Messages from Moms: Adrienne Graves {part 3}

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Today we continue  our conversation with my friend, Adrienne Graves. I admire Adrienne’s candor, and I believe it is truly a gift that God has given her…through her ability to share honestly, the rest of us can learn so much {and perhaps learn to be a little more honest about our own feelings as well.} I asked Adrienne to describe her fury with God as she watched Noah struggling to live… 

  I remember sitting out in the hallway one night at the hospital and the tears were just flowing uncontrollably.  I remember being so angry because my faith and our reality were not lining up…No one knew anything, Noah was progressively getting worse, and I remember reading a comment or hearing someone say, “Oh, God will never give you more than you can handle.”  

And that’s when I snapped.  

Literally, “F-bombs” were going off in my head left and right and in that moment, there was nothing I could do to hide them from the God of the Universe who knows everything.  I said, “God, this f-ing sucks!  No one knows anything!  Noah is dying!  This is way more than I can handle!  Do You have any idea what it’s like to lose a son?!”  

At that point I had been Christian for 20 years, but it was the first time I had ever felt such profound peace.  God said, “Actually I do…”  And, with the peace came a realization that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SECRET.  I couldn’t candy coat my feeling of disappointment with God and how this whole thing was unfolding, so I didn’t try.  I told Him in no uncertain terms that I was totally disenchanted with how He was running the Universe, specifically my world, at that moment in time.  In doing so, it wasn’t news to God.  He knew my wish list had a fairy tale ending, but He gave my heart a peace that He was still good, in spite of our circumstances, He saw a bigger picture, one more beautiful than I could comprehend, and even though we were walking our darkest nightmare, He was still good and very much in love with us, and with Noah.  

Being able to be real with God, allowing authenticity and candidness come into our conversation, if you will, was nothing different from one of the Psalmists of old.  The Psalms are cries of the heart.  Secrets revealed in words and recorded for us years later so that we could see what a real relationship with God could look like, not one candy coated with perfect behavior and religious rhetoric.  Jesus could not handle the cross.  (What, you don’t believe me?  Then why did He go back and pray the same prayer 3 times, asking God to “take this cup… Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”)  

God does give us more than we can handle.  That’s called life on earth…a life we weren’t meant to “handle” on our own but with total surrender and trust in a good God that loves us and truly does have beauty in mind for all His creation.  

Tomorrow: We finish our conversation with Adrienne as she discusses how the local church helped her family cope with their life in the hospital and their grief after Noah’s death.

Messages from Moms: Adrienne Graves {part 2}

Happy Friday! We’re continuing our Messages from Moms series with my conversation with my friend, Adrienne Graves. Today, Adrienne begins by discussing the balancing act of managing her son’s hospitalization and care with her marriage and her responsibilities to her then-four year-old daughter, Emily.

 

 Emily had just turned 4 years old when her brother was hospitalized.  At first I wanted to keep her out of the picture, I thought in doing so it would protect her from scary things like hospitals.  Little did I know it was my own fears driving Em away from the hospital.  We had family and friends who came to town to help us but she really just wanted to be with her brother, she would say.  Finally, realizing she was in preschool and being with her brother and parents was more important, her Grandmas and Aunts would take turns each day bringing her up to the hospital.  Emily wasn’t intimidated by the hospital at all.  She would climb up into Noah’s bed, color him pictures, head down the hall for snacks out of the fridge, go say hi to the nurses and staff…let’s just say, the kid did “rounds” and everybody loved it.  As I learned the machines and Noah’s cares, I’d teach them to Emily.  We let her hold her brother.  We knew as the days wore on, it was important for her to make a heart connection with her brother, even though we knew her heart would eventually feel ache and loss when her brother died.  Jason and I literally passed the baton every night taking turns at the hospital with Noah and at home with Emily.  I’m not going to lie: being at home was nauseating to me.  During our 5 month hospitalization, being home felt wrong, but I would allow myself to “be” there, with Emily, in the moment, whether it was dancing to “Beautiful Day” by U2 or doing a puzzle, or building a fort in the basement and snuggling, I knew Emily needed to feel loved and assured because her entire world had turned upside down having a brother, more so than a healthy, thriving little brother.  I will say this: our support team of family and friends was priceless!  I know Emily went to the zoo and museum and parks with people that loved her.  I know she got to sit and do crafts and play with family and friends while I was focused on trying to figure out Noah in the day to day.  I missed out on a lot, but I don’t feel Emily missed out.

Next, Adrienne described how Noah’s hospitalization affected her marriage to her husband, Jason.

 

I can tell you this, our marriage grew deeper because we were intentional that it did.  We both realized that we were walking slightly different roads of grief because a father and son relationship is different from a mother and son relationship.  Jason and I fell in love in college and got married at 21 years of age, living on love, certainly not on our incomes.  We had already lost one child through miscarriage prior to having Emily, as well as losing Jason’s dad who was his very closest friend in 1998.  I remember looking at him and saying, “We have gone through a lot together.  We will get through this, too.  We have to be a team.”  Losing a child radically changed our perspective of what really matters in life.  We’ve both recently learned we share the same love language and that is time.  At least for us, losing a child emphasized our desire for quality time, not a need to fill our lives with stuff.  Jason’s been my very best friend since college.  I think when your hearts are both broken with the same heartache, it’s impossible not to grow closer…at least that’s how it’s worked for us.

Please join us next week when Adrienne describes how she coped with her anger with God during Noah’s illness, and also how the local church supported the Graves family.

Messages from Moms: Adrienne Graves (part 1)

Last month, I introduced you to my wonderful new friend, Adrienne Graves.

Adrienne is, first and foremost, a child of the King. Next, she is the wife of her husband, Jason, and mother to three children: Emily, age 10, Ryan, 21 months, and Noah, who is in heaven.

I first became acquainted with Adrienne through the blog she wrote while Noah was in the hospital. You must read Noah’s story…you will absolutely fall in love with this tiny boy who has led so many hearts to Christ. During his 7 months on earth, he reached every continent in the world through Adrienne’s blog!

Adrienne has been gracious enough to share her heart with us here, in the hopes of providing greater understanding to the Church. Obviously, her motherhood has included rare, raw, painful experiences that most of us will never experience. However, we are, all of us, in the same Body, and we’re called to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. The best way to do this is through understanding.
I asked Adrienne to help us understand by first explaining how she dealt with the uncertainty of Noah’s illness…

Honestly, my eyes were opened during Noah’s hospitalization to my need to be both his mommy as well as his advocate.  It’s true, the doctors and researchers were stumped.  I’m so thankful God provided world class insurance during that season because the types of tests the doctors were ordering were no longer typical, run-of-the-mill tests.  (The doctors) were in uncharted territory.  As a result, I began to dig into research myself.  I also asked the question, “Why?” a lot.  I was not trying to be disrespectful to any of the team within the medical profession, but when a doctor hands you a list of 17 different disorders your child could possibly have, you don’t read the list.  You say, “I’m sorry, my job is to love on my son, not to research 17 potential disorders.  Please narrow this list down to one so I can know what we are dealing with here and why.”  

Noah was never given a diagnosis.  

I think at first I dealt with the uncertainty by seeking more answers, but looking back, those were the answers of modern medicine I was seeking.  Test after test after test came back inconclusive.  We found a biophysicist on the outside who helped us with further research which has opened my eyes to a whole new world of “modern medicine” but there still wasn’t a cure and there certainly weren’t any treatments doctors were willing to try.  I remember thinking the whole scenario seemed like a game of greased watermelon in a pool…no one ever had a hold on it.  But, in the bigger picture, where my world was crashing down around me and I was angry because I couldn’t “fix it”, I had a perspective shift.  I knew from the moment Noah was born that God was more in love with him than I could ever be, which is difficult to swallow for a mom, so even though the whole situation was out of my control and uncertain, a peace from God came over me as I literally trusted Him one step at a time.

Next: Adrienne discusses how Noah’s illness affected her marriage and her relationship with her then-four year-old daughter.