Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart

3/18/2015

Asleep



"But I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  
1 Thess.  4:13-18


I'm sitting by the bedside of my precious dad tonight.  In a hospital room.  Next to his hospital bed.  He had a stroke two weeks ago and I've been here with him for the past two weeks.  I have no idea when I'll be going home.  He's lost so much of what his life was a few weeks ago, but he is stable and I'm grateful he is still here.   It seems surreal to me that I can't seem to escape spending long, lonely nights in a hospital room.  Although I'd give anything to be sitting with my sweet Ash tonight in a hospital room.  Anything.  

I've got a lot of time on my hands while he rests, and I find myself running through the files and files that contain the thousands of photographs of our Ashley Kate.  Memories flood over me and tears pour from my eyes as I remember the day I took each picture.  I miss her so very much.  My heart aches for her.  Its an ache that I don't know will ever be healed.  

In many ways its such a nightmare for me as I sit in this room.  Things that most people don't think much about bring back haunting memories for me.  Things like the pulse ox... images of the last readings I took the morning Ash left us flash in front of me.  The blood pressure cuff...how she hated it, seriously hated to have her blood pressure taken...then I remember how I could find no reading on her blood pressure monitor in the moments before I realized she was leaving us.  This has truly been a very, very difficult time for me.  Still...I'm here...because in what world do you get to say, "I'm sorry this is too hard for me."  Not in mine.  Not when its my dad.  

You see my dad is more than just my dad.  He's my person of sorts.  My friend.  The only true one I've ever really had.  He's the one thats been in my corner every day of my life.  Even on the worst days of my life...never judging...just loving...praying...pulling for me.  He's the one person who didn't disappear over the last 18 months when my grief isolated me, and broke me, and defeated me.  He's still here.  Not telling me what I should be doing or how I'm supposed to be feeling.  He's just the one that says, "Hey, do you know how much your dad loves you?"  You see it was 5 long months that my phone sat in a drawer and I refused to look at it because its silence was a reminder to me that she was gone.  No more labs, pharmacies, hospitals, or doctors calling.  It was just silent.  Not many people kept trying after that length of time(not that I blame them), but my dad did.  Oh, I had lots and lots of people(and still do) telling me who I should be and how I should handle the loss, but only one who simply said, "I just love you...no matter what."

Anyway, as I re-discover old pictures of my precious girl it often sends me searching for scripture.  Scripture I know I've heard my whole life, but now since the end of hers they have taken on new meaning.  Tonight I found this image and it reminded me that her body simply sleeps. What an image.  One of my favorite things to do was to study her face, features, her everything while she slept.  Her beauty overwhelmed me.  Still does.  Now her soul is with the Father and her body is sleeping across town from our home.  One day, whether it be near or far from today, He tells me that He's coming again to retrieve her body along with any who are alive and remain and who have placed their trust in Him.  In a confusing 18 long months of the deepest, ugliest, paralyzing pain I found comfort in these verses tonight as I looked at the image of this beautiful baby that I can no longer kiss goodnight.  

Faith is hard.  I won't pretend that it is not.  When I feel so lost and find myself clinging onto whatever shreds I have left I know that there is a God in Heaven who loves me.  Although it often feels like He doesn't as I wander through this land of grief I have to believe that He does.  In my broken, lonely, isolated state... I choose to believe that He still loves me and patiently waits for me to find my way back.  I don't have the answers I seek, and I don't have any idea if I'll ever be who I once believed I was.  I just know that I keep waking up each day trying.  I can't do much more than that.  Even if I'm on auto pilot navigating my way through this darkest of times. I'm still trying.  I really am.  

3/09/2015

Seeing You




There are pictures of you that make me feel as though I could reach out and touch you.  I find myself reaching for your hair, your face, your hands.  You look so real, so alive, so here...and yet  your are not.  Oh how my heart hurts.

I wonder where you are...how far away you are...I know deep inside of me that you are with the Father, but where is that?  You feel so very far away from us.  Not a moment passes that you are not in my thoughts.  I try and imagine that you are close.  Are you?  What if there is nothing more than a thin veil separating this life we live from the eternity that you are now in?  Are you just on the other side and yet I just can't see you?  Could you be that close to us?  I hope that you are.

18 months have passed since we have touched you. It still doesn't seem real.  There are days we go to your rooms and still expect to see you there.  I walk in the front door and hear the words I used to speak to you escape my lips.  I stand outside the doors to your playroom and imagine you there... playing, giggling, sleeping.  I can't go in...it hurts too much...but I can peek through the glass and remember you there.  Sometimes I catch myself asking daddy to not wake you as he gets ready for work.  Reminding him to move quietly around the house.

Everything changed in our world the moment you left.  Daddy changed.  I changed.  Blake and Allie changed.  Our family is so different now that we are separated from you.  We all feel your absence.  We keep breathing, living, moving...but so much of who we were ended when your life ended.

I so desperately wish that we could just peek into your eternity.  If only we could see past whatever it is that separates us from you.  I close my eyes at night and hope to see you in my dreams.  Your not there.  Some people have shared that they have seen you as they dream, but we have yet to see you.  I have no idea what it feels like to see you running and smiling and playing, but the retelling of those who have seen you makes my heart ache to be the one who is seeing you.  Their words bring me hope that someday I might dream of you too.

We count the days since we have seen you and know that each one brings us closer to you.  How grateful I am to know that you don't ache for us as we ache for you.  There is no time where you are.  You are with the Father and He is outside of time.  One day you will look up and we will be there and it will as though we were never apart.



Time doesn't heal the hurt.  The tears don't stop just because the months are piling up.

You will forever be one of us.  We will forever miss seeing you.

I love you Ashley Kate.  Have always loved you.  Still love you.  Will forever love you.



 

2/22/2015


The first time I saw you I knew.  I knew before they ever told me that you were ours.  I remember stepping into the room and being drawn to you.  Just you.  Not the other two babies in the room...but you.  My heart swelled.  The love I felt for you overwhelmed my soul.  Never have I felt so sure of anything in my life.

  Sweet Ash, there were  no doubts.

  Not for a moment...

  I knew that God was good.

Living without you is crushing us all.  We are trying so very hard to stay together and yet I feel as though your absence is pulling us apart. Is God good?  As I watch us struggle day after day, each in our own ways, I've begun to wonder.

 Still deep inside of me I chant to myself...He is good...He is good...He is good.  Even though it doesn't feel as though He is good...He is good.  He has to be.

I don't feel His presence.

 I don't think He is here.

 I often wonder where has He gone?

 I lay awake at night and wonder where He is...

in those moments when I fail to feel as though He is with us I imagine that He is busy with you.  Silly huh?  I just hope that the reason I can't seem to find Him is because you are being so ornery, and so busy, and so all over the place that He has to spend His time chasing you, and listening to you talk...endlessly... I hope.

  I miss you sweet Ash.  I miss life with you.  I miss our home being filled with your laughter.  I miss your joy.  I miss how you smiled.  I miss how warm your little hands were in mine. I miss kissing your cheeks.  I miss tucking you in.

 Your rooms are empty without you in them.

 Our home is empty without you here.

 My heart is empty.

Tonight I'm wishing that I could whisper in your ear how very much that ... Daddy loves Ashley and Mommy loves Ashley and Blake loves Ashley and Allie loves Ashley and Jesus loves Ashley.

 Just once more.

I knew in the moment that He gave you to us that He was good...I'm trying to convince myself since the moments that He took you that He still is.

I love you sweet girl.  Tonight and every night for as long as I'm left here.



 

1/14/2015

What do I say

I could write forever.

 Write a thousand words for a thousand days and still not say what it is my heart wants to say.

I don't write often, but its not for lack of thought.

I don't write much anymore because I don't believe that I can make anyone who reads these words understand.

And so...everyday I hear myself say,  "What do I say?"

What do I say now that she's gone?

Another child is being ushered into heaven tonight.  At least I hope thats how it works when our children die.

It seems so very wrong that our children spent everyday of their short lifes fighting to live.  What is so easy for most of us came at such a great cost for them.  Transplant life is miserable.  Not many happy endings...a few of course...just not many.  Not us anyway.   Eventually it catches up with our babies and we lose them.

  I'm struggling with assumptions,..struggling to truly believe that an example, a story, a recounting of someone's experience in God's word is to be assumed that it happens that way for all of us.  If so then why couldn't God have just said, "this is how it will be for all of you."???  I read over and over again how Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom and I can only hope that my sweet Ash was carried too.  I've spent many a night tormented with thoughts of what if they didn't come for her and she was alone.  This is just one of the many thoughts I struggle with sharing here for fear that no one could ever understand how I can wonder such things.

My faith has been tested severely the past 16 months since Ashley Kate left this life.  Everything I believe, thought I was sure of, without a doubt would proclaim from the mountain tops, has been swirling around in my head and making sense of it all is not so easy to do anymore.  I think grief has an ugly way of causing doubt and confusion and it leaves us grasping to hang on to truths.  At least thats how it has affected me.

Its been 16 months since I held her and felt the weight of her body against my chest.  How can that be?  Dave shared with me just last night how very hard it is to grasp that this is really how life is going to be.  She is gone.  Not coming back to us.  Even now, 16 months later, we are still trying to accept that its over.  He ended our conversation with these words, " and so all I have left is the hope that we will one day see her again."  Its all there is.

I can't hear her anymore.  I don't know how to explain what I mean by that statement except to say that I lay in my bed at night and can no longer hear the memory of her giggle spilling down the hall.  Its gone now. I know its been gone for 16 months, but I used to be able to hear it.  Along with her pumps beeping and her crying out.  But now I can't remember it any more just by closing my eyes and concentrating on it.  The realization that it has left my memory has wrecked me.

I read that " in His presence there is fullness of joy".  The book and verse escape me now, but I did read it in the Bible not long after she left.  I've kept that close to my heart all these days as I can only imagine what that truly means.  Ashley Kate was joy.  The only example of it I have ever known in my life.  So to read that there is FULLNESS of joy in God's presence does comfort me as I try and imagine what she must feel now as she stands in His presence.  Oh how I hope she laughs.  How I hope that her voice spills out of her with laughter and giggles every day.  Please let her laugh.

What a mess it is to live on this side of eternity... away from your child.  My thoughts are consumed with how much longer, how many more hours, how many more days until we are all there. It hurts so much to know that we are finished parenting her.  To know that we will never again be known to her as her mom and dad.  I believe she will know us, but I do not believe that I will be her mommy once we are reunited.  Again, I can't explain that to you.  Its just what I believe.  8 years was not enough.  It went so fast.

It doesn't get any easier.  It never stops hurting.  We think of her daily.  We miss her desperately.  Never would I ask her to come back, to give up what she has now gained, but the longing in my heart to smell her hair, kiss her cheeks, hold her hands, has not gone away.

What do I say?  I don't say much.  I'm pretty quiet now.  My thoughts are consumed with her memory and my heart is forever broken.

Each day we go through the motions of this life, but never far from our thoughts and never out of our hearts is the emptiness that we were left with the moment she was taken from our lives.  Grieving doesnt end with the passage of time.  You move with it, breathe with it, live with it because you aren't given any other choice.  It becomes a part of you.  A part you hide deep inside your soul so that others can't see.  Its a deep, ugly, painful secret that sneaks up on you as you wash the dishes, drive down the street, walk through the grocery store, and lay your head down at night.  Tears fall silently down your face and no one knows why.  I found myself alone in the house last week, washing dishes, and with the falling of the water from the faucet my tears mingled in a puddled in the sink.  I whispered the words to the song I would sing as Ashley Kate lay there with her hair spilled over into my hands as I washed it each week.  I could see her there so clearly and my heart hurt so deeply,  Blake had come in during this time and I had no idea he was even there until I felt his strong arms wrap around me and heard him whisper that he loved me.  He let me cry.  Didn't try and stop me.  Just let me cry till I could cry no more.  Its not often that they see me fall apart.  Oh how I love these children.  Love how much they loved her.  Love how gentle they are with Dave and I as we struggle through such loss.

Blake and Allie are beautiful people.  They are these amazing young adults who were shaped by the life of a precious baby sister whom they loved deeply.  I see the impact she had on them almost every day.  They will live better, love deeper, and change their part of the world because God chose them to be her big brother and big sister.  She was such a gift to each one of us.

What do I say?

As another transplant child makes his way "home" tonight Heaven feels so very far away.  I pray God holds our children tight as our arms ache for them.  No more pain, or sadness, or fear for either of them.

12/28/2014

Christmas 2014



Daddy and I stood together at "the happiest place on earth" this Christmas and tears poured from our eyes as the photographers took picture after picture for us.  Surrounded by thousands of strangers who were excitedly talking, laughing, and posing, it felt as though nothing else mattered in that moment but the huge hole in our hearts created by your absence.  More than once I found myself wishing you could see what I was seeing and then I would say to myself, "but oh my sweet girl you must be seeing SO MUCH MORE."  My hope is that its true and not just something I'm telling myself to survive the moments that feel as though I won't make it through.


12/15/2014

Remembering "Loudly" this Christmas

This is a throwback to one of my very favorite holiday memories during Ashley Kate's beautiful life.  I found myself standing in front of this very spot one day last week and tears fell from my eyes as I remembered this interaction with Santa.  My heart is breaking as the Christmas season surrounds us and our baby gherkin is so very far from us.  The holiday will never be the same.  Our family will never be together again and for us thats all that ever mattered at Christmas time.  My heart hurts so deeply everyday and yet it is magnified even more this time of year.    









Christmas Volumes, December 13, 2010
One morning early last week Ashley Kate and I ventured out to run a few errands. It was still early and there weren't many people out and about. Most at work, kids obviously in school and so the mall crowd was pretty light. A safe time of day for us to drop in, pick up a couple of gifts and pop back out.

As we walked down the corridor I could see the large tree decorated in the center of the mall and Ashley spotted it too. She began to sign "tree, lights" and I was talking to her about how big the tree was and how high it went. As we got closer we could see the line that had just started to form. Little ones all dressed up and waiting with their eyes sparkling to see the man in the red suit. Like I said, it was early and he had yet to arrive.

We proceeded past the line and into Dillards. I grabbed the two items I needed and did a little bit of extra shopping while I was there. Ash had her dinosaur in hand, her little mask on her face, and two backpacks filled with bags of fluids and IV pumps. She was enjoying the music that was playing and "dancing her dinosaur" back and forth to the sounds of jingle bells. Just a good time for us both. We finished our shopping and went back out the way we had come in.

As we walked past the tree and around to the front of it we signed and talked a little more about the ornaments and the colors. We had no intentions of visiting with the "big guy" knowing that a wait in that line would not be in her best interest. So what happened next took me by surprise, but blessed my heart in such a way that I'm not so sure it wasn't the most precious Christmas memory I have ever experienced.

Apparently as we were looking at the Christmas tree Santa had arrived, settled himself into the large chair and was readying himself for a long day at work. The line began to get excited at his arrival and the photographers were handing out their price lists. Then I noticed the big guy getting back up out of his chair. He left his place and approached my sweet Ashley with a look of kindness across his face. He knelt down in front of her, reached his white gloved hand out and brushed it across her cheek. I could hear her giggle behind her mask. I was taken in by the look in his eyes. They were full of compassion, full of kindness, and it seemed maybe even full of understanding although I could have just imagined the latter. I can't deny that in that moment tears had formed in my eyes as I watched this silent interaction between the "star of the show" and my youngest daughter. There were no words exchanged between the two, but the conversation they were having with one another spoke volumes to the heart of this mommy. He didn't stay long, but he was there long enough to make an impression on my heart. It was a moment that I'm sure my sweet Ashley will have no memory of, but one that I will never forget. As he stood up to leave her he reached down and patted her dinosaur on its back and then patted her on top of her head. I was barely able to get the words out of my mouth, but I choked back the tears and whispered "Merry Christmas" to the gentle man and he nodded his head as he walked back to his place.

I've thought about this interaction with Santa Claus and Ashley a lot over the last few days. I can't quite put into words how very much it meant to me. His kindness was so loud. So loving. So precious. I can't help but think how very much he became the hands and feet of Jesus to us that day. Don't get me wrong. I don't think in anyway that Santa is there representing Christ to the world in that mall, but to me on that day he in some small way did. I could imagine Jesus doing that very same thing as he watched my sweet Ashley so unaware of who He is sitting on the outside of the line that was there forming to meet with Him. I could see him reaching out his hand to touch hers, to brush his fingers across her pink little cheeks and then acknowledging what He already knew was special to her by patting that well loved dino on the back before patting her on top of her head.

I'm not crazy, guys. Really I'm not. I just have this image of Jesus in my mind loving on my sweet girl through the touch of that little old man who chose to put on that well known red suit this year. He didn't have to speak, to say a word, to explain his intentions. His eyes were there speaking the words instead and the message was loud and clear. That simple act meant more to me than the old man will ever know, but Christ knows. He does. He knows what it took to even get her home to be in that mall that morning and He knows if this will be her last Christmas or just one of many more. He knows so much more than I do about her life span and where we are headed.

As I sit here in our family room this morning with my sweet baby girl asleep in her room I'm thinking once again about that interaction between the two and I'm feeling so blessed to have witnessed such kindness toward her. The fire is crackling, the sounds of "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas" play, and the candle's are filling the air with the smell of Christmas cookies. I don't have big plans for the day, just some laundry, bath room cleanings, and a little bit of gift wrapping. Its days like today, moments like the one I'm enjoying right now that mean more to me than anything. A day spent in our home, with our Ashley, at the holidays. I love my life. All the ups and downs. The pain and the joy. Its just so amazing to be her mommy. So amazing. I'm so grateful for today. I just thought I would share with you how "loud" this recent Christmas memory has been playing in my mind this morning. Hope you are just as blessed by it this season as I was. Take care my friends and Merry Christmas.

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12/02/2014

One More Christmas




Our Last Christmas with you
2012



If we could have one more Christmas...

One more Christmas with you.

We would do all the things you loved to do.

We would drive all night on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning too.

 We would take you to see the lights all over town and never slow down.

We would watch Frosty a thousand times plus one more.  

We would let you un wrap anything you wanted even if it wasn't yours.

We would let you open as many gifts as your little heart desired and I would never say , "Let's wait till it's Christmas day."

We would hold you close to our hearts and would never let go.

We would all pile into your bed and watch the lights twinkle overhead.

We would stay up as late as you wanted and never fall asleep.

We would take a thousand pictures.  Make a thousand memories that I could keep. 

We would laugh, and giggle, and play all day.

We would hang on so tight you would have to wiggle away.

We would make Christmas cards to send to all our friends.  With Blake and Allie and you in them.  

We would throw beach balls at the fan and toss your roosters up there too.  

We would memorize every single moment we had to spend with you.  

If we had one more Christmas to spend with you...


We would place you in the middle of these two and wait to see all the ornery things you'd do.

Christmas isn't really Christmas without you.

We love you.  We miss you.  We wish we could have one more Christmas with you..

I so desperately want to whisper to you that...Daddy loves Ashley... and Mommy loves Ashley... and Blake loves Ashley...and Allie loves Ashley... and Jesus loves Ashley...just one more time.