Happy 3rd Birthday Bristol...
This year we started a new tradition for Bristol's birthday. The past 2 years our family has gotten together for pizza and I would allow myself some alone time...time to look at her pictures, read through cards that were sent, and look at her memory box. I would buy a dozen roses, place them by her picture and light a memorial candle for 24 hours. I gave myself time to reflect on her short life, my pregnancy with her, and how her life changed me. But this year was different. We moved in September so many of those things are boxed away, the pizza place went out of business, and we buried Bristol this past summer. So the question lingered of how to celebrate & remember...
Earlier this week I decided that I would take a dozen roses to her grave and spend some time there. I would have preferred to have some 'alone' time for that trip, but Brad's work schedule wasn't conducive for that. So this morning I told Brody we were going to pick out some flowers and visit Bristol's grave, then he gave me a hug. God bless that little kid...he was especially sweet today (after a rotten day yesterday filled with typical 2 yr old behavior) but I'm going to believe his sister was nudging him to be kind to mommy :) As I was getting things ready to leave Brody positioned himself next to his bookshelf- he likes to sit and look through all his books- but today he found one that I didn't even know was on his shelf..."The One Who Came Before You"...it was the book the hospital gave us after Brody was born. I had never really looked at it before, and I know Brody hadn't seen it either. But he sat there turning the pages and pointing to the baby angel. Then he asked me to sit down, so I looked at the book with him. I told him that Bristol was the baby angel and we were going to see her grave today. He kept saying 'ristol' and it took every ounce not to break down when looking into his sweet brown eyes.
We got to the store and I told Brody to help me pick out some flowers for Bristol. He grabbed the first bunch of roses he could reach- which happened to be gorgeous white roses with pink edges. They were perfect. And then we made our way to the cemetery. Both boys fell asleep on the drive so I was able to have some "me" time and allowed myself to shed a few tears before pulling through the cemetery gates. I was actually quite proud of myself. I laid down her roses & talked to God...and talked to Bristol. It was peaceful, perfect, and for the first time in a long time, I felt close to God. I left with a heavy heart about what all we will miss out on with Bristol, but also filled with hope and encouragement. Brody and Colton are true gifts from God and fill my life with such joy, I will forever be grateful for them. And Bristol is my constant reminder to teach the boys to love and seek Jesus and for me to live a life according to His will, so that I can be joined with her on the streets of gold. God is good, all the time, even when we don't understand it. As I sit here and reflect on Bristol's 3rd heavenly birthday, all in all it was a good day.
Saturday, however, was not. Saturday was my breaking point. It seems to be a recurring theme- I have a major meltdown about three days before Bristol's birthday, and this year was no different. Saturday morning I left to run some errands. Coming off an emotional roller coaster from the tragedy in CT on Friday, my emotions were high and tears were a constant on the brim of my eyes. I had to go to Franklin so I decided to stop by Bristols' grave on my way back home- I thought I should take advantage of some alone time. My mom had made a flower arrangement for her grave so I took it with me. And as I stood there looking at her grave in the rain I don't know what happened...I completely fell apart. I think the culmination of emotions from the CT school tragedy, stress about Colton's medical issues, and Bristol's upcoming birthday hit me at once. The tears wouldn't stop and my crying turned to a full out sob session. The kind of gut wrenching crying where you can't stop, it hurts so much you think you'll be physically ill, and its hard to breathe. I managed to make it to my car and tried to pull myself together. I was so sad- and I haven't been that sad in a long time. I started my trek home but the tears didn't stop, I cried the entire hour drive home.
Every song on the radio somehow reminded me of Bristol. I started thinking about my pregnancy with her and her birth...I don't know that I've ever really delved into specifics about our hospital experience when she was born, but there were some awful things that happened. And suddenly I understood my sadness...I never got to kiss Bristol. It's a dagger in my heart just thinking about it. What kind of mother doesn't kiss her child? Especially when saying goodbye? Was Bristol's death a way of punishment? How could God entrust the lives of two precious little boys if I can't even kiss my dead child goodbye? My hurt didn't stop and I cried out to God...like I said, Saturday was not a good day. When I got home Brad asked me what was wrong. And again I collapsed in his arms. I told him I felt like a terrible mother because I never kissed Bristol. What kind of a mother doesn't kiss her own child?! I told him how I felt like a total failure as a mother and that nothing I could do would make it better. Is she in heaven looking down on me and saying, "my mom didn't even kiss me goodbye?" Does she know how much I loved her, yearned for her, and miss her?
Brad just held me, wiped my tears away, and told me what I knew in my heart, but desperately needed to hear. "You are not a terrible mother. You can't judge anything about when Bristol was born. To say we were in shock is an understatement. We didn't even know what was happening. In 24 hours we found out she had died, induced labor, she was born, and we were sent home. I can't hardly remember that day, it's all a blur. We only held her a couple times and didn't even know they were taking her away until it was already done. You are a good mother and yes she knows how much you love her." All this I knew deep down, but I couldn't bring myself to believe it until I heard him say it out loud.
Perhaps our painful experience is why I feel so driven to help comfort families who experience the loss of a child. And maybe this is why I kiss Brody & Colton hundreds of times a day. Every inch of my heart wants my kids to know they are loved and cherished. And regardless of how frustrating and trying they can (and will be) I will never miss an opportunity to kiss them and tell them I love them. As I stood at Bristol's grave today, I told her I was sorry I didn't get a chance to kiss her hello and goodbye...but I promised her that when I get to heaven, it will be the first thing I do.