I have heard this phrase many times. I never truly understood what it meant. I mean, I knew the definition – but I never felt it.
Until Norah died.
But here I am… finding what serves me (us, as a family). Shedding what doesn’t.
Our surroundings did not serve us.
Our lifestyle was too hectic.
Hank’s career was peeling away his soul, layer after layer; it was affecting his health; leaving too many gaps in the non-monetary needs of our family.
Each and everyday I thank Norah for enlightening me. For enlightening us. For continuing to work with us. Her gifts are vast. Her light shines so bright. She has saved us in so many ways. It’s a hard concept for me to grasp sometimes – that our daughter’s death saved our lives, especially when there was a time when it seemed totally opposite. But now I realize that it is her life, on Earth and in Heaven, that’s saving our lives.
I’m proud of her. I’m in awe of her work. I’m blown away by the strength and power of a tiny human. Our tiny human. I’m grateful. Grieving, yet grateful.
I now sit atop of a mountain, closer to God and Spirit and nature…. and Norah. I’m wiggling in and figuring out how to recognize and utilize the things that serve us.
We still cry.
We still ache.
We still struggle.
We still long for the one who is forever (physically) missing.
But, we have plans again.
We have visions again.
We have hope again.
My hope is to do whatever it takes to continue to help my family. To help others. To help myself.
The age-old phrase that we, as humans, often say in an attempt to comfort ourselves as we’re offering “comfort” to others who are grieving. It turns out, for a grieveing mother, this phrase is not at all comforting. But there’s another side to it. A deeper side.
I believe that even the most broken things can change over time, but no, not ALL wounds fully heal.
I’ve found hope, however, in discovering something different that can occur over time – if we work hard and use time to do something specific – to discover, to ponder, to soul-search, to live within a deeper realm. So for me, “time” has given me the gift of enlightenment.
I’m only at the beginning of this journey, with Norah and God right by my side. For me, pushing away the connection with my daughter, leaving memories behind, and losing my faith would have taken me to my breaking point. If I had turned my back, I’m certain that my life would have ended. But I wanted something bigger. I have too much goodness surrounding me, even in the most extreme darkness. I saw my other two girls and knew there was so much ahead of us – so much more light ahead; my hope deepened. I felt God’s presence more than I ever had in my life; my faith deepened. I looked into my husband’s deeply aching eyes and knew we had to change how we were “using” time; my love deepened.
We’re now in the process of beginning a new life, and what we consider an adventure of a lifetime. We’re moving from the fast-paced “city/suburbs” life with insane schedules and limited quality time together, to the mountains where we feel closest to God and to Norah. Where we will have so much quality time, so many new hobbies, so much healing work on our land (both physical and spiritual), and opportunities in nature that will continue to enlighten us throughout our remaining days on this Earth.
No, we have not hit the lottery – in fact it’s quite the opposite. We’re giving up half of our income simply for time and togetherness; to sit in our grief and to deeepen ourselves; to find hope in the stars and a love we didn’t know existed.
I can assure you that money means nothing. It’s useless when your dinner table has someone missing, when your heart and soul are not full, and when your spirit is not enlightened.
We will soon be able to fully embrace each other and the new life we’ve been gifted, in nature, closest to God and to Norah. We’ll soon be able to see the sun shining… in a different light.
Reliving “the space between” (Norah’s life and death) proved harder than I had anticipated. Although, I tend to not anticipate much of anything anymore, because nothing is predictable. Nothing.
I’ve been “quiet” during these days because I had nothing to say, nothing to convey, nothing to openly sort through. I was simply “sitting” and “listening” and “learning.”
Admittedly, there were weeks early on in the “space between,” that I experienced the lowest of lows. There were times I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep going. Times in which I cried out to God, and to the universe, and to anyone who would listen, that this life was so damn unfair. But Norah interceded. She gave me clarity and showed me the beauty that was still in front of me, even that of her life, and her death. She encouraged me to keep going.
I suddenly realized, as we closed this chapter last Saturday afternoon at 2:39pm, and as we were preparing for the funeral of my Nanny, who was deeply connected to Norah, the experiences we’ve had in this space between were Norah’s gifts of love and light:
The ability to slow down
Truly listening, even in silence; especially in silence
Through a lot of pain and a lot of tears, a lot of grinding into the depths of my soul, I survived. Because of the way she presents herself to us. Because of the way she has made intercessions for her family, especially her sisters (thank you, Norah), and many others. The way she has strengthened her Momma and Daddy’s marriage. The way she has restored faith for so many here on this Earth. The way she has shown us the important things in life. I know now that I’ll continue to survive, because of the gifts of love and light that Norah gives to this world.
2633 hours and 39 minutes is all we had with her here on Earth.
2633 hours and 39 minutes that we’re so grateful for.
2633 hours and 39 minutes that has led us into a lifetime of love and light.
Norah’s presence is stronger than ever.
Click the link below to hear a very special song in our journey.
I have been receiving many messages about my blog, so I wanted to share a bit on how this work unfolded and what it has done for me. In previous posts I mentioned that journaling and blogging are therapeutic for me – it helps me remember, reflect, and reorganize my brain and my life.
My writings are organic. They usually begin with a photo or a memory that comes to me in a dream or a thought that crosses my mind during the day – one that I can’t always articulate or release otherwise. None of it is planned. I usually end up with a title at the end, after seeing where the writing journey takes me. There are often gaps in time because I only write when I’m given the information that my brain and my heart need to “download” that day. I believe the information, or the calling to write, is given to me by Norah and by God; sometimes by nature, sometimes by the universe, and sometimes simply by memories of events that inflict a visceral reaction, needing to be released.
Thank you for continuing to read.
April 15, 2018 – Addy’s First Holy Communion and Norah’s Baptism: a day that will forever hold a special place in my mind and in my heart.
I was a little apprehensive to have Norah baptized that soon, due to the timing – the end of flu season and her being just seven weeks old. (I am very attentive when it comes to all of my girls’ health, but for “some reason” I was extra-vigilant with Norah’s.) But I had an overwhelming feeling that this was the right time.
Being that many of our closest family members live out of state, we decided that it would also be most convenient for those we love to share in the sacraments of both Addy and Norah. Father Tony graciously agreed to make this work, so we made the decision to move forward with the plan. We relied on good hand washing and the strong immunity that she and I had been building in her body for almost two months.
Recent reflections of that day have brought so much light to the darkness:
• The altar was still decorated in celebration of Easter, as the Easter season lasts SEVEN additional WEEKS, into Pentecost.
• Norah was not baptized from the usual baptismal font, where both Addy and Sydney were baptized, but instead from the font leading to the altar, which was filled with holy water from the Easter Vigil.
• We were able to enjoy the experience of having so many of our closest family and friends present to meet Norah and to experience the light and love from our three daughters, referred to by Uncle Jack as “The Northern Sisters,” all together.
• Our last photo as a family of five was captured on this day.
• The beginning of the last half of Norah’s beautiful life here on Earth began, as she was blessed at her first (of two) sacrament. Her second and last sacrament was by a wonderful Priest sent to us in the emergency department, to pray over her and perform (an infant version of what I consider) her “last rites,” as she laid dead on a hospital gurney.
I’ve always been a very spiritual person; faithful to God and the beliefs I was presented with at a young age. But Norah’s life and death has brought my faith to a new level. It has become the foundation in my reflection and for my survival as a bereaved mother.
I’ve recently been reflecting on the symbols of baptism, specifically The Baptism Light, for which a special candle is used on the day of baptism to represent moving from death to life in Christ.
One Year Later
April 15, 2019 – Notre Dame Cathedral is (mostly) destroyed by fire.
I try not to become overly affected by news anymore, because I simply do not have the strength for extra emotions or the capacity for negative feelings beyond what I experience in times of deep grief. But some things still lay heavy on my heart.
For obvious reasons, crimes or accidents that involve children affect me heavily. The massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue devoured my attention for days, for weeks actually, because it was so close to home, I also have very close friends who are Jewish. The lives of good and faithful people were tragically stolen due to antisemitism.
Yesterday, the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral affected me more than I expected, but I could not pinpoint why. Perhaps the loss of a landmark that holds hundreds of years of history? The religious and cultural connection? The people of Paris, and around the world, who are directly affected by the loss?
Then, today, I woke to see magnificent images among the devastating damage. I was enlightened by remarkable news – news of miraculous light and perfect timing, both of which remind me of Norah and her life here on Earth and in Heaven.
• “The cathedral’s golden altar cross was seen standing as officials surveyed the charred structure. Votive candles lit prior to the blaze — each one symbolizing a prayer — still flickered undisturbed in the cathedral,” CNN reported.
• According to Doreen Carvajal The New York Times, “Instead, in a miracle of timing, the sculptures of the Twelve Apostles and four New Testament evangelists escaped a fiery end when they were plucked by cranes and removed just days before the blaze in Paris on Monday.“
Sculptures of the Twelve Apostles and four New Testament evangelists were removed for restoration just days before the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris caught fire on Monday. Credit Credit Georges Gobet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
• “Notre Dame was destroyed but the soul of France was not,” Michel Aupetit, archbishop of Paris, told RMC radio.
I’ve been even more enlightened now by something a dear friend, and one of my greatest supporters, sent to me recently during some of my darkest of times: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
Through all of this reflection, the significance of the date, Holy Week, the incredible photos of our three loves, the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the light surrounding me, I’ve been reminded that though my family’s hearts often feel destroyed, our souls remain intact. We’re still grieving but now growing, and will continue to shine the light of Norah’s life until we’re no longer able to do so.
I’ll forever dedicate this song to Norah. I sing it to her daily.
I’ve been “camped out” for almost 7 weeks now, reliving every moment of Norah’s time here with us.
There’s been a lot of reflection, a lot of meditation, a lot of prayers, a lot of tears, a lot of smiles, a lot of fears, a lot of hugs, and a lot of pain for the four of us.
THIS is the space between Norah’s incredible birth and her tragic death. This short space was her entire life. This time is filled with the most beautiful memories, meshed with the deepest, most painful physical and emotional pain; so deep that I couldn’t have begun to understand the depths of it prior to experiencing it firsthand.
There have been haunting moments filled with the deepest darkness – moments I did not anticipate happening again; moments that almost destroyed me. There have also been moments of renewed light that I haven’t been able to experience in quite a while. Joy and gratitude is felt so much deeper now.
However, I continue to live a life constantly questioning myself and others, lacking confidence in my mothering skills, losing my zest for life and laughter, still trying to get to know the “new me,” feeling like a failure because I couldn’t keep all of my children alive. Grieving. It’s an ongoing struggle knowing that we’re not at all spared from losing our other two children just because we’ve already lost one – dark thoughts are prevalent when you experience the darkest times. Yet through all of this I’m learning to laugh again, I’ve experienced joyful events, and I’m beginning to see growth within my mind and within my soul.
It’s all so confusing.
It’s all so terrifying.
It’s all so exhausting.
It’s all so enlightening.
Recently, of course, a lot of memories have been resurfacing. So many beautiful photos have been reminding me of what we had, and of what we lost. They’ve forced me to revisit the time when I was privileged with giving my all to all three of the beautiful girls who grew inside of me and who are a part of us. I was nurturing everyone in every possible way I knew how.
I was gifted with a book, an amazing book, at the retreat I attended last year:
You Are the Mother of All Mothers: A Message of Hope for the Grieving Heart by Angela Miller
This book has given me so much hope and comfort, on both my darkest and brightest days. It’s been a much needed reminder, in this space between, of my mantra: “Love is all I’m capable of.”
Addy was sent home from school yesterday, due to sudden illness. Typically, (aka: in my “previous” life, before losing a child and then experiencing the significant scare of potentially losing another one), I’d stay vigilant but would let my kids rest at home and keep them comfortable while their bodies did the job to fight off an illness. But now, I’m a bit hyper-vigilant (traumatized), and I closely follow my intuition and my fears, when I feel that tug in my mind and in my gut.
Thank God for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh!
Upon initial assessment in the ED, Addy’s vital signs were not good, which caused the suspicion of septic shock. Because of her unresolved clot, there was concern that a bacterial infection could have formed around her heart.
After several tests, all of which were negative except for one, it was determined that this event was totally caused by Influenza A (which is what she tested positive for). I’m grateful for the doctors and nurses who were very much on top of things.
I’m not quite sure why “things” keep being “thrown” before us. I understand that it’s life. And life can suck. But it has felt very intense lately.
All I can come up with is that these things are “strength-builders.” Constant reminders that we aren’t spared, even though we’ve experienced the greatest loss. I’m not sure why we were chosen or why these things keep happening. But I’ll tell you for certain that it’s continuing to make me a better, more spiritually connected person.
A Note of Love and Light
Exactly one hour before I received the call to pick up Addy, a very important support person in my life sent a text… she had been driving behind a school bus – Bus #111.
The angel number. Norah’s number.
I smiled big and thanked her for sharing this with me. I love seeing signs from our girl, even through those close to us. I didn’t consider something deeper that may have been trying to catch my attention.
Then later, as Addy was being taken back to a room in the ED, a little girl named Norah was called in right behind us.
I’m certain that Addy and Norah have been chosen to serve each other in some capacity beyond what we’re able to fully comprehend. Their very special bond continues, and it’s been amazing to witness, – in both life and in death. 💛 👼🏼
(Disclaimer: lots of photos… documentation of my life, my love, my pain, my joy.)
Raising children after losing one is one of the hardest parts of this life-long grief journey.
I mourn for our Norah. I mourn for my self… for the person I was before. But an unforeseen piece in all of this is mourning for the childhood innocence and bliss that was stolen from Addy and Sydney.
Addy and Sydney are old enough to fully understand the magnitude of Norah’s life, and therefore the magnitude of her death. During Norah’s 111 days here on Earth, they hugged her, they kissed her, they held her, they fed her, they played with her, they comforted her, they made her laugh, they rocked her, they sang to her, they told her stories (from their books and from their minds).
They knew her.
They loved her.
They know her.
They love her.
They prayed for her life, and then they witnessed the horror of her death (and the sounds and sights that occurred after). I thank God everyday that they were not the ones to find her, as they often would go into her room to wake her when it was time.
These two girls now have new depth. They have developed a new level of maturity, different types of fear, and a difficult understanding of life and death that, as parents, is so difficult to witness happening while they’re still so young. But for those of us who have been dealt this hand, it’s unavoidable. It’s a lot of work, but boy are they working hard. They’re becoming stronger, more empathetic, more connected, and more faithful humans.
I’m so grateful to have them, so happy to see their progress, so proud of who they are, and so excited to see who they’ll become.
I keep going for them, because of them. The strength that is so often mentioned to me is not mine, but theirs. They are the reason I so quickly sought the help that I knew I would need to survive this. They are the reason I am not afraid to show my deep pain, because it also shows my deep love. They are the reason I’m able to “see” the road ahead, even when it’s not at all visible. They are the reason I hold on to hope. I have to… for them.