Saturday, December 28, 2013

My year in review - Farewell, 2013!

In January my nephew was born. He was premature, he had life-threatening Rh disease, and we found out shortly after that he has Down Syndrome. He fought 10 weeks for life. He had surgery on his intestines due to Hirschsprung's disease and came home with an ostomy in March.

In February I went to counseling. I waged dark battles in the deepest recesses of my personal life. I fought daily, hourly, every minute -- to just not be overwhelmed.

At the end of March and beginning of April, we celebrated 2 very, extremely special weddings -- my friend Lindsay and my aunt Liz. Two wonderful women marrying wonderful men on opposite edges of the country, and I got to be a bridesmaid with my sister both times. Whee!

Mid-April, I went to the doc for a routine checkup and found out something was weird with my thyroid. After lots of "oh it's probably just..." reassurances, I was sent for an ultrasound and a biopsy, and scheduled for a total thyroidectomy due to highly-suspicious-for-cancer characteristics. [It was cancer, and I guess that chapter isn't quite over, so there's always a continuing story.]

In late April, I found out I was pregnant, and a new adventure began. We'd have to get the cancer out before the baby came, and at just the most strategic point.

In July, 10 days before I had thyroid surgery on a Wednesday, Liam died. Our closest family friend, a staple, always there in our lives, always defying the odds and overcoming countless obstacles, he succumbed to a seizure in the arms of his beloved. It just hurt so much. It still does. It still doesn't seem real. It was a permanent pause in the middle of an ongoing conversation. I still keep waiting to find out it's not real, but as the weeks and months have passed, I have forced myself to accept it by degrees, and I'm still working on it.

The funeral was scheduled for just a couple of days after my surgery. I was devastated that I couldn't go and sobbed and pounded on my steering wheel and for the first time just over halfway through an incredibly hard year I gave in and asked God, "Why??"

Then I got home and my sweet husband had the brilliant idea that we would rent an RV and pick it up right after my surgery, so the two of us, my sister and her husband and infant, and my parents could all go together to Alabama to say goodbye to Liam. I'd be able to pace back and forth to avoid post-surgical blood clots. We could all split the bill. It was hair-brained and last-minute, but with my adventurous husband at the helm of the plan, we pulled it off. We said tearful and sweaty goodbyes under a punishing sun and turned around to go home. I hope he laughed because we added an RV to the procession and ate plenty of pudding.

Surgery was hard. It was supposed to be a breeze, and as a hungry second-trimester pregnant woman, I asked them during surgical prep how soon I could eat afterward, and if a hamburger would be okay. They said I could have whatever I wanted, as soon as I woke up. Well, in reality, it was days before I could eat solid food, or swallow without tearing up, or move normally. A couple trips to the emergency room for calcium deficiency and lots of determined days later, I got back to normal. Eventually, I felt better than ever.

Near the end of summer we put an offer on a dilapidated home in Maryland. By the end of November, the day before the national day of Giving Thanks, we closed on the home and started our plans for renovation.

At the end of September, I took a week away up North with my precious husband and constant companion. We celebrated the milestone of one year of marriage -- one of the craziest, most eventful, painful and difficult chapters of our lives, yet we made it to year one together, with millions of new beginnings on the horizon. A lot to celebrate.

My precious little nephew spent more and more days and weeks in the hospital with another surgery at the beginning of November. I spent some of the most frightening moments of my life by the side of my sister and clutching his little baby fist as he suffered excruciating pain and crashed, sending him back in for another emergency surgery. The strength and perseverance of one little baby has challenged me time and time again this year, the way he just wakes up and keeps going, and keeps smiling, and keeps at it, with simplicity and without complaint. He does the next thing with such artfulness and no expectation of fanfare or recognition. I need the same as his spirit, that little baby. Not to mention the incredible strength of my sister and her husband, who've somehow made it through almost a year of the most difficult "everyday" I can conceive.

And in the midst of it all, in the background, I have experienced intensely personal and difficult trials. Trials at work and at home. Trials that have been persistent, and threatened to overwhelm, but in each case were overcome instead. By some miracle, I and we all have survived it all.

I do believe that my year has not been as hard as many other people have experienced. My challenges were unique to me, and it doesn't mean they're at the top of the hard list.

[Life worth Living. I tell ya.]
Many of the things that have hurt so much have only been painful because I love the people in my life so much. If I didn't love, and didn't have close relationships, or didn't feel too much of my emotion, this year might have been easier, I suppose. But sometimes easier means emptier.

There isn't always immediate meaning in every trial. You can't find a calendar or a quote book or a canned answer or greeting card that will make everything suddenly beautiful. You just have to wake up tomorrow and not accept defeat. And then wake up again and do it again. You can have moments -- moments when you say I just can't. But then when the moment passes you have to, and you can, because life isn't about you. And that is some good news right there. Life-sustaining news.

Our pastor & his wife and my Bible study pray for us and baby
I have intense faith -- faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith that the Holy Spirit of God is ever-present within me and has sustained me. I have never been less impressed with my own faith than I have been this year, but I've also never had a more genuine faith.

It's important to know what you believe, but it's more important to know WHO you believe. Sometimes what happens in real time makes no sense, even when you line it up with what you know to be true. So forget the facts, and remember the Spirit, and the relationship. That's all that got me through this year.

We've been so, so blessed. We've been humbled. We've been harmed. We've experienced life upon life and the valley of the shadow. We can't wait for what this new year will bring -- the chance to enjoy our new home and meet our baby (he'll be here any day now!). I'm thankful for love, life, a new day and a new year!