A Piece of Me

For 8 years, a piece of my heart has been missing. When my first son Caleb was born, 8 years ago today, he went straight to heaven. We held his tiny body. 10 fingers, 10 toes. Daddy’s nose. Eye lashes, finger nails. (Lord may I humbly suggest you work on the vital organs and lungs before nails and eyelashes.) Caleb was born prematurely and wouldn’t live on this earth.

The joy of being a new mom immediately replaced with the sorrow of losing a child. He never called me Mommy or told me he loved me. But the day he was born my heart grew so much. I loved Caleb more than I ever knew I could love anyone! Saying goodbye at his grave I buried a piece of my heart. A big piece.

In the years that followed, Jeff and I had two more sons Jack (6) and Parker (3). Some people say things like “sorry for Caleb’s loss BUT at least you have Jack and Parker.” I understand what they mean and their good intentions. But there is no BUT. I have sorrow and grief about Caleb’s death and no other child can replace him or fix the grief. At first I thought it would.

When Jack was born, I thought now I have my boy. But it was different. There should have been two boys. Then we had Parker and I had my two boys. But there should be three. Sometimes I’ll buy matching clothes for Jack and Parker and have this longing to buy a third set. There should be three.

Chasing Jack and Parker around certainly fills my time and brings me joy. But my heart will always be split. My heart and ability to love has grown exponentially with each child, more than I ever thought possible. But a piece of my heart will always be in heaven with Caleb until one day we are reunited.

Until then I rest in the knowledge that God is good, faithful, and trustworthy. He is near to the broken-hearted. He sees every tear I cry. He gives me peace that passes all understanding. Thank You Lord.

Happy 8th Birthday Caleb!

Saying Goodbye

kathleen-2
Yesterday we went to the memorial service for my neighbor, Kathleen. She was a kind, cheerful woman, always smiling. We would chat over the fence about gardens and landscaping. She would hire Jack to pull weeds because he was trying to earn money for something, but then of course, she had to sit with him and teach him which things were weeds. Kathleen was a loving person, thinking of others even when she was facing trials of her own.

My neighbor is actually Renee, Kathleen’s mom. A few years ago Kathleen moved in with her mom in case the 80-something year old ever needed help or someone to care for her. But Renee had raised a dozen children, mostly on her own, so she rarely needs help from others. Kathleen was the oldest of the family. I asked her how she was doing living with her mom. She said “It’s wonderful! I’ve been waiting my whole life for one-on-one time with mom!” She always had a way of looking on the positive side of things.

But instead of daughter taking care of mom, it turned out that Kathleen got cancer and her mom was taking care of her. She battled for several months before being diagnosed as terminal. Still she remained joyful.

Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. … For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (verses 7-16).

When things don’t go as we planned, we can take comfort from these verses. We can trust that first, God is faithful. He will never leave us. Even when we try to get away from Him, He is still there to hold us and guide us. Second, the Lord loves us. He created us. He wants to be with us. The Psalm goes on to say that His thoughts about us are precious. God LOVES us! Third, we can trust that God is good. We may not understand His plans, we may doubt there are plans at all. But His word says He planned all of our days before we were even born (Psalm 139:16). No one dies “too soon.” Surely they die sooner than we wanted. But God had all of these days planned. There’s nothing we could have done to lengthen their life.

img_4001When you find things not going as you expected – when not if, because I’m pretty sure a time will come – I hope you cling to these same truths. God is faithful. God loves you. God is good. May you find peace in knowing your Creator is with you. And like Kathleen, may you find joy no matter the circumstances.

Birthday Gift for Caleb 

After helping in Jack’s school this morning, we headed out to have lunch at Grammy and Granddad’s and then visit Caleb’s grave. However both Jack and Parker fell asleep on the way. So I went straight to visit my Caleb. 

It’s still surprising to see my son’s name on a gravestone. But I also smile when I see it because it stands out. The almost black stone with white lettering peeking over the hill as you drive up behind the church where I grew up. 

What do you out on the grave for a little boy? Flowers don’t always feel right to me, especially since it’s hard to find blue ones. Sometimes we put a balloon there or those spinny pinwheels. Today I realized I didn’t have anything. 

  I figured we’d stop at the store and pick something up but since the boys were asleep I didn’t have many options. Hmm what’s in the car that might be appropriate? Trail mix? Jack begged me to get these trail mix packs but of course he only eats the M&Ms. 

So while two of my boys slept in the car, I stood before Caleb’s grave and sprinkled nuts, raisins and M&Ms around it. The deer and squirrels will appreciate it. And we like feeding animals. I stood there and sang. 

Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. 

God I wish I could have all of my boys here. But I trust You, even when I don’t understand. 

Thou Satan should buffet, thou trials should come. Let this blest assurance control: That Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul!

I know I’ll see Caleb again in heaven. 

Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight…

Happy birthday Caleb. Hope you’re getting some M&Ms in heaven 😊

Five years ago

  Five years ago I was laying in a hospital bed, halfway through my first pregnancy, shocked by the sudden, unexpected news that I would have to deliver this baby now. But I wouldn’t get to bring him home. He wouldn’t survive.

I wouldn’t get to introduce him to family and friends. I’d never sing him to sleep or buy him cute clothes. I wouldn’t get to watch him grow, to learn to walk and talk and run. I wouldn’t teach him how to play soccer or the guitar. All the dreams for his future, gone.

Mostly silence filled our hospital room as questions filled our minds. The nurses said he may live for a short time and we would get to hold him. 

How do we hold such a tiny baby? You’ll know how, the nurse assured us. 

What do we name him? Some people choose the name they always had in mind for their baby. Yet others pick a new name now that you know this baby won’t survive.

What would labor be like? Because the baby won’t survive, many pain relieving options were available. However since the baby might have a short time alive, I wanted to make sure I was completely coherent.

Our nurse who specialized in situations like ours, answered our questions before we even asked.

Our parents joined us in the hospital room. Tears, small talk played in the background as Jeff and I tried to secretly discuss a name. We didn’t even know if the baby was a boy or girl. This name has to mean something. I thought of some favorite Bible stories but needed a Bible. Of course since I landed in the hospital via ambulance, my phone wasn’t charged, I didn’t have a Bible or my iPad or anything. The nurse tracked down a Bible for me. Thanks Gideons.

Where is the story about Moses sending 12 spies into the Promised Land? After some scanning, Dad found it for me: Numbers 13. God had promised the Israelites this land but told Moses to send these 12 men ahead to check it out. They returned and declared to the people “It does flow with milk and honey and here is its fruit! But…” They were scared of the giants that live there. “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.'”

But the others spread a bad report among the people so they grumbled and wept and doubted God’s promise. But Joshua and Caleb believed in the Lord and were not afraid. Because of the others God said the Isaraelites would wander through the desert for 40 years until everyone in that generation had died, except Joshua and Caleb. “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”

Caleb believed God, followed Him wholeheartedly, and coincidentally was the son of Jeff, or more specifically “Jephunneh.” Good thing the baby was born a boy. We had no girl name picked out.

  And so Caleb was born. His heart stopped beating. No first cry. No happy tears, only sad ones. Our first family picture – do we smile? We held his tiny body but his soul was already in heaven. 

All the lost dreams, the won’t haves, the hopes broken have changed. 

Caleb made me a Mom, even though he never called me Mommy. He taught me the incredible power of love as my heart burst with love for him. Because of Caleb my faith was tested and survived. I grew dependent on the Lord in a way nothing but heart-wrenching sorrow could make possible. The Word of God literally sustained me.

I could always list the “won’t haves” with Caleb – and often I do think of them. But because of Caleb, I have new dreams I get to fulfill every day with Jack and Parker. God has given me many blessings, and Caleb is one of the best.

A Birthday in Heaven

Today there’s a birthday party happening in heaven. Today is Caleb’s 4th birthday. It’s hard to believe he came into our lives four years ago. In some ways it feels like yesterday, and at others it feels like a lifetime ago.

We had a special dinner last night (since we ran out of weekend leftovers). I made the same meal that I made when I told Jeff I was pregnant with Caleb: baby back ribs, with sweet baby Rays bbq sauce, and baby carrots. Four years ago Jeff said, “That’s funny. They all have baby in them.” It took him a few minutes to figure out the news. Since then, ribs always remind me of Caleb. 

 As we start this special day, the only words I have are a prayer… 

Dear Lord,
Thank you for Caleb. Thank you for choosing to give him to us, to use him to make us parents. Thank you for knitting him together in my womb, for numbering each of his days before even one came to be. I know there’s nothing I or doctors could’ve done to change the outcome because Caleb’s days had already been loving planned by you. Thank you for the time we had to hold him, to take pictures, to see his little fingers and toes. Thank you for the family and friends who surrounded us, mourned with us, and helped us each day. 

 Lord thank you for giving me faith strong enough to endure trials, to walk through devastating sadness and know there will be rejoicing. Thank you for your Word that sustained me, for Psalms that gave words and prayers to all I was feeling but didn’t know how to express. Thank you for giving me peace that passes understanding and assurance that we will see Caleb again. 

 Lord today I celebrate the gift you gave us in Caleb. Loving someone so deeply even though he couldn’t love us back and even though he was only with us a short time. Lord I know it’s just a glimpse of how much you love us. Thank you for walking with me, holding me as I clung to you, and loving me so much I knew I could trust you. You always have good things planned for me. You are good and faithful and I trust you.

I pray these things in the mighty, powerful name of Jesus. Amen. 

 Happy birthday Caleb!



Joy and Sorrow

On Christmas Day Jack was supposed to walk into our parents’ houses for gift opening and share a special announcement on his tshirt: Big Brother. But he never got the chance. A few days earlier I started having some problems. Doctor appointment, blood work, and several days of waiting, revealed that I was having a miscarriage. In the days of waiting, however, I waited in silence. Only Jeff and I knew that I was pregnant. I was still hoping that everything would be ok and that we could joyfully, happily announce this new baby.

Through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while everyone around me celebrated the birth of a Baby King, I wondered if the baby, who was only 6 weeks in the womb, was still alive. The season of advent is all about anticipation of a Savior, when I was waiting for results and answers. Would Christmas Day, a day of great celebration, turn into a day of mourning for me? Does it have to be one or the other?

Because of the birth of a Baby in Bethlehem – Jesus, the One who saves, because He is Immanuel, God with us, I can have comfort even in sorrow. I can find joy even when mourning because the God who is with me is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Even though I was only 6 weeks pregnant, I had hopes and dreams for this new baby. I was excited for Jack to have a sibling, for us to have a new little baby to hold and love. Things could go on without anyone knowing about this 6 week old life that was inside me, but I think it’s important to share. Every life has value and should be celebrated. At least 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but it’s often not talked about. Then if it happens to you, you might feel alone or ashamed, as if it’s your fault. But it’s not your fault. Usually there aren’t answers as to why miscarriages happen.

I share my story with you to celebrate the baby. I’ve thanked God for this baby and for the blessing of being pregnant three times – a blessing many women don’t get. It’s a strange thing to have more children in heaven than in my arms (read about Caleb here), but it makes me look forward to heaven even more.

No matter what challenging, sorrowful, or questioning time you are facing, it doesn’t have to be separated from hope, joy, and peace. The Baby in the manger came to save you, to be with you, to bring you peace even in chaos, joy even in sorrow, and hope even when you despair.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Saying Goodbye

20140224-164801.jpgI can’t count how many times I wanted to lay my sleeping bag next to Caleb’s grave and stay by his side. I know he’s not really there. I know he’s in heaven – no doubt in my mind. But since I can’t camp out in heaven, I guess this is the best I can do.

Caleb’s heart stopped beating just moments before he was born. He passed from the womb straight to heaven. I’m glad he didn’t have to suffer on this earth. Still we held Caleb and took pictures with him.

The day Jeff and I left the hospital and had to walk away from our little baby was one of the hardest days of my life. That switch from being pregnant to being a mom is immediate and automatic. I didn’t have to think about it. I just knew. Moms don’t leave their babies.

How do you say goodbye when you just said hello?

Caleb’s funeral was another difficult day. Laying him in the grave and then walking away… It just doesn’t feel right. It is so unnatural for a mother to leave her child. I guess that’s why I always picture myself camping out next to his grave.

So how do you say goodbye? I don’t think you do… I think you say hello to heaven. Hello to Jesus and please hold me close and mend my broken heart every day until I get to see my Caleb again.

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When The Tears Stop

20120225-005645.jpgI never showed much emotion throughout my life. Probably only a few close friends ever saw me cry.

Then one day my world turned upside down.

Monday February 24 will mark three years since our first son Caleb was born. He was born prematurely, halfway through my pregnancy. Although I knew people who had lost infants or miscarried, I never expected to be in their shoes.

Nothing can prepare you for such heartbreak.

It was as if a switch flipped and the tears started flowing. It didn’t matter where I was or who was around me. I cried in the grocery store seeing a mom and her children. I cried at Bible study when I passed a kid’s bag that said “Caleb.” I cried when there was a reason and also when there seemed no reason at all.

This week, as I anticipate Caleb’s third birthday, I’ve been crying. But the days are so busy I end up not crying until I lay in bed, when I should be sleeping. And then I’m tired during the day because I didn’t sleep much at night.

It wasn’t until I finally told Jeff, and then my Bible study group about crying at night, that I was finally able to sleep. I’ve found peace when speaking about my feelings. Just breaking the silence has made a difference.

Caleb Chun - Feb 24, 2011

Caleb Chun – Feb 24, 2011

I’m not afraid of crying anymore. In fact I’m more afraid of the tears coming to an end. Sometimes it seems that if I stop crying then Caleb’s life will have stopped mattering. But I know that could never be. You never stop crying for your children. You never stop wanting the world to know about them.

The tears are less frequent after almost three years. But nothing could ever make Caleb’s little life insignificant. He changed my world, my faith, my life forever. And I am so thankful.

When Mother’s Day Isn’t Happy

IMG_1761I was at the grocery store on Friday shopping with Jack and already the cashier was saying “Happy Mother’s Day.” While I appreciated their comments, I wondered if I should say it back to her. She didn’t have any children with her, obviously, so how could I know if she’s a mom.  Really the awkwardness of it just reminded me of how this special day can be challenging for so many. While it is great to set aside a day to celebrate the wonderful mothers in our lives, maybe you can take a minute to remember and pray for those who’s day is sad.

  • Children whose mothers have recently died
  • Mothers who have lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant loss
  • Women who long to be mothers but struggle with infertility, or aren’t married, or don’t have the opportunity to become a mom
  • Women who are like mothers – physically, spiritually, emotionally mothering others

I read a letter online recently also bringing attention to churches about recognizing moms in church. Its a great letter so you should check it out.

Last year while I was pregnant with Jack I wrote about being a “Mom.” I know it resonated with a few friends so I thought instead of rewriting something really similar I would just repost it below.

May 11, 2012 – Mother’s Day for a “Mom”

IMG_1750Mothers Day is challenging for me. People see me pregnant now and say “Maybe this will be your first Mothers Day!” as if delivering the baby before then will ensure that I am a mom this Mothers Day. I don’t understand why we say life begins at conception and consider the thing inside me to be a baby, but don’t consider pregnant women mothers.

Furthermore, last year was my first Mothers Day. It was about two months after I gave birth to Caleb and proceeded to lay him in the grave. Just because my two children aren’t in my arms doesn’t mean I’m not a mom, or any less of a mom than someone else.

But what are you supposed to say to me: “Happy Mothers Day?” It’s kind of happy. I’m certainly excited about this new little one and getting to meet him face to face soon. I’m happy that I had Caleb, even though it was a short time. I’m happy to celebrate my wonderful mom and mother-in-law, my grandmother-in-law, my sisters who are moms, and a host of other great mom examples.

But for me Mothers Day is lonely. It’s a reminder that Caleb isn’t here. He can’t ever be replaced with another child. I imagine part of me will always feel like this on Mothers Day.Someone is missing. When people acknowledge me on Mothers Day, it’s a reminder of this. Yet when people don’t acknowledge me, it makes me feel like Caleb has been forgotten.

I feel like I’m a “mom,” always having to qualify my role… “Is this your first child?” Kind of…. When they ask all the moms to stand up at church, do I stand? What questions will I have to answer then? If I don’t stand, is it like I’m ignoring Caleb?

I don’t write this so that you’ll acknowledge me in some way on Mothers Day. It’s really not about me. It’s really about a Mom who doesn’t want her children to be overlooked. I’m sure there are other “moms” in your life: women who have struggled with infertility, women who have miscarried, women who never had the opportunity to give birth to their own children. Maybe you’ll just take a minute to think about what makes someone a Mom. As you celebrate this year, be sensitive to the “moms” whose children aren’t in their arms but are forever in their hearts.

For the Moms, the “moms,” and all others, may this Mother’s Day be a day of celebrating the wonderful mothers in your life, but more importantly celebrating the God who loves us and is our example of how to love others.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving; let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7