It has been hectic. It has been hard. I have been hesitant to write. I want to say exactly what is on my heart, but fear the act of giving it words. It makes it permanent and I have a strange fear of permanence now. I have not doubt that it comes from the loss of my daughter.
I am reserved when it comes to the holidays. Last year, we put up a tree but only decorated with new ornaments. This year, we put up the tree, hung the stockings, put up the outdoor lights. I was sad all season. Relief came tonight as I took it all down. I feel Natalie’s absence so much now. And I seem to grieve more. We had one Christmas with her. She was four months old. She did not get to enjoy it like I see Emily enjoy it. Last year we were still in shock, numb from her passing, and just going through the motions to make it through another day. This year it has been real. There were less presents. The table had one less place setting. Her stocking was empty on Christmas morning when all the other stockings for the kids were busting at the seams. Crying became a constant while we were at my parents. I managed a smile when I needed to, but I knew my feelings were opposite of my outward appearance.
I am fully aware that the holidays are more difficult when you have lost a loved one. I did not know that I would feel as though I was wading through mud, thick black mud. I have spent lots of time looking for comfort. Bryan and I have leaned on each other. I have gone to my bible more times than I can remember to get me through this. And I am glad the holidays are over. Now for the next hurdle…
First, let me tell you about the most amazing thing that happened in Florida. My sweet, amazing, beautiful, funny niece (but I am not biased!) Anna Kathryn was baptized on the Sunday after Christmas by my dad. Having your father share that moment, the sacred sacrement of baptism, as your pastor is amazing. I have done this twice, both with Emily and Natalie. And Daddy will baptize Alie as well. We all stood up with Kimberly, Mark and Anna Kathryn during this moment to share in the joy. Anna Kathryn was adorable and everything went smoothly. We all sat back down and Dad continued the service. My Aunt Celia leaned over, tapped my shoulder and let us know there was a ladybug crawling towards us on the pew. Yes, you read that right, a ladybug in December in St. Paul’s UMC on our pew! She crawled to Bryan, Alie and me. I put my hand down and she crawled right onto my finger. She spent about a minute tickling my finger until she got agitated and flew away, towards the stained glass window at the back of the church. I have not seen Nat visit us in a long time. And I have been discouraged by it. But, how amazing is it that Nat visits us at the baptism of the baby that we know she provided the hedge of protection over at her birth. Anna Kathryn was born on the day that we celebrated Natalie’s life. And I am certain that Natalie is a major player in making sure that Anna Kathryn became a part of our family. Here she was again, on one of the most important days, protecting my sweet niece. There she was…comforting me as my 14 month old niece smiled my way.
We did have to head home early. Bryan received a call from work calling him back to deploy. We were so sad, both at the shortened visit, but also the reminder of his impending deployment. We found out today that he will be leaving this week. Please keep Bryan in your prayers as he travels to the Middle East and as he defends our nation. We are desperate for safe travels and a safe return. Emily, Alie and I will make it through. I am nervous about being alone with the babies while he is gone. But I know I can do this. And I have Corey too! He is a blessing and so helpful to me. I am thankful he is in our lives.
I have to admit…because I know that you all know my secrets…that my heart has felt harder recently. I have spent many hours praying for God to soften it. I have prayed for guidance through this sea of grief. I have prayed for direction and faith. My faith in my Lord has not waivered. I have waited for Him to guide me. And I am now working through some of the conversations we have had in the last few weeks. Please be in prayer over these. I cannot divulge more at this moment, but Bryan and I are figuring out just what it means. I tend to ask Him seveal times if this is really what He wants before I say, “Your will be done.” I question when I should not. And I am now focusing on obedience.
Last year was full of grief, questions, never-ending court dates, and overwhelming fear. But it was also a year of hope, new life, answers, and love. We found resolution, restoration and remembrance to be evident at every crossroad. We pray that this year will bring all of this and so much more. I know that this year, with deployments and anniversaries, it will be a leap of faith for each of us. But I know whose hands will be there to catch each of us.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:1-3
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Hillary and Emily at the LifeNet ceremony
Good night all. Happy New Year.
Hillary, Bryan, Emily especially our angel baby Natalie and Allison