I dreaded their first birthday. I got through the holidays with family and plans and the general business of the season. I spent a lot of time trying to remember. What did we do last Christmas? Wait. I was pregnant. What did we do? It bothered me that I couldn’t put even simple memories together. I survived. Then all the busyness stopped and New Years Eve happened.
New Years Eve 2011 I remember sitting snuggled up on the couch with Nate doing nothing but watching movies and enjoying each other’s company. We scrolled through movie credits still trying to come up with three names. January 1, 2012 it all changed. I spent the day in the emergency room and found out I had started to dilate. I spent the first night of 2012 in the hospital under observation and officially began full bed rest. Remembering all of that was hard. The holidays were trying to remember life with them. The new year was the start of letting them go and it felt as if I was right back there again.
The weeks leading up to their first birthday were more painful than the months prior and it snuck up on me. It shocked me. How could that be? I had been doing so well considering. People expected me to pick myself and put myself back together already. Why was this all so hard again? I felt like I was drowning in memories while at the same time doing everything I could to keep them from drifting away.
Nate didn’t want to talk much about celebrating. I, on the other hand, desperately needed something to look forward to. Anything. I remember the day that I realized what made this different from all the days prior since their loss. I had done well grieving them. I hadn’t done well celebrating them. They LIVED. They didn’t just die. Why did it take a year for me to realize this? I changed my focus for the last few weeks before their big day and thought of things that I wanted to do with Nora that I would have loved to do with them. The zoo. The aquarium. Something fun for dinner. I was determined to live the day with JOY.
Then Nora got sick. Such a pure reminder of this job called parenthood where we drop everything and care for our children no matter the circumstance. I don’t even recall the sequence of events leading up to her illness. I just know I was devastated. I laughed before I cried because it seemed impossible that God would take them away and then take away the one day I had to really intentionally celebrate them. Really? REALLY!?
I spent the day before pouting. I asked friends to record the music from church for me, feeling like in some way they’d send me a song. I begged God to make Nora better in time. I woke Sunday morning feeling heavy, remembering how I felt that morning a year prior. Remembering the first labor pains and that feeling in my stomach that knew what was happening even though I fought the thought away.
At the last minute I decided to go to church alone. It didn’t feel right to leave Nate and Nora home alone but Nate insisted it was fine. I put on the shirt that I had worn to the funeral. I hesitated… then felt it was ok. It was “their shirt” and there was no way I was going to feel ok wearing it any other day of the week. It was beautiful and comfortable and it helped me feel close to them.
I got to church late and found no seats left. I found my way to the balcony and was so grateful to realize there was a seat open and of all the people to have been sitting there it was my husband’s brother and his family. Relief. I was safe here. I missed all of the opening songs but was thankful for the message. The closing songs started and I called Nate and let him listen in while tears streamed down my face steadily. It felt so good to just let it all out and praise Him for their lives.
We had a lazy afternoon and by dinner time Nora was feeling better. On a whim we loaded up in the van and drove in the bitter cold to the edge of Lake Superior. Nate had been working on a surprise for weeks. He made ice lanterns.
We found rocks along the shore and lit three candles with the beautiful cityscape glittering in the background. It was beautiful seeing those little lights flickering in the darkness. Three little lives that mattered, that existed, that were a part of us.
We drove to the cemetery where they’ll be laid to rest and lit three more candles in ice lanterns in “their spot”.
Nora stayed snuggled in the car with our lambs while we snapped one quick picture together.
I’m forever grateful for Nate’s beautiful tribute to them. It was perfect.