I was first exposed to childhood death 4 years ago. After Emily was born, I became a member of an online group of people with children born at the same time. That May I learned of a family whose firstborn little girl was diagnosed with Leukemia, AML to be exact. Her prognosis was grim, but her mother was determined to help her baby girl, love her, and give her the best life possible. And she chose to share it on the internet with those of us that had begun to follow the story and begged for updates. Every day, when I would get to work, I would check for an update from Jenny, hoping they had a good day and night, hoping for good news, and hoping that things had turned around for this baby who was only 9 weeks older than my sweet girl. I prayed diligently for Jenny, praying that she would not have to endure the loss of her baby. That was unimaginable to me. Sadly, Jenny lost her daughter four years ago this past Saturday. Her baby was 8 months and 27 days old. I cried over her loss. I could not imagine how she could possibly make it through something so devestating. I thought that I could never survive something that tragic. On Saturday, she posted that she was having a bad day. If I knew her personally, I would have tried to help in any way I could. I would have brought dinner, sent flowers, called her just to say that I missed her too. But I only know her over the internet. Although it feels as though we have been friends for years, I only know her through her words, her honesty and nakedness that she shares on her blog.
Now here I sit, facing the same emotions, thinking that I cannot imagine coming upon the day we lost Natalie four years later. Honestly, I cannot imagine the day that 14 months and 13 days passes since we last kissed Nat Nat. Then, she would have been gone longer than she was with us. It will happen in January and I am sure that it will not be a very good day for me. I never thought that I would know first-hand what it was like to bury my child. Now, I know exactly how Jenny feels, how she felt. Her posts make so much sense to me. Not only can I imagine her daughter looking and acting similarly to Emily, but I understand the emptiness and grief that she faces everyday. Today, I learned of another mother who lost her son, born just 8 days before Alie, to sepsis after severe kidney problems since birth. I am grieving for her tonight. I am hopeful that she knows my God, the One who has carried our family through this, the One who has given us peace and understanding. Her name is Tina, I do not know where she lives, but I know our Lord does. And I am sure He is holding each tear that falls in the palm of His hand, just as He has done for me.
Can you tell I am struggling? Can you tell I miss her? Can you tell that I want nothing more than to have her home with us? Yet I know that she is so happy right now. I know she misses me too. And I know she watches over us daily, from the moment we lost her. I know she shows us that she is still in our hearts, loving us. I know because I feel her presence, from ladybug sitings, to Anna Kathryn’s birthdate, to the amazing way that Alie tugs at my heart by making some of the exact same faces that Nat did. Alie and Nat look so much alike. It is wonderful and hard all at the same time.
This past week I had to start the hard task of changing Natalie’s room into Alie’s room. It will always have pieces of Nat in it, but it needs to be Alie’s space as well. Two of my sweetest and best friends helped me with this chore. I know it was hard for them as well. I would not doubt that they each went home and cried after leaving my house. But I am so grateful that they could help. I am still not ready to take Nat’s clothes out of the closet. Or take her calendar off the wall. It still shows October. It seems so definitive then. And I fell apart after they left. Her room is not complete. There are things that I want to do to make it Alie’s room. And Nat’s clothes are out of the dresser, but there are some still in the closet. I have to finish that task. But I know that I will make it through this as well. I know my Lord will carry me, Bryan, Emily and Allison through this journey. We will never get past it…we will simply journey through it.
This month marks 11 months since we lost our Nat Nat. This month also marks the day that Kimberly and Mark bring home my niece, Anna Kathryn. Right now, they are preparing to meet AK for the very first time, hold her, hug her, and express the amazing amount of love they have for her. They will get home during my “hard week”. And we will be standing at the airport. All of us will be there. I know Natalie will be there as well. She and my lord, my comforter, gave us Anna Kathryn…making her the perfect match for our family. And I will praise Him. Even when I am hitting the bottom again, wondering still why this all happened, I will praise Him. Because I know He will catch each tear that falls, He will mend my heart a bit more, and He will show me the perfection of His unconditional love. You see, God is good, all the time. And I will remember this, praise him for this, and lean on it each time I begin to doubt. Because I know He will show me the way back up from the bottom. He gives me the gift of being able to express all that I feel through writing here. I don’t think I could do it without Him.
Good night all.
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, our angel baby Natalie and Allison