Saturday, April 24, 2010, was Gracie’s due date. So many hopes, dreams, desires, and yet done of those things did we have, or no, that’s not right. We do have them, but they are just so very different than what we thought they would be.
Every pregnant person is a reminder that I am not. Every little infant is a reminder of just how empty my arms are. My guest room should be full of pink and purple, ribbons and bows, teddy bears and baby dolls. I should be up half the night feeding and rocking an infant. I should have beautiful pictures of her with her Daddy, with her brother, with me. Singing lullabies and giving whisper soft kisses. But, I’m not. And that is hard.
The last few weeks have been almost unbearable. Moving towards this day, her day, has shaken me so deeply. I have been horribly emotional, hard to deal with, weepy, mad, sad, frustrated, tired. I just knew that Saturday would be an absolutely horrible day. I had tried to prepare myself for it. But I knew it would be bad.
And yet, it wasn’t. Even in the midst of all that I felt, thought, did, GOD was and is always right there with me. He never left my side. He is holding my hand and pulling me up, out of my grief, to find the joy and peace that I desire. Let me tell you the story of our weekend…
First, I would like to tell you about some very good friends of mine. Some new and some old. First, my very best friend Karen. She can sense my feelings and thoughts better than I can myself sometimes. On Thursday of last week, she brought me the most beautiful arrangement of flowers. They are the most beautiful shades of pink and purple, with a beautiful purple ribbon, and three butterflies stuck into the arrangement. Butterflies for rebirth and life and hope and happiness. The flowers are beautiful, but the love and friendship that comes with them are so much more, so very much more. The really funny part of it is, Mark, Jonathan, and I had gone to Hobby Lobby the previous Saturday to buy silk flowers to make an arrangement for Gracie’s vase. What did I buy? Pink, purple, and white flowers, with silver accents. Also, two beautiful butterfly stakes to put in the ground next to her marker. So, it made the real flower arrangement that much more special. Like it was my own version to have to remember her. I thank God for Karen and her family. They are just wonderful, wonderful friends.
The next group of friends would be from our church. The Lord truly led us to Immanuel Baptist, and we have made so many wonderful friends here. They have been with us, prayed with us, and helped us so much in the past seven years, but most especially with all of Jonathan’s medical problems, and now with the death of our Gracie. So many people have prayed for our family. Do you know that feeling when prayer becomes palpable, it is so strong? I know what that feels like, and let me tell you, it is awesome. It is God. It changes everything. Our Sunday School class has held us up so much. Fellowships, prayers, and again, much love. I have also started a new Bible Study class, and so many of those ladies have been praying for us as well.
On Friday, as I am about to leave, flowers appear on my desk. The beautiful and wonderful ladies that I work with had gone in together and made a donation to the March of Dimes in honor of my sweet baby girl. They had also brought a bouquet of bright hot pink daisies. They are happy flowers, not sad flowers. Remembering her life and how much she is loved. And I’m crying typing this, that they cared enough to remember her and me and my family and my baby. It is just overwhelming and I will be forever grateful that the good Lord has provided me with the ability to help others’ little ones, but also that He has given me such Godly and kind friends to do it with. One thing I have always said, is that I wanted flowers when I delivered my baby. It just didn’t happen with Jonathan and everything else that happened that day. And Mark brought me beautiful, beautiful flowers when Gracie was born, but they were still a little bittersweet. Knowing this, they brought me flowers. Happy flowers. Thank you. Thank you for knowing me so well, thank you for your gift, thank you for your friendship.
There is another friend, a new friend, who God has also sent my way. The funny thing is, I have never met her! She is a member of the Holy Sews group that I talked about in my last post. She saw my facebook post on the group’s page and sent me a message. She, too, lost her twins at 19 weeks. I feel like I have found a kindred spirit in this journey of loss. As much as I hate that we have this in common, it is so nice to talk to someone who has been there, who understands, who knows the hurts, the loss, the pain, and the joy. Hard to explain unless you’ve been there, but trust me, it is nice. I am hopeful to attend the next work day for the group, and finally meet her. In the mean time, I’ll just thank God for her and the wonderful help she has been to me.
Thank you also to all of our friends and family who remembered us on this day. I thank God for you and that you are a part of our lives.
So, on to Saturday. There was so much going on this weekend, but we decided to just be gentle with ourselves and lay low. The one planned activity we had was the March of Dimes walk here in Little Rock. Registration was at 9am and the walk was scheduled to begin at 10am. We didn’t know much about it, but it seemed like a great way to remember our little girl. We all wore our Discovery Space Shuttle t-shirts that Mark had brought home from the launch. Nothing really to do with Gracie or babies, but we matched, and we decided we were “blasting off” for her and for a happier tomorrow. I had also made bright and happy pink ribbons with “For Gracie” on them to wear on our shirts. We got there about 9:15 and it was sprinkling on and off. We had brought rain jackets so we didn’t care. They had a ton of sponsors and booths set up. There was a pink fire truck (breast cancer awareness) and a fire house where they used a smoke machine to teach kids about fire safety. Also, each of the NICU’s in town had a booth for a chance to reunite with the graduates. We saw a lady from church and she asked us what hospital we were at. My answer: St. Vincent’s, Baptist, and Arkansas Children’s. She didn’t quite know what to think about that answer, but Mark and I got a kick out of it. Jonathan colored a handkerchief at the St. Vincent’s booth and talked a little to the ladies there. Then, at about 9:30 or so, the floodgates of Heaven opened, and it began POURING! Normally, my response would have been to get angry that our plans were being ruined, that things were not going like I wanted them to. But, I didn’t. God was in control. The rain was beautiful. (I don’t think everyone thought so, but I did). We stood under the tent, and smiled, and laughed, and just enjoyed being together. They had to cancel the walk, tents were blowing over, people were running for their cars, but we just stood there. Smiled, laughed, and loved on our Jonathan.
Mark finally took a break in the storm and went for the Jeep. He pulled up to the tents and we got Jonathan loaded in. We decided to go have brunch at Denny’s. Of course, by the time we got there, it had stopped raining. The day turned out beautiful. Perfect weather and just a beautiful sky. We had such a nice time eating together, acting silly, just being a family. Jonathan found a new friend at the table next to us, and just talked and talked to this little boy.
We then went to get Mark and hair cut, to Sear’s for some parts Mark needed for his fence project, and then home for a nap. I made cupcakes while Jonathan napped, and he helped me ice and decorate them when he woke up.
We went out to Gracie’s Garden that afternoon. We brought the flower arrangement that I had made and some soft blocks that were Jonathan’s gift to Gracie. We also took our cupcakes for a little party. It was so nice and peaceful to just sit there, talk a little, laugh a little, and remember her while enjoying a cupcake. We also met a couple who were there remembering her little brother who had died 15 years ago in utero. Sweet people. We shared cupcakes with them and a little of our story. Hopefully shared a little of God’s love too. Thank goodness I always plan for more when it comes to desserts (and Mark!) and had brought extras out there with us.
The funniest part of the entire day came as Mark was cleaning up from the cupcakes. There is a trash can near the pond that is very close to Gracie. Mark walked over to throw our trash away. He said that when he got close to the can, he heard a hissing sound. Stopped and then realized it was a Momma goose sitting on a nest on the other side of the can. He quickly threw the trash in and started moving away from her. About that time, the Daddy goose dive-bombed Mark! I hear him yell and turn around to see him running back towards us. It was hilarious. Poor Momma goose, I’m sure Mark scared her to death, but the Daddy goose scared Mark! Jonathan fed the rest of his cupcake to the ducks and Daddy goose and had a great time throwing sticks into the water. I think he could do that for hours honestly!
We left there and went to Samurai Steakhouse and Hibachi for dinner. It is one of my favorite restaurants and just a fun atmosphere and show. We ordered Jonathan a meal for the first time, and he took it out! He absolutely loved the soup, ate a ton of fried rice, both of his shrimp, and some of his steak. It was so fun to watch him trying so hard to use his chopsticks too. He wasn’t half bad at it either. We met this wonderful family at the restaurant as well. It was a Daddy with his three kids (Mom was out of town at a church retreat). The middle child was a little girl and she was sitting next to me. Let’s just say she was a talker. She kept me entertained the entire meal. I don’t think I got much of a word in, and we all know I can talk! Her Daddy kept apologizing, but it wasn’t bothering us. We had a blast. Jonathan was having fun talking to them as well. He eventually got up and they were playing while everyone was paying the check.
I looked at Mark at the restaurant and smiled. I looked at Jonathan and I smiled again. I told Mark that I thought this day would be horrible, but it honestly was not. It was nice. I was happy. I had a wonderful time being with the two of them and just spending time together. Mark agreed that he had had a very nice day as well.
I know that the reason we had such a nice day was because of God. He heard our prayers, he knew how much we were hurting. Each prayer and thought that someone had for us, for our family, for our baby, God was there. God heard each one. He was with us the entire day, smiling through the rain, laughing at the goose, enjoying the dinner. I was so amazed and so utterly thankful.
God has never left us. He never will. He is right here with us. And Gracie is ok. She is in Heaven with Jesus. Dancing and singing songs, learning all the Bible stories first hand. Safe. Happy. Whole and complete with the Lord. Forever and ever. And that is a wonderful thought and truth.
Jeremiah 29: 11-14 (NIV) 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
I Corinthians 13: 4-8, 13 (NIV) 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
II Corinthians 12: 7-10 (NIV) From Paul 7….there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
These verses just seem to speak to me right now so I thought I would share. None are really talking about our situation, but they are still applicable I think. Not to say that I am perfect in any of these things. But God has given me this word, His word, to read, to study, to learn from, to strive for. And thank you Lord for that.
One last song to leave you with. This is the new Brandon Heath song, Love Never Fails. If you made it this far with me, I hope you will listen to it and really hear the words. What a beautiful image this brings to my mind. So much love, God given love.
Love, thanks, and prayers to you all. Thank you for being a part of our family. Thank you for remembering our little girl. Thank you for allowing God to use you to bless my family.