Sunday, November 28, 2010

On Birthdays, Expectations, Mirrors and Other Things...

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 he'd rallied.

No one...

No one...

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 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 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.


  1. Beautiful, beautiful post Lori. God has certainly been glorified in Matthew's life and in how you've handled his death. You have represented Him so very well. I love your new tradition of putting up the tree on Matthew's birthday. That will be so special for years to come. Thank you for sharing your heart for Matthew and your heart for Jesus!

  2. bless you lori and jon, your sweet matthew is so beautiful, i hardly look in the mirror these days because i know what looks back at me and although its a reflection of what i have been through this year, it still shocks me to see how it has physically changed me. you are so right in that it all feels just like yesterday, i wonder if this is because our children are a part of our every being so that time becomes irrelevant. i think its wonderful to put up your christmas tree and to eat chocolate cake every year on sweet matthews birthday. i have planted nothing but yellow flowers in my garden which will bloom every year around harveys birthday and death day and if anyone asks why yellow i'll just say that it was harvey's colour and is the colour of happiness and it is how i choose to celebrate his life. whatever the traditions we create for our children and family have to be right for us, in the end, that is all we can do. all those other things you want to do will come in time . sending loads of love and remembering matthew with you xxx anne

  3. Your sweet little Matthew is definitely a special gift and I agree that putting up the tree on his birthday is s great tradition. I'm sure that will make Christmas all the more special for Luke every year. Hugz!

  4. oh Lori! that was a beautiful post...i should have known better than to open it while I am at work....i am crying....matthew is a beautiful baby, and you are so blessed to have him as your son and he is so blessed to have you as his mother. Luke is one lucky little man! God bless your entire family! I just want to hug you after this post! Hugs and love your way!

  5. Matthew is beautiful and always will be. I think you have found the perfect tradition to celebrate his place in your family.

    Hugs Lori, and many thanks for your support.


  6. Thank you for sharing your heart with us today, Lori. That post was just beautifully written. I think you are an inspiration to us all. The tradition of putting the tree up on Matthew's birthday is one that will honor him and the whole family. Absolute genius. Love you dear.

  7. Thank you for sharing your heart here, Lori. Your words resonate with me in ways that are difficult to express. Remembering Matthew and sending hugs your way. May God wrap His loving arms around you a little tighter today. ♥

  8. loving you so much today........ xoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxo

  9. I am moved beyond words. I am especially moved by your ability to put into words, what I can't seem to lately. Thank you for that!

  10. Lori,
    I want you to know that you are in my thoughts and prayers today (and always).
    I am praying for strength and for peace, for you and your husband.

    Much Love,

  11. Oh Lori, this is about the most beautiful thing I have ever read. So moving. I know what you mean about seeing yourself in the mirror, seeing the toll that loss has taken and being surprised by it. I have those moments often, when I brush my teeth or pass a mirror and the light catches me in such a way...
    The card you created is just beautiful. Your little Matthew is so lucky to have a mother of such grace, and strength in spirit. I am in awe of your faith through all of this. You exemplify the term "beauty from pain."
    I love the idea of putting the tree up for Matthew's birthday. I think it is lovely and am sure that he is there with you, in his own special way, making the tree sparkle a little brighter and your home feel more warm. What a precious gift he was and is.
    You are in my thoughts. Happy Heavenly Birthday Matthew!

  12. We do love you guys! I think celebrating Matthew's birthday by decorating the tree is great! Luke will be taught how special his brother was while kicking off the Christmas season and learning about Jesus!

  13. Thank you, Lori, for another opportunity for us to share your witness. I simply love how you use words. The Christmas tree tradition is such a wonderful idea. Simple. Meaningful. Every time I see the pictures of little Matthew, I am struck by how long he is! He is truly one of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen. So much love to you, friend.

  14. Responding to your comment on my blog about the books...Paul read Papa, please get the moon for me by Eric Carle, and I read Shakespeare's sonnets. I think I've fixed the pictures now. :)

  15. Lori, you have taken all the pressure off me. I have all these plans for Gracie's birthday but I just don't feel like doing any of them at this point and we're only a few weeks away. I think I won't beat myself up now and do it as I feel like it. I love your idea to celebrate Mathew as you decorate your Christmas tree. Your faith is amazing and I'm so thankful for the example you have given me to follow. I'm keeping you in my prayers <3

  16. Lori - I am thinking of you and John even more today, on Matthew's birthday. Much love to you, J

  17. We put up our tree too and we got an ornament for Matthew ... the girls hung it between the Mickey Mouse and Toy Story ornament and it looks perfect. I've had my little package for his birthday sitting on the table, waiting to be mailed ... but for some reason I couldn't mail it. I didn't want it to be too much. Too much to read and look at and go through on a day I knew you would just want to be with John and your memories. I'll send it today. I'm so thankful for your Faith. It makes me aware of what is real and good and that it's always available to us. I love you so much, sweet friend and am here alway.
    xoxoxoxo Tessa

  18. (((hugs))) to you Lori. Nothing more to say. You have been in my thoughts constantly throughout yesterday and today.

    Remembering Matthew.

  19. Thinking about you today! Matthew and Juanito share common dates. Today is Juanito's 11 month angelversary. I don't think I ever noticed that before. He truly is your miracle!!!

  20. ((hugs)) I love the idea of putting your tree up as a tradition on his bday..<3 what a beautiful little baby he is.. thinking of and praying for you and your family!

  21. Sending up prayers for your comfort, peace, and strength. Natalie and I bought our ornaments for Matthew and Luke when we were in D.C. We'll hang them next to Matthew's sock monkey ornament from last year. And I need to get you Luke's bead for the bookmark. Love you and your precious boys so much.

  22. Big hugs dear.... This was a beautiful post. It is amazing how fast and slow that first year goes. There were times that I thought "it has only been 4 months" and " it has already been 4 months" within minutes of each other.

    I love your tradition. Luke will always remember his special angel, and see the love you show for Matthew.

  23. So amazing and beautiful. I remember those feelings, we can never believe that they will not make it. Big hugs. I love the idea of the tree!

  24. He is such a perfect baby boy. What a beautiful way to celebrate his birth.
    You have such a wonderful way with words.

  25. Thinking of you and your family, Lori. This post is beautiful. Matthew will always be special and so loved, and your new tradition is a wonderful way to honor and remember him every year.

  26. Lori, I love your words and this post so much. I have been absolutely touched by this and the gracefulness that you so eloquently show each and every time your write. Matthew truly is one lucky little boy to have you as his you are lucky to have him. ((hugs and love)) P.S. Love the tradition of putting up the tree on his birthday! It's perfect.

  27. Beautiful post, Lori - so incredibly poignant. I thought of you and Matthew and John all day Sunday and yesterday, and prayed that you were surviving. Sending love and hugs.

  28. (((hugs))) Been thinking of you. The Christmas tree is a sweet remembrance tradition.

  29. Really beautiful post, Lori. And I love the Christmas tree and chocolate cake deal....I think it's just perfect. Many blessings!
    Shan in CO

  30. Matthew was never far from my thoughts on Sunday, and I think your post - and how you spent your day - are perfect. They're amazing tributes to your boy, your family and friends, and your faith. And to you and John, who've been through the fire over this past year and have come out forever changed but still breathing - and somehow managing to do much more than that. That you can take the occasional "big victorious breath" instead of just wondering how you're going to make it through to the next one is a triumph.

    I love the tradition of putting up your tree on the 28th. It'll be bookended by two holidays with important messages: being thankful for what you have and what the meaning of Christmas promises for your family someday.

    And if the Georgetown NICU is in need of some warmth (literally and figuratively), I'd think there are many who'd welcome the chance to provide it. My blanket-making skills are primitive, but I would be happy to do something in Matthew's name.

  31. What a beautiful post. I've been thinking about you, a lot.

    I know exactly what you mean about the mirror. Talk about a refection...

    I love that you put the tree up on his birthday, I think that's a beautiful tradition.


  32. Wonderful, honest, beautiful post, my friend. I love how you share your heart with such raw you display your faith, even as the Lord continues to work in your heart while you work through the brokenness...and He restores.

    He is faithful...His grace is sufficient...there is beauty in the pain.

    You are a walking testimony to that. And, so am I...and so are many others.

    Our plans don't always work out...that is for sure. I'm glad that you are giving yourself grace to do things as you are able and not force yourself to fulfill everything on some timetable. You do what you can when you can.

    I love that you are setting up your tree on Matthew's birthday...and chocolate cake is always a good idea! =)

    Thank you for sharing this journey...

    Continuing in prayer for you...

  33. Oh my, I have tears reading this. Your words are so beautiful and real. Thank you for sharing your heart. Putting up the tree on Matthew's birthday is a great tradition. Loads of love to you!

  34. I always love reading your posts. I always draw something from them. I think it is a wonderful idea to put up the Christmas tree every year on Matthew's birthday. I think it'll be a great tradition.

    I think what you said about expectations is true. I should prolly learn not to put so many on people.