Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Our Second Christmas without Samuel

I didn't know what to expect as we approached another Christmas without Samuel.  I figured it would be easier than last year, and I was right, but I wasn't sure what grief would look like a year and four months after Samuel's death.  As we unpacked our Christmas boxes, I was surprised to find Samuel's stocking, and it brought on a wave of grief, as did pulling out all the special things we filled it with last year: letters to Samuel from me and Bryan, symbols of the gifts we gave in Samuel's memory, and memory cards from those who gave in Samuel's name last year.  In many ways, seeing that stocking hung from our fire place brought me back to the pain we felt last year, reminded me of how raw last Christmas was and how heartbreaking it was to face a such a momentous first.

But I am so glad we have that stocking, that Samuel remains a part of our family, that we can hang his stocking for us to see and for the boys to see that Samuel still matters to us, we still miss him, he still belongs in our family.  We spent an evening as a family looking through the Samaritan's Purse and World Vision catalogs, picking out what gifts to give to others in memory of Samuel and then picking out symbols of those gifts to put in his stocking.  Joel chose to give 5 fruit trees to a family in a third world country which will provide them with food and a means of income.  Caleb chose to give money to help save the lives of mothers and newborn babies in countries where medical help is limited.  We got some play fruit and a tiny baby doll to go in Samuel's stocking as a reminder of this year's gifts.  I love that this is a family tradition of ours and a way to continue to honor our Samuel in this life.

It was painful but healing to see ornaments of each of our children as babies hung on our tree -- Caleb as a newborn, Joel as one, and Samuel, too, with all the apparatuses he needed to breathe and live for those 31 days.  Looking at Samuel's face almost always made me sad, but it also made me thankful for his life, for how he has changed my life, for the gift of loving him so deeply.  I am glad we have an ornament of our precious third son.  Again, it affirms his place in our family, no matter how much time goes by.

We have traveled A LOT this Christmas and New Years season -- in fact we are still in the midst of those travels -- and there hasn't felt like a lot of time to sit and simply grieve.  At the same time, it's been so wonderful to see and hug so many people we love and to have something to put our energies into that is life-giving.  As we have visited many places, it moved me deeply to see our Samuel framed on my sister-in-law, Marta's, wall of family pictures.  I am touched that she would love her nephew enough to give him a permanent place on her wall, in the frame of pictures of our family -- a photo of me and Bryan, one of Caleb, one of Joel, and one of Samuel.  Most people don't do that, and it blessed me to see that Marta considers Samuel a lasting member of our family. My mom, too, has pictures of Samuel framed in her house, and I love that.

It has also blessed me deeply when the rare family member refers to the baby I am currently carrying as my fourth child, acknowledging Samuel's place as my third.  In contrast, it has hurt a surprising amount when someone who knows me and our story unthinkingly calls this new life our third child.  It sends a pang right through my heart to think that others don't give Samuel the place we give him -- the place of a son in our family.  I am sure my friends all mean well, but I could never forget that I already have a third child, and knowing that others can hurts me, rational or not.

One of the most poignant parts of grief this season has been seeing our precious niece, June, who was born 16 hours after Samuel.  I love that child with a fierce love and cannot resist scooping her up and holding her.  She is SO big now that I can hardly believe it.  She walks everywhere, babbles constantly, says a handful of words, can communicate what she wants (and doesn't want :) ), and gives the world's best hugs.  Every time she reached her little arms up at me to be picked up, I wanted to run away with her and keep her forever.   And when she would bury her head on my shoulder and throw her arms around my neck, I wanted to cry for joy and sorrow.  I cannot believe our Samuel would be so big, would nuzzle down into a hug of his own volition, would smile gleefully for the camera, and would be getting into everything he could get his hands on.  It's hard to imagine our lives with a busy 16 month old running around.  I am so very grateful for June and for the picture she provides of what Samuel might be up to in Heaven.

I have noticed once again that as more time lapses between my blog entries, I get more and more removed from my "real" life.  The weight of grief begins to tug mightily on my heart, and I am more subdued, more tired, more irritable, and more intolerant of the little things of life.  It reminds me how important it is to continue to grieve intentionally, to record our journey without Samuel, to acknowledge what I feel and face.  Once again, I find that this blog is life-giving and healing, and I find myself grateful for a God who already knows each heartbreak, each hope, each broken expectation, each longing, and that He is a God who can comfort and ultimately heal them all.


  1. oh kathyrn, your posts are always so transparent and full of love and reality. i appreciate that you share your true heart.

    even though the pregnancy that i lost was only 10wks along, i have a stocking and an ornament with an ultrasound picture for that baby. i still like to refer to olivia as my 2nd child, but so many people do not understand that, but that is there problem. you have to do what you know is right in your heart. regardless of what others think or say, you have 4 children! (and i have 2!)

    bless you sweet friend. may this new year bring you joy, happiness, blessings and new memories! love you!

  2. Dearest Daughter, I will ALWAYS include Samuel in my heart as your third son and my 5th grandchild. He is also my ANGEL grandson...and I delight to think of the joy he brings in heaven. Someday, we will know the joy he brings that makes the angels rejoice. I look forward to sharing in it in God's good time. I don't know for sure what babies are like in heaven, but I surely hope there are babies and 17 month olds there. They are so wonderful, I cannot imagine heaven without them.