Layered

I came around the corner last night and noticed this… image To be honest by first reaction was a deep sigh of disappointment. A water glass, spoon, hair clip, channel changer, coin game, and a rock were carelessly layered into his sacred place.  Mundane artifacts of everyday living somehow found a way to clutter his memory with ordinariness… How did I let this happen?

I quickly tidied up the space and realigned the block letters.  Stepping back to survey my fresh start, I realized I didn’t feel a hint of anger and my sadness hadn’t lingered. In fact, I even laughed softly, as a gentle sense of oddity rose up within me.

He’s our third kiddo after all, I mused silently.  Thrown in with all the rest of the crazy and just fighting for his place like everyone else.  Instead of arguing with his sisters over cuddles and one-on-one time he’s vying with a water glass and a spoon (don’t ask about the spoon – I really have no idea) for shelf space.

“It is what it is” I mumbled… I never really wanted it to become a shrine anyway. Certainly, I don’t have to prove my love or my loss with the diligent care of an urn empty of soul. Right???  

I took one more deep sigh of reflection, I know how I could let his happen… It’s because I’ve slowly stopped looking for Graham in photographs and memorials.  In fact, I haven’t been looking for him at all, really.  He’s everywhere. And I don’t feel the inclination to prove it or force it – because he just IS – mixed in and present. Always.

Maybe this is what normal could look like for us?  A channel changer sitting beside a little boy’s urn? Maybe this is what acceptance looks like?

“Hi Buddy”

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Today, I’m enjoying a handful of surprise photos that were gifted to me.  Until yesterday, I had never seen this one before…

He was most certainly busy in that moment, but when the photographer called out to him (a time when the word ‘Graham’ belonged to him entirely, and wasn’t shared with aching loss) he rocked back on his diapered tush, arched his head back slightly and smiled. The camera caught either the beginning or the end of a full grin… I wonder which it was?

It’s so easy to just fall back into a different world.  A place where I know him completely.  Where he has weight, and a smell.  A voice… a mind.

I love him.  Entirely.

Please! Send me your address!!!!!

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This last year has been such a journey, and the love and support of our far-reaching, authentic community has provided for our needs and buoyed up our hope. People we once barely knew have poured out love, old relationships have been restored, and people once strangers have become cherished friends.

One huge regret, is in the fuzziness of grief I havent kept detailed records of the people who loved on us – more specifically, I haven’t kept addresses… I never seemed to realize just how ‘needy’ we were, I didn’t realize how much we’d take, or how overwhelming gratefulness can be. Just crafting an email or even looking someone in the eye and attempting to explain how much they meant to me could zap away every bit of energy and love I had to give… grief is such a strange monster – it stole so much of me.

I’m sorry – I haven’t taken YOU for granted – not for a moment, even though it may seem that way by my behavior.  Everyday I am reminded of the borrowed love, grace and hope in my life.  I’m sorry, that our relationship has been so one-sided this year.  I suppose, it had to be… and I suppose you probably realized this long before I did… thank you for that simple grace. Regardless, I would like the newest leg of my journey to be rich with gratefulness.  As the anniversary of Graham’s heaven day draws near, I want to be intentionally grateful – and I am so very grateful for YOU.

If you have lifted us up in prayer, even once, would you send us your address?

If you have ever ‘liked’ any picture or blog post would you send us your address?

If you given a gift large or small, wrote us a note, or cried tears of connecting sorrow please, please send us your address!

https://www.conxt.com/kristinengel/rij

Love extravagantly

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1 Corinthians 13:10-13

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Premonition

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When it was time for a diaper change, I would lay Graham down with his head toward my left side and his feet on my right.  As I held up his legs to change, clean, and fasten the new diaper my left arm would move across his torso diagonally.

One day, when Graham was still very young, he brought up his right hand under my arm. With his palm facing up, his little fingers gently tickled my skin. I paused to look at him and he silently grinned up at me.

He would reach out and touch me in this way again and again. I began to wait for it at every diaper change, hoping… wondering, was it actually a thing?  Would he do it again?  Or maybe never again?  But over and over, I would feel his small hand reach up and conscientiously cup the underside of my arm.

“Oh Graham,” I cooed one day, “What a special thing this is! I will remember it forever dear son…”

And then in my head I finished the thought, “If you were to die, I would miss this most of all.”

I chuckled uncomfortably as I squished his little face, “I mean when you’re grown, yes, all grown up!”  I finished the conversation abruptly with a big raspberry to his fat belly.

During Graham’s lifetime, the death of my children seemed an ever-present possibility… an expectation even?  It was a worry I guess, but mostly it just felt like preparation…

I was aware of the strangeness of my thoughts, and unnerved by this internal voice that I couldn’t shut off. However, as time moved forward I became somewhat accustomed to this looming premonition… Although if I were to be honest, I didn’t exactly trust it… and I didn’t really know what to do with it.  At the very least I suppose, I had a heightened awareness and presence during my son’s life… I didn’t miss a moment – not a moment of him… of us. 

I did try to convince myself that it just wasn’t true, “Kristin! You’ve got to let this thing go!” However as Graham lived out his final days, the voice of my intuition only gained volume… and so it seemed my only recourse was to lean into the truths of Jesus.  Somehow I kept from fixating on what I couldn’t know and began resting in what I did know… my anxiety was quelled even as I wrestled with truth and circumstance, love and loss, power and surrender.

And so it was, as I stood in the emergency room watching my son die, under all the layers of thoughts and feelings… under it all… was a small, familiar voice saying, “Here you are, here it is. It’s finally come, but you’re ready.”

Mirror

imageThanks to the wonderful internet, I stumbled across this Picasso portrait the other day and I found myself utterly mesmerized and devastated.  At risk of sounding overly dramatic, it’s as if I’m staring into a mirror, and I just can’t seem to turn away.

Is this what ‘healed’ looks like?  ‘Survived’… maybe… well, not dead, at least. I’ve given up on fair, but this can’t possibly be ‘right’.  For that matter, I might be throwing ‘right’ out the window too.

Could it possibly be beautiful? Gosh, for a flickering moment I think… maybe.  Perhaps fascinating is a better world… Unnaturally phenomenal… But then I just settle on ugly.

Can you look at me, talk with me, and not see this aberration starting back at you? Maybe you do see it, maybe it’s what keeps you coming back… like a train wreak, like the moral to a story.  I get it, I can’t stop staring either.

I realize I am being inconsiderate and petulant.  I’m sorry, I know I will regret it later, but really – what is anyone supposed to DO with this… with me?

Stop looking, I suppose.  Or maybe… just keep looking.