Friday, July 12, 2013

The Gift - Five Years!


So, today is Vivian and Annemarie's 5 Year Birthday.

It is also the birthday of my cousin Stephen, who died tragically almost three years ago in a car accident at the age of 21. It is also the 7 year birthday of my friend Kimber's daughter, Kambry, who died five hours after she was born.

Heavy stuff.

I have thought many times about what to write today - and while I could write something poetic and sugary, instead I am going to provide a few glimpses into the mess of life and what the past five years have taught me.

Here goes:

A few days ago, I took Paprika to swimming lessons, and Ginger wanted to go home immediately and let me know by yelling that she wanted to go home NOW. She also didn't want to wear clothes and ripped every article of clothing off that I tried to put on her.  I've been told this is typical four year old behavior.

But even though Ginger wanted to leave right then, I had to pick up the forms for the swim team photos, and Violet started crying to go to the park. So, while Paprika was at swim team practice, I strapped Ginger on my back in the Ergo (I did manage to get her blue pants on) - and I put Violet on my front in another Ergo.

A few minutes later, Ginger wanted to get down and run through the empty field next to the pool - but she wasn't wearing a shirt or shoes (just her blue pants).

She is 4 years old now (as of a few weeks ago), so I wondered if it would be appropriate for her to run around without a shirt on. But her hair is short. And she was wearing blue pants.  So, really, she can pass for a boy.  She started to have a little fit, and I knew that if she were allowed to run free, she would be incredibly happy in an instant.

I thought about how society (what does that even mean???) has decided it's okay for little boys to run around without a shirt, but it's not okay for little girls. 

And then I realized I didn't give a crap about any of that.   She was safe, she was with me, and the only thing holding me back was the shirt.   I let her down and she ran free with the wind in her hair, not a care in the world. She laughed, and danced, and smiled. She was barefoot in a public park with her messed up wild mop, and yes, people were judging me as a mom. And maybe even feeling sorry for Ginger.

But I thought to myself: If today was Ginger's last day on Earth, would I have wanted to stop her from running when she was safe, and the sun was shining, and the only reason I would have said no was because of the shirt?

Clearly, no.  Thank you, Vivian and Annemarie.


So, the next day (yesterday) we were supposed to have the Swim Team Photos. We were supposed to be at the pool at 6:30, and at 5:00, we got an email that the pictures were cancelled. Within a few moments, there were dozens of helicopters circling over my neighborhood because it turns out that a dead body was found in a mound of dirt in the parking lot right next to the pool.

I didn't feel scared. I just felt sad, and wondered who this person was who was buried in the dirt. Apparently, the body had been there for a few days and so I probably walked by without even knowing for several days.

I thought about how five years ago at that same time, I was finding out that our twin daughters had died inside my body, and how I was going to deliver them...soon. I thought about how scared I was, and how I had never really touched a dead body and yet soon I would be delivering my two daughters stillborn. And yet, 18 hours of labor later, I was no longer scared.  I held them, and prayed over them, and they were my daughters. 

I think those hours of holding them actually changed me more than anything else in my entire life.  And it also made me not fear death for myself ever again.

Thank you, Vivian and Annemarie.


So, while all this was going on yestrday, I set up a tent in the backyard for the girls to play pretend campout. This is the same tent my dad used to take me camping in when I was 11 or 12.
The tent I used to go camping in with my dad...goes full circle.

I watched the girls play inside the tent, and they were supremely happy.

 I wanted to stop time and just watch them in this moment forever.

Inside the tent! :-)

Soon, Mr. M came home and I was so relieved to spend the evening with him after an exhausting day. But a few minutes after he walked in the door, he got called back into work...and there I was: alone and responsible for dinner, bath, piano practice, and bedtime with three girls excited from playing in the tent.

Everything went great until bedtime. Usually, I put Ginger and Paprika to bed and Mr. M gets Violet to sleep. He lays down with her and listens to Classical Music until she falls asleep beside him.  I know Violet looks forward to this special time with her dad all day.

Well, let's just say Violet wanted to wait up for Daddy because no matter what I did, she refused to go to sleep. I rocked her in the Ergo for an hour, nursed her, laid in bed and listened to Classical Music with her, laid with her on the couch with a white noise maker, and tried putting her in my bed.

Nope...not sleeping!

Around 1 am, I went to turn out Paprika's light in her room (she was still awake, reading in bed) and left Violet in bed in the guest bedroom (where she typically falls asleep with her dad).  As soon as I walked out of the room, Violet jumped out of bed, turned on the computer, fired up Amazon Instant Streaming, AND threw 700 sheets of paper (an entire ream) onto the floor. All in 30 seconds.

She is a year and a half old, guys!  I was like: SERIOUSLY.

I put her back in the bedroom by herself and asked her to go to sleep, and everytime she came out, I said: Go back to bed!

By now, it was 2am.

Then, I gave up. I sat on the couch and read books on my Kindle. She came out of the bedroom, got a stepping stool and practiced her signature "jumping off the stepstool" move about 350 times. She was so happy. She was laughing and so proud of herself every time she landed the jump.

I watched her, and then I was laughing.  Her joy was infectious.

And yet, in that moment, I also remembered that  five years ago at that exact time, I thought my life had ended. Correction: I wanted my life to end.

By now, it was 2:30 plus in the morning.  I was exhausted...yes.  But, I had a living, breathing, healthy child doing tricks for me in my living room.

And was I going to get upset just because I was tired or her joy wasn't happening on MY timetable? No! Of course not!

Thank you, Vivian and Annemarie.


I grieve that I don't get to watch two of my daughters grow up. I wonder what their personalities would be at five years old. Paprika, Ginger, and Violet are all so different.  Vivian and Annemarie would be, too.

I wonder would Vivian like buttered toast? Would her favorite color be green? Would she be loud and physical or quiet and bookish? Would Annemarie love to travel or be a homebody? Would she love math or science or reading...or all of the above? What would her laugh sound like? Would she like baths? Would she be scared to ride her bike or fearless?

The truth is: I don't know. And I never will. (Unless in Heaven they have bikes or something).

But, I do get the extreme privilege of raising Paprika, Ginger, and Violet for now. I got to wake  up today and feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.  I got to make a little girl happy by letting her run free in the park.  I laughed with my baby daughter last night at 3am as she jumped up and down off her stepping stool, so proud of herself.

And I will never ever take any of these moments for granted.

Those are the gifts I've received as a result of a terrible and tragic loss.  It doesn't make it better, or even okay.  But I am finding peace, and enjoying the moments of sunshine that fill the broken cracks of heartache.  That is Vivian and Annemarie's legacy.  It's not their whole legacy, of course...just a few snapshots I wanted to share today. 

Five years ago I never thought I'd feel happy ever again.  And it's true - I have not felt the same kind of happiness that I felt before they died. 

I have a different kind of happy now - different, but still true.  It has more layers, and more colors, and many more dimensions.  But, it is happiness, just the same.  And for me, that is a miracle.



Kim Graves said...

I love you, Erika. ALL your girls are immensely lucky to have such an amazing mom. And all of us who know you are lucky to have you as a friend.

Not Just A Blonde said...

Your honesty and openness regarding the joys, blessings and pains of being Annemarie & Vivian's mother is both heart-wrenching and SO inspiring! And although "the world" may often disagree with our parenting decisions I am happy so happy that you are parenting out of the LOVE you have for your children and not the fear of what others might think. You have a wisdom beyond your years and yes, I think Annemarie & Vivian gifted you some of that. Thank you for being brave enough to share your heart... you have loved us more by sharing it.

Amanda Friskopp said...

What is your email? I have read you for years and this post prompted me to contact you!

Erika said...

Thanks guys! Amanda - my email is zibibooks at gmail dot com. but I am really really bad with email! keeping up this blog is about all I can do lately...

Laura said...

Dear Erika, Your amazing life story is an inspiration to everyone who comes in contact with you. I'm so glad that you have the forum to tell your story. You've shown others that it is possible to get to the other side after suffering such a great loss. And on a side note, I remember in the 60's at age 6 in SC running around in the summer with just pants on, the next year, I felt uncomfortable and went in and put a shirt on!!! Anyway, 4 years old is an innocent age, I can't believe anyone would think any different. Love you, Aunt Laura

Alisha said...

What a beautiful post. Thinking of you and all of your precious girls.

G said...

Such a beautiful post! It is awesome how God has worked in your lives these past five years.

Mimi said...

You're an inspiration!
The honesty and openness of this post is really beautiful.
All of your girls are so lucky to have such a wonderful Mom, and I'm sure anyone who reads this post will be inspired in some way by it.
Well done, Erika!