Getting ready to move, and I found a box of things I kept from the hospital after Gavin died…

Inside was a picture one of the nurses took of me holding him as we said goodbye. It was an interesting experience, seeing that again. Anyone else would likely have struggled to look at the image…found it morbid, probably.

His edema made his skin taught and paper thin. He was intubated and covered from top to bottom in tubes and wires (the highest IV was in the skin of his head and the lowest was inserted into the top of his right foot—then there were countless other tubes and wires littered across the space in between—so, in this case, “from top to bottom” is not used as a figure of speech). His coloring shows clear evidence of how close death loomed—literally moments away.

I’ve never been able to look at the picture myself for longer than a glance without turning my head, and I am his mother. . .

But this time was different.

I not only found myself able to look at the image, but I lost myself inside of it.

For the first time ever, I looked at that boy, in that physical state, and I didn’t want to turn away. In truth, for the first time ever, I saw so.much.beauty there.

The image didn’t disturb me at all. . .there was so much love in my heart— longing, yes, and also abundant love—overwhelming in proportion.

I wept tears of joy at the peace I had found.

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I share this for those who mourn—no matter the cause.

I share this for those who are in the darkest parts of the trauma called “grief.”

There is hope.

There is another side of the tunnel called grief—for it is, as they say, a tunnel, not a cave (though I know there are days, weeks, months, years even when it certainly does not feel that way).

Someday, you will be able to open the box of the darkest hours of memory, and the terror will be gone.

There will always be remnants of sorrow and pain, it is evidence of our very humanity, evidence of the depth of our love, but the terror, the horror, the racing heart, the crushing in your chest, the inability to recall and look at certain events of your past without the threat of complete physiological and emotional overwhelm. . . that can change.

It can.

The change comes in and through a God, a literal Father in Heaven, who knows and loves you perfectly.

Ask.

Wait.

Exercise patience (though I know, the wait can be excruciating).

And through his perfect love and grace, you can find peace, even understanding, to free you from that darkest part of the grief and pain by which you are bound.

I KNOW this is true, for I have lived it.

It took a miracle, but thankfully, we live in a world that is full of those.

xx,

N

I’ve spent the last 6 months wondering how I’d ever return to the world wide web. I’ve been afraid, ashamed, discouraged, confused.

I’ve been a million things, but none of them was ever “ready.”

So, here I am. . . reluctantly breaking radio silence, after nearly 6 months of static.

I missed you. I did. And I’m so sorry for deserting you. I am.

I’m nervous. Of all the ridiculousness there ever was, I.am.nervous.

It’s like I’m coming home to a long lost friend. The kind of friend who once understood me completely and loved me without condition. The kind of friend who, once upon a time, would have been there for me, no matter what. . . But it’s been so long. What if things have changed? What if it’s simply been too long? What if I’ve muddled everything?

I’m afraid.

In fact, my heart is pounding through my chest. (And tears are streaming down my cheeks. . . which really embarrasses me—full disclosure, remember? It’s my thing. Or have I been away so long that you’ve forgotten?)

“This is absurd,” you say? I KNOW! You are ABSOLUTELY correct. This is absurd. We’re talking about a BLOG here, and a peripheral one at that! I.hear.you. I feeeeeeeeel you. And, despite it all, this is exceptionally hard. Picking up the pieces and beginning again where I stand is hard in a way that I could never, ever have anticipated.

It hurts to worry that no one is left to listen. It hurts to admit that, well, even if you are still there listening, I just don’t know what I have left to say. And THAT? Well, that’s the most horrifying admission of them all. . .

So, why today? Why not yesterday? A week ago, a month ago, six?

Why am I suddenly ready, today?

Oh, I’m not. Ready. Not at all.

But enough. Enough. Because this isn’t about me. It has nothing to do with me at all.

I’m here today for you, Adler. For you, Sarah. And for you, brave, selfless McKay.

I am here today, for you.* 

 

Friends, please share what you can (I’ve been here, trust me, every dollar matters). If you can’t share monitarily, please, help me spread this video as far and wide as the ocean is deep.

Let’s help give this family the miracle they so deserve. Let’s help these beautiful brothers grow up together.

Let’s fix Adler, together.

 xx,

N

*Sarah, McKay, Adler and the rest of you sweet kindred stranger-friends of mine, I pray so earnestly that you receive a miracle. I pray with every beat of my heart that God hears my prayers. I pray fervently that His perfect will is aligned with my own. And I pray, with the entirety of my broken heart, that your miracle looks far different than my own—I pray that your miracle ends with happily ever after. . . together. . .forever. . .here . . .now. Infinite love, and the most heartfelt namaste, Natalie

 

This full of joy, full of love, full of life family is so special to me. I went to high school with momma, Natalie. Now, she’s the mother of FIVE. It’s totally bewildering to me that someone my age can actually have that many children! . . . Then I remember that I’m actually 31 (snerk), and it’s completely realistic for a 31 year old to have five children. . . and after that, I remember that I myself am actually the mother of four (it’s so easy to forget that my family is a lot bigger than it looks/feels, and while we’re on the subject, why does four seem like so many more humans than three?!) Anyway, I hope you enjoy looking at these blissful images as much as I enjoyed shooting them. xoxoxo, N

For those who are interested, this entire session was shot in under 20 minutes flat. . .same thing is true of this shoot from yesterday of Cynthia and her beautiful babes (and of the subsequent posts that will be coming your way over the next couple of days). So many people associate getting family pictures taken with hours of stiff, unnatural torture. It’s just not the case. It CAN be FUN! So if your husband is constantly resisting family pics (cough cough), simply direct him here. And then remind him that if you can push a watermelon out of your you-know -what, he handle 20 minutes of camera time (forcryingoutloud).  Namaste. ;)

I woke with trembling hands.

It was the first thing I noticed. “I’m shaking, why am I shaking?” I thought.

No sooner had I peeled the sleep from my eyes, than they brimmed with hot, knowing tears.

I don’t know what I expected on a day like today. Not much. Certainly not this.

I sat up in bed, still trembling softly through my tears. “Happy third birthday, son,” I silently breathed.

I had known today was coming. She didn’t sneak up on me the way these kinds of days are prone to do. No, Today announced her arrival from down the street and around the corner. I spent the entirety of last week in anticipation.

Anticipation of what, exactly, I’m sure I don’t know.

“One week from today, he’d have turned three.”
“Once the weekend is over, there will only be three days to go . . .”
“The day after tomorrow. . .”
“Tomorrow is the day. . .”

Even then, you still wake up with trembling hands.

And so it goes.

I got the kids off to school (2 hours late), and settled in to cry the day away. You know, like you do on your dead son’s birthday.

Then, there was a knock.

A few deep breaths (and a quick wipe of the nose) later, I cautiously cracked open the front door.

I stared into loving, albeit somewhat reluctant and unfamiliar eyes. A moment later, all propriety fled, and I fell uncontrollably into safe, generous arms.

“I didn’t know what I could do,” she said, eyes wet with tears, “so I brought you the ocean.”

In her outstretched hand she held a candle, deep blue as the California coast.

On a day like today. . . this new friend brought me the sea.

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And that’s what it’s all about.

Surely, if nothing else, that’s what my son taught us to do. That was Baby Gavin’s legacy. . . bring the sea.

When we bring the sea. . . we give the best of ourselves to the people around us.

We reach to the depths of who we are and offer unconditional love, freely and without requisite.

We give.

We smile, we laugh, we dance, we sing.

We respect and treasure what we have right in front of us.

We let go.

We forgive.

We don’t get carried away by tomorrows or pulled under by yesterdays.

We cry. . . deep, harrowing sobs. . . that crash over us without remorse.

We change.

We connect.

We feel.

We rejoice.

We share.

We serve.

We care.

We embrace.

We reach.

We strive.

We dream.

When we bring the sea, we LIVE, today, because we know that it is the only day that we are truly guaranteed. . .

__________________________________________________

Son, I love you more today than ever before. Loving you taught me how to live. In grief, I have learned more of life than I ever knew I could live.

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy.”

There has been much “obliterative” hurt, I have been “inconsolable” and quite “literally crazy.” Missing you has been “dislocating to both body and mind.” I have prayed for your return. I have begged, bargained, pleaded with the Lord . . . to do for me as he did for Lazarus. . . for Martha.

And yet. . .

And yet.

This is my life. There are unique lessons to be learned. Grief has been a mighty teacher, cruel and kind in almost the same breath. And I could never have learned in any other way.

This is my time to LIVE, to laugh, to cry, to connect, to give, to dream. . . this is my time to bring the sea. But YOU taught me that, little boy. Not grief. You.

Until that blessed moment when you are again in my arms, I love you with all of me. . . no, more.

Mom

The quotes in this post are from Joan Didion’s extraordinary exploration of grief, The Year of Magical Thinking. I recommend it to anyone who has ever experienced great loss.

I had to take some time off to do just a little bit of this, living that is.

I needed to fall apart just a little.

I needed to have a good, long cry—to face the messy parts of what is.

I needed to shake some of the sorrow up to the surface, and exhale it away. . . or inhale it in. (I’m not sure there’s much of a difference with grief.)

It’s been 2 years now, almost 3, but usually it feels like last Thursday.

I go through this madness, thinking I shouldn’t be falling apart anymore. It’s foolish. What will people think? How will they react when they know the truth? What will they say when they know that sometimes, no often, it still hurts like Hell? That sometimes, no often, I still feel like I’m suffocating underneath it all?

. . . and then the sun comes out.

And then despite the rain, despite the thunder and the lightening, despite the begging and the longing and the bargaining and the pleading . . . through all of that weight. . . there’s light. And you know, somehow, someway everything truly is OK.

Out from under all.that.pain, you’re watching a miracle unfold. Right there in front of you. Layer by layer. Breath by breath.

And the miracle. . . is you.

You breathe in deep, flooded with inexplicable gratitude—oxygenating your very soul. Suddenly, for the first time in months, your feet hit the ground. You see all the pieces of yourself—the pieces of your sanity— and you know you can put it all back together again.

A day ago, or even a moment, you wouldn’t have believed.

Now, here it is. . .

Right in front of you.

The miracle of you.