Time and Faithfullness

Today is the third anniversary of Ava’s passing.  And I suppose that her death, like all our children’s births, will forever be etched into my memory.    But you know what,  I thank God that because of His incredible faithfulness, coupled with the passage of time,  our hearts are healing very nicely and all I can do is look forward to seeing Ava once again as we spend eternity together in the presence of God.

But let’s be honest, this is three years later talking.  Loss is hard, we all know that.  It’s hard enough to lose little things that we like, but then there are also big things that we love, things like friendships, marriages, and possessions and people.   Even our dreams,  those things that we always thought would come to pass in our life sometimes are lost to us and it’s all so very hard.

And the truth is that by the time I lost Ava I wasn’t new to loss.   A cousin, friends, siblings of friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents;  like so many others, I’ve been to more funerals of people who I loved that I care to count.  And praise God I can still carry on.  But have I learned anything from loss?  What has it taught me?

Well here is just a bit of what I’m learning and it’s becoming clear that God’s views on loss are very  different from mine.    Now Jesus wept when he experienced the loss of his friend, so we know that it’s good to grieve.  In fact, grief is a God-given emotion given to us for the purpose of letting go of the things that we love.  (I’ve always loved that tidbit, gleaned from this book “Good and Angry” https://www.biblicalparenting.org/r-goodandangry.asp ) So we need to grieve our loss… we have too.  And I remember one of the nurses of the PACT team in Toronto telling me that we often will say that things make us upset,  when the reality is that the hurt was already inside us and that thing was just a catalyst that allowed that hurt to come out.  And I love that.   I’ve told my kids that a lot when they would see me cry about Ava and they would get worried.  I hope it reassured them to hear me say that a certain song wasn’t making me upset – I was already upset, the song just helped me let go of a little more of the hurt in my heart.

But I’ve also learned that I need to hold on lightly to the things here on earth.  Not only because the things here on earth are temporal, but God has told us that this isn’t where our focus or our treasure is to be.  (Matt 6:19-20)   In fact Paul actually says in Philippians 3:8 that he counts everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ!  Then he says he has lost all things and counts them rubbish!  Rubbish!  I see that Paul understood something that I am only starting to see… that the things or even the people who I hold dear down here on earth, the things that can be taken away from me, aren’t the things that allow me to enjoy God in all his fullness and glory.  In fact, they are all things that typically distract me, and often pull me away from God.

Not that I lost Ava because she was a distraction, of course not!  But I know that living down here in a sinful and fallen world means I’m prey to the hurt and the pain that comes to us all.  Doesn’t the Bible teach that the rain falls on the good and the bad?   No one is immune to it and I think that’s the point I’m trying to make.  We often treat loss like it’s the worst thing that happened to us, and it’s so unfair, and that maybe God doesn’t care, when in fact, it might be the best thing that ever happens to us.  It might be that thing that sends you to your knees and strengthens your relationship on God, or sets your mind and your focus to eternity and gets your focus off of temporal and earthly things.

Jason and I have said over and over again, we would never go back.  Losing Ava was so very hard, but when we take into account the work that God has done in our lives, how he changed us and stretched us and grew us and how we had a first row seat to watching His faithfulness and mercy… well we can say with full hearts, we would do it all again.

So what did the loss of Ava teach me?  It taught me that God is in control and that He does have a plan, and nothing can happen to me that is outside His plan.  And the best part is that He is all my soul really longs for.  He is the only thing that will ever satisfy and bring me joy.  And because of this, no matter what He gives and what takes away,  I will be OK.

Praise God.

In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

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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.

Mama Pancreas

November is Diabetes awareness month!   I should have posted this last Friday on World Diabetes Day, but I’m not that organized.    Now perhaps I should have named this post ‘Mamma and Papa Pancreas’;  but as I’m with Sarah all day, every day now–I really do feel like I can safely call myself Mama Pancreas without stepping on Jason’s toes.

Sometimes, actually lots of times, quite often really,  I tend to forget just how much Type 1 Diabetes has changed our lives,  and more importantly how it has changed Sarah’s life.  And this is the part that makes me what to stop and have a little cry for my daughter who needs insulin pumped into her around the clock, who wears an electronic device 24/7, and who can’t remember what it’s like to go a whole day without pricking her finger at least 5 or 6 times.   I know she would love to just go back to those days where she could just eat something, anything, without having to stop and think about how many carbs it is and then tell her pump that number so that she gets enough insulin to cover that food.   To not have to endure a site change every three days, where we freeze a little patch of skin on her tummy, and then insert another infusion site into her, and then have to put up with the rashes from the medical tape and spots on her tummy from previous sites that hopefully one day will fade.

Whew…. diabetes is not fun.  But we do have lots to be thankful for still, yes even in this.   First of; it’s a great day-in-age to have diabetes because they seem to be getting closer and closer to a cure – or at least effective work-arounds all the time.   So that is exciting.   And to be able to wear a pump and have the control that we have over Sarah’s blood sugar is wonderful too – even if it does mean I get the privilege of checking her blood sugar before I go to bed and sometimes even in the middle of the night.

And I’m so thankful that Sarah is who she is–a strong brave girl who doesn’t let diabetes get her down.   She swam all summer long, and was in and out of the lake and pool like a fish.  She plays hard outside and inside and it hasn’t stopped her from doing anything she wants to do.    Once in a while she breaks down a little and we have a little cry together over it, but then she’s off again.   And her insulin pump that she started wearing last year at the end of January has been wonderful and her A1C’s (a test they use to look at blood sugar levels over the past three months)  have been really good, so that is encouraging.  I try so hard not to get frustrated with myself and with her when she eats something and we forget to bolus and her sugar gets out of whack.   But really,  there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to strive for perfection with blood sugar control because even things like her getting really upset can affect her  levels.   It is what it is.   It’s a treatable manageable disease that God has allowed into our lives for His purpose and His glory and we accept it — sometimes rail heavily against it but I know that God understands that we still feel pain even when accepting His will.

Maybe things like this are put into our lives to make us look forward to heaven more… no diabetes in heaven, hurrah!   I’m just thankful that we have Sarah and that she is healthy and that we get to enjoy everyday with our precious daughter who is growing up so fast!!!

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And I love the way she doesn’t care that her pump is out there for the world to see,  in fact I think it’s great.

Here’s this verse AGAIN that we can cling too;  I can’t get enough of it…

 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:18

Heaven is going to make all this so worth it!

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!

A cowgirl and a cupcake

Thank goodness last week’s festivities are over!   We had alot of fun as a neighborhood again this year, getting together to eat and carve our pumpkins the night before the big day.   We produced such works of art as this…

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and this, except it wasn’t so fuzzy in real life…

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And the next night we enjoyed having a cowgirl and a cupcake in the house….

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Although they did come back a little wet and bedraggled thanks to the rain.  However Sophia has never been one to put herself out for anything – even candy –  so she didn’t last that long and was very happy with her tiny haul.  Sarah got a bit more candy, and the boys (dressed up in Star wars characters) ended up getting a ton… but soon problems arose.   Sarah was sneaking candy.  And who can blame her?  I know it’s wrong and we didn’t like it,  but she was a lover of candy before her diabetes, so I would have rocks in my head if I believed that this issue was going to get better after her diagnosis.   And it was frustrating to have her sugar’s all over the place, even though we were trying hard to allow her treats within her target carb limits.

So on Saturday afternoon I traded the girls a new little stuffy for their candy… yahoo,  what a coup!  But there was still the boy’s candy and they were away visiting my parents for the weekend.  But I got them today with Lego sets that we had left over from last Christmas – and now I don’t have to worry about Sarah finding candy to sneak.  The boys got to keep a tiny bit that they promised to hide – they better!  But at least the bulk of the candy is gone and that makes me happy.    Super happy for us and for Sarah and trying to keep her healthy.

On the weekend, we got to enjoy a different kind of sweetness…. a precious new baby courtesy of my younger brother and his wife.

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We all enjoyed holding her and getting our ‘baby fix’.    I think sometimes people worry about me around babies, but the truth is that I don’t want other people’s baby’s, I want my own baby back!!   And I can hardly begrudge anyone a healthy baby, when I had four healthy babies before Ava.  So I just enjoy getting snuggles and then I enjoy giving baby’s back to their parents when they start to cry.  🙂

And speaking of our baby, Ava would have been 11 months today.   It’s hard to believe, and it’s kinda strange actually.  And I’m not sure how this is supposed to work, if she is forever going to stay a baby in my mind, or if I’m supposed to ‘allow’ her to grow up.  But whatever it is,  we miss her and wish that she was going to be with us to celebrate her birthday next month.

When I was in Toronto a few weeks ago they gave me Ava’s final bravery bead… a bereavement bead, a  little butterfly.

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I probably mentioned bravery beads way back, but at Sick Kids a child can collect ‘Bravery Beads‘ where they get a bead for every blood draw or test or poke or clinic visit.  It’s a neat program and although Ava never understood her beads, I did and it’s just such a testimony to what she went through in her short life.

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And I didn’t even do one for one on the beads… I would do one blood work bead for every 10 she got, but still, the meaning is quite clear.  Our strand was quite humble compared to other warriors at the hospital, but I know that I will treasure them forever.  And now the strand is complete and to be honest, for all their colour and cheerfulness, there is quite a bit of pain in that string.  And I praise God that Ava is free of all that pain and knows no more pokes or tests in her heavenly home.

Revelation 21:4  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.”

Praise God, what a hope we have.

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.

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