Why New Years Will Be Harder Than Christmas (For Me)

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The loss of a child is one of the most painful things anyone can go through. And whether you’ve lost a child, a parent, a friend, a grandparent or whoever, the holidays are a time in which emotions tend to run wild. The holidays are overflowing with traditions that undeniably bring about memories with our loved ones who have gone before us.

Christmas especially tends to be hard for many people, and understandably so. I get it. This year will be hard for me. Mabry is not here with us as she was last year. But this year will also be joyous. Owen is here with us. There isn’t a word to describe how this Christmas will feel for us. Our situation is the definition of unique. And while Christmas will be difficult to navigate through, I think I will make it through these upcoming days with a little more ease than I will New Years…and here’s why.

The Christmas story is one of HOPE. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless, perfect life, died on a cross for our sins and rose from the dead — all to save us, the people of THIS world — YOU and me, from our own sins. That means, as believers and followers of Christ, we get eternal life — with Jesus, and with our loved ones. It all started with his birthday — Christmas. Therefore, Christmas, to me, provides the reassurance and the hope that I need to get me by each day. It’s the reassurance and hope that I will see Mabry Kate again. It’s the reassurance and hope that Kyle, Mabry Kate, Owen and myself will unite as a family, complete in Christ. How amazing is that?

But New Years. Ugh. I don’t even want to think about it. This year, 2015, will be the last year that Mabry will have physically lived in. It will forever be the one and only year that we had the pleasure of holding both of our precious babies in. Though full of the absolutely most frustrating, scary, devastating, heartbreaking times of our lives, 2015 has also been full of some of the most joyous, loving, heartfelt, cherished and amazingly beautiful times of our lives.

Most people look forward to a new year as a time for new beginnings, new commitments and new accomplishments. This year I’m holding onto the previous year with every fiber of my being. I don’t want to let it go. I don’t want to move on, but I don’t have a choice. It will personally be a huge struggle. In a matter of about five weeks after 2016 arrives, it will be a year ago that I last saw and held my daughter. Our verbiage will then go from “months ago” to “years ago.” How can it already be that long since she was here before me?

While I’m sure 2016 will bring with it some incredible times, one thing it will not bring with it is Mabry’s physical presence. I’m certain 2016 will be full of her spirit and love living on through her brother and us who remember and love her on a daily basis, but it will still be rough not holding her in my arms. I will do my best to focus my thoughts and my attention on the fact that with a new year, we are one year closer to her, to heaven, to Jesus…and to being together as a complete family.

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“Normal” Will Never Be

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Throughout this entire journey, I have kept my eyes on the desired end result for Owen — a successful transplant, no complications and no Krabbe. Ever. So that we could be a “normal” family. In my mind, normal included living in a home and not in a hospital, having friends and family minutes away rather than hours away, having and raising a healthy child, going to work on a daily basis, among many other things.

For some reason it just now REALLY dawned on me, 10 months to the day since the day we lost Mabry Kate and nearly 8 months since Owen’s transplant, that we will never be what I once thought was “normal” again. I mean, almost immediately after losing her, we had to go fight for Owen’s life in North Carolina. That’s where all of our time and energy went to for the next 8 months. There was no time to mourn and think about “normal” life.

We aren’t your typical, picture perfect family. We are broken — without Mabry, grief stricken, and parents to a transplant baby who cannot (for the time being) be in public places. But we are blessed — to have known Mabry and to have the honor of being her parents, to own this grief that comes from the depths of an indescribable, unconditional love like no other and to be the parents of and witness the miracle of Owen’s amazing life saved by Mabry.

But we will never return to “normal.” It hit me as I went back to work last Monday for the first time since Mabry passed away 10 months ago. A simple drive to drop Owen off and then on to work is absolutely devastating. It’s the same path I traveled with Mabry every morning. That was my “normal.” But now she’s not physically here. And I’m so glad Owen is, but why can they not both be here? Why can we not be normal, typical parents raising a healthy daughter and son side by side?

And as I entered into the workplace, I could and still can sense the love and compassion the amazing people I work with have for the path that I have traveled with my family for the past year and half, but I can also sense their uncertainty of how to approach me or what to say. And not just at work, it’s anywhere we go. At work is just when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m sure it makes them uncomfortable and stretches them to the ends of their comfort zone, so reverting back to a normal conversation like those of the times before everything happened is typically what happens. Realistically, I get it. How else are they supposed to approach me? But inwardly, despite what I look like on the outside, I hurt. A lot. I’m not who I was before. I’m not “normal.” I’ve changed. Half of me, half of my heart, half of my soul, half of everything I am flew to heaven the day my baby passed away.

Contrary to what you may see from me on the outside, everyday it hurts on the inside. Every. Single. Day. Most days have slowly become manageable, but some are unbearable. The rest of my life will never be the same. My new “normal” will be the constant struggle with daily pain, grasping onto the memories that haven’t yet (and hopefully never will) slip my mind, trying to explain the unexplainable and constantly wondering what life would have been like with her here. What would she look like? What would her interests be? What would her personality be like? What would her voice sound like? What would it feel like to hold her hand? To hug and kiss her and have her do it back? To hear her say she loves me? To fix her hair? To comfort her when she’s down? To laugh with her when something’s funny? To have a mommy/daughter day? And the list goes on.

So far, from what I’ve experienced, the pain never goes away. From what I’ve read, people confirm that. And honestly, I don’t see how it could ever go away. Bereaved parents are, often times, quite amazing at masking their true emotions in order to fit into everyone else’s “normal” around them. And unfortunately, that’s really for the benefit of those around them; to keep them from feeling uncomfortable. We are good at trying to normalize our everyday lives regardless of the pain that is constantly on the brink of escaping our broken hearts. And I get it. It’s hard to comfort a pain this deep. Only God, when we allow Him, can provide the precise comfort a bereaved parent is in need of. But despite that fact, I truly appreciate the love and comfort that the people surrounding us constantly radiate day in and day out. It provides a different kind of comfort that is most certainly needed in our lives as well.

“Normal” will never be again. That’s my new realization. Everyday will always be a struggle whether I wear my emotions that day or not. And as much as it hurts, I’m okay with it (mostly because I have no choice but to be). This is the path God has chosen for our family. Mabry’s purpose was and still is so much larger than comprehension, and I will devote my life to keeping her spirit alive and to sharing the love of Jesus through the selfless life she lived. And Owen — that boy is the definition of a true warrior! I know God has something BIG planned for his life too! This is my life’s purpose — to show that God heals, that God is in control, that through God there is hope and that love wins every time. Who knew God could send a baby to teach me those things? This is my new normal.