Archive | March 2013

51 Weeks … and Easter

On March 23, 2008, my Grandma Nina passed away. It was Easter Sunday. Rodger got the phone call early that morning as I was getting ready for church. My parents had left town just a day or two before, as they had gotten the call that things were not going well. Even though my grandma had been sick and in the hospital for a while at this point, I was still caught off guard by her death at age 92. You never think your grandparents are going to die.

Rodger and I debated what to do. There was no reason to leave town until funeral services had been planned so we decided to go ahead with our plans for the day since it was Easter … our oldest son’s first Easter at that. So we got ready and went to church. When we got home, we helped our baby boy discover the goodies in his Easter basket. Then we spent the afternoon traveling between my other grandparent’s house and my in-laws, celebrating the day.

It was certainly a different day then we had planned. There was no traditional Easter brunch with my family and no traditional bunny cake for dessert. Easter was put on hold for many in my family and the rest of us continued with whatever plans we were able to, although they were marred by the sadness of what had happened. I couldn’t get my grandma out of my mind, or my dad and the sorrow that he must have been feeling at losing his mom. At the same time, we were joyful to celebrate our son’s first Easter and spend time with other family members who wanted to share in his special day. At the end of the day, I felt like Easter Day had been changed forever with the sadness of my grandmother’s death. I never bothered to ask my dad if he felt the same way.

The next year, Easter was almost a month later, falling in the middle of April. The sting of Easter Day didn’t seem to stick with me like I thought it would. The fact that the anniversary of my grandmother’s death happened almost four weeks prior probably had something to do with it. Another factor was that Grandma Nina died on her daughter’s birthday. My Aunt Alma passed away two years before my grandma. While it was hard to celebrate Easter on the day of my grandma’s death, I soon learned that it wasn’t Easter Day that would be hard; it would be the date of March 23 … the day of my Aunt’s birthday and Grandma’s death.

Kyleigh was born into Jesus’ arms on Maundy Thursday of 2012. Maundy Thursday is the day before Jesus’ crucifixion, the day of the Last Supper. It was April 5th. We went into the hospital on Thursday expecting to be home for Easter Sunday three days later. Instead, we spent the next four days in the hospital, not going home until late the next Monday night. I spent Easter Sunday in a hospital bed crying my eyes out. Rodger got up so early in the morning to drive home for Sunrise Service that the nurses were worried about him driving while being so tired. He assured them that he would be okay, as he had promised our son that he would take him to the early morning Easter service. My sister arrived at the hospital just as I awoke and sat with me until Rodger returned a few hours later. We had a few visitors throughout the day and while I’m sure the boys came to visit me, my memory does not let me remember the details of that particular visit from them.

The visit I do remember is that of my nurse and doctor. It was day three of having the same day nurse and my doctor had taken over my complete care very early on in my hospital stay. By this point, we were all spending a lot of time together. But on this day, Easter, my nurse and doctor sat at my bedside with Rodger and I for over an hour. We didn’t talk about how I was doing physically. They didn’t do any examinations or administer any medication. The four of us sat and talked about Kyleigh, Jesus and Easter. Rodger and I shared our faith and talked about whom we are as a couple and a family. We learned about our new “family” that was sitting with us. We have all agreed since that day that there is no getting rid of each other … we are forever connected by Kyleigh. We sat for over an hour talking, crying and hugging. The next morning, Pastor Megan served Rodger and I communion and shared some special words with us about what Easter meant for us that year.

That was the first Easter that I did not go to church. It was the first Easter where I didn’t color Easter eggs or eat Easter brunch. It was the hardest Easter I have ever experienced and the most meaningful at the same time. I learned a lot about myself, my faith and God. I learned a lot about love and I experienced the love of God through the words and actions of others on Easter last year … my husband who took our four year old boy to Sunrise Service … my sister who sat with me and consoled me … a nurse and doctor who opened their hearts to me … family and friends who came to visit … hugs and kisses from my little boys … powerful words about Easter from a dear friend.

This year, Easter weekend falls just a week before Kyleigh’s first birthday. I am writing this on Maundy Thursday, the day last year that I was in labor. We have decided to keep Easter low key this year. We are going to Sunrise Service as a family and beyond that, we don’t really know what we are doing. A decision will be made when it has to be made. The emotions and memories from last year have started to flood our minds and we just don’t know what we will be able to handle. Plus, we are anticipating the next week to be a hard one as we prepare for Kyleigh’s birthday. While we are preparing things physically, I’m not sure we can prepare emotionally.

One question that keeps entering my mind … Will Easter always be a struggle? Is it only because it falls so closely to Kyleigh’s birthday this year? Or will Easter weekend bring back a flood of emotions every year because of Kyleigh’s death happening during such a Holy time?

At some point, Kyleigh’s birthday falls on Easter itself … 2015, I already looked it up. April 5, 2015, her 3rd birthday. My guess is that Easter will always have a little bit of a sting to it, but it also holds a much bigger meaning than ever before. The Resurrection of Jesus is not about fancy dresses and expensive lunches. It’s not about baskets full of candy or a fictional bunny hiding eggs. The Resurrection of Jesus is about the assurance that someday I will see Kyleigh again. Someday, I will hold my baby girl on Easter Sunday and experience the joy that she is experiencing right now at this very moment.

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This entry was posted on March 29, 2013. 2 Comments

March for Babies

March for Babies

Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes 75 years ago to fight polio. Once that mission was complete, the March of Dimes changed their focus to premature birth and birth defects. Today, their mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, infant mortality and premature birth. March of Dimes has aided in developing many of the tests, procedures and medications that help premature babies. Education is provided to women through prenatal care and beyond. Support is given to NICU families. Research and advocacy are two main components of the March of Dimes that help families every day.

Our story does not fit in very well with the other stories from March of Dimes. Kyleigh was not born premature. She did not spend any amount of time in the NICU. We did not have contact with anyone from March of Dimes when she died. While their website provides information regarding stillbirth, their main focus is prematurity and the road those babies travel to get from the NICU to home. So when we heard about the March for Babies, we were a little skeptical to participate. Was this the right thing for our family? Would we be honoring Kyleigh by participating? What would be our purpose for walking? Ultimately, we decided that we would walk. We would walk in Kyleigh’s memory. We would walk so that other families do not have to travel down the dark road that we are traveling. If just one baby is born healthy because of the money raised for March of Dimes, then it will be worth walking. If people who love our daughter join us to share in her memory, then it will be worth walking.

We have created a team, Kyleigh’s Gift, to walk in the March for Babies and help raise money that supports programs in the community that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies. Funds are also used in research to find answers to the problems that threaten our babies. So far, our team consists of 11 family members and friends. We hope that more will join us. Kyleigh’s Gift has a team goal of $1,000. While raising money is not our number one focus, we do want to help where we can.

Will you help us reach our goal? Will you give up eating out just once this week to help babies born too soon? Will you forgo your morning Starbuck’s and donate that money to Kyleigh’s Gift March for Babies team?

Go to http://www.marchforbabies.org/s_team_page.asp?SeId=2014776 to learn more and donate today!

In My Heart

winnie the pooh quote

I saw this picture today and it immediately made me think of Kyleigh. It fits perfectly with the story below.

Rewind to this past Christmas Day. We were at my parents’ house just getting ready to sit down for dinner. My oldest son, who is five, was already seated at the table and as I sat down next to him, he says, “Mommy, heaven is in my heart because Kyleigh is in heaven and I love her. She lives in my heart and is always with me.” I just about dropped my plate as I held back the tears. He asks a lot of questions about heaven and what it’s like, but he had never spoken these words before. We didn’t have much time to talk about it in that exact moment, regrettably. Since Christmas, my son has spoken these words to me more often and we have had the opportunity to talk about it a little bit more.

Hearing these words come from my son’s mouth brings me such a sense of peace. He knows that Kyleigh is safe with Jesus in heaven. His words about Kyleigh and her death can be so profound at times and I often wonder where he gets it from. Then I have to remember the simplicity of a child’s faith. It sounds profound to us, as adults, but really it is quite simple.

Another reason why I believe he speaks in the terms that he does about death and heaven is because we have many books on both subjects. In the days following Kyleigh’s death, I had a few people call and ask if we had gotten any books for the boys to help explain what had happened. For a family who frequents the library and buys books often, this was something that we had not thought of at all. Fortunately, we not only had a few friends go out and purchase books for us, but we also received some as gifts from those who did not know we were searching for books.

We have a handful of books specifically about death, but these are a few of my favorites that we have when talking specifically about heaven:

Someday Heaven by Larry Libby

This book is actually on loan to us and it’s probably about time that I return it! Someday Heaven is set up in a Q&A format. Questions such as, Where Is Heaven?, Who Lives in Heaven?, How Long Will I Be in Heaven?, Will I Be an Angel When I Get to Heaven? and Will My Pets Go to Heaven? are answered very matter-of-factly and are supported with scripture. There is a wide range of questions that are typical of what a child would ask, which means that some of them are silly and light-hearted.

Heaven is for Real for Kids by Colton Burpo

Heaven is for Real for Kids is the children’s version of Heaven is For Real, which I am sure most of you have heard of. I have read the adult version, so when we received the children’s version as a gift, I was curious. I do not want to give away too many details for those who have not read the book, but the tag line on the cover states: A little boy’s astounding story of his trip to heaven and back. That being said, there is a lot in this book that I do not read to my children. I do not want my children thinking that Kyleigh is going to come back from heaven. Sorry boys, that’s not how it works. I do like this book because of the wonderful illustrations and the plethora of scripture references. The book really does give a clearer understanding of heaven through the Scriptures. I just have a hard time reading about a boy who went to heaven and came back.

Heaven: God’s Promise for Me written by Anne Graham Lotz

The book, Heaven: God’s Promise for Me, was given to my boys when my grandmother passed away a few months after Kyleigh. It is written by Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, whom my grandma really admired. Each illustration in the book contains a hidden angel. My grandma had a love for angels, so that makes this book a little more special. The book not only focuses on what heaven is like, but more importantly, how to get there. It is a rhyming book with wonderful images, such as swimming with sharks and flying with eagles. I appreciate the illustrations in this book because they show people of all ages in heaven, not just elderly like you see in many books. While this book does not provide scripture references throughout the book, there is a list at the back. Heaven: God’s Promise for Me is written in a more kid-friendly story than the previous two books that I have highlighted.

God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Tawn Bergren

This one is my favorite. I enjoy all of the books in the God Gave Us series, so it was no surprise when I fell in love with this one, too. God Gave Us Heaven is a wonderful story about Little Cub and his curiosity of heaven. He asks his Papa lots of questions about heaven and God that are answered by Papa as they spend the day together fishing. My favorite part of the book is when Little Cub asks, “Will we be angels?” Papa says, “No. Only angels are angels. God made us polar bears for a reason.” “Shoot. I wanted to fly,” says Little Cub. This is a wonderful story for everyone about love, faith and family. If you have not read any of the books from this series, go check one out at the library.

Not long after my grandma was diagnosed with bone cancer, she became very ill. I had the thought that I should buy a book about death and heaven, you know, to prepare my boys for the inevitable. Then, Grandma started getting better and I dismissed my thoughts. I didn’t want to scare my boys by talking about death. Little did I know that they would soon be immersed in more death than most children ever experience. If you have children, find a book about death and/or heaven that works for your beliefs and your family. We all have to face it at some time or another. I do not regret not reading to my children about death or heaven before their sister and two great-grandmothers died. I just now know that I could have done it in a way that would not have been scary, like I thought.

To be continued … I will highlight some of our children’s books about death soon.

This entry was posted on March 2, 2013. 5 Comments