Lucy would be four years old today. F O U R.
Oliver is six and a half and he is in Kindergarten. He is smart and he is getting so big.
Ezra is almost three. He is growing fast and wants to be just like his daddy and his big brother.
We now have another little lady. Hazel Louise Tomczak was born on March 22, 2017. She is ten months old and she is a sweet, active, happy baby.
Today we woke up to a cloudy gray sky, which felt appropriate to me. After Hazel took her morning nap, we headed to the other side of town to the cemetery. It’s a place that feels so bittersweet.
Nearly four years ago, I watched them lower Lucy’s tiny, white casket into the ground on a bitterly cold morning in early February. I joined my family as we each gently tossed a flower down on top of it. The burial was very private; it was only our immediate family, and our pastor and his wife. After everyone else had left, I stood by Shaun as we held hands and watched them take shovels and toss dirt on top of her casket until the ground was even. I felt frozen, inside and out.
I feel dread, anxiety, and fear every single time we plan to go to the cemetery, because the drive across town reminds me, pulling up to the front of the cemetery reminds me, driving back to her spot reminds me, and standing by her spot reminds me. When I go back, the feelings from four years ago resurface.
Her spot holds a small and special sweetness for me like no other place on earth. It is where we said our final earthly goodbye to Lucy. It is where we laid her tiny body to rest and wrote her name in all caps. It is a reminder to the outside world that she was here, even though for such a short time. Most of our friends and some of our family, never even saw her. There is just one date on her marker; it is her birthday and it is her death day. My heart could never forget, not ever. But this little, sacred, physical spot that is hers, is the tangible reminder to the outside world of Lucy Mae Tomczak. We are so proud that she is ours.
Her spot is a reminder of the brokenness we have faced, head on, and of the hope and redemption we have walked into because of Jesus; hands held, with tear-stained faces and aching hearts. We hold onto his promises. We know we will see our girl again one day. There will always be a crack in my heart, a pit in my stomach, a weariness in my step, and a longing to hold her in my arms. This wait time is a beast. I want to hold her in my arms right now. I want to know her.
Someday, sweet girl, someday.
We bring our kids with us every time we go to the cemetery. We decided, four years ago, that they would all (however many of them there would be), know her. We would make sure they knew her name, that she is their sister, that she died and is in heaven with Jesus, that we love her and miss her very much, and that we are sad that she is not here with us.
To be honest, bringing the kids to the cemetery breaks the tension. They’re young and they ask blunt questions, walk/run where they shouldn’t and want to touch all of the things. Maybe some day, I will be brave enough to go without them, but I enjoy that we all go together as a family to see Lucy.
The cemetery has a lot of different gardens. Lucy is buried in the garden, “Grace”. It was a newer garden back in 2014. She was one of the first to be buried there, in the shade of a lovely maple tree. It’s sad and it makes me nauseous to go back and see the spots filling up. Time is so unforgiving. Each day there is new life and there is new death.
After our visit to the cemetery, we drove home, ate lunch and put Ezra and Hazel down for their afternoon naps. The gray sky was gone. The sun came out, the sky was blue, the clouds were puffy and it was sixty degrees. It turned into a beautiful day, which also felt appropriate to me. The gray sky was like our sorrow and the blue sky, like our hope.
Shaun stayed home and played outside with the kids while I went to pick up cupcakes, a birthday tradition in our home. After playing outside, we decided to explore some of the boys’ favorite places in the city and snap a few photos. We ate dinner at one of our favorite places in our neighborhood, then we headed home and the kids released a white balloon up into the sky for Lucy, our yearly tradition. We ended the day with cupcakes, wishing she was here to eat them with us.
Along with Lucy, my grief turned four today. We’ve had four years to settle in together, and a lifetime still to go. My grief still feels the same, but to a lesser degree. The hard moments feel exactly the same, so deeply painful, but they come less often and I recover from them quicker as time passes. It still sneaks up on me sometimes when I don’t expect it to. It still comes and goes in waves. It is still unpredictable. I do better than I expect in some moments, and worse than I expect in others. These things will probably never change.
As it approaches, I always wonder how January will go. It started out as a brutal month four years ago. Three years ago it was insanely difficult as well. Little by little, each year gets easier. In prior years it has stolen weeks with full force. This year, I did not feel grief start to settle into my body until mildly throughout the past week and not intensely until yesterday. I do actually feel it settle into my body. It is like my body knows what is coming, sometimes without my conscious mind linking my symptoms to my feelings. I get physical symptoms from grief, I am more tired, more internal, not as social, I just want to be home, my brain is slightly more foggy than normal, it is more of a struggle to complete daily tasks, and I have waves of sadness.
With three young kids, my life is very full and busy. I have my kids and husband to love on, a house to keep up with, and I work from home two days each week. I think about Lucy every single day. The feelings of sorrow still come, she is never forgotten, but life keeps happening. It is vibrant, and messy and full and it demands so much of me. The amount of space in my life that grief occupies is shrinking, but the place in my heart that Lucy occupies is not. I say this in pretty much every post, but it is because of Jesus that I have hope that I will see her again one day. This hope keeps me from being completely crushed beyond repair. I will see Lucy again one day in heaven and my journey with grief will end.