Tomorrow is March 13th. The day our world changed forever. Our beautiful, tiny, precious first born girl entered this world. She entered this world without ever taking one breath of air, fully silent and fully still. And yet she captured our hearts, she had captured them months before as we anticipated her arrival but that day she fully grabbed them. She made us parents. She made me a momma. Something I had wished for since I was a little girl.
Cicely Grace changed the way we love, the way we parent, the way we soak in friendships and family, the way we hold each other’s hands. She made us realize that nothing on this side of heaven is guaranteed. Life is precious. EVERY life is precious. She gave us hearts to love on those in pain and grief. She widened my heart in a way I never thought possible. Her life strengthened my relationship with Jesus. And although I’d love life without the pain and suffering we walked and continue to walk, I am so thankful for the strengthened faith this journey has given me. I don’t think I had learned to fully rely on Him until I walked through the deepest, darkest days of my life. Beauty from ashes.
Cicely is with me daily….just as our other 3 children are. The pain in the past 14 years has looked different each year but as we continue to lead Sweet Grace, our grief remains in the forefront of our lives. It changes, it grows, it deepens each year. She is with me in my tears, she is with me when I get a lump in my throat as I say goodbye to each kiddo in the morning. Partly because I know there is one missing when I say goodbye and partly because I know that a daily return is not guaranteed. Painful and yet oh so true. She is with me as I soak in the butterfly perched on the window or the sun shining just right through the window. She is with me as I push our kiddos to fly in sports, drama, singing, church, and so much more. I want them to fully soak in life as I know how much a gift it is. She is with me when I enter the hospital room with a family who has just lost their child and whose world has just crumbled. She is with me as I hold the hand of a momma who has just stepped through the support group doors and isn’t sure she can walk one more step…. I get it….those steps feel like a mountain. They can be taken. One. At. A. Time. Through all these moments she is with me, its these moments….her life and her death reminding me to cling to Jesus. Reminding me that it is only through His strength, His peace, His love, and His sweet, sweet grace that we can continue to worship and serve and minister.
Here we are at year 14. This year feels different, kinda not sure how to even do it….tomorrow our smaller two have chorus concerts. One after another. Our big girl is trying out for middle school soccer. If I am honest with myself, I want the world to stop. I want the world to stop and remember that it is HER day. But it doesn’t and it won’t. But in thinking about tomorrow and the fact that we won’t be able to celebrate her as a family, that we will be pulled in all directions, it is such a reminder, a picture of what infant loss looks like. Confusion, chaos, emotional ups and downs, the desire to hide and yet the need to continue to work, to care for other children, to carry out daily activities and tasks.
Often after the death of a parent, a grandparent, or another loved one, the world does stop for awhile… at least for a few days, a few weeks… maybe a month. The parent or grandparent has years of relationships and memories and “things” to clean out and go through and figure out… the world DOES stop. We give extended leave and time off during these losses. But often after the loss of a baby, the world keeps moving. Many families don’t have services, their friends or family don’t have memories or things to share or go through together and so their worlds keep moving. I have sat and listened to several stories of employees who had to return to work days after loss… why? Because they didn’t have babies to take care of. Their grief brushed aside because it was an “unseen” loss. I. Can’t. Even. Friends… grief after the loss of a child is horrific. The world fully stops for the mom and the dad. It can’t continue to move even if you didn’t meet the baby, see the baby, even if you didn’t know they were pregnant, or if you don’t feel or understand the sadness and grief. Loss is loss… grief is grief. You need to stop and find a way to support those suffering the loss of their sweet babe, year after year.
This weekend, the world of my parents and siblings stopped. They stopped to give time and energy and resources in memory of and in honor of our sweet girl. Do they need to do this each year, do we expect that? Absolutely not. But even small gestures will be remembered for a lifetime because they DID remember. I still remember the sweet little bush my parents gifted to us on her first birthday. When we left our rental we dug it out and I carried it on my lap in the car to our new house where it was planted and it grows more beautiful each year. People who passed us probably thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care. That piece of remembering was coming with us.
When the worlds of friends/family stops with cards and calls and texts and hugs, that is enough. Small gestures of remembrance are enough. Saying her name is enough. Coming to the grave yard to just stand beside us in silence is enough. Donating in her name is enough. REMEMBERING is enough. Acknowledging that its not OK and that it doesn’t have to be is enough. We have to do better at loving on families after the loss of a baby whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. I am thankful that my family continues to learn and continues to seek to do better. (and they do)
We can’t stop tomorrow (well at least for most of the day) but my heart will slow down. It will slow and remember. It will slow down and soak in the 14 years of missing a beautiful piece of who we are. It will slow down and and celebrate and mourn the 14 years of missing Cicely blow out her candles. I will cling tightly to the hand of my husband as only He fully understands the journey we walk. I will walk and clean and project, its what I do. I am sure the tears will flow, most days they do… the grief remains so raw.
I will “Be still and know”…. <3. We don’t have to conform to this world. We don’t have to conform to the need or push for a quick fix. We don’t have to look like or act like we have it all together when inside every piece of us is falling apart. Jesus wants us to be still and know that He is Lord. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened” (Matt 11:28). Bring it all to him in that stillness… he wants to take it… he can take it. YES!
He is walking this journey with us every step of the way. He is in control in the beautiful, the ugly, the messy, the perfection, the good and the bad. It is OK to grieve. It is OK to be a mess. It is OK to not know how you feel from one minute to the next. Friends, God uses broken people… the messiest lives… to grow and change the kingdom. He is using me and he is using you. Its in my most broken places that He has shone the brightest. And listen friends most days… ok ALL days I am one big crazy mess. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9…… “Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me”. I don’t consider Cicely’s life a weakness BUT the grief in my heart from the loss of her life has made me weak and made me realize that it is only through His strength can I continue to serve and live in this world. And although I would rather be snuggling up with a beautiful dark haired 14 year old girl, I am thankful He continues to use our grief and our messy lives to spread, give, and teach sweet grace.
Happy 14th Birthday our sweet Cicely Grace. You are so loved and so missed!