Thursday, October 6, 2011

Walk to Remember

What does the word remember mean to you?

I think what that word means to me has changed completely over the past 20 weeks. (I can barely believe it has been 20 weeks since my son has been in my arms. I miss him so much.).

This past Saturday I was honored to go to the MEND Walk to Remember. MEND is a support group I go to for pregnancy and infant loss. The walk is a ceremony for families who have been touched by miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. The name "Walk to Remember" got me thinking about the word remember and all of its different uses and definitions.

As I thought about the meaning of the word remember, I was saddened. When I would normally use the word remember, it was in the context of oh yeah, i just remembered that!" or "I had forgotten about it, but I remembered in time." I thought that if you had to remember something, then that means you had forgotten. " The idea that my son had to be remembered because he had been forgotten was such a terrible thought to me. If the process of remembering included forgetting, then I don't want any part of that kind of remembering.

However, that is not what remember truly means to me anymore.

I began to think God and Him remembering us. God remembers us in our pain and in our joy. He never forgets us. He never leaves us. He will work on our behalf when we suffer. He doesn't forget us. Ever.

A woman I know from college has a brother who was stillborn. I spoke with her mom through email and she told me their story of their precious son. It has been over 20 years and she still thinks of her son. She is a beautiful woman with such a heart for all of her kids; her earthly children and her child in heaven. This woman told me a story that has truly stuck with me. She met a woman and this woman's grandmother-in-law was very ill and could not remember her life. She was mentally slipping away. This elderly woman could not remember any of her 6 living children. and could not remember their names. However, she would talk about seeing her son, David, in heaven. Her son was stillborn and he was her first child. After all those years, when her mind was going and she couldn't remember the children she saw every day of her life, she could remember her precious son, who she probably held for moments. Talk about remembering! Not even illness and senility could take the memory of her child who died away from her!

Remember is defined in many different ways in the dictionary. One of the definitions is "to retain in the  memory" and another is "to keep someone in mind as worthy of consideration or recognition." I absolutely love these definitions. This is what we, as parents of children in heaven, do when we remember our children. We retain them always in our memories because they are worthy of consideration and recognition. My Gideon is worthy of always being in my mind and heart and will always be given recognition in our life and in our family.

These definitions of remember is what the MEND Walk to Remember is about.

The day of the Walk to Remember was a gorgeous sunny, somewhat not-hot day. As Todd and I walked to the area where the walk is held, we were anxious and excited to be there to remember Gideon and all of these other precious children. I signed us in, and went in to put Gideon's picture on the memory table.
This table is one of the most beautiful things I have seen. Everyone brings a remembrance item or picture of their child, for some people it is a stuffed animal, some parents bring a picture or an ultrasound picture, some bring their child's blanket or a shadowbox. This table took my breath away. Looking at all the pictures of these beautiful babies brought my heart joy. I could see the love in each one of the items the parents brought. I love how the parents feel completely free and that it is a safe place to put out any picture of their child. It is one of the few places where some parents can openly have out a picture of their child, outside their own home, without judgment or without anyone feeling uncomfortable. I love looking at pictures of my friend's children. Wen I see the pictures of all of the children in heaven now, I can see such beauty in them, not the sadness, not the fact that they may be passed away at that point, I just see a baby. A beautiful child of the Lord. They were each knitted together by the God of Creation. That is what I see.

After I put Gideon's picture on the table, I went outside and waited for my family and friends to arrive. And one by one, they came. I am so very thankful for each person who was there to remember Gideon and to remember all of the children gone to heaven before we wanted. As they arrived, my heart swelled; 2 friends from college and one of their moms, a lady from my church, a friend, my mom and dad, my niece, my best friend. Each one of those people loves us and loves Gideon. It means more to me that each of them were there than they know.

We had shirts made for the walk. Each one of us wore them. They were white with orange writing. I love the color orange for boys and I always thought of orange as Gideon's color. I actually really hoped that Gideon had Todd's skin tone so he would look good in orange (cause if he got my skin tone, and I put him in orange, that would have not looked so good!! haha). So I chose orange for the shirts.  The shirts, as you see in the picture, say Gideon Mitchell, our warrior, and have his birth date, May 17 2011. Those are blown up versions of his actual foot prints. On the front, we had his footprints in very close to actual size. The front of my shirt said "Gideon's mommy" and Todd's said "Gideon's daddy" and for my mom and dad they had "Gideon's nana" and "Gideon's granddaddy" and for my niece, she had "Gideon's cousin".  Each family member was represented.

So, after everyone arrived and we chatted for a while, I picked up my ornament, which was a beautiful angel ornament and had a ribbon on it with Gideon's first, middle and last name and his birth date.
We walked into the room where the ceremony was being held and we sat in our seats. The woman who runs our MEND group said some beautiful words about our children, Todd and I listened with tears in our eyes. A woman who sang the song "Blessings" by Laura Story. One line of that song that sticks out to me, every time I hear it is, "We know that pain reminds this heart, that this is not, this is not our home."
After that, they read each name out loud of each child. After your child or children's names are read, you go up and hang the ornament you received on a tree. Every parent and every family member got to hear the precious name of their child. We sat, and cried as each name was read. Finally, we heard the name of our son. His first, middle and last name. "Gideon Zeller Mitchell"  Todd and I walked up to the front, to the tree and I hung up his ornament on a branch. I stood there for a second and looked at my sweet son's name.

Hearing Gideon's name read out loud is truly music to my ears. I will never hear his name called at his college graduation, I will never hear his name called during the lineup at his baseball game, his name will never be called in roll in class,  but every year, his name will be called at the Walk to Remember.  After we hung Gideon's ornament, I looked at Todd and we began to walk away, I looked over and saw my beautiful friend with tears in her eyes. And she and I embraced. It was one of the sweetest hugs I have been given. Two moms, both missing their little boys, wrapping their arms around each other with love and agony in their hearts.

Todd and I walked back to our seats with tears in our eyes and I laid on his shoulder and he hugged me as we thought about our son.

After all of the children's names were read, we had a speaker, named Rebecca Mutz tell her story. She has 4 children in heaven. Her first child died 7 days after she was born, her second child was born at 15 weeks after passing away in her womb, and she has 2 little ones who were miscarried. She has 2 living children, twin girls. She told of her journey and how God is true and constant, even in our world of pain and loss.
When she was done speaking and after another song, they invited all the brothers and sisters of the children in heaven to come up. They sand "Jesus Loves Me". I bawled. That was one of my most favorite parts of the ceremony. Hearing the soft voices of these children sing about the love from Jesus was amazing because as they sang those words, their brothers and sisters are experiencing Jesus' love firsthand.

We then all went outside and go our balloons for a balloon release. I brought a pen to write on my balloon a message to Gideon. Todd also wrote on his balloon. Todd simply wrote "Love ya buddy." And I wrote "Gideon, mommy loves you so much and I miss you with every breath I take. Give Jesus a hug from me and daddy. We will be with you soon. -Mommy"

We all walked to the place where we were releasing our balloons. I thought about our son. I spent some time remembering him. About how much his life means to me. About the mommy he has made me. About the way he has transformed my love for his daddy. About how much we love him, differently than we do anyone else. I thought about the lives that he has touched and how, because of Gideon, my relationship with the Father is closer than it has ever been. Because of my son, I depend on the Lord more, I believe in Him more, I understand pain and joy more, I believe in God's promises more. I put my trust in the Lord more than I ever have. Thank you for that gift, Gideon.

As we reached the place to let go of our balloon. I had a short spasm of fear. I didn't want to let the balloon go! I wanted to hold onto it for longer! But quickly, the Lord gave me peace and my hand released the balloon. And I smiled. As our balloons got mixed in with all the other balloons, our friend Cathy said the children in heaven are so excited right now! And I could see it! I could just imagine Gideon looking at us, laughing with pure joy with all the other children. I could see every single one of them in heaven, laughing and smiling and jumping and dancing and singing!

The Walk to Remember was beautiful, painful, joyful, sorrowful, heart-breaking and heart-mending.

Thank you Lord for always remembering us. Thank you Lord that I will always remember my child. Thank you that I will be able to see You face to face. Thank you that I will be able to wrap my arms around my son one day, soon.

What does remember mean to you? To me, it mean to constantly have someone in your heart.

"He remembered us in our weakness. His love endures forever." Psalm 136:23

I love you, Gideon. So much.


Patty Eaton said...

Again, I'm touched deeply, feel like crying, heart swells and I just simply praise God. He is such a good God. It's like when my kids are going through something tough and God reaches to them with hope and empowerment....and I, their momma, am filled with appreciation. Thank you Jesus for taking care of my babies (I don't care how old they are...they are still my babies). And I see Jesus being present with you and your husband and family. And I thank you Jesus for being with my friend. I love you Stormy Keller Mitchell. And I will always remember Gideon Keller Mitchell. Praise be to our God. Amen.

Patty Eaton said...

Oops....sorry for the misspellings...zeller (not keller)!