Wednesday, June 3. We arrived home from the hospital by 10:20 a.m., less than three hours after the moment that changed our family forever.
Jason drove the truck up to the house over the lawn, avoiding the driveway and the spot that he knew was stained reddish-brown, maybe even still wet.
After the kids and I were back in the house, he spent the next hour cleaning up the truck and the deck and the driveway. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been. But he missed two large drops of blood on the door jam between the screen door and the main door.
Two days later, my nurse friend, Serena, whose entire family had driven 13 hours to spend a week with us and help us in those first, difficult days, asked if I would like them cleaned up.
"Yes, we just haven't had a chance to do it."
"Some people are sentimental about the blood, so I just thought I would check."
"Well, I'm sentimental about other things, but not the blood."
It was gone before I went outside again.
I find the things I am sentimental about are odd. Not as odd as blood, in my opinion, but still odd.
Levi was lactose intolerant (we think--or casein allergic. But dairy was not his friend.) Because of this and the fact that we try to avoid processed food and wheat products, ergo no packaged snacks, I sometimes found it difficult to figure out what kind of snacks to bring for him when we were "out and about." The usual choice was a couple of bananas.
Levi loved bananas. Plus, they come naturally packaged and easy to grab. And we almost always had some.
Tuesday, June 2, Levi and I had been to town so I could visit a friend of mine, and on the way home he had eaten a banana. Normally, I would bring the peel into the house to throw in the compost bucket right away, but that time I kind of tossed it onto the top of the fullish garbage bag on the passenger side of the van and left it there, since my arms were kinda full when I went in.
It would actually be a couple of weeks before I used my own vehicle again. When I got back in and saw that dried, blackened, shrivelled banana peel, I cried. And it's still there. Every time I get in my van and see it, I think of that last day we had together.
There are still wooden trains on my desk, which Levi put there (in a very specific arrangement) a few days before he left.
I have put away bibs, clothes, and toys, but I still find the odd orphan that was missed under couches and behind furniture, and don't know quite what to do with it. Sometimes, I put it away right away, and sometimes, I put it somewhere to look at for a while.
I don't know why, but folding laundry has been a particularly difficult time during my week.
Maybe it's because Levi would usually come play near me while I was doing it, messing up the sorted, coloured piles of soiled clothing on the floor while he climbed and jumped through them, making his trucks "fly" or making a nest for himself.
Maybe it's because folding laundry gives me a lot of time to think.
Each week, it has been getting a little easier and less emotionally wrenching. But last night, I was folding laundry--the "whites and lights" load--and I pulled out one of his little white-and-grey ankle socks. How did that even get in there?
So much for "easier." I balled.
This morning, I saw the sock sitting on the dryer as I went by and stopped and stared at it. It is now sitting in front of me on my desk. Weird thing to be sentimental about, right? But my otherwise-not-bad morning has become rather weepy ever since.
Moving forward is hard. Yes, the inexorable march of time moves us whether we want to move or not. But how do you "move forward" inside without feeling like you are leaving something--or someone--precious behind?
I have been trying to move forward. I've been doing projects--sewing and knitting and scrapbooking. I have been trying to knock things off my ever-growing business "to-do" list. I have been trying to psych myself up to get back into working on last year's books so I can do taxes. I hate working with numbers, and concentrating on those and the new systems I am also learning this year to make my job "easier" has been beyond my "grief brain" capabilities for the last seven weeks.
I am reading books that are answering my questions, at least some of them, and that helps. Am I moving forward, though? I don't know.
Sometimes I don't want to move forward. I want to sit and look at pictures and watch videos of my little man all day and just cry. So I do. And then I am exhausted and feel heavy inside and out.
I think that's okay. I keep being told that "experiencing" the sadness is important, a necessary part of moving forward. But sometimes I grab onto my pain and sadness and hold it tightly, afraid to let it go--because it seems that that's all I have left.
When do I start posting about things besides my grief again? It seems strange to think about it--can I put up a post about "seven pretty things" and not seem frivolous (to myself)? How do I move forward?
Is this what "moving forward" looks like?
I guess. But it's hard. And slow. Especially when I want, more than anything, to move time backward.
Last weekend, I read the book "Heaven is for Real." It is the story of Colton Burpo (as told by Colton's dad, Pastor Todd Burpo), who had a near-death experience during an emergency appendectomy when he was four. The story of the experience came out in bits and pieces over the next several years, but every test that Colton's dad gave him as far as matching up his story to Scriptures (doctrinal things that a four-year-old would not have known) was passed with flying colours.
I agree. There is nothing that Colton said that disagrees with Scriptures and a whole lot of really amazing stuff. But I sure found his frank, little-boy way of describing heaven, the immense love of God the Father, sitting on Jesus' lap, meeting his miscarried older sister (of whom he'd had no previous knowledge) and his great-grandfather, to be immensely comforting. It helped me imagine my little Levi hanging out with his older siblings (Jenn's and my own miscarried babies) sitting on Jesus' lap, asking to play with Gabriel's sword, hanging out at Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa Hilman's house, meeting Grandpa Winters and talking trucks, and being so happy and content. Maybe Jesus play-wrestles with him like his dad and brothers used to.
For months after his experience, Colton was emphatic about how much Jesus loves kids. "Hey, Daddy, don't forget, Jesus said he really, really loves the children." He said stuff like that constantly.
Reading the book was hard, and still left some questions heavy in my heart--Why was Colton's dad's prayer that his son would live answered but not mine? But it put some things in my heart to rest.
Levi's okay. I know he's looking forward to seeing us again, but he'll be just fine until we get there. I can't wait for him to introduce me to my other two kids, and for the three of them to show me all the coolest places to be. It makes me wish that I didn't have to wait so long to go, actually.
As I move forward through grief, there is something that has changed within me... heaven and hell have become, for the first time in my life, "real" places, not abstract concepts. I know where I'm headed, but I have really become passionate to take as many people as I can with me.
My wings may be a little ragged from the struggle at the moment. But I know that Jesus really, really loves me. And my kids. And everyone. He wants us all to be there with him.
"When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterwards you will take me to your glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73: 21-28 (NIV)