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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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

Thirty-Two!

It’s official. I’m thirty-two!

I feel like that seems old, but I don’t really feel old at all. Hmm.

This year, 2014, I made two travel goals. Glenn and I often find ourselves committing to trips, weekend getaways, and family visits across the country that we don’t have the money for at the time of commitment, so then we are scrambling to pull together cash a few weeks before said trip.  This year we are changing things. No more scrambling. No more committing to things willy-nilly. We have promised each other that we will only commit to a trip once we have ALL the money we need in the bank.  Seems logical, I know, but you would be surprised by how easy it is to say YES to fun things without having the cash  in advance.

At any rate, my two travel goals for 2014 are: ski in Deer Valley {ideally for my birthday, which, yes, was last week} and vacation at the most luxurious place I have ever been : Manele Bay on the Hawaiian isle of Lana’i.

Trip number one: HAPPENED LAST WEEK! And it was awesome!!!! If you follow me on Instagram, you already know this. It was such a great trip that it is worth talking about here on the blog, too.

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I grew up skiing, and it is one of the only sports I actually enjoy.  We have great friends who have a home ON THE MOUNTAIN at the Deer Valley Resort in Utah and are sooooo generous to invite us to stay with them each year.  It’s honestly one of my favorite places to go, and skiing is one of my favorite things to do, so this is the perfect birthday trip for me!!

This year we only skied one day, and it was pretty brutal…  In all ways.

I haven’t skied in about five years, so needless to say I wasn’t exactly in “ski shape” when I hit the slopes a few days ago. I also had to remind myself, and allow Julie and Glenn to remind me, that I have had a bit of a rough few months. I had major surgery just over a month ago. I am just barely starting to jog again. I birthed and buried a baby. {Low point.}

I cried a couple times on the slopes {once on the lift, once at Stein’s while having a pretzel and hot chocolate}, but still did it.  The first run was really hard, the second just slightly less difficult, and then the rest of the afternoon was super fun. We even did a couple of “advanced intermediate” runs, which were a great challenge!

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I am probably boring you with all of these details, but honestly, by the end of the day I was genuinely proud of myself and wishing we could stay longer and ski every. single. day.  It started to feel like my birthday, like a “celebration”,  if even for just a few minutes.

In this season, where it seems like everything is so brutally hard, I have noticed that holidays and “celebrations” are extra difficult.  It feels almost too vulnerable. Like we shouldn’t be celebrating — like there isn’t really much to be happy about because, ultimately, what we are celebrating seems so shallow compared to what we have lost.  It feels weird. Really, it just feels  sad.

On our anniversary, when I was having a hard time feeling celebratory, Glenn reminded me that even though it’s different, there are still things to celebrate without pretending like we are happy-go-lucky or like Branch never existed.  He reminded me that celebrating our marriage was extra important this year because our marriage was what allowed someone as wonderful as Branch to come into the world. I am grateful for Glenn and his perspective.

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For my birthday I tried to remember that, too. I can still have fun. It’s ok when sadness is wrapped into, and all around, the fun.  It’s just fine when you have a great time skiing and still cry several times throughout the day because you wish you hadn’t lost so much so recently. A celebratory birthday is not defined by faking it, but by doing things you love with people you love — people who laugh with you, make fun of you as only friends can, and cry because they feel the profoundness of your loss alongside you. Thank you to my friends and family for being those people. For taking me skiing on my birthday, for planning special dinners, teas, parties. For sending me gifts in the mail. For singing to me on my voicemail. For wishing me a happy birthday in all sorts of ways.  You, my friends and family, my “tribe” as some say — you make everything better, and make me so grateful for all God has given me in my thirty-two years.

This morning Glenn was reading in Job, and this part struck us both — it’s at the very end of the book:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

We are awestruck over the generosity and kindness our friends have shown us in this season. They come and eat with us at our house, they take us to dinner, they comfort and console us, they give gifts that seem far too generous. They are kind in every way.

I am starting to open my soul and listen as God tells me that He makes all things new. That His promises never fail. That spring comes from the winter. That He will bind up my broken heart. That He restores all that is lost. That He loves me so.

Thanks for being part of that.

~Kristin