The Journey is Long

Yesterday was a blur of work, with seven hours of driving thrown in. We went everywhere from the on/gyn to the temple to Missouri, with a hundred stops in between. Most of those stops were the bumper to bumper construction traffic that summer seems to bring.

I had my miscarriage follow-up yesterday. Everything looks good, not just from the miscarriage, but also with my oncology update. There are no signs of cancer, and no signs of any pre-cancer in or around my ovaries. It looks like my treatment worked, though we are still waiting for labs to come back to confirm. I need a 25 for good news, and a 34 for stable news. They did confirm that it is the treatments I had that are making full-term pregnancy difficult, which they told me a year ago. My regular hormone levels, including progesterone, are all normal and not causing miscarriages. The doctor said again that the waiting three months is old research, and that now they know that there is no difference for mother or baby in waiting or not, so to go ahead and keep trying. If my labs come back the same as they have been holding for the last year, he will give me another year before doing the full hysterectomy he recommended last year. With that deadline, and because we are old – not too old for children, but old enough we don’t have a big window of time for children – we will keep trying. The doctor said that a healthy pregnancy would be the best thing for my body, and that a child would save my life as much as we would give it life.

In other children news, we got our second call about fostering. This time they were asking us to help with a 12 year old girl over the weekend. We reminded them our final fostering training class is next week, and we need our final home visit after that. They apologized and said they would find another home for her. So far our foster care experience has been one of us being really good at not helping any children.

We also went to the temple yesterday, praying about what the doctor said and other family needs. It was such a special experience, and I was grateful. There is such light and understanding and peace and open-eyes and soft-hearts that come through this restored priesthood, its ordinances, and its blessings. It does envelop me in arms of love, with such safety and provision. I felt comforted, guided, and answered. I am grateful our prayers are heard, and ordinances strengthen us with power – even to endure.

We also went this week to the hospital again, to give Nathan’s mentor-friend a blessing. We went Sunday when she had a stroke, and by Wednesday she was in a coma. Nathan gave her a tender blessing, and she passed away several hours later. Nathan was the last person she spoke to before the coma, and her family (who are not LDS) asked him to give her a blessing. It was very powerful and sweet, and we all cried, and she let go to return to her husband on the other side of the veil – just in time for their anniversary. This amazing woman was Nathan’s violin teacher for almost 35 years, and they were very close. He wrote songs in her attic, and she flew to New York to see his shows. He loved her so much, and I so enjoyed meeting her last year. Her funeral will be next week, and it is so very hard for Nathan.

What a year of grief we have had! What blessings of love and peace and strength have come because of it!

Last night we brought mom’s ashes with us to Missouri. She always told us cremation would be cheaper than burial, and that we should do cremation when she died. When she was killed in the car accident, we didn’t really get a choice. But we do know what she had told us: that she wanted to be sprinkled at a place special to our family our whole lives, and buried near her parents. This is the first weekend since she died that my brother had all his kids at once, Nathan and I could come, and we could get to this place. So we will be having a family moment after church tomorrow, coming to this special place together to sprinkle her some of ashes as she wanted. Then, in July, when her family is also in town and Kirk has all his kids again, we will be doing a family only service at the family cemetery and bury her ashes between her parents here in Missouri.

Sadness. My heart is heavy. All this time her ashes have been sitting in our bedroom, still in the gift bag from the funeral home. I would often look at it, sometimes cry, usually avoid it. When little mom things happened, I dropped trinkets and souvenirs in the bag for her. I know that is not her, and I know she will be raised with a resurrected body that is healthy and strong and without pain.

But when it came time to let go of this last physical piece of her, this final moment of alleged closure, I could not stop crying. I cried and cried and cried for hours. Nathan was so patient and sweet, and offered a blessing. It was so powerful, and so good, and so calming. There were words of promise and hope and clarity, and I learned so much. There was also good counsel, which was that this has had the purpose of us being able to say goodbye, since we didn’t really get to, and that it is okay to let it go and live my life again. So we took mom with us yesterday, for one last road trip, traveling from work to home to Muskogee to Oklahoma City to Joplin to Kimberling City. I saved my readers the morbidity of posing with her for pictures along the way, but we took the one for documentation and memory so it will be in my Book of Remembrance.

It was really a special day, and we felt mom very present, and were given evidence of her continued progress, and experienced her great love for us. We do love her so much.

Maybe that’s why it was finally time to go through her clothes. Maybe it wasn’t just about saying goodbye. Maybe it was about being wrapped up in her love, too. And she did love clothes! There are so many! We pulled out some favorites for my nieces, saved some of her favorites for a quilt, chose some for her best friend Jo, and chose some that fit me now and some that will be good maternity clothes if we need them someday (which is like a double whammy of grief, that sentence). There is still some sorting of taste and style, but at least what fits or not has been sorted. I also went through her Christmas decorations and ornaments, the last thing to divide up between me and my brother. We gave those to him last night, remembering how she told us this year was her favorite best Christmas she had ever had, that it was perfect.

I am glad we did it well in the end, all of us together, as evidence if our learning along the way.

It has been almost six months, and I am called to breathe again. Nathan and I find ourselves on this writing retreat weekend, at the same place we came for our honeymoon, following grief as great as our joy was then. But we also discover that our joy now is greater than it has ever been, in part because of the truths we have learned through such hard experiences.

In our sealing, it was said that the adversary would try to knock our legs out from under us. That turned out to be true. But we were also told we would be happy even when we are sad, and that has turned out to be true, too.

We are excited for this weekend, to have days away to rest and write. Nathan is working with his composer on final edits for his show that’s only three weeks away, and has lyrics to write for another show that’s the month after that. I have my final for my Jewish class, and a week of Hebrew homework to catch up on so that I can do my final while Nathan is gone to New York. It’s a good time to reset: to rest, to eat the vegetables and fruits we brought with us, to walk in the “mountain” “forest” that is my childhood home, to reclaim our schedule at home, to organize new adventures, and to declare our happiness and health.

Life is good, even when the journey is long.

Posted in Family, Life permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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