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Friday, July 31, 2009

Another Goodbye

As always, thank you for your condolences, support, and prayers for my family after the death of my uncle. You guys are amazing and I am so, so thankful for you.

When I left home two Saturdays ago for Louisiana after we received the news of my uncle's fatal car accident, I thought I would be returning home about 3 days later. After a few years of some really hard times in his life, my uncle had made his wishes known to certain family members. He wanted his remains to be cremated and he did not want a funeral service. We thought the process would happen fairly quickly, but not long after we got on the road to make the trip, we got word that it would be nearly a week before all of the appropriate papers were signed and arrangements could be made. Although I hadn't quite packed for it, I decided to stay the whole week with my mom. My husband returned home without me to go to work for the week, with plans to come again the next weekend. I was incredibly glad to be able to spend the week with my mom. I knew it would be hard for her as she mourned the loss of her older brother, and I'm thankful that I was able to be there to keep her company.

Of the 5 children born to my grandparents, my mom is in the middle. She grew up with an older sister and brother as well as a younger sister and brother. My aunt, the eldest sibling, passed away 7 years ago from cancer. Watching my mom grieve after losing another sibling was most certainly difficult.

You can't help but notice how life changes people as time goes on. Since news of the accident, I know that my mother's thoughts have returned to her childhood memories of growing up with her brother. Theirs was not an easy childhood. They had strict parents, much hard work, and many chores and responsibilities. The highlights were always summers spent with their grandparents, but Mom's favorite memory was when her brother took his two younger sisters and a friend to see the King himself, Elvis Presley, in concert in Houston. I've listened to her tell that story (with almost as much joy as the day it happened) and many others my whole life.

But people grow up and circumstances happen, and sometimes they get the best of us. Sometimes we survive them, but we come out on the other side damaged and broken. Recounting the last few years of my uncle's life here would get too long, too involved, too complicated to even make much sense. I know that he was a very private person, mostly keeping to himself in later years. After a set of pretty wacky circumstances that included a final, complicated divorce, my uncle just wasn't the same person anymore. I'm sure that somewhere inside he may have been, but he was at the very least changed. His life was less like living and more like surviving from day to day. When I look at all that unfolded over the years, I can see why he had been so affected by all of it. And although he had made some really bad choices, I still feel very sad about how his life turned out.

Instead of dwelling on that, I'm remembering the uncle I knew who always had a big, silly grin on his face and encouraged us to have fun. My uncle was a Cajun who loved to cook and loved to dance. He was the uncle who handed the keys to his brand new truck to my preteen sister and told her to take it for a ride down my grandparents' little dirt road. And when we returned a little while later after putting that brand new truck in the ditch (of course, after he made sure that my sis and I and our cousins were okay), he laughed and said, "It's just a truck. You had fun though, right?" Admittedly, that wasn't the smartest thing a man could ever do, but I remember how cool it felt that he trusted us, and that he cared more about us having a fun story to tell than he did about having a few scratches on that truck!

This is what we do. We remember the good things about our loved ones. We draw on happier times even if we have to reach back over a few decades and a lot of mistakes to get to them. And so, even though my uncle wanted no funeral service, my mom and her sister went forward with a small private service attended by immediate family only. My uncle didn't need it, but his family needed an opportunity to say goodbye. It was very simple and brief.

At the service, my aunt told the Elvis story and my sister told the truck story, and everyone remembered him in their own way.
And I think he would have liked that.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Updates and Prayer Request

Hi friends,

It has been a busy summer for us so far, and even this month it seems we've witnessed much of life's ebb and flow. I wanted to give a few quick updates tonight since I'll be away from my computer for the next week or so.

~For the Independence Day weekend, we traveled out of state to meet our newest nephew for the first time. Nephew T was born back in April to Chuck's brother and his wife. He is just adorable, and we had such a good time getting to know him. I'll have to ask his parents if I can share a photo with you here on the blog so you can see his big blue eyes!

~Last week my sister and her boys (Nephews A & N) came from Louisiana to stay with us. We had a great fun-filled week together. Now that the boys are both in school and my sis is teaching again, I'm sure we will really look forward to summertime with them each year. We mostly spent lots of time at home, playing video games and board games and reading books. I love climbing into their bed each night for story time while they are visiting. As a lover of books myself, it makes me very happy that they both love to read and listen to stories.
The coolest thing we did was watch this week's launch of the space shuttle Endeavour on the big screen at Johnson Space Center. At ages 8 and 6, the boys are finally old enough to really enjoy having an uncle who works at NASA. We were so glad to hear them say how "awesome" it was!

~This week I will be spending some time with my family in Louisiana. Early this morning, we got word that my uncle had passed away in a car accident during the night. If you wouldn't mind, please remember my family in your prayers. I know it will be a tough week for my mom as she buries her older brother.
Being with my mom this week means that I will have no Internet connection. I'll miss being in touch with my blog pals, but as always, you'll be in my thoughts and prayers. I'll be eager to catch up with all of you when I get home!

Stacey

Friday, July 10, 2009

Guest Post

I know I'm late telling you guys about this, but I'm guest posting today over at one of my favorite blogs, Stuff Christians Like.

SCL was the first blog I ever read. My hubby heard about it on a talk radio station and we began reading it daily -- and cracking up. It very quickly made its way into our dinner table conversations and we were soon telling our friends about it. (Chuck frequently comments on that blog under the name Hucklebuck.) SCL introduced me to the world of blogging and it inspired me to start writing my own blog, which has been a tremendous blessing in so many ways.

Over the past year I've made some great friends through that blog and this one. I'd be delighted if you'd go on over and check it out. If you want to explore everything that blog has to offer, be prepared for a witty, usually sarcastic, always thought-provoking, and occasionally convicting look at the Christian subculture in America.

If you're visiting my blog from SCL today, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Remembering

Some days are the kind that hold special meaning. We always remember birthdays and anniversaries, and some may remember the date that they bought their first home or first car. No one could forget the day that their first child was born (although this a date I can only imagine, and even imagining it gets harder to do with each passing year).

July 6 is a day that sticks out in my memory. It was the day, 7 years ago, that I lost a big part of my innocence about life. It was my first trip to the ER, my first time hooked up to an IV, my first miscarriage of my first baby, and the first time my heart was ever truly broken.

We found out we were pregnant for the first time on May 6, 2002. We'd had our suspicions all weekend long while we were out of town visiting family, so the following Monday I was so happy to have a positive home pregnancy test. Chuck was home from work that day with a terrible cold, and I remember carrying the test into the living room of our apartment to show him. We were so happy (and so oblivious). We had been living in an apartment in Texas for exactly one year, and were just beginning to look for a house. We shared our pregnancy news with most of our immediate family in the weeks that followed. We told my mom in person, on Mother's Day. We told my in-laws when the family was all together for my brother-in-law's graduation with his Master's Degree. We shared the happy news with a few close friends as well.

My first doctor's appointment went well, but the first ultrasound on May 22 was not great. Everyone reassured us that the dates were off and that it might be too early. We were worried, but we had good blood test results and we scheduled a second ultrasound for May 29. You can imagine how relieved we were to see our baby's heartbeat! It was the most beautiful sight and we finally allowed ourselves to relax. Things were going to work out after all, or so it seemed.

We spent the next few weeks searching for a house that would be perfect for our young family. Although we looked at 3 or 4 houses, we kept going back to the very first one we saw. With 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, it was just right. I already knew which room would be the nursery. Two days before we closed on the house, on June 26, I started noticing some spotting that made me nervous. We called the nurse and she said it was probably okay. We went ahead and closed on the house and waited through the weekend, but it did not clear up. We saw our doctor, who did an exam where everything looked fine, but to be sure she sent us to the hospital for an ultrasound. The technician told us that the baby did not look big enough for 11 weeks, and we returned to our doctor's office in tears. After she told us to expect a miscarriage, I remember she let us leave through the back door because we were so upset. (Sometimes I wonder if this was done for us or for the pregnant women in the waiting room.) We went home to our apartment utterly devastated. We spent the 4th of July holiday trying to stay busy in the house while we waited for something to happen. I had opted not to have a D&C, so we knew it might be several days. My sister and her husband came to stay the weekend. The guys worked on painting the house while my sister and I tried to pass the time. My oldest nephew was just a toddler then, and his little brother was still "in the oven." My sister and I were due about a month apart.

By the night of July 5, I knew that the miscarriage would be happening soon. I went to bed around 11, but woke up at 1 am in severe pain. I endured as best as I could through the pain and heavy bleeding until I couldn't do it any longer, and we made a mad dash to the emergency room around 4 am. Just a few minutes after they wheeled me back, I knew that it was over. The ER doctor confirmed that it looked like I had passed "everything." That was the morning of July 6, and I spent the whole day in the hospital receiving fluids and resting. It was a day that changed my life forever.

I remember all of these details because I wrote them down in a journal two days after it happened. Although I could never forget it, I try not to think about it very often and I talk about it even less often. I wrote in that journal that I didn't see how we could ever emotionally or physically handle another miscarriage. I didn't know that there would be 5 more at least.

The fact is that July is my double-whammy month. Our two most promising pregnancies ended in July (the other was our fourth one, July 22, 2005). They are the only two that looked good enough for the doctor to send us home with those treasured ultrasound images.

Remembering is a hard thing to do. I want to remember those 11 weeks that I had another life inside. I want to remember how happy we were and how we thought things would be so simple and wonderful. I want to remember the looks on the faces of our loved ones when we told them the good news. I want to imagine that we didn't have to call them a few months later to tell them that it was now bad news. I do remember the good moments we had, but I can't help but remember the pain, the hurt, and the grief that still feels very fresh 7 years later. It really never does entirely go away. I miss that baby and I still want that baby, and I feel that way about each one that we have lost since.

Today, I remember.