Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Thanks to a friend, I have rediscovered Steven Curtis Chapman. There are two songs that are really weighing on my heart- I could have written them minus the pronouns or a chapter. I don't know how to explain that finding another parent who feels much the same is both a balm and at times a reopening (of wounds, good memories- all of the above).

The blind rage that sometimes hits is not here today. It is a basic longing for both things that are lost and the hope that all will be made new again. I know Heaven is much more than my child, but at this moment all that I see heaven as is his face.

I love the lines about eyes disappearing as she smiles. This is how I remember both of my children's smiles. I say both, because that huge smile of Emily's is still often missing. She still smiles, but not like that so much anymore.

I don't really feel like writing a lot today, so I'll leave it at that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Perry's Birthday

I have taken a long time to write this because it was somewhat grueling.

The sleepsack project was a success. You can view a local newscast about it here:

The day before Emily, my Mom, Sheila, and I went to local hospitals delivering them. It was very bittersweet as I went into a couple of the nurseries and all the memories of his birth flooded back in color. The smell was even the same. Oh how I wish one of the nurses would wheel a bassinet into the room and say, "here he is." That I could take him back into my arms and dip my nose into the soft fuzz at the nape of his neck and inhale his scent once again. Touch his cheek and feel his hands tugging at my hair as he wrapped the strands around cluched fists.

But I knew that our time here was past.

At Baptist, we stood in the room where Emily was as a newborn in the viewing area. Emily beamed as I told her this is where she was born. Her smile was spectacular and I have to admit all the time and resources were worth it for this one moment.

The next day, seeing Perry on the TV on his birthday made it bareable. Today, he would not be forgotten by the rest of the world. Today the Moms that received his picture/ sleepsacks and the people that watched the news would remember him.

I just pray that his smile made enough of an impression that they would listen. And then act.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stupid Fountain

I was struggling to find a way to deal with Perry's birthday. I knew that as much as my sleep sack program is meaningful, after everything was dropped off at the hospital I would still be left at my home feeling very much alone and empty.

What does someone do for a birthday for a dead child?

I searched the Internet and the experiences of people in grief groups. I kind of liked the concept of a memory garden and releasing balloons, but couldn't really settle. I wanted something to remind me of everlasting life, not a wake like 'celebration'. How did balloons or gardens remind you of that?

Enter the burn house off of Johnson Chapel Rd.

As we rounded the corner to begin preparations, something caught my eye. In a  corner was a fountain. It wasn't the cheesy walmart kind either. Instantly the idea of memory garden with a fountain in the center was appealing.

Firefighters are scavengers. We know whatever is left will be destroyed during a training burn or hauled off with additional cost to a landfill. Typically the majority of the good bones are salvaged by the owners or construction company. So we scavenge copper with the proceeds to go to the TN fire fighter's memorial or towards materials for the training burn to make the house meet safety and EPA standards. Aluminum from ruined garage doors and other scrap might make enough to buy a new grill at the fire station or replace a TV. After that, windows can be replaced with plywood if somebody is in need of a new one. The rule is that if you want it, you label it, and if everything is cleared, no objections, you get it.

So I slapped my name on it.

An email appeared. The fountain was wanted by the occupants- although the last time they were in the house was two years ago and even after the city bought the house it was still lingering there.

But as the days stretched the fountain stayed in place, no word from the old owners who had sold the house. I discussed the fountain with an officer and a date was set that it was OK to salvage. My hopes grew. I didn't want the fountain salvaged for scrap if the owners didn't show up or be melted by the intense fire (it was next to the house).

So yesterday was the day. I was happily surprised it was still there. The thing weighed more than a car- so I had my husband drop off the truck. We had brought Perry home in the truck and it seemed fitting that I was going to bring the fountain home in it too.

The guys shoved and pushed, schemed and finally came up with a solution to move the hulking fountain. They created a lever out of lumber and finally slid it into the bed of the truck making a ramp. About 7 guys were involved in the operation.

They couldn't give me Perry back, but by the Grace of God, they'd have moved a monolith if I wanted it.

They seemed pleased.

Then my bubble burst. I heard something to the effect that someone had just called somebody else in the city and they had sent a reminder to the previous owners, they were waiting to hear back (and what a great thing we have moved it to make it easier). Next rapidly came the news that they wanted it. Then that the fountain had something to do with a lost child and symbolized everlasting life.

So I was a little sad, but I thought it had to be for some sort of a purpose. If it were me, I'd have moved Perry's fountain on the back of my truck shortly after we determined we would no rebuild. There had to be some reason that this fountain was still here after two years, too much coincidence that this object was somehow tying two families who had lost children.

I had it in my mind that perhaps this was God's way of bringing us together for some purpose. That I'd go to get something else I wanted the morning of the burn and the family would be there picking it up. Perhaps God was using to me to move the fountain because there is no way anyone would go through the effort to move it otherwise, it would have probably been salvaged for the metal and left in ruins. Perhaps in return there was something I was meant to gain (not as in money or an object) from this family. Something to do with the fountain symbolizing everlasting life (coincidence I wanted something that day to symbolize it).

So I went home feeling like this was some sort of grand God scheme, and told the guys it was OK, there was no way I could take the fountain to my house anymore.

I heard a grumpy rumbling on the side. "Well I would take it for you."

I love them. They are patchwork people like the rest of humanity and even if they wouldn't take it, I knew they wanted to for me.

I got another call today. The fountain had been picked up as a favor by their old landscapers. The landscapers were grouching that the family didn't even live in the state anymore they were in Florida. It would probably just sit in his yard until it crumbled.

My heart broke.

I can't help but feel like it was meant to be some sort of God plan, but somehow, someway got messed up. Like either the fountain was finding a new home to bless another family that needed it or that I was meant to meet these other parents when they picked it up themselves and through it gain some sort of insight into heaven that would help heal my faith. But instead none of it.

I feel denied. I found myself answering the firefighter reassuringly and then going into the bathroom to vomit after I hung up.

Today in this moment I can't tell you that there is a heaven. I can't decide if my feeling was totally wrong (I really thought I felt a stirring), or if there isn't a God and we just string together coincidences and nice 'whisperings of God' (that aren't really) to make ourselves feel better.

And the loss of Perry just hurts that much more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Days of Shadows

Sometimes I hear a phrase that just hits me. In a popular song, unrealted to child loss, a young man sings about his 'shadow days'.

I think this is a good term to describe this phase of my life. When you survive a loved one, or brush against death, at times it does seem as if you are living in a shadow world. This world doesn't seem as safe or even as desirable.

At times I feel things challenging me more than they ever did before. As a firefighter, you have to have enough caution to know that death is a possibility, but enough brashness to believe that it won't happen to you. If you wear your magic gloves or your SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) you will be safe (I think this is why firefighters often make the mistake of wearing turnout gear during water incidents, it is a default uniform that whispers in your mind that, yes, you can do this. So we cling to it in unfamilar circumstances.) But recently I realize this world isn't very safe. If death can steal my child in his bed, why can't she take me when I am on a roof?

I have never been as effortless on a roof as a Neal Mennano or AB Foster, but now sometimes I can feel my legs shake now. I wonder if this is indeed a phase... so I make myself go up on the roof and try to battle through it. I find it is a little like that with ropes as well sometimes.

These shadow days, I wonder, are they a phase or will they last?

I was asking this the other day and I looked up on the wall. In my house, when we first married, one of the first things I bought and hung up was the 23 psalm. It strikes me now: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

When I was new and going into my first structure fire, these were the words I prayed.

I am walking through. I will not stay here. I may not see where it ends, but like walking through a densely forested valley, I will eventually reach the top and see it is behind me.

A woman I know stated that this world is just life between the trees.

I was thinking yesterday in a moment of time snatched from my day, if there were a God but no Heaven would you still love him?

He has given me breath, my Children, Husband, Family. Rainbows, oceans, and glacier lakes with colors that are hard to describe. Let me touch the downy softness of a newborn's head and heard him gasp with delight just for me.

I decided that I would still be grateful. I should still be grateful for the short time I had. I would still love my God.

Then if there is a heaven, how much more wonderful would that be?

This is just a short wink of time, this life. Whether I am given 45, 75, or 100 years.

My son is running through the meadows of wildflowers like I once knew in Alaska as a child. In just a moment I will be with him. It is summer there, the sun never sets in that land.