Last night, I had the opportunity to spend time on the oncology floor at our Children’s hospital. If you know my story at all, you know that my daughter died (13 months ago today) from brain cancer. She spent a great deal of time on this very same oncology floor. So, to be admitted with her older brother – it was difficult. When I introduce this paragraph as this being an opportunity, I did so intentionally. I had the chance to feel things that needed feeling.
To anyone who may read this – this is going to be a letter I write to my 7 heart old daughter Janet. She passed away three day before Valentine’s Day, 2016, after a three year fight with brain cancer. I have no idea how long this will be, but I have so much on my mind. You don’t have to read it – but do please feel free. I am not going to edit or even change grammar or spelling errors because, frankly, I don’t want to. I’m writing on/from my cell phone, and so God knows (and so do several of you) that I’m probably going to say any number of things that might not compute! I love you all. Thank you for being here. And for all you love, support, thoughts and prayers!
Oh, precious Janet! I love you so much, sweet girl. I will always and forever #RememberTheLove. Like I told you before you took your final breath this side of Heaven, we do miss you like crazy – like there’s no tomorrow! But, just like I followed that up with this then, I will now say that we are okay. The reason we’re okay is because we have each other. We still have you here with us, just only in our hearts.
I’m not going to lie – sweetheart. This has been the hardest I’ve ever felt. Some days are so much harder than others. You know what I’m learning? That’s just the way it is. I do know this, though. If you were able to, you’d give me a gigantic squeezy hug. You did those the best. You’d tell me it’s okay, and you’d wipe away my tears. I know this. Sorry. I’m just missing you.
I’ve learned so much about myself, other people, life, and even God. I think you’d be proud. I hope so, at least. God knows I’m also not perfect. But I know you’d remind me how much you love me and no matter what, that wouldn’t change. I said that to you all the time – and you picked up on or, and knew when to say it to me.
I’m so so sorry we couldn’t do more to save you. I know it’s not my fault. But I still wish. So much. I just feel so broken. My heart hurts so much sometimes. I hate this pain, and how much it hurts. But them I remember that it hurts so bad because we shared so much love. The love you shared with me will forever be in my heart.
I’ve been listening to a lot of music. I know how much music meant to you. It makes me smile.
Guess what else? If you were sitting beside me, I know we’d talk about this. I’m learning a lot right now, especially about God, and my faith. Also about love, and compassion – and this messy thing called messy grace. I learned so much about this thing called messy grace at an incredible place – a blog written by my friend Steve. There is also a really neat messy grace community Facebook group that are just a bunch of people that love people just where they are. That helped me too! They just love people really well, and they share so much of this messy grace with everyone. I mean it, Janet. EVERYONE! I bet that would make you giggle. Just all this talk about messy grace! Hehe.
I wanna tell you a little bit about the things I’ve been thinking about and realizing. I’ve been telling Jeremy and James this, so I’d tell you too.
I’m starting to see just how much God loves us. I’m finding out a lot about my own faith in God. I know, you’d smack my hand if I told you I wanted to punch God in the face some days. I’m not doing to lie, baby. It makes me so mad at Him sometimes because you weren’t healed here on Earth. But, I’m so so so happy that you got to meet Jesus. I know that even just hours before you took that last breath, you smiled because you knew it was almost time.
Anyway, I’ve decided to live my life in a little bit different of a way. I’ve decided it’s time to own my faith. What that means I’d I know what things I believe, but I just realized I didn’t always know why. Do you understand? I know you do. I don’t want to have what’s called blind faith. I just mean that – you know, when a person is blind, they can’t see. Well, I don’t want to believe things with my eyes closed. I want to believe them for myself – not because someone else tells me to. It’s more important than that.
One of the biggest things that my heart needs, and wants other people to understand, is love. Love can move mountains. I bet that would make you laugh – silly mommy. But live is such a big thing. I know you knew that though.
The world we live in right now needs so much more love. One thing going on right now is so many people aren’t showing people love very well. I know, you would ask why, and it would make you sad. Baby, it makes me sad too.
One thing going on is the LGBTQ+ community. I know, those letters sounds silly. What those letters are talking about are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and the plus is for all the other things in between. Lesbians are when girls like or love and want to marry other girls. Being gay is like the same thing, but with boys who like other boys. Bisexual is when a boy likes boys and girls, and also if girls like girls or boys. Transgender people are people who feel like they were born in the wrong body. They might be a person who was born with boy parts, but has always felt like that was a mistake. And even sometimes girls are born with a vagina, but they always feel like they were supposed to be a boy. Queer is kind of hard to explain. Not really, I don’t guess. It just means anything but straight. Straight people are when a man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man. But, when a person is queer, they can like it love anyone. The Q also can stand for questioning. For a lot of people, there is a time when they start to question and explore who they think are nice and that they might want to get to know better and maybe love.
This community is in the news a lot lately. It makes me sad, and I know it would make you sad too. One thing that makes me sad is that people don’t treat people very nicely. I think you’d be super proud to help me with this next thing. I know how much loving people means to you. You would want to help me love people well. ALL people.
See, you know we go to church. I have figured something out, sweetheart. Not our church, but so many different churches aren’t doing very well in how they love people. I know, you probably can’t understand that! It’s crazy! Cause, God wants us to love every single person – even if they look different, or live different, or if they marry differently. But so many people don’t love people like that. They only love the people they understand. It makes me sad about this LGBTQ+ community because they are very special too. The Bible does talk about homosexuality (that is when two people who are either both boys or both girls love each other and want to be a family) and says in some places that it’s wrong. A lot of churches even tell them that they can’t be a Christian because of the way that they love people.
I’m going to tell you this. I don’t really believe that’s true. I know there are a lot of people who may not like that I say that. And they may not believe it. Some may even get mad. But, I think they can come to Jesus and all Him (like you did) to come into their heart and be a part of their life. What happens after that is between that person and God. I’m not God. (I know! That’s funny for me to say!) But, I’m not Him and I can’t really tell you how He will act or react. But what I do think is that He will love them very well. You know how I feel about God, and when people want to know Him more. He welcomes people right where they are. That is what I think.
I want to help people, all people, even in the church to love all people well — not just the people that they agree with. See, I’ve told you this so many times. As people who love Jesus, (we call them Christians or Christ followers) we are asked (by God Himself) to be like the hands and feet of Jesus. Kind of like if Jesus was here, we should act how He acted. Even to people we don’t think deserve love. When Jesus was alive as a person on the earth, He would be deleted with so many people. He loved people well. He would even hang out with really sick people, people who would break the law, and even really mean people. Just like I told you a lot, Christians need to act like Jesus because sometimes we’ll be the only Jesus they might ever see. We need to act like him, and treat people like He would. It makes me so happy when people really do that.
So, I just think everyone, even and especially Christ followers, need to be known by how we love people, not by all the things don’t like. It’s all about the love, and I hope so many more people can start to #RememberTheLove. With ALL people.
Janet, I love you more than The World – to the moon and back. Your Daddy, James and Jeremy also miss you so much. We all do. People we’ve never even met love and miss you! Oh, and I was looking at some special notes that your friends from school wrote to you when you were here, and even some notes from every single kid in the first grade work you. That miss you so much too! Evie. I know how much you loved her. I do too. Her whole family is just amazing. Every time I see Evie, I get a great big squeezy hug. She always tells me how much she loves you, and misses you. Do you know how happy that makes me? I’m so happy she likes to give me hugs. Oh, did you know, she cut off her pretty long hair so she could donate her hair to another little person like you were. I know why both of you got along so well. I hope that we can stay friends with her whole family, forever. Me and Jeremy got to go with her to get her hair cut. I will share pictures here after I make sure her mommy doesn’t care.
You always knew how much you were loved though. So these special people like here in your page (who I love so so much too) also pray for our family all the time. I know I’d make it somehow, but you being in Heaven is even bearable because of all these friends and all the people who love us, and who pray for us. I know that makes you happy too!
I guess I will stop writing now. I want you to know how much I love you, and I always will. I miss you, baby – but I’m smiling now. I’m so happy that even though you were here with us on earth for only seven years, I’m so proud to be your mommy. You James and Jeremy make me so happy. I’m smiling right now because I remember so many really happy and special times. I love you! Forever!
As the mother of four children, I say Happy Mother’s Day. To those of you scratching your head, wondering if I can do math, let me explain.
I have four children. I have two boys who I’m incredibly proud of. Two boys with so much to offer the world. Two boys that keep me going. Then I have a little girl we never got to see take a breath this side of Heaven. Many don’t consider a baby lost during pregnancy to be a child. But, from the moment that little baby started growing inside me – from the moment that heart started beating, I was mama to her – even if we didn’t know her outside my body. I was no less a mother. Then I have a beautiful princess – now residing in Heaven. For those new to my blog, my 7 year old little girl fight brain cancer for three years before taking her final breath this side of Heaven in February, 2016. She’s not here, and I miss her like crazy.
I am eternally grateful for the kids I’ve been blessed with. Those here on earth, and those whose home is Heaven. There is, however, a hole in my heart that is impossible to fill with anything else. Ever. I am going to let my heart have a voice today. Let my heart share a few things.
As shattered as my heart is, it still loves. It still beats – though it often feels like I need to remind it to beat again some days. But, even though there is a love so passionate, there is a counterpart called pain. My heart hurts. It aches.
Let me talk to you a bit about what Mother’s Day is to me. This day is as excruciating as it is beautiful. There is nothing that denies the incredible love. That cannot be erased. But to deny the existence of a broken heart is just unfair.
Mother’s Day does make me think fondly on the gift that motherhood is. I’m blessed to be given the honor of being trusted with the title of Mama. It also, however, reminds me of the empty space that those residing in Heaven used to fill. Though I love them greatly, I ache at merely the thought of the rest of this lifetime without them. I try not to dwell on it, but it’s impossible not to. Especially with all the memories and life moments that surround me each and every day.
Focusing on the little girl who we had seven years of a well lived life with, this is what I need you to know.
I need you to remember her. Not just that, but I need you tell me. I like to hear people reminisce about happy memories with her. No amount of you talking about her will bring me pain. I will not miss her any more than I already do. You talking about her won’t remind me that she’s gone – it will remind me that you remember her life – that she lived — not just that she died.
Tell me you miss her. That you hurt too. Tell me you’ll never forget her. If you never actually knew her, that’s okay. Remind me she was real, and so very loved. She was and always will be loved.
I need you to also just know that I hurt. Please don’t try to fix me. No amount of reminding me how grateful I should be because I still have the boys will ever change the fact that my heart is shattered. Yes, there is strength in those reminders – but they don’t stay pain. It isn’t possible for you to take away my pain.
What can you do?
You can offer to just sit with me in the pain. Acknowledge that it’s okay to not always be okay – and just know that I might not be feeling very okay any given moment. I might be – but might not be. Just sit with me. Allow me to just BE. Allow me the freedom to feel. To feel whatever I feel in that moment. Sometimes I feel love, hope, compassion and grace – while other times I feel quite the opposite.
I should note that sitting with me doesn’t just mean physically. It means online. Offline. Wherever.
Take the time to talk to me. Ask how I’m doing – but care enough really listen. If I tell you flippantly that “I’m good” that might be the truth, or it may be me begging you to dig deeper. I may mean it when I say I’m fine, or I may just find that easier than explaining how much I hurt and watching you squirm – not knowing how to handle me.
Another thing I need you to hear.
I know that you don’t know what to say. Truth be told, I’m glad you don’t know the pain associated with losing a child. I don’t expect you to have the perfect thing to say. Note – there isn’t magical or perfect thing anyone can say. And that’s okay. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing. Just tell me you’re with me. Tell me you care. Just allow your presence to be a friend.
Oh, and I know I may step on toes here, and I promise that is not my intent. But you need to understand that no loss you know (a parent, grandparents, cats or dogs, birds or fish – even a child) will equate to mine. I don’t pretend that you don’t hurt – but it’s not the same. It can’t be. My pain is not worse than yours. It’s just different. To tell me that you know how I feel because your dog died simply doesn’t compute. Don’t get me wrong. I totally validate your pain and know it’s very real. I only stipulate it isn’t mine. It’s yours. You don’t get it, and I’m glad.
So, on this day, as all days – these are just a few things I want you to remember. But especially on Mother’s Day, remember that if I’m not full of joy – there are valid reasons and explanations. If I am okay, let’s celebrate that together cause it may not be that way long. But it may be.
Just – you be you. I’ll be me. We can be broken together.