273 days…every single one filled with grieving, giving, growing and believing.
You see, as I type this, it has been Two Hundred and Seventy Three Days since our Lainey Lou was made whole and healed in Heaven. She is forever, 5 years and 3 months old.
But today, May 3rd, 2017, she would’ve been 6. She gets to celebrate her day in Heaven, with Jesus and family and friends who have gone before us…baking up a storm, I am sure! And as always, we will send her balloons…maybe a few extra this time. We will be here celebrating her, her legacy and her amazing faith.
This is all still crazy to me.
Some moments, it feels like it was literally yesterday!
I can remember every single second of that day…every word that was spoken.
I can hear my mom’s voice as she called my husband, my dad and my brothers.
I can hear each of her words, even though I wasn’t paying attention.
I was just holding my breathless baby, and I was in tears.
I can feel the sadness of that day, as if it is happening all over again at this very moment.
But…I vividly remember the rejoicing too…she was now whole and healed.
Finally, cancer FREE for eternity.
Our prayers had been answered.
And some moments, it feels like forever ago!
It seems like it has been 100 years since I held her,
since I heard her sweet voice or her contagious giggles,
felt her strong, loving hugs,
dyed Easter eggs every! single! day! of the week,
or opened a zillion little packages of Shopkins.
It’s as if it’s been 100 years since her last plasma car race or Buddy Owens dance party.
And that it’s been just the five of us for forever.
“So, how do you do it? I could never get through it. You are SO strong.”
Those are things I hear all! the! time!
But, wanna know the truth??
I am no different from any of you reading this…except maybe that I DO have God in my life. I know God. My husband and our kids KNOW GOD. Without Him, we could never get through this, not for one minute.
We are only strong because we have prayed for strength, our prayer warriors have prayed for our strength and God has delivered that, just like He promised. We trust Him, unconditionally, and we trust His plan for her and us. That is the ONLY way we can get through each minute of our day.
“Are there days we would rather stay in bed?”…Absolutely!
“Are there days we cry?”…ABSOLUTELY!
“Are there days where we cry A LOT?”…Yeah, a lot.
“Do our hearts feel broken…every! single! day!?”…You bet it does.
But here’s our reality…we have three AMAZING kids who are still HERE on Earth.
THEY deserve the best life we can give them. They deserve parents who are present in THEIR daily lives, not parents who are fully focused on the one child who is in the BEST place and who doesn’t need anyone worrying about her because, I mean…she’s hangin’ with Jesus! She is the last person I need to worry about.
They have given up so much of the last 5 years of their lives because such a large part of our days revolved around cancer, appointments, blood draws, blood counts, scans, scans and more scans. So, now is the time we need to focus on them A LOT!!
So what do you do to get through each moment of your day?”
Through grieving, giving, growing and believing…
I pray for myself, my family and others. Somedays, a lot, and somedays, I forget. Thankfully, tears are prayers too, so even when I cannot get the words out, the tears have me covered.
I also remind myself that I am not perfect, not even close, and my words are hardly perfect and godly.
I allow myself to feel what I want. I don’t try to hide it or shove it away. We let ourselves cry in the toy aisle at Walmart. We let ourselves cry over Easter eggs that won’t get dyed this year. And we let ourselves cry whenever we need to!
I remind myself that life is different. I AM DIFFERENT. My family is different. That is reality, and that is OK! We are not, and NEVER will be, who we were before. I think that is hard for some people to understand. We won’t just “be over it”. We have to CHOOSE every single minute of every day to keep moving forward. Even though we have survived 273 days, we are not 273 days closer to being healed…we won’t ever be healed…we just won’t be. These hearts are forever broken.
I try to make time every day for snuggles with each child.
Even when I’m emotionally or physically exhausted, my kids need to know that THEY DO MATTER, and that mom and dad are still here and loving them just as much as ever before.
I remind myself that my kids are hurting too, that they can’t put into words how their little hearts are feeling and how they have days where they are super sad…just like I do. It is also on these days I try to show them a little extra grace and love.
I remind myself that my husband and I grieve differently…and that is OKAY!! As long as we respect that difference, respect each other, show love to each other and do not let our relationship take a back burner, we will be just fine.
We talk about Lainey…every! single! day!
We remember funny things she did or said. We look at her pictures and watch videos. Some days, hearing her giggles makes us laugh, and somedays, it makes us cry. It’s a crapshoot really…
If we are having a really bad day, we talk about what we think she did in heaven that day…did she and Trucker have plasma car races?…was there a Buddy Owens dance party with her great grandparents?…maybe she participated in a cake decorating contest in Heaven’s kitchen?…or is she simply taking a break on the lap of Jesus listening to Him tell a story?
I try to focus on the things that DO MATTER.
Some may say I focus on “the things that make a difference in the light of Eternity.” Time with my kids is more important than their being on yet another sports team or in a club that they don’t really like. I’ve been very good at finding my “BEST YES” and sticking to it!
I do not get wrapped up in the drama of life very often. I do not sweat the small stuff. My favorite saying is, “it is what it is”…and I’m pretty sure my kids are sick of that. ?
It is also amazing how much “stuff” doesn’t matter to me anymore…tv, politics, celebrity gossip, town gossip, extracurricular activities, what people think of me, saying no to something and honestly meaning it without feeling bad, keeping up with the Jones’s…oh, the list could go on and on.
I allow myself grace. I find time to take care of myself with exercise and detox baths…things that I never had time to do before.
We also really LOVE our church and our church family.
If we need to skip it for some reason, we really miss being there. I love listening to worship music…all of the time…and yes, sometimes, it makes me sob, but some days, it makes me smile and rejoice through the tears. Sometimes, God also plays the exact right song that I need to hear because I know that I need to be filling my heart with His words, His promises and not with music about beer, breakups and bad choices.
I spend time in God’s word reading the Bible, doing a devotional or reading various “Biblical” references or personal development books. Sometimes, I take notes, and sometimes, it is all over my head.
I praise God for our journey, for all the people Lainey brought to Him and for the little things.
We talk about God…a lot!
We talk about His promises and what He expects from us. We are still in the beginning stages of our relationship with God, but it will continue to get deeper each and every day of our lives because we CHOOSE that. However, we also know that Heaven is not the default destination when a person dies. Just because they are a “good person” or believe in God, it doesn’t mean they get to Heaven automatically. Instead, they need to admit their sins, ask for forgiveness, trust Him, share His word with others, forgive others and help others. It’s not all about just being a believer, but doing and living, as well…and it’s not for getting a pat on the back, but for the glory of God.
Now more than ever, our family wants to get to heaven to be with our girl again! We want to live our lives so we can! Again, we are not perfect in this, and we never will be. But we are very conscious of it and strive to do our best…because I’m not taking any chances on spending eternity without my whole family!!
We find ways to give back.
We spend time and energy giving to our community, to our friends and family, to other cancer families and to organizations who were there for us and gave so much of their lives and hearts during those 5 years.
I am also on the Board of Directors for KICKcancER, and there is not much more in! this! world! that I can DO or makes me feel more fulfilled than being a part of this movement.
KICKcancER did not cure Lainey from cancer, but neither is that the mission of the movement.
KICKcancER saved Lainey’s life, her quality of life!
What could’ve been the typical years of sickness, extended hospital stays and no energy were turned into years of smiles, happy memories and very minimal hospital visits. Through this movement, we were able to holistically keep Lainey’s body strong while the chemo tried it’s hardest to kill the cancer.
Lainey THRIVED through her diagnosis, and because of KICKcancER, we have a million happy memories with our girl that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Because of that, because we know first hand how this can change lives, KICKcancER will forever be THE thing that can fill some of the brokenness of our hearts. Our family’s mission is to make sure that every child who is diagnosed with cancer knows about KICKcancER so they can “thrive like Lainey”.
These are some ways that help to “get us through” the days, weeks, months and soon to be years.
We will never be healed. We will never have a fully mended heart. However, with the grace and love of God, prayers and faith in God, we will be able to “do life” and glorify God while doing it.
In our final letter to Lainey, we promised to not cry over the moments she will never have…prom, marriage, babies. We promised we would rejoice in the memories we made with her. And we will continue to do that while we also continue grieving, giving, growing and believing…until we see her again.