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.

How can we ever say…

Thank you.

Thank-you to everyone for your heartfelt support and generosity.  For taking the time to be with us the past few days .  For praying without ceasing for us.  And for those of you who could come, for sharing in our day yesterday as we remembered our sweet Birdy.

Our Pastor Norm (from Harvest London) did such an incredible job at Ava’s service explaining why we have hope, and in that hope is the knowledge that Ava is more alive in heaven than we are right now.  In fact, she is ahead of us as she is now fully aware of God’s glory.  Isn’t that incredible?    That truth so encouraged my heart.

I know where Ava really is, but it was really really hard leaving her precious little body at the cemetery yesterday.   I needed to give her one more kiss, and the crazy mother in me just wanted to grab her and take her home.   I didn’t (thank goodness!) and through God’s grace alone I walked away.   We can say that God was good to us yesterday and proved once again that He is faithful.

I would be very wrong to not thank Ashley who did so much for us, and everyone else from Harvest who made food and helped with worship and setup and everything.  We are so blessed to be part of the body of Christ.

And too everyone who travelled huge distances to come and support us and pay their respects, how can we ever tell you how much it meant to us that you all made such an effort to come?   We were actually just blown away by all of you that did come and we just thank you from the bottom of our hearts for loving Ava and praying for her and supporting our family.

I am no techie… but I put the power-point presentation that we showed of Ava’s life on YouTube… the resolution isn’t that great and hopefully someday we can fix that.. but for now I wanted to share it with you all.   If the video doesn’t show up below, you can click on this link…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mmA2Q0AI5w

Oh – and if the quality is poor – you can change the settings by clicking on the settings icon and make it better.

(updated video August 24)

Remembering Ava

We wanted to invite you all to remember Ava with us this Tuesday, August 20th at 1:00 pm held at North Park Community Church located at 1510 Fanshawe Park Rd E in London Ontario.     Our  Pastor Norm from Harvest Bible Chapel will be officiating, with Pastor Leo there as well.   Afterwards we will be having a reception which everyone is invited too.

And I wanted to mention that this will be a family friendly service as our four other children will be attending so yours can come too.  And please don’t wear black, or even a suit and a tie unless you really want too, I mean it.

Tomorrow we will be receiving people at the same location between 2-4 and 7-9 and would love to see you there.

Thanks once again for all your out-pouring of love and support, we feel very blessed in this very sad time.

I’m looking forward to everyone coming together to remember sweet Ava.

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Posted in Ava

Home

We are home, and it feels strange.  I think it’s maybe like how a solder feels after being away on the battle-ground, and then finds himself home and the battle is over.   We are grieving the loss our sweet daughter and we miss her so much.  But on the other hand, there is so much relief that she is finally at peace and isn’t hurting anymore.   It’s grief mixed with relief.   And it all comes in waves.  One minute we are fine and dealing with practical issues, and then the next minute we are swamped with feelings of sadness.  I didn’t want to go to bed last night because I knew that once I actually stopped being busy I would probably just cry and cry.  And I did.    But knowing what she was going through in the last days of her life helps comfort me knowing that she is more alive in heaven right now then we are here down on earth.  She is free from her body of death and has gone into eternal light.

And I’m happy to report that the kids are doing good.  One of the doctor’s from the PACT team told us that children grieve in puddles and adults grieve in rivers.  And I liked that and it’s proving to be true.    The kids hop in and out of their sadness, sad one minute and happy the next, which really isn’t unlike Jason and I, I just think we feel it deeper.

But oh I miss my baby!  What I wouldn’t give to have her back wtih us!   But in my heart I know that she had to go.   The doctors and nurses were very honest with me which we appreciated so much, and I’m so glad we could let Ava go before her suffering got worse.

And we just wanted to thank everyone again for all the kindness showed to us.  For Jason’s parents who came down to see Ava before she died, for my parents who came and supported us and cared for our kids during her death.  For the nurses and doctors and staff from our ward 4D at Sick Kids who showed us so much kindness and compassion… they really do feel like my family now.  We want to thank our church family for praying and supporting us, for my friend’s who cleaned my house this week, for friends who brought food and flowers to welcome us home.   And for all you readers who have left us comments just letting us know that you are here for us.

Tomorrow I will give you some info about the funeral, but I have to go now because I am too tired to think.  But happy (mostly) to be at home, even if it’s without our Birdy.

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Flown away

Our sweet little Birdy has flown to Jesus. She died peacefully in our arms tonight and is finally free from all the pain and suffering that was hers.

Our hearts are hurting and rejoicing at the same time and through all of this we feel so blessed for every minute we had with Ava.

I’ll share her verse one more time…

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

Here in the power of Christ…

Our family is re-united, and it’s actually back here in Toronto.   I didn’t end up going anywhere yesterday,  as I ended up staying for Ava because she wasn’t doing that well.

And then the doctor sat me down last night and told me something very hard…

Ava is dying.

Our sweet little Birdy’s body is breaking down and at this point she can’t recover without a new heart.

So please pray for our family today as we try to prepare to let her go to be with Jesus.    I can hardly believe that I’m writing these words, it seems so surreal…. but there is a perfect peace that is covering us right now praise God.

We have always loved the hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ and I wrote the last verse on Ava’s board in her room this morning…

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

His power is amazing, His peace is beyond comprehension.

Amen.