Monday, December 26, 2011

All in the family...

Dear God,

It's me. Are you there? Are you listening?

The door is closed and locked. The lights are turned off. I'm laying in my bed, listening to all the children playing right outside the door of my room, and my heart hurts more than I can take. I can't leave to join in the family fellowship because my face burns and my eyes sting from the tears. All that's going through my head tonight is, "where is my little girl? Why is my little girl not here?"

Why did you give us the capacity to hurt like this? I've been trying so hard to just cling to the Rock; but, in this moment, right now, all I want is my daughter, sitting on my lap, in her Christmas jammies, her mommy at my side. Why?

Will you be there to help me through these next 3 days? Will you give me the Peace that passes ALL understanding? Will you hug my girls for me?

Sincerely,
Chad

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

First Christmas...

Dear Sara,

It's almost Christmas...just not the Christmas we were supposed to be having. The tree should have been surrounded by gifts for our little girl's first Christmas. Her first ornament would have been proudly on display at the front of the tree.

Our families now approach a first Christmas no one would have imagined...one without the two of you. One where jig saw puzzles just won't be as jiggy, quilts won't be as quilty, and the twinkling lights will feel a little dimmer than they did last year.

We celebrate the birth of the King of Kings, our Savior, knowing that you and Miranda stand, worshiping, in His glorious presence. However, that knowledge brings little comfort to hearts that still wish you were here. Instead, we try to fill ourselves with the hope of the Resurrection. We look forward to the reunion that is still to come...but with sadness, because of what our humanness reminds us we do not have today.

We love you. We miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving...

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving...it's been on the calendar for a while, hurtling towards us like that comet in Armageddon...only, at times, it feels there's no heroic crew preparing to save us from certain disaster.

It was easy to be thankful last year. We had been married over 14 years. We were starting the final trimester, heading quickly towards the birth of our first child. Life was simply good. Being thankful was easy, maybe too easy.

"...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18


The Word makes it sound so simple. Give thanks...in all things.

I know that I have things to be thankful for this year. I have a wonderful and loving family. I have supportive and loving friends. There are thousands of Christians, around the world, who pray for me, and my and Sara's families, regularly. I know a God who cares about me, cries with me, and wants to restore me...even if I don't know why He allowed this to happen. I know that He has a plan of restoration for me, even if I don't know what it is. I have a future...even if it wasn't the future we had planned.

Today I choose to be thankful that I was married to a woman whose legacy is written on the hearts and minds of family, friends, and coworkers. A legacy of joy, beautiful smiles, creative talents, and earnest laughter. A legacy of love, poured out freely on anyone who spent time with her. Today I choose to be thankful for the great gifts that God bestowed upon my life.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."
1 Chronicles 16:34


I'm also thankful for my friend, Brian Dumont, for finding and sharing photos like these, from over 15 years ago, with me.  So long ago, the only thing in front of us was the future. :)




I miss the rain
by Bride

There's a place I like to go back to
Time seemed to stand still
We ran wild, we had no cares
Take me back to the place
I wish there were a door I could walk right through
To escape this life
I want to go back to what we had
Times were better then

I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye
I been hurting for you again
I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye
And the pain that I feel, Lord, I miss the rain

It keeps me young when I remember
In my mind the past still lives
I've held onto every thought, it keeps me so alive
The future holds nothing for me
If I can't hold you
I used to try and change the world
Now I change a little for myself

I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye
I been hurting for you again
I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye
And the pain that I feel, Lord, I miss the rain

I know there are those far sadder than I
They lost things they can't replace
Like the beauty in their eyes
But through it all, one thing is constant and remains
The Love of God erases all my pain

I miss the rain, I miss the rain
My heart's been dry, like the tear in my eye

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First kiss...

Dear Sara,

It was 16 years ago today...Friday, October 27, 1995. 

You had asked me to go to Homecoming with you. You, the shy girl, beat me to the punch by just a few minutes...I would have asked you...you were so pretty and I just needed a few more minutes to work up the gumption. I'm glad you asked. :)

We went to the Homecoming dinner. I remember waiting for you in the lounge, so nervous, almost giddy. You came down from your room wearing a beautiful little black dress. The night went by so fast, and yet so slowly. I remember going to the after dinner party in downtown Jackson. We watched a movie...sort of. We went for a carriage ride through the city streets...and talked about us. We'd been spending a lot of time together...friends were buzzing about whether or not we were "a thing." We walked around the downtown area for a while after the carriage ride. I asked you if you liked the thought of "us." You said, "yes." Your eyes sparkled so beautifully, you were so modest and shy. We held hands, walking close together, our joy fighting the late October chill.

We drove back to Spring Arbor and hung out in the lounge a little while longer, but not too late. I remember it was getting close to midnight and we were both getting tired. You walked outside with me, as I was walking to my car...we stopped as we got to the end of the dorm...we said good night...and I kissed you...and you kissed me. Our first kiss. It's the only first kiss I remember so vividly. I floated home that night...alive with joy and excitement.

I miss your kisses. So soft, delicate, passionate, so full of life.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Daddy's little girl...

Dear Miranda,

Three days wasn't enough. It will never be enough. You're always with me in my heart. You're always on my mind.

I went on a trip this past weekend, down to Atlanta. I went to the aquarium and saw all sorts of neat fish and wonderful creatures. I went for a walk in their beautiful park. I saw all the other families having fun; the mommies and daddies pushing their babies in their strollers. Daddy's heart hurts so bad.

I miss you.  I love you.  Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Daddy

You'll be my special girl...always.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The power of music....

Dear Sara,

I'm sitting here tonight, realizing it's been 8 months, to the day, since family and friends gathered together and said, "Good bye." Grief today is not nearly as potent as it was back then. Today it comes in small waves, memories lapping at the shore of my consciousness. I think about you and Miranda a lot, but no longer all day every day. I find that I don't cry as often as I used to; but, when I do, the hurt feels so fresh and powerful that it seems like I lost you yesterday.

I listen to music on the radio now, more so than I ever did when you were here. There are songs that reach out and touch me in ways that music never used to; a simple phrase from a song, a chorus repeated softly, inspired words written for others but sung directly to my heat. These tend to be the moments when those waves come crashing in. I don't fight them. Even though it hurts, it feels good to remember, to know that you're no farther away than my thoughts.

I have a playlist I recently created in iTunes called Crying Songs. I was listening to several this evening and wished that I could have sung this verse to you in those final seconds we had together. I don't know if you would have heard me or not, but it's what I wish I could have said if I'd known how bad things were.

"And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!"

Untitled Hymn - Chris Rice
Fly to Jesus, my angles!

I love you.  I miss you.  Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Friday, October 7, 2011

8...

Dear Sara,

Will a time come when I stop counting the months since I last saw your smile? Heard your laugh? Kissed your lips? Held you close? We just passed 8...

The trees are changing color. The maple in front of our house has already changed and will lose it's leaves over the next couple of weeks. We are now entering our third season without you and Miranda. Spring...summer...winter to come soon enough...too soon.

It was sixteen years ago this month...you and I had noticed each other and started spending copious amounts of time hanging out together in the dormitory lounge. You asked me to Homecoming 16 years ago this week...it took me a long time to learn what a huge step that was for such a shy girl.

...and now it's 8 months. Eight months since death stole you from us. Eight months of wishing, wondering, learning...wishing.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Friday, September 16, 2011

In the stillness....

Dear Sara,

It's been over 7 months, but the quietness of the house has caught me off guard. I was just looking at some pictures of you and the stillness engulfed me. I can hear the clock, ticking away softly on the family room wall. I can hear the muted sound of traffic passing by on West Ave, even with all the windows closed.

It's what I don't hear tonight that has me unsettled. I don't hear you. I don't hear you sitting silently beside me while you read a book or work on the cross stitch you were creating from scratch, without a pattern. I don't hear your sewing machine humming away in the dining room. I don't hear the sound of the shower running as you get ready for bed each night. I don't hear the sound of Stevie purring as he basks in the attention you would have lavished on him. I don't hear the sound of your heart, as I lay my head on your chest, and snuggle into your embrace. I don't hear the sound of our little girl rustling in her crib, stirring from her nap, over the baby monitor. I don't hear her cries indicating she's hungry, or wet, or just being a baby. I don't hear the giggles and coo's that would most certainly have been echoing through our home on this quiet Friday evening.

It's what I don't hear that makes my heart hurt again and causes the tears to sting in my eyes. It's what I don't hear that makes me ask why? Why couldn't we have left home 1 minute sooner...or 1 minute later? Why didn't we change our minds and just stay home when that storm came out of nowhere? Why? I know I won't find any answers. Not in this quiet. Not in this world.

I'll turn the TV on in a little bit. The house won't be so quiet...but the stillness will echo loudly in my heart.

I love you.  I miss you.  Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

15 years...

She is Gone - by David Harkins
You can shed tears that she is gone,
Or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
Or you can be full of the love that you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she is gone,
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.


"Out of all the gifts You’ve given
Besides the very gift of life
There is none as precious to me
As the treasure of my wife."
How Do I Love Her?
by Steven Curtis Chapman

Dear Sara,

Fifteen years ago today we stood in front of our family, friends, and God…pledging our lives, and love, to each other “until death do us part.” The “until we are old and gray, having lived long and fruitful lives” was implied. Most days it’s still hard to believe that those vows have been fulfilled…or…maybe it’s more that I don’t want to believe that they have been fulfilled. In daily conversation, you are still “my wife, Sara.”

This day has been on my mind for weeks. I’ve been completely unsure of how to approach it. Should I celebrate the fourteen and a half happy years we shared? Could I celebrate, even if I wanted to? Should I go somewhere? Should I be with people or be alone? My answer came to me late in the afternoon yesterday…maybe you sent it to me.

Last October we went up north on a color tour. It was something we had always wanted to do, but working for the public schools made taking time off work during the fall a little difficult. In retrospect, I’m obviously glad we made the time to go. We both enjoyed ourselves. It was a happy trip. We knew it was probably our last vacation with just the two of us.

One of my favorite memories from the trip was sitting out in Grand Traverse Bay, at Mission Point State Park, watching the sun set behind the Leelanau Peninsula. You were cold; I was comfortable. You snuggled in next to me as the sun went down. We had seen Miranda in an ultrasound just a week earlier; it was our first, last, and only sunset as a family. It was a perfect end to a perfect day. We were both so happy, and excited about where our lives were heading.

That brings me back to today. It finally occurred to me to go back to that happy place…a place where the future was unknown, yet filled with joy…a place where we both felt safe, happy, and content. So, that’s where I will celebrate our 15th anniversary, sitting in Grand Traverse Bay, watching the sun set over the Leelanau Peninsula. As the last rays of the sun disappear behind the horizon, I’ll sprinkle some of your and Miranda’s ashes in that place. The joy of that memory will forever exist there, as it exists in my heart.
I love you. I miss you, today more than any other. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Friday, August 5, 2011

Half a year...

Dear Sara,

Six months.Twenty-six weeks.One hundred and eighty-two days.

That's how long it's been since the world was robbed of your smile, your laugh, your beauty, your being. Our families will never be the same, scarred by this amputation for the rest of our lives. Even with great hope, we live with great sorrow.

The paradox of time rears its ugly head. So many of those days have passed so slowly; it's impossible to fathom that it's been that long. So much of our grief feels so fresh. In other ways it feels as though what we had was a lifetime ago. It's a memory seen through the lens of history or a movie we've seen a hundred times; one where we know the lines by heart, because we spoke them, yet it feels as though someone else must have said and done those things.

We love you. I love you. We miss you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Love. Always...

"God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Dear Sara,

One year…365 days…the world is so different from what it was supposed to be.

That night, one year ago today, was supposed to be the end. The test was supposed to be the one to confirm our fears, the one that would prompt a call to the doctor’s office on Monday morning, to set up the visit where we would let them know that we had come as far as we were willing to come and that our journey to parenthood would have to take a different path. I waited quietly in the family room for you to return with the bad news. You shouted my name and I panicked. My heart raced as I ran up to the bathroom to see what was wrong. There you stood, in shock, holding the test…with two pink lines. So much joy, so much hope, so wanted, so longed for, so unexpected…our little secret.

The journey was too fast. The end came much to soon, in so many different ways. So many stories left unwritten. So many kisses unkissed. So many hugs unhugged. So many songs left unsung. So many paths unexplored. So much life unlived.

Thank you for giving me 15 great years. Thank you for being a loving and kind wife. Thank you for being a passionate lover. Thank you for giving me the great gift of a beautiful daughter. Thank you for being a pure child of The Father.

I realize today that you were never mine. You were simply on loan to me from God. Even though my heart questions why he allowed this to happen, I know that you’re singing with the angels, praising the King of Kings, and experiencing love, life, and joy in ways that I can’t even begin to comprehend.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Father's Day...

"I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Dear Miranda,

One year ago today, my life changed forever. It was one year ago today that mommy and I found out that you were going to be a part of our lives. It’s hard to describe how different things are, how much harder they are, than what we had imagined just one year ago today. The unspeakable joy replaced by unspeakable grief. Tears of joy replaced by tears of sadness.

On this Father’s Day, I know that you are in the presence of The Father. I know that you will never have to feel the pain, both physical and emotional, that this world imparts to those of us who remain. I know that you are experiencing joy on a magnitude that you never would have experienced here. And yet, knowing all this doesn’t take the hurt away. Knowing where you are, knowing how good the place you are is, knowing that someday I will join you there, knowing these things does not fill the hole left behind by your absence.

Today is not what it was supposed to be, not what the joy of a year ago had promised. I thank God every day that I had 3 precious days with you, but my heart aches for today. My heart cries out to God and wants to know why my precious little girl isn’t here in my arms. My heart points to the emptiness of losing you and wonders why God could not have intervened and allowed me to celebrate this day the way it was meant to be celebrated. My heart loves you and wants to have you here, it always will.

My dear, sweet, perfect daughter, I will always love you. You will always be my firstborn, daddy’s little girl. There will never be another like you.

I love you. I miss you. Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Daddy

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A day in the park...

Dear Sara,

I saw a dad with his little girl at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore today...it made me think about Miranda, and you, and how much fun it would have been to go on a vacation, carrying her around, seeing the sights, just being together as a family.

Those little moments of sadness permeate my day now. The brief glimpses into other people’s lives…the life that we were looking forward to…

I had a another moment today…a Forrest Gump moment. There came a point in the story in which, during his run back and forth across America, he stopped, turned around, and went home. He just decided he was done running. I was riding on County Road H-58 when I was overwhelmed with a desire to just go home…until I thought about the fact that home is just so empty right now. The laughter, the crying, the tears, the smell of poopy diapers…all missing.

The part of me that was you still aches in your absence. It always will. The scars will always be there, ready to send a quick reminder of the way things were…once upon a time.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Walk in the water...

Dear Miranda,

Daddy went down to the ocean today. He walked in the sand and out into the water. He watched all the other daddies playing with their babies...daddy misses you a lot today. His tears taste like the ocean.



I love you. I miss you. Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Daddy

Location:Crown Point Cir,Corolla,United States

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Family...

Dear Sara,

The Visser clan gathers today, on the western banks of the Atlantic Ocean, for several days of family fellowship. It's difficult to describe the feelings associated with this. Seeing everyone will be good and fun. Seeing everyone will also be very difficult...a full house that feels empty because your voice and laughter aren't going to be there intermingling with the rest.

A soft sadness covers me today, seeping into every thought and emotional crack and crevice.

I love you. I miss you. I always will.

Love,
Chad

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fairy tales...

Dear Sara,

I've been traveling a lot lately. It gives me plenty of time to think and process. For some reason the whole concept of fairy tales popped into my mind the other day. They're so happy...but I think that's because all we get to read is the beginning. They all end with, "and they lived happily ever after."

The fairy tale doesn't have the chapter where you sit in a broken van and watch the life draining from your wife's face, feeling helpless and scared. It doesn't have the chapter where you hold your daughter to your chest and wait...and wait...as her heart beats its final beats. No one would want to read the fairy tale where we really got to see what happens later on. If feels like our fairy tale ended with, "and they lived happily, until the end."

The hard part about losing you this way is that there was no time to say goodbye. I feel horrible about it, but I'm sometimes jealous of people who lose their loved ones after a long battle with an illness. They sometimes get months, or years, to say goodbye. I don't think that would make it hurt any less, but I do wonder if it "mutes" the pain of loss due to stretching the goodbye out over time. I guess I don't know, and I don't really want to test my hypothesis.

I think about things I would have wanted to say to you, if there had been time. I'd want to thank you for the "fairy tale." For showing me that true love does exist, and that it is simple and pure, not complex and chemical. As I travel I have time to think about what that means for my life. I'd want to thank you for showing me that marriage is good, wonderful, full of wonder and adventure, and something that SHOULD be pursued, not given up on. I'd want to thank you for making marriage something that I want to experience and share again with someone else, using the template and skills created and learned over 15 years. Thank you for that life gift.

I feel like I'm moving into the final, but longest stage of grief. The one that lasts the rest of my life. I've just recently started to have "moments" when a normal, everyday event sparks the memory of you, and Miranda, and brings soft tears to my eyes. It usually passes within in minute or two, and often ends with a happy smile of remembrance on my face. I have come to accept that my love for you has reached its peak (but what a peak it was) and will grow no more; but, it will also never shrink. It's in stasis, unchanged until the day when the Lord calls me home to join you, and all those who have gone before.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hallmark doesn't make a card for this...

Dear Sara,

Happy Mother’s Day…

I know you’ll be having a good day whether it’s celebrated in Heaven or not. Things are a little less happy down here. I was so looking forward to being with you and Miranda today. I started thinking about this day and how great it was going to be back on June 19, 2010. Now I’m not sure what to do with myself. I guess it’s a good thing the day is packed with “activity” for me.

I hope you don’t mind, I’ve been writing to you a little less frequently. It’s not that I don’t think about you all the time, or that I’m forgetting about you and Miranda. As time moves on, I find there’s less and less to say. My heart feels your absence, just as keenly as it did 3 months ago, and no words can change that. I know that that empty spot will just always be there, regardless of what happens over the course of the rest of my life.

I guess I don’t have a lot to say today, either. My tears are just going to have to do my talking for me. I mostly just wanted to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day, mommy. If God is gracious, He’s giving you an extra special day in Heaven, at least I hope He is.


I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Like a child...

Dear Miranda,

Today is Mother’s Day. It also marks 3 months since you joined mommy in Heaven. It’s bittersweet, to say the least. I hope they celebrate Mother’s Day in Heaven. I hope you get to spend a special day with mommy.

Back down here on earth, I just recently started saying “yes,” without hesitating to think about it, when people who don’t know me ask if I have children. I only have to explain that you’re in Heaven every once in a while.

Daddy loves you. He wishes you were here, with mommy, so that we could all snuggle in bed together this morning and celebrate this special day.


I love you. I miss you. Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Daddy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My dear sweet daughter...

Dear Miranda,

I watched a video clip today that grandma filmed, on Sunday, at the memorial service for children who have passed away at CS Mott Children's Hospital.

I want to hold you again. I want to feel your little heart beat against my fingertips. I want to touch your soft skin, and kiss your beautiful little feet, hands, and face.

There's a hole in daddy's heart that will never be filled. It may become surrounded, encased by a cocoon of love, but it will never be filled.

I miss you and mommy a lot today. I know you're having fun in Heaven, but I still wish you were here.

I love you. I miss you. Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Daddy

Monday, May 2, 2011

I dreamed a dream...

Dear Sara,

I dreamed about you last night. I know I've dreamed about you frequently since the accident, but this is the first dream I've had that was this vivid; so vivid that I've been thinking about it all day long, as I drove from Louisiana to Louisville, Kentucky.

I was at your apartment. I say "your" apartment because it was not "our" apartment. I didn't recognize it, it wasn't some place we, or you, had every lived, and yet it was full of your unfinished crafts and projects (and a cute little gray rabbit who hopped around the room...free range.) I was asking you about why we couldn't be together, why you couldn't come home. You were sad, not because we weren't together anymore, but because you couldn't find a way to help me understand why we couldn't be together. You were happy when we were together, but you were even more happy now. You kept trying to assure me that it was going to be OK, that given time I would be happy again, just not with you. I woke up with a broken (re-broken) heart and I've been fighting it all day.

I think this is probably the result of my heart and my head trying to close the gap between what I rationally know is true, that you won't be back, and what my heart wants to be true, that this is all just a bad dream from which I can still wake up.

As I said, I've been driving all day. When I left Louisiana this morning, my heart was full of expectation, I'm heading home! Over the course of the day, it began to dawn on me that this isn't like the trips I've taken before. Going home used to mean you were there, waiting at the door, ready for a big hug and a kiss. Going home doesn't seem as exciting now.

We're quickly coming up on the 25% milestone. Nearly 1/4 of a year gone since you left. It seems too fast, it doesn't feel right to watch you and Miranda slip this quickly into my "past." My head keeps urging me to move forward, to climb that hill, take those steps; my heart keeps dropping anchor.


I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Friday, April 29, 2011

Traveling man...

Dear Sara,

I'm on the road, down south right now. Spending my nights in hotels and motels; the beds feel too big, and empty, without you by my side.

I'm finding myself having more better days now. I still think about you and Miranda almost non-stop. It still hurts, and probably always will, but the pain is muted, like a burn. You can always feel it, but it doesn't prevent you from going about your daily life. There are occasional spikes when something rubs or presses against the raw spot, but even that sharp inflection soon mellows into a dull hum.

I've got my SPF 100+ with me. I'm trying hard to remember to use it regularly. This southern sun will surely test it's limits. :) Thanks for always worrying about me and instilling the habit of remembering to put it on.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Saturday, April 23, 2011

He is risen...

Dear Sara,

In just a few short hours we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Knowing that you are celebrating and worshipping in Heaven brings a sense of joy, even in the midst of losing you. We celebrate the very thing that will ultimately allow us to join you some day. The precedent has been set. Death wins…temporarily. One day, it will be defeated. Until then, we suffer the pain and consequence of original sin, the breaking of a perfect communion. Even in the midst of pining for a different outcome, to a past I can’t change, I recognize how inappropriate it would be for God to take you from where you are now, experiencing the things you’re experiencing, and put you back in a position where you would one day have to die again. C.S. Lewis was right in asking if Lazarus hadn’t really gotten the raw end of that deal; having to die not once, as apportioned to all mankind, but twice.

I can’t help wondering what you would have made for Miranda to wear to church on this special day. I have no doubt it would have been a beautiful homemade dress, it leaves an empty feeling knowing none of us get to see her in it.

It’s hard to believe we’re only 14 days away from being ¼ of the way through the first year of your being gone. I still experience, and am acutely aware of, the mystery of the passage of time. Some days seem to pass so slowly. Some days it feels like the accident just happened. And yet, I look at the calendar and realize that almost 3 months have passed. I also still experience days when I look in the mirror and think, if only for a moment, who is this man staring back at me? I’m not the man I was, I’m not the man you knew…I am, but I’m not.

I recognize the seeds of acceptance being sown in my heart. I also recognize that acceptance does not having anything to do with moving past the hurt or getting over it. Acceptance is just what it is, acceptance. Accepting that you're gone doesn’t mean my heart won’t hurt, but it can, and does, put that hurt in a different light. I recognize that it's part of a natural progression, one that I know you would have wanted to happen.

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.” – Matthew 28:6

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!



I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Traveling plans...

Dear Sara,

I’m bored…or maybe not. Maybe I’m just listless. I find myself having about 3 to 4 good hours of activity most days. Then the rest of the day just feels empty. I’m not complaining, ‘cuz I don’t feel like doing anything…maybe I’m just killing time until I leave for my motorcycle travels.

In most regards, I’m looking forward to my upcoming trips. I’ll be seeing new places, lots of new places, and new people, lots of new people, but I also know I’m going to have to work through the guilt of being gone. I know that I don’t have any reason to feel guilty, but it’s something I just won’t be able to help. I’ll never forget how frustrated you were at the end of that first year of my having a motorcycle; how oblivious I’d been to the fact that going on all my weekend rides had made you feel ignored. It was a hard lesson to learn, but learn it I did. I hope the balance we found was good, you never mentioned anything about it after that first time, so I think I did a pretty good job of making sure I spent more time with you than I did with the motorcycle. Three months ago I was thinking about selling it, to make sure that making time for you and the baby would never be a problem…there might be some guilt to work through from that perspective, too.

If you’re not too busy worshipping God and enjoying Heaven, you may want to peek in on Stevie from time to time while I’m gone. I’m having a house sitter stay with him, but I know it will still be tough on him with both of us gone. I’ve been trying to break him of the habit of wanting to drink out of the faucet in the tub. The first day Katu was gone, with her new owner, it was the first thing he did. He ran straight to the tub, hopped in, and looked up at me with expectant eyes. Teaching him to drink out of the faucet was cute…when you were around to do it. I moved his water bowl from the bathroom counter into the tub. He just stares at it like it’s beneath him to drink out of a bowl now.

The pictures of you and Miranda are going up around the house. I find I can only work on a couple at a time, so they’re going up slowly, but it’s nice to look around and see your smiling face on a regular basis.



I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hearts and heads...

Dear Sara,

Today was a difficult day. I’ll spare you the details, but it was a stark display of how far apart my head and my heart are. I’ve had so many “better” days recently that I just wasn’t prepared for today. Even though I think about you and Miranda all the time, I'm finding that the hard grieving is coming is shorter bursts, with more time in between them. I'm also finding that the tears that constantly filled my eyes just a few weeks ago have receded, they still come out regularly, but only when called upon as certain instances in my day bring them out.



My head (that logical part of me that sees reason, understands how the world works, etc.) knows that you and Miranda are gone and nothing will change that. My head says that life will go on. My head says that things will be OK. My head says that I may even find happiness with someone else some day. My head allows me to deal with the world, because it’s still turning. The sun still comes up in the east every morning and sets in the west every night.

My heart is so very far behind my head…

My heart wants you back. My heart wants the things that my head is telling it I can’t have. My heart shrieks loudly when my head tries to console it with thoughts that the future will be OK. My heart punches back with furious anger when my head tries to reason that life will go on and that I may eventually find happiness again with someone else. My heart doesn’t want anyone else. My heart wants you.

It was my heart that sent shouts of guilt to my head around three in the afternoon on Saturday when I realized I’d been enjoying my motorcycle ride for about four hours and still had almost three hours left before I’d be home. It was my head that reminded my heart you weren’t at home waiting jealously/patiently for me to return and spend time with you.  My heart didn't fight back, but it hurt a little.

I wonder if my heart will ever get to where my head is? I tend to think that it may get close, but never all the way. You and Miranda will always occupy a quiet little spot there, no matter how far it moves forward in this process…and that’s probably the way it’s supposed to be. The way God intended it to be.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring is sprung...

Dear Sara,

The weeks seem to be going by a little faster now. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. My mind sometimes has a hard time discerning how much time has passed. It still feels like it was just yesterday that we were together while at the same time feeling likes it’s been forever since I was able to hold you. The memory of your face and touch are so fresh while the reality of them falls farther and farther into my past.



I keep hearing the song God is God, by Steven Curtis Chapman, on the radio when I’m in the car. It was the first song I heard on the radio while I was driving from our home to your memorial service. I can still remember how the reality and finality of things was just really starting to sink in. I’m sure I’d heard the song before, but that day was the first day I really listened to it. The chorus ran through my head all day long that day.

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

It’s been running through my head frequently since then; it’s the truth that I have to hold on to whenever I start to question why the accident happened and why you and Miranda aren’t here enjoying our quiet life.



Your flowerbeds are all cleaned out, weeded, and mulched. They look so nice, but it doesn’t feel right knowing you’re not here to enjoy them or spruce them up and make them look beautiful. I’m still not sure what I should do with them in the long run. I don’t know the last thing about flowers and/or gardening. I just knew I needed to have them cleaned out and looking nice for this spring and summer.



I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

PS - Stevie still misses you, too.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

56 days...

Dear Sara,

I often wonder if you notice the passage of time in Heaven? It’s been 8 weeks since you left here and I certainly notice, as do our families, but I can’t help but think that it doesn’t pass the same way for you as it does for us.

Each and every day still brings its mixed bag of emotions. Some days go by painfully slow while some evaporate before it feels the day has even started. I’ve reached a stage where your being going paints the whole day, whether short or long, in a light shade of grey. Grief can still catch me off guard with a strong wave, upending my emotional state, but more often I just feel neutral, slowly bobbing up and down between slightly happy and slightly sad.

I’ve been reading a daily devotional written especially for people who are grieving the loss of someone they love. This week I ran into my first daily reading that just felt like it was in the wrong place in the book. It felt like the wrong topic with the wrong advice at the wrong time. It was about saying goodbye to your loved one. The author wrote about the importance of saying goodbye as part of the healing process. They then encouraged the reader to write a goodbye letter to their loved one as part of the process of moving on. They did say that if I wasn’t ready to do that that I should bookmark the page and come back to it when I was ready. Saying goodbye at this point seems a little premature. I could probably say it, but I wouldn’t mean it. Maybe these letters are just a long goodbye.

I know I don’t need to say it, but it always feels like I do…I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Woof, woof...

Dear God,

I’m standing in the peanut butter aisle at Meijer. My feet are frozen to the floor. I came here for one thing, Nutella, and they’re all out. To make matters worse, it’s on sale (which is probably the reason it’s all gone.) All I wanted was a jar of Nutella and the shelf is empty.

Then it hits me, like Mike Tyson’s fist into my gut, I’m all out of Sara and Miranda. The shelf is bare. All that’s left is the yellow tag proclaiming “Grief – 2 for 1 sale!” Meijer will restock that shelf with Nutella tonight…my Sara and Miranda shelf will still be empty come tomorrow morning. “Sorry, we’re all out of that product…I think they stopped making it a little while ago.

People say I should be angry with you. I’ll admit, there are times when I wonder why I’m not. What I do feel makes me feel more like a dog, one that’s been beaten by the neighborhood bully. A dog that sits quietly at his master’s side, bruised, sore, and wondering why his master didn’t stop the bully. The master is a big man; he could stop the bully any time he wanted. Yet, it seems the bully is allowed to kick all the dogs he feels like kicking whenever he feels like it. Maybe I am angry, but just not an angry that I recognize.

I cried all the way home from the store. A little bit out of grief, more because I’m tired. I’m tired of the sadness. I’m tired of missing them. I’m tired of asking questions that don’t get answered and won’t get answered. I’m tired of feeling blank and aimless. I know these are all things that will pass, over time, but I’m tired now.

I don’t subscribe to the thought that you took my girls away from me. I don’t think that was your plan, even though you knew it was going to happen. I sticking to the theory that just because you know all, doesn’t mean that it’s all part of your plan. I only question why you allowed them to be taken. You could have stopped that truck. You could have diverted that storm. You could have protected them, even if you didn’t stop the truck. You could have made one of us sick, so we didn’t even leave home. I have questions I don’t believe you can answer, not in a way that I’ll understand, not until I get to Heaven, and then the answers won’t really matter any more, will they? I believe you were there welcoming them into Heaven, but that’s not the same as taking them from me.

All I wanted was some Nutella, I left the store with a lot more than I’d bargained for…and a lot less.

All I ask it that you be careful when you pet me, that bully kicks pretty hard.

I miss Sara. I miss Miranda. Please give them a hug and a kiss from me.

Love(?),
Chad

Monday, March 28, 2011

What if...

Dear Miranda,

If things had gone according to plan, we would have been taking you in for your four-week check up this week.

If things had gone according to plan, you would be sleeping in your beautiful little crib right now. Instead, it has become a memorial to you, with various blankets, dolls, and books, which greets visitors to our home when they walk in the front door.

If things had gone according to plan…if, if, if.

But they didn’t, did they? At least not according to my plans.

I look at your pictures and can’t help but think, “what if?” and “would you?”

I know thinking about these things doesn’t change anything; but, I can’t stop the thoughts from coming.

What if I could hold you here on my chest, as I watch the Red Wings, waiting for mommy to get ready for bed?

Would you find it soothing for me to sing you a lullaby?

Would you recognize the sounds as I read you the books I read you while you were in your mommy’s belly?

Would you be a good sleeper or would mommy and daddy both be exhausted from your late night sleeplessness?

Would you like riding in the car? Would you fall asleep just as quick as mommy used to when we were in the car?

So many questions…and no answers, at least for now.

I love you. I miss you. Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Daddy




Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'll Fly Away...

Dear Sara,

I went back to church this morning, my first time since the accident. Grief’s cold blade pierces deepest when I participate in activities from the old normal, the times and places when we would have been together just “doing life.” My tears started when I walked in the door. They eventually stopped flowing on the outside, but I can still feel them falling in my heart, even now.

The church youth lead the service today. One of the songs we sang was Jesus Loves Me. The last time I sang it was seven weeks ago, while I held our daughter, after they took her off life support. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sing it again, it makes me cry just to think about it.

On my way home, the song I’ll Fly Away came on the radio. So much hope for those who are already gone and so much anticipation for those of us who have a great reunion to look forward to.

Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I'll fly away
To that home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away

I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I'll fly, I'll fly away

I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet, I'll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet, I'll fly away

I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away
To a land where joy will never end, I'll fly away

I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away 

by Albert E. Brumley

I got home and listened to this song over and over. Its message doesn’t make me hurt less, but it gives me something to cling to and the tears sting a little less.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things I know...

Dear Sara,

I've had lots of people tell me they can't imagine what I must be going through. I believe them. I couldn't imagine it either. We had talked about it – what life would be like without the other – but neither of us could have actually imagined it. It's so much worse than anything we could have imagined. Initially the pain is so deep that it has no boundaries, there's no way to measure it, contain it, or even really feel it. It's so big that you just begin to live in it, because you can't get around it or out of it. I don't know if it ever shrinks or gains dimension, but I've heard that it eventually becomes less overwhelming. I don't know anyone who ever said it goes away though. I think it just becomes a part of who you are, until you just don't notice it as much, kind of like a limp in your heart instead of your leg.

There are things that help me get through every day, things that I know, and things that no one can take away from me.

I know where you are. You're not lost; you're just not here.

I know how to get there...to where you are...eventually. It may take me longer, but the destination ends up being the same.

I know you loved me. I never doubted that for 15 years. Thank you for that gift, it helps me now.

I know you wouldn’t want me to quit living. We talked about it, not a lot, but it did come up. I would have wanted the same for you. However, I can tell you, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I know that God loves me, even if he can’t answer my questions now. He shows me His love through our family and friends.

It’s not a long list, but it’s enough.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A blog observed...

Dear Sara,

So many thoughts go through my mind each day. Sometimes I have a hard time sifting through the noise to find meaningful patterns.

Missing you is now status quo. It’s something that I assume I’m doing. I occasionally surprise myself with short moments where I realize I wasn’t. It’s not that I’m not missing you during that brief period, I just stopped thinking about how much I miss you.

I’ve been thinking about how we both had our “own” lives, even while sharing a life for almost 15 years.  We each had unique passions, which we let the other pursue without complaint (or at least without too much complaint.) I’ve been pondering if that may ultimately help me in the healing process. I look around the house, the yard, the garage, and I see the things that were uniquely you. I also see the things that are uniquely me. There is plenty of uniquely us, too. Time will tell. When I see the uniquely you, my sadness is that you’re not here to enjoy doing those things anymore; but, it’s the uniquely us stuff that hurts more.

I’m still finding a lot of resonance with CS Lewis as I read through A Grief Observed. Some people say that times like these are a test of faith. Lewis didn’t agree with that thought, “God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” Much like Lewis, my faith in God feels more fully examined, and exposed, than it does tested.

I also find myself agreeing with Lewis that I will someday no longer add to this blog. I don’t know when, but it will come. Lewis recognized that his journals were less a “map of sorrow” (as he had originally thought they would be) but served more as a safety valve against total collapse.  In regards to both his continued writing and the process of sorrow he said, “It needs not a map but a history, and if I don’t stop writing that history at some quite arbitrary point, there’s no reason why I should ever stop. There is something new to be chronicled every day. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a new landscape.” I don’t think I’ll stop writing anytime soon, but I may find myself writing less frequently between now and then.

I find myself regularly looking at the wounds on my arm, hand, and wrist, and thinking about you and how they mirror my heart. The worst of the injuries have healed over, but they will be visible for a very long time. The pinkish raw color will stay for another few months, maybe even longer. Someday all that will remain will be scars, always out there to be seen, but less noticeable than they are today.

I miss you. I love you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.
Love,
Chad

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sigh...

Dear Sara,

Words seem so inadequate today. There’s no efficiency in language to describe how I’m feeling. I’ve had a fun weekend. I’ve had a busy weekend. But mostly I’ve had a hard weekend. The people I love the most – the people I want to be with, the people I need to be with – are also the ones that are the hardest to be with. Laughing children, happy faces, sounds of contentment and joy…and it just makes me miss you that much more.

I’ve been crying almost non-stop for three days. Even when the tears aren’t falling on the outside, I can feel them on the inside. I don’t think being sick helps. I already feel emotionally frail.  Feeling physically frail only exaggerates my emotional state.

The snow is all melted. Spring is coming. Your flower beds are waiting for you to begin your work.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Saturday, March 19, 2011

To sleep or not to sleep...

Dear Sara,

It’s late…well, it feels late. We used to stay up this late all the time, and it never felt like this…now it just feels late. I’m tired. It doesn’t help that I’m fighting a cold.

I find myself staying up later than we did when you were here. It’s not because I can’t sleep, it’s probably more that I don’t like going to bed when you’re not there. It just doesn’t feel right crawling into a half-empty bed.

Today marks six weeks. For the first time in my life, I’m wishing I didn’t have a good memory with dates. I know it used to drive you a little crazy when I’d pop a “do you remember what day today is” on you.  Things like October 27…our first date…our first dance…our first kiss. What will February 5 mean to me a year from now? Five years? Ten years? It’s a bittersweet day…I guess I don’t have to explain. Will it bother you if I choose to celebrate Miranda’s birthday on a different day? I don’t know how I feel about that yet, but it’s something I’ve thought about.

I need to go to bed, to rest, to get over this cold. The walk from the family room to the bedroom seems unusually far...especially tonight.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thank you, thank you...

This morning, the leadership team and administrators of Allegiance Health took some time to honor the emergency room and labor & delivery staff members who were on duty on February 5. They allowed me to speak for a few minutes. Below is the text of my short speech. It meant a lot to me to be able to thank these people in front of their administrators and leadership team.

"Everything changed on February 5th. Amidst the chaos and mayhem, decisions had to be made; decisions that I, and my family, could not make. Decisions that changed so many lives forever.  Today, I want to make sure you know how thankful I am for the roll you all played in that day, and for the decisions you made.

My wife’s journey on this earth ended on that icy highway, long before she ever made it to the hospital. And yet, facing unbeatable odds, you worked as hard and as long as you could to try to reverse things. For me, the fact that you were still trying to revive her, to keep her here almost 90 minutes after the accident, when I was finally wheeled into her room, strapped to a backboard on a stretcher, means the world to me. It shows how much you cared. It shows me how deep the loss would hurt everyone in that room.

Under those circumstances, no one could have blamed you for giving up sooner. No one could have blamed you for just accepting the inevitable, but you chose to keep trying, long after trying was required. Thank you for living out hope when there was no hope. Your actions, and the decisions you made, helped me as my heart had to reconcile what my mind already knew to be true.

Of course, this story does not end there. Sara was only 18 days away from the expected due date of our first child. My daughter, Miranda, was delivered without a heartbeat, without breath. Her story could have just as easily ended right there. But you chose a different path. You made a decision to revive her to try to keep her here. Today, I want you to know you should never, ever, second-guess that decision. It was the right decision. It was a decision that gave her short time on earth purpose and meaning.  It was a decision that meant Miranda was not just a baby, stillborn as part of an unspeakable tragedy. It was a decision that gave me three precious days with my little girl. I never would have gotten to hold her like I did, to kiss her soft pink skin, wrap her tiny little fingers around my finger, or introduce her to so many of my family and friends. It was a decision that made me a daddy, and made her daddy’s little girl. Your decision gave me a priceless gift, and I can’t thank you enough for that.

Today, nearly 6 weeks after that fateful day, I’m still surprised at how my quiet wife and my precious little girl have impacted this community and this world. You are part of that impact, and your leadership team and administrators are, and should be, proud of you. So I say thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my broken heart, thank you for everything you did for them and for me."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Few words...

Dear Sara and Miranda,

I don't have a lot to say tonight. I just miss you.

It's not hard for me to understand the grief of no longer having what I had. It's triggered by all sorts of daily activities. Seeing your car keys on top of the dresser. Looking at the other end of the couch and staring at the empty space beside me. Looking for something to eat and seeing things in the cupboard I know you bought specifically for me and others bought specifically for you. Getting the mail and finding the This Old House magazine you had just started a 3 year subscription to. Seeing the unwrinkled sheets and blankets on your side of the bed when I get up every morning and lay back down every night. Doing laundry and realizing it's all just my clothes, nothing for the baby, nothing for you.

I'm less sure about the grief I feel for the things that I didn't have. The things that should have been but won't be. I didn't expect that grief to be as strong as it is.  Not hearing a baby crying makes the house feel even quieter. Not having a baby seat installed in the truck (or the car) makes driving just about anywhere feel empty. There's no formula or bottles in the cupboards. No crib in the bedroom.

I love you both.  I miss you both.

Love,
Chad

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lessons learned...

Dear Sara,

The days continue to march by, some better than others, none as bad as the first. I continue to read about grief and the process of it. I find myself identifying with the various authors and the points they make. I often find new ideas and things to think about, too.

I want her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished for anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?” C.S. Lewis wrote these words as he considered his state of crying out for his beloved wife’s return. I’ve done the same, many times. While his was a situation of dealing with a long goodbye, from cancer, the raw sentiment of it rings true. Getting you back is so much more about me, and restoring what I feel is lost, and yet it would be a raw deal for you.

I finished his book last night. I’m not sure how long he wrote for, but I hope that I can get to where he was by the time he filled his 4th, and final, notepad with his thoughts on the process and experience he was going through. He wasn’t past the hurt, but he could look at it in the full light of God’s healing touch.

I’m still at a place where my happiness often makes me sad. Lewis experienced this, too, “Still, there’s no denying that in some sense, I ‘feel better,’ and with that comes at once a sort of shame, and a feeling that one is under a sort of obligation to cherish and foment and prolong one’s unhappiness.” I realize that you would probably want nothing more than for me to feel happy, but happy just doesn’t feel right (beyond the occasional short burst.)

I’ve also come to realize that things can’t just go back to “the way they were before Sara.” Not that I’ve tried to get there, but I can fully empathize with Lewis when he wrote, “Did you ever know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left? You have stripped me even of my past, even of the things we never shared.” This house has been stripped to its foundation. The process of rebuilding, one brick at a time, may take years, even past the point of happiness returning.

One of the things that's changed since you left is what I listen to when I'm driving in the car. My radio used to be locked on ESPN...none of that seems interesting or important these days. Now I listen mostly to Home.fm or to playlists on my phone. Today I heard a classic by Petra from Not of This World. The lesson is that death will be swallowed by the victory of the cross and the resurrection. The hard part is waiting for that victory.

There's a step that we all take alone 
An appointment we have with the great unknown 
Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass 
Like the flowers that fade, like the withering grass 
But life seems so long and death so complete 
And the grave an impossible portion to cheat 
But there's One who has been there and still lives to tell 
There is One who has been through both heaven and hell 
And the grave will come up empty-handed that day 
Jesus will come and steal us away 

(Chorus) 
Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite 
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night 
Where is the victory, where is the prize 
When the grave robber comes 
And death finally dies 

Many still mourn and many still weep 
For those that the love who have fallen asleep 
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache 
Just one shout from above and they all will awake 
And in the reunion of joy we will see 
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory 

When the last enemy is done from the dust will come a song 
Those asleep will be awakened, not a one will be forsakened 
He shall wipe away our tears, He will steal away our fears 
There will be no sad tomorrow, there will be no pain and sorrow

Grave Robber
Words and music by Bob Hartman 
Based on Hebrews 9:27, John 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 51-55, Revelation 7:17

Sometimes my mind needs to be reminded of the things my heart already knows. Songs like this help to do that.

I looked through all the pictures of you on my iPad last night. I didn't cry...much.  I smiled more. I still want to touch your face, see your smile, kiss your lips, hold your hand, smell that scent which was unmistakably you, hear your laugh, and just hold you, hold you, hold you.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The new normal...

Dear Sara,

Has it really been a month since the funeral?! Some days seem so long, how can it have possibly been a month already?

My eyes have done a lot of “seeing” over the past month. I see things I never noticed before, maybe because I couldn’t. I see how much pain and suffering exists in our world. I’m so much more sensitive to all kinds of pain that I used to be blind to. There are so many hurting people out there.

Stevie seems to be adapting to you not being here. He doesn’t look for you as much anymore. He comes over and sits with me on the couch as soon as I pull the quilt up next to me.

I don’t cry as much as I did a few weeks ago. There are usually tears in my eyes, I can feel them there; they just don’t leak out. They sit there, on the edges, perpetually waiting to be called into action.

I find that grief can have time and situational dependencies. The parts of the day when we normally would have been apart go by faster. It’s probably part of the denial process, which can continue for a long time. This provides some emotional relief; but, as soon as I’m heading home, the fact that you’re not going to be there when I arrive settles in quickly.

The grief I feel during the time we normally would have spent together no longer feels like a unwelcome invader. Someone commented the other day that it would feel less “foreign” over time. This doesn’t make me feel any better about the way things are, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to either. Is it possible for grief to become something that just feels normal? I suppose maybe it can, at least for a season.

Today was both a really good day and a really hard day. I spent the day with friends. We went to Lansing and visited the Michigan Historical Museum. We went out for lunch. We went to Impression 5. We went to a high school musical. The busyness helped keep me from focusing on what we were doing four weeks ago, which was probably good. At the same time, so much of what we did was so family oriented, especially the visit to Impression 5, and it made me think of you and Miranda. Seeing all those happy families enjoying the museum, all its hands on activities, and each other’s company caused me to think about everything I’ll never get to experience with you. I suppose that’s going to happen a lot, isn’t it?

Just like Stevie, I’m getting used to you not being here. I still think about you all the time. I still hurt a lot. Your absence is still noticeable. But that’s all starting to feel normal; the new normal, where missing you is just a natural part of existing.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Friday, March 11, 2011

Save the last dance...

Dear Miranda,

I heard a song on the radio this morning that reminded me of all the things I grieve in losing you.

Steven Curtis Chapman - Cinderella
She spins and she sways
To whatever song plays
Without a care in the world
And I'm sitting here wearing
The weight of the world on my shoulders

It's been a long day
And there's still work to do
She's pulling at me
Saying "Dad, I need you

There's a ball at the castle
And I've been invited
And I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone...

She says he's a nice guy and I'd be impressed
She wants to know if I approve of the dress
She says, "Dad, the prom is just one week away
And I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone

She will be gone

Well, she came home today with a ring on her hand
Just glowing and telling us all they had planned
She says, "Dad, the wedding's still six months away
But I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone


I know that you’re not my little girl any more. All things are made new in Heaven. You are now who God ultimately meant you to be. I probably wouldn’t recognize you if I saw you with my earthly eyes, but I know that I’ll know you when we meet face to face.

I’ll be waiting for my dance.

I love you. I miss you. Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,

Chad

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Most of all...

Dear Sara,

Most of all, I just want to hold you. I want to wrap my arms around you as I’m falling asleep and feel your warm skin pressed up against me. I want to smell the scent of your freshly shampooed and still damp hair.

Most of all, I just want to kiss you. I want to pull you in tight and feel your soft lips pressing against mine.

Most of all, I just want to hear you laugh. I want to see that smile spread across your face and the sparkle of joy in your eyes.

Most of all, I just want you to be near me. I want you to sit beside me on the sofa. I want to rest my hand or your knee, or my head in your lap, while we watch one of our favorite shows together.

Most of all, I just want to run my fingers through your hair.

Most of all, I want to look forward to coming home. I want you to be there to greet me as I walk in the door. To get to the door and open it up before I have time to fit my key into the lock.

Most of all, I just want to stand beside our little girl’s crib with you at my side. I want to marvel at her beauty and appreciate all of you that I see in her.

Most of all, I just want you back. I want things to be the way they were. I want things to be the way they were supposed to be. I want my eyes to dry out, and to not feel like I could burst out crying at any given moment, even when I feel in control.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Monday, March 7, 2011

Missing Miranda...

Dear Miranda,

I'm not sure where to start. You've been on my mind all day long.

I cried in public today. It wasn’t just a few tears I could quickly wipe away and hope no one noticed, this was actual crying. I’ve cried in public plenty of times over the past month, but not like this. I lucked out. There was a bathroom available that I was able to duck into rather quickly.

I had a chiropractors appointment this morning. While I waited in the lobby there was a lady there who had a beautiful little girl with her. The little girl was simply being a little girl. It was the simple acts of being that got to me. She wanted a drink from the water cooler. She played with some stuffed animals she’d brought with her, even giving one an adjustment on the table in the middle of the lobby. It was a happy scene, but it overwhelmed me in a way I haven’t felt very often.

The grief I feel for you, because of you, over losing you is so different from what I feel for your mother. She and I had 15 years together. We should have had 40 more. My grief for mommy is so complex and deep it’s difficult for me to comprehend, much less explain. My grief for you, while no less painful, is so very different. We never got to know each other. We have so little history for me to grieve. Our time together was brief, so incredibly brief I worry about what I’ll forget.

My grief for you often feels empty, like a blank sheet of paper. It’s about unrealized potential. It’s about all the things that will never be. Grieving the loss of that which might have been feels so different than grieving that which was and was supposed to be.

Needless to say, I miss you dearly. I see you, and everything you’ll never have a chance to be, in every child I see.

I love you. I miss you. Give mommy a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The perfect marriage...


Dear reader,

I was looking through my photo library last night, focused on pictures of my beautiful wife. I came across the above photo and I noticed something I've never noticed before, Sara and I are wearing the exact same colors, just in reverse and, believe it or not, it's a pure coincidence. It got me thinking about our marriage, about this blog, and some of the comments and emails I've received from people. More than one person has made the observation that we had the perfect marriage. Perfect may be stretching it a bit. We had a great marriage, a wonderful marriage, and a blessed marriage; however, I could fill pages with all the things I did wrong that kept it from being a "perfect" marriage.

Much as we are dressed in this picture, Sara and I were opposites, even in our sameness. We really didn’t share many of the same interests; our passions were often very divergent. The colors of our lives may have been the same, but the layers were definitely different.

  • Sara loved gardens and flowers…I always felt like grass was easier to maintain.
  • I love to ride my motorcycle…Sara had no interest in feeling the wind in that way.
  • Sara liked HGTV…I like ESPN.
  • If we went somewhere on vacation, I wanted to see the sights...Sara wanted to curl up with a good book in the warm sunshine.
  • I argued…Sara listened.

The list is a lot longer than that, but you get the idea. So, what was it that worked for us? We both believed the other was a gift from God.  That the most important part of love was choosing to love each other, even when we didn’t feel “it.” Even when we got angry at each other, couldn’t stand to be in the same room, couldn’t even talk to each other, it was the choice of love that would eventually bring us back together. Love fueled not by some chemical reaction in the brain, not based solely on physical attraction, but by the simple belief that we could choose to love each other because God loved us.

Did we ever get bored…yes; but, we could change it with a choice.
Did we ever fight…yes; but, we could fix it with a choice.
Did we always see eye to eye…no; but, we could choose the common ground.

It’s no big secret, it’s not out of your reach, it wasn’t out of ours…and for 15 years it worked wonderfully.

Sincerely,
Chad

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I hate snow...

Dear Sara,

It's not as if I, and anyone who has followed our story, haven't been acutely aware of what today is in terms of your passing. Today, Mother Nature seems determined to do her part to try and break me. It snowed. Just like it did on that day 28 days ago. Unpredicted, unexpected, unwanted. Almost four inches fell on a day when everyone thought we were getting ready to be done with snow.

Maybe it's not Mother Nature. Maybe it's Satan trying to stab at my heart. Trying to get me angry at something, at anything, trying to get me to curse God and the natural world he created. Admittedly, I now hate snow. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if it never snowed in Michigan again. I see no beauty in it. I see no wonder, or grace, in it. This isn't just the feeling all Michiganders have about snow at this time of year...I hate snow. Snow is where the buck stops when it comes to you and Miranda not being here. It's the only thing I've been able to get angry about; but, it's a hollow anger, an empty anger, the kind of anger you know doesn't do any good, because it's not about something you can control or change. It's the kind of anger I don't even care to acknowledge. Sorry, Satan...you're the only one I really feel expressible anger towards, and when I see the snow I think of you and what you're responsible for, so stab away.

I put some pictures of you up today. We've never had pictures of ourselves or other family members hanging in the house. That's going to change. I'm ready to see your face around the house, to see your smile when I walk from room to room, to keep them fresh in my mind. I'm ready to stop crying (even though I probably won't, not for a long time) and start smiling when I see you. I want to smile through the tears.

One month. So short. So long.

I love you. I miss you. Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad

Regret...

Dear Sara,

I'm finding I have one major regret in life. I never took the opportunity to make a video of you. I could have easily picked up my phone and made a simple recording of you walking in the door after work one day. I could have captured the sweet smile on your face and the beautiful sound of your voice saying, "I'm home!" I could have...but I never did. I'm sure I have some video of you some where. Maybe the tape from when we did our home tour 10 years ago, on the day we closed on our house. Maybe some random footage from some random family event. It's the one thing I've missed most the past few days, and the one thing I know I'm going to have the hardest time finding. It's a needle in a haystack situation.

The ability to see you in motion, to hear your voice; I don't know if it would bring comfort or if it would send me back to the early stages of grief where crying was so physically painful that I could only manage it for a few minutes at a time. Photographs are nice...but they start to seem lacking when I realize they are only a reflection of your life, a beautiful reflection, but somehow empty, too.

In a few short hours it will be exactly 28 days since you departed and began the eternal part of your journey. I find that the flavor of grief I'm in right now is changing in subtle ways every day. When I cried during the first couple of weeks, the physical pain that accompanied my grief was almost unbearable. It felt as if all the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in my body were trying to move in their own individual directions, tearing me apart at the seams. There are several flavors of loss that make me cry now, but none of them compare to the physical pain of my initial grief. There is still hurt, emotional hurt, raw hurt, more hurt than my heart can bear at times and it's randomness catches me off guard.

There is a specific flavor of grief when I think about the loss of everything we had together. Fifteen years of shared life have been ripped from me, and this produces it's own bitter sting. There is a specific flavor, or lack of flavor, when I think about the loss of everything the future held for us. An empty chasm exists where a road waiting to be traveled once spread out to the horizon. These griefs mix together, but do not become homogenous ("Welcome to Baskin-Robbins, would you like to try the double fudge swirl of sadness today, or maybe a double scoop of chunky monkey with sprinkles of sorrow on top?") They each maintain their unique ability to make me hurt, along with several other flavors that accompany them, a gang of grief, wreaking emotional havoc wherever they roam, whenever they feel like it.

Your dad sent me a quote by Mark Twain this week. It's from a piece he wrote about a year and a half after his wife had passed away. I can relate to what he says when he writes, "The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss—that is all. It will take mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details, and thus learn and know the whole extent of the loss." Twain goes on to detail just how long he expected this to last with an analogy, "A man’s house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And, when he casts about for it, he finds that it was in that house. Always it is an essential—there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house. It is irrevocably lost. He did not realize that it was an essential when he had it; he only discovers it now when he finds himself balked, hampered, by its absence. It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of his disaster."

I try to celebrate what we had, even when it hurts. I try to remember how soft your cheek felt against the palm of my hand, your lips against my lips. I try to remember the warmth of your body, pressed up against me as we slept. I try to remember your scent, clean but earthy, infused with aroma of a day spent in the flower shop. I try to remember...but find that sifting through the rubble of my burned out house often produces a only a cloud of ash. I worry, as CS Lewis worried in A Grief Observed, that my memories of you will become mired together in an almost unrecognizable form, "We have seen the faces of those we know best so variously, from so many angles, in so many lights, with so many expressions—waking, sleeping, laughing, crying, eating, talking, thinking—that all the impressions crowd into our memory together and cancel out into a mere blur."

It's been a month...soon it will be two, then three, then twelve, then the count will tick to years.  It seems so vast, yet so compressed, I can't fathom the passage of time yet to come when the past 28 days has felt both eternal and only a breath in this life.

I love you.  I miss you.  Give Miranda a kiss from daddy.

Love,
Chad