Monday, December 28, 2009

A Long December and there's Reason to Believe Maybe this Year will be Better than the Last....

We lived through December 26, 2009. How was it? Well, better than December 26, 2008, but still very, very difficult. How is it possible that Webb has been gone a year? One year ago today, we were attending the funeral of my almost 19 month old baby. Zac and I kissed his casket and then sat in a packed church while our friends and family sat shocked, sad, scared and unbelieving behind us. I remember it well - too well. I remember what I was thinking, what I was wearing, the outfit we picked out for Webb - all of it. After that, I remember little from the next several months. Thank God for that. This year, we did not know how to celebrate Christmas, but with a 4 and 2 and a half year old, we didn't have a choice. We knew staying here would make it almost impossible to give our children the "Merry" Christmas they deserve. Although they know Webb died, they have no idea it happened on December 26, or even what those dates mean. So instead, we packed up on December 22 and went to Disneyworld until last night. It was the best decision we have ever made. It is hard to be depressed when you are watching your children have that much fun. And we each took time out of our day on December 26 to honor Webb. Two of my best friends surprised us by making each Zac and me a spa appointment that day, which gave us each time to be alone, relax, reflect and think about Webb. Luckily, my "spa therapist" asked no questions when I cried throughout the pedicure. I wasn't really sobbing - just kind of leaking. Tears were coming fast and furious. It was a nice release. And to be honest, it was nice spending those days with just Zac, Bo and Whit. We escaped all family drama associated with Christmas, which was actually refreshing. And I knew in my heart no one except us would truly be able to honor December 26 and the emotions of that day. We would not have been able to pretend like it wasn't happening, yet we would not have wanted to cry all day in the presence of others. For us, Christmas means something different now, and being around people that don't understand that would have been tough. We did it our way, and because we know ourselves well, that is what worked. We returned home last night, exhausted and happy for the joy we gave Bo and Whit. They thought today was Christmas and had fun setting out cookies for Santa last night and playing with all their toys this morning. For all the dread and leading up to this time of year, I am proud of how it turned out. Nothing will erase the sadness associated with this time, but we have to make sure our children still have Christmas. What I am feeling truly blessed for is the prayers that carried us through a difficult month, week and day. I cannot think of one person in my life that is important to me who did not reach out with a phone call, text, email, Facebook message or card in the days leading up to December 26. That is incredible. You have no idea how much gestures like that mean to me. It reminded me of why I have been able to survive this horrific year - this support system around me is the most incredible gift I could have ever asked for. Thank you for your prayers, for loving me and my family and for helping me during this most difficult time.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Scattered thoughts from a broken heart....

We took our children to see Santa last Friday and Bo took one look at him and turned to us and said with sad eyes, "I wish Webbie was here to sit on Santa's lap like last year." Zac and I both started crying. "So do I," was all I could say. It seems so strange he is gone. Every day that inches closer to "the" day, it seems a little less real and a little more real, all at the same time. We are sad. We are aching. Bo is asking questions, more complicated questions every day. I feel like I am sort of hovering above and looking in on our lives. Living life completely right now is too impossible. Christmas isn't really Christmas. The missing him is too big. One year ago today, our world was perfect. We were innocent. Then, in the span of five words and 10 seconds, everything changed: "Webber has a brain tumor." I'll never forget the room we were in, the faces I saw, the nurse who kept looking at the floor so she didn't have to see the panic in our eyes, the tiny scream that came from my husband and the images that ran through my mind of my children laughing the night before. The horror comes flooding back. I'll never forget. The wall of grief, and pain and trauma is so big it will never come down completely. One year has come and gone, and the only thing that has changed is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the grief. The sheer panic of facing the day has subsided, but what we are left with is just as impossible. Not overwhelmed, just sad. Unbelieving. A little confused. A little lost. And a little found. I can't even comprehend the grace that has come from His presence alone. For that, I am blessed. Blessed to have known Webb for 19 months. Blessed to know he is with our great God. Blessed to have the promise of life eternal with him. All because of His amazing grace.

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3: 21-22.

The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace. Psalm 29:11

We are hanging in there, leaning on each other and finding strength through our faith and our precious children. Life goes on and time goes by, one year will turn into many, and we will always know we were forever changed on December 26, 2008. Forever changed, but not defeated. We have lived, because He lives. We will approach 2010 with our heads held high, knowing we can endure anything, everything, because we have lived through the worst. We ask for continued prayers and support during this most difficult season, and the ones to follow. God bless you and your families and thank you for loving our family.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

And all the roads we have to walk are winding...

I don't have much to say as this Christmas season and anniversary of Webb's death approaches and our year of "firsts" winds down, except that we are in survival mode, and covet prayers, and are doing our best to put one foot in front of the other and make it through for the sake of our children. We managed to put up a tree, but looking at the ornaments made me sick, so we only got about half way through the box. That's enough for now. I did not send Christmas cards out this year. I couldn't imagine one that didn't include Webb - the "someone missing" would have been all I could see. Christmas music is not playing on our radio, and we will not be having a traditional celebration this year. It just seems like the best way, since we are not feeling festive. I am looking toward December 26 with dread. Somehow, I thought I'd feel different after a whole year, but I don't really know if I do. I am starting to relive memories of December 2008 I had pushed way down. I think I never wanted those memories to resurface, but they have and it has been painful. I guess the old adages "time helps" and "the first year is the worst" are probably true - but I cannot imagine I'll wake up January 1, 2010 and feel much different. It's still a long, winding road ahead. And while we've come far, we still have miles to go. This year, I am thinking about Christmas in the truest, most basic way possible. I am so thankful for that night in Bethlehem all those years ago, when God sent Jesus to save us. 2008 years later, almost to the day, He took Webb into His loving arms. Without Christ, I would not have the promise of eternity with my son, which would be the ultimate knife through my heart and soul. Instead, I have heaven with Webb to look forward to. And if that is all I ever associate Christmas with again, so be it. Trees, parties, dinner, presents, Santa and all the rest really mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. And in a year where celebrating seems impossible, knowing the true reason for the season means Christmas will not be lost on us at all. But it is still hard facing these dates which are associated with the worst moments of our lives. I am not quite sure yet how I feel about that.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanks....

Giving thanks. Surprisingly (or not), it came easier than I expected. I woke up on Thanksgiving and looked at Zac, Bo and Whit, and I felt love, peace, strength. Of course, throughout the day, I had my visions of Webb, and I could almost see him standing, playing, laughing with his brothers. It seems no matter how our family is sitting, standing or moving, I always see a giant hole where Webb is supposed to be. I keep thinking about this year of pain and what it has meant. All the events that have given me a new perspective run through my mind. Enduring pain is horrible; grieving is unbearable, especially when you're grieving your child. But it seems little (and huge) life lessons have come out of each. Having the miscarriage, dealing with strange (and common) childhood illnesses and struggling with relationships: all of these things have taught me about the fragility of life, the need to seek strength from Christ and the importance of facing my fears head on. Losing Webb is too big to break down so easily, but I am starting to see how the pain, the tears and the heartache are shifting me, molding me and carrying me into what I will become. Am I ready to give thanks for that? No, certainly not. Not now, and I cannot imagine ever. But it seems all of the pain that came with this year has made me see what I am thankful for in a different way. And I am thankful for so, so much. I am thankful for my parents who raised me to be strong and stand on two feet - I bet they never knew how much I would have to draw from the strength they gave me. I am thankful for my husband who- like no other- knows how I feel and without a word can tell me he understands, he knows and we will be ok. I am thankful for friends who did not give up when things got tough. These friends are here on November 28, 2009 as much as they were there on December 23, 2008. Every phone call, email, card, text, visit, dinner, smile and hug is forever etched in my heart. Angels on earth. I am thankful for Bo and Whit, my two creative, silly, sensitive, loving boys who fill me up, pick me up and remind me why we must go on. I am thankful they saved our lives. And I am thankful they have no idea they saved our lives. I am thankful for Webb and the short 19 months I got to hold him, love him and raise him. I am thankful I knew his sweet soul and I would not trade those 19 months. Not even if I knew the pain that losing him would bring. I am a better, stronger person for being his mother, and my love for him is endless. Finally, I am most thankful for my God, my savior Jesus Christ. He has literally carried me through these horrific months. He has rocked me, guided me, pulled me out of the mud and mire and set my feet on solid ground. Without Him, there would be no children to love, no friends to call, no reason to live. He is the reason for everything, and I am learning to rely on him as my sole source of strength. He is getting us through, and we are truly thankful for it. This year, Thanksgiving was like none before. But somehow, that wasn't entirely a bad thing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

He Knows what He's Doing

This past week has been torture. Last Saturday night, Bo got sick again. High fever, throwing up, moaning in pain. Then his eyes started swelling, which had me in full-fledged panic mode. I could tell it looked like an allergic reaction, but my pediatrician wanted us to take him to "be seen," and the only place to "be seen" on Sunday is the emergency room. Back to that place. Zac took him (I still can't bear the thought), and he was sent home with a "fever" and they said the swollen eyes were due to an allergy. They did not test him for flu, even though I suspect that's what he had. They did a urine test since he had HSP a few weeks ago. As I said on a previous post, damage to the kidneys is the most severe side effect of HSP, and the way they test for that is to measure protein in the urine. His urine showed traces of protein (of course), so we spent the week having blood and urine tests. Another round of tests. Everyone, including my pediatrician, assured me they thought he was fine, but exactly one year ago, we were doing similar tests on Webb and they were saying the same thing. And he was not fine. Back then, my instinct kept me having more and more tests run on Webb. This time, with Bo, it was my fear. Now my only real instinct when it comes to the health of my children is fear. Because regardless of what I know is rational, I had the worst happen, and the chances of the worst happening were low. Why would this time be any different? Two tortuous days of waiting for tests results laster, the outcome was different. Bo is fine. His kidneys were unaffected. The trace protein was just that - trace amounts, and it was probably due to the fever. I found myself crying out to God, shouting praises to Him, thanking Him for positive test results. But this is no way to live. Every fever, every cough, every hurt tummy has me fearing the worst. Is it cancer? A deadly disease? Kidney failure? The extremes are no longer distant possibilities. My child had a brain tumor. And died. And I did everything right. Can you even imagine how vulnerable that makes me feel? How out of control? I know God is there. I know He has a plan. I know all of that, but when I am trying so desperately to hold on to my children, to keep them HERE, it seems far away. He seems far away. My soul has been battered and bruised. A small part of me wants to place my boys inside a bubble and leave them there. There are so many things that can happen!!! This world is so unsure, so dangerous sometimes. I had thirty perfect years of ignorant bliss, and now the band-aid has been ripped away. It's hard. So what do I do? I pray, of course, and cling to the Scripture, to God's Word. Bo's favorite song right now is an oldie but goodie we learned growing up. The words are so simple, and I've heard them a million times, but lately I find myself listening to it even when he's not in the car: "The Lord has given His plan to us, no need to fuss, He knows what He's doing and He will always take care of us if we will follow Him. God's way is the best way." He knows what He's doing. I know that. He is taking care of us. I know that. It was his perfect plan to give me Webb on the same day He gave me Whit, and it was His plan to bring him home December 26, 2008. I know that, even though I don't understand that. But I am not supposed to. I will still follow Him. His way is the best way, but His thoughts are not our thoughts and His plans are not our plans. Lord, please help us to remember that. Please drive every ounce of fear out of our hearts. Assure us You know what You're doing. And give Webb a kiss from me. Amen

Sunday, November 1, 2009

She'll be alright - just not tonight

To say this weekend was emotional would be a huge understatement. It was rough. I counted on Halloween being hard. I have so many amazing memories of my three boys last year, especially my little lion, Webb, who was crawling/walking with his long tail dragging behind him. I never dreamed it would be the last costume he would wear. I remember pulling the twins in the wagon and how happy Webbie was with his huge mane and pumpkin flashlight. It was a good memory. This year, Batman and Robin were clearly missing their other sidekick, and it was a knife to the heart, starting with Bo and Whit's Halloween parade, when it was obvious to no one except us how much was wrong with that day. How could he not be here for this?? I could just see him standing beside his brothers, walking proudly in his costume. It looked like a big, gaping hole was present in every picture. Of course, there is a big, gaping hole in our hearts and in our lives, so that is not surprising.

After Halloween, we moved on to November 1- today- All Saints' Day. I went to church and stood as my child's name was read among the few church members who have died this year. Tears slid down my face as they rang the bell for "Webber Bennett Broach," and Dr. Gil told a story about what he has meant to the church. It was surreal. I had prepared for it, but how much can you really prepare yourself for that moment? I took communion and sat at the alter where Zac and I got married, where my 3 boys were baptized and where we said goodbye to Webb 10 months ago. So much joy, so much pain in such a tiny little spot in the church. And such a big God, there for it all. The peace that passes understanding washed over me in the midst of my grief, which was all-encompassing in that somewhat public moment. I don't need a day to remind me my child is gone. I don't need a moment of silence to bring me back to the reality of this living nightmare. But having his death recognized, seeing his name among the saints, did remind me of how far we've come this year. I was reminded of the love I have felt, the blessings we have received and the God who has gotten us to November 1 of an impossible year. Somewhere in the midst of this pain, I feel the Holy Spirit, assuring me we'll be alright. And I know we will be. Just not tonight.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

God's Promises

I have been struggling the past couple of weeks. I think it's a combination of things. Of course, we are still dreading the upcoming holidays. And I keep thinking about "one year ago today." It was this time last year that Webb started getting sick, and we started taking him to doctors every week to run test after test. No one (except me) suspected a brain tumor. He just wasn't exhibiting the "normal" symptoms. As the weather gets cooler and school starts, I am instantly taken back to that time in my mind, and it has opened fresh wounds. We are still so vulnerable. Then, the weekend before last, Bo (who is almost 4), started complaining about his feet hurting. Within minutes, his feet were very swollen and started to bruise. I instantly prayed for a sprained foot, and he and Zac raced off to the ER. I couldn't go back - not yet, and not for a sprain. Plus, it was Friday night (don't things like this always happen on the weekend when doctors' offices are closed??) and I had to stay behind with Whit. Once Zac got him to the emergency room, he called and said the nurses did not think it was a sprain. It was now happening to both feet, he could not walk and had strange, red "dots" traveling up his leg, and they were going to run some tests. I hung up the phone, and immediately threw up. "Tests" in that emergency room, oh no. I couldn't even take it. I went into panic mode, shaking and crying. I hit my knees and prayed so hard for God to heal my baby. Not to take another of my children. To let it all be ok. I was pretty hysterical, and by myself, but I kept praying and praying and praying. At some point, I heard a small, still voice telling me to "Get up. It's going to be ok." Needless to say, I never heard that voice when I was on my knees 9.5 months ago, praying the same prayers for Webb. So I got up. I was still worried, but I had a peace, and I had a feeling Bo was going to be fine. Zac called back and assured me the nurses and doctors were treating us as the "low man on the totem pole." While this used to be annoying, it is now music to my ears. When we brought Webb in on December 23, the ER was more crowded than I had ever seen it, yet we had nurses and doctors all over us. We were the "trauma" that day. This day, we were just another family in line. So I started feeling even better. After 6 hours and blood work, Bo was diagnosed with HSP. I had never heard of it either (http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/HSP/). It's not the rarest illness, but they definitely don't see it everyday, and the symptoms are VERY scary. If you have kids, check out this website so you won't be in the same type of panic if one starts exhibiting these symptoms. Basically, Bo is going to be ok, and this was just one of those strange "kid things," as my pediatrician told me. Of course, why it happened to our family, when we are already so fragile - I don't know. In the depths of my distress that night, I screamed to God, "We've had enough!!" It was the first time I have been angry at Him this year. I know that's hard to believe, but it was. I was at the end of my rope. Enough is enough. I have experienced a set back. Another reminder that life is so fragile, that I have no guarantees. Yet in that darkness, I also heard God's voice, telling me I'm going to be ok. And I believe it, but it's still scary. This life is no longer all happiness and dreams for me - it is instead rooted in the grim reality that the worst does happen. Your children can die. More than one. Cancer strikes out of nowhere, accidents happen. I always "knew" it, but now I am living it.
I am doing a Bible study right now on the book of Romans. Faithful followers know I have relied on passages from Romans throughout this year. It is a book that gives grievers hope. And as I read in Romans last night, I was reminded again that God does not promise life will be good just because we are good, and He does not promise we will live a life without hardship and pain. But He does promise to use that pain and those struggles to build character, to make us stronger. He also promises eternal life if you put your belief in Jesus Christ. And He promises to keep His promises. God has never broken a promise. Not to me, not to anyone. When he gave me Webb, He didn't promise to let me keep him my entire life, and that is a hard thing to swallow. But I know God will be glorified in my story, some how, some way. I know I will spend eternity with Webb, in a place where brain tumors don't exist. I am standing on the promises of God. And in a world where everything else seems shaky and unsure, that is a pretty great place to be.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wish List

I cannot believe it is October 1. And yet, I cannot believe it is only October 1. This year has taken forever. I look back on the months of 2009, and there is little to separate them - I barely remember January and February, March is blurry and forgettable, spring happened quickly, and then all summer I dealt with the miscarriage. Is it possible an entire year of my life will forever be "missing" from my memory files? Part of me hopes so, and part of me is sad because I feel like I "lost" such an important time in Bo and Whit's life. Last night, Bo and I were lying alone on the couch and he asked me, "Mommy, does God keep Webbie warm in heaven?" It sort of came out of nowhere, so after I regained my composure, I replied, "Of course He does." Then he asked, "But, who puts Webbie in his crib?" and I answered, "Probably Jesus or one of his angels." Bo thought for a long time and asked, "Who is Webbie's mommy in heaven?" I didn't answer. I didn't know how - partly because I have wondered the same thing myself, and partly because it breaks my heart to think of anyone being his mommy except me. Who is taking care of our babies in heaven? Do they need taking care of? It is all too much for me to think about.
So instead, I still just ponder those thoughts, and I wish. I wish for so many things:
I wish I still had Webb.
I wish I never knew what actual heartache felt like.
I wish I could say, "Oh, I'll feel better tomorrow, or next week, or next year."
I wish Bo didn't have to ask me questions like, "Who is Webb's mommy in Heaven."
I wish Bo and Whit would know their brother.
I wish Whit knew what having a twin felt like.
I wish I wasn't the mom who lost a child.
I wish people didn't look down, or away, when they see me.
I wish someone could say something that makes me feel better.
I wish people wouldn't say things that make me feel worse.
I wish I could literally forget the time we spent in the hospital.
I wish I wasn't so tired.
I wish I had a guarantee I would never lose someone else I love.
I wish, I wish, I wish.

I am thankful for a living Lord who knows these wishes. I am thankful I have a God who also knows what it is like to lose a son and who hurts because I hurt. I am eternally grateful for the promise of everlasting life, even though I don't deserve it. And I know He is by my side as I trudge through this deep, dark valley which seems never-ending. I don't just feel it, I know it. So out of all the horrible pain and suffering, I suppose I feel blessed to truly KNOW what I previously accepted based on faith alone, and that is that Christ will not leave you and will carry you through your darkest hour. I hope if there is one person reading this who doubts that truth, that you will now believe. He is real. He shows up. He will not abandon your side. While I hope none of you are ever faced with a situation as horrible as mine, I hope you are at least blessed to hear the voice of God and feel His love carrying you along at some point in your life. It is the true miracle in all of this pain. And above all else, it confirms I will see my baby again. Because God keeps His promises.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Long December

It's been a while since my last post. I have been doing something I am often guilty of - filling up my days and nights with so many activities I don't have time to sit and stare....or think. Thinking is something I do constantly when I'm not distracted, which is usually fine. I am an only child and have been left alone with my thoughts my entire life. It's part of the reason I know myself as well as I do, and I like that part of me. But for the past 9 months, time to think only means time to think about what we've been through. Losing Webb. The miscarriage. The horrible infection and aftermath of the infection. The unsure, unstable future. I am also stuck in a place where I don't want to be continuously pitied, but I can't stand to think people have "forgotten" what we've been through, what we continue to go through. I have seen such a shift in how I relate to others and to the outside world. I want to be the same as I was on December 22, 2008, but the truth is, that person is gone. I still have many of her characteristics, but for the most part, she is gone. I am less tolerant of many personality traits and situations that used to make me merely roll my eyes. I am now completely annoyed by people who pick petty fights or worry about insignificant things. Don't they know??? Don't they realize the only important thing in life is that their children are still alive??? Then I have to remind myself, of course they do, but they haven't been through what you've been through. And I have to be the first to admit I used to get worked up about things that no longer phase me. It's human nature, and it's all relative, but it's sometimes hard for the new me to operate in the world of the old way of looking at things. I put on a happy face, and I continue to trudge through my days, and sometimes it's real, and sometimes it's fake, but right now, it's the only way. I always had a sense it would get harder as the months wore on. They say "time" is the greatest healer, but I think that is only true on some levels. Because really, what time does, is blur the past into distant memories so it is not all you have to think about. It will not bring Webb back. It will not magically change me into the person I used to be. It will not make me happier, or more settled. In some ways, time is my worst enemy because each day is one day further from the last time I saw my baby, and I don't WANT those memories to fade.
I went back and read the paragraph above and realized it sounds a bit rambling. But instead of trying to make it make sense, I left it because it represents how I feel right now - all over the place. In 30 minutes, I will no doubt be crying over the fact that so many people love me and continue to pick me up when I fall. It is the conflicting emotions I have talked about many times - the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It's leading a bipolar life but not having the disease. It's a tough way to live.
I have used many songs on this blog and in my life to express how I am feeling. By now, faithful readers know I relate my life to music, and that one of the bands I do this with is the Counting Crows. I have all their albums and love to look for the deeper meanings in their songs. Although I have heard it a million times and know every word by heart, I am not sure why "Long December" has never occurred to me once over the past 9 months. But it was on the other day when I was driving home in the rain, and I almost had to pull over at some of the verses, like "the smell of hospitals in winter, and the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls;" or "I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass..." It made me think about my "Long December" and I wondered, " Will I ever see a reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last?" I hope so. But so far....no such luck.

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Days...

I haven't posted in a while.  I'd like to say it's because I have been so busy - which is true - but part of me just hasn't wanted to give words to what I have been feeling lately.  Bo and Whit started school on Tuesday.  Last week, I met the teachers that should have been Whit and Webb's teachers.  I should have been holding both of their hands, showing them around their new classroom.  I should have gotten 3 backpacks, not 2.  Webb never went to school and he never will.  It was another "first."  Whit was nervous and anxious, and I know having Bo somewhere in the vicinity helped, but I couldn't help but think if Webb had been there, he would have been ok.  He would have had his buddy.  Instead, I pictured him sitting quietly in the corner, my sweet, shy little boy, sucking his thumb, feeling scared, and, well, it breaks my heart.  It reminded me I am not the only person who has been torn in two.  In some ways, although he is likely unaware of it, Whit's loss is much, much worse.  I suppose every year he starts school, I will picture the way it should have been, with his twin by his side.  It hurts.  

We are already starting to dread Christmas.  I cannot even believe this year is almost over.  It has not "flown by" for us, by any means.  In fact, it has been the slowest year of my entire life.  What I cannot believe is that we are going to have to celebrate Christmas during a time that has so many horrible memories for us.  I do not know how December 23 through December 26, what is supposed to be such a happy time of the year, will ever be truly happy for us.  I cannot even look at Christmas decorations without feeling sick.  It reminds me of the Christmas tree at the hospital, the running errands on December 22, picking out gifts we would never open.  Or did we?  I can't remember.  It reminds me of the sleigh bells that jingled in the waiting room, as Santa's helpers passed out gifts to all the sick children.  Did we get anything for Webb?  I can't remember.  It reminds me of so much - so many hopes and dreams (we couldn't wait to see the twins open their matching bikes), and so much heartache, so much pain, saying goodbye to our baby.  I used to love Christmas.  Now it will never be the same.  Never.  And that is our reality.

The first day of school, the first Halloween, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas - we know it will be hard.  We are once again in survival mode.  To top it all off, the baby that was supposed to be here a few weeks after Christmas will not.  What a year.  What a painful, horrific, tear filled year.  We hope and pray this is the last time we have to face "firsts" like these.  Please, God, please let it be the last worst year. 

Monday, August 31, 2009

Webb's Room

The pictures don't quite do it justice...but here are some shots from the Webber Bennett Broach Itty Bitty Forest:




Sweet Baby Webb




























Bear playing with a ball

and another climbing a tree













Baby deer looking into stream with trout




















My sweet Webb under the tree









Sunday, August 23, 2009

Past and Present


Today was unexpectedly emotional.  We have been building a Storytelling Room at our church in honor of Webb.  This summer we have checked in on the progress from time to time, but most of the building was done off site.  The room is to be a forest theme and feature baby animals found in a North Georgia forest : bears, rabbits, deer, trout, etc.  Zac and I were very involved in picking out the details....Webb's nickname was Bear, so we wanted twin bears; he loved balls, so we wanted one of the bears playing with a ball.  I picked out a Scripture verse to be painted in the horizon, which was to be painted on the wall.  And we wanted a painting of Webb sitting near the mountain and horizon.  It was fun to visualize, but I had no idea how it would all come together.  This morning, we dropped Bo and Whit off in the nursery and walked through Webb's room on the way to church service.  Zac got there a little before me, and when I walked in, it was all I could do not to hit my knees.  Our eyes met in a mixture of panic and disbelief.  The room was done.  The forest we had visualized was now a reality.  We stood in the middle of it, crying and crying and crying.  People and their children were walking through, having fun looking at the animals....they must have thought we were crazy.  We were just not prepared.  There were twin baby bears, one climbing a tree and one playing with a ball.  There were lifelike trees, a waterfall, and a pond with baby fish.  There was a beautiful sunset with the verse I picked out "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."  Matthew 18:4  painted in the sky.  And then, underneath the verse, underneath what looks like a horizon where Earth ends and Heaven begins, was a life size painting of my baby, so real, it literally took my breath away.  The painting was done from a picture taken of Webb 3 weeks before he died.  He was laughing his unique little laugh, showing the dimple on his right cheek.  I stood and looked at this life sized Webb and almost felt like he was right there: I could see his eight teeth, his messy red hair, his sparkling blue eyes.  I missed him more than I thought possible as I stood in that room 8 months to the day we were told he had a brain tumor.  It was almost more than I could take.  People were everywhere, so we left, both of us bawling, and sat in the church service.  I had tears streaming down my face almost the entire time.  I didn't know whether to stay put or run screaming.  I could not believe there was a room downstairs honoring my child.  How did that happen?  It shouldn't be there.  Webb should be with us, not drawn on a wall!  It is surreal.  It is heartbreaking.  I was simply not prepared for the emotions that seeing his room would bring.  It almost makes his death a little more permanent.  We are still so raw.  It just does not get easier.  It becomes more manageable as time marches on, but it does not get easier.  On Friday, I drove by the hospital where Webb died for the first time since I left the day after Christmas.  I could barely even look in its direction.  I had a vague flashback of that day - leaving the hospital without Webb, which was the strangest, most horrific feeling imaginable.  I remembered exactly what I was thinking that day: "How many times have I walked through Scottish Rite and passed someone who is walking out these doors for the last time without their child?"  I probably have - after all, there is no "secret exit" for parents who are leaving for the last time.  I remembered wanting to run back upstairs to the PICU and grab my baby.  I remembered shaking my head in disbelief, thinking, "Surely this isn't happening.  Surely I did not just say goodbye to my baby.  Surely I will see him again...."
I don't know if I can ever walk back in that hospital again.  Driving by it almost killed me.
So no, 8 months later, it has not gotten easier.  In ways, it is harder.  I miss him more than is even imaginable.  I feel sick without him.  We will survive, but these feelings will not go away, and that is what makes this grief so impossible.  It is forever a part of who we are, he is forever a part of who we were.  And sometimes who we are and who we were just don't match up quite right.  

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Joyful, Patient, Faithful

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:12

This is the scripture verse I have clung to the past week.  "Joyful in hope:" there are times, if I really try and I really think about it, I am hopeful.  I think about all the days we have ahead of us, and I am at peace.  Bo starting "real" school, Whit playing "real" sports, learning to read, riding bikes, family vacations, another brother or sister....we have so many years ahead of us.  When the worst nightmare happens at age 30, you can look at it in 2 ways : (1) we have many more years to experience joyful events or (2) we have many more years to live with the pain and agony of losing a part of our souls.  I suspect we will fluctuate between those two perspectives, but we are hoping and praying the joyful events overshadow the pain overall - until we are ultimately reunited again in Heaven.  But even in the hope, there is still the pain.  Because no matter how many joyful things happen, we will always know Webb is not here to share them with us.

....So we become "Patient in affliction."  "Affliction" seems like such an understatement when you're grieving the loss of a child, but I suppose in God's eyes, "affliction" is a pretty good way to describe it.  His ways are not our ways, and to Him, I believe Webb being in Heaven is a blessing He knows we will comprehend when it is our turn.  Being "patient" has never been my strong point, and I am in such a hurry to move past this horrible year.  But trudging through it is the only way, and I am learning patience, even in this most horrific of trials.  How does one do this?

....By being "faithful in prayer."  It is the only way.  You, my friends and prayer warriors, know I have struggled with this.  When about a zillion prayers went unanswered all in a row, and the prayers were centered around the most important things in my life, it was difficult to trust that prayer makes a difference.  I asked myself, "Why pray if God already knows the outcome?"  Over time, I have learned that prayer is not always requesting things and getting answers.  For me, prayer has become more of a way to tell God about my troubles and to change the way I react to the results.  Of course, I still make requests, just as the Bible encourages us to do.  But I have become more mature in what I expect to get out of prayer.  Now, it's not just for results or guidance, but it's a way to center my soul, have an intimate conversation with my Savior and trust He will help me though whatever life has in store for me.  He has proven faithful, time and again, in big ways and small.  And even though what we prayed for the most - Webb's healing -  did not happen, God was by our side the entire time.  It's pretty hard to give up on the One who saved my life - I would be nothing, a shell of a person, depressed and lost, without His grace.  I am not angry with God for not answering my prayer, because I trust in Him with all my heart, and I believe He only wants what is best for us.  And I came to this realization by being faithful in prayer.  So I pray.  And I pray.  I cannot stop.

Thank you for your emails, calls, dinners, prayers, cares and love.  Our family is loved more than we could have ever known.  I feel love pouring over me and picking me up when I cannot go on.  So few people will ever experience such an outpouring of love - we are truly blessed.  I have seen the spirit of God in so many people throughout these past 8 months.  What a wonderful and cherished gift.  I would ask for your continued prayers for our healing and for our weary spirits.    


Friday, August 7, 2009

What's Going On...

It has taken me a couple weeks to be able to blog about our latest struggles. Honestly, I was still trying to process it on several different levels: physically, emotionally, spiritually. I guess I have needed this time to be able to articulate exactly how I want to describe what happened and what I have taken from this experience. I will start from the beginning. In early May, I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child. Zac and I were very excited, yet we also recognized it opened up a lot of emotions about Webb's death and the aftermath of grief we are still firmly rooted in. I was feeling blessings on one hand, and strange fearful emotions on the other, like "what if something goes wrong? what if this baby is not healthy? what will we do?" I started to pray constantly for peace about the pregnancy. And on the other hand, I asked God that if the child was not perfect or healthy, to please take it in the beginning, in His natural way, so we do not have to endure that heartbreak again. That was my honest and sincere request. And yet I never felt a total peace. We hardly told anyone about it until I was well along, and after and ultrasound at 11 weeks, we saw a healthy heartbeat and started to feel a little better. At 13 weeks, I went to my perinatologist (routine visit), and we discovered there was no heartbeat. I had lost the baby, probably in the 12th week. After several consultations and a review of my past history (I sometimes hemorrhage during delivery), it was determined waiting and passing the baby naturally may not be the best avenue for me. I was quickly admitted for a D&C and woke up from that in some extreme pain. Long story very short, I had a uterine infection, from the fetus or the surgery, and I became very, very sick. I was in the hospital 5 days then sent home on oral antibiotics. I went back for a follow up and it was determined I needed another D&C. That was last Friday and I have been fine since, but have more follow up appointments. Needless to say, we are exhausted - physically and mentally. While the miscarriage itself was not completely devastating (what is after you've lost a child?) the entire situation, coupled with the fact we are already grieving so much for Webb, well, it's been tough to take.

So where was God in all of this? I'll be honest, for a minute, I did not know. First, we lost the baby, then to have all of these "rare" complications from the miscarriage. It left me asking "WHY US?!?" all over again. I felt like my children and my hope for future children were slipping away - it was like I couldn't get a grip on anything. And for what? Am I not worthy of more children? And then, I started thinking about the stupid psychic who told me I would only have 2 children last year. Wait - is that stuff real? Was that true?? I was spinning and spinning and spinning. I found my self on my knees, begging God to show up, asking Him to tell me what to do. I prayed fervently for a sign in my dreams, or in my devotional or in my life somewhere. I could not get the psychic's words out of my mind. As a dear friend told me, it had taken "bitter roots." My devotionals started heavily telling me to look to the Word. I didn't know where to start, so I said, "Ok, God, I am going to flip my Bible open. I know that doesn't always work, but if there is something you want to show me, now is the time." I opened my Bible to Zechariah, and let my eyes settle on the page. This is what God told me: "Ask the Lord for rain in the Spring, for He makes the storm clouds. And he will send showers of rain so every field becomes a lush pasture. Household gods give false advice, fortune tellers predict only lies and interpreters of dreams pronounce falsehoods that give no comfort. So my people are wandering like lost sheep; with no Shepherd to guide them." Zechariah 10. Ok, whoa. Thanks God, for reassuring me you are in control, and there are no other truths. I knew that, but I started to doubt it. He brought me back. He showed up, like He always does. Maybe not right away, but before it was too late. That's Him!! Of course, He was working along side of me the entire time, but sometimes I need a BIG sign, and this was one of those times. Isn't it amazing? I still get chills when I recall that moment and read those words.

As for the emotional part of the miscarriage? Well, I'm still working on that. Someone asked me if I went numb when I heard no heartbeat. The answer to that is no, not at all. "Numb" is "Your child has a brain tumor." "Numb" is "he's already got one foot in Heaven. I am so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Broach." This was not that. Praise God. But I am still sad this wasn't the blessing we had hoped for. We did genetic testing and confirmed the baby had a common chromosomal disorder that ends in first trimester miscarriage 99% of the time. It was kind of comforting to be within the odds for that one. It was not genetically passed, so we have no reason to think this would ever happen again. We are still smiling and enjoying our boys, and we still talk about our future children, whether they exist or not. The point is, we know God is in control, and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Thank you for your prayers and concerns during this incredibly difficult time.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Truths to Live By

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, remember: God has made the one as well as the other."  Ecclesiastes 7:14

"I promise this very day that I will repay you two mercies for each of your woes!"  Zechariah 9:12

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know," says the Lord.  Jeremiah 33:3

"A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all."  Psalm 34:19

This is not our season.  I know that.  I have not embraced it, because I do not want to, but I am aware of it.  We have been knocked down in the worst imaginable ways over and over again.  I've been compared to Job at least 10 times this past week.  "It's just bad luck" are words I am tired of hearing.  "How do you do it?"  I am asked all the time.  Honestly, sometimes I do not know.  We have been dealt more than our share of heartache.  Plus, the heartache did not resolve the "problems" I had before it all began.  I still worry about the future, finances and dysfunctional relationships in my life.  I still struggle with the same day to day issues I always did.  But, in a way, I feel richer and more blessed then ever.  It's weird.  It's also God-sent, and this I know and trust.  It is my life, and I don't want another one.  Much has been discussed about Job, the most "cursed" man in the Bible.  But I don't even mind being compared to Job.  Why?  Because "the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning."  Job 42:12.  We have truths like these to live by.  We will enter our season of blessings.  And we are promised eternal blessings, even if we don't see them in this lifetime.  I think of all the blessings already waiting for me in Heaven and that alone keeps me going some days.  He will deliver us from our troubles.  We will be okay.

Friday, July 24, 2009

How Many Times Can I Break til I Shatter?

We have suffered another huge loss.  One that leaves us asking "Why, why, why?" all over again.  Of course, nothing will ever compare to the loss of Webb, so even a loss that one year ago would have been hugely monumental only pales in comparison.  But we have not yet entered our season of blessings.  Soon?

People say bad things happen in threes.  Ok, I think we reached that number a long time ago.  But as I sit here, crying and trembling over my keyboard, I still am not in despair.  When Webb died, I was drawn very close to God, right underneath his loving arms, and I did not once doubt his presence.  Lately, as that tangible connection started to fade, I am left asking all my questions over again.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do multiple bad things happen to good people?  This just is not fair.  It isn't.  And I don't know another way to say that.  But I am not in despair.  His grace is sufficient.  As my precious grandmother used to say, "This too shall pass."

I know my latest posts have been heavy.  My heart has been heavy.  This grief is heavy.  It is hard to walk around with this weight I constantly carry.  We are being lifted up - I know it and I feel it.  This too shall pass.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

She says she's tired of life - she must be tired of something....

I am tired of grieving. I am tired of walking by an empty crib every night and every morning. I am tired of reliving the hospital and the funeral and the weeks and months before Webb's diagnosis. I am still in disbelief. How did this happen? Why me? How will we go on - really? How? It is strange how grief comes in waves, some big, some small. Right now it feels like a tsunami for some reason. I guess it is my brain's way of taking in things bit by bit, piece by piece. But it hurts. And it's exausting. I often picture myself as bobbing along in the water, barely above the surface. It sounds a bit suicidal, I know, but it's nothing close to that. I still enjoy life and want to keep living it. I just can't believe this is my new life - it's very hard to articulate the feelings. It's hard to square the happy, carefree person with the person I am now. Still happy on many levels, but...different. I can't believe I ever thought I went through "hard times." It annoys me when people who have not lost a child think they have a rough life. I am sure many have faced horrific obstacles, but I am being 100% honest when I say I think ANYTHING would have been better than losing one of my babies. I would have endured absolutely anything and said, "At least I still have all my children." I know that for a fact. There just isn't anything worse. In a way, it's kind of liberating. The worst has already happened, so I fear little, except, of course, losing another child. But death no longer scares me. While I don't want to die or be away from my other children, I have so much waiting for me in heaven that it doesn't seem as terrible as it used to. I never imagined I'd be 30 and no longer scared of dying. I feel like I have aged 50 years in 6 months.

Do you ever hear songs you've loved for years and never really understood the meaning? Or have you ever found a new meaning in a familiar song? That happens to me constantly now. Especially with Counting Crows, who have always been a favorite of mine. In the car the other day, this part of "Round Here" was playing and I burst into tears. The meaning never was something I could relate to until now. Now it makes perfect sense:

She says It's only in my head
She says Shhh I know it's only in my head
But the girl in car in the parking lot
says "Man you should try to take a shot
can't you see my walls are crumbling?"
Then she looks up at the building
and says she's thinking of jumping
She says she's tired of life
she must be tired of something
Round here she's always on my mind
Round here hey man got lots of time
Round here we're never sent to bed early
And nobody makes us wait
Round here we stay up very, very, very, very late

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Struggling....

I wonder if 6 months sounds like a long time to people. I wonder if people think: "Oh, Webb died 6 months ago - Zac and Ashley must be getting better, or over it..." I can assure you it's not the case. First of all, "better" is relative. Better than what? December 26? Well, I was in total shock then and had held my baby alive that day and seen him laughing and smiling 3 days before. Six months later, the shock is gone, and I have not seen him, heard him, smelled or felt him in what seems like an eternity. So "better" isn't the right word. "Over it?" Never.

In some ways, it is worse today than it was 3, 4, 5, even 6 months ago. The pain is more contained, the panic has subsided, and we can actually function through a day - but the reality that he is gone seems more....real. He is not just away for a while. He is not coming back. After 6 months, that truth sets in a little deeper. We knew in our minds he was never coming back, even when we were in shock. But after 6 months, we are actually starting to realize the impact of that. And it hurts. It is the dull, constant, horrific kind of hurt that will not go away. I imagine it is a bit like losing an arm or a leg. At first, you cannot do anything, and the physical pain is unbearable. After time, you start learning how to compensate and "live around" the missing appendage, but it is always there, always a reminder, never far from your thoughts. Just like a person who has to live without an appendage, we will never be the same. We will keep walking around this giant hole for the rest of our lives.

I have always been the kind of person who can put a "game face" on. It was partly how I was raised and partly what I have learned to do over the years. I am not necessarily a private person, but I can hide my strong emotions very carefully. I have gotten good at smiling on the outside, sheilding the world and my closest friends and family from how I am really feeling. It is not as much a protection for them as it is protection for me. I am not ready to lose it. Not today. I am not prepared for the aftermath of such an emotional outburst. Luckily, I have my God to pour it all out to. In the times of my deepest despair, I hit my knees and pray out every drop of pain, of fear, of frustration. It works. It centers me, balances me and helps me through my day. We are still so desperate for His guidance. He is the only way to get through a tragedy as great as this one, and I do not understand how anyone thinks their problems can be solved without God. What a miserable existence that must be. Even in the darkest days I face, I still have hope and the promise.

This past week, we spent some time in Vail. Vail is a special place as it is where Zac and I met and the spot our children have visited many times. Webb only got to go once. Yet as I sat in that familiar place that holds so many memories for me, he was all I thought about. Being in the mountains and seeing God's most beautiful creations has always impacted me, but this time, it hit me hard. I felt closer to Webb there. Maybe it was because I did not have the million distractions that I do in Atlanta. Maybe it was because we were 8,000 feet higher than we usually are. Maybe it was because I think my heaven must look a lot like Vail. Maybe it was all of that. And I don't think I was the only one feeling that way. When we got on the gondola to ride to the top of the mountain, Bo said, "We are going to see Webbie!!" He has never said that before, and he has ridden an airplane several times. I like to think his presence was there, as it always is. As we were flying over those mountains last night, back to our lives, I felt a strange sense of leaving something behind.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grief

Let me tell you something about grief. It finds you. It tracks you down. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I will be going about my day, wading through the motions, and it will hit me like a ton of bricks. Reminding me I am still a mother who lost her child. Reminding me it will never be the same. Reminding me he's not coming back. I have times where I feel like I'm going to be ok. Moments when I look at Bo and Whit and see all I have instead of all I have lost. And then it pulls me under like a strong current: one child is missing.

Bo is still asking questions about Webb, which makes me happy because it means he has not forgotten. Last night, I was laying next to him before he went to sleep, and he said, "Mommy, do you ever get sad?" I said, "Sure I do." He replied, "When you think about Webbie?" and I told him, "Yes, that makes Mommy very sad." He thought for a second and then told me, "Mommy, people get sick. When Webbie is up in the sky with Jesus, he's happy and not sick. When he is down here, he is very sick." I agreed with him, interested in his perspective on things. And then he said, "Mommy, we are so sad Webbie is not here. But Webbie is happy!" You know, out of all the things I have read, all the things people have told me, Bo's words were some of the most reassuring words I have heard. Maybe because it's so obvious. Maybe because the simplicity of a three year old makes it seem like it's ok for babies to be in heaven and not with us. I don't know why. But he was right, Webb is happy even though we are sad. And last night, that didn't seem as strange as it sometimes does.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Survival = Peace, Friends, Grace

(1) We made it through the twins' birthday.  

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

It was not without tears.  It was not without pain.  It was one of the worst days of my life.  And yet, it was also one of the best.  Whit is two.  He is all boy, all joy, all love, all ours.  And he is here.  

(2)  We have some amazing people in our lives.

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."  John 15:13

You, our friends, are truly a gift from God.  I have told several of you before, when you wonder how in the world we have made it this far and make it through impossible days like June 5, look no farther than yourselves.  We have some angels walking with us, among us, for us - holding us up when we feel like we can't go on.  God gives us to our families, but the friends we have made are one of our most magnificent rewards.  I know I would do the same for my friends that they have done for me during this awful trial, but to have that unconditional love poured out from people who are not family, well, it is an amazing feeling.  We are not alone.

(3)  God is still the One carrying us.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:9

We are still alive.  We are still married.  We smile every day.  We thank God for our blessings.  We feel blessed.  This is not some courageous act.  This is not some coincidence.  Some of you are under the concept that we are the strongest people on Earth.  We are not.  We are filled with the love of God, and He is carrying us through this, as He promises He will.  We have had the worst thing that can happen to a parent happen to us - and yet, we are still here.  This is what it means to be held by the Lord.  When all else fails, we can fall down at the foot of the cross and be comforted.  We are still in that place, and it is safe.  His grace is sufficient.  It is a miracle, and we have experienced it.

We are surviving.  We are grieving.  We are going to be okay.  We have peace, friends and grace - the most wonderful gifts from the Lord.  We have fallen, but He will help us up, again and again.

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.  Psalm 9:10  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Traditions

Zac and I have a tradition for our children's birthday.  On that morning, we wait until we hear him stirring and then walk in, video camera in hand, singing Happy Birthday.  We have some priceless footage of these precious moments.  They smile, clap, laugh.  It is awesome.  Tomorrow we will do the same for Whit, but our hearts will not be completely filled with joy as they should be.  Tomorrow, we will have to walk past an empty crib while singing to our perfectly healthy two year old that we are still blessed to have with us.  His other half is not with us, and as we approach his birthday, that fact seems as unbelievable as ever.  We will not see his sweet two year old grin and hear him babble the words to "Happy Birthday."  Instead, we will sing to him and visit him in a place no parent should ever have to go to see their child - especially on his birthday.  We have our strong and weak moments like every grieving person does.  There are times when we are able to put on a happy face and go about our day, either for each other or for the boys.  Tomorrow will no doubt be faced with moments where we do not feel like doing this, but we will, because we have a birthday to celebrate.  And as much as it hurts, we have to move forward and rejoice with our sweet Whit.  Thanks to all of you who have emailed, called, sent flowers, cards, or just said a prayer for us this week.  It has been one of the most dreaded days since Webb died.  We will get through it, like we have each challenging moment.  We will get through by His grace, and by all the prayers of those who love us.  June 5, 2009 will not be the day we thought it would be, but we are still a family, we are still standing, and we are going to make it.  God told me so.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

All that I Feel is the Realness I'm Faking

December 26.  Worst. Day. Ever.  May 26.  Not the worst day ever.  Progress?  Today has been 5 months.  5 looooooong, sad, unbearable months.  December to March alone took about 10 years.  We've come so far yet not far enough.  Everything has changed.  We are different.  Next Friday we should be celebrating the twins' second birthday.  I should be planning a party and buying two little "I'm 2!" birthday hats and shaking my head in disbelief that time has gone by so fast.  Instead, we are visiting one child in the cemetery taking the other 2 to the beach where we will try to "get through" what should be a joyous occasion.  I'll only buy one hat and one cake this year.  That's the part that is hard about losing a twin.  A day that means sadness that Webb is not there also means happiness that Whit is.  It will no doubt be a hard and wonderful day the rest of our lives.  I am looking forward to it and dreading it all at once.

Last week, I took the boys to San Antonio to visit my parents.  We went to my dad's baseball games and Sea World and had a wonderful time.  However, I could not help but see the one missing.  No matter how full the days were, the absence of Webb was at the forefront of my mind.  He should be running the bases and hitting off the tee.  He would have LOVED that.  He would have clapped when the dolphins swam by or Shamu jumped out of the water.  There was so much he never got to do.  On the plane ride home, a flight attendant looked at me by myself with the boys and said, "You've got your hands full!"  I smiled a bittersweet smile and agreed.  If she only knew how empty my hands felt.  I am still constantly looking around for the missing child.  I am still automatically trying to take inventory of 3 children, not 2.  These are the things that are ingrained in my brain, the things no amount of reality can change.  The things that make me the most sad.  The things I don't consciously think about.

When I get very upset, I try to remember that Webb only knew love his entire 18 and a half months on Earth.  He went on trips, was cuddled, kissed and hugged every day of his life.  He got to play with great toys and great friends and lived the best life a toddler could live.  Not all children can say the same.  He lived his life knowing nothing about lying, deceit or evil or the other horrible things in this world.  He went from a perfect life here to an even more perfect life in the arms of Jesus.  I know God is in control.  I know when I see Webb again, I will probably think he lived the most charmed life of all my children.  It will all be clear one day, when we see His glory.  So until then, we wait.  We love each other.  And we know while life will never be the way it was before Webb, we can still make the most of our time together.  For him.  Because of him.      

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Prayers

Some old family friends are going through a nightmare that is all too close to my heart. Their 18 year old son, who is an identical twin, was just diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form on non Hodgkins lymphoma. I have no idea about prognosis, but I know they are treating it and have a very strong faith. Please pray for him. His name is Logan Brantley, and his parents are John and Dianne. They are precious, and I know the shock all of them must be feeling right now (I know some of you do, too), and it is a feeling I would not wish on anyone, especially a parent. Please pray that Logan can fight this and for his parents' strength and for his siblings, especially his twin, Hunter. Obviously, this was a huge blow to their whole family. I would also ask you forward this to anyone you know who will pray for them. The power of prayer is so great, and we are so lucky we have a tool like the internet to spread the word quickly. We know it is in His hands, and God will get them thorugh this. I will update you if I know more, and thanks in advance for the prayers for this sweet family. Love, Ashley

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fear

I am scared.  So scared.  Scared of losing someone else.  Scared of feeling this way my whole life.  Afraid to believe something good is going to happen.  Afraid I will forget all the details of Webb's 18 months.  Scared the memories of the hospital will haunt me forever.  Sometimes, I still get that elephant on my chest feeling, and I'm afraid I might be having panic attacks again.  I am so tired of being scared.  I know it is out of my hands.  I trust that God is taking care of us and this will make sense one day.  But that does not ease the fear.  That does not stop the waves of panic when I think about all we have been through and all we have yet to go through.  Bo and Whit are only 3 and 2.    I have the rest of my life to worry about something happening to them.  And so much could happen.  I know I can't live my life like that.  I know it will do me no good to imagine all the horrible things that could happen.  But something about having your worst nightmare come true will do that to you.  I have so much love, so much pain, and so much fear.  It is an unnatural, terrifying mix of strong emotions.  How much more strength can I have?  How much more heartache could I bear?  I don't want to know the answer to that.  If God only gives us as much as we can handle, I have to believe we are full.  But I am still scared.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One Year Ago...




How things have changed...




Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

I would be lying if I told you today didn't hurt.  It did.  To the core.  It started this morning when Bo brought me a mother's day card that Zac had signed, "We love you, Bo, Whit and Webb."  It continued at church when I saw so many precious people, new and old, in my life who hugged me a little tighter.  It brought me to my knees at the cemetery when I went to visit Webb and was greeted by lady who gave me a carnation and told me, "Happy Mother's Day," before I got out of my car and bawled at the foot of my son's grave.  Why I am experiencing this?  Mother's Day last year was so carefree.  I had my three boys and an entire bright future to look forward to.  I would have looked at someone in disbelief if they told me one of those boys wouldn't live to see the next mother's day.  But then again, I am still in disbelief and he has been gone for 4 and a half months.  Will it ever seem believable?  On this day, the day that celebrates mothers, I am struck by what a different meaning it has for those of us who have lost our children.  For me, it is not about presents, or brunch, or getting a pedicure anymore.  It isn't about flowers or a big dinner or a night away from the kids, even though all of those things are much appreciated.  For me, it is about praising God for the blessings He has bestowed upon me  - my husband, my parents, my children, my friends, my health.  I am so thankful I still have Bo and Whit.  I am humbled to have been the mother of my perfect Webb for 18 months.  I will never take one minute of the rest of my life for granted.  
 Webb has taught us so much about life and love in his short 18 months on Earth.  He has strengthened our faith and made us appreciate the things that are really important.  I was thinking this afternoon about what being a mom means to me and how seriously I take having my children's future in my hands.  I want to be the kind of mother they can look at and say, "She loved God, she loved my dad, and she loved us no matter what we did.  She faced adversity and life's biggest challenges with poise and grace."  I know that might be a tall order.  I know I have a long way to go before those words can be spoken.  But what I do know is this: I am privileged to be cradled in the arms of God right now.  Without Him, I would be lost.  Knowing that Jesus is with Webb today brings comfort to my soul.  Because if Webb cannot be with me on this Mother's Day, there is no one else I would want him with than Jesus and His mother, Mary.  
Songs often speak to me in a way nothing else can.  Something about hearing what you are thinking set to a tune is such a magical experience sometimes.  I want to leave the lyrics to the chorus of a song that has done that for me the past couple weeks.  A very special friend sent it to me, and it's called "Legacy" by Nichole Nordeman.  I hope it speaks to you as it did to me and reinforces for you the best gift we can ever leave our children: a relationship with our heavenly father.
I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lately....

I have been dealing with dilemmas lately I never thought I would have to deal with.  Dilemmas no mother should ever face.  Because I have been back to work, assimilated back into the real world, I am faced with the real world situations I have been dreading.  Last week was particularly hard.  I had three people ask me how many children I have.  Because these were people I have never met and am not particularly planning on dealing with much, I answered, "Two."  Of course, this came with guilt, but right now, it's the easiest answer.  What should I say?  Three?  Then I would face the dreaded follow up questions...boys or girls?  Oh, twins!!  How old are they?  Then I would inevitably have to explain Webb, and can you imagine doing that to a complete stranger?  The awkwardness that would follow?  And what if I burst into tears?  So for now, I say two.  It's the easy way out.  I am not strong enough to say something like, "Three, two are living."  I cannot fathom how that answer from a stranger would have affected me five months ago.

I am still haunted with memories of the hospital.  I am still paralyzed with fear and disbelief when I think about all that happened at the end of last December.  I am still trying to find a way to make it different, to change the outcome.  But of course I can't.  I am still trying to blame myself for Webb's tumor....that sounds ridiculous, but I am his mother.  I can't help but think I did something, or didn't do something, to cause it.  I always come back to the same conclusion, it wasn't my fault...I look at his identical twin who had the exact same environment in the womb and out and is perfectly healthy.  It was just a fluke.  Bad luck.  We had the same chance of a child getting a brain tumor as we did winning the lottery.  Why the hell couldn't we win the lottery???

I am still incredibly thankful for Zac, Bo and Whit.  Their mere presence is the medicine I need.  I vaguely remember a nurse telling me they would be what kept us going.  She was right.  Last night I was sitting on the couch, looking at the backs of my two boys' heads, trying to picture Webb sitting there too.  It was such a clear void.  I was remembering the nights when all three of my precious sons were together, laughing and playing.  All of a sudden, as I was picturing these nights and feeling very sad, sweet Whit jumped up and ran over to the couch to sit on my lap.  He didn't say anything, he just sucked his thumb and lay on me until it was time for him to go to bed.  It was something Webb would have done.  And at that moment, I was overcome with the feeling Webb was right there, whispering in his brother's ear to come comfort me.  

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Webb

As I approach the fourth month without Webb, I am still bewildered, scared, unsure and confused.  I think about the last four months and seems like at least 4 years.  I cannot fathom this is our new reality, but I guess it is.  And when it is, there is nothing left to do but (I shudder to say the words)....accept it.  Accept that one child is gone.  Accept that I have a baby I will never see grow up, never see get married, never hold his firstborn.  I wanted to worry about him making the baseball team, taking out his first car, drinking in college.  And I wanted to tell everyone about how, when he was a baby, he would roll instead of crawl, laugh as loud and crackly as an old man.  I wanted to look back on those memories and smile, barely able to remember.  Instead, those memories are all I have of sweet Webb and I keep playing them over and over and over and over....so of course I will never forget.  Webb was almost 19 months when he died.  Old enough to have his own personality.  Of course he had a twin and and a brother 18 months his senior, so we had lots of developing personalities in the house.  And as I sit here, I have no idea what his favorite color was (actually, I don't know that about my other 2 boys either).  But I know he loved orange juice (a little too much, it is all he would drink), Elmo, any kind of "ball" he could find (including Christmas ornaments, apples, etc)...I know he would sit and hide behind the brown chair when he finally wrangled a toy away from his brothers and just quietly, peacefully play there.  He loved playing on the couch, jumping from side to side and making me a nervous wreck.  He was my cuddle baby and would lay on my chest for hours.  Bo and Whit would never do that...maybe Webb knew I would need that memory later.  He was serious like my father, silly like me, looked like Zac.  He was all boy and all of us combined into one perfect, precious child.  How can you even measure the void he has left in our hearts and souls?  I can accept reality.  I am an analytical, accepting kind of person.  But I just can't accept that a soul that precious, that alive, isn't right here beside me as I type this.  I had a dream about Webb last night.  He and Whit both walked into the room.  I kept looking back and forth, back and forth and touching both of their heads, trying to make myself understand there were two there.  Zac had brought them in and I said, "It's Webb."  He said," Yes, they managed to keep him alive, but he only has tonight.  What should we do?"  In my dream I did not respond.  I just scooped him up and rocked him, kissing his sweet face over and over.  The dream eventually ended, and I was still doing just that.  I believe in my heart that dream was no coincidence.  He knew I needed him last night.  I went to his cemetery yesterday and told him how much I missed him, and if I could just hold him one more time, I'd give anything....  call it what you will, my mind giving my heart what it wants, or whatever non believers say.  All I know is I felt his skin and smelled his hair, and for me, it felt a lot like heaven.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ups and Downs

This week has had its ups and downs.  I started out feeling optimistic after Easter.  Literally for the first time since Webb died, I started to have some fleeting moments where I felt like things were going to be ok.  I even started thinking about the future (which is usually too scary).  However, that feeling did not stick around for long.  Some close family members have been faced with a tremendous challenge, and I have been thinking again about why bad things happen to good people and God's completely unpredictable plan for us all.  Webb, as usual, has been at the forefront of my mind, and he has become the focus of all of these thoughts.  I have been spending a lot of time just staring at his pictures.  I look into those beautiful blue eyes and try to take myself back to that moment captured in the picture...it seems so far away.  I cannot always conjure up a clear memory of Webb, and that scares the hell out of me.  What if I can't remember??  What if I start to lose the only thing I left - the pictures in my mind??  I already feel so disconnected to the person I was December 23.  I feel like she was a little girl I was friends with in my past.  The way I thought about things then seems so immature, so unrealistic.  How did we get so far from that place where everything was safe and warm?  How did we go from our biggest problems now being 100th on the list?  How have we gone from imagining the future with our three healthy, smart, growing boys, to this nightmare where one is in a cemetery?  I want to know why, yet I am not strong enough to understand.  I am so tired.  I feel like I am putting on a front all day long just so I don't crumble.  Is that what you do to survive?  I suppose it must be.  After all, if we were allowed to feel how we wanted, we would probably die from the pain and exhaustion.  I have no trouble talking about my situation.  I can set my jaw and speak about the hospital, the funeral and the aftermath - often without shedding a tear.  Sometimes my ability to do that scares me, but it is a part of who I am and how I have always handled things.  It is not denial.  I do not know exactly how I do that, but it is so contrary to how I feel on the inside, that it almost feels like I am playing a role in a movie.  A horror movie.  Where do we go from here?  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter

We made it through our first holiday without Webb.  It was not without tears, but we did a good job of "protecting our hearts" for the occasion.  We decided a while ago that we would spend this holiday alone, as a family of four.  Even the most well-intended comments have a way of sending us over the edge, so we decided it best not to be around a lot of people today and chance it.  After all, only we understand the true depth of this pain, and nothing except each other comforts us when we are sad.  No one really knows how to act around us...no one knows whether they should bring up Webb, or stay silent on the subject, or pretend like everything is ok.  Of course, that is understandable because it is a horrible thing that has happened, and really, what do you say??  However, it is extremely frustrating for us as well, because we never know how we are going to feel at any given moment, so often we feel like no one is saying or doing the "right" thing.  Unfair, I know, but when you're grieving, there is a whole different set of rules and standards.  We are trying to be patient, but for this first holiday, we knew doing "nothing" was our only shot at getting through the day.  Last night, I cried as I assembled only 2 Easter baskets.  When the morning started, and I was only dressing two little boys in their Easter best for church, I got choked up again.  After we got to church, and I sat and listened to the sermon, I started feeling differently.  I started to truly feel Easter is the most special holiday for the bereaved.  We have a living Lord!!  Jesus is alive.  And not only that, but He is with Webb at this very moment, and they are waiting for us in Heaven.  What an amazing gift this is, the gift of eternal life.  The fact that Jesus died to save all of us is something I have believed in my heart for a very long time.  But now, it has a more important meaning because it is the truth I cling to every minute of every day.    Now, it is just not a belief, it is a reality for one of my children.  I have an angel with Jesus this very minute.  He lives! He lives!  Christ Jesus lives today!  He walks with me, and talks with me along life's narrow way.... Never has life felt more narrow than it does for us at this moment, and never have we felt the presence of the Lord more.  It is such a overwhelming, humbling mix of feelings and emotions.  We are grieving, scared, miserable, aching and tired, yet we are also blessed, thankful, hopeful, loved and satisfied.  He lives!  He lives!  Salvation to impart.  You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Quack, quack...

In the past few weeks I have been struck by how many people telling me how great I look.  Literally, I hear it every day.  I am not sure what they mean...I have not had my hair done in almost 5 months, I rarely wear makeup, I don't care what clothes I wear, I have dark circles under my eyes and sunken in cheeks.  I feel like crap.  So if I look great to people, it must be one of two things: 1.) I look better than anyone thinks they would after losing or child, or 2.) I am being the best "duck" I have ever been.  This is not an original analogy.  Many people will compare a bereaved person to a duck...smooth, quiet, calm and unruffled on the outside, but paddling like hell below the surface.  It is a fair analogy.  Grief is hard work.  I have never worked so hard in my life.  It is taxing and exhausting and a day to day grind.  I feel like I am running a marathon in my head....wake up, think of Webb, play with kids, think of Webb, eat a little without enjoying it, think of Webb, work, think of Webb, work, work, play with kids, think of Webb....and that's just an overview.  I think of Webb 100 times that amount.  I think of him alive.  I think of him laying in the hospital.  I replay the funeral.  I try to imagine the future.  I don't know how to keep the stamina up for the grieving I have yet to do.  Yet there is a part of me, an inexplicable part of who I am, that is still trying to comfort others and trying my best to make sure my presence doesn't make anyone uncomfortable.  I smile a little bigger, make some jokes, pat people on the arm when they bring up Webb....all because I am desperately trying to avoid "running" people off.  No one wants to be around the mom who lost her baby.  So I feel like if I act just like the old Ashley, people won't leave.  People won't feel uncomfortable around me.  The truth is, most people would not be able to handle the real me.  Some days I can't even handle the real me.  Have I mentioned I am a pretty good actress?  Sometimes playing the role of the old Ashley is a welcome break from battling the snakes in my head.  Sometimes, pretending to be that person brings me as much comfort as I am hoping it brings others.  After all, I can't go around sobbing all day, even if I want to.  And I miss the old Ashley.  I miss her so much.  I miss her carefree, "perfect" life.  I may be pleased with the woman I end up being when I make it through to the other side if this, but I will always miss the woman I once was, before I knew this pain and heartache.  

And compounding it all, it seems like twins are everywhere.  Every B-list celebrity is having twins.  They are everywhere I look around town.  Everytime I see a pair, I feel like a knife is twisting in my heart.  I loved having identical twins.  I loved how people would look at us and laugh and say how "full" our hands were.  I loved people asking how we could tell them apart.  I loved their relationship and their twin talk.  I loved dressing them alike and dressing them different.  It seems so strange that Whit will continue his life without his other half.  How will we explain that to him?  Who would he have been if Webb had lived?  Will he feel his spirit?  Will Webb be his guardian angel?  I truly believe he will.  If Webb is "with" any of us, I have a feeling it will be Whit.  

I am so sad for us.  I am so sad for all the moms and dads I have met on this journey who have lost children.  It is a close knit club no one wants to be a member of, yet we all need each other.  We need to make sense of this horror.  We need to know you can live through this and laugh again.  We need to make sure we are not going crazy with our feelings.  And most of all, we just need to be comforted in the fact we are not alone.  "Misery loves company" has a new meaning when it comes to losing a child.  Just knowing there are people out there who have been through what I have is a powerful source of comfort.  Thanks to all of you moms who have reached out to me.  I am praying for you and your angels.

I will close with a bit of Scripture.  I have always loved reading the Bible but will be the first to admit I have much to learn when it comes to the Lord's word.  I will continue to study it and seek it and let those ancient words work through me and in me all of my remaining days.  It is so amazing to me we have a book that answers every question of our heart.  Any self help book you can find pales in comparison to the help you can find if you simply open your Bible and seek God's wisdom.  It's pretty incredible.  Anyway, I do not have a favorite book of the Bible.  I never read in order, I always skip around and pick out certain excerpts.  My one exception is the book of James.  I love it.  It is simple and powerful.  Anytime I read it, it's from start to finish (admittedly, it's pretty short. :) ) This is one of my favorite verses in James.  I hope it speaks to you, too.  I repeat it over and over and remember it throughout my day.  It is such a simple truth.  Enjoy, and Happy Easter.  

"Come near to God, and He will come near to you."  James 4:8.  


Sunday, April 5, 2009

A prayer

Lord, please help us.  Please look down upon us and shine Your light in our hearts.  We are in so much pain, Lord.  Pain only you can fix.  Please help to warm our souls and see a glimpse of Your plan.  We are hurting so much, God.  We are inconsolably sad without our sweet Webb.  We do not know how life will ever get better, or how our family will ever be put back together.  We trust You and believe in Your purpose, but we are so confused and broken.  Our "strong" moments are starting to slip away.  Please come quickly, Lord, and give us the strength only You can give.  We come to You in humble prayer.  We have little to offer, other than whimpers and cries, but we come to You knowing You are the Great Physician and can heal any ailment, especially those of the heart.  We ask You to hold Webb close until we are together again.  We ask You to continue to work in our hearts and in our lives and the lives of our precious sons.  As we reflect on Easter and the purpose You had for Your Son, please remind us that Your plan may not always make sense to us, but You love us so unconditionally you sent Jesus to die so we may live forever.  We cannot even comprehend the greatness of You.  We believe in You and love You with all our hearts.  Please give us the peace only You can give, the peace that transcends ALL understanding.  In Your precious, Heavenly Son's name we pray, Amen.      

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Mother's Love

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was rainy and dreary in Atlanta, and that matched my mood perfectly.  I only celebrated one birthday with Webb, but his presence yesterday was missed to an unbearable degree.  I sobbed most of the morning, aching for him and wanting him near.  I feel so lost without that little peanut.  Most days I am still sad.  I am functioning, of course, but the sadness and heartache are very near.  Lately, some things have been reminding me of the hospital, and I truly hate reliving that horrible time.  It is gut-wrenching and full of agony.  My mother gave me a framed picture of Webb and me for my birthday present that has the following quote written on it:

"A mother's love is something that no one can explain; it is made of deep devotion and of sacrifice and pain.  It is endless and unselfish and enduring come what may for nothing can destroy it or take that love away..."  Helen Steiner Rice  

I read that quote over and over last night, thinking of the new meaning those words have since Webb died.  Surely, most mothers never feel this level of pain or sacrifice, thank goodness.  Most mothers do not know what it is like to lose one of the precious extensions of their souls.  My endless love for my children extends out of this world and into the next, in a way most mothers will never understand.  That is not to say I love my children more than other mothers do, it is just that I have had a different journey of motherhood that makes me a different kind of mother to my children.  I still get frustrated when Bo whines or disobeys.  I still feel annoyed when I cannot get them to go to sleep or listen.  But I do not take one single second with them for granted.  I thank God every morning for their mere presence in my life.  I do not worry about what school they will go to, or whether they will be good at sports, or whether they will graduate at the top of their class.  Those things are simply unimportant to me now.  Perhaps that is the gift Webb's short life gave me - to love my children no matter what they do or what they become.  To know that the only important thing is that they are healthy and happy.  There is no sacrifice I would not make to ensure that happens.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Contradictions

When I am lost and the tears don't stop,
I find myself waiting, watching, listening, hoping...for what?
I am broken.  Mind, heart and spirit.
One minute, one sentence, one hidden truth changed everything.
I am consumed by this giant hole I keep walking around.
Silence brings thoughts, sometimes thoughts I am not ready for.
Distractions bring momentary shields from the pain.
It is not over.
It will never be over.
I don't want it to be over, I just wish it had never begun.
I surround myself with love,
Yet I feel so deprived.
I am constantly smiling, but it is only so I do not break.
There is no stopping the tears once they start,
And the world is not my therapy session.  
"How are you today?"  What else is there to say besides, "Fine."?
We are so not fine.  
We will never be fine.
We will move forward, we will continue to love and be loved,
But it will never be fine.  
No matter how many days I live, 
No matter how many children I have,
Losing Webb will never be right.
I am not the same person,
But I am not a different person.
I am changed,
But I can't change anything.
I have three children,
But I can only hold two.
I keep moving forward,
But I feel like I'm spinning backwards.
How can I see so much loss and so much gain at once?
How can I be sobbing at a cemetery one minute and laughing at a playground the next?
I am broken, but I am whole.
I am quiet, but I am screaming.
I am thinking clearly, but going crazy.
What a strange place to be....



Friday, March 27, 2009

Questions.....

Three months.  Is that even possible?  I sit and try to think about how much has happened in these three months and my mind cannot even comprehend it.  My baby is gone.  That is a reality that has not yet registered in my mind.  Although I am walking, talking, functioning....I am still so confused, so lost without him.  What happened?  Did I really have a child die of a brain tumor?  How am I still living?  Did I really spend three days in the PICU?  Did I really hold my child as he slipped out of this world into the next?  Who was that woman?  Who am I?  My birthday is next week.  I will be 31.  I feel 101.  I have learned more, seen more, endured more than any mother, any 31 year old ever should.  My worst nightmare came true - I lost a child.  What other nightmares are in store?  I think about my relationships with everyone in my life and how each have changed.  Some for better, some for worse....you really cannot go on this journey without seeing people in a different way.  So strange how life's challenges either bring out the best or bring out the worst in others.  Do I expect too much out of others?  I am not the same....but I do not want to be treated differently.  That is a tough standard.  Of course very few understand what has happened.  I am sure few people don't even want to try and understand it.  Being close to me makes it too real...knowing someone who lost a child means it can happen to them too.  And then there are those people who have embraced this journey I am on and accepted it with open arms.  These are the people who have carried me through the last three months without question, without hesitation.  My own personal angels on Earth.  

I look at pictures of Webb, and I have the irresistible urge to just hold him.  To reach through the picture and grab his chubby legs.  To scoop him up and smother him with kisses.  Where is he?  Can we really go on without him?  Wasn't he just laughing?  Wasn't he just sitting under the Christmas tree with a ball?  Didn't he just learn how to say "Mama"?  How can this be happening?