Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Talking About It

That's what you're supposed to do, right?

When bad things happen, things that you're hurt about, frustrations, anger ... really, any difficult life circumstances that happen, you're supposed to talk about them.

You're supposed to do that because a) it gets things off of your chest, b) it helps you heal, c) other people can learn from your stuff. I'm sure there are other reasons why, but that's what I get just off the top of my head.

I do talk about it.
"It," being the last two-and-a-half years of our life ... the trauma, the tragedy, the loss of our daughter.

I need to talk about it.
And, I need for people not to be weird when I do bring up my daughter.
She will always be my daughter. She will always be a part of my life.

I need to be able to share stories about her, good and bad. But, mostly, good.
Good times. Things she did. Things she said. Who she was.
It's only natural that I reference her in conversation, but you don't have to feel uncomfortable when I do. Really, you don't. It's okay. And, if I tear up (which I probably won't because I'm getting so much better at not doing that), it's still okay.

I hate it that you might feel uncomfortable, because I'm not uncomfortable talking about her at all. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I feel relief when I'm able to talk about her to someone who is totally comfortable listening to me and even sharing stories of their own.

Don't think that I talk about our Katie all the time. I don't. You can invite us to stuff and hang out with us. We can talk about other things. But, there may be a moment where it's only normal when you mention something about your kids that I mention mine.

People who have lost someone close to them need to have the freedom to talk about those they've lost. They have to have friends who will let them just share and talk. It's not for you to try to comfort them. Not at all. You don't have to try to say anything that you think might make them feel better. They don't expect you to and what you have to say will just sound trite.
Talking about those you've lost is all a natural part of grieving. If you're not talking about them, you're not dealing with the grief at all.

Grieving is not just anguish and tears, but also finding joy in the midst of your deepest longing.

Tomorrow night, my husband and I will talk and share about Katie, openly with friends and strangers alike,  for the first time since her death. There is so much to say, not only about her, but about our life the past few years. 
(If you're in the Lafayette area, we'd love for you to join us.)

I have to admit that I'm a little anxious about this because it's such a massive heart issue for us. I'm no stranger to public speaking, but this time, it's different. I want to be able to honor this amazing girl in a way that she would be proud of. I will try not to cry, only because crying makes people uncomfortable. For me, it's not uncommon and become a part of my daily routine to get a little misty-eyed here and there. But, I will do my best not to so that the message of Katie's life and faith can be heard through it all.

It's been a little over three months since she's been gone. It's not necessarily getting easier; it's becoming different. The longing to see her again is stronger than ever. The hole she left behind is enormous. We talk about her less than we used to throughout the day, which makes me sad. I don't ever want to forget a moment with her. So, I will still talk about her. Just let me. And, just know ... it's okay.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Not Only Today, But Every Day

Today would've been my sweet girl's 17th birthday.

Today will be hard.

But, not just today. Every day.

I'd like to tell you it's getting easier. It's not. It's becoming different.

Everything around still reminds me of her.
All day. Every day. The thoughts of her ebb and flow.

I saw the new seasonal fall Pop Tarts on display at Walmart, and I thought of her and how she would beg me to pick up chocolate ones. I didn't get them often. But, when she was going through her chemo (conditioning phase) before her bone marrow transplant, I bought them to urge her to eat. And, after she ate them, she proceeded to vomit them up, saying she wouldn't want those again for a long time.

All the fall decor around me reminds me of her. She loved fall. 


She loved carving pumpkins. She loved dressing up for Halloween, and won the costume contest at our church nearly every time she dressed up.
This was the last time she was able to attend that church event.

But, by far, these two costumes were my faves ... Eve and Wonder Woman (before she was all famous again).


I thought of her as the premiere for "This is Us" came on last week and how anxious she was to see it. We cried our eyes out together watching the first season.

I find it difficult to listen to Billy Joel. She wore his albums out. It was strange for a teenager to love him and all the other '70s/'80s music she loved. Almost every single song I hear brings her to my memory.

I put on and wear a piece of her jewelry every day. Sometimes I catch myself unconsciously rubbing  the pendant or charm on the necklace, reminding me of her once again.

Smells remind me of her. I wear her One Direction perfume. That's probably weird that a forty-something-year-old woman wears One Direction perfume, but it smells like her. It's the same way with many of the Bath and Body Works' lotions and body washes. She was big into scents, including essential oils which she always wanted me to diffuse in the hospital room. All these smells remind me of her daily.

I get mail from Texas Children's Hospital. I get all the "parents of ..." mail. Until recently, I was still getting Houston Independent School District automated phone calls. 

Roxy Belle reminds me of her. The cuddles they shared and how much they loved each other is forever in my memory.

I order my Starbuck's drink and think of the countless days I walked from the hospital room to get coffee there each morning. I'm reminded of how many times Katie wanted me to get a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit for her, and, how much in the early days of her illness, she begged her doctor for a frappuccino. Her order was always the same ... caramel mocha frappuccino.

The Facebook memories just kill me. I've gotten to where I can't check them every day like I used to. They remind me of the pain and hurt she suffered the last two years. I just can't.

And, today, I'm reminded of the list Katie made of all the people she wanted to invite to her 17th birthday party. We had planned on coming home if she were feeling well at the time. Her doctor had even said she could come home on the weekend, but to be prepared to return if she developed a fever or got sick. She was thrilled, but from that point on, never really felt well again.

She was preparing for a huge party. She had spent both her 15th and 16th birthdays in Houston; the 16th actually in the hospital. 
Here's the post with how we handled celebrating "Sweet 16" there - "It's my party. I can cry if I want to."

Instead, her daddy and I will stand at her grave.
We will put flowers in the vase on her headstone.
And, we most likely will cry.

Yes, we will still cry. We will still hurt. My heart will ache like it's been torn out of my chest.
And, these feelings come even though we KNOW she's in heaven. Even though we KNOW she is healed. Even though we KNOW she would never want to come back. Even though we KNOW she's with Jesus and He's got her!

I can't imagine how this would hurt more and how devastating it would be, if we didn't have this hope that we would see her again.

We always made a big deal out of birthdays. I believe birthdays are set in place to celebrate that person, celebrate their life and who they are. Birthday parties were greatly anticipated by my girl.





Today, we still celebrate Katie's life and who she was.

Happy Birthday, sweet, amazing girl!
We love you. See you soon!





Sunday, September 3, 2017

Escape

I've been wanting to try one of those escape rooms. You know what I'm talking about, right?
It's where you get locked in a room, and have a certain amount of time to figure your way out based on the clues you're given. It's a puzzle. I don't know how good I'd be at it, but based on my TV detective skills learned from Law and Order and CSI, I feel like I'd be amazing.

Unfortunately, I live in a real-life escape room right now. 

It's an escape room of heartache. This type of heartache you cannot escape And, I don't know if I'd even want to.

It's a room filled with reminders of the past, great times with my Katie girl, and horrible times we lived the last few years since her diagnosis.

There is literally no way out of this room. Sure, there are a million "clues" of how to get out, but leaving would be forgetting, blocking the hurt from my mind, and "escaping" only by denial. So, I sit in here, for now. The difference is the door's not locked. I can walk out any time I'm able. I just don't know when that will ever be.

I can't escape the heartache no matter how hard I try.

I try to stay busy. That's the key, they say. It really does help to keep your mind busy. But, there is always a moment where a person has to just sit down, just be still. That's when the heartache is more intense.

Believe it or not, I have leaned into this heartache. God, it hurts.
But, I don't want to miss a single thing God is going to say to me. And, I don't want to forget anything about our Katie.

We leaned in immediately after Katie's passing. We looked at photos after her passing, talked about her every day, shed many tears over the things she would miss out on that she wanted to do. Then, realize she's not missing out on anything, we are. We're missing out on her and the life she'd be living on earth.

We didn't wait to do this. We went through all her things, touching them, talking about what they meant to her, gave away some things to people who were important in her life, and watched video after video of our sweet girl. 

Some people can't deal with it. They box things up, only to have to go back years later to face it. 

This pain is inescapable. It's not going to go away with time. It will just get more bearable.

I wonder how different our lives would be if we leaned into every heartache, every pain, every trial. Why tiptoe around it? God knows it's happening to us. Why don't we face it head-on? 

That has become my posture in this and with all things. 
Just lean in.
Face it. 
Deal with it.
Ask God what He wants to show you through it.
Ask God how you can give Him the most glory through it.

We're in the midst of this process right now. 

We have planned our own little escape for this month. At this moment, it's almost 5:00 am, in Sydney, Australia, where we will be for eight days. Jet lag is in full effect, after our over 30 hours of travel to get here. We've been up since 3:30 am, missing Katie, talking about Katie, crying over her being gone. 

We will never be able to escape her memory and the impact she's made on our lives. For the rest of our own lives, she will be a huge part, even through she's not here.

We've come to Australia to spend time with Kylie. I do worry about her here and how she's doing. But, just like no one can help me in my heartache and grief, she has to do deal with her own. Of course, she has amazing support here, which soothes this mama's heart, but, I still worry. It's just what a mama does.

We will be traveling for the rest of the month ... "escaping," but leaning in, listening to God speak, waiting for His direction, and reconnecting as a family, and as a couple, looking toward the future and what that looks like for us.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers, as we continue on this unexpected journey.





Thursday, August 24, 2017

I don't know how I'm doing.

"How are you doing?"
That's the question I get asked most often, more than I ever have.

It's a simple question, but I find it difficult to answer because I don't know how I'm doing.
I don't know how to do grief.

I don't know if I'm handling this well. Honestly, it's a situation I don't think anyone can handle at all. The heartache is the deepest pain I've ever felt.

I spoke to another mom whom I befriended at Texas Children's Hospital. She lost her 16-year-old daughter last year. I've watched many parents go through this past year without their children. I watched them and had the same thoughts that others tell me now ... "I don't know how they do it."

There's just something different about talking with someone who's gone through similar circumstances. No situation is the same, but there's something different about watching your child fight for so long. You see things that no parent should see. You already have heartache for a long time, but this heartache surpasses them all.

I wanted her to tell me how I was doing. Did she think I was "doing ok?" We talked for about an hour, shared stories with trembling voices. I told her I didn't know how to do this, and asked her what I should be doing. Did I need to talk to anyone about this? Did I need to go to some type of group? Or could I just do this on my own? What were the steps and procedures to get through this? What was going to help? I want to do the right thing. I want my heart to stop hurting so much. 

Of course, she didn't have an answer for me,. She told me what she did and that I should do whatever I think I need to or don't need to do. So, that's where I am.

I do know one thing for sure: You can't rush grief.

I don't know how I'm doing.
I wake up each day, thinking about Katie (I'm going to just use her real name from now on here.) I go to sleep, thinking about Katie. I think about the last few years. I think about her last moments. I think about what an amazing girl she was and how blessed I was to be her mom. And, the thoughts go on and on. They fill my day.

I don't sleep. I can't shut my brain off. I pray. I plead with God to just let me have some rest. I toss and I turn all night. I'm exhausted.

I still tell God that I'd give anything just to have her back with us. I remind him that He has the power to just raise her up from that grave, totally healed. He could do it. I want Him to do it. But, I don't think that's going to happen.

I remind myself that her thoughts right now are not on us nor about anything here on earth. She's in the presence of her King. She's happy, free, and healed.

I get angry throughout the day, not angry with God, just angry that this happened. My emotions differ throughout the day and come through in waves. Some waves will just ease over me and pass, and others are larger and I feel like I'm drowning. These waves hit when you least expect them and anything could trigger an emotion or thought. 

Katie is everywhere for me. Everywhere I look, not just because her pictures surround me, but she's in the smell of cinnamon oils I used to diffuse for her and the lavender vanilla body wash she used. She's in the taste of the lentil soup she so loved from one of the Greek restaurants here. She's in the sound of every single song she introduced me to. I can't even listen to One Direction anymore because all I hear is her singing to the music or dancing around the house. She fills every portion of my brain.

I continue to cry every single day. I keep waiting for the day to arrive that I don't cry. However, I seem to be able to control my crying more than before. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I've visited Katie's gravesite multiple times. Even though she's not in there, I still tell her I love her and miss her so much. Funny thing is I feel such peace there. I sit on a bench, situated under a large tree, right near where her body rests. I think about what she's doing in heaven at that very moment and how much she loved Jesus. That gives me peace, but doesn't lessen the heartache unfortunately.

All this to say, I don't know how I'm doing. Am I doing grief well? I don't know. Do I want to be doing grief well? All the steps you read about ... I don't give a lick about them. Grief is way messier than that. You can't order the steps of grief or put labels on the "stages." Heck ... I don't even think there are stages. Each person handles grief differently. And, it's not something as simple as going through a set of stages. It's something you have to deal with the rest of your life.

My husband and I are at a crossroads in our lives now. We devoted our whole lives to Katie, to her health, to helping her get well, to fighting for and with her. We gave up our jobs and our home. And, we would do it all over again.

As of now, we are simply praying that God would order our steps, that He would only open doors we need to walk through. In fact, as I am writing this, my husband is getting dressed for a job interview. We don't know if it's the right thing for him or not, but, again, praying God will show us.

Next week, we are headed to see Kylie (using her real name too now) in Australia. The enemy has definitely stolen a lot from us and one of those things is time with our oldest daughter. We've missed a lot the last few years, from the time she graduated high school until now. We're so proud her and the way she's followed the call of God on her life. It has been a very difficult season for her as well. 

In the meantime, we are working on updating my blog and a new website will be coming soon. We are also beginning to write down all of the things we have wanted to say over the last couple of years. There are many things that have been left out. There are many things that God has done through this. I don't know how long it will take us to document the last few years and get everything down on paper, but we've started.


Our prayer is that whatever we do that it will honor Katie's legacy and glorify God.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Letter to My Daughter


My sweet girl,

It's been over three weeks since I've heard your voice. I remember your precious voice in our last phone conversation, where you called me at 1:00 am to bring you homemade sweet tea, a true southern belle until the very end. I didn't know that was the last time you would call me. I re-read our last text conversations and scroll through pictures and videos of you on my phone. I replay the last conversations with you over and over again in my head, trying to remember everything we said to each other, counting how many times I said that I loved you and how proud I was of you, and wishing I could tell you so much more. Our last moments together were too short. I hope you truly knew how much your daddy and I loved you. We did everything we knew to keep you here with us, to help you fight the hardest battle I've seen anyone ever have to fight. I ask myself if we could've done anything else, anything more. But, I come up with the same answer: We did everything. It's simply not right and not fair. I get angry when I think about all the enemy has stolen from you and us.

I truly believed that you were the one who make it through this. There are definitely a million thoughts and questions that continue to go through my mind on a daily basis, and emotions that are all over the place in regards to "why." Even though I know there are no answers, the questions and confusion keep rising up. I believed God would heal you here on earth. I saw His hand pulling you through so many obstacles that even amazed the doctors. "Resilient" is the word that was used to describe you. Each time you were faced with yet another issue, you came through it.

I miss you terribly. There isn't a day, an hour, that goes by that I don't think about you. The weight on my chest seems unbearable at times. It hurts so bad. I cry every day and in the moments I'm not crying, I feel guilty ... guilty that I'm doing everyday stuff, guilty that I'm living, guilty for any moments I'm not thinking about you. What I wouldn't give to snuggle with you in the bed again, to hold your hand, to have another conversation, to just be next to you.

The hole you've left in our lives is enormous. From the time you came into our lives, we were changed for the better. I think about how we were inseparable when you were a baby. You would cry for hours when I wasn't around. At the time, it exhausted me. But, now I cherish the moments when I bounced you up and down on my hip, rocked you, napped with you, held you. You finally gained your independence and you were a force to be reckoned with always. I love that about you. Even these last years, you stood up for yourself regarding your care. The strength you showed was incredible, physically and mentally.

I worry about your daddy and your sister. I don't want them to hurt. I want them to be okay, just like I always wanted you to be. They loved you so much. Our family is not the same without you, but we are still a family. We look different without you.

So, how do we go on? That's been the question of each day. How do we move on? Moving on doesn't even seem like an option. It seems impossible. My prayer each day has been simple: "Jesus, help me."

I know that you're up in Heaven, worshiping God in all His glory. I try to think about what it was like when you took that last breath and finally saw Jesus. I imagine you running into His arms, safe and sound.

I know that you will never read this letter. But, I needed to write it.

I love you, sweet girl. The fact that God chose me to be your mama has been an honor and a blessing. I know that you would be sad that we are sad right now. You hated what all this did to us and would always apologize for stuff that was never your fault. I can hear you apologizing now, just like you would apologize to the doctors when you would code and they would have to do extra work. Even that showed your heart. You always worried about everyone else. You cared and loved everyone. And, you were loved by so many.

Attempting to close out this letter crushes me, so I won't.

I can't wait to see you again.

Mama

Thursday, July 27, 2017

One Week

That's how long it's been since our amazing girl went to be with Jesus.
It's only been a week, but it feels so much longer.

There's an emptiness within my heart and our lives, a huge, gaping hole left behind.


I see La Petite Belle everywhere.
I see things she would like and hear things she would think are funny or not funny. I remember movies that she wanted me to take her to. I think of the guest list she made for her 17th birthday party and how excited she was once her doctor told her, just a few weeks ago, that she could go back to her home town for a weekend if she felt well. So many memories flood my mind. They don't stop. I don't want them to ever stop. Thinking of them stopping actually brings tears to my eyes. I don't want this to "get easier" because that would mean the memories of her have faded.

I hear her voice. The song she wrote from her hospital bed a couple of years ago, as she went through her bone marrow transplant process, replays over and over again. It literally wakes me in my sleep. I think of the last time I heard her voice. I struggle with remembering everything she said that Sunday before she was intubated for the last time. I know she said she loved me and I try to remember what it sounded like. I've watched countless videos on my phone of her from the past couple of years and we've gone through what seems likes thousands of pictures of her. She truly was a ball of joy wrapped in skin.

I don't know how to do this.
I don't know how to handle grief. I even hate that word - "grief."
"Handling grief" ... these words pressure me to get over this, to move on.
People don't want to be around someone going through this stuff. They don't know what to say. There really are no words and that's okay. Actually, that's better. I'm definitely not good company. My fun self has been replaced with brokenness.

I realize she's in heaven, a better place, no more suffering, no more pain, finally with her Savior. I'm thankful to have this assurance. But, I'm not ready to "rejoice" at this moment as some would say I should be doing. In fact, rejoicing is the last thing I want to do. I know that I'll be able to rejoice again. I'm just not there yet.

I just want to talk to my baby girl again. I want to hold her hand. I want to hear her sweet voice and laugh with her. I want to snuggle with her like she requested we do almost every single day for the past year.

I know that she's okay, but we're the ones who aren't.
This emptiness remains. This hole remains. It will always be there.
God will hold us. I have no doubt about that. He's been faithful to us and He always will be.

There are no answers to why this happened. I will never understand this. I truly thought she would be the one who made it. She was the strong one. She had overcome so much. One doctor told us that she had a "reserve and resilience about her" that made her so unpredictable. She always pulled through the toughest of situations. Her spirit remained strong, but her body couldn't take any more.

And, when the nurse backed off on some of her sedation that last night we were able to really communicate with her, Beau asked her if she was ready to be with Jesus. She opened her eyes and nodded her head "yes," a response we hadn't seen much of due to the amount of sedation she was on. It definitely reassured us that she was ready to go. My girl finally got her healing she so desperately wanted and fought for.

This morning I read a verse I've read a million times before, but it had new meaning to me today.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. -Proverbs 3:5

Although I don't understand, I will continue to trust.
I will trust will my whole heart, even the part that is empty.

I told Beau that I was gong to stop blogging, stop writing.
La Petite Belle has been over 75% of my writings and she's gone. I don't know if there's anything else to say nor write. But, he disagreed with me. This blog was started so that my girls would be able to read about their mom and their lives after I was the one who was gone. It wasn't supposed to happen this way.

I don't know anything. Zilch. Nothing.
I don't know what the future holds. 
I don't know where our path will lead.
I will keep this blog right here for now.
I will not depend on my own understanding.
I will trust with my whole heart.

Thank you all for your prayers and support through the years. We can never repay you, but we know someone who will. We pray God blesses you abundantly for your faithful generosity to us!

Here's one last tribute to our amazing daughter...


You can view her memorial service here. It was truly a wonderful celebration to who she was.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"A Rock and a Hard Place"

I used to use that phrase all the time ... "It looks like we're stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Recently, La Petite Belle looked at me and said, "Mama, that's my whole life."
She's right. How true this statement is.
Now, she says it every time we get bad news. She looks at me with that sassy expression and says, "Well, Mama ... it looks like we're stuck between a rock and a hard place."


Each time we think the rock may be moving, it crushes us once again.
We are trapped again. Unable to move.
At times, unable to breathe.
Despite how hard we push, the rock barely moves.

Exhaustion sets in.
We're tired.
All of us.
From pushing the rock.
From having the hard place up against our back.

My husband constantly reminds me that we have no control over our life right now, over La Petite Belle's health. The only thing we can control is how we respond to what we're facing.
Do we respond with faith?
Do we respond with fear?
Do we respond with doubt?
Do we respond with complete surrender?

I have to be honest. I don't always respond the right way. 
I've been angry. I've been sad beyond belief, a brokenness I never thought I'd experience ... total despair. I've definitely been scared.


Then, my husband again becomes the voice of comfort when he reminds me that, no matter what happens, La Petite Belle will always be okay. He says, over and over, "She wins!" 
He's right. She will always win.
She wins because she has lived her life desiring only to serve God.
She has lived her life loving God with all her heart.
Many people have expressed how much she has been an inspiration to them in their faith, but she has been an even greater inspiration to us as her parents. I don't even think "inspiration" is the right word. It's much deeper than that.
(She had no idea I was recording this video, as she asked me to play this song on repeat. She sang the words each time, half asleep, half awake, many drugs in her system.)

As we sit here, stuck, once again in this place, we just have to keep trusting. God knows best. He loves her more than we can imagine. He's a good Father and His plans for her and us are always good.

That's not a hard thing to say or believe. He is always good. I have no doubt about that. But, it still hurts my heart when I remind myself of this because my idea of "plans for good" don't look like this. It's hard for me to understand, but that's what trusting in God is all about ... not understanding His ways, knowing they're good, and trusting Him anyway.

We've been through multiple setbacks since I've last posted. Things change so quickly that I can't even keep up with posting updates. And, honestly, a lot of times, I don't want to post an update. I want to post good updates, updates of improvements and victories. I don't want to post updates involving bad news.

Instead of posting an update, with an overload of details of the challenges our girl is facing, I'm just going to ask you to keep praying for a breakthrough for us and God's best for La Petite Belle.
Thank you, once again, for standing with us!
If you would like to financially support Katie's (aka La Petite Belle) journey to healing, 
All gifts are tax deductible. All funds go to cover medical bills and expenses.