Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two months since we said, "Goodbye".

Today marks two months since I delivered Mary Grace.

We went out to her grave this morning and there are now two babies buried next to her. The first is Connor W. His grave had a temporary marker, courtesy of the cemetery. I wasn't sure what that meant. Maybe that his parents are ordering a marker that will take a longer time to come in than did Mary Grace's. And another baby had been buried; there was no marker for that grave yet, but fresh white roses had been placed in a plastic vase...11 roses in that vase and one had been placed in Connor's vase. It was really sweet. And sad. Sad that our babies have died. Sad that we have to bring flowers to their graves in their memory instead of receiving flowers in celebration of their birth.

And yet, that's exactly what I did...brought out new (fake) summery pink and purple flowers to place at her headstone. They are pretty for fake flowers. Rob cleaned off the clay and dirt buildup from the marker, and Isabel picked grass to feed to Mary Grace's sheep. And then we all sat on the grass (because they have now removed the bench) and stared at her grave.

It was very peaceful. The sun enveloped us in it's warmth and a gentle breeze blew just enough so that it wasn't too hot. I told Robert that I could fall asleep right there if it wasn't just completely taboo to do so.

After awhile though I felt weak and queasy. I'm not sure if it was the sun or just being at the grave or what, but we left. Maybe it was thinking about it only being two months since we said, "Goodbye" to our little baby. Maybe it was from wondering what happened to the two other little babies who were buried next to Mary Grace.

It's hard to believe that it's only been two months. It actually feels like much, much longer than that.

Dear Mary Grace,

I miss you sweet baby. I miss you every day and even though my heart is healing, I will always love you, want you, and miss you.
You are in a unique position now, to be able to pray for those of us who are still down here on earth, by going right to the throne of God in heaven.
Mary Grace, please pray for our friends and family, especially those who are ill or suffering. Please pray that we have peace in our lives and in our homes; that we will open our hearts to the Lord to receive that peace. Pray for all families who have lost a baby, that their hearts might be healed.

Please thank God for the gift He gave us in you.
We will always love you.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Healing a wounded heart.

Last week was a really good week for me. It's like a light just switched inside of me and I've been very at peace with Mary Grace's death. Last Wednesday night (April 15th) before I went to sleep I was thinking about how my heart was wounded. I envisioned my heart was cut down the middle and opened up into two perfect halves. And then I thought about Jesus laying His hands, palms down, on each half of my dissected heart. He is the only one who can heal my heart.

That made me think of Thomas who told the other disciples that he would never believe that Jesus had appeared unless he was able to place his fingers inside the nailmarks and his hand into Jesus' side.

Thomas wanted to put his hands in Christ's wounds because he doubted.

Jesus wants to put His hands in my wounds so He can heal.

Jesus asks if He can place His hands in our wounds to heal our brokenness. And I think last week I felt like I could say, "Okay". Because over the last week I have been without despair, without depressed feelings and even without crying! I have felt hopeful about the future, yes even about "trying again". I still think very often of Mary Grace. Everytime I look at the calendar I am reminded of how many weeks pregnant I would be (I marked each week on the calendar when I was first pregnant all the way up to my due date)...and I would be 28 weeks pregnant by the way. I still think about how my belly should be growing, I think of the spring maternity clothes I should be wearing now, I think of how I would have decorated her nursery. But this week I can look at all those things in an almost fond way...it's tricky to explain. But it almost seems like these beautiful dreams of what could have been...but I'm feeling them in a much different way than two weeks ago when I was weeping for what could have been.

I'm not at all considering that this may be the end of my grief journey. I'm just trying to document a little of what this week has been like "riding the grief waves".

So back to Jesus placing His hands on my heart and Thomas doubting that Christ had risen! Guess what the Gospel reading was on Divine Mercy Sunday (2 days ago for you non-Catholics) and the Sunday AFTER I had this revelation?? You guessed it! Doubting Thomas (John 20:19-31)! I love when God affirms the little revelations He's given me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I did it! My wedding dress is gone!

It is done! I have finally shipped off my wedding dress to Mary Madeline Project so that it can be made into precious little gowns for other babies who have died. I feel so thankful that I am able to give back to this wonderful organization that helped us have something small enough and something so special and beautiful in which to bury Mary Grace.

I can't think of a better thing to do with my wedding gown. *Sigh*... My wedding gown! The gown you dream about, thumb through bridal magazines for, and spend countless hours trying on and tailoring until your dress is perfect! The dress you wear for less than one day in your entire life! But one of your most cherished possessions because it holds the most dreamy memories of love and joy in marrying your spouse and the hope and promise of your new life together.

I LOVED my wedding dress. I loved wearing it, I loved getting married in it nearly six short years ago. I definitely hesitated for a second when I thought of giving it away. After all, doesn't every mother have some tiny dream of her own daughter wearing her gown? Or at least we wonder if she will want to wear it when she grows up? The practical side of me was thinking "can I give something away that cost so much??" Yes, you can. You can when you understand how much it means to a family that has lost their baby. You can when you think about the parents who worry about burying their child in a doll's dress because there is nothing else that is small enough. I can say that I will be proud to tell Isabel that my wedding dress went to help the families of little babies who died like her sister, Mary Grace, and that when someone helps you, you can show love and appreciation by doing good for others.

We have had so many people offer their generosity in so many different and deep ways, that giving away my wedding gown is just a very small way that I can give back and help another family in need.

I did want to share some pictures of Robert and I on our wedding day, July 11th, 2003 (for those of you who weren't there or who don't really know us!) It was a joyous day; we are so blessed to be living out our lives as a married couple! And as you remember, July 11th is not only our wedding day, but it was Mary Grace's due date as well, so I think donating the dress in her memory will prove especially significant.

If you would like to donate your wedding gown to Mary Madeline Project, please visit: www.marymadelineproject.org/How_you_can_help.htm

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Thankfulness.

We enjoyed a beautiful Easter day and wish all of you the blessings of Easter! It was a day filled with hope, joy and renewal as we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. It was a day of thanks, for me. I felt so grateful to the Father for sending us His son to die for our sins, that we might all have new life. I was especially thankful that Jesus died for Mary Grace and for my other two children, too young to name. Of course I am grateful that Jesus died for me, for Isabel, for Robert, for all of our friends and family...for everyone! But it's different to think about it when you have children who didn't make it...you think about where they are. You think about what heaven must be like (of course we can't fathom it's beauty or the glorious life we will have with our Savior). But you can't help but try to imagine where your child is once they have gone. So in a mother-who-is-grateful-to-a-God-who-sent-His-own-Son-to-save-her-child-and-take-that-child-to-heaven kind of way, I have thoughts of deep thankfulness and great joy knowing that I KNOW where Mary Grace Holmes IS.

Because if it weren't for Jesus, Mary Grace would just be dead today.

I know, that is awfully blunt, but stop and think about it.

As a mother who misses her baby desperately, I know that she is with Him! Do you get it? Do you get that Jesus conquered death? Death which we seldom think about until it is in our face? Mary Grace would not have been able to conquer death on her own. Neither would I, and neither would you. But Jesus did. And today, even though I don't have my precious little girl here, I know that death is not the end; that I will see her again.

And that is all thanks to our Lord.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Join me in prayer on Good Friday.

Today I was cleaning out my email folder. It's a mess. I was sifting through each email, deleting or filing them when I came across a "Mary Grace email" that I hadn't filed yet (I have a "Mary Grace Folder" specifically for emails about her). It was from a dear friend and we received it on Friday, February 27th, as I was laboring in the hospital. The following is a paragraph from that email:

Yesterday I called my mother and father to share with them what had taken place. My mother called me back later last night and shared with me another dream she had the night before. Before going to sleep she prayed, as she has each night, that Jesus would either make Mary Grace whole, so she could survive the delivery or if it was the Father’s Will, He’d take her to be with Him. In her dream angels escorted Mary Grace up to Jesus. It was again revealed to my mother that with the world in the state it is in, Jesus wanted Mary Grace’s company during His Passion this year.

This dream took place the night of Ash Wednesday...Ash Wednesday was the day I heard Mary Grace's faltering heartbeat for the last time. Thursday morning she was gone, and Friday is when we received this email.

Is it any coincidence that I would stumble across this email again during Holy Week? As we are about to enter into our Lord's Passion? It is comforting to think about Jesus wanting Mary Grace's company as we remember His Passion. And yet doesn't He want the company of everyone particularly during this week? I have been so lost in my grief this week that I have given little (some, but little) thought to anyone (including God) other than myself. The sadness has really had a hold over me in a new way this week.

Am I proud of that?


Shouldn't I be drawing closer to God as Lent draws to an end and we gather to celebrate Christ's victory over death on Easter Sunday?


And I believe the Holy Spirit is allowing me to see and acknowledge my behavior this week and urging me to correct it. Lord help me to be there for You tomorrow, Good Friday, the day of your death...your disciples fell asleep in the garden as you prayed, but Lord wake me from my sorrowful "sleep" and let me keep watch and pray with You.

Tomorrow at 3pm (the great hour of mercy) please implore Jesus' mercy for the unborn of the world: for an end to abortion and in particular for mothers who are choosing whether to continue to carry a baby with a fatal diagnosis (like Mary Grace) that they would choose to carry their baby until their baby's natural death rather than terminating the pregnancy. That will be my special prayer request and I ask you to join me. I'm sure Mary Grace will be praying for the same in heaven.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Putting things away...a.k.a. Shelving the dreams.

Today I cleaned out baby things to put away in the attic. I must be kidding myself with the six giant boxes of baby diapers that have been sitting in the extra bedroom for over a year now. It will be at least nine months at the earliest, God willing, before we have a baby in the house again, so why leave everything sitting around? It's just a sad reminder of the babies that weren't meant to be. I have babies in heaven, but they won't get to use these diapers or be swaddled in these receiving blankets, or rocked in this rocking chair, or play with these baby toys. Do you know how much stuff babies use? I have baby things tucked away in nearly every drawer, nook and cranny of this house!

The cut flowers people sent are all gone now, and the sympathy cards have been put up into Mary Grace's memory box. Everything is slowly being packed up and put away. It's hard because I wonder if I should be packing away my memories and "shelving them" somewhere in my brain.

The one thing I just can't seem to take down yet is the collage of her ultrasound pictures that is stuck to the front of our refrigerator. When we first put them up we were the proud parents of a new little life who would make us a family of four! We walked by those ultrasound pictures and thought about the future; our hopes and dreams for our little daughter. Who would she be? Would she talk alot like Isabel? What would she be when she grew up? Would she be kind and cuddly as a toddler? What would she look like? Would she be born with a head full of hair?... I often walk through the kitchen and pause at the 'fridge and stare and think. So many thoughts of "what was to be" wrapped up in those black and white pictures. And now we look at those same pictures with the disappointment of what will never be. The sadness that we will never know who she would have become. We don't even know her hair or eye color. And yet those ultrasound pictures link us to her life. Those are the only pictures we have of her alive. I guess that's why every time I think about taking them down, I just can't do it yet. How do you put her life on a shelf? And yet at some point, I have to face the reality that that's exactly what will happen. I have to shelve the dreams I had for this little baby, because they weren't meant to be. They were good dreams, filled with love and joy and hope, but they weren't meant to be, and while I won't be shelving my love for her, I do have to put away my dreams for what her life could have been.

Monday, April 6, 2009

One month funeral anniversary.

I must have stopped to look at the calendar half a dozen times today, and it wasn't until around three o'clock that I realized why I was in such a tormented mood today. Today is April 6th, one month since Mary Grace's funeral. I had it in my head that today was April 5th and was really wondering why I was all over the place today since I've been doing relatively well for the last several days.

I cried in the shower so hard until the tears and water blended together and I wasn't sure which was falling down my face and asked God if it was okay to not want His will today. I whined to God in the shower like a teenager whines to her parents when she doesn't get her way. That's how I felt today...like a whiny teenager who didn't get her way...I didn't get my baby. I haven't gotten my last three babies. Even while I stood there and asked if MY will could be done, deep in my heart I knew that my will is pointless. God's will is ALWAYS better than my will. Because He always knows what is going on and "what is going on" is going on for a reason.

I went out of my way to attempt to pick a fight with Rob today; that's how rotten of a mood I was in! Luckily my patient husband would have none of it. Rob tried to remind me to turn to God with my pain, but I didn't want to listen to him or God. I just wanted to be a spoiled, whiny "teenager". But once I got into the shower and realized what I must sound like to the Lord, I literally threw myself into His arms...God's arms. I felt like a defiant teenager who realized her father was right...My Lord is always right. He always knows best, and He is always there to hold me even after my heart has felt hardened, even after I wrestle with His ways. How blessed I am to have a personal God who is there to see me rebelling in my heart, crying in the shower and who offers His heart with open arms. And thank you God for prompting me to throw myself into those arms yet again. Though I still had some sadness the rest of the day, I really felt a physical release of some my pain and frustration after letting God catch me.

I wrote some thank you notes this afternoon and looked through Mary Grace's memory boxes and pictures, and all of that helped me feel better too. It's nice to still have cards, donations to charities and little packages trickling in...it's just nice to know we are still on people's minds and in their prayers.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Life after death.

We've had a really good week. Last Saturday, March 28th, we went to Gastonia, NC for our Goddaughter and her sister's double birthday party and had a lot of fun. It was good to be doing something on Mary Grace's one month delivery anniversary. We did stop by the cemetery as we were leaving for Gastonia; Robert was finally able to see the grave marker. It was nice to be around close friends that day, although I do have to say that I did feel a little distracted from the party while thinking about Mary Grace, even though the birthday party should have been a good distraction for me! We spent the night there and went to Mass the next morning and I thought I was going to go crazy when the pastor started his homily on the topic of "death". He started out "When we think about death....we think about a door being closed and something being completely over." Are you kidding me? This has to be the homily as I'm a month into Mary Grace's death?? But as I continued to listen, his homily turned out to be quite good.

The gospel reading was the story of the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus. The pastor went on to explain that half of the miracle was Jesus raising Lazarus from death (of course) but the other half was that "Lazarus in the face of what looks and feels like death is willing to believe that maybe it isn't as final as other people think." He gets up when Jesus calls him and believes that Jesus is giving him the possibility of new life.

He went on to explain that we are Lazarus. We face death and darkness everyday, not only physical death, but sin, hardness of heart, etc. And there are two points he made:
1. "When we are in darkness, Jesus will always show up and be present to us. We can find light even beyond what looks and feels like death."
And 2. "As people of faith we must listen to Jesus' voice and do everything we can to accept the gift of new life Jesus always offers us."

Number 2 was VERY profound for me. Death is not the end even though we focus on it as an ending. But it is "part of a process that brings us back to life"! Death was not the end for Mary Grace, and her death is not the end for me either. Jesus is offering me new life beyond her death and beyond the death(s) that you have experienced too (be they the death of a loved one, or a sin that you struggle with, or not loving others the way you should, or battling an illness- whatever your "death" may be, we have to "lay claim to the new life that lies beyond the death we have experienced" as the pastor explained.

Wow...what an amazing new way to think of my daughter's death...as a new beginning not only for her (I was already "there" in my thinking, ie., she's in heaven) but for me. It was just really kind of a revelation for me...so I just wanted to share that the homily I thought I would despise, turned out to be just what I needed to hear.

This is the link if you want to listen to it:


Isabel and I continued on to Hendersonville to visit my family, while Rob went back to Raleigh to work. And we've had a very nice stay this week. There's just something so comforting about being home, seeing familiar faces, being surrounded by love. We have been to morning Mass twice this week at my "home church"; we got to see and thank many people who have been praying for us, and it was an encouragment to me to hear that people were being touched by the blog. Thank you all for your continued prayers!