Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Barbie Tree.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I would write in detail about my Christmas tree. I have tried to scan a picture so that you could visualize it in real life- but I must have a bulb out or something, because the scanner is not doing what it usually does.
So, here is the legacy of the Barbie Christmas tree, that you'll have to use your imagination to "see". That first Christmas I faced without my daughter, Teagan was approaching 4 years ago and I was an emotional time bomb. I was still dealing with my own physical problems (muscle/tissue and nerve damage) plus reeling with grief, on top of trying to regain a sense of "normalcy" in our home. That meant living with traumatic stress disorder in my young son, nightmares and headaches for myself, intense physical/occupational and speech therapy for my daughter, Wyndham and a husband recovering from an injured spleen and 8 fractured ribs.
You put yourself in that position and ask yourself "How should I celebrate Christmas this year?" I know that some of you have lost loved ones and you know that stabbing pain you feel every moment you're awake and even sometimes in your dreams. It takes a lot of happiness out of things that used to be fun...and can heap more pain on you as you imagine a favorite time of year without the physical presence of that person that made the holiday extra special. I still feel that. It doesn't stab as deep as it did that first Christmas- but it is always there. And it hurts all the time. For me it's become a lump in my throat that comes at certain times- like when the snowflakes start to appear in the air for the first time in winter. Or when I hang the stockings and I'm not sure how many to put up on the mantel. Or when someone says, "Hope this Christmas is the best one yet"...and in my heart I know it won't ever be. I've already lived the best Christmases of my life. Now they can still be special- but they will never again be the same.
Okay. I guess this is the long version of the story of the Barbie tree. I'll try to stay on track. So, that first Christmas was rougher than I imagined it would be. I cried every time I stood in line and saw someone with a child. I was missing mine. I cried when I tried to walk down the toy aisles to pick out gifts for my other 2 kids. It just plain HURT! I didn't want to think about my sad life- and the hustle and happiness of everyone around me made me feel horrible. On returning from one of these shopping trips I stepped inside the house, bawling and telling my husband Chip that it wasn't fair. As if he needed to be reminded of our situation being so horrible. I stood in the kitchen blubbering about our life and how much it sucked and how I was the unluckiest mother to never be able to buy Teagan anything Barbie and frilly again. That I just wanted to skip Christmas and turn back time to summer and get a chance to relive that fateful day. That was my one wish---and it could never come true.
Chip agreed with me on almost every statement I said...except one. He told me I could buy Teagan a bunch of Barbie stuff. He said go out and buy a bunch of stuff and instead of giving it to her- give it in her memory to Toys for Tots. The idea lifted my spirit right there. I mentioned the idea to a friend who asked us instead to donate and decorate a tree for a community charity auction. You know the kind. Black tie event where you bid on trees and then the money goes to a certain fund. We were all over the idea. I signed up and went to work.
We ended up creating a foundation in Teagan's name [The Teagan Ferlaak Memorial Foundation] and decorated and donated a tree. We called it "Teagan's Dream Tree" and it was covered top to bottom in pink/silver and purple balls, Barbie toys, lipgloss, real life Barbie dolls- including an "Angel" Bride Barbie on top. It had white glittery tinsel and pink strings of beads. I made ornaments with Teagan's picture on them- her smiling face lit up that tree. I walked up and down the Barbie aisles with tears in my eyes- but this time I had a greater purpose and it helped to ease the pain I was feeling. I even got to hear a couple of little girls exclaim that some other girl was going to have the best Christmas ever. It made me realize that in fact Teagan would be having her best Christmas ever. She would be celebrating with the real angels in Heaven and singing to Jesus- to whom we owe our praise and worship this time of year and all the year through! She was a lucky girl indeed.
It took me 2 afternoons to get the tree just right. It was the first tree that you saw when you entered the hall. Chip and I decided we had to dress up and attend the event. It would be good to get out of the house and socialize and pretend that we were a happy couple for a few hours. We went and were having a nice evening. The Barbie tree was auctioned off last. The event planners called it the "Belle of the Ball". It took top dollar- raising $1500.00. We were very proud and it made me realize that even in the middle of my pain and grief I could create joy. I have tried to adopt that idea as kind of a life mission statement. That even though life doesn't always go my way, or when there is unfair suffering and pain, that I can feel that. But I can't let that determine how I live. I've learned and am still learning that life can have some very dark valleys- but there is always a path out of them. And the sooner I search for it- the sooner I lift myself out of those depths. There is joy in any circumstance- sometimes you have to make it yourself- like the Barbie tree.
Here's the point of this whole story. I was ready to sit home, pout, sulk, cry and feel really sorry for myself and depressed that others were enjoying all the fun. Instead, my husband and I had a very nice evening out. [Side story here: I found out the morning of that event that I was pregnant with another baby- and the due date was the anniversary of the day Teagan died. How's that for a twist in all we were going through?! By the way- we were not planning or trying or ever thinking of having another baby- especially at this point in our lives. In fact, there had only been like half a chance that it could have even been possible for me to get pregnant at this time- and it actually happened. That's when I knew God was still in control of ALL we were going through.] Oh yeah.
I told Chip that we were having a baby that night too. He TOTALLY didn't believe me. I don't remember how I finally convinced him- but I do remember he grinned the first smile I had seen on his face that came from real happiness...and he hugged me not out of our pain and grief- but out of the joy we realized we still had available to us in this life. It was a memoriable night for both of us- and when the bidding was done on the tree it made us so proud that our pain had brought a nice amount of money- for a great cause. The story then came full circle. I had shed several tears as I decorated the tree. I thought of Teagan and the way her eyes would have sparkled had she stood in front of my creation for her. I imagined the way she might have been telling her new friends in Heaven about her Mommy making her the greatest tree ever for her. I cried for myself and the way I was able to move through my pain.
The following morning after the event, the Barbie tree was delivered to our home- it was placed in our living room decorated top to bottom just as I had left it the night before. The man who bid and won the tree said that he couldn't bear the thought of anyone else having the tree. He said it belonged to our family and he was thrilled to be able to give it back. That is how we came to get a Barbie Christmas tree. I put it up again this year- only with most of the Barbie items packed away. It still has pink and silver balls and sparkly white tinsel and pink strings of beads. But I am saving the Barbies to put in my girls stockings this year. I still see Teagan "in that tree" and my heart still aches that she has never helped to put it up with me. But it is a visual reminder to me that when you choose to do something good in this world- even if the source of that goodness comes from pain or hurt- it will always yield a beautiful result.
Keep that in mind as you walk through your own circumstances in life. There will be pitstops and roadblocks and dark valleys- but there is always something beautiful along the way. Even if you have to plant your own roses to smell along the way. The fragrance of your efforts is your joy and reward. And yes, Chip and I did have the baby that I told him about that night the following July. She's our Isabella Teagan- born 4 days before the first annivesary of losing Teagan. Her likeness to Teagan is remarkable, her attitudes and behaviors as well. And we wouldn't trade a minute of her life for anything!
I think this post is lengthy enough for a day or two- in case I don't blog again 'til Monday. Enjoy the blessings that await you this season. They are there for the taking...and giving as well!


Deanna- yep Dee-na said...

I just had to comment here too... as i sit here crying. Thank you for sharing that. : )

cuznred said...

Lately my 3 year old has really been trying my patience and I've lost it a time or two, raising my voice higher than I should. Thank you for sharing your story, I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. Thank you taking me aside in your story and explaining how blessed I am that my 3 year old is with me. I've really been struggling with my daughter's strong will and I know that God sent me to your blog (through a friend) to find a way to relate my girls and to be a better mother.

Janet said...

I'm new to the blogging thing but had to tell you that I loved the Barbie tree story. Thank you for sharing. It's an inspiring tale that you've gone through. When I think about you I will say a prayer for you and for Teagan.

I.N. said...

boy, you sure have a great skill and you know how to put your thoughts in words. simple&clear.

HelenaK said...

Beautiful story. I'm speachless and my tears are soaking up my keyboard. :) Thank you for sharing!!

AndreaWiebe said...

Love you so much Jody :D