CS Lewis once said that "grief is like the sky, it covers everything." In recent weeks, our family has found that this is so very true. It seems that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief. I have created this blog in hopes that some day we will be able to look back on our journey and see written proof that our great God never leaves us. God is good all the time.
It is our tradition to open a few present at night and then the kids empty their stockings Christmas morning.
I got up early this morning to stuff the stockings. All of them except Laynee's. I ended up putting all of the filled stockings on the floor because the contents made them too heavy to hang. And so Laynee's lone stocking hung from the mantle.
Her stocking is beautiful, perfect for an angel but it brings that mix of sorrow and peace that has become such a part of our lives.
I am so grateful for all of my children. All of the love the fills our home, in spite of her absence. I am grateful for the many things that she has taught us. And I am so grateful for the gift of God's own son. For it is because of this great sacrifice that my sadness is not without hope. Because of this I can look forward to seeing her again one day.
"I wish they didn't have to grow up" It's a statement we hear often from parents or grandparents of small children. One that is made out of appreciation for the refreshing sweetness of childlike innocence. I know that I said this more than once of my own sweet children during toddlerhood. But now? Now I cringe when I hear this.
There is nothing more beautiful than a child. Except watching that child grow from toddler to grade schooler to teenager to young adult. The beauty, the real beauty, lies within the natural cycle of life and it's something that we often fail to truly appreciate unless that cycle is broken. We take for granted that our children will move on to the next stage in life because that's just how life happens. And yes, sometimes we long for the purity of a small child to remain forever. But once we have tasted the bitterness of the broken cycle of life, we know. We know that what we truly want, more than anything else on earth, is to see our children grow.
This past weekend we took advantage of warmer than usual temperatures and bright sunshine to put up our outdoor Christmas lights. Jim and the kids hung the lights in front of the house, the girls strung some around the deck railing, and I put the lights on Laynee's tree. Laynee's tree is a beautiful Blue Spruce that was a memorial gift from our children's school. Every year I wrap it in twinkling hot pink lights, representative of our beautiful little girl. The lights go up at Christmas time and will remain there after Christmas until her birthday on January 30. I have had people tell me that "it's time to the Christmas lights down now." Sometimes I explain. Sometimes I don't. We know why the lights remain. We know what they represent and it matters little what others may think.
This year, as I weaved the lights through the branches of that tree, with Kruz and Moise sitting nearby, I was struck by the size of the tree and how much it has grown. It used to be that I could stand flat footed and wrap the lights around the top branches. This year Brock had to stand on the seat of the 4 wheeler to reach. Each year I have to buy a couple of extra strands of lights to cover the whole tree.
Suddenly I heard those words in my mind. "I wish they didn't have to grow up."
The tree has grown. Laynee has not. I would give all that I own to see her grow up.
Moise and Kruz enjoying the sunshine next to Laynee's tree that keeps growing.
There's a feeling that I get sometimes that is difficult to explain. I had never experienced this in quite the same way until after I had to say good bye to my daughter. It's a feeling of experiencing great joy but aching for so much more.
Tonight as I was out for my evening run down the country roads near my house, I experienced this.
The evening sky was extraordinary. Pinks, reds, oranges and purples streaked across the sky, east and west. I never see a sunset or sunrise like this without thinking of Laynee. I imagine she is one of the master painters up there splashing all that color for us to see. But tonight it stole my breath away. The sky was so thick with color, Laynee's color. Missing her hurt so much that the familiar lump formed in my throat and tears came to my eyes. But the sky felt so close, heaven felt so close, Laynee felt so close, as though I ought to be able to reach out and touch the part of heaven that holds my daughter. The sky was so spectacular that I couldn't help feeling joyful but I ached for something so much more. I ached for Laynee, for heaven.
How wonderful, O Lord, are the works of your hands!
Labor Day continues to be a day filled with memories. Beautiful memories.........horrific memories. My mind cannot fathom that we have experienced four of these holidays since our baby girl left us. The missing and hurting never ceases.
This morning I sent my children off to their first day of school. That is, at least, my children who are attending our home school district. Jamee moved back to Saint Louis on Monday and Grant started his college classes the same day. But today Jade began her senior year, Brock started as a sophomore, Moise went to 6th grade. Even Kruz started with a new babysitter.
The house was abuzz with activity. We took the customary front porch pictures. All the while, tucked away in the back of my mind was the keen, aching awareness that something was missing. Laynee should have been here in the mix of back to school. She should have gone to first grade.
I think this day, this first day of school, does not get better. It does not hurt less. I will miss her.....always... on the first day of school.
She loved her back pack so much. She was so proud. This day, when this picture was taken, she refused to look at the camera. She just wanted to look at her new back pack. So today, like last year, I took a crisp new back pack to her grave. Minnie Mouse this time. I am pretty sure she would love Minnie Mouse. I have decided that this will be a back to school tradition. The back pack doesn't ease the pain, not even a little, but it's something that I can do for my little girl.