On January 18, 2015, the song stopped for me. I went through a depression so deep there were days I couldn't get out of bed. I hurt so much for all that we lost and all that those that loved J lost. If I'm honest, there are many days I still hurt and the tears just won't stop.
I've also never publicly talked about it except with a few close friends, but I went through major anxiety when J died. Some of it was anxiety over things like, will I be "mom enough" for Xiomara one day? Other times it was this crippling fear that what if Xiomara would lose me too? If you've ever dealt with anxiety in your life, you know it can be so incredibly debilitating. In my head I knew my anxiety was unfounded, but my heart kept telling me something different.
"The more death one experiences, the more painful it is. For almost a year, I hovered on the edge of my own dark grave; then one afternoon I raised my head, sniffed the air, and recognized the changing light. It was spring again." (The Midwife of Hope River)
This is how I have felt, and it has taken me almost a year to be able to feel like spring is coming again. That is not to say I am over grieving. I never will be, but my grief will change and will continue to do so. In her book, After This, Claire Bidwell Smith writes so poignantly about grief when she says, "We must learn to live in this world, because we have no other choice. What we do have a choice in is how we choose to live. We can remain gray and immobile in the wake of our losses or we can open ourselves up to the world, let the sunshine in, fill our surroundings with heaps of flowers, and know that we loved someone truly and deeply."
I loved you truly and deeply J, and that is why I have grieved so this past year.
It's been one year without you. It seems unreal that it has been that long. As I write this in the days leading up to the anniversary of your death, I keep thinking that a year ago you were still alive, still here...and now you are gone. Sometimes, I wonder how I am still here and you are not? Life sometimes feels unfair. And when someone I love dies unexpectedly, or incredibly young, it's really the only time in my life I question God.
I miss being able to share pictures of Xiomara with you. I miss being able to show you a video of her doing gymnastics. I wish you could see the love and talent she has for it. I cried when Xiomara lost both front teeth (and the two others before that). I wished you could be here to see her now, and to hear her little lispy voice as she says her f's and t's without her two front teeth. I wish you could feel her energy and see her zest for life. That you could be captivated by her joy and contagious laughter. There are a hundred other things I've missed sharing with you this year, and I'm sure thousand more in the years to come.
I have no idea how heaven works, and oh how I wish I did. Then maybe I wouldn't be so sad thinking about all you are missing here. But maybe, just maybe God gives you a glimpse of those you love here on this earth. That you would see that Xiomara is so loved. I know I'll mess up a thousand times in being her mama, but if I succeed in one thing, it will be that she will always know that you loved her. We still talk about you constantly. Most of the time I let Xiomara bring you up, but every once awhile I'll tell her something about you. At bedtime she often whispers to me, "Mama, can you tell me about my birthmama again? Can you tell me about my birth?". So I curl up close to her little body and whisper the story of her, and of you.
I've learned this past year that God makes beautiful from the ashes. If there is one beauty throughout this death, it is the bittersweet joy in connecting with your mama. Xiomara calls her Grandma and she regularly gets updates and a glimpse into her granddaughter's life. We are even planning a trip to go see her. I am thankful that in the loss, she and I both can see the beautiful.
In the quiet of my house, I turn on the music and the Gungor Song, Beautiful Things, comes on. Tears run freely down my cheeks as I let the words wash over me.
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
I'm reminded that God is here. In the messy, gut-wrenching, hard times, He is here making beautiful things out of the dust and ash of death. I don't understand, and probably never will understand it all, but I know that He is here.
Xiomara, one day you will probably have questions as to why God took your birthmama from you at only 4.5 years old, especially when there is so much you wanted to know about her. I don't know if I will ever have the answer to that question sweetie, but know this, God was there on that day in January just as He is there with you today when you are reading this for yourself. He knows your pain, He knows the hard, and He isn't afraid of the messy. He is ok with you being mad. He is ok with your questions. And I promise you that God has made, and will continue to make beautiful things out of your pain. That doesn't mean you have to be ok with her dying, it's ok if you are never ok with that. Just know that He is there and that He loves you and your birthmama.
If there is one thing I have learned in the one year without J, it is that death cannot take away love. We are all still a part of those we love. Our bodies may pass away, but our spirits are still alive, and in those spirits is the love we have for others and the love they have for us. So today, we say we love you J.