Dreams

The other day Brian was helping me in the kitchen as I prepared dinner when he looked at me with glistening eyes and said, “What would she be doing now?” He didn’t have to specify who “she” was or what exactly he was asking, I already knew.

“She’d be talking. Not a whole lot. But several words by now I’m sure.”

“Would she be walking?” He asked.

“Walking? She’d probably be running by now.”

I watched the corners of his lips turn up just slightly, like his proud smile was some kind of secret he was trying to keep inside of him.

This pride we feel is an interesting thing, and not easily understood by those who have not been where we are. To think about all the growing and thriving she could be doing right now if things had been different brings so much mixed emotion. The most apparent and obvious are the negative ones, the pain, the longing. The ones that form tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart. But there’s a pride in imagining her growing up, and the joy that would have brought.

Sometimes, for the briefest of moments I pretend it was all different. I ignore the fact that she never came home from the hospital and let myself imagine what it would be like if she were racing around the house with our dog, Lana in tow. My ears fill with the symphony of tiny footsteps and excited squeals. I close my eyes and watch her black hair bounce in the air as she plays. Oh, it feels so good to imagine how those curls have grown since the day she was born. I sit there in that joy for just a moment. And then…

The weight of the world falls back onto my shoulders, and reality floods all my senses like a rising tide, washing all my dreams away.

But that imaginary joy, it still left its mark on me. A hope for what is to come. On that day when that little girl turns around and sees me standing at the gates of heaven. One sweet day.

Until then, I will do my best to thrive here. To build something beautiful from the wreckage that became my life nearly eighteen months ago. And I’ll dream, because no amount of anguish can take that from me.

I’ll dream about life on this earth. I’ll dream about growing old with my sweet husband. I’ll dream about having more babies. I’ll dream about having a farmhouse with a bountiful garden. I’ll dream about finally living next door to my best friend. I’ll dream about holidays surrounded by family.

But most of all, I’ll dream about her until I won’t have to dream at all.

When past and present collide: On new beginnings and old wounds.

Brian and I spent all of Labor Day weekend on a mission to find a house in Texas ahead of our move in a few short weeks. We went from house to house, trying to shorten our long list of prospects. Finally, we brought our list of over twenty homes down to two. They both had pros and cons, and were such similar houses that it made the choice incredibly tough. Brian loved certain things about one house, and I loved certain things about the other. We had reached a fork in the road.

As we picked each house apart, room by room, trying to determine which would be the one, the stress of the entire weekend began to well up inside me. I was so afraid of choosing the wrong house. This is such a big commitment, and a huge decision. I didn’t want to do the wrong thing. There was something so familiar about this feeling. I had been here before, only a million times worse.

The last few times we made major, life changing decisions we were sitting at a conference table across from our team of doctors and nurses, while I was nearly seven months pregnant. We were sifting through so many different options, trying to save our daughter all while protecting her from any unnecessary suffering. We tried to make the best decisions we could as we fought for her life, but despite our best efforts – we still lost her.

So here I was, sitting across from my husband talking about floor plans and paint colors, trying to tell myself this wasn’t the same, but the stress felt so familiar. I looked Brian in the eyes and asked if we were doing the right thing as tears began to form in my eyes. He immediately began to change his tone to a happy, confident one. He told me he was excited, this was good, and we were going to make the right choice.

I tried to stop the next sentence from escaping my lips, but I couldn’t hold it back. “But the last time we thought we were doing the right thing, Aria didn’t make it.” I knew this wasn’t the same, and I didn’t want to ruin Brian’s joy by bringing it up, but I felt like I was sitting in that conference room all over again.

With the utmost understanding and compassion, Brian grabbed onto my hands, and assured me this was not the same. He said it multiple times as the tears fell from my eyes until he could make sure I was really hearing him. This was not the same. Our story was not going to take another horrible, unimaginable turn.

The next day, after a much needed night of rest, we both agreed on a home and confidently put in an offer. The nervous hesitation still lingered around me, but as soon as we heard that the sellers had accepted our offer, joy exploded.

I’m excited that we will soon be the owners of our first home. I can’t wait to start unpacking, decorating, and making it our own. This home will soon be a place filled with many wonderful memories, and I am so ready to begin.

I have heard it said before, that there will come a day when the pain and trauma of your past will coexist with the joy of your future without negating it. I have a much better understanding of that phenomenon now, and I’m grateful for it.

It’s still tough to leave Florida, because we began our journey with Aria here, and this place holds so many memories of her life. But we will always carry her with us, and leaving here does not mean leaving her behind. She is still just as much a part of this new chapter as she would have been, if she were still in our arms.

We are still the Rose family of three. Two on earth, and one in heaven, ready to take on Texas.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I wanted to take a few pictures of Aria’s nursery since we will be moving soon, and from then on her room will only exist in boxes. I wanted to have photos to look back on through the years, so we never forget what her room looked like.

I decided I wanted to take a few pictures with me in them as well. To be honest, I’m not really sure why. I know it may seem a bit strange to take photos in her room after her passing, but this phase of my life is so pivotal that I felt I should document it. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I can feel her presence every time I set foot into her room. So in some way it almost feels as if she’s with me in these pictures.

This image stands out to me the most.

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There is so much more to this photograph than meets the eye. The pink blanket in Aria’s crib is one of two that were handmade by my sister. One of the blankets was given to me, and the other was placed on Aria just before she was buried. It’s such a symbol that although Aria is no longer with us on earth, we are still connected in so many ways. My head is lifted towards the sky instead of gazing downward into her empty crib, for she soars above me in heaven. My eyes are closed because her presence isn’t something that I can see, it is felt deep within my bones in ways I can’t explain. When I quiet the noise around me and really focus, I can still feel her. The connection between mother and daughter is unbreakable, not even death can destroy it.

I am constantly amazed at how frequently I find pieces of Aria’s legacy in my everyday life. Aria has impacted me so much more than I ever realized she could. I have been forever changed by her existence – in the most beautiful and powerful ways.

And the old saying is definitely true, a picture really is worth a thousand words.
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Joy After Loss

After Aria passed, we were faced with the impossible task of letting go of her body. I feared this moment more than I feared her dying. How could I let go of Aria knowing I would never hold my daughter in my arms again? The thought of it was completely devastating, but we knew it had to be done. We had to let go. 

So we turned on her song (My Little Girl by Jack Johnson) and began to say our goodbyes. I rocked her to the soft music as tears drenched my cheeks. I studied every inch of her, promising not to forget a single part. As I held her close and took in her sweet scent, I tried not to remember that this would be the last time.

When I handed her to Brian, he completely melted around her. He told her she was beautiful and although he kept repeating “I love you”, he didn’t need to say anything. I could feel his love for Aria deep within my bones. His fatherly love soared beyond the clouds and broke through heaven’s gates as he cuddled her in his arms. 

The chaplain who counseled and prayed with us during our journey at CHOP then entered my room. Together, we prayed over her. We thanked God for blessing us with such an incredible gift, and for allowing us to be a part of her life. We asked God to tell her all about the parents who so desperately wished she could have stayed. We prayed for peace and understanding. 

We set Aria into the small bassinet by my hospital bed and called the nurses station to tell them we were ready. The nurse entered, and gently draped a white blanket over her. As she wheeled her out of the room, we felt Aria’s presence slowly stepping out as well. 

Suddenly, Brian and I were overcome by an emotion we weren’t expecting. We felt joy. By letting go, we felt Aria entering heaven and feeling God’s warm embrace. I pictured her smiling and all the angels rejoicing that this beautiful child was now among them. Aria was now in a place far better than we could have ever created for her on earth, and we felt thankful for that.

I was looking through a journal I had used while pregnant with Aria and came across this part.   

“I want this baby to grow up loving God.” It may not have been the way we planned it, nor the way we wanted things to be, but my dreams came true. Aria will know God for every moment of her life. It overwhelms me to imagine how special her relationship with Christ must be. It’s something I can’t begin to fathom while I’m still on earth. 

It is in these truths that I find joy. I am only able to move forward peacefully knowing that Aria is alive and well in God’s kingdom. In heaven, she is completely uninhibited by the complications that made it impossible for her to sustain life on earth. Aria is free. As parents, we could not ask for more.