Saturday, October 5, 2013

4th Anniversary of Samuel's Homegoing

I know it's been over a month since the anniversary of Samuel's homegoing, but I want to document it nonetheless.  Most of that day was surprisingly light and ordinary.  We headed to the grave in the morning after our traditional stop at Michael's to select new flowers for the grave.  Now that there are six living members of our family, the arrangement is rather full, with each person choosing two flowers for the vase.  We arranged the flowers, and Bryan and I spent a little quiet time remembering, thinking, mourning, and missing our Samuel.  Meanwhile, the kids were behaving exactly how I should have expected but somehow didn't -- they were running around, goofing off, squealing (Anna, of course), complaining about the ants, saying how hot they were, etc.  Anna, who watched her brothers run down a mildly inclined sidewalk, wanted to emulate them.  Part way down, she fell and scraped her knees and shed lots of tears and got some good howling in, which we totally saw coming.  All ordinary kid behavior, but somehow I hadn't thought about it before we got there, and I found myself caught off guard by the normality of being outside with our children -- like we weren't at a graveyard at all.  Part of me was irked by their irreverence, but another part found it refreshing.  They can still skip and play and find fun even amidst the broken shadows of lives gone passed.  They can look at Samuel's grave one second and be lost in make believe the next.  They aren't weighted down by grief and don't find his death debilitating.  It's as it should be, but it's not natural for me to join them in their lighthearted play -- not while at my son's grave, anyway.

After we'd been there for a while, Caleb grew somber and blue and wanted some time to reflect, so I loaded the other three kids into the van, and Bryan and Caleb spent a few still minutes processing.  Then Bryan and I traded places, and I got to talk to Caleb a little.  Later I learned Bryan had said many of the same things I did.  We both talked about how grateful we are that God gave us Samuel and even how grateful we are that Samuel is in Heaven.  As weird as it sounds, we praise God that He wrote the story the way He did, for it's His story, and it's beautiful.  We both talked to Caleb about God's faithfulness to us and how He has grown us and blessed us through sweet Samuel's life and death.  It was precious time for Bryan and I both to grieve with our oldest, introspective son.

That evening we went to Red Robin for dinner, like usual.  The boys look forward to it, and it helps make the day a little softer.  When we got home, we found my dear cousin had left Sonic slushes and a bag of Cheetos on our porch.  It was a welcome blessing and made us feel loved and cared for.

After we tucked the kids in bed, Bryan and I both commented that the day had been strangely normal.  But then we sat down to watch our video of Samuel's life, and the weight of the day came crashing in.  I hadn't watched it in a long time, and most of my thoughts of Samuel and memories of him are happy and joy-filled.  When I think of him, I smile.  But when I see those pictures, I remember just how horribly sick he was.  It's one thing to be able to acknowledge that, which I always can, but it's another altogether to be confronted with the images of his sickness.  By God's grace, those aren't the images I carry in my heart.  I think of him as the beautiful baby he was when he first came into the world -- tiny and perfectly formed and delicate, with an itty bitty nose and round little face and small features.  His month of life transformed him so utterly, that you would never know he was the same baby if you saw two pictures side-by-side -- 1 day old and 31 days old.  His extraordinary illness altered him beyond recognition.  And seeing those pictures knocked me down.  I hadn't cried all day until then.  It was probably good to enter in to the grief, but the suddenness of it overwhelmed me.

In the month plus since then, Bryan, Caleb, and I have found ourselves facing a rawer grief than we've experienced in a long time.  My dear mom had a portrait commissioned of Samuel, and it arrived a couple of weeks after the anniversary of his homegoing.  She wanted to capture what Samuel might have looked like without all the tubes and wires.  It's a beautiful painting.  But it has really stirred up our grief.  Caleb has been especially sad, and I've found him shedding tears on quite a few occasions.  Once he was silently crying at the dinner table, tears just pouring down his cheeks.  When I asked what was wrong, he initially said, "I don't even know" but then admitted, "I just really miss Samuel."  Apparently he had been repeatedly climbing up on one of our chairs and pulling down a photo of Samuel to kiss.  Just last night he burst into tears as we were tucking him in, again lamenting, "I really miss Samuel."  So he's been sleeping with one of Samuel's stuffed animals from the hospital as well as a framed picture of him and Samuel.  Poor kid.  He feels life so deeply, and I hurt with him as he misses his baby brother.

I am grateful for marker days that make us go back and remember.  Not only because it's good to remember my son but also because it's good to remember how God carried us through it, how He poured His grace out on us, how He proved Himself faithful and good.  It's important to remember what He's done in us because of Samuel.  And these marker days bring me to my knees in thanks for our third son.  What a blessing God granted us when He entrusted Samuel to our care.  And look how faithful He has been to continually heal our hearts.  Happy Anniversary of arriving in Heaven, sweet Samuel of mine.  We love you!

In the gardens at Egleston Children's Hospital on our annual trek to take cookies and thank the CICU staff for all their hard work

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