Remembering Doria

One Father's Journey after the Death of his Daughter


Impossible is Normal

32 months ago, we stepped into something impossible. With a number that’s been in my head with landmarks this weekend, 32 months ago on Friday, we found out that our impossible miracle baby Doria had suddenly died in the womb. 32 months ago yesterday, Becky did what we hadn’t really though possible and delivered our miracle baby, and we spent our only few hours as a family together. 32 months ago this morning, we did the impossible and left the maternity ward empty-handed. It was impossible. Doria was a guarantee at that point, and it couldn’t happen, but here we were. We entered into a life where impossible was now normal.

We pressed on and conceived our impossible rainbow baby. Zoe did her best to calmly provide all the scares, drama, and brushes with fear, trouble, and death that she could (and she still does, because she has no concept of fear at all), but Zoe did the impossible and showed up alive. We’ve been living a highlight with her ever since.

All that to say this: I got to do something impossible this morning. After my disappointment 10 years ago, when my struggles with running led to a lung specialist diagnosing me with some vague form of asthma and having to bring my Guard career to and end, I thought that running was impossible. Once I put on 40 pounds of grief weight, it really was impossible. With this working out and lifestyle adjusting I’ve been doing, I joined a group challenge to run (as a group) 2015 miles this year. My personal goal was to somehow survive a 5k run, which meant I was going to voluntarily show up and run a 5k. I couldn’t do it, and I knew it, so I got to work, adding some distance as I went. Along the way, I’ve run 7 or so of them on my own, just to show that I could.

Today was race day. I figured that I could hit 28 minutes if I pushed a little bit. I ran without my phone, so I never really knew what pace I was moving at (kind of the way we grieving people never know how we’re getting along). As I got towards the end and saw that inflatable arch we had for a finish line, I started to pick up the pace. Some guy, who I think was half my age, wanted to run with me, so we sprinted it out to the end. We tied, which I thought was impossible, but I kept up with the kid. Eventually, I made my way over to check in, and saw my time on the screen.

25:41. That’s a lot better than 28 minutes. That’s a lot better than I thought I could ever do, and I still had more in the tank. I was blown away, because I got to do something impossible. Dwelling on it the way I like to do, it struck me that impossible is kind of the theme of the whole grief journey for those of us who lost babies. We’re in this boat because something impossible happened, and it’s an impossible situation to deal with, but here we are.

That’s where everything is right now. Life was impossible, but continues on. My academic research went from a scenario where it was impossible to find sources that I needed to one where it’s impossible to slow down the avalanche. It will be impossible to put all this stuff together, but it’s going to happen, and it’s going to turn into something fantastic!

With a team of people, I jumped into an impossible challenge for three days in June called Relay Iowa. Essentially, in teams of about 12 (we hope), we run 339 miles across the state of Iowa, taking turns running and resting. It looks impossible, but I know that I can run, I know the other folks can go, and I know that we’ll push through for a phenomenal experience. It’s also something that I never thought would be possible, but here it is, and it looks fun.

There are a couple of Bible verses that are kind of becoming themes for this push through the impossible. Beware here, it gets a little preachy, like a seminary grad got all excited or something.

Philippians 3:14—I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Keeping this one simple, in this verse and the ones just before, Paul sits there in prison for proclaiming his faith, and he talks about pressing on, refusing to give up on that ultimate goal. That’s where it fits in this story. We live in an impossible situation because something impossible happened. It’s always tempting to give up, whether that means we don’t want to get up one day, don’t want to face our partner, don’t want to do our jobs anymore (and who does?), or even the ultimate exit. But something beautiful can still come of all this, if only we don’t give up. So don’t quit. Keep moving along, one step at a time, hour by hour, then day by day, and then keep doing it. It’s not hard. It’s impossible, but do it, because you need to (just like we all need to).

A real favorite that comes from teaching the book at a Bible College in Jamaica, mon, is Hebrews 12:1-2Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Whoever that author is, he spent a long time pleading with people who wanted to give up on their faith and go back to something easier not to quit and not to go backwards. In this case, he systematically points out how Jesus is superior to everything that they had believed before and urges them to press on, reminding them that he just (in chapter 11) walked them through a ton of examples of people who had lived by faith prior to their time of troubles, and these were references that they understood. It was hard. It was impossible, but there was a cloud of witnesses there to remind them that it had been done before. The word race here gives us our English word agony, which fits. It’s hard, and it doesn’t really get easy. It just gets to something like normal, but only if we press on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. And on. That’s just how it was for them, and how it is for us. It’s agonizing in a way that redefines pain for our lives. It’s worse than anything we’ve ever even imagined, but it’s been done before, by people with fewer resources than we have.

This is impossible. No doubt about that. You probably feel like you can’t make it, and you’re right. It hurts like nothing ever hurt before, because it does. It’s impossible to make it through this. We all change in the process. We all hurt in the process, and none of us can make it through this grief thing. It’s impossible. It is absolutely impossible, but you will get through it. There’s a cloud of witnesses later on in the journey cheering you on, and we’re all here as examples to say “It is impossible, but you will get through.” So press on. Reach out when you need a hand, because we all need a hand. Get up in the morning. Keep moving, step by step. It’s slow and impossible, but you will make it through. What happens from there is nothing like we think life will be, but it becomes a strange kind of beautiful.

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I hope that you never know…

This has a good perspective on what exactly grieving people are looking for: people that care enough to stay near and present.

Cullen's Blessings

It has been awhile since I last wrote in this sacred place, and I hope to write more frequently now that I have returned. Tonight I read an article posted on a sugar filled mom blog that was written by the friend of a bereaved parent. It was titled ‘The Most Powerful Thing You Can Say to Another Mom’ and it was about five words that were uttered by her bereaved friend shortly after the death of her 21 month old daughter. When the bereaved mother was describing her pain to the writer she was quoted as saying “You’re a mom, you know”. The writer made an inference that the most important words she can share with someone who is facing the pain of loss is “I know, I’m a mom”. It is a well intentioned article, but unfortunately the writer simply does not know.

Let me…

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