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

IMG_6816

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

This past week was R-O-U-G-H! Wow! Not fun.

I am feeling all sorts of things, but mostly glad the week is over, and proud of Glenn and myself for making it to the six month mark alive. WE DID IT! Mostly.

Six months down, only the rest of our lives to go.  Anyone else find that depressing?!

 

Along with Branch’s six-month birthday/anniversary/whatever you call it, this week brought a few other changes.

First up, I am no longer working full-time at Sea World. I am pretty sad about it. It was a really fun job and I was really liking it. I am still there a few hours a week, but for the time being there isn’t room in the budget to keep me on full-time. I guess I will have to find another way to listen to a ten-piece brass band every day. Tee-hee!

Second, I had my eyebrows done. This is a big deal mostly because this is the first time I have had them done since Branch was born. You long-time readers will remember my obsession with my eyebrow lady, Melissa of Anastasia Beverly Hills fame.  WELL, she moved!!!! To TEXAS!!!! So not only did I have to face the loss of my son, I also had to figure out how to manage this mess of a face without the professional help I was used to! Too much change all at once led to me not caring at all about my eyebrows, or much else,  for several months.

IMG_6815
{this is right after having my brows done — nice and groomed!}

I finally made the plunge today, and went to a different “brow artist” who was trained by Anastasia as well. I am pleased with the results and am praying this girl never leaves! Or that Melissa moves back! Either would be perfectly acceptable for my eyebrows.

 

Third, I hit the twenty pound mark in my weight loss! Sometimes I am embarrassed to keep posting these weight updates, but the other day I realized that when I am reading blogs and people are getting healthy and losing weight, I like hearing updates and seeing pictures. So here you have it. Me at the starting point, and me down twenty pounds!

IMG_6693

I have just started getting more serious about my workouts, and am having fun with that, too. Maybe I will tell you about those sometime, if anyone is interested.  I haven’t joined a gym or anything, so everything I am doing is either at a park or in my backyard.  I’m looking forward to the day when my “current” picture includes some serious arm muscles…. it may take me a decade, but someday they will show up!

Losing weight is hard work. It seems like everything in my life is hard work… But that’s ok. God has such a great vision for our lives, and I hope that He shows me glimmers of it every day so I can keep at least a little hope alive.

That is all I have for today. Much love to you all. Thanks for reading along … it’s a bumpy ride over here at times, and I am grateful for your continued love and support, and that you read what I write!!! That’s pretty cool. 🙂

~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

1208133200157

 

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

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.

photo(5)

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.

photo 1(1)

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.

photo 2(1)

 

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.

Let’s Make a List!

It’s Wednesday, so I figured today I would make a list. It might be kind of like high/lows. Or maybe just random stuff I have been thinking or doing. Perhaps I will just make a list of things I love about Branch — though I do think that list would be too long to post on the internet. {what’s NOT to love about him?!? he’s the best!!}. At any rate, here we go.

1. I have just about had it with promotional e-mails.

Does ANYONE like getting ten plus e-mails a day, none of them actually written to you, all of them trying to sell you something? I try to unsubscribe but then somehow things keep. on. coming! In my grief-ridden state, my patience is muuuuccchhhh lower than it used to be, so anything that was “on the fence” or “slightly annoying” prior to Branch dying, is now excessively obnoxious and immediately eliminated.  If it’s not careful, the entire internet may get the boot.

2. We spent Sunday afternoon walking/hiking with Kimberly.

IMG_6180

Sunshine! Ocean breeze! Torrey Pines is the best! And I can check “6 mile walk” off my half-marathon training list.

3. Thin-crust pizza is delicious.

4. We stayed at the #1 hotel in America.

IMG_6191

I don’t know who decides things are #1, but whoever it is named The Grand Del Mar as their favorite place in the US, and boy can I see why. We were gifted a two night stay there earlier this week, and wowzers! Sooooooooooooooooooooo fancy! Beautiful landscaping, gorgeous pools, yummy food, and incredible service made our “getaway” totally extravagant and relaxing. What a treat!!! Thank you thank you thank you for your generosity, my lovely friends. {you know who you are! hi!!!}

The pools at The Grand Del Mar are always warm, so even though it was a little crisp and not exactly pool weather for our stay, we spent time wrapped in towels laying on comfy lounge chairs and reading books and magazines. A neighborhood duck apparently had the same idea, and hopped in for a quick swim.

IMG_6187

5. I am not looking forward to Easter.

It’s not even April yet, but it seems like Easter is just around the corner! I don’t usually have anything against Easter — it is, after all, an incredible holiday celebrating Christ’s Resurrection. I honestly just don’t know if I can handle it this year. Holidays are super hard, and I have found that EVERY holiday — even silly ones like Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day — has been more difficult and sad than I had anticipated. I am not planning on avoiding all holidays forever, by any means, but this first year I would just like to take a back seat. To skip anything official. To visit Branch’s grave and drop off little flowers or plants.  To take a trip to Paris and cry with Glenn there. Hey, at least we would be in Paris! I bet tears taste a little less bitter when you’re sipping champagne and eating a baguette under the Eiffel Tower.

6. I am cooking again.

I don’t know if I told you guys, but for a while I didn’t cook. Pretty much for my whole pregnancy, actually, and then for a month or so after Branch. Well, I’m proud to say I’m back at it! Most of my recipes have been simple and Weight Watchers friendly, but it has been fun to plan our meals, grocery shop, and be in the kitchen again.  It has also been a lot easier to eat at home since we are still in hibernation, with no plans of emerging anytime soon!

There’s my list! Hope you all have a lovely Wednesday. And, just for kicks, here is a picture of us with Branch when he was 3 days old. What a cute little muffin!

 IMG_5103

Much love,
~Kristin

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!

photo (3)

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!””

IMG_7422

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.

IMG_5975

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