I had so many people ask me "Wouldn't it be awesome if the baby was born on the same day of McKenna's 1 year anniversary?" and all I could think was ABSOLUTELY NOT! Why would I want the birth of my new child to be on the same day I lost another child? I mean think that through... I would have to celebrate birthdays and mourn death anniversaries on the same day. No thanks! So I prayed that God would spare me that trial and I endured through the one year mark the best I could. That night I laid my head down at midnight, grateful the day was over, only to be awoken at 1am thinking I actually wet the bed. I whispered to Zach "I either peeped myself or my water just broke!". He jumped out of the bed, grabbed our bags, and we drove to the hospital. Four hours later and my first "all natural" birth Evelyn Lily was born at 5am. We picked the name Evelyn as a spin off of McKenna's middle name Eve. I love having that connection between the girls. I know they will never meet in this life but I want Evelyn to know who her sister is and always remember how special she is not only to this family but in her own personal life as well.
That same day I couldn't help but see the symbolism of Evelyn being born the day after the one year anniversary of McKenna. In the hospital as I looked at her and felt overwhelmed with joy and grief all at the same time I heard a little voice whisper to me "there is always life after death." I pondered on that for a while and realized that yes, death is a part of life but it's not truly the end. There is life after death, McKenna lives. She lives in heaven. She is waiting for us just as much as we are waiting for her. There really is another life and universe that exist beyond this realm and most of the time that is difficult to remember. Evelyn is my reminder and a promise sent to this family on this exact date for a reason. She is a promise that there is more to this life then death. There is life, joy, and love just waiting around the corner not just in heaven like I imagine but in this life too, which I also tend to forget.
A few months after Evelyn was born we moved to Colorado. We actually did it! We have been talking about it for about 2 years and we did it! We are here and it's wonderful. Of course it was extremely difficult to leave our home behind. Our first real home and our last home that we raised McKenna in. Before the move I just couldn't stand the idea of leaving it behind. I use to imagine a giant crane picking up our house and dropping it off in Colorado. I love that house. I will always love that house and her room. The night before we left I asked my husband if we could say good-bye, so we grabbed Dominic and drove to our home one last time. We walked through each empty room, sharing some of our favorite memories, all of us avoiding McKenna's room till the end. Dominic finally ran to his little sisters door and flung it open. Staring at the bare pink wall he whispered "I am going to miss this room the most." I came up behind him, hugging him tightly and said "Me too buddy, me too.". We sat on the floor and stared at the empty room. My body felt heavy, I laid down on the ground and started to weep. Dominic rambled off memories while I ran my fingers through the carpet that she use to play on, touched my fingertips along the wall we painted just for her, stared at her closet where all her clothes use to hang. We took a picture of her room and a picture of us against the bright pink wall. Every part of me wanted to never leave that room but somehow I did. Then we left the house, yelled out one more good-bye and prepared for our new adventure.
Before the move
We also went on our first family vacation since McKenna's death. We drove to California with all the kids and had a great time. We went to the beach almost every day. We relaxed, we laughed, we smiled, we escaped the sadness and chaos that has been around us for the past year and it was long over due. The best part was when we went to the San Diego Temple. This is where Zach and I were married. It is so beautiful and I have not been there since we got married 5 years ago. Humbly and quietly I walked the halls, participated in some temple work, then went in the celestial room. To say it is beautiful is really not giving it enough credit. I sat on the couch and leaned my head back just trying to take in how breath-taking the whole room is. I sat there in silence and thought about the last time I was there. I thought about the day Zach and I got married vs where we are now. We had no idea that in 5 short years we would have to endure through so much. I thought about how amazingly blessed I am to have Zach by my side through all these trials. I love him him so much, he truly is my eternal companion.
In just the last year we lost McKenna, have been cut off from my mother's side of the family, are preparing to graduate medical school, had another beautiful child, and moved states! It has been one hell of a year to say the least! How are we still functioning as a family? How are Zach and I not divorced? How do we get up in the morning facing all these challenges? I look at our lives and think "What is going on? At what point is enough actually enough? What is all of this for?" I thought about these things while I was in the temple that day and felt myself getting frustrated and bitter in the empty room. My insecurities started rising, "What if all of this is happening because of me? What if I can't feel her because I hardly pray or read my scriptures these days? What if I am being punished because of the half way effort I have been putting in this past year? What if this is all my fault? Why can't I get it together? I mean, MY DAUGHTER died! Why is that not enough motivation for me to try every day to be the most perfect person I can be? What is wrong with me? I'm wasting time, I haven't honored her, I haven't done anything in her name. I am a failure as a mother!"
I felt like someone was screaming at me even though the room was completely silent. Tears streamed down my face as I started to feel ashamed and unworthy. My sister in law was sitting next to me and I expressed to her some of my feelings. She was also leaning back on the couch, staring at the beautiful room, then said in a stern but sincere voice "You have to know that's Satan. You have to know that God would never say that to you and neither would McKenna. None of that is true." The moment she said that the voices stopped. My heart rate slowed down, the room felt bigger, and I felt a sweet peace come over me. She was 110% right. Anyone I have ever met that has endured hard trials had there ups and down. Not one of them handled it perfectly and to be frank, I don't know anyone who has gone through what I have. Am I where I want to be on a spiritual level right now? No, I'm not. Is that deliberate? Of course not. In one year all I have been able to do is anchor down and make sure my family was anchored down with me. That's it, and even then, sometimes that felt impossible. A little movement forward and a lot of sliding back but we made it. We are all here, we are all trying to move forward. For the past year we have just been "here", running on empty and I am finally starting to believe that Heavenly Father doesn't tower over our family saying "that's all you got?" but instead this whole time has been trying to tell me "that's more then enough."
I plan on doing more, I plan on being better, and everyday I try to step in that direction. The steps are small, so small that sometimes it doesn't even look like I've moved but mentally I made the decision and that's "enough" for right now. I started going back to counseling, I have set goals and asked Zach to help me. We have become so much closer as a family and are learning how to properly communicate with each other. We are all dealing with a lot but for the first time I feel like I am at the peak of the mountain and can see all of our trials clearly and I am ready to clean them up. I am ready to move forward in a healthy way. No more anchoring down, no more holding down the fort. That was good for then but now it's time for real healing. I use to view healing as moving away from McKenna. I felt like the more I moved forward the more I left her behind but I realize now that staying in one spot is actually pushing her further away. I find myself in so much pain that I am pushing her out just because it hurts to think of her, but at the same time I'm somehow stuck. It's hard to explain but I guess it is part of the journey of grief. For the first time since McKenna's death I feel the time has come: we are now in Colorado and it is starting to feel like home. New beginnings and the fresh start we have all been craving. I'm ready for change, good change, healthy change. I think we all are and I hope and pray the time has finally come. Its time to move forward but that doesn't mean we will ever move on and that's exactly what I want.
My friend took this picture from the day Evelyn was born and photo-shopped McKenna in it.
I have it printed and placed in every bedroom of our house.
It means the world to me and touches my heart every time I look at it.
I like that McKenna still looks older then Zoe in it.
A few days after moving to Colorado this amazing rainbow apperared. I have NEVER seen a full rainbow like it. The entire sky was glowing from how bright it was and it made me smile like when I was a child. Rainbows always make me think of her and I have to say I couldn't help but think she was letting us know that she has moved to Colorado with us too.