Thursday, November 1, 2012


I'd like to believe that in the hardest of times I choose to cling to faith and believe the promises I am often preaching to myself. Guess when the rubber meets the road, that's when you see what's really in there.

This entire pregnancy I have been doing battle with my thoughts... choking back fear, trying to rest in knowing that God created this to be just what He wanted, and that we won't be disappointed.  Some days I have been overwhelmed when the "what if's" creep in, but overall with the constant support and reassurance of my wingman and dearest friends, I have been able to watch days blossom into months with growing reassurance that our unborn son will be sustained with life and good health.

Until there was a chance he wouldn't.

I have been guarded with my words to the kids.  Knowing too well how fleeting life is, when they have expressed their fears I have been careful not to make promises I know are not up to me.  Instead I have told them to keep praying, that we will be strong enough to make it through whatever happens, and that Jesus is taking care of our babies... whether on earth or in Heaven.

When I told the kids I had to go to the hospital, Baylie said, "I hope Poppyseed doesn't die too."  She spoke what my heart was screaming, but I couldn't stand the cloud of fear in her eyes, and before I had a second to think of something to say to smooth the line between hope and reality, I had already blurted out "He is not going to die.  He will be fine."

In the crush of contractions, the peril of bleeding, Mark and I did our best to point out the positive.... Baby's heartbeat is steady, he is getting the steroids for his lungs, the magnesium to prevent brain bleeds... soon the IV's will stop the contractions.  History won't repeat itself.  I held myself together... until the nurse confirmed my water had broken.  That was it.  All the panic and fear and struggle to be able to control life and death came screeching to the forefront of my thoughts. 

"I can't do this again. I won't survive another loss.  I told Baylie he would be fine."  The thought of betraying my daughter's hope, of hearing her say "but you said this wouldn't happen," was enough to crush any semblance of faith I was still clinging to.  Anger raged, mostly at myself for being selfish enough to put everyone I loved through this again.  Dispair choked out the hope I had been painting, and most startling, faith dissolved into an ungraspable mist to reveal the truth that had been cementing itself all along... It's a lot easier to believe when everything is fine.

In spite of myself, the sun came up again.  A nauseating blend of medications has pushed us back from the edge of danger, and the tiny little legs and arms continue to jostle and roll within my swollen belly.  Hope has taken root again, and faith dares to smooth the disrupted waters.

Will it be strong enough... next time?

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Messy Perfection

Within days of losing Ellianna, people wanted to know "are you planning to have any more children?" "Are you still going to adopt?"  In the blackness of the fresh and searing pain, we could not imagine opening up our hearts again at the risk of another hurt.  Even though we had talked about starting foster care, we didn't want to subject our kids to the emotional roller coaster of other children coming and going on top of the pain they were already wading through.  It was just unthinkable.

Months have ticked by... Jacob, Baylie and Bella have been doing weekly grief counseling and we have seen them be able to process and understand and express some of the hurt they don't always wear on their sleeves.  All of us as a family have begun to build bridges across the chasm of pain that is forever torn in our souls.

Foster care and adoption continued to be a conversation in our home, but it seemed that Mark and I would never end up on the same page at the same time.  Until April 17, 2012.  On this day, God very clearly, did I mention VERY CLEARLY spoke to both Mark and I in separate ways with the same message... His plan for us was to begin foster care with the intent of eventually adopting as well as continuing to foster.  It's a whole 'nother story, which will probably have to wait for my book, but when God so unmistakably speaks to you like that, you act on it.  After hours of gathering and filling out paperwork, we turned in our initial packet two days later.

Our application for foster care

 The next few months were more paperwork, interviews, training, certifications.  Our agency expressed excitement in licensing us, and in our desire to care for children with special needs.  We were told we should expect to have our first placement in August or September. 

It was July when I felt so joyful and empowered that I shook my finger in the enemy's face, and it was two days later we got the first clue our homestudy wasn't coming along as timely as we were expecting.  Frustrated, we were stuck waiting on our agency.

Shortly after, we heard a story about a little girl.  She had been adopted from Haiti two and a half years ago, and the family who had adopted her had decided to dissolve their adoption.  A completed homestudy was not an immediate necessity if her family found someone they were comfortable placing her with.  We began praying...asking what our part was in this story.  The answer was to reach out in faith and take her into our home.  After several meetings with her current family, 9 year old Akemi (uh-kimmy) came to live with us on July 29th. 

We know that a child of her age comes with baggage, especially after having been uprooted not once, but twice.  We are blanketed in prayer by loving friends and family, and are prepared to go the distance to help her heal and feel loved and accepted as part of our family.

So far she has adjusted very well, starting school with Jacob and Baylie only a few days after she arrived.  She is learning our story as we are learning hers, and she brings joy to each of us.  Some days are tears and questions, and some days are pure faith and determination... but each day is a gift and part of a plan we know has been in place since long before we knew.

We must still complete a homestudy within the next five months, and are having to start completely over with a hopefully more accomodating agency. We appreciate your prayers that the process would go smoothly this time and as quickly as possible.

With our baby BOY scheduled to arrive at the turn of the year, we have grown even sooner than we expected with the addition of our new daughter.  Life has never followed our plans, but we know there is a perfect plan even when we can't see past our own mess.

Akemi, Baylie, Isabella, Jacob

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Guest Blogger-- A letter from Mom

My Dearest Hannah,
Today and tomorrow are the culmination of a year of grieving for you, Mark, the kids and all who love you. It doesn't mean that the grieving will end...ever. But it does highlight the fact that your loving Heavenly Father brought each of you through the first year of a grief you thought you could not survive. Today your mind will take you back hour by hour, minute by minute to relive that last day. And you will feel the awful emptiness as little Ellianna is taken from your arms again...only this time she is celebrating her first year of eternity, of health, of waiting for you.
Do not second-guess any of choices you and Mark made; any of the care you gave; any of the love you poured out on her. You are an amazing mother...Ellie was never more than a heartbeat away from you all the time you carried her, and still, while she breathed earth's air. I think of Ellianna as a Peace Child: she completed the days God had for her, and He brought her Home. And in the wake of her little life, many hearts have been made tender, and many have been healed.
Tomorrow, don't awaken with dread. Awaken with hope. You have new life growing within amazing gift. Not a replacement for loss, but a reason to hope and to celebrate. I have learned MUCH from you...enough that I don't have the days left in my life to practice it all. I love you, precious daughter...and, like Ellie, you are never more than a heartbeat away from me.

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What Was I Thinking?

Ellianna's birthday was hard because I was thinking about what could have been, and what will never be. 

The anniversary of her death is excruciating because I'm reliving every moment from these days a year ago.  I'm reliving them without that fog that socked me in last July, and the clarity is unbearable. 

I am remembering that choice we made, and I'm thinking, "what in the world were we thinking?!"  We said no more.  After CPR revived her twice, we were afraid she would die surrounded by strangers, crushed by pain.  We said no more so that we could hold her while she took her last breath.  What if that wasn't the end though?  Little Bowen Hammitt was gone for 45 minutes... and they kept on working... and now he is almost two.  Could that have been us? 

I wish we had never had to make that choice, and I will never know if it was the right one. 

Tomorrow we try to celebrate... one year of paradise for our little girl.  I wish we had just a little of that paradise down here.  This place is trying to crush my faith.

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That Sweet Little Face

The sweet little girl we miss so much...

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Thursday, July 5, 2012


Many months ago, Mark and I began talking about our desire... and our have another baby of our own.  We talked, we thought, we prayed, and we decided our longing outweighed our fears.

One of the first things we did was meet with an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies and complications.  We agreed from the beginning that if the doctors thought it was just too risky and there was nothing they could do to help support a full-term delivery, we would not even pursue it further.

The testing and talking and researching and examining brought a more postive report than either of us expected.  The doctor said he wouldn't advise against a baby, and he said there was much more that could be done this time to help me carry to term.  We actually were not expecting that answer, and were already trying to accept that we would not have another child of our own... but we were thrilled with the news and well... got busy!

Months dragged on and we were repeatedly disappointed with my failure to get pregnant.  Anticipation grew into worry, and when we followed up with my doctor he ran us through some fertility testing.  We didn't get the conclusive results we wanted, and after a few more months of hoping and more testing, we were told that invitro fertilization was probably the best option and it might be time to look into that.  I had spent months arguing with God, wondering why He would not want this for us, accusing Him of not allowing that piece of healing in our hearts.

 After all the exhausting months of disappointment and resentment, I finally came to a place where I realized that trying to control my life was wearing me out.  I threw up my hands, asked His forgiveness, and told Him that if a baby is not what He has for us, than I trust He knows what He's doing, and His plan is even better.  The peace that followed was like a balm to my anxious spirit.  I hadn't gotten the answer I wanted, but somehow I knew that whatever was in store was going to fufill my desires even more completely.

So, fast forward about a week to me pulling out the last eighty-eight cent pregnancy test I had stashed in the cabinet.  Well, what the heck.  I'm not buying anymore of these.  Might as well use it up.  It's waaayyyy too early for it to be positive even if I was pregnant. 

And pause right there to see that look on my face AGAIN when I remember that every time I think I know what's in store for me, God LOVES to shake things up.

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Monday, July 2, 2012


Throughout my career in EMS, I have seen many souls so lost and hurting that they have cut deep gashes in their own flesh.  "Cutting," as it is referred to, is when a person who is distraught cuts their skin as a way to bring relief from the inner pain they are experiencing.  These aren't the people who slash themselves for attention... these cuts are found hidden from the casual glance, carved in layers beneath sleeves and pants.  Although I have resolved to not unfairly scrutinize these individuals for this display of mutilation, I can't say that I've necessarily understood it... until my daughter died.

The first day this revelation came to me was about a month after Ellianna was gone.  I was getting a tattoo of her sweet baby hands and feet on the inside of my arm.  It was one of the most painful tattoos I have aquired.  I remember coming home with a swollen and throbbing arm and saying, "it feels strangely good to have some physical pain to represent what I am feeling on the inside."  It was like a small release of the anguish that had been crushing my soul since the day she died.

Months later, I was looking through pictures my sister had taken of me cuddling with Ellianna.  My hair was long, finally stretching beneath my shoulders after two years of growing it out.  I became overwhelmed with grief looking at those pictures, and the afternoon ended with a pair of scissors in my hand, and my long locks sitting in a pile in the bathroom sink.  When I had long hair that I loved, I had my daughter in my arms... no daughter, no hair.

After that wave of emotion passed, I had the task of explaining to my astonished family that in a moment of irrational grief, I had hacked off all my hair.  Perplexed as they were, they assured me I looked just as beautiful, although to this day my youngest still asks, "So mom, WHY did you cut off your hair just because you were sad???"


I recently enjoyed reading Mary Beth Chapman's book Choosing To See. It is the story of her family losing their daughter Maria in a tragic accident, and the life that followed.  I came to a part of the book where she talked about coming home to find that her husband, Steven Curtis Chapman, had shaved his full head of hair off over the spot where his daughter had been killed in their driveway.  It was then I felt such relief and justification for my hair cutting moment.  Reading that such a man of strength and faith had felt the same overwhelming urge to be able to physically express his grief seemed to validate the reason that I had done the same.

While I never see myself drawing blood as a physical relief for inner pain, I have been witness to the craving we have as humans to express the weight of the emotions that churn within us, and have a new understanding to the amount of pain that would draw a person to "cut".... hair or otherwise.

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A Lot of Dimes

Some time has passed, but I have been wanting to say thank you to those of you who were part of something big for us.

April 28th, our family joined many others to walk in the March for Babies for the March of Dimes.  We were surrounded by families whose lives have been changed by having or knowing a premature baby, and the goal was to raise money and awareness to help these tiny babies grow strong and have the resourses they need to overcome their many challenges.

With the generous help of many friends and family members, we raised $1800 for this cause.  Thank you.  We are so honored by each of you who came alongside us.

Our team was one of the biggest there that day.  You could easily pick us out of the crowd in our bright green shirts. 

Team Hope & Grace

It was an emotional day... a march that represented the triumph of our bubbly little Isabella, and the heartache of losing Ellianna.
The Memorial Mile

Ellianna's name on the Memorial Mile

We walked arm in arm with family and friends, and made a stand for something dear to us... and if that makes a difference for even one tiny life, we have won. 

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

This Time

Dear Ellianna,

This Mothers' Day I stood in line with all the little kids buying flowers for their mommies, but this time it was me that was buying flowers for my little girl.  Soft pink petals that remind me of the perfectly delicate details of you.

This Mothers' Day I stood at the marble stone and felt disbelief again that I was looking at your name spelled out in those sharp copper letters. 

I pondered how motherhood has changed for me this year.  How I have learned to savor the small moments and take in every small step... how I've learned that each lullaby could be the last, and the pleas for just ONE more book, or tickle, or kiss should be eagerly answered with all the passion one can fit into a moment.

I sat and let myself feel that hollow, empty canyon in my heart that has been echoing my cries ever since I had to watch you go.   I remembered how it felt to hold you close to me and sprinkle your sweet cheeks with kisses.

This Mothers' Day I knew I was different... that I have tread in an apalling darkness that no Mommy should ever have to face.  I longed to hold you again, to watch you grow, to get to be your Mommy for even one more day. 

This Mothers' Day I love you more than ever, I miss you desperately, and I am thanking God that my life was blessed with such a precious and special little girl.

Until We Meet Again,


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Thursday, May 10, 2012

From the Beginning

Since there have been so many people visiting my blog  (some 8500 recently), I added a link to give a little background of where I'm coming from... so the newcomers can hear the story behind my ramblings. 

You can read this "introduction" by clicking on the link at the top of my page, The Story of Ellianna Grace.

I am really thankful for all the kindred spirits that have stuck with me and let me bare my heart during this season... it has been really helpful for me.  So...

Thank you!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Speaking of Miracles

I was talking with a friend about God "showing up," and I stated that He doesn't give me miracles.  Maybe that's because I pray for too many of them... but I'm not one of those people who always has breath taking stories of how He showed up in the darkest hour and did what no one thought was possible. 

Then my thoughts shifted... as if He wanted me to remember... and be thankful.  We DID have a miracle... and still are living it... For those of you who didn't know.....

At a confusing and unstable time in my life, I met my love. 

We "tied the knot".

We became parents.

We focused on our son, on our jobs.  We grew our family bigger.

  We accomplished what needed to be done in a day, and called it successful. 

Then at some point, we stopped and looked around.  We realized we weren't connected.

 We listened to lies that told us we were entitled to more, that we had been ripped off.  We lived selfishly.

We lost sight of what was important.

I was not willing to fight.  I believed the lie that I should throw it all away.  I hurt everyone around me.  I ended up alone.

Mark stood by.  He prayed.  He fought.  He held all the pieces and hoped I would choose to glue them back together. 

I'm still not quite sure why or how it happened.  We didn't have support.  We were in a terribly negative environment... but somehow hearts softened, ears opened, and the marriage which so hastily fell together and back apart began a transformation into something beautiful. 

Forgiveness.  Grace.  Redemption. 

And THAT is a miracle.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Snapshots of Hope

In the long blur of months that have been riddled with pain and questions, we have been seeking.  Seeking to know where we go from here; wanting to know where we are being led. 

Suddenly, after what has seemed an eternal and deafening silence, He spoke.  He is leading with more deliberate guidance than I have ever experienced, and there is peace that confirms His hand in our lives.

This photo was taken by a precious lady who is a blogger friend of mine.... this simple phrase hanging in a hospital gift shop spoke to her heart, and she used it to speak to mine.  I love it when even the smallest things are placed in just the right moment of our lives to bring encouragement and hope.

Someday soon, the rest of the story.  For now, please pray that we will continue to hear God's voice and He will protect, heal, and use us on this journey we are embarking on.

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Marching On

After our experience of having two little girls born prematurely, we have become aware of the need for continued research and development of the medical care that helps these tiny little miracles survive. After having two very different journeys through the NICU, our desire has grown to help other babies like ours have every opportunity they can to be healthy and thrive.

As a family, we have decided to participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies this year in memory of Ellianna, and in support of Isabella, who is our proof of miracles. March of Dimes provides the majority of funding to many NICU's to have the equipment, experience, and capabilities that they have to provide care to teeny little babies that otherwise would not live.
Bella and Ellie
We have two requests...

The first is that if you are in the local area, and would like to join our family for the 5 mile walk on April 28th, please visit our web page and join as a team member. We would love the company of anyone who would like to participate.

In addition, or if you don't live nearby, we would encourage you to make a monetary donation to support our team and help us raise this important funding. You can give a little, or give a lot; every bit helps provide care for preemies. There is an area on our web page where you can give donations.

Below is the link you can follow or copy and paste to get to the home page for our team, named Hope & Grace (the middle names of our two preemie girls).


Thank you so much for partnering with us to make a difference in something that is very dear to our hearts.

Ellianna holding Daddy's ring

Because miracles do happen...

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012


This past weekend I got to witness one of the most precious events; my little brother making his vows to the woman of his dreams.  I loved the joy in the breeze, the glow of their happiness, and the adoration that spilled from their eyes when they looked at each other.  Then, while they eagerly repeated the words of lifelong commitment to each other, I was hit by the breath-stealing dark that has taken root in my soul.  "In plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, till death do us part."  I feel like when I spoke these words 10 years ago I agreed to them, but never grasped the thought that any of those things could come true.  My mind insisted things would continue to be light and joyful and filled with nothing but promise.  As Jamie and Daniel exchanged their vows, I found my mind racing.... what is going to happen?  Will one of them get sick?  Will tragedy strike?  Will they have to endure losing someone they love? Will they look back on the snapshots of today and think "if only we had known..."  I hate that that's how my mind turns now.  I hate the fear I have seeded deep, wondering what will knock us down next, and preparing for that battle.

While some days I'm overwhelmed, it has gotten incrementally better.... I am no longer paralyzed by fear while driving... I can let the kids go out to play... I can accept that it's ok to just get through one thing at a time, and experience the peace that comes from having to trust.  I sure have lost some filters to my lens though.  I never used to focus on what could go wrong, but now I find myself seeing the flip side of many situations and preparing to brace myself if I should need to.  It is a huge journey of faith.  Faith deeper than I have ever known.  Deep enough that I will never lose hold of something to grasp for.  Faith that will bring me to healing no matter what I go through.  It challenges me daily.

I have been scrolling through some pictures... pictures that a bystander might oooh and ahhh over... happy times, memorable events, remarkable firsts... and that's the thing... now I see how many lasts there were.  You don't take most pictures thinking "this will be the last time."  ---Unless of course it's a last tooth lost or a last game of the season.  You don't take pictures thinking "this is the last time I held my child," or "this is the last smile she ever gave me."  And what if we had known?  It wouldn't have made it better, it would have changed the smiles and the glittering eyes.  They would look like the most painful and forced happiness... such as in the photo of the time I really knew "This is the last time."
The last time we held Ellianna alive.

The last time she held hands with her Daddy.


There is already coming a day when our hope is greater than our fear.  We can look back and see how it has progressed.  It doen't mean we have arrived... we need your continued prayers for peace and healing in place of fear.  Ellianna's death has not fit neatly into a "folder" of our lives... it has scattered pages throughout and will leave marks scribbled across pages for the rest of our days. We can only do the best we know how to grieve and grow and become deeper and more grateful for the hope we are chasing.   Ever so slowly the blooms grow back, and we learn to let ourselves fall, arms oustretched into the deep of healing and beauty and rest that has been promised us.  Here's to believing that day will come....

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Candle We Never Lit

March 2, 2012 marked an important day in our lives.  The listening stones the kids picked for the day gave an accurate picture of how we all felt.

Ellianna would be one year old... but instead of pictures of her smashing her first cake in her hair, another family snapshot of us visiting the cold, hard stone that marks where her beautiful shell is buried.  It was hard to know exactly what to do.  I bounced between wanting to have a celebration, and wanting to just ignore the day and not do anything at all.  In the end though, we wanted to celebrate more than just the anniversary of our daughter's birth.  We wanted to celebrate all that has happened in our lives because she was here.  The sweet memories we have of her, the growth in our marriage that the trials have cultivated, the way that our children have learned to feel and express and love because they have seen the value of living fully.  So we celebrated. 

We didn't get to birthday shop for Ellie, so we picked things we would have liked to have given her, and took them to her NICU.  The nurses chose for us a little baby girl whose family is experiencing the challenges of having a preemie.  We got to pay forward some of the love and support we have received since Ellianna graced our lives. 

We got to open our home to our worship group who surrounded us with love and caring.  They had encouraging words to share, gifts of sweet significance, and prayers that uplifted and strengthened our hearts.  We sent the most amazing cloud of glowing balloons off into the night sky...each scrawled with thoughtful words of grateful memories. 

We made it through another hard day, and came out the other side with a renewed sense of the blessings that are daily showered on our lives. 

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

He called her Home...

 Grandma Naomi was no ordinary woman.  She was the most generous woman I have ever met.  She put everyone before herself, she made all the best comfort foods, and oh did she love the babies!

The first time I met her, she learned I was already married to her grandson, and expecting the first grandbaby.  Instead of shaking her head at me, she took me on a shopping spree to welcome me to the family.

The first holiday I spent with her was Thanksgiving.  Since I was the newest family member, she insisted I make the dumplings (a tradition I am still somewhat baffled by, but it was a memorable event nonetheless).

When I was living selfishly and treating her grandson terribly, she never judged me.  She was always willing to welcome me home.

When Mark was deployed, I went to Ohio to stay for awhile with Jacob a toddler, and Baylie a little baby.  I'm not sure I held Baylie while I was there.  Grandma Naomi rocked that baby girl until she had rubbed a bald spot on the side of her head.  That rocking chair must have a million miles on it.

She never forgot a special day. Birthday, anniversary, promotion... she let you know she remembered and she was thinking of you.

She never got worked up. If the doctor said she couldn't drive, she just said "well we won't tell." If a grandkid dumped juice on her couch, she just offered them another one. When the doctors said it might be cancer, she just said, "well that doesn't mean anything you know."

She read about 2500 thousand books, just since 1997.  And she signed her name and the date in the cover of each one.

She kept an impeccable photo record of her life... and of the lives of all the people closest to her.  A gift that will be shared for generations to come.

She forwarded every cute or funny e-mail forward that came her way.  My inbox is really gonna miss those.

When our daughter died, she didn't try to say the right words.  She just told us how much she loved us.

She had an amazing green thumb.  In my kitchen window is a small plant; a cluster of blooms that cousin Kurt trimmed from her garden... one that has been passed along through generations now.  A reminder of her strong spirit.

I felt sad that Grandma Naomi didn't get to meet Ellianna during her short life here.  I hope there's a rocking chair in Heaven, because she is never going to put that baby down!

I am honored that my children got to share life with her... that they ran barefoot through her grass, listened to books on her couch, and shared special sleepovers filled with way too many desserts.  They got to see the huge part she had in raising their daddy to be an honest and committed father and husband.  They got to see that even when you have a little, you can always give a lot.  And they got to know that Grandma Naomi loved them with all her heart.

Our hearts are heavy as we've had to say goodbye for now.  We anxiously await the day we are reunited again.

Naomi Ruth Williams
February 23, 1924 - February 12, 2012

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let me up; I've had enough.

Months now spent trying to claw my way to the top of the pit of grief that would love nothing less than to swallow me whole.  Ups and downs, but onward nonetheless.

Screeching Halt.  U-Turn.

This past Friday, our dear Grandma Naomi got very sick.  She was admitted to the hospital with an infection.  Monday, the doctors discovered she is more than just sick.  She was found to have pancreatic cancer that has already spread to multiple organs.  If she were younger and stronger, the course would be radical surgery and chemotherapy.  But she isn't.  It is a terminal diagnosis. 

My mind can't wrap around it.  Mark's mind can't wrap around it.  We can't come up with anything useful to think about it, or any plans that might help.  I guess you would call it a state of shock.  For me, a state of fear.  Fear because I don't know how to deal with another loss right now.  Fear because I want to be a source of strength and encouragement to Mark and the rest of the family through this, and I just can't find it yet.  Fear because we had to tell the kids, and I'm afraid when the day comes that she is taken from us, they will withdraw completely from the pain of a wound we have been trying so carefully to heal. 

My soul is disturbed within me, my spirit unsettled.  I know I need a strength greater than myself if I am to bring any comfort to those around me.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in times of trouble."
Psalm 46:1

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