Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Family of Five -- Still

This morning I woke up with knots in my stomach.  I think it was two-fold.  A college friend of mine, Erica, has a 6 month old daughter, Savannah, who is having open heart surgery today to repair a VSD (hole in her ventricle).  I woke up probably five times last night, praying for their family and thinking about them.  It's such a heartrending road to walk -- having a child in the ICU, not being able to fix the little one you love, facing fears you never wanted to even acknowledge.  And I hurt for them that they're having to endure this.  At the same time, I hope from my depths that they get to experience the supernatural peace, grace, and love of God that we felt last year.  It's a life-altering experience to know God so intimately and personally, to feel His care in tangible ways, to be absolutely carried through a nightmare, and for the nightmare to feel like a path of pure grace and goodness.  I pray that they get to have that wonderful assurance of His faithfulness and presence.  It's something I would never trade.

I think I was also anxious when I woke up because a year ago today held two unforgettable and significant memories.  August 26 was the first time our family of five got to be all together.  It's when the hospital relaxed their rules because Samuel was dying, and as a result Joel met Samuel for the first time.  Cami, an wonderful photographer who volunteered her time for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, took pictures of our family together that I look at every day around our house.  I remember waking up last year a ball of knots.  I was so nervous about how the morning would go.  I was terrified that I would bawl through the whole thing and frighten Caleb and Joel.  I didn't know how I would be able to enter into that precious 30 minute window, fully present and yet mostly dry-eyed.  We so desperately wanted our time together to be a great memory for Caleb and Joel, but we didn't know if we could do it.  I vividly remember getting ready in the shower room and thinking, "All month I've been parenting Samuel.  This morning I am going to parent Caleb and Joel.  I am going to walk them through this day gently, lovingly, and present for their needs and questions and fears and sorrows and joys.  This morning, I am Caleb and Joel's Momma first and foremost."  And God was gracious.  I did just that, and it was an amazing time the five of us.  I was dry-eyed except for a few silent tears that trickled out while huddled together as a family of five.  Later that morning we told Caleb and Joel that the doctors didn't think Samuel would get to come home.  It was a heartbreaking conversation, and the grief of that morning has been with me today.

The other significant event from August 26 was Samuel's downturn from which he never recovered.  After our scare a few days before, his stats had rallied a bit, and that afternoon we even got a word of hope from our most pessimistic of doctors.  But while we were kicked out for shift-change and eating dinner in the cafeteria, Samuel turned far south, and he never gained back any ground.  From that point forward, I was certain Samuel was going to die.  It was a matter of time.  For me, it was a turning point.  Though I had assumed the worst was in our future, before that night I had a glimmer of hope that things might change.  It was miniscule, but it was there -- and it had been kindled a bit that day.  However after seeing him that night, I knew death was imminent.  Honestly, it enabled me to just enjoy my moments with him and not worry about his stats trending south.  They were going to go south; we knew that.  This was precious, blessed time together, and I soaked up every second I could and had more peace and calm than I'd had before.  In some ways knowing how it was going to end -- that it was going to end -- freed me up to just love Samuel and not worry about the future.  This was my time with him.  And I made the most of it. 

Last night when I came home from hanging out with the wives in my women's group, I noticed a lone gardenia blossom on our bush.  I stopped and took a deep breath.  So it was our bush that produced the two blossoms Mom and the boys sent us at the hospital last year, that assured me life was still beautiful and good.  I drank deeply of their scent then -- so different from the smells around Samuel -- either sterile or death-like, and I drew in their breath last night, too, holding it in and thanking God for His goodness and eternal nature.

The boys haven't talked about Samuel very much lately, but he does still come up from time to time.  Yesterday Joel was looking at a long basket on our table and saying, "Moses' basket."  Then he smiled and said, "Samuel's basket."  I saw him furrow his brow, and then he said, "Who hasn't died?  Who has a baby who hasn't died?....June's basket!"  It was heartbreaking to watch him realize it couldn't be Samuel's basket and then to hear him articulate his thoughts -- thinking about his dead baby brother and wanting instead to think about a live baby.  It made me sad.

Caleb mentioned Samuel to his teacher on his first day of kindergarten a couple of weeks ago.  I hadn't had a chance to tell her about Samuel yet, so when he brought it up, she didn't know what to think.  Apparently they were talking about the months of year and how this is August, and he said that he had a baby brother who was born and died in August.  It makes me wonder if Caleb feels the way I do -- that meeting new people is hard when they don't know about Samuel.  I feel weird until I am sure they know about Samuel's existence.  I'm not sure what it is, but it feels really wrong for someone to meet me and think that my family of four is complete, that this is all of us.  I feel like it dishonors Samuel, and it always makes me uneasy inside until I can mention that there is a third son who is no longer with us.  This summer the boys took swimming lessons, and we saw their swim teacher probably ten times.  It was always uncomfortable for me to think that in her mind I only had two sons.  On our last lesson I found a way to tell her naturally, and I felt a lot better that I did -- even though I'll probably never see her again.  I can't help but think Caleb might feel similarly. 

This week my mind has been pretty constantly on Samuel and what we endured last year this time.  I am so thankful for a record of his life.  And I am thankful that we had a month with our third son, for how he changed us forever, for how the unimportant things in life don't rattle me as much (like our car dying on our way home from Florida last weekend and being a one car family until we can buy a new one).  Samuel has enriched me so much, and I thank God every day for him.  But, I am really looking forward to September and being out of this month of August.  I'm glad it's almost here!

1 comment:

  1. Hi. You and I have never met, but I have been following your blog since a friend posted a link to it last Aug. I commented once before to thank you for restoring my faith after 2 miscarriages. Your words continue to inspire me now. I've prayed for you and your family to have peace during this difficult anniversary. And I also have prayed for you to have a healthy pregnancy and child again soon. On that note, I am currently 27 weeks with my second son. His name is going to be Samuel. We wanted a strong name that had meaning, and since it means "requested from God", I thought what better meaning than that. Thank you for opening my eyes to such a wonderful name and more importantly, opening my heart during a very difficult time last year. God Bless you!