Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Missing Piece

I often seem to be looking for something. I feel like something is missing. Maybe I am forgetting something as I walk out the door. I double check myself; I have my keys, phone, and wallet - everything is here. Today I was working in the girl's bedroom trying to rearrange so everything fits. They all sleep in one room so everything has to have a place, or there is no place to walk. I keenly felt as if I could arrange everything, but still something is missing. It confused me. I know what it is - I know who it is. I cannot stop missing her. It's her I am missing, her jacket I haven't zipped. Her doll that is still in the room; her shoes that I haven't tied. It's the one that I haven't strapped into her car seat. It's the one whose face I miss when I turn to look at my girls in the van. It's the one that I am missing as I clean up the bedroom - her opinions and ideas about how I should do it. It's her dolls that no one is mothering. It's her things that are still in place, untouched for months. They float around and Anna plays a little with them, but they don't really have an owner. It's her stuffed animals that dominate the pile. They lie forsaken and lonely - waiting just like the rest of us for their owner. But she doesn't come; she isn't hiding, neither is she sleeping. Merlin comes in the door and she is not with him... Kira is the piece that is missing. She is the piece that will be missing until we die. We will need to be okay with the missing piece. To learn to be joyful when we are missing a piece of our life is not an easy feat. And so I lovingly pick up her dolls and put them on Anna's bench. Tears threaten to rain as I rearrange the doll chest and put some favorite stuffed animals on it. I remember from where each one came and I smile. Every one of them comes from a guest here at the inn. Every one of them is full of character, just like her. Crazy ones - like a brown moose that she loved; a frog holding a baby frog; a teddy bear that could wrap its arms around her neck; a lamb that sang her lullabies when she was a baby; a cute white teddy with a pink nose; a lavender one with a ribbon that she always thought was so cute. A lion with which she and Marlea roared at each other. Almost all these had some time in her bed. I look at them and sigh, wishing she could still play with them.

A year or so ago I purchased some soaps that look like chocolate. We gave them as favors to our guests for Valentine's Day. Marlea and Kira thought this was big stuff and tried to sneak them whenever they could. Once I left one lying back in the laundry; when I found it again it had teeth marks on it with a small piece missing. Apparently Kira (with her love of chocolate) had thought it her chance for some chocolate and took a bite. She was so eager that her memory failed to remind her that it was soap, not chocolate. And so we laughed and the girls got one more bar of their beloved chocolate soap. It does smell and look very appealing. It must have not tasted too bad because I never heard anything about it from Kira.

Merlin continues to improve. It's almost scary for me because then when he has a bad day I get so discouraged and afraid. Pray that we would trust God and believe that good can happen. We were in Ohio last weekend and it was very enjoyable. Easier this time, but then it was so hard when we came home. Pray that we would not grow weary in embracing the pain and being okay with it. Sometimes we are so tempted to ignore it. Then when pain catches me again it is so hard. It's so much easier to be honest - then it is more the same all the time.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Grave

Every Sunday morning when we have gone to church for the last seven months, we have had a new parking spot. Strangely enough, no one else wants our parking spot. We are often late for church and our parking spot is still there waiting patiently for our tan Odyssey. Beside our parking spot is the church graveyard. In it lies the precious body of our Kira. Every time we go to church I glance at that little plot and wish that she would be walking into church with us. Wishing I would be taking her hand like I did so many times and walk into church. Instead, I take Marlea's hand and the other hand is empty. Merlin, Marlea, Anna, and I walk into church feeling empty. The pain is so real and seems so present when we are at the same place as her body. After church we walk back out to our van. We walk over to her grave (Marlea is often already there) and stand there sadly around it. Anna sometimes walks over it or runs off to explore gravestones - especially fingering the angel engraved into a memorial stone close by. My mind wanders back to the picture I have in my mind of her body in the casket. I think of the verse: "To dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return." I know it is true but it is so hard to think of the body I cared for and loved turning to dust. Then my mind drifts to heaven and the real pictures God has given me of her there. I feel myself relaxing in the peace of knowing that this is only her body under this sod-the real Kira is in heaven with a new body. I marvel again at God's plan of salvation and the triumph Jesus made over the grave. Because of Jesus, I have the hope of seeing my little girl again. Peace and reality mix as Merlin and I eventually turn around and walk back to the van. My tears flow as I climb in my door. A silent unspoken sadness reigns in our van as we drive toward home.

Often when I am in the graveyard on Sundays my mind goes back to two weeks before Kira died. My aunt passed away and we were at the graveside. Marlea was peering over the grave and Kira could have cared less about the whole procedure. She was enjoying herself immensely tramping around the graveyard between memorial stones and over a barren, recently covered gravesite. It was wet and muddy that day and her black boots were soon coated with sticky mud. Merlin at one point tried to entertain her on his shoulders. It was fine with her...he was at the edge of the tent, so Kira's head was way above the tent. It didn't matter to her that she couldn't see or that all she could see was the top of the tent. What mattered is that daddy was holding her. It didn't last long and she was soon back to stomping around. By the time we were done, she was a mess waiting to be cleaned up. Her daddy did the cleanup, though frustrated at her wandering.

Thanks for your continued prayers for us. School has started and brought changes for us at home. The house seems so empty and just not the way we thought it would be. Anna, though only 17 months old-and not having seen Kira for the last 7 months, often walks around the house on those two school days calling "Kiki, Kiki..." (she had not started until after school began). Pray that we can continue to seek and embrace God's plan.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Monday, September 14, 2009


There is more to the removal of denial than I anticipated. My balance in this circle - and interrupting it - is being shaken to the core. Some of the events of the last weeks have intensified my desire to be more real and be okay with Kira being in heaven. By trying to face denial more intensely my longings for Kira have also intensified, which in turn makes the struggle to rely on God more intense. I keep reminding myself that I have chosen to trust God, and no one is forcing me to do so. I find that by removing denial, the other parts of "the circle of grief" seem to still be at home. I have decided that they are going to stay. They don't seem wrong to me. Anger is part of God. Bargaining can have it's place, although the Bible accounts of this don't always turn out really well. Depression is sometimes a part of walking through a valley - because when we are low we search the Bible more and seek out God. Life isn't all mountain top experiences, so ups and downs have their place in the balance. The last visitor in the circle "acceptance," is definitely a Godly attribute. These visitors are tipsy, and all of them can be taken too far. There seems to be a gentle balance between good and bad for them. Will I learn to live the balance? My visitors in this grief circle - with God's grace - will become balanced. Will I learn when I am tempted to overbalance to not do so, but instead rely and trust in God more? Will I recognize the signs of overbalance and stop myself before I get there?

Kira loved to come into bed with us. Neither Marlea or Anna liked to sleep there but to Kira it was the ultimate sleeping spot. She usually didn't care if I was there or not, it was Daddy she wanted. At fourteen months old she was climbing out of her crib by herself. Out of fear that she would hurt herself, we put her in a toddler bed. So of course this was great, since she could now find our bed by herself whenever she wanted to do so. She hardly ever slept through the night until she was two years and three months old - so this was a constant struggle. One morning after a particularly restless night, I awoke with a start. Where was she? I then felt some feet in my hair and after a closer look I found her curled around Merlin's head. They were both sleeping peacefully. I sighed and enjoyed the moment. I often think of those sleepless nights and thank God for them. I got to hold her and spend hours more time with her that way. Sure, they were frustrating but the experiences outweigh the frustrations now.

As I reflect on the balancing act I am once again drawn to the people that catch me when I tip over the edge. Our families catch us so often; but, it is in other ways too. Some days it is a card that I get in the mail that catches me. Some days a phone call or email. Lots of days it is the many comments left on here that encourage me. I have lots and lots I can read over and over. We humbly again say thank you.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Like a Sponge

I feel like a sponge. In the last six months I have been easy to wound - weak. You could press your finger on me and make an indention - just like a sponge. I have small holes in me that would be easy to fill up with traumatized thoughts, guilt, flashbacks, and fear. A sponge has holes in too; it can soak up any liquid. If the sponge absorbs the wrong type of liquid, it becomes hard; the same also to me. But, I haven't. I have been surrounded with people who have given, and then given even more. Friends have filled up the holes with scripture and with prayer. They have filled up the holes with promises and reminders of God's redemption waiting for me at the foot of the cross. They have filled up the holes in me with acts of kindness, prayer, kind, gentle, and soft words. I have soaked them up; my heart has saturated them. I look in people's eyes and see sympathy and true sorrow for our experiences. I let it soak in-I let myself feel Jesus through them. I feel like a sponge that will absorb lots of water. That sponge fills up. There is a cut off point where one wrings it out or the liquid will spill everywhere. Our friends just lost their seven-year old son yesterday. I mourn and weep for them. I am tempted to stay in my comfortable house. I could say "I can't go - it will bring too much pain and flashbacks." But they need others. They need people who know how they feel. Will I let my sponge be wrung out into other's deserts? Do I believe I have anything to offer them? Am I going to keep absorbing and absorbing and never give? Or will I let it come out? Will I let everything that has filled me, the energy other people have poured into my life, the kind acts and words that touched my broken spirit-can I let it out?

We were in Ohio to visit Merlin's family over the weekend. It was hard and good at the same time. It seemed okay to go - finally. We missed Kira so much, it could seem so raw again. I have had lots of opportunity to put last weeks thought to action. But again, my sponge was filled with kindness and tender words. Even Sunday morning at church, we saw people we haven't seen for months - and really I don't know them that well. But they genuinely care, and I feel Jesus through them. I was encouraged. It was so good to be with family again, even though it was different.

I will attempt to share my two favorite memories of Kira in Ohio. When we arrived at Grandpa's house, she had a mission to fulfill. Her mission was to find Grandma. We would sometimes arrive late and Grandma would be asleep on a chair. She couldn't feel at home until she found her. Once she was in the shower and had to wait really long until Grandma was done. She didn't have lots of words for Grandma, but the beaming, delighted face said it all. My other memory is that she liked Grandpa's rug in the living room. In fact, she liked it so much that she would crawl with the top of her head down against the rug and go across the floor like that just to be crazy. It of course made her hair stand out. I guess it was soft compared to our floor! Who knows?

I think of my illustration of the sponge and I am so thankful again for kind friends. Many of you have given to me so much again and again. Not just our friends, but our guests too, some that I really don't know very well. You have all given us deep sympathy and kind words. Thank you, and we ask for your continuing prayers. We are not finished soaking, but we desire to sometime have energy to invest in others again.

Marylu and Merlin, Marlea, Anna