Monday, December 9, 2013

To Robby- You'll Never Expire


 Robbo- I never thought I'd have to write these words or your obituary. I didn't ever think we'd plan your memorial service or that you'd be the first of us to go home, especially so soon. These past 12 days have been the worst of my life. Next to Kelly, Kristi and I are your big sisters and we can't wrap our heads around the loss of our little brother. I'm not sure where I'll go from here but I know I'll carry you with me.  Dang it, Rob. You were supposed to take care of us in our old age. Rest in His arms, sweet baby brother. I'll love you forever. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Milk has an expiration date. Oil in our engines, it runs out. Bread gets moldy. Plays have their final scenes. But you, I thought… I thought we’, I thought you- I just thought you'd be forever.

You're as much a part of me as the sun is to the sky. You make my family whole. You made us all so wholly beautiful. So abundantly light. You made us. I remember life before you and then I remember you and I remember it being better. Infinitely better. I close my eyes and I feel the sun streaming through our hair and we are just in our nightshirts, sitting at the kitchen table. Perhaps we are eating grapefruit before we are allowed the good stuff. The waffles. And I see your chubby cheeks and you’re smiling back at mine.

There we are again...the night before Christmas. Too antsy to wait for the grownups so you, Kell, and I tell each other what each of us will unwrap that night. We are excited for our gifts. Giggling to ourselves, so pleased with our trickery. I'm holding onto your magic, the magic that you still believe. You never let that fade. You always had that magic, for all your days.

When you were born I was no longer the youngest. You were our baby. But together we braved the role of being the youngest ones. We would talk to each other about how that role had its ups and downs. Sometimes we’d forgot that we were on the same team and I would be a jerk and laugh at your sensitive tears because for once they weren't my own and then you'd quickly point out that I was getting acne at the ripe age of ten. But then we’d come back together, cheering each other on. Robbo and Kato.

Oh Robbo, I see us so many places. Out on the trampoline. Tailgating at the Giants. At Tahoe. At Woodleaf. In Vegas for your 21st. Dancing with you, in your tux, at my wedding. Of course you were in my wedding. Watching you play volleyball. Listening to you play the piano. Cuddling on the couch.

My favorite place I see us though is face to face in some of the most beautiful and real conversations I've ever had the privilege of having. We have had many in the 25 years together. One just a couple weeks ago. I loved looking into your eyes, receiving your smile, even sometimes sharing your tears. You my brother were beyond genuine with me and that to me was the greatest gift you ever gave me. Because travelers like us, know that being real can sometimes hurt but being real with the ones you love is a rare and true gift. And in this one life we all want the chance to grow deeper and realer. And you most certainly did.

We often run around this life wishing for more, waiting for our big moment, for the right time, or space, or quite honestly I dont even know. We don't realize we have an expiration date. That we all have a day that our time here on earth will end.  It will just be up and done- kinda like milk. Or moldy bread. Somehow though Robby, I think you just got it.

It’s not that you didn’t have dreams or aspirations. Oh you certainly were headed places. But you weren't running around. You were present. You were living. In every moment. Truly living. Greeting every moment with extraordinary joy. Every interaction you ever had with anyone was deemed worthy. You made us all worthy and royal. You crowned our very existences. With your smile and hugs and laughter and precious words we were loved. You weren't waiting for big moments like the rest of us are. Or how we are looking around thinking about if life will ever really start. You just lived big. You were above any silly expiration date and for that your very memory in our lives will never expire. How could it?

How you attended to me, to each and every one of us. Stopping everything to just focus on the who. I smile- knowing that’s just what Jesus is doing with you now. He is simply just attending to you.

You my brother will always be everywhere we are. When we gather you'll be there, for your love and how you loved us can't expire. Each holiday I'll see you. Your magic it never can fade away. I will remember you when the rest of us say I do and all of the babies will know their Uncle Robby just like the lucky Kellen and Jax. I'll see you in every sunset and remember you every time I blast the stereo high. Each day I'll try to live big because you deemed me worthy and your memory shall never expire.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. Rest in Joy, sweet brother. See you when I get there, Robbo."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

To Nate on Three Years


Today is a day where we place another tally mark up on the board. It’s three years to the day we stood on the top of that hill and waved goodbye to my dad, with tears in our eyes, as he headed back south to California with our hearts buckled right next to him and we began our adventure in this city of hippies, artists, food composters, seahawks, and fleece bearers.

We were on a journey to become the Bruce’s. Party of Two. Away from our comforts and families. Our paths excited and freshly raked for what God had in store.  As almost any newlyweds would, we ventured out with fervor and great delight, hand in hand. We found the oh-so-famous pizza restaurant everyone “raved” about our first weekend here, vowed to never carry umbrellas when running errands on the weekends (as it’s a dead giveaway you’re not a local), and did our part of “going green” (in this mega recyclable city) by walking to the market, even in the rain, for groceries. It was you and I and this foreign city in a tiny apartment, against the world, against the rain, molding two lives into one, two names into one family, -building our own safe place.

Maybe it was two weeks in or perhaps two months when the novelties started to fade but I know that the rain became more than a drizzle and it was then that the rain and all other things really began to sink in. Each of us, separately and together, began wondering how long this Emerald City was in the cards for us. We longed for “home” in a place that felt completely foreign. As much as we desired to pack up at 6 months and then again at the end of year one and feebly return home we knew God was not finished with our Northwest symphony. So instead we clung tighter to each other, to Him, and inhaled knowing we’d need great breath to face more of our days here.  

The cadence of our breath was no longer a factor when things began to rage. I believe location wasn’t a factor because had we been somewhere else we would have still been up against the rising waters. Perhaps things just seemed harder in the distant land we were in. We faced physical pain, financial hardship, deep emotional pain, severe illness, spiritual heartbreak, and loneliness to name a few. Yet, as much as one might think that might derail a couple we let it forge us into a force to be reckoned with. At the end of everyday, even if I met you with tears or an emotionally desolated heart, you’d hold my hand on that couch or we’d lay in bed with a window slightly cracked, listening to the rain- reminding ourselves that we were still sheltered from the storm. That He has kept us.

The week we returned from our honeymoon I claimed a song for us, a song for our life. The lyrics touched my soul. It spoke of a lifetime of marriage. How there will be love and pain. How there will be days of monotony, how we will be strong even when we are weak, and how fear will strike but joy will not be far behind. The song goes on to say we will live through so much more we could take, how there will be tears but also grace, and prayers we never thought possible to pray. And through it all, no matter what has been done and yet to come we will continue to say Amen.

I’d say this song fits us well. In 3.5 years of marriage and 3 years in the northwest we have faced our fare share of life’s battles. There have been days when you have found me wishing to go home and not even knowing where “home” is. I know that it’s perhaps not a location anymore. Instead it’s just right by your side.  I also know that there are memories in this place that I could not live without. Like just last weekend, when the rain was coming down hard but I wanted to go down to the market for muffins and produce. So with you and your hat and me and my rain boots off we went to an eerily quiet Saturday morning stroll at Pike’s with just the locals, the only hardcore enough ones to face the elements. Deep down I never want to not be a California girl but I felt a sense of pride walking those puddled streets with you knowing no one would question my authenticity.

I think we have been on a successful journey of becoming the Bruce’s. A hard and exhausting journey filled with lessons that maybe some married couples won’t face until their second decade of matrimony but lucky us we got a chance to deepen our roots early. You, Nate, are why I’m still here in this wet city three years later. I don’t say that with accusation. I say that with love because as long as you’re here I’m not planning on leaving. I’ll continue to plan picnics on hills lined with evergreens and walks in neighborhoods and city streets if you promise to keep holding my hand through the harsh notes of this symphony and dance with me during the sweet ones.

My love, I know we came here trying to figure out how to be Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Bruce, Party of Two. It was you and I and this foreign city in a tiny apartment, against the world, against the rain, molding two lives into one, two names into one family, -building our own safe place. Soon after we began dreaming of a Party of Three or More, little boys and little girls. I know right now that our hearts are breaking but I can promise you one thing. We’ve accomplished building that safe place and tonight we’ll celebrate surviving 3 years in this city by lighting our first fire of the season, eating pancakes, listening to the rain, and I promise I’ll be here waiting to hold your hand. Amen.

These Hips


 I have a journal entry from the exact middle of this past July. The tone of it feels like I’m out of breath, like a giant run on sentence, like my mind won’t turn quiet, and that I’m gulping for a plan, a revival, a new coming.

It may sound preposterous to some but in it I’m terrified of thirty. Of that benchmark- at what it will make me stop and look in at. It makes me feel like I am in a race against myself, my heart pounding, my thoughts self deprecating. What did I think thirty would be? A house, a husband, a job, a baby; maybe two, success, health.  Okay, reality you win again. Expectations they are great but sometimes they’re simply just that.

But for me it’s not the lack of the American Dream. I don’t need to be “comfortable.” I just am not sure if I can handle here. And here is different from the middle of July. I no longer feel like I’m out of breath and gulping for a plan. Instead, the air has been sucked out of me and I simply feel crushed like there are no plans at all.

My health is probably the worst it has ever been. At the end of July we were told we might never be able to conceive without the help of a fertility specialist. That in fact, if we wanted children we would need to consider IVF and I would need to have yet another operation to take care of some masses that were making their home in my pelvis. The plan was to have surgery, try to find money for IVF (miracle in itself), go through IVF while I’m clean from surgery, have baby(ies), and then schedule premature hysterectomy. While a hysterectomy will not cure me, it is the best chance we have of some help in the pain department.

Surgery was scheduled for the end of August. And it was probably the most invasive and complicated one I have ever had but it seemed successful, or so the doctor relayed to us. Recovering appeared to be going well into 2 weeks out I ended up back in the hospital and in incredible pain. After being released from hospital we visit with our Fertility doctor who tells us that we may not even be capable of being IVF candidates based on my disease and my history. She says one round will most certainly not work (all we can afford with the cost being $20,000). Says if we want greater than 1% chance we will need 5 rounds totally $100,000 and is almost trying to talk us out of it. She encourages us to run three preliminary trial tests, which will give us a better look at my body.  We go home feeling defeated.

First test comes back. Normal number is higher than 2. IVF candidate needs to be great than 0.5. My number comes back as 0.21. All the while I have been home and bed/couch ridden in major pain trying to recover from a major surgery.

The Dream is Over.

There have been tears. Tears that have caused physical pain. More tears than I would wish upon anyone. These wide hips that I always complained about and this hour glass shaped body I thought was always a miserable curse- my mom promised I’d be thankful for one day because “those hips are made to carry babies”  will never in fact nestle a beautiful growing baby belly. The words of doctors since I was 19, “you know getting pregnant would help your condition,” was always so frustrating because I never had a husband or the heart and human condition to throw morals and values out the window and hop into bed with whomever I could find. And now when I have my Nate, my love, someone I want to make a family with, someone I want a baby to come out being just like- getting pregnant can’t help this disease because I can’t get pregnant. And my dream of having my own little red head or looking across the table 10-15 years from now and whispering into Nate’s ear, “you know the way he shrugs his shoulders, that’s all you baby. He gets that from you.” Gone.

Romans 12 says, we are all a part of the Body. We all have a gift He has given us and He asks us to use it so that we speak out on behalf of our God. Live out our faith. Sing our life song. Live our lives with intention and God’s intended purpose.

I was reminded of this passage last week and it struck a major chord. It broke me into pieces. Because if I let you in a bit closer, past the walls, and any shred of “I’m doing alright-ness” I’m clasping to by the finest piece of tethered thread, I’d tell you the hard bitter truth that I’m not sure I have a purpose or a life. So of course I’m certainly not singing.  I’m here, day to day, in an intense amount of pain, not sure of my purpose, of His intentions, or gifts for me.

And now its not even about thirty approaching its about wondering if I’m even living. If I even have a life song that I can sing. I feel crushed. I’ve been sick for seventeen years. I have yet to accomplish a career. I’m terrified when any conversation is about me and where I’m at in life. I was ready for my 30s and 40s to be about child-raising and family traditions and now I am mourning the loss and adding barren to the list of my many realities.

These hips may never nourish a growing baby belly but they carry a heavy load. In between them lay a great amount of physical pain and I believe they have caught my heart from falling out beneath me more pennies to the dollar. They mark failure to dreams that still burn so heavily in my heart and in the mirror stare back at me with harsh realities of what we least want life to look like as it approaches us and lurks up behind us in dark alley ways and abandoned streets. And for the last many days they have cradled my pain ridden body, both physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. One that is unsure of how to live intentionally when she is not sure if she even has a purpose, one that feels let down and downright discouraged and who tends to shrink up and shy away from anything and anyone when the pain becomes too intense, and one that can’t imagine singing a song because she’s not sure what life really looks like. At least not right now. When the pain is so raw, so tender, so very real and up close.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

a million miles from where my heart resides

It's the middle of the night and I'm a million miles away from where my heart currently resides. Somewhere, nestled under a blanket in southern California is where I should be- right beside her, hands cupped together, mightily trying to hold the pieces of her shattered heart.

She's more special than she knows. More beautiful than a thousand melting sunsets and she holds a marker in my life like no one else can ever compare.

These last two weeks she's been one of the only ones I've let into the dark places of my heart. I've told her about my broken dreams, my physical pain, and frustration. She's let me cry, delivered faithful texts to my phone, sent cards of encouragement and checked in across the miles time and time again. A true friend indeed.

Tonight at 10:36 when my phone rang, I new something was wrong. To hear her sobs across the other line confirmed what I already felt in the pit of my stomach. Her dad unexpectedly had passed away. Just like that. One second here, the next gone to Heaven. How great she aches. How deep she hurts. How quickly in a moment's notice she is ushered into the dark place. One I so badly want to take her from. If only I could protect her from that pain.

I wanted to jump in my car but I'm 20 hours away by vehicle. No encouraging card will do. A text just seems so lacking. I can't sleep so I'm on my knees, praying. Praying that He is holding her. Comforting her. Calming her and giving her peace. A peace that surpasses all understanding. I want her family to know that God loves them, that He is present and has not abandoned them. That He will provide. I'm asking that she be protected today and always, as well as her family. Sweet Jesus be with my dear, dear friend, the one I love so much more than words, take her pain as your own. Let her find absolute relief in you. May she rest between your shoulders as you carry her now and always. Be her ever present shelter, protection, and help in trouble. Wrap yourself around her as comfort. Let her find a rhythm of relaxation in you. I trust that you will be everything she needs, Lord. My soul and heart ache for her.

My best friend, while I can't be there now, trust that I will stay right where I am---on my knees. I'm holding your heart for you. Lean on me as much as you need. i am here--now, tomorrow, next week, three years from now, and to remind your babies of his sweet memory. No card will do for this one so I'll close the gap soon and minimize the miles because when you're a million miles from where you're heart resides the only thing to do to fix it is to get on a plane. I'm coming for ya. Until then you know where to find me.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Score one for the Wrong Team

The doctor slipped out of the room to give me a minute to change, his words lingering. Nate's breath, still catching in his chest, stumbled through the sentence, "Wow, I've never heard a doctor say that to you before. So bluntly. I needed to hear it." You see I've heard it speculated many a time. As a young girl trying to declare a major in college and again a couple years later, in the heat of grad school with not a man in sight. Too many to put a name to. But lately, I've heard it in cold sterile doctor rooms, on exam tables, and during emotionless procedures. Those words have echoed back at me as I've sat alone in the car heaving sobs from my chests, while in the shower with silent furious tears escaping my eyes, or while looking in the mirror as I grieve and dab away tears of what may never become of my emptiness.

Today, reality looked us dead in the face. It was no longer a question of what might happen or "if" this takes place what will be our next step. Speculations birthed into a definitive. Young girls into wives. A once grad student without love into a 3+ year marriage of wanting to turn a love story into a deeper story of familial love and children. The specialist sent us to an even higher specialist who told us the news: you will not be able to have children on your own.

In an instant, the worst you thought you'd wrapped your mind around has slapped you in the face. You remain as composed as possible. I will not scream. I will not kick. I certainly will not cry. Not here, not now. But, please tell me you prepared for this and you have our parents waiting in the other room. My dad does not rush in to protect me, my mom does not leap forward and take the crushing blow. I look to Nate, his eyes are glued to the doctor. Yes, I should listen too.

Surgery needed. Fertility specialist. lots of money we don't have. Decisions need to happen quickly. I am so sorry someone has yet to tell you this sooner. You should have been told this years ago.

Scheduling, referrals, questions, it's all a mess...

Back to the car, this time with him- tears. Back to the apartment- sobs. Sitting on the couch- crying. Laying in bed- crushed. Phone call with my mom- meltdown.

Reality- 1; Dreams- 0