Summer Breeze

I took this picture a few minutes ago. I was sitting in the large, beat-up leather chair in our living room that belonged to an elderly woman up until about a month ago when Glenn drove to Poway to buy it, along with the matching ottoman, for $100. My legs were draped over one of the chair’s large arms, facing the open window. The summer sun had warmed up our living room, making it muggy enough to feel like I had walked through a light dew, but not so hot that beads of sweat were actually running down my face.

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I was, and still am, sipping Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water. The sparkles in Gerolsteiner are tiny, firm, almost potent, if sparkles can be potent. They remind me of the season of life where I was introduced to Gerolsteiner – nannying a little boy who was adopted from Russia, with the sweetest, kindest German mother, and an elderly American father. I was a senior in college and they chose me as their nanny because I spoke German. They took me with them on their family vacation to Bermuda. That was a good season.

I noticed the tan on my legs. More than noticed — I admired it, actually. That tan is the result of many hours of walking, running, and hiking around the county. I noticed a slightly slimmer outline to my legs and admired that, too, again the product of many hours of walking, running, and hiking around the county.

My mind went from my legs to this month, July, and the uncertainty it holds. My parents in town. Financial changes. Job interviews. Seven months of life without Branch.

God, take me, hold me, guide me when I do not have the strength to go on.

I took another sip of Gerolsteiner, and the ocean breeze rushed through the window, over my legs, and all around the room. It was refreshing, peaceful, kind, cool. I thought of God. Isn’t that just like Him, to provide a breeze when He knows it will feel be the most refreshing. I thought of church. Of how I cry, at least a little, every week. And wouldn’t you know what brings more tears than anything isn’t sorrow or loss or death — it’s the tugs on my wounded heart.  It’s the kind little nudges that tell me God is who He says He is, even in my brokenness. He is kind. He is good. He is gracious. He provides. His promises are true. He sees me. He sees Glenn. He sees Branch.

I got two letters today. One was handed to me by my sister, Kimberly, #3. Beautiful penmanship spoke Angela Miller’s sweet words of comfort: “So breathe, mama, keep breathing. Believe mama, keep believing. Fight mama, keep fighting, for this truth to uproot the lies in your heart – you didn’t fail. Not even a little.” I cried when I read it, and cried again when I wrote it down here.

The other letter came a few days ago from my friend Laura, to be opened today, containing much kindness. She shared Nahum 1:7.

“The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

May July bring refreshment, peace, kindness, and a cool break from the heat. Because a break from the heat of a broken heart sounds oh so refreshing to my soul.

Seven months.

~Kristin

Happy Father’s Day!

In honor of Father’s Day, Glenn is letting me share the letter I wrote him.

Much love to all you Daddy’s out there!  And to those who are hoping to be Daddy’s soon: We love you.

~K&G

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Glenny,

I picked this paper out when we were in Tokyo – one of our many adventures.  You liked it because you like the coy… just like the ones at Balboa Park, where we go often and went right before finding out our baby boy would have to die. What an adventure.

You, my love, are the perfect partner in adventure. The grandest of all of our adventures so far was the creation, sustaining, and giving up of Branch. Oh, how I wanted to keep him! His feet were just like yours, and I knew they would love life and lead many to God, just like his Daddy’s.

I know the past year has not been easy for you, either. And still you press on. You fight. For me. For Branch. For God.

I will never forget the tenderness you showed me on that June day when we got the diagnosis. I felt safe even though everything around me was being destroyed. You held me, and God held us.

You are a great Dad, Glenn. I hope we get to raise kids together here — the world is truly in DESPERATE need of more of you. And that’s our job, right, to change the world?

I love you oh so much. You are absolutely the greatest gift God has ever shown me. Thanks for being my best friend ever in life, and my baby daddy.

Happy Father’s Day!

Love, Kristin

Empty

Today, Branch would have been six months old.

In honor of his half-birthday, I will post this piece I wrote yesterday for my writing class. Hope you enjoy.

~Kristin

 

EMPTY

I am in a writing class, and yet I cannot seem to write.

 

I stare at the blank sheet. Nothing. Emtpy. It reminds me of my arms: where he should be, but instead they are empty. Nothing.

 

I have been more sorrowful in recent weeks. More emotional. More fearful of the future. More hesitant to celebrate, and needing more time to mourn. I suppose this is part of it all. Life, loss, story.

 

I do not want this to be my story. I’m done. Hasn’t this gone on long enough? The pain that floods every ounce of my being, missing him and wanting nothing if I can not hold him again, this time forever.

 

Sometimes I lie in bed and I am angry.  Angry that my little boy is in the ground. Angry that life goes on all around me. Angry at the Devil for finding satisfaction in my torment.

 

I’ve had enough.

 

I am reading a book that talks about how the only way to truly know Jesus and be close to His heart is to experience sorrow and allow Him to meet us there. I agree with this book, but it’s still hard.

 

I met with Linsey the other day. I always love meeting with her. She speaks kindness and truth, and she listens to me.  In our meeting, Linsey talked about the ‘wrestle’ I am experiencing. There are so many things I know, I believe, I experience about God and His character, and yet I cannot seem to figure out how Branch’s death fits in.  I am wrestling.  Linsey says it is the wrestling that keeps my heart alive. I loved that picture :: of my wounded heart fighting for its life every day.

 

I’m doing it.

 

Tomorrow will be six months since Branch was born. Half a year. In some ways so little time, in some ways so long. It’s unbelievable, really.  I think it always will be.

 

We went to his grave this morning. The grass is growing and it looks slightly less “freshly dug” than it did before.  There were jacaranda flowers that had fallen from the surrounding trees, and I took one and pressed it into his book of letters.  We saw three or four hummingbirds. We saw the groundskeeper begin to dig a new little grave for another baby.

 

Just like that, I find myself here again, staring at the blank part of the page.  There are no more words I can add.  This part will stay empty.

I Remember You

Here is a “List Poem” I wrote for my writing workshop and wanted to share with you.

Hope this Tuesday brings sunshine and butterflies. And if not, then maybe just a glimmer of hope.

~Kristin

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I remember you when I lie in bed

In the middle of the night

In the wee hours of the morning

As I lay my head down on the pillow and my eyes begin to droop

 

I remember you when I wake up

Suddenly, from a deep sleep

As the alarm chirps at me from beside my bed

In the return of consciousness after a nap

When my mind has been fuzzy and numb

 

I remember you when I am walking

At the bay

At the beach

At Balboa Park

Through and in and around gardens

From the bedroom to the bathroom

Down the row of chairs at church

Past the baby clothes at Target

From the refrigerator to the stove

Up and down Aloha Drive

Out the big Nordstrom door and into the mall

 

I remember you on holidays

On Christmas when I could still smell you

On New Year’s when we talked about our goals and told the waitress about you

On my birthday when the pain of missing you made my muscles want to stop

On Valentines Day when hearts flooded the shops

On St Patrick’s Day when everyone wore green

On Easter when we sang of life and death and graves and Heaven

On Mother’s Day when I was shown great love

 

I remember you in the mundane

I remember you in the elaborate

I remember you in sorrow

I remember you in tears

I remember you when I am happy

I remember you when I hug your Daddy

I remember you when I see Mister Lion

I remember you when I think of the future

I remember you at your grave

I remember you at dinner parties

 

You are the apple of my eye

I remember you

Hummingbirds

This past Monday I attended the first of a four-week writing workshop that is being offered by The Elizabeth Hospice. The workshop is called “Writing Through the Grief Journey”, which obviously seemed right up my alley. I have basically turned into The Elizabeth Hospice’s biggest fan, and will gladly be their spokesperson for the rest of my life. These people are incredible!!! God’s gift, in the flesh, to the mourner.

I haven’t decided how many of the things I write through this workshop that I will want to share here, but today I wanted to share this piece. The assignment was to write about a small thing that reminds you of someone you lost. I decided to write about hummingbirds.

Hope you enjoy. Love to you all!

~Kristin

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Nothing reminds me more of Branch than hummingbirds.

Thursday, June 27th 2013. Glenn and I were eagerly anticipating finding out if our first baby was a boy or girl. I was 17 weeks pregnant, and thrilled!

We started off the day at Bread and Cie,  followed by a stroll through Balboa Park and a stop at the Coy Pond. I remember Glenn taking a video of the fish, and posting it to Instagram. We looked for little boy and little girl outfits at Baby Gap and Nordstrom. We couldn’t find anything we wanted to buy, so we left the mall empty handed and headed to Sonohealth for our ultrasound.

We were so excited. Looking back now we seem young, innocent.

We paid all sorts of money just to find out the gender of our baby earlier than the doctor would tell us. Sergio was kind. He told us our baby’s heart was beating. And then he told us there was a problem with our baby’s brain. Anencephaly. Not compatible with life.  I remember clutching Glenn, crying, shaking. I knew exactly what it was because Mara had gone through this a year before. I remember wanting to know if our baby was a boy or girl, and Sergio told us he hadn’t looked.

We left Sonohealth, after they refunded our money, which is both kind and odd, and went across the street to Old Trolley Barn Park. There are benches there, in the back corner of the park, that overlook the freeway and valley. We sat on those benches and cried and prayed and told our families and friends what we had just heard. Our baby was going to die. This life inside of me would be just fine until the day it was born, and then it would not be able to stay on earth any longer. It was heartbreaking.

Old Trolley Barn Park is a beautiful park. It is simple : a playground, some picnic tables, a few grassy areas, and a handful of benches. As we sat there, in the shock and horror of a fatal diagnosis, life swirled around us. Butterflies, lizards, little kids playing, sunshine, bees, and hummingbirds. There were so many hummingbirds.

I don’t know what it was about the hummingbirds, but Glenn and I were both struck by them. They were beautiful. They were peaceful but always fluttering. They would come close but never stay.  It was as if God were saying “I Am Here.”

Two days later, after hibernating at Glenn’s parents house, we returned home. The fig tree in our backyard had started to bloom, and the first thing we noticed was a handful of hummingbirds that seemed to surround that tree. “I Am Here.”

We unlocked the front door and saw a package had been delivered while we were away. From April and Jordan : a hummingbird feeder, and lots of hummingbird food. We started crying – how could we not? “I Am Here.” It was almost as if He were screaming it from all around us. Reminding us of His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. That in the darkness, His light remains.

I remember a few weeks ago, while on a very long walk over by the airport with Jessica, I saw a few hummingbirds. Pointing them out, we started talking about reminders of Branch, and how some people would like to say that Branch is IN those hummingbirds. We talked about how we are grateful Branch is in Heaven, and not fluttering around the earth aimlessly in the body of a bird.

In between giggles, Jessica said “Little boy! You are WAY too close to that oncoming traffic!” as if she were scolding Branch himself. It was so sweet. A reminder of all I have lost, but an acknowledgement that my baby boy matters to my friends and family. He will not be forgotten. I will not be abandoned. God promised :: “I Am Here.”

 

Five Things — aka Mind Dump

So heeeere’s the thing: My brain is a swirly twirly mess.

If you don’t mind, I am going to use this space to do a little mind-dump. Ready? Go.
ONE
Easter happened. I feel like that really describes it. It HAPPENED. I kiiind of feel like it happened TO me, but really for most of the day I was enjoying myself! We went to church the night before with my family, which was nice, and then convinced/forced my Dad to try Thai food for the first time. He was quite apprehensive, as most old people are {HA! Just kidding Dad!}, but then he really wound up liking it. Crispy duck is delicious.

On the day itself, we met up with Glenn’s fam at Sea World which was super fun. Keith-as-I-live-and-breathe and I shared chicken nachos. They were surprisingly delicious. We watched the best brass band ever.

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We ended the day with a visit to CLevel – a restaurant with awesome atmosphere and views – and all of a sudden Easter slapped me in the face. I was tired. I was sunburned. I was dehydrated. I was hungry. My head started to hurt. All I could think about was how my baby is in the ground, and I can never see him again. It’s too sad, really. Most days are somewhat manageable, but some days the reality hits, and I become so, so sad.
TWO
We are officially members of an infant loss support group. I’m not gonna lie, I never thought we would join {or enjoy!} a support group. I’m all for therapy, but GROUP therapy seems a little weird. I imagined a room filled with “those” people, led by someone with frizzy hair and glasses at the end of his or her nose, their sad eyes peering over the frames. I imagined bizarre questions being asked. Fake intimacy trouncing around from story to story, couple to couple. I am happy to report :: I imagined wrong.

We totally like our infant loss support group!!

We, obviously, wish we and everyone else in the group never had to be in this group to begin with… BUT our specific group is led by our awesome grief counselor at The Elizabeth Hospice, and there is another couple in the group who we really enjoy! Strangely enough, their little girl who died shares Branch’s birthday! It’s nice to have people who are different from us but have gone through something so similar… even having our babies born on the same day!

We have only gone to the group twice now, and enjoyed both times. The first was kind of what I would imagine most first-meetings at groups are, where you introduce yourselves and share a bit about the child you lost, and then there are several topics that come up and Paula, our grief counselor and new best friend, facilitates the conversation. The second time we went we did a craft, which sounds super cheesy but was actually really cool. We made frames and discussed the just-around-the-cornerness of Mother’s Day. I actually am not dreading Mother’s Day, but I am leaning toward not doing any of the “usual” things on the day itself. Last year on Mother’s Day Glenn and I told his family I was pregnant. Eeek. Not sure if I’m ready to see the TimeHop photos pop up for that one…  Again I say eeeeek!

Nevertheless, I am a mother, and I have a great mother AND a great mother-in-law so I am hoping to celebrate them in a unique way this year… just maybe not on Sunday the 11th. Ha!
THREE
People are nice. Not all people. Not all the time. But overall, there are lots of nice people out there.

A friend of mine from high school, who has been so sweet to follow our journey, knew we would be at a party together on Saturday and brought us a card and gift. Ridiculously thoughtful!!

One of my girlfriends sends me texts, all the time, asking how my heart is — asking about my grief — asking what my “internal weather” is. And here’s the thing : she MEANS it. She really does want to know! Even the yucky, tragic, never-going-away-until-Jesus-comes-back stuff — she willingly asks me to share my heart with her.

My mentor meets with me on a super regular basis. When I fear I am becoming needy, or that I am not worth her time, she speaks kindness and truth to my soul. She tells me it is an honor to walk with me. She guides me into calmness and prayer :: places where God can reveal Himself to me in such personal and loving ways. She validates my pain, and tells me I am seen.

My beloved friend since the 3rd grade called up two of my best gals and organized a high tea date, in honor of Mother’s Day. In honor of me. It is so kind and generous and thoughtful, I could barely get “thanks” out when she mentioned it.

My Mom sends me encouraging letters every month, to be opened on the 3rd, and they always make me cry.  This month she even sent a pretty scarf! Just because! I look forward to my letters and the reminder that our families are walking this road with us, and missing Branch themselves.

I do not deserve any of these nice things, but I am so grateful for them. And for all of you.
FOUR
The first Lionheart Half Marathon and 5K has officially been completed. WE. DID. IT.

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If you follow me, or any of our friends here in San Diego, on social media, your feed was probably overrun with pictures of our cute shirts, and inspirational photos of Team Lionheart running and walking and cheering! It was such, such, such a great day! Wow! Things could not have gone better, and I felt such a flood of support it was nuts! Branch, you are one loved little boy!
FIVE
My hair can now legitimately be put in a ponytail. What’s up.

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Thanks for sticking with me through it all! Mind Dump Complete.

~Kristin

Branch’s Video

Happy Saturday, friends!

Today I want to share Branch’s video with you. It is an 11-minute slideshow Glenn put together for Branch’s memorial service back in December, telling his story of our time with him. It has taken us a while, but it’s finally ready to be shared with the world!

I hope you like it! My favorite part is when we meet Branch in person for the first time. Such cool memories and moments to have on camera.

Branch Movie Official from Glenn Murdock on Vimeo.

Much love,

Kristin

 

I have noticed something different in the air lately. Something fresh. Something I haven’t seen for a while.

It came quickly, unexpectedly, kindly.

It came as friends shared their exciting news of expecting a baby.

It came as I watched Mara gracefully receive gifts at a baby shower for her newest addition, all the while honoring Julia’s life and legacy. A baby shower after loss. Wow.

It came in the morning, after a full night’s rest.

It came in a walk along sunset cliffs with a dear soul.

It came in the tears streaming down my face every single day.

It came through laughter with my favorite people. Who knew seven miles could be so much fun?

It came as I held my breath, watching our new friends give birth to, and then say goodbye to, their sweet little girl.

It came around a table, sharing food and drink and love.

It came in the loud moments.

It came in the quiet.

In each little space :: hope came.

The journey of grief does not seem to start with much hope, and I think that’s ok. I think we have to realize the magnitude of our loss. Feel the loneliness. Sit with our sorrow, even though we don’t want to. It seems that is the only way true hope can enter in again. For when we are a big crumpled up mess,  God reaches down and touches us.

And that, my friends, is enough to give me just a little hope today.

Isaiah 40:31
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

Much love to you all,
~Kristin

P.S. I also wanted to THANK you all for praying for my car/mode of transportation. My car was able to be FIXED, which we originally had no hope of happening!!!! Thank you for caring about and praying for me — even in things like automobiles.

I’m All Over the Place:: Weight Loss, Being Anti-Social, and A Cry for Help

I will start with my cry for help. It isn’t quite as drastic as it sounds, so don’t go calling 911.  It’s about my car :: poor little Camry essentially exploded on Saturday. She has been a lovely little car to me, only requiring the occasional smack of the starter to get up and going. Although we knew she would not last forever, we were planning on her being with us for at least 2 more years. She obviously felt now was her time to leave. If any of you hear of a reliable car being sold for *very* little money, please e-mail me. Stick shift or automatic!

Welp, on to the next update… I’m losing weight!

Remember before Branch was born when I talked about not wanting to have to deal with baby weight when you don’t even get to keep the baby? Yea, it’s pretty much as awful as I thought it would be, except that the grief part is worse. Oh boy! It’s a fun journey I’m on, people, let me tell you.

Even still,  I AM very grateful that I am losing weight. It is not rapid, as healthy weight loss rarely is, but it IS coming off. I am really enjoying my re-entry into the world of Weight Watchers, and find the weekly meetings encouraging and challenging.

Here is my photo for this month. I am going to be comparing each month to the starting point so that I can be encouraged by my progress.  I’m glad I chose the purple yoga pants for these pictures. It adds an element of excitement!

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I have lost 10.2 pounds so far. Hitting the 10 pound mark was super thrilling! We’re in the double-digits here! Yahoo!

In other news, Glenn and I have basically thrown our social life to the wind and turned into hermits. I acknowledge that our interpretation of being a hermit is probably still a more active social life than many of my introverted comrades would ever want, but it sure feels like hibernation to me.  Although I do love spending time with friends, I am really enjoying living in moderate isolation.  I say no to social engagements all the time and have found a new sense of freedom in quiet evenings. It seems to take so much energy just to exist, I have no option but to pull away from everything else.  If you are friends with us and haven’t seen or heard from us in a while, please have patience. Fresh wounds over here!! We are holding on for dear life and who knows when we will emerge! We welcome e-mails, letters, calls, texts, and gifts {I mean really, who doesn’t?!}.  You may never hear back from us, but that doesn’t mean your actions and words were not appreciated.

Glenn and I are learning a lot about losing a child, or more specifically, how to actually SURVIVE and hopefully someday re-enter society after losing a child. What we are experiencing is a rather harsh and brutal reality. It is no fun, but then again it really shouldn’t be. Death is never any fun.

We are surrounded by excellent support :: I jokingly refer to my “grief team” which consists of our grief counselor, my mentor/spiritual director, Glenn, and a few friends — bless them. It is hard to hurt, and I am sure very hard to be a friend to the hurting. The hardest part, it seems, is that in many ways this is just the beginning. As the world goes on around us, as our tragedy is no longer fresh, as friends continue on with their lives … our loss sinks in.  I am grateful for people who do not expect me to “move on” or be more than I can be today. Thank you.

And finally — as I sign off I wanted to share this sweet picture with you as well as a verse. This is an idea I got from our grief counselor earlier today, to continue sharing photos of Branch and add corresponding verses from time to time.

Isaiah 52:7
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!””

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If there is anything Branch’s life proclaims, it is the good news of our God who reigns. What a lucky Mom I am to have a son whose life screams of His mercies every day.

Much love,

Kristin

The Arrival of Spring

“All this earth — could all that is lost ever be found? could a garden come up from this ground at all?” ~Gungor, Beautiful Things

Spring is coming. I can feel it. I can smell it. The fig tree in our  backyard is beginning to bloom with light green leaves.

We have had a particularly hot winter here in San Diego, making for dry days and scratchy throats and extra sweaty attempts at walking or running. Heat is not my favorite. Come to think of it, I really am the ultimate weather brat :: I hate it when it’s hot, and I hate it when it’s cold. 65 degrees is about the perfect temperature for me, sometimes the upper 50’s are ok, sometimes the lower 70’s are ok. Otherwise — I whine. It’s not my best quality, I know.

This spring feels different than any other. There are many “first” we are coming up on since losing Branch.  It’s interesting to think of where we were this time last year compared to this year.

Last spring we found out I was pregnant. This spring we are up to our ears in grief and infant loss books.

Last spring we went to Disneyland just about every other week. This {early} spring we went to DisneyWorld.

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Last spring I was working part-time at the University of San Diego. This spring I am going to be working for my brother-in-law at Sea World. {This is kind of fun! He is the director of one of the Sea World summer bands, and I get to help out with non-musical stuff!}

There are so many things that happened in the past year that I never could have imagined. Many of them are sad, like not having sweet Branch with us anymore, but some of them are good.  Watching God use our friends to show His love and grace through the hardest times.  Meeting and spending time with our firstborn son. Learning about loss in a very new way. Noticing our hearts gain empathy and gratitude.  Daring to dream, from time to time, of Branch’s future siblings.

These signs of spring are small, and often must take a back-seat to the hard but holy work of mourning, but they are there. In the midst of the sorrow. In the midst of the hurt. In the midst of the fears, the exhaustion, the hibernating — tiny little leaves break through and remind me that spring is coming.

My verse for the month of March is Hosea 6:3. I hope it speaks to you as it has to me.

“Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

My prayer every day since losing Branch has been that we would see glimmers of hope, be they ever so small, every day. May He continue to reveal Himself, and may we have the eyes, ears, and hearts to hear, see, and feel His goodness in our lives. For He is SO good, even in times of great loss.

~Kristin