I was shocked when I sat down and opened up my blog and realized it's been almost a solid year since I last wrote anything. At the gentle coaxing of my sweet husband and the previous year's reminder of our Hospice Chaplain to be writing everything down, I finally am sitting to write. I have honestly been afraid to write for about a year now. So much had been going on in our home that I didn't know where to begin and I also wasn't allowed to write most of what I wanted to anyway...at least not publicly. I don't know honestly how to start. So much is muddled around in my head. So much grief. So much joy. So much loss and yet so much gain.
Since the unexpected death of Ariel, our move, moving several family members, graduations and weddings, I have been unable to really stop and think of anything other than "get it done" "check it off" plow ahead." Well, now that it's all done and the kid's school is almost out, I find myself in a terrifying place of what to do. Who am I? I have either babysat, worked in Day Care or taught Swimming and then Foster Care since Ben was 11 months old. I have always had other people's kids plus my own to care for. I have often had to do several of those at once to help make ends meet and pay the bills. For the first time in our married life, I don't have to and the one thing Luke and I had chosen to do together--Foster Care has abruptly ended.
Tonight the kids had their last night of Art Therapy at Circle of Life Hospice. The weekly trips to and from therapy have been both a welcome relief and exhausting. We've had one child refuse to participate that we thought would do well and another child that we anticipated to fight therapy, thrive. Tonight said child begged to continue and we are at least going to visit the Therapist's other office to say "hello." This time has been exactly what our kids needed and we are so thankful that Hospice provided this for them is such a safe and loving format.
Grief is exhausting. It is physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Luke and I typically have dropped the kids off at therapy and then drive to a Shake place near Circle of Life to sit and talk and have a little one-on-one time. Often we have attempted to converse but instead sit together in comforting silence. Each understanding the other that words don't express the tumult of emotions that are flying around in our heads.
Tonight it was warm and we walked to the park behind the Hospice House and sat on a park bench together observing the ducks and geese swim around on the pond. We both expressed how we have been surprised at the exhausting side of grief. The mind-numbing/thought jumbling tumult of emotions that come and go at the most inopportune times. We knew a year ago that she was dying but her extensive improvement and the talk of the Hospice Agency about discharging her last summer had left us hopeful. She had improved so much. We had unexpectedly grown to love her like one of our own.
Several people have kindly said that God won't give us more than we can handle. They are sadly and grossly mistaken. The whole year-and-a-half with Ariel was more than we could handle. That is why I think we felt closer to God than we ever had before and closer in our marriage than we ever had before. We were an exhausted-beyond-ourselves-overwhelmed mess carrying for her intense needs. But. BUT. God gave us what we needed for each day. Not the next day or the next week...but that day. And in each day, we learned to trust Him a little bit more. One thing that this whole process has taught us is that shielding your children from difficulties doesn't make them stronger. It makes for weak adults. We had discussed extensively with each one of them since she has passed away if maybe we shouldn't have said "yes" a year-and-a-half ago. Was this too hard for them? Each child has looked at us like we have just asked the most insulting question in the world and resoundingly exclaimed "no!" They wouldn't have traded life with Ariel for anything. That has brought us comfort as we walk through this grief process.
Speaking of grief, different things jump out at us when we are out in public. It might be a wheelchair that looks like hers before she had outgrown it or the Elsa necklace I saw around the neck of a friend's daughter that I had bought for Ariel as well and had her buried with. One day it was a pink I-pad I saw a teacher carrying down the sidewalk as I was dropping Timmy off at school. It was all I could do to get back to the car before breaking down. Friends talk about their little girls and the latest Tinker Bell movie that just came out and the continued obsession with all things Elsa and Anna and Frozen. What they don't know is that those were Ariel's favorite movies too. I have every line and song from Frozen memorized. Ariel may not have talked but she had her decided opinions and just like every other little girl in the nation became obsessed with Frozen and Tinker Bell. She too loved all things sparkly and shiny. I walk past the little girl clothing section in the store and catch myself browsing for outfits for her for the summer.
As a family, we laugh until we cry at the silly things we remember and the often ridiculously difficult situation we had found ourselves with her extensive care. We were counseled more than once to walk away and let someone else care for her. We begged God to make it clear as to what He wanted from us in her life and we always felt the strong call to continue the journey with her. It wasn't until the last month that we began to think otherwise. We began to ask how much longer we could continue. When IS enough...enough? What do we do when we can't go any further? We asked God for clear direction and answers because the ones we were given broke our hearts and we knew would break our children's hearts as well. Did we truly trust God? He had gotten us this far. Did we truly trust Him with her and with our family? The thought of her suddenly dying didn't cross our minds. That had honestly been pushed to the back and so many hopeful things were happening for her that she was responding to in amazing ways. But under it all was a fragile little girl who was physically and mentally severely disabled, and that was why she had been placed in Hospice Care. God knew what He was doing when He placed her in our home even though I still ask "why us?" I don't think I'm meant to understand now and I am becoming ok with that. I want to continue to write about her and us and our continuing-on lives. It's often not pretty and right now we (well me) is a bit of a mess but I hold onto the verse, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." --Jeremiah 29:11
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