What I Know Today

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Day In The North Woods

So many of my entries on this blog have been about grief since we lost Henry. While that is understandable, the truth is that although a piece of my heart is gone from me, there is still a lot of living I need to do. I still struggle with some major separation anxiety when it comes to leaving Jack for any length of time (sometimes just leaving him with Papa so I can drive across town to visit my mom gives me anxiety). I tried to be brave and schedule a weekend away in Minneapolis to visit one of my best friends... a trip I took regularly and without thought before having kids... but I couldn't go through with it. Fortunately, God has blessed me with some pretty amazing friends, and this one in particular happens to have a family cottage in northern Wisconsin. He suggested we meet there for the day, and I accepted. I was relieved to have a day away, but still be close enough that I could rush home if something happened.

Maybe you're thinking that's crazy, but it's part of my process. And, let's face it. We're talking about Jack here. The kid who had to be life flighted to Milwaukee a month after his brother was because he fell with a toy in his mouth and did major throat damage. It was the same flight team that came for Henry. Exactly the same. Their faces turned ashen as soon as they rounded the corner in the hospital and saw us standing there. Or, more accurately, saw my husband standing there and me sitting near by in a wheel chair unable to breathe properly. I faint easily, and nothing brings on a spell like one of my babies in the hospital, so extra precautions are always taken.

At any rate, I spent the day up north yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I didn't dwell on being away from Jack. I trusted that he was in capable hands with his Papa and lived in the moment for the first time in a long time, and it was blissful.

My friend (Chris) and I spent some time at his family's cottage, had brunch, did a little shopping, a little driving, a little hiking, a little reflecting. It was perfect. He is always worried about not doing enough to entertain me when I visit, but it really was exactly the kind of day I needed.

Here is a photo I took of the road we traveled up as we approached the Cathedral Pines area in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. How gorgeous is that? 

There is a sign as you enter the trail area that tells you this: "This area, called the 'Cathedral of Pines', was preserved as a result of the efforts of Lucy Rumsey Holt who influenced her husband, logger W.A. Holt, to leave it as virgin timber. Mrs. Holt used this area to teach Bible studies to her children and did not want the area disturbed. This 200 to 400 year old white pine and balsam old growth stand is also home to a Great blue heron rookery."

I am always in such awe when standing in the presence of history. To think that these pines are between 200 and 400 years old is amazing to me. I can't help but think about the different people who have crossed this same path and touched these same trees, and what their lives might have been like. How equally amazed would they have been if they could have seen me there yesterday snapping photos with my iPhone!

Speaking of iPhone's, did you know that your photo will look like this if you point it directly at the sun?

Yeah, me neither. :)

Just to give you an idea of the size of the pines, here's a photo of an unsuspecting Chris giving one a hug, and another I took at the base of that same tree looking up.

We crossed paths with two women at this point and took a picture for each other. Ignore my cute little pose. I just wanted to be short for once in my life. We were a little loopy with these women we'd never met before. If you know me at all, you'll know "loopy" is not a far stretch from reality for me. *wink*

After leaving the pines, we visited a small dam. I couldn't tell you how to get there or what the name of it was, but the lake was gorgeous with all the fallen leaves in the water:

 Here is a shot looking the other direction (bottom of the dam, out towards the river):

Someone took the liberty to "decorate" the dam with silver spray paint. Seriously, don't even get me started. Lovely antecdotes, like, "JUMP!" spray painted at the top of the dam were scattered here and there. Although I don't condone this type of vandalism AT ALL, I thought the silver heart on this rock did make for an interesting picture...

Same river, a little farther downstream:

Back at the lake Chris's family's cottage is on, I was impressed by how clear the water is. Growing up on a larger lake that is mostly filled with greenish brown water and corporate waste, this was amazing to me.  This was taken at the small boat landing area:

And this is the view they see from their back yard. The good life, to say the least.

Despite all the trials we have been through, I can honestly say that life, and the God we serve, is good. As someone far wiser than me (and anonymous) once said: "At the end of the day you can focus on what's tearing you apart, or what's holding you together." I'm trying my best to stay positive, and focus on what holds me together: God, and His blessings of family, friends, and nature. I feel more comfortable now with the idea of traveling farther from home (but will still take baby steps, I'm sure), and I think Papa is more comfortable with it, too. Jack was largely unphased through my absence, but isn't that always the way? The one you worry about the most is the one who seems to notice the least!  


Friday, October 7, 2011

Working It Out

I just finished reading another book about life and the grief process and thought I'd share it and a little story here since I haven't updated this blog in awhile. The book is called Working It Out by Abby Rike. Does anyone remember Abby from her season on The Biggest Loser? She was on the year Danny won, and was roomates with Shay - Season 8, which aired in the fall of 2009. I vividly remember watching the contestants introduce myself and her tear filled account of the accident that took the life of her husband, 5 year old daughter, and 18 day old son. I was heart broken for her and wondered to myself how she ever managed to move on from that experience. How she could move on from losing a child. Little did I know that before the season was over, I would be learning first hand.

After we lost Henry, Abby was one of the first people I thought of. I searched for her on Facebook and found the fan page that is run either by her or on her behalf and later posted a comment in the "death of a child" discussion area letting her know that she is in my prayers and thoughts regularly. I knew she had a book in the works, and was anxious to read it when it came out in May. Well, one thing led to another and me and reading didn't actually do too well together over the spring and summer. I've always been a book worm, but as Jack gets older and my daily window of free time gets smaller, I find I have time for only one hobby at a time and this year it was embroidery. I finally ordered the book a week or so ago and when it arrived, I finished it in a matter of days.

Sometimes, when I'm thinking about Henry and all that has happened to us, I am dead inside. I don't cry, I just feel empty. I have felt often that this feeling of emptiness makes me a bad mother. I should have some level of emotion, but it usually is not there. There are other times though that the emotions are so strong they are almost violent and they scare me to my core. It's a roller coaster in the truest sense, and it never ceases. Reading Abby's book, and seeing that she experienced the same types of highs and lows helped me to remember that I am normal. I am not a bad mother, I am not in denial. I am simply working through my emotions as they come to me, and that is enough. I in no way believe our situations were equal, but I do strongly believe that grief is grief, if that makes sense, and in that respect we are similar.

I also felt a deep connection with Abby because of how steadfast she has been in her faith through the last five years. When the doctor took my husband and I into the small conference room and sat down with us to tell us there was nothing more he could do, my first thought was not despair or destruction, but rather, I thanked the Lord that I was raised in faith. I thanked him silently as we sat there for blessing my life with a mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents who were all Christians and who went out of their way to ensure that I knew I was a child of God and that he would not forsake me. If it were not for that knowledge, that blessed assurance, I can honestly say I would not have been able to rise up out of that seat and walk out of that room under my own power. I swear to you with every fiber of my being that Jesus was in that room with us, and it was then that He carried me.

Abby wrote something in a journal entry two months after the accident that she shared in her book. It struck such a chord with me, I am going to share it here with you all, for I could have written these words myself.

What now? What do I do now? What plan does God have for me? If I have to suffer like this, then I want my life to matter. I want to know what I'm supposed to do. I want to know my plan. I am shattered and I'm trusting with childlike faith that God will put me back together again. This loss cannot be for naught.
~Abby Rike, December 3, 2006

I cried when I read that. And I don't mean those sweet little tears my grandma used to shed and discretely wipe away with a tissue. I mean I CRIED. I bawled. I gave a full on "ugly cry", as Oprah likes to call it. The topic was something I had often thought about, but never had the words to express until now. Instead of Why me? I have often felt What now? What am I to do with this lot in life? How can I use my experience to help others? I have put a lot of thought into bereavement counseling, but I'm not sure I'm up for more schooling with three unused degrees on the wall already. We've thought about fostering or adopting to help another child, but don't feel a strong draw to that calling either. I largely still feel like I'm floating in a vast ocean with no real direction as to where the dock may be. I have no specific goal other than my focus on raising Jack, preparing to educate him as a home schooling mom, caring for and loving my husband, and keeping our home up. I reach out to different areas and play them out in my mind, but nothing fits. Square pegs, round holes. I am almost morbidly drawn to history, bereavement, death, and dying, but how can I fit in there? Since losing Henry I have also developed a keen interest in heaven, health, and organized living, but again, I'm seeing no strong direction for my life. These are the answers I pray for.

Abby also spoke to my heart when she quoted passages from Job about the people who "sat in the ashes" with him. I have heard before from different people that our story is reminiscent of Job's story, but never took the time to think it through very well. Abby's stories about the love that surrounded her and the people who "sat in the ashes" with her - just being present without trying to offer advice or wisdom or ramble because they don't know any other way to fill the space - reminded me of the dear friends and family members we have been blessed with who did the same for us. It is truly humbling to think about.

Finally, Abby speaks about her experience on the Biggest Loser and her efforts to reach and maintain her goal weight - another topic near and dear to my heart. To say this book and this woman are an inspiration to me would be an understatement. I am not in the habit of building a library, and frequently pass books on to friends once I've finished them, but this copy of Working It Out is mine and will remain as such for a very long time. I hope you'll check it out. I think it will move you, regardless of your struggle.

If you could also take a moment to pray for Abby and her family this week, that would be wonderful. Thursday, October 13 marks the five year anniversary of the accident. I'm sure they can use all of the prayers they can get to help them through the upcoming days. For more information on Abby Rike, you can visit her personal website HERE. Check out her calendar and see if she's speaking near you. If she is, consider me jealous. I would love so much to meet her in person, but I have yet to figure out exactly how to make that happen. I will be praying about it, and if it's meant to be, I am confident God will find a way.

God bless,    


P.S. Please pardon my lack of blogger knowledge. I can't get this post left justified for the life of me. Except for this post script, that is. Go figure.