Wednesday, September 26, 2012


My grandmother passed away last night, on the eve of a crisp autumn night in Colorado.  I've spent the last few days here with her, saying goodbye.  This is what I shared with her. 

I can’t let you leave without doing the only thing I know to do, the only gift I have to give.  Words.  Words to celebrate, remember and grieve.  I need this for me, for the pain of losing you.  And I need you to hear these words before you go.

Grandma, we’ve all felt your touch pressing into our souls.  It’s the touch of nurture and knowledge, of strength and beauty. 

I sit awake in the wee hours of milky nights nursing my babe, and I think, “You’ve done this seven times over.”  Seven times you birthed new life, wiped bare bums, soothed scraped knees.

Your mother touch reaches down and around to the fourth generation.  You’ve nurtured us all in a way all your own, with popcorn, piggy banks and peanut brittle.  With tiny tea sets, cozy blankets and nickel gum balls.  You’ve fed us all with your made from scratch love. 

My soul breathes deep as I see these finger prints of nurture you have left on me.

There may be no plaques on your wall, nor degrees in your hand, but you have the knowledge of the very best kind.  You’re a learner of life, never ceasing or stagnant.  Through books, newspapers and stacks and stacks of National Geographic you’ve lapped up this world.  A love of learning can never be taught.  Rather it is tasted and touched through a life like your own until magically it seeps into us.

My soul breathes deep as I see these finger prints of knowledge you have left on me. 

You may loathe the weakness age has forced on you.  But we all know this frail shell holds the lifetime of a lioness inside.  Someone tells you you can’t, you’ll show them you can.  The fibers of your being are gumption and fortitude, spunk and guts.

This strength has carried you across the many miles you’ve traversed, up and moving your home, then visiting your children spanned far and wide.  This strength has carried you through pain and through loss.  And now it’s this strength that can finally rest.  No more striving, enduring, just peace, glorious peace in the arms of Him who created you a lifetime ago. 

My soul breathes deep through the pain and the loss for I see these finger prints of strength you have left on me. 

Though you’ll be gone, you’ll not be forgotten.  For you leave with us all a legacy of beauty, lasting and true.

We will see you.  We will see you in the ruffles of the iris and in the softness of the African violets.  We’ll see you in the flight of the loon and in the quiet of the mountains. 

And we will remember.  We’ll remember the way your lips touched your flute.  We’ll remember the way your finger tip rubbed circles round your thumb print.  We’ll remember the way you crafted beauty from clay, goodness from flour, song from breath, blossoms from soil.

And we will celebrate.  We will celebrate the life that you lived, the woman that you are.  And we will breathe deep, a long exhale, for we see these finger prints that you have left on us all.  Nurture and knowledge, strength and beauty.

Go in peace, Grandma, knowing that you leave us with your touch pressed deep in our souls. 

July 2011


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Story of My Titus

It will be replayed in my mind a thousand times.   It will be rehashed at each birthday party every August 16th.  The story of my Titus.

So before time dulls vividness, here's me writing it out.

Wednesday evening, August 15th, I sat at our kitchen table chatting over watermelon with my Russian student who had come by for a visit.  That's when the contractions started...again.  I didn't even mention it to my student, but just listened to her talk about her plans for the coming month.  I did give Aaron our little signal that I was having contractions.  This was the forth or fifth evening in the past two weeks that a whole series of contractions had come on, and every one of those nights, we had scurried around making sure everything was packed, everything set for the babysitter.  Each of those nights I had gone to bed thinking, "This is the night."  And each morning I awoke to two kiddos peering over my mountainous belly as they crawled into bed with the still very pregnant me.

So on this evening, I didn't want to get my hopes up or even interrupt the conversation with news of these contractions.  They were so mild I could easily keep talking, although I did, perhaps, give my watermelon cube a stronger stab with my toothpick.  Aaron knew to check on me and let my student know what was going on.  But like the other nights, the contractions stopped after I went to bed.  I was awake for a good chunk of the night, but again, this was not unusual for me in the third trimester.

Morning came.  I groaned my way out of bed and set about getting the kids breakfast.  I finally set the spatula down.  "I don't feel so good," I said to Aaron as I made my way to the couch, ever so grateful that he was home that morning.  He was anxious to know if "this is it."  But I couldn't say for sure.  They certainly weren't the gut-wrenching contractions that I woke up with the day Aiden was born.  And we'd had so many false alarms this time...

And it just happened to be in the tiny three hour window that we didn't have childcare arranged for the kids.  Our babysitter had left town at 7:30 that morning.  My mom was flying in at 10:30.  So, of course, that's when baby decides it's time.  Aaron and Ellie were getting ready to head to the airport to get my mom, when I had THE contraction.  The one that is sharp enough and strong enough to convince me that this is for the reals.  That's when I told Aaron, "Start calling friends."  So he did.  We found someone to watch the kids and someone to pick my mom up at the airport.  Thanks, Lord, for friends. 

We called our dear Doula Rachel, and off we went to the hospital, reminiscing that this ride was a bit more pleasant than trekking to the hospital in the back of a taxi across the entire city of Beijing in rush hour traffic during Aiden's labor.

We got to the hospital at about 10:30am, and met our labor and delivery nurse, who just happened to be a jolly Thai woman.  When we told her our daughter was born in Thailand, she giggled "Really??" as only Thai women can, and we instantly became her best friends. 

My body seemed to have a pretty good idea of what it was doing this third time around.  I focused on being in the most comfortable position possible and riding the waves of contractions. 

This is where having a doula was simply wonderful, especially someone like Rachel.  As terrifically supportive as my husband is and was, there is just a whole other dimension of support that comes from a doula.  She anticipated needs I didn't know I had.  A pillow here, a touch to my tense forehead to relax my brow, counter pressure to my back, and her empowering encouragement.  In the midst of my mind-blowing pain, she compassionately whispered, "I know."  And she did.  She'd done this three times herself.  I could feel her sharing my pain.  Then she rallied me with her words, "You've got this."

And I did.  Because by some miracle of master design, my body was made to do this.  To conceive, to grow, to birth this child.  Of all this grand earth's mysteries, this, to me is the greatest.  That the Creator invites me and the seed of my soul mate to co-create with Him. 

A human soul emerging from my body.  A completely other person whose life will touch and change this world in innumerable ways large and small, makes its entry through the passages of my body.  Though there's a familiarity to the process this time, the magnitude of it all only grows.

The pain reaches unspeakable peaks.  I want nothing less and nothing more than to squeeze this person out of me.  With the first push, my water explodes across the room.  (Oh, the mysterious marriage of water and new life.)  Two more pushes that feel like death and pure joy, and Titus Daniel enters the world.

A magical Saturday morning in December, the touch of the Maker's kiss, thirty-nine weeks of sheltering this soul, and now he is here.

"It's a boy!" Aaron breathes in wonder as the ruddy red 9lb. 3oz. body is placed on my chest. 

"Ellie got her wish for another brother," we chuckle in amazement.

His cries quiver him, and I murmer into his thin thatch of dark hair, "Mama's here." 

As he calms to the beat of my heart, the tones of J.J. Heller float through the air.

"How does someone so small
Hold my heart so tightly
I don't even know you
I love you completely

I get to be the one to hold your hand
I get to be the one
Through birthdays and broken bones
I'll be there to watch you grow
I get to be the one"

And I am undone.  

Titus Daniel born August 16, 2012 at 2:19pm in Fullerton, California. 
9lbs 3oz
21.5 in