Six Years On

Six Years On

Barrys

Every year I take the day of the anniversary of Leah’s death off work (annual leave). In the early days, I used to save up my holidays and take the whole week off, as I used to be totally incapable of functioning around this time. Thankfully I am now able to focus on my work on the days leading up to Leah’s anniversary, although every day I am of course very aware of what I was doing at this time in 2014.

img_20200115_210153_1

I decided to take out Leah’s Youth Bible (the one she used most) and have a look through it. As soon as I opened it I noticed that she had cut out her daily devotional  reading for Thursday 31st January 2013, laminated it and tucked it inside the front cover of her Bible. By the end of January 2013, Leah was having weekly blood tests at our GP surgery and had already had her first appointment at the Sperrin Unit; the Haematology/Oncology department at our local hospital. While we were in the Sperrin Unit Waiting Area, waiting to be called into that first appointment, I was devastated when a young nurse bounced up to us and casually asked us if we were waiting on chemotherapy. I was already very uncomfortable with the fact that our fifteen-year-old daughter had to attend an Outpatients appointment at the Haematology/Oncology Unit in the first place, but this suggestion/implication that our teenage daughter, who was so vibrant and full of life, could possibly be ill enough to ever require chemo, was more than I could bear to contemplate. Leah, however, took it all in her stride and chatted away cheerfully to the lovely Clinical Nurse Specialist who subsequently attended to us.

Anyway, I have digressed; the piece that Leah had cut out and laminated is entitled ‘No Accident’ and I thought that I would transcribe it here as it’s very good and I can see why Leah liked it:

 Marianne Williamson said “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” Families, friends and life experiences can create fears and limitations that hold us back. We go about life doing the best we can in this messy mixed-up world in which we live, but if we’re not careful we can allow these fears to take over.

We can live by the labels put on us by others: ‘not good enough, not up to the task, never make it, won’t succeed:’ we label ourselves; ‘useless, worthless, a mistake.’ These labels can cause us to live believing we don’t matter, our life is irrelevant and unimportant even unwanted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

God doesn’t make mistakes. You’re not here by accident! You ‘are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He has planned for us long ago.’ (Ephesians 2:10) “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) 

Don’t live a life of fear, receive God’s confident guaranteed hope for your life; He promises ‘Everything I plan will come to pass…’

Shake off your labels. Take time to think about what you believe about yourself. Are you walking around with negative labels attached to you? Look today at what labels God gives you in Psalm 139:14

 

Following this, I looked up Psalm 139:14 in Leah’s Bible. As I expected that they would be, these lovely verses were underlined. It gives me great comfort to think about these particular verses being special to Leah. Psalm 139 has long been one of my favourite psalms too.

Leahs Bible Psalm139

Shortly after Leah was diagnosed she told us “God has a plan for my life, we need to see the bigger picture.” Leah did not say this lightly, Leah was fully informed about the seriousness of her illness and the possibility that she might not recover from it. She struggled with many aspects of her illness, such as the loneliness and social isolation of long weeks spent being nursed in isolation, and the horrendous side-effects from her intense chemo treatment, but she sought daily to trust God through it all and she didn’t fear death.

I remember so vividly one of the occasions when Leah was critically ill on a ventilator in ICU and the doctors weren’t sure that she would survive the next 24 hours: I played “Our God is a Great Big God” on her iPad. Leah was too ill to even open her eyes but her face lit up in a big smile and her hands (despite being attached to various monitors) did all the actions (every single one) to this song – because Leah’s God truly is a great, big God.

 

A Different Kind of Christmas

A Different Kind of Christmas

I did it.

I went back to work part-time on the 1st September ’14 and I have somehow managed to make it through to the 22nd December with no sick leave, no unplanned absences.

I feel good about that.

Every morning, I spend time reading and praying, seeking God for the strength to face each day – He never disappoints me.

Every morning, during the 20-30 minute drive to work, I have cried and sobbed. It’s my release, my way of coping with a broken heart.

Thankfully, as soon as I stop crying, dry my eyes, blow my nose and smile, no one ever seems to know that I’ve been crying.

I absolutely love my job. I love working with babies and very young children. I love the promise of hope and a future represented by each little child.

Work has been a wonderful distraction from grieving for a few hours a day, a few days each week. Some days, when it’s time to go home, my heart sinks, knowing that at the exit door I will once again pick up the mantle of grief and loss that I have skilfully blocked from my mind while focussing on my work commitments.

I thank God for my job. It is truly a blessing to enjoy one’s work as much as I do. I really wondered after Leah died if I could ever enjoy anything again.

There have been days when I have felt so overwhelmed with grief on my way to work, that I wondered how I could possibly do my job effectively, but somehow, as soon as I slipped into “work mode”, I felt like a different person for a few hours.

Now, however, I have ahead of me a planned absence of three weeks. Three weeks to cover the anniversary of when Leah was admitted to ICU, her birthday, her death and her funeral.

Several people have asked me how we plan to spend these anniversaries – so far we haven’t made any plans.

I actually find it too painful to think about, much less discuss.

I wish that I could just hibernate and wake up in the month of February.

We only managed to make plans for Christmas Day because our eldest daughter insisted on discussing it.

I’ve just been coping by concentrating on getting through each day and trying not to think about the next day.

Last Sunday at church our student minister was speaking about Mary’s reaction to being informed of her “unplanned pregnancy” by an angel during her engagement to Joseph – Mary’s response was

Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.Luke 1:38

Part of the Christmas story is how Mary humbly and unquestioningly accepted God’s will for her life.

This is certainly a challenge for me as I face what Mark Schultz calls a

DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTMAS

Snow is falling Christmas Eve
Lights are coming on up and down the street
The sound of carols fills the air
And people rushing home, families everywhere

Putting candles in the windows
Lights upon the tree
But there’s no laughter in this house
Not like there used to be
There’s just a million little memories
That remind me you’re not here
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year

In the evening fires glow
Dancing underneath the mistletoe
A letter left from Santa Claus
Won’t be the same this year in this house because

There’s one less place set at the table
One less gift under the tree
And a brand new way to take their place inside of me
I’m unwrapping all these memories
Fighting back the tears
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year

There’s voices in the driveway
Families right outside the door
And we’ll try to make this Christmas like the ones we’ve had before
As we gather round the table, I see joy on every face
And I realize what’s still alive is the legacy you made

It’s time to put the candles in the windows, the lights upon the tree
It’s time to fill this house with laughter like it used to be
Just because you’re up in heaven, doesn’t mean you’re not near
It’s just a different kind of Christmas
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year

 

 

Our New Year’s Eve Baby

Our New Year’s Eve Baby

image

On the 16th of this month Leah will be gone from this earth 9 months – approximately the same length of time that I carried her in my womb. In some ways being pregnant doesn’t even seem that long ago.

I worked part-time in Strabane during Leah’s pregnancy, and my sister in law looked after Rachel. My bump was so big before I left work that my work colleagues joked about me going into labour at work.

On my days off I enjoyed time with Rachel and I took her to and from Ebrington Nursery. I was constantly too warm during Leah’s pregnancy so I loved heading across the school playground without a coat on the frosty mornings.

I prayed and prayed that I wouldn’t go into labour over Christmas, as I desperately wanted to spend Christmas Day with Horace and Rachel. I really wanted to be there to see Rachel open her presents. I used to be just as excited as the children on Christmas morning.

image

My mum was staying with us to be there for Rachel whenever the time came for me to go into hospital. Thankfully Mum lived long enough to meet and enjoy all her grandchildren.

Early on New Year’s Eve morning the labour pains started. I quietly slipped out of bed so as not to disturb Horace. I ran a warm bath and I sat in it doing my breathing exercises. When the contractions were getting closer together, I woke my husband and my mum.

I then had to wait while Horace ate his breakfast. By now labour was in full swing and my mother was seriously worried that she was going to be delivering this baby. At 7.30am I slipped a note through my neighbour’s letterbox to let her know that I was away to the hospital – we were very good friends. At 8.25am I gave birth to Leah Alanna weighing 9lbs 3oz. It was the happiest New Year’s Eve of my life.

image

The song “You Are Stronger” by Hillsong caught my attention at church on Sunday and I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since. I feel so incredibly weak, I take great comfort from drawing on God’s strength.

YOU ARE STRONGER

There is love that came for us
Humbled to a sinner’s cross
You broke my shame and sinfulness
You rose again victorious

Faithfulness none can deny
Through the storm and through the fire
There is truth that sets me free
Jesus Christ who lives in me

You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, Christ is risen
Jesus You are Lord of all

No beginning and no end
You’re my hope and my defense
You came to seek and save the lost
You paid it all upon the cross