Well, in case you were wondering, we have not completely fallen off the map. There have been many nights I have wanted to post, but a pile of tasks, a daughter who is reluctant to go to sleep, or exhaustion have kept me from posting. The other part of that is that there are so many thoughts swirling around in my head, that I haven’t even known what to write. I suppose I empathize with Kelsey a bit more as she would tell me about all of the posts which were halfway written in her head (side note, she has snippets of those posts saved in her notes on her phone – I’ll have to do my best to piece some of them together someday – I am sure you are not surprised, but she has some neat thoughts written down there).
There is no denying that on July 5, our lives were unalterably changed. There is a meaningful illustration in one of the books which has been very helpful to me through this time, A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser. He speaks there of the fact that when we experience loss, the future which we had imagined is suddenly, irrevocably torn away. Our future then looks dark. Of course, we never know what the future holds, but we do a great job of pretending that we do. Loss is a potent reminder of the fact that we do not know what the future holds. I am sure in coming days I will share more from this book and from other books and sermons which have provided solace – it is so encouraging to hear from people who have walked through grief. Someone who can tell you that the crazy emotions and the crazy roller coaster ride which each day brings does not mean that you are losing your mind. Someone who can tell you that the grief never goes away, but if you are able to face it with God’s help, it becomes a part of your soul, not defining you, but becoming a part of who you are. Yet, while the grief never goes away, God can allow you to have wonderful moments of happiness and joy.
There have been a lot of firsts over the past almost two months. The first morning after Kelsey died, waking up and hoping that maybe it was all a dream. The first time coming back to our house, looking around at the touches everywhere which remind me of Kelsey (not to mention pictures of her in almost every room of the house). The first time back to work, first family trip without Kelsey, first day of Pre-K for Alexa and on and on the list goes. There are so many reminders of all of the ways that she kept everything running so smoothly around the house – from packing for Alexa when we went on our trips, to picking out cute outfits for Alexa, to fixing her hair. All of those things, when I am marginally successful at them remind me that she is not here.
And yet, in all of this, God is sovereign. None of this is outside of His plan and by His grace, we are sustained day by day. In that respect, I am no different than anyone else who may be reading these words. This is not meant to be a pity party, but more of a real reflection of some of the emotions and thoughts that run through my head on a moment by moment basis. You all have been so faithful to pray for our family and I want to provide you with some specifics as you are taking us before God’s throne, because those prayers have not and will not be wasted!
Many of you know that four weeks ago, Wednesday the 30th of July, was the day that Alexa took her last bites of solid food (in the form of two bites of a mini chocolate chip muffin). Since that day, she has not touched anything solid: her diet now consists of apple juice, apple berry juice, V8 Fusion (sneaking that vegetable juice in on her), and chocolate milk. The shenanigans we have tried to get her to eat are about endless – preparing some of her favorite foods with her, having other people try the same, offering donuts, ice cream, smoothies, trying to mix pedialyte in with her chocolate milk, but she is resolved not to eat anything. She has had a weird off again, on again mild fever, but her throat certainly doesn’t look irritated like it did initially. She is still very concerned that if she eats something (even something soft like ice cream, pudding or applesauce) that it may still hurt. Like Kelsey, I have had to laugh at this: clearly walking through the journey of grief was not quite enough, I need a very strong-willed daughter thrown into the mix as well! We also had a fairly extended “poop-mageddon”, where Alexa decided she was on strike in that regard as well. Thankfully, we seem to be on the other side of that standoff!
She is trying to process her grief as well – I cannot even imagine what that is like for a four year-old who loved her mommy more than anyone else in this world. Seems like part of it is control, part of it is fear of pain, and who knows what else mixed in. We go to meet with a child psychologist tomorrow (I met with her today to share some of my observations) and are also hoping to be accepted into a grief support group in Oklahoma City. My prayer is that these will allow her avenues to express her grief (and even understand it) in ways that she is not able to now.
I do have a few photos to share. Alexa was not too thrilled to be going to Pre-K on Monday. I told her that she would have a great time and that I would be picking her up before she knew it. Here is one of the “first day of school” photos I took (they were all sad or grumpy):
And then, here is once she made it to Pre-K. I dropped her off in the regular line, then told her I would come in to meet her other teachers and say goodbye. Here she is at that point in time:
The skies were a bit brighter and she told me, “Dad, I am going to have a great time.” She did and day two (today) went even better. She was a bit hesitant as we were getting ready, but here she is on the ride to school (our dear friend Shannon Ho took her today):
Alexa is totally thrilled to have a wonderful friend and playmate in her nanny, Jenny. She asked me this evening when she would get to see her again and I told her that she would be here when she got up in the morning tomorrow and she was quite excited. They have really hit it off.
So, each day brings new challenges and new glimpses of God’s mercy. At times it feels as though I will be overwhelmed by grief – I now realize heartache is not just an expression, it is a literal physical pain in your chest in the midst of moments of deep grief. At times, it feels as though I am groping in the dark, not knowing how to face the decisions which come along and missing my helpmate who was always a wonderful sounding board. But, God is faithful. He has sustained me and I trust He is not going to stop doing so.
-- My heart hurts for my sweet daughter, Alexa. How I wish I could take away the pain she is feeling and help her to process her grief. Please pray she will begin to eat soon – perhaps a combination of visiting with the child psychologist and going back to meet with her pediatrician will allow her to understand she is better and can slowly get back to eating solid foods again. Pray if there is some lingering bug of some sort that we would discover it quickly and be able to address the issue. Pray I can be a loving and supportive father to her during this time
-- Pray for time to process. Life continues, work presses, household tasks beckon, time with Alexa calls. Pray in the midst of the busyness for moments to seek to understand the depth of this loss, to understand this world is not my home and to learn to trust God more fully in these days of intense grief.
-- Pray for strength and endurance. Grief is tiring. There are so many other things going on as well. Late nights and early mornings taking care of tasks which used to be divided in two. All of the details to take care of after Kelsey’s death: insurance, finances, etc.
-- Pray for God’s glory. I don’t want to miss Him during this time and want to be used even now to encourage others and love them in their times of grief.
There is more, but I will share another time. This post has already become longer than I hoped for originally. Thank you (if you are reading this) for your strong resolve to read the whole thing!