Reflection. The end of the year is often the time when people reflect. They reflect on the past year… it’s successes and it’s failures, it’s good times and it’s bad times and look ahead to what the future holds. As I reflect on 2017, my mind and my heart struggle to truly put into words what this last year has been like for our family. I am reminded of the good times. The experiences that we were able to have with Emma and the joy that so many of those experiences brought to our precious girl and in turn to Scott and I. 2017 brought immense physical and mental growth for our sweet girl.
We watched her take independent steps with her walker. Our hearts were filled with the upmost pride to see her take her walker and walk in the Red Balloon Run and Ride. I think we might have been the loudest people cheering that day. You see, her walking was no small feat. It was what doctors said would be an unconquerable milestone that with one strong-willed little girl, fabulous therapists, and persistence, she did it.
We witnessed our intelligent girl learn how to navigate her speaking assistive device. It brought such joy to her to order her own food at Sonic. Oh she was so proud of herself! We saw her conquer spelling, reading, basic math, and witnessed her writing her name so beautifully. A token that I was able to turn into a necklace that I wear almost daily.
As I reflect back on the last year I can’t help but think about some of our adventures. Emma got to go to Fossil Rim to see the animals with her cousins, she got to make trips to Oklahoma to see family. She rode a four wheeler and paddle boat.
But during this time of reflection, it’s not the big things, it’s the little things that flood my mind the most. The trips to Sonic every Friday after the weekly doctor appointments to get french fries, the endless readings of Pout Pout Fish and Frog on a Log, the dance parties to Pentatonix and Home Free and Hamilton, the interactions with her Grampa, her weekly homeschool, therapist and Nurse interactions, the nightly power wheels rides with her daddy, the open and shut the door game, silly hand, the Its Baby Big Mouth on YouTube, the kisses and the singing your special song every night with prayers as we tucked her in bed. Those are the reflections that fill my heart.
But I would be lying if I didn’t say that reflecting on this past year also included some very hard times. I don’t wish upon anyone in this world to have to experience what Scott and I had to experience, and yet I hear of families almost daily who lost a child to CHD. There is absolutely no easy way to make the decisions that Scott and I had to make. Nothing that will bring you to your knees quicker than watching your child take their last breath. We could let those thoughts consume us and to be honest sometimes they do. Our hearts ache for her. Don’t get me wrong, it brings us the upmost comfort and peace to know where she is. To know that our precious girl who fought so hard in this life and overcame so many obstacles all while dealing with daily pain and struggles is no longer dealing with those same struggles; however, that doesn’t take away our pain. It makes our pain bearable. It doesn’t take away the tears. The truth is this….Scott and I choose to find JOY, amidst the pain and the loneliness. The odds are when you see and when you talk to us about Emma, you won’t see tears, you will see a smile. That doesn’t mean we aren’t grieving. That doesn’t mean we don’t miss her terribly. God gives us the strength to get out of bed each morning and face a new day. His unwavering love and comfort allows us to find joy even in the dark times. But it doesn’t take away the emptiness that our hearts feel and the hole that was left when she left. There are days where Scott and I are will hear a song or see a picture or find something of hers that automatically causes tears to fall from our eyes. There are days when I don’t really want to be around a lot of people, where it seems like everyone else’s world is continuing to turn and mine stopped. We don’t expect people to understand who haven’t gone through it. But know that sometimes Scott and I are smiling through incredible grief. We are attending events and going on with life even when we would rather be home just the two of us. Know that it’s not getting easier, and that forever we will miss her.
So as you reflect on this last year, do your best to find more joy than struggle. And, as you look forward to 2018 I would encourage you to find more opportunities for joy. When your kids are being total brats ;) remember how blessed you are to have them and hug them a little tighter. Find time to give back to others, spend more time laughing, and remember why we have the ability to get up each day. Scott and I are 100% convinced that we are able to face each new day because we have a God who has a plan that is bigger than the heartache that we are feeling right now. And if you see Scott and I, don’t be afraid to talk to us about Emma. You see we had the honor to be her mom and dad for 6 1/2 years. The memories we made with her and the relationships formed because of her will forever be a part of us. We love hearing your Emma memories and we love getting to hear about the impact she made.
As you reflect on 2017 and move into 2018, remember God is good. All the time. God is good. If you are having problems believing how we can feel that way, feel free to talk to Scott and I. We would love to tell you why we believe that with every fiber of our being.
We leave you with this last question: Are you finding JOY in the Journey?