Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring has sprung

Last Sunday, on the last day of winter, our family joyously welcomed Caleb Anthony to our family.

It has been a long winter, mostly because it was our first season to get through without Tony here. I anxiously looked forward to spring, for the dreary winter to be over, and for the beautiful new life that spring would bring us, our perfect baby boy.

What a healing balm Caleb has been to our souls already! I saw it in all my children's eyes when they held Caleb for the first time. I catch them snuggling with him and staring at his sweet face. When Caleb was born and they immediately placed him on me on his back, he stretched out his arms, turned his face toward me and stared deep into my eyes for several minutes. He knows he is here for me and all my babies. I told my older children that Caleb really is a gift from God. He knew Tony would be gone and that we needed Caleb to help us heal.

The sorrow of winter has begun to melt as spring sweeps in to refresh our hearts. The new life in Caleb reminds me really how much Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to return to Him. We are given winter to turn our hearts and minds toward Him and then have the sweet blessing of a beautiful spring, just as Tony's death has brought me closer to my Savior as I seek Him out and learn of Him to find peace and lasting joy. Winter will come again, but if we remember God and cling to Him, spring will melt our pains and sorrows away and beautiful peace will rest in our hearts. The pain of missing Tony isn't gone, yet it has been softened just a little for this moment in my life. Deep sorrow and heartache will continue to flood my heart and mind for moments in the future--- but through my experiences I've had I know the calming peace of Jesus Christ will rest upon me and ease the burden continually in the future as I need it.

As Caleb was born, an amazing medical staff circled around me in support with loving glances. My mom said it looked as if angels were gathered all around the room. I'm sure they were not the only ones in the room with us. I have been blessed with a constant flow of peace, and I know that everything will be alright. Heavenly Father loves us and will never abandon us. I know that Tony still loves me deeply and will in some way be a huge part in raising Caleb and all our children. Oh, how I wish Tony could be here and to see the sweet smile on his face as he held our newborns with such strong yet gently arms. I now imagine those same arms wrapped around me with that same smile as we start this new season. What a blessing it is to know I will see Tony again, thanks to our Savior and Redeemer!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bitter and sweet

In less than four months since Tony's passing, I've had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish before our baby is born. Tonight I finished the last item on my list.

It has been such a brief time since Tony died, the months have gone by quickly yet it has felt as if its been years since I've last seen him. I feel this is a difficult part of grieving as reality doesn't quite seem real and my heart feels confused at times.

As my days pass, I think to myself, "Is this really how life is now? When is Tony coming home so I can ask his advice, tell him a funny story, or hold his hand?" It's difficult to wrap my mind around our new world without Tony physically here, even though he has been gone for a season. But on nights like tonight, when I check an important item off my list, the reality settles in for a short time. As difficult as it is to feel the deep grief of loss and the sorrow of lost opportunities together in this life, it is also a remarkably refreshing cleanse of the heart and mind. It is bitter and it is sweet.

We have had wonderful service from many to help our family remember him. A dear friend and her mother sewed teddy bears out of Tony's sweaters (the kids call them their "Daddy teddies" and hold them close each night). Another sweet person offered to make quilts out of Tony's t-shirts. A neighbor is compiling all the audio recordings I've found from Tony, some which are priceless to me. I've made individual photo books for each of the kids with pictures of them with their daddy to keep in their beds with them. And my last project, all the wonderful stories and uplifting words you have shared with my family over the past year and a half have finally been compiled in a book along with letters and memorabilia from Tony. All these things mean the world for me to have for our children as these will become their memories as they grow. It's a relief to have it all compiled safely but difficult to see that it's actually finished. Again, it is bitter and sweet. I feel that the chapter of Tony's liveliness is now closed and ended, almost as it has made his death final in this life.

Baby Caleb Anthony will be joining our family before the end of the month. If you see me around, you will know that I am definitely ready to have this baby- my ever growing belly is stretched to its limit! The day of his birth is quickly approaching and as excited as I am to hold Caleb in my arms and feel the unique and special spirit of a new baby in my home, I am also very nervous. I am nervous to give birth without Tony by my side. I am nervous that I won't measure up to the mother I need to be for all my kids. I am nervous that the reality of losing Tony will sink in-- and stay.

Tony has always been such an amazing father. One thing I love about him is that Tony loves to hold our newborns, almost so that we would jokingly fight over whose turn it was to cuddle with the baby! Many of my favorite pictures of Tony are of him snuggling a baby in his arms on the couch after he drifts off to sleep for a nap. I love seeing my babies peacefully sleeping with my biggest baby :) I loved caring for Tony and stroking his hair while he napped with our little ones. I am nervous the heartache will feel too much for me to bear. The loss of future memories made in this life hurts so much sometimes.

My nervous worries may make this new change in our life bitter in some ways--- but I'm learning and trusting that they can become more sweet to me than bitter. Even though Tony has died, his spirit lives and he will live again as a fully perfect being! I know that while trying my best and trusting in my Father in Heaven, that if I allow Christ to make up my losses that those losses will turn into blessings. Those blessings can include joy and purpose in this life even without my sweetheart here. If I allow it and humble myself, God can transform me through the pain I experience and I can be more loving, thankful, and wise. And the most beautiful blessing of all will be when Tony and I can be reunited and I can then see how much he helped me every step of the way. I hope to tell him that I took those bittersweet moments and allowed the sweet to overcome the bitter, just as my Heavenly Father has intended for us all to do.