frustrated to grow and improve unless you let it discourage you to the point of quitting. And quitters never win. I asked her if she did her best that night. Her answer? “NO!” How refreshing! Thank you for your honesty! I think we may have found what we needed a year ago. It’s been a pleasure watching her find her stride and I look forward to seeing what else she’s got up her sleeve as she grows.

I have a lot to share about our new adventure because that was probably the biggest good thing (hopefully) in January, but we’re not quite ready for me to share that publicly yet. Stay tuned!

 

The Winds of Change

The winds of change swirl overhead. They move the clouds fast. Powerful. I feel it. His power. Our way of life crumbles around us as if dynamite blasts KA-BOOM. And yet…the fall out is blessing. This storm is not about destruction. It’s new road demolition. “I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?…” He says. (Isaiah 43:19)

Yes, Father! Yes, I see it. Help me see more. 

Leslee and I are in the middle of a huge life change at the moment. Recent events along with years of prayer and struggle have convicted us both to step out in faith. It is a 100% united step that involves selling our cows and saying goodbye to my husband’s dairy dream. It’s been tough for him to deal with even though he knows it’s the right move. In a way, dairy farming is a comfort zone for him (even though farming period is anything but safe). It’s hard for a farmer to look at everything he’s tried to do and build and not feel like a failure because no matter what, it just isn’t working. It requires too much. There are too many trade-offs he doesn’t want to trade. Too many fires to constantly put out that keep him from those things he deems essential: God, family, and a little fun from time to time.

However, I don’t look at this ending as a failure. At all. The dairy sustained our family for a season, but I think it was only the means to a journey. WE were the journey. I can’t express in words how much spiritual growth and progress has happened between the two of us since we had Taegan and embarked on a crazy road to a dairy farm in the middle of nowhere. That was the point. The kind of progress God wants. I don’t need much hindsight to see that. Sometimes the Lord needs to take us out to the wilderness to address the arid, dry places of our hearts…take us away from the system that distracts us from Him. I’m thankful for that because we were distracted. We simply didn’t realize it. The word “failure” doesn’t even enter my mind. Then again, maybe failure and progress go hand in hand more than we think.

I believe God is honoring our willingness to do this afraid. His tightly-wound, risk- managing, cautious son and daughter are open. They might be crazy throwing caution to the wind, but we feel like God is doing a proud, slow clap of approval. Nodding with a big grin–just like I would when one of my children finally “got it.” Obstacles have been removed. Opportunities have arisen. Good things have literally landed right in our laps. And we’re believing that He’ll take care of the things that still need taken care of (finding a buyer for our cows being our next hurdle). Do I know we’ll encounter road blocks? Sure. But, things fall into place with no drama when the Lord is making way and that’s how things have been of late.

All in all, the quote that convicted Leslee that this decision weighing heavy was the right one was this: “You’re not a failure when you can’t make things work. You’re only a failure when you stay in and continue to do what doesn’t work.” (The irony being that he read the quote in a dairy magazine. Coincidence? I think not. God is resourceful when it comes to confirmation of what He’s putting on your heart).

So, my resourceful, intelligent, hard-working husband has come to the end of himself and his resources without putting our family in dire straits we can’t dig out of. I’m thankful for that. And we look up for new direction, while keeping our heads down, focused,  both of us believing for a better season ahead.

He’s doing a new thing. The older I get, the more I feel like I’m just along for the ride. But, that’s ok, Lord. Take us where you want us to go. 

“…I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Oh, how we long to see it.

 

Leaving the Hospital & Returning Home, Day 2

A new morning brought new mercies. Leslee’s best friend, Aaron, called and took our coffee order. He arrived shortly after and entertained us with hilarious stories revolving around his job as a firefighter. Even amidst sitting there in a hospital bed, I was distracted and it was nice. Laughing felt good. My mom arrived later and we all simply sat around and visited, continuing to laugh at Aaron’s stories.

After he left, I got into the shower, preparing to leave. A hot shower was another mercy…although seeing my naked, post-pregnancy body brought more tears, reminding me of what I didn’t have.  I stepped out of the shower, had the courage to look in the mirror, and immediately regretted that decision. I had never looked so awful. I slowly put my clothes on, threw my hair on top of my head, and exited the bathroom.

“She’s a new womaaannn!” my mom sang operatically. I gave her a generous smirk as she grinned. We bustled around the room trying to get our things together. I was ready to go home, but I wasn’t. How was I going to do this?

Our sweet nurse, Mary, had come in earlier that morning and Leslee told her he had made the arrangements for Leif to be picked up. She hesitantly asked, “So, are you ready for me to take him?” No, never. We nodded our heads.

***

Leaving the hospital was tough. Although I could have walked out of there on my own two legs, it’s hospital procedure to wheel you out.

As Mary was lifting the breaks on the wheelchair, she softly said, “I hate this part. Let me just say before we open this door that there are people out there laughing, smiling, going on with daily life that have no idea what you’re going through right now. And it’s hard to see that.”

She came around in front of me. “But, I’m right here with you and we got this. I’m going to make this as fast as I can and Leslee’s going to meet you at the other end of the hall.” Mary and I were leaving through nurse access. Leslee and my mom had to exit a different way.

“You ready?” she asked.  I nodded.  I quickly found out what she meant about hating this part. She wheeled me out with my 3-d mold of Leif’s feet in my lap and I immediately felt like a spectacle because that’s all I was carrying. No baby. No bundle of joy. Just a light blue mold of precious little feet. At that moment, I realized what a gut-wrenching scene I was. I could see it like a movie. I kept my head down. For a reason I couldn’t comprehend, I felt shame. I felt conspicuous. I looked up once as a nurse moved aside and heartbreak was all over her face. Note to self: Don’t look at anyone. I couldn’t get to Leslee and Mom fast enough. And I couldn’t get out of this wheelchair fast enough, either. It was ripping any semblance of dignity I wanted to maintain to shreds.

Before I knew it, Leslee and Mom were walking beside us and we moved toward the entrance to the hospital where people were bustling around getting coffee and pastries from the little coffeeshop, talking and laughing around tables. A woman was carrying what looked like a newborn and I had to remind myself–again– not to look at anyone. Put your blinders on, Breauna. Just look straight ahead. If only people would stay out of my line of vision…

Leslee pulled around with the car and we loaded our things–and me– into the car. Mary gave me a hug and stood at my window.

“You’re at the top of my prayer list, Breauna. It was so nice meeting you and your family even though I wish with all my heart the circumstances had been different. You seem to have a wonderful support system. And maybe I’ll see you again someday. Something tells me I will. I really hope a rainbow baby is in your future.”

She had no way of knowing how much that was on my mind and how much guilt that brought me at the same time. There was no way anything or anyone could replace Leif, but my momma heart longed for something tangible. Longed for the fruits of the labor I had gone through and loved for the last 9 months.

As we drove away, I watched Mary get smaller with the distance. She stood there and watched us drive away, holding her arms, until I couldn’t see her anymore. I turned to Leslee. “I can’t help but think about nurses and how much I admire them right now. We know we weren’t Mary’s only patients. She was going into other rooms with parents that were joyful and then coming into our room where there was only grief…and she does that as part of her job all the time. That’s a lot of compartmentalization!”

He blew out a breath. “Yeah…”

“And then she wheels a grieving mother out to her car and says goodbye with no closure,” I continued. “She has no idea if she’s ever going to see that woman again. That woman she connected with and grieved with. Cried with. She has no idea if that couple will ever have a happy ending.”

He shook his head. “It’s hard to wrap your mind around how they do it. It definitely takes a special kind of person,” he replied.

We determined then that Mary deserved to know that we saw her amidst what we were going through. Although I didn’t know her last name, I wrote her a special note and delivered it to labor and delivery weeks later. I walked up to the receptionist, an older, somewhat cranky-looking lady, and told her I had something for a nurse named Mary, but I didn’t know her last name. She looked at me, puzzled.

“You probably have several nurses named Mary, don’t you?” I asked.

“No…” she replied. “I’m just trying to place Mary, but I have it. ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary.'”

It was as if she couldn’t understand why Mary would be getting a thank you note. It was my turn to be a little puzzled. I had seen her bark at another nurse right after my labor, but I didn’t realize she had a nickname.

My experience of her had only been empathy, love, and care…so I was especially glad I had written that note in that moment. Even “contrary” people are used by the Lord–and Mary had been a part of His hands and feet during our stay. Maybe my card would make her day.

God bless Mary, Mary, quite contrary.

***

I was dreading the drive home because I didn’t want to go there. Anywhere but there. Anywhere but where his sweetly decorated room was. Anywhere other than the place where life returned to normal. I didn’t want normal. I wanted my son.

We drove home in virtual silence—the only connection being our hands. And our grief. Before we had left the city, Leslee stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some very tight sports bras for me. I had been told by the hospital staff that this would be the best thing for me in the days to come when my milk came in. Just another painful reminder that I had no baby to feed. He offered to run in there and look for them himself, intuitively knowing that I wouldn’t be able to handle a cashier asking me when my baby was due. I still looked pregnant and it would be an innocent question that I couldn’t handle. I let him—all the while knowing shopping for the right sports bra might be a smidge uncomfortable for him, but being so thankful for his sensitivity and understanding.

We decided to grab a bite to eat on our way out of town. My best friend, Maddi, met us at the restaurant. She had texted  me earlier saying she had something for me. She arrived and handed me a Helzberg Diamonds box. I opened the lid and couldn’t hold back the tears. I had never looked up the August birthstone. I had always fully believed he would be here in September. There lay a bright, beautiful lime-green jewel surrounded by a border of sparkling diamonds.

Amidst tears, I turned to her and said, “Maddi, I don’t know what to say. I love it. It’s perfect. Thank you so much…I’ll treasure this forever.” I asked her to help me put it on and remembered a quote I had read somewhere: The most precious jewels a mother can wear around her neck are the arms of her children.  Even though I wouldn’t get to experience that with Leif, this beautiful necklace felt like the next best thing. It brought me comfort. And I thanked God for my friend’s thoughtful heart.

As we got closer to home, feelings of dread grew heavier. I wanted to see my girls, but… I couldn’t imagine going on. Normal was never going to be normal again. Didn’t “normal” know I had a huge hole in me now?

We pulled up to the house and no one was there. I breathed a little sigh of relief. In that moment, I wasn’t ready to face anyone. Facing my house was hard enough. It was full of all things Leif. And I was empty.

I walked in the door to a tidier house than I had left. But, not too tidy. Leslee’s mother and my dad’s wife, Mandy, had straightened up a little. The door to Leif’s room was shut and there were piles of laundry next to the washer. Never in my life had I been so thankful for laundry or little messes to clean up. It gave me something to do. Something to distract me for a little bit while I subconsciously processed that even this small act of loading the washer was doing something normal.

As I stood there sorting clothes, I couldn’t help but notice the light shining from the bottom of Leif’s bedroom door. Even though I wanted no part of that room, I kept feeling compelled to look at that door. That door wouldn’t leave me alone. It refused to let me ignore it. Conversations with myself ran rampant in my mind.

Go in there.

No, no, no, I can’t. It’s too hard.

Go in there.

This is crazy talk. That room will set me over the edge.

Go in there.

 It’s too soon.

Go in there. You can do it. Face that pain head on. You’re not afraid to feel it.

I don’t have to push myself today. Maybe tomorrow.

Go in there.

Leslee continued to bring things in from the car and I tried to focus on other things.  Our bedroom felt like a safe place. We lay on the bed and just held each other…something we couldn’t do easily in a hospital bed. We talked—processing out loud how we were both feeling about returning home. Going backwards to the day prior. Thinking forward to what lie ahead. Trying to pick up the pieces one word at a time. And we cried while we comforted each other.

Leslee glanced at the necklace Maddi had given me and said, “What was that jewel called again?”

“I think she said peridot,” I replied.

“I’m going to look it up. I’ve never heard of that before…see where it comes from and what it’s made of.”

A short time later, I was crying again. The peridot gem is a jewel of strength and protection. Not only were those things I had prayed over my baby son, but I needed them now. It felt like tangible validation that—yes, God had heard my prayers for Leif—and yes, he was strong in Heaven now. Protected while being a protector himself. Leif’s jewel was a jewel around my neck. A hug from my son. A sign that he was everything I had ever prayed for him. And I fully believed that God had used Maddi’s thoughtfulness as an instrument to give me a gift from Himself, as well. A promise that His strength would be with me. A token to show His protection covered my family.

We went to get the girls from my dad’s house up the road a little later. As we walked down the hallway, there that door stood, Leif’s door,  looming. Leslee turned to me and asked, “Do you want to go in there together?” “No…not yet,” I said.

Later that evening, I went to change Luxe’s diaper and realized all her diapers were in Leif’s room. Leslee offered to go in there …he said he could do it. But,  I just couldn’t let myself watch him go in there alone, so we opened the door together and walked in. It’s interesting how the Lord forces you to make  moves in life–dares you to at first, and then orchestrates details that leave no other choice. I stood in his room and I didn’t cry at all. I had done something hard. And all I felt was peace, comfort, and love.

I turned to Leslee. “Do you feel that?”

He lips curved gently into almost a smile. Eyes sparkled. “Yeah,” he said.

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