Sunday, May 30, 2010

First Day Back

Today was our first day back at our church after losing Will.
So many arms...
So many hugs...
So many shoulders...
So many tears.

Shared burdens.

We are so blessed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mercies V

The heat blasted me as we walked out of Kathy's house on the way to Will's funeral, Saturday, May 22.  I had not really been outside much that whole week.  When we left Kansas City on Tuesday, it was around 50 degrees.  Will's Funeral Day, though, the air felt to be about 90. 
   That morning, I felt like I was in a dream.  A flashback to 2006...sitting in Kathy's living room...waiting to leave for my child's funeral. 
    Hannah was not cooperating at all.  So different from the last time--she was only a couple days old when we had her twin, Charity's,  funeral. This day, on Will's day, Hannah did not want to get dressed.  She hid herself in the blankets on the bed where Reid and I had been sleeping.  I set out 3 dresses and told her that if she didn't put one on, we'd take her to the funeral in a blanket.  I wasn't kidding.
    When it came time to go, Hannah had composed herself and was dressed.  I was really glad to not have to take a child to her baby brother's funeral....wearing a blanket. :-)
     When we arrived at the funeral home, our friends from KY were already there.  Such a comfort to see them and cry on their shoulders.  Our doula/midwife assistant arrived a bit later.  We hugged.  Tears came again.  She had been there when Charity died, too.  Oma, Opa, Kathy, David...all of us quietly filed into the chapel.
      Kathy had compiled a slideshow that we displayed on the little table where Will's small green heart-shaped box sat.  A collection of mementos--the baby afghan Annie made for him, other photos from the hospital--shared the table with Will's remains. 
    After a while, we all sat.  Reid had passed out slips of paper with Scripture references written down.  We began to read them in order, one person at a time.  I did not take a slip.  I knew I couldn't read.
   Annie and Meg had each contributed passages that had been a comfort to them since Will died.  It was such a blessing to me to hear all the different voices reading God's Word.    Deep voices, quiet voices, young voices, Grandma voices, Grandpa voices...strong voices, weak voices...I felt a sense of, "We're in this together."
   Obviously, the loss was more personal and intense to our family, but to know that others shared that sense of loss--that others hurt with and for us--made the day survivable. 
   There were many others who wanted to be there.  I got a series of text messages from my brother that day, saying I was on his mind...he was thinking of me.  I appreciated those notes.
    Friends from around the from around the world...had sent encouragements our way....said prayers...wept for us.
   It was a day to gather and remember.
It was Will's Day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mercies IV

I woke up on Friday, May 21  with a stranger in the bed.
He looked like a prize fighter.  Lips swollen and eyes merely slits.  He had an angry, red  rash on his hand and arm.  His bald head was covered with red dots.
It was Reid.
His face was swollen to the point that he could not get his glasses on. 
Since Wednesday morning, we had noticed that he'd had an itchy spot on his eyelid.  Gradually, that spot spread to the point that we knew Reid had to find medical care. 
   We had an appointment that afternoon to meet with the funeral director to plan Will's service.  We hoped Reid could get back quickly enough to make that appointment.
   At first, Opa took Reid to a clinic to see if they could help.  His rash was too severe for them to care for, so they sent him to the e.r. at the nearby hospital.
   There, Reid was given steroid shots and an ice bag for his itchy hand.  They threw other treatments at him, trying to get the swelling down.
   Reid called the funeral director to explain that we would need to come later, as Reid had not yet been released from the e.r.
   Finally, around 4:00, after about 6 hours in the e.r.,  Reid and his dad arrived back at Kathy's house.  I was glad to see that the treatments were working, and Reid's puffiness had gone down some.  He was still definitely not back to normal, but I was beginning to recognize him again.  He and I had "his and her" hospital bracelets.  :-)
   We arrived at the funeral home around 4:30.  We met Damon, the director.  He was youngish--I guess about our age.  (That's young, right?  ;-)  He showed such compassion and care.  Listened to our requests for the service.  Listened to us tell first about Charity, then about Will.
   Something that really ministered to me was the fact that he never called Will "the baby" or "the body."  Damon always referred to our son as "Will."  I had never thought about how important that was.  It was very honoring.
   During a quiet moment, Reid pointed to a picture on Damon's desk.  "Is that your daughter?" he asked.
Damon answered, "Yes.  We adopted her from Guatemala."  "She's precious," we said.  "Thank you."  You could see the love he had for her.   I was very touched.  "He gets it,"  I thought.
  We set up the service for 2:00 the next day--Sat., May 22.  It was the day we were supposed to be taking a trip to Silver Dollar City to celebrate our Claire's 10th birthday.  She had plotted and planned, anticipated and dreamed of that day. 
The Lord had other plans.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mercies III

All too soon, we had to relinquish Will's tiny body to the nurse.  This was not the decision of the hospital staff--they didn't rush him off--but it was obvious that we had to let his body go.
  The moment the nurse left the room with Will, tears burst forth again. 
   We sat quietly for a few minutes. 
After a bit, Oma and Opa took the children back to Kathy's.  Reid, Kathy and I sat and talked.  Cried. 
Sometime in there, the doctor came in to talk about discharge.  She stated that I was welcome to stay as long as I wanted, but also I was free to go.  "We're not going to keep you here if you want to go," she said.  I told her, "*You're* not keeping me here--my numb legs are!"  :-) 
   Indeed, it took 6 hours for the anesthesia to wear off.  After that, my legs were still rather like Bambi's.  Reid joked, "Hello, Young Prince!"  ha ha
   Once I could toddle around some, I changed clothes and put on my shoes.  We   gathered our things and signed papers.
   Our nurse, Hannah :-), brought a wheelchair for me. 
   Kathy had left to get the car to meet us at the front of the hospital.
   The hospital corridors seemed like a huge labryinth.  I remember thinking, "I'm glad *I'm* not wheeling me out of here!"  Finally, we rolled into the lobby/waiting room area of the hospital.  There were people from wall to wall.  It was loud--t.v.'s blaring, children crying and laughing...people talking, cell phones ringing.
  I thought, "Don't you all know my baby just died?"  Then, I realized, "Some of these people are going through hard times, too."  There is plenty of hurt and pain to go around.  We need each other.  We must "bear one another's burdens."
   The pick-up area at the front of the building was abuzz with activity.  One lady in a wheelchair--looked to be about my age or a bit younger--looked so gaunt and weak. Her pale eyes slowly scanned the crush of cars, looking for her ride.  A nurse stood behind her, chatting a bit.  I said a quick prayer for the lady.
   Kathy pulled up and I wondered how I was going to heave myself from the wheelchair into her car.  Of course, Reid and the nurse helped, and I did make it in.  An odd feeling settled in and I wished there was a little car seat strapped in beside me.  That was the first time I ever left a hospital without a baby.
    We drove through Nashville.  Kathy was pointing out areas that had been under water during the flood.  (Nashville had flooded a couple weeks or so before then.)  Again, I thought, "There is plenty of hurt to go around."  I know some people died in the flood.  Some lost everything.  Many, many lost much. 
     When we arrived at Kathy's house, I changed into a nightgown and settled into bed.  Reid went to Krispy Kreme to procure the traditional Hall Family Birth Celebration Doughnuts.  The kids had asked before if we were going to get KK's.  I said, "Of course.  That's what Halls do.  We still have a life to celebrate."
      My chocolate glazed was sticky and sweet.
Sweet like life.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mercies II

Around 6:30 a.m., Thursday, May 20, I woke up in the hospital bed at Vanderbilt University.  The epidural had allowed me to sleep during the night (albeit, brokenly).  I realized upon waking, that I was feeling an odd new sensation.  I suspected Will was about to be born.
  Kathy looked and didn't see anything at first.  She asked the doc to come in.  Before the doctor came in, I *knew*...Will was coming...right *then*.  The doctor barely swooped into the room in time to gently help him out.  We wanted to be very careful with his body, as it was becoming very fragile.  It had been nearly a week since he died.
  As I lay there, it seemed like 4 or 5 hours (it was really just a couple minutes) until I was able to see my son.  My eyes roamed from Reid's face to Annie's, trying to glean any information about my boy.
    The doctor (nurse?) carefully wrapped his body in a blanket and placed a tiny hat on his head.  Someone handed Will to Reid, and then Reid held the baby so I could see him.  After a few moments, he handed Will to me.
  How the tears flowed.
I had told one of the children the night before, "Right now, we're only going to deal with the physical.  I can't handle dealing with both physical and emotional at the same time."  I was referring to coping with labor and delivery.
   There, on Thursday morning, holding my precious stillborn son, it was time to deal with the emotional.  I stared into Reid's eyes, silently asking that question that just keeps coming up through all this:  "How do we go on?" 
   I turned to Annie.  How I wished I could soften the blow for her and all the children.  What a tremendous loss.  Soon, I handed Will to his eldest sister.  Annie carefully held her baby brother and cried.
    We had contacted a non-profit organization, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, to come and take pictures of those moments.  The photographer began to take pictures of those tender times.
     The other children were at Kathy's house with Oma and Opa.  We had contacted them when I woke up and realized that Will was about to be born.  They began to make their way to the hospital.  (Later, I learned that our Hannah-girl was sleep deprived and a bit of a bear to get clothed, out to the van, into her seat and into the hospital.  Once she got to our room, though, she was fine.)
    Sometime during the first few minutes after he was born, the nurse weighed and measured Will.  He was 1lb 15 oz (big for a 25 weeker!) and 14 inches.  He had my nose and Reid's hands and feet.  "Every inch a Hall!"  :-) 
     Kathy and the nurse wrapped Will's body in several blankets, to help stablize him so we could all hold him and pass him more gently from person to person. 
     I'm sure there was a lot going on at Vanderbilt University that day, but in L&D Room 5, all outside noise and activity faded away while we soaked in every minute we would have with our boy. 
    I had been a little concerned about Adam and Hannah's reaction to Will's body.  Obviously, he looked different from a healthy, full term newborn.  His skin was dark and his baby skin was beginning to peel a bit.
    I shouldn't have worried.
Hannah and Adam both just accepted their baby brother.  They held him and loved them, smiling into his little still face.  So precious. 
    Adam did ask, "Where is his face?"  :-)  Will's  face was wrinkled up some, so I had to show Adam where Will's little eyes were.  In a baby that young, even born alive, their eyes are generally fused shut.
    All the children held their baby brother.  Oma and Opa had turns with Will.  The photographer took shots of us all just savoring the moment. 

Monday, May 24, 2010


We left KC last Tues, en route to TN.  It was an uneventful 12 hour trip.  The ride gave me a lot of time to think/pray/meditate.  We got to Kathy's around bedtime that night.  Tucked the kids in (most of them, anyway) and sat down for a chat with K.  After exploring options and feelings/leanings, we decided we would go to Vanderbilt University to induce.  I've never used pain meds in labor, but this time, I knew I wanted some.  With so much emotional pain, I just could not cope with the thought of a very intense labor. 
Wed, May 19 we arrived with Kathy at the hospital.  I've had some unpleasant hospital experiences, so I was a bit anxious about going in, but I knew it was the right thing this time.  Kathy said she'd worked w/ them at Vandy before, and never had a bad experience. 
   From the moment we arrived at labor and delivery, it was obvious that the Lord had gone before us.  *Everyone* treated us with such respect.  No one pressured us about anything.  They accomodated our children's visits (even though we exceeded their visitor limit).
   I was so wanting to get the "show on the road" and get my baby born and into my arms, even if just for a short time.  It seemed like the paper work would never get done for us to start the induction.
  Finally, around 4:30 p.m., the medication was placed and contractions began.  They had offered to place an epidural before they began the induction, but I was comfortable at that point and didn't mind waiting for the anesthesia.
   The anesthesiologist came in just after we started the meds and she very patiently answered my many (many!) questions.  She was a calming influence and carefully explored my medical history to be sure we proceeded safely. 
    Just before time for the second dose of induction meds, she placed the epidural.  I noticed right away that not much happened.  Once the inductions meds kicked in (this was a dose twice the size as the first) I knew we had to revamp something.  Severe, severe pain. 
  We called back in the anesthesiologist staff.  The first doctor (who had kindly stayed 2 hours past the end of her shift, just to be with me) had gone home, but her boss and another cohort were there.  They took 2 more swings at placing the epidural and the 3rd try work immediately.  I needed help getting my legs back up on the bed after it was placed.  Ah, yes.  Relief.  That was around 1:30 a.m., Thur, I believe.  Shortly afterward, the 3rd dose of induction meds were placed. 
   I went to sleep.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The peace that the Lord grants does not announce itself.  In the depths of despair, you can't feel it coming.  In times like those, you have to remind yourself that the Truth isn't what it seems.  The truth is, God cares.  The truth is, God has a plan.  The truth is, God will carry you through.  While our heart is screaming, "IT'S NOT FAIR!!!!!!!  WHY DID YOU DO THIS?!?  ARE YOU PUNISHING ME?!?" somewhere in our head, our will? through sheer determination, we say, "This is under control.  God is on the job.  It's going to be ok.  Good will come of this..."  Little by little, our head and our heart get together and the feelings catch up with the knowledge. 
    In many ways, the cloud of confusion is beginning to lift and I'm beginning to be able to see that, indeed, God is bringing us through. 
   Yesterday,  I talked with a lady who is the director of a perinatal hospice in Kansas City.  I had talked with her before, when I was pregnant with the twins.  When she answered, I told her, "I never expected to be calling you up again."  She told me it actually wasn't that uncommon for a family to go through this kind of thing more than once.  Oddly, that comforted me some.  She also told me that with the first loss, families tend to lean on God and are able to trust Him and know He's got a plan.  With the second, however, the families tend to be angry.  I can say, that is how it has been for me.  With Charity, there was always an underlying sweetness and peace.  This time, I got angry.  May as well be honest about it.  It's not as if I fooled God.  I imagine that the anger will cycle through a few times, but, right this moment, I can feel God's peace begin to settle in around me, and I can feel Him again. 
    His body, the Church, is a beautiful thing.  We have been so blessed by our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Notes, calls, flowers, dinner...on and on.  And especially the prayers.  I know it's hard when you feel like you can do nothing for someone who's hurting, but never underestimate the value of praying.  It really means a lot.  And it works.
     We are heading out to our midwife's house today.  I am praying labor goes smoothly and quickly.  That would be a first for me.  :-)  When Charity died, the police officer who conducted the "investigation" (they have to do that any time a baby dies) asked if she was our first.  "No, 6th."  The officer said, "Wow, you must have really easy labors!"  I looked at our midwife and we both chuckled.  Not hardly.  Skin of the teeth type labors is more like it.  But God is good. 
    You praying types, keep us in prayer in these next days.  We have to get through labor, then plan a memorial...get through that.  Then make it back home to lick our wounds.
    'Til next time.
The Ewe

Monday, May 17, 2010


Our baby died Friday, May 14, 2010.  He has not yet been delivered.  So at this moment, my womb is also a tomb.  Such an odd feeling.
When Charity died, our pain was somewhat dulled by the joy of having Hannah in our arms.  Such a comfort God provided in her!  Of course, the pain of losing Charity was searing, but still...there was peace and comfort.  God's presence was so very *there*.  I felt Him.  I smelled Him!  Can you believe that?  A few times, the smell of roses just permeated the room I was in--with no flowers anywhere.  He was there, and I knew it. 
  Losing Will has been pure agony.  Where is God??  Where is His peace??  I know He's good.  I know He's in control, and I know that He is no sadist.  But yet...where is that comfort?  I do smell flowers--our beloved church family had beautiful flowers on our doorstep within hours of the news.  But where is the supernatural flower garden??
   I don't know what God is up to.  I think He may be overestimating my abilities to withstand such grief.  Do you know (some of you do) what it is like to have to drive home from the hospital, and tell your children their long-desired sibling is dead.  Dead.  Don't we have such euphemisms for that word??  "Passed."  "With Jesus."  "Gone."  With Charity it was, "not compatible with life."  C'mon.  DEAD.  That's the word.  Oh, how I hate it.  Pastor Jeff preached about Jesus raising Lazarus a few weeks ago.  He was saying that part of what was going on when "Jesus wept" was that He was deeply disturbed by Death.  It was not right.  It was not the way things should be.  So...He fixed it.  "LAZARUS, COME FORTH!!!"  And he did.
   In those desperate moments while the nurse was holding the ultrasound wand to my belly, I knew the baby was dead.  I was praying for the nurse's smile and sigh of relief:  "There he is!  Heart beating strong."  What did I get?  Silence.  Neverending silence.  I didn't dare look at the screen.  I couldn't bear to see my precious son lying there motionless.  I knew.  I didn't need a t.v. to show me. 
   In times like those, we grasp at straws...attempt a bargain with God.  "God, wouldn't it glorify You more if You brought him back to life?!?  Please, God!!  Please!!  I beg You!  I'll do anything!!"
    But, little by little, the realization that it is not a bad dream sets in.  Layer by layer, you realize, "He's not coming back.  God really *is* requiring this of me."
   And then, the horror of telling your children.  What an awful task.  To watch your children suffer and know that you can do nothing for them.  Yes, hold them, love them, talk and cry with them...but we can't fix it.
  One of the kids asked, through tears, "How will I go on?"  All I could answer was, "I don't know.  But we will.  Together.  By God's grace." 
   I have thought a lot about how to answer the question, "How are you doing?"  I can describe it right now as swinging between extreme sadness and utter despair.  I know, though, that little by little, the days will get better.  The stabs in my heart will come less frequently.  I know this.  I've been here before.
  The foundational Truth in all this?  The one I do not understand, yet know it is true?