Friday, August 31, 2012

~August~The Highs and the Lows

 Even though I didn't want it to come, August 2012 came anyway...
Time doesn't stop for anyone, and the world keeps on turning...

So, I was faced with a couple of options...  shut down and cry my way through it, or prepare myself for it, put one foot in front of the other, and tackle it head on.  I've learned through life experiences that, for me, the best way to deal with my emotions is to tackle them head on.  That's not to say I don't cry, because believe me, when the tears start flowing, there's little I can do about it.  I sit and have a good cry.  Then I get up and keep on going.  That's life, I guess.

I knew I wanted to do something for Evan's first heavenly birthday, but didn't quite know what that would be.  How exactly do you celebrate/mourn the one year anniversary of your child in heaven?  Who do you invite?  What would they think of it?  Would anyone come?  What do you DO for an event like this?  A typical party for a one year old involves adorable messy cake pictures, and birthday presents that they will get to PLAY with or USE.  Evan isn't here, so there would be no messy cake pictures or birthday presents.

Yet, I wanted to do something that would help me celebrate, not that he died, but that he LIVED.  I think it's so hard for others to connect with Evan as a person because they didn't get to know him.  Most people didn't even see him.  Yet I knew him, he lived and moved inside of me.  He is my SON.  He is one of the most important things in my life, and I want to celebrate that part of my life.  This would be a way to let others know it's okay to talk about Evan.  I love to talk about my kiddo just the way any other proud parent would.

Yet, I can't deny that he's gone, so calling it a "party" didn't seem right at all.  This wouldn't be a time of laughter and presents.  This would ultimately be a part of the grieving process, a time of remembering and healing.  So I decided to call it an "Open House."  I wanted to do a balloon release, a symbolic way of sending love to heaven, and of letting go.  It's hard for me to even write that last part.  Letting go.  It's still so painful to say.

Next, I had to decide who to invite.  A traditional first birthday party would most likely be immediate family and close friends.  Yet this wasn't a traditional party.  SO many people have been there for us and supported us in the past year, and  I don't know where we'd be without such an amazing support system.  In addition to celebrating & remembering the life of Evan, I wanted this event to be a way of giving THANKS to all those who have stood by our side.  It wouldn't be right not to invite everyone, so we did!  :)
"We would like to invite you to an Open House for Evan's 1st Heavenly Birthday. There will be cake, ice cream, and we will do a balloon release around 3pm. We would like to initiate "Random Acts of Kindness" in memory of Evan. Go out and bless someone, do something you wouldn't normally do, and come share your "random act" at Evan's Open House. We would love to see you there!"

Even though it wasn't a traditional birthday party, I still wanted cake and ice cream, but how exactly do you decorate a cake for a heavenly birthday?  I went into Hy-Vee with a couple of designs in mind, but I choked up when talking to the cake lady.  Usually I do a better job of keeping my composure, but this wasn't the type of first birthday party I had imagined planning.  The cake lady was very supportive, and told me she would make something beautiful.  I brought in a picture of a butterfly, as well as Evan's hand and foot prints that were taken at the hospital.  The lady went a bit crazy with the blue butterfly theme, but I loved having Evan's hand and foot prints on the cake. 

I didn't want it to be "girly", but I knew I wanted the theme to be butterflies.  The symbolic representation of a life transformed into something more beautiful than before.  Evan's earthly body is gone, yet he has gone on to heaven, transformed into something even more beautiful, experiencing things that we can't even comprehend at this time.

I created an iMovie that included short moments of my pregnancy, pictures, ultrasound video, pictures of Evan after he was born, as well as the details of when we found out Evan had died.  I felt it was important to share Evan's story.  The video turned out to be quite longer than I intended it to be, but even at a half an hour long, I felt it difficult to pick and choose the most important part of my son's short life.  To me, it's all important.

I found a butterfly mint mold and wanted to use it to make different flavors of mints in butterfly shapes.  Rather than asking for a specific kind of donation, I decided to initiate random acts of kindness in memory of Evan.  It was my hope that Evan's life would continue to impact others, and this way everyone could support something that was important to them.  I wanted some way for people to record their thoughts, so I cut out paper butterflies and created a poster board for people to tape them to.  I wanted people to have something to do while they waited for the slide show and balloon release, so I thought it would be fun if everyone could decorate their own balloon for the balloon release.

August 5th, 2012
The day of the event came upon us quickly.  James and I brought everything with us and unloaded it before church started.  So many people stayed after church, or came early, to help us get everything set up.  Thank You!!

So many people came to the open house... family, friends, church family, even friends I hadn't seen in a long while!  It meant so much to us to have everyone there!

I really should not get up in front of people to speak... have I mentioned that I hate public speaking?  Even though I'm sure I sounded like a blubbering fool, I wanted to thank everyone for coming, and for their support in the last year.  I then tried to play the iMovie, and wouldn't ya know, there were technical difficulties.  (As I was on the verge of a breakdown, Nichole and I joked about how things do not seem to go according to plan with Evan!)  While Aaron, Shaun, and Richard tried to troubleshoot, Linda organized an impromptu sharing of what people wrote on their butterflies for their random act of kindness or of how Evan has touched their life.  Only a few people got up to share, but those comments from people who did meant a lot to me.  Finally they got the movie to play in the sanctuary, so we all moved in there.  It worked out better there anyway.  That way, kiddos or others that didn't want to watch could stay behind in the fellowship hall.

We gathered outside for the balloon release.  I read a poem, we sang a song and then we began to release the balloons. It was a beautiful sight as dozens of balloons filled the blue sky.

Two balloons got stuck on a wire.  Not wanting to leave.
Kinda like James & I.  Not wanting to say goodbye.
These balloons eventually flew away.

Thank you Nichole Bogen & Becky Jansen for taking pictures!  Becky made this smilebox, check it out!
Smilebox Slideshow by Becky

For my random act of kindness in memory of Evan, I...
...donated five seats to the car fitting station...donated sixty meals to children in need...will donate money to our school's backpack program...will treat all people with kindness and respect...helped our neighbor who recently lost her husband...gave water to a door-to-door salesman...took food to the city mission...will support Liz & James in every way possible and do all I can for others in similar circumstances...had my niece and nephew spend the night so their parents could have some time together...will help children in need in Evan's name...will take our nephews out to the fair and to a concert...gave water to a homeless man on a 100 degree everyone love and respect and treat them the way I want to be treated...donated vegetables from our garden to our church's food bank... spent time driving my brother around who doesn't have a car... gave books and DVD's to a sick friend...will donate a special offering to help spread the gospel...

Evan has touched my life because...he taught me about strength and grace in times of grief.  He also taught me that love doesn't rely on time-it just is...he has made me understand how much I needed to slow down and not miss anything in makes you realize how precious each day is with the ones you love and treasure...I have gotten to know Liz and James on a deeper level...I never knew how much I could love someone I hadn't yet met and feel his loss so profoundly.  I never knew the strength and grace of Liz & James like this too... I know you're up in heaven playing with our little Jessica and we know how much your mommy and daddy love and miss you...he taught me how valuable life is and to enjoy the time we have with those we love...I know Evan is watching over us everyday.  I can't wait to meet him up in niece's son died at 10 months old four years ago and I know the shock and loss our family felt...he showed me how precious life is and how we should treasure every moment we have with those we love...I no longer take any moment for granted...the love Liz & James have for Evan makes our dreams for having a child even stronger.  It gives us strength...he showed how fleeting our existence is and how we need to cherish every moment...he reminds me of the importance of faith and believing in God's plan for us... he's God's little angel and I love his mom and dad...I have witnessed God's everloving peace and comfort.  I've seen the power of prayer and what kind of healing can take place when a church rallies together to pray...I appreciate my children more.  They are a precious gift and we never know how long we'll be with our loved ones.  Time is precious and to be cherished...we know Evan is in Heaven.  Someday I hope to meet him again in Heaven if I make it.  There's a reason for EVERYTHING even what we don't understand...he reminds me every day is a gift from God.  I will cherish the day and remember to show LOVE always...I'm thankful that my family, my friends and I are alive...your mom and dad mean a lot to me.  You will always be in my heart and mind...he reminded me how precious life is, and the importance of seeing how his mom and dad have trusted and relied on God for strength and peace...he touched my life since I knew of his existence, and he will continue to do so.  He such a bright light in a dark world.  I really can't put into words...because of his heaven-birth, I have been challenged in my faith, but know that the Lord is faithful and loves us...if it were not for Evan, I would not have met  and become friends with your mommy and daddy.  We love you both so much and are honored to be walking this road with you...he is my son's best friend.  He has helped me appreciate every moment with my boys.  When they cry at 2 o'clock in the morning I see it as a blessing, whereas before Evan, those middle of the night cries were not appreciated...James and Liz have been such a beautiful example to me of faith, hope and love...

Wow... I feel so blessed that Evan's short life has touched so many lives.

After the balloon release, we went inside, ate some cake and ice cream, and everyone started heading home.  After it was all over and cleaned up, Linda asked me how I thought it went.  I thought it went very well.  I was blessed that so many people could come, and that I got to share Evan's story.  I was happy that I could do something for my baby boy, even though he couldn't be here with us.  But I was sad that it was over.  There's always that sad feeling when it's over.  Just like after Evan's funeral... Just like finishing his baby book... Just like when I have to leave his graveside after visiting the cemetery.  Those things keep me busy, and keep me connected to Evan.  Then it's over.  There isn't anything else I can do with him, or for him.  And the sadness creeps in.  We continued to visit, and Pastor Aaron was still there so he came in to visit, too.  Before we left, we all gathered in a circle, held hands, and prayed.

Prayer.  Simple.... Powerful...  Where Joy and Sorrow Meet.

Thursday, August 9th
I almost didn't make it in the door of the school this morning.  I found that it wasn't just the "dates" that got to me, but also the "events" that triggered my emotions.  Being a teacher, I go through the same routine every school year.  A few professional development days...a few work days... and then the start of school.  One year ago, I went to those professional development days with innocence and joy of my little one being born soon.  One year ago, on Thursday, I was going to work blissfully unaware that Evan was most likely already gone.  I went home before Open House and was concerned, but not really thinking that my fears were true.  This year on my way to work, the pain washed over me all over again... Evan is gone, nothing I do will bring him back, my innocence is lost, and somehow I had to go to work and pretend like everything is okay.  It had been awhile since I cried that hard, and I had no idea how I was going to be able to stop.  Thankfully my friends and fellow team members came and helped me calm down.  They let me in the back way so I wouldn't have to run into any other co-workers.  Once I got started on work, I was able to focus on that instead.  I was able to get through Open House without breaking down.  Then I went to the bowling alley, already emotional.  For the last three years, James has participated in the summer bowling league.  One year ago, I went to the bowling alley after open house to watch James's team get awarded first place, thinking I would have my baby over the weekend.  This year I bowled on the league, but couldn't actually bowl the last night because of work.  I went after Open House was over, even though I knew it would be hard.  I was reliving the tragic events of last year all over again.  The guy on the opposing team accused our team of getting a sub that night so our team could get out of last place on the league.  Really?!  I wish that my biggest concern in life was to not be in last place on a bowling league. 

Sunday, August 12th ~ Monday, August 13th 
Prayers from everyone were certainly felt this weekend!!!  We felt a peace and calmness that could only be attributed to the power of God.  Our Sunday School class stood around us this morning while we sat in the middle, and everyone went around and prayed for us.  My church family is A-MAZ-ING!  Just what we needed this morning!  Afterwards, we went to the craft store and picked out flowers to put out at the cemetery.  I made a similar arrangement for us to have at home.  It was a peaceful time as we visited Evan's graveside.

Cemetery Flowers~Glittery Butterfly, Glittery Daisies, and Green Glitter Tape (August's Birthstone is Peridot)

Flowers for Home~Butterfly Wicker Pot with Green Glitter Tape, Glitter Flowers, Glittery Butterfly
We love you and miss you, Evan!
Happy 1st Heavenly Birthday!

Sunday, August 19th ~
We got to have lunch with good friends of ours that we met through Evan.  Then we went to the Butterfly Release Tribute put on by a local organization called "Remembering Our Children."  We didn't get to go last year because I found out about it too late.  I almost didn't get to go this year as I was (still am!) SO busy with the start of school.  We went, though, and I'm glad we did.  It was short and sweet... one more opportunity to slow down, take time to grieve, and remember our son.  The little butterfly flew out of the package so quickly that we didn't get any pictures of it.  Rather symbolic of our time with Evan, though.  He flew away before we even had a chance to say hello.  One of the organizers of this group asked James and me if we would speak at an upcoming conference called, "When a Baby Dies."  Well, we all know how well I do with public speaking!  Yikes!  I am thinking about doing it, though.  Another chance to talk about Evan... and a chance to help those in attendance understand how a parent feels after losing a child, what parents need, and what the support people can do to help.  You can be in prayer for me, that I won't sound like a blubbering fool!  LOL

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