Eternity - Headed Home Part 12 November 12 2015, 14 Comments
September 11, 2013
This is a small something that was a big something to me... and I will never forget. I crawled up into the bed next to Bryer and was trying to find a comfortable position. I was fidgeting with where to put my arm and how to lay Bryer most comfortably all while not falling out of the bed when our nurse came up quietly beside me. Without a word, she put the bed rail up and positioned a pillow between my back and the rail. A simple thing really, but ah it made a huge difference and is just what we needed.
"Thank you so much, that is perfect." I said to her.
Although I don't remember her name, I can still see her face. "Well, I do this more than you know." She said softly while managing a half smile.
I knew what she meant without further explanation. She left and I remember thinking, wow I bet she does do "this" more than I know. "This" being situating a mother comfortably in bed with their dying baby or child. I lay there alone with him finally snuggled in my arms watching his chest rise and fall.
My baby would be dying soon.
The gravity of what was happening weighed so heavily on me. The weight of death, it really is a visceral feeling and it was pressing in. How do people do this without hope in Jesus, I thought?
"Oh Lord, help me." I prayed aloud. "You are my ever present help in times of trouble. Give me strength. Have mercy on us."
It was early afternoon. We had known for sure we wanted to have Remy come, but was undecided on Sander. Was he too little? Would it be too much? Would he understand? We went back and forth. Well, it ended up we didn't have anywhere else for him to go, so by default (I thought) but now know it was by God's hand, Sander joined Remy to visit.
My cousin Dawn who had been one of our constants and go tos for Remy and Sander through out our journey, a huge blessing, was to bring them to the hospital.
Bryer was still semi-awake. Mom and Justin were back in the room with us when I saw the rainbow curtain pull back and there they were: Dawn, Remy and Sander. It's such a hard thing to accurately describe. My hospital world with Bryer and my sunshiny world with Remy and Sander were colliding. For the previous three weeks, Justin and I had been going back and forth between the two. From holding Bryer's hand and rubbing his curls while on a ventilator to commentating fashion shows with Remy and Sander's stuffed animals. From being present for picc line insertions and doctor's rounds to witnessing Remy ride her bike with out training wheels. From brain MRI's and code blues with our B to taking Remy to pick out her first pair of soccer cleats and shin guards. From a sleepless night at the hospital to coffee in hand at her first soccer game.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
Having been in the depths of sorrow for days with Bryer, their faces were like sweet healing nectar. I laid in a bed of despair, yet joy had just entered and radiated the room. I wanted them to come to me quickly. They stood there for a second. I saw Sander's face first. He was clutching his owl pillow pet. I was surprised to see him (pillow pet). At this point, Sander was still sleeping in a crib and pillow pet never ever came out of the crib.
Sander's face had a clear expression of worry. He stepped into the room, "Why why why why?" He stammered. "Why you in that bed, Mama?"
"Oh sweetheart, I am ok! I am just snuggling with Bryer, that's all. Come here! I am so happy to see you! I've missed you!"
I hadn't even thought about what it might look like to him, me being in the hospital bed, but with that explanation, the worry seemed to melt from his face.
He marched right up to the bed on Bryer's side and said, "Here Bwyer, I brought piwwow pet for you." He laid it down beside him. Sander was two months shy of being 3 years old. It was was his way of expressing his love and concern. Precious.
Dawn then backfilled, "It was his idea to get pillow pet from the crib. He said he wanted to bring it to Bryer. He carried it the whole way from his crib, through the hospital and to this bed."
So we took it and put it under Bryer's head. The three of them snuggled together on owl, Bryer lay in between. Owl would end up staying with Bryer all day, all night and into the morning.
Remy and Sander stayed for about an hour. Remy fussed over him with a blanket, hugged him, snuggled and then asked to hold him. So we laid Bryer in her arms and Sander crawled up beside her. Our three babes in a bed one more time.
Remy had questions which Justin did his best to answer. He told her in words an almost 5 year-old could understand what was happening. She said she didn't want him to go to heaven. She wanted him to come home.
They were given wonderful gift baskets full of toys, coloring books and crayons which was very kind. There were long hugs and lots of kisses before Dawn took them home. Later Dawn shared that on the way, they drove under the arc of a huge rainbow that stretched from one side of 71 to the other. If you know Remy's affinity to rainbows, you understand what a statement of God's love this was and that He was with us.
The time with them was a gift and I am forever grateful to the Giver of such moments. Had Bryer died during the flurry of chaos the day before, things would have been so different. Another blessing bestowed in such sorrow. Thank you Lord.
It was now late afternoon. I held him and sang to him. My tears literally bathed his hair and beautiful face. By evening it came time to start medications like Valium and Ativan. We had been leery of starting them as the doctors warned it could precipitate death, so we walked a line. But, we were at the point he needed to be made more comfortable. Once we started the meds he was asleep or rather comatose. We continued into and through the night, me laying with him drifting in and out of sleep and Justin taking turns holding.
Family was near stroking my hair and rubbing my back, as I stroked and rubbed Bryer's.
We had been warned of secretions, gasping and the ugliness of death. I was so frightened.
We watched his monitor so as to have some sort of warning. There were several times we thought it was upon us and my body would shake. It would shake like it did when I was in labor and nearing delivery. It was this involuntary and uncontrollable response. I was so afraid of it...
Death. The unknown. Would my heart survive it?
It might sound weird, but I can parallel Bryer's death to my natural labor experiences. The physical pain of labor likened to the pain I was feeling in my spirit. My body felt as if it were breaking in two while laboring and now my spirit and heart felt like it was being slowly shattered.
Yet, in both instances, I would call upon the Lord, breathing prayer and He would strengthen me. I could carry on.
In labor, primitive moans of the physical. While in the shadow of death, my spirit groaned when I had no words.
Deep calling out to deep and He would answer.
Upon delivery, all of the searing pain vanished as a euphoric happiness washed over me. My new baby is placed on my chest.
The same was true for Bryer. Upon his death, as his soul was taken into the heavenly realms, his suffering had ended, traded for instantaneous glory, peace and wholeness. My baby was taken into the bosom of Christ.
Yes, in labor, I was transitioning my babies into this world and into my arms and in these moments, I was transitioning Bryer out of this world and into the arms of our Savior.
What a magnificent thought.
Although both extremely painful, I wouldn't choose differently. Of course, I would choose that Bryer be healthy. I think we can all agree what a privilege it is to birth a baby into this world, however, I also count it a privilege and GIFT to have been present to release Bryer's back to our Heavenly Father.
The unfolding of his end days were certainly God breathed. As hard as it was, there was sweetness. God's presence was all around.
Thick. Tangible. Undeniable.
We called upon Him and He came.
Morning light was near and family dispersed to their responsibilities at home and work and would return in a few hours. The room had cleared out except for the three of us who had been present at Bryer's birth. God's timing again. Mom was resting on the couch.
I called to her and Justin.
The time was upon us, Bryer's body lay in my arms. The peace that surpasses all understanding fell over me.
It had to of because my body did.not.shake.
I was not afraid.
My heart was held and my soul was still.
There were no secretions. No gasping. Just two sweet final breathes.
And eternity was his.
I think back to this when my faith feels weakened or I question His goodness or wonder where He is in my present circumstance. Nothing has spoken more clearly to me in my faith journey than that moment.
I am reminded how REAL He is and that He WILL show up. He is faithful.
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Yes, take heart.
The trials, the sorrows and the losses keeps us desperate for Him and retrains our focus to be eternal and not on things of this world. He will meet us in the pit and bestow strength and peace. I cling to this!
My gaze is towards heaven and an eternity in the FULLNESS of His presence and those I love...forever.
I can only imagine.
Because of how God orchestrated Bryer's homecoming in such a peaceful, calm, beautiful way, we were able to think ahead.
A bath. Beautiful scented lotion. A white onesie (my favorite). Some warm, footed jammies. Lots of snuggling free from the confines of monitor wires and feeding tubes. Many precious pictures.
These are all treasures I am so very thankful to have tucked in my heart. He was beautiful.
There's much more I would like to share that transpired in the moments, days, months and now years after Bryer's arrival in heaven. So much. And I will. But for now, I feel satisfied that I have gotten this much down. Even still, within these posts, I've left out a lot.
Our journey continues, and I know He is with us wherever it takes us.
The Hurt and The Healer - Marathon 2014 October 17 2015, 4 Comments
It's 5:45am. I've been up for almost 2 hours. I'll just be honest, Remy woke me up crying because her butt hurt. Yep. Through tears, she begged me to "come check it in the light." Diagnosis = chapped rear. I haven't been able to get back to sleep for a myriad of reasons. Lots on my mind, heart and soul.
Today is Bryer's 3rd birthday. It's a fact that has almost gotten lost in the week that we've had. But in the dark of this morning, arms and legs wrapped around my maternity pillow, I am remembering.
It is also marathon weekend which brings much excitement. I can't help but think on the marathon last year…and I've been trying to relive and recreate the gift it was to me…yearning to find and feel Bryer and God as I did so tangibly that day. I need to get there again so desperately.
So, here I am with the laptop open.
"No pen or quill, no scribe in perfect skill
With flawless words could capture all You are
No lofty thought, no scholar of this world
Could grasp an inch of such infinity
Though we cannot comprehend such a mystery
Just a glimpse of You revealed is compelling us to sing…"
I've yet to share about my Nationwide Children's Columbus 2014 Marathon. I've had much trepidation that I wouldn't be able to summon the right words to match the dimension of the experience. But much like the above lyrics, the glimpse of Him revealed is compelling me to write. TRY to write, anyway. Let's see where this goes.
To God be the glory.
Before I get to the race, I need to back up a bit for this all to make sense. For those of you that don't know me well, I was always considered an "athlete". I was a basketball and volleyball player in high school. And I guess I was good enough to have been asked to play in college where I enjoyed (most of the time) playing roundball for 4 more years at The College of Charleston. After graduation, when I had no more teams to play on or competition in my life, I picked up running. Running became an easy something to do to keep myself in shape, but it also began to fill the gaping hole basketball had left behind. I began going further and further, competing only with myself. It satisfied something deep within and there on some back road bordering Delaware and Licking County in rural Ohio, my love for running was born.
I ran my first marathon in 2004 and was hooked. It became a passion. I could figure so much out on a good, long run. I hashed things out with God. I praised. I unloaded my stress. I took in the beauty of God's creation. I day dreamed of becoming a wife and mother. I spent invaluable time with my girlfriend, Chrissy. When I traveled for work, one of my favorite things to do was lace up my running shoes. Hello Las Vegas Strip at 5am. Good morning Manhattan Beach, CA! Central Park, you are beautiful! San Francisco you are busy and steep. Park City, Utah you are breath-taking…literally. I loved to run. Period.
I went on to run The Columbus (twice), Chicago, Richmond and Paris marathons. There's a reason I am telling you all of this….I promise I'm getting there.
In October of 2008, Justin and I welcomed our first child, a daughter. We named her Remy Pearl. Motherhood was pure bliss and more than I ever had day dreamed. Completely love drunk, I couldn't imagine adoring anything more.
She was 6 months old. I had been having some random but manageable pain, but then one morning I woke up and couldn't move my neck and my elbows were locked up. For the next couple of months, I went to the chiropractor and several other doctor's for the various problems that I thought were unrelated.. I was in the middle of training for the Cleveland Marathon and got up to 20 miles in training only to have to bow out at 13 during the race. I was miserable and it got worse. Most mornings I couldn't get out of bed. It only got more intense. After a few months, I was finally diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had never heard of it before. Have you? By the time Remy was 14 months, my quality of life was pretty terrible. My knees were completely hot, swollen and stiff along with my neck and both elbows. I cried most days. I shuffled into work because I could hardly bend my knees. Turning the steering wheel, washing my hair, pulling my shirt off, picking up my daughter, bathing her, turning over in bed….and the list goes on….was excruciating.
I went from a strong, athletic, independent women to a very dependent, weak, sickly and immobile one. Not only that, but I was losing my ever loving mind. My one stress relief was absolutely not in the realm of possibility. Running? No Way. Therefore, I had zero coping method for what, up to that point, was the hardest time of my life.
It was an extremely dark and trying period. I waded through a lot of muck externally and internally. I went through some ugly stages of bitterness and anger. I had heated arguments with God. I was depressed. I didn't like this new person I had become. I didn't know how to be her at all, let alone with grace. I was bound with fear of what my future might be like should I remain in this state or heaven forbid get worse.
Amidst all of this, we had Sander William in November 2010. A Bright spot:) My RA does better in pregnancy, so I enjoyed the remission. It came back after he was born and to make a long story short, I then got pregnant with Bryer and he was born October 17, 2012.
Everyone knows the year we had with Bryer. By the time he left us for heaven, I hadn't really ran in almost 4.5 years.
The month following his death (September 12, 2013) was The Nationwide Children's Columbus Marathon and Bryer was a Patient Champion at mile 21. Justin had signed up to run it that summer while Bryer was home. With the turn of events and Bryer's death, it was nothing short of amazing that Justin went ahead with the race. Without proper training, he managed to run it in just under 4 hrs. I have never been more proud of him.
I watched the runners that day. I was more than moved. I had been through my own recent war and had entered a new battle called grief. I was so weak and worn, but these men and women, they ran in my place. They ran in honor of my baby boy when I couldn't. They were pushing themselves beyond the limits to honor his life. They were running for children still fighting for their lives and in celebration of those children who had triumphed. And while I celebrated with them, every fiber of me wanted to be out there. Oh, I never have wanted to run a race so badly. I would do anything to honor and celebrate my child.
We got home from the marathon and while Justin recovered on the couch, I laced my up my shoes. I just HAD to run or do something. I made my mind up and set out on a familiar old walking route across Alum Creek Dam. It was the PERFECT fall day. I ran. I hadn't ran in years, but I kept going. The sun was beating on my face. I looked up into the sky and the clouds were lined up in white stripes laid perfectly against the bright blue sky. I love stripes. I smiled. I kept going knowing full well how my mind works: however far I ran out, I'd make myself run back. I ran a total of 5 miles that day. It was glorious. It was to Bryer from me and to me from God.
***I had noticed a reprieve of RA symptoms during the last few days of Bryer's life. Typically, if I had laid down for a long period of time, my body would become painfully stiff requiring me to crack my elbows or knees back to straight. I remember being aware of how fluid my body got off his bed after laying there for hours with him. It is definitely something I took note of, that's how strange it was.****
So it's hard to pinpoint when exactly I started feeling relief from my RA, but after that 5 mile run, I just kept running. Responsibly, not wanting to over do it or throw myself into a flare, I'd run 2-3 miles a couple times a week. It was bliss. Then 3 times a week. I cautiously increased my mileage over the course of several months until one day I tried 8 miles with Bryer's PT and my friend, Kim. We did it…and fast. I couldn't believe it. I think I cried when I got back in the car, finally alone. That was the spring of 2014. By mid summer, I was consistently running 5-6 miles 3-4 times a week. I was so content and beside myself to have running back in my life. It was such a nice companion in my grief. A true gift that I didn't take for granted one second.
Never did it occur to me that I might be able to run the NCH 1/2 marathon let alone the full. Justin signed up again which I was surprised about. So, I just did it one day. I signed up … for the FULL because it was only $15 more. What a deal! ;) I figured I could always just run the half if my body didn't cooperate. And, there was my plan: see what my body allows me to do. Kim signed up and our training began. Oh and I must mention, I went off my medication in June due to it causing hyper pigmentation of my skin. I was turning into a smurf, no lie. So here I am, a woman with Rheumatoid Arthritis, off all medication and training for a full marathon. Probably not too smart.
It was now October, 2 weeks before the marathon. We finished our cold, windy, sleet driven 20 mile training run. Though feeling a bit delirious and I can't say I wasn't hurting, our last long run was in the books. Unbelievable. This meant I was going to attempt the marathon. I was really going to do this. In the parking lot of Worthington Hills Market, I put my head on the steering wheel and sobbed.
Marathon day 2014
All of that to get me to this point. The race! You can understand now how emotionally charged this race was on so many fronts. To have thought the year before as I hugged Justin at Mile 21 that I would have the opportunity to run it myself, I wouldn't have fathomed. Not only that, but I had the best training buddy and friend beside me, another gift.
The simple fact that I was standing in a corral, with a race number across my abdomen, earbuds in my ears and Little Cow tucked securely into my shirt was a miracle. The music, the fireworks, the energy from the crowd, the shirts that championed children who are fighting for their lives or in remembrance of. I was completely bombarded with emotion. Tears streamed down my face and the gun went off for the start. Here we go..
Kim and I are cruising. It's a beautiful day. We are seeing family and friends and lots of signs. My heart is so full. We are seeing other Bryer's Song runners. We are on pace. It was glorious.
Then at Mile 16 Kim started to feel a little funny. We stopped for several minutes. Her heart was racing and she felt light headed. Long story short, after much discussion, which involved a not so helpful police officer, she decided she should get medical attention. She told me to go on. Sigh. I was bummed, but I chugged on. I was now at Mile 18 and I turned on my music for the first time. It was on shuffle. The course and crowd were sparse at this point.
And here's where words won't do justice.
I ran. And I don't know where else it could have come from, but God. But my last 8+ miles were faster than any of the previous. That wall that I have hit it every one of my previous marathons… you know the point where you feel like you might actually be running on broken bones and you are running as fast as you can but it's barely faster than walking? It never happened. I don't want to over romanticize it, of course I felt some pain, but it paled in comparison. AND this was with my 34.5 year old, post 3 kids and RA body we are talking about.
My ears were flooded with music as if it were perfectly choreographed. I remember lifting a hand in praise and worship as I ran through Upper Arlington, the sun brightly peeking through houses and trees. I closed my eyes for moments. I felt like I was in a dream.
"You crush the enemy underneath my feet. You will deliver me. Yours is the victory."
"There's hope in front of me
There's a light, I still see it
There's a hand still holding me
Even when I don't believe it
Even after all I've seen
There's hope in front of me"
The last 5-6 miles…I could FEEL Bryer with me.
See, part of the deep ACHE, no matter what I know to be true in my faith, is the loss of the physical Bryer. My baby. I try to recreate it, find him, but if ever I do, it's a fleeting moment…a scent, a taste, a sound. Then it's gone. But these last miles, Bryer was so near. I wasn't grasping for him either, he was just there. I would squeeze Cow's head right beneath my chin as if to squeeze Bryer's hand. Yea ok, reading this back…it all sounds weird and dramatic. I can't explain it.
I thought about Bryer's own race here on earth and I ran for him. Almost like, the harder I ran and the more I gave could somehow replace his some of his suffering. Futile I know. Oh how I would've taken his pain upon myself. I guess this run was a physical expression. With everything I had, I ran for him. And there's simply no other way to put it, he was WITH me and he was happy.
Then there was God's presence. SO STRONG. I hadn't felt His presence like that since the day before and day of Bryer's death. Thick. Truthfully, I had ached for it as I had ached for Bryer...and they both were there as if I could touch them.
As I ran, I praised the Giver of these sacred moments. This race was a praise offering to my most faithful and loving God. I was completely overwhelmed by God's goodness in allowing me such an experience. I was completely lost in it and most certainly carried by it.
The three of us floated through Victorian Village The crowd got denser as I neared the finish line. I had one more turn to make and these are the lyrics that played into my ears and wrapped around my heart and soul.
The Hurt & The Healer"Why?
The question that is never far away
The healing doesn't come from being explained
Jesus please don't let this go in vain
You're all I have
All that remains
So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide
Sometimes I feel it's all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through
So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering?"
And as I turned the corner and saw the finish line, the bridge came on. I ran to the finish line of my race and I meditated on the finish of Bryer's race...the actual moment he finished... as I listened to the following words….
"It's the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes it's rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
(And as I crossed the finish line)
And hear You say "It's over now"
3:39 19 seconds. Only 4 minutes slower than my best time (ran by a 25 year old, non mother, non RA diagnosis) And I put my time not to brag on me, but to brag on God. That was not me. That was a gift. It could not have happened by my own strength or merit.
I pulled out Little Cow from my sweat soaked shirt and made my way to a white fence where I slumped over in a heap of tears. Emotion came as the all the angles of what had just happened collided. All the parallels. The praise. The reverence. The remembrance. The gift. Bryer's eternity.
And then I cried more because it was over. I wanted to remain in the thickness of God's presence. I wanted to remain in the closeness I felt to Bryer. The searing separation became so evident once more. I had just had a GLIMPSE of heaven. Maybe not with my eyes, but with my spirit. Can you imagine what it will feel like when we are actually standing face- to-face with Jesus in the fullness of His presence? The reunion with our loved ones?
My mind cannot even comprehend the glory, but that day my spirit got just a taste.
I needed that reminder today.