Dear friends of ours, the Russell family, will be burying their six year old daughter Emilee in the next few days. She died yesterday from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever while on a family vacation to Texas. It was the trip from hell and they only made it as far as LA before they had to transport her to a hospital for treatment. The entire story is too long to recount and I don't have every detail. I did speak with Beth (Emilee's mom) via text a few times this week and there have been numerous FB messages and posts. All the nitty gritty details aren't important. Emilee is with Jesus and it's heartbreaking.
Heartbreaking for oh so many reasons. One that is especially prominent in my mind is the fact that Emilee left behind a twin. Her brother Charlie Jr. is now an only child. As a mother of multiples I know the bond that twins have. Siblings are close, but twins ARE closer. They just are and I can't imagine the pain that little boy will feel, is feeling, as he tries to reconcile that his partner in this duet dance of life is no more. Trying to process this in the last few days with my nine year old twins (Jesse and JoyAnn) has been difficult, but oh so good. We've had hard and encouraging conversations about heaven, God's sovereignty, justice and holiness. There have been tears shed and sadness verbalized. JoyAnn has spoken of the last time she saw Emilee, March of this year. Jesse has been a bit more reserved, but has at times whispered prayers for the Russell family as we all have shared our requests and thoughts with God as a family. Even my three year old twins, Jonathan and James, have prayed for the Russell family.
It has been heartbreaking to think of this Sunday. As people all over celebrate Father's Day, Charlie Russell will be grieving the loss of his daughter, but wrestling with the joy of still fathering Charlie Jr. How joy and pain can co-exist is so difficult to fathom. It is vaguely reminiscent of Emily's passing in the movie Courageous. One of the lead characters has to grieve his daughters passing while learning how to father his only son and lead the family well through this time of pain and into a further, growing life in Christ. My husband Nathan has been especially saddened by this passing. Although Wednesday morning over our coffee and morning talk time the Lord spoke clearly to Nathan. He had prayed on Monday morning aloud with our family asking God to heal Emilee. On Wednesday the Lord reminded Nathan that he had not forgotten Nathan's request and he was going to heal her. It was just a few hours later that we learned of her passing. God is faithful even when we have a hard time reconciling His plans and ways.
Here's the really hard part for me to handle, deal with and speak of when it comes to Emilee's passing. I feel it's important though because it banishes my pride, destroying my stubborn will, allowing integrity, honesty and light bringing freedom to my soul. Emilee lived a full and wonderful life in her 6 short years. To honor her memory and the freedom she walked in I need to really take a look at what I'm feeling. There is grief. That is obvious. There is anger. Once again expected. How about sadness, confusion and doubt. I would say that all of those are normal for a friend to feel upon the death of someone dear to them.
What kept me awake last night and has filled my thoughts today are the feelings of guilt and shame. I am ashamed of myself because of the thoughts and feelings that I've had about my own children. Oh the times I've wished for my "own life" back. I've wanted vacations with Nathan, alone on a deserted island. I've been so overwhelmed by Joseph's incessant barrage of verbal ammunition, the pain and destruction that autism has caused our family, the countless hours in therapy for barely apparent reasons. Some days I've even wished that Joseph was non-verbal. That's shocking just to even see in writing. I can't believe I've thought that. Many days I've wondered why I have five children with two sets of twins. My house is SOOOO noisy. Weariness grips me most days because of the constant flow of stimulation, noise, fussing, squeals of glee, laughter, crying, you name it. It's just LOUD!!! I feel ashamed because Beth and Charlie will never hear "I love you" spoken by Emilee (this side of glory). Quite often I wish I could send them to public school, not because I feel less passionate about home education, but just so I can sleep late, take a long, uninterrupted bath, get a haircut or my nails done. How about a coffee date with a friend? Some days I feel as if I'll vomit if I hear "MOM" once more. Beth would give anything to hear Emilee say "Mom". I'm so tired of wiping noses, butts and brows. I had 16 days in NICU. The Russell family had MANY more. I get angry when I have to cook for 7. Now she can breeze through a meal for three. I won't take my kids to the doctor because we don't have insurance and can't afford it. They are looking at thousands of dollars in medical bills AND funeral expenses on top of that. I don't want to take my kids anywhere. Transporting them is a hassle, packing extra clothes, fastening car seats, taking a stroller, making sure that Joseph knows the plan, water bottles for us all, timing it just right so we aren't out at snack time or lunch time. They are having to transport her body from LA to NC.
My selfishness astounds me. My pride and lack of patience with my children and myself is disheartening. I spent time last night in prayer repenting of my lack of belief, my lack of gratitude for my life and gifts that God has bestowed upon me. I ONCE again asked Him for strength to see my children through His eyes. I vowed to do more loving and less yelling. I once again asked for forgiveness for trying so hard to make my children grow up too quickly and to change them into what I wish they could become. Today I've tried to slow down. I want to spend less time on FB, my phone and hiding from my life and my children by always being "busy". I'll take my hard days. I'll take being tired. Being yelled at by Joseph and feeling constantly misunderstood and disrespected isn't easy, but at least Joseph is with me. I'll take the noise. Every messy, frustrating, challenging part of parenthood is mine. God grant me the strength to embrace it, the grace to be grateful and the desire to dream big in you for me and for my children. I want to stop talking about living and START living. Yes, BIG mistakes have been made in the past in the arena of parenting. I'm sure I'll make more, as soon as tomorrow (the kids are all in bed). I'm not going to stop. I'm going to keep doing my best, realizing His mercies are new and that my children DO love me. I'm not as bad a mom as I think I am. We all have room to grow and change. Family is a gift and I want to enjoy every moment of it.
To my dear friends the Russell's...you are loved. I'm so, so sorry for your loss, Emilee, you will be missed. Thank you Beth for making the time to come see us in March. I have such sweet memories of my last hug from Emilee. I pray to see the remaining Russell's in NC when God allows. Emilee, enjoy Jesus, I'll be there before you know it singing beside you.
To those reading.....Yes joy and sorrow can coincide. Pain and peace can be roommates. Not only in grieving a death, but in everyday life. I can LOVE being a mom and be in pain over dreams shattered or goals left unachieved. I can watch agendas die and release expectation and simultaneously feel joy, relief and sorrow. There is a place for all of this. For me that place is at the cross. Praise be to God. He is my hope eternal. The hope of forgiveness, restoration, second, third and fiftieth chances and the hope of eternity with him, pain free, fever free, autism free....oh glory is going to be just that....GLORIOUS.