Thursday, March 16, 2017

#79. Thy Will Be Done is Powerful.

     11 Years.  It seems like yesterday, yet it seems like a lifetime ago.  This year is especially rattling for me, as it happened on the exact same day of the week.  I find myself reliving everything.  I remember every single detail about the week leading up to it...what we ate, what we wore, what we watched on TV, who visited the house, etc.  I had taken some time off of work because I knew the end was in sight.  I stayed at my parent's house desperately praying that a miracle would come.  I remember trying to act so positive, so upbeat as I watched her grow more and more weak.  I remember trying to hold it together for my dad, my grandma, and my brothers.  I remember absolutely crumbling after my mom cried to me that she was so sad to be leaving us- she was never angry, just sad.  I remember trying to console my granny- my mom's mom- as she watched her daughter prepare for the inevitable.  I remember the sunny Monday when hospice said it was time for her to go to the hospital for good.  I remember her telling her beloved puppy goodbye. I remember the doctors saying she would be gone by Monday night...then Tuesday night... then Wednesday night...I remember not leaving that hospital until I left without her - with my dad, in the wee hours of Thursday morning.  I remember what I wore.  I remember the little bits I ate while staying at the hospital.  I remember wiping her face with a cool rag when she became restless.  I remember who visited.  I remember making funeral arrangements in the middle of that very night instead of going to bed.  I remember it all.  Everything.


      In the 11 years since her death, I have constantly tried to learn from it, from her.  The book that she left me is my most treasured possession and a constant source of strength and life lessons. Number 79 in the book is strong- when I think back,  I kept praying that "thy will be done" and for "thy will" to be for her to get miraculously better.  I was so angry when she didn't.  I couldn't understand why my prayers weren't answered.  I had a hard time coming to terms with how God could take away my 50 year old beautiful, usually healthy mother from me.  She didn't get to see her youngest son get married, she didn't get to meet any of her grandchildren, she didn't get to travel like she wanted to, she didn't even get to retire on her own time. Why on earth would God not have listened to what I thought "thy will" should be!?

Our last Christmas together
      After all of this time, I have come to a major realization - THY will does NOT equal MY will. I spent so much time during my mom's sickness trying to control the outcome of what was happening to my family.  I never fully grasped the concept that God knew what He was doing.  I now firmly believe He had greater plans for her.  Do I still get upset that she's not here?  All of the time.  Everyday. When I look at my kids, see their joy in various things, watch them play in games or do cartwheels- I wish she was here.  When they bring home a good report card or need extra snuggles when they are sick- I wish she was here.  When they are upset about something and I need parenting advice- I wish she was here.   When I see other kids with their grandparents- I wish she was here. When I want to brag about my kids or complain that they are driving me insane- I wish she was here. I still have my pity parties occasionally, but I know that I had a better mom in my 25 years with her than most have in a lifetime.

So grateful she was there for my wedding, even with low blood counts in between treatments.

      I wish she was here everyday of my life, but I have come to accept that what I was praying for was not what the ultimate will for her was.  I know that she is still here with us, every minute of every day.  I know that she sees every basketball game, every cartwheel, every snuggle.  I know that my kids have an extra special guardian angel. As difficult as it has been to accept, I know that God's will for her was much greater than anything here on Earth.

My all-time favorite picture- I love the light shining down on my kids. 
     I still pray the "Our Father" all of the time.  I now try to pray not for just what I want, but for what God's will really is for the situation and for each day.  I take strength in the fact that no matter what, God always has a master plan and reason.  To this day, I still try to use my experience with my mom to help others.  She always said that if what she went through could help one single person, then it was meaningful.  I like to think that her courage, strength, and faith still inspire others.  When I run into people that knew her, hear from students of hers, talk with friends of hers, I am reminded that God's will for her on earth still carries on.  She impacted so many in her 50 short years and there is no greater honor than when people tell me I remind them of her.

One of my favorite pictures of my mom and my little brother at my older brother's wedding...such pure joy on her face.
      I have a sign that hangs in my house that I purchased shortly after she passed.  It is the Abraham Lincoln quote "It is not the years in your life that count, it is the life in your years."  God's will for her here on earth unfortunately was completed in 50 short years, but the life in those years was meaningful and amazing.  I don't yet know what His will for her was after leaving this earth, but I know that her legacy and life lessons will carry on forever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

10 Years- and Always With Me

10 Years. 
 Ten whole years. 

 The term "ten years" usually signifies something pretty monumental.  A ten year birthday is entering the double-digit years, the preteen years.  A ten year anniversary is a big deal for a married couple, as they have probably been through quite a bit together by this point, started a family, changed jobs, etc.  A ten year mark for a business is important, signifying that the business is solid, profitable, and well- respected.  

10 year anniversary of death though?  Not so great, not so monumental, not hardly believable.  It seems as though it was just a few months ago, but at the same time it seems like a lifetime ago.  Ten years ago, God called my amazing mom to her final home.  It was on a Wednesday, just like today.  Ten years ago I became a grown-up of sorts.  I was 25, so I was already a technical "grown up".  However, on this day 10 years ago I learned what it was like to really become a grown up- one without a mom to guide me through this crazy life. 

I knew it was coming in those final few months, but I kept hoping and praying for a miracle.  I prayed that my mom was going to be miraculously healed and used as an example of God's amazing powers. This wasn't to be, and she went home to Heaven on March 16.  

I remember what I had on.  I remember walking out of the hospital with my dad around 1am.  I remember the smell of the air, the way the sun shone the day we laid her to rest, and the way I felt lost.  I remember the way I felt like I had to be strong for my family, and take over my mom's role as the family coordinator.  I remember the food the people brought to our house.  I remember cleaning out her closet and saving so many of her things that I still won't part with.  I remember reading the journal she left me constantly just to feel a little closer to her.  I remember returning to work to the best first grade class ever- the way those kids and their families loved on me was something I will never forget. I remember the amazing friends that I have- sitting with me going through pictures of my mom, coming and staying with me. I remember how patient Jeremy was with my constant emotional state. I remember being consumed by worry about my dad and my grandma.  I remember wondering if I would ever not feel lonely and lost.

Then days, weeks, months passed.  I changed jobs, we moved closer to home.  I gained some new friends that are now like sisters to me.  I was blessed with the amazing gift of Brady one year later- coming a month early, going into labor on the anniversary of her death- so that this time of year is always a joyful time. 

 The pain lessened. 

 I threw myself full-speed ahead into motherhood. We became busier and busier. With every joyous occasion, I wished she was there more than anything.  Next came Luke, then Claire.  The hole in my heart has shrunk down so much, because my heart is so full from being a mommy.  Often times though, I will look at my kids and just ache to see her with them.  Jeremy just said to me the other day after a basketball game of Brady's "man, your mom would have loved watching him play."  I know that she has the best seat in the house, but that doesn't quite fill the gap of her physical presence.


Over the course of these 10 years, the pain has decreased.  I guess the saying that "time heals" is somewhat true. However, I don't ever think there will be a day where I don't ache to talk to her or hug her.  I have learned that I must do as she always said and "live my life".  I have learned to try to cherish each moment with my family.  I take this to the extreme at times and know that I need to work on this.  For instance, Jeremy and I have never been away from the kids overnight.  Ever.  This is not because I am some crazy control freak of a mom, but because I am petrified of leaving them early like my mom left me.  I feel the need to spend every moment with them that I can.   I often times think about what must have been going through my mom's head during her illness as she looked at my brothers and I.  As horrific as it was losing her, I cannot imagine knowing that I am leaving my husband and children.  She handled it with such grace and poise, making sure she had everything ready, everything said that needed to be said.  I cry thinking of how this must have killed her inside.   

The miracle I prayed for didn't happen, but lessons that were larger than life did.  I have learned so much from losing my mom, even 10 years later.  I have learned that we shouldn't always pray for what WE want to happen, but for God's will.  I have learned to value the quality of relationships in my life over the quantity.  My mom had several dear friends that are still close to me today, and I know that I have been blessed with some similar kinds of friends.  I have learned that it is imperative to help others dealing with loss...this somehow makes everything I went through make a tiny bit more sense.  I have learned that being a mother is the hardest, yet most rewarding job in the universe.  I have learned that ten years sounds like an incredibly long time, but it goes by in the blink of an eye.  I have learned to look for signs of my mom everywhere- in the sunshine on beautiful days, in the snuggles on snowdays, in my kids laughter as they dance to Whip and NaeNae in front of the tv.  I have learned to not feel sorry for myself, that there is always someone dealing with something even worse.  I have learned that my mom taught me everything I needed from her in my short time with her- I still recall things she said, recipes she made, lectures she gave me--ten years later.  Most of all, I have learned that when she wrote that no matter what, she will always be with me- she was serious.  She is with me, at all time, right inside of my heart. 

 So on this tenth anniversary of sorts, I pray that my mom is happy, not sad. I pray that she continues to watch over my family and be her grandchildren's guardian angel. I pray that she continues to make her presence known all of the time, and that my kids will grow up knowing how very much she loved them before they were even here. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

#120. We Were So Thrilled To Have A Girl!

Oh Claire Marie, where do I even begin???  This post is in honor of my Claire Bear's 3rd birthday, and I think that the above quote from my mama is very appropriate being that I was my parents' only daughter and Claire is our only daughter.  Funny thing is, as thrilled as I am now to have my baby girl, I wasn't extremely thrilled in the beginning.

We found out that we were expecting baby #3 the day after Christmas- what an amazing gift!  My sweet and loving Granny (my mom's mom) that I was SO close with passed away a week and a half after I found out that I was pregnant.  I will write much more on Granny at a later date, but she was the first person that we told, as she was not well and we wanted her to know.  Her words to me were: "I hope it's a girl...but it will be another boy.  Oh well, he will be cute as the dickens' just like your other two!". 

The bond these two have is the sweetest.

 Turns out she wasn't the only one with a girl on the mind- As soon as people found out, the comments had a very common theme- "I hope it is a girl!", "Are you hoping for a girl?", "You really need a girl."  and many more.  As each person commented, I became more and more defensive. I could not STAND when people said that we needed a girl to have our family be complete.  I am a firm believer that God gives us what we are meant to have, and that if I was meant to be a boy-only  mom then I would be that to the best of my ability!  I LOVE my boys.  I thought I was doing a good job as a boy mom, it was all that I knew.  I liked having two little boys that loved their mommy, I like sports, I was NOT into the color pink, I wasn't into Barbie dolls or princesses, etc.  I actually loved the idea of having 3 little boys that would all grow up to be best buddies.  I was almost certain that Claire was a boy- I analyzed my 12 week ultrasound to no end, and was convinced that I could see a little boy "part" on it. 

Love watching this baby girl sleep!

We went for our 20 week growth ultrasound in April of 2012.  We took the boys with us, and we were almost certain that it would be verified that we were being blessed with yet another sweet bundle of boy. When the ultrasound tech told us to think pink, we about fell over!  The boys groaned and we were in slight shock.  I wasn't sure how to feel!  I knew how to handle boys, I had boy clothes and boy toys and was just a boy mom!  The whole girl thing took a little while to sink in...friends started buying pink things and tossing around girl names.  

They love her SOOOO much!

It took a little while, but I definitely warmed up to the idea of having a girl a little slower than most.  I think subconsciously I was terrified to have a girl because I remember very clearly being in the hospital with my mom towards the end...I remember her praying with me and talking to me long before I had my own kids.  I clearly remember her saying "If you ever have a daughter, please make sure you are vigilant over her health and have her take preventative measures too."  It is hard enough to worry about preventing cancer myself, but having to worry about a daughter going through what my mom did is almost too much to handle.  Many people thought that I was nuts at first because I could NOT get into the "pink" part of having a girl.  I immediately decided to decorate her nursery in purple and gray.  The pink was just such a reminder of the terrible disease that stole this baby girl's grammy.  Emotionally it was just too much for me to deal with being hormonal and pregnant and missing my mom terribly.   (I have since warmed up to pink and Claire loves it as well!)

Claire at 1 year old

Claire Marie Schafer made her grand entrance on September 4, 2012 shortly after noon.  It was an incredibly calm and peaceful delivery, unlike her two brothers'.  She was breathtakingly beautiful, like a little baby doll.  In an instant, she gained the adoration of her daddy and big brothers.  Brady would burst home from kindergarten that year to hold her on the couch.  Luke would try to get her toys and blankies constantly.  Jeremy would lay on the couch every single night for months with her on his chest once the boys were in bed.  My boys simply adore this little girl.  

She adores Brady so much!

Luke is Claire's built-in playmate.

From day one, Claire has not slept.  She did not sleep through the night for 2.5 years.  I didn't even mind (that much).  I will forever cherish the night after night after night sitting up in her rocking chair, talking to God and my mom.  11pm, 2am, 4am, you name it.  I remember so clearly rocking and thinking how God always has a perfect plan for us...I did not think that I was cut out to be a girl mom.  I did not think I necessarily had to have a girl to feel complete...but I did.  Not because everyone needs to have a girl, or a boy, or both.  But because since my mom died, even though I have amazing family and friends, I have been missing that mother-daughter relationship so, so much.

  I think that I was almost terrified to have it again because I lost it and it crushed me- but now I have it and I am so in love with this little girl that it hurts.  I love her brothers to the moon and back, and they are everything to me as well.  However, I find Claire saying things already at the tender age of almost 3 that I remember my mom saying.  I find myself doing things with her, like cooking constantly, like my mom and I did together.  It is almost like a little piece of my mom has been given back to me through her.
Brady was born at a time to be a gift from her, Luke has a heart like her, and Claire is a piece of her.  God is so, so good.  

Third child problems :)

Claire ALWAYS has sunglasses on.  Always.  She has about 8 pairs of them.

Claire still does not require much sleep (like her mother!) and is constantly on the move.  Her mouth never, ever, ever stops moving.  She is absolutely hysterical, but bossy as all get out.  She rules our household, bosses the boys around, and makes us be quiet when her baby dolls are sleeping.  She is obsessed with cooking in her play kitchen, baking in the real kitchen with me, and being a mommy to her baby dolls and princesses.  She loves to push her stroller around and fill it and her purses with all kinds of junk...she is like a mini bag-lady.  She is the tiniest little peanut, looks just like her daddy, has an amazing wardrobe, and is a prissy tomboy ( if that makes sense- she will play a full game of wiffle ball with the boys while wearing princess high heels and 50 pieces of jewelry).  She loves to swim, jump on the trampoline, and play anything in the world with her brothers.  They continue to dote on her in the sweetest of ways- they have always helped out with her, play with her, think of her even when they are not with her (they will grab her a sucker when they get haircuts, etc).  Claire cannot ever let any of us say "I love you" to her without saying "I love you to the moon and back on a blue rocket ship", and the boys happily oblige as much as we do.

Claire on her 2nd birthday

Hoping she likes Halloween more this year!

Claire is so, so many things wrapped up into a teeny package.  When she has her loud fits and demanding moments, I often think that it is my mom getting me back for when I was a defiant and mouthy teenager.  I am sure that Claire and I will have many battles over the years, but I pray that we have many wonderful memories as well.  I worry all of the time about something happening to me like it did to my mom, and I only pray that I have loads of time with my 3 babies and their daddy.  I pray that if something would happen to me that I have enough time to prepare them, especially Claire, to be a parent someday (hopefully she is not one for about 25 years to anyone other than her babydolls).  

Being a mom is TOUGH.  Being a mom without a mom is even tougher.  I hope to God that I am fortunate enough to live a long and healthy life and be here to see all three of my kids grow and have their own families.  I pray that I can be there when Claire has her own babies someday and that we have a strong mother-daughter bond for many, many years.  I hope that she knows that my mom, her grammy, loved her before she even existed.  She loved her enough to tell me to make sure to take care of her and get her the preventative treatment she would need.  

Pout face 

My beautiful girl loves vacations!

So on this third anniversary of your birth, my sweet and sour, funny and wild, silly and prissy, bossy and precious little Claire Bear, know that you are loved more than life itself.  
 Know that God sent you to us because He knew how much we needed you, even before we knew it.  Please know that I hope to be to you what my mom was to me- my role model, my best friend, and my hero.
Happy, happy birthday baby girl!