An answer to prayer

I sit, holding Asa, watching him sleep. Mookie leans over to give him a kiss. I smile . . . then shudder.

For it occurs to me that this is how old Mookie was when his big brother died.

And I remember a moment a few days before that. I was sitting on the couch takinng off Mookie’s wallaby blanket in order to change his little diaper. The kids were running all over. Tiggy had a cold. The house was a mess. And I was overwhelmed.

I didn’t know how to get everything done, but mostly I was scared of getting pregnant again. I didn’t know how to take care of seven children. It didn’t make sense even then, but I remember praying for some help, some relief, some peace.

And on windy nights when I held a squirming Mookie too close through my tears I would think of that prayer and feel pangs of guilt. As if I had somehow asked for this because for one moment I was overcome by all the responsibilities before me. And it was hard to admit even to myself how much I wanted another child. And how difficult it was to go to the doctor and find out that the issues I was having didn’t really need treatment but would affect the likelihood of having another child. But I couldn’t really talk about that with anyone because who fights back tears over not being able to have a seventh child?

I knew my motives were mixed. I knew another child wouldn’t fill that hole Tiggy left. Nor would it take away an evening of feeling overwhelmed at the thought of a seventh. But feelings are what they are and mine longed for one more child to hold and to count and to raise.

And now here he is. Number seven. In my arms, asleep and showered with kisses by his big brother.

I lean over and whisper in his ear. “You are an answer to prayer, little Angel.” Because I want him to know that even as number seven, he wasn’t an accident. He wasn’t an after thought. He is our little “healer.” Our little reminder of “victory.” In Christ, over death and through new life.

I dreamed about Tiggy

It’s not something I do very often.

I remember every one. Some more clearly than my memories of him.

He was there, playing with his vroom vrooms, smiling that ornery smile. I went to touch his wispy hair, but he ducked and giggled.

He was there, lying under the table, and still that smile. I kneeled down to reach for him, but he rolled away and giggled.

And so the dream went on. With him happy and full of life and always just out of reach.

But it was different than my other dreams of him. In every other dream, I have been acutely aware of the fact that he is dead.

Some are strange and dark. Where he shows up and I know it can’t be him but it is. And I don’t know what to do because if I tell anyone, I know he’ll be taken from me because no one will believe it is him and that he is my son. And so I hide him in the basement, but I don’t even know how to tell my husband and how long can you hide a toddler in the basement, anyway?

Some carry such relief. I wake up and realize I just forgot him at the hospital. And there’s this mad rush to get everyone ready and I’m stressed and trying to figure out how to explain that I just forgot him there, but really I’m not a bad mother and can I take him home now?

But usually, I know I’m dreaming. Like the first one. The day he died. I fell asleep and was there in the hospital, sitting in the room the nurse had told us he’d be moved to, looking at him in the incubator I imagined he’d be in, listening to the ventilator they told us would be breathing for him. Holding his hand. And waiting. But then I started to wake up and I panicked, because I knew that Tiggy was only there in that dream and if I woke up, I wouldn’t be able to sit with him anymore.

Or the time I sat holding him in a chair in the center of the front room. The house was a mess. Toys and clothes and dishes everywhere. My husband came home and was upset, yelling at everyone. He started to clean and I just ignored him. “You’re not even going to help?” he accused. But I didn’t care. “I only get to hold him until I wake up,” I answered and laid my cheek back against his head where I could smell him for a little while longer.

But this time, I didn’t know. At least not fully. So I just followed, partly amused by the antics of this sweet little boy so full of joy but becoming increasingly distressed that he was always just out of reach. Until I suddenly woke up, staring into the darkness and knowing too well why I couldn’t quite reach him.

Thankful

Skimming over Facebook posts. The night before Thanksgiving. All the talk is about turkeys in the oven and pies cooling on the counter. Potatoes being peeled and cheesecakes setting in the fridge. And I think,

“I put my turkey in the brine . . . .¬† four hours after I meant to. Does that count for anything?”

I probably won’t even start cooking until tomorrow afternoon.

And suddenly I miss the three year old boy who should be here.

The weight of missing him is crushing. I feel like I can’t breathe. It’s unexpected. Like the day I opened a bag and found his hair, still caked in blood, in a little plastic bag from the hospital. And the tears come in choking gasps as they did while I washed it out.

And I am so thankful. Thankful beyond words.

Thankful that this . . . this pain, these tears, this death . . . this is not the end of the story.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.

Beauty for ashes

One day, we will be given a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3). We received a taste of this back in February as we celebrated Tiggy’s short life with a little road trip over what would have been his third birthday.

Please share with us a little of our pain, a little of our joy and a little of our perspective.

Thank you so much, Amber, for putting this video together for us.

We are also pleased to announce that due to favorable exchange rates, the amount that we need to raise in order to fund the building of Tiggy’s House is $40,000. As of June, $25,349 has been raised. If you would like to help in any way, please consider donating directly to Tiny Hands International, and remember our etsy shop when shopping for gifts for family and friends. All profits from our shop and from the advertising and sponsors on this blog are donated to this effort.

To donate:

Donate via Tiny Hands International. Simply select “Tiggy’s House” from the “Choose a charity” menu found on their website.

Send checks to:

Tiny Hands International
P.O. Box 67195
Lincoln, NE 68506

Please mention “Tiggy’s House” so your gift is credited properly.

Thank you so much and God bless.

Sharing Tiggy’s stories

In a drawer in my room lies my most prized possession. It rests there, sheltered and protected. My husband took it to a friend to have it prepared to display and I could hang it up . . . display it . . . share it. But it sits in a drawer, partly because I don’t have an appropriate rod and partly because I am afraid of what might happen to it.

In my lap is a little boy, just 19 months old. In two months, he will be as old as Tiggy was when he died. My chest tightens. It is hard to breathe. When I look at him, I see so many of the things my little Mattias was learning and doing and I remember how he used to give up the swing for the baby, sit next to me on the couch to pet the baby’s head and drop everything to sit down and hold the baby any time I said he could. I remember how he loved his baby brother.

I want so much for little Micah to know his big brother. To share those special moments when they seem to have their own language that overcomes Micah’s small vocabulary. To fight over toys and space and the number of times Micah knocks over a tower of blocks because he doesn’t know how else to get his brother’s attention. And my heart aches.

But Micah knows what is in that drawer, too. He knows it is something special. So when he has a chance, he goes in and opens the drawer. He takes out the treasure and opens the special pocket containing a little blue tractor. He points at the pictures and wants me to tell him what they are.

And sometimes it seems that my very soul is tearing in two, but that little smile and that little finger pointing and that little, “Eh?” hold it together just enough to allow me to smile while I share Tiggy’s stories with his little brother Micah through a blanket spread out on my bed.

Remembering our son

I had wanted to write something to mark today. I remember thinking that I should sketch out an outline of my thoughts in case I forgot what I wanted to say. But it was simple and didn’t seem necessary. Except that Sunday morning I started doing something I haven’t done for a long time: counting down the last hours of Mattias’ life.

From letting him sleep in that last morning because he was fighting off the end of a cold to the doctors entering the waiting room at 3:30 the next morning to tell us they weren’t able to save him, I walked through each minute of Tiggy’s last day, always aware of the time, always aware of what I was doing one year ago today.

And I have no idea what I had wanted to write. So I’ll share this once again. His memorial video.

I love you, Mattias. And though it has already been a whole year, I still can’t quite imagine what life is going to be like without you.

Thank you so much for all of your kind words, prayers and notes of encouragement over the last year. God bless.

I had wanted to do something special for advent . . .

First Advent came and went with hardly a nod. I had wanted to do something. Something to make this time special for my children. Something to help us keep our perspective through this season filled with so many memories.

Last year we put up our first tree in years. The children had so much fun running up and down between the trees at the Christmas tree farm and there was Tiggy, in the middle of it all, enjoying just being outside in the fresh air amidst the trees. We brought the tree home and slowly the bottom half of the tree was emptied of its ornaments as they found places higher up out of his reach or on the windowsill waiting for a new home on the tree.

He died on the third advent.

Then the ornaments stayed on the tree where they were put and looking at ornaments placed on the bottom half made me cry.

Time is again feeling like a freight train. Slow and unstoppable, dragging me through the upcoming days, bearing down on December 12, gathering force as everything around me goes out of focus and I see only one day on the horizon.

I wanted to do something special to help us keep perspective. Maybe light a candle and sing a song. Bake cookies together and have cocoa. But we were out of eggs and out of milk and I had a splitting headache.

So I let them have some ice cream with Nestle Quik sprinkled on top while they watched It’s a Wonderful Life , Micah napped and laid on the couch.

I wanted to do something special because this season is so hard. It is so hard for me to see anything but the death of my son and at times it seems like a nightmare that is about to happen rather than one that happened almost a year ago.

But when I lift my eyes, I see something more. Something distant and indistinct but too bright to be ignored. I see the shadow of heaven, hear the echo of the promises made, feel the warmth of everlasting love and know that I will hold that little boy again.

Because death is not the end.

And I want to share that with my children, even through my tears.

Every word he screams

” I can’t do this!” He screams.

There’s something in the flushed cheeks, the set jaw, the glaring eyes that cause me to just walk away. I sit on the couch, pull up a blanket and try not to feel every word he screams.

“I can’t do this! I hate school! I hate math! I hate writing! I can’t do this”

He slams down his notebook, punches it and slams it down again. He’s shaking with fury as he throws himself into his chair over and over again.

Over a sentence.

And I don’t know what to do. The words he’s screaming I stopped screaming months ago, and yet they are always there, whispering in my mind when things begin to pile up and I fall behind on dishes and laundry and school. I don’t know how to do this. I can’t do this. And they leave me on the porch, crying into Jake’s fur while I look out over the fields toward the cedar trees marking the northern edge of the cemetary where my son’s body lies.

“I hate this! I’m stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid! I’m the stupidest boy I know! I’m the stupidest boy in the world!”

Tears sting my eyes as he gives himself over to violent sobs that seem greater than he. I don’t know what to do. I want to comfort him, take the assignment away, break it down somehow so this one sentence doesn’t bring the whole world crashing down.

And yet I have sat kneeling in an onion patch, screaming at weeds and sobbing over all the the things I couldn’t do. I feel that day in every word he screams and I have a vague sense that this is his onion patch. It is his onion patch and he has to walk through it.

Because the only emotion he has ever really talked about in connection with that night is anger. Anger that it happened. Anger that his sister wasn’t fast enough to stop it. Anger that he let Mattias get out of his lap. Anger that I wasn’t there. Anger that he feels isn’t justified because it really wasn’t anyone’s fault.

And yet his brother is dead and he is angry. And he doesn’t know what to do with it all.

And I don’t know how to help him.

They’re only things

In a hurry, rushing about the house. Bug pours herself a bowl of cereal that could have fed three. LE can’t find her shoes. I’m trying to load the car for a craft show and the hour and a half I gave myself is running out fast.

“The laptop,” I say. “If you want to watch a movie, you better get the laptop.”

Mouse finds its case and begins unhooking the laptop. I help LE with a pair of shoes two sizes too big, direct Bug to find jackets and am interrupted by a shout.

“Look! Look what I found!”

And I turn to see all of Tiggy’s shoes lying on the table. My breath stops and for a moment, the rest of the room disappears.

Those shoes. All lined up neatly in pairs. And so many memories. Tiggy holding up his feet so proudly when I put on his first pair. Tiggy sitting on the floor, trying to put one on and not even getting his toes in properly. The endless searching whenever it was time to go somewhere because we could only ever find one. The heart-wrenching tears that flowed when the missing shoe turned up after the funeral and I knew the pair would never be separated again.

And now they’re lined up neatly in pairs because there isn’t anyone to drag them around and leave them in between the couch cushions or at the bottom of the toy box or under the bed.

Before I have a chance to recover from the shock, to draw a breath even, the children shout.

“Mookie! Mookie, you can wear these!”

And already they are on Micah’s feet. Because Micah needs his first pair of shoes. I just haven’t gotten to the store, yet.

I don’t know what I think, exactly, of seeing Tiggy’s shoes on Micah. But there is joy on the faces of all my other children, so I don’t say anything at all.

“They’re only things,” I tell myself as I strap him in his car-seat.

“They’re only things,” I tell myself as I feel myself begin to hyperventilate.

“They’re only things,” I tell myself as I fear what I will do if they get lost.

But they are only things. Things bought for one purpose that our now serving another. I want to hold on to the things and the memories, but children grieve differently. They want Tiggy’s things used. They share their brother with Micah by giving him Tiggy’s old things.

And the joy in their eyes holds my tears at bay while dulling the fear of losing something that belonged to my son. Because they are only things and my children’s joy is so much more precious.

The day passes, night comes, everyone goes to bed and I straighten up the house. I pick up a little shoe from under the table and can’t find the other. I’m not sure if it is in the car or if it even left the craft show. I can’t remember exactly when I last noticed both the shoes together.

So I stand in the front room, holding a little shoe that lost its mate and laugh. Truly laugh. Because these little shoes were meant to be shoved in toy-boxes and lost in the couch. My heart may be grieving the loss of one child, but there is still life in my house.

Life and joy and little shoes that can never stay in their pairs.

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I have been given more

Sitting at a concert, only two minutes in and the tears have already begun to flow. I know this song. I’ve sung it with the kids in the car. They don’t really understand it, but it is a bounce around in your seatbelt while trying to sing along song and they like it. It isn’t normally the kind of song that would bring tears to your eyes.

Except I know what comes next.

” . . . I’ve been given more than Regis ever gave away . . . “

And I know that the man about to sing those words also lost a child. And I needed to hear those words. And I needed to hear them from someone who understood.

Since that night, I have talked to so many women who have lost a child. Some encourage me to keep breathing, keep walking, keep searching out the joy. Others look at me with a hint of panic in their eyes and tell me it never gets any better. I’ve talked to women who have asked for help listing reasons to stay in this world because they couldn’t come up with any of their own.

And only yesterday I found myself on the phone with police in a different state giving sketchy details about a woman I’ve never met because she had a date and a plan and I didn’t know what else to do.

And sometimes it scares me because I understand. I can see how this ache in my soul could grow and settle into a weariness of life.

But I don’t want it to. I fight against it. Even in my darkest hours when all the world seems to be crashing in, I have held on to the hope that there is another side. That the threads of my life that came unraveled that night can be gathered together again and woven into something new.

I needed to hear someone who had lost a child years before get up on stage and sing about how much they had been given.

Because I have been given more — so much more — than anything anyone could ever take away. I have been given a hope and a future.

I have been given His son. And with that, in time, my own.

______________________________

And the song, for those of you who just need to remember the rest of the words now.