Monday, March 9, 2009

Remembering Dex

Tomorrow will be exactly four months since Dex and Crew made their dramatic arrival. While we rejoice that Crew has made it safely and miraculously to our home at last, Dex is never far from our thoughts or conversations. We talk about him often and I anticipate that it will always be the case. He's an important member of our family who happens to live somewhere else for now. Our grandparents live in Idaho and Alabama, Dex lives in Heaven. Sometimes Heaven feels closer.

Kinley is starting to ask more detailed questions about his death, questions that are more painful to address with my 6-year old. She wants to know exactly when and how he died, what was all that water that was all over the house when she woke up the morning, etc. It's so much easier to be clinical and open with my adult friends than to try to think about it in age-appropriate terms that I can explain to the innocent princess who has been left without her brother.

Kinley and Tanner seem to understand the concept of death as well as the resurrection. Alas, the timing of the resurrection was something that we had to address. Several months ago while tucking them into bed, Kinley asked with great excitement, "So, Mommy, when is Dex going to be resurrected so that he can come live with our family?" Thus began a very long bedtime discussion.

I sometimes think that Tanner understands all of this better than any of us, regardless of how oblivious he appears. One night a few weeks after Dex died, we were reading from the big family version of the Book of Mormon, the purple book with the paintings. Tanner came over to me, saw a painting of Jesus, stopped in his tracks and said, "Mommy? Where is Baby Crew?" At the hospital. "Where is Baby Dex?" It was the first time he had ever said Dex's name or clearly indicated that he even knew about him. I was floored. The fact that a picture of Jesus triggered the connection was only further testimony to me that Dex is, in fact, with Jesus, and that the veil remains thin for my Tanner. When Justin's family presented us with the beautiful painting of the Savior holding the baby, Tanner saw it and he piped up immediately, "Mommy! Look! It's Jesus and Baby Dex!"

Having Crew come home has filled us all with fresh opportunities to think about what life would have been like if we had been able to save Dex too. Tanner has started saying almost every day that he just wishes that Dex could come home. He really seems to understand all of this, much more than I ever thought possible.

Now that Crew has come home, I now have more time, energy, and peace within myself to devote to working through my feelings about Dex. I'm so proud of him, I love him so much, and I miss him. A lot. When Crew is in an especially peaceful sleep, he looks exactly like Dex and it takes my breath away. I'll always be so glad that I recorded my feelings when they were fresh because they have served to strengthen me when I have had my weak moments. Most of the time, I really and truly am ok with everything and I feel extraordinary peace about it. But, I have definitely had my days where I have thought "I am totally at peace about this. Aren't I?" and "I know that things worked out exactly as they were supposed to. Don't I?" and my personal favorite: "I'm totally ok. Wasn't I? WASN'T I?" When the "what ifs" creep in, all I can do sometimes is just rely on the feelings I had in November and put my trust in what I knew then.

When I was in the hospital, I spent a lot of time talking to one of my night nurses, Jean. I pretty much refused to sleep while I was in the hospital and I didn't like to be alone (because I might accidentally fall asleep). I remember thinking "I can't fall asleep because right now I'm ok and I don't have any guarantees how I will be if I fall asleep and wake up later." I summoned Jean in the dead of night a few times and we had some good talks; She lost her husband in a motorcycle accident when she was 21, pregnant with their first child. I will always remember what she said about it. She said, "Ever since my first husband died, I have never felt quite the same attachment to this world." I so totally get that. I get it.

One ironic thing that we have is our ultrasound photos. The interesting thing is that we could only ever get one baby to cooperate for ultrasound shots and that baby was always Dex, never Crew. Also, Dex was the more active baby; Crew was more mellow and he was buffered by my gigantic placenta. I was able to spend more time bonding during the pregnancy with Dex, which turned out to be an unexpected blessing, treasured memories.

There is some school of thought that Dex gave his life to save his brother and his mother. I think there might be something to that and knowing him like I do, I think that's just the kind of thing that he would do. Mothers die quite often with placental abruption, undiagnosed as mine was. If my water hadn't broken, I have been told that I would likely have died by morning , and we already know that Crew wouldn't be here, since his heart had already stopped by the time we were able to get him out. We were just a few minutes away from losing both sons, and a few hours away from losing all three of us. I continue to be overwhelmed by the benevolent, merciful miracle of it all, even though it didn't turn out exactly as I would have chosen.

We're all healing in our different ways. I feel that Justin had the worst end of things that first week. I was dealing in my own way in the hospital, but he had to actually function with the outside world. He had to work with family and neighbors on child care and funeral arrangements, battle insurance, and still keep food on the table. Who ever thinks you're going to have to pick out a burial plot for your child? We should have been choosing a crib for Dex, not a casket. I don't think anyone is ever prepared for that, but Justin handled it with grace, dignity, and remarkable fortitude.

What I didn't learn until much later is that Justin had to tell me several times about Dex when I came out of the anesthesia. My brain was caught in an anesthetic loop and Justin had to tell me more than 20 times that Dex had died. Each of those times I cried and mourned while he held and comforted me, and then I would repeat the loop, asking anxiously how the babies were. Telling your wife she lost her baby once would be traumatic enough. I can't imagine how he endured it so many times. He's quite a man.

One week after the babies were born, we were in the car on the way to the hospital to visit Crew. Justin was driving and I remember when he pulled out of the garage, he stopped, got out, and took the garbage to the street because the next day was garbage day. I remember thinking "who remembers to take out the garbage at a time like this?!" Justin does. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what. He's no quitter and he doesn't bury his head in the sand. He's my rock and I love him today more than ever.

What is Dex doing these days anyway? We've always been taught that special spirits who are called home too soon have an "important work" on the other side. In my mind it was always some vague, "special purpose", disconnected from our reality. It occured to me that there is no more important work than strengthening and protecting families. I have felt his presence so keenly at times that I can't help but think that one of his "important assignments" is to watch over our family and help us return to our Heavenly Father. Perhaps these special angels can help us more effectively from the other side than they might have been able to do in person. Perhaps their "important work" is actually all about us. We're definitely assisted on our journey by all of our loved ones who have passed on before us: angel babies, parents, grandparents, and everyone else.

I am so glad that we chose to have a funeral service for Dex. It was absolutely perfect, everything we hoped that it would be. It was very healing for us and a beautiful memory that we cherish. We were so touched by those who were with us in person and in thought. Thank you for joining us that day. We chose for speakers Justin's brother Matthew and my good friend Keith Welch. Their messages were very touching to me personally and helped me along my path toward healing. A sweet neighbor so beautifully sang the most touching song called "Homeward Bound" that I had never heard before, and presented me later with my own recording.

One of the most poignant memories I have of Dex's funeral is, surprisingly, sitting in the car just before pulling out of the parking lot on our way to the cemetery. I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude to see the men of the neighborhood filing out of the building carrying all of the flowers from the church to the cemetery. I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it did.

Justin's father wrote a poem for Dex that we included on the program:

"Although my time upon this earth
Was cut so very short,
I accomplished all that was needful
In our Heavenly Father's plan.
And though my tiny body
Has been laid to rest today,
My spirit lives on forever
And awaits that blessed day
Provided by our Savior.
Then united once again
I'll grow and run and play,
I'll hold your hand in min
And you can help me on my way."

My sister Heather also wrote him a poem that we included on the program:

Our Father held you in His hand
then placed your hand in mine.
And then His hand cradled both of us,
as I whispered, “Not my will, but Thine.”
I hold your precious, tiny hands,
so perfect, pure, and clean;
They hold your crown of glory,
with no conflict in between.
The Spirit that you brought with you
gives such peace, and joy, and love.
Priceless gifts from our loving Father’s
perfect hands above.
And now I place your hand once more
in our Father’s, where you’ll be,
until I’ll hold your hand again,
through all eternity.

We chose the quote "the crown without the conflict" for Dex's grave stone, but we won't be able to set it until spring arrives and the ground is in the right condition. When my sister came to help us in December, we took her to the cemetery. I'm so glad we did that because now I think I have the strength to return again. I discovered that it's a happy and a sad place, not just a sad place.

A man in the ward slipped me a quote one Sunday that I really liked. "Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in words alone, but in every leaf of springtime." Martin Luther.

One thing that burns with curiosity inside me is the story of how these two sweet boys came down together. I feel sure there is a story there and I'll have to be patient for a while longer yet to know it.

So, onward we go, finding joy in the journey. I can't wait to wrap my son in my arms one day, and never have to let him go again. I am so blessed to have him. Truly, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Saying hello.
Saying goodbye. The funeral.


Kira =] said...

thank you for sharing the sweet glimpses of your son and what your family is experiencing.

Aimee said...

So beautifully and eloquently written... thanks for sharing such tender feelings - had me in tears! I can only understand and know just a fraction of what you and your family have been through the last several months. Your strength amazes me!

AdronsCatherine said...

Oh, sweetie.

I never know what to say, but thank you so much for sharing your deepest feelings in such a beautiful way. My heart breaks for you - I can't remember what it was like when the pain was still so fresh. I do know that after nearly 6 years, it feels like an eternity has passed, but I still think of my little Max every single day.

Blessings to you and your family, and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Squeeze all of your little ones tight, and know that you are so very loved...

Krisi and Adam said...

Thank you for sharing. You are so strong (and so is Justin). Life often doesn't seem fair, having lost two little boys myself I can relate to a lot of what you have said. My two girls (one who doesn't understand and one who is 4 and does) help me get by each day. And when someone talks about her just having a sister she ALWAYS corrects them, "no I have two brothers and a sister. My brothers just live with Heavenly Father their names are Russell and Roy." As if it is normal for that to be. She makes me strong as Tanner & Kinley do for you.

Thank you for sharing Crew (and Dex's) story for all of us to read. If I lived closer I would be there to help you in anyway you needed!

Scrapping Mom of 5 said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I know I was so glad we had a funeral for our Samuel born into heaven. It was also very meaningful. I've had many of the same thoughts about what Samuel is up to now and seeing a picture of Jesus holding a small child also brings the same feeling of comfort. What is also meaningful is our daughter who was born a year after we lost Samuel talks about her brother with complete casualness likes she talks about her living brothers. We have one picture on the book shelf and she'll say or that's my other brother he's with Jesus. From the funeral the associate pastor sang a Christian Praise song which has become Samuel's song to me and will usually cause a few tears to fall when I hear it. I also love the little butterfly garden we put in. Seeing a living thing helps me feel closer as well.

Vera said...

Thank you for sharing this...

Carly Lynne Peterson said...

Not sure if you remember...I think it was the night before Crew went back to PCMC...he had just gained 7 ounces...and I was caring for him for the first time. We sat and had the most uplifting have an amazing strength and grasp of the significance of the gospel. At this very moment, tears are pouring down my cheeks as I feel the spirit of your testimony and the strength that you have in a very trying time. I so often see the NICU in a very clinical protects me from more heartache than I can stand...and then I talk with mom's or dad's, like you, and feel an overwhelming love for my job. To be able to momentarily care for a baby as it comes into this world and then back to our Heavenly Father. Megan, thank you for heart is full because of you, Crew, and Dex!!! Please keep in touch!!


texasblu said...

Such a beautiful testimony - thank you so much for sharing. You are a light in the world...

La Scrapping Mad-ison said...

So I've been reading on and off from the start (and I NEVER look ahead and cheat :) about your story. I got all excited (and cheered) when Crew got out of the gray area and started showing great progress. I cried and cried and cried at the beginning (to the point of my hubby asking me what was wrong) when I read what had happened to your amazing and beautiful family.

Here I am again, months later, with tears STREAMING down my face. All of those happy pictures of your Little Man all home and in his sibling's arms (and yours!) and here comes the sadness.

You surely do have the strength and guidance that I couldn't imagine having through your (and Crew's and Dex's) ups and downs.

My heart and prayers go out to you and yours and I wish all of you the best.


Brooke said...

What a beautiful story. I love it when you talk about Dex. I am glad that Crew is doing well. Tears are streaming down my cheeks.