Today is mom's birthday. Our first without her.
Yesterday was incredibly rough. You see, last year her birthday fell on Sunday so the church had a big celebration for her.
Yesterday was the anniversary of that. Everywhere I looked was a reminder. Sitting in the sanctuary, looking at the empty spot where her recliner used to sit, remembering the dining room full of flowers and balloons, thinking about the flower crown that some of the church children made her.
I sat in service and just sort of leaked tears quietly.
After, a friend asked if I was ok, and as I was trying to answer, another friend saw that I wasn't and hugged me.
To be honest, probably the most tears at once since mom passed.
But how sweet to be held by arms who love me, who are not frightened by wracking sobs or snotty face.
How healing to be heard but not not placated.
Then as we stood there, one of the children, a special little fellow, with many needs and issues of his own, came over and innocently asked if I was sad. I told him that I was sad because I missed my mom. He assured me that he remembered who my mom was. Then he hugged me and very seriously told me that when his special friend (a worker at his school) died, he was very sad, but that sometimes, he can sit and remember how much he loved her, and that helps. The precious innocence of his statements are something I will treasure always.
Today is rough too, and to be honest, many more rough days to come between now and the first anniversary.
So many other thoughts that are still too raw to share. Those will come another day. or not, we'll see.
Today, it hurts, but I'll make it.
When mom passed away, one way Josie (4 at the time, now 5) was effected was that she had a complete regression in terms of sleep. In a nutshell, she went completely back to infant stage in regards to sleep- so back into our bed, frequent waking, asking to be worn in a sling (She was too big but I would tie a blanket around and have her sit on my lap in the "sling"), needing tons of contact even if she wasn't actually napping. Over the course of about 8 months we went back through all the stages from bedsharing in our bed, to me laying with her in the girls room, to sitting with her and patting her, to her finally being able to just go to bed and be back where she had been. And, like the initial natural progression, this was not smoothly linear, there were stops and starts during this time.
At this point she's been pretty much solid back in her own bed since mid-December and very secure, even to the point of Jeff and I being able to go for a night away during Christmas break. Since then, the only time she has slept with me was when we all had the flu a few weeks ago.
Yesterday was my husband's birthday so he and I went out for a fancy dinner and were out late etc. so she didn't see me all evening. She went to her room to bed with no trouble, but about 11 pm she came in to our room and crawled in with me.
I asked what was wrong and she did her usual, "I just can't sleep without you! I need you to sleep." We have been working on trying to be more accurate in describing our needs so I said, "well, we know you CAN sleep without me, so it is not that. What do you think you need right now?" (because she clearly did have a need). She thought for a minute and said, "I didn't see you for a long time today and I need you to hold me." So, she lay with me and snuggled and we chatted for a bit.
Having her sleep with me is very uncomfortable (she's big, I have a bad back) so after a bit of snuggle I gave her some options, she could go back to her room or she could sleep in the recliner in our room. She said, "well, I do feel safe in your chair... but I also feel safe with my Joy (her big sister) and it is more comfortable there." Another five minutes of cuddling and she got up and went back to her own bed and slept the night (Keep in mind this is nearly midnight in the dark house, she confidently brought herself to my bed and when she was ready, confidently took herself back to her own room).
I just want to encourage you that when the naysayers tell you that by engaging in bedsharing and other attachment and responsive parenting practices the child will "never be able to sleep on their own", they are wrong. I can not stress enough that independence is not forced or even "taught", it is developed, naturally, when the child feels secure.
None of this will happen overnight, it is a process. But it is worth it. A step back does not mean you have lost, it means that the child is going though something and needs you. Sometimes that is a BIG step back and it takes months of patient love to get them through, other times it is a very simple need to connect and it takes 15 minutes.
“If God is so powerful, why doesn't he ….?” I would venture to guess that each of us has either heard this, said this, or felt this, at some point in our life. The context is usually some sad or terrible circumstance that left the one asking feeling broken and hurt.
I would like to share a story of redemption. I do not pretend that my one story universally proves a point--although I do believe that God's redemptive power is indeed universally possible. When he doesn't remove the circumstance, he can redeem the pain.
My mother died. She lived with us for 7 years. Health up and down, but mostly down and declining. Usually the decline was slow, but she would occasionally have a big drop and then that would become the new normal until the next drop. The last six months she was quite ill, the last four months, on hospice.
5 weeks to the day after mom left, the mother of my dear friend and neighbor went to heaven as well. I was honored to be a part of those final days and hours.
I have a disturbing fluency in skills no one wants to know.
Rolling, turning, changing, adjusting pillows, crushing pills, filling syringes.
Taking minutes to dispense just a few drops, carefully, so as not to choke the throat of one who can no longer swallow.
Swabbing the dry mouth, relieving the cracked lips.
Setting the mood of the room, flowers, music, light levels, even scents.
Tone of voice, gentle touch, stroking the hair. Enough to let you know I'm here, but not enough to disturb or overwhelm.
The relationship with death. It is our enemy, but it is inevitable.
Can I come to a truce?
I cannot control the fact that it comes, but perhaps can control how it takes you?
I will not let you feel fear, or pain, or loneliness, although, we all know that the last step you must indeed take alone.
At least alone from my perspective. I pray not from yours.
Loved ones, angels, God himself? Surely someone is there to take your hand in the moment I must let go. Anything else would be too cruel.
But now what? When life has revolved around care for so long, what does one do with these accumulated proficiencies, this unwanted expertise?
I have my family, they need me, but a different part of me. This part, with its particular set of skills, feels useless now, vestigial.
But then comes a call, “I need help, I cannot.”
It is ok dear friend, because I can.
I step up and say, “wait, I know this one!”
I will hold her, touch her, love her like my own.
I perform the tasks so you are free to hold her hand.
And in this way, I find redemption.
My pain becomes a blessing.
My grief is assuaged.
I have a lifetime's worth of skill but only one mother to spend it on.
God in his wisdom, in his grace, mercifully gave me another.