Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lost and gained

"I have lost nothing
in my life
that I could not find again
with God."
Corrine De Winter

It's so easy to feed on loss when days and weeks and months have turned into years of giving up everything we are told means so much to focus on just surviving.  So many well meaning loved ones have said something pithy through our past years about this being a "season" that will pass for us.  They leave on another vacation, or head out to the park to watch their children run and play in the snow or facebook about a special concert or the ballet or a simple shopping trip to the mall to visit Santa.  They pick out shiny outfits with matching shoes and decide on Christmas cards and look at their December calendars full of invitations to parties and celebrations and people who are all glistening in the fullness we are supposed to feel this time of year.  Real or imagined I see the parts being played out around me like I am watching a perfect winter scene in a snow globe.  I want to believe I'll be let back in there soon. 

I can assure you this loss is much longer than a season for us.  This is our life.  Wrapped in strange newspaper recycled with the stories of days of exhaustion and pain and long nights in the hospital and tied with twine borrowed from something useful or given to us in charity our celebration is no less real than yours, but I can promise you it feels different because it has to be. 

I can look back over our "holidays" since 2007, and there are very few things that look or feel like I think they should.  This year is no exception.  My Laney will sing of our Savior tonight on a stage with her class in a special dress my sister chose for her.  Someone else will curl her hair and let her use a little lip gloss.  Someone else will take her picture, and I will miss it . . . again.  Someone else will post on facebook my brave and beautiful girl, and I will be here losing the moment that can't be lived again.  Gone. 

Last evening Dan brought the girls over to have dinner and to visit.  It had been raining hard all day and the pressure in my head was bad.  My pain was bad.  I had been so lonely for these little hearts that move on without me.  I tried to set the table and pour some drinks.  I tried to play the part of mom.  I wanted a dinner where we sat together and talked about our days.  I wanted something to feel even a little bit normal.  I was hurting.  I felt very strange.  The girls were wound up and their laughter and silliness echoed off the high ceilings and hard wood floors.  Someone had turned on "The Fresh Beat Band" on the big screen in surround sound.  I slipped away to the bathroom.  I knew it was too soon to try this.  I was sweating all over and stripped all my clothes off and sat in the bathroom suddenly freezing.  My face looking back at me in the mirror ashen white.  I needed to pass out.  I could hear the girls chasing one another.  I worried if Danica would slip on the hardwood.  I could hear Marina saying something about a groovy smoothie.  Breathe in.  Breath out.  I prayed.  I called for Dan to get the phone and bring it to me.  How would 911 know how to find me?  I had no idea where I was really.  My sweet husband called my mom.  He knew the girls had to get out of there, and he knew I couldn't be alone.  He can't offer me any real care or concern.  This is often lost in our lives now.  We move forward like soldiers.  Emotion is just a waste of time and energy we cannot afford.  The next thing comes.  We love so fiercely we don't need to even say it.  The fact we are still here doing this is the proof. 

Danica brings me in her princess nightlight and says she wants me to keep it in case I'm afraid.  This is a huge sacrifice for her sweet heart.  Danica doesn't want to leave me.  She is crying.   She is not afraid of the gaping cut on my back and neck.  She doesn't wince to see the ugly that might give me the best chance to be healed.  She walked this road.  Delaney needs to leave as soon as she can.  She can't watch this happen again.  She wants to remember her mommy with beautiful suits, high heels and a Louis Vuitton purse and $500 watch.  She wants to remember the mom who had professional decorated cookies made special for each friend in her Montessori and volunteered whenever she could and who took her to Whole Foods for our dinner salad and a fresh piece of fish after work most nights.  She wants to remember the mommy who ordered a Venti White Mocha every morning in the Starbucks drive thru while singing with the radio at the top of our lungs because life was good.  It was really good.  I feel hideous to her now.  Sitting on the toilet with no color in my face, glasses, a tank top showing the huge PICC line bruise on my arm and legs that haven't been shaved for two weeks,  I know she can't look.  She calls, "I love you mommy." 

My mom shows up, and I crawl in bed and cry.  She rubs my back.  It hurts to be touched, but I still need my mommy.  We cuddle up and watch "White Christmas".  I must have moved my position over one hundred times.  I can't get comfortable.  We laugh at the same parts we always have since I was a little girl.  Wallace and Davis doing the sister act comforts me.  I fade in and out from the drugs.  We ate chex for a bedtime snack in red cups with plastic spoons.  Corn chex always a staple in our house since I was young.  A spoon of white sugar on top.  My mom tucked me in. 

This morning my friend Melinda came to bring me a bagel and visit.  You know her by now.  The dear mom of Danica's friend, Brooke, who also has Chiari.  The first friend who called when she found out about my surgery and said, "How can I help?"  They have been through more loss than I can even speak of here.  They recently had to move several hours away for her husband to find work, but she came here with her three children to stay with her parents and watch Danica last Friday, yesterday and tomorrow.  This morning we sat across from one another soul to soul and there were no pretenses.  We have been taken as low as we can as mothers, as wives, as women.  We have given up everything to grasp the one thing we would give our very lives for.  We can speak freely of bill collectors and repo men and shame and in the same breath praise our good God for the provision of manna day by day by day.  Don't store it up.  Give it away.  It will be there again tomorrow.  It's enough.  I will give you the shirt off my back.  I will give you my last drop of energy.  I will love your daughter as my own.

Since Danica was born I would look into her big brown eyes and say, "I am you and you are me."  Today I looked into my friend's eyes full of tears and felt the very same.  Strip it all away and we are just the same.  There is nothing we can lose that cannot be found in our God.  He is our everything.  "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?"  Matthew 16:26 

Humbled and blessed because all this loss is really a beautiful trade off for the soul work He's doing here.  Nothing is worth more.  Nothing.

(This beautiful song, God of my Everything, sung by Bebo Norman is on repeat today.)


  1. I am a friend of Angie's parents. Thank you for sharing this precious testimony. Mercy upon mercy! Our prayers for you all continue! Susan

  2. This was a beautiful piece of writing, and reminded me that I have an awful lot to be thankful for. I am praying for your healing, both in body, mind and also spirit (although you seem pretty strong in spirit...much more so than me). I hope there will be a Christmas miracle for you -- even just a tiny one. I hope you will have a shiny Christmas memory to have in your heart forever.

  3. I can't imagine what any of you are going through or have gone through, but I can offer my prayers.

  4. Monica, your raw, honest words are true. I have been and will be praying with you (and so many others) here from Harrisonburg. How amazing that in the face of unspeakable pain and loss you are able to see the work He is doing in your soul. This is testimony of an incredible God who loves his incredible daughter.