Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Anniversary

It's that time of year again where this blog suddenly springs to life, documenting yet another day of grief.  November 20.  Apparently it comes every year.  Much like the last two anniversaries of Vincent's passing, this one has brought a resurgence of anxiety, insomnia, online shopping, anger and stress.  Will anything this terrible happen to our family again?  What if we lose another child or they get a life-threatening illness?  Will Andre make it to his second birthday and beyond? Is that a lump I feel in his abdomen?  Is this a sore throat or a vocal nodule?  How will we ever afford to buy a house here on Oahu?  What if we get bed bugs? Is this dry skin or inflammatory breast cancer?

Aaaaaaand repeat from the beginning.

But unlike the last two years, I have gained new ground in this whole grief-work thing. More than ever, I remember him, the sweet Vincent Wing Seun Stringer. And I mourn the loss of him. This has taken a while, but my grief-work is now more about Vincent than about me.  At least most of the time.

Earlier this year we found some occupational therapy papers stuffed in a closet, documenting the progress and regress Vincent made during the course of treatment.  A line jumped out at me- "He has a sense of humor." Yes, he did. He loved to laugh and make others laugh with him. His favorite place to be was home or the beach. He loved his family and stuffed cat (well, pretty much any cat.) His life was brief, but cherished. And the hollow spot I feel in my heart is there, same as always.

But today is not about me.  Today is about you, Vincent.


May you enjoy the great vastness of what Is and may we one day explore it together.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Arrival (posted 11 months late)

He's here. And he's beautiful.  Andre Wing Yee Stringer, born on 11/23/12 after 6 hours of induced labor.  He's a champion nurser, a phenomenal sleeper, and a smiley charmer.



For the last month I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. For him to scream all night long.  For him to stop eating, or perhaps begin vomiting everywhere.  But nothing super terrible has happened.  He's doing good. We're doing well.  He fits in to our family dynamics perfectly - in fact, I can't imagine life without him.

In the words of Jean Valjean from the musical Les Miserables, "How was I to know that so much hope was held inside me? ... How was I to know at last that happiness can come so fast?"

Suddenly, something wonderful has begun.  Our family feels complete.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Waiting

Almost exactly two years ago I was posting on our caringbridge site, documenting each stage of our terminally ill 18-month old son's death from liver cancer.  On a date I'll never forget, November 11, 2010, we made the decision to leave the hospital and go home with hospice - Vincent's feeding tube was removed and he was given a running cocktail of morphine and other drugs to ease the pain from his tumors.

Then we waited.  Although he had been given approximately 48 hours to live, Vincent tenaciously hung on to life for another 11 days as family flew in from out of town, forming a bedside vigil of sorts, taking turns watching him every minute of the day and night.

Each morning Theo would bound into our bedroom, the site of everything hospice-related, asking "Is Vincent still here?"  Yes, his baby brother Vincent was still here, laborously breathing, mostly unconscious, but still with us.  We would hold him, sing to him, pray with him, and release him to Jesus.  "You can leave for the bright happy place whenever you want" we'd say.  Every night we'd emotionally prepare ourselves for his death.  When it didn't come, we'd brace ourselves for another day of waiting, relieved that he was still here with us, wishing it wasn't the end.

Fast forward two years.  Again we're waiting.  But this time we're waiting for a new life to be born.  And of course, this sort of waiting is infinitely easier than the other kind.  It's infinitely less sad.  But as our November 11 due date has come and gone and as Vincent's anniversary of passing looms closer, I'm again finding myself in limbo, anticipating an irreversible event to take place that I cannot control.  Waiting.  Again.

What am I waiting for?  I'm waiting for this new child to be born, to see his little face, touch the hands and feet that have been squirming inside of me for so long.  I'm waiting to observe the 2nd year anniversary of Vincent's passing, waiting to remember that awful and wonderful day when he was finally happy.  I'm waiting for the day that our family will be whole again, for the day I'll be with all my children, for the day I'll be able to hold a healthy Vincent in my arms.

I'm waiting.  Waiting isn't always bad.  But it is hard.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Hardest Post (Or "It's a Boy!")

OK, here goes the post that's been the most difficult for me to write.  You may wonder why, after documenting our precious boy's losing fight against cancer, or venting over precious memories stolen, or struggling with issues related to loss, grief and faith, this post in particular would prove tricky to articulate.

Well, here it is.  We're pregnant.  With another boy.  Due date 11/11/12.

If you're good at math you'll quickly realize that I'm already 35 weeks pregnant.  And this is the first time I'm publicly announcing it online.  These days my body is doing all the talking for me (no hiding the belly now!) and it's time for my voice to catch up, to join the celebration, to do the speaking.

Why has this been so hard?  Perhaps it's because I've been giving bad news for so long I'm afraid to voice good news - subconsciously worried that I'll have to change my tune later.  Or perhaps it's simply because I'm in denial.  Denial that I'm giving birth to another son within days of the last one's anniversary of passing.

Perhaps it's because I'm so happy I don't know what to say.  Or feeling confused.  Or all of the above.

Suffice it to say we're glad.  Looking forward to this little guy's birth.  Theo's beside himself with joy to  have another brother.  He's already planning where the little guy is going to sit in the car, what we're going to do when we have our next baby, and what to call both of them.  (What can I say, he's a forward-thinking planner!)

We've had our moments.  Theo has done a fair share of crying over the past few months.  At the very beginning of this pregnancy he voiced his sadness over not getting to keep Vincent, saying he wanted Vincent to come back instead of this new baby.  A few months ago he began praying that this baby would "stay" and "not go to heaven for a long, long time."  Now he kisses my belly each night and laughs when the baby kicks back. "He likes me, mom!"  I'm sure that like his parents, his feelings over having a new family member are confusing.  But confusing or not, I desperately want this to work, to last.  And because of that it's hard to celebrate what already is.  That there is new life here, in this family.  That God has blessed us with another child.  That Theo and Vincent have, indeed, another brother.

Several weeks ago something clicked in my brain and I began preparing ourselves for this little guy's birth - getting clothes from friends, readying a crib, making a few badly needed purchases.  All of Vincent's things were either given away or made into memory blankets. His car seat is long gone, sent to the trash carrying irremovable toxic chemo substances. Initially we were hoping for a girl - me so that I could feel better about having to buy baby things yet again, Dan so that he could have some mental separation between what happened to our last child and what could happen to this one.  But now we're glad.  It's another boy.  We have three boys now.  What could be better than that?


Friday, April 6, 2012

Mercy

Unholy we sang this morning, and prayed
as if we were not broken, crooked
the Christ-figure hung, splayed
on bloodied beams above us;
devious God, dweller in shadows,
mercy on us;
immortal, cross-shattered Christ—
your gentling grace down upon us.
John F. Deane (b. 1943)
-taken from Manhandling the Diety

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Wondrous Love

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!




Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Moving Train

...It's been a while.

In the past couple months of my blogging hiatus we've observed Vincent's one-year passing anniversary as well as the anniversary of his burial and the break-in.  We've celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year.  I've been hired as the praise band leader & choir director at the little Lutheran church down the street.  We've made new friends and acquaintances. Once a week I get to watch the sweetest baby for our friends who also live nearby.  And there are other employment possibilities looming around the corner.

My life is going on, continuing to evolve, move forward.

And yet I sort of want it to stop.  For a few months now it seems that all around me renewal, new life, and even optimism have been growing, slowly gaining momentum, and in the process I've been caught up in the surge of a new beginning.  As wonderful as it is to see a new future on the horizon, I find myself increasingly wishing to have the old one back. I wish my other life, the one where I had two sons that were 22 months apart -yes, that one- was possible.  I wish I could have Vincent back with us, healthy and growing, I wish all the people that I meet and befriend would know him, (or at least understand the depths of my pain.) I'd trade everything for my old life, the one where I was relatively unafraid, where I felt safe, cared for, where I was surrounded by all my children.