What I Know Today

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Joy! Joy! Joy?

Jack and I were watching a new show on Netflix on Demand (love that, by the way) today. I don't know the exact name of it, but it's something similar to Baby Einstein except with a Christian theme. This particular one was about the story of Jonah and the Whale (or "Big Fish" if you want to get technical, which they apparently do not). Most of the show is filled with instrumental music of songs that I remember from Sunday School, but at one point children start singing along to one, so I decided to sing along with them.

"I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart! Down in my heart, down in my heart!"

Jack loves when I sing, and tries to mimic me with words a few seconds too late and knee slaps a bit off beat, but he's so stinkin' cute those things don't even matter. He's smiling and laughing and I'm smiling and singing....

"...and I'm so haappy! So very haaaappy!....."

We're really on a roll here!

"....I've got the love of Je *sniff* s *sob* us in *sob*..."

Aaaaaand I can barely choke out that last sentence because I am bursting into tears. Jack looks at me like I have three heads and two of them just managed to spontaneously combust. Not only did I muff the song and further disrupt his knee-slapping, belly laughing fervor, I started *crying*! In a song about JOY!

HELLO, MAMA! We're singing about JOY here!! DuH! I can just read it on his face...

My little man does not realize yet that there are happy tears and sad tears. He doesn't understand the feeling that you are losing every single thing you love in the world, and the only thing you have to hold on to is that love of Jesus this very song sings about that is etched deep in your heart. He doesn't realize how very much that love means to you on your darkest days, nor how you're really not entirely sure you could survive without it. I remember the doctor coming in to tell us they had done all they could do for Henry. When he left, the first thing I said to my husband was "Thank God I was raised in Faith." Because I knew then that I needed the assurance of Jesus and His word to get me through that day, and every other day for the rest of my life.

I am grateful for the diligence of my mom and grandparents who insisted I attend worship every. single. week. (sometimes two or three times a week!) as a child and young adult. We lived in the country, and I can remember massive snow storms that my grandpa would drive through to get me to Sunday School, when even city kids were absent. God bless you, Grandpa. You didn't know it then, but every trip you took added up and you may have single handedly saved my life some thirty years later.

When we would ride in to town, I would sit next to Grandpa and sing to him for the duration of the whole 20 minute trip. I would be willing to bet that I even sang this song a dozen or more times. Who knew how it would define me all these years later? Grandpa always loved listening to me sing - he encouraged it. His favorite song for me to sing was "I'm in the Lord's Army (Yes, Sir!)" I still remember the whole (short) song, and it brings tears to my eyes to even think of it because he loved it that much. As a military man himself, I think he could relate to it. It said what needed to be said, and was short, direct, and to the point, much like himself. His least favorite song for me to sing was The First Noel. Because he said I was always off pitch on it. He was a military man and a painter by trade, but he couldn't sing a note so I blame his ear rather than my voice.

Ha. Kidding, Grandpa. Just kidding.

Anyhow, when you look at me, or read my blog, or hear me talk, and think, I just don't know how she does it... Remember this blog post. Remember Jesus. He is how I do it. He is my strength.

I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery. I may never fly o'er the enemy, but I'm in the Lord's army. Yes Sir!...


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Love and Laughter

For those who don't know me and haven't heard the news, I'll admit it here: I have loved John Ritter my entire life. Some of my earliest memories include watching Three's Company with my mom, and although I didn't get most of the jokes and inuendos until years later, Jack and his antics had me rolling from day one. I was obsessed, and credit Mr. Ritter (along with my grandparents and mom who are all downright hilarious in their own right) with being much of my comedic inspiration in life. I have followed his career religiously, catching sitcoms, movies, and interviews whenever possible. The fact that I have a child named Jack is no coincidence. I was even watching a Three's Company marathon in the hospital while I was in labor with Henry. Laughter truly is the best medicine, and despite all I have been through, I still agree with that statement. That, and: sometimes you have to laugh just to keep from crying.

When I read about the release of this book, I knew I needed to read it. The last few chapters of the book hit closest to home as they detailed the events of the days surrounding John's death and then the emotions his wife faced afterwards. It's the first book I've ever read about grief and loss that I could have written myself. It's refreshing to me to read about other people who try to laugh and live through their pain. So many books I've read about bereaved parents talk about people who could not listen to music ever again, or could not bring themselves to laugh for at least ten years, etc. I will not judge them, because every grief process is different, but I truly felt like I was either defective or in denial. It turns out I am neither (the first being more debatable than the second). She spoke about how much heavier she felt after John's death. About how gravity seemed to have a greater pull on her, which is not unlike my post about The Weight of Grief. That alone gave me comfort. She went on to describe her grief process in ways that were nearly identical to mine. The trudging forward, despite wanting to curl up and cry. The days when we let ourselves do just that. The hope with which we look to the future, and ways we try to keep the memory of our loved ones - in her case a husband, in mine, a son - alive.

Amy wrote, "My life now is not what I expected when John and I fell in love. It's not what I intended, nor what I was creating. Gravity took the life I imagined and added its own spin. The struggle is accepting that fact and still finding beauty and meaning in what remains."

Amen, sister.

She also included in her book a portion of a letter that John wrote to his daughter Carly, two years (to the day) before he died. In it, he quotes Thornton Wilder's famous novel The Bridge Over St. Luis Re. In his letter, John was relating the quote to the attacks on the Word Trade Center (the letter was written the day of the attacks, September 11, 2001. He died two years later on September 11, 2003, which also happened to be his daughter Stella's fifth birthday). The excerpt reads:

But soon we will die, and all memories of those five will have left Earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living in a land of the dead and the bridge is love. The only survival, the only meaning.

Beautiful, isn't it?

I loved reading about John and his family. Like so many others, I always felt like he was a part of my own family. I was surprised to learn that he could not cook. *grin* I guess the naivete of childhood had engrained the idea of Jack Tripper going to cooking school equating to John Ritter learning as well. I love that his family has become so active in informing others about aortic aneurysms and dissection, even lending the family name to the "Ritter Rules", a list of guidelines about the disease. It reminds me in many ways of how active my husband has become in the world of primary immune deficiencies. The world has lost some precious boys here, but in their absense has gained advocates for some very worthy causes and hopefully in doing so has saved several other people from the same fate.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Message To Heaven

This past Sunday the family took a drive through the cemetery to visit our little man. Last year the snow in the cemetery was such that if you were creative, you could walk between the drifts and pretty much get from the road to the grave site on grass. This year we weren't quite so lucky. A nice, thick, evenly distributed, blanket of snow is covering the grounds and we weren't dressed for trudging through it. As we rounded the bend before coming up to his area, I noticed something in the snow. About ten feet long, there was a message written from someone to "Bruce", saying several sweet things including, "Thank you for loving me." Once we got to our area, I took my lead from that writer and left a message myself, on behalf of all who were in the van (Jack, Papa, Grandma, Great-Grandma): "We {heart} you, Bug".

I've often thought about you, my blog readers, and thought of things I can post here. Unfortunately my follow through hasn't been so great. We are now 15 months past Henry's death and it still seems like it was yesterday at times. I'm not sure that feeling will ever go away. The pain is still very fresh and very real and very constant. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel something - pain, remorse, guilt. I can't pinpoint any one thing that gets to me more than anything else, it just happens at random. I've been struggling with bitterness, and a general lack of empathy. These are both characteristics that are new to me and so different from the person I was before November 2, 2009. I'm not sure what to do with those feelings, so I pray about them. I pray that simple prayer that I have prayed nearly every day for 15 months - first about the saddness and desperation I was feeling. Then about the guilt. Now about the bitterness: Lord, please lift these feelings from my heart and help me find peace. Such a short little prayer, but a powerful one, and thankfully one that is responded to quickly. Those feelings are frequent but brief and I am grateful for that brevity.

I wonder about heaven a lot. What it is like, who we'll see there. I find myself seeking out literature about it - scriptures, stories, "eye-witness" accounts from folks who claim to have been there and returned to earth. All of it fascinates me. I'm a bit of a skeptic with the folks who say they've been there and back, but I don't discount their stories... I just don't pin my dreams on them, if that makes sense. Awhile back I was looking for some words of wisdom to share with a girlfriend who is also going through a grief process of her own after the sudden unexpected death of her mother, and I found this quote by Dwight L. Moody:

"Very often people come to me and say: "Mr. Moody, do you think we shall know each other in Heaven?" There is a verse in Scripture in answer to this, and that is: "We shall be satisfied." (Psalm 17:15). It is all I wanted to know. My brother who went up there the other day I shall see, because I shall be satisfied. We will see all those we loved on Earth up there, and if we loved them here, we will love them ten thousand times more when we meet them there."

I found comfort in this, and have carried it with me ever since that day. As I get older, and continue to grow in my faith (because let's face it, faith, like love, is a verb - an action word - continuously moving and growing, enveloping and developing), I realize more and more that this earth is not the end of my journey just as it was not the end of his. He is in heaven, and he is waiting for all of us who love him, and one day we will all be satisfied just as he is today. He doesn't know the pain of missing his mama, papa, "bee", and grandmas, just the anticipation and excitement as he awaits our arrival. What will be decades of life for us on earth will be only seconds to him in heaven before we are reunited again.

Until that day, I am here, and I am waking up every morning, and living the life God intended for me to live. I am taking care of my family and watching my baby boy (who is much more boy than baby these days) grow at an unprecedented rate of speed. We are nearing the end of our therapy with the wonderful "Birth to 3" therapists who have helped us over the last 16 months, and we couldn't be happier with the progress Jack has made. His vocabulary has exploded, and he is picking up new words and activities every single day. He knows his alphabet forward, backward, and sideways (which makes Aunt Julie the kindergarten teacher very proud because she will tell you that just because you can sing the song doesn't mean you know your alphabet.). He can identify the letters in any order right side up or upside down (which surprised us all!). He is counting from 1 - 13 unassisted, 13-29 with a little help. He loves to sing(!) and his favorite songs are the alphabet song, Old MacDonald, and Jingle Bells.

That last one makes my heart smile, because Jingle Bells was the only song Henry ever attempted (despite Old MacDonald being his all time favorite for me to sing while he chimed in with the animal noises). Henry would run up to a cat toy we have hanging on the door and shake it (there are bells on it) and sing, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, oh we have funnnnnn!!!!!!"


Jack is obsessed with dinosaurs and can identify about 50 different types of dinosaur by name (and alternate name where applicable, as is the case with the Gravitholus who is also called Prenocephale, and Stenonychosaurus who is also known as Troodon... things I never thought I'd learn, much less teach my two year old). He loves puzzles and play time, and, and, and..... I could go on forever. He's quite the character, and we love him more than he'll probably ever know. We are so blessed to have him in our lives, and so grateful that in losing Henry we were able to save Jack. It is the bright and shiny silver lining to that very dark cloud.

Looking forward, I have purchased paint for Henry's bedroom to bring it from it's current bright yellow little boy nursery to a much more muted beige guest room. It is the bigger of our two bedrooms for the boys, but I'm not ready to move Jack into it yet. Not ready to open that door every morning expecting a face that is no longer looking back at me to be on the other side. Maybe some day, but not today. I will post pictures once that project is complete. Although I am sad to paint the room and convert it back, I know that keeping it untouched does not bring my boy back. And, truthfully, I regretted that bright yellow color choice from day one, so in that respect the change will be welcomed.

We also have a birthday party to plan in the not-too-distant future as Jack will turn three at the end of March. It looks like a dino party is in order, and we are already scheming to switch out his Raggedy Ann & Andy decor for some dinorific decorations as our gift to him.

I am also very proud of my husband who has been working diligently for months now on getting Henry's bedtime stories illustrated and published. The first book will be available soon in hardcover, and we are so excited about it - there aren't even words to express what this means to us, and especially to Papa whom Henry shared those stories with every night. Not only are we getting the stories out, but we are doing so in a way that will benefit other children with rare diseases. Click over to the Adventures of Henry website if you'd like to learn more or help great causes by ordering a copy or three. *wink*

Thank you, as always, for your continued thoughts and prayers. We are so grateful for the strong network of family and friends (both in person and online) that God has blessed us with.

God bless,