Three years ago yesterday Brookie stepped into eternity. Nanny is on her way to Brookie´s Place (the cemetery) to take flowers, and I am trying to hold back a flood of tears as I finish my second donut Last night, Chaney and I stayed up late talking about the events of this past weekend at our Hope of Heaven Conference. As I was standing in the lobby of the Marriott on Friday night, looking around at all the faces of people I love people that over the past five years, I have laughed with, cried with, prayed with, and walked through the valley of death with I felt such courage well up in my heart and such hope fill my future. At one point, several of us Moms, that have lost our children to cancer, were standing in the lobby smiling, laughing, hugging.
I never thought I would ever be able to truly laugh again. But here I was, my broken heart and all, not just faking a laugh or smile (because I have done that many times), but truly laughing a rare happening. And as all of us moms know, we cherish these moments of true joy moments where the pain and burdens of our hearts are lifted somewhat. Moments where joy, friends and laughter trump the reality of our pain and grief. Oh, for more times like these I looked around at all the B.I.G. Love staff and volunteers proudly wearing their sky blue Hope of Heaven shirts, warm smiles graced their faces as they helped and served and loved each family. I am so proud of them our friends and family willing to give their time, resources and energies to help ease the burdens of others.
Yes, that is true servanthood. Expecting nothing in return, but the joy that comes from serving. The joy that comes from seeing families walk through the doors on Friday night beat-down, discouraged and down-cast then leave on Saturday with their heads tilted up, their smiles returning, and their joy more noticeable than before. Many families, as soon as they entered the glass doors of the Marriott on Friday, fell into our arms and cried. And as we held them, we wept with them. We looked at pictures together of all our kids that are in heaven. We shared stories about them, laughed over funny things they did and said, and stood in awe over their faith, strength and courage. I absolutely loved talking about Brooke this weekend. It brought her so much closer. And I absolutely loved hearing stories about Charles and Lindsey and Haleigh and Chelsey and Tarah. It brought them closer too and now their memories are written on my heart!
We shared many tears together remembering our last moments with our children, recalling the pain of letting them go and talking of our persistent doubts, disappointments, and regrets. Although incredibly hard to talk about and re-live, when I rose, I was stronger better. It is true, you know, to heal the grieving heart it helps to empty it out. I never really believed this until I experienced it firsthand. Today, it is an absolutely breath-taking day in Arkansas. The temperature is hovering at 65 the sun is shining brightly. The breeze is fresh and cool. And all my flowers are blooming with as much luster as possible. Making me smile, bringing me joy the work of my hands. The butterflies are having a party today in my backyard.
I stood in the midst of them, looking up into the sky always waiting and hoping for a sign from Brooke. Perhaps the five butterflies that swarmed around me fluttering and flying were her gift to me today. Chaney came home for lunch, and as we sat together on our back porch, enjoying the beauty of the day, we wept. We wept over the many e-mails sent our way of lives touched, changed, healed from their experience at the Conference. We wept over the thousands of more families that over the years have never had anyone reach out to them in their grief. We wept over all the grieving families whose lives are spiraling down-ward, out-of-control into despair, anger, bitterness. We also wept as we envisioned Brooke greeting us in Heaven one day with her special little side-smile, proudly showing us the way, proudly revealing to us the mysteries that heaven holds. And we wept as we answered our front door and standing before us were two gorgeous displays of flowers with a card that read, "I love you up to the sky. Love Cassie and Suzelle."
With tears streaming down our faces, I looked at Chaney and said, "How can my heart be so full, yet ache all at the same time?" As I drove back from Taylor´s school today, I remembered my days of living at Texas Children´s Hospital. Days of living in a 12x12 room, eating hospital food day and night, living out of suitcase, sleeping on an egg-crate on the hospital floor, reading blood reports, intensely praying and fasting for a miracle, crying in the shower, anxiously awaiting the doctors visits .but also, days of chasing Brooke on her bike, trying on wigs, playing in the play room, watching Brooke beat everyone at Operation Shrek, hearing the clip-clop-clip of Brooke´s high-heals in the hallway, strapping on her pistols and swords for a battle with nurses and interns, singing Mambo Italiano and watching her shake her booty, watching her defeat the monster-save the princess-slay the gator, watching Spiderman over and over again, laughing as she walked on her portable potty like a graceful ballerina on a balance beam, sleeping in her princess tent, singing her songs until she (and Nanny and Granny) fell asleep each night, and feeling her hands stroke my face and hair as she told me how much she loved me.
I miss her. My heart is full of her memories. My heart is full of love from my friends and family. My heart remembers these days of simple contentment. Days where nothing else in life mattered except being close to the people you love. As Brooke said, in the Intensive Care Unit just days before she stepped into eternity, "Momma, all I want is you, Taylor and Daddy."