Friday, November 20, 2015

Celebrating Lily

Today is a hard day to remember, even more so then the day Lily was born. One year ago, I got my last glimpse of Lily in this life. We prepared for a lot, but I assure you, absolutely nothing can prepare you for when the casket closes and you know will never dress your beautiful girl in any more outfits. You will never get to braid her hair or teach her to play softball. You will never see her become a woman, a bride, a mother. Every dream you had for child closes with the casket. 

I'm trying so hard to keep hold of the peace I felt on her birthday. So I share with you her beautiful birthday. It was such a special day and through it all, I felt so much peace from my baby girl.

Loving Lily is the greatest accomplishment of my life. I'm never one to brag on myself, but giving Lily life is the only thing I've ever done that I know with 100% of my heart I did it right. But now here I am one year later and I can't stop the selfish thoughtsI want her here. I want to protest the over the top, extravagant first birthdays. I want to dress her in something simple and sweet. I want to hold her and kiss her and reminisce about all the beautiful moments and milestones she should have made it through this past year. I miss her, and not because it's her birthday. I miss her because it's every. single. day. Every single day for the past year, that I have had to figure out how to live this life without her. I haven't figured it out yet and I honestly don't think I ever will. 

I thank God every day for the gift she is to my life. Deep grief is a sign of deep love. I will spend the rest of my days missing her and longing to hold her, but this one day of the year, her first birthday, I set aside the ache in my heart and I celebrated my perfect and precious girl

Because she is the greatest gift of my life. 

The night before her birthday we went to decorate her grave. Ted picked out balloons for her and a stuffed animal. He kept saying, "Happy Birthday Lily!" Some of the decorations my friends had left the week before were still there and it made me smile.

I woke up the morning of her birthday feeling so much peace and I was so grateful. I haven't felt peace like that since she was in my arms one year ago. I know it was Lily. I know she wanted me to enjoy her birthday. 

We went to Mass that was offered for Lily. My sister, brother-in-law, and friends came to celebrate with us. It was so wonderful to start our day surrounded by people who were praying for us. 

Then it was Jason, Ted, and me off on a family day. We celebrated with donuts and then spent a wonderful morning at the zoo. We did all the fun stuff. We fed the giraffes and went for a camel ride. We went on the train and pet the sting rays. Ted really loves seeing all the animals. Feeding the giraffes was definitely a highlight of our day!

We came home to flowers, treats and gifts. My dear friend Nellie took pictures at Lily's funeral. She gave me a book full of pictures I had not seen. I didn't cry all day until I saw this book. Words cannot even describe what it was like to have new pictures of Lily. It is truly a priceless gift. My cousin Emily always makes a personalized ABC book for 1st birthdays and she made one for Lily too! We are so grateful for the outpouring of love, prayers, and thoughtful gifts. It helped make her day so special.

Jason and I went out to dinner just the two of us. We shared our memories of Lily's birth. We toasted our daughter and our family. My love for him is more than I ever imagined. He is the most sensitive and loving husband and father. It breaks my heart he has to miss his daughter at all.

Jason has also been working on a project for Lily (me) and it is finally complete! He's been working for months to build this beautiful trunk! I've been wanting something to house all of Lily's memories. I kept showing Jason trunks I wanted to buy and then he told me he wanted to make it. More love went into making this piece of furniture than anything money could ever buy. I am so grateful for his commitment to our family and his immense love for his daughter. Isn't it just beautiful?!

We ended Lily's birthday with pumpkin ice cream with Ted. Again, the day was filled with so much peace and so much love for our sweet girl. We miss you so much Lily girl and we would have given anything to celebrate this day with you. Thank you for showering us with your love and peace. We felt it baby girl...all day long. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Summers in Iowa

Iowa has always been my happy place, but even more so in this past year. When I return to the home of my childhood, I feel a peace I don't often feel these days. The world moves a lot slower, which is good, because Jason and I feel stuck in a place that refuses to move forward, when everyone else seems to be racing ahead. 

In my perfect world we would spend our full summer in Iowa, June to August. Hopefully that can be a reality someday. I would love for Ted to experience a true Iowa summer, from camping in June, RAGBRAI in July, and all the way to the fair in August. Until then, we just get a two week slice of heaven in June.

This year, Ted and I went for two weeks and Jason joined us for the end of our trip with our annual camping weekend with my sweet Iowa girls. It always flies by way too fast and I start missing it before we even leave. 

It was my third trip home without Lily and I thought it would be a little easier this time, but honestly it was the hardest trip of all without her. I recently shared with some friends that it's harder now because I can spot a baby her age without even asking. (I don't ask anymore because I fear the answer.) Lily would have been seven months when we were there. She would have been crawling and scooting all around. She would have been in the baby carrier with me while Ted went on all the rides with his cousins. She would have been passed around to every aunt at the wedding and everyone would have gushed over the sweet dress I picked out for her. I thought it would get easier, but each day I am reminded of what is missing.

Despite the ache in my heart missing Lily, we still had a wonderful trip. That's what's so surreal...I can miss Lily with tears in my eyes, but a smile on my face watching Ted with all his sweet cousins. During the first week, Ted got his first hair cut in a savvy salon, went to Adventureland (twice!), danced until he dropped at my cousin's wedding, splashed with cousins, showed off his awesome swimming skills, and played some more with his sweet cousins.

The second part of our trip was just as fun when Jason arrived! We went to an Iowa Cubs game, more splash pads and my favorite weekend of the whole year, camping in Anamosa with my sweet friends. These beautiful ladies mean so much to me and our friendship just gets better and better as each year passes, we are a fine wine of friends. The weekend always fly by and before we even leave town, I find myself counting the days until I get to see these beautiful faces. I love these women for always loving me from afar. They have been such a rock for me as I miss my daughter and walk this foreign path of grief. I know that I can always count on them for a great hug, a belly full of laughs, even with tears in my eyes. 

Again, though, this was a tough trip and I was really missing Lily. I could picture her crawling and scooting all over the grass, loving the water, and laughing at how silly the big kids were acting. I overheard one of the big kids saying that it was the first year without a new baby...but the truth is, it wasn't. Lily was the new baby, she just wasn't there with us. It's moments like these that have me begging for answers. Why? Why didn't she get to be there? Why do I have to understand this type of loss? I miss her. I miss her so much and it doesn't matter where I physically am, either Iowa or Arizona, I am constantly aware that my daughter is missing. I am constantly aware that things are not as the should be.

But somehow, we continue to move forward...not onward or over, but forward. And moving forward is hard and slow.