Archive for the ‘bitter~sweet’ Category

His Chair

He was quiet, firm, and resolute.

He was dedicated to my grandmother.

He welcomed my hugs.

And he let me sit in his chair.

His Chair

His Chair

I don’t have a plethora of memories when it comes to my grandfather.  We lived seven hours away from each other my whole life.  My family would park our car on the dangerously sloping street, peel ourselves out of the hot car, decide whether to bring the books and barbies inside or wait to retrieve them later, and then descend the concrete steps onto the front walk of my grandparents’ house.  As we nervously waited on their front porch, we would quickly be welcomed by my grandmother’s fierce hugs and both hands to the cheeks-kisses.  And we would hug my grandpa.  We would then enter the house where we would attempt to encapsulate months of our lives into a quick highlight reel of quips and anecdotes.

Perhaps Solid Gold or some shopping network channel would be on the television.  The adults would gravitate toward the dining room table for games of pinochle to be contended.  Someone would be there soon with buckets of fried chicken to be added to the smorgasbord already on the kitchen table.  We would vacillate between our books or barbies or chatting with grandparents until cousins (finally!) began to show up and we escaped to the front porch swing or cartwheeling around the yard as if we had seen each other only yesterday.

His Chair

His Chair

As a young girl I learned one lesson very early.  People did not sit in Grandpa’s chair.  It was the same for Grandma’s rocking chair, but that made sense because she was most often sitting in it.  Even when Grandpa was gone from the house, people only reluctantly took his chair in the often full-to-bursting tiny living room.  But one time…one time…

I was sitting in his chair when he came home.  Some cousin whispered almost panic-like, “Get out of Grandpa’s chair!”  And I started to, nervous that something cataclysmic was about to occur, when Grandpa every-so-slightly shrugged his shoulders, looked at me and said, “It’s okay.  You can sit there.”

Now, generally I don’t trust my memory one bit.  But like Dory from “Finding Nemo,” there are just some long-term memories that can be relied upon.  And this scene, while maybe not as dramatic or colorful as I’m writing it to be, definitely happened.  And it impacted me.

I didn’t know my grandpa very well.  He was not a big talker and I am not good at asking questions.  But I know he had a hard life.  And I know he had a hard time parenting my father.  And I know he was stubborn.  But I also remember how his physical body seemed to soften just a bit when we would give him a hug.  And I remember the look on his face on that day he let me sit on his chair.  And it was enough to know that I was loved.

I can’t help but think of my grandpa when I watch my dad with my kids.  They are a rambunctious, mischievous, slightly crazy lot but I know he loves them.

He lets them sit in his chair.

Posted on June 9th, 2013 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

Garden of Grief


Soon after and because of Kate’s death, we built this house in which we currently live.  When it came time to landscape,  I demanded a garden.  So in the front yard, around 3 existing trees, I created one and called it “Kate’s Garden.”  In this garden I planted the tree gifted to us by the girls’ preschool at the time, a beautiful big Linden tree.  I moved plants from the old house that were meaningful to me into the garden:  some daisies Kate had held in her hands and smelled, some peonies I had nurtured and loved, and some plants given to me by my family members.  I envisioned Kate’s Garden as a place for me to remember her, a place to nurture living things in lieu of my little girl, and a place of beauty.

Garden of Grief

Garden of Grief

The garden does bear beauty and fruit, but not in ways I may have originally imagined or intended;  it is indeed so much more.  And today, ironically while working in a different garden, it occurred to me that Kate’s Garden is very representative not just of Kate’s life and light, but of her death and my grief.  This thought overwhelmed me to such a degree that the shovel, gardening gloves, and weeds I was pulling are now laying, discarded, next to that garden as I sit here in my front porch rocking chair and record these thoughts.

The first and most overwhelming thought I had was that Kate’s Garden is BIG, as is her death and my grief.  I didn’t realize when I was creating this garden just how big it is just as I did not realize when I lost Kate that I would be losing her for the remainder of my life.  This is how my grief feels; it will never end.  Sometimes it is momentarily dormant (by choice or season), sometimes it is a dull ache, and sometimes it catches me so sharply I lose my breath.  But it is always there; it is a part of who I am.  It does not define me, but it has forever changed me.

Garden of Grief

Garden of Grief


Kate’s Garden is MESSY.  Oh my, what an understatement.  It will take me a month to put mulch on it, and by the time I finish, I will need to begin again with weeding.  Sometimes the flowers that create the most immense beauty cause the biggest mess.  There are times that all I can do is get my gas string trimmer to cut down the mess.  Grief is like this; a disheveled, jagged edge.  It cannot be defined in pristine, clinical terms because everyone’s mess is as unique as every garden.  The invasive weeds and poison ivy taunt me, daring me to give them control but I refuse.  I pull them out despite the rash and despite the certainty of their return because I refuse to give into the lies inherent in grief.  Lies of guilt, fear, and appropriateness.  I don’t think one ever “gets a handle” on grief; one learns to coexist.

And sometimes I choose other things over the mess.  I have other gardens that need tending, cultivating.  At times these are welcome diversions, and at times I long to return to the garden almost as an escape.  But grief isn’t an escape in its healthiest form.  The process can be cathartic for sure, but it not a place to dwell for long.  Actually, the time I spend nurturing other gardens often provides a different, generally better perspective on Kate’s Garden.  It is quite frequently the innocent, sometimes raw words of my children which offer the most unique places for growth and hope.

I would describe Kate’s Garden as PEACEFUL CHAOS.  I am laughing right now at how well this is currently being illustrated.  At the moment, I am typing this blog at my kitchen counter while listening to Taylor Swift insisting on “Trouble, trouble, trouble.”  There are two boys riding scooters while their 10 yr. old sister is on roller skates, creating “schoolwork” for them on the giant white board in the foyer.  They just had ice cream sandwiches for a “before-lunch” snack, and my 12 yr. old is off sulking because her part of the compromise was to watch Spongebob on the upstairs television.  There is an empty pizza box on the counter from last night’s dinner, alongside several Lego figures put on kitchen counter quarantine due to their owner chewing on them rather than playing with them.  Oh, and I just witnessed stuffed animals being pulled from the kitchen cabinets that house my coffee mugs.


The same thing is happening right now in the garden.  The peace comes not from clean, well-kept surroundings or a quiet cricket symphony, but from the inherent joy that exists in the midst of all the crazy reality.  This is so true of grief.  It can emerge with the happiest of tears, or be absent at the most forlorn times.  If I look closely, I see the wild honeysuckle growing out of the middle of my butterfly bush and the thistle surrounding the peonies.  But upon further reflection all I notice are the big bursting berry-colored blooms and the little white butterflies gracefully flitting back and forth amidst the bedlam.

Garden of Grief

Garden of Grief

At church last night, the pastor said something that struck me so profoundly I wrote it down and now apply it here.  He said, “Privacy is not a good catalyst for growth.”  In sharing my experiences and thoughts on this little blog, I am applying this quote.  Kate’s life, death, and my grieving process are not things to be locked up in a special package residing only within my heart,  just as her Linden tree in my garden would surely wither and perish if not planted properly and allowed to be seen and experienced by the world.  The work of maintaining Kate’s garden actually nurtures my soul; the art of sharing the experience provides a place where growth and hope are sustained.

Garden of Grief

Garden of Grief

It is in acknowledging and allowing the grief that true beauty of life is realized and attained.


Posted on June 2nd, 2013 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

In memoriam…

I have been thinking of my friend Linda quite a bit recently.  To say only that I taught at the same high school with Linda would do a disservice to our relationship.  I did teach with her, but I also prayed with her, cried with her, laughed with her, traveled with her, admired her, and grieved her…I grieve her still.

Linda died in November, 2008.  She had the same kidney cancer my husband had been diagnosed with, but they found hers after it had spread into her body and beyond remedy.

I don’t claim that Linda and I were the best of friends.  She was closer to my mother’s age than mine, but it never really mattered.  She was such a young spirit, full of spunk and sass.  She and I had the honor and blessing to attend our school’s Kairos retreat with many different groups of seniors over several years.  In sharing Kairos ~ or “God’s time” ~ with each other, we had time to share beyond our Math or Religion curriculum, beyond our school assemblies or student dramas; we shared matters of substance.

We shared about our hopes for the future, our relationships with our husbands, our questions regarding spirituality, and of course, the minutia of life:  board games, beer, poker, jokes, and lots and lots of good laughs.  I loved her.  I loved the way she talked about her husband Jim and her kids.  I loved her honesty and frankness.  I loved her determination to live life in that moment and not to wait until it was more convenient.

For some reason tonight, I was looking up some old Catholic cd’s one of my other friends introduced me to a long time ago.  As I found “Simple Gifts” and  “Instruments of Peace” on Spotify, I was immediately transported in my mind back to a road trip I took with three lovely ladies to visit another one of our good friends.  What a fun trip!  Linda was there, Sue (owner of these cd’s), and my good friend Gina.  We were traveling to visit our friend Ellen, another teacher with whom we had bonded over Kairos who was now teaching in New Jersey.

There are several moments on that journey that stand out to me as I reflect upon it tonight.  I remember talking about not expecting our husbands to fulfill us, but looking to God for that instead.  What did I know?!  I had been married for such a short time and I was spouting off about something I knew very little about, really.  But these women gave me such grace.  I didn’t know at that moment how important that lesson would one day be for me as well.  I also remember talking about being a vessel for God.  This phrase has resurfaced many times in sharing my experience of losing Kate.  The excursion was also a major crossroads as I would come home from that trip, take a pregnancy test, and turn a very important corner in my life’s journey.

Linda’s husband gifted me a pair of her earrings.  They are beautiful gold butterflies.  My first instinct was to tuck them in a special box only to be pulled out for sacred, special occasions.  But then I had to check myself.  If I learned one thing from Linda, it was that every moment of our lives is sacred.  Chatting with neighbors, playing games, dancing at weddings, changing diapers ~ there is something sacred about every moment we experience as long as we acknowledge it as such.  Life is not something to tuck away in a box, even a beautiful one, hoping for the perfect moment to enjoy it.

Life is about grabbing on with both hands, and taking it for the wild ride it is.  It’s about finding the sacred in washing the dishes, kissing a boo-boo, reprimanding (while trying not to laugh at) the 7 yr. old for the wedgie he just gave his 5 yr. old brother.  It’s about a purple iris broken in the rainstorm now adorning the kitchen counter in a Mason jar.  It’s about weeding those damn dandelions and thistles even though you just weeded them yesterday, or maybe just ignoring them after all.  It’s about wearing gold butterfly earrings to watch a soccer game or for a day at the park.

Even life’s ordinary moments are sacred; perhaps, especially those.

And so I offer my starfish, Linda.  I hope this humble blog serves as a vessel for God’s love.  I hope in some small way to honor your life by sharing a bit of mine.  If it helps even one, it will be worth it.  In the midst of writing this and remembering you, I shared a beer with my neighbor, admired the beautiful lush overgrown lawn after an afternoon rain, baked brownies and ate them with my children, cleaned up after my family, refereed several arguments, scratched my son’s back, carried my baby to his bed, laughed with a friend about a fake mustache… familiar, humdrum  yet hallowed moments.

I miss you, friend.



Posted on May 11th, 2013 by LilBS  |  4 Comments »




Today is Kate’s birthday.  She would have turned nine.  It’s my absolute favorite time of year with everything in bloom or ready to burst forth in great color and abundance.  But alongside that fullness exists such emptiness for the one I no longer hold in my arms.

On that day, nine years ago, God gave me yet another gift.  As I stared at that bundle of baby lying in front of me and stared into those beautiful calm blue eyes, I felt a joy invade every pore of my being.  That I was touched by the Spirit on that day, I have no doubt.  This was a deeper experience than the joy I had felt with my other girls.  This was an onslaught of love that was bigger than childbirth, bigger than motherhood, bigger than human love.  I have often wondered if that moment of rapture was not merely a gift for that moment, but a gift meant to provide the sustenance I would need to live a life without Kate, but with hope.


It’s such a little word for the incredible power it holds.  And our overuse threatens its value.  I do it all the time:

“I hope I get some sleep tonight.”

“I hope it doesn’t rain on our picnic.”

“I hope no one notices that I’m wearing two different shoes.”

The definition of hope is “longing; a dream.”  In the dictionary, hope is associated with words like expectation and await.  I cling tightly to the hope and expectation that I will see my girl again.  I pray fearfully that I will recognize her.  I pray fervently that my entire family will be reunited with her.  I pray daily to have the patience it takes to live a fruitful life until that day arrives.

But what happens in the meantime??  How can this mother walk through this world without her child?  I see different responses in others who have lost someone they love.  Many create rituals around the day their loved one passed away.  A dear friend of mine celebrates a “Heaven Day” with her family in honor of her daughter.  There are many 5K walks/runs set up to remember a loved one and provide funds for something related to that person’s life or death.  Others continue to celebrate the day their loved one was born with a cake or treat provided in remembrance.



None of these feels quite right in my world.  In the past, I have met friends and family at Kate’s grave and sent up balloons or even shared popsicles.  For two years, I held a “Kate’s Day” at my house where I celebrated the mothers in my life.  I wanted to share with them a fraction of the love I felt on the day Kate was born.  One year I mailed flower seeds to a handful of deserving moms.  All of these were worthwhile offerings, yet none truly fulfilled that empty space I longed for them to satisfy.  But I think the lesson I have learned is that nothing will suffice; it is a void that demands to be filled with hope.

This does not mean the waiting is all despair.  Hope might fill a space that feels like the deepest ocean depths, but the surface of those depths reflects the most beautiful skies, the most radiant sunsets.  It reminds me of a lilac bush I planted outside my garage when we moved into this house six years ago.  It is a beautiful, tall bush with gorgeous green foliage that provides beauty and structure every year.  But it has never bloomed.  I have researched how to prune it, fertilize it, and nurture it in order to help it produce those fragrant purple blooms permeating the air right now in my neighborhood.  But with all those efforts, still no flowers.  By last year, I had accepted that it would just exist as a stately green bush and I would just hope that someday it would surprise me with some blooms.

This year:




Sometimes our hopes are fulfilled.  Sometimes our longings or expectations change and evolve into new hopes and dreams.  And sometimes we must make the difficult choice to find beauty and peace as we anticipate the hope that one day will be realized.

I still pray that I can honor Kate’s memory in a way that provides light and love to others.  I know that some have been affected by our story and Kate’s life, and I am profoundly thankful for that.  Selfishly, I want more.  I want the immediacy of knowing HOW Kate’s death is being redeemed.  My human impatience makes unfair demands on hope.  It calls for a feel-good “fix,” a grandiose garden luncheon for two hundred, a 5K for hope.  But hope refuses to be forced.  It craves room in which to abide ~ sometimes in silence like the lilac without a bloom.

Today I honor Kate’s birthday with a blooming lilac.  The void feels a tad lighter with this physical reminder of hope.  I also honor her birthday with the remembrance of that Spirit-blessing, that abundant joy which has provided a foundation of survival without my girl.





Posted on May 4th, 2013 by LilBS  |  5 Comments »

From the parent of a 12 year old:

Thanks, Coach, for teaching my daughter that your opinion of her ability does not define her worth.

Thanks, Coach, for teaching my daughter that cheering for her teammates is more important than wallowing in self-pity, and that friendship is bigger than playing time or points scored.

Thanks, Coach, for teaching my daughter that believing winning is the most important thing does not always yield… a win.

Thanks, Coach, for teaching my daughter that one does not have to agree with authority in order to respect it.

Thanks, Coach, for teaching my daughter to work extra hard in practice because that is where the most important “playing time” really happens.

Thanks, Coach, for being the “bad guy” so that my daughter will actually listen to me about courage and grace and strength.

Thanks, Coach, for reminding me about all these things, too.


Posted on April 28th, 2013 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

I am preparing them for my death…


We have been talking a lot about Kate these days.  It’s not her birthday yet or any “special” day, but my 3 year old Ian just learned about his third sister.  I don’t know exactly what he understands about her, but he calls her his “sister Kate” and refers to her quite a bit right now.

“Mom, my sister Kate is on the phone…want to talk to her?”

“Mom, my sister Kate loves these animals.”

“Mom, where is my sister Kate?”

“Mom, what is dead?”

“Mom, I miss my sister Kate.”

Me too, buddy …me too.

But the thought occurred to me several weeks ago, that while these conversations I have with my kids regarding their sister Kate can be painful, uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes humorous, they are absolutely necessary.  In fact, they are probably some of the most important conversations I will ever have with my children.  I am preparing them for my death.

Death is not an easy topic, is it?   I even hesitated writing this blog and sharing it because it seems depressing, dark, even taboo.  And yet it is part of the human experience that we ALL share.  We ALL lose people we love and we ALL will die.  So why can’t we discuss it?

In my life, death has become as common a topic as why wearing shorts in 20 degree weather might be a bad idea.  We discuss death at the dinner table, walking to the bus stop, lounging on the couch, folding laundry.  It is common; it is often casual; it is our normal.  This doesn’t make it easy, exactly, but it does remove some of the fear ~if not fear of death itself, then fear of the idea of death.

As the children learn about Kate’s life and death and mature into new levels of understanding, it is inevitable that deeper and more complex conversations about death occur.  A lot of the time I find myself saying, “I don’t know.”  Sometimes the children have answers for questions I didn’t even realize I was asking.  And always, always, always  I feel more connected to them as a result of our conversation.

And I think that is the way we were meant to think about death.  It really is the common denominator for us humans, isn’t it?  No matter what our beliefs might be about what happens after death,  death itself should be enough to help us feel connected to one another.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I do not walk carefree through this life, completely fearless of death.  I pray often that my life is a long one that sees the rest of my children grow, marry, and have children of their own.  I pray often – and sometimes gripped with fear – that I don’t have to bury another child.  I cannot imagine walking through this life without my husband.

But every time I have one of these moments, it is accompanied by some relief, some hope, even some joy.  One of my earliest comforting thoughts after losing Kate, was that her loss would ease the loss of every family member after hers.  Specifically at that moment, I thought of my mom.  I cannot imagine my mom not being here.  I pray stubbornly and selfishly that she lives to see great-great-great grandchildren.  But in that comforting moment, I realized that my mom would be going to be with Kate.

Relief.  Hope.  Joy.

I am preparing my children for my death.  Every conversation we have, every tear we shed, every loss we endure, every joy we experience…I am preparing my children for my death.  I want them to be assured that “Mom is going to be with Kate.”  I want them to know how joyful that day will be ~  only second to the joy I will feel when we are ALL reunited together with Kate.

Henri Nouwen, in his book Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, writes of a story about a soldier:

“A soldier was captured as a prisoner of war.  His captors transported him by train far from his homeland.  He felt isolated from country, bereft of family, estranged from anything familiar.  His loneliness grew as he continued not to hear anything from home.  He could not know that his family was even alive, how his country was faring.  He had lost a sense of anything to live for.

But suddenly, unexpectedly, he got a letter.  It was smudged, torn at the edges from months of travel.  But it said, ‘We are  waiting for you to come home.  All is fine here.  Don’t worry.’  Everything instantly seemed different.  His circumstances had not changed.  He did the same difficult labor on the same meager rations, but now he knew someone waited for his release and homecoming.  Hope changed his life.”

I am preparing my children for my death.  I am teaching them what it means to hope.

I am teaching them hope.

I am teaching them hope.



Posted on March 19th, 2013 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

The power of a promise

When we lost Kate, I was 5 months pregnant with our first boy.  When Ty Jeffrey blessed us with his presence later that April, it taught me that I could once again feel joy, and began to teach me how my life would be an ongoing journey of intermingled bitter and sweet.  I made certain choices and promises to myself those last several months that I carried him:  I continued to eat when I wasn’t hungry; I made sure to sleep although my heart fought it; and I kept up with all the doctor appointments even though each one meant facing sympathetic and sad, caring eyes which cut me to the quick.

But while these choices and promises were important and meaningful, and the choices we made with ALL of our children valuable… perhaps the most significant and hopeful promise I made was with my husband, just minutes after learning Kate was lost to us in this life forever.

We promised each other we would have another child.

In those moments of shock and grief and despair, we said to one another that we would have another little girl together.  But that was not to be.  Instead we had 2 more boys after Ty was born.  Although this is another topic to chew on, I do think there was a gift in not having another girl.  I still cannot face the bin of clothing Kate was wearing when we lost her ~ not to give it away, lend it to friends, or make something memorable.  7 years later and it’s not something I can yet face.  So I cannot imagine re-living Kate’s short life with another little Long baby girl.

In that moment of promise, we were (without realizing it) taking a stand for hope.  We were making a commitment to our family and to God that we were going to go on living and not give in to desperation or fear.  And it has not been an easy path.  Seeing our 3 boys through the nights, through ordinary illnesses, through everything that reminded me of losing Kate meant many battles faced and fought.  It meant forcing myself to stay in bed instead of checking on my 1 yr. old one more time that night.  It meant facing the very virus that took our sweet girl when it reared up once again in Colt’s little body.  It meant fighting fear when they slept instead of finding rest.  And in some ways, those battles continue.  But I am willing to fight them…

for hope’s sake.

The power of a promise

The power of a promise

That promise we made gave us Colt Joseph.  Today this fierce, intense firecracker of a boy turns 5.  I simply cannot believe it.  He is literally our thickest, sturdiest little one ~ an irony that does not go unnoticed by me, the one who has had to lean on his presence to be reminded of hope and joy more than once already in his lifetime.  And oh, how intense this boy!  Everything about him screams, “I AM LIVING THIS LIFE!!”

The power of a promise

The power of a promise

When he eats chocolate, he wants the whole bag.  When he plays Mario on the Wii, he enacts each scenario with his whole body.  When he is happy, he wants to tell the whole neighborhood (by yelling it from our house).  When he is angry, he wants to tell the whole neighborhood (again, by yelling it from our house).  When he is sad, my heart breaks at the crushed look on his face.

The power of a promise

The power of a promise

He is hope.  He is Kate’s light, carried on in ways he will never understand.  He is my stand against fear and darkness.  And, oh my…

The power of a promise

The power of a promise


He is joy.

Posted on January 18th, 2013 by LilBS  |  2 Comments »

Just for a moment

It’s happened every New Year’s Eve for the last 7 years.  Well that’s not exactly true.  The first one, 7 years ago, it was too new…too raw.  I remember sitting in my in-laws’ living room after everyone had gone home, not able to sleep, writing furiously in a new journal, grasping to remember and record every detail I could before they started to fade.  It was 2006, people were dancing and kissing and singing and I was facing a new future – one without my daughter Kate.

Ever since then at that moment the ball drops and people start their celebration, I pause.  It’s natural to me now – like a breath.  It’s not so much a choice; just the reality.  I don’t think it’s obvious.  I don’t know why it would be.  It’s just a moment.

In that moment I am faced with one more year without her.  One more year of the hum-drum of my life: driving my taxi, soccer games, school days, volleyball practices, exercise, cleaning, showers, laundry.  One more year of 5 kids and all the experiences – the joys, the boredom, the trials, the time – that accompanies them. One more year of finding the balance of wife and mom and Becky.





It’s:    Sadness









But it’s just for a moment.


Because then my 12 year old tucks her arm under mine and nuzzles my shoulder.   “Happy New Year, Mama.”

And my 10 year old looks over and gives me that smile that means she likes me; she really likes me.  “Happy New Year, Mom.”

And I take a breath.

And I walk over and give my husband the obligatory New Year’s kiss, but it isn’t obligatory at all.  It feels real and solid; 14  years of substance.

And I give my 6 year old’s shoulder a squeeze and kiss his moppy ginger hair.

And I take a breath.

I clink glasses with sisters and brothers and parents – all through marriage, but all the shoulders on which I can stand; the arms in which I can rest.

I carry the 4 year old and 2 year old to the car, letting their bodies melt into mine as they struggle for comfort and warmth.  And I buckle them into their seats in spite of their sleepy protests.

And I take a breath.

And I am thankful for ALL OF IT…the good and the bad and the painful and the joyful.  The loss and the lessons.  The hope.

just for a moment.

Posted on January 5th, 2013 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

No Clear Definition

No Clear Definition

No Clear Definition


I have blogged before about not wanting to be defined as “that mom” who lost her child.  I guess my fear was that this would limit who I was/am as a person and as a mother, or that it would mean always carrying this heavy burden of grief.  But as I reflect on that fear on this seventh anniversary of Kate’s passing, I see now that this is exactly what has happened.  And I think my early fear had more to do with the realization that this WOULD be my truth for my entire lifetime, and not yet wanting to face that reality.

It looks much different than I thought it would, being defined by losing Kate.  The heavy burden of grief has become almost like an injury to my soul, flaring up from time to time as old injuries will do.  The instant pain can be sharp and steal my breath, but eventually it dulls once again to a light ache, a familiar nudge passing vigil.   There are times when I know I can expect it to erupt once again, and moments when it catches me off guard, demanding attention and acknowledgement.

There were two injuries that occurred that day:  the trauma of losing Kate, and the ongoing loss of Kate’s physical presence in my life.  Both are intertwined as injuries to the same muscle; one not being felt without the other causing notice.  Recently I have had friends and family members experience trauma in their own families.  One close friend’s daughter was viciously attacked by a dog.  One cousin’s child had a frightening allergic reaction to peanuts.  And another cousin’s child sustained a head injury at a family Christmas party which caused much alarm and concern.  Thankfully, all of the children are fine.  They are with their families where they belong.

And I have to fight the bitterness.

Not that I would ever wish a different outcome for them, of course, but that I had to walk out of the hospital without my child in my arms has defined the way I react in these situations.  My immediate reaction to these instances takes me immediately back to the trauma on that December day.  I have learned to cope:  seek a quiet place to myself for a few moments where I can shed a few tears, take a few deep breaths.  And then I can re-enter the conversation, the situation.  And I cannot help but pray that they are so, so thankful to hold those children in their arms.

Sometimes I cannot enter in at all.  The recent shootings that took the lives of so many innocent children are an example.  My mom called to see how my heart was handling all of it, especially since it took place in a vulnerable time of the year for me.  And honestly, I told her that I couldn’t let myself enter into the story.  I haven’t watched the news; I haven’t looked at the names of the kids; I haven’t seen their faces.  Because I know.  Even though my story contained no obvious violence, Kate was still violently ripped from my arms and my life.

I know the loss those parents are experiencing.  There is  physical pain, confusion, inability to make even the easiest of decisions.  I know what it’s like to donate already-wrapped Christmas presents, to follow a familiar tuft of hair in the store because it looks just like hers, to handle practical details like funeral cards and headstones in the midst of overwhelming despair.  There will be details that they can never share with another person as there are things too heart-wrenching to share.  There is trauma in the loss, and then there is the trauma of the realization that life will never be the same.


 I may be defined by the bitter, but I am also defined by the sweet.

Alongside this new definition of loss, of trauma, of injury is a new understanding of hope.  I experienced God and God’s love more intimately in those darkest moments than ever in my life.  And God continues to sustain me as I live within this new definition of me.

Even though losing Kate has defined me, it has not confined me.  It offers deeper relationships with my husband and children and family as we all attempt to find understanding and peace with losing Kate,  and how that defines us as a family.  It offers a peace midst the sadness in losing other family members as I know they are going to be with my beloved daughter, and that they will mutually care for each other.  And it continues to be a beacon of hope for those who hear our story.  I don’t always feel called to share this part of our family’s story, but when I do it is usually meaningful far beyond my expectations.

This little blog is just one example.  I feel very much like a vessel for God’s love and words as I write ~ especially when I write about Kate.  There is an ongoing ache in my heart to be able to make sense of losing Kate, to be able to see her loss bear fruit in this world in some way.  Every time I post a blog,  it resonates with people from all over my life’s story.  I hear from high school acquaintances, extended family members, childhood friends, former teaching colleagues, college buddies, lifelong friends.  It is really remarkable and unceasingly surprising to me the impact a few heartfelt words can make; and that’s how I know with certainty that something bigger than me is at work here.

When I first felt so fearful of being defined by losing Kate, I had no concept that I would also be defined by the hope and expectation of seeing her again.  In the midst of  sadness, remembrance, and trauma, it is one of Kate’s earliest and favorite words, “Light” that offers me the most hope.  As we put up Kate’s butterfly tree today, the effervescent light will once again brighten our home and our family.  And I am thankful for the defined life of love I am blessed to live.


Posted on December 22nd, 2012 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

Thankful…and sad

Thankful...and sad

My beautiful Kate

Of all the holidays, this one tends to bite me the hardest.  I carry Kate’s life – and loss – with me everyday, and there are moments when the grief sneaks up on me, sucks the breath away from my lips.  There are moments I can treasure and remember with joy and gratitude.  And every milestone – large or tiny – that my other children experience leaves me with a bit of sadness at the loss of not experiencing that with Kate.

But there is something unique about Thanksgiving.  Perhaps it is the outpouring of gratitude that heightens this bittersweet-ness of my life.  I am both overwhelmed with the gratitude of the short time I was able to hold her, care for her, love her, know her… and leveled by the fact that this is not a part of my daily life any longer.  Perhaps it is holding family close and special on this day, and the fact that my family will never be complete in this world.  And perhaps it is simply that the joy and gratitude are so magnified on this day that the bitterness and loss can’t help but be included; the enlarged image doesn’t exist without the enlarged shadow.

It’s not a day of overwhelming sadness.  I will laugh out loud today, be frustrated when my children spill chocolate pudding on their nice clothes before we even make it to the family dinner, be irritated that my husband has to run into work for just a few minutes before we leave, be annoyed that I forgot to buy wipes yesterday, give and receive many welcome hugs and hellos…it will be a good Thanksgiving.  The joy is legitimate and welcomed.

I am so blessed to see my sisters and their families today…I haven’t seen them in WAY too long.  I get to put my hands on their shoulders and drink in their familiar eyes, their changed hair-do’s, their warm smiles, their held-back tears.  I get to wrap my arms around their husbands and my nieces and nephew.  I get to hold my family close for a few moments – all together not just in spirit, but in person.  And I know that she will be there, too. 

Above all, I am thankful that my God-given, God-blessed, God-beloved little heart is large enough to hold the joy and the loss.   Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, the ones you held and the ones you hold.

Posted on November 22nd, 2012 by LilBS  |  5 Comments »