Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Life Goes On - One Year On

I started to write this blog post in February, on the 1 year anniversary of us receiving the news about Hannah's condition. At the time I had lots of thoughts going around & couldn't get them to come together cohesively.  I've revisited it & added bits in the following months. I'm still not sure I can get it to hang together, but here I go.

Yes, life does go on, but not in the same way. My routine is the same, we go to all our usual activities, yet something is different. Like something is missing.

If we are meeting for the first time & you ask how many kids I have, I will tell you "a son, plus a daughter who is no longer with us". Not because I want to shock you, or want sympathy, but because it's the truth & a part of who I am.

They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. This is true to some extent, though I believe you need to allow it to. To let go of the negative & look for the positives, learn from the experience. We have just finished (in March) a devotional series by Selwyn Hughes called "Hidden Treasures".  It talked about finding treasures in the trials of life. That when we go through dark experiences in life, there is still treasure to be found -- treasure that cannot be found in the light, easy times. These special riches can be many things, such as a deeper sense of His presence; a realisation of our true worth; assurance in the face of confusion; a new vision for the future. I believe this is the key to coming through such times as these with hope & confidence, knowing that with our loving and faithful God, nothing is wasted.

While on holidays last month (May) I read the biography of Mary Beth Chapman, "Choosing to See". Most of the book talks about their experiences after the loss of their daughter Maria following a tragic accident. Although their experience was different, there were a few things she said that I really identified with & helped put words to how I was feeling.

She talked about praying to God asking him to heal Maria after the accident and then she came to say "God HAD healed her, just not in the way we wanted".  That's so true. God has healed Hannah, but not here on earth. As Mary Beth also says "If we believe anything about our faith, we have to believe that we know where "Hannah" is right now & that God didn't make a mistake. He didn't turn His head, He was in complete control."

The other quote from the book was what Caleb said at Maria's funeral "God is like an abstract artist...and when you're real close to a painting like this, it's hard to focus, it's blurred, & you can't see what's going on. You have to walk really far back, & then the whole painting comes into focus & you can see what the artist was doing."

So here on Hannah's first birthday, we continue to journey on, probably never getting over our loss, but getting through it. The waves of grief roll in less frequently, but they still come.  But we have the hope & knowledge that earth is not our home & at our journeys end we will be with Hannah longer than we have been without her.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Thought for Today

Do we accept the circumstances that God places us in or do we continually seek an escape? In fact, do we do more than just accept our circumstances? Do we seek to see God's purpose in them, be open to the the lessons that He is teaching us, grow through them & come up the other side stronger?

I would rather be in God's pre-ordained valley than to be on the world’s mountain top. Mark 8:36 says, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and then lose his soul." Sure, it seems attractive to be living a life in which I didn't have a child with a heart defect, a life in which I didn't lose that child, but then that would not be the life that God purposed for me. I would not have learnt the lessons that I have. I would not have learnt to know God in a new & deeper way, nor learnt the things I did about Tom that have deepened & strengthened our relationship. Perhaps I would not have learnt to appreciate each day & the time I have. It has certainly put a whole new perspective on what is really important.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

After thoughts

It is now over a month ago since Hannah died and even longer since I've shared my feeling here on the blog.

So here are my after thoughts...

The last 24 hours of Hannah's life was very special to me. Everything around Hannah's death just seemed liked it had been planned that way for a long time and it was like God telling me that He was in full control of everything.

As Ally wrote in her post on the 8th of August, Hannah suddenly got worse and the doctors told us that she would only have 5 to 10 minutes left, when her heart beat suddenly picked up and stabilised. I shall never forget the look on the surgeon's face that night, she was truly surprised and I'm sure that this was God's work.

The following day my family had planned to go to Djurs Sommerland (a big amusement park near Ã…rhus). My sister from Greenland and her family were in Denmark on a 2 weeks holiday and this was to be our family day together. Due to Hannah's condition, they all agreed to come and spend the day with us in Skejby instead. Everybody came during the morning and we had a bit of rest time after the long night while the doctors where looking into Hannah's chest again. I remember playing a game of table soccer with my brother and there was just a relaxed atmosphere, which looking back was kind of weird.

However, after lunch Ally and I went up to the ward to hear if there was any new development. The nurse seemed a bit stressed and didn't really want to talk and soon after the head doctor came and wanted to talk to us. She told us about the bleeding in the brain and that if it was confirmed Hannah would only have few hours left.

Half realising that this would be the end and half hoping for another miracle we just sat next to Hannah's cot. We then decided that if it was to be the end it would be nice to let the family get a chance to say goodbye, so we asked them all to come up to the ward.

When they came Hannah's blood pressure began to drop again and we then knew that it was time. Ally wanted to have Hannah in her lap and this was arranged. Slowly over the next half and hour to an hour her blood pressure and heart beat just slowly declined until we stopped the adrenaline and the respirator and all that was left was the blank screen, no beeeeeeep or anything just a feeling of peace.

My first question was....so, what now? It was all over. I guess this is the same feeling an athlete would have after having lost the last race in the Olympics...what now? I've been fighting to get this far, but lost...where do I go from here? It is a mixed feeling of relief and disappointment. The hard work is over, but we didn't get the results we wanted.

Anyway, the nurses where very helpful and our good friend Lars, who works as an undertaker, helped us in getting everything prepared for the funeral.

We quickly packed up everything at the Familiehus and came home the following day. The next couple of days where busy, with a baptism, and 70th birthday party and preparing the funeral, which got our minds off things for a while.

As Ally wrote the funeral was a good day for us. We kept is simple and had the joy of being with friends and family on a day where the sun was shining from a blue sky.

Almost a month later now and we are starting to get into a more normal routine. Ally's parents have gone back to Australia & we've had a mini holiday at a nice little quite place in the south part of Denmark. I've got one week of holiday left before I start back at work. But all the time we have had a peace and no big emotional breakdowns. I think the most upset I've been has been while sitting and writing this blog update and it's not so much a feeling sorrow but more an overwhelming gratitude of how God has cared for us and made everything give some sort of meaning. As I said at the funeral, Hannah has touch so many life around the world and if I could have the same impact I would die a happy man. A short life is not a meaningless life, we all come into the world with a purpose and have a role to fulfil. The question is if we see it, or do we hide away thinking we a worthless?

The other question that I have is...why us? Did we do anything bad to deserve this, or are we extra spiritual so that we can handle it better than others? I think the answer to both is No!. I don't believe God would punish people is this way no matter what we have done. Yes, our wrong doings have consequences and can lead us into trouble, but a thing like this, where you have no choice is not part of God's way of disciplining.
You who have followed the blog from the beginning will know that one of the biggest fights that I had was this question..."Does it make a difference being a Christian?". My faith in God was nothing special, yes I've done alot of "Christian" things, have studied many "Christian" subjects, I have a great knowledge of who God is, but I didn't have a personal understanding of how God acts.

Looking back over the time I can say with confidence, yes, it does make a difference being a Christian, if being a Christian means trusting in a almighty and loving God who is involved in your life. A God who reaches out to you when you're down and hugs you. Now it is not just a theological knowledge, but I can say as the blind man. "I may not fully know who this Jesus of Nazareth is, but one thing I do know, I was blind and now I see". I may not fully understand God and how he acts, but I've felt his presence and I know He loves me.

Life keeps going on and I'm sure this will not be the last storm on the way. Maybe the next time will be a hurricane and this was just to prepare us. Maybe the fire will take more than the storm. No matter what, we know that God will walk with us.

Now we will enjoy the good times and rejoice in all the blessings which God gives and keep praising him.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Catching Up

If you have been subscribing to this blog & getting notifications of new posts you will notice a few new ones popping up. These are posts from around Hannah's death & funeral that I wrote drafts for, but never posted due to technical difficulties with the Ipad. Because I was also keeping this blog as a record of our journey for myself, I have back dated the posts to the days they refer to.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Where Are The Feelings?

Since the Sunday after Hannah died I have had no great feelings of sadness. I feel numb. Often it doesn't even feel like I had a daughter. It's like Hannah is just a baby we met while on holidays. I'm actually more upset that I'm not grieving more & am just getting on with life. I don't want to forget her. Is this God giving us an unexplainable peace & strength? Is it because I have accepted that it was God's will? 

I really struggled in the immediate days after her death with questions of "did we do the right thing?", "was a mistake made by the drs?", "what if....?". The big one was "Why would God so obviously perform a miricle & bring her back to life, only to take her the next evening?". But the answer I believe He has given to me is that He was showing me & most likely the Dr that He was capable of doing it if it was His will, but it wasn't. I've accepted this & am at peace with it. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A Father's Speech

Here is Tom's speech from Hannah's funeral.

I sat down the day before yesterday and tried to write down what I wanted to say today. When I had filled 3 A4 pages I thought it was getting a little too long. The last 9 weeks have been very eventful and emotional and there are many things that link together and only make sense in the larger context.
Today we are together to commemorate Hannah, and Ally has talked about some of the things that we will remember her for. Despite her short life we have many memories that we cannot just forget. We have been with her ​​when she was all right and was smiling. We were there when it went bad and she lay crying. We have seen God do miracles, so even the doctors stood speechless. We were there when God took her soul home.
I have decided to put my focus a little different. Because the question I think we are all left with is, "why?" It's probably a question that we will never get a full answer for, but here are some thoughts that have helped me to see things in a slightly larger perspective.
As Christians, we believe in an omnipotent God who has everything under control, and in a loving God who wish us the best. It is these two characters of God that has helped me the most in recent times. It may sound strange so let me elaborate a little bit.
We read before from Psalm 139:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together  in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

This means that God created Hannah while she was still a fetus. He knew her heart defect and allowed her to be born with this. Although I do not understand why, it has kept me up to know that God had a plan for Hannah and that nothing that has happened over the last 9 weeks, has been random. Especially Hannah's last day showed it maybe the best. You can not plan to have most of your  family gathered around you when you will die, but that’s what Hannah had, and that showed me God's timing in a unique way.
At the same time Hannah in her short life has affected more people than many people have done in a long life. If I could influence just half as many in the rest of my life, I'd die a happy man.
Yet perhaps you ask, "How can a loving God allow all this, could it not be done differently?
Yes, perhaps, but here it is important to understand that God's love does not consist in that we always have it good and never have  problems. We live in a fallen world where death and transience is a natural part of life and as Christians we cannot expect that we won’t have our share of the pain. No, God love is that He has given us eternal life!
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Our life here on earth can be short or long, but at some point we all go the same way. The question is whether it is to eternal damnation or eternal life. We know that Hannah with her Creator and has eternal life. We know that one day we will be together with her ​​again, if we believe in God's Son Jesus Christ. I know without a doubt that Hannah's greatest wish would be to see as many of you again on the other side and together praise an almighty and loving God.

A Mother's Speech

This is the speech I made at Hannah's funeral.

When I sit & look back over the 2 short months of Hannah’s life my mind doesn’t immediately go to the hard times, the pain & the suffering. It goes to the good times, the times when she smiled, when I held her, when I got to see her personality & when she opened her big brown eyes & looked at me with recognition. My biggest wish today is that you too could have had the chance to meet her & get to know her. Today I would like to tell you about my precious little girl.

She had such big brown eyes & such long fingers & feet.

She loved grasping hold of my finger & having her head stroked. There were many times when she was upset & the only way to settle her was to put my finger in her hand, my other hand on her head & sing to her. She loved music & being sung to as well.

She was not all that fussed on being washed, but absolutely LOVED when I massaged the moisturizing cream into her legs & feet afterwards. She would stop crying & completely relax. The other time she would completely relax was in my arms. The first time I held her she was all upset while the were getting her ready & moving her, then as soon as they put her in my arms she looked up at me, gave a contented sigh & snuggled into my chest. The nurses were always commenting on how Hannah’s vital signs would stabilize when she was with me.

Hannah was a very determined little girl. She had her own plan & schedule & did not like being rushed. As long as you took things quietly & slowly things were usually fine. Because Hannah was not able to take anything orally she would regularly have to have her mouth cleaned with a wet swab to keep it fresh & moist. This was something that Hannah DID NOT like. She would pull her mouth tightly shut in a very determined manner & it took quite a bit of coaxing to get her to open it again. One other thing she hated was having a dirty nappy. It didn’t matter if it was only a tiny little bit, she would cry until you changed it.

Hannah was a special little girl & our lives will never be the same. Our prayer from the very start of this journey was that God would use her life to bring glory to Him & we believe He has done that. While it's hard to understand why she had to go after fighting so long & hard, & seeing God answer so many of our prayers, we believe there is a purpose. May we never forget the lessons we have learnt.