Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Anniversary of Samuel's Homegoing and the Start of September

I have been delaying writing this post, and I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's because I just want August to be in the past, and I want to live more light-heartedly in this September.  But the truth is, September hasn't been a carefree stroll in the park.  Much of the weight of August lingers, and I still feel the claws of grief upon me.  I am really relieved to be in September, but in some ways September hasn't been as kind as August was.  August was unexpectedly gentle compared to what I had anticipated; September has been callously like June and July were -- still ripe with grief.  There was no magical hump in passing the one year mark, and I knew that would be the case, but I hoped September would be pleasantly lighter than August.  So far it feels a lot like the past year has felt -- moments of great joy countered (or perhaps complemented) by moments of heavy grief.  

Yesterday I felt really crabby all day and found that my fuse was short and my parenting was lacking grace.  I was perplexed as to why I was having such a rough go of it, and then on my walk with Bryan, it hit me.  When I woke up yesterday morning, I registered that it was the one year anniversary of Samuel's funeral, but I quickly shoved the thought aside, not wanting to dwell on that day and how painful it was.  Though I purposefully spent time every day this August remembering last August and the time we had with Samuel, I intentionally chose not to continue the practice into this month.  August bears remembering because it held Samuel, and I always want to remember the days I had with my sweet son.  But September was wretched -- and without the beautiful balance of a precious son to treasure.  The last few days of this August I read a couple weeks of our blog posts from last September, and they were hard to read because they were so raw.  That's when I decided to give my "return to blogposts of the past" a break.  But I think that stuffing the knowledge of yesterday's anniversary of burying our son resulted in an impatient, grumpy, and discontent me.  Some of those same qualities were keenly present this morning too.  Ugh.  I don't like when I'm this way -- and I'm quite sure my family doesn't either!  I'm not sure what the balance is between acknowledging the trials of this season last year and stepping out of the depressing cloud of reentering our pain day by day.  There has to be wisdom in living the grief that surrounds us now, in September 2010, and not trying to grieve for what we endured in September 2009.  However, ignoring last year's first days without Samuel doesn't seem to be the wisest course either.  It's a quandry I don't know how to solve.

Tonight we were out exchanging some of Bryan's birthday gifts that don't fit, and I found a shirt at Old Navy that made me profoundly sad.  The baby section of any store usually makes me pretty blue, and generally I avoid them when it occurs to me.  But tonight we were waiting for Bryan to come out of the dressing room, and that meant standing by all the baby clothes.  The boys wanted to see the graphic tees on a table next to us, and I was holding them up one by one.  I came across a 12-18 month shirt with Yoda and Star Wars written on it, and my heart sunk.  What fun it would have been to put that shirt on Samuel so all three of my boys could parade around in their Star Wars gear.  Caleb and Joel wear a Star Wars shirt every day one is clean, and the thought of Samuel in one too made me feel wistful.  It was one of those moments when grief suddenly comes hounding down.

But I have veered off course here.  The reason I got on here was to blog about the anniversary of Samuel's homegoing.  (I've decided to think about it as a homegoing instead of the anniversary of his death.  It's more hopeful that way and easier to talk about.)  The night before, I went to bed praying that God would grant me sleep.  Since Samuel died in the morning (around 9:15), I knew I might struggle to quiet my soul throughout the night, thinking about what was coming and what we lived a year ago.  I woke up numerous times throughout the night, but I always whispered to myself, "peace," and I went right back to sleep.  This was evidence of God's graciousness to me.  When I woke up in the morning, I immediately thought of what day it was, of how a year ago we were holding our son for the first and last time, and of how excruciating it was to live those hours.  But I asked the Lord for peace, for grace, for endurance, for joy, and for courage.  And He faithfully granted me those things.

Bryan and I both drove Caleb to school that morning, and then we headed back home for a little while.  We sat in the backyard and prayed together while Joel played around us and kept making us smile.  Joel is so adorable, and every movement of his has bounce in it.  He is full of life and joy, and he is good, good medicine for my sorrow.  We couldn't help but laugh at him even while we were praying about our grief and loneliness for Samuel.  Joel is another picture of God's grace to us -- as is Caleb.

After Bryan headed to work, I spent some time reading our blog from last August 31st and thanking God for the many people who prayed for us and stood with us.  I shed a lot of tears, but they were the gentle, healing kind that refresh -- not the kind that make me feel like I might drown or make me gasp for every breath.  All day long I cried off and on, but every time I felt blessed by it and not overwhelmed.  I enjoyed remembering our Samuel and thanked God for every day we had with him.  Mostly I spent the day feeling grateful for Samuel, and that was a really wonderful thing.

After the boys got up from nap/rest time, we all headed to the grave.  Bryan hadn't been since last September, and none of us had seen the grave stone that arrived a few weeks ago.  The cemetery where Samuel is buried has all flat stones; none of the grave markers are raised.  Most stones have a vase of fake flowers in them.  Neither Bryan nor I are big fake flower people, and we don't really think the arrangements there are particularly beautiful, but when given the choice between a stone with a vase in it or a stone with a hole for vase in it, we chose a vase.  We weren't sure what to do about flowers because we were pretty sure no matter what we would find them somewhat tacky.  But Bryan had the great idea for the boys to help with the project.  So we stopped at Michael's on the way there, and we each picked two flowers to go in the vase.  We purposefully didn't try to coordinate them and let everyone do just as they pleased.  We thought that if we couldn't have beauty, at least we could have something sentimental with meaning to us.  Joel, of course, picked a huge orange flower for one of his, and Caleb picked a big purple one.  Bryan was thoughtful and picked flowers that most resemble a painting we have by his grandmother and the flowering bush we have in memory of Samuel.  And I picked some fall leaves (I love fall leaves).

When we got to the grave, the boys used some wetwipes to clean off the stone, and we all spent some time looking at the stone we'd chosen.  For me, it made a big difference having the gravestone in place.  I felt more peaceful about being there, and I'm pleased with what we chose.  I think it marks Samuel's life well.  Someday maybe I will write more about why we chose what we did.

Then we set about cutting the flowers and placing them in the vase.  It was good for the boys to have a job to do, and they liked being a part of it all.  In the end, I think we all actually kind of liked our arrangement.  It symbolizes each of us in some way, and when it was all together, there was something beautiful about it. 

Then we all gathered around the stone and held hands.  We went around and each shared a memory of Samuel.  Caleb talked about meeting him and kissing him and holding his hand, and Joel talked about going to the hospital.  Then we all sang Grace Upon Grace and prayed as a family.  It was precious in so many ways, and I'm so glad we did it.  I feel like we sang and prayed over Samuel one more time, like Bryan and I did every day of his life.  And I feel like we were able to be there all together -- to remember as a family and miss him as a family.  It was a sweet time.

Afterwards we headed to Red Robin for dinner.  My mom had given us money for dinner out in our envelope for the day, and we ended the evening on a happy note for the boys, which I think is good for them.  I don't want their associations with Samuel to be all sad and melancholy.  I want them to be able to think of Samuel and have some happy and even excited thoughts.  So a fun dinner out was a good thing.

All in all, it was good day.  It was very peace-filled, and all day I was reminded of God's goodness to us and His faithfulness.  It was a far better day than I hoped for.  I was really happy to go to bed that night and know the next morning I could turn the calendar and no longer stare at the word "August."  I was glad September was coming.  But mostly I was glad God granted us Samuel, even if it was for so brief a time.  And I was relieved that God once again gently carried us through the sorrow and grief and fear.  I think I should start to expect God to show up and lift us through the worst of days.  He has faithfully done it all through this journey.  I don't know why I would think He would stop.

1 comment:

  1. I think those are the most beautiful flowers i have ever seen. I continue to think of you all often and pray for healing.