Sunday, April 22, 2007

Balancing Act

Well, it's time to go back to work. There is only so long that a person can sit around doing nothing. Especially if that someone is me. As a self-diagnosed workaholic, I tried to strike a balance between work and life after Lillian was born. And I think I was pretty successful. Now that I don't have someone waiting at home for me to give them a bath (no offense to Jeff but he can draw his own bath if he wants one), it would be easy to jump back into corporate life in the old routine working dawn to dusk. But I have a new philosophy. A life-changing, earth-shattering philosophy. The kind you could write a "in-just-three-easy-steps" kind of self-help book about and sell at least 2 copies. But for all of you, my friends, I will share it with you for FREE!

So here it is: (insert drumroll here) one day out of the blue, I left work and didn't return for 7 months. And guess what? Work kept right on going without me! In fact, the guy who covered for me is doing so well that he is going to keep going in the job and I'm coming back in an equally exciting but different role. So basically, (here it comes) I am a good way.

So what does being a good-kind-of-dispensible mean?

  • First, that my company, my manager and my co-workers are fantastic. They are supportive and generous and plain old good at what they do. For that and so much more, I will work my tail off to make them proud.

  • Second, that life keeps on going even when we pause. So though I plan to work hard, I'm also going to strive for that ever elusive balance. As I recently heard someone say, there are 24 hours in the day, claim one for yourself.

  • And finally, that there are areas where I am not dispensible (this is a critical piece to the philosophy.) I am not dispensible to my family, my friends and my faith. There will always be someone ready to step in to fill your shoes at work. Heck, even the President, the most powerful man in the world, has a line of people ready to fill in for him. But no one can be a parent to your child for you. No one can be the same kind of friend as you. And no one can secure your place in heaven but you.
And that's my new philosophy! I hope you can learn from my experience and find the balance that is right for you. Cause you too are a good way.

The Bow

You know how when a character in a movie or book dies, there is usually something great that follows to make the death seem somehow worthwhile? I just read a book where the patriarch of a family on his death bed urged his son-in-law to love his wife forever. He knew they were on the brink of divorce and somehow with his last breath was able to convince them to give their marriage another shot. (Seriously, if I ever write a book, I promise not to make it sooooo cliche.)

I read the novelization of a movie called "The Ultimate Gift." Not to give away the ending for anyone planning to read/watch it but one of the sub-plots is a spunky little girl who dies from leukemia. Senseless, right? But through her spunkiness, she befriends a man who appears homeless but is merely a playboy in a phase of events mandated by his deceased grandfather's will. The girl introduces her divorced mother to the homeless man and of course they hit it off. (What mother in the midst of caring for terminally ill child wouldn't be attracted to a smelly, seemingly crazy person?) Anyhoo, after the girl's death, the man completes the tasks and is given a large chunk of change. Since he has repented of his superficial ways, he uses the money and his influence to create a center for families of critically ill children which he names after the memorable child of his new girlfriend. (Hardly believeable but a good story.)

In a moment of delirium a month or so ago, I watched "Extreme Home Makeover". (Why do I watch that show???) There was a teenager who was killed in a car accident and his organs were donated. The recipient of his heart was a talented, humble 20 year old woman. The two families were united in a moment of deep sorrow matched with gratitude that would leave the most cynical person brimming with emotion.

Though I know they are just putting a bow on their package to make it palatable to the audience, I find myself expecting a comparable thing to happen as a result of Lillian's death. Unfortunately there is not much of a call for organs filled with chemo. And I have yet to inherit a million dollars. Still, I am hoping something good comes from all of this. And I know God is working even if I can't always see the results. I think that's what they call faith, right?

Friday, April 20, 2007

My Heart's Desire

Creating a child is a God given right. At least that's what I thought when we crafted our plan to be parents. After 10 years of marriage, we were finally ready for children. We were going to have a spring baby since all of the birthdays in our family fall between August and December. And of course, we'd conceive right away. (We come from very fertile stock.) Well, you know how God most often speaks in gentle whispers? As though He realized that I'm rarely still long enough to hear Him clearly, this time He opted to scream "Not your will but Mine!!!"

And so for us and for so many others, having a child is not a simple process. Fertility treatments required, among other things, invasive procedures, side-effect laden pills and a lot of peeing on sticks. All that and the monthly disappointment confirmed the realization that there were no guarantees of success. Adoption was a "sure thing" but required mountains of paperwork and a hefty wad of cash. So as you can see, creating a family is far from a romantic whim for those of us lucky enough to be initiated into the exclusive infertile club.

But it was sooooooooo worth it!!! All of the rigmarole reaffirmed my desire to be a mom. And all of it led us to Lillian. Our adoption process took almost exactly 40 weeks (coincidence? I think not). We were selected early on by an amazing birthmom with whom we clicked right away. She allowed us to be Lillian's parents from the very minute she was born. As Jeff said, clearly we were meant to walk Lillian through this. (Thank you again God for the honor of being her parents!!!)

Almost immediately after she died, I found myself wanting to jump back into the adoption process or begin fertility treatments. I had this deep longing for a baby. (I can now completely understand why many widows remarry quickly after the loss of their spouse. It's like you have a hole in you that needs to be refilled.) As I considered my longing to be a mom again, I just couldn't figure out why I wasn't feeling guilty. If I was already considering moving on and "replacing her," why wasn't I more conflicted? And then it hit me. Another baby would be wonderful but if I were really honest with myself, my true heart's desire was simply to have Lillian back. At that moment, I was not necessarily longing to be a mommy but rather to be Lillian's mommy. (Jesus, please give my sweetie pea a huge hug and kiss from her Mommy and tell her I love her and miss her tons!)

As more time passes, I realize that at heart I am a mom. I will always be Lillian's mom. But ultimately I wonder whether I am destined for the ups and downs parenthood again. There is no other job as challenging or as fulfilling. And so I quietly as possible. Listening for the gentle whisper that will tell me when and if I am to be someone else's mommy.

My Birthday Quilt

Not quite in the mood for a celebration yet, I thought this birthday would slip quietly by. But apparently you all had other plans. Who knew Hallmark had so many different ways to say "Happy Birthday"?!
I tell you, you've left me positively speechless. Normally I can write a blog in a few minutes but I've been sitting here for 10 minutes completely unsure of what to say. How do I thank you for making me smile? How do I thank you for making my day? How do I thank you for being my friend?

I guess all I can truly say is a humble "thank you very much." By honoring me, you have honored Lillian. Because without her, I wouldn't even know many of you. And because through her God has drawn you close to me and enveloped me like a beautiful, comforting quilt.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Strangely Quiet

I don't know how other parents handle the death of their child but I can guess. For some, seeing the toys is hard. For others, the photos. For me, it's the little, intangible things. Like Monday would have been her 2 1/2 birthday. I know, I know, who cares about a 1/2 birthday? But since we were in Emmanuel for rehab for her 2nd birthday (just 8 days post-resection), it wasn't much of a birthday. Just a few family members huddled around a table in the hospital cafeteria. I was hoping to use this 1/2 birthday to make up for it. And whooo-hooo, don't get me started on my big plans for her 3rd birthday!

Or my first solo trip to Costco to pick up pictures in preparation for her memorial service. Costco has always been the diaper, formula and book store for us. Our first Mommy-daughter outing after Lillian was born was to Costco when she was just 5 days old. Later Jeff and Lillian would look at the books while I raced around throwing the other items from our list into the cart. Last week the cart seemed to want to steer itself to the book aisle until I regained my senses.

And last night Jeff and I returned home after a week in Palm Springs. We rented a home with a pool for some anti-social relaxation and reflection time. I know so many of you would give your right arm for a week of fun in the sun but it was very strange for us. Being a parent means very little personal time and being the parent of a sick child means no personal time. So a week with nothing to do was just plain weird. It was nice, don't get me wrong, but I'm glad to be home. I know it's irrational but as we de-planed in Portland and walked through the throngs of waiting loved ones, I found myself looking around for Lillian.

I guess all this is to say, it's hard but we're hanging in there. Though these little things knock the wind out of me on a regular basis, I'm perversely glad they do. It keeps her memory alive. In fact, I think I'm more scared for the day when seeing "The Wonder Pets" on tv doesn't reduce me to tears.

Thank you all for your prayers and cards and for keeping Lillian alive through your memories as well.

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