Friday, August 20, 2010

how lindsay does it...

i love lindsay. we are both part of a girl's group that meets that meets monthly to just be. we chat, we eat, we game. it's a night i deem sacred. and sadly, i'm missing it this month because i'm gone. lindsay is one of those people who've i've asked this question about multiple times. how does she do it? last january, i received the email she talks about and found myself with tears streaming down onto my computer keyboard. i have since been strengthened by lindsay. my perspective on life has changed and i am grateful for it.
here's how lindsay does it...

How do I do it? " Do what?", you're probably asking yourself. How do I live life just six months after my only child, precious and perfect, suddenly died? When Maren asked me to write a guest post for her blog about how I do it, I actually had to stop and ask myself, "How do I do it???" I had never really quantified my survival like that before. Over the last few weeks I have pondered this very question and tried to figure out the inner workings of my head that have allowed me to continue living my life even after the center of my universe suddenly vanished.

Just to give you some background on what happened, here is the email I sent out just hours after my son's passing:

It is with great displeasure and sadness that we announce the departure of our sweet Cooper from this world to the next. He died this morning, in our arms, at 4:33 am.

I took him to the ER yesterday around noon because he was presenting with classic signs of dehydration caused by what we thought was a stomach flu. Fluids administered through an IV did little to revive him and a CT scan showed some swelling around the brain. Around 4 pm he began to have atypical seizures and trouble breathing. After puttin
g him on assisted ventilation he was transferred to the Pediatric ICU at Lucille Packard's Hospital at Stanford.

He arrived around 7 pm and was totally unresponsive to pain and his pupils wer
e completely dilated indicating severe problems in the brain. After another CT scan and an MRI (and what seemed like forever), we got the prognosis around midnight that his survival was unlikely. We were able to hold him in our arms as he passed. The cause of death is yet to be determined but was likely some form of meningitis that caused severe swelling around the brain.

(Several weeks later, after the completed autopsy report, we found out that the cause of death was not meningitis at all, but an extremely rare disease called Gorham's Disease, also known as Vanishing Bone Disease.)
{The center of my universe.} So, how do I do it? My first realization was that the center of my universe didn't suddenly vanish as I stated earlier, because, in fact, Cooper wasn't the center of my universe after all. Don't get me wrong...I loved him with all my heart and doted over him more than any reasonable parent should, but the true center of my universe was and is Jesus Christ. I didn't grow up a religious person, but after high school I got my hands on a copy of the Book of Mormon and I just knew that I needed to join that church. It just felt like the right thing to do. Over the next decade I dedicated myself to learning more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and deepening my relationship with Him. So when Cooper was taken from my life, my world was still safely orbiting around that sure and steady center, even Jesus Christ.

{The power of prayer.}
I remember as my husband and I drove home from the hospital in our separate cars, I felt the depths of loneliness and sorrow like I never thought possible. We arrived home around 5 am and both my husband and I called our respective parents to tell them the news. Our conversations were brief, as all Patrick and I could think about was crawling into bed to combat the physical and emotional exhaustion we were experiencing. When we awoke just a couple of hours later, though still filled with heartache, we were feeling a little better, perhaps the effects of our personal prayers and those of our parents'. We knew we had to get the word out so I decided to send that email I quoted from earlier. It's hard to explain what happened after that, except that we just felt more and more comfort as the day went on. I truly believe that with each person who heard the news, a silent (or audible) prayer was offered on our behalf. With each prayer, our load was lifted and our burden and sorrow and pain spread across many shoulders. In those days following Cooper's death we felt literally wrapped in prayers and guarded from the pains and sorrow that accompany death.

{An idle mind and body is a dangerous thing.} The days following Cooper's death and funeral, I knitted and crocheted like a mad woman. I just felt like I needed something to keep me busy. I purposely worked on crochet patterns which required that I pay close attention and keep count of rows and stitches. I have to admit that I was a little scared to free up my mind too much and to think too hard about the craziness that was life. I was afraid of what my mind might come up with. After the dust settled a bit, I eased up on the needlework, but I continued keeping myself busy. Each day I made sure I had something to do.

I believe that it was pure inspiration that one of my friends invited me to sign up for a half-marathon even though I had previously turned down her invitations with snide remarks like, "Running is so boring” or, “I can think of a thousand things I would rather do than run" or "What's the point? Why would you torture yourself like that?" I'm not sure what possessed me to accept her invitation this time, but I did. I can't even begin to tell you what a blessing it was to not only get out early several times a week and get my endorphins pumping, but to have someone there to listen to me and encourage me and show me I wasn't alone. It was the best therapy for me. When I finished that race a couple months later, I wept.

I'm not currently training for anything, but I still get up and run with friends and keep my days filled with activities and work and tasks around the house. I'm convinced it's what keeps me sane.

{Purpose in passing.}
Someone told me, or I read somewhere that when we lose a loved one it helps to look for purpose in their passing. I feel like it is not hard to look around and find the good that has come from Cooper's death. One thing that tops the list for me are the many, many stories I have heard from close friends and even people whom I've never met that say his death has changed their life for the better. These comments come mostly from moms who have learned to cherish their children more fully and have found a deeper faith in their testimony of Jesus Christ. I think every parent wants their child to grow up and make a difference in the world, so to hear stories about lives that have changed because of his death are more healing than I can even explain.
We also started a memorial fund in Cooper's name. I had always read in obituaries the request, "In lieu of flowers, please contribute to..." I have always had a thing against flowers (I know, crazy, right?) because they're so expensive and then they die, that I felt if people really wanted to contribute to something to show their love or support for us, then I wanted it to go towards something less fleeting. Patrick and I decided that we would honor Cooper's absolute love for books by collecting funds to promote early childhood literacy, especially among lower income children. We were amazed and overwhelmed by the response. We were able to donate several thousand dollars to the Raising a Reader group that puts books into low-income homes and teaches and encourages parents to read with their children. We have dedicated a large portion of the donations in Cooper's Fund to a fund in perpetuity with hope that we will be able to make annual donations to this and similar programs for years and years to come.

{Optimism is my middle name.}
I think I am an optimist by nature, so it may not surprise you to hear that I often think of reasons why it is actually a blessing that Cooper was able to depart this world a little earlier than most.

First off, I remind myself that the future is statistically in my favor. Meaning, having now lost a child at a young age, the odds are really, really slim that I will lose a second. Sure, it could happen, and we’ll cross that bridge if we ever get to it, but the odds are pretty slim.
Second, as parents we worry about the choices that our children make. As the world gets crazier and crazier, I often worry what the world will be like when my children grow up and will they make choices that will qualify them for eternal life? Sometimes I absolutely yearn to hold my Cooper close, but then I soon find comfort in knowing that at least one of my children has made it to heaven. Our church, in no unspecific terms, believes that children who die before the age of accountability will be saved in the kingdom of God. Straightforward and simple. Cooper, through whatever he did in his pre-Earth life or this one, earned himself a one-way ticket to paradise. I'm just glad that Heavenly Father trusted Patrick and me enough to give us 19 months with him before he went back home. Oh, the memories I have of that sweet little boy!

Lastly, I think about what a blessing it is for Cooper's future siblings to have an older brother to look forward to meeting. There was an elderly lady that attended our congregation when we first moved to Sunnyvale. I had the responsibility of teaching the women of our church once a month and during just about every lesson, regardless of subject matter, this dear, old lady would raise her hand and say some iteration of, "I try to live righteously so I can be worthy to meet my sister whom I've never met, that died before I became a part of the family." The closer she got to death's door, the more often she would share her desire to meet her sister whom she never met. How grateful I am that Cooper's siblings will have a brother whom they've never met to look forward to meeting and to help them make decisions that will qualify them for that union.
In closing, I just want to say that I believe in the eternal nature of our souls. I know that Cooper’s spirit exists in a place not too far distant and that when I depart this earthly life we will be reunited for all eternity. For now, I’m happy to just wait and make the best of what time I have left here.


Karen Hauley said...

I got up to run this morning and was prompted to turn on my computer first - I never do that. As I read your story, I wept and wept. I'm certain that even more prayers will be offered as others read this post. What a blessing for you and for Cooper, to continually turn people toward Christ. Thank you. . . and bless you.

ed and kelli said...

i, too, wept and wept. i have a near 19 month old and i'm not sure i have your same strength to go through something like that. but your perspective is awesome, cause how great would the feeling be that "at least one of your children made it to heaven". i love that.

LJ, DC and ML said...

Lindsay, you rock. I wish I hadn't read this at work! :) Maren, thanks for posting this.

Rach said...

This is beautiful. I have only met Lindsay once and have heard some of the most amazing things about her from so many people. This confirms what a truly incredible woman she is. I am so glad that I read this! Thanks!

whitney said...

sheesh.... i love you lindsay. and your little cooper. what a special kid. so special "he earned himself a one-way ticket to paradise." thanks for the good cry... sometimes it just feels good to cry. and mare, i love you, too. your strength and patience amazes me. thanks for such an uplifting forum.

Kelly said...

I have never met you but have been touched deeply by this post. As I sit hear sobbing. Reading through my tears I can only imagine how you "do" it...and with such grace and passion for God. Thank you for inspiring me today. To be a better woman, a better mother, a better child of God.
Kelly (Mommy to Boston who has Down Syndrome and Brooklyn who has Rett Syndrome)

Michelle said...

So, Maren I am loving your "how they do it" posts. They are all so inspiring and help me want to be better! You have amazing friends.

What an amazing attitude with such a heartbreaking trial. I love that Cooper has his ticket to Paradise! :)

Aubrey and Dale said...

Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I too can relate to you in some aspects, as we too lost our little boy 3 years ago. To know that I have a little boy waiting for me on the other side is humbling. It helps me do all I can in this life so that I CAN be with Tate again. It's been a tough 3 years but one's in which I have grown closer to my Heavenly Father, I've become stronger in so many ways, and I've been able to help others who have since lost little ones as well. What a comfort it is knowing my little Tate has made it to the Celestial Kingdom. Now I just have to do my part to ensure I am worthy to raise him in the next life.

Jenny said...

I don't think there is much more that I can say that others haven't said. But I have been truly touched. Thank you for sharing your trial and testimony with us. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said that sometimes the only purpose of going through trials is so that we can empathize with others. Now, I'm not sure I believe that is the only reason you lost Cooper -- or why Leah has Rett Syndrome -- or why my Samantha has microcephaly -- but if a result of that is so that we can greater empathize with others, or help them through their own trials, I don't believe our own trial is in vain. You are an incredible woman. Thank you for sharing.

the youngs said...

Well said, Lindsay. You do know, that one day you will publish your own book, right?

Love you and Pat and Coop! And Happy 6th Anniversary!!

Lindsey said...

I cry every time I re-visit your story Lindsay.

Yes, very strong and amazing women to look up to! Thanks for sharing!

Molly said...

Love you, Lindsay. :) Thanks for posting here. I never tire of hearing your strong testimony. Ever.

Shannon said...

Beauty for ashes. That's what this post is. Thank you for sharing.

Olivia said...

We can all find strength in yours. Thanks for sharing your testimony and your story. You are amazing!

Afton said...

Maren, thanks for asking Lindsay to write this. Lindsay, thank you for writing what I've asked you so many times (or maybe it's just in my head). I hope you don't get tired of the qs, it's so good to read about your experience and how you stayed afloat and how your testimony is key. I've told you before, but I'm one of those people who have become a better mother because of this. I've cherished my kids more, been more patient, more loving, more in the moment. It helps that my kids, though young and didn't know him all that well, still talk about him all the time and remind me regularly to reverence him by spending time with them. Thanks for sharing.