Monday, August 30, 2010

Stepping in to These Days

A year ago today was the last full day we spent with Samuel.  It was a hard day.  I remember how awful it was to wake up every morning to our alarm at 5:45am after a fitful night's sleep at best.  We'd be clinging to each other on a twin cot, too sad and heartbroken to sleep in separate beds, and we'd be immediately flooded with our reality and the fears of what the last 5 and a half hours had brought for Samuel.  Silently, we would rise, dress, pop a piece of gum in our mouths, hug each other for a long minute, and begin the long, interminable walk downs the halls to Samuel's pod.  Each step was filled with the weight of fear, grief, longing, exhaustion, and pain.  They were the longest walks of my life -- those 2 minutes every morning from our sleep pod to Samuel's side.  I dreaded what news we might hear, how much more swollen he would look in our six hours away, and what our first glimpse of his stats on the monitors would reveal.  I woke every morning with my stomach in the soles of my feet and my heart in my throat, and I wonder if that's why I've started every day the last week with my stomach in knots and feeling anxious.

August 30th is the day we signed a DNR for Samuel.  We weren't at a place where we wanted to remove his support, though we wondered if that day would come, but we did know we didn't want a "Code Blue" called when his heart stopped.  We didn't want doctors rushing in to revive him so he could keep on with his living death.  We wouldn't be reviving him to any sort of real life -- just to machines and another heart stop around the corner.  And if doctors did try to revive him, we wouldn't be holding him as he died.  So with great confidence we signed the "Do Not Resuscitate."  It felt so strange to do something so morbid, but we were completely peaceful in that decision.  As it turns out, we didn't need it, but it gave us some peace of mind those last 24 hours to know noone would be pushing us aside when the time came for Samuel to go home to Jesus.

It's been a hard week for me in different ways than I expected.  Under normal circumstances, I am someone who does not like to be busy.  I love being at home, having a clear calendar, and just being able to live each day with my boys.  Life has been full for us lately, and I prefer the opposite.  This past week has been especially full because of unexpected car shopping.  Bryan and I have spent countless hours doing online research, making phone calls, driving to used car dealerships and to meet private sellers.  Our search has stolen my hours of quiet, of reflection, of intentional grieving, and I find myself really resenting that.  I have felt rushed through this process of finding a new car -- because it's complicated to be a one car family when Caleb has school in the opposite direction of Bryan's work (and his day ends way before Bryan's day ends).  Bryan and I have both felt rushed to buy a car, and last night as we sat over his birthday dinner (Happy 33rd Birthday, my love), we both admitted that we don't feel peaceful about it.  Something in us feels uneasy, so we've decided to slow down and be more patient.

I realized that I also have felt rushed through this last week of August as a result of the car -- like I've been robbed of the chance to really be in this week, to take time to grieve and pay attention to my soul.  At 11:30 on Saturday night, after a day of car shopping and going to our church's Group Link to form a new Just Married small group we will be leading and preparing for Bryan's birthday, I still had not had a moment to sit down and read our blog entry from last year and all the comments on it.  I hadn't had a chance to enter into our story and grief -- things I really wanted to do and felt like I needed to do for my own sake.  I was on the verge of tears from frustration and thought back over the week.  Numerous times this frustration has bubbled up in me unexpectedly and burst out of me from nowhere.  One day at lunch with the boys, Joel asked me something for the eighth time (something he's a pro at -- that child is persistent!), and I growled -- seriously.  I stopped for a second and said, "Mommy is feeling...something.  I just need a minute.  Can you be patient and quiet for a few minutes, please?"  Joel, in typical fashion, went to ask again, and Caleb -- bless his heart -- whispered across the table, "Shhh, Joel.  Mommy is feeling something."  It made me smile even in the midst of the inner turmoil and raging emotions.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is pent up grief forcing its way out because I have not given it ample time to come out in healthy ways.  So I am glad Bryan and I have decided to take our time a little more in this car search, and I am really, really thankful that my friend Libby emailed this morning and said she was coming over to watch the boys and would let me drive her car to Starbucks for a couple of hours -- where I am now, spending some time in our story.  I'm taking deep breaths, feeling still for these moments, and actually able to be in today.  Thank you, Libs.

Throughout this month, I have also gone back and read my journal from last August.  Here is some of my entry from August 28, 2009:

"This is a hard life.  I'm weary and exhausted, and everything that's ahead seems more exhausting and overwhelming.  I don't know how we'll make it through this.  I don't know how we'll ever get over this pain.  Our little Samuel is so precious to us, and I want to bring him home and have him play in the backyard and have him wake me up at midnight and 3am to eat.  I want to hold him and take care of him.  But this is not what we've been given.

"Dr. Cuadrado and Dr. Warshaw both expressed the inevitability of Samuel's ultimate outcome.  Dr. Cuadrado actually said it's 'inevitable,' and Dr. Warshaw, the nefrologist, said the best we could hope for from dialysis is for Samuel to die less puffy.

"Bryan and I have not left the hospital in six days.  We are tired, and we both hate waking up and facing the reality of our situation again and another day of this life.  Once I get in by Samuel, I tend to settle down again and find some peace and even joy in being with him. 

"Dr. Cuadrado told us to consider a DNR or even taking Samuel off of support.  What I know is this: I want to usher Samuel into God's arms.  I want to be holding him, singing to him, and praying over him.  I don't want to be shoved aside while doctors violently try to bring him back to life.  I want to be with him, holding him, soothing him, and gently handing him over to Jesus.  And I think I would always regret not holding Samuel.  As much as holding him would increase my pain at losing him, I think I would have a forever ache of not having done it if he's not in my arms while he's still alive.

"I obviously don't know how it will work or how it will happen, but I want to do everything possible to make it as gentle for Samuel as possible.  I hate the thought of him being in pain and of him suffering.  Oh, Lord, give my little baby boy comfort.  May he not be fearful or anxious or in pain.  May he be resting easy, and may he know he's loved and treasured and that we're with him.

"God give us the strength we need to face what's ahead -- and what's right now.  I obviously can't do this without You.  If ever I needed You, it's now.  Be my Strength, Comfort, Hope, and Joy.  Oh, how I need You.  I need courage, peace, faith, and strength.  And how I'm going to need Your healing.

"I don't know how I will parent Caleb and Joel as they need after this.  Will I ever get my joy back?  Will I be able to fully engage with them and enjoy them, or will this tugging sorrow always be in my heart and throat?  Will I ever be able to hold a baby again?...

"...And then there's a funeral and people coming and staying and giving hugs....Oh, God, how I need You.  Give me strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  Carry us through each horrible, painful step of this process, and make it beautiful somehow.  Redeem it, transform it, make it into something beautiful.  Help me to trust Your perfect ways.  Help me to rest in the shelter of Your wings.  Give me peace moment-by-moment.  And keep my love for You steadfast and my faith in You rooted deep in Your truth, love, and goodness.  Hold me up, Jesus."

I look back on my entries from last year and feel thankful for how God answered my pleas.  He did grant us strength and peace and faith and the many things we beseeched Him for.  He was gracious.  And when I think of Samuel's life, I think of how beautiful it was and continues to be. His life shines brightly in my life and in my heart.  Every second of Samuel's life was sacred and holy, and I can't say that about anyone else I know.  God was completely faithful to us over Samuel's life and has continued to be in the year since he died.  I am eternally thankful for my third son and his month with us.  And I am thankful for the people who have served us once again this month -- for the Elliotts who babysat, the Tisdales who let us stay in their condo, the Windhams who helped with the condo and made us the gift basket, my mom who kept the boys for a whole week and gave us envelopes for something special every day this month, the Thiels who hosted Samuel's party, the Carrolls who gave me a necklace, the Russells and Hansons who babysat last night so Bryan and I could celebrate his birthday, Libby who is with the boys now, my wives group who gave us a bush that blooms in August to plant in our yard, the McCraws who babsysat for all our grief counseling sessions this year and who printed all the pages of our blog, and the many people who have sent cards, prayed, given us a Starbucks gift card, commented on the blog, or sent flowers.  I am thankful beyond my ability to express.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  We love you guys and feel so tremendously blessed to be the recipients of such love, kindness, and service.  Our lives are forever marked by your generosity and encouragement.


  1. Kathryn, you and your family have been on my heart this month, but especially this past week as the end of the month is drawing near. I know there is an army that has been praying grace, courage, hope and peace over your family as you step into this next chapter of your journey. I pray for you, Bryan, and the boys that amidst the sorrow, hope will arise and fill your hearts.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Kathryn. I'm proud of you for intentionally grieving. That is so healthy. I've been thinking of you so much today. Everytime I saw the date I'd pray for you guys. I know it's such a hard time. Thankful God has answered your prayers and is carrying you now.

  3. I, too, want to thank all your friends who have stood by you this year...and who also stood by you last year in the hard month of August. So many wonderful people sent flowers, brought food, mowed the yard, sent cards, sent gift cards for gas for your daily long drives to the hospital, brought more meals, mowed the grass again, sent or brought by flowers, sent a tree for your yard, sent more meals, sent more cards, sent fun toys for the boys, stopped to give me hugs at church, etc, etc. Thank you, all, for all your loving acts of kindness. May God bless you each and everyone.
    Samuel's grandma Gab'm