Thursday, March 27, 2008

A beautiful mess!

Yesterday was the official start of the building of Sully's playground. We met very unofficially with a few folks to say a prayer and an enthusiastic "let's begin". Today, I drove by and found this beautiful mess!
Everything is being torn out and dug up in preparation for the new landscaping, patio, and playground. I just sat there and watched these huge pieces of machinery rip up what must go. It's happening, Sully! It's really happening! I ran my fingers through the soil and grabbed a handful. I held him on this very ground. I want to keep it and put it with his sacred things. It seems right that a bit of the earth from this gift of a playground, his gift to so many, should be close to his tiny footprints. I'm so proud of you, Sully.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Different places

Brad has a business trip to California in April. He has asked me to fly out at the end of it for us to have some time alone together. He booked our tickets for a ferry out to the Channel Islands for three days. I'm a bit nervous. This island isn't a luxury island, it's an isolated island, an island for camping and exploring, an island for stillness and calm. Brad asked me if I'd prefer the ferry tickets that would give us just one night on the island but, as intimidating as life with absolutely no distractions can be, it is what felt right. A place to retreat together from the world, to be alone together and perhaps find that we can be on the same page again.

It has been hard to be in different places in our grief. Brad wants to keep Sully's place free from anything that might seem to fill it, to preserve the emptiness and thus honor him. For me, I know nothing can fill his place but my tendency is to identify him with symbols, to bring things into my life, do things in my life that will be constant reminders of him. I want us to get a puppy, one born preferably in February, to grow up with our family just as Sully would have. And then, there is the idea of a tattoo - something permanent that will forever remind me of my boy. My reminders seem like fillers to Brad. Living with his longed for emptiness seems cruel to me.

So how do we love each other? This weekend, for me, it meant not going to see the puppy I had hoped we could bring home. Maybe it will mean we never have a dog, or tattoos together or another child. It is hard to lay down your own desires, the things you think that you want. But I do love Brad, and I want to love him more than getting my own way. So, I think it is important for us to try and find where we are in the same place, like the playground. It gives us both joy to honor our boy, to remember him, with this. And perhaps our retreat to an isolated island will help us to understand that even though we may be on different pages, we are still in the same book.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Story

Easter morning. The first morning light always so dear to me takes on even greater significance this morning. Ella is awake with me this morning and we listen for the first bird song, for Sully's song. I have snuggled into her bed with her and we read the Easter story in a new Bible book I've found for her basket(The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones). I've never been so moved by a children's book. The author uses language so relevant and vibrant. She speaks of the greatest fairytale of all because it is true, of the Great Rescue of the world, and both Ella and I can't help but be pulled into the pages.

"But this is how God will rescue the whole world. My life will break and God's broken world will mend. My heart will tear apart - and your hearts will heal. Just as the passover lamb died, so now I will die instead of you. My blood will wash away all of your sins. And you'll be clean on the inside - in your hearts."

"God was going to pour into Jesus' heart all of the sadness and brokenness in people's hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus' body all the sickness in people's bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus."

We read through the horrors of the story, the separation from his "Papa" that broke Jesus' heart into two, the darkness that covered the world "like a bruise". But, then, the hope, the light, the wonderful surprise comes and our hearts lift. Mary Magdalene's surprise and joy at seeing Jesus is our own. As she races to tell everyone what she has seen she thinks this and I think it with her: "Was God really making everything sad come untrue? Was he making even death come untrue?"

We finish our pages and the light is full upon us, many birds are singing but one in particular sings his crystal clear song right by Ella's window. I feel relief that this morning is here, relief that Easter happened, relief that through all of the pain God has not been far from me, that I have not been separated from Him as Jesus had to be, relief that the sad things are coming "untrue", relief and joy that I know where my Sully is and that there will come a time when I will be with him again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

O come and mourn

O come and mourn with me awhile,
O come ye to the Savior’s side
O come, together let us mourn,
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

Seven times He spake seven words of love;
And all three hours His silence cried
For mercy on the souls of men;
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

Chorus: O love of God! O sin of man!
In this dread act Your strength is tried;
And victory remains with love;
Jesus our Lord is crucified!

O break, O break, hard heart of mine!
Thy weak self-love and guilty pride
His Pilate and His Judas were:
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

A broken heart, a fount of tears,
Ask, and they will not be denied;
A broken heart love’s cradle is:
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

Good Friday

This morning Ella asked me why today is called Good Friday. I'm glad no one was around to hear me fumble my way through trying to explain it to her. Like always, her question makes me think. How interesting that we do call this day, this day we remember the humiliation, abandonment, torture and crucifixion of Christ, a "good" day. And I think for a while on the paradox of how terrible things can also be beautiful, good things.

I think about Sully and his condition and losing him. I have lived through many people's worst fear, losing a child. And yes, there is a horror to it but also beauty. I think about what I believe, my theology. If there was ever anything I cling to it is this. That even in the brokenness and horror, God has promised me himself, promised to redeem the brokenness, to bring beauty to the ashes. And, he has done that, is doing that. He is being faithful.

I went into the attic to pull down a few things I tucked away for the children’s Easter baskets and ran across my art history text book from college. I pulled it down to flip through. As I skimmed over the introduction I saw highlighted a definition of beauty: “a harmony of all the parts, in whatsoever subject it appears, fitted together with such proportion and connection, that nothing could be added, diminished, or altered but for the worse.” I think about Sully.

So much of the pain for me lies in the loss of what I had hoped this third child would be. But, when I accept that Sully’s life was what it was supposed to be, there is a peace, a stillness. Instead of thinking of all he wasn’t, I think of all that he was and is. Yes, his outward physical beauty did please my visual senses but his beauty went far beyond that. Part of his beauty is everything that was wrong with him. Somehow there was a harmony to all of it. If anything were “added, altered or diminished” then Sully wouldn’t have been the boy that he was. If he had been a healthy child then we wouldn’t have even called him Sully. I had discarded the name originally when I read that it could mean hushed or quiet. What vigorous newborn should have that name? But then, back it came to me after learning our baby was a boy and a very different boy. Sully was his name. Sully is who he was meant to be: broken and tragic but overwhelmingly beautiful and, yes, good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

six weeks out

This is the 6th week since Sully was born. This is when most women normally go for the "six week check-up", go back to work, get back into normal life and activity. Sometimes it doesn't feel like I had a baby just six weeks ago. I'm pushing myself to get to where I can wear my normal clothes. I never would have even fathomed normal clothes at this point after my other pregnancies. What am I doing? I don't really know. I don't really know exactly what I should be doing with myself.

I am not as tired as I would be if we had a healthy six week old around here. But I am emotionally tired. I feel very little strength to pursue the things that I once would have tended to with gusto. I am feeble in my relationships, very much unable to be a good friend, to give what rightly should be expected in friendships. I heard someone say that loss such as this is like losing an arm. That arm will never grow back. So, I have to figue out how to rebuild my life, to function and exist in this life without that arm. I hate the thought that I have been made so weak. I hate that I will disappoint people because I am no longer the Heidi I once was. (And who I am I kidding, the Heidi I "once was" isn't so great, but in my head I believed I could give "equally" into relationships). But this is who I am now; this is where God would have me be.

I am eager for the play ground work to begin. I want to see it completed, and then I have a feeling I may retreat again. The work on the play ground has drawn me out, given me focus, something to care for, something to love and tend, something to nurture towards growth. It is an incredible gift to me. In some way the playground has helped to slightly anesthetize the wound for a short time. I worry that when it is complete I will feel a bit lost, that then I will have to embrace all over again and more fully the emptiness of my arms.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I have been bustling about the house this evening tidying up. Brad just gives me his knowing smile about my "busyness", and I continue on my way. It feels good to set the house aright, my little world aright. And then, with the children tucked in bed and every other room in order, I head to my bedroom to finish my work. I see Brad holding something in his hand, a small gray box. He hands it to me. Everything stops. I've known this was coming but it doesn't matter. I am brought back to reality, to the pain and the joy and the tragedy and the beauty of my boy Sully. My finger runs over the tiny (actual)imprint of Sully's foot on a small silver charm. I turn it over and see his name and his birthday. I weep all over again in that room where I held his tiny frame for the last time in this life. Brad holds me. I tell him how sometimes I want to pretend that none of it ever happened, that I was never pregnant, that we didn't lose our third child. Perhaps that was the bliss of my bustling, that for those moments I could make myself forget, make myself believe that I was my old self doing my old routine, that my heart had not been ripped from me and sent to heaven. Brad tells me that maybe it's OK to sometimes pretend, that maybe that's just what we have to do to get by sometimes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sharing Sully

I still have many of Sully’s things at the foot of my bed in baskets. Sully’s grandfather is crafting him a special trunk to keep them in. I couldn’t put them in the attic as we wait for it to be made and so I keep an eye on them here in my bedroom. I keep my personal Sully treasures next to my bed or tucked under my pillow. The blanket I made him is one of these. Every morning I carefully retie the blue ribbon woven through it at each corner.

A week or two ago Ella and I went through Sully’s things together. I wanted her to have some of his outfits and blankets for her baby dolls. I knew I wanted to do this but I didn’t realize how hard it would be. I was fine helping her fold and place in a special basket the pieces Sully didn’t use as much. But then, Ella picked out one of the little outfits I can clearly picture him in, the cream with light blue polka dots one with a puppy on the backside. I had to resist the urge to snatch it out of her hands and hide it. It took me by surprise. I had to take a deep breath and remember that Sully was Ella’s little brother. I want her to have pieces of him, too. We talked about Sully wearing it and about how special it was to remember him in it. She then unzipped it and dressed her baby doll in it. I couldn’t believe how well it fit that tiny doll. Then, she asked me to help her wrap her doll in the soft blue blanket given to Sully by his grandma. I couldn’t help but tear up as we did that together. I go in Ella’s room quite often now to make sure that baby is wrapped just right.

Zane also has a blanket of Sully’s. He has the fuzzy blue one with Sully embroidered on the corner that Bessie gave to Sully. I cover him up with it each night as he goes to bed and he has quite taken to it. I tried to use a different blanket the other night and he protested, insisting upon “Sully’s blanket.” He bundled it up this morning and cupped his hands together and said “hold Sully” the way he used to do when Sully was here. I just smiled at him and gave him a big hug as I picked him up. Yes, we are all trying to hold Sully in our own way, somewhere in each of our hearts.

Ella's Sully
"Sully coming home in his gown"
drawn 2/24/08

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yesterday's tulips

The fresh tulips and daffodils I indulged myself in yesterday sit as bright and cheerful as ever on my table. Tulips have become Sully’s flower to me, a new love he has given me. I decided yesterday that for the rest of the year I would have tulips on my table if possible or that at least I would allow myself to purchase them during the monthly anniversary of his six days with us. I picture myself doing this ritualistically and find comfort in it.

This morning, the 11th, a weight lifted. It was such a noticeable contrast that it made me very conscious of just how heavy the past six days have been for me. Remembering Sully brings joy but also the ache of losing him, the ache of all he could not be. But today, my mind felt the freedom to go other places. I could look at the tulips beginning to open and cheery daffodils and smile without tears. A bit of guilt snuck in, but I banished it, hearing the words of a dear friend who walked through grief of her own reminding me that I must “be” in each moment I am given whether tears or smiles.

Monday, March 10, 2008

One month ago today

One month ago today, Sully died. I replay that day in my mind. I thought about it all day yesterday since it was a Sunday, the day of the week it happened. I think about how the morning played out, so unassuming. I look back at the pictures of us getting packed up for our trip to church and think about how we had no idea what that night would bring.

But that morning was lovely with its premature spring warmth. We snuggled Sully into the car seat and all five us packed into our car. It felt so good to take him somewhere, to all be in the car together. And at church, we sat on the very back pew. I held Sully the entire time and felt his warmth in my arms and the
softened sunshine through the stained glass wash over both of us. Afterwards, I showed off my beautiful boy, holding him and letting this family of faith admire how exquisite he was. Sully had been baptized in our hospital room the night he was born and this day felt like his introduction to God’s people as the “newest non-communing member” of our church.

There was a baptism yesterday at church as well. One month later, a dear friend’s little girl became the newest non-communing member. I felt joy as I shared in witnessing this baptism but how could I not also ache? Has it really been one month? Is he really gone forever? Of course, of course he is gone; of course time keeps marching on. I remember my Sully, child of the covenant, even as we recognize this sweet little girl as a child of that covenant.

Lately I have been wishing that we would turn up surprisingly pregnant. I think through this longing. I rationalize it away. It would be so foolish right now. I still carry the physical weight of my pregnancy with Sully. We still carry the emotional weight, too. I think through 9 long months of pregnancy and don’t really want to go through that again. So, why this irrational longing? I wonder if I believe somewhere that another baby could make the ache go away, could fill up the emptiness inside. I remind myself that no one will ever replace Sully. I see how what I’m really longing for is that Sully would have been well, that he would have taken his place in our family for a lifetime. So here I am. One month later. The six days come to an end, again. I am grieving. I am inconsistent and irrational. I am not the person I was before. I am undependable and don’t know how long that will last. I’m trying to be gentle with myself, to tend this gaping wound. I think at times I have changed for the better but then, even on this morning of all mornings, I have snapped at my daughter. Yes Sully has changed me but I do still appear to be human. In fact, maybe Sully has made me even more human. That sticks out to me from church yesterday, the Nicene Creed, that Jesus “was made man” and that “He suffered.” I don’t think I could love a Savior that did not know my grief right now.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


We went to a wedding last night, a young couple who we've come to know over the past couple of years. You know how the ceremony goes. You know the vows they are going to say.
But this time, this first time to a wedding since Sully, the vows really struck home. I pictured myself saying those same words, making those same promises to Brad 7 1/2 years ago. Our vows to each other before God, of course, meant so much to us then. But we were so young, so carefree. That's what strikes me most as I witness these two lovers promising their lives to each other, how carefree their love is. You say those words, about the good times and bad, about holding each other in joy and in sorrow, sickness and health, never knowing what is coming your way. Never would I have thought on my wedding day that Brad and I would have to hold each other through the death of a child. And so, true to Heidi form, my eyes began to tear up. Such sorrow we have known and yet, we walk in a love that has been tested, that has been through fire. And we are still here, still holding each other, living out the vows we declared when we, too, were young and carefree.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The 8th

I'm up before everyone else like usual. I immediately head to the dryer to start folding the laundry and then I think of all the dirty dishes in the sink and then and then and then...I stop. I just sit on the couch. The light is lovely, not sunshiny at all but white gray and calming. Today is the 8th. One month ago I held my boy in my bed and mentally memorized everything about the morning. I remember how he felt in my arms, so small, so warm and bundled up. I remember how he smelled, how soft his skin was. I remember the light and the bird song and the calmness and the love. There is one bird that keeps repeating his song over and over this morning just outside the window. I tell him thank you. It's as if he's come to sing just to me and to tell me that Sully is well. Tell him I miss him, little bird. Tell him I miss him...

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Roller Coaster

I've been reading more about grief. There are lots of books, booklets, pamphlets, newsletters and articles about it. I want to read. I want to know what in the world is going on with me. Perhaps I do want a clear outline to know that I'm going to be OK just as I wanted it clearly laid out for me exactly how Sully's days would play out. We are so afraid of the unknown.

So one article tells me about the roller coaster of grief, "full of ups and downs, highs and lows." Amen to that. And then how about this: "As a culture, we want everything to be quick and easy." True. It goes on to say how just as we hurry through the rest of life we want to also hurry through our pain. Is that what I'm doing as I try to step back into life? Am I hurrying myself in some way?

I guess I wonder how long it will take for those in my life to get frustrated with me. You're given a grace period but when does that end? If I make it out and seem happy one day then what will be the response when the next day I can't pull it off? Once again I find myself having to shake off what I think people expect of me, what I expect of myself.

I find myself remembering, telling the details of Sully's days over to myself, particularly now as we have come into the "one month ago" range. (Storytelling - it's actually the name of a chapter in one of the grief books. Guess I'm on the right track.) The 4th was hard just as it was one month ago. And yesterday, the 6th was very strange. One month ago, yesterday, we were photographed as a family of five. How ironic that we were photographed again exactly one month later to the day, this time with only the four of us, me holding a picture of Sully where he once was in my arms. Today, on the 7th, I find in my inbox snapshots from my sister-in-law from Sully's days with us. They take me back to the sunny days of my boy being here. I look at them over and over and cry and smile and remember even more. I imagine that for the rest of the year these 6 days of each month will hold much emotional turmoil. Maybe after that it will concentrate in February. I'm probably wrong. I'll expect it then but be surprised by it another time when I least expect it. That seems to be more the way of grief.


I’ve been coming out of my shell. I’ve shown my face places, even made a late night trip to the grocery store. I’m seeing more people in places other than my home. And I’m finding that I’m a muddle of emotions. I’m confused about how I’m feeling. At times I’m so ready to be back in the game. I’ll feel like myself and be just fine as I start to face the world. And then, like this morning, I just want to retreat again. Nothing feels safe. Even the kindest faces, the most well-intentioned people, are overwhelming to me.

The more conscious I am of people’s awareness of me and Sully, the more I want to retreat. But I’m caught here because I want people to know about my boy, to recognize his beauty and worth, to be a part of building his playground. I’m pulled in two different directions inside.

I’m struggling to write on the blog. Instead of it being an honest outlet I feel pressure for it to be good, well-written instead of just the outpouring of my heart. Can I be honest anymore? Can I say that I want to take back my Sully, that right now I want him to be all my own? Yes, I am glad his story resounds in so many hearts, but I would trade it all to have a boy that no one knew about, to have an anonymous, healthy, taken for granted baby boy.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A well boy

When I woke this morning the sharp sorrow of last night had dulled and softened. Brad asked if I had dreamt. I tried to remember something specific but couldn't pinpoint anything. Yet, I had this wonderful sense of a well, happy little boy. It wasn't baby Sully but a little boy Sully, and he gave me such a sense of comfort. I don't really know what to call that, but I hope I wake to it again and again.