Warning: Real, raw emotion ahead. Proceed with caution (and maybe a tissue or two).
Tomorrow marks half a year since Paige left us to be with Jesus. Half a year. 6 months since I last held my baby girl's hand. 26 weeks since I kissed her forehead. 182 days since I stroked her head and prayed over her. 4,368 hours since I watched my daughter take her last breaths on this earth. The rest of the world goes on as usual, and I'm left trying to convince my mind and my heart that this isn't just a bad dream. That this really happened. I'm wrestling with feelings of heartbreak. I'm searching for healing. I'm holding on to every bit of hope I can find.
Heartbreak. That feeling of longing for my daughter is with me every single day. I find myself thinking about how Paige might have reacted to something one of us said--likely with her trademark eye roll. I can almost hear her in the back seat singing--often very silly--as she usually did on car rides. I sit in her 'spot' on the sofa and am transported back to the many times we were right there. Together. Joined at the hip, as she said so often. I long to see her driving her dream car. To see her getting ready for her last year of high school. I just long to see her--period.
There is an ache words can't fully explain. An ache only truly understood by those who have lost a child and found themselves in this place--a place no one wants to be. I wipe away tears as I look at pictures of my girl before cancer attacked her body not once, not twice--but three times. She was happy. She was healthy. She was here. I look at pictures of Paige over the course of her battles with leukemia and wipe away more tears. Long hair to no hair to amazing ringlets of curls.
Healing. There are days that are mostly good. There are days that are most definitely not good. And that's okay. If I've learned anything along the way, it's that there is absolutely, positively, no set timeline for 'getting over' a loss like this. I had to tell my daughter I'd see her "in a little bit" and watched her cross over into Heaven. I carried that girl inside of me for nine months. She clasped my fingers as she took her first steps. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my baby would have to take on the childhood cancer monster. Not only did she take it on, she fought it with unmatched courage and determination. She fought to the finish. Moving forward--not moving on--after something like that is done not one day a time, not even an hour at a time. It is quite literally one moment at a time.
Unlike 'normal' illnesses that can be resolved with a prescription from the doctor, this type of healing calls for a different approach. A different recipe, if you will, that involves everyone. This type of healing requires prayer, grace, and patience. It relies on others reaching out--even if just to check in. It is the willingness to listen to stories about our sweet girl and an understanding that our lives are really and truly forever changed.
We talked with Paige many times about making sure good things would come out of her struggles. Boyce and I are committed to finding ways to keep our beautiful girl's light shining. We want to help make a difference. For her legacy. For the kiddos still fighting. For those yet to fight. I truly believe it will be an important part of the healing process for our family. Recently I was asked to speak at a golf tournament fundraiser for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It was my first planned speaking event since Paige left us, and I had spent the week before racking my brain for the right words. I may have been close to making myself crazy over the whole thing when I came to my senses and realized it wasn't my brain that needed to control the speaking--it was my heart. From there, everything fell into place. Not only did I talk about her cancer battles and the need to raise money for research, I was able to give the audience a glimpse at the fight, spirit, and sassiness that was my daughter. Without breaking down. Without worrying I'd leave something out. I spoke straight from my heart, and I hope everyone there that day left a little more inspired to make a difference. I know I did.
I cannot count the number of times Boyce and I have been told how strong we are. While that is a very sweet and appreciated sentiment, I can assure you we are not strong. I am not strong--not on my own, that's for certain. Any semblance of strength I have is a total God thing. He gives me strength when it feels like my knees are buckling and I can't take one more step down this path. He gives me peace when grief tries to spiral into overwhelming anxiety and chaos. He hears my prayers every night as I ask Him to heal my heart. It's a long road--but God isn't going anywhere. He's got this healing thing in His mighty hands. I just have to find a way to be patient with the process.
A Whole Lot of Hope. It seems only fitting I wrap this up with Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Hope is all around. It's in the promise of meeting my Savior someday. It's in the thought of being reunited with my sweet girl (and my Nanny and Papaw) in Heaven. It's in a beautiful sunrise or sunset. It's in my son's laugh or a hand squeeze from my husband. It's in continuing to seek out the joy in each and every day we are given on this earth. My friends, hope is very real because of Jesus' saving grace. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..." Hebrews 6:19