it’s not personal, it’s grief

Did you miss me?

My family took a trip with my in-laws to visit the Mouse in Florida.  That’s why I haven’t posted for a while.  That and I didn’t really have anything to say.

It was a good time.  There were parts that were rough, too.  Like the day I just sat and cried the whole time we were eating lunch because a small baby was crying at the table next to us and I wish we’d had one to chime in with her.  (really glad the milk has dried up because otherwise I’m sure I would’ve needed a new shirt)  I also about had a heart attack on the carousel when I heard a woman say “Gabriel!  Gabriel!  Smile, honey!”  Ugh, this really doesn’t get easier.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  “Why did you go to Disney when you know there are babies everywhere?”  Honestly, it wasn’t my idea.  But how can you say no to your other children?  (the man-child included)  For the most part I was fine but those few moments were really hard.

So… Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat and so on.  I still have shopping to do, which is neither stressful nor surprising.  I like to spread it out.  And, as usual, we have about 100 gatherings to go to starting this Friday.  There are Christmas and birthday parties, family gatherings (4 or 5 of them), my anniversary (#9) and a rehearsal and wedding to go to.  I really wanted to just hide and hibernate this year.  We’ve had a rough couple of years and I think that we deserve to do (or not do) whatever we want.  The problem is (for a few of these days) we can’t.  I suppose the truth is I feel like we can’t – in reality the wedding is really the only thing we absolutely can’t miss because Dylan is the ring bearer.  But, frankly, I don’t need the guilt from other people if we don’t show up for some of these things so we’ll go anyway.  Seems a little lose-lose when I put it that way, doesn’t it?

I’m really trying to get into the spirit this year but  I don’t really seem interested.  I’m going to try by getting the tree up tonight.  (yes, tonight, 9 days before the big day)  I am excited for the kids but I’m just not feeling it otherwise.

I know that once things get going I’ll probably be fine and enjoy the time but I’m not looking forward to it today.  (Do you like how I usually talk myself out of the funk-ish thoughts by the end of my posts?)

Time for another disclaimer: Don’t be offended if one of these events I’m not looking forward to is one you are putting on.  It’s not personal – it’s grief.

goodnight, my dear

Well, we made it.  We’re still standing.  Today we buried our Gabriel.

The weather was absolutely perfect.  (70 degrees and clear blue skies – I still love October)  So many people came that I lost count.  God was most definitely in that place.  The service was so beautiful and I don’t think the set-up scared anyone.  I was actually able to speak and to pray.  I sang (quietly) but only along with the songs that we played.  We had some scripture read and Brian’s dad said a few words at the end.  Then everyone made their last pass to say goodbye.

We tucked him in, along with the stuffed animals and the picture that Chloe drew, and closed the casket ourselves.  Then my husband and my brother carried him out to me and put him on my lap for the ride to the cemetery.  (which was about 200 yards away)  At the graveside we played 2 songs by Andrew Peterson (our favorite): After the Last Tear Falls and More.  In between the songs I read Psalm 23.  It was just precious.

Afterward we went to a nearby church for food and fellowship.  It was nice to have everyone sit down to a meal together.  When that was over we had my in-laws take the kids back home so we could go back by the cemetery to take the last of our pictures.  We have documented EVERYTHING with pictures.  Our funeral director was even so kind as to take pictures of us while we were busy with Gabe.

Though I really wanted a nap after we got home (we were up until 2:30 am this morning and got up around 7 am, not the best idea) the kids were not cooperating.  I am really ready for some hard sleep tonight.

As I sit here and reflect on the day I am so thankful for the time we were given with Gabriel and the opportunity we were given to say goodbye the way we wanted to (considering).  I have just been surrounded and filled with the peace of God.  Don’t get me wrong – I have had some emotional outbursts and weeping episodes.  But overall there has been a deep and lasting peace, and dare I say joy, in the midst of this.  Losing Felix was like getting hit by a truck.  This time was much different.

I feel like I’m rambling now and maybe later I will have some clearer thoughts.  I’d like to finish off with the lyrics to one of the songs we played today.  This one is just for you, my darling boy.  I love you, Gabriel Elliott.  Sweet dreams, baby.

May the Lord Bless and Keep You

Goodnight, my dear, go to sleep;
til you’re floating like a ship across the sea;
go to sleep.

May the Lord bless and keep you;
the Lord shine his face upon you, child, and give you grace.
May the Lord turn His face toward you, love, and give you peace.

Goodnight my dear, be at ease;
till you’re floating like the sunlight through the trees;
be at ease.

May the Lord bless and keep you;
the Lord shine his face upon you, child, and give you grace.
May the Lord turn His face toward you, love, and give you peace.

So lay down, breathe deep.

May the Lord bless and keep you;
the Lord shine his face upon you, child, and give you grace
May He turn His face toward you, my little boy, and give you peace.

-Andrew Peterson

like the dickens

Brian and I are sitting here planning Gabriel’s funeral.  (which will be held on Monday)  We’re choosing music that has touched us and we’ll be creating a video slide show.  We’ve asked the kids what they would like to include: Chloe wants us to have Psalm 23 read and Dylan wants “song number 8 on the Andrew Peterson CD – you know ‘Sarah take me by my arm.'”  (that would be Canaan Bound from Appendix A)  I’m not really sure what Ezra was trying to tell me.  I think he wants to do a dance.

We are really going to mess with some people’s heads.  We’ve asked them not to wear their “Sunday best.”  We’re also setting up the chairs so they face each other.  We want this to be very simple and comfortable and family-like.  Tonight I was thinking I wanted to sing something (with others joining me in case I can’t make it through).  I’m not sure what but I really desire for this to be very worshipful.  Losing our son hurts like the dickens but I also want to be reminded, and remind others, that Gabriel is in Heaven.  He is with Jesus – can you imagine?!  He’s met Noah, Moses, Elijah, the disciples… and his brother Felix.  He knows why God allowed this to happen to him and to us.  He knows all sorts of things that we can only speculate about.

Since it’s late (and I’m supposed to be helping my husband) I will end here.  Please keep praying for peace and comfort.  Tomorrow we go to the funeral home to get Gabriel dressed and ready for our final (worldly) farewell.  It’s not forever – just for a while.

welcome, Gabriel

My love, my son, Gabriel Elliott Groce was born on Monday, October 19th at 12:05pm. We got to hear one little squeak from him.   I watched him move his mouth.  I felt his breath on my cheek.  He stayed with us a glorious, wonderful 32 minutes before going home to Heaven.  He was not in any pain and for that we are grateful.  I’m sure he and his brother are having a great time together.

He is just beautiful.  He has a good amount of hair and blue eyes.  He has his Daddy’s fingers and feet.  In the face he’s a great combination of his brothers.  Who, along with their sister, were able to meet him today.  My OB arranged for us to go to her office so the kids could come there to see Gabe.  They were so precious.  They had a lot of good questions but mostly just wanted to love on him.  Each one got their chance to hold him.  They kissed him a lot.  They told him they loved him.  We got great pictures.

I am doing well.  I am sore and worn out but I’m well.  I have never felt such peace in my life as I did during Gabe’s delivery.  Thank you all for your prayers as we certainly felt God’s presence in that operating room.  I will write out more of the details of his birth at a later date.  For now I just wanted to let everyone know that he is here and we are okay.

(update: I had the time wrong… he lived for 32 minutes!  I was drugged and not watching the clock.)

Here is a picture of Gabriel meeting his sister and brothers.

Our darling kids

far from emotional (aka the funeral home experience)

We had an appointment at the funeral home today.  Good news, we did not see hide nor hair of the lady I spoke with on the phone.  Lucky for her.

It was pretty much uneventful.  I mean, the guy was very obviously stumbling through everything because he was uncomfortable but at least he didn’t say anything incredibly stupid.  Well, maybe he did.  He had spoken with the general manager about opening Felix’s grave to put the boys in there together and got approval for that.  But we had already purchased a plot for Gabriel and upon mentioning that he said that we could just save it for someone else.  WHAT?!  I really hope we don’t EVER have the need for another grave!  After I told him that he said we could use it for mom or dad or donate it to someone.  Okay, the donating makes sense.  Keeping one grave for one of our parents does not since both of our parents are still married to each other.  (What do you suggest we do, have a drawing?)  I am really trying to believe that he was so taken aback by our situation that he just had no idea what was coming out of his mouth.

I’m not sure if I was playing Egyptian (floating in DENIAL) or if it was true peace but the whole time we were there I just felt like “Thanks for the info but we’re not going to need it.”  It was nice to be far from emotional this time around.

That being said I feel good about having all of the paperwork and decisions made now just in case we do need it.  All we have to do is make a phone call and they can take care of the rest.

Here’s hoping we don’t need to make the call!

coming together

Our meeting with the nurse went very well today. She brought up everything that was on our minds. We’re going to have an extra nurse in the OR whose job will be to take pictures and video. I’ll get to have Gabe placed on my chest (with Brian helping to hold him there) as soon as they get him cleaned up. I’ll most likely recover on the unit instead of in the recovery room. I may also get to have the same nurses take care of me who were there when Felix was born. She also gave us some great suggestions for the kids.

I feel better about the planning process after today but it was still pretty emotional. (I know, big surprise!) It’s hard to believe we have less than 3 weeks to go now. I have 2 more things to schedule and get done… 1. call the NILMDTS photographer to schedule a maternity session and 2. meet with the funeral home to make arrangements. That last one I’m not looking forward to AT ALL. Especially after the last conversation we had. (you know, the one where I bought the plot for Gabe and the lady congratulated me on my pregnancy. yeah, really.)

So, as the time grows closer our earthly, human plans are coming together. My hope is that God will forgive us and still decide to trump all of this planning with miraculous healing.

the update we’ve all been waiting for

First, let me thank you all again for covering our family in your prayers. We really have felt at ease.

Now, for the news. The news is… the same. They confirmed the diagnosis and, worse yet, the anticipated outcome. We got a better look at the defect – which we found includes the liver, bowel, stomach, and part of the right kidney. One end of his heart is also at the tip of the defect. I’m not sure what is wrong with the heart. It didn’t look “normal” to us. His spine makes a 90 degree turn not too far below the rib cage. His feet are okay, though. That was one thing that was better than what we had previously thought. Basically, though, there is just too much to fix so it’s not possible for them to fix it.

Their main concern is for my health. If I have any leaking, bleeding or contracting I am to call the doctor and go to the hospital immediately. Because Gabe’s cord is extremely short (I think the measurement was 4-5 cm) I am at risk for placental abruption. They were also concerned about uterine rupture due to my previous c-section. Neither of those things would bode well for me. SO, it looks like we’re on baby watch for the next 10-15 weeks. They wanted to make sure that the hospital back home has a good support system and we told them that they do. The OB also asked if we had used Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep when we had Felix. We did not because we didn’t know about it but I told her I had been looking at photographers and plan to contact one. (I would like to have a family photo shoot prior to Gabe’s birth – for us to have some family pics and so we can get to know each other; not meet under less than happy circumstances.)

So, there it is. It’s okay, though, because at least we know we had someone familiar with the condition assess him and can be comfortable that we’ve done what we can. And it’s not over yet. God has the final say and we will NOT stop asking for a miracle for Gabriel.

I’m going to wrap this up with some scripture. I signed up for the Beth Moore simulcast again this year. She will be speaking on Psalm 37 so I decided to read through it tonight.  I can’t wait to hear all that God wants me to get out of this as I stew on it.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…

18 The days of the blameless are known to the LORD,
and their inheritance will endure forever.

19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

We will not wither, we will delight ourselves in the LORD.

(P.S. – please feel free to leave a comment so I know who’s out there!  :))

the recap

I had intended to post again before now.  This is REALLY long since I’m catching up.  I thought about splitting it up but decided that was too much trouble for me.

To take up where I left off… we had a nice trip to the Smokys with the kids.  It was quite relaxing and good for the soul after getting the news that we did.  We just decided to take it slow and enjoy creation and our children.

We told the kids about Baby G (who we now know for sure is Gabriel Elliott).  We explained to them that he has a hole in his belly and that he is very sick and may not make it.  Dylan, 4 and a bit too interested in death after last year’s events, then says “You mean he will die?”  I said “Yes, buddy.”  Then he went on to talk about his pizza and that was the end of that.  For the night, anyway.  I knew that Chloe needed to let it settle in for a little while and formulate some questions. [Read more…]

a page is turned

So, that last post… ugh.

We got some bad news at our ultrasound. Baby G was diagnosed with Limb Body Wall Complex – a very rare and fatal condition. What has happened is the abdominal wall did not close and most of G’s organs are outside of the (we think his) body. Like that’s not bad enough they have fused to the placenta. He will probably go full term but will die during birth or very shortly after.

I think I’m still in a bit of shock. I just shook my head and said “No, not again. I will not bury another child.”

So, we have 2 choices: induce and deliver in a few weeks or carry full term and deliver then. Either way, the outcome is the same.

As for choosing hope like I mentioned in the last post: believe it or not there have been a few moments where I have been able to. They have been few but they are there. I told a couple of my friends that we are going to beg for a miracle and prepare for the worst.

We have gone away for a few days to mull things over and figure out how to break this news to the kids.

Here is my plea: Please pray for healing for our son. That is the footnote I want in the textbook – “Doctors were unable to determine the resolution – he was miraculously healed.”