Weep with those who weep.

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In the wake of losing Keller, many friends explained that they were at a total loss as to how to offer comfort. It’s almost scary to see such a grave reality and feel the responsibility of responding with the perfect words and actions. It’s daunting. So, when ever someone asks, “How can I best help/aid/comfort you?”  I point to Romans 12:15 every time.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.”

Only the Lord mends up hearts. Jesus is already our Savior. We need you to be our family. Get down on your knees, make yourself vulnerable to the intense pain of others, and weep right along side of them.

Within an hour of the news spreading to our church family, our preacher came to the hospital and just sat. He didn’t come in and try to offer some sentiment that would somehow ease our pain. He just sat in the hospital all day long. He knew we were in total darkness and he hunkered down right next to us. Richard, you will never know what this meant. We would get occasional updates from the “outside world” and every time they would say, “Richard is still sitting outside.” We would weep and praise the Lord for your love. Such a simple act said more than any poetic words of comfort ever could. Take note from Richards example. Hunker down and just be with those in pain. Your time and love are giant gifts. Another family came from church and did the same. Lucas family – you are rock stars. I wanted as much literal light in the room as I could get. The situation itself was so dark that just having sunlight come into our room kept me able to focus better on the task at hand. Our shades were pulled all the way up. At one point I looked outside and saw through a window across the courtyard 16 year old Esther just sitting in the waiting room, at the ready, filled with love. We smiled and waved at each other. A moment of comfort I will forever treasure.

As the news spread, prayers began storming the gates of Heaven. We felt God at work. We received countless messages, emails, and texts. (Actual messages received)

“I just want you to know I’m lifting you and your family up in prayer. My heart breaks for you all.”

“I love you my dear sweet friend. I wish I could be there to hug you.”

“I will do anything to help you. If I could take your pain I would (in a heartbeat).”

“I can’t tell you how much my heart is aching for you and Nathan. Both of you are in my prayers. I love you with all my soul.”

“Please know that I am here for you and praying for you and your precious family. Please let me know if you ever need to talk or cry or scream.”

We couldn’t respond to any of these. I promise you with all of my heart that not a single message we received felt in any way “trite” or “unworthy” of the tragedy we were experiencing. When you meet death and tragedy, respond with love. Whatever love is in your heart, offer it up to those in pain. Nothing you can say (aside from being cruel) can make those experiencing death “more sad”. This is not a possibility. So just pour out every bit of love you have. “I love you”, “I’m praying for you”, “I am so so sorry” – that’s all. The blow doesn’t need to be artificially softened with phrases beginning with “at least“, or by pointing out a positive facet of the tragedy. When someone is at the bottom of the pit, looking for a silver lining or a way around the full weight of the tragedy is never helpful. I say this with all humility and with full realization of the difficulty of comforting the broken. I say this with a sincere desire to help those helping loved ones crushed by sudden death. Each time someone reached out to us in love,  we were deeply encouraged. It’s hard for me to even start to express our gratitude for the love we had poured out on us. So, if I never responded to you reaching out with love – this is my deepest, realest thank you so much I can muster. I love you. I praise God for you. You did a mighty work in our lives. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. Keep pouring out love. Rid yourself of the pressure of saying the “perfect thing” and just love.

Our church family rallied around us. They met at the church building and petitioned to the Lord on our behalf. They sat, wept, and poured out their hearts to the Creator of the universe. We couldn’t be there. We never heard the prayers offered. We never listened to the hymns sung. The sacrifice offered in that room on that night was tangibly felt by all in our delivery room. The Lord filled our space. Your good works, your sacrifices to God, your empathetic tears do not go unnoticed. They didn’t go unnoticed by us. They don’t go unnoticed by God.

We heard of groups of Christians meeting together in prayer around the country. We were so intensely focused on delivering our son. We couldn’t form words to pray. We relied on the Holy Spirit hearing the groanings of our hearts. We relied on our family to rain down prayers over us.

 

Wendy came into the delivery room, hands lifted up in surrender to Christ, ready to allow Him to work through her. It is only by His strength that we all pressed on. Due to Richard’s love and presence, he was able to pick my parents up from the airport. They came in mid-afteroon and labored right along side of us. They sat with us. They were at the ready to offer themselves up completely. There were times we needed to bitterly weep and wail with those we loved most. There were times we need to sit in silence as the reality of death crept into our bones. There were times we needed to laugh till we cried. There were times we needed to surf the internet as mindlessly as we possibly could. Wendy and my parents met each moment perfectly. The team we had surrounding us worked with all their might to carry us to meet the task before us – delivering Keller.

“Weep with those who weep.”

This is all you need to do. This is an incredible service and sacrifice that lifts a sweet smelling aroma up to our Lord. Thank you for sacrificing your time, your heart, and your lives on our behalf. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you. Keep loving. Keep offering up any bit of love you have to those in pain. It is the “cup of cold water” that the world desperately needs. Don’t try to fix anything. We already have a Savior who has overcome death and is near the brokenhearted. We just need you to be our family and love. Love with all the love you have.

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The day before.

September 14, 2015.

I try to stretch my brain to remember every little detail about the last day Keller moved inside of me. It was the last day that Keller’s heart pumped life.

I’m fairly certain my neighbor and forever friend Christine came over that morning.  We sat and watched our kids play together. We were both pregnant, and we both had toddlers. We loved motherhood and watching our kids become neat little people. We loved just sitting together with heaps of toys around us. We would smile like idiots because we knew our lives were pretty magical at that moment. We would also eat lots of cheese and Costco hotdogs (like I said, she’s a forever friend).

That afternoon my friend Lydia came by. We were both vastly pregnant. It’s nice having a friend right in the very same life spot you are in. We were both expecting boys any day now! We spend the afternoon painting with Mary and talking about pregnancy and motherhood. I remember Lydia asking if Keller still moved a lot. It was the first time I noticed he hadn’t been as wriggly that day. I still felt little twists, but the movements were a bit different from the flips, stretches, and kicks. Hyper aware of my tendency to worry, I decided this was due to the fact that Keller was indeed due TOMORROW and he had much less space to somersault. I also remember I drank a can of green tea. I felt really guilty about that dumb green tea for a long time. It was the only thing I did differently that day. I had never had that type of green tea before. My mind blamed that dumb green tea for a while. I don’t blame that dumb green tea now, but I don’t think I’ll ever want to drink it again.

Lydia left. Nathan made dinner. He put Mary to bed and I worked on my OCD therapy and took a bath. In the bath I couldn’t get him to move. I scratched all over my belly. Keller was so ticklish – this always worked. It didn’t work. I moved side to side. I poked and prodded. My mind always goes directly to panic and worst case scenario. “No,” I told myself. “This is normal. He’s a big boy and due any moment. He doesn’t have as much space. Everything you read tells you movements slow down. Pray and leave it.” And so that’s just what I did. Nathan and I then went through all the clothing I had purchased for Keller. We organized it by size and commented on how excited we were to have a our little boy here with us. We both prayed and went to bed. (I slept in the bed and Nathan on the couch. At this point I was too big and used far too many pillows to fit two humans in a Queen sized bed.) Looking back, I feel like I would/should regret not being more of an alarmist over Keller’s lack of movement, but oddly I’m at peace. Everything I did I still believe was the right course of action. Knowing what I know now, nothing could have been done regardless of my timeliness.

Mary woke up around 3 am and Nathan went in her room to get her back to sleep. I decided to stay up for an hour to see if I could get our little boy to wiggle just once. Nathan came in to tell me Mary was back down and I told him I planned on staying up for a bit to check in on Keller. He went back to the couch and prayed Keller would wiggle a bit for me. I scratched. I drank ice water. I walked around. I laid down. I drank orange juice. Nothing. For a whole hour I felt no movement. I called Labor and Delivery at the hospital to get their read on this situation. Contrary to nearly everything in my character, I really wasn’t worried throughout all of this. “He’s fine. I know he’s fine. Even if he is in some sort of distress, I’ll go to the hospital and have a  C-section and get to hold him sooner.” The nurse told me to come on in and we’d get hooked up to the fetal monitor just to make double sure. Neither of us were worried. I told Nathan and just incase I grabbed our hospital bags. Our neighbor Christine came upstairs and crashed on our couch. We’d just be gone for an hour or two.

It’s bizarre mentally going back to that day. I tend to push that day out of my mind. I feel a little dizzy. It’s filled with hazy memories. It’s filled with memories that seem almost unreal, dream-like. The day before your world stops is a weird day. It’s a weird day because there is usually nothing that weird about it. It’s so normal. There is no foreboding music like in the movies that lets you know something ominous is around the corner. There’s no cliff hangers cluing the reader in that something major and catastrophic is about to happen.

I think I’m glad that there isn’t. Living presently is a gift of God. When you are young, you foolishly wish you could peek into the future and see what your life will be like. I’m so thankful God did not give us crystal balls. Right now is all we need. Right now is the moment we are in and the only moment that matters. I think about Heaven a lot this way. “No yesterday. No ‘morrow, but one eternal day.” I think of Heaven as an eternal moment. No past to feel guilt and shame over. No future to worry and fret over. Just an eternal, glorious, joy-filled moment with our Lord. That is Heaven for me. So thank you Lord for not giving us a musical score to forewarn us of events to come. Thank you Lord for the gift of being present. In being present, we have a tiny taste of Heaven.

Today I had a tiny taste. A “Heaven moment”, if you will. Mary and I sat outside on our patio eating popsicles. She stood next to me with her arm resting on my shoulder and we both just silently and contently ate our pink lemonade popsicles. It was a brief moment, but it was a “Heaven moment”. It was joy and communion with our God and His loved ones.

One day Keller, there won’t be any “day befores”. There will just be one day. You, your dad, your sister, myself, and our God can sit in perfect joy and communion in that eternal moment.

Oh Glorious Day!

 

So, when are you moving?

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If you remember from the second post, Nathan was offered a new job across the country in August 2014. The job required a few things to take place before we moved. Which basically meant that someone somewhere had to process a bunch of paperwork, and when they were done, someone else would give us the green light. But neither us, nor anyone else knew when this would be. So we waited for the call. A call meant that we could have as little as three weeks to plan, corrdinate, and move across the country.

Fortunately Nathan’s new supervisors were more than willing to accommodate for the birth of our son. I think our “ok we are staying here even if we get the call” date was at around 32 weeks. And up until 32 weeks (and beyond), I think we got asked weekly, daily, maybe hourly, “So, when are you moving?” or “Have you heard anything yet?”. Nathan especially LOVED these questions ;). It was hard work trusting in the Lord’s timing of our move. We were so conflicted on what we even wanted to happen. Would we be moving and delivering a baby in a new place away from family and friends? Would we be moving with a newborn? We didn’t know. We had to actively and constantly renew our trust that God would provide no matter the time. Many people, our parents included, even doubted that we really did get the job and that we really would be moving. We are so thankful for the MANY people in our lives that loved and cared enough to check in and ask about our life. But, sometimes the questions would cause doubt to creep in our hearts. Satan can be tricky that way. Good thing God is Bigger.

The timing of the move was inspired. God loves us. God loves the Bartlett family. And that is just really cool. Incredibly cool. Awesome. We moved three months after Keller was born into Heaven. We had a tight knit huddle around us in the wake of loosing our son. Our church, family, and friends came together and served us with His perfect love. We needed them. We needed God to work through those people we love so dearly. I am just on my knees thankful we were in California during our darkest hour. Thank you Lord for Your love and providence.

In the fifteen months between Nathan getting offered the job, and him getting the final offer, we did a lot of planning. We played out a million scenerios in our minds. In all the planning, we never could have imagined the scenerio that played out. We knew 2015 would be a big year for us, but it didn’t look anything like how we had imagined it. A lot of times this would make us angry. However, there was so much about the move that was healing. December was the perfect time to start our new life. A new fresh year in a new fresh place.  It’s difficult for me to perfectly describe how it was healing. I think I still need to meditate on that some more. I think for now I can just say,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Eccl. 3:11 

What we do know.

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There is a lot we never got to learn about Keller. We don’t know if he preferred rocking or bouncing. We don’t know if he was cuddly or liked his space. We don’t know if he was silly and giggly, or a serious observer like his sister. We don’t know his favorite book, toy, TV show, color, animal, blanket, song…anything really. It’s odd having a son you don’t know.  I guess “odd” is a more polite way of describing something that is often “infuriating”. He’s our boy, and we want to know him. We want to know every little thing about him. We want to take that knowledge and provide a beautiful and safe life for him.

While there is a whole world of things we do not know about Keller, sometimes though, it’s a good practice to focus on the facts that I can and do know. I DO know that Keller liked to move. I felt him move for the first time the morning of March 13, 2015. I know because I text Nathan QUITE excited. It’s the best part of pregnancy. If you are a hopeful mother praying you can one day feel a tiny baby moving inside of you, I am praying for you. They are the movements of creation and they are spectacular.

He wiggled always. If he was still for more than 3-5 minutes, I’d get worried. And so I’d check on him. I’d scratch all over my belly, and he was SO ticklish. He would go crazy every single time I scratched my belly. It’s special knowing that despite all we don’t know, I know Keller was very VERY ticklish. I got to experience tickling my little boy and feeling him moving all over to get away from my tickling fingers. I’d really love to feel that again.

Keller’s life holds so few memories. I hold so tightly to what we do know. Each memory is precious and cherished. I guess this is a call to work and live as presently as you can. Soak in the moments. Drink them up. Again – redeem joy! Redeem joy in the mundane things. Redeem joy in a fetus kicking you in the ribs. Redeem joy in a toddler asking “why why why WHY???”. Redeem joy in piles of laundry and dirty dishes. Redeem joy in difficult days on the job. This isn’t easy. Joy is often in the “unglamorous”. In the moment, it may not even be joyous, but hindsight will want to hug those memories so tight and relive them again and again. Especially if and when the mundane is snatched away or threathened. You won’t always succeed at this. I don’t – even now. But when you catch a quick glimpse of just how tiny your whining toddler’s face is – breathe it in and thank God for tiny faces. Give all the thanks and shout Hallelujah!

This video isn’t much. Just my pregnant belly morphing and jutting out in odd places. But if you can, watch it. Because I’m a proud mommy. Because it’s a video of our son alive and moving. It’s what we know of Keller and I want you to know him too.

Tiny Heart.

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There he is! That little dot is really him. It’s really Keller. And you could really see his little heart beating. Really truly our son. Really very much alive.

Our first appointment was filled with illusions of grandeur. I envisioned an ethereal moment. Nathan and Mary would be snuggled up on the chair. I would get teary eyed as we saw his tiny heart thumping. Nathan would gently smile. Mary would point and say “Baby!”. Our first tender moment – all 4 of us.

Nope.

We had to wake Mary up from her nap in order to get to our appointment. This was followed by 15-20 minutes of screams. Books and a few fruit snacks later and we were composed enough to make it into the doctors office. This didn’t last very long. Poor 18 month old daughter must have thought the blood pressure cuff was somehow torturous to Mommy because she went bizerk. Nathan had to take her out to the car. Poor Daddy didn’t even get to come into the room.

But I still got teary eyed when I saw his tiny heart thumping. Butterflies fluttered up inside my throat. “It’s incredible isn’t it?”, my doctor said. Absolutely.

I text Nathan to let him know I was finishing up and would be outside soon. “Ok. Just don’t judge me.” That was his response…..

I went out to the car (keep in mind the date – January – pretty cold) and Mary was stripped down to her diaper still sniffling. Apparently after trying countless methods to calm her, he asked, “Are you hot?” Calms down. Head nod. “Do you me to take off your jacket?” Head nod. And so on and so forth. But hey. It worked.

I like this story. It shows love and beauty and family in the less than picture perfect moments. And I really love that I got to see Keller’s tiny heart thumping.

A prayer for my son.

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A prayer for our 2nd baby  written  1.14.15

Dear God,

Thank you so much Lord for this baby. So quickly my heart is filled with such huge love, joy, thankfulness, and infatuation. You are so good. Lord my prayer is that you hold this baby in your almighty and protective hand. That you keep my child alive and healthy. May you grant our baby a beautiful life. A life filled with deep love and care. A life surrounded by your love. A life where Jesus is spoken of so often because His love and goodness is in all of our hearts and overflowing. I love you Lord. I love this baby. May our child find our home to be a place of solace and joy always. Lord, I just want to shout my thanks and praise to you. May the joy you have granted me not waiver. May I trust in you throughout this pregnancy, delivery, and years to come. I plea with you to protect our baby in my womb and grant them a wonderful, healthy, and service filled life out in the world. Make our baby to know that you are good all the time. I love you.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

“Lord my prayer is that you hold this baby in your almighty and protective hand.”

“A life where Jesus is spoken of so often because His love and goodness is in all of our hearts and overflowing.”

“May I trust in you throughout this pregnancy, delivery, and years to come.”

“Make our baby to know that you are good all the time.” 

Amen and amen again.