Sung to sleep

Yesterday was two years since Ava passed away… 2 years!   Time goes by so quickly and it’s a little tough because the memories fade, but the ache our hearts isn’t going away.  I don’t think it ever will.

Last night when I put Sophy to bed I sang to her like I usually do.  I’ve always loved singing my kids to sleep at night – especially when they were babies.  I realized early on that hymns make great lullabies, they are often lilting and long – so I set out to memorize a few favorites and the kids would often be regaled by my singing them such hymns  as “Great is thy faithfulness” or “Be thou my vision.” (One of my favourites).  But I also would sing to them a little ditty that I learned from a children’s tape that we had growing up (yes, a cassette tape).  I just tried to find it on the world-wide web for reference, but can’t somehow.   The words go like this…

Jesus is coming
Coming for me
Like lightning, that flashes from the west to the east
In a moment
In a twinkling of an eye

The song is based on Matthew 24:27 when it talks about the 2nd coming of Christ and how He will return one day to earth…

For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

It’s something that all of us believers in Christ look forward too – the day that Jesus will come again to earth and call to Himself His own.  It will also mark the end of this age and the beginning of the next… good heavy stuff.

But back to my lullabies… singing that song to Sophy last night reminded me that I used to sing Ava that little ditty quite often.  My precious little Birdy – in the hospital, on the nights that I could tuck her in for the night.  I would sing to her like I sang to her brothers and sisters when they were babies, but in my mind I was always singing it to her with the thought that Jesus might just come and get her in the here and now.

And then in the moments when Ava did die – and Jason prayed that sweet soul into heaven, the relief of knowing that Jesus had finally come and gotten her and taken her home and released her of all her suffering was like a presence right there right with us.   I’ll never forget that sense of peace and release we were given.  Her earthy journey was over and her heavenly one just begun.  And I’m so thankful that’s where she is now – in heaven with Christ, praising and glorifying him and more alive than we could ever be here on earth.

Lately I’ve added another song to my nightly repertoire,  “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.   We sang it at Ava’s funeral and for some reason it just struck me lately that it would also be a great lullaby and anyway,  Sophie likes it.  And I love the reminder that I have 10,000 things to be thankful for and that I can still bless the Lord with all my soul and that when I get to heaven I’ll have 10,000 years to sing His praises.   Hallelujah!

And I’m also so grateful for the memory of singing my sweet little Ava to sleep.

Amen.

Oh dear, you made me cry

Back a few months ago, my friend Lisa told me that they were going to participate in Dream Fund’s event ‘Wings for an Angel’ and she asked if it would be OK if they released a butterfly in Ava’s name.   Of course I agreed and was honoured that they thought of our sweet little Birdy.

And I’m even more honoured because Lisa is a mom to another little heart warrior Jake  who was born 4 months after Ava (we met at SickKids of course).  Jake has been through a ton, but is doing well and is at home with his big sister Georgia and I know that Lisa has her hands full – and that they took time to do this for others just makes me smile.

You can read about the butterfly release and see pictures here…  Living Whole Heartedly with Only Half a Heart

And yes, reading about it made me cry a little, but only because we miss Ava, and seeing the pictures of the other babies that were lost make my heart ache for their families.  But through it all, even though I miss my daughter, I know that God’s ways are higher than mine and I can cling to the hope I have for eternity.

Job 11:7-9

“Can you find out the deep things of God?
    Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
    Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
Its measure is longer than the earth
    and broader than the sea.’

Amen!

God at Work

God is always at work, it’s  a fact.  And I know that Jason and I are always so encouraged to hear how God is moving in other’s lives, and so glad that our church, Harvest Bible Chapel will often will take the time to have people share their stories in front of our church.   At the end of November Jason and I had the opportunity to get in front and share our story.  That was an emotional and a pretty big deal for us, but we felt compelled to tell of God’s faithfulness even through Ava’s death, and on the whole I think it went well.   We both broke down towards the end both times (we shared in both services) but it was joy to be able to say that we could still praise God for his faithfulness even through our story didn’t have a happy ending.   When it goes online I will definitely share the link of the video.

Now today I going to share another link, one to a brand new Harvest Newsletter done through our church.

I’m a little biased towards this newsletter because I had the opportunity to submit an article for it.   I’m writing a 3 part series on our Ava story and the first one is called  “Peace Amid Turmoil”   It was a huge honour to be able to contribute, not to mention it was my first time working with a editor.  That was an experience that I first found a little tough (someone is actually critiquing my writing!!!!)  but in the end I found it very insightful and helpful.

Here’s the link!   God at Work Magazine

In other news,  I wish I could say that writing the article has been the reason I haven’t been blogging, but the truth is, well the truth is I just haven’t blogged, shame on me!   But I can fill in some blanks to say that we had a great Christmas.  Here’s a pic that I may have taken in the New Year right before we took down the tree…

 

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Our family really loves Christmas and its great to have a break from school and we enjoyed all our time spent with family and friends over the holidays.  We always make lots of great memories and this year we may have started a few new traditions.   The first was that we went and got our Christmas tree on Ava’s birthday which made the day special for the kids.   And then about a week later we made a trip to Toronto – just to revisit some of the places that hold the most memories of Ava for us.   We went and saw the staff who were so good to us at the Ronald MacDonald house, and saw many of our beloved nurses at SickKids.  It’s kinda funny because I know my kids would move back into the Ronald MacDonald House in a heart-beat and I think that is  a huge testament to the great job they are doing there.    I would love us to make a special visit to Toronto every December to be reminded of Ava and also to remember how good God was to us during that time.

And now it’s January and we keep moving ahead.  Lots of things are happening and we keep praising God for the fact that He is always at work and will always be faithful.

Amen!

 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

 

 

 

 

Can’t wait to show you…

Ava’s gravestone!    Today we are celebrating Ava Day – our sweet little Birdy’s birthday;  she would have been 2 years old today!  It’s funny when I think about just how different life would be right now if Ava had been born healthy  – or if she had managed to get a heart and was doing well.   How different and marvelous it would be to have a little 2-year-old running around right now!

But that is not our story and we can be thankful that she is where she is.   We are glad we have this day to remember her, for her sweet smiles in spite of the pain and for how much we loved her and treasured every moment we had with her.

And here is her stone which we are so pleased with, it turned out exactly as I hoped…


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And here are the kids with it…

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You can’t really see it in the picture,  but the kids hand prints are in the foundation of Ava’s stone.   It was Jason’s idea and I love it.  I love it because the kid’s hand prints are on Ava’s coffin that Jason made and we want them to feel a part of this whole thing as much as possible.  You can see them clearly here before the stone was installed…

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And here they are showing off their hand-prints…

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Another thing that is a little tough to see if the photos is the verse on the bottom of Ava’s stone.  It’s her verse, Psalm 73:26…

 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

All I can say to than is AMEN.

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We can’t wait to see you again Ava!

We miss you Birdy

Ava Samantha Grace Colley

December 4, 2012 – August 15, 2013

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We love you so much our sweet little Birdy, and can’t wait to see you again in heaven some day.

Love mom & dad, Erik, William, Sarah & Sophia

Psalm 73:26     My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

_________________________

Ava’s Life Slideshow (change the quality for better pictures)

6 Month Anniversary

Today is the  6 month anniversary  of our sweet baby Ava’s death… we’ve been without her for half of a year and I find it really hard.  I’ve said it before, but the more time that passes just makes me feel like I’m getting further and further away from her… it’s like I’m leaving her behind and putting more and more miles between us, and I don’t like it.  It’s been six months since I held her and kissed her and told her that I loved her.  Six months since we had 5 children and 6 months since we had to say good-bye to someone who we loved so very much.   And it’s tough, it really is.

But in this grieving process there are still so many things we are thankful for.   First off, we are thankful that people are still praying for us – even though its been six months and we don’t update often.   When people tell me they are still praying we feel so blessed that people have not forgotten us and that God is still laying us on people’s hearts.    Another thing I’m thankful for is just how busy our life is with four kids (no matter how much I complain).   In my life there isn’t often time to just sit and think about how much I miss Ava.  Lying in bed before we go to sleep is often when it hits Jay and I, but this long winter has tired me out and it’s not often I can stay awake for more than a minute or so, praise God for that.  :)

And we know that we were fortunate that we were able to do quite a bit of our grieving before we lost Ava.  The actual truth is that we started grieving before she was born.  We always had a strong hope that she would beat the odds and make it –  but because we almost lost her a few times before she died, it forced us to take a look at what our future would look like without her.   It’s like we were able to practice grieving… and those times were incredibly painful, but it did help prepare us.   And because of that, we know that we are grieving in a complete different way than those who suddenly lose someone they love.  It’s just that for both I’m sure the end result is the same…   living with the memories of a person you long for, and missing them like crazy.

I miss my Birdy… I really do.

Oh that God gave us that precious gift, but only for such a short short time.  Having Ava taught us so much about God’s goodness to us and His incredible faithfulness that if I ever doubt God again I hope someone smacks me… hard.    And there is the promise that God used this time in our lives for His glory and to strengthen our faith and bring us closer to Him. We also know that it made us more aware of the suffering of others and I hope God will continue to keep using these lessons learned in our lives as long as we are here on earth.

Here’s another wonderful promise….

1 Peter 5:10&11 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Praise God for His promises…. Amen!

Ava Day

I’m pleased to say we had a really nice Ava Day.  And to put everyone’s mind at rest, we didn’t spend the day in sadness…  I honestly didn’t miss her more on Wednesday than I already do.  We just wanted this day to be about celebrating Ava’s life and to make it a  little special for our kids and that’s what we did.

In the morning I had a visit from my special sweethearts – Aleeda and Britton… along with their mother Tanya as well of course.. haha.    Sarah was supposed to go to school but wanted to stay at home to see them, and when I saw her playing with the girls,  I knew I was never going to tear her away to send her back to school.    She loves them so much and in a way they are her surrogate little sister’s, so I’m glad she was able to spend them with them.  Aleeda and Britton are getting so big!

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Tanya and I had a nice visit too.  It’s still kinda seems weird hanging out with Tanya and the girls in our homes, especially after spending so much time together in Sick Kids waiting for hearts.   We used to sit outside the girls rooms in the hall of ward 4D and pretend it was our front porch.   The nurses would come by to chat and we had so many good times – it made the hard days bearable.    And it would be awesome if the nurses could still just drop by from time to time  to join Tanya and I, but I know they have work to do. :)   The nurses did make our Ava day extra special by sending me a whole envelope of paper birdy’s they cut out… we were so touched and the kids put them up all over the house to decorate for Ava day.

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The eyes are courtesy of Sarah – I think she drew them on each one, and there were lots.

We actually have a house full of Christmas birdies right now… I love it.

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And this birdy ornament…

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Oh so fitting, God does surround us by His grace.

My cousin emailed me and told me that whenever she sees a Christmas bird decoration she thinks of us and Ava…and I liked that.  I see bird’s now wherever I go and I don’t  remembering ever seeing them before.     We also received this special little bird from some friends…

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So sweet.   But it’s not only that these bird’s remind me of my own little Birdy – for us they are a symbol of God’s faithfulness.   A reminder that during such a difficult time,  He never once left us on our own, and gave us the grace and strength we needed every day.   And so now when we see birds, we remember.

OK – so I didn’t think we were going to go to Ava’s grave on Wednesday because by the time Jason would get home from work we would be visiting a cold and dark graveyard… not a chance.   But then Jason thought we could pick the kids up for lunch at school and go during their lunch-break, so that’s what we did.  We grabbed some food and headed out there, and we brought some things to decorate the Birdy rain-meter that I marked her grave with (cuz we haven’t picked a stone yet).

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The combination of decorations isn’t strictly beautiful, but it’s the thought that counts. :)

We corralled the kids for a photo…

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And then headed back.  And on the way home William said to us… “So, I hate to say it, but this was pretty boring.”   Oh dear… and what a riot.   Sorry William, I just couldn’t make visiting your sister’s grave on her birthday more interesting, but I guess next year I will try harder.   :)

We wound up the day with cake and pizza and more friends and all in all it was a really nice Ava day.    I don’t have to say that it would have been 100 times better if we were actually celebrating a birthday with Ava, but I imagine that’s understood.

But I always have to keep coming back to where she is, rather than where she isn’t.    She’s fully alive in heaven…  my baby no longer, but a new creature who is fully aware of the glory of God.   In a place where there is no pain or sadness or death.  Praise God, she is more alive than we are.

Revelation 21:4

4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

So see… we do have something to celebrate on this Ava day, she is in an amazing place and we will see her again!!

Amen!

What we are clinging too…

Out dear sweet little Ava had been gone now for almost 6 weeks…. it seems so crazy because in some ways it feels longer than that, but then it seems just like yesterday we were living in Toronto and she was still with us.

Since we are now officially back into the swing of things, I’ve been trying to get our house back in order while the kids are at school, and I fear I’ve met my Waterloo.   It’s an over-whelming job and I don’t feel like I’m making very much headway, but yesterday I turned my attention to the downstairs bedroom which has ended up being a dumping ground for all of our stuff from Toronto, including Ava’s stuff from the hospital.   Yesterday I started to gather Ava’s things together and put them in a bin, ready for when they will  eventually  go into a memory box Jason is going to make for us.

Since Jason and his dad did such an amazing job making Ava’s casket, he is going to make a smaller version to use as our ‘Ava’ memory box.   I do promise however that the memory box will look more like a chest, and less like a casket.  :)   We do plan on decorating it the same, and since I never did show pictures of the casket, I will now.   Because it was such a labour of love, it doesn’t make me sad to look at it, I just see a father’s (and grandfather’s) love….

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The kids hand-prints were on it, and we had written Ava’s verse on the top…

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The memory box will be such a wonderful reminder of our little Birdy – and we want the kids to be able to open it and look at her things whenever they want.  I can’t wait.

But as you can imagine, sorting through Ava’s stuff yesterday made me rather sad, and so I guess it wasn’t a surprise that later in the day I ended up at her grave-site.  I shed lots of tears and mourned for her and just missed her like crazy.

But through the pain and the sadness, here is what we are clinging too…

We are clinging to the knowledge that Ava’s life turned out exactly as it was supposed to be.    Isn’t that a cool thought?   That the 255 days that she lived her on earth was the exact number of days she was supposed to live.   That God formed her and her heart exactly how He wanted.  That He had a purpose for her life and a plan formed for her before she was even born.

I love Psalm 139 and I always have.   And here are the words we love,  verses 13 – 16…

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

And it brings us so much comfort… especially in the fact that we don’t have to play the “If only” or “what if” game. “If only a heart had come in”… or “What if Ava was born healthy”.     This was how it was supposed to be, right from the beginning.     And even though Ava leaving us wasn’t at all in my plan, it was in God’s plan.   And even though I can’t see the plan, I can trust Him.   He’s sovereign, I’m not.

I just finished reading the book “Safe in the arms of God” by John MacArthur and it was another huge source of encouragement, just like our Pastor’s Norm’s sermon at Ava’s funeral.   Here’s a tidbit from the book…

“We ought to be greatly comforted by the knowledge that this little one is in heaven, in the presence of Christ, enjoying all the wonders of that glorious place, free from all the troubles of this earth, dwelling in perfect bliss, surrounded by perfect love, and loving and worshiping Christ perfectly in return.”

It’s such a wonderful thought.   And like another grieving heart mom said, when we think about where our child isn’t, it’s sad.  But when we think about where they are, there is joy.

And the best part is, is that while Jason and I are clinging to this hope, God is working on healing our hearts.  And we’ve received so much encouragement and love from friends and family that we know God still is caring for us and loving us.   And we also know that He will help us go forward and live our lives with renewed joy,  especially in our hope of eternal life and meeting our sweet baby Ava again someday.

Amen.

Life goes on…

LIfe goes on, and I think that is one of the hardest things I’m having to come to grips with 11 days after we’ve lost Ava.    My whole life has changed, not only in the fact that my baby is gone, but even to the fact that where we live has changed, our family dynamics have changed, what life looks like going forward has changed.   So it’s strange that even with all that change, day-to-day life still goes on like nothing has changed.  You still have to eat, you still sleep, you still interact with everyone.   We went to church yesterday and got together with friends, and even those were normal things, I think they almost hurt me more,  as part of me thinks life shouldn’t be back to normal so soon.  I’m not sure that makes sense.

Grief is an interesting thing.   I may have thought that I would spend my time crying and missing Ava, but most of the time I just go on with this ache inside my heart.  I was thinking today that this ache is like a little grey cloud.   Sometimes the sun shines through and the ache isn’t so bad, and sometime the clouds gather and it actually gets stormy enough that I cry,  but that doesn’t happen very often.    I sometimes wish that I could cry more.  Maybe because crying  is an opportunity to feel real grief,  because the ache I carry around more often than not just makes me feel a bit numb.     

But I know that grieving is important.  One of my favourite parenting books describes grief this way, “Grief is the emotional tool God placed in our hearts to enable us to release things we value.”  (Parenting is Heart Work, Turanksy and Miller).   Isn’t that good?    And it’s hard to let go, but I don’t think there is any rush for us to get through this grieving process.    It’s actually very interesting hear the kids talk about Ava.   We’ve stopped by the cemetery to visit’s Ava’s grave twice already since the funeral and Sophia who is 4 is quite confused about where Ava is…  tonight she said that she thought Heaven was in the ground.   And even though we’ve been trying to explain that Ava’s spirit has left her body, she can’t understand the concept, and is now just worried about dying and she doesn’t want to go to heaven, which now that I understand what she is thinking is really not all that surprising. :)

Our boys were sad tonight because Ava had never been to the cottage and I’m a little worried about Sarah because she doesn’t seem to want to talk about it anymore.   I hope that her heart stays soft and she can still talk about Ava and what she misses.  Jay and I will definitely be praying for her.

So we keep moving forward day by day.  I’m so incredibly blessed to have the family that I do have, for an incredible husband who is so patient with me and is filling in all the gaps as I keep dropping the ball.  And for my kids, who have been so gracious through the whole Ava journey, but now are just happy to have me back.

So life goes on.  And it’s hard, but it’s OK.  And praise God that as life goes on,  He won’t make us walk alone, but will be comforting us and guiding us each and every day.

One week ago…

Ava’s been gone one week already.  We’ve been 7 whole long days without her, and I think it’s taken this long for my heart to really start understanding that Ava is really and truly gone.  She’s not just up on 4D being looked after by the nurses she loved, she’s in heaven, totally whole and at peace…..  but a place where I can never hold her or snuggle her again.  My mother’s heart is sore and hurting.

But to be very honest, Jason and I are experiencing such a wide range of emotions these days that half the time we don’t know how we are feeling.   We are feeling sorrow as we miss our daughter, but on the other hand we are feeling relief that she is no longer suffering and that she is at peace.   We are feeling some happiness at being home again but then guilt for feeling any kind of happiness at all.    It’s kinda confusing and I’m sure there is no ‘right’ feeling, but it’s not making anything easier!!!

And it’s also hard to come home where everything feels the same, but we feel so changed… it’s like we wish everything here was different too.

My friend Christa recently re-blogged something I had blogged last year – and when I read it, it hit me quite hard.  By the way… did you know that Ava died 1 year and 1 day after her first echocardiogram and initial diagnosis?   It’s crazy… but here is what I wrote after a procedure they did on Ava in utero to try to open up her blocked artery last year didn’t work…

And this is where faith kicks in.  Faith in God when things just don’t seem to be right, in fact in human terms they seem to be going wrong.   Sure it’s easy to rejoice and trust in Him when things look promising and we are hopeful things will turn out the way we want them too,  but how about when faced with the possibility that things might turn out exact opposite of what we want?   What if this baby still will lose the left side of her heart and have to have a palliation of her heart done where they turn the right side of her heart into a duo-purpose pumping machine and I have to spend weeks with her in the hospital, perhaps months away from my other kids and miss Christmas and New Years?  Honestly that thought breaks my heart.

However, again, even though I’m sad, I still I have hope.  I know God can still heal her, and even if that takes surgery and months of healing, I’m still completely trusting Him.  I’m not broken, maybe somewhat bruised, but definitely not abandoned.  And the Bible is full of verses to comfort me, starting with being still and just knowing that God is God.   I think John Piper once said that the things God does may be confusing, but God himself is Not confusing,  I love it because it’s true.

And as Jason pointed out to me, maybe His whole plan here is not to heal her, it may be to do some greater work which we can’t see,  which would be amazing as well.  God doesn’t give us all the answers, nor does He let us see the whole picture, but He does offer peace and hope and strength.

Isn’t that crazy?    Even back then God seemed to be preparing us that Ava’s life was all about God’s greater purpose than us just having a healthy normal child to raise.   And we can definitly say that He gave us more peace and hope and strength than I ever thought would be possible.

And so what I wrote last year still applies to me today…  I still have to trust that God’s perfect plan was accomplished when He took our beautiful baby home to Him.

One week ago today.