Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Different Kind of August

This August has been distinctly different from the past two Augusts.  In 2009 we spent a nerve-wracking month at Samuel's side in the CICU, and last year it was a grief laden month ripe with heavy and painful memories.  This August has been full of Anna, the start of pre-K for Joel (who has never gone to preschool before), and getting into the swing of 1st grade with Caleb at his university model school (he attends school two days a week, and we homeschool him the other three days).  We have been so busy that most days I don't feel the weight of grief that I associate with August.

In fact, some of the traditions we have established in memory of Samuel have been surprisingly easy for me.  His birthday this year was a legitimately happy day (though for Bryan it was quite hard).  I loved celebrating his life, having a birthday dinner with the Thiels, eating his birthday cake, and releasing balloons with messages to our sweet boy.

A few days later we headed down to Egleston Children's Hospital for our annual trip with goodies for the CICU doctors, nurses, and staff.  My stomach was not in knots as we drove up, and I even felt lighthearted walking down those yellow halls.  The only thing that really churned up my nerves was buzzing into the CICU.  During Samuel's life I always felt dread when I pushed the call button to be let in to the CICU, not knowing if we'd be turned away because of some procedure or crisis, not knowing what we'd fine if we were allowed in.  Would Samuel's stats have dropped since we'd last seen him?  What shape would he be in?  I think those seconds from just before pushing the buzzer until actually being at Samuel's side were the worst seconds in each day.  This time I made Bryan push the button, but once we were in, my heart was calm, and I didn't feel an onslaught of grief.  After delivering the goodies, we took the boys to the library and then played hide-and-seek in the garden, things we did with them during Samuel's life.  They loved it, and I was happy to see their joy and their memories of being there and having fun.  I loved having Anna with us and thinking of how she continues to heal our hearts.  I kept thinking about how it was the beginning of her connection to Samuel -- that she would grow up being able to see the place where he lived and being part of our tradition of remembering him and using his life to bless others.  Mostly the trip was a joyful and gentle one.

Despite an easier August, there have been numerous unexpected things that have resurfaced my grief in mighty ways.  I have closely followed the Stanley's journey as their son Caden had open-heart surgery and spent two weeks in the CICU.  Since his August stay (as of yesterday he is at home with his parents and big sister, Jayci!) paralleled Samuel's, it unearthed a lot of memories and sorrow.  But it has also given me great joy to read of his continued improvement and to know his outcome will not parallel Samuel's.  Reading so many of our emotions and fears and hopes and disappointments in Becca and Adam's posts has been a little surreal, and it's certainly stirred up some grief as I remember our short time with Samuel. 

A couple of days after Caden's surgery, I got a call from Stephanie, the child life specialist from Egleston who served our family so well during Samuel's life.  She asked if Bryan and I would be willing to come talk to the CHOA child life specialists at their competency day.  She said there would be some other parents on a panel who had also lost a child, and they would love for us join them and share our experiences -- what we did to make a memory, how we keep Samuel's memory alive, how we're doing now, and what was helpful or not helpful during Samuel's life.  Bryan and I were so honored that she asked us and were both eager to go.  So this past Wednesday we headed back down to Decatur and shared some of our story with a room full of child life specialists.  I was nervous I would cry, and lo and behold, I did...alot.  Every time I spoke, I cried.  Despite being emotionally worn out by it, Bryan and I both left feeling sincerely glad that we went.  We were grateful for the chance to thank Stephanie, to give back a little bit, and to continue to use our story and Samuel's life for God's glory.  It was therapeutic in a way though I definitely left feeling emotionally vulnerable -- and tears came easily for the next several days.

In all these things -- the unexpectedly easy and the surprisingly sorrowful -- I have found myself clinging to our Anna.  I held her tight all through the CLS competency day, each time I read an update about Caden Stanley, and in each tear-spilling moment.  She comforts my heart and reminds me of God's goodness, kindness, and grace.  I am so, so thankful for Anna in this month of August.  She makes the painful moments far more manageable; she soothes my soul; she mends my broken heart -- not completely, of course, but in a way no one else can.  I never would have imagined that this August, two years after our Samuel was born and died, would be as peaceful and calm -- despite some very intense reminders of what we endured and have lost -- as it has been.  I praise God for granting us our little healer, our little Anna P.  We don't deserve His grace -- that's what grace is, I suppose, undeserved! -- but we are sure thankful for it.  Every time I snuggle Anna, which is all day long, I thank God for her life and for how she making my heart more whole.


  1. Kathryn, I havent been able to read Samuel's story yet (Adam has, I just cant do it . . . not read yet) but I just know that he was a blessed little boy to have you and bryan as his parents . . . we feel blessed by the way you have followed our journey with Caden so far, the way you have encouraged us and covered us in prayer. I'm so sorry that Caden's story has brought up painful memories for you, and I just wanted to be sure you knew how thankful we are. Seriously.

  2. Thanks, Becca. I wouldn't have it any other way - it's been a true joy and privilege to follow sweet Caden's journey thus far. I am sincerely grateful when the Lord allows us to minister out of our grief and out of Samuel's life. We pray often for the chance to love and serve others who are going through parts of what we went through, so it's a gift and God's grace to us that we get to pray for you and Caden. Seriously. :)

  3. Just wanted you to know that we are praying for you and your family today.