It’s May 1st. I have highly anticipated this month. Both with excitement and with a little bit of fear. I can’t help but allow this spring weather and new life beauty to take me back to last year at this time. There were so many unknowns. When would Simon come? What would he look like? What would it be like to say hello and goodbye to our second son? Would he breathe? If he does breathe, what would it be like to watch him die? What would it be like to sit through my son’s funeral? Would Teddy remember all of this? Would people forget Simon? What will the loss of a child do to our marriage? What happens when life goes on and I am still grieving the loss of my second born? Will people want to listen to me talk about Simon? I now know all of these answers now and I stand in awe of the beauty of each one of God’s responses.
A lump in my throat forms when I think back to all of these unknowns. That mom, me, really didn’t know what was coming. What’s ironic about all of the unknowns is that once something becomes known, only a new series of unknowns start to form. We never ever know what is really coming. We just do our best to plan and enjoy the journey. If God would have told me this time last year, “Sweet child of mine, you won’t only lose Simon, but you will lose another child six months later” I would’ve been baffled. Shoot – I’m still baffled by it all. Even after living through it all. My friend Melissa and I were just texting about this the other day. Right after Simon was born my best friends Cate and Melissa flew from Chicago to meet him. I recall standing in my kitchen and telling Melissa on the phone that I really wanted her to come and meet Simon, but that I couldn’t promise he would be alive when she got here. What a strange thing to say when your son is three days old. Today, I did another strange thing that many mothers hopefully won’t experience – I purchased a birthday cake for my son’s first birthday but yet my son isn’t here. I’m having it decorated the same as Simon’s only birthday cake. However, after pondering for weeks what to write on the cake, I was still at a loss but decided I better go ahead and wander into the bakery and get it ordered. For me, “happy birthday, Simon” just wasn’t right. Just “Simon” seemed too sad as well. So, inside the bakery I found myself sitting on their couches in the corner calling Adam asking him what it should say. We talked about it before, but never decided on what to do. Without hesitation Adam said, “We love you, Simon.” And that’s what this cake will say. It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to plan a birthday celebration for your child who has died. You desperately want to honor and remember your baby - but at one point, you dreamed of your child’s first birthday having a much different feel and theme. Trucks maybe? Cake smashing? Most definitely. But I remember this truth as I type through tears – that just wasn’t Simon’s story. His story wasn’t what we imagined. It was one that begged to be told and would help change many people over the course of 250 days (243 inside the womb and 7 days outside the womb).
To say Simon’s life has changed me is a bit of an understatement. However, it was Thomas’ life that helped me fully accept and better understand Simon’s life. In the last four to five months I can finally say I have fully surrendered and accepted God’s will for my family and me. I resisted for some time and desperately wanted it different. That is natural and even normal – I’m human and a mom who’s lost her sons, after all. For over a year I said, I’d choose an alive and healthy/normal Simon rather than God’s plan. I’ve said countless times, I am so thankful for all he did in my life and others lives (a mended marriage, families rethinking their faith walk, new believers, restored relationships), but that I would forgo all of that restoration for just a typical little Simon to be with us. But now, nearly a year a later, I confidently stand with God in his decisions. I don’t say this because I am brave; or because I want to look like a super-Christian; or because I want to receive mom –of-the-year award. I say this because it’s really true in my heart. Although it wasn’t supposed to be this way (Genesis 3) and we are currently waiting on Christ’s full restoration of the world, for now, we receive sweet foretastes of heaven. Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28 seem to be verses that pop up weekly in my mind me of God’s goodness and promise to us here on earth and always – God will always use all things for his glory. I feel like especially now, while we wait for restoration of the world, he isn’t letting me miss all of the ugly and bad of this world that he is using for his good. We can all try to imagine what heaven might be like – perfect, right? No death, no fighting, no disease, no confusion and as one friend says, no rust! We can’t fathom it because we live in a shattered broken world.
I know to some, including some really great friends, my words about a restored world, new life, what heaven might be like, connecting with the Holy Spirit, a personal walk with Christ just seems, well, a little hocus pocus and pretty far off from your walk in your faith or what you might call your religion. Maybe I use words that seem churchy or you don’t even know what I am talking about some of the time! The good news is that God meets us wherever we are in our walk. If we are seeking him, he answers. If you’ve been putting off learning about God or you feel like you are constantly just checking a box by attending church and not receiving any sort of personal connection with Christ, may I encourage you, if you are feeling lead, to seek out your faith further? It might be as simple as talking to your spouse about attending church more often and raising your kids in the church/Sunday school. Maybe you attend church and have been thinking about joining a bible study/small group – do it.
Years ago, what brought me back to Christ was listening to a broadcast/podcast called Focus on the Family. It’s a quick 28 minute weekday program that covers various topics from a Christian perspective. Speaking of podcasts there are millions of podcasts that just might fit you – on parenting/mothering, many specific to Catholics, sermons, and even one that addresses questions of the bible and worldly topics! Maybe you could follow a few Christian blogs. Or simply like some facebook pages of your favorite Christian organizations. If the Old King James version of the bible that you got when you were baptized or were confirmed is unapproachable, daunting and hard to read, get a bible that you would want to pick up and read – maybe The Message paraphrase of the bible is a better fit for you when all the stuffy sounding words don’t make sense. Maybe you’d rather download the free bible app on your phone and start a basic listening plan of the bible. Ultimately, I am just trying to encourage you (and me) to go where you might be feeling lead. If it’s been in the back of your mind to find that you’d like to explore your faith more, maybe now is the time. What is your call to action? Do you have one? If you are trying to do life on your own, I can promise you there’s a different way. Not necessarily easier. But definitely a path filled with true hope.
So, since I am asking you what your action call is, I thought I would share mine. A few weeks ago, Adam and I attended a banquet for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) of Kansas City – Adam is the board chairman for Kansas City Center City. Les Steckel, President and CEO of FCA spoke briefly and encouraged the attendees to evaluate their lives through three Rs. Risk, reflect and return. So, here is my attempt at applying those three words in my own life.
Risk – It has been a risk to share our lives through this blog. I had no idea what sort of response we would receive by sharing Simon’s story, and then Thomas’ story and our lives in such an open book fashion. Would we lose friends? Would we receive hurtful comments? The reward of sorting through my thoughts via the blog has far outweighed the risk. I’ve learned that friends come and go, while some stay consistent and that hurtful words would’ve been said even without this blog. I’ve also learned that by sharing our words we have helped ourselves process grief and met others who are also walking this road of loss.
Reflect – May 2014 through May 2015 has been a constant time of reflection. I reflect on all that was given and all that was taken. My reflection seems to naturally lead to thankfulness and gratitude to God’s unending favor. The reflection also gives me hope to the future. Hope in God’s word and promise (Mathew 7:7).
Return – And now comes the next step, what will I do to give back to God and others? My personal goal was to have all of thank yous from Simon’s life completed by his first birthday – I will likely not be able to achieve this goal. And for that, I am thankful. I am thankful I still have many to write – I plan to focus on thanks the week of Simon’s first anniversary week of life, birthday and death. I desperately long to get back to the utter dependence of Christ that I found during Simon’s week of life. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before. And while I cannot recreate it, I will do my best to bring myself back to the memories by recalling how others gave to us during that week (before and after) and will write thank you cards in my quiet time.
Furthermore, Adam and I also have exciting plans of honoring both Simon and Thomas’ lives and legacy May 14-22, 2015. However, we will need your help. I plan to announce exactly what we are doing here on the blog on May 14 at 9:55pm, the time of Simon’s birth. We will celebrate that entire week by fundraising for something pretty awesome. The fundraising site will close at the time of Simon’s death. The item we are fundraising for will be donated on Friday, May 22, 2015 – Thomas’ due date. I’m eager to share with you our big plans – however, you’ll have to check back in with us in about two weeks to help us out. Will you please join us in celebrating and giving back?