"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory of which shall be revealed in us."
Madison's one year anniversary of she being in Heaven is quickly approaching. October 22. It is a day that I have dreaded since the day she passed away. I truly believed that Jesus would have already come back by now or that he would have called me home, and that I would be with Madison again. The reality of her not being here with us is hitting me hard this week. It has almost been 365 days since I held her in my arms, kissed her good morning, heard her sweet voice, warmed up her bottle, rocked her to sleep, worshipped with her, washed and folded her clothes, gave her a bath, fixed her hair, changed her diaper, told her I love her, prayed with her, fed her, took a nap with her, buckled her into her car seat, cleaned her bottles, picked up her toys, heard the sound of her walker going through the house, tucked her into bed, snuggled with her, held her hand. I could go on and on. I feel like the heartache that I am feeling now is so much worse than it was the day she went to Heaven.
Why am I dreading this day so much? Madison surely isn't dreading this day and she surely isn't sad about being in Heaven. I know that if she had a choice to come back to us on Earth she would not want to. I would not want to either. She is free from the bondage and the limitations of I-Cell disease.
Looking back on this year, it feels like it has dragged on. Before, time was flying by. Every day we got to spend with Madison we cherished. We lived every day do the fullest because we knew our time was going to be limited. I have finally learned to stay off social media sites for holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, even the first day of school. It feels like your heart is being ripped out to see families celebrating with their children, knowing that we will never get to take another picture of Madison. I took a ton of pictures while she was here and still feel like I do not have enough.
There has been so much change in our life over the past year and it has been change that we didn't ask for. There is an emptiness in our hearts and in our home. It is with us every where we go. Yeah, we still smile and have a good time but that ache and longing is still there and always will be. Shane and I continue to trust God through this heartache and he has showered us with so much grace and mercy. He has given us so much peace.
I have not gotten to the point yet where I don't relive our final days and hours with her. There are some that have haunted me and some that give me tremendous peace.
I don't think a Sunday morning has passed that at 7:30 I don't think about Madison. I remember so clearly the sound of her pulse ox machine going off and watching the numbers quickly drop...90, 85, 80, 70, 60, 50. I remember the look in her eyes when she couldn't breathe and me scrambling to get her breathing again. And when she finally did, I remember sitting on the floor with her in my arms, hugging each other, and crying together. I remember Terry and Ta running in and I handing her to Terry while I had the biggest meltdown I had ever had. I started pacing the floors, crying, not knowing what to do. I vividly remember the look on her face. She just stayed in Terry's arms and let me have my moment and she looked at me like, "What are we going to do next, Abel?"
As we rode in the ambulance to Birmingham, Madison slept on my chest most of the way. I never thought that would be the last time she slept in my arms. I also have not been able to get the image out of my head of them having to bag her when she couldn't breathe. The look in her eyes as I laid beside her telling her it was going to be okay. I felt completely helpless. I think a part of me knew that there wasn't much more we could do, but I did not want to believe it. A mother is supposed to be able to fix everything and this, I could not.
When these images come into my head, I quickly have to turn my thoughts to her final moments.
I will sometimes just start singing one of Madison's favorite songs, Victory is Mine. "I told Satan. Get thee behind because VICTORY TODAY IS MINE!" Satan wants us to be sad and hopeless. How can we be sad knowing that Madison is ALIVE and rejoicing in Heaven? It brings tears to my eyes and I have no words to even try to describe the moments when she told us "I see Jesus." Then for her to tell Shane and I that she would see us later. She was not afraid and she definitely wasn't sad to be leaving us. She knew that this was not goodbye. She even I said, "I'll see you later!"
Allie just told me recently that after Madison said she saw Jesus the second time, she took her shoes off because she knew she was standing on holy ground.
Two weeks after Madison arrived home, I felt like I needed to clean out her closet and put all her toys away. Every person grieves differently and for me, this is what I needed to do, and something I wanted to do by myself. I took all her little dresses off the hanger and neatly folded them and put them into a big storage container. As I was was folding them, I was flooded with memories of the day she wore each dress. Her other clothes did not get folded as neatly. I couldn't handle the idea of it being the last time I would be folding and putting away her clothes for good. I just took the drawers and dumped them in to the containers. When I got to her toys, for every stuffed animal I put up, Bo pulled out two. I did let him keep one of her stuffed animals.
Allie came over when I finished and we moved all the boxes to the storage room. They still sit there. About 4 months ago I was having a pretty rough day, just missing Madison so much. I went to the storage room, opened up the box that had her clothes in it and grabbed a shirt just so I could smell her again but the smell was gone. I can't fully describe the feeling, but it wasn't good. It just made me realize that time is moving on. I have all this stuff to remind me of her, but none of that can take the place of the memories that I will hold forever.
I often think about Madison's life and the legacy that she has left behind. I love getting stopped by people asking me if I am Madison's mom. I can't even tell you how much my heart swells when I answer yes. I love hearing stories of how she has touched so many people. People I don't even know.
With life going on, it has become a huge fear of mine that people will forget Madison. People are sometimes afraid to bring her name up because they never know how we will take it. Truth be known, I never know how we will take it. Sometimes we will laugh, and other times we may cry. We never know how each story will affect us, but we still love to hear them.
It feels like it has been another lifetime ago that I was a mom. My worries and anxieties that I have are now completely different. Even though I know there is no cold or virus that can harm her anymore, I still hear every cough and sneeze. I run away from a runny nose, and sanitize the house after company leaves and I still use hand sanitizer and Lysol spray ALL THE TIME!
It was put on our hearts a few months ago to start teaching Sunday School. I mentioned it to Ta for her to see what was available. Selfishly, I prayed for anything but first grade. We didn't want first grade because this is the class Madison would have been in. These were the group of kids that Madison should grow up with, go on youth trips with, graduate with, etc. Well, God has great sense of humor and we got first grade.
I can't tell you the joy that this Sunday School class has been to me and Shane in just the few short weeks we have taught it. Some of Madison's favorites, Reed and Mason are in this class. We love to hear them talk about and remember Madison. It is our prayer that as these children continue to grow up, that they will look at her entire life and see God's faithfulness and love that He has given us. I pray that they see that Shane and I are grieving Madison, but that we are grieving her with hope. That they see and understand the peace that we have been given. Peace that truly does surpass all understanding. That they will come to understand that when you are a believer in Jesus Christ, any fear of death that you may have is gone.
I have not been to her grave yet and don't know when I will. I drive by there almost every day. I don't have the desire to go by there. She is not there. It is just her shell. Shane and I have not even ordered her headstone. We are not ready to yet but we will know when we are. The grave is not the end. This life that we are living is not where God intends for us to be. I can promise you, Madison is more alive and well today, than any day she was here on Earth.
Sometimes I feel that people may think I am crazy or even suicidal with how much I long to be in Heaven. I'm not either of those things, but I can't wait to go. I know that one day I will be reunited with my Savior and with Madison and I can't wait to have her in my arms again. And until He returns or calls me Home, I'll proclaim His goodness, love, and faithfulness and praise Him in both joy and suffering.
I am not going to be sad on October 22. I am going to celebrate this day because this is the day that we had prayed for. For so long, we have prayed for Madison's complete healing and our prayer was answered! We are going to celebrate this day just like we do her birthday. November 16th is the day God entrusted us with her and October 22 is the day we had to give her back.
I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am to have been her "Abel" for almost six years. There is no greater role that I have enjoyed the most than this. It has been a journey that didn't go quite as I planned but one that I am so thankful I got to do and continue to do. I pray for strength to share her story at every opportunity that I get.
I can't help but think of that day when the glory of Heaven is in my view. I picture her turning around saying. "Hey, Abel!" As if I have never left her side. To see that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before, welcoming me home. Where none of this sadness and heartache that we have right now will matter any more. What a glorious day that will be!
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
"But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance."
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."