Last night Chanel and I were laying in bed starting to fall asleep but still talking a little. I don’t know how we got on the subject, probably just randomly, but I started talking about Amelia. Right next to my side of the bed is a little box, more like a really small antique looking suitcase, with a light teal and soft pink floral design, and a brown leather handle for carrying. It contains some of Amelia’s things. Her little backpack with her name on it, her birth certificate and ensuing death certificate, a few clothes that she used to wear a lot, some pictures, the guest book from her memorial service, a few small gifts from dear friends like a molding of her little hands, and her ashes. We still haven’t figured out what to do with them. I’ve literally Googled “what to do with child’s ashes” but nothing helpful ever comes up. Besides the fact that she was hardly a “child” just barely a six month old baby. My bible that I have had since I graduated high school almost 10 years ago (yikes) sits on top of the box.
Needless to say the last thing I see at night is that box and it’s first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. On Chanel’s side of the bed is a 4×6 picture of Amelia smiling. Across from our bed is our computer and desk and on the wall above the desk is a bulletin board where we keep all the notes, cards, and letters we write to each other. We’ve filled a shoe box to make more room on the board. From where I’m sitting while I type this I can look at the board and see another picture of Amelia sticking out her lip and her double chin, she looks hilarious. In our master bath there are verses about dealing with grief and on our dresser is a six inch clay figurine of a woman in a white dress holding a bouquet of drooping purple flowers, all the while looking very sad. Purple flowers have become a symbol of Amelia for us. I don’t really know why and I guess it’s just a coincidence that the figurine is holding purple flowers.
When I walk out of our room and into the hallway I’m greeted with a picture of Amelia when she was just minutes old, then as I walk into the living room (presumably to read a book) there are three different pictures of her scattered throughout, five if you count our family pictures. Wherever I go, there she is.
But she isn’t.
As we lay in bed talking about Amelia I shared with Chanel how I think about Amelia everyday. But of course I do, what parent in their right mind wouldn’t? Sometimes though, when I think of her it’s like I’m thinking of someone else’s baby. My physical memories of her have faded to just a few, if even that many. We have videos and pictures of course, but now my memories are of the videos and not the actual event.
So I shared that with Chanel then told her how other times it’s all I can do to keep from crying when I think about her. I’ll be sitting at my desk at work fighting back tears because a little memory of her crossed my mind. Or I’ll happen to think of her smiling face while I’m driving and my chest will begin to feel like it’s going to explode from how much pain and heartache there is.
Last night, and this morning, was one of those times. On my way to work I was praying then it ended with me talking out loud to Amelia. Not praying to her, that’s weird, but talking to her. I just told her how much I miss her, how much I wish I could feel her hand on my face once more, and how much I miss the noises she would make. It’s a hard reality to face, the fact that I will never again on this earth hold her in my arms. For several months after she died I would wake up in the middle of the night to the cry of a baby and I would think that someone brought her back from the hospital to us. It happened at least a dozen times, it felt so real each time, but then every time I would come crashing back to the reality that she wouldn’t be coming back. She’d never be back. And how silly is that to begin with? I watched her breathe her final breath in my wife’s arms so I know it’s impossible for her to come back home as if she was on some trip and decided to come back like the prodigal son. It’s silly right?
While I was talking to her in the car I had such an intense pain in my chest, I just wanted to go home, crawl into my sheets and go to sleep and maybe wake up with her. Again, silly.
Every once in awhile I’ll do a search online about the grief process from losing a child but I never find what I’m looking for. I’ve found a few people on Instagram but they are way too sad about it. They are depressing to follow. Then I found a couple pastors who’ve also had children die and they even wrote books about it, but I felt like they were also too sad about it. But now I think I’m learning why they might seem “too sad” about it. It’s been 22 months since Amelia died and I don’t feel any better today than I did the day she died. I don’t.
I’m still sad about it, I still cry myself to sleep sometimes, although not nearly as often as before. I clutch her old clothes and re-watch videos of her dozens of times. I think it’s because of one thing. Yes, I believe, to some extent, that I will perhaps see Amelia again one day in Heaven. The funny thing about that is that the Bible is so hard to interpret and all we know about Heaven is man’s interpretation of what the Bible says about it. And guess what? The Bible doesn’t say a lot about Heaven. I have scoured it and have only come away with more questions. But, for the sake of this blog post, let’s say that I will for sure be reunited with Amelia in Heaven one day, that she will know who I am and I will know she is. If that’s the case then it still sucks that she died. If live to be 77 (I think that’s the average death age for men) then I’ve still got half a century before I get to see her. And that is why I think those people I found online are sad about their child. They miss their child. They love their child but the child is gone. For a long time.
I always thought losing a child would change me. I guess in certain ways it has, but not like I thought. I have such a deeper relationship with God than I could have ever imagined. Worship, for both Chanel and I, is a completely new experience and I practically fall on my face every time. Jesus has become so much more personable to me. Like a caring uncle who adopted me after my dad died (or something like that, terrible description but I literally cannot adequately describe it). And the Holy Spirit has truly become my guiding voice (when I let it).
In other areas I’m still the same. I thought I would never judge another speeding driver because on our way to the ER with Amelia I probably hit 90 and cut off several cars as well as ran a couple of red lights (sorry dad). I thought I’d be understanding when someone did that around me but instead I still get a little bit of road rage when someone cuts me off. Forget what might be going on in their life, they wronged me!
I thought I’d be a more loving father. I’m not where I want to be but I’m making progress everyday and I’ve definitely become a lot more protective, although I’m still deciding if that’s good or bad. I certainly have more empathy for friends going through hard times. I think we’ve had 5-6 sets of friends lose a child or have a miscarriage or stillbirth since Amelia died and it’s been a humbling opportunity to be able to share wisdom and love with them. Even if it was just drinking coffee and crying together.
The other thing that has changed in me is unconditional love for people. Admittedly I have to work on this daily, and unfortunately there are some people that I just don’t care about showing love to. I’m still human I guess. But really, we were absolutely showered in love after Amelia died. People gave money, meals, time, coffee, sitting with us, praying with us, visiting with us. Asking questions, not asking questions, it all meant so much. Friends who I thought of as manly men cried when they brought us dinner or when they embraced us at the memorial service.
Some people who really stand out in my memory, even to this day are Arnold & Maria Ramos, Jim & Terri Dickenson, Curt King, Bryce Livengood, Michael Luidahl, Aric & Devyn North, Darrel & Gail Johnsen, Andrew & Brandee Veitenheimer, Saul Sr. & Neddy Martinez, Kristi Beckley, Ambir Campos, Emily Murray, Pam Wise, Lindsay Best, Mandee Haase, Jeff & Patti Thompson, Stacy & Dawn O’Quinn, Mike Bingeman, Josh & Halley Cruger and so many other people and organizations. Even my boss was texting me throughout the whole time Amelia was in the hospital sending encouraging texts and praying, thanks Michele. And of course my parents and siblings. They have been with us every step of the way. I wanted to mention those names because Chanel and I always talk about you guys and how supportive you were. If we haven’t told you, it meant the world to us that you would honor Amelia in the ways you did. We love all of you.
Amelia, you are so dearly missed by so many people.
All this being said, I think I can say I’m ready for what the future holds. God has proven through all this that He is faithful. He is absolutely faithful. And that is why I press on.