The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Because she was mine

Here we are again. Every year I think this will get easier and every year I prove myself wrong.

Three years

Three long, life changing, heartbreaking, soul searching years.

Where does the time go and why does it go so fast?

Sometimes I swear it was not that long ago, others I find myself trying to remember the sound of your voice.

The vicious truth is that most of it is forgotten. Your voice doesn't come to mind when I try to replay it in my head. Only in videos can I clearly hear it and find myself saying "Wow, she sounds so much like her sisters.". I go back and even read some of the memories from this blog and go "Oh yeah, I forgot about that.". Memory has never been one of my strongest assets. I have always been forgetful and when you first passed away I remember panicking "Oh no, what if I forget?".

Dominic came up to me before bedtime as I was a little weepy eyed from a long day of holding back my feelings and he gently said "I miss her too" and hugged me softly. He then asked "Do you ever feel like you have forgotten her, not because you wanted too, but because you got distracted by other things, but then you remembered her? I remember her, but I have forgotten a lot.". Surprising how the thoughts of a 9 year old boy could be so fitting to this 28 year old mother. I shook my head yes and before answering him I paused to really think about how I wanted to respond, "There is a lot I too have forgotten because of distractions but also because of time... but when I think of her, I remember who she was in this family then my heart remembers what she meant to me and I hold on to that.". We hugged again and then he headed off to bed with the beautiful new gift our friends had mailed us for her anniversary.

The last 3 years have changed drastically, this past year has probably changed the most. When I think back on our journey I remember a lot of dark times. So much sadness and a never ending pit of hidden anguish in my soul. Constantly asking the question in the back of my mind "Why?". But this year has been different, there has been a lot of happiness. I graduated college and have a great job, Zach is finally getting to pursue his education, and the kids are growing and progressing each new day. I have learned to feel my Saviors love in a new way. I no longer see him as a drill sergeant beating on his soldier but now feel His love and compassion for me. Big strides have been made and I feel like it has done this family much good.

This year Zach wanted the family to share a memory of McKenna so we could put it in a little book. My sister started it in a group message and all day I completely avoided reading them until I knew I would be safe at home to cry. I didn't tell anyone at work, I acted like it was a completely normal day, I didn't even wear pink like I normally would. This is not because I was trying to be sneaky, it's simply because even after all this time, sometimes I still don't know how to bring it up... and sometimes I just want to get through the day without crying. The second I got home I felt it fighting to come out and I finally let it go. After the kids went to bed I read all of the stories and they brought me so much joy. I remember bits of pieces of their stories and bits of her personality shinned through all of them. I don't have many memories but what I can say is I am so grateful for the little bits of memories I do have.

Not only did I avoid the family stories till the end of the day but I even dodged text messages, phone calls, and gifts as well. One comment from a dear friend struck me the most, "I didn't know her but I love her. Thank you for keeping her alive and making us all apart of her life."

I wept tears of joy over that statement. That's all I have ever tried to do, I just try to keep her alive.

Why after all this time does it matter so much to me? Because she was mine.

If I were to stop trying to keep her alive then the precious little memories I do have would completely fade away. I am 110% sure of this and as long as I am alive I am not losing her anymore then I already have, I fight for those memories everyday and I'm not about to stop now.

I was recently reminded of a memory of her that I had almost forgotten:
One time I was picking her up from daycare and she was in a different class then usual. Lots of kids were in there and they were all happily playing together in this giant circle. I finally got her attention and she ran to me SCREAMING with joy, "MMOOMMMMMMMMYYYY" (lucky for me she always did this when I picked her up and luckily this was something I never took for granted. I always loved those excited and tender embraces). She gave me a hug and a little boy said sadly "Aww, I want a hug." McKenna without hesitation heard the little boy and said "Ok" then she ran over and hugged him. Then the child next to him said "Hey! I want one too!" and again without hesitation she ran over and hugged him. This literally continued all the way around the circle till every child had been hugged sufficiently. She didn't even know those kids, she was just in there for a one time thing and yet so much love and patience was shown and she was so happy to do it! I was greatly touched at this sweet and selfless gesture from such a small child that I could not help to think what a wonderful wife, mother, and friend she would be someday, never suspecting that our time together would soon be coming to an end.

I also recently had a memory of her after she passed away:
One night I was having a really bad night. I was sobbing silently by my bedside begging God to let me see her. I had done this every night since the day she had passed. I told him that I would do anything, all I wanted was a simple good-bye and angrily cursed him from withholding such a precious gift from me. Then I felt this prompting to "look up". I was about to look up when I felt a force so strong that it literally made me tremble, I could NOT look up. Fear overcame me as I could clearly feel a force from my bedroom door. I hid by the side of my bed, I could feel it coming closer to me. Like a child, I ducked under my covers and crawled close to my husband who was sleeping. Still hiding and shaking in fear I internally argued with myself "It's her! Put the blanket down! Why are you hiding? Why are your afraid? Just look up!" but I could not. I felt something deep within me, as if my soul could speak to this physical body of mine and it said "I am not ready." I felt the force fade away and after waiting a few minutes I slowly peered out from under my covers. Nothingness. It was pitch black and an empty room. Shame overcame me and still shaken up from one of the craziest things I had ever experienced I closed my eyes and wept myself to sleep.

That same shame has followed me for a long time due to this night. Why didn't I just look up? I am no coward and there is nothing I want more then to see my daughter before me. Everything that happened that night was a once in a life time experience and I blew it. I have never known such fear or felt such a strong spiritual force in my life, things like this just don't happen to me. I have replayed that incident over and over again and have blamed myself for missing such an important opportunity. Over the years though I have learned not to be so hard on myself and instead have sought for the answer of why my soul told me "I'm not ready". Although I still don't really know the true answer, here is what I have come up with so far...

There is a christian song "I Can Only Imagine" by Bart Millard. In this song the writer is actually writing about grieving his father and seeing him again in Heaven. In the chorus he sings:

"Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine"

Maybe the presence of my angel was too much? "I can only imagine" that seeing something so pure and perfect would make the soul quiver the way mine did. Especially knowing that this perfect being was my own child, a child I was desperate to see but hadn't clearly understood at that time what an actual angel she has truly become and how seeing an angel is no small miracle.

I really don't have any idea what was the main cause of that event ending the way that it did but I heard a talk that has struck a cord with me in this past general conference:

"If we let the Lord know in our morning prayers that we are ready, He will call on us to respond. If we respond, He will call on us time and time again and we will find ourselves on what President Monson calls 'the Lord’s errand.' We will become spiritual first responders bringing help from on high.
If we pay attention to the promptings that come to us, we will grow in the spirit of revelation and receive more and more Spirit-driven insight and direction. The Lord has said, 'Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.'"
"Let The Holy Spirit Guide"
By Elder Ronald A. Rasband


McKenna has officially had more angel anniversaries in heaven then she has had birthdays on earth. She died at almost 2.5 years old. It sucks, I hate that she has been dead longer then she was alive. When people think "Oh 3 years is a long time to grieve" I would like to put in perspective for you that I had her for almost the same amount of time she has been dead. Just like that is a long time to grieve, that is a long time to have someone in your life. There is not enough time to erase grief just like there would never have been enough time to keep her in my life.

I am not sure what I can do to EVER be ready to physically see McKenna in this life but I know I want to be ready and if I am lucky enough to have it happen again, I will look up! With that in mind I have decided to accept Elder Rasband's challenge and am nervously saying in my prayers "I am ready". I know this is a step in the right direction of being spiritually prepared to "look up" when I am prompted too and I never want to miss that opportunity again. I also love the idea of being "on the Lords errand." Every birthday and anniversary I find myself asking the same question, "What can I do to honor McKenna, what is something that would honestly make her happy?" and it always comes back to service. Always.

So with this challenge of "telling the Lord I am ready" and the motto our family has made in honor of McKenna's life "You will always keep us looking up" I am continuing to raise money for the McKenna Eve Bundy Scholarship. This year we will be selling pink bracelets that are double sided. One side states "Keep Looking Up" and the other "Kenna Bear". We are selling each for $5. All proceeds will go the scholarship and we are starting with 300 bracelets. In addition, Dominic has been planning and preparing the past few months to start his first EVER job/business this summer as a.... (drum roll please)..... "Pooper Scooper" (so cute) AND he is devoting ALL of the first month earnings to the scholarship (insert ugly cry emoji here).

We are trying to raise the money by May 18th!

If you would like to buy a bracelet or make a donation, you can do so here:
https://go.rallyup.com/mckennascholarship

Thanks to all of you who read this blog, who think about her, and keep her alive in your hearts. We are so blessed with all of the support we get. Below is some of the love we were shown this year:

A personal shout out I gave to everyone who honored my daughter the day after her anniversary. 

A gift from our best friends back in Houston
It's a 3D image of her in this big beautiful crystal heart. I love it because it looks like she is really looking at you. It has 2 different bases: 1 that changes colors which the kids love and one thats just white, which I love. 



Pink roses from my friend. 
The 3 yellow represent the children I have now.
I love when people honor ALL of my children. 

A framed picture of a famous statue of a mother grieving her dead child (Hard to tell in the picture but the mother is made of stone and the child looks like she is made of glass and reaching out to comfort her. I was told it's called "Closer then you know" but I don't know if thats true. Regardless I absolutely love it. 
The friend who got it for me didn't even know this but I have always loved this statue and have told myself someday I will buy it for myself so the picture is perfect. 
The same person who made the amazing McKenna painting in another blog I posted made these little bookmarks for my whole family.
Another friend was celebrating her wedding anniversary in Washington D.C. with her hubby and honored my McKenna on her angel anniversary at this memorial site. 
My sister and the rest of our family wore pink, wrote stories, and released balloons in her honor. 

My kids Easter Sunday
Dom: 9
(Kenna would be 5)
Zoe: 3
Eve: 2
Old picture of McKenna but I felt like it was very fitting with this blog entry.  




2 comments:

  1. Shannon this was beautifully written. I ugly cried through the whole thing. You are an amazing women and I'm sorry that its through such an aweful, terrible thing that we all are able to learn through your faith and testimony. I LOVE you and your whole family! I didn't get to know Mckenna as much as we moved away shortly after she was born. But i remember holding her after she was born and clearly remember what a sweet, happy, and peaceful spirit i felt at that time. I remember you bringing her up to our home in humble a few times and just being captivated by her big grins and sparkling eyes. I'm so very glad that you are keeping her memory alive so that just like your friend said, i can come to know her as you do. She is a special girl I know she is continuing to spread love and happiness on the other side and i cannot wait until the day that you will be reunited with your baby girl.

    This scholarship is an amazing way to pay tribute to her, as is everyday service. I know it may not seem like much but I've decided to try and do service everyday even if its just with my own children. Something outside of what i would normally do. I find myself trying to be kinder and more loving and patient with them. This is something McKenna is teaching me every day. And i will be eternally grateful to her for this. I can't wait to get to heaven and give her a big hug and thank her.

    Love,
    Megan

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