Wednesday, April 25, 2012

He Bottles Our Tears

I have read some things lately that have hit so close to home and have been so very moving that I just have to share.

First off, a dear friend of ours (I will call him "K") wrote an epitaph for our Levi.  I can't explain how precious that is to us, how much we treasure things people create for or in memory/honor of our boy.  It says, "He mattered.  He matters.  He will always matter."  I asked our friend if I could share his creation on our blog, and he gave the ok.  So here it is:

"Epitaph For A Baby Boy

is all that’s left down here a prayer
miscarried words and stillbirth replies
is all that’s left down here a virgin
pair of wasted lungs and the wasted
air that nourishes a mother’s cries—o god what a world you’ve made"


[sigh]  Where is the kleenex when you need it?  How many boxes have I bought this past couple months?  

And then there were these 3 posts by the lovely Ann Voskamp (author of One Thousand Gifts).  If you have not read One Thousand Gifts, order it today and get started.  I am so, so serious.  It is the one book, besides the Bible, that I can actually say has been life-changing.  This past summer, as I have mentioned before, I struggled intensely with a very dark, scary, and debilitating season of anxiety.  I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, had so many panic attacks that it wouldn't even be worth trying to count, went to the doctor and through counseling, took lots of supplements, and struggled for months under the giant weight of unexplained almost constant panic.  One of the major helps in that difficult season was meditating on verses concerning trust in the Lord, fear, anxiousness, etc. in the Word.  The other was reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.  Since reading her book, I've been subscribed to her daily posts via email, and these 3 posts have touched me so deeply:

   highlight:  The scars can be beauty marks.” I tell this one little girl, a girl just beginning down her road. “The scars can carve you to be more like Christ.”
Beauty always bears scars because of Love.
highlights:  So we hang out the clothes as we try to hang on, and we stir the pot as all the pain spills, and we still sow though in tears, and let go of every seed, burying hopes and hurts in faith, and out of loss, new life will unfurl, our tears watering rows.
God is with us. And it’s His tender with-ness that binds up the wounds.
And Psalm 126:5-6
"Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him."

highlight (albeit the majority of the post...):  
"'You have recorded my troubles.
You have kept a list of my tears.
Aren’t they in your records?'
Today is recorded in the heavens and its pains are written with the wet of tears of God who “hurts with the hurt of my people.” (Jeremiah 8:21)
For our God does not primarily catalogue the endless stream of sins.
He is God, not a tabloid informant out for dirt, for the flame sensationalist ugly. I forget this.
And there are unspoken parts of me that think He makes no records at all but forgets me, the blind, deaf and dumb God.
But I touch the paper where He’s left the trail of His heart.
He is love, the tender Physician God who keeps tab of the every ache, a doting Father who soul-fissures when His child cries, the God who keeps the ledgers of every pain, every scrape, every brimming, falling, searing tear.
God does not slumber for He cannot cease to bear testimony to our hurt.
God keeps a list.
It’s the wildest Love that drives the Father to record His child’s every lament.
We never ache without God attending, and He can’t stand to see a tear fall to the floor. God cups our grief and puts our tears in His bottle” (Ps. 56:8)."
[sigh]  Found the tissues.  The ESV translation of Psalm 56:8 is:
 "You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?"
A lot of times, in my imperfect perception, I feel as though God just uses my pain for His glory and isn't concerned with the suffering it causes, the weeping, the inner angst, longing, turmoil.  A lot of times I think He is only concerned with getting the job done, like some eternal pragmatist.  But the truth, whether I feel it now or not, is that He is not only bearing witness to my pain, but He is even keeping record of my every tear, waiting for the day when He can wipe them all away.  Oh Jesus, come quickly.  

I stumbled across this blog post that I wrote this past August 28th, the day I turned 27.  The Lord was just pulling me out of the darkness of my anxiety issues, and I was looking ahead toward getting pregnant and walking away from the torment, the pit of fear that had been the past 4 months.  

I'm 27 today, and it's hard to believe how quickly 26 sped by me.  I'm pretty sure I only acknowledged I was 26 a handful of times before I turned 27!  This past year has been the most difficult yet, and I believe this may be the first birthday where not a single picture was taken to remember the day.  But I can tell you this:  God is good to me and so, so faithful through every trial.  I am so thankful for the life and many blessing He has given me, and I believe I can now honestly say that I am also thankful for the tough times/seasons my 27th year of life held.  God is transforming me, molding me, helping my clouded eyes to see and my blocked up ears to hear the things He has for me.  As painful as this process can be at times, isn't that the best birthday gift of all?  I belong to Christ, and I am being made more and more into his likeness.  What a gift.  I've struggled with dread and fear for the future a lot this year, wondering what suffering, what pain, what challenges it will hold for my family and I.  What does 27 hold for me?  But I've had to let go of this fear, cast it upon the Lord, and ask for His peace today Natural, unmedicated birth taught me a lot of things, and it continues to teach me things to this day.  One thing you absolutely must do during labor, especially during pushing, is to take it one contraction at a time.  You must live completely in the present moment and not allow your mind to add up the sum of your suffering though the labor.  If you allow yourself to feel the cumulative effect of the pain and suffering of the entire labor process, you will drive yourself to utter defeat.  Life is quite a bit like labor; there will be pain and suffering.  There will be burdens, tears, and darkness.  But we must live in this moment...nowtoday...not tomorrow, the next 5, 10, 50 years.  We can't allow ourselves to attempt to view the cumulative effect of suffering in our lives.  We cannot try to imagine what things we will have to endure.  Allowing our minds to linger there will drive us to defeat.  Someone pretty wise once said that "each day has enough trouble of its own," and we need not worry about what the future will bring.  What really and truly matters is that the Lord loves me, cares for me, and will be with me through any and every situation I come up against.  He has promised His children His peace and joy in the best of times and in the very worst of times.  The Lord is helping me to trade the worry and fear for truth and love; despair and defeat for joy and peace; discontentment and hopelessness for rejoicing and thankfulness.  As I turn 27 today, I honestly feel like my mind has undergone a renewal, and I am so very thankful.

I had no idea how intensely this new-found heart attitude would be tested, driven to its absolute limits and beyond.  I wonder at the bolded sentence I wrote back on that day; I didn't know what was ahead, but was the Lord preparing me?  How I wish things could have turned out differently for 27...welcoming a new, living, healthy baby into the family, adjusting life as a family of 4, sleepless nights and new milestones, first Thanksgiving and Christmas, matching pajama sets for brothers, sibling pictures, thousands and thousands of pictures of my new boy...  Clearly, I am meant to learn this lesson for good, to have it etched in the very core of my being...Trust God.  Let go of the fear, and Trust Him.  Give Him thanks in EVERYthing.  But couldn't I have learned it another way?  I suppose I must even trust Him that this, this suffering the loss of my baby, is the way...Not the reason, but the proper response.  I'm not there yet, but I am trying.

Levi's Story, Part 1

I began writing Levi's story at the beginning of this month, one month after we lost him.  I was only able to write up until my midwife couldn't find his heartbeat, and I find myself still unable to complete the story.  It is just too difficult to put into words the details of that day, and the next.  One day, Lord willing, I will finish writing his story, but until then, here is the story of Levi's short life:

"April 1, 2012

It has been one month since my little Levi’s precious body was born into this world, lifeless and emptied of his sweet soul.  One month.  One month.  One agonizingly painful and endlessly long month.  I’ve avoided writing much until now, mainly because it’s simply too difficult to mentally relive the darkest days of my life, but it’s time now to start recording the details, processing as I write.  The plan is to tell his story and then share what I’ve been learning as I journey this new and unfamiliar road of grieving such a loss as this; however, my mind is quite jumbled, and my thoughts are far from linear.  So forgive the rambling, circular thoughts, and rabbit trails that I know this will contain.

That second faint, pink line…the little, tiny line that would change our lives forever in a way we never expected was both heartwarming and almost terrifying.  I was pregnant a second time with new life, a baby.  A BABY!  I was overwhelmed with the reality that we were to have another newborn in 9 months, even though we had been expecting such news.  It was awe-inspiring to think that there was really a baby in there, and my mind reeled trying to imagine starting from the beginning again with a new little person.  Was I capable of the demands, the love, the energy he or she required?  “God, I choose to trust you.  I choose to trust you.”  I had repeated this many times in the dark months of the past summer as I struggled through some pretty major anxiety issues, and there I was, using a lesson I had so recently had etched into my soul.  I crawled into bed with Oliver and showed him that little pink line.  He put his hand on my belly, and we smiled together.  So much joy.

We shared the news with my sister first.  She was visiting at the time from Illinois.  I looked back on the calendar and saw that this sweet little baby was likely conceived on November 1st.  I thought what a nice date it was to begin life:  11-1-11.  So…perfect.  We waited until Thanksgiving day to share the news with the rest of our family.  I was 6 weeks at the time, but we saw no reason to delay.  After all, what could be a more fitting day to share the news?  We were so thankful, and even if something terrible were to happen, we wanted people to know and be there to support us.  We kept the news secret until we got Griffin dressed in the morning in his brand new “Big Brother” t-shirt.  This was how we shared with our friends as well.  It was so fun to just let everyone discover the shirt and watch their faces as they put the pieces together.   It was so…perfect.

I quickly was feeling very pregnant with more intense symptoms than I had experienced with Griffin.  Constant dizziness, nausea, and exhaustion were the most physically intense, but I began to struggle once again with anxiety and depression.  Honestly, those early weeks are very much a blur of laying on the couch, battling the common physical and less common emotional issues and yet trying to take care of Griffin.  We watched a LOT of TV, which I felt guilty for at the time.  Looking back, I’m just so thankful that TV existed so I could cope!  The worst of the guilt came with the depression symptoms I was having.  I was finding it difficult to function at all, had no motivation, and was having a hard time feeling engaged with the pregnancy, with my baby.  What a terrible feeling that was!  I even called my midwife to share the news but also to ask for advice concerning my disconnected feeling.  She said that it’s very normal to feel that with the second (or more) pregnancy, with the demands of the pregnancy plus needing to care for your other child/children.  Her advice was to spend a little time each day with my hand on my belly, intentionally talking to the baby, telling him about my day and telling him of our love for him.  I remember talking to him through tears, sharing my struggles with him, asking him to forgive me, and reminding him that I loved him so much, that he was so very wanted and anticipated.  Later, I would discover the possible reason for my depression:  My midwife had the lab check my vitamin D3 levels when my initial bloodwork was done for the pregnancy.  Sure enough, there was a deficiency that could itself have been the cause of the depression.  Once I began supplementing, I no longer had any problems with it!

The day after Thanksgiving, I had a little spotting, and it scared me to death.  I prayed and begged the Lord and researched and called my midwife.  And then I waited to see what would happen.  Nothing.  No cramping, no more blood, and after a week of taking it easy, I left those fears behind me.

I remember also battling back fear of going through labor again in those early weeks.  It seems so absurd now, seeing as how I would give just about anything to go through labor with Levi and birth him healthy into the world, but I had to work through being a bit traumatized from my labor with Griffin.  A lot of my fear stemmed out of the life phase we were in as well.  Around 9 or 10 weeks, we began thinking we may need to move up to Michigan, where I would have to choose between a home birth or the hospital.  I felt so uncomfortable with either choice, and I longed so badly to be able to birth at the birthing center with Lisa, my midwife, again.  It wasn’t only the birthing choices I felt uncomfortable with/unsettled about; I also just did not feel at peace with moving to Michigan at all.  I struggled with this for months.  We were a week and half from moving, boxes packed, moving truck rented, etc. when we lost Levi. 

I was around 8 weeks along when we put up our tree and 10-11 weeks at Christmas with the family.   That week leading up to Christmas was when I thought I felt him move for the first time.  It was so early, but I just knew it was him.  I remember my sister-in-law and I talking about this early movement, as she was also pregnant, 5 weeks further along than me.  We turned 11 and 16 weeks on the same day during that Christmas break, and I thought how perfect the timing was for us.  We so enjoyed having Griffin and his cousin, Henry, only 6 months apart, and now we would have babies only 1 month apart!  How….perfect.

At 10 weeks, I was so very bloated that I looked about 5 months pregnant.  Even though my baby bump was mainly bloating, I treasured having that glorious bump again.  It had been far too long!  There are so many things I love about pregnancy, but my baby bump is up there on my favorites list.  It is such a beautiful, miraculous thing to have a little life created and growing inside of you.  This week on my pregnancy update emails, I discovered my little one was the size of a kumquat.  Hah.  I thought that was such a funny comparison…Who eats kumquats, let alone even knows what one is?  The only reason I knew was because, in middle school, a friend and I decided we needed to go buy one of every fruit at the grocery store so we could try them all.  I guess we figured we were checking things off our life to-do list.  Who knows.  Anyway, I started calling the baby “little kumquat.”  This isn’t the nickname that would stick, however.  That would come a little later from his big brother.

Around the 12 week mark, I had my first prenatal appointment with my midwife.  We were so excited to hear our new baby’s heartbeat for the first time, but I was also struggling.  We hadn’t yet figured out the vitamin D3 issue, so depression was still hovering, and I was nervous.  I prayed that we would be able to hear a nice, strong heartbeat so I would be able to connect more, for the reality to sink in a bit more.   My midwife reminded us that it is totally normal not to find the heartbeat, especially right away, at this stage.  But God answered our prayers, and we heard the miraculous sound of our child’s heart beating away in my womb.  He was there, he was healthy, and my heart leapt.  This was real!  And it was just as amazing and wonderful as the first time we heard Griffin heart beating.  I couldn’t help but laugh with joy, which sounded like a monster on the fetal doppler .  It was all just too wonderful.

At 13 weeks, I took belly pictures to compare with those of my belly with Griffin.  I was definitely bigger this time around!  As we exited the first trimester, we breathed a sigh of relief…The riskiest time was behind us.  With only a 1% chance of losing a baby after the first trimester, we joyfully thought, “God is going to let us keep this baby!”  Around this time, I also began to shed all those debilitating first trimester symptoms and embrace the glorious second trimester honeymoon phase. 

As our baby grew, so did my belly and my appetite!  I could have eaten basically all day and night if I let myself.  It certainly didn’t help matters that I still had to eat very slowly to keep from making myself nauseous.  So, I never really got nice and full.  I suppose it’s better to eat continuously than to have several large meals a day, especially when your pregnant.  By 16 weeks, I was feeling our little one move every day, usually at night.  I heard his heartbeat again at my 16 week appointment.  I was nervous again going into the appointment for some reason, but there was no need.  His heart was good and strong, and I was relieved.  We began to pack our boxes for the move, but that isn’t what we were excited for.  I scheduled the ultrasound for the Monday a week and a half, almost 2 weeks before the move, and we could not wait to see our baby.  We especially couldn’t wait to see if we were having a boy or a girl!  When I took the 16 week belly pictures to compare with those of my belly with Griffin, I noticed that I seemed to be carrying higher.  That along with the fact that this pregnancy had been so different from Griffin’s made me really think I was having a girl.  I suppose I also thought that having a girl would really amp up my excitement factor, getting to experience all the different “girl things.”  Looking back on that season now, I am so utterly disappointed in myself.  Although I understand where I was coming from, I now realize how ridiculously shallow it was to be placing so much importance on the gender.  At the time, I was worried that if it were a boy, I would be disappointed.  Now, I cannot even imagine being disappointed at the gender of a healthy baby…Whatever gender God knitted together in my womb was and is just perfect, perfect for the baby, perfect for our family, perfect for me. 

We packed and packed.  I worried and was concerned about our decision to move.  Each box I packed, I thought, “This is really happening?”  It just didn’t feel right.  I asked so many people about it, and finally decided it must be my hesitancy to move during pregnancy and my emotionally not wanting to move.  It seemed like the most practical and financially wise decision for our family, but I just couldn’t shake the lack of peace.  I told Oliver over and over, “I just wish we had more time here.  I feel like I need more time here, to deliver our baby here especially.” 

My belly grew and grew, and I started sleeping with my trusty pregnancy pillow to support my belly.  I treasured feeling my baby move within me.  He seemed so mellow compared to his brother.  Around 18 weeks, I felt him move from the outside for the first time.  I was waiting for an active time to get Oliver to feel him too.  That time never came, and I regret that so very much for Oliver.  I was looking forward to the baby getting bigger and feeling him move more regularly.  As I got to know my little one, I began to think that he was more of a mellow, laid-back person like his Papa.  Griffin had turned out so much like me personality-wise, and I loved the idea of having baby number two be like Oliver.  However, I always pictured this baby with brown hair, brown eyes, and olive skin like me.  I guess we pictured him to be the opposite of his brother, not because we don’t absolutely adore Griffin just the way he is, but because we were getting to know our new baby as his very own unique individual. 

 We had been telling Griffin about the “baby in Mama’s belly” for quite some time, and I began to ask him questions about the baby.  I would ask, “Is the baby in Mama’s belly a boy or a girl?”  And I would get lots of interesting answers:  “baby shark,” “baby cow,” and “baby bird” are some favorites, but the one that stuck was “baby bear.”  Griffin regularly would refer to the baby as “baby bear,” and he got this from the Eric Carle book, which I had recently found at a thrift store.   Oliver was reading this to him every night, and Griffin would fill in the names of all the animals.  So, it wasn’t long before the nickname “little kumquat” got left by the wayside and was replaced with the infinitely more fitting “baby bear.”

The Saturday before the long-awaited ultrasound, I went to my dear friend Rachel’s baby shower.  She was a trimester ahead of me, and it was so wonderful to celebrate their baby’s girl’s life and impending birth.  I rubbed my belly and looked forward to celebrating our little baby at my shower the following weekend.  My friends had put together an early shower for me on March 3rd so we could celebrate before the big move the following weekend.  How different March 3rd would end up being than we could have ever imagined.  I put off taking my 20 week belly pictures until I actually turned 20 weeks.  That day would never come.

The night before the big ultrasound, I was so restless.  I couldn’t even stand another minute before seeing our baby!  Monday morning, Oliver’s mom, my friend Rachel, and Griffin came with Oliver and I to the appointment at 10am.  I had such a gigantically full bladder that I was about to burst!!  But I wanted our baby to be pushed up high enough to get all the diagnostic pictures taken.  I asked if we could start the ultrasound with letting me guess the gender.  I thought it would be a fun way to find out.  Well, our precious little one was very squirmy at the beginning, and it appeared that there were no boy parts sticking out.  The ultrasound tech said that if she had to guess right then, she would say the baby was a girl.  She went on to take a look at all the precious little parts.  At first, we saw a profile shot of our baby with his hand up by his face, which looked like he was sucking his thumb, but he wiggled around before we could determine that for sure.  She looked at his brain, heart, kidneys, diaphram, limbs, fingers and toes, and everything looked just perfect.  Just perfect.  In the middle of it all, she went back to take a second look at the gender, and to our great surprise, there were suddenly boy parts!!  We cried tears of joy, and Oliver ran out to the little room next to ours where Griffin was watching TV with Rachel to tell him that he was going to have a little BROTHER!  The ultrasound showed me the how to tell the difference between the umbilical cord and the boy parts using the blood flow view.  If only I had known how precious the sight of that blood flow on the monitor would be.  I fell in love that day with that precious boy, my second son, our mellow little man.  The ultrasound tech printed us a few pictures of our beautiful, healthy, living baby boy, and we began a day of celebrating our new SON!  Rachel took me out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant in town called Monterey’s, and later that night Oliver, Griffin and I went out for dinner at Wild Wing CafĂ© and to Target to pick out a new outfit especially for our sweet little baby boy.

I now must delve into the most shameful part of my story.  I don’t even want to write about it because I’m so ashamed of myself, but I think it may be important to just process it.  I wish that I could say that I was happily satisfied with a healthy boy.  I was very thankful for a healthy baby, and I was even thankful that Griffin would have a close brother, a playmate and friend for life.  That brought be great joy.  But for whatever reason, I had thought I was having a girl.  So, I had to sort of be sad for the loss of that dream, at least for this baby.  I worried that I would never have a girl, and even shed a couple tears in the baby clothes section of Target, passing over all the heart-melting sundresses.  This disappointment only discolored a day’s time, but in light of what happened next, I am simply disgusted with having wasted even a moment with my son upset that he was a he and not a she.

The next day, I felt a couple especially strong kicks from my growing son.  I remember thinking about how much I was looking forward to more kicks and rolls and elbows, but I also had a momentary, fleeting wave of fear.  I wondered, “I hope that the ultrasound didn’t cause any harm to him.”  But, as I had put into practice so many times over the past year, I said “no” to the fear, pushed past it, and thought positive thoughts.  As I write this, I don’t believe the ultrasound had anything to do with what happened to Levi, but it makes me wonder when I look back on that chilling thought that day...on the eve of the darkest season of my life.

I had scheduled the ultrasound on Monday morning and my regular prenatal on that following Wednesday morning.  (My midwife doesn’t do ultrasounds in her office, so I went to the independent ultrasound place that she referred me to.)  Oliver had to work and wasn’t able to come with Griffin and I to my prenatal visit, and I knew it was going to be crazy because Griffin was so hyper.  My midwife and I chatted for a while, and I remember asking her if it was okay if I wasn’t feeling constant movement.  She assured me that it was, and that many women don’t feel regular movement until 23 weeks or more.  It was completely normal that I was only feeling him move a little each day at almost 20 weeks.   After going over all the routine stuff amidst Griffin being extremely rambunctious and disobedient, it was time for me to hop on the table to measure and listen to his heartbeat.  After a couple prenatal visits where I was nervous waiting to hear the heartbeat, this was the first time I was just plain excited to hear my healthy boy’s heart.  There was no worry, no concern it wouldn’t be there for the first time that pregnancy.  I had just seen him two days before, healthy, just the right size, and perfectly formed, so there was no doubt, no fear.  She measured; I was measuring 21.5 weeks, and I chuckled and said that I was used to measuring weeks ahead of my baby’s actual age.  There were times with Griffin where I was measuring a whole month ahead of my due date!  She got out the fetal doppler, placed it on my belly, and began scanning for a heartbeat.  And scanning.  And scanning.  And scanning.  I was distracted by Griffin flipping out over me being on the table, and I was reassuring him everything was alright while trying to keep him from messing with the light used for pap smears and vaginal exams.  And scanning.  And scanning.  And, “Is there something wrong, Lisa?  Is this normal?”  Adrenaline surged.  I felt it, coursing, my face flushing and tingling, my heart lurching, racing, pounding.  If only my heart could quiet down so I could hear his.  “I think I might be hearing an echo every now and then.  Sometimes, they wiggle way down, and it can be hard to get a clear sound.”  “Wait!  That must be him…It’s fast like his.”  “No, honey.  That’s you.  Let me have Alex come in and try with her doppler.”  I began to feel very faint, and got up to move around a bit."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Creative Outlet

I would be 27 weeks today, finishing up the last week of my second trimester and looking a lot like this:
Me at 27 weeks with Griffin
 And this:
28 weeks with Griffin
But instead, I'm empty and frustrated and missing my baby.  This just plain stinks.  I was just arriving at the super fun part of pregnancy...feeling movement all the time, showing more, feeling better, enjoying all the perks of looking pregnant.  And just as I felt sure that everything was going to be okay, it wasn't.  

There are some pretty terrible "extras" that come along with losing a baby in the womb or shortly thereafter.  First off, I still had my baby in my womb when he died, and I had to figure out the best way to birth him.  So, that likely translates into the majority of two days in the hospital at the very least.  IVs, drugs, tests, waiting, waiting, waiting, questions, hospital gowns, waiting, waiting, waiting.  Then, there is the physical recovery from delivering your baby whom you will never know on this earth, the physical recovery from pregnancy, the crazy hormonal changes, postpartum craziness, and everything.  And do all this whilst you grieve the loss of your precious child please.  Oh, and plan a memorial and figure out a burial "situation" on top of all that.  Down the road a bit, there is the aching and yearning, not only for the baby I lost, but for another...not to replace Levi, but to grow our family as we so desire to give Griffin a sibling close in age like I never had, to fill our home with more laughter, more cries, more memories, more family.  So, there's the intense longing for a baby....a baby.  Then you must face all the questions and fears...When should we start trying to conceive?  What happens if I lose the next baby too?  And the frustration...I just did the first half of pregnancy...I was planning to have my squishy, squirmy little newborn son in my arms in 3 short months.  3 months, not 12...or more...  And on top of all that, I suppose I better find the motivation and fortitude to lose the baby weight before getting pregnant again.  I hate to be so negative, but this is the reality...all the ridiculous extras that are piled on top of the typical grief of losing a loved one.

Enough ranting.  For the past month, I've really needed an outlet for all the pent up expectant, nesting energy I still have as Levi's mama.  So, without my Levi, I've turned to projects, projects, projects.  I don't remember the order I did most of these in, so in no particular order whatsover: 

We used to only use the left side of this cabinet as a pantry.  The right side we used as a "coat closet."  (We have a serious shortage of closet space in our trailer.)  Well, I decided the spaghetti sauce, canned goods, and peanut butter had fallen out onto my toes enough.  So, I moved the coats into a more appropriate space (the actual closet in our office/storage/craft/guest room), and added some shelves to the pantry.  And [sigh], isn't this so fantastic?  Look at all the S    P    A    C    E   !

We received some precious keepsakes from the hospital and from friends and family for Levi, and I had them sitting on a shelf in our living room for a while.  However, I wanted to find a "home" for his things.  He'll never have a nursery, a "big boy room", or his own shelf of toys, and I thought it would be nice to have a little Levi spot in the house.  So, I built a shadowbox for his things.  First, I bought a large, white frame on sale at Michael's.  Then, I got primed wood from Home Depot cut to make a box slightly smaller than the size of the frame.  After a couple coats of paint, I drilled holes for the shelf brackets and installed the shelf.

As for the frame, I took the backing off and folded the metal tabs meant to hold the picture and backing in place down to hold the glass in place.  (This took a bit of figuring out, because the tabs were up to high to hold the glass.  I just took a screwdriver and pressed down on the tab until it folded into an "L" shape against the glass...if that makes any sense.)  Then I attached the frame to the box using two little hinges:

After that, I installed a little magnet closure on the frame and box to keep the frame closed:

Then, all that was left was to hang it on the wall and fill it with all his precious things:

I think it turned out pretty well! 

I decided pretty early on to knit a blanket in memory of Levi.  I would likely be knitting or quilting a blanket for him by now, getting ready to wrap him up in it.  Although that will never be, I decided to do it anyway, in the hopes that God will give us another sweet baby in the not-so-distant future to put it to use.  I am a few rows from being finished with it now, and I just can't seem to actually complete it.  For some reason, all these little projects wind up making me feel the finality of losing my boy.  Each completed project, although it feels good in some ways, makes me feel one step farther from life with him in it.  I know I'm rambling here, but that's part of why I can't seem to go to bed at night until 2am...or later.  Each day coming to a close is one day further from him.  I suppose I could look at it as one day nearer to him, seeing as how he's in heaven.  But I must face the rest of my lifetime on earth without him.  Someday, I'll be saying, "It's been 20 years since I lost him."  And for some reason, that makes me so terribly sad.  I don't want 20 years without him....I want to live all the rest of my days and years with him.  Oh boy, I'm clearly in a rambling kind of mood.  Sorry.  If you read this entire post, you are quite kind.  So, the blanket....
I decided on an old pattern for the blanket called "Feather and Fan."  In case you're interested, here is the pattern written out:

Cast on a multiple of 18 st.
Row 1:  (RS) Knit
Row 2:  Purl
Row 3:  *(K2tog)3X, (YO, K1)6X, (K2tog)3X*, repeat from *
Row 4:  Knit

Isn't it pretty?  And so easy.  Really, I promise.  It looks much more complex than it is.

This pattern looks a lot more intricate and lacey with smaller weight yarn, but I wanted soft and fluffy and went with this yarn:

It is delightful.  But here is what the pattern looks like on a smaller scale using cotton yarn:

I have been so perplexed with my incredibly long, boring, very yellow hallway since we moved in almost 6 years ago.  What do you do with a gigantic wall in a hallway?  I tried putting up a collage of pictures, but even that was dwarfed by the length of the hall.  It would cost a small fortune to buy the size and number of frames and prints I would need to buy in order to make a photo collage look right and fill up the space adequately.  ANYway, I saw this idea for a giant clothespin art holder on Pinterest and thought I would give it a whirl.  I found these giant clothespins (already painted...bonus!) at Michaels for $1 a piece:

I then bought an extremely long, already primed board (or is it considered "trim" in this size?  I am clueless.)  at Home Depot.  Thank goodness the thing fit in the van!  Once I painted the board and got the spacing of the clothespins all figured out, I turned everything over and screwed the clothespins to the board through the back:

All that was left to do was to screw the entire contraption onto the wall, hang up Griffin's artwork, and enjoy!

As I've written about before, we were a week and a half from moving to Michigan when Levi died.  So, a lot of our belongings were in boxes and most of our house was in total and complete upheaval.  Since then, I've been trying to get all the boxes unpacked (we knew we needed to stay here while we grieve with and in our community) and get our house in some kind of functional order again.  While I have needed and enjoyed lots of unnecessary, superfluous projects like decorating and crafting, I cannot begin to tell you how unmotivated I am when it comes to doing necessary and important tasks.  Like feeding myself.  Or showering.  Or unpacking kitchen boxes so we have glasses to drink out of and pots to cook in...  Which leads me to cooking...ugh.  I think I've cooked 5 decent/acceptable meals since Levi died 7 weeks ago.  Bills?  What are those?  Anyway, I was pretty proud of myself for finally getting the vast majority of the boxes unpacked.  Most people move boxes into a fresh, empty space.  But when you need to unpack boxes into a lived-in disaster zone, it's another matter altogether.  First, the space that you are putting things into must be undisasterized.  [I just made that word up, in case you didn't catch it :)]  So, it's got to be cleaned (at least somewhat) and organized a bit so everything fits and whatnot.  Well, this is a lot like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube and then trying to shove it back in...It just doesn't all fit anymore.  So, I've had to be creative, get rid of stuff, and reorganize things to make it all work.  Here is an example...I don't like having cleaning products where Griffin can reach them, and they were all stacked crazily atop the dryer and in random spots throughout the house.  I found this idea on....[drumroll please].....Pinterest  (and it is so brilliant)  of using an over-the-door shoe holder for your cleaning supplies.  I'm loving it. so. much.

Other non-essential household improvement projects include painting our coffee table light, light blue.  I would have picked a different color, but I wanted it to be as close to free as possible, which meant using paint we already had in the shed.  What a ginormous task painting this table turned out to be.  Just know that if you ever paint a heavily used table, avoid white because there is simply no good way to seal the top of it really well without turning it yellow.  I tried the Polycrylic and spray acrylic that specifically advertise that they won't yellow things.  Some tips I learned the hard way through this project:
-Use a good primer.
-Sand surfaces you want very smooth with fine sandpaper between coats of paint to make it as smooth as possible.
-Wse a foam roller and foam "brushes" for a smooth finish.  (bristle brushes always leave streaks, no matter what techniques you use, and regular rollers add far too much least for a table like this)
-Use clear finishing wax on white or close to white pieces to seal to avoid yellowing and stay away  from from anything with "poly" in the name. (although this isn't ideal or very durable for surfaces like a heavily used table)
-If you are painting a table, let the paint dry for several days or even a week before applying the several coats of sealant. (I was impatient with this and am now finding that the surface of the paint is easily dented....meaning it still hasn't cured.  I'm hoping that it will harden completely over time; but since there is already a sealant on there, I'm nervous it might not...ugh)

I also decided that the curtains in our living room were too dark and depressing.  So, I made white ones out of a $9.00 sheet set from Walmart.  The fabric is ridiculously cheap and definitely not suited for sleeping on...but it's just lovely for plain, white curtains.  I also finished the bolster pillow on the trunk in the photo below.  It's very lumpy, and since I'm not sure what to do about that...I just don't really care.  Also in the below photo is a poster I designed of the lyrics to the song, "Be Still, My Soul," which we sang at Levi's memorial service.  It's also on the bookmarks we passed out at the memorial service, and it's so very meaningful to us.

Here is the design, since the glare is so bad in the pictures.  Notice my little baby boy's footprints down in the lower right:

Our good friend (and fabulous musician), Howard, led worship at Levi's memorial and did such a great job.  I put together a playlist on my iTunes in memory of Levi, but I just could not find a decent version of "Be Still, My Soul" least nothing that compared to Howard's version that he sang at the memorial.  So, I asked if he would record it for me, and I am so glad I did.  It will forever be precious to me, and I listen to it all. the. time.  I encourage you to take a few minutes, listen to this beautiful song, and mediate on the deeply meaningful lyrics:  Click here to listen to Howard's version of "Be Still, My Soul" [get some tissues ready too...I know I do]

I saw another idea on Pinterest that I had wanted to do once Levi was born of family handprints all in different colored paper, stacked on top of one another according to size.  I had no idea how terribly soon I would have Levi's handprint.  Oh, little one, you had so much growing left to do...  Now, no matter how many children we have, Levi's little handprint will always be the smallest (please, Lord, please).  My surgeon was able to give us Levi's hand and foot prints after he was delivered, and so I used tracing paper to trace his little fingers and toes.  I decided to to both our hands and feet in different frames.  Here is how they turned out:

Sometime a couple weeks ago, I became frustrated that I did not know how to crochet.  I'm not sure why that suddenly became an important skill to me...I mean, how many dishcloths, scarves, and blankets does a person/family really need?  But, I'm not the kind of person who backs down from a challenge.  Apparently, challenges like organizing our finances and figuring out what on earth is going on with my student loans take a back seat to things like suddenly needing to learn how to crochet.  I seemingly cannot live for much longer without a blanket like this (not a blanket I have made...just a picture I saw a while back):

So, I promptly began an 23 lesson, online "crochet school," complete with instructional videos.  It is fantastic.  If you even slightly interested (and even if you're really not), you should check it out here.  I loved every second of it, minus the initial complete befuddlement at to hold/work everything at first.  After completing most of the course, I made a couple of simple, easy, quick dishcloths, which are fairly ugly but allowed me to practice a lot of different skills:

But then, it was time to tackle what I really learned to crochet for:  a granny square blanket.  But, I'm not interested in your traditional granny square.  No, I have to make things a zillion times more difficult for myself.  Instead, I wanted to use a rounder looking pattern on the inside like this:

So, I tracked this pattern down, and it is called "Sunburst Granny Square" by Priscilla Hewitt.  The pattern can be found here, in case you're interested in suddenly teaching yourself how to crochet in order to make a blanket, of all things.  ANYway, I have made 18 squares so far according to her pattern and using the needle size she specifies, but I have also started a second blanket in the same pattern but using a much larger sized needle for a bigger square and a softer blanket.  So, now I apparently think I need two granny square blankets.  My rationale is that I will want one as a throw for adults in the living room or something and one for my future babies.  Yes, plural.  Please, Lord.  So here are what my squares are shaping up to look like.  Here is my very first one:

Isn't she lovely?

See how the second row puffs up a bit?  I love that.  It's called the "puff stitch", and she explains how to do it in the pattern.  It's part of what gives this pattern so much more dimension than the granny square you typically see.

I plan to do an update soon as these pictures are already way behind where I'm at with the blanket.  I can't really explain why it's fun or what I'm getting out of it.  I suppose I'm sort of using it as an escape, sort of using it to vent my feelings, sort of using it to busy myself, sort of using it to redirect my energies to something more productive than wallowing.  But, you know, sometimes it's impossible not to be absorbed with it all day, no matter how much you pray, no matter how much you want to be okay, no matter how thankful you are for what you have or how much you rationalize things.  Today has been one of those days.  I want to warn you, I can sense that I am about to go on a very long ramble of venting.  If you don't care to hear negativity or wrong-thinking, please stop here.  My heart is very heavy, and I've cried on and off all day.  Sometimes, when I think about how life is for others, I get extremely jealous, even covetous to be honest, of how light their hearts are, how nonchalantly, easily they get to go through their pregnancies, how so many hearts have not tasted the bitterness of losing a baby, how so many's greatest concerns are things like where they're going to go out with their friends that night or what color carpet to install.  I know everyone has issues, problems, burdens, and I don't mean to demean them at all.  It's just that when you are suffering, it seems as if the vast majority of the people you know are not.  It seems that way...I'm not saying it's true.  And it feels so unfair to be the one singled out in this way.  I would never wish anything like this on anyone I know, but why does it seem like only we are struggling like this?  It feels so...lonely.  And even though I know intellectually this isn't true, I'm just venting what it feels like.  This past year has been so terribly bitter that I hardly know what to expect for our future.  On top of a crippling anxiety disorder struggle, a very difficult terrible twos season for the past 8 months, Oliver going from job to job to terrible job, and losing our baby halfway through my pregnancy, we have to be continuously, never-endingly drowing financially.  Drowning.  Constantly.  I blush to even think about the late notices and overdue bills.  It's been almost 10 years of this, and it is just getting plain old.  The burdens are so heavy and so plentiful right now that I feel myself growing despondent in the midst of it all.  Oliver has his 3rd interview for a decent job tomorrow morning, and we are praying he will get it.  Neither of us wanted to get our hopes up, but alas, somehow we still have the ability to Christ alone.  But we are so, so afraid of what will happen to our hearts if he doesn't get the job.  If God says, "No.  Suffer more." once again.  

I debated whether or not to share this because it is so deep and so...unflattering, but I think it's more important to be honest and expose these thoughts to the light rather than keep these thoughts hidden in the darkness where they are most fed, most comfortable, and most damaging.  So, here it is...and here come the tears...[sigh] I feel like a dog who has done something naughty, say peed on the carpet, and the owner comes over and yells, "Bad dog!  Bad dog!"  And to drive the point home, the owner takes the dogs nose and rubs it in the puddle of wet carpet.  Then the dog looks up at the owner, knowing she's done something terribly wrong but is not sure what.  Cowering, looking to the owner with a confused mix of fear of what he's going to do next, the dog out of instinct yet trusts the owner, yet loves him.  Okay, so I realize that sounds a lot more messed up than I intended, but there it is.  I know theologically and biblically it's a very wrong perspective on myself and on God.  I'm not saying that I believe God is a heartless, cruel, abusive despot.  I'm just saying that that is the image that keeps popping up with what has happened.  A lot of times I feel like I'm being punished or at least being forcibly sanctified, refined with fire.  And a lot of times, it feels like I'm having my nose rubbed in the harsh reality that my baby is dead with seemingly everyone being pregnant or having newborns and everything just going swimmingly well.  And I'm supposed to keep a good attitude about it as a follower of Christ and to honor God.  I'm not supposed to covet.  But I am so fallen, so twisted, so sinful, and I just cannot always maintain a proper perspective.  And when I am weak and sliding around in slippery, misleading emotions, that image of the dog and the owner pops up.  It is so embarrassing that something so ugly is burrowed so deep in my heart, but I needed to share it so it would be exposed, confessed.  Clearly, the abusive dog owner would not lay down his own life for the sake of his dog.  And clearly I am not as innocent as that dog.  

If anyone has, by some miracle, read to the end of this excruciatingly long post, I thank you.  Thank you for letting me share some of my ugliness with you.  I'm sorry this post was such a roller coaster, from lighthearted to dark and serious in a sentence or two.  I suppose that gives a pretty good picture at what a person's heart does throughout the day in grief.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Our Boy in PJs

How precious is our Griffin?  We are so, so thankful for him.  I realized it has been about 14 months since I last took Griffin's picture in the blue chair that we took his monthly picture in for the first year.  He's grown to be such a handsome, smart, big boy.  Here is a little clip of his cuteness tonight:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

For the Support System of Parents Who Have Lost Their Baby

I've had so many loved ones express their heartfelt concern in not knowing what we have needed in this time of grieving the loss of Levi.  I'm sure it is very difficult to discern what grieving parents need from their support system.  Life brings with it the very sure reality of death, and so I thought I would share, for all those who find themselves in the support system of grieving parents, some things that do and don't help, things that are and aren't needed.  Of course, these are my suggestions in my own situation and with my own preferences.  It is always best to just ask the grieving person if something would/would not be helpful/needed if you are unsure.  And for those who have been forced to drink this bitter cup, I would like to share things that have been helpful for us in a future post.

For the support system:


-Your prayers mean so very much, and knowing that you are praying is a great support.  I don't pretend to know how it all works, but I do know that God uses your prayers to tangibly aid those who are suffering. Your prayers are effectual, and God uses them to provide His comfort, peace, and a host of other basically miraculous things in the midst of a crisis.  Keep praying.  Keep praying past the point where the initial shock has worn off for you, because the parents are only just beginning their intense struggle towards healing.

-Ask about the baby.  Use his/her name.  We want so badly to talk about him.  All. the. time.  And right away in any conversation.  He is always at the forefront our minds, just like any parent who has just had a baby.  Ours is just no longer with us, sharing the same air.  If a conversation goes very long without any mention of the baby, we tend to feel like it he isn't a welcome topic.  We know it is difficult and less-than-desirable to talk about someone's dead baby...It's not comfortable, and I'm sure it's hard to know what to say.  So, we tend to retract from bringing him up ourselves because we don't want to make people uncomfortable or sad.  So, take the lead, and bring him/her up.  Tell them when something reminds you of their baby.  Tell them about how their baby affected you.  There are no memories of the baby to share with people, so the only thing we have to share is the sad reality of the loss, the footprints of his tiny, lifeless feet, the journey with the Lord since the loss, and the impact that their life and death has had on the world.

-Initially, meals are such a major practical help.  There are days at the beginning where you don't remember or bother to shower, brush your teeth, or do even the most minimal, normal daily task.  Meal planning, preparation, and making shopping lists are way out of the picture.  But, alas, you still need to eat, even if you have no appetite.  Even 6 weeks after losing our little one, it is difficult for me to think ahead (or to think clearly enough) to grocery shop and make meals.  I just went on the first grocery shopping trip since losing Levi a couple weeks ago (one month after he died).

-Pursue relationship with the parents.  I know it must be really hard to choose to enter the darkness and pain surrounding the parents who have lost their baby, and it is a great blessing for people to choose to do so.  In grief, it is difficult to reach out to others.  It's far more natural to become a regular ol' hermit, not make phone calls or pursue getting together with people, but that's not because company is not wanted in the valley.  At least for me, I needed and need friends and family to pursue me through phone calls, texts, asking to come over, etc.  It's so necessary and important to talk through all your feelings, everything that happened, what God's doing, etc. with people over and over again and continually for a good long time after the initial tragedy occurs.  We noticed the very natural and understandable drop-off in most peoples' communications with us after the first week/week and a half after we lost Levi, and it was a difficult transition.  After a week or so went by without visitors or calls, I found myself pouring out what happened to Levi to a neighbor I had never talked with two doors down and then again to our mailman.  Yes, our mailman.  Embarrassing.  I'm pretty sure he's going to avoid me for the rest of time.  When it seems like things are getting back to normal, press on and continue to pursue, pursue, pursue, because I can promise that things are still far from normal for them.  When the initial horror and sadness have passed, and it seems like the parents are doing much "better," press on.  They are still in the trenches.

-Mementos, meaningful gifts, and gifts that memorialize the baby are so very sweet and precious to parents.  We received a keepsake box from the hospital with handmade gowns, blankets, his matching hospital bracelet, and a tiny hat, all just Levi's size.  It is so very dear to us.  Sweet friends gave us little treasures, a Build-a-Bear a couple had made for us and named "Levi Bear" so that "our arms would not feel so terribly empty" [ sweet and thoughtful was that?!], a Willow Tree figurine of an angel holding a little brunette boy in her arms, a crocheted hat to match his big brother's... These are all things we will treasure forever.  So, when you see something or think of something that would honor the baby, be meaningful to the parents, or reminds you of their child, grab it up!  So maybe this is just me, but do you remember being asked what you would take with you if your house was on fire?  Why do I remember this?  Was it some morbid childhood game?  Anyway...  I used to think I would take my pictures (since that was in the caveman days before digital cameras).  Today, it would be my Griffin and the keepsakes for Levi...his footprints, the keepsake box, the teddy bear....

-Share with them how their loss has impacted you.  By default, being part of their support system and being their loved one, you've suffered a loss too.  What is God doing in your life through this?  What impact have those little feet had on your heart, in your world?  This means so very much to us.  When you lose a baby, you so badly want to see God use their life and their death for good, to bring about something beautiful.  You long to see, taste, touch the fruit that has grown from the seed in the cold, hard ground.  I want to see and understand what has come from Levi's life and death, if only just a small fraction of it.  I want to know more and more ways that he mattered, and not just to me.

*(added after a suggestion by a mother who lost a baby many years ago and has walked this road much longer than I have:)  Remember the baby's death and birth days/"anniversaries" and due date for those who have lost babies in pregnancy.  Not only will February 29th (Levi's day of death) and March 1st (Levi's day of birth) be difficult days each year, but the 29th and the 1st of every month in this first year are very large hurdles as well.  The Lord was gracious and made Levi's day of death Leap Day, and so we will not have a "death anniversary" to get through each year...just once every 4 years.  Levi's due date was July 20th, which I'm anticipating will be a rough, rough day, trying to just remember to breathe through a day that commemorates all the dashed dreams, all the crushed anticipation and excitement, all the hopes for my life with my Levi baby.  For those who lost a baby during pregnancy, ask them what their "flip day" was.  (Their flip day is the day of the week when they went to the next week in pregnancy, when they turned from 20 to 21 weeks for example.  Almost every pregnant woman will be able to tell you their flip day, and it can be an especially hard day of the week for those whose pregnancies came to a sudden and bitter end.)  Thursday is my flip day with Levi; every Thursday, I think about how many weeks I would be and how many weeks would be left until he was due.  I think about how big my belly would be and what size fruit Levi would compare to.  I think about what things I would be experiencing, and I look back at belly pictures of my pregnancy with Griffin to imagine what I might look like.  So, all that to say that it is very touching when people remember these different "anniversaries" and text/Facebook message/call/(and even better...)visit to help you get through those days.  Upon the year anniversary of the baby's death and birthday, I can envision it being extremely important for loved ones to make an extra effort to memorialize the baby and support the parents.  Try to be with them, send a card or a thoughtful gift in memory of the baby, or something.  As Levi's parents, we want so badly for him to be remembered, not to be forgotten just because he wasn't able to spend time much time alive with us.  He matters just as much to us and to the Lord as the little old lady who lives to 110.  So, it is very appropriate to remember his birthday just as you would Griffin's.  Those who have lost a baby count that baby as one of their children, which is why it becomes difficult to answer the question, "How many children do you have?"  And the special days that commemorate the baby that didn't make it are just as important to the parents as the special days that celebrate their living children.  I haven't walked that part of the journey yet, so I can't speak from experience here, but I am more speaking out of what I can envision being helpful.


-Don't avoid them or the topic of the baby, the loss.  This is basically covered in the paragraph at the top.

-Don't take it personally if you feel like your conversations are one-sided.  Grief is a very self-centered thing, and the griever is likely keenly, painfully aware of this.  It will get better, and the griever will slowly begin to think of/ask about your life again.  Just give it time, and try to be patient and understanding.  I know this must be hard.  Know that the grieving parent is probably aware, sad, and frustrated that they can't seem to think of/talk about anything else but the baby, the loss, for very long.  I know I very often feel like a self-centered friend in this season, and I feel so guilty for that a lot.

-Also, don't take it personally or be offended if the parent isn't able to share in your joy to the extent that you rightly desire as a loved one.  This is related to the above issue.  It is very, very hard to feel the proper positive emotions for others when you are in such a dark place yourself.  Try, try as the griever might, their emotions aren't stabilized or responding normally for some time.  I've had very dear friends have beautiful babies in the month after we lost Levi, and although we are thankful for God's blessing to them and we rejoice in the precious gifts they are, our joys are very muted and we struggle to express the correct emotions at the correct time, if that makes sense.  Know that the grieving parents want so badly to rejoice fully, completely with you, but they are being bridled by deep sadness and their own, unwillingly self-centered grief.

-Don't try to "fix it".  As they are your loved one, it is natural and comes out of good intentions to want to see the grieving parents healed, whole, and happy.  But, you must, although it is difficult, allow them to go through their process with the Lord in grieving and healing.  Yes, their baby is with the Lord, the very best place to be.  Yes, the baby will never know a tear or day of suffering.  Yes, the grieving parents still have so much to be thankful for...salvation, each other, family, food, shelter, etc. etc.  But the reality is that they have a gaping wound that needs time to heal.  Having many other unscathed body parts doesn't change the fact that the giant, bleeding wound is throbbing and sore.  Yes, they are still thankful for the gifts in their life, the grace they have been given, but the loss is big, ugly, and painful.  C.S. Lewis says that when mothers lose babies, they are given the spiritual mercy of knowing their baby is with the Lord in perfect peace, and yet their role as a mother of that child must be sacrificed.  It's my natural, God-given role of motherhood to Levi that must never be satisfied.  So, while I understand that my baby is in the best place possible, I ache with the separation, the harsh division of our lives, the ugliness and wickedness of death.  This is not a season of celebration.  I recently read an article from, I believe, "Christianity Today" about the very recent trend away from funerals being a time of mourning and towards funerals being a time to celebrate the fact that the deceased is in heaven.  Please hear me when I say that I do understand this, and I'm not saying it's wrong.  I am saying, though, that death is a consequence of sin, and it is an ugly result of the fall.  It is very appropriate to grieve and mourn the death of a loved one, and you do not need to feel forced to celebrate at that time.  Of course, we intellectually take comfort in the fact that Levi is with the Lord, but we do not celebrate him being taken from my expectant body by death.  Jesus showed us his approach to the death of a loved one with his friend Lazarus.  So, try not to press too heavily on the grieving parents' to celebrate their child's arrival in heaven.  Let them weep as Jesus wept.  Let them be "deeply moved" as Jesus was "deeply moved."