Behind the Veil

What exactly does it mean to be brave? Beyond what Webster says, that is. Does it mean to cover up fear and face a challenge head on? Perhaps is it more of an acceptance, or rather an admittance of fear or challenge?

Sara Bareilles asks, “How big is your brave?”

I don’t even know anymore. I get confused by the vast range of emotions that seem to be weighing me down as time forces on.

Last night, I had the unique opportunity to share Audrey’s story on a panel for NICU and Labor/Delivery nurses. It challenged me to speak publicly and openly about Audrey’s death, particularly detailing the day she died. They asked what things about the day went well, and also what we might have changed. Everything about her last day was incredibly thoughtful and meaningful. There really isn’t much we would have changed. And as beautiful as the day was in retrospect, it was alarmingly painful to go over the day in such detail both as I prepared for the event and during the discussion itself. At times, I simply could not hold back a few tears with a lump in my throat, but I kept telling myself to be brave.

Be brave.

Be. Brave.

I kept it together during the drive home and into the arms of my boys. Chris asked how it went and I shook my head, he knew it wasn’t that it went poorly, but that in the moment I couldn’t talk about it. I held it together until that instant my head hit the pillow. And I…I just broke.

I used to float on this cloud of hope and dreams, now I seem to drift along a path of reality and logic. Not a bad thing, just different. Time sure moves at a changed pace. You know those “moving sidewalks” in airports? You walk at the same pace as those not on it, but you arrive at your destination much sooner and with little effort. That’s what time feels like right now. It just…moves. It moves for me, with me. But, try walking in the opposite direction on a moving sidewalk, I promise it requires double or triple the effort to get back to where you started. The same is true in life. I desperately want to go back, to be with her, but the sidewalk keeps on moving forward, further and further away.

Some call it a brave face, others may refer to it as a veil, either way this proverbial mask many of us wear at different times in our lives is tricky. It tells the world what we want it to, “I’m fine. I’ve got it all together. I’m happy and strong.” Mostly, the veil works well and does its job. Sometimes, however, the wind blows just enough to expose my unmasked face and someone paying attention notices. It’s a vulnerable feeling of failure. The feeling of all the brave worn off, and strength letting me down. Me letting me down. Lately I have felt hard and cold about it all. A little rough around the edges at best. I’ve only myself to blame though. I know how to choose joy, to seek happiness and to hunt for hope. When I start to sink, it isn’t the responsibility of anyone else pull me out. When I slip, it means I have lost my center, that my faith is weak and unsteady. I must stop trying to go it alone and lean on God to bear my weight when I cannot. I am not a victim, and I refuse to act like one. So how do I balance allowing my emotions to be real with keeping it all in perspective while maintaining compassion for those going through worse?

These are the types of questions that run through my brain at any given time. Oh, how I long for those simple, carefree daydreams to fill my thoughts instead.

Family and friends continue to support in many ways. As October comes to a close, we are grateful for a couple of memorable events that took place this month. On Saturday, October 11th, our family participated in the Stillwater Life Services Color of Hope Run with many other family members and dear friends. The event raised thousands of dollars for SLS and it was a joy to man the “Pink” color station in honor of Audrey. It was a cool, overcast day but the pink powder was so bright, we almost forgot about missing the sun.

The following Saturday, Bedlam Bar-B-Q and Zuzu’s Petals hosted an Evening with Purpose. More family and friends gathered and raised funds for Wings for Audrey. In all, over $2,000 has been donated as a result of the evening, including the sales of our Hope Shirts. We sold out in a matter of a few days, an incredible blessing. Wings for Audrey is about 30% of the way to $100,000. We need $70,000 more, and it can happen. We believe it will.

A friend from college told us recently that she and her husband would like to name their new baby girl Audrey, partly after ours. What an incredible moment that was. Their little Audrey has since come into this world and joined her precious family. I love knowing there is a piece of our girl that gave their girl her name, Audrey, “noble strength”. Our Audrey may no longer be with us here, but her story is literally living on in others. These are the things in which I find strength and solace.

Lastly, my heart is heavy yet hopeful for a family from Stillwater who is living life with their newborn baby at Children’s in Oklahoma City with heart complications. She has battled for a couple of weeks now and could use thoughts and prayers from you warriors. Seeing her updates, I am taken back to similar feelings and emotions and I know that the very best thing we can do for them right now is this. Please do take a moment to lift them up.

Until next time, love & Hugs,

R

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4 thoughts on “Behind the Veil

  1. I am so so proud of you Rachel for being brave, telling Audrey’s story, and continuing to give when it is hard. You are inspiring to me friend! My heart is so glad that sweet Audrey’s name is living on in another sweet baby girl. Love you so!

  2. I think there is no greater pain in this life than the loss of a child. Somewhere in the top ten is a your child losing a child. Sometimes, the loss is compounded by watching them suffer before we lose them. The damage to our hearts cannot be captured on the written page although you have been as close as I think is possible. Our hearts just don’t beat the same anymore. It is such a challenge to keep breathing every day. An effort to put on that happy face the world wants to see. An effort to live in the joy, to feel the joy that surrounds us. The joy is there, just filtered through a shattered lens. The reminders of the loss come every day in a stroll down a toy aisle, a commercial, a baby announcement, a glance at a stroller filled with a precious baby, a picture, a post, and on and on……

    I think it’s not so much a lack of faith. We know of Audrey’s new home and we rejoice and thank God for His promises. I think it’s more about liking life on earth less. Our natural response to pain is to withdraw from the pain. How easy to withdraw from life and build a cocoon. Sometimes it is easy to slip into the abyss of a melancholy that says life is just too painful. We sometimes feel like we are standing on the precipice looking into that abyss; then we hear that still small voice of our Savior that says something like: “in this world you will have trouble. Take heart, I have overcome the world”. Or, “I will never leave you nor for forsake you”, or “Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest.” And so we re-center and keep breathing, longing for His return, doing our best to focus on the blessings that continue to surround us, the countless people who care and pray and hug us through this nightmare. To those precious souls we give thanks.

    To you precious daughter: we continue to mourn with you and pray for you and Chris and Cooper. We hope you will seek out the support you need to continue to get through this. Be mindful of you pace. Take time. Slow down. Breathe deeply. Count some blessings today…and tomorrow. Have patience with yourself and your family. Slow down. Breathe.

    Love

  3. You write with the grace and beauty that can only come from the heart. Your thoughts give me strength and hope. I hope you find peace and purpose in your life. May God bless you and your family.

  4. Oh my, your story takes me back several years ago, back to this same time in Fall of 1993.
    I was 29 years old, had just had a hysterectomy a month before, and lost my baby girl, Briana, on Sept 18. I remember going through the vast emotions that you are so eloquently describing now, only then they felt anything but eloquent.
    As if the grieving wasn’t enough already, her 3rd birthday would have been Oct 25. I remember the NICU stay, back in 1990, from Oct 25 to mid Feb 1991, all of the surgeries, all of “the talks” from the specialists, & all of the times we almost lost her then. She came into this world with the odds stacked against her, just like your Audrey. I remember that fateful ultrasound, back when I had no idea what “the Vein of Galen” was & heaven forbid that a problem with it could mean certain death for my child. She was born 3 mos early, weighing only 3.75 lbs, but a fighter. Consequently, as a result of “the problem” & the numerous surgeries, she developed hydrocephalus & cerebral palsy. (I refuse to give the culprits that led to her death “capitulation.) I didn’t work for those nearly 3 yrs I had her. She required constant care & therapy, & I did have help but not much support. (My parents lived out of state & my husband just couldn’t handle it.)
    Why am I telling you this? I am a survivor as well. I want you to know I cry with you. I want, no, I need you to know every emotion that you are feeling is perfectly normal. Grief is such a crazy emotion. Just when you think you are close to conquering it, something will remind you. After all these yrs I still grieve Sept-Oct. (the anniversary of her death & her birthday) It’s okay to be angry, to cry, to want to scream, or anything else you are feeling right now. One thing someone told me, when I was where you are right now….I have carried with me & I want to pass that on to you. This grief is “yours”. Don’t let anyone take that from you, tell you it’s not real, or try to kill it. It’s one thing that belongs to you as Audrey’s mother. You are the one in control of your grief. You haven’t been able to control much of what’s happened so far…but you can control this. Last but not least, I too, am a Stillwater girl & one of y’all’s parents delivered one of my boys, and sweetheart, I am praying for you & your family. If you would like to talk further…just mention it in a comment & I will send you my email address & we can go from there……and R…I know how bad it hurts…..s.

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