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Time doesn’t slow down

I look out our window of the breakfast nook in our house, and I think, did that day really truly happen? Or wasn’t it a dream… then I remember,  yes I had a toddler in my arms that day. Within minutes she was gone. Just GONE.

If there is anything I have learned in the last six years, is time does not slow down. It doesn’t wait, it doesn’t stop as much as you beg it to. When my kids died, I silently prayed for time to just S.T.O.P. It didn’t work. I needed time to catch up. Although, I’m living in the present, it feels like I’m running to catch up. I think I’m stuck in one place sometime.

 

At what point did my second grader who fell down outside my neighbors house bawling when she found out her sister was gone, turn into a high schooler? It’s been 6 years. Really?!

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When did the five year old who was tugging on my arm, and trying to help her sister breathe become an almost junior high student? It’s been 6 years. Really?!

ashlee

That baby that no one thought would survive, that drove me to age ten years in four months, that I begged and pleaded with God to please make it stop, I can’t take it anymore… please let her live… she’s in first grade. It’s been 6 years. Really?!

Emrie5          em

Really, it’s been six years. In six years we have become a Christian family, we have found we are not alone. We have found the church we will never leave. We have found friends that will never leave. We have friends who can remember that day as clearly as possible, and no matter what- we will always have that bond. We have felt ourselves called to tell our story, so people can see the love of God in real life situations that you think you can’t survive.

So there is a part of me that says, “WOW, it’s been six years. We all survived. We have grown personally and spiritually. We have learned we are not alone, nor never will be.” If you have never read “Footprints in the Sand,” please do so. It is REAL.

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I drive past it every.single.day.

I drive past it every day. I look in every time I pass by. I see balloons, I see flowers, I see more children.

I drive past it every day knowing I’ve left two children there. I used to visit 2-3 times a week when it was just my son there. After we left Chloe to be a permanent resident, it became too difficult.

Once a year we go there and pretend to celebrate their tiny lives, but inside we die a little bit more. There’s nothing that can heal that pain.

Baby land is what’s it called. Inside I think that’s a sick twisted name for deceased children buried 6 feet under. It was a cute name when we picked out our first plot. When we called and told them we needed the one above it also- it became sickening.

I get mad at the grounds keepers for breaking the vases, for throwing away the stuff we leave there, etc. Yet at the same time there are unmarked graves that have been there for years. It makes me sad. Sad only because parents can’t afford the astronomical price of a headstone. There’s others with paper name plates that have also been there for years, for the same reason. I’ve had a few crying/yelling sessions with the director there, who was so, so sorry for what I was going through.

I still drive past Forest Park Cemetery everyday knowing my kids are there. That’s the hardest thing ever to admit. My kids will never leave. You can tell me they are in Heaven, they are safe, they are at peace but I can almost guarantee that YOU, yes you, have never watched your flesh and blood being lowered into the ground and thought, it’s ok they are in Heaven.

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Never knowing

If there is any piece of knowledge I can pass a long to my kids, it is and always will be you never know what someone is going through, so try not to judge their actions or behaviors. I have learned this in the past 6 years from having to deal with so many different personalities, in every situation imaginable.

I can think of so many examples to share, but a few that stick in my mind are below.

Several times at the hospital I have witnessed where parents are taken away from their children by security, administration and CPS. I have heard and seen the melt downs, the screaming, the handcuffs, and eventually the haul off. One time it was because the mom left for work and left her six month old son in the hospital room alone with the nurses to care for him. Truthfully, it scared me. I heard the nursing staff tell her it was fine to go to work, and hours later when she returned she was denied access to her son, and was taken away. It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t an easy scene, she was screaming profanities, and yelling at anyone who looked at her. People who were just passing by had no idea what was going down. It looked like she had abused him from any outsiders view. He was actually there being treated for pneumonia. Since then, I have never left Emrie alone, no matter how often I was encouraged to leave.

Many times to get Emrie to be able to go home we had to walk, walk, walk, and walk to get her asthma under control which was usually a side effect of being so sick and unable to move. When you’re only able to walk around a circle on the same floor, you get to know all the staff, and sometimes even know what is going on with their patients. Don’t get me wrong, I think nursing is one of the hardest jobs you have because you have to have compassion for complete strangers, work extended hours, give up on some sleep, and even do things you never thought your body could handle.  One night, a nurse comes out of a room, slams down her papers, gloves, and medicines. She picks up the phone, dials, and screams “GET THIS PATIENT OFF THIS FLOOR NOW!!! I CAN NOT HANDLE HER!” I almost laughed because I know some of the nurses have said something similar about me. It would probably be “I can’t handle this mom.” It wasn’t that the nurse couldn’t handle her, I think her words came out wrong. The patient was in critical pain that the nurses on this particular floor could do nothing for. She needed a transfer to an ICU bed to help, but after hours of screaming at each other, the nurse couldn’t take it anymore.

At the age of 3 Emrie had what was supposed to be a minor surgery, but the surgeon made a  mistake and let an anemic child loose too much blood in the procedure, which was pretty awful on us. After two days her stats dropped, she was having labored breathing, didn’t want to move, etc. Just to paint a picture for you, Emrie had curly blonde hair when she went into the procedure, when she came out she had bright red hair. Blood and blood clots were everywhere. The surgical team had met with me, made plans, and then moved on to the next patient. I was fine with what they offered. The nurse that day, was not fine. She was a nurse that usually ran the ICU patients, but was covering for someone else. Just my luck…. after about ten minutes a code RED was called to our room with out my knowledge (that means every department comes flying into your room with all their equipment because there is something seriously wrong). This was not what E needed. She about hit the wall and crawled up it screaming at these people. My anger came out full force. I denied all of them access, pushed their machines out and I screamed at them to call the surgical team back. They had NO right to enter this room. The head nurse turned to me and said she had any right she needed to be there. That was the number one wrong thing to say to me, so just imagine what words spilled out of my mouth. The surgeon came running with his team. He said “WHAT HAPPENED???? I JUST LEFT!” I told him the nurse didn’t like his decision and called everyone to the room to prove it. He looked around, escorted them out, calmed me down, got the nurse out of the room, and explained his plan to everyone. It worked. We were out the next day.

My point with that was the nurse never asked me what was going on, she never bothered to hear what was happening. She only knew what she saw in front of her. In her defense, it looked like a deathly child sitting in front of her. The rest of us knew this was Emrie at the time, this is what we had come to accept her to look like and act like. She had no idea of the suffering we were all already going through. I didn’t forgive her that day, but I did a year later we ran into her in the ER. She asked me why I looked familiar. I painted the scene for her, and said now do you remember me? She backed away with wide eyes, and said “I am so sorry.” I forgave her, and had to forgive her many times because she kept apologizing. That one day, she was out of her element, but she thought she was doing her job. I know we both learned something from each other.

So try to remember what you see on the outside, isn’t always what’s happening on the inside.

 

 

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You don’t understand

Every time we have been in the hospital, I request that they contact our pediatrician for help either getting an ambulance ride to be transferred to another hospital or to help with home healthcare since the hospital we get sent to is over an hour away. I always get the same response. “We will call, but there’s no guarantee that your doctor will even do what you are asking.” “You don’t understand,” is my response. 

No one really understands, well not in the main hospital. No one would believe me if I told them that we walk into our pediatricians office and the ENTIRE staff says “HEY It’s EMRIE!!!!!” Or how each staff member tries to hug her and she barely tolerates it, but smiles. Or how they have each had their own moving experience with Emrie. Image

 

Emrie after doing a major test on her intestines 

No one really understands that there were times where my husband had lost his job and we were stuck in a hospital unable to afford medications, and her doctor showed up with them in hand. Or when I carried Emrie into the office, who was limp, grey, and unresponsive and the Dr gave us gas money because I could speed through traffic and get her downtown before an ambulance could make it there and back. 

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Emrie doing play therapy at one of her stays 

No one really understands that one year during a horrible ice storm, I asked the pediatrician to please send us closer to home after spending three weeks downtown, because we couldn’t be separated much more as a family, and she signed the agreement to send us home. 

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Childrens library at the hospital 

No one but Emrie and the entire pediatricians office understood when Emrie waited out side a room in the office to surprise her retired pediatrician who she hadn’t seen in almost a year. Parents and staff watched as the happiness spread throughout because Emrie had gained 25 pounds in a year, was walking, was smiling, was happy, and she had NO issues. 

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At one point she refused to get into the bed anymore and we had to make her a mobile wagon bed. 

Everyone understood, in that small hallway, when the Dr looked at Emrie and said “Do you know how many times everyone in this office prays over you?” 

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There were a lot of times, mostly in play rooms, where she had tons of fun

 

So strong

I hear these words all the time “You are so strong for everything you have been through.”

The truth is, I’m really not, I’m just NOT. The world has opened up and poured down on me, and I’m still living. Just living. I’ll be there if you need me. I will tell you my story if you want to hear it. I will fight for my kids. I will tell you when you are wrong. I will reserve my worst anger for the most stressed out situations. Certain doctors and nurses will never forget me, not because I was kind, but because I pushed, yes, physically removed them from my daughters hospital room. I’m still just living. Other people think I don’t want to talk to them, just because I avoid them. It’s me that does not want to talk, it’s nothing to do with you.

Every once in a while, a piece of me comes out, and hopefully as I journey more through the church, and more through the bible, I will meet me again. Silly, I know. I’m in here somewhere.

When I think of strong, I do not think of myself. Not one bit.

connorConnor and Dave 2007 (after his passing)

In 2006 I worked with a murderer. Yup, a child murderer. I never knew it… I talked to her daily about her children, how cute they were, my own children, I can even remember laughing with her almost every day. One day, she called into work and said “My daughter died last night, can I have today off?” My boss said that there was something wrong with that, and to stay away from talking to her. I replied saying she was in shock. I offered to help her when a coworker and myself called her. We asked about funeral arrangements and she seemed shaken. Normal, right?

The next night a friend and co worker called me. “Turn on the news.” We sat in silence, and watched as the screen flashed with her picture and found out she had beaten her child to death. It was about five minutes long, and that was it. The next morning the gorey, nasty, unimaginable details surfaced as we were at work. I remember going outside just bawling, wanting to puke.

That little girl was strong. For two years she survived broken unattended bones, boiling water being thrown on her, cigarette burns, and much more. One night, her body couldn’t take it anymore.

Within a month a friend sent me a link to a newspaper about another little girl who we both used to babysit. Her mom had entrusted her new boyfriend to watch her baby while she went to work. He refused to let her change anymore diapers, and he became the caregiver for the baby. One night the baby became very sick and was taken to the hospital, where she passed away. She had been sexually abused to death. U N I M A G I N A B L E

I am not strong. I do question God… WHY… why babies? Why kids? Why in such horrific ways? Even though, I may not feel strong… I do believe these two little girls were very strong, and though I do not know why they had to suffer, God does. Just like my own children. I will never figure out why they had to leave, although I have figured out that they have a story to tell, and God is allowing that to happen.

Christ like love

In our small group last Sunday night I was asked who has shown you Christ like love and how did they do it. It wasn’t a one response answer for me…

1. My husband came into my life when I was 18 and showed me what love really was.

2. When my children were born, that was the love of Christ.

3. When my children died. When one child is born on the day your other dies…..

And that was it, the tears came and I couldn’t finish. Dave started to pick up where I couldn’t. He explained that through the hundreds of people that came for us, the people who sent cards, the ones who knocked on our door, and the anonymous donations, we always felt the same message. God is with you, he has not left you. This was not your fault, it was an accident.

Over the five years that this has happened since, I get stopped and told how someone looks up to me. One of the more memorable ones was a teacher who had silently watched me for a year. She caught me crying as I walked down the hallway at the kids school and stopped me. I told her it was the year anniversary of losing my kid. She said she knew who I was and that I couldn’t cry. Crazy right?

“No no no you can’t cry! I’ve watched you for a year, and you are my rock. I lost a baby at the same time and when I see how you survive, I know I can, too.”

I kind of laughed at her determination, but she was serious. I tell everyone, if I didn’t know God existed, I wouldn’t be here by now, either. Same for his love, if he had not sent those people in his place to show his love, I would have never made it.

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It’s been a while

In this journey of healing, you end up taking unexpected absences. I’ve done that for a few months, and now at one of the most difficult times of the year I am back. In a little over a week our twins would be 7. That’s hard. You begin to wonder what they would look like, what would their interests be, how they would be riding the same bus as their youngest sister, and how much busier we would be.

During Connors funeral the guy giving the sermon said the rest of our lives we would wonder what he would have grown up to be, and we would never forget. How true that is.

Emrie crawled in bed with me a few weeks ago when she was sick and she stared at Chloe’s picture on my side of the bed and Connors on Dave’s side. I said do you know that is your sister and brother? She said yes. Then she said “Roxie (our dog) is in Heaven with them.” One day she said “Do you know I have a brother, a sister, and a dog in Heaven? Everybody’s there but me!”

Last week E needed to make a time Line of her short five year life. We went through photos of where her tiny body fit from my wrist to my elbow and her head was smaller than my hand. Then alllllllll these pictures of hospitals and playrooms, and surgeries, and tubes, and IVs. And finally within the last year, this kid who doesn’t sit still for a picture. In that same year our family grew in Christ. The kids took off in their youth groups, we attended church weekly and on Wednesdays. Everything changed together. Yet the only thing that will never change is our memories and our love for the kids who are gone.

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Emrie a few weeks after coming home at four months old.

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