Baby Braden Petska

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Venture

Good evening faithful blog followers.  In honor and memory of our sweet B, I feel encouraged to share this next chapter of writing with all of you tonight.  Throughout this journey on the blog, I have been inspired and encouraged by all of you to dig in and seek more of this "calling" to write.   To write what, I'm not sure, but I feel I need to start somewhere.  It is time to branch from this blog, and continue to pursue my writing gig on a different writing source, WordPress.  So, here it is, my very own website:

Thank you for your continued love, support & encouragement,

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Writing seems as if my writing lately has been more & more infrequent.  I really dislike using "time" as an excuse, but that's all I've got. Instead of carving out an allotted time, I need to just write when moments present themselves. Usually my writing is best when I communicate through emotion, and it's difficult to "schedule" that.  This latest piece was when I was in deep thought one night, so I decided to just write & let it unravel itself.  Here goes.....When I was driving home last week I realized not only how much my life has changed over the past 6+ years but how much I have changed. After Braden died, I was left with not only a hole that longed to be filled, but with an emptiness that knocked on my soul every single day. There I stood, stripped to the core. How do I get back what I once lost, who I once was – myself, my identity, my optimism, my spunk, my smile, my laughter, my self-worth, my motherhood, etc. Many people refer to dealing with grief in layers, as if you’re peeling away an onion. After each layer, you find something different about the grief, what to expect & how to handle loss. Never did I imagine as I stripped away the layers of the onion that it would represent stripping away the layers of who I was & what I represented. Every layer I peeled away eventually got down to the core of who I was on the inside. ….it made me question so many things, especially who I really was…, who is/was Stephanie Petska? Just as one can imagine the layers being stripped away, imagine God, over time, reconstructing me to the image of who I am in his eyes - weak but strong, broken, sensitive, wounded yet empathetic & tender-hearted, a survivor, an overcomer, a warrior being groomed to spread a beautiful message of hope & encouragement to a very broken world. I guess my story...our stories....our message is still being written ….allowing life to unfold as we walk & continue to step out in faith everyday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Purpose in the Pieces

Six years. What’s life like six years after your child dies? How is life lived again once the wheels fall off & debilitate you physically, emotionally & spiritually? How can your life ever be “good” again? How is it the same? How is it different? The scripture that continues to come to mind lately for where our life is at six years later is Romans 8:28 - “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” *What good, might you ask, can come from death? *What good can come from loss? *What good can come from pain & suffering? *How does faith rebuild from a crumbled mess? *How does one overcome anger, bitterness, envy? *How can brokenness mend into something whole & beautiful again? ---There was a time in my grief where I felt toxic; every thought that crossed my mind came from a heart that was bitter. What was once a grateful heart was now replaced with a void that longed for what was lost & envied those who had it. My heart hurt & I felt like I could physically feel the pain, the ache that longed so badly to see, hold, touch, hear, & smell my son. The anger would rise & inside I would feel enraged about this new life I was living. I was mad at God, I doubted Him, I lost my hope in prayer & didn’t want to hear scripture that told me different. The most common phrase people would use was, “He will not leave you, He will not forsake you.” Although I never voiced this out loud, I remember screaming inside of myself, “Yeah, well where was He “that” night, where was He the night my son died?” Why didn’t He protect him? Why didn’t He spare MY son’s life? Where is He NOW? Where is the relief in the pain I’m feeling? ---There was a moment in the “thicker” stages of my grieving where I remember thinking about my faith as a foundation of my life and there it lay in ruins. I remember thinking to myself, I bet when this “thing” gets rebuilt, it will be stronger than ever – I just wasn’t sure how, when or IF that would ever happen. ---It’s only NOW that I feel equipped to answer the questions I wrote above & it’s only NOW that I feel confident in how Romans 8:28 has been highlighted in my own life. ---What good can come from death & loss? Just like how a tornado or any natural disaster can destroy a town in a matter of minutes, death can cause destruction to many lives as well. A town will lie in ruins no matter how you look at it & it will take years to fully recover from such devastation, but someway, somehow life continues to stay in motion. Most often times, you see the beautiful hearts of many coming together in unity to support & assist one another; signs of new life, blooming flowers & other forms of normalcy return. The town will never be the same, but in the rebuilding there was something special formed among the people that nobody can take away. I know I often blogged about the Tommy Group at school; the group of women who would make sure every Monday morning my desk had something to greet me, to allow me to bare the pain for another week - pretending I was okay, trying to smile & hide the fact that on the inside I was dying. In addition to this group, other bonds of friendships formed resulting in an unexpressed understanding of grief & the lasting impact it had on them. So many amazing people were devoted to helping me keep the flame of hope from ever becoming extinguished in my life. Nobody is ever the same for experiencing grief, whether you’re wearing the shoes or walking alongside someone who is. The people – God had been there all along through the support, love & kindness of others. ---What good can come from pain & suffering? I would never wish this type of pain on anyone – the sharpness that would take my breath away & the heaviness that laid on my chest, the pain was both emotional and physical. The moments of reality & “forever” that would snap me out of denial - it was a shock to my system every time my heart would remember. But somewhere in the midst of the pain, I re-discovered the meaning of joy & how to delicately balance the two together. Things that once held fret or stress in life were no longer significant & priorities became realigned. Life became simple again as the focus became narrow & daily survival is what was prevalent. Strength was found in unexpected places & an odd sense of survivorship was felt after I realized what no human heart should ever have to endure, I’ve now survived….days, weeks & now years... ---How does faith rebuild from a crumbled mess? God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. Somehow I feel like I’ve been called to live “this” life, this exact life. Psalm 139:16 even says: “Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” As unfair as that may sound given the suffering I’ve had to endure, I feel as if these past six years God has continued to equip me for the next stage of the journey. How? Like I had mentioned in the above passage, He placed people in my life to walk this journey with me & support me along the way; He gifted me two more beautiful children to raise, nurture & refill our hearts; He introduced me to a career opportunity that has allowed me to rediscover myself & my strengths; He highlighted my writing ability, a gift I was unaware of until I used it to purge & honor my grief at the same time; He showed me where to find strength in places I never knew existed; He extended grace to my bitter, angry heart & forgave me for the hatred I harbored for so long. ---Before Braden’s death my faith was not as strong as I had thought. I was a believer in God, fate, in “there’s a reason for everything,” the after-life (heaven), and on most Sundays I went to church. After Braden died, I had SO many questions & little to no answers. I was confused & heartbroken that the good & faithful God so many would speak of could take my Braden away & cause suffering upon us. I began to not believe in prayer, and going to church no longer mattered any more. I started to resent the fact that I had been a good person for most of my life & here I stand with my life in ruins, unable to figure out how to take the next step. I was envious of those who received answered prayers when mine weren’t answered that late evening in March. I was far from understanding others who had a stronger faith than me & stopped reading “healing” books when they spoke of scripture, God’s blessings in the midst of their grief, and other things that made me think I should feel different than how I was feeling. Sometimes you get to a place in your life when sinking lower is no longer an option & the only way out is up. That moment, that pivotal moment in my life came from a simple quote….”Sometimes God wants you to witness the miracle & sometimes He wants you to BE the miracle.” That pivotal moment taught me so much. Although I will never understand why Braden was called “home” so soon, so suddenly & unexpectedly, I felt at that moment God was calling ME for purpose, for a reason I didn’t understand & still don’t fully grasp. It was a moment He was confirming that all of this grief, sorrow, pain & suffering that I had faced (and was continuing to unravel) was to be used for something more, for a plan far beyond anyone’s comprehension. So here I sit, writing not only about the yuck, the grief, the void, the destruction, but about the hope that has been interwoven in all of these moments - the hope that beauty can truly rise out of ashes. I envision the rebirth of brokenness to look like a shattered object & its intricate pieces delicately put back together again. Some pieces fit together smoothly where others have larger gaps signifying the space between. If you look closely between each crack, each crevice where the pieces come together, you will see the beauty of God’s love, grace, & strength holding each piece together. ---So, the good isn’t the result or the outcome of the late March 16th/early morning of March 17th, 2009 – there will always be a void in my heart for the loss of my precious B. Like spring blooming after a long, cold winter or a rainbow being cast after a rainstorm, joy will come…it might not be tomorrow or the next day, but it will come. "Your grieving is among the most sacred and the most human things you will ever do. It will unfold to you the mystery of life...and death...and rebirth. Honor it."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Picture "Perfect"

So often I find myself surfing on facebook. It has become a bad habit of mine actually. Even when I vow to only go on there to find or look for something specific, I catch myself minutes later realizing that I’m scrolling my wall, taking a peak into the world of other people’s lives. Some days it’s okay & other days I find myself doing the comparison game. Oh look, they’re on vacation…and oh…they’re on vacation too. This leads to my irrational thinking that EVERYBODY is on vacation but us. Lurking into this world can be a dangerous game. Bottom line is that comparing, being envious, wishing you had what they had ultimately robs you of everything that should bring or once brought you joy. It’s like a thief in the night….the enemy lurking….waiting until you’re at a vulnerable place and WHAM!! The quiet whispers that start to shout, “Don’t you wish you could do that? Wouldn’t it be great to be there? Don’t you wish you could afford their lifestyle? They are so happy doing what they’re doing….when will you ever get to do that or be there? Proverbs 14:30 states: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” That’s exactly what happens if we’re not careful when we entertain the thought of “surfing the net” & keeping in tune with status updates & pictures on social media. It doesn’t matter if the picture was taken at Disney (I have nothing against Disney or Disney goers), the beach, or in the backyard of their home. A picture most often times displays a picture of happiness; everyone is posing, saying “cheese” to the camera, and there’s nothing usually “wrong” in the photo - well, at least the one they’ve posted. Example: Right here is a photo of four high school friends. Great picture isn’t it? We’re all smiling and life seems to be great. All four of us married with children – Heidi and I are both expecting. What you don’t quite realize is that this is the first time I’ve “posted” this picture because it represents more heartache than anyone will ever know. This picture was taken as a way to honor a friendship that had endured a hard road yet an unbreakable bond. This picture was taken just hours after we celebrated the life of my son & laid his little body to rest. I’m still in awe I was able to smile as I felt lifeless inside…yet, that’s what we do when our picture is taken….we smile. Shana, on the far left, was fighting for her life; her body was filled with cancer and experimental drugs to help kill the monster growing inside of her. Just two short years later, Shana would lose the battle she fought so hard to win passing away at the young age of 35. The point to my sharing…..the next time you are looking at someone’s else life, whether it be through a cameral lens, the naked eye, or a status update, remember that everyone is facing a battle in their life; no life is ever perfect. Embrace who you are & the gifts/strengths God has blessed you with, be kind to others, display a friendly smile, and don’t judge. One of the best quotes I’ve seen/heard is that we should compare our lives to those who have less and be thankful for everything we have!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Looking Back While Moving Forward

Again, the paragraphs are separated by obnoxious dashes :) It’s amazing how you seem to live your life day in and day out: for me, it’s juggling an almost 5 year old & 1 year old, running my MK business, taking care of the household, and trying to be a strong, loving, patient, giving, caring (sometimes grumpy) wife, sister, daughter, friend.....etc. It's amazing as "time marches on," how the grieving period changes. Many of you are probably familiar with this as I blogged A LOT about where I was, how I was feeling, how different each day, month & now year(s) feels. Life.becomes.different. For the longest time, I retreated & hid behind my grief. I felt it was easier to be left alone & be alone than it was to embrace the world again. I preferred quiet & lacked trust in my emotions, so retreating was the best option. This retreating period, as necessary as it was/is, made it ever so difficult to be in the presence of others without feeling vulnerable & almost naked like my wound was open & exposed. The reason I share this is b/c as I mentioned in the first sentence, life goes on in a sense when you've had time to get used to someone/something not being in your presence & then when "that" day comes back around, it's as if it all just happened...again...for the first time. Everything returns, even the retreating period - wanting the quiet, to be alone, etc. Last night as we went to bed Rich took me in his arms & I just sobbed. As the tears flowed, I saw this very fast reel of pictures flooding my memory. It took my breath away as I relived the final moments we spent with Braden, the tragedy of it all as it unfolded in my mind, and the heaviness of taking that first step of life without him. That heavy emptiness returned as I recall a mother who would awake before anyone else did, take in the scent of the cinnamon flavored coffee, sit at the kitchen table, see the sky turn pink & the morning begin to peek through the blinds. She would then sit at the computer & wait...for messages, write for comfort & do anything to escape the life before her. Numb, empty, lifeless as she tried to cling to any strand of hope that was left... -------------------------------- Despite the level of sadness that comes this time of year, we are still moving forward. Annika just turned one - she is just starting to walk and is into EVERYTHING. Our little sweat pea who knows how to get her own way & LOVES her big brother. It's fun to watch them laugh & play together, despite the 3-4 year age gap. When Rich & Owen are wrestling, Annika thinks it's fun to come over & get in on the action as she pokes his face & hits him on the head. Owen is very protective of his sister but will yell at her when she's a bit over the top with her crying/whining. Owen is still the proud owner of facial expressions & funny phrases. He is in his last few months of pre-school & we just had his kindergarten screening...sniffle. It was fun to see Rich trying to teach Owen how to skip up & down our hallway the other night (one of the tasks he didn't quite score well on). Owen has asked a few times if Braden is able to "come down" and play with him. He knows that Braden is in heaven with Jesus but he's reluctant to call him his "brother" yet. I wonder what his little mind is really thinking. Owen's pre-school teacher has noted that Owen seeks out the child who is crying & asks if he/she is okay & tries to tend to their needs. This makes my heart smile as I remember Pastor Cliff making his one & only prophesy - where Owen will be one who cares on a deeper level for others b/c of what he experienced in the womb the moment when B left this earth. Rich is still teaching U.S. History & took on coaching bball again this year but at a different high school (one that's closer to home). As for me, I still love being a Sales Director with Mary Kay for many reasons, but one being where this journey has brought me with my faith & the connections I've made with so many amazing women. I have had many "divine" being a chance encounter with a gal who is in the midst of writing her own book - she has an agent & all! She has recently invited me to a "writer's group" where we will be meeting once a month. Just when I think, I'm not "good enough" or "strong enough" or "talented enough" to take on this book challenge, God says otherwise. These moments remind me AGAIN....that it's HIS plan, not mine! --------------------------------- Heart of Gold News: Mark your calendars for August 9th, our Annual Heart of Gold Charity Golf Outing. This will be our 8th Annual. After last year, Rich & I have been discussing how much longer we will do the golf outing. As of right now, we are toying with the idea of halting after year 10. We will still give our scholarships & gift bags until we can (a.k.a..when the money runs We often get generous donations throughout the year that will continue to assist us with our mission. Thank you to those who continue to support us, our charity, and its mission. We have some very special neighborhood girls who often hold a toy sale & lemonade stand to raise money for our charity; the JJHS Student Council raised money for our charity during Valentine's Day this February. AND....this year Bill & Cindy Ewert are donating a dollar for ever point that Bill's 6th grade girl's basketball team scores. The girls were so excited to take on this challenge. They even have a Braden bear that they've take on as their mascot & "lucky charm." I am meeting with the girls on Thursday to receive the money they raised (they wanted to keep it a surprise, but Bill mentioned it exceeded his expectations). These kinds of lessons...about life, generosity, selflessness, and giving prove how great our God is as he is moving & working through the lives of so many people. ---------------------------------- A few last thoughts...I was asked to speak at a church this past fall & I will share with you my message below. I was also asked to speak to a class at Carthage (my Alma-mater) this past fall. I did this with my dear friend Cara who too lost a child (just a little over a year ago). We were both asked to speak to the class about our experiences of loss & grief. It was as if I was looking at my life 4 years ago, seeing myself through Cara's words, thoughts & actions. I saw in that sharing experience just how far I had come. She was then looking at me, a person I too once thought I never wanted to be...b/c once that pain dulls, what does that mean...about me...about my grief..about the love I had/have for my child. It was definitely an amazing & healing moment for both of us. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future. maybe you have found this scripture helpful when facing a difficult situation in life maybe you have clung onto it for hope & a promise that everything will be okay or maybe it once provided comfort & hope but now leads to questions after you or someone you know has lost the battle they fought so hard to win…..--------- In 2006 it had been a year since my husband and I had been married; we were pregnant with our first son; pregnancy was fantastic; life was great!!!--------- Braden Gregory was born on August 17th that summer. 2 days later we found out that he was born with a very rare & serious heart defect where the left side of his heart was underdeveloped. That moment, that day you dream of taking your child home for the first time had been yanked away & instead been replaced with fear, questions, & medical jargon we had to learn & understand.------ For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future. …..God…you are Good! Braden underwent 2 open heart surgeries by the time he was 4 months old & was released to live a “normal” life. He was growing and thriving before our very own eyes. We were able to finally enjoy all of the fun, new parenting moments & see our medical marvel grow into this funny, walking, talking toddler who loved to sing Johnny Cash & count in Spanish (thanks to Dora)…..God you are good. -------- Fast forward to March of 2009 & Braden is now 2.5. Our medical miracle, our hero, our son suffers a fatal heart arrhythmia & passes away unexpectedly. Dear God….this was not our plan, you were supposed to guide & protect him, give him hope & a future. Where is his future now? Where is our future? Where were you God….where are you now?----- For a year and a half after Braden’s death, I questioned God, his provision….I questioned my faith in prayer, what is heaven? Where is my son? Is someone taking care of him like I did here on earth? Why do bad things happen to good people? Was I not a good enough Christian? Had I not prayed hard enough? Had I not been grateful enough of the gifts that were given to me? I had SO many questions & so little answers. For a year and a half, I did everything & tried SO hard…..on my own….without God….to fix my broken self. The harder I tried, I felt like the farther I fell….from him…and lower & lower into a place I wish to never be again.------ So my journey back began with a career opportunity….one that puts God first. I had no idea how or if I was going to succeed, I just knew this divine moment was not on accident & that I had to see what God was up to.------- Through this opportunity I was able to connect with other women who too were wanting to build their faith – some had none & some had little. In this process I discovered that “Although I didn’t receive my miracle that night, maybe I could be the miracle.” That one sentence defined a moment in my life almost like that flame of hope had been relit. Maybe I do have purpose….maybe I’m supposed to use the this misery inside of me to minister to others…..------- For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future. It’s been a long of road of getting to a point in my faith where I completely trust in the Lord, that I can hand Him my worries, my fears, my circumstances….to believe fully that these plans are not our plans, they’re His plans and even though we may not like them….even when we’re kicking & screaming in resistance to His plan…..we have to somehow, somewhere dig deep to trust in the Lord with all our heart & lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).-------- Having audacious faith doesn’t mean we will live a crisis free life but having audacious faith does allow us to see the blessings amidst the crisis.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Beam Me Up...

Disclaimer...although I made paragraph breaks to separate parts in here, they are not showing up, so it's one looong babble :) March 16th - 9pm - A year has come and gone, and it's hard to believe that we are here March...watching the clock tick by, remembering this night like it was just 4 years ago. It's hard to believe that that much time has passed yet it feels like a lifetime ago that B was here with us. THAT is a very unsettling feeling. I feared the day when the memories wouldn't be as crisp, as clear, as fresh...and here I sit writing and having that foggy sense of my memory rattling me, gnawing at me, reminding me that as time passes it is allowing those images to fade. It makes me angry, sad, and frustrated. So, where has exactly this year gone....??? Let's do a quick review of where we left off last year: --Well, I became a Sales Director in Mary Kay on April 1st and resigned from my teaching position in June. Crazy, I know, but as I often tell never know where life is going to take you. I feel blessed to be able to do the things with Owen (and now Annika) now that I can create my own schedule. --Owen is going to preschool now and loving it. He is our little sponge, very inquisitive & watching every move we make - we are extra cautious (or try to be) on what we say and do. He still LOVES to dance and lipsinc to his favorite songs. It's entertaining to watch especially when he thinks no one is watching. He is our constant entertainment, stubborn like his dad & a bit sensitive like his mom. He makes our heart sing!!! --Heart of Gold Charity once again had an amazing golf outing fundraiser back in August. Although our attendance was a little lower this year, we were blessed to have raised over $23,000. Last year we gave over 140 gift bags to the hospital for new heart patients - this is 40 more than the average 100 bags we've given every year. We will soon be selecting our 2013 scholarship recipients to be announced at each school's award's night this spring. Mark your calendars as this year's golf outing will be on Saturday, August 3rd! --In December I attended a woman's retreat and was asked to give my testimony. I was able to speak to a group of women about my journey with grief & rebuilding my faith in God. It was an honor to get to do this, and another pull in the direction to where I think God is calling write a book about my journey. --And it will be four weeks already on Tuesday that we were able to welcome our new little bundle of joy, Annika Ruth. Her life, just like any child, has truly been a gift. I know B is watching over her, and big brother Owen is finally starting to warm up to her. He is asking to hold her now - quite a change since asking if the doctors were going to come and take her back :) With Annika's birth came many bittersweet moments. I was actually induced & brought in the night before to start the process. I looked around the room & immediately I felt that pang of anxiety. So many good yet scary moments in these birthing rooms. I felt like I could go back to the moment Braden was born. I held him long enough to take a picture and they whisked him away to be monitored...who knew 2 days later we would be given the news that would forever change our lives. Although we knew Annika's heart was a-okay, there was still that anxiety over the "what ifs". Well, the day that we were discharged the day nurse came in to introduce herself. When she left I told Rich she looked familiar, and we wondered if she was one of Braden's nurses (we never did see any of B's nurses when we were there when Owen was born). We asked her if she was B's nurse and immediately her eyes welled up with tears. She sat down and explained to us that in her 18 years of nursing the hardest day of her career was the day he was transferred and they later found out about his heart condition. She was actually the one responsible for getting the ball rolling for him to be transferred to another hospital. I will spare the rest of the details - one being that gut feeling we had felt with the doctor on call (he was a substitute & no longer works there) & our reservation with delivering there again when it was time for Owen's birth. There were tears shed & welcomed hugs that provided some closure for her and us that day. They have new protocols now with babies to ensure that the same thing doesn't happen (a sever heart defect going unnoticed at birth). This nurse also mentioned how she followed B's progress & life through our blog & charity site. She went on to say that she has been pursuing her masters degree, so she can teach nurses - B's life made quite an impact on hers. Talk about divine intervention and reminding us of how B's life has served & continues to serve many purposes here on earth. I walked away a very proud mama that morning!!! So, the year in review has been quite busy and very fulfilling, allowing us to focus on the many blessings in our lives. With that focus, I feel like I'm leaving someone behind. I know in true reality that I'm not, but with losing a child comes many conflicting moments when you feel, "I'm darned if I do/I'm darned if I don't." Although I have more peace in my heart these days, I still ask myself how that is even possible with this kind of loss in one's my heart continues to play this tug of war. One minute I can be laughing with Owen and enjoying the moment of the 3 year old-isms and then I hear a song that can bring me to my knees sobbing for the life I will never lead - with 2 boys, Owen having a brother here on earth, having 3 kiddos, living a life of chaos...always wishing for one more day. Until recently, I really never evaluated how far I've come on my journey. Sadly one of my dear & closest friends lost her little girl just before Christmas. It was very sudden & still really no answers as to how & why. I sit & watch my friend go through the very painful, gut wrenching grief that I once had to endure...the kind of pain that could literally kill someone b/c of how physically & emotionally untolerable it is. I see her now, back at that place I was just 4 years ago hating that new life that we didn't ask for, where we would give anything just to have a moment of that old life back so we could see, hold, & smell our kiddos again.'s a process....a long process that is still so hard to understand. It feels so unfair to watch another person, especially a friend, have to walk this long & confusing road. This Pink song, Beam Me Up, pretty much sums up my heart & what it speaks today & everyday... (youtube video) The following part of the song reminds me of how often we see hawks in our day & how I continue to whisper "Hello B" everytime I see one :) Saw a blackbird soarin' in the sky, Barely a breath I caught one last sight Tell me that was you sayin' goodbye, There are times I feel the shiver and cold, It only happens when I'm on my own, That's how you tell me I'm not alone Could you beam me up, Give me a minute, I don't know what I'd say in it I'd probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face Beam me up, Let me be lighter, I'm tired of being a fighter, I think a minute's enough, Just beam me up. I will leave you with a few pics to end this post. One is Annika at one week old (the professional one with Kim), another at 2 weeks old visiting the doctor, and the other pic is not very clear but one of my favs that I snapped with my phone. Owen is asking to hold "baby sistow" at night and starts to laugh when she cries....he asks..."Why she cwy all da time?" "The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart." This last pic is of B at one of the Briggs and Al Walks. It's one of my favorite pics of him. It reminds me of how happy & joyful he must be in heaven....reminding me not to be sad.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Breath Away

Hello March,
You smell the same, you feel the same....I just don't like you for everything you have meant to me these last three years. Your vividness casts a memory I dislike and quite frankly dishonor. It brings me back to that moment in time when my little boy was ripped out of my life and I was left with the remains of a life turned upside down. Be kind to my family and friends as they too approach a year of loss for their loved ones.

Looking back, I know the only thing that truly saved me was Owen. I recall sitting in a vegetative state for the remainder of my pregnancy, numb to the life I was living, wanting to forget I was without the one I lived for each and everyday. When I say that Owen was the only one who saved me, I am dishonest because without God's blessing, I'm not sure where we would be today.

To Where You Are - Josh Groban:
As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me

'Cause you are my forever love
Watching me from up above
And I believe that angels breathe
And that love will live on and never leave

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile

If only for awhile
To know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are


It has been awhile since I have written, and I often look back to where I was a year ago, two years ago, etc and I realize WOW...I have come along way. The healing is a continuous process, but it's a forward process. Back in the early months of grief, I would hear people discuss how "it gets better", the pain becomes duller as time passes, blah, blah blah. I say "blah, blah, blah" because I didn't think it was possible to continue living and loving when you lose a child. I thought it would mean that I would forget him, the pain, the value of life lived and yet lost. I reluctantly embraced life again, afraid that others would forget or they would see me and think I'm all better and "fine." Through counseling, I discovered to let myself "be" and experience everything (joy, laughter, pain, tears, heartache, disappointment) with no guilt. I learned to relish in the joyful days because the brutally painful days would soon follow. The most difficult part of the process was and still is learning how to balance the joy and pain. There's a quote I received from my counselor and it's this:
"Your grieving is among the most sacred and the most human things you will ever do. It will unfold to you the mystery of life...
and death...and rebirth. Honor it."

What I've really been realizing lately that's so hard to put into words is the fact that with Braden's death, I lost a large part of who I was and a "new" me has been created. I'm different, and I know I'm different. Steven Furtick (Sun Stand Still) said it best when he said, "Having audacious faith doesn't mean you will live a crisis free life. Having audacious faith, however, does allow us to see God's glory in the midst of every crisis." I want to take you back to 16+ months ago. I was sinking lower and lower into something I was trying so hard to fight...depression. I remember thinking, wow, it's been a year and a half, and I've done all that I can to stay's a task each day to put one foot in front of the other....depression was slowly winning. It was October, and I was invited to my Mary Kay consultant's house for a facial with a friend and I decided to take her up on her offer, to help her out with her goal. That night changed my life. She mentioned that MK was a business that put God first. At that moment, I thought, "I miss God, trusting Him, believing in Him, and maybe, just maybe this is my chance to open that door again." You see, I had turned bitter to the words prayer and having faith that everything will work out b/c my prayers weren't answered on that late March evening. I was full of questions and getting no answers....I had lost my trust in Him. I will leave out the details of my MK journey and fast forward you to today. I don't even recognize this person who is full of life, laughter, confidence, and on a mission to inspire others, to teach others, and to lead others. I am finally believing that I am here for a much bigger purpose. Although my heart still hurts from the physical absence of Braden, I know that he is with me. I have seen and felt his presence many times on my journey. I have named my future unit the "Bold Believers" because of Braden. He is the B in both bold and belief. You see, "All decisions lead you somewhere, but BOLD decisions take you where you're supposed to be." And if I don't believe in myself and God, who is with me and leading me, then I have nothing. I am celebrating the fact that I just earned my first car and am inches away from directorship in my MK business, but it's so much's about the's about who I am a person, a christian, mother, wife, sister, friend, and daughter.

Owen is incredible! He is the funniest kid who is a spitting image of his dad. He refers to us as mom and dad now...we are no longer mama and daddy :( We pulled into Culvers the other night and he says, "I'm a McDonalds guy." Another time, we went through the McDonalds drive through so I could get a coffee. As we pulled away, he said, "Hey, where's my fwench fwies and chicken nunucks?" I think he's trying to tell us something. He is a dancing maniac who loves to pretend he is singing and is now memorizing television commercials. Grandma Lois get a little embarrassed when he starts signing, "I'm sexy and I know it" when they are at open gym. He is fascinated with monster trucks and doesn't miss a thing. His facial expressions are priceless and he sports the pouty lip pretty well. He's very in tune with what's going on with us and shows his sensitivity and compassion if there's something wrong with Rich or myself. The one thing that really stands out to me is when my pastor made a prophesy after baptizing Owen (he has never done this before). His prophesy (I may have mentioned this in a past blog) is that Owen will be in tune to others and show great care and concern for them b/c of what he felt in the womb the moment Braden left us. I'm not sure how much he understands of the presence of Braden in our lives. We bring him up when looking at pictures or showing him things that are/were Braden's. In time I guess. Owen has hit some milestones since my last post. He is now "older" than B, so we are experiencing new things as parents with him. We also registered him for pre-school which was very bitter sweet. He loved going to the open house. Every time I would tell someone on the phone that we registered him for pre-school, he would flash his big, cheesy grin. I think he is excited!!! He is most certainly the center of our joy and sunshine everyday and we look forward to embracing new parenting adventures with him.

We are approaching the time for scholarship application deadlines, and we look forward to awarding six more deserving high school seniors who are pursuing a career path in medicine. We just delivered our 60th gift bag since December, which brings us up to 425 total that we've delivered so far. I guess there has been a big influx of new heart kiddos lately. I'm glad we can assist them, but there's not a good feeling with the word, "increase." We continue to receive generous donations from others. The latest has come from the staff I work with in my school district. With February being heart month, they collected over $800.00 AMAZING!!!! We've also had younger kiddos raise money through lemonade stands, making friendship bracelets, and selling used toys to assist us. The gift of giving is a powerful thing, and it warms my heart to see so many people supporting our cause and continuing to keep B's spirit alive.

In closing, I want to thank you for continuing to support us here. This journey is never-ending, always learning something along the way. The sunshine is brighter and so is the flicker of hope. A brighter flame allows us to see our path before us much more clearly. Thank you for breathing that belief in us, allowing our flame to never be extinguished along the way.

Love and blessings,