Friday, September 23, 2016

But if not, He is still good

This verse in Daniel has been on my mind for awhile now.  Our community group is going through the book of Daniel.  I have always loved the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  There is so much good stuff in chapter 3 that gets better and better the more you read it.  A month or so after Callie passed away, our community group was going over chapter 3 in Daniel.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's faith was so incredibly strong. I would hope that I would have that same response when they were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace and die a horrible and miserable death.

"If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18

I love this for several reasons.  First they acknowledge that God IS ABLE to deliver them from the fiery furnace.  Of course he is able, He is God and He is sovereign.  He was completely able to save Callie that day.  No question about it, He could have saved Callie in an instant.  Then the second part of the verse states, "BUT IF NOT.."  Did they KNOW that God was going to save them from the furnace?  Did they KNOW that the hairs on their heads would not be singed, their cloaks would not be harmed, and they wouldn't even smell like smoke??  NO, they definitely did not know that.  Did they know God was able to do this?  YES!  Did they know God was going to do it?  No.

Sometimes I think we as Christians believe we have some power over God by the words we speak.  A lot of the prosperity gospel today teaches that what you speak will come true. That if we speak that our child will be saved, it will happen.  That if we speak and believe that God will perform a miracle, it will happen.  That they KNOW God will save their loved one.  And it definitely CAN happen, as God is able to, but it doesn't mean it will happen.  I've been reading the book "Holding on to Hope" by Nancy Guthrie.  I cannot recommend this book enough for those who have lost a child.  The book goes through Job and one section she writes...

"Often I see the body of Christ put so much into pursuing God for healing.  With great boldness and passion and persistence, we cry out to God, begging for physical healing.  And in these prayers, there is often a tiny P.S. added at the end where we say, "If it be your will."  But shouldn't we switch that around?  Shouldn't we cry out to God with boldness and passion and persistence in a prayer that says, "God, would you please accomplish your will?  Would you give me a willing heart to embrace your plan and your purpose?  Would you mold me into a vessel that you can use to accomplish what you have in mind?  And then, perhaps, we could add a tiny P.S. that says, "If that includes healing, we will be grateful."  Isn't real faith revealed more through pursuing God and what he wants than through pursing what we want?

I honestly haven't thought much about this until Callie died.  Since Callie's death was so sudden, we didn't really get much of a chance to really pray for her except for the few minutes in the hospital before we knew what was going on.  And we most definitely did pray for a miracle!  We cried out to the Lord to save her, to not take our baby away from us. But the Lord's will was much different than what we were praying.  And we have had to learn to submit to His sovereignty.  This was one reason why we wanted 'Thy Will' to be played at her funeral.  Thy Will be done Lord.  We so wanted our baby girl to be saved, but IF NOT, we will still praise you Lord.

Nancy Guthrie goes on to say:
"At the end of Job's story, we begin to catch a glimpse of how God used the pain in Job's life.  I think this is the same thing God wants to do with the pain you and I experience in life.  After all the crying, after all the questioning, God revealed himself as sovereign over all Creation, and Job recognized God's authority over the universe and God's authority in his life. He came to a place of submission to God's sovereignty."

"Submission to God's sovereignty means bowing the knee whether or not we understand, whether or not we have it figured it out, whether of not we agree.  In that submission, we find the strength and grace to keep going.  We even find joy in the journey."

I could probably quote the entire chapter, or really the entire book, but I'll stop there.  I have had to truly submit to God's sovereignty.  Not just say I believe in God's sovereignty, but REALLY believe it.  It hasn't been easy.  I don't understand why this happened to us.  A pain so deep that doesn't happen to most families.  It really really stinks and it's not a good thing.  What happened to Callie wasn't good....God can and will USE it for good, but it in itself isn't good.  But I have truly learned to submit to the sovereignty of God, to trust Him, and believe Him in a way I never have before.  And if NOT...HE IS STILL GOOD.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Callie's Little Lamb

I wanted to write to remember the very special meaning of Callie's favorite stuffed animal, her white Lamb.  Her Mimi (Justin's mom) gave it to her when she was born.  I can't remember at what age she started to become attached to it, but it was pretty early on.  I thought it was so cute to watch her become attached to a certain stuffed animal especially since Cooper has never been attached to one.  He has gone through different phases of wanting a certain stuffed animal, but never had one that he was attached to for a long period of time.  We never had a name for the lamb, but for some reason we started calling it Lambie and it kinda stuck.

She wanted her lamb close by her all the time.  When she woke up in the mornings, she would usually ask for her lamb after getting her out of her crib.  If she got distracted and didn't ask for it right away, she would definitely be asking for it within the hour.  I would usually find her in her room by her crib trying to pull the lamb through the crib slates.  She would get frustrated that she couldn't get it out, so she would either start fussing or calling for me to help her get it.  If I didn't know where she was and I could hear her fussing, I knew she was in her room trying to get her lamb.  And when I got it for her, she would immediately give it this huge hug and giggle and smile.  It was adorable.

She pretty much got to the point where she couldn't sleep without it.  She slept with a lot of stuffed animals, but she would not go to sleep without her lamb.  Since she got it out of her crib everyday, we never knew where she ended up putting her lamb that day.  We always found it in the strangest places.  When I remembered to search for the lamb before putting her to bed, I would say "Callie, go get Lambie" and there she was off looking everywhere for it.  Of course she couldn't really remember where she last put it, but I always loved watching her look for it.  If I forgot to search for Lambie before putting her to bed, I would put her in her crib and she would sit up and just look at me like "um, aren't you forgetting something?"  I sometimes asked Cooper to get her Lambie for her or go get it myself.  When Justin would put her to bed at night, I always remember him calling out "can you get her Lamb??" And once we brought her Lambie to her, she would hug it and then lay down to go to sleep.  So sweet!

A lot of times she wanted Lambie to sit with her to eat. I never really liked that because I didn't want the Lamb to get food all over it.  But when I would take it away from her, she would get so upset!  It's funny because she wasn't the type of kid that got so mad when you took things from her.  She was laid back in that way.  But when it came to her Lamb, don't even think about taking that away from her.  She also wanted to take her lamb with her the first time she went to the beach.  I again didn't really want her to take it to the beach since I knew it would get sandy and dirty, but in the end it was so darn cute seeing her with her lamb at the beach. She wanted Lambie to enjoy her first beach experience too.

The Lamb is very special to us now.  The funeral director asked if she has a special stuffed animal that we wanted her to be buried with.  At first we told him about the lamb, but then we said we didn't want it to be buried with her as we wanted to keep it.  And we know that it's just her body there that is buried, we know she is with Jesus with all the lambs she wants, so we didn't see a point in burying it with her.  We did bring the lamb to her visitation and to her funeral.  I ended up putting it right in the middle of the flowers on her casket and it looked really sweet.  I wish I had gotten a picture of it.

** Update-thanks to my friend Staci for getting a picture for me....

We decided to have the lamb custom drawn on her stone because it has been so special to her and to us.  From the draft, it turned out really well and looks just like her lamb.  It takes a couple of months for the stone to come in, so it will be awhile before we see it.  It is a nice personal touch to her stone that we will see every time we visit her grave.

The first few weeks after Callie died, Justin had the Lamb sitting on his nightstand so he could see it all the time.  Then one day, Cooper picked up the lamb and said "this is Callie's" and put it back into her crib where he felt the lamb belonged.  So that is where it is now.  I'm not really sure what we will do with the lamb or where we will keep it long term, but I know it is a very special memory that the 3 of us have of her.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Beauty of Saying Something

If you have ever gone through a tragedy or hurtful situation, you see people respond in many different ways.  There have been people who have been so loving and thoughtful, that I wouldn't know how to make it through without these people.  Others have been silent.  Some people say the exact thing I needed to hear, and others say things that are hurtful.  And though there have been people who have said some dumb or hurtful things to me, I will not be writing a post about "what not to say to people who have lost a child".  You know those posts that are out there.  There is one about what not to say to to new moms, what not to say to adoptive moms, what not to say to working moms, stay at home moms, etc, and the list can go on.  As I'm sure these posts are helpful, I do feel like the majority of people say these things with good intentions and a sincere heart.  And when people do say something hurtful, we have to learn to give them GRACE.  What's worse, I fear that these types of posts make people shut down because they are so afraid to say the wrong things to each other.

I understand completely that people don't know what to say to me and they are scared they are going to say something wrong. But can I tell you what is more hurtful than someone saying something hurtful?  It's when people say NOTHING.  It's not what people have said that has been the most hurtful, it's what people haven't said that has been the most difficult thing to deal with.  After reading a few books about those who have lost a child, I realized I was not the only one who felt this way.  A continued pattern I saw was when people said nothing and would even just pretend like nothing happened, it added to their grief.  For someone you don't know very well a simple "I'm sorry for your loss" goes a long way.  Acknowledging that you are sorry and that this person experienced a great loss means a lot.  I would have people I didn't even know say this to me.  It's a short and simple phrase, but it's meaningful.  

I get that the reason why people don't say anything is that they don't want to bring it up to hurt me.  Maybe they think that I'm doing fine that day, and if this person brings it up to me that it will remind me of the loss and make me sad.  Can I tell you that there is no way I'm not thinking about Callie?  If someone does bring it up to me, I don't think "Oh I had just forgotten about it and now you reminded me of it and I'm sad"  It's always on my mind, so a person bringing it up to me will not cause more pain.  I may not feel like talking about it at the time, but just saying I'm sorry, I'm praying for you is very thoughtful. 

Even now almost 2 months after Callie's death, the texts messages I get, the cards in the mail, the hugs in person are incredibly meaningful.  Maybe even more meaningful than before.  It says something simple to says you're not alone, we care about you and we continue to pray for you.  People also asking how I'm doing is helpful.  If I don't feel like talking about it, I can say a simple statement and end with thanks for asking.  If I do want to talk about it, I can say more.  Even when I don't feel like talking about it, I never ever walk away from that conversation and think "I wish they never would have asked me how I'm doing."  I so appreciate the question even if I'm not up for talking about it.   I have one friend who almost every single time I see her, she asks me how I'm doing.  Whether in a group setting or alone, I know she is aware of my hurt and wants to know how I'm doing.

I do not write this to make anyone feel bad or to push people to say things to me.  Please don't hear that.  This has been heavy on my heart and something I have learned through my experience that I thought would be helpful for others to know when a tragedy occurs with another friend down the road.  I really only write this to make people aware that saying SOMETHING is always, always, better than saying nothing.  I also try not to judge too harshly when I come across people who don't say anything to me, as I know I have done that before.  I'm sure I have avoided people who are hurting because I was afraid to say the wrong thing.  I may have even been afraid to walk down that dark road with them.  I may have been trying to avoid awkwardness.  But now I know better.  I hope to never do that again with those that are hurting.  I have now learned that every person's effort to acknowledge my loss, no matter how small, and no matter how much time has passed, is significant and remembered.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Brother's Love

I started this post a few weeks ago but never got around to finishing it until now.  I haven't really felt like blogging lately mostly because I'm just SO tired.  I'm physically and emotionally exhausted.  When I had some time to write,  I just wanted to lay on the couch and take a nap.  All the shock has worn off and we are just exhausted from the whirlwind of the past month and half and what we have gone through.  I know that there are a many layers of grief and this is just one of them that is hitting us the past few weeks, just exhaustion.

After Callie died, I was very worried about Cooper.  It was hard to not only grieve for myself, but also grieve for him along with trying to be a good parent.  I knew he would be devastated about Callie since they spent every minute together and he adored her.  For their young age, they were exceptionally close.  Cooper has always had a very kind and compassionate heart, which has played a big part in his role of big brother.  It was so easy for him to care deeply for her and love being with her.  He is also very sensitive and has a hard time adjusting to change.  I thought this tragedy would be so hard for him to understand and it would destroy his little heart.  Thankfully, I was wrong...

Many people ask me how Cooper is doing. Surprisingly, he's doing really really well.  He has adjusted to the dramatic and sudden loss better than I could have ever hoped for.  The first 2 weeks were very hard and there were some rough moments, but after that he has been great.  The hardest moment we had was just a couple days after she died.  He woke up one morning asking about Callie. We explained to him again about how Callie died but that she is in heaven with Jesus.  He then laid on the floor and starting sobbing.   A very genuine cry of grief and a cry that I had never really heard him cry before.  As he was crying he said that he wanted to die so that he could be with Callie in heaven.  It was absolutely heartbreaking.  We tried to comfort him the best we could and Justin talked to him mostly as I just cried with him.  About 5 minutes later he bounced back and was over it just like a normal kid.  That moment was so hard to watch, but also I felt somewhat relieved to see him go through a moment of grief as it helped us know he is really understanding.  That was the only moment we have seen him truly grief over the loss of his sister.

I know there were/are many people praying for Cooper.  I was told many times that they were praying specifically for him and the Lord has done a work in his heart.  As I mentioned in a previous post about the viewing, I was so surprised to see how mature Cooper responded and how he seemed to truly understand what was happening when he saw her.   There is something so true and real about childlike faith.  The Lord gives children this understanding faith well beyond their years.  Cooper knows she is with Jesus in heaven and I believe it has brought him comfort.

Cooper does talk about Callie a lot and mentions her almost everyday which brings me joy.  There was a time when I felt so sad that Cooper seemed to have moved on so quickly and was doing so well.  I almost felt like he forgot about her, though I know that is not true.  I am SO glad that he is doing well and has adjusted to this tragedy better than expected,  but I also didn't want him to just move on and forget her.  I want him to always remember her and have special memories of her.  The other day, he was pretending to play with Callie.  It was so heartbreaking and so sweet all at the same time.  He mentions her name in passing a lot.  He will see something that was hers and say "that's Callie's"  or "Callie loves this".  He used to say things like "I want to play with Callie again"  or even ask if Callie is coming if we go somewhere, but as more time has passed,  he understands more and doesn't ask those type of questions.    Just this morning he was singing a song that he made up (something he does regularly with his guitar) and he was singing something about Callie and Jesus dying on the cross.  I couldn't understand all the words, but it was the sweetest song.

The first few weeks after Callie died, we naturally cried a lot and all the time.  Poor Cooper has such a sweet and sensitive heart that he always stops what he is doing when anyone cries and comes over to the person and usually just looks at them with compassion and sometimes ask if they are okay.  We would respond with we are just really sad because we miss Callie.  Sometimes he would say that he misses Callie too.  Other times he would say, "it's okay Mommy, Callie is with Jesus".  So sweet. We still cry a lot, but we are able to control it a lot more now.  Cooper will now come up to me randomly if I'm quiet and ask "Mommy, are you happy?"  It is such a heartbreaking question.  Of course I'm not happy, but I don't want him to think that I'm always sad.  I simply respond by telling him I'm so happy to be his Mommy.

I'm not naive to think that Cooper seems to be doing great and that he will be fine.  I know he will be fine as the Lord is so near to him and taking care of him.  But we also know he could be really affected by this loss.  He is already going through some extreme separation anxiety right now.  It's gotten much worse over the past month.  We pray daily for wisdom to love and parent Cooper well through this.  I think because Cooper acts so happy and normal right now, people assume he is back to normal.  And it's true, for the most part, you wouldn't be able to tell that he went through one of the hardest things a 3 year old can go through.  The Lord has given him such faith and I know he will be changed by this.  We know Callie's death has purpose.  We know it was not meaningless.  I believe the Lord will use this specifically in Cooper's life.  I don't know exactly how, but down the road, the Lord will use Cooper in other's lives.  I love how God created him with such a big heart with compassion and sensitivity towards others.  Please continue to pray for him and that the Lord would be near, that He would continue to give him faith in knowing that Callie is with Jesus, that he would preserve his memories of Callie, and that the Lord would use this in Cooper's life to draw him closer to the Lord and be used in other's lives through this.  God has great plans for Cooper and I can't wait to see it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

One Month without Callie

Today marks one month since Callie went to be with Jesus.  For most people it has probably flown by.  But for us, it has been the longest month of our lives.  Every day feels like a week as the days just crawl by.  It feels like it's been 4 months since July 4th and not because it's hard to remember her or remember that day, but only because the days are just so long.

I know I say this often, but we miss her so much.  I think of her all the time and what we would be doing together that day and what she would be like.  I think about how sweet and fun her personality was.  She didn't have a mean bone in her body.  She was just a joy to be around and was so special to us.  I also think about July 4th a lot whether I want to or not.  It's like a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in my mind, running through all that happened that day.  Random things make me sad.  Walking around the grocery store and seeing a mom with her kids makes me sad.  A part of me is upset that they are so happy and the other part of me wants to tell her how lucky she is she has her kids.  Seeing kids Callie's age makes me sad.  Seeing happy posts and pictures of people's kids on Facebook makes me sad, which is why I can't scroll through Facebook anymore right now.  Thinking about her 2nd birthday makes me sad.  I know it's far away, but I still just can't imagine her not being here for her 2nd birthday.

To be honest, I didn't really feel like writing a blog post today.  It's been a hard week.  We feel a dark cloud over us that just won't go away no matter where we are or what we do.  I also just don't feel very encouraging right now so I didn't think a blog post would be a good idea.  But then I realized the reason I write is for me as it's therapeutic, and also for others who may read this one day who experience a loss of a child.  So I must be honest with the hard road we are on.  And that sometimes I just don't feel like saying all right things and just want to shout out, "this stinks, this is not fair and I just want our daughter back and get back to normal again."  But at the same time, I do have to speak truth to myself.  I do have to think about things that are true and what Scripture says.

A few weeks ago, Justin and I watched a video called Flame On.  It was about the Jasper family who lost their 5 year old son in a dune buggy accident.  I read his book in 3 days and then we watched the video which documented their grief journey just a couple months after the accident.

At the end of the video, they said, "What do you know about God on the hardest day of your life?" Go to the deepest thing you know about God and hang on."

What do I know about God on the worst day of my life?

I know God is good
God is faithful
God is sovereign
Nothing catches God off guard
My sins are forgiven
Jesus Christ lives in me
I know for certain I'm going to heaven
He never makes a mistake
God loves me unconditionally
God uses everything that touches my life for my good
God uses everything that touches my life to accomplish His purpose
God's grace is totally sufficient
God's plans for me are for my welfare
God's will for me is good and perfect and acceptable
God heals
God delivers
God sets the captives free
God gives joy in the midst of adversity
God will see me through this storm
God will provide my every need
I don't have to carry my burdens alone with fear of anxiety and worry
I don't have to live in fear of the future
I don't have to live in shame

Thinking of these truths, and believing what I know is true when I don't feel like it, is what I must do daily on my darkest days.

I highly recommend watching the entire 40 minute video, it is powerful.  You can watch the video here:  Flame On

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Funeral

July 5th, the day after Callie passed away was a complete whirlwind.  Of course we didn't sleep the night before and I came downstairs at my parents house just downcast and sobbing.  I didn't want to think about planning a funeral.  It was the furthest thing from my mind.  How in the world can I plan a funeral for my baby girl who was in perfect health and happy just 24 hours ago??  It just didn't seem real.  I didn't know the 1st thing about planning a funeral and what to do.  I even said that I didn't want the funeral to be until the following week.  It was too stressful to think about and I just couldn't deal with it.  But then the hospital called Justin and told him that we needed to choose a funeral home ASAP.  What?  Already?  It has only been 12 hours.  When choosing a funeral home, then you're choosing the cemetery where she will be buried, a place where we will visit for the rest of our lives. That's a huge decision and I didn't like being rushed into it.  We have only lived in Spring a little over 4 years and I didn't know anything about Funeral Homes there.  Would we even stay in the Spring area?  We didn't know.  Should we plan the funeral in Kingwood where I grew up and where my parents were?  That seems like the easiest option, we already knew the funeral home and could use my parents church, but it just didn't sit well with me.  Our life was in Spring. Our home, our friends, our church.  The only home Callie knew was in Spring.  But where would we have her funeral?  Our church is a small Acts29 church that doesn't have their own building.  I really didn't know what to do.  It was the last thing I wanted to deal with, so I just prayed.

Through my 2 best friends who helped me, we had a place for the funeral that was so perfect.  A church we have gone to many times before and have dear friends who go there as well.  It's a beautiful church that wasn't too big and wasn't too small.  Right when I thought of it, I knew that was it.  Through one of their pastors that helps with funerals, he gave me some good advice on choosing a funeral home and talking with them first about days and times.  It is so much like planning a wedding, the funeral home and the church have to match up with their timing.  Except instead of planning the best day of your life, you're planning the worst.

I decided to have my dad come with me so we could go visit cemeteries and funeral homes in Spring to figure out which one we wanted to use.  We also had to go back to our house to get clothes and to get our poor dog.  I knew Justin was not ready to go back into our house and I didn't want him to go back there.  I knew it would be SO painful.  I also didn't want to bring Cooper with us and I knew we couldn't leave Cooper by himself right now so Justin stayed at my parents with Cooper and my mom while some visitors came.

 So here I am calling funeral homes, getting quotes, getting information on cemeteries, trying to figure out the place where we will visit for the rest of our lives.  I was stressed and just wanted it done.  One funeral home was incredibly helpful but after visiting the cemetery, I just felt sick.  It was ugly and incredibly hard to find.  So then I call the other funeral home that had someone training who answered the phones and just didn't know anything and was unhelpful.  We went to visit that cemetery location and loved it.  My dad and I both just said "this is it"  It was easy to find, peaceful and beautiful.  I really liked it.  We then went to that funeral home and met with one of the directors who was AMAZING.  I told him that we almost didn't choose this one because of the people answering the phones so they can maybe fix that issue down the road...but all in all we were so happy with everything we chose and how much we got accomplished.  We worked out details, then called the church to coordinate and everything was seeming to fall into place.  It was crazy since just 2 hours before I had no idea what we would do.  Thank you Lord.

We then take the dreaded drive back to our house.  The Lord gave me the grace to walk in and I was just running on adrenaline.  Haven't slept, showered, eyes puffy from crying and I'm just a mess.  I walk in and immediately just start gathering up all of Callie's stuff and throwing it in Callie's room.  Her stuff was everywhere.  My dad was helping me while I'm also trying to pack some clothes for everyone.  I was just trying to move as quickly as possible and get out of there.  Finally we get the stuff, get the dog, shut Callie's door and leave to head back to my parents house.  On the way back to the house I have a big breakdown.  I just cry out, "why did this happen to us?  Why is this our story for the rest of our lives?  Why does this have to be Cooper's story for the rest of his life?  Why do we have to through this?  It's just too painful, it's too much.  I miss her."  Something along those lines.  It was hitting me hard and the pain was just too overwhelming.

I then text some friends from church to let them know the funeral plans and ask them to help plan the funeral.  Say no more, our Pastor, music pastor, and friends planned the entire service for us.  Literally everything.  It was a huge blessing. I was too overwhelmed with planning the details that I just couldn't think anymore.  The only thing we wanted was Great is Thy Faithfulness and also Thy Will that was played at the beginning of the service.  Other than that, they pretty much planned the entire thing for us.  The slideshow, the music, everything was so perfect and it really ministered to us that they just took care of it all for us.

The rest of the week was crazy busy still planning things, grieving,  and getting investigated by know, just normal everyday things.  And let me tell you, CPS was so kind, sensitive, and understanding of our situation and just a joy to work with....and yes that is MAJOR sarcasm.  And I will stop there because I have a lot of NOT nice things to say, and I'm sure they are reading this :)  Lets just say that most people cannot believe the way that they treated us.  It was awful.

Then Friday comes along which is the day of the visitation.  Justin and I had been discussing if we should let Cooper see Callie.  Justin felt pretty strongly that he should see her.  I was afraid that he wouldn't understand and would think she was sleeping or something.  We explained to him as much as we could for his little 3 year old heart and mind could handle.  We arrived there an hour before it was open to the public.  Justin, Cooper and I were able to go in there first by ourselves.  There were flowers everywhere and Callie looked beautiful.  There were parts of her that didn't exactly look like herself, but overall she looked like Callie and she was beautiful.  We talked to Cooper again and asked if he wanted to see her.  He said yes and it was the sweetest moment.  It was like he understood exactly what was happening.  He wanted to touch her and he kissed her head.  It was the sweetest thing.  He would also ask to see her at different times throughout the evening.  And he would touch her again or kiss her.  The Lord gave him understanding and we were so thankful.

We were blown away by all our family and friends who came to the visitation.  It was nice to talk to people I haven't seen in awhile but also hard to know what to talk about.  The support of everyone was overwhelming and encouraging.  There was a long slideshow of Callie playing in the background for people to watch as well.  As it gets closer to 7pm, people start to trickle out, and I knew that we would have to say our final goodbye to Callie.  The funeral would be closed casket, so it was the last time I would physically see her face again.  The grief hit me hard and I broke down.  I just didn't want to say bye to her.  I didn't want it to be the last time I saw her beautiful face.  It was so painful.  We said our last goodbye here on earth to her earthly body, but it was not our last goodbye.  We knew we would be reunited soon...

Saturday morning was Callie's service and I was extremely nervous.  I prayed in the car out loud on the way there and one of my big prayers was that people would be pointed to Jesus.  That God would be glorified through her death and people would come to know the Lord through her service.  We arrive and set a few things up and then we greet everyone that comes in.  It was so sweet to see some people who drove in that morning just for this.  People I never expected to be there showed up.  It blessed us greatly.  People were grieving with us and hurting for us.  Seeing people even for 1 minute and a quick hug ministered to me.

Then at 10am our family and our pastor gathered to pray before the service started.  We then walk in to sit down and the service starts with the lyrics video of Thy Will.  This song had really ministered to us that week and we wanted it included into her service.  Our friend and community group leader Josh reads Revelation 21:1-7 and then prays.  We then sing the song that we sang to Callie every night before bed, Great is Thy Faithfulness.  It's hard to even describe how we are feeling at this point.  It's just an overwhelming feeling of controlling our emotions but also wanting to soak it all in. We then sang Great are You Lord.  After we sang, we watched a video that our friend Trey put together for us.  He used the pictures I had of Callie and a few videos of Cooper and Callie together.  It was so sweet and special.  Everyone especially told me they loved the videos of Cooper making Callie laugh.  He always made her laugh, it was so special.  After the video our Pastor spoke a little about Callie.  One thing he said was that Callie's main dance move was the spin.  For the past few months, Callie would dance and would just spin and twirl in circles over and over again.  If music came on she liked, she would do her spin.  If we say, "dance Callie" she would do her spin.  She would even do it without any music.  Cooper would join her and it was just adorable.  Our pastor mentioned about her spinning at Jesus' feet.  It was an imagine that stuck with many people.

Our Pastor did an incredible job speaking truth and giving hope in an incredibly difficult time.  He is such a gifted speaker and the Lord used him to really speak truth to everyone and bring hope and peace to us.  After his sermon, one of our Elders closed out the service with prayer.  We then followed the pallbearers and were led out of the church and were ready to go to the cemetery.  Since we had greeted people before the service, Justin did not want to talk to anyone afterwards so we left immediately to go to the cemetery.  We had a private family service at the cemetery which was perfect.  Our pastor read scripture and said a fews words.  Then Justin wanted to say something so he stood up and touch her casket and starting praying to the Lord.  It's hard to even remember exactly what he said but it was very sweet and emotional.  He thanked the Lord for her life and the opportunity to be her Daddy for 18 months on this earth.  During his prayer he also spoke to Callie and told her that we would never forget her and the joy she brought to us and how much we loved her.  He told her to wait for us as we would see her again.  The Lord brings us comfort as we do grieve with Hope.  We know Callie is with Jesus and has no more fear, pain, tears, and sorrow.  We long to be with her.  Justin is such a sweet and good Daddy and you could get a glimpse of his heart by hearing him talk about her and praying to the Lord.  It was a sweet moment.

After the graveside service, our church helped with a reception lunch afterwards for our close friends and family.  Once again, they did everything for the lunch.  People set up, brought lasagnas, salads, drinks, desserts, etc.  It was nice to have a place to really talk to people especially friends and family who drove from out of town.  We talked to everyone we could and then it was time for us to go home.  We come home to our quiet, empty house partly relieved it was all over, and partly sad that our new life is just beginning without Callie.

Cooper and Peyton at lunch after the service

Justin suggested we get out of town for a few days since he was able to take another week off work.  We thought through a lot of options but finally decided to stay at the Woodlands resort for a few nights since they were running a deal there and we wouldn't have to drive anywhere far.  It really was so good for us to get away just the 3 of us.  It was too hard being at our house.  On our way there, we stopped by the cemetery to visit Callie and see what her site looked liked.  It was beautiful with all the flowers there.  It was also surreal as it sinks in more that she is not with us anymore.

We did have a good family time together at the resort even though we missed Callie terribly.  Cooper loves to swim and they have a great pool so we did have a fun time despite the deep sadness and pain we were carrying.  We read a lot and were able to spend a lot of time in the Word and in prayer.  It was refreshing and good for us to just get away from everything for awhile.

Coming back to our house from our getaway without Callie was hard.  Being in our house and walking by her room is hard.  Everything reminds us of her.  She was such a light and joy and her presence is missed every second of the day.  We spent the rest of the week reading, resting, crying, and also picking out her stone for her grave which was a lot of work and decisions.

Before we knew it, Justin was back at work the following Monday, everyone had seemed to be getting back to normal and moved on, and here Cooper and I are left with our entire lives and world rocked.  Everything changed for us.  Every meal, every outing, every conversation, every playtime was different.  Everything.  It's hard to even explain the hole I felt.  We can't get away from the fact that she is missing and not here.  I can get out and I can hold conversations and I can smile and not cry, but deep down she is all I think about.  It's constantly on my mind and my heart hurts every second.  We love you Callie Gracie and we cannot wait to see you again!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Worst Day of my Life

I know it may seem strange for me to write about the details of the day that Callie died, but I do so for several reasons.  Justin and I both want to remember our last moments with her, what we said to her, and everything that happened, and the ways the Lord was working through our pain.  I also want this blog to be relatable and encouraging to anyone who may down the road go through this terrible nightmare of losing a child.  So here is the story about the worst day of my life....

It was July 4th, 2016 and everyone woke up happy and excited to have a fun family day together.  The plan was to go to our neighborhood 4th of July parade and party, and then go over to my parents house that afternoon to spend time with the family and eat some BBQ.  The first part of the day was perfect.  Justin pulled Cooper and Callie in the wagon and we walked the short little route in the neighborhood parade.

We talked to our neighbors, enjoying the fun morning all while Cooper and Callie were both enjoying their little ride in the wagon and taking in all the people.  After the parade, we stayed around the neighborhood clubhouse for the festivities.  We ate some food, got some snow cones, Justin pushed Callie in the swing and everyone was having a great time.  The kids especially loved the firetruck and getting sprayed by the water hose.  Callie also explored every area of the grounds while Justin was chasing her around and I was helping Cooper with the big water slide.  Callie had so much fun exploring, observing everything around her, playing at the park and enjoying yummy food.

watching the fire truck spray everyone 

After a little while, we headed back to our house.  I remember specifically coming back home and the kids having so much fun together.  Cooper and Callie were running around, playing legos, and just playing together like they normally do. Callie was SO happy and joyful.

Running around with her brother playing legos

I wanted to get a picture of both kids together since they were dressed so cute for 4th of July but thought it would be better to wait until after Callie napped.  I did want to get some pictures of Callie since she looked so stinkin adorable that day.  And thankfully I was able to get the sweetest picture of her in her dress, that now most everyone has seen.  It was the last picture I took of her.  And she looked beautiful.

I then put her down for a nap.  She never cries when we put her down for a nap, and never even cries when she wakes up.  I did notice that she didn't sleep super long during this nap and I could tell she was a little more fussy than her normal self when she was waking up.  I went in to get her and when I picked her up, I noticed immediately that she was warm.  We checked her temperature and it was 101.  Poor baby had another fever.  It was a common thing for her nowadays, but the doctor was never concerned about her fevers so I tried not to be either.  We gave her some medicine and the fever went down.  Our plan was to go to my parents house after she woke up, but Justin offered to stay home with Callie, since he had some orientation work to work on (he just started a new job the week before).  He wanted Cooper to be able to still go and play with his cousin at my parents house.  His cousin was really looking forward to seeing Cooper, so it just didn't make sense for all 4 of us to stay home.  I agreed, and so Cooper and I left to go to my parents house about 30 minutes away.  That was the last time we saw her.

I wish I had some awesome story about how I went back in  and gave her an extra hug and kiss and told her I loved her 2 more times, but I don't.  Cooper and I actually snuck out quietly because I knew she would get upset if Cooper left to do something and she had to stay home.  So I didn't even really say bye.  I stress this because in a lot of the books I read, they have some magical moment with their child the last time they saw them.  I don't have that and it made me very angry.  Why does everyone else seem to have that and I literally didn't even say bye??  I stress that because it doesn't always happen like the movies and the true story of the books I read of the last time you saw your loved one alive.  It's just not realistic and I hope that brings some type of comfort to anyone else who doesn't have that last "magical moment" with their child.  I just look at all the wonderful moments and memories we had over the last month together, otherwise I would drive myself crazy with that.

I also want to point out that it is not normal for us to be separated like this.  It was very odd that we were even separated and Justin was with Callie and I was with Cooper.  Usually it's  the other way around and Justin takes Cooper somewhere, and I stay home with Callie.  But on this particular day, Justin was alone with Callie.  I  drove to my parents house and Cooper had a blast playing with his cousin.   Justin and I texted the entire afternoon.  He was giving me updates on Callie and I was telling him what Cooper and Peyton were doing.

 He sent me one last picture of Callie sitting in her pink chair, sucking her thumb, hair a mess, in her diaper watching jungle book.  It was the movie we played for her when she was sick.  It always calmed her right down.  Justin also texted me and said that Callie leaned into him and gave him a kiss and that it melted his heart.  I'm so glad he had that moment with her.  He checked her temperature again and she had no fever as it went down with the medicine.  I texted and told him to go ahead and put her down for another nap since she didn't really nap well earlier.  Callie was in a transition of going from 2 naps to 1 nap, so some days she would take 2 naps and some days she would take 1 nap.  I am a huge nap scheduler and since I'm with her 24/7, I know her best and knew she would need another short nap before dinner.  So Justin put her down for her nap.  I texted and asked if she went to sleep.  He looked at the monitor and said yes she is asleep.  And that was the last text from Justin that day.

Meanwhile, at my parents house, my brother and dad grilled some sausage and ribs and we ate a nice BBQ meal. I remember showing my parents the picture of Callie that I took of her and how cute she looked today and how I wish they could have seen her. I then packed up a ton of leftover food to bring dinner home to Justin and Callie.  We said goodbye to my family and Cooper and I were on our way back driving to our house.  All was right in the world...or so I thought...

I called Justin on the way to let him know we are coming home.  He didn't answer.  No big deal, that's normal he usually has his phone on silent.  A couple minutes later, he calls me back and immediately I knew something was terribly wrong.  This part of it all is very blurry for me, but all I remember is Justin telling me that Callie was not breathing and was unresponsive.  The paramedics were there at the house working on her.  I'm sure I asked him what happened and he told me he didn't know.  Justin later tells me (no idea when he told me or when I got all the information as it's all a blur now)  that he looked at the monitor and noticed that Callie's face was down in the crib and the way she was positioned was not normal.  He immediately went in there and picked her up, and she was not breathing and unresponsive.  He lays her down on the living room floor and starts CPR.  He called 911 on speaker all while giving his daughter CPR.  He knew deep down inside, that she was gone, but he knew he had to try.  He had to pray for some miracle, but it just wasn't looking good.

At this point, I'm in full on panic mode.  I'm a basket case and pretty much freaking out.  But I have to drive and I have my son in the car with me.  I called my parents and told them to pray.  I called one of my best friends and told her to pray.  I then call Justin for updates and all I ever got was "she's still the same, still unresponsive, still not breathing".  I ask Justin about 5 different times "Is she going to die??" and all he said was "I don't know".  Justin asks the paramedics if I should come to the house or go straight to the hospital and they said for me to go straight to the hospital.  I'm sure they didn't need hysterical mom coming through the door.  I then call my parents back to let them know what hospital they are taking Callie to.  I pray out loud as much as possible for God to spare Callie's life.  Since I was driving, I couldn't text anyone, but thank goodness for bluetooth, I could call people easily. I then think to myself that I need one person from church to know so they can pray.  So I start calling people, and NO ONE would answer their phone.  I used stop lights to look up other numbers, and again no answer.  Oh well, no one from church will know, God just wants me to pray.  It was the longest drive of my life.  I keep trying to call Justin for updates but his phone died.  The last I heard was that they were putting a tube in her to try to help her to breathe.  They worked on her at our house for at least an hour.

About 5 minutes from the hospital I decided to try to call our Pastor.  I was hesitant, because I didn't know for sure what was going on, but I did anyway.  He didn't answer at first but then he calls back a couple minutes later.  I explained to him that Callie is not breathing and unresponsive and say something like please just pray God would spare Callie's life.  He then asks what hospital we are at.  As I'm getting Cooper out of the car, my best friend calls me because she drove to my house after I called her.  She said the ambulance just left my house and they didn't have their lights on.  She also said she thinks everything will be fine.  I told her I don't know about that.  But I did start to feel more hopeful.  Maybe I was overreacting.  Maybe she will be fine.  She later texted and said that the ambulance did have their lights on after turning the street.

I walk into the ER and have to wait for Justin and Callie to arrive, and it was the longest wait of my life.   Thankfully my parents showed up quickly after that so they could help with Cooper.   I kept asking the lady at the desk if Callie had arrived yet.  I was so frustrated that Justin's phone had died so I had no idea what was going on.  I just kept praying and hoping.

Finally, Justin uses someones phone to call me and tell me that they are here and he comes and gets me.  He is with one of the paramedics and the paramedic tells me "Every doctor, nurse, and hospital worker is working on your daughter right now, they are doing everything they can do."  I walk by and I see about 20 people in there working on her very frantically.  Just like a scene from ER or Grey's anatomy,  I completely lose it when I see that, and they had to pull the curtain so that I would not disturb them.  He leads us to the small room with 2 chairs to sit down and just wait.  That was when I probably got more of the story from Justin.  I asked the paramedic if Callie was going to die and he just said I don't know.  Justin and I are crying out to God at the point, holding each other and praying.  Lord please save Callie, please don't take her from us.  I don't even remember what we were saying, we were just crying out to God.  Another paramedic comes in and says that the Doctor will come in soon to see us.  I ask her the same question I asked everyone..."is she going to die?"  and the answer was always "I don't know".  

Then at some point, and I'm not even sure how this happened, our Pastor walks through the doors and we were right there.  I think it even took him by surprise that he found us so quickly.  He never went into the waiting room like everyone else, he just walked right in, and we were literally right there.  We prayed, and cried, and not sure what else happened the minutes before the doctor talked to us.

The worst moment of our lives was about to happen.  The doctor walks in.  He calmly tells us that they have been working on Callie for 2 hours now.  They have done everything they can for her.  They are going to try one more time to resuscitate her and asked if we wanted to be in the room with her to hold her hand.  I knew what he was saying, but I needed to hear it.  I ask again "Is she going to die?"  And he said "Yes."  I then ask "So you're telling me that my daughter died???"  And then he simply says, "Yes."  I'm sure he said he was sorry but I don't remember anything else but that Yes.  We cry, our pastor hugs us and tells us how sorry he is.  And somehow we are able to stand up and walk into her room to see her.  It felt like 15-20 people in there with us.  Justin gets on one side, I get on the other and they try one more time to resuscitate her.  We just cried out to Callie and cried out to God.  I remember rubbing her hair and her head and saying "Callie, Mommy is here, please come back to us, Mommy is right here."  I remember crying out to God and begging him to please do a miracle.  I remember saying "what happened, what happened."  But it was mainly just crying and telling Callie that we loved her.  Then they stopped.  The doctor said something like  "is there anyone in this room who thinks there is anything  else we can do"  Silence.  I'm guessing that was when she was officially pronounced, though she was long gone before that.

At that moment, everything moved in slow motion and I went into shock.  I remember all these hands on my back, and I thought all my friends were in the room.  I turned around and it was all the medical staff who had been working on her.  They were crying, trying to comfort me, but I felt paralyzed.  Justin immediately went into deep, deep sorrow.  He was sobbing uncontrollably while I felt frozen.  Surely this is just a nightmare.  Surely I will wake up from this terrible horrible dream.  This can't be real life.  It just can't be true.  But I just kept looking at Callie and Justin and I knew deep down it was real life.  This was my real life.  My beloved daughter just died, how can I even go on??

I just stared at her, rubbed her hands, rubbed her hair and her cheeks.  We kissed her, hugged her, and then Justin asked if he could hold her.  The picture of my sweet husband holding Callie in his arms, sobbing uncontrollably is a picture I will never get out of my head.  My heart is broken in a million pieces.  Not just for myself, but also for him.  He lost his beloved daughter, he was crazy about her, and what's worse, he was there when she died and he saw it all.  For some reason the Lord spared Cooper and I from being there and seeing her and going through that traumatic experience.  But he didn't spare Justin from it and it broke my heart.   At one point, he started blaming himself and said that he should have gotten to her earlier.  I immediately said, "NO, do NOT do that. This is NOT your fault."  It was heart wrenching.

Being in shock,  I felt very nauseous and also completely dehydrated.  I kept asking for water and kept drinking water all night long, but nothing was quenching my thirst.  I had never felt so dehydrated and thirsty before.  After Justin held her, I held her as well.  It was a strange feeling holding her as it just wasn't her.  She was cold, lifeless, and it just wasn't her.  I loved rubbing her beautiful hair and holding her hands, but holding her was very hard for me.

We cried and stayed with her for awhile before I knew I needed to go tell my parents.  How am I supposed to tell them that their granddaughter just died?  How am I supposed to explain to Cooper that his sister and best friend won't be coming home?  The grief was just overwhelming.  I walk into the waiting room and see my parents and our good friends Christian and Trey who were already there waiting as well.  I just shake my head and mumbled under my breath that Callie died.  I fall into my dad's arms and just cry.  I then ask if they would like to come back and see her.  My dad comes back and my mom stays with Cooper.  The rest of the night was a huge blur.  We stayed with Callie as long as we could until they pretty much kicked us out of the room and we had to return to that small room next door.

At one point, I was told that the waiting room was filled with friends and church family.  I still don't know who all was there, but they were crying, praying and reading scripture.  Though we never really knew who all came, it was extremely encouraging to know that we were not alone in this.

Thankfully my parents, our pastor, my 2 best friends, and Justin's good friend were all back there with us.  We couldn't leave as they had a lot of questions for us and there was a lot more to be done.  It was the longest night ever and I just wanted to leave the hospital.  But no, we have to be interviewed separately by homicide detectives.  I was very angry about this.  I know this is normal protocol but really?  We just learned that our child died and we have to be investigated by homicide detectives?  I kept saying very directly "THIS WAS NOT A CRIME". but they didn't know that.  So here we are, the worst day of our life actually getting worse.  The detective actually told me that he has 3 kids of his own so he understands how I feel.  OH REALLY?  You understand what it's like to have your child die because you have children?  How dumb can you really be?  Justin was sweet and compliant, I was angry and rude.  I guess that's typical of us in stressful situations.

Finally after both being interviewed (and it was recorded, felt like a dateline episode), I went out and saw some of the people that were still there in the waiting room.  I don't know what time it was, but it was late at this point.  And finally they say that we can leave the hospital.  The detectives had to go to our house to "do their job" and we were not allowed back at our house until they were finished.  We decided to just drive back to my parents house to spend the night there with the clothes on our backs.  While we were getting Cooper in the car, Cooper said that Callie was with Jesus and that he was going to pray.  He folded his hands and started praying.

We drove the 30 minutes back to my parents house mostly crying and in silence.  I think it was close to 1:00am at this point. The only thing I remember from that drive is that Justin and I held hands and we said, "this will either break us, or bring us closer together.  We choose to have this bring us closer together.  This will NOT destroy us."  We just had to say it out loud.  I knew no matter how hard this horrible road of grief gets, we will make it.  We will thrive together.  For better or for worse, and this is by far the worst thing any marriage could experience.  We made a vow, and we will make it through this.

The entire week was a complete whirlwind.  I didn't sleep for 2 weeks.  Maybe a couple hours a night I would get during those 2 weeks.  It was awful since sleeping was the only thing to get your mind off of everything that happened.  And every morning I would wake up and remember the nightmare we were living.   I missed her immensely.  I wish I could say that the pain has gotten easier over the past 3 weeks but it hasn't.  It has gotten harder and reality has really sunk in.  The worst day of my life is in reality the worst everyday of my life.  It just keeps going, it keeps repeating itself everyday.  I know one day, the dark cloud will get a little lighter.  I know one day, I will not grieve as deeply as I do now.  Even so, she will never ever be forgotten.  The Lord has been near to us even through our deep grief and pain.  I still don't quite understand why the Lord has us walk through this deep trial that not many people have to walk through.  It doesn't seem fair at times, but I do trust Him.  I know He loves me and I know he is near.