Saturday, November 24, 2012


Eight months ago my sweet Piper died. We packed up our hotel room and came back to Georgia and planned a funeral. We spent the next few weeks in a daze...and I am not kidding. Chad and I have often looked at each other and been amazed at how little we remember from spring and summer.

Survival is like that, I guess.

And you know what? It gets harder. Every day it hurts more. Less people ask after you. The every day list of things to do becomes more daunting. Expectations begin to rise again and you feel the need to be less sad and more joyful when in reality there is little more than you would like to do than hide.

It's tricky to hide.

On top of grieving, which I would love to do emphatically, are responsibilities. And I for one am hating responsibilities. I am hating that Chad must go to school and work when he hurts so deeply. I am hating that my heart is so heavy I feel like I am constantly letting people down. And that's if I am around people because the more I hurt, the less I want to be around anyone. I want to hibernate and sleep and putter around my home which feels like a sanctuary.

Until someone breaks into our storage shed and steals Chads tools and drills and tackle boxes and my already fragile sense of security and leaves my Linley fearful of sleeping alone and wondering what exactly is God protecting us from if not death or theft.

Yes, that happened.

And when bills are piling up and health issues are arising and hearts are already so very heavy and disappointments abound and you feel frantic in your attempt to JUST KEEP YOUR SHIT realize you are not, indeed, keeping much of anything together. Despite trying. Despite hoping. Despite your scuffle to do all you can you are only treading water with a leaking life vest.

This is where we are.

Or at least this was where I was before today.

Today I planned to begin the process of decorating for Christmas. Last Christmas was filled with equal parts fear and hope...a tenuous balance at best. And yet we made ornaments with handprints and both Linley and Piper picked out their yearly ornament. I made 4 stockings and we placed the Nativity on the shelf. After doing all this the girls would spend each evening next to the tree checking out all the different and meaningful ornament and it was beautiful and it was normal.

Again, we were flooded with fear and hope.

And today when I went to pick up my decorations from the last place I remember seeing them, they were not there. And no one can remember where they went to. Rubbermaid containers filled with homemade ornaments and 1st Married Christmas ornaments and tree skirts and handprint decor and plastic candy canes and photos with smiling little girl faces....are all gone.

It was like losing all over. I am already aching to reach for Piper...there are no more memories to make with her, ever. I am missing the small years with Linley...I am yearning to see her color with the same intensity that she did when three years old. And the symbols of these brief moments with the girls are gone...I cannot find them and my home at Christmas this year will be stark.

Stark when I really, truly needed to feel full and really, truly needed to be reminded physically of some sweet moments.

So before today we felt beaten. Floated. Forgotten. Hurt. Fragile. Pick a painful adjective that works best for you.

And now, I am struggling to push, push, push down the despair that is creeping at me. The despair that threatens to outshadow my weak contentment with what little I do still hold. So often I feel the pressure to extoll God and his goodness and his mercy and joy and hope and yet, today I am putting all that in my pocket and sobbing for the hurt of it all.

So much is lost. My daughter, my security and some sweet symbols that once we held hope while living fear.

Monday, November 5, 2012


If I have said it once, I have said it a million times.

I am no good with numbers.

And by numbers I mean math, or dates or anniversaries or at times, even reading a watch. It's not my vibe and is the sole reason I do not have a college degree. If you think I am kidding, ask my parents about all those lovely colleges I tried out in my quest to be educated.

It's bad folks.

And it's also a big part of why I married my number happy spouse, though we agree to disagree on the difficulty of adding or algebra. That's how we stay married.

But like I said, it's not just math, it's also dates or anniversaries. My number-happy spouse knew this and had our wedding date inscribed on the inside of my wedding band so that I can simply pull my bling bling off and read that date when asked how many years we have been married. It's 8, by the're welcome.

Which is why I am supremely impressed with myself when I can so easily quote you both Linley and Pipers birthdays, birth stats and birth times. I'm certain it's a mother thing as I am certain no love compares but none the less the importance of those two beautiful dates and details will be burned into my fragile mind forever.

What I had never expected when I delivered either of those beautiful girls, was that less than three years post Pipers birth, that I would hold her in my arms while she breathed those last sweet breathes here on earth. And that I would not remember the time she left this earth or the days she was blessed to live them.

Or that a mere 7 months later I would forget the day. That the 3rd of this month would pass without preamble or emotion or even recognition. When this dawned on me today I felt immediately sick...that the tediousness of living allowed me to forget just hurts.

As I said, this number phobia runs deep. And yet today I learned that I am indeed, clinging to numbers more than I ever thought I would. While the letters and words I write flow so easily, the numbers are stoic. Unchanging and bringing with them memories whether I chose to remember or forget to acknowledge. Each month the 3rd will happen, whether I notice or not. Whether I write something. Whether I want to remember or not will not matter. Whether I like numbers or not will never matter because they are very obvious in my world and when they aren't obvious they are all the more painful.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween 2012

Yesterday was a normal day for me. I was babysitting, like I often do. I planned a playdate, like I often do. I vacuumed and swept and moped, which I don't often do but I got a little dose of housewife while I was hiding inside from the cold and wind.

This cold and wind made me continue my search for my winter boots. I have small feet so I was fairly confident that my sister had not stolen them and I have a 1400 sq ft home that lacks excessive storage. The blasted boots were no where to be found and I was beginning to realize I was going to have to search the trunk of my car.

I really don't like doing that.

When I get groceries I sort of throw them in there and that's only if I have no room in the back seat. My goal is to not look in the trunk of my car until I am good and ready, though when that will be I have no clue.

Good and ready for what, you say?

The trunk of my car is still filled with the things that we packed to stay those long and sad and hopeful weeks in Memphis. When I shove milk in there I can see the backpack with Pipers name on it. I see little shirts that she will never wear again and the soft blanket that she and I would curl up under while watching movies and napping.

As soon as I popped the trunk open, I saw one boot and kept looking for the other as I began to cry. I was sobbing by the time I located it and slammed the trunk shut. Such sweet toys and books and the little phone she liked to chat away on...things I am not emotionally stable enough to touch.

I drove through the carpool line at Linley's school while attempting to get my mess under control and chatted with Linley about her excitement for the Halloween activities planned for the night. She had put together one adorable cat costume, complete with a tutu, a collar and this mommy painting her face.

After getting off work, she and I met up with friends and my tears, though gone, sort of clung to the back of my throat. Last Halloween it was Piper and I inpatient getting chemo and she had not one, or two but three costumes she would wear for a few laps around the unit in order to get the smiles and the attention. I would follow her holding her IV pole and she would smile and show up.

As wrong as it truly was, it felt incredibly right.

This year it was Linley and I. She got her fill of candy and she was beautiful and she reached for my hands often.

There were no IV poles, not even any tears since I was determined not to rain on her excitement of the day.

As right as it looked to an outsider, it felt so very, very, very wrong.

What a difference a year makes. This is the first holiday of the first holiday season without my sweet girl. And I will tell you now that Chad and I are deliberate in our plan to keep tears to a minimum and happiness on our faces for Linley despite the memories each special day brings up.

I will wear the boots that brought on the tears and I will keep my trunk closed as long as I darn well please.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Last Thursday, I was running errands with Linley. We were on a hunt for some Halloween accessories and found ourselves in Micheals craft store. I quickly gathered all I would need and we began walking to the check out.

Then there was the clearance aisle.

Which I am physically unable to pass by so we wandered around and I reminded myself that I had no clue how to decorate cakes despite cool tools being 85% off or that I probably would not be scrapbooking, like, ever. Then Linley saw this huge faux green diamond. If there is anything my 7 year old digs, it's bling. She gets that from my sister...definitely not this lady. And it was "a fabulous deal" at .79 so I kissed her sweet little head and splurged like only a tired mommy can.

After she was settled into her booster she was just in awe of the awesomeness of this gift. Over and over she talked about how smooth it was, how shiny things looked when she looked through it and finally she said "mommy, when I look through this beautiful diamond it makes my yellow jacket sting hurt less".

Those little words struck me so.

I know pain now. It is both emotional and physical. It can keep me so bottled up that I will surely burst from the massiveness of it all. Linleys yellow jacket sting is painful and even so, just by looking at something of beauty she is distracted enough to have that pain lessen a bit.

My Linley is my very own green faux diamond. She is the thing I can be so distracted by that I can momentarily forget the depth of pain. Never for long...but just enough to be reminded that beauty and good and happiness continues. And now this little bean that rolls in my womb will be a second jewel to lay my weary eyes on. I'd give anything to have my three jewels holding hands but this is the life we have been dealt and I chose daily to look at this sweet seven year old jewel to encourage me when the sting of death becomes overwhelming.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bittersweet; doesn't work for me.

Someone asked me the other day if this pregnancy, in the aftermath of Pipers death, was Bittersweet.

That pretty much caused me to mull that word over and over. Bittersweet. I wasn't sure why it didn't quite fit the image and feelings and experienced we have had or are having. Why it left my mouth twisted or my stomach unsettled...but it did. Each time it's mentioned.

So I mulled. I thought. For twelve weeks I have cried because I need a way, or a word to verbalize how all this strikes me because nothing, nothing quite causes a few emotions like holding a daughter while they die and then finding you are having another child one year later. But Bittersweet doesn't cut it...doesn't touch it.

Then I had an image of those wooden puzzles you do with kids. You know the ones with different types of vehicles or of the different sizes of circles; small, medium, large etc. Bear with me, I've been a mommy, a babysitter, a preschool teacher and a nanny...wooden puzzles are my thing. And you know that the choo choo train isnt going to fit in the dump truck spot. It's not going to happen. But sometimes you get stuck with the puzzle with those different size circle shapes. And the small wooden circle isn't going to bump up against lots of points and angles and such like the vehicles will, it's going to sit in the midst of the size large circle...but it won't be suffice. It will not fill up the space needed to be correct and that my friends is why Bittersweet doesn't work for me. Why it tastes sour on my tongue. It doesn't move me. Why I chose not to use it.

It is not suffice to fill up the magnitude of minimizes the sweet part of expecting and it minimizes the bitter part of losing Piper. When verbalized, it simply sits in the correct space but won't fill it out. It's too needs to be Agonizing-Jubilation or Devastating-Elation or Miserable-Happiness. Those work. Perhaps not quite as pretty to say but much more apt to be used, my friends.

Those fit the range of emotions. The depth of sadness or despair of losing Piper in direct correlation with the excitement and joy that comes with expecting #3 (and raising Linley).

Perhaps that sounds too complex but the reality is that my life now is a terrific mess of complex emotions. One word, Bittersweet, will not work. It's too small...perhaps in the right line of thought but grossly insufficient.

So no, this pregnancy (and the role of raising Linley) is not Bittersweet. It's excitement unleashed to be allowed the blessing of new life. And it's heart crushing sadness that requires me to do so without Piper in the picture.




Not ever, ever, ever Bittersweet.

Not ever so trivial.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting our Fall on

When one is pregnant and mainly nauseated or snoring on the couch, it pays to have another pregnant friend in which to rely on for survival.

Or to rely on for maintaining a sense of tradition or fun or experiences for our daughters. Because you better bet your biscuits this mommy isn't doing much of anything lately to advance Linley's life experiences. But if you get me and my best friend and our girls and send us north to pick apples and find fall fun with the promise of apple cider slushies and funnel cake and a few giggles...well, yep, we are in it.

We went to Ellijay, about 2 hours away and it was worth all the fears of puking I saw on Miriam's green face as we saw the beautiful north georgia foliage. She has a 9 and 5 year old, while my Linley falls right between them at 7. It's never forgotten that my Piper should have been the 4 th little girl in our party. We are both expecting this spring and are both napping a lot.

This is why we rely on each other to get out of town and create memories with these sweet little faces. There was a jumping pillow, a huge slide, apple picking, a horse and wagon ride, a playground, a zip line and pedal cars.

By the time we spent 3 hours there and were almost sufficiently filled up on apple cider slushies and apple donut samples...we almost needed a chauffeur to haul our tired bodies back to the city.

It was lovely and it was memorable and we probably will be ever the more tired next year doing it with these 3 sweet faces plus a 6month old and a 9 month old.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


About 30 minutes from my current home is another home that once my small family resided in.

This home was the last home I felt unconquerable in. The last home I slept without fits and the last home in which I had two healthy daughters. In this home, I picked figs with Linley for snacks, I planted mint and dahlias and confederate jasmine on my pregnant knees. It was here I have pictures of my belly swelling and my four year old daughter painting the rocks we would find. Where I brought my second born home from the hospital and rocked her to sleep. Where I prepared sliding contest for Linley and her friends across the old antique hardwood floors with pillows and blankets. At night we would leave our windows down and listen to the cars pass us by and feel kept. And hopeful for this new season and the growing relationship of two sisters and the redemption of a marriage gone awry.

The last night I slept there was simple. Small talk of Piper and her appointment the next day to check out her fever and the diaper rash she continued to have. Chatting over dishes, I imagine. Laying out pre-school clothes for Linley and filling up diaper bags. Chad offering to take the morning off and to go with me to the accepting.

The next night was spent in a room at Athens Regional. Test were run, Chad and I traded off waking with the wee one and Linley slept happily with her Nana. All was still well, in our minds.

The next day all was rocked.

And the simplicity of fig trees and white rockers and doing evening dishes by hand was long gone.

Never to be retrieved again.

That home never housed one of us again. Our heads never found peace in the pink and yellow and orange and red walls that I had so (over eagerly) painted with Chad and my dad.

Today I drove to that town for the first time since Piper has died. I realized that I had not gone to that area since Piper had died about 15 minutes into the drive. At that time tears began to fall and I sobbed the whole way there.

I did my sobbing and then I did my shopping at the gardening outlet where I picked up some crocus and tulips bulbs for spring and some pansies for immediate gratification. And then I drove. A little aimlessly, though I think my heart knew the plan. A left here and right there and next thing I know I was passing the little home of my past.

It looks much the same. I know who lives there now and she would happily let me in, if I were to want to walk the floors and touch the walls again. But the walls are surely her own colors now and the floors haven't seen my daughters tread in many, many months.

This home was important to me. It held a beautiful possibility for us. It both saw my marriage crumble and saw it redeemed. It saw me cry for the wanting of a sibling for Linley and it saw me walk in the door with the perfectly created Piper. It housed parties and children and laughter and a crazy mess load of dishes to hand wash each night. I bumped against the walls with Pipers glider as I soothed her to sleep and it heard me sing "the blessing song" to Linleys sleepy self.

This home is impossible for me to move back into. Physically yes, but mainly emotionally...I can never get back to that place of earnest optimism. We have been tainted by our grief and our experiences and our loss.

When I drove by today...I sobbed.

I drove by 9 times before I felt the tears let up and I finally took a left and went back to this new home I have. The pain stays...the memories sustain...there is always the hope for tomorrow...for this new life in me and for the 7 year old who holds my hand...for the spouse who holds me as I weep and who weeps when I hold him.

But that little home will always remind me that once, we had it all.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Childhood Cancer Awareness

Three years ago in September my second daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

At 10 weeks old.

I remember thinking that her pediatrician was surely kidding. I remember being thrust into a world that I had never even acknowledged existing. I remember pure fear.

At the time I had no idea that September was recognized as Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I surely didn't know that my daughter was one of the average 46 children diagnosed each day and I sure as hell would never have comprehended that she would someday be one of the average 7 children who die each day due to various cancers.


Now I know and its worse than you will ever allow yourself to imagine.

I could go on and on about how very much I miss my daughter. How unfair it is. How God became real in my tears. How painful it is to hold your daughter as she breathes her last breathe of air. How difficult it is to even get out of bed six mornings out of seven...

But I won't.

Because that gets us nowhere.

What I will do is to shamelessly ask you to give money. Give it to organizations that focus solely on pediatric cancers; research and treatments both. (May I suggest I'll ask you to learn about Donna, whose mother Mary Tyler Mom is blogging about the 31 months of Donnas treatment over at the Huffington Press throughout September. I'll ask you to not close your eyes to lives being lost. Mothers are no longer able to kiss and tuck little two year olds in bed, Daddies are no longer dancing with their second borns to bluegrass music and sisters are wondering just how to draw their family minus the little sister who should stand next to themselves.

This is reality. It's not a sad movie or only someone else's struggle. It's 46 children a day who will loose their hair while their families cope. It's seven children who will be damn strong but will not be able to overcome this beast.

My daughter is gone. I miss her dearly. And I know that she is only one of many beloved children who are gone too soon. When I think of the parents who will someday have to walk in my footsteps, I grow weak. It's a burden and fear and it will always haunt me.



Do it for my sweetest Piper, for Paxton, for Tyler, for Abby, for Mikiya, for Pyper, for Bo, for Ricky, for Merrill, for Reagan and for the others who fight no more.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Presidential elections and the Needham

  Presidential elections and the Needhams...

  They go hand in hand.

  Didn't know this little fact?

  Now you do.

  Because every four years this great country listens, choses and stands in line to elect a gentleman to lead us.  But apparently this is not the only trend rolling around town every four years...

  No sir...

We are so very overjoyed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Oh love that will not let me go"

Today at church we sang one of my favorite hymns.

If you'd have asked me a few years ago what my favorite hymn was, I'd have looked a little confused then probably blurted out "Amazing Grace" that is the only one I knew. But nowadays we sing hymns each Sunday and each Sunday I am struck by the simple pleas and prayers that each word will evoke. Beautiful.

But now I have one. Now, each time I see "Oh love that will not let me go" on the program I know I will have to choke back tears. That I will have to confront the immense knowledge that we will survive and thrive this sadness ( and others) because of only Gods great love. This great and strong and constant love.

"Oh love that will not let me go"
George Matheson

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

My favorite line is "oh joy that seekest me through the pain, I cannot close my heart to thee" for obvious reasons. It reminds me again that joy will be my strength and that I am incapable of turning my back on the One who holds me closely. And while I feel often how difficult and sad this place I emotionally reside at is, I also am put to ease that another human felt some sort of great sadness and chose to claim joy, write it down and put a melody to it so that I can sing it on a Sunday morning when I hurt.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Yesterday, a year later.

Yesterday, last year, my Piper relapsed. She did it stealthily and quickly and not for lack of fight. Pipers first relapse was devastating...although I dare say a large portion of the past three years were devastating though I never allowed myself to think of it as so. Much like Pipers initial diagnosis and her second relapse, this first one came out of no where and knocked us to our knees both literally and figuratively.

My knees still hurting for the falling.

I remember so many things so vividly. I remember driving on the loop on the way to the ER for her fever and feeling absolutely frantic...trying to call my mom, wishing Chad didn't have to go to class, trying to sort out just why this trip (of hundreds) was rattling me so. I remember Piper perking up as soon as she was given Tylenol and I remember sharing a popsicle and watching Sesame Street. I remember asking about blood work...over and over and over again. I remember my mom meeting me there. I remember Chad meeting me there. I remember calling my friend and asking her to get Linley from school and keeping her for "just a little while" that would turn into 72 hours. I remember Chad stepping into the bathroom and taking the call from Dr. George and feeling my entire body go cold, then numb, then the sound of rushing. I remember hearing of "suspicious cells" and "don't worry quite yet" and "come tonight or first thing in the morning". I remember beginning to shake and seeing Piper who was watching me and reminding myself to get it together already. I remember the drive into Atlanta, again one we had driven hundreds of times before. I remember sitting next to Chad and thinking how different the sunniness of this drive was different to the raininess of the drive to Atlanta after her first diagnosis. I remember getting settled into our room and the parade of nurses who streamed in with tears in their eyes for my little girl they loved. I remember so many little details and I wish they were never mine to have.

Despite me remembering this date, I am terrible at anniversaries or birthdays or anything that I should know. Even so, this date and week is deep within me. The day before Pipers relapse, a dear little boy died. The day after, a dear little girl died. These were two of my closest and sweetest families that we had walked with. I was surrounded by sadness and tears and I was overwhelmed and I was beyond blessed when that little girls
Mommy came into Pipers room, late at night, after saying her final goodbyes to her own little girl. And she spoke to me of Hope. Of fighting...and trusting God.

I often mentally thank this mommy for refocusing me. For reminding me how much my God loved both me and Piper, that her future was not in my hands and I would be better equipped to love her if I trusted God. I'm
Thankful for that, for remembering that.

Mainly right now at 12:28 in the morning, I am remembering being given the choice to take Piper home or to attempt to fight. Again. And I am so glad we fought. I am so glad to have had the moments and laughter and bonding with my girl. Even the moments that sucked the joy right off of my face were beautiful for they were the result of a warm and sweet and spunky and utterly desired and missed little girl.

One year and one day later and I can clearly remember so much.

Friday, August 10, 2012

2nd grade, here comes Linley!

This morning was the first day of 2nd grade for my sweet Linley Coe. She woke excited and confidently walked into her classroom and kissed me goodbye. When I picked her little self up at 2:30, she chatted my ear off about all the fun things have was going to learn, the great friends she had and how much she loved her shoes.

I am so blessed to be this girls mommy.

I was reminded this evening after dinner with new friends how blessed I am to be able to place Linley in the school she is in. That they love her has been apparent since she first walked through the door this time last year. Through the crazy upheaval of the past year and the effort they put into supporting us as we learn to raise Linley once again, as an "only".

She is loved by her mommy and daddy and school. And Jesus, which is so obvious and important to us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Still rolling.

I feel like I should continue to let all know that we are indeed, still surviving.

Mainly because a good number of y'all who read this handy blog may not actually know me and see me and hang with me in real life to know that this is so. Thus, the random emails I sometimes get from people who are checking up on me. And thanks for that you sweet strangers/friends.

We are still rolling.

Life has hit a very busy season and I am welcoming it a little bit. We celebrated Pipers should be/would be 3rd birthday, we moved (yet again) and we celebrated our 8th anniversary. My favorite 7 year old is rocking at Mohawk and I have a new pair of blue shoes that may be worth a picture or two...they make me smile a bit.

Summer has been good to us.

And we are still upright. I'm coming off of a very hard two weeks for both obvious issues and other, more personal issues...there have been many tears and frustrations rolling about in my personal space. I'm trying, often fruitlessly, to keep on keeping on but moments when they add up can just plain knock me out.

Apparently, this is normal.

Or something.

So please don't write me off as a sad mother hiding away from life...I have ideas and plans and hopes that I will attempt to keep updated in my good moments. Just bear with me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Planning to plant.

After the rigors of almost two years of chemotherapy for Piper, and prior to the subsequent eight months of chemo, radiation and transplant, was a beautiful time in our little family.

Even after Pipers first relapse, she was happy and seemingly healthy. We, of course, were in utter shock that the cancer we were certain had gone away had in fact, only hidden and was rearing its horrifically ugly head.

We had our wits about us and we knew this time to focus on details, to pour out affection and time and to hope. Big hopes that we never would have breathed without clinging to.

We now know the end of the story.

It's not okay with me.

It's in Gods infinite sovereignty but while I trust this, and while I hope for the eternity that awaits us all, I hurt.

Three months feels like both too many moments without Piper and yet, also as near as though these three special pictures had only been taken yesterday. This is how time apparently will be working for me as I grieve and hurt and miss this sweet face.

I have received more than a few emails and phone calls from friends who wondered how we were planning to celebrate Pipers birthday this Saturday.

I wasn't sure what I was capable of but I don't ever want to be too overwhelmed in my grieving to smile.

I plan to plant something. To put in the ground something that will grow and that will allow me to smile when I look at it. And to remember how much my girl loved wandering the flower aisles at Lowes and getting her hands dirty while planting pretty things. Even while at the hospital, she loved to visit the flower gardens and water the plants and pick a flower for me and to be outside. This is my plan and I would be blessed if anyone joined me.

Put something in the ground. Water it and pray when you see if and smile.

And if you are so inclined to do this for Pipers (should be) birthday, please share this with me...

Help me know that she is remembered and that she is loved.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Calendar days

Each month, the anniversary of Pipers death comes rambling at our home. Slowly. Lumbering. Leaving me wondering how am I ever going to truly live this life I am left with without measuring each calendar turn.

This month I feel especially weak. Pipers death will have been three months on the 3rd of July. Four very short days later we will have to figure out just how one celebrates the birth of a child who no longer lives. How do I honor her and remember her and miss her without losing myself in the grief that wells up in me and threatens to consume me.

Twenty times a day I fight it.

I hear it will be someday be less painful. That the gaping and fresh wound that is living beyond your child will subside to a dull ache. Even this frightens me, all I am left with of Piper is memories. Reminders of how she smelt and felt and lived and gave and loved me. Even my grief, as physical and aching as it is, is a balm. It allows me to know that she was indeed real. Piper was my child that I chose to fight for...with every fiber of my battered mothers body. I'd do it again in a minute but this is no longer an option so I chose to keep my grief and tears close.

I keep them quietly next to every smile and joke and plan that I deal out in a days length. Mostly I let them escape slow and silent but there are moments like the one I am in where they stream out of me and bring prayers even I cannot comprehend.

I miss Piper. Fervently and fruitlessly.

If I live to be an old lady I will constantly turn the calendar each moth and await the date that took my girl. And once a year I will celebrate her birth with a firm frustration that things went sadly awry from my plan. My only prayer is that I won't miss out on the many other days that are filled with hope and joy and happy occasions.

That is the goal. Today the goal is getting out of bed. Linley wants to go to the pool. Chad is at work. The house is a disaster. And I am crying on the couch and feeling overwhelmed with this sadness that has been thrust upon me.

Mostly I am overwhelmed with the knowledge that I must keep living and missing and turning the calendar.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pass the Pringles and wine, please.

Proof we are still kicking around.

And doing some cooking today.

And truly, not often doing the two at the same time at 1:00 in the afternoon though I needed it later on for sure.

Because I calmly responded to Linleys epic meltdown tonight outside the movie theatre with an early bedtime and no tv for a week and the amazing ability to turn a deaf ear to her yelling.

I also drank two lovely glasses of wine quite quickly when returning home.

I still struggle with boundaries for Linley. I never did before Piper and her life, but now I find there is an incredibly fine line between "picking my battles" and addressing heart issues with a consistent hand. There has to be a special patience to mothering that allows you to put aside your own frustrations or expectations (of every flipping thing) and address issues that are gray. Sometimes I just show grace and can see in Linleys eyes that she is hurt and confused and angry and needs me to hold her tightly. Other times I see that she has her mommies temper and that needs to be corralled and refocused...

But this is never, ever easy.

Sometimes it is funny though. Like tonight while she screamed and thrashed about in the backseat of my Camry and I just stuffed Pringles steadily in my mouth to keep from laughing. Really, if you can't laugh while parenting...what can you do.

The girl is amazingly loved.

This much is true and as I reminded her in the quiet moments after the storm of her mood, I love her dearly. Nothing will change that for her...just like nothing will change that for me and the God whose love enables me to mother with grace, joy, wine, laughter, Pringles and the sweet ability to walk in and kiss her cheek long after this epic fit has passed and she rests silently.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


"comparison is the thief of joy"

(Theodore Roosevelt)

Sometimes I get a quote or a phrase stuck in my head and I mull it over and over and over and wonder why that is.

And other times I get a quote stuck in my head and I just know that there is something there that God has for me.

And sometimes I just make things up in my head but that is neither here nor there and of no benefit to you.

But when I have a quote like the one above from Teddy Roosevelt, I find it resonating in me as a truth. My life in this moment has me living it and it's been a very vivid reminder to me. When I compare what I have with what I no longer have or what I long to have...I am unable to appreciate what I currently AM able to hold.

Perhaps it's just a good reminder to me that God is probably not going to be blessing me much if I keep checking out what my neighbor has going on.

Of course this is so simple for me to spout off as a chastisement as I am not by nature a fancy woman. Cars and homes and jewelry are not where my heart finds joy. Never has been and at the rate I am growing up, probably never will be. But when I sit in a room filled with women who have swollen bellies and I smell the sweetness of a chubby, healthy baby or when I hear the stories of what 2 and 3 year old kiddos are getting into...

I loose it.

Sometimes I loose my composure.

Sometimes I loose my patience.

Sometimes I have even lost my lunch.

But mainly I loose sight of my joy.

My family has always been my treasure. My joy. My life. As you know, I lost part of my joy and my life and sadly this half is what I focus on more than the half that I kissed good night a few hours ago. My comparing what I had and what I want is stealing the joyous part out of raising Linley...and that is not fair.

This past Friday night, me, my sister Hannah, my best friend Miriam and her two girls and my own Linley went to Stone Mountain for the southern extravagance called the Laser Show. While there we had a great time, lots of food and laughing and running around and good conversations...anyone watching us would have thought we were normal moms and girls just living life. Behind us was another family. This family had a young girl in a wheelchair...she was totally dependent on her mother, who cared for her with a smile. But as a mom of a child who was medically fragile and who looked unlike other, healthier children, I am certain she noticed us. Us carefree mommies and healthy beautiful little girls...she saw us. And chances are she wondered what it would be like if her own little girl were able to run and play like our girls. And chances are she compared and questioned the fairness and if she were a normal woman she would fight to keep her joy. But if she were an excellent woman she would love on her sweet girl and focus on the warmth of her little body and the smiles that she will bring to a mom and know that her sweet girl is her very own joy...comparisons be damned.

She couldn't tell by watching me that my daughter was dead...and that I would have given anything to be allowed to continue to care for my medically fragile but ever so spunky Piper...just another day. Another moment. Anything, truly.

If we compare, we lose joy.

When Piper was alive, I rarely compared. I chose with a fierceness to love her and know that she was my own joy that wouldn't be taken. I chose to plan to happily catch her up to that which I desired for her to achieve. I felt this same tenaciousness when Chad and I began to desire to expand our family...I wasn't going to be bowled over by other fertile women, I was going to love on Linley and subsequently on Linley and Piper together while I waited, patiently. But these days, after watching my family become so much more achingly different that I ever desired, I am fighting to maintain my joy.

I am fighting to maintain the part of me that is faithful enough to know that Gods plan is truly better.

Not easier. Better.

And when I hold Linleys hand to walk through a parking lot, I chose joy. When I kiss her goodnight, I chose joy. When I congratulate a new mother, I chose joy...

I may not have all that my heart desires but I have more than some...and she will be the sole joy of my heart until God sees fit to bless us with more and until I am reunited with Piper in eternity...though this is a constant battle of ups and downs and faithful and angry questions. This is not a superficial thought but rather a deliberate decision to not allow my heartache or unfulfilled desires to steal away from the things I have been blessed with...a decision and a choice.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Okay and Not so Okay

This is how I roll. It's a little fun, if I were to be an optimist of sorts...wondering whether I was going to wake up and be ready to take on the day or whether the day was going to take me on.

And over.

And then send me right back to bed.

And I'm not entirely certain whether this is normal or not since most mothers who have daughters never have to feel life drift out of them and then learn to survive without them. The few mommies I do know who have felt this anguish are wonderful and kind.

But they are broken too.

We are a broken club. Don't join us.

As for me, most of my days are currently taking me over. The pain of losing Piper has not diminished in any way, shape or form and really is only worsening. The ache I have to hold her is so incredibly real that I find myself rocking in the shower with my arms positioned to hold her as I did so many times before. It's not uncommon for me to walk into the kitchen and in my minds eye to see her standing next to the fridge with a cup, preparing to get herself some water. When I look out across the balcony to check on Linley playing on the playground I swear I can see Pipers little arms and legs entwined in the rails and hear her voice call out.

She's here but shes so very far away.

Tonight Linley went to bed with tears in her eyes. She's so worried that I am going to die. And I don't know how to reassure her because truthfully, I should die before her. So I just point her to Jesus and sob internally that death and mortality is so much more real to her than it should ever be to a 7 year old.

That part is so not okay.

The part that is okay is the part where I have yet to ignore Linley while wallowing. I have yet to remain slovenly and unkept for more than 48 hours at a time. My family is getting frequent healthy meals and my home is in as much order as 800 sq ft can possibly be.

And my youngest is in eternity.

What is not okay is that showers means torrential and silent tears. That I automatically unlock the backseat doors every time I park the car because I can't remember to not need to get Piper out of her carseat. I still shut down in massive ways whenever Linley is gone on a playdate and I feel no need or desire to blow my hair dry or wear mascara.

Again, I don't know if this is normal.

I suspect it is because how can one possibly love their child to the fullest extent and not break down should that child cease to draw breathe. I cannot. The only time I feel truly stable is when I am absorbed with Linley...pool, playdates, pedicures and movies. Staying busy and trying to forget the hurt.

And nope, that doesn't help because it just comes barreling back at me the minute I am out of public view. In order to not feel the full, mind numbing pain that is in losing a daughter, I would have to forget her short existence. And that doesn't work for me either because she was an amazing little presence in my world for far too short a time.

There must be no way around this but to go through it. Daily. One sobby shower session at a time and each little sock or scribble that I run across.

I've found that in great suffering you learn whether or not your beliefs have base. Whether the words you spout to another who has hurt will ring true in your ears when you are in pain or whether you will find that your tongue only speaks pretty jibberish and your heart is numb. I have found that the words I have read and the beliefs that I have imagined myself to be trusting on are as solid as the rocks I walk across. The word of God is neither frivolous nor meandering and it is the very faith that I have in each vowel and consonant that God has put forth that has kept this walking wounded mother from despair. Only this trust. Only this. Only.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers Day 2012


It was.

Really, most of my days are now. Part of me is relishing the sheer amount of time I have to focus on Linley but then I feel guilty for not missing Piper in that moment but then I remind myself that there is nothing I could do about being absent Piper anyways and I may as well continue to love Linley to the fullest...

So I do.

But that conversation runs through my head non stop throughout my day.

Yesterday though I forced myself to love on my Linley. To appreciate that she is the very one who made me a mommy and that she is the very one who has kept me a mommy. Her role in my life has become infinitely more critical to my breathing constantly. This may not be an entirely healthy dependence to have on a seven year old but I am trusting that God will balance this out in the process of grief.

But yesterday, bittersweet though it was, was wonderful. Chad and Linley both showered me with encouragement and love and as always, much laughing. My gift from Linley was this sweet note. Can you read it? Because it says this :

"I love my mommy! Her favorite restaurant is Aqua Linda. My mom likes chai very much. My mom likes to shake her booty. Whoop whoop! My mom likes tall dogs. I like my mom because she is smooth. Her eyes are blueish greenish. My mom reads and snuggles with me and reads with me. My mom is asome!!! Love, Linley"

So now you know a little about Susanna...and my apparent booty shaking. Thankfully I traded any self conscienceness in at the door of mothering about 7 years ago. She also drew a picture of me. Apart from thinking how wonderfully talented she was...I was thinking "blast, I look sad there". I was hoping she wasn't seeing as much of this sadness as she evidently is.

Proof my girl is perceptively talented:

None the less, I love both items.

And Chad picked me up this:

It's the sparkly one.

You know, the one that most married woman already wear but we have a story...'Cause we are Needhams and there is always, always a story.

When I was 8 months pregnant with my sweet Piper, I was out in my yard up to my elbows in dirt and plants and attempting to beautify the simple little home we were living in at the time. After a few hours of this madness I happened to glance down at my hand and quickly noticed a lack of sparkle. My diamond in my engagement ring had fallen out somewhere in the midst of my garden. The next few hours were filled with me crying, Chad searching and Linley repeatedly asking if we were still married. (we were; I checked) After looking to no avail, Chad soothed me with big plans to purchase me a new one after Piper arrived and life got back to normal...which it never really did, as you know. And I have always missed wearing my bling bling, despite not being a girly girl in any sense.

So now that life is oh so much simpler, my love put a ring on it. And I love it and love that he knew it was important to my yoga pant wearing, ponytail adorned, not in the least bit fancy, self. I adore that about him.

So here's to Mothers Day 2012. A day I celebrate but also respectfully dislike. My role as mommy is different this year. I appreciate what I have but miss what I lost. And millions of women all over the globe have the same gaping hole in a holiday that only a select few can celebrate with pure joy.

Women who desire children that their bodies will not give them. Women who have lost children. Women who have children who don't seem to like their mothers. Women who miss their own mothers. Women who don't miss their mothers. Women who have children far away. Women who worry about being the best mommy they can be. Women who don't care. Women who don't desire their own children. Women who have children with four legs and fur. Women who know they will lose their role as mommy. Women who fear my life. Women to whom this holiday was a reminder of this, that or the other and the tears that followed.

Women. And mothers, some.

Last year I was jubilant. This year I am choosing to be joyfully resigned. This is a conundrum no doubt but again, my God is bigger than my confusion or my fear or my sadness or my longings.

I'll try if you will.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

This has been running through my little brain for the past week. Mainly because the last week or so has been a personal study in just how weak and sad I truly am. Apparently I am not quite as strong or faithful as I would have loved to have told myself that I were. So that's a little disappointing.

Not surprising but disappointing.

Thankfully I am not the only woman who has outlived their child or the only believer who has looked at God and questioned "why" or "how" or "what the heck were you thinking Lord?". And some may think that is crossing the lines of being full of faith but I cling to the character of God who desires to bind up my broken heart. He knows my hurts and questions and angers...and He is able to love me despite my heart.
In fact He loves me more for my heart, as it is shattered and I am attempting to reshape it with each tear and ache.

I love C.S. Lewis for many reasons. I have been reading and rereading A Grief Observed and it is consoling me. To have such freedom in Christ to be allowed to question His ways and still...always to come back. That He is never crushed or offended that we would not be pleased with Him taking our spouses or children or dreams...he cares. Still He cares. And still we will be faced with sadness. He will not always remove the things which sting. He will not always pad our falls. He will not always answer us how we want.

Can I still believe that God is good when He choses to withhold His goodness in a season? When "naming it and claiming it" did not work? How does this big grief line up with a purely good and safe God? I do not know.

I cannot comprehend His ways.

My Linley has a new saying..."I love you more than you think". She tells me this when she is kissing me good night or when she is loading up for carpool. She has never once, not once, said this before Piper died. She says this to me often now...sometimes daily.

I think that God does too. I think that His character, while never flawed, is often painful in the process of teaching us. The more I learn of Him, the more I love Him and the more I hurt...I do not understand this concept but I feel it.

I feel Him telling me "Susanna, I love you more than you think" when I rail against His seemingly quiet ear. This character He is beautiful. Just like there is beauty in my ashes, there is beauty in the giving and the taking. In the tears and the smiles. In each moment I am required to breathe here.

So He loves us more than we think.

His character is perfect and often painfully independent of our own wants.

And I am allowed to question Him. Who He is is not always who I want Him to be but is always what I need Him to be...and that's what matters.

Friday, May 4, 2012

30 sleeps

It's been thirty sleeps since I last kissed my youngest before settling her in for the night. That also makes thirty long days I have wandered around, seeing Piper in everything and everywhere. And tomorrow morning when I awaken it will be the thirtieth morning without seeing the blue of her lovely eyes seeking me out and finding reassurance or laughter or peace or truly, whatever my sweet girl needed from me for that day.

I feel I am a shell of who I was.

My heart, which I was amazed to find grow so easily to encompass loving two daughters when I thought I only had the room for one, has been split down the middle and I am left wounded and aching. Nothing can touch me when I feel the waves of desperation and loss and immense sadness wash over me.

Nothing. I just let it and I cry.

When I simply say "my daughter died", it's not too difficult. But to allow myself to go back to the actual process of watching her life slip away, well that is a burden I cannot imagine ever lifting. The details are etched in my already battleworn brain and I will never be able to unforget how incredibly difficult the last three weeks of her life were. But if I were to forget, I would forget a chunk of her life and while it burns my weakened heart to do so, I chose to remember in order to remember how much I loved my Piper. I also have allowed myself to remember the memories which make me smile and then cry for the missing. So many memories of a little girl who fought way too hard and way too long and yet showed me how fragile the breath of life is indeed.

I don't believe that Piper is an angel now. I don't believe that she is always watching me nor do I believe that I can talk to her. It's not in my realm of theology to think these are true but I do believe even better.

I believe she is well.

I believe she laughs.

Runs. Giggles. Holds hands.

I believe that she will squeal with happiness whenever I finally breath my last breath here and I believe that she is held in the literal, loving hands of God.

Sometimes my convictions are enough to keep me from sobbing uncontrollably and at times my convictions become frustration. I would find this entire process that much easier if I were to turn my back on God. To scream my anger at His plans and in defense of the plan I had for Piper and deny His existence in light of it all. But I cannot turn my back on the very foundation of my existence any more than I could have turned my back on Piper when I was weary and saddened.

I was created to love her only because of the vast and grace filled love that God showed me first.

This is why I am still breathing.

And the God who pours out just enough grace for the day is more than willing to take my anger and frustration and weeping and mourning. I do not faze Him by being hurt with how life is rolling along. He makes beautiful things out of broken vessels like this mommy. He made a beautiful thing out of my Piper, despite her broken and worn and sick little body.

This is what He does.

This is why I am still breathing.

To see Piper again will be beautiful.

I cannot fathom the details that God has promised await us when we return to His arms but I can earnestly say that knowing my Piper will be there and will immediately say "C'mon! C'mon mommy!" does nothing but bring me hope. Hope for tomorrow.

Hope for every painful moment.

Every tear, ache, sob and memory.

When I shop, I miss seeing her face smiling at me from the cart. When I drive, I miss her singing in the backseat. When I walk, I miss going slowly behind her pink walker. When I breath, I miss the scent of her skin. When I smile, I miss seeing her smile back. When I cry, I miss her patting my head. When I eat, I miss sharing a bite. When I do laundry, I miss having her help fold. When I put on make up, I miss her trying colors on. When I cook, I miss her sitting next to me on the counter. When I sleep, I miss the opportunity to walk down the hall and see her face in the shadows. When I write a note, I miss sharing a pen and having little scribbles drawn for me. When I go down stairs, I miss holding her hands and saying "march". When I give Linley her morning vitamins, I miss doling out chemo. When I put dishes away, I miss watching her snag a cup. When I worship at church, I miss her on my hip. When I park my car, I miss reaching to unlock her carseat. When I shower, I miss hearing her giggles outside the curtain. When I watch a movie, I miss the warmth of her skin leaning against me. When I read a book, I miss being given another one to read to her. When I pull into my moms neighborhood, I miss hearing her yell "nana". When I water flowers, I miss seeing her hands tussle the soil. When I hear a knock on the door, I miss her scurry to answer it. When I hear my phone ring, I miss wrangling it from her hands. When I kiss Linley goodnight, I miss feeling both girls together. When I pick Linley up from school, I miss her giggling for "nini". When I brush my teeth, I miss seeing her spit. When I sob, I miss my daughter.

When I miss Piper, I miss every little thing that I will never get back. This is a punch to the stomach but still I chose to believe that there will come a day we will be reunited. And I pray that heaven won't be too wonderful to leave me forgetting to relive the things I so miss about being the mommy of Piper.

And after thirty long days without my sweet girl, my youngest, my fighter and the epitome of my greatest fears realized, I can say only that I miss her.

I miss Piper Jean and this cannot change... I am certain and I am sad.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Made to be a mommy

Tonight while trying desperately to win a few more minutes before the inevitable bedtime, my Linley was brushing my hair and chatting me up.

I know, I'm a sucker for having my hair played with. Move on.

Anyways, after brushing and rearranging my strands she leans in and says "your hair is so soft mommy... are you part mermaid?" This made my day as well as made me question whether my daughter has ever actually paid attention to what a mermaid looks like and seriously, has she ever checked out her mommy?

Love is blind and it fills me with joy.

I am created to receive this love. Being a mother is what I was created for and I know this. My body relishes swelling with child. My need for sleep is minimal compared to the need to feel my children's breath on my shoulder. I love the dirt kids get in the webbings on their small hands. I love the way their feet smell after playing outside. I love the way "mommy" sounds on their lips and I love the demands that being their mommy has made of me.

Some small demands and some bigger than I had ever imagined.

And lately I am struggling with what being a mommy means now. Linley needs me in big ways but less in the small details like doling out cereal and washing elbows and toes. Piper needs me not at all but once relied on me to even live another day. And my womb remains empty despite my wants and aches that are less fervent only than the prayers I once plead for Pipers life.

I miss Piper. I miss being her mommy. Each time I see her in my minds eye I am filled with an anguish that makes breathing hurt. My heart is not healing, it is crumbling as my days become infinitely more difficult each time I am forced to wake up without the sound of her voice. Nothing smooths me except the fragile grip I have on the Hope of eternity. Only this.

I miss my role as a busy mommy. I miss having my own beloved and desired and blessed children play together. I miss dreaming of chaos and laughter and the bond that siblings have. And mainly in this moment I am once again struck by the knowledge that God is sovereign despite the desire I have to rail against Him and the great griefs He has allowed me to feel.

And I do rail. I rant and extol what I feel I deserve and need and want. I distrust that God will bring to fruition exactly that which He knows to be best for me. And I wonder, often, why He has chosen to take half of my children from my arms without leaving me with the knowledge that my quiver will be filled with others. Not children to take the place of Piper. Not children to compete with my Linley. Never.

But to allow me to be mommy.

To allow me to hear more voices asking for me. More dirt and stickiness. More cuddles and silly stories.

I was made for this.

But never more than I was made to love God in spite of my great disappointment with what I once dreamed of.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Loving this girl is easy.

Since her birth she has been simply a blessing and I'm not the only one who recognizes her as a lovely girl.

These pictures were taken this morning before church. She was decked out in her bathrobe, head turban and slippers. Her church dress was already on, though totally covered, and she was lounging on the couch in between fixing herself up in her small bathroom. Apparently this is how movie stars get ready for their days and she is currently fancying herself a diva of sorts.

Although she may not love having her pictures taken she is in trouble for she is currently my favorite subject to snap. Her smile is beautiful, no doubt. So anytime I become overwhelmed with how hard life continues to be, she is my centering. She makes it easy to focus on the beauty that still exists among the ashes we are walking through.

I received a gorgeous mosaic style cross in the mail recently. It is detailed and easy on the eyes. When you are at a distance you can see multiple colors and a bold red heart in the very center of it all. When you step closer you see that the heart is in fact small pieces that have been placed in the shape of a heart, although its obviously been made from broken pieces. The verse accompanying it is from Psalms 147:3

"He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds."

I love this verse because I know it to be true as it is Gods word. This is not merely a comfort or an encouragement to be passed around but this is a specific promise of what God will do. Because it is a promise I do find comfort and encouragement in it.

Just as I do with my Linley who continues to grow and relate and just make loving her so easy to do for me.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Since Pipers death my moments of being sad and tearful are brief. While I may cry or allow myself to feel that ache in my heart multiple times a day there is inevitably something or someone who comes along and disrupts my train of thought. Usually I welcome this reprieve from the potentially steep decline into grief and allow myself to clamber out quickly.

But I cannot tell you how many times a day I hear my chirpy mommy voice talking about details of Linleys day while my mind remembers the way I struggled to kiss Piper little lips around the breathing tube. I will be eating lunch out and instead of following the conversation I will be missing the way Pipers cheek fit perfectly in the cup of my hand. Children make me tear up and for some reason they love me lately. Make up seems frivolous and food tastes only slightly better than cardboard.

My daughter is still gone and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

Nothing is getting easier and in fact I am hurting more each day that passes.

Tonight Chad and I fought. Because it is us, it was a good fight filled with words and thrown pencils and hurt and anger. It was stupid, this fight, as they aways are and yet as I got in my car to leave I found myself hysterical. Sobbing so heavily that I had to pull over in the parking lot of a local church for fear of running off the side of the road even after 45 minutes straight of crying. And I realized that although I am hurt by Chad and I am mad at the way we continue to struggle with connecting and communicating, I really was just so very mad that so very much in my life is hard.

Marriage is hard.

Having your daughter die is hard.

Waking up in the morning and choosing to shower and put pretty earrings on and vacuum and do the dishes and drink coffee and do math facts and participate in the car pool and take a walk and plan dinner and meet up with friends and check your email and read books to 7 year olds and paint your toes and fill up the gas tank and make sure there are clean clothes for all who need them and watching Mad Men and blogging and breathing....

Over and over and over.

It's hard.

And I don't want to.

No, I want to stop this anguish.

And it's even more overwhelming to know that despite my best efforts at compartmentalizing, my grief and sadness are not fading but growing more difficult to handle instead. One can only wander Target so many times or meet up with friends for coffee so many times or drive with loud music pounding so many times before you realize that you are just about to burst and all in the way will see your core.

I wish grief were more like an exorcism. Where if I were to focus hard enough I would be able to spit it out on the floor and walk around it and right out the door. Purge myself of it, of you will. But it doesn't work like that... it goes on and on and on and on.

And it leaves me wondering how to deal with this huge gaping hole that Pipers death has left in my life. I truly do not know how to deal with the hard things in life because I'm still brought to my knees by just how very hard they continue to be.

My marriage is hard and hurting.

We deal with life in very different ways so it's no wonder we are dealing with death in our own styles. Chad allows himself to feel and question and be alone. I think a little too deeply and quickly rearrange the living room before the tears come. Chad rails and I simper. Chad goes as a slow pace through the day while I entrust my OCD to kick in and keep me racing.

With this thing called grief I see Chad allowing himself time. Time to cry or think or rant while I just want it all to go away. I want to busily avoid it when in reality, this depth of sadness only gets deeper when ignored. And despite how differently we are dealing with it we are both feeling it so much more than anyone else in our circle can imagine.

Most of all I allowed myself to have a five minute release which actually lasted over two hours and used up my normal yearly rate of tears. And it has changed nothing except serve to remind me that I am a hurting woman...that I am in a marriage that has been in the midst of a battle for 2 years and I am the mother to one daughter who needs me sober and upright and another who will never need me again.

This is why life is hard.

This is why I was not created for this.

Why I yearn for the eternity created for me and those whom also lean so heavily on my Jesus when life is hard.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Target (again)

So yesterday I may or may not have hypothetically sucker punched some poor local lady and her weary but good intentions.

Maybe. Hopefully not.

It began in Target as most of my stories do. I've mentioned before that it is my happy place, only now I must give the toddler and toy section a large berth to keep from being sick. There's still a whole lot of Target left to loiter through despite this detail. So I went. I needed a front door welcome mat and nothing else.

I spent 52$ and brought many other unnecessary treasures home but that's neither here or there.

When I was through thoroughly perusing as many aisles as I could handle I stepped in line to check out. Remember all those unnecessary but happy treasures I had discovered? Me too. I was in front of a young and frazzled mother although it took me a minute to notice anyone which is normal for me. I currently have the attention span of a gnat or a middle schooler in algebra or a grieving discombobulated mother. She was handling two kiddos who were not enjoying Target as it deserves to be enjoyed but I smiled at the mom because I have been there. Of yes, no judgement from me...I get frazzled.

When she caught my eye she smiled wearily and said "I look forward to shopping alone like you someday".

So truth be told she sucker punched me first.

I stood there a wee bit tongue tied and everything got real quiet in my head despite the kiddos screaming and I got a little numb. Then I stuttered, which is nothing new for me, something about it not being nearly as wonderful as she would think and turned around quickly.

From the corner of my eye I could see her face fall and I knew she must have sensed that I was on the verge because nothing else was said and no looks were exchanged and I paid quickly and got the heck out of there.

I made it to the car before the tears began and when I slammed my door I rested my head on my steering wheel and sobbed. I hate shopping alone and quietly. I hate having to miss my Piper and be expected to somehow breathe still. As the tears fell and my shoulders heaved I looked up just in time to see this poor lady settling her kiddos into her minivan... Which was directly in front of my Camry. And she was sliding me looks like she wanted to say something and she looked horrified and I am certain she will never, ever shop at Target again without fearing a meeting with this wreck of a mommy.

So thats how I flipped out again at Target and that's how I may or may not need to find a new happy place.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Memories and musings and no place for despair.

I've missed Piper a little extra today.

And by "a little extra" I mean that I am allowing myself to remember things that are both difficult and beautiful. Just like her little life was. And I am allowing myself to cry a little more than I usually do and I'm finding it to be good for me.

I'm often asked how my day is going and it's just not that easy. My days are fine...I'm sober and upright and frankly there are many moments that that even seems like too much. But I am.

It's the moments that catch me.

I'm fine.

I'm fine.

I'm fine....

And bam.

I'm walking down the stairs and remembering how many millions of times I held Pipers hands and took steps slowly with her and praised her her desire to be such a big girl.

Moments hurt.

The days and nights are too big to handle in theory and so I continue to just do the moments. Thankfully Pipers life, while difficult no doubt, was filled with beauty. She was a blessing to us in every single little way and her absence is a glaring void in my life.

Imagine losing a child.

Some of you have and my memories and musings scrap off the scabs of your own loss. Most of you haven't and while you fear and possibly fret over the possibility, fact is you will probably walk to Jesus long before your children.

As it should be.

But some of us are left to maneuver the living room when your minds eye remembered your two year old walking towards you with pride in her eyes, you shower quietly and wish you could hear your daughter plead to join you. You have to daily, sometimes hourly, remind yourself to not say "daughters" but instead to put your "daughter" in bed. When someone knocks on the door there is no sharp intake of excited breathe and the swift hustle of a toddler hauling herself to see who is visiting.

Pipers memories are everywhere. And on the brief moments that I relish the breeze and the sound of Linley playing and think to myself how good life is... there is the inevitable sucker punch of reality and the knowledge that Piper is gone. Never to return to my arms or my stairs or my living room or my shower or my bedtime routine.

That's a moment that hurts.

So imagine not having that child next to you. Today when going about your to-do list allow yourself to have no responsibility for one of your children. Make yourself think how horrible it would be to kiss them goodbye and never ever kiss them hello again, this side of eternity.

And when you feel like you cannot breathe for how heavy this feels on your parental soul, I want you to have the moment that relieves this ache because you do still have your beautiful daughter or strong son. I don't have this relief and I do have much sadness.

There is a verse that has soothed me since Pipers death. Each time I feel overwhelmed or hurt or angry, I force myself to refocus my emotions around the pit that is called Despair. If I despair I lose hope and if I lose hope I lose my foundation for survival. I just can't do that and make the struggles of the last two and a half year seem in vain.

So I rail and I cry and I sit quietly in each moment that comes. But I do not despair...eternity is sweeter with Piper leading the way for us all.

Psalms 27:13
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

St Simons Island 2012

First vacation as a family of 3.

Felt a bit fuzzy and a whole lot of surreal. The struggle to keep myself moving (albeit slowly and sadly at moments) along is very real unfortunately. Baby steps, I'm told.

And still we had a good time. Linley tried and liked fried calamari and butter pecan french toast. We swam often. There were piers to walk and lighthouses to climb and bike trails to explore. My Linley is a joy to be around and I noticed her sweet demeanor accentuated. She has always been my independent little one and she is not typically a touchy girl... Have I mentioned that she is very much like her mother?

She is.

But on this vacation we noticed her reaching for my hand when walking along. Linley was content to cuddle up with us and watch television. She never asked me to stop touching her fuzzy head or stroke her face and I truly think she just knew mommy needed a little extra of her. I also think that Linley just needed a little extra of me and Chad.

While I know how much my girls adored each other, Linley was very often gently nudged out of the way. All of her needs were met but too often her wants went overlooked...and while I know this may not seem like the end of the world, it's not really fair to have this be the normal for over two years.

This vacation, while having its share of tears and sadness, was a time to refocus on Linley. She's now an only child and this was never my intention when I first began bearing children. But instead of thinking on the whys and how's of the past few years we chose to hope and plan for a future.

Linley is worth it.

This vacation was a wonderful reminder of who we each are to each other... A family.

I love you Linley.
And I miss you Piper.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

3:35 am

There was a little irony in being awoken this morning at such a time. If I were to be a little more awake or lucid I imagine I could count down the hours it's been since Piper died.

I'm not so I won't.

The room is hot and my spouse is sound asleep. I know this by the snoring from the other side of Linley...who is on me like white on rice. She sleeps with her arms flung across my chest and her fuzzy head in my neck. Not unlike Piper did.

I am missing Piper.

Right now.

Too many nights that I've been given the option to sleep through and truly, I'm no good at that. I miss hearing her little voice in the night needing me. And I miss feeling her arms and her fuzzy head. God, the ache to hold her again could kill me if I allowed myself to fully feel it.

I cant so it won't.

Today I told Patsy down at the pool that my daughter died. I teared up a little but muddled through an explanation. I told her Piper had died a week from Tuesday and she responded how she was supposed to. I think the more politically correct thing would have been to say that I "lost" Piper but I didn't. She died. I couldn't have lost Piper if I had wanted to... That girl was with me all the time.

In my arms.

Walking next to me with her pink walker.

In the backseat of my Camry, singing Adele.

Snuggled under my chin and across my chest.

I didn't lose Piper.

She died.

Dying also allows me to focus on where she is now. Were I to have lost Piper I would be spending every moment of my remaining years seeking her out. But I don't have to do that. She's gone from my arms but she's settled into better ones. And while that doesn't stop me from reaching for her at 3:35am, it keeps me from collapsing in a puddle of grief from missing her.

Piper died.

I miss my daughter.

3:35am is a lonely time of the night.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One week today.

It's one week today.

I have yet to have the major emotional meltdown that I thought I would have had. And surely can deserve. Perhaps it's that I have little time. Perhaps it's that I have a seven year old who keeps me busy. Perhaps it's because I tend to compartmentalize things to an extreme and there simply is no proper place for hysteria when one needs to keep their life as orderly as possible.

I think I am feeling this loss in an odd way...One minute I am planning out a vacation to do list with my spouse and the next I am curled up around Pipers no longer necessary carseat and weeping. One minute I am watching Linley cannonball into the pool and the next I am throwing my whole self into the water in an attempt to not miss holding Pipers wiggly two year old self. And when we are asked if we need seating for "just three" I want to stop that person and explain why...although I have yet to begin to ask God why and am only able to survive by necessity. I can do this.

But I'm not sure how much longer.

Last night was so very fitful. I woke no less that 6 times just to look at the clock and reorient myself. When I finally woke for the day it was with the biggest sense of dread I have ever felt. I was certain I was full of lead as I drug my weary body from the bed and pasted a smile on my face for the family waiting for me in the kitchen. And the day has just gone on and on...pleasantly but still with that sense of dread and sadness that I cannot either shake nor deal with correctly.

Its this ability to compartmentalize things that has allowed me to cope with the past two and a half years. Some may call it OCD, some particular, and others will just smile and understand my need to keep as much control over as much as I can at all times. My child has chemo in the morning? Let's clean out the fridge. Tomorrow we move out of state? Let's paint a dresser. I realize I will never hear my youngest ever call me "mommy" again? Let's paint my toes.

I just cannot always deal with the weightieness of what has encompassed my life. I cannot do it. So I continue to deal with the little things around my house and with Linleys life and at one point I would have spent more time packing Pipers diaper bag with things to do for a whole day in clinic than I would even have allowed myself to think about why we were even going to be there.

Compartmentalize. Organize. Redirecting my emotions and plans. This is how I am coping. How I have coped for the past two and a half years. I am planning to force myself to remember and mourn and ache for the details revolving Piper and her sweet little life when Linley begins school again. When I can freely weep and possibly yell and most definitely miss her. Perhaps losing control, even a little, will help this process. Perhaps.

Until then I will keep my eyes from excessive pictures of Piper. I will only smile when her name comes up. And I will compartmentalize the details that I miss and throw myself into today.

And yes. I pray often.

Today I was praying while laying on the beach and I found myself asking the Lord for big signs of his love for me. For him to bless me with this or that or the next thing. And it dawned on me that what I really need is more of Him. Lots of Him. I need to be flooded with Him in order to not be flooded with fears and dismay... That while I begin the grieving process that I also begin the process of finding out more of the God who has carried me for the last few years. I want to know Him and love Him and then know Him more.

One week today. A lifetime left for me to miss Piper and learn to love this big God more. A lifetime seems too much.

For missing Piper, not loving God.