Breathe in, breathe out. Smell her, taste her kisses, feel her soft skin, stare at her, memorize her every feature, her every expression and reaction. Be still, be in the moment. All day, everyday, I repeat this in my head. Since before Ruthie Lou was born I have wanted to honor her arrival, wanted to bless her little spirit. Always knowing she was special, but never knowing the extent of her presence, it has been important to me to bless her with all the important, good, pure, and loving things of the world. Realizing we have limited time, borrowed time, I began having anxiety of how to go about appropriately making this happen for Ruthie Lou. Who should officiate? Who should be there? What should we do? All along with the logistical thoughts of what can I plan? Do I have time to plan? Do we get tomorrow? I woke up Saturday morning feeling the urgency to do something that moment. Ruthie Lou has taught me to live in the moment, not count on tomorrow, it may not be here, act now. After talking to chris and getting the "go ahead" we made our calls to invite our first guests to the house. Chris was concerned that it was short notice and it was, just about 2 hours for family to get up and go. We also knew it was Labor Day weekend and many people we love were away, but sometimes that's life. It isn't perfect, can't always be planned and cannot accommodate everyone. Some family couldnt make it, some felt it too difficult to come and some family got unintentionally overlooked because the normalcies of life right now are not normal and important things unfortunately get forgotten. We would love to have had the world, all of you standing by our side but you all were there, all your messages, your energy, your thoughts, all were with us that afternoon even when your physical presence was not. There are so many people in our life that we would've loved to have here, too many to even allow, so we made it as small as possible, intimate, with only Ruthie Lou's aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents. As predicted our early birds arrived early and our late arrivals surprisingly got here on time! Ruthie Lou and I added that to our "blessing of the day" list, which I finally started writing down as the blessings big and small show up everywhere. Pretty quickly our studio apartment was over capacity so we gathered in the "Great room" to write blessings and messages to Ruthie Lou. Here at the house, they have an Art room available to the children and families equipped with a teachers dream of art supplies. I gathered up a scrapbook, some markers, colored pencils and gave all my "teacher" directions and away the messages flowed. It was so special to see the process and blessings that were written for Ruthie Lou and even the messages that were too hard to be written down, in that moment, all thoughts were with Ruthie Lou. It was nearing sundown but the weather was still calm, we gathered outside near one of our favorite spots, the gazebo. Standing in a circle, I tried my best to articulate the intention of our blessing ceremony, of our welcoming ceremony for our sweet angel. We had no officiant, just me, with my server experienced public speaking that matured into my teaching voice. Chris, the strong silent type, who isn't always comfortable at these public emotional moments, stood tall next to us, shades on as if that meant the tears weren't really there. Sometimes when you're in the moment, the words just flow but when you think back you're not really sure what you said. Having only two hours to plan i really just spoke from my heart, trying to convey our love for this little girl, this blessing we have been given, this honor that we have to care for. We were fortunate to capture it on film but now we have to figure out how to send that video to us to actually watch it, should we choose to. The actual words don't matter, the feelings of love were felt thru all the words, the tears of joy, sadness and honor said what a million words could not. I shared some stories about Ruthie Lou, her ladybug story, read a couple of poems and blessings that I have been given or came across since Ruthie Lou's stay in the NICU. A couple of them were even special poems or blessings from you, since they were sent for Ruthie Lou, they have such special meaning to us. Stories were shared from our family, the joy and miracles Ruthie Lou has brought and we talked about those lost before us, those waiting so patiently to meet our sweet angel, or to see her again if that's what you believe. I also talked about God, who means different things to different people yet i don't think can be made right or wrong. That night God was in the wind for me, the rustling of the trees, the squirrel that ran near us, the smell of nature in the air, all in celebration of Ruthie Lou. We closed with a circle hug and repeated a prayer that has become a mantra to sweet Ruthie Lou: "The Light of God surrounds you The Love of God enfolds you The power of God protects you The presence of God is in you Where ever you are, God is You are a happy, healthy child of God" It was a beautiful moment, and as the gentle wind came in and all the pictures were being taken, Ruthie Lou woke up! This isnt uncommon for our trips outside but usually it only lasts about 10-15 minutes until she gets overstimulated and her seizures start. I began to feel the anxiety to get her inside because even though we love to have these experiences with her, if they end up causing her pain, it is not worth it for us. I am constantly asking myself, is this for her or is this for us? And if the picture I want, the handrprint I desire or the outfit so cute is for my benefit, it gets thrown out the window. Her comfort, her happiness is our number one proirity and even though I had dreams of experiences with this little girl, she runs the world and her needs are number one. Another lesson from little miss Ruthie Lou, the small things are not always as important as they seem in the long run. But that day, Ruthie Lou WAS running the world! I had told her all morning about her party and this girl was not missing it! She woke up during pictures and stayed awake for the next two hours that everyone was here. She was awake thru several of her pictures, thru dinner, even sat with her grandpas on the couch and caught some of the Giants game! There was a party and she wasn't sleeping thru it! What a blessing, for her and for us. After pictures, we went to "Ruth's Cafe" (coincidently-or not coincidentally-the name of the dining room here) to have our gourmet Round Table pizza. Sometimes it's the good ol' food that makes me feel at home, feel normal. We sat in the large dining room across two oversized tables, chatted, laughed and I held Ruthie Lou. I had shared her so much that afternoon, I couldn't handle a moment more and had to keep her to myself. The day was such a gift, such a blessing, as each day has been since the day she was born. I hope we did her justice, paid her due honor, blessed her as she has blessed us and welcomed her into this family, this world who loves her so much.
We are just waking up to another blessed day. I am holding Ruthie Lou as she floats in and out of sleep, unsure if she's quite ready to wake up, she is quite the night owl as I have learned babies can mix up their night and days, hers are more like a swing shift, not completely opposite, but off kilter nonetheless.
There are so many things that cross my mind all day as I sit with my angel & stare at her beautiful and perfect body. This morning I was reminded of this parable told at the Center for Spiritual Living months ago while I was pregnant. It brought to me to tears at church thinking of the birth of my little one & now brings me to tears giving me hope for her eternal life. Its a little wordy but I hope you get the same sense of hope after reading it, too.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
If the soul is immortal then death cannot be considered a final act. If the life of the soul is to be continued, then death, however bitter, is deprived of its treacherous power of casting mourners into a lifetime of agonizing hopelessness over an irretrievable loss. Terrible though it is, death is a threshold to a new world-the "world-to-come." A Parable, an imaginative and telling analogy that conveys the hope and confidence in the after-life, even though this hope must be refracted through the prism of death, is the tale of twins awaiting birth in the mother's womb. It was created by a contemporary Israeli rabbi, the late Y. M. Tuckachinsky.
Imagine twins growing peacefully in the warmth of the womb. Their mouths are closed, and they are being fed via the navel. Their lives are serene. The whole world, to these brothers, is the interior of the womb. Who could conceive anything larger, better, more comfortable? They begin to wonder: "We are getting lower and lower. Surely if it continues, we will exit one day. What will happen after we exit?"
Now the first infant is a believer. He is heir to a religious tradition which tells him that there will be a "new life" after this wet and warm existence of the womb. A strange belief, seemingly without foundation, but one to which he holds fast. The second infant is a thorough-going skeptic. Mere stories do not deceive him. He believes only in that which can be demonstrated. He is enlightened, and tolerates no idle conjecture. What is not within one's experience can have no basis in one's imagination. Says the faithful brother: "After our 'death' here, there will be a new great world. We will eat through the mouth! We will see great distances, and we will hear through the ears on the sides of our heads. Why, our feet will be straightened! And our heads-up and free, rather than down and boxed in." Replies the skeptic: "Nonsense. You're straining your imagination again. There is no foundation for this belief. It is only your survival instinct, an elaborate defense mechanism, a historically-conditioned subterfuge. You are looking for something to calm your fear of 'death.' There is only this world. There is no world-to-come!" "Well then," asks the first, "what do you say it will be like?"
The second brother snappily replies with all the assurance of the slightly knowledgeable: "We will go with a bang. Our world will collapse and we will sink into oblivion. No more. Nothing. Black void. An end to consciousness. Forgotten. This may not be a comforting thought, but it is a logical one."
Suddenly the water inside the womb bursts. The womb convulses. Upheaval. Turmoil. Writhing. Everything lets loose. Then a mysterious pounding -- a crushing, staccato pounding. Faster, faster, lower, lower. The believing brother exits. Tearing himself from the womb, he falls outward. The second brother shrieks, startled by the "accident" befallen his brother. He bewails and bemoans the tragedy--the death of a perfectly fine fellow. Why? Why? Why didn't he take better care? Why did he fall into that terrible abyss? As he thus laments, he hears a head-splitting cry, and a great tumult from the black abyss, and he trembles: "Oh my! What a horrible end! As I predicted!" Meanwhile as the skeptic brother mourns, his "dead" brother has been born into the "new" world. The head-splitting cry is a sign of health and vigor, and the tumult is really a chorus of mazel tovs sounded by the waiting family thanking God for the birth of a healthy son.
Indeed, in the words of a contemporary thinker, man comes from the darkness of the "not yet," and proceeds to the darkness of the "no more." While it is difficult to imagine the "not yet" it is more difficult to picture the "no more." As we separate and "die" from the womb, only to be born to life, so we separate and die from our world, only to be re-born to life eternal. The exit from the womb is the birth of the body. The exit from the body is the birth of the soul. As the womb requires a gestation period of nine months, the world requires a residence of 70 or 80 years. As the womb is prozdor, an anteroom preparatory to life, so our present existence is a prozdor to the world beyond.
We have had some really great days here at the house. Over the last few days we have laid on the grass with blanket and camera, taking pictures and enjoying the cool breeze on our faces, Chris and I taking turns as photographer, trying to capture every second, ingrain them in our memories, in our minds. We attempted a little more art & memory making, Ruthie Lou had other plans so we decided to let that one go for the day and try again when we were all feeling fresh! She really runs things!
The next day we brought in reinforcements and had time in the Art Room with the Child Life specialist. She is amazing and calm and we really needed an extra set of hands to help us with our plaster handprints. I came to realize that since Ruthie Lou loves her little fists, we forwent the "perfect" handprint idea and instead made fisted handprints! They are not traditional nor perfect but as i told Ruthie Lou early on in her little life, "Imperfections are what make us perfect" and I am learning that over and over here with Ruthie Lou, she continues to remind me everyday as I let go of my expectations of life. I am constantly reminded of letting preconceived notions go and as I learned many years ago, expectations lead to disappointment, it's okay to let things go once in a while!
We also had the amazing opportunity to work with a water therapist for Ruthie Lou and me. She met us in the oversized hot tub that is about 95 degrees and demonstrated how to move Ruthie Lou in the water and it was amazing! Ruthie Lou was so relaxed, she didn't squirm or wiggle, her little body just floated with only her head supported in the water. We had music playing and the lights dimmed, it was truly magical. Water is one of my most favorite places to be, it was so special to share those moments with Ruthie Lou. I just held her, floated her and stared at her precious little body so relaxed. I know it sounds crazy but staring at her felt like we lived a lifetime in those 30 minutes in the water. I was so lost in Ruthie Lou, she was in such peace & without seizures or pain, it was so special. Chris chose not to go in the water but got some great pictures from the side of the tub.
Yesterday, I woke up with Mastitis, again. It is amazing how your brain and body work together to tell you when things are not right. I have always believed when you have a strong body, you have a strong mind and when one falters, it can really bring you down. The mastitis brought me down yesterday for sure. I started having moments of sadness and anger and I know that is normal but it is NOT how I want to spend my days with Ruthie Lou, there will be plenty of time for that later. So, instead we just rested yesterday ALL DAY! Lots of naps and snuggling, recuperating to wake up feeling stronger and starting over today.
In the evening, sunset strolls have become our favorite routine and two nights ago we found a great place to sit next to the waterfall, where we could watch the hummingbirds and all the plants that surround the area. It's truly breathtaking here. Last night however I was so tired from feeling sick all day that Ruthie Lou and I both slept thru dinner AND the sunset on the couch! Clearly, we needed the rest!
And today, we woke up as we always do, feeling fortunate to share another day with our little angel. We are really just enjoying all the things families do when they bring their little one home.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.