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.