We’ve been doing a bit of traveling the last couple of weeks. It has had its own therapeutic purposes and it has kept us quite busy. Last week, we were able to go to see Neil Young in concert in Chicago. It was good for us to see him. Reece actually claimed that “Heart of Gold” was his favorite song, followed closely by “Ohio”. We often listened to those songs on the drive to preschool and Reece requested hearing those songs when we were driving to and from the hospital for home visits. In fact the first thing he asked when we got in the truck before taking him home that first trip back was, “Can we listen to ‘Ohio’?” While Neil didn’t play either song during the Chicago concert, it was a great show and I think an important thing for Terry and me to do.
This past weekend, we went to Faith’s Lodge, which is a large lodge in northwestern Wisconsin that hosts bereaved families who have lost children. It is a place to spend time with each other in a serene setting, with other people who understand the loss of a child, and just be. The weekend was an important one for us. I do believe we will go back next year, although we will likely go to a parents’ only weekend. The ages of our girls demand much hands-on time and thus make it difficult to connect for long periods with others. However, I am glad that the girls went with us this time. I don’t care much for leaving them right now and it was really neat to see all the kids of various ages playing together. It occurred to me as the days passed that the kids that came to the lodge somehow corresponded in ages to the siblings lost by the other children. So kids and families played with each others’ kids in a therapeutic way…or at least that is how it felt to me. There weren’t any five-year-olds there, but there were many boys there older than Britta. It was bittersweet to see them running laps around the room, pushing oversized dump trucks and Cars vehicles, much like Reece used to do. Britta naturally gravitated to them. I noticed other families doing the same with both of our girls, although it may not have been a conscious thing. It was different from a regular playdate with other families. While I would never wish the loss of a child on anyone, it was important to have that time with other people who “got it” and who probably felt those bittersweet twinges in a real way right along with us. No one there discussed it with me, but then again, no one had to. If you’ve been through it, you understand–there’s no reason to discuss it. And that type of understanding is priceless.
There is this really beautiful area on the property where people paint stones with their child’s name on them and lay them near a bridge. We painted a stone for Reece. I think if he is aware of the stone (which I believe he is), he probably really likes it.
There is typically some period of time, before you add a child to your family, for preparation, planning, and adjustment–be it via pregnancy or the adoption process. It makes sense to me that after the loss of a child, the time immediately following would be an intense adjustment period as well; perhaps it never ends. As I discussed with one of the other mothers this weekend, right now it feels perfectly alright to be broken. I feel like we were operating in such a heightened survival mode for so long that now, the feelings of the trauma and exhaustion are catching up. No one can fix it or make it better and I don’t want anyone to try to do so. I guess this part of life demands brokenness and that brokenness has its own purpose. We need to assess the damage before we can try to put anything back together. Sometimes things can’t be made right and sometimes the holes that are created can’t be filled. I’m not interested in filling the hole and I’m not interested in even attempting to go back to the way things were. I’m not the person I was a year ago and I’m never going back.
I have been on a quest of sorts these last few months to figure out how our situation with Reece will be used in our lives. I love hearing from people about how Reece’s life touched their own; I know our Reecie had a big impact on this world and will continue to do so. He fulfilled his purpose here and I know we will hear about some of it, but that most of it we likely will not. I don’t believe that we were given this unique path as Reece’s parents to have it go unused in our own lives, though. Part of my desire to figure out what is in store next is that one doesn’t lose parental energy for a child that has passed away. I haven’t lost the energy that I have specifically for Reece and I can’t just redirect it to my other kids. It has to go somewhere and I want that “somewhere” to be a productive and positive thing. It is slightly ridiculous that I am rushing to figure this out–it’s probably a knee-jerk grief reaction to scramble; if I have learned anything it’s that God has perfect timing for everything, including this part of the plan. Still, I think I have a fair amount of paranoia that if I don’t figure out something productive to do with the energy, it could become destructive. But I’ll save those thoughts for another post.
Another part of my desire to know what is next in store is that I want to figure out my life’s purpose in some sort of attempt to figure things out earlier on in life, versus wasting time on the non-essential. Somehow in my mind I hope that perhaps the Lord will mercifully spare me from a prolonged life here by doing so; maximize my time in some sort of way. This last statement, I can already tell as I re-read it, could be largely misunderstood. I’m not suicidal or ungrateful for my life. I love my life here–love my husband, my kids, my family, and who I believe God made me to be. But I believe to my core that this is not our final place–that God has a purpose for each of us on earth and that once it is fulfilled, our time here is done. This strong belief I have, coupled with my grief state over Reece, leaves me feeling urgent to figure out the rest of the plan (an impossible task, really) so that my time here won’t be living until a ripe old age. At the same time, I know a big purpose of mine is to raise my girls in a God-honoring way and to help them understand how Jesus loves them. And I thoroughly enjoy all of my family, so it feels conflicting to want to leave them here. Until I’ve done the part God has tasked me to do on the child-raising front, I will be here regardless. Still, I believe there is likely another part of my life’s purpose that I have yet to uncover. So I feel urgency to help life along as best I can, if that makes any sort of sense. I don’t want to take a lackadaisical attitude that prevents me from seeing Jesus and Reece for one more day than necessary. That may seem bizarre, but if you walked in my shoes for five minutes, you would understand the constant pull Heaven-ward on a daily–no, hourly, and at times minute-by-minute–basis. I suspect when my girls (God-willing) graduate high school and move out, it will feel like a watered down version of this. Heavily watered down, that is.
On an encouraging note, I feel like I may have received some clarity over the last couple of weeks regarding what I am supposed to be doing going forward. I am still praying about it, because it is admittedly not a path that I would naturally be choosing. And since my life, especially this last year, has been full of God’s plans for me being completely inconsistent with my own desired outcomes and plans, this seems to be a sign that it may in fact be the right thing. This area of what I believe I am perhaps being called to do seems to make a lot of sense to me in light of all that has happened and our desire to make some sense out of it. The most I can say right now is that I do feel it involves writing. So I thank-you for your continued prayers in this area, as sorting through this will be an important part of the healing process for me. I also thank-you for your continued prayers for our family.