At this time a year ago, I think Dr. Shonekan and I were talking over Matthew's survivability. We both agreed that there would probably be some issues due to his blood loss and associated loss of oxygen. Probably not too much later, the amazing pediatrician on-call, Dr. Hickey, and I were also discussing his survivability...what had happened, how he was such a fighter...how he'd rallied.
NO ONE expected he'd die.
And if they did, they were gracious enough and sweet enough and compassionate enough to keep that from me.
Because I had NO DOUBT that baby boy was going to live. He was going to prove to be even more of a miracle than I already knew he was. He was going to be the reason I had been a teacher...and one with a special affinity for special needs children....because it was God preparing me for how life with him might be.
We'd be grateful, grateful, grateful.
And then Dr. Hickey was called away...and she didn't come back. I know now she was called away because she was receiving information from Georgetown.
Information she didn't want to have to give. Information no one wanted to believe.
He was not going to live.
I don't remember much, admittedly. What I remember is random and based on what medicine I'd been given for the emergency surgery, iffy perhaps for accuracy.
What I remember the most is that God let me down. He betrayed me. He betrayed my trust. He betrayed my faith. He did not intervene and He broke His promise of a little boy with spaghetti all over his face for me to love and raise.
I was numb and I was shocked and I was in denial. And while even then I didn't believe that God had broken my heart, I sure as heck didn't care...because at that time, whether he allowed my heart to be broken or broke it didn't really matter. The bottom line was that it was broken. And has remained so for 365 days.
Will remain so for the rest of my life.
Today John and I marveled at how fast a year has gone. We talked about how much faster it would have gone if he was here, because I think we all know that children grow at astronomical speeds.
Well, the living ones do.
I did pretty well in church, all things considered. I prayed last night and before church to just make it through without crying. I was almost successful...right as I was leaving the dam broke, and thankfully, for just a bit in the car. We took flowers to his grave and shivered as we realized how it seemed like it was yesterday and a million years ago at the same time...how our life doesn't seem so different than it did a year ago and how it has been changed in the most dramatic way forever. Someone had left a sweet ornament at his marker and I was immediately touched by the remembrance that had been shown.
We got home and I crashed. I was tired and just tried to nap. I was somewhat successful.
We did not do anything big for his birthday. In fact, we didn't do anything.
I planned to make cupcakes for the hospital. I planned to bring them and some hats I've made today after church. I planned to send out blankets and hats and stuffed animals to Georgetown's NICU. John says that it was so clinical and could use some warmth. I planned to have already bought the rocker for our local hospital nursery. We've been planning to get the granite bench for his marker for months and months, but never have the right car when we go by the statuary. I planned to have some tradition set so that Luke will know that even before he was born, Matthew's place in our family was worthy and meritorious of tradition, whether he was here or not. I planned to have his remembrance cards out in the mail already. I planned to eat chocolate cake.
So when thinking about what I've 'learned' this year, I realize that plans are worthless.
They don't always happen the way you want them to and that's just the way it is. Whether it's because of something you did or didn't do...some basic things still remain.
Matthew is dead. He's not coming back. Nothing I do or don't do changes that and anything I do or don't do is really and truly for me and for John.
And we are ok with getting the things I'd planned to do done as we feel we can. (Which, the over-anxious Lori inside of me is screaming, better be SOON!)
I've also learned a lot about expectations...and how they really just have too much power in our lives. We've been sorely disappointed in our expectations of some and unbelievably and overwhelmingly surprised and grateful for things said and done by those that if we are honest, really did not expect much of. We've learned that we are happiest when we expect nothing and are just blessed beyond belief with whatever people are capable of being and doing.
I really and truly believe that people do the best they can, just as we have, and though it's easy for us to say what we'd do in certain situations, we often don't know until push comes to shove.
Push certainly came to shove this year...and we are ok with the roles that the people in our lives play...while sometimes we may wish it different, we also understand that just as we don't have any rule book for how to grieve a child, there's not really a rule book for how to deal with people who are grieving a child. So we try to be graceful and understanding and share our hurts with only one another so that we can behave the way we hope God wants us to behave.
I looked in the mirror today. I saw a face I haven't seen in long time. I'm grateful that it has been a long time since I've seen it, but I admit, seeing it again just sort of instantly transported me to every hellish moment I've had this year.
It was my eyes. They were tired and sad and just defeated. I was sort of surprised that I saw that look...I really did and still sort of feel like Matthew's birthday was going to be a hard day more because people are so thoughtful and caring and recognized and remembered it...and in doing so, sort of forced me to have to think about it with every hug and kind word or email. Of course, that's necessary, but hard nonetheless....and I guess I was just surprised when I looked in the mirror and realized the toll that had been taken.
The mirror doesn't lie, does it? It's been a hard year and my face shows it.
The thing I remember most from the day Matthew was born and died was how I felt about God...and how I felt God felt about me. And John.
And now, a year later, I can say that I don't feel betrayed anymore. I don't feel like my faith was shattered. Mostly, I don't feel that He broke His promise to me.
I feel like I'm able to more understand what His promises are. He gave me a beautiful, beautiful baby boy. He made me a mother. He surrounded and still surrounds me with people who comfort me and care for me and support me in a way that I often can hardly believe. He promised He'd never leave me or forsake me...and the fact that I continue to breathe is proof that He does. He promised He'd supply me with all my needs. I've not even known what they were...and yet they've been so abundantly met this year. He promised victory over death, and though I have to say that Matthew's death most certainly stings still...it stings because I ache for him...not because I don't believe that it's been conquered. I sometimes feel like taking a big victorious breath when I think about how amazing that is.
He promised His grace would be sufficient. It absolutely has been.
He promised eternal life...far longer than the life on this earth...and through sacrifice none of us can imagine.
He is faithful and His promises can be believed and trusted.
So, of all things planned and wanted, one thing we've decided to do is put our Christmas tree up on Matthew's birthday.
I was not keen on Matthew's birthday being lumped together with Thanksgiving or any other holiday/day for that matter. Again, the best laid plans...
In any event, we will put up the Christmas tree every year on Matthew's birthday. I want Luke to know that it is because of the miracle sent to us in a tiny baby boy we will one day see our precious boy again. When he thinks of putting up the Christmas tree, I want him to always remember we did it on Matthew's birthday...and we did so because we remember, celebrate and honor the sacrifice God made to ensure we will one day be reunited.
And we'll eat chocolate cake.
Missing my sweet boy....grateful for his birth and his life.