Friday, July 29, 2011

Three thousand, six-hundred and fifty days...

Three thousand, six-hundred and fifty days. Not counting Leap Years. That's a whole lot of missing.
I know.
That's how long it's been since I last kissed my daughter, Teagan. That's how many days my heart has wished I could turn back the hands of time. That's the number of times I've awoke in the morning and wished my reality was just a bad dream from which I could awaken from.
A whole decade of letting that reality sink in still hasn't changed the clarity of my memories of "that day". The one where everything I had learned and believed up to that point in my life would be shaken and tested. Ten years have passed and my heart rate still jumps at certain sights, sounds, smells and those triggers bring me right back to that day. They are etched, as few other memories in my life are, in such detail and wrapped up in the greatest pain I have ever felt. Sometimes I close my eyes and start to bring them to mind and all these years later I still find I need to catch my breath as those pictures unfold in my memory.
The crash. The screams. The slow-motion of it all. The disbelief and unreal feeling feeling all too real. The sense of urgency outweighing the terror I felt creeping in. The horror I was trying not to let in just kept unfolding unlike any dream I could have ever dreamed on my own. The weight of Teagan's limp body in my arms as I carried her several paces and then realized I had no where to go so I stopped and laid her down. That's the part when it all began to seem achingly real.
I kept hearing myself say, "Oh God... oh, God... oh, God... please."
Please, what?
Please, help. Please, NO! Please don't let this be us... just please, oh, please!
But it was us. And them.
* * *
There is a story in the Bible where someone asks Jesus how many times must you forgive someone when they sin against you. One time? Two? Three? Seven?
Jesus' reply is "Not seven times, but seventy times seven."
Four hundred and ninety times.
That's an awful lot of forgiveness.
I used to wonder (as a young girl growing up as a Pastor's kid and hearing these stories often) why would Jesus pick some a random, big, crazy number? I used to think it was way too much. Who would ever need to forgive someone that many times... 490 times?
I certainly never dreamed it would be me. Moreover, I most certainly never dreamed that not only would I have to choose to forgive seventy times seven, but even hundreds more times than that.
Three thousand, six-hundred and fifty times. In just the first 10 years alone.
Forgiveness is a choice. I choose daily to forgive.
But I must confess and be truthful too and tell you that sometimes I fail. Some days I have desired forgiveness in my heart and soul, yet I have fallen short in living it out in the actions of my life that day. I have claimed forgiveness to be so, but it hasn't always been true in the thoughts of my mind. I have even "fought it" on particularly tough days that simply haven't felt fair for me to forgive. There have been lots of tough days over the past 10 years. There have been lots of days where I have felt life to be unfair.
But it isn't my place to decide when or why or how or where. As much as I would like to choose which days I can forgive fully and which days I can just skip that part, I know I am not the one who gets to decide. I am not the one chosen to hand out the punishment or sentence. I was chosen for something else. I am asked to forgive out of the overflow of forgiveness given to me. I am asked to show mercy where none is deserved. I have been shown grace and in such an act given to me even when I was less than, I am changed and now I know it is grace that I can extend to another who is less than too.
Ten years ago I was "doing everything right". I was a middle-class, tax-paying, home-keeping, church-going, hard-working wife and mom to three young kids who just happened to sit down around a table at a restaurant with my family in hopes of simply enjoying a simple Sunday brunch together. However, the actions of another forever changed the way I now look at life.
I wish I could say that my scars have healed and that we've blossomed into a family that lives life to the fullest and has learned to leave our worries behind.
The fact is that 10 years later I still feel an ache inside on a lot of days. Sometimes I even mutter the words, "I forgive you" outloud just to try to make myself believe that truth and hopefully feel it a bit more clearly inside. I know I have forgiven. I have claimed it over and over and I do feel it has changed the way I live. But it is still oftentimes a conscious choice- or should I say a surrender on my part to claim that forgiveness. I'll even admit that it's still a lesson I wish I never had to learn. Yet it seems to be the life lesson I've needed most.
I am nothing.
Teagan was nothing.
The one who turned our lives upside-down is nothing.
We all are nothing.
Without Him.
Without His Grace.
Without His Forgiveness. Without His love and mercy and compassion and healing.
I choose to believe that His ways are not my ways; His are higher and perfect and Just.
Good even.
Even when I don't feel it. Even when I have to pick up my cross daily and claim it to be true.
I will.
For 10 years I have.
It hasn't always been easy. Or nice. Or pretty.
Or wrought with showers of blessings- as the old hymn says.
I'll be honest.
It hurts.
A lot of days it still hurts.
Teagan was my light~ my delight~ she was irreplaceable and there is still a void in my heart and forever will bein my life where I feel she should be. Where I miss everything about her.
Wyndham too is a daily reminder of the most hurtful day of our lives as we continue to watch her struggle to do many of the "normal" things others can do. We see her suffer pains in her life that many will never know. With each diaper change and never-ending trips to and from therapy sessions we are reminded that some hurts will never go away. We have learned to live with them.
Three thousand, six-hundred and fifty days ago the sky was blue, the sun was shining down and somehow our lives suddenly erupted with chaos all around.
Ten years later we've "righted" a lot of things. We've learned to laugh through our tears. We've learned to hold on to even the tiniest threads of hope at times. We've chosen to forgive and to live that and truly mean it- not simply mouth the words. We've healed more than we could have imagined we could or would- both inside and out. We've loved again. We've believed in brighter days. We've brought more kids into the world that at times felt empty and dark. We've witnessed happiness and beauty and joy and miracles.
We have walked a long, winding, twisted path that still doesn't always seem like the path to be on, but we know that faith sometimes asks us to walk places we would rather not go. Faith often means we must take the next step no matter what lies around the next turn. It means being willing to trust, simply because we know and believe in the One who is leading- He can be trusted.
Ten years of remembering. Of missing. Of wishing it all different. Of wanting things to never change from the way they were. Ten years of tears that feel like they'll never stop- then finding moments of joy in the midst of them. Ten years of forgiving and hoping and believing that it makes a difference. In us. In her. In anyone who wonders if it even does make a difference in life to forgive.
The answer is yes. It does. It can. It will.
If you allow it to.
I'll never stop remembering Teagan. I'll never stop missing her. I'll never stop loving her. Or telling stories about her to anyone that is willing to listen. I'll never stop wanting to live life more fully because of her. She is and always will be thelove of my heart.
I forgive, not because of her, but because of Him.
I follow- because He is faithful.
I believe- because He promises to make all things new.
I hope- because He gives mercy.
I am changed, not because of one day in my life, but because of what He did one day for me. I am changed because of who HE is. I still give Him the broken, messed up pieces of my heart and life and trust that even as He redeems the brokeness that it's not for my sake.
But for His glory.
As I think back to the horror of that day- July 29th, 2001- it's scary and terrifying and ugly and gloomy and filled with despair. Yet somehow God has brought good out of it. Even when I don't notice the goodness. Sometimes it's hard to see it very often; that's been especially true in our lives the past several months. But looking back has made me realize just how great God is. I still have a whole future of choosing forgiveness and giving our hurts and challenges to Him.
I know, without a doubt, as I have had 10 years- three thousand, six-hundred and fifty days- of daily reminders that He is seeing us through! Today I pause to reflect and to humbly give thanks to God for bringing us this far.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The number of her days...

Yesterday I posted on my FaceBook status that Teagan came up to me while I was making her lunch and out of the blue asked me, "Mommy, how many days am I?". I spun around and looked at her and sort of laughed when I told her, "I'm not exactly sure of the number, but you're a lot of days old, Sweetie, and you have a lot of days left".

It turns out I was wrong.

She had only a couple of days left on this earth.

I have been thinking a lot about how I might have lived those 48 hours differently if I had known they would be our last days together. I've blogged about the topic before and how I really feel it was probably best for me not to know- especially when life took such a drastic turn. I know nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen in our lives back then.

A big part of the peace and acceptance of Teagan's death though has hung on the fact that we know and trust that God was not surprised one bit by what happened. In fact, the Bible even tells us that even before a single day comes to be, He has ordered that number perfectly.

God knew before Teagan ever took her first breath just how many days she would live out on this earth.

She lived the perfect number of days. For her.

It's not to my liking, that's for certain, but my heart has accepted it as much as a mother's heart can, I believe.

She lived and loved fully. I know I overthink the what if's, the why's, the how's and never stop wondering where we would be in life if things had gone differently that day. Somehow just knowing that I'll never forget and I'll never stop loving her- even when she's gone helps to temper the weight of the grief I feel from all we've lived through and emptiness we've felt having Teagan gone. The breadth of her life was short, but the impact I still feel from the days she did live on earth have forever touched the core of me.

Tomorrow we mark 10 years since our tragedy at The Old Depot.

I only hope that even as I recall the memories of our past I won't take the days we all have left for granted. Not one single one.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bella's birthday and thoughts...

Yesterday was Bella's 9th birthday. She requested Baked Caramel French Toast for breakfast and she is in love with all things Pokemon, so I added some detailing to a Ryke's cake and it was one sugary, tasty day for all of us. =)

I was secretly hoping her birthday wish would be for all the laundry to wash, dry and put itself away, but I guess that wasn't it as I still have two clean piles to put away as I type this. I hope she wished for good things to happen in life. We are all still so ready for things in life to turn down the stress levels a bit and to get back to a more "normal" state. It's been a wild, long year for all of us and there's still a ways to go too.

I always get especially nostalgic at Bella's birthday as she was born just 4 days prior to the first annivesary of Teagan's death and our family tragedy. It's still so hard to grasp all that went on in that one calendar year back from July '01-'02. I still can't begin to know how it is that a person can lose one child and gain another in less than a year's time, but I can tell you that Bella has added joy and personality and she is such a thoughtful girl too. Nobody could have ever filled Teagan's {sparkly!} shoes, but Bella sure filled our hearts back with a taste of happiness and hope that we hadn't had in a long time. I'm so glad God sent her into our lives 9 years ago. I only wished she could have met her big sister.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Happiness is...

Happiness is all around us. Somewhere. In someone or something or even in a dream we imagine no matter where we are or what we are going through. I have learned the secret of seeing or finding happiness. It's in being open to it. Looking for it. Wanting it. Aching for it. Being intentional about seeking it.

Suddenly, sometimes right in front or above or swirling around you, there it is.

Happiness was so evident when Crew got his hands into a new bucket of chalk and had a clear, blue sunny day to play with it on the driveway. Happiness rarely costs a thing, but at the same time you can't begin to put a price on it. It just is. It doesn't have conditions or strings attached or deadlines or hidden agendas.

My biggest problem with happiness?

It's me.

Far too often I miss it.

I miss seeing it.

I miss looking for it.

I want it packaged differently.

I want to make it happen my way.

Or the other person's way.

Or I just plain forget that it's even out there because clouds seem to get in my way, when in reality the clouds are the vehicle and tool leading me through or toward happiness.

I used to believe in a world where happiness was the guarantee. I used to believe that if you did everything right- or at least tried to do it all right- you'd find it or it would simply come to you. I have since grown and experienced the truth which is the reality that "right" isn't a guarantee for anything. It still is the best way to live and try to do things. But it isn't a shield or automatic "free card" for experiencing happiness.

In this month of reflection I find it even more important for me to look for the simple happiness in people and things around me.

Like laughter of kids in summer as they play chalk on the driveway.

Like the look of pride on Wyndham's face as she pedaled her bike on her own the other night after nearly a year of not being able to ride on it.

I see it in the sparkle of Teague's eyes as he tries something new- like opening a cupboard door and pulling out the containers stacked neatly inside the doors.

I see it in Bella and Ava when they ask for a "sleepover" and they hear the answer "yes" and then they smile as they head off to bed in the same room.

I sense it in Brock each time he gets to do something where he exercises independence. Even or should I say, especially in the little things- like getting a library card and riding his bike to check out some books.

I know it's there. Every day. In the big stuff; the little stuff; the amazing moments and equally in the mundane ones too.

I am choosing to claim it and embrace it daily right now. It might not change my world and they way I see things or change the way things are, but it changes a moment. Or two. Or three. And when I start noticing happiness the way it was meant to be experienced, I start to feel it in my heart. That, my friends, happens to be the place where happiness matters most.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer days.

Summer seems to fly by no matter if you're a kid enjoying a break from school or if you're busy trying to keep up with kids home from school. Isn't that right? Or even if you don't have kids and you just want to soak in as much fun and sun as possible. There just aren't enough hours to squeeze everything in.

But we're trying our best around here. Wyndham has a demanding schedule of therapy right now and that actually has allowed me to get out with the other kids a little bit more than I had thought I would be the past few weeks. She gets to spend some free time at the club with Chip- sitting at the computer playing Paint and games and even getting to ride the cart around the course from time to time. She is loving it and is working hard at getting comfortable on her feet and using a cane. I am much more hopeful with her prognosis now than I was at the beginning of the summer. Sometimes hard work actually does pay off!

One of the things I have to do during these summer days of July is to try to over-compensate for what I am feeling inside as we get closer and closer to the anniversary of our Old Depot incident. It is such a struggle for me inside still- 10 years later- to not let the grief creep in and overshadow the fun we still can have as a family no matter what is on our hearts. One of the things I did, mostly for me =), was to get out the Easy Bake oven and make a couple of batches of tiny cookies. It is one of the activities Teagan loved to do most and her fingerprints are still smudged on the window on the front of the oven where you peek inside to watch the cookies bake. I have told my kids they are welcome to peek inside and touch the window too; however no one is allowed to ever whip the window clean. Just knowing that she is still a part of the memoies of the little oven makes the treats we bake taste that much better to me. The kids all oved making the chocolate crinkle cookies {click here for the recipe we used and love!} and I just hope they will grow up understanding that grief and remembering and having fun and laughing can all be rolled into one. I don't know how else to live with my grief other than to incorporate it into their lives too. I don't think they will ever fully grasp what a sudden and profound loss we experienced when Teagan died, and rarely, if ever, do they see me shed a tear anymore, because I simply don't cry they way I used to. I think they will associate good memories and fun times when it comes to Teagan and that's exactly the way I want them to think about the sister that still holds a big piece of my heart. I think Teagan would be happy to see us having picnics and baking with the play oven and recalling the ways she filled our lives with joy.

These summer days are challenging for me in more than one way. But I am glad that I've been able to learn to tie joy and sorrow together. Not just for me. But for them too.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

It's never the best photo...

It's never the most techinically correct, nor do I care if everyone is looking into the camera with smiles on their faces- it's more than that to me. Our last family photo with Teagan was taken as we sat together awaiting the 4th of July fireworks. Each year that we've had the opportunity to do so, I have made a point to try to get a family picture snapped. This one was taken yesterday as we sat and waited for our local parade to begin.
It's crazy to me how life has gotten so much harder for us over the past 10 years, rather than as I would have expected it to have gotten "easier". Maybe it is the marking of a decade and that reality sinking in as the end of this month approaches and the 10th anniversary of our tragedy draws near. Maybe it is simply I wish with all my might that I could live the life I imagine in my mind, but wake up to the fact that wishes don't always come true. Maybe it is the fact that Wyndham- who so deserves every good thing that this world has to offer her- has walked such a long, difficult, hard path for almost her whole life, and she is the one I watch sitting on the sidelines having to let life pass her by far too many times that I feel nothing in this world can ever make it up to her anymore.
Maybe it is in the surrendering.
It's still my biggest challenge. To know when to hold on and when to let go.
I feel I've lived it and learned it, and yet it is the lesson that keeps coming up. Time and time again.
I gave up on the "perfect" family photo years ago, thank goodness for that! But I'm still not ready to give up on loving all of us in spite of our imperfections. It's our flaws that keep us holding on. More tightly than I imagined at times, but the blessing is we're all still together. I just never dreamed we would ever have gotten as big as we did! Ten years changes a lot of things- our family looks a whole lot different than it did back then. I wonder what we'll look like in another 10 years! I have no idea, but I can tell you that we won't be perfect then either! =)