I walked outside of the gym this morning after my workout to a pleasant autumn morning. The cold air felt so good on my face as I made my way to the car. I took a deep breath in and looked around at the autumnal scene surrounding me. Leaves in all shades of yellows and reds covered the ground in the parking lot. I love this time of year.
Two years ago, I had a hard time welcoming my favorite season. The chill in the air was unwelcome and crept painfully inside my bones as I watched my daughter fight through heart surgeries, day after day. I couldn’t help but protect my own heart from the pain of missing out on fleeting newborn days, wrapped up in warm fuzzy blankets, soaking up the precious time in my own house, enjoying the changing of the season. Instead, I sat in the cold ICU, staring out the window, watching the world carry on with life as usual. I resented each dropping leaf, begging God to freeze time.
Everyone else was excited it was November. I saw advertisements for Thanksgiving celebrations, window clings of turkeys and all things related in various shops I would pass by on my way to and from the gym. My heart dropped even at the decorations the hospital put up in attempts to lift the heavy spirits. It felt like a mockery of sorts. Like they knew how much I wanted to leave the confines of those hospital walls. Instead, I was trapped inside amongst so much heartbreak, suffocated by the intensity of it all.
I attempted to block it all out, my only job being surviving however long we were there. But of course when it’s everywhere, it’s hard to block it out completely.
I longed to be home with all three of my girls and celebrate Thanksgiving with our extended family. Instead, David and I ate cafeteria food after spending a short few hours with our two older girls that morning before heading back to the hospital to be with Bernadette.
It’s strange to think that was my life two Novembers ago. How much life we have lived since those hospital days. In some ways, those memories are never quite far from my mind and feel like they were just yesterday. In other ways, they seem so distant with every moment I have lived in between.
With the cooler weather settling in now, the memories start to flood my mind. Handing Bernadette off twice to surgeons to repair her heart, the constant alarming of the monitors, the nurses coming in every few minutes to check on her, the oxygen tubing, the feeding tube, the IV’s, and all of the emotions that surged through me day in and day out as I prayed for God to carry her fragile little body through it all.
This time of year is a memorial stone for me. It reminds me of all that we endured and what God brought us through. It stands tall, rooted deep within my bones, complex with everything it entails. The countless tears I cried, the anxiety, the unknown. All of it. Painful memories.
I am reminded of the fact that they are now just memories. I am here to tell the tales of what I thought was completely impossible to live through. The scars remain, but just as Bernadette’s heart was physically repaired, I see the evidence of how my heart has been emotionally healed by God’s abundant grace. The grace that He poured out over the entire two months of living in the hospital and His love that surrounded this weak soul of mine. The strength He was to me when I could not even bare to lift my head. The moments my soul moaned out of despair and helplessness. The many tears I shed on Bernadette’s soft tiny head. God carefully took each part of it in His great and mighty hands, and bound my heart to His in ways I have never experienced.
Here I am today. Breathing in the newness the changing of the season brings, expectant the seasons of life are all used to draw my heart even closer to His. Grateful to be spending this season with my beautiful girls and my adoring husband, our family unit, altogether.
I pulled out our fall decorations a couple of weeks ago and placed them throughout our house. With each decoration, I couldn’t help but let a soft tear of joy escape my eyes. A deep desire of my heart… to be fully present. The tears the outward expression of my fully present mind.
I will always remember those painful days, but I can also live in the joy, in the remembrance of all that we have survived.