Christmas Season

My favorite moments of the Christmas season are often the quiet moments – early in the morning before the world starts moving. I love having Christmas music playing low and it’s usually my time to let my mind wander. My mind this morning wanders everywhere. I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m hopeful, I’m joyful, I’m numb. I’m also still very much in the processing phase of what our lives looked like a year ago. This week, last year, actually makes me laugh. In the span of five days we closed on our home, moved into our home, wrapped up our CHI apartment, I had my port surgery, fainted after my port surgery, wore my last pair of mismatching socks to the hospital ever (sock shamed) & successfully shopped for a wig I’d need in three short weeks. How did I even function? All of this while recovering from major surgery and preparing for chemo/radiation, which started the following week. I’m shaking my head at it all – one because we are probably a little crazy, but more so because I can’t believe that was our life. I’m so deeply grateful that I’m healthy this year and not going through all of that right now.

And while I feel that level of gratitude that I’ve never experienced before, there’s a piece of me that wants nothing to do with the holidays this year. Bold statement from a tried and true Christmas lover like myself! The holidays are a stark reminder of what’s missing in our life. These quiet mornings that allow my mind to wander are so needed for my sanity but also pierce my soul as they should be mornings filled with baby giggles and Christmas jammies. I’ve found grief to be impossible in so many moments, but I had no idea what was coming for me as the calendar ticks closer to December 1st. Grief is obviously difficult at the pure fact of Hallie missing from our earthly life but what makes grief nearly impossible is the way it creeps in with no warning. And I feel like it’s magnified mightily during the holiday season, when days are usually filled with so much joy. We should be stockpiling toys and yet, ‘stuff’ doesn’t interest me one bit this Christmas season. I actually find myself resenting it a bit, to be honest. It all seems meaningless when we would trade everything we have and all that we are to have Hallie terrorizing our Christmas tree ornaments this morning.

That’s all obvious, though. Or at least for us.

What plagues me even more are the moments that you just don’t expect. Moments you can’t plan for. And when you’re a planner, my oh my, it can sure be paralyzing. At the risk of sounding dramatic, those moments are truly devastating. And they’re usually so random! You would think it’d be the obvious- seeing a baby girl in her mama’s arms, or a comment that is said and is just a total miss (regardless of intentions, which I know are usually always good!). We are actually pretty good at smiling and nodding through those moments, while silently cursing the world. If together, Kevin and I make eye contact and move on. If they happen while we aren’t together, we’ve actually amazed ourselves at our ability to rehash them, find a way to laugh and move on. You have too! But it’s the moments that something so small goes so wrong – I’m talking like fry sauce spilling or plans changing and suddenly your world tailspins. And then you feel stupid that something so small can trigger such a tailspin. And then you just realize how sad you are, how off you are. And then you realize again how much you’ve lost and changed physically and how frustrating it is to not even be able to function normally on top of it all. I call these moments, these days, my, “just go to bed and try again tomorrow” moments. I’m learning to not be so hard on myself but that is insanely easier said than done. This, y’all, is grief.

I had one of those nights last night, while out on a date night with Kevin. I hate it. I hate all of this. But I woke up this morning to Christmas decorations starting to take over our home and in the same breath that I say Christmas is so hard, it’s also such a savior. If none of this makes sense or doesn’t add up, I think that’s the whole point of grief. It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t add up. Ever! It makes you feel a little crazy sometimes. All Kevin and I can do is keep talking, keep finding a way to laugh, and somehow keep being grateful for our second chance at life. And of course, keep praying for that baby of ours out there!

Here’s to making the most of this Christmas season as we try to navigate it all. 🧡🎄

Hospital Sunrise

Who has the app Timehop? It’s been both a blessing and a curse in my life. On the good days, it’s fun to walk down memory lane. It can sometimes be helpful to have a perspective reset that in the span of our lives, the past year has been just that, one year. But then on the bad days. The anniversaries. The unexpected moments that trigger a deep sadness, it’s a curse. A curse that I equate to a car accident on a highway – you know it’s going to be brutal but you just can help but look. 

I’d say each day for the past couple of months has been more of the latter for obvious reasons. Nothing like starting the day with a punch to the gut at what should have been. But just as there are unexpected triggers of sadness, there are posts that stop you in your tracks for the good. This was from yesterday: This won’t mean much to most of you and if we are speaking honestly, you’re probably pretty underwhelmed by this photo. But the story behind it? That was from my hospital room last year. The 6th floor and it was early. I remember the moment vividly. The nurse had just come in for rounds (aka shots, aka the worst). It was so dark in the room, Kevin was sound asleep. It was a rare moment alone and I remember glancing over and that sunrise captivating me. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a totally cheesy human, a total sucker for things to take as a sign. I took this as a beautiful sign amidst so much heartache and loss in those days. Amidst so much physical pain and setbacks. I snapped a picture, wanting to remember that moment. A sign from Hallie (a sign from God) that even through the darkest days, the fiercest storms, the sun will always rise. And when it does rise, it shines down on us, completely different people, changed forever by our circumstances but with a hope that carries us through. This belief is exactly why Hallie deserved her name, Hallie Hope. 🧡

We broke out of Loyola after nearly a week, a year ago today. I use the words “broke out” generously. I really mean we wheeled reaaaally slowly, took three steps and a break. One stair per five minutes. But eventually we made it home. We also shared with you all, for the first time, our little girl and her most perfect footprints and handprints.  One step in front of the other. We’ve conquered another day. 

We have officially entered the season of Thanksgiving and as I reconnected with an old friend last night, a nurse herself, it made me realize that I wanted to take a moment today to express our immense gratitude for our doctors and nurses at Loyola. That hospital stay was hard. It doesn’t need to be described and yet the care for my body and our hearts was simply incredible. Those nurses of mine, heroes. Real life heroes. And my doctors. I’m 370 days cancer free because of their expertise, giving us the ability to hope. We left that hospital with empty arms a year ago, a life we could’ve never imagined but just as there is always hope in that the sun will rise, we cling to the hope of the life in store for us and the baby out there that is meant to be ours. Hopefully sooner than later, of course. 🧡

HHH💖

This. This was our last family photo. Truth is I have zero recollection of taking this photo. At that point I had already been sedated prior to the epidural. According to Kevin I asked for it, saying it’d be our last family photo, and a whole lot of tears from the entire pre-op staff ensued. So I’m told.

It’s been 365 days since we lost Hallie and not one of those days makes sense. Those days have been filled with incredible loss and unbelievable circumstances. As we distance ourselves further from the physical treatment of beating cancer, it seems as though our loss becomes more tangible. Today, it just feels numb. Today, more than ever, my heart just wants to know the earthly why. My best attempt at articulating what today, what this week has felt like is paralyzing. It’s like we’ve been held hostage to these dates and the cost of what they all mean. Ever since this nightmare started, so many people have reached out with their favorite verse or sent me incredibly thoughtful words. I’ve kept an ongoing note on my phone where I have saved every one of them. I’ve referenced it more times than I can count over the past year. Today, I fixate on Philippians 4:7.

I read a blog the other day about interruptions in life and how no matter how small or how big they are, they are meant to seek our attention. To get us to slow down. To open our eyes and to give us the opportunity to identify those we should hold close when they need it most and to recognize when we ourselves need to be held. There is power in both. I’ve never been good at the latter but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned the past year is that there are just days you don’t have to be ok. You simply have to let go and allow yourself to be held by God’s grace. Today is that day in the biggest of ways. 

You left incredible footprints in this physical world Hallie, but your true footprint lives on forever in our hearts and in Heaven sweet girl. We would give anything to have your laughter fill our home these days. We can’t wait for the day that we will finally get to hold you. 💖 I will never let you go when I finally get that opportunity.  

As for us today, we are off to the airport to get off the grid for 48 hours with two of our best friends. Two people that have been so incredible to us and who we love so dearly. Two people that have walked this journey with us every day and who would’ve undoubtedly been the greatest honorary Aunt Noelle & Uncle David to Hallie. She totally would’ve had her first Taco Bell experience with them. We are honored to remember Hallie with them today and we are grateful to call them family. 

And although we are numb today, we believe to our core that Hallie would’ve been the happiest, funniest, biggest bundle of energy possible. We believe her legacy is one of love and laughter. And bravery. Find a way to honor her today. Hug your family and friends a little tighter. Be grateful for all you have in those closest to you, as that is what matters more than anything. And as we tried to do even in the hardest of moments, be brave enough to find a moment of laughter, a glimmer of hope on her behalf. And as always, share your stories with us when you have a moment that it just had to be Hallie. We love them! 

Love you Hallie girl 💖, forever and always.