No Tears

Mommy and Daddy with Rose the night before she passed away.

Mommy and Daddy with Rose the night before she passed away. We are trying our best to “smile” just a little here.

I don’t cry much, especially not publicly.  I’ve never been able to just tear up and let my outsides match my insides.  I just can’t for some reason.  I get choked up to the point that I can’t swallow.  I want to cry.  I want that release.  I want other people to know that I am in pain.  I want them to know that their pain affects me too. But I just…CAN’T.

I rarely cry.  Don’t let me fool you.  There are plenty of tears.  Just not visible ones that help you to know that I’m sad and hurting.  Actually, I’m way sadder now than I was even a few months ago.  I MISS MY DAUGHTER.  I miss both my daughters, but I’ve learned to live a little better without having Stella.

I live with PTSD. I live with the images of my little Rose lying there with her belly splayed open, her eyes squeezed shut, her hands freezing and puffy.  There were a few who saw her the day before she passed away.  Let me tell you, what she looked like then didn’t even compare to what she looked like the next day.  I knew the instant I saw her she was gone.  It amazes me that the medical staff were not able to say that with certainty.  But, I knew the look of death.  Discolored, cold, bloated stiff. Fluid seeping from every orifice.  Her tongue swollen to three times its size, and her mouth gaping open. You know how kids sometimes play dead and hang their tongues out of the corner of their mouths?  It really happens, you know. Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? Sounds like something you don’t want to imagine?  Well, I didn’t have to imagine it.  It was real.  My little girl died right in front of my eyes.  For the second time.  My second little girl, my Chinese rainbow.

The thing is, I suffer silently.  No one asks; I don’t share.  This is the burden I live with.  All the time.  Every day.  There is never a moment when I don’t think of my daughters, yet I’m constantly forced to move on and accept life without them.  I was finally getting to the point when Stella’s death stung just a little bit less when it happened all over again.

I’m not perpetually depressed or a mental case (although I joke with my hubby about going crazy).  But, you see, I live in somewhat of a fog.  A very lonely fog.  I went through this with Stella for about 2 years.  I couldn’t think completely straight.  I needed people more than ever; our family needed people more than ever. People distanced themselves. Once again, I find that to be true.  I need people more than ever. Our family needs people more than ever.  This is a very hard season in our lives.  VERY HARD.  Our struggle is not easy to see.  It’s not like someone who’s lost a job or who’s gotten attacked while they were exercising.  But it’s just as painful. Excruciating.  And there’s NO END to the pain; there’s no remedying the situation.

People draw their own conclusions.  Some people think we are ungrateful.  Some think we’re complainers.  Some think we need counseling.  As the one going through the grief, I’m telling you what we need MOST is FRIENDSHIP.  We need people to help carry this with us, to be there for us, to lighten this load a little.  To stop making excuses and avoiding us.  I don’t mean the generic, “I’m here for you,” or “I’m praying for you.”  I mean the, “Let’s hang out” or “Can I take the kids so you and your hubby can relax and talk about Rose together?” or “Could I be there with you while you peel her name off the wall?”  or “Can I help you create something to honor her memory?” or “How are you feeling about Rose today?”

Our family is SO WEARY.  It is by the grace of God that our family is still functioning.  It is by his grace that our marriage has not fallen apart.  But, we are suffering.  Silently.  Mike, too.  Because you don’t see his tears, don’t assume that he is not hurting.  HE IS.  The most wearying part of suffering is doing it alone.  We NEED you, FRIENDS.  God put us here to be the hands and feet of Christ.  Hands can pray, but they can also help.

We didn’t expect to find ourselves in yet another season of loneliness and suffering, especially not three years to the month after losing our first baby girl.  The fog was just really beginning to lift from the grief of losing Stella.  Here we are again.  Do you know how much I hate sounding needy?  I do. We do. We CAN do it ourselves (with God’s help of course), but God put people in our lives to do something.   We won’t always be the “needy ones,” but because of what God has called us to walk through right now in our lives, we do need help.  We find ourselves continually discouraged and alone.  Me, Mike, and our family.

God is our refuge, and God is our Strength.  BUT, HE also uses His people to strengthen others.  Just because you don’t see our tears, it doesn’t mean they’re not there.

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Rose "reading" her birthday card.

My Journey Explained in a Single Day

May 9th

Like many other things in my life, this date is very bittersweet.  On that day, in 2011, a friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  On that day, a harrowing war raged inside of my heart.

My Stella

My Stella

For two and a half years, my friend had desperately longed for a baby.  She experienced two early miscarriages and had practically given up hope that she would ever have another child when God allowed her to conceive.  She discovered she was pregnant as Stella’s birth loomed near.  Because she did not want to hurt my feelings, she did not share the news of her pregnancy with me.  I took comfort in her friendship after Stella’s death, thinking that she shared in my pain and understood my loss more than many others in my life.  Later, when I found out that she had not been entirely honest with me, I felt hurt and alone.  But, [now], I don’t blame her, because I know she was trying to protect my heart.

Stella's Personalized Blanket

Stella’s Personalized Blanket

I was even more upset when my friend announced she was carrying a baby girl.  For a long time, I struggled because God had given her what He had chosen to take away from me.  It was difficult for me to watch her belly grow while my heart broke again and again.  Through it all, I did my very best to be her friend, even attending her baby shower while my grief was still very new.  I bought her daughter a shower gift similar to the only gift I had mustered enough courage to buy for my Stella: a soft, personalized baby blanket.  I took God at his Word to rejoice with those who rejoice even though I was grieving deeply.  After all, I loved my friend, and I prayed often for the health of her baby.  I did for her what I would want someone to do for me. Yet, my friendship with her continually caused me to question God’s sovereignty and goodness.

On May 9th, 2011, the grief of losing my daughter reached a new level. As my friend posted photos of her perfect little daughter born after a short and relatively easy labor, I was paralyzed with pain. How was it that two women, both of whom had experienced struggles with infertility and had both longed for a child for over two years, had lived such different outcomes?  How was it fair that I had a difficult pregnancy, a painful birth, and buried my baby girl five days later while my friend had an easy pregnancy, a quick birth, and was holding her baby girl in her arms?  How, God?!!! How was that FAIR?!!!

Fast forward one and a half years to August 2012.  God had given us a third beautiful baby boy and had called us to adopt a little girl from China.  I was still heavily grieving the loss of our baby girl, but I had the distraction of our sweet Finn man and the anticipation of meeting my Chinese daughter in the months ahead.  We had a lot going on in our lives.  We still felt sad, but we also felt blessed.  God had used our Stella’s short little life to open our eyes to the lost and hurting in the world.  He had broken our hearts for the orphan, and even though we had not yet met our Pearl, we had already watched Him move through the adoption process.  It was new.  It was hard.  It was amazing.  All at the same time.   I thought we had our hands full.  Then God called us to adopt Rose too.   (Rose’s adoption story).

In China, birthdays are often estimated, not exact.  Whether or not Rose’s birthday was when China estimated to be, it makes no difference.   Can you guess when Rose’s birthday was?

That’s right.  May 9th, 2011.

Ai-Jing-matched-screen-shot-sm

The screenshot of Rose Aijing matched with her family (US!) Showing her birthday.

I believe it is no coincidence that Rose’s birthday was officially listed as May 9th, 2011.  I believe that God intimately weaves together the tiniest details of our lives.  I’m a person who loves the “whys” in every story.   God had given me a very big why. I understood.   On May 9th, 2011, as I writhed in pain from missing my beloved Stella and questioned God’s fairness in blessing my friend with her healthy baby girl, another precious mother writhed in the pain of childbirth around the world.  She gave birth to her daughter and mine.  Our Rose Aijing.

May 9th, 2011, a day of heartbreak for me and for another mother 7,600 miles away became a day of beauty.

Rose "reading" her birthday card.

Rose laying on the floor “reading” her birthday card.

We celebrated one magical May 9th with our Rose.  It was so much fun to spoil our little princess.  She had never before had a day with tiaras, gifts, and a [cookie] cake just for her.  At first she was a little unsure, but then by the end of the day, she was loving the attention.  Pearl understood the concept of a birthday, since we had celebrated hers just a few months before, and her excitement rubbed off on Rose.  Our little girl was so funny and adorable.  She grinned from ear to ear when she saw her princess birthday balloon that morning, and she spent time laying on the floor enjoying her card (really, what two-year-old actually loves cards?)  May 9th, 2011 was a day I’ll never forget.  It was the best May 9th ever.

Rose's grave on May 9th, 2014.

Rose’s grave on May 9th, 2014.

Fast forward to October 21th, 2013.  Just a few feet from where we had laid our little Stella’s body to rest just three years before, there we buried a second daughter, our beloved Rose.  On that day, another day once again became bittersweet.  May 9th, 2011.  The day our Rose was born.  The day that my heart was crushed with the weight of losing one daughter is now crushed with the weight of losing another daughter.  There will never be another easy May 9th.

Where’s the WHY this time?  How’s my heart supposed to handle seeing my friend with her daughter, beautiful and healthy, with her pigtails just like my Rose wore, laughing and spinning around?  Singing sweet little songs.  Hugging her baby doll.  Creating beautiful little flower drawings that look like roses.  While mine lays in the ground and dances in heaven.  Where’s the fairness in my journey when compared to hers?

Stop right there.  This is MY journey.  I had no control over the blessings and trials God gave to my friend just as she had no control over the blessings and trials God has given to me.  God has called me to walk this journey, as crazy and as hard as this path has been, it is HE who has called me to tread here.  It is not my friend’s fault that I’ve felt so much pain, nor should I blame her for holding her daughter when my daughter is no longer here for me to hold.

This journey is NOT easy.  There are days and moments that I struggle when I see my friend’s daughter, Rose’s virtual twin and birthday buddy, born thousands of miles apart on the same day.  Seeing her daughter often causes me so much pain;  at times, it wrecks me to see her.   Do I think it’s a coincidence that my friend and her daughter are in my life?  No, I don’t.  Just as I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she conceived her daughter as mine was dying and gave birth to her daughter as the mother of my now deceased little girl was giving birth.

What do I believe then?

1.  I believe that God wants me to stay broken.  

Why?  Because God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).  Although it downright sucks (sorry, there’s just no better word), I’d rather live brokenhearted and close to God than feeling fine with God far away.

2.  I believe God wants me to be kind and compassionate to others, empathizing with their brokenhearted-ness.

I love the character of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) on 24 and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), too.  Even though their lives have been broken, and they’ve had experienced hardship and suffering themselves, they continue to put themselves out there for the good of others.  In a recent episode, Jack said something I won’t ever forget. “We can’t bring back the ones we love.  All we can do is honor their lives by helping others.”

This is so true, and explains the reason why I not only want to reach out those who have experienced losses like ours, but also why I feel compelled to “care for the orphans in their distress.”

I can either let grief make me bitter or make me compassionate.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

3.  I believe God wants me to stay humble.

I never saw grief as a thorn in the flesh until my Life Group studied Brave by Angela Thomas, but I do now.  God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh so he’d stay humble, and I believe He’s given me this thorn for the same reason.

I asked the Lord three times to take it away from me. He answered me, “I am all you need. I give you My loving-favor. My power works best in weak people.” I am happy to be weak and have troubles so I can have Christ’s power in me.  I receive joy when I am weak. I receive joy when people talk against me and make it hard for me and try to hurt me and make trouble for me. I receive joy when all these things come to me because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

4. I believe that He wants me to live with spiritual blinders on, not comparing my journey to others, and not becoming embittered by what (actually, who) I no longer have.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;   (Hebrews 12:14-15)

5.  I believe God wants me to persevere.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

(I’ve hesitated for a long time to tell this story, because not only is it difficult for me to tell, I don’t want to upset my friend in telling it.  It is my hope that if the friend I’m referring to reads this post, she’ll know that I wrote this post not to make her feel badly. My goal is to glorify God by telling how far HE’s brought me in the journey HE has called me to walk.)

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Your brothers and sister blowing out your three candles.

Dear Rose: A Letter to You for Your 3rd Birthday

Dear Rose,

Your brothers and sister with their sand toys on your birthday morning.

Your brothers and sister with their sand toys on your birthday morning.

Here on earth, you would have been three-years-old yesterday.  I don’t know how time works in heaven, but time without you here on earth passes both quickly and slowly.  I still can’t believe that you’re not here.  It seems like an eternity until I’ll see you again.

We celebrated your birthday to remember you.  I visited your grave twice, once with a dear friend who prayed with me, and once with your brothers and sisters.  I cried a lot yesterday, and my heart aches and aches and aches some more because you’re not here with us.

Pearl enjoying playing in your sandbox.

Pearl enjoying playing in your sandbox.

It rained a lot on your birthday.  The rain fell down with short bursts of sunshine in between.  It stopped raining long enough for me to take your brothers and sister outside to visit your sandbox.

Kind new friends who’ve been touched by your story but never got to meet you built a beautiful sandbox in your memory.  We played for a long while in your sandbox yesterday.  You would have loved it.  I can almost hear you laugh when I think about how happy you would have been sitting in the sandbox.  Digging next to your best buddy Finn without the heat of the sun beating down upon you…oh, how you would have grinned and flapped your little arms.

A pink rose that bloomed for your birthday.

A pink rose that bloomed for your birthday.

While I was outside, I noticed that more roses had bloomed.  The rose bushes bloomed this week just for you:  the pink ones that smell “heavenly” and the dainty little yellow ones – two little yellow Roses – one for you and one for Pearl.

Ely wanted to eat pizza for dinner last night because that’s what you would have wanted to eat.  He felt close to you eating one of your favorite meals.  I won’t ever forget the first time you had pizza while we were still in China.  You loved it!  You were picky at times about what you would eat, but pizza was always a hit.  How I wish you were there at Stevi B’s yesterday impressing us with how many pieces you could pack away in that tiny tummy of yours.

Your brothers at your grave on your birthday.  See the tiara on around the urn?

Your brothers at your grave on your birthday. See the tiara around the urn?

After we ate pizza, we took your brothers to the Infant and Child Garden where your body is buried.  That was Milo’s request.  He finds comfort in visiting your grave.  Ely spent a long time looking at your sister’s grave marker and at your marker, too.  He was very upset and didn’t want to be there.  Your brothers miss you so much. We brought a princess balloon and tiara to add to the flowers in your urn. I wonder if you even have any knowledge of the little gifts we bring to the cemetery.

Then came the cake.  Your big sister, Pearl, really wanted to get you a cake.  She told me she wanted to get you a cake during our Mommy-Pearl date last week.  She wanted  a Bubble Guppies cake because she knows how much you loved them.  You weren’t really a cake-eater, but you would have loved this cake.  Blowing out your candles and eating your cake without you was the hardest part of the day for all of us.  Ely cried and didn’t want to sing.  We couldn’t bear to sing Happy Birthday.  Pearl, Finn, and Milo wore their butterfly party hats in your honor.  Daddy hung a butterfly “Happy Birthday” sign, and we ate our cake off of butterfly plates.

Your brothers and sister blowing out your three candles.

Your brothers and sister blowing out your three candles.

Your Daddy was really, really sad last night.  He’s been sad a lot lately.  We both have.  We’ve been eating lots of things we shouldn’t because we are sad.  Losing you (and your sister) has been so very, very hard.  The pain never ends.

We miss your beautiful face, your smile and your scowl, your silly stunts, your determination, and of course, your hugs and kisses.  We miss everything about you, except for maybe your screaming fits. :)

We love you so much, Rose Aijing, and we can’t wait to see you again someday in paradise.

Love forever,

Mommy

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