First Snow

We are learning that no matter what the first is, without Everett it stings deeply.  Today Tennessee was blanketed with it’s first snow of the year.  The kids we’re out of school even though it didn’t start to actually snow until the afternoon.  Excitement was high and the disappointment was high too when they woke up to only rain.  All day the snow was anticipated and we just weren’t sure it would ever arrive.

The sadness of life without Everett has not lifted even the slightest bit yet, in fact, Josh Kelley pointed out the other day how it seems to be getting worse and he’s right, it is.  We know it won’t last forever, but for now nothing seems to lift the grief.  Nothing seems to ease the pain or take away the sadness.  Our littlest was asleep in her bed and Amon was working on not napping so I told Josh I was going to go up and lay down with him.  I climbed into Amon’s top bunk and cuddled in close next to him.  I held him tight and we both dozed off.  Next thing I knew, about 2 hours later, I woke up to Josh touching my shoulder and saying, “It’s snowing.”

I never take naps, but today I needed this rest.  Our bodies have definitely taken the toll grief brings and we are absolutely exhausted.  Amon stirred and I told him it was snowing.  He responded by shrugging his shoulders and saying, “It still hasn’t shown up.”  I told him what Josh had just reported and his eyes brightened and he hopped down the bunkbed latter as quick as he could.

Sure enough, snow was falling and sticking and making everything pretty and white.  I thought about the last time we’d seen snow…in Beijing…in February right before meeting Shuai for the first time.  I watched how excited the kids we’re and the sadness sunk in quick.  Shuai would have loved this.  He would have been adorable all bundled up and going as hard as his little body and broken heart would have let him.  He would have loved the slowness of the day.  The crafts and pizza and fun snacks and shows and snuggles.  I cannot even begin to explain how much I long to snuggle his sweet little body.  I wish I could have napped with my baby today…breathed him deeply…stroked his dark hair…held him close like I did Amon.

The day carried on and the kids played their hearts out.  I slept through starting the crock pot for dinner and forgetting to tell Josh to do so as well so he walked down to Walgreens to snag 3 frozen pizzas for dinner.  3 out of 8 of the Kelleys ended up eating dinner sitting on our countertops.  Of course I thought of Everett.  How could I not?!?!  We we’re doing his thing.  We we’re sitting in his favorite comfort spots right on top of our counters while eating one of his favorite American foods.

I scrolled social media and saw everyone’s snow pictures and honestly, some just made me straight up angry. I know it’s not right or justified, but it’s the ugly truth of grief.  So much has changed since Shuai died.  So many many things have changed…we’re not the same people, relationships have diminished and new ones have emerged.  Sadness and pain and hope all swirl around mixing together and it’s just hard to navigate most days…especially days that should feel extra special, but feel extra painful instead.

We ended our first snow day with treats and a movie.  I started crying when the kids started rolling off to their rooms to brush their teeth and get ready for bed.  Solomon grabbed my neck and hugged me tight.  If I’m down, he is the first one that recognizes it and steps in to love on his mama.  After the kids all went to bed I finally went outside by myself to see the snow.  I stood there watching the snow fall in the light of the security light in between our house and our neighbors.  I hoped Everett knew how deeply we miss him.  How we think about him all day, every day.  How we long to be with him.  I thought about how I hoped some how he saw our first snow without him and knew we missed him and wished we could have experienced it with him.  I hoped he snuggled up close to Jesus today and napped the way Amon and I had.

No matter how anticipated or longed for the first is, it still proves hard and sad.  My mind is set on Shuai tonight, like it is every night, and how I really hope it feels like a blink of the eye until we’re together again…until I can scoop him up and hold him close.  Another first and our first snow day of this new year means we’re yet another day closer to our boy.

Ethiopian Christmas 2018

A few years ago we started celebrating Ethiopian Christmas with our family.  Solomon and Amon are both Ethiopian and we had not been celebrating this important holiday and decided traditions can start at any point, so we just jumped right in.  We brought in some traditional aspects like Ethiopian food, having coffee & popcorn like they do in the Ethiopian coffee ceremonies and starting our celebration off with lighting candles and a prayer, but we also added our own things to it as well like Solomon picking our desserts and having big glass bottle sodas like we always enjoyed each time we were in Ethiopia.  Everyone loves it, everyone has a good time and we celebrate the rich, beautiful culture of Ethiopia that is so important to our family.

(Above photo was taken by my niece Campbell)

This year we ordered food again from one of our favorite local Ethiopian restraunts GoJo.  There are several Ethiopian places to eat in Nashville, but GoJo has become our go to place.  As with previous years Solomon stepped up his dessert choice game.  He and I watched about 10 different dessert videos before he made his selection…Oreo Dump Cake.  Solomon has always been this wonderful little foodie boy and when it’s time for him to make a personal selection for an type of menu he takes it very seriously and is crazy deliberate with his choices.  He may not like cereal or most breads, but this kid will eat jalapeños and onions and lamb and donkey and all the cooked meats and veggies and dessert his his forte.

He also chose a super yummy Roll Cake again.  Last year he chose this as well, but asked if I could make it green, yellow and red like the Ethiopian flag colors.  This year I asked him if he wanted me to do the same and he said, “No.  This year I’d like rainbow colors for Everett.”  Goodness does this boy miss his little brother.  Solomon was smitten with Everett from the beginning and they had a unique bond that reminded me of the bond between Harper & Amon.  Solomon big brothered Everett so sweetly and so well.  And every night when they went to bed Solomon would chat with Everett until he fell asleep since Amon and Hudson literally fall asleep almost the minute their heads hit their pillows.  I could not have loved Solomon’s selection of the rainbow roll cake any more.

We also had fruit, veggies, some Chick-fila nuggets…I mean, that’s totally authenticate Ethiopian food…hahahaha…popcorn, a candy bowl, glass bottle sodas and everyone…even a lot of the kiddos…had coffee in our Ethiopian coffee cups.

Kids ran around wildly and played their hearts out.  The adults chatted each other up.  Everyone just did their thing and stuffed their faces.

In grief, there is still joy.  It was such an honor and privilege to celebrate Solomon and Amon’s culture…to set aside time to honor them and their beautiful country.  To remember where they have come from and their irreplaceable birth parents who created our treasured sons.  We missed Everett terribly and I will be honest that this looms over every type of celebration or holiday we have been apart of since Everett died.  The night before we celebrated Ethiopian Christmas Josh and talked about a game plan because we knew at some point the next day among the joy, someone would come crashing down in grief.  It’s unescapable…it always happens…and we have learned to see it coming.  Sure enough, near the end of our celebration Hudson came over all teary eyed and said how sad he was.  He snuggled in close and I just held him right there amongst the hustle and bustle of the party.

That night we just chilled out.  We watched a movie and had an easy dinner everyone would like…we didn’t need more tears over a dinner someone didn’t want to eat.  We’re learning what works for our family and our grief.  We’re learning to game plan and think ahead about the ways we can cushion the blow of these joyful/grief-filled days.

This year Ethiopian Christmas snuck up on us…like a lot of things have lately.  We are so buried in our day-to-day survival that it’s hard to think or plan ahead, but we made it happen and I’m so thankful we did.  We want to always celebrate each of our children’s beginnings.  We want them to know where they have come from and who they are deeply apart of.  I cannot say enough how grateful and honored I am for the way God decided to knit our family together.  We are surely the luckiest.

Melkam Gena!

PS:  You can read about our 2016 celebration HERE and our 2017 celebration HERE.

Christmas Things I Hope To Remember

This Christmas wasn’t what any of us had dreamed or wanted.  It was sad and hard and honestly all of us…even the kids…we’re glad when it was all over with.  Now we’re just trying to survive winter break and deal with all the feelings about 2018 being right around the corner.  There are some things I hope I never forget about this holiday season.

*The love among the desperate feelings of loss.  Our family is who we are right now and love jankly still swirls around amongst pain and sadness and our messiness.  And the pain.  I hope every Christmas and holiday I remember how I felt this year.  I hope it births empathy and compassion that remains at the forefront of my mind and heart always, but especially when these seasons where joy is suppose to reign and the sorrowful are often forgotten.  I hope the pain always stays in a way that changes our family for the better.

*Josh Kelley carrying Hudson’s giant sleeping boy man body upstairs.  Our kiddos are so tired from sadness and exhaustion.  We are constantly caught in this “Let’s go do something to get our minds off missing Everett” to “Let’s go home.  This is too sad.  We miss Everett.”  Throw in lack of sleep and grief has taken quite the physical toll on all our bodies.  My kids have always been good sleepers, but these past 5 months have been a doozy.

*Our advent activities which reminded all of us of Everett.  What I loved most about watching our kids and niece Meiya painting their wood slices was that Harper, Meiya and Solomon’s first design was rainbow and then other designs followed.  It made me teary because these kids love fiercely and wanted to spread some Everett love.

*Christmas Eve going to our boy’s grave to check on his tree and take some Christmas flowers.  It was freezing and this was the best photo I got.  Kids stepped in mud.  Hardly anyone remembered their jackets. Everyone was freezing and likely complaining.  As the kids loaded up in the van trying not to get mud all over everything, Josh and I snagged a quick hug and empathetic glance as to how stupid Everett dying feels.

*Swinging by our house after the cemetery by myself to grab everyone’s jackets they forgot on our way to Christmas Eve dinner at Josh’s parents’ house.  I gathered all their coats from the hooks in the kitchen and their lockers in the laundry room.  I looked at Everett’s locker and thought about his small, black jacket still hanging inside.  I opened his locker and pulled out his little shoes he was wearing the day we met him…the shoes he continued to love months after being home with us.  I stood there crying and holding his shoes in my hands.  I would give just about anything for him to be here with us again.  I know things will get better one day, but right now they straight up suck without our boy.

*Sausage balls on Christmas morning.  Always and forever.  I asked Harper what she was most exited about…like what was at the top of her list…and she said sausage balls.  It’s a beloved tradition.

*Going all rainbow wrapping paper for Christmas in honor of Everett.  Traditions do not have to be things you’ve done all your life.  New traditions can be born and taken on at any point.  Rainbow paper for Christmas now is now our new tradition.  One day I hope I’m wrapping my grandkids Christmas presents in rainbow wrapping paper and telling them stories about their brave, strong Uncle Everett.

*Amon asking for only and seriously only “one of those bigs cars you drive around in the yard” a minimum of 100 times and then some sweet friends passing down their boys’ car so our boy could enjoy it.  On Christmas morning Amon hugged it and I don’t even care how worldly or non-Jesus centered that may sound.  DON’T EVEN CARE.  It was the cutest.

*Hudson and Solomon enjoying their usual nerf guns, legos and lightsabers.  Our littlest bringing out each individual item from her stocking slowly and methodically and repeating the same excited expression…”Oooooh tic tacs.”  “Oooooh a candy cane.”  “Oooooh M&Ms.”  It was the sweetest.  And Harper.  Gosh I like her.  She asked for very few things this year, but the one thing she consistently asked for was a box of surprises.  It was so fun putting together a box of surprises all rainbow themed to remind her of her little brother.

*Amon’s sweet tears Christmas morning as we all gathered round to start off our morning with opening our stockings like we do each year.  Everyone had their stockings in their hands.  Josh was putting sausage balls in the oven.  I was sitting on the couch looking at each one of them.  Then Amon began to cry.  He left his stocking and crawled up in my lap and said he missed Everett.  I cried too.  Then we we’re quickly joined with other hugs and tears.  We had a good little cry and group hug, then went back to our stockings and began what should have been our first Christmas with Everett.  What an honor to parent these tender precious little hearts.

*Josh being off work and slow mornings together.  This was his first extended amount of time off since Everett died in July.  He actually only got 3 days bereavement leave which seemed insane.  I still remember the first day he had to go back to work before we’d even buried our son.  I still remember him walking in the door that evening and the look on his face and all the emotions.  A few extra days off for him was really good for all of us.

*Date night.  These are so few and far between.  We asked Josh’s parents if the kids could sleepover and no joke, we grabbed dinner and went home to watch Christmas Vacation with cocktails and sleep.  We obviously know how to party.  I can’t say how physically tired we are and this was a dream date for us.

2018 is coming in hot and fast and I have all the feelings about it.  I am so sad to see 2018 go…the year that held Everett and our time as a family of 8.  Simulatenously the fresh start a new year brings also feels like something we desperately need.  I feel torn because I feel all the feelings about a new year and I can’t push it off…time has always proven to keep marching on even when we’re standing still.  So we’ll head into 2018 reluctant and expectant.

Wonky & Hard

I’ve thought about stopping in and writing time and time again.  In fact I’ve written what feels like a 1000 posts in my head, but haven’t taken any of them to my keyboard.  Things are just wonky and hard around our house and in our heads and in our hearts and putting those feelings down are just harder than imagined some days.  We’re all struggling to figure out who we are now and what this supposed joyful and hope filled time is suppose to look like.  Josh Kelley and I we’re talking the other night about how we feel like we can’t win right now.  Everett’s death shadows most everything right now.  We try and plan fun things to take our minds off of our loss and get us out of the house, but right now missing Everett always comes back around.  Example:  We we’re all so excited about the new Star Wars movie.  We planned, we went, we watched and snacked on all the fun movie snacks.  And by the time we got home 3 out of 5 kiddos we’re sad and crying and missing their brother.  Our grief just over shadows everything right now.

We are not lost to the fact that things could be so much worse though.  We are blessed and grateful for so many things.  We have each other and we’re mama and daddy to 6 beautiful children.  We can feed our children and we have a warm, safe home to live in each day and sleep in each night.  We are all healthy and strong.  God is still God and He reigns always supreme.  We have some dear people who have chosen to walk this grief road with us.  We see joy on the horizon, but getting there is sometimes a hard road.  I’m white knuckling hope for myself, Josh, our kids and our future as a family.

The kids officially began winter break on Monday.  It’s hard all being home with all of our grief all the time.  We convince ourselves we should go and do and then we all just end up wanting to be home.  A neverending catch 22.  Right now the littles are sleeping, the bigs and I are watching a movie, Solomon is putting in some microwave popcorn and I’m typing away.  I find myself thinking daily how are we going to keep trudging along day-in and day-out while so deeply longing for our boy.  How do we balance living here while craving heaven?  How do we do however many more years like this…without Everett?  How does this all work and how do we thrive again?

For now we just keep putting our feet on the floor each morning and as my friend Shannan said, “”Feel what you feel.” This is allowed, friends. Even in December.””  We’re feeling what we feel.  We’re living grief full on and honestly and ugly and truly and deeply.  There’s no hiding from grief.  It finds us from the minute we wake up until the moment our minds drift off to sleep and often it wakes us in the middle of the night.  And instead of pushing it all down, we’re treading in it often afraid it’s going to drown us, but, as shocking as it is to us, we’re still afloat.

The holidays look so different for us now and likely for a lot of you too.  We’re still doing our kindness advent, but I don’t love it as much as I usually do.  I haven’t documented it like I typically do.  Sadness has sucked a lot of joy from the things we normally find joy in.  Josh Kelley’s house lights keep skitzing out on him.  Our pre-lit tree is only half lit and Josh hasn’t found the energy to pull all the lights off…for a second time…and replace them.  We’ve baked less, but are trying to still share as much.  The kids have bounced from the high-of-highs to the low-of-lows and so have Josh and I.  This season is riddled with hard questions for Jesus and lots of truth filled hurts spoken out loud.  We are feeling the weight of our pain and the loneliness of losing our Shuai.  What we wouldn’t give to have him with us.  I still catch myself looking at his sweet face and finding myself still in disbelief.  How could this lively, life loving, laughter filled, ball of joy little boy not be here with us…his family??!  How?!?!

So we trudge on.  We love hard and cry every day.  We try and share our pain with one another and give lots of hugs and comfort when someone is so far down.  We also fight and yell and hurt each other’s feelings. We get lots of things wrong, but by the grace of Jesus I feel like we’re getting some things right.  We bought Everett a little Christmas tree and made ornaments and bought the perfect rainbow solar powered lights.  We decorated his tree and placed it on his grave to help us feel like we’re still celebrating our first Christmas as a family of 8…like we’re still celebrating our first Christmas with Everett.

Like I said, things are wonky and hard and like we never imagined, but we’re trusting He understands our pain and suffering and that He certainly understands what it’s like to watch His son die.  Trusting we serve an unendingly empathetic, loving and merciful Father.

7 Things {Black & White Edition}

1. If you ever feel like you’re a terrible parent then watching your kids come up with the Top 25 Names for Barf will renew all sense of possible parental failure.  It was the best/most hilarious thing watching Harper, Hudson and Solomon coming up with this list.  They even broke out a thesaurus.  My favorite was a close tie between “ralph” and “regurgitate”.  Kids are the best!

2. This guy has allergies like nobody’s business…peanuts, dairy, dogs, cats and pretty much EVERYTHING outside including grass.  WHAT?!?!?!  Week after week he gets 3 allergy shots and takes it like a defeated champ 🙂  They hurt…his arm hurts…and inevitably his arm is quite swollen afterwards and he leaves with an ice pack strapped to his little bicep.  Could not love him more and his allergy ridden body more.

3. Our nephew Cooper made us an aunt and uncle.  He’s now only one year away from being a bonafide adult.  To say we like him would be the greatest of understatements.  He is kind and funny and loves our kiddos so well.  We use to play games of hide-n-seek, have sleepovers, craft our hearts out and give crab kisses with him.  Now he plays games and loves on our kiddos and chats with them in between making all the fancy coffees.  We are all surely the luckiest to have him in our lives.

4. Do you need a most delicious and easy treat for the holiday season?  Then look no further than the beloved, but forgotten & underrated Snickerdoodle.  There are a few desserts which bring about certain feelings and snickerdoodles are one of them for me.  I am confident Angel Food Cake is the closest thing to manna and Snickerdoodles are what clouds taste like.  Cook time should be 8 minutes tops…give them a few minutes to set…and then bite into what you can only assume those fluffy beauties in the sky surely taste like.  Easily double the recipe and share with people you want to make like you 🙂

5. Thes two are kindred spirits.  Harper has had the toughest year and Meiya just gets it.  They understand each other on a freakishly sweet level and they have plans to travel the world together…China and Swaziland being at the top of their list.  They dream up wild beautiful worlds, have their own language & writing code and create until their fingers tire.  It is one of my greatest joys watching their relationship be what it is.

6. Marriage is hard.  If someone ever told me it was easy I would look them in the eye and declare them a liar 🙂  And I think it’s suppose to be because we’re two sinners living under one roof doing life together.  Losing a child together has been so difficult.  It is not easy to watch Josh Kelley grieve and I know it’s not easy for him to watch me grieve.  We tell each other how sorry we are all the time for Everett dying.  Not that it’s one of our faults, but because we know the weight and sadness and pain associated with our boy being in heaven and not here among us.  Josh is by far my favorite human and his heart and gift of humor keep me afloat daily.  There’s not another person I’d want to walk this road with.  Just call me lucky.

And 7. Watching our children grieve the loss of their little brother has been excruciating.  We we’re all of 0% prepared for helping them navigate this road.  And while some days I want to cover my ears and run for the hills, I know this is one of my greatest honors to help them move through this the best we can.  Every last one of us are in therapy and I’ll never ever ever be ashamed of that.  And I hope our kids are never ashamed of that either.  Instead I hope they feel pride in their hard work and perseverance to grow and heal.  Our world is becoming more open and accepting of those who are in therapy and/or counseling and rightly so, if we have a leaky faucet or broken toilet I call a plumber to help fix them, so I’ll never feel shame or embarrassment for reaching out to trusted professionals to help us maneuver and heal our own brokenness.

Hope your week is off to a decent start.  We all had a rough weekend so we’re welcoming in this week with anticipation of hope and kindness.

Kindness Advent 2017

This is our 7th year doing our kindness advent.  This formed after losing my Mom suddenly and being plunged into intense grief.  We do not do this to show off or to make people think we’re amazingly great people.  Let me put your mind to ease real quick…this morning I yelled at my kids BEFORE we got to school, I say too many curse words, sometimes I drink too much, I’ve already had chocolate this morning and sometimes if I decide not to purchase an item in the store I don’t return it to it’s spot and put it on a random shelf.  I mean, we are struggling on SO MANY levels and there is so much more I could say, but yikes, you guys might run away and never look back.

So this isn’t a show off kind of thing, this is a deep rooted tradition that formed from great sorrow and has made it’s residence among our Christmas holiday.  Sometimes we spend more money, sometimes we spend less.  A lot of people get hung up on how much this costs, but you could totally do this completely free…kindness does not always cost money.  And to each their own…different strokes for different folks.  Not everyone’s finances are the same by any means, so just make changes as you need to.  I want to be super transparent so last night I sat down and added up how much this years is going to cost and we came in right under $250.  We have 2 big items on the calendar this year…donuts for our elementary school and sending cookies to Mott Hospital in Michigan…Everett’s heart surgery hospital.  Both of those are running us around $120 together, but they are super important to us this year so we figured it out.  If we cut those costs we would come way down on our money we’re spending this year.

  So here’s the list of our activities this year:

Share candy canes.  Send fun mail.  Buy soap for prison ministry Christmas gifts.  Take treats to our funeral home.  Angel Tree bag in honor of Everett.  Take donuts to school staff.  Decorate someone’s mailbox.  Give away a redox bucket.  Leave sticky notes on public bathroom mirrors.  Take peoples polaroid photos.  Surprise yard inflatable.  Treat for our trashman.  Ornament delivery.  Load bubble gum & trinket machines with quarters.  Share Sonic happy hour.  Take someone breakfast.  Return shopping carts.  Treat for our mail carrier.  Cards & treats for our pediatrician’s office.  Gift card for a single parent.  Cookie delivery to Mott Hospital.  Snack for Salvation Army bell ringer.  Paint wood slices and leave around town.  Give someone flowers.  Leave encouraging notes on cars.

So there’s this year’s list.  I’ll be sharing details here probably on Fridays and daily over on Instagram so feel free to follow along.  If you need more information on how this gig all got started and for lots of ideas THIS POST is a great place to start.  And I do not lose my mind over this.  This is such a fun tradition everyone looks forward to it so there’s zero pressure.  If an activity doesn’t get done, it does’t get done.  No biggie.  No one needs anymore crazy pressure.

You can CLICK HERE to see our list of last years activities.  And CLICK HERE for a recap of other year’s activities and ways we’ve displayed our advent.

Today we kicked things off by sharing candy canes with friends.  I bought some cheap mini candy canes, the kids divided them up for their classmates and they all headed off to school to share away.  Crazy easy.

And tomorrow we are sending fun mail.  Everyone wrote kind notes to a friend last night and I took anyone who wanted to use their own money to purchase a treat for their mail friend to Target last night too.  I loved seeing what they each chose and this was no money out of my pocket.  Harper is a pretty big giver…she’s more of a go big or go home gal…so she has quite the goodies to share.  Sending mail is one of my most favorite things!

(Blocked out addresses because, ummm, privacy & we want our recipients to be surprised.)

Hope you guys enjoy your weekend!  It’s Friday and officially December.  Raise the roof.

7 Things

1. Tomorrow kicks off our 7th year of our kindness advent.  You can see a good re-cap post from our original year HERE or you can see last year’s post HERE or you can use the search bar to your right and search “Kindness advent” and see all our past posts and ideas.  This has become a staple in our Christmas season and this year feels so similar to our very first year when we’d just lost my Mom 10 days prior.  We needed something to push us outside ourselves during intense grief and this year is no different.  Still thinking and holding tight to what I learned most from Mom’s death…”When you don’t know what to do for yourself, you can always do for others.”  I’ll post tomorrow on what all we’re doing for this year’s advent.

2. Amon’s kindergarten teacher text me this photo of him from his Thanksgiving meal with his classmates and I almost died.  I mean, he’s the cutest little thing I ever did see.  And his Indian name was Amon Biting Snake 🙂  He was so proud and wore his get up at home quite a bit.  Good teachers are the bomb…teaching and loving on our babies.  Thank you Mrs. Peters!!!!  And yes, the giant holes in his knees, he is the third little boy who has worn these jeans that came to use already used and we were fresh out of clean unholy jeans that day.  We rolled with it and so did his school.

3. These are the faces of 3 brothers who are deeply invested in a Star Wars series and are not one bit interested in their mother taking their photo.  Hahahahahaha.  It made me laugh when I finally looked at it.

4. Let’s just call him Clark Griswold.

5. It’s not even December and we’ve already made gingerbread houses…or at least 3 of the Kelley kids and 1 Kelley cousin have.  They assembled and decorated 4 of these and promptly got busy eating them.  We have lost all our parenting will and are just trying to say “yes” to those things which really aren’t crazy important.  “Can we have a piece of gum?” “Yes.”  “Can we go to the library for the 10,000th time?”  “Sure.”  “Can we make gingerbread houses on November 25th and immediately devour them?”  “Why not.”

6. The cutest little Everett boy in all the lands because, well, I just miss his sweet little face and body.  Shuai Shuai, you are terribly missed and you would have loved every last thing about this holiday season.

And 7. Sometimes things are just so dark…looks and feels like thick darkness, but that light is coming.  The skies still preach to me that is for sure.

 Thank you guys for all the love and kindness…as always.  Thank you for still meeting me hear, reading my mess on the inter webs and sharing your own.  You are encouragers and I am forever grateful.  See you tomorrow with our kindness advent ideas for this year.  Can’t wait to share with you what’s on our calendar.

6 Years

It’s in the 3am hour and I can’t sleep.  Our littlest woke up about 2 hours ago throwing a fit which she does often now.  Josh Kelley got up first with her like he always does and then it was my turn the next go around.  She finally went back to sleep, but then my mind took off.  I laid there thinking about Everett of course and then my mind ran.  I whispered to Josh, “Are you awake?”  After several asks he finally responded and I could put my burning question to rest, “What was the name of Everett’s respiratory therapist at Mott who we loved so much?”  It was driving me crazy sitting there in the dark.  “Mike.”  His name was Mike.  Thanks Josh for being on it even at 3:22am.

The 20th marked 6 years since my mom died suddenly.  She was sick with brain cancer for a total of 10 days and then she was gone.  It was crazy and still is.  She was my parent and so many things died with her when she died.  I still think about her everyday and would give most anything to crawl up in the bed with her, have her wrap her arms around me and hear her amazing laugh.

I think about the day she died a lot especially after watching our son die.  I can get really angry about the day she died because no one treated us with care at the hospital…minus her nurse on her regular floor.  The doctors who worked on her and who talked with us afterwards we’re aholes…or at least that’s how they presented themselves.  We we’re given all of about zero time with her and ushered out as quickly as possible.  And then the immediate paperwork while her body literally laid within looking distance.  Yep, it still makes my blood boil, but I had never experienced death so personally before and had no clue…zero expectations on how all this was suppose to go down.  It feels quite insane thinking through it all.

Our experience at Mott with Everett could not have been more drastically different.  Maybe because it was a children’s hospital, but I like to think it has more to do with the people who work in that children’s hospital.  I remember vividly standing in the hallway by myself looking in through the big glass doors while Everett’s room filled with people…several who had become like family to us…and they worked on him as he had coded for the second time…this time having to be put on life support.  I remember the shock and terror and the immediate indescribable sadness.  At Mott when something goes wrong you immediately have a social worker by your side.  Out of no where one of their social workers just appeared…our normal lady was busy at the time.  This social worker immediately started asking questions…would you like to sit down…do you want to go somewhere else…maybe we should step inside this room…do you need anything…would you like some water…can I call someone for you?  I didn’t want to go anywhere…I wanted to stay as close to Everett as humanly possible.  I did not want water…I did not want to sit down…I didn’t want to go anywhere except out of that hospital with our son and back home…and I had already called Josh and he was rushing to find and get on a flight.  I just couldn’t stop crying and all I knew was I wanted out of this hellish moment with Everett in my arms.

Then this sweet woman, who wanted to do nothing but help, in her last-ditch effort to help in some way asked, “Do you want me to call your mom?”  I turned in all my panicked mother glory, sobbing I might add, and said, “You can’t.  She’s dead.”  YOU GUYS!!!!  This poor poor woman.  And then I busted into laughter while the tears streamed and I apologized.  I mean, what is the likeliness.  She walked right into that one and I just instinctively responded.  I felt so bad for her and she was so shocked/horrified/crazy apologetic/weirded out-relived I was laughing.  This is my Mom…still providing laughter in those insane moments even after she’s gone onto glory.  She totally loved to laugh and her laugh was my favorite.

In our first parental grief group I thought about Mom a lot because there we’re a few grandparents at the meeting.  To start off each meeting they pass around a microphone and each person is given the chance to say their child’s name, how old they we’re when they died and how they died.  Not one person passed up this opportunity.  Not one.  It was so hard and yet so nice to be in a place and with other people where the first thing we did was talk about Everett.  It’s a heartbreakingly, beautiful thing.  On the day we buried Everett we immediately began to feel the isolation and loneliness.  Most places we go and people we are around rarely mention his name…it’s like people just don’t know what to do with us or our kids…so to be in a place and around other people and the first thing we do is say Everett’s name and acknowledge his death and our pain from it is, well, like breathing a giant breath of air into our emptied out lungs.

I have wondered about how Mom would have handled Everett’s death a 1000 times over.  I said one time how if she hadn’t already died, this would have surely killed her. 🙂   I talked to my Mom almost every single day.  She came by our house multiple times during the week just to see the kids and snag some hugs from them.  I often wonder if this would have pushed her away, but my head knows better because during big change for us in the past she never checked out, but more so, checked in.  She would have worried about us and Jesus.  She would have wanted every last gritty, ugly, hard detail of how the kids we’re processing it all.  She would have wanted to know how Josh and I we’re doing and how our sex life was 🙂  Nothing was off limits to Sandra Hall.  She would have done our laundry.  She would have brought food.  She would have stocked our cabinets with all the best snacks.  She would have watched the kids for us so we could have some time just me and Josh.  She would have dropped by or had us swing by her bank so she could smother the kids in hugs and kisses and give them small treats and gifts just to relieve the pain for even a moment.  I like to think she would have just kept doing what she always had done.  And that makes me miss her the most because I know she wouldn’t have run for the hills or hid away…she would have walked this messy journey with us and for us.  She would have been all in.

6 years.   This year was maybe my saddest death anniversary because 6 years feels like way too long.  After 6 years people have far moved on and likely forgotten and rightly so, I mean, do you know how much life happens in 6 years?!?!  A lot.  But this year was especially hard because it made me think about Everett and what 6 years without him will look like.  Will anyone really remember?!?!  People will have far moved on and likely forgotten and rightly so, but as his mama, gah, it just makes my heart want to jump out of my chest and demand the world to stop moving.  I know it’s life.  I know death happens.  I know my Mom and Everett are both in heaven with Jesus, but that knowledge does not make this any less painful.

This past week was a tough one.  Everyone felt it extremely heavy, but I feel like this week might be better.  As I sit here in the dark of our warm little home, filled with all these precious people I get the honor to call mine, I can’t help but be extremely grateful.  I’ve got a lot of hangups with Jesus right now…we’re working through some things to say the least…but His goodness, so far I’m still holding on crazy tight to it.  I know His goodness brought Everett into our lives and allowed me to be born to one of the greatest women I’ve ever met.  His goodness, well, so far I’m still a believer. 🙂