His Place

Last week Everett’s burial marker came in and the funeral home put it out.  I missed a call from the funeral home letting us know it was out and when I heard the message I let Josh Kelley know. I received a picture just a few hours later…Josh stopped on his way home.  When he got home I asked how he was feeling and it said it actually felt nice to have his marker in.

The next day I pulled out a recently emptied jar…banana peppers to be exact…and after I dropped our littlest off at school I went to get some flowers.  I splurged for some special flowers at our local flower shop and picked up some cheaper filler flowers at Kroger.  As I carefully cut and arranged flowers it hit me I was making flowers to take to our son’s burial place.  I often ask myself, “How in the world is this our reality now?” and I did the same in that moment.

I took Everett’s flowers and sat them on his marker.  I read over the words and looked at his sweet little name.  The Chinese characters are his Chinese name Zheng Fu Shuai which were incredibly important to us to have first, front and center.  They are the names what we first new our son by and still use frequently.  We chose the name Everett because it means “brave & strong” and it’s from one of Josh’s favorite books The Brother’s K by David James Duncan.  We give all our kids a special family middle name and Everett was named after Josh’s grandfather Louie.  And Shuai was Everett’s Chinese name…it’s always important for us to keep a part of their given names and Shuai mean handsome…which he absolutely is the most handsome of little boys.

I sat down in front of his place there in the cemetery and it felt nice to have this official piece in place, but it also felt so final.  It made me sad thinking about all the life that would happen in this place, all the seasons which would come and go and all the times we would visit with all of our other children, but with Everett missing.  I thought about how we’d already seen summer in this place and we’d watched the leaves fall and change from golden yellow and vibrant red & orange to crunchy brown and how winter was already upon us.  I thought about the picnics and games of tag and holiday celebrations and cemetery birthday parties and the treats we’d would enjoy together without him right here in this spot.  It all just sucks on about a million different levels.  As we’ve entered into this first big holiday season without Everett it feels so deeply sad and weighs heavily on all 7 of us.  Our kids have not gone unscathed by any means and if anything, my heart aches for them and the way they are each having to individually move through and process Everett’s death and their own huge loss they feel every single day.

I’ve been back to the cemetery 4 more times since.  I ordered rainbow solar powered Christmas lights for the little Christmas tree Josh Kelley decided to get for his spot.  Everett’s best friend’s 4th birthday was last week.  They spent all of their birthdays together.  We have the sweetest photos of them blowing out birthday cake candles right beside each other.  Early in the morning our littlest and I went out to the cemetery and left balloons because I know Everett would have been beyond thrilled to celebrate yet another birthday with his best friend.  My brother-in-law Andy referred to Everett’s spot in the cemetery as “a special corner of the earth” and I can’t think of better words.

I checked the mailbox last week and discovered the sweetest package from our friend Melena at the funeral home.  In this whole journey I have been absolutely floored by the kindness of people we never expected.  To say Forest Lawn Funeral Home is full of kind, generous and insanely thoughtful people would be a massive understatement.  So thankful for these people like Melena who have taken their love and kindness far beyond their job description.  It makes me teary instantly because we have felt so cared for and seen by them.

Every day we get up and move through another day.  I’ve cried every single day for the past 5 months…the hospital really did a number on my ability to keep tears in…and I don’t foresee an end in sight on those tears.  We talk about our FuShuai every single day.  We laugh and smile about memories and we cry and hurt about those very same memories.  We feel all the feelings.  Josh and I hash out guilt and regret 1000 different times over the span of each week.  We’re working hard at figuring it all out and while I know we aren’t close to “closure”…if that is such a thing…I do know the love we have for our son and the gentle healing of our God will eventually lead us to better place.  It must.  It just must.

8 Things

1. Solomon lost his first front tooth and now his other 3 front teeth are loose too.  What I don’t want to forget is how he has a slight lisp now with that cute missing tooth.  I could stare at his precious face for the rest of my life and know that I am surely the luckiest mama around.  Seriously. He’s amazing.  And I kind of hope he looses those other 3 soon too…I mean, 4 front missing teeth…I imagine it being hilariously cute.

2. Candy bowls forever.  Whether it’s strategically purchased candy or just throwing all the random candy you have lying around into a bowl it’s always a massive hit among kids.  I’ve even had adults raid these bowls of sugar goodness.

3. Me and her.  Her and me.  We spend everyday together and we are learning more and more to be each other’s rock and comfort.  We are two heartbroken ladies missing the same special boy and we lean hard on one another.  This little girl is simply amazing and her life has not been what it should be, but she is deeply loved and cared for by so many.  It’s an honor to have her hold my face in her hands and tell me comforting things like, “It’s okay…I miss him too.” or “You’re breath smells really bad.” 🙂 This girl, man, she’s something special.

4. We put our Christmas up last Saturday after I arrived home from Guatemala.  November 11th.  It was really hard and really good.  I had forgotten that last Christmas I wrote Everett a letter and tucked it away in his ornament box with a few ornaments we had for him.  I read the note and sobbed.  It was full of so much hope and love and anticipation of spending our first Christmas together this year.  It was full of hope and assurance that Jesus would indeed heal his heart.  I think about his little body…his little personality…his little life and with everything in me I cannot grasp the point of him not living.  What I wouldn’t give for him to be enjoying the holidays with us.  He would have loved every bit of it.

5. I went into our elementary school to check the boys out for yet another x-ray appointment for Amon’s foot.  As I was checking them out one of our secretaries handed me a donkey piñata and said it was from some of the teachers at school.  I thought it was such a sweet gesture.  Our littlest carried it out to the car.  As we we’re driving Solomon discovered the piñata was stuffed full of notes.  Notes to me.  Notes to Josh.  Notes to Harper.  Notes to Hudson.  Notes to Solomon.  Notes to Amon.  Notes to our littlest.  Notes to all 7 of us.  I sat in traffic in Nashville and thought about this incredibly kind gesture as we all read the different words written to us.  I thought about how simple this act of kindness was, but what an impact it had on our hearts.  I hope I never forget how important kindness and inclusion and remembering others is.

6. Sometimes things completely catch me off guard about Everett and suck the breath out of my lungs.  It’s funny how these feelings just boil over in a moments notice.  I was cleaning out our medicine baskets and found his oxygen tubing.  I instantly wanted to vomit.  That sweet little tubing.  We’ve touched not many of his things, but some items we have been able to give away or toss, but I looked at that tubing and slid it right back into it’s place.  Not today.

I was also sitting waiting for an appointment and noticed on the rug under my feet letter E’s.  No joke, I burst into tears.  So much so the lady next to me struck up a conversation and I could not quit crying and she ended up crying as well.  For all the hurt that comes from others while walking through grief, I am equally amazed at the empathy and compassion from others.  This woman did not know me and owed me not a thing, but she could see something was very upsetting to me and she extended me the empathy I needed in that moment.  She walked straight into it and chose to reach out and use her words to make me feel seen.

7. Anyone ever play bingo…like legit bingo?  You guys!!  It was so much fun/the most stressful thing ever.  Some friends and I went to Kentucky to play for our friend Marcie’s birthday.  We had a blast.  There we’re snacks and all the colorful dotters and Susan brought 100 good luck charms which did not work because none of us won a cent.  But no joke…So.Much.Fun!

And 8.  This last entry is just so I can feel better about my parenting, but does anyone else hate when their kids drag out all the crap from everywhere and call it “playing”?!?!?  Hahahahaha.  What?!?!?  This collection of items in our driveway was Amon and our littlest’s lions den.  I know imaginations are great and healthy and blah blah blah, but my OCD runs wild when they play like this.  I gave a very stern motherly warning that every bit of that crap better be picked up once the lions den game was finished. 🙂 Amazing mothers unite.

Here’s to the weekend.  Welcoming in this Friday!

Safe Place To Land

Before I left for Guatemala I felt the intense need to go to the cemetery. I know Everett’s not there, but it’s our place and just like how I grabbed each one of my babies and hugged them tightly and kissed their sweet faces and told them I’d miss them like crazy before I left, I felt the need to go to our place and tell him I miss him like crazy too and I’d be back on Friday.  His burial plaque was still not in at the time and I just thought he needed something there.  I cleared a little area and gathered a few bright yellow fall leaves.  An E would certainly do.

Sweet boy, how you are desperately missed.  How I’ve never felt the pain of separation like I do being apart from you.  Everything in my body screams out daily with how not right our family is without you…none of us are the same now…we have all changed…we desperately miss who we use to be…we desperately miss our family with you here with us.  Our kids miss him so much and I keep telling myself, “One day.  One day joy will emerge.  One day their little smiles will slightly resemble what they use to.  One day their eyes will twinkle and dance again. One day.”

I cried because I didn’t want to go on the trip.  Grief and sadness and pain quickly have turned me into quite the homebody.  I cried on the floor of a Victoria Secret’s dressing room because I felt the least I owed Noonday was to have an actual real bra after wearing just sports bras for months upon months and since my fashion sense would certainly be lacking.  I text josh and explained the very lowly…literally and figuratively…position I was in 🙂  He cracked some text jokes and I eventually wiped my face and peeled myself up off the rather forbidding dressing room floor, real lady bra in hand.  I checked out and went home feeling quite pathetic/rather accomplished.

 

I was so anxious about this trip. I mean, sometimes I burst into tears at a moments notice and I simply cannot control the grief when it is so thick and heavy. I  packed.  And self talked. “This is going to be good.  Everything will be fine Laura. This is going to be just fine.”

Our littlest cried when I got out of the car.  Josh hugged me so tight.  He then promised her Sonic for lunch and her demeanor changed.  Forget mom, give me a slush and tots.  That’s my girl.

I met Lindsey in the Nashville airport and she was an instant comfort. She loves home and she self talks too. We were made for each other.  Lindsey was the highlight of this trip.  She was kind and compassionate.  She was supportive and talkative.  We we’re each other’s comfort, cracked all the jokes and supported one another in ways we each so needed.  We literally read one another’s minds and spoke hard truths out loud only confirming the other’s same hard truths.

We found our gate at the airport, grabbed lunch and chatted each other’s faces off.  We didn’t miss a beat. We started to board and while walking the aisle looking for our seats all I could think about was the last time I was on an airplane. The last time Josh Kelley and I boarded the worst flight of our lives in Michigan empty handed.  I remember our seats weren’t even together and I held in my hands Everett’s hand and footprint molds we did right before he died. I sobbed and prayed the man sitting next to me wouldn’t strike up a conversation.  I just wanted to guard his little hand and footprints with my life in a sweaty, tear filled peace.  No small talk man.  My mind raced back to that day and it made me sick to my stomach.  Where was that damn drink cart when I needed it?!?!

After some music and drawing and pretzels and a coke I starred out the window and thought about how this is physically the closest to heaven I can get right now.  How this is physically the closest I could come to Everett right now.  And then I creepily wondered about every other passenger on the plane and if any of their children had died too.  We’re any of them 3-years-old like Everett?!?!  All the weird, creepo, mother-in-intense-grief-mode questions spilled through my brain.  I pulled his photo out from behind my psssport and starred at his little face and thought, “This cannot still be real.  He was so lively and fun and full of life and gave the sweetest hugs.” I still feel intense regret and responsibility for his death.  I’m his mama.  I should have been able to protect him. The tears formed and I wiped them away with my shirt which instantly made my mustard yellow shirt appear darker in spots.  And then I remembered what I’d forgotten…my handkerchief.

Lindsey sat in front of me and passed me back a little note and present.  I knew she was going to be a gift on this trip and boy was she.  I seriously cannot say that enough.  When I felt the intense grief I felt like Lindsey understood.  I didn’t feel awkward or weird around her at all.  I never once thought how I might be putting her out…I felt seen and welcomed and known.  She would hear conversations and whisper in my ear words of empathy and encouragement.  She was so intentional with me and I hope was just as much with her.  Stepping out into this trip was not easy for either one of us.  Lindsey talks candidly about her battle with chronic pain and fatigue with Lyme’s disease and her sweet daughter’s intense trauma.  Us going on this trip was huge to both of us and we we’re each other’s champions.

 As our plane descended into Guatemala I watched the sweetest fiesta sunset and was so grateful for the reminder of Everett…of his little life.

The place of Guatemala and it’s people are ridiculously gorgeous.  I absolutely loved meeting the artisans and watching them create and work.  They are inventive and smart and creative and so freakin’ talented.  It was so neat and such an honor to work along side them briefly.  I cannot say enough how impressed I was with these artists and the work they do in Guatemala and with Noonday.

One of the days we visited Natalia’s house and it struck me right in the mama’s heart when I noticed some of the things hung up on her walls.  A calendar, some of her children’s crafty artwork, photos of their family and special moments like kindergarten graduation.  The exact same things I hold precious and hang up in our own home.  Women supporting and loving and lifting other women up is where it’s at!

The country was over the top beautiful.  Everywhere you looked was more and more to wow your eyeballs.  The lush landscape, the mountains, the volcanoes, the people, the food, the vibrant colors everywhere.  I felt so privileged to experience Guatemala for the first time.  What I loved most was hearing Lindsey’s excitement for it all.  This is her daughter’s birth country…a deeply rooted and beloved place by her, her husband and daughter.  She went on and on about it all and rightly so.  All I could think is how I would have been the exact same had we been in Ethiopia or Zhengzhou.  Our children’s countries…their beginnings…are so valued and I loved hearing Lindsey’s love and enthusiasm ooze from her body while there.

I’ll be super honest, this trip was crazy hard.  I felt weird, lonely and out of place a lot.  I missed home desperately and could not board those return flights fast enough.  I missed Josh and our kids.  I missed my place where I knew I was understood and my grief was understood as well.  I missed Everett.  Each night Lindsey and I would talk about the day and she was this soothing balm to my raw heart.  So many people hoped this trip would be joy and hope for me, but instead I got a greater gift.  I met another woman who knows suffering far too well and taught me how to tend to others who know it too.  In moments when I walked out to go cry in a bathroom stall, Lindsey would always catch my eye and simply asked me 100 times in a span of 3 days, “Are you okay?” or “How are you doing?”  So simple, but so needed for me.  I walked away longing more and more to be that type of person…that type of friend…to be a safe place for hurting people to land.  To choose empathy and compassion.  To include everyone and notice those who are on the fringes feeling misplaced.  Lindsey showed me love like Jesus and I know, that I know, that I know she was the purpose of this trip for me.  Massive bonus: She lives in Nashville.  We said, “Let’s be friends in Nashville too.”  Done and done.

Thank you guys so much for voting.  I am still so humbled and honored you took the time to vote.  And thank you Noonday for sending us.  Guatemala definitely became one of those places I want to return to and a place where I learned such an invaluable lesson about loving people who are hurting.

 And if you haven’t check out Lindsey’s Bottle of Tears shop, please go right now.  I actually cried after looking through her shop for the first time.  It is so intentional and sweet and not corny at all!  Her stuff is legit and hip and just an amazing way to comfort a friend who needs a little extra love.  Definitely on my list of places to shop now!

Taking The Reins

I’m not good at relationships right now.  I’m not a good friend, I’m not a good family member, I’m not a good neighbor, I’m not a good business owner.  Right now I’m in full on survival mode which means so many things are falling to the wayside and I have to watch them drop from my hands.  I’m giving everything I have to pull myself out of bed each morning.  I’m giving everything I have to help Josh Kelley keep our family afloat right now.  I’m giving everything I have to help our children process and grieve the death of their little brother.  At the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the day I don’t have the energy or the capability to manage my relationships.

It’s extremely hard and sad to watch your relationships fizzle out in front of you, but we’re pouring our whole selves into grief right now.  I can’t say how hard this is coming from someone who thrives on giving, thoughtful and intentional relationships.  My calendar is marked up with every birthday, anniversary, death anniversary, hard date for a friend because I WANT to remember with them and be the person who stands in that gap.  A goal every single year is to send more mail and I didn’t even send my brother a gift or card on his 40th birthday in October.  This is not me and it’s hard to admit I can’t do it right now.  It’s hard to hand the reins over solely to the other person and know deep down if this relationship is going to survive it’s all on their shoulders.  It’s not even fair to them.  I keep reminding myself when I feel like I suck at everything right now that this is a season currently and dear Jesus, surely one day it will end.

My friendships I have right now are very one sided and I know it.  It’s all on the other person because I am physically, mentally and emotionally maxed out.  I forget things.  I get caught up in grief and don’t call or text.  I don’t reach out because I’m exhausted and it slips my mind.  Sometimes I can’t even hold a simple conversation because I am on the verge of bursting into tears in the middle of the restaurant while discussing pop culture news just because that’s what grief does.  My mind is consumed with grasping the fact that Everett is dead while simultaneously trying to figure out how I can get back to him although I know that’s not even a reality.  It’s an impossible situation and most of my days are filled with telling myself I’m not crazy…I’m just a mother who longs deeply for her boy to be back in her arms.  I’ve spent many a moments crying in a public bathroom stall because I didn’t want to cry in front of the people I was with.  I don’t want to be this pity party, Debbie Downer of a person, but my 3-year-old died a very baffling, heart crushing death and I’m just not okay with it and I don’t know how to be myself right now.

So the friendships I have right now are full of grace.  They know my heart and know I can’t fully be myself right now and tend to our friendship how I normally would.  They love me and are doing all the hard work in our relationship while I flounder around in grief, pain and sadness.  It’s not that I don’t care or value our friendship…I immensely do, but I’m in a season of needing and accepting the help and care to keep our friendship going.

I share these things because I wish I’d known.  I wish I’d had a heads up that I was going to suck at keeping relationships going because I just couldn’t do it.  I wish I had a heads up at how awkward just my presence sometimes makes things for others.  I wish I’d known how terrible a conversationalist I’d become because all I can think about is the fact that Everett is dead.  I wish I’d known I’d literally burst into tears at the most inopportune times.  I wish I’d known just how physically taxing grief could be.  I wish I’d known sooner that it was okay and that there would be those friends who would come up and grab those reins for me, take over and say, “It’s okay Laura.  I’ll do the work right now while you sit in the pain and wait for healing. When you’re ready we’ll share these reins again.  In the mean time, I’m not going anywhere.”

So if you have a person in your life right now who’s suffering or has experienced loss or trauma or hardships and maybe they forgot your birthday or maybe they haven’t been the one to initiate a conversation or phone call lately or maybe they didn’t ask you about that exciting job promotion you got or your vacation you just took or maybe they forgot you had some big, hard things going on in your own life, consider graciously taking the reins in your friendship right now and showing them some big merciful love.  They are struggling, they are in the deep trenches and it’s not how they want things to be, but sometimes people are just doing their damndest to open their eyes each morning and put their feet on the floor. Rally with them and help them rise.  One day roles may be reversed and you are going to need them to step in and take those reins for you and when they do it will simply mean the world to you.

Halloween Grief Thoughts

Halloween is easily one of my most favorite holidays.  And it’s beyond true that I super love candy.  It’s like my kryptonite!  I’ve always loved it and pretty confident I always will.  Plus, throw in my kiddos all dressed up and I mean, I’m undone.  Sadly, I am rocking a killer case of bronchitis and it put me down for Halloween again this year.  As always, Josh Kelley to the rescue.  To say I was bummed, was a complete understatement.  So many tears over Halloween…definitely a lower holiday on the holiday totem pole…but alas, it was quite sucktastic and tear filled this year.

(Thank you pinterest.)

I took approximately zero photos of the kids in their costumes…Harper was a witch (3rd year in a row), Hudson, Solomon & Amon we’re all ninjas and our littlest was Poppy from Trolls.  I did manage to drag my bronchitis ridden body to Kroger to snag some eyeball ice cubes, $4 discounted candy corn lights, Sprite and pumpkin & ghost peeps.  Harper reminded Josh that I was sick last year on Halloween too.  I took a little look back and cried my eyes out reading THIS POST.  I remember how excited we we’re about Everett.  I remember how excited we we’re about every little bit of movement in our paperwork.  We could not get to him fast enough.  Just makes me want to vomit.

It’s incredibly hard looking back on last year at this time because everything is covered in the longing and dreaming and hoping and wanting and chasing of Everett.  Our family could not wait to get to him.  We talked about it daily and longed for him and honestly, every one of those dreams feel shattered and like an incredibly cruel joke now.

We went to trunk-or-treat at our church and driving there I stared out the window at the cemetery where his little body is buried.  I thought about the 100s of times we passed that cemetery with him in our car…chatting and singing and just being his fun little lively self.  And now, his car seat is no longer in our car and his body is in the ground.  His little life missing from ours.  After we finished at trunk-or-treat we drove back home and past the cemetery again and I broke down into the hardest silent sob.   He would have loved this holiday!  The kids we’re singing loud to Macklemore’s Glorious song and I sat there in the dark and cried.  This is not how it was suppose to be…I just know it.  Everett should have lived.  This was not part of the plan for him to live a full life.  He should have been dressed up as Mickey Mouse or a Minion…his faves…and eating an ungodly amount of candy while singing loudly with his siblings, headed home after a fun night.

And there we all sat.  Wildly different people, living a wildly different life than we could have imagined 3 months ago.  It feels like Everett got ripped off.  That our kids got ripped off.  Josh Kelley and I talk all the time about forget about us and our feelings and our grief, but Everett and our other children…it just pisses me straight off that his life got cut so short and at the loss they feel and walk through daily.  And while my head knows Everett is with Jesus and that’s great, grand and wonderful, it sure doesn’t feel so great, grand and wonderful right now while my arms long to hold his sweet little body, stroke his hair and kiss his cheeks.

Two highlights provided by others in the midst of our crappiest Halloween:

1) When an instagram follower asked me what I thought Everett would have wanted to be on Halloween.  It was the simplest of questions, but I felt the intention and purpose and the recognition behind it.  I felt seen and loved.  It was easy and thoughtful.

And 2) When my friend Leah text me after our trunk-or-treat and told me how good it was to see us and to see the kids enjoying themselves.

Again, really doing grief with someone is not disappearing, it’s not avoiding the hard or awkward conversations because it makes you feel weird or uncomfortable.  Instead it’s choosing to be with those who are hurting from loss or trauma or pain.  It’s choosing to see them, acknowledge them and really walking with them on the long road they have ahead.  It’s a simple, “Hey, I know today really sucks for you guys and I’m so sorry.”

Here’s to reaching out beyond ourselves and loving those who are hurting around us.  Here’s to kindness and empathy because those are the real game changers.  Here’s to making it through the next day, the next week, the next month and the next holiday in line.

2 Quick Things

Thank you guys for all the kindness about our 100th day without Everett.  It means the world to us.  Your compassion, empathy, kindness, thoughtfulness…all of it means so so much.  We are excited to be celebrating our boy tonight.

2 quick things before we head into the weekend.

1. We hit our matching grant goal for Morning Star Foundation through WeHelpTwo!!!!!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for ordering socks and helping us spread the word and for coming along side our family, Morning Star and our local Room In The Inn to honor our sweet Everett!  Insert all the tears.  All packages of socks sold past our goal is just a bonus…icing on the cake.  The last day to grab some fun, funky socks is October 31st.  I can’t say enough how much we love these socks…they are a sure fire, continued hit in the Kelley house and such a fun gift.  Head over to our sock shop HERE to get yours!

Long live the Fiesta the Donkey socks!!!  Solomon wears them constantly. 🙂

And 2. Today is the last day to order from my friend Ashley’s Noonday Collection party.  10% of your purchase goes to support our family and we are truly grateful.  Ashley and Rebecca are insanely kind and I feel so lucky to know them both.

I feel the need to share I ordered three pairs of the Birds of A Feather Earrings as gifts because, well, duh just look at them.

I also feel the need to share I ordered a pair of the Anthropology Earrings and Nebula Earrings as gifts too because they are GORGEOUS and on sale right now!!!!  I could not believe my eye balls and I had the perfect 2 ladies in mind.

Our teachers and friends are going to be styling!  Head over HERE and place your order for all your amazing Noonday goodness.  Purchasing with a purpose at it’s finest.

Hope you guys have a good weekend and as always, thanks for stopping in!

100 Days

A while back our sister-in-law Becky told us how in the Chinese culture they celebrate their lost loved ones 100 days out from their death.  I can’t say how invaluable Becky and Josh’s brother Andy are to our family in helping us navigate the Chinese culture and how important they were to Shuai.  He deeply loved them and one of our most favorite things was watching and listening to them communicate in Mandarin once he arrived home.  I specifically remember facetiming with Becky and our niece Meiya when Shuai was in the hospital.  They wanted to see him and talk to him and I pretty much sobbed my way through the phone call.  And when we realized Everett was brain dead and the only way he was coming home was by way of a miracle Andy facetimed us from China so he could see Everett one last time.  It was the most holy of moments listening to Andy sing happy birthday to Everett in his loved Chinese language.  It makes me teary every time the memory comes to mind.

So we marked our calendars for this 100 day mark and I remember distinctly thinking, “At least we still have some time.”  And now here we are.  100 days.  We had no real plans for the actual day, but when we woke up it was the first thing on my mind.  I laid next to Josh in the dark of this early morning and said out loud, “100 days.  100 days.”  It felt incredibly heavy and it caught me off guard at how heavy it actually felt.  100 days feels like a lot and 100 days means we are closing in on the calendar day that marks him being gone from us longer than the days he was actually with us and that is really hard to process.  We miss him so much…far more than I will ever be able to put into words.  I long for him with every fiber of my being.

I always want to be really honest in my thoughts and feelings and emotions and truthfully I have a lot of mistrust for Jesus right now, but no matter my current feelings for Him, I do know He is good.  I do know He loves us immensely.  And I do know He deserves our praise no matter what.  I hope and pray as we move through this dreaded process of grieving the loss of our 3-year-old that I never, ever lose that.  God please help me to hold on to those 3 truths.  I know no matter what God is still right beside us walking with us, carrying us, moving us from place-to-place, healing us even though we don’t feel it yet.  I know it.  I have to.  If I do not hold onto these hopes, I’m just not sure what I will have left.

I found myself up and moving through the day.  Regular morning routine things…fixing lunches, helping Amon find socks, making oatmeal for our littlest.  Hudson came down and sat on the couch with the saddest look.  I asked him what was the matter, but I already knew.  He voiced how sad he felt this morning.  I am always amazed at our bodies and how even when our mind might not know something,  our bodies can still feel things heavily.

Our littlest and I went to get some mid-week groceries.  And when we returned home I decided I wanted to have lunch at Everett’s grave.  His burial marker isn’t in yet, but I just felt like I needed to go.  I know he’s not there, but it’s nice to have a place to actually go that’s outside our home.  I decided to get some balloons to help celebrate this day in some way and I remembered we brought home from the hospital the balloon weight we used to weigh down the colorful balloons and one minion balloon we bought in Ann Arbor, MI. We used those balloons to celebrate Everett’s 4th birthday with our family beside his hospital bed just days before he died.

I always wonder if he knew we we’re celebrating him.  I pulled the weight out and instantly remembered how Josh Kelley wanted to get a red star for China and how I wanted to get a red heart…we went with the red star.  I pulled it from the drawer and saw the leftover cut off strings from his birthday balloons and cried.  No one should have to rush to throw together a birthday party to celebrate their son’s life one more time before he is no longer living.  No one should have to rush to throw together a birthday party to help their other children process the loss of their brother.  It was so important to Harper we have this first birthday celebration with Everett since we had not been with him for his 3 previous birthdays.

After I dropped our littlest off at preschool I headed to get balloons.  I saw our local flower store ahead and wondered if they had chrysanthemums and daisies…like the traditional Henan province flowers Becky had told us about for Shuai’s burial…the flowers that adorned his little casket.  I stopped and bought one package of white daisies and one package of yellow chrysanthemums.  These will forever be his flowers and I deeply love that.  I also picked up some balloons and headed home.  I packed a lunch and Ashley called to check in.  I cried on the phone to her and she encouraged me to just sit with the pain.  Josh Kelley came home and we talked about the heaviness of the day and actually the whole week really.  We’re just tired.  Really really tired.  We desperately long for how things use to be and we miss that time, we miss Everett and we miss the relationships we use to have.

I packed everything up and headed to the cemetery.  I ate lunch and even talked out loud some to Everett.  Even though I know he’s not there, it felt good to talk to him.  With every thing in me I long to hold him in my arms again.  I have never felt anything as painful as this.  He was so full of life and joy and love.  He was so active and funny and my brain still struggles to understand how his little body is in a box deep beneath the earth.

I ate lunch and drew some.  I’m still filling up the notebook I bought before we left for Mott and I use it to commemorate big moments and 100 days definitely qualified.  Now I’m sitting hear typing away on my computer.  There’s another burial here today and I can hear bagpipes in the distance.  I watched a long line of traffic form when a police officer stopped traffic to let cars in and out.  I said a quick prayer for the people who are affected by this loss and immediately wondered if it was someone’s child.  I thought about the family and how today they will likely go home after everyone else does and they will begin their new, unwanted normal.  I thought about how some people will disappear because they won’t know quite what to do with this suffering family.  I thought about how some people will stick around and those people will be life giving to this family who is grieving so hard.  I thought how they might question everything they’ve ever believed and long for the days when things we’re easier and far less complicated.

 

100 days.  It feels absolutely insane and what we wouldn’t give to go back in an instant.  I listened to Hillsong’s So Will I song and the line that resonated with me the day Shuai died as this song played in his hospital room resonated yet again with my heart today “If the rocks cry out in silence, so will I.”  I just cannot let go of the hope…the praise God so rightly deserves, I just can’t.  No matter how absurd it feels or sounds when I say it out loud to myself, I just cannot let go of these truths.  There is good in our every day no matter how maddening the grief feels…no matter how physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually exhausted we are.  There are 5 other beautiful children in our home who are all healthy and alive.  Josh Kelley is still by my side and there is not another soul on this planet I’d rather walk this road with.  I’m sitting on a lovely, worn quilt under a gorgeous canopied tree on the perfect fall day in Tennessee and I must choose to believe God is still right here beside us…loving on us, grieving with us and holding our boy ever so close.  100 days.  Easily the worst 100 days of our lives and yet 100 days closer to holding our FuShuai again.

Noonday Love

We have truly been so blessed by so many people who have come along side our family during the loss of Everett not only to just love on us and let us know they see us, but also to assist with the financials that can arise in so many different areas.

Yet again we have been covered up in kindness by some amazing women…my go-to Noonday ambassador Rebecca Daniels and my dear friend Ashley Bogle.  They are hosting a Noonday Collection party this week in support of our family.

You all know my true love of Noonday…their gorgeous goods, the amazing artisans they work with all across the globe and their hearts for linking arms with one another for good.  They are seriously one of the first places I go when looking for a gift to give.  My absolutely favorite place to make sure my purchases go beyond just me and the gift I’m giving or a fun purchase for myself.

They recently released their winter line and it’s absolutely gorgeous.  I am always so excited to see what they have come up with next and I am never disappointed.  I wanted to share some of my recent favorites and stick with me because there are quite a few.

Just a sampling of their new Christmas goodies that are insanely awesome!  They also re-released some of their gorgeous star ornaments from last year too.  We buy a new ornament each year for our kids and last year I went with these and could not have loved them more.

Celestial Horn Ornaments, Set of 4Dancing Bells GarlandFestive Paper Bead Garland and Otomi Ornament

Some new favorite bracelets.  I’m all about that arm party.

Simplicity Stack Bracelets, Set of 3Formation Cuff and Alchemy Bracelets, Set of 3

Bags are a legit part of my love language and Noonday is one of my most favorite places to purchase unique, beautiful and quality bags.

Mosaic Pouch and Nepali Bag

I’ve been crushing on this bag since it first came out…a semi oldie, but goodie.  One day she will be mine.  It is unbelievably gorgeous in person!!!!

Wildflower Clutch

And last, but certainly never least…necklaces and earrings!!!  You guys, these are crazy.  All those heart eyes.

Sun Cycle EarringsTorchlight NecklaceAviary Necklace and Birds of a Feather Earrings

(^big time faves)

If you’re local and would like to get a glimpse of Noonday goodness in person shoot me an email at pitterpatterart at gmail dot com and I can pass on Ashley’s party info for this Tuesday, October 24th.  If you want to nab some goodies online it’s crazy easy and everything will be shipped directly to you.  Just head over HERE and make your purchase.  10% of sales will go directly to support our family while also supporting artisans & ambassadors and their families around the world.

Let’s think Christmas!  Let’s think birthday and thinking of you gifts.  Let’s think teacher gifts.  Let’s think a little “treat yo self”!  I’m making my list right now and checking it twice…pretty confident I’ve given most every women in my life Noonday at one point or another because it’s always so well-received and loved.

Here’s to a great week!  We’ve got a lot of big things coming up and we’re ready to take this week on.  Hope you guys are too.