Saturday, December 10, 2016

December's Double Whammy

December, aka "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."  Not for our family.  Not this year.  This month has taken on the feeling of a one-two punch.  A double whammy.  She should be here.  Paige should be here.  Healthy.  Happy.  Never having to take on cancer once, let alone two and three times.  Don't get me wrong--I know she is healthy and happy now.  I know she is going to have the most amazing Christmas in Heaven.  I know I will see her again one day.   Still...she should be here.     

Whammy #1,  "The Obvious One"
She should be here.  Paige should be here helping me bake holiday goodies and watching our favorite Christmas movies.  Doing things we've come to know as traditions for the Lejeune Four.  She should be making sure her accident-prone mom doesn't drop the candle at Christmas Eve candlelight services.  Dragging me out of bed on Christmas morning.  Eating pigs-in-a-blanket for breakfast.  Opening gifts and then anxiously waiting for us to open gifts she picked out just for us.  Going to Grandma's house for lunch and then laughing as Dad, Grandpa, and Uncle Craig doze off watching television.  She should be here.

Whammy #2, "The (Even More) Heartbreaking One" 
Paige was admitted to the Bone Marrow Unit on December 10th last year.  One year ago today.  It was the beginning of 9 days of "conditioning"--chemo, radiation, and more chemo--that would prepare her body for transplant.  Transplant, where new 'baby marrow' cells would take up residence in Paige's bones.  New cells that would work to build a brand new immune system.  New cells that were supposed to save her life.

For three months prior to that admission, Paige's body endured extremely hard cycles of chemotherapy.  It beat her up like I'd never seen--but in true Paige form, she pushed through every struggle, every setback, confident she would come out okay on the other side of it all.  December 18th was the day.  Paige's new birthday, as it's called in the transplant world.  She was so excited at the prospect of having 2 birthdays each year and had even thought about doing a silly cake smash for the 1st BMT birthday.  That girl--always planning ahead.  Always ready to move forward.

Being hospitalized during the holidays is not the ideal situation, but we were truly blessed by some wonderful individuals and organizations who wanted to give our family the best Christmas possible.  As you can imagine, there were several occasions I had to ask Paige for a wish list.  She was always reluctant to ask for much and told us more than one time, "I'm just happy to be here."  The girl could have listed just about anything and everything, but she chose not to.  She was simply thankful for hope.  Thankful for another chance at a healthy life.  Doesn't that say it all?  She should be here.


Our sweet girl suffers no more.  Forever healed, she is likely looking down at me thinking I need a swift kick in the pants for being sad.  But I am sad.  Some days I navigate the waters of grief pretty well, while other days find me struggling to get my head above water.  I miss her terribly.  My heart aches over what this world lost in that girl.  Over what I lost in that girl.  

How thankful I am for God's promise to be with us always.  No matter what, He is here.  He gives us the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  One step at a time, one day at a time.  We will make it.  He will make sure of it.  God is good like that.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.   
Psalm 34:18     

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hope for Healing Our Broken Hearts

Tomorrow marks six weeks since Paige went to be with Jesus.  Six weeks since I held her hand in mine.  Since I looked into those beautiful eyes.  Six weeks since my heart shattered into a bazillion pieces.

While the holiday hustle and bustle is in full swing, it feels like our family is living in a separate world.  A separate world that moves at a snail's pace.  Even when we try to keep busy, time seems to drag.  Working through the grief of losing my girl takes on a whole new level of hurt this time of year.  Like many kiddos, Paige loved Christmastime.  Decorating the tree.  Baking yummy goodies.  Checking out light displays.  Watching our favorite Christmas movies.  All of these things were special because of the time we spent together.

Paige will spend her first Christmas in Heaven fully healed and whole.  I know we will be reunited one day, but this day finds my heart hurting.  Broken.  Truly shattered.  Life goes on all around, while I'm slowly navigating each day feeling like Humpty Dumpty, wondering how I'm ever going to feel put back together again.

My brain tells me to keep moving forward, and I am--one day (sometimes one hour) at a time.  I have to.  For Boyce and Jeremy.  For Paige.  For myself.  It's my heart I have to wrestle on a daily basis, and it's basically become a tug-of-war contest.  Here's just a glimpse:

I fall apart.  Getting ready to leave town--which in past years was not a big deal--for the first time as 3 instead of 4 proved to be quite taxing on the emotions.  Boyce and Jeremy got their things together, and I was just fine.  However, when I started laying out my own things, it hit me hard.  I'm usually the last one to pack, but we were missing a piece of the puzzle.  A beautiful, much-missed piece.  
I'm (temporarily) back together.  After a good cry, I finished packing.  We even managed to fit everything into one big suitcase, which was pretty impressive.  Turns out I needed that trip more than I realized.  We flew to Ohio to be part of an incredible event that honored our sweet girl.  Her face was everywhere--banners, shirts, a live-streamed broadcast.  We strengthened our bond with the incredible family that flew us up there.  We explored a beautiful metropark with winding roads, amazing fall foliage, and altogether peaceful surroundings.  It was definitely a weekend of healing.

I fall apart.  We're smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, and it's time to do a little Christmas decorating around the house--even if we aren't totally feeling it.  Boyce and I try to do 'normal' things with Jeremy as much as we possibly can, so it was important to us to get through it.  Going through bins of Christmas decor, I came across one containing decorations from our room on the Bone Marrow Unit last year.  Decorations we kept because Paige wanted to use them again one day.  Decorations that took my breath away and began the onslaught of tears.
I'm (temporarily) back together.  Just two days later, we returned to TCH to help spread Christmas cheer to the families calling the Bone Marrow Unit home this year.  The Chandler's Tree Farm organization blessed us last year, and it truly did our hearts good to give back this year.  What I thought might prove to be too difficult turned out to be more like a family reunion.  We visited with several friends--from patients to doctors to nurses.  It was yet another step in the healing process.

I fall apart.  When Paige relapsed again in July, we happened to be inpatient when the TCH Marketing Department visited the Hematology/Oncology floor.  They were looking to create some new materials for the Cancer Center and asked for permission to photograph our sweet girl.  A few days ago I received a phone call asking if we were still good with them using Paige's pictures, to which I answered, "Absolutely!"  Today I opened an envelope they sent that contained a CD and several of the printed photos.  They were pictures of Paige I had never seen before.  They were simply beautiful.  And I wept.  And wept.  
I'm (temporarily) back together.  Not yet.  But I will be.  Paige will make sure of it.

Our family is hurting.  I don't know that the hurt will ever fully go away, but I do believe it will sting a little less as time goes by.  I'm so thankful for the goofy, amazing young man we are blessed to call our son--who definitely keeps Boyce and me from totally sinking some days.  It's important we make sure he knows it's okay to keep going.  He's only 13, and we want him to go on to have a happy life.  Jeremy is already a great kid, but this whole experience will only serve to make him stronger in character and in faith.  I can only hope it will do the same for us.