Friday, January 2, 2015

Some 2,000 days later

I stumbled upon this site started by a dear friend of mine Raquel Lubbers-- she asked all of our friends (secretly) to submit what Katelynn taught and made their comments into a book.
It is beyond precious to me.  
I read its pages, my kids pull it out.. It is like her baby book.  

I read the compliments and praise of you my friends and am humbled that you give Nathan and I so much credit for getting through the difficulty and pain at her death. It was Gods strength his goodness, comfort, grace, power, love and holding us that gave us the strength.  5 years now after her death I can laugh without forcing it.  The processes that I consciously developed to move forward are a habit now... the pain is as raw as ever but something I couldn't imagine then was how whole the joy is now.  There is still this hole in our family we miss her-- I am not even sure I can put into words what I am trying to share.  Perhaps some other grieving mom will find these words and think perhaps I can to move forward?  Not only have we gone on finding the breath, steps and ability to move our lives somehow because of what we endured and loss we are not only walking but soaring.  We are enhanced by the pain in our ability to love deeper, to be more thankful to savor the perfect moments-- and that is really what makes life sweet. That is the good stuff.  We are busy, we are happy and we thank God for it all.  I am thankful to not only have been Katelynn's mom but to still be her mom.
#blessed #infantloss

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24th-- Two years

Truth and Light Whisper

Dark corners pass me
Looking past the peace
Offered by false stillness

Wringing pain in loss
Mark of other’s wrong
Betrayal of my own best

They cling for focus
Stalking for attention
To give them satisfaction

Muscle, sinews, nerves
Forced forward-- they don’t
Will it of their own

They must be told
Not today.
Shaking with effort

A body or soul
Strengthens against
Opposition of comfortable

Licking wounds
Injects bacteria
Healing salve offered,

In sacrificed Love.
Shown possible to each
Not forced, simply given.

By Leta Greene

Monday, August 16, 2010

In the time since Katelynn’s death, many things have changed. I see two children with a depth only grief could have taught them, realizing that as I look at them, it hurts that they miss her so. I realize the amazing power of God to see us, to hold us to know what we need, as His individual children.

Most of us get to a point where we think we know what we are, our place in all of this that we call life. I thought I did. I was a mother, a wife and the list goes, we think we know. I was in a place I liked; in the right balance of blessings and trial. I was learning, moving forward and then Nathan got hit by the bus... it began a process in our family that I couldn’t realize then and will not fully understand in this life.

Certain challenges are easy to label, to define. Such as health problems, errant bus drivers and even death. Being able to define them doesn’t make them easy, you just know what to call it. They have their label; we know where to put them in the story of our lives. Those kinds of challenges have a clarity—we know they are hard-- the sides of what to do seem so clear.

When I meet people there is invariably that question how many kids do you have, after all I live in Utah. I have my answer. Three. I have three kids. I smile but my heart chokes, I smile. They don’t know and it is not something they need to know. Often parents with more discuss their children, how much calmer life is with three than it is with . . . five. I smile, and say something like thoughtful and deep like, “Yeah, that’s … humm so . . . five kids good for you.” I mean it, it is great, I wish I had more. Five is great, I am one of five, really five kids . . . it’s great.

It is funny, really. So many layers to how we all converse with each other. What simple words can mean, how our own experience touches our ability to really connect. I have a hard time meeting new people. Shocking to know me, to hear me talk. I love people, I love everything about meeting people, talking with them and hearing their life. But wow, when I share a segment of our lives, when certain questions are asked I feel like I should offer them a chair when telling of the events of the last few years. You can’t make this stuff up. If you read it in a book the commentary a critic would write is, “the author carried this tragedy thing too far, it isn’t believable.” The old line, life is stranger than fiction, has become a by word of our lives. Sometimes I am asked, “Do you ever wonder what you did wrong?” They look at me honestly asking. The first time I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or be offended. I laughed They were serious, what did I do wrong? Life is not some formula that we can avoid certain scenarios by plugging the right pieces into place. The next time, I had a better answer. Christ had been asked the same question in regards to a man who was blind. Who sinned, the man or his parents? Christ answered neither. It is “that the works of God should be manifest in him.” (John 9: 2-3) Bad things don’t necessarily follow sin, they happen for a purpose we each may not know. Many sacred and personal experiences have come in the time leading up to Katelynn’s birth and many after to comfort us, strengthen us and to teach us.

Despite the death of Katelynn and the severe challenges that we have faced, adversity has not stopped for our family, in some ways it is intensified. Things like Nathan loosing both toenails, becomes a joke, how funny is that! Or my having issues in both elbows that leaves my ring fingers and pinkies kind of numb… hilarious! In perspective they hold humor—at least I can walk! I don’t speak of those challenges I speak of ones I didn’t see coming, those harder to label. I have asked myself, not, why this is so, I believe as a part of my faith that there “is opposition in all things,” it is through the strain that we grow. What has surprised me is where these new challenges have come from. Things that used to hurt me can’t now. I have given up something so dear, I have held two members of my family dead in my arms in one years period. People asking me an honest, potentially offensive question cannot hurt, yet there are places and words that can hurt and they come from those I love. I admit I was shocked that in weeks after my daughters death that such things could be said, surprised me—I cried that such actions could be carried out. At once angry with myself that I would let someone outside of my home hurt me and yet they are close to me and I love them, that the lesson I needed to learn was the power of love. I am still working on that. Yet once those words were there, spoken by those I thought loved us—I questioned my public words. The words I have placed here. This blog was started as a request from my sister. She wanted updates as to Katelynn’s progress. I was new to facebook and had some family and friends on my page, yes I wanted them to be able to get updates on Katelynn, as I would be busy nurturing two children at home and one in the NICU while still being in a wheelchair, using technology to share with those I loved seemed natural. I didn’t mean for it to be read by so many, to have the messages I forwarded to be then forwarded to others. The night that Katelynn had her first heart surgery, I wheeled to my little cubby of a room where parents with a child in the PICU would sleep fitfully out of duty to what our physical bodies demand, guiltily knowing our child just suffered just down the hall. My soul aching, beyond the endurance of suffering I had ever known. I turned on my computer to connect with those I loved outside of this place. Something like fifty messages came both publicly and privately were sent to me on facebook, full of support, love and faith for Katelynn and our family. Nathan and I shared with what became aunts and uncles in our hearts to Katelynn. As we believe all who joined with us in our prayers are joined to our family in a special way.

I normally make others laugh, this has been my gift, to share humor, since then the power to move others, to make them cry has become woven into the gifts God has given me. Katelynn’s story became broader than we could have imagined, the support helping us to know that we all impact each other for good, for bad and in sorrow, none of us grieve in solitude. Our Savior holds us, and when my tears swallowed me your prayers and love added another layer of protection around our family. We are thankful for your love.

The side effects of the public nature of our challenges were not something I was prepared for; it surprised me in so many levels. After Katelynn’s death, before I was able to walk again, I was in Harmon’s grocery store, you know, the one on Redwood road. I needed just a few items, as I maneuvered my electric wheelchair, down the aisle. I have a lot to say about my time being visibly handicapped, but my point now… some people are patronizing to you, others avoid you and some have no patience. And then there are some that go out of their way to help you. I don’t know anyone who loves to go grocery shopping; we all have to do it regardless of the circumstances of our lives. I was using my cane to knock a box of cereal from the shelf and a kind woman offered her help. She was delightfully chatting. I liked her, she reminded me of me… I love talking to people if I know them or not. As she helped me through my list, I was grateful for her goodness, I was hurting so physically that smiling took a piece of will power I didn’t have. I was not really presentable. She asked me what had happened… we both knew she asked about my use of the chair and the worn cane by my side. In a show at a casual answer I assured her it was temporary, why get into all the sticky details that lead to more questions, like pregnancy=baby. No baby, best to avoid the whole issue. I answered that I had hurt my hip. Simple. It was very temporary and gave her my dashing confident smile. She seemed assured in my reply, continuing she spoke on.

We humans like to relate to each other. At a party, when a topic comes up, lets say crazy travel stories, one shares of the time they were stranded in Europe (I would like to be stranded in Europe) I share of when I was stranded in a greyhound bus station with two British men and a grateful dead fan for 2 days - good story. Another shares their travel story. And we all have a connection in our common-ish experience. Laughs are shared. I think by relating in our experiences we find not only the fascinating differences but we also find commonality in the human experience, we feel less alone.

My mom has MS, people always tell her of everyone they have known that has MS. She and I have talked of this many times. It is we humans putting the pieces together. Now I am told of others who have lost a child. I may know of every woman in a five-mile radius of my home who has lost a child. They are everywhere. It is a fascinating aspect of life, we are unaware of something then it happens to us and suddenly we learn of everyone else that it has happened too. Anyone I know who has a baby in the NICU, I am called upon for support, for help, for the wisdom only experience can teach. It is a burden and a blessing. I have held mothers as they cry their tears at death. I have celebrated with friends as their baby comes home a joy I never had. As much as I understand a path life has called them to walk, though I have experienced certain sounds and smells—their experience is unique. Their pain is their own. Mine is my own. Each of us has our own pain that no human can understand, that is the role of our Brother Jesus Christ.

Yet here we are relating our experiences to each other, it is a good practice. When it comes to others pain and trying to understand them, not judging them or telling them how they should be, how you think you would be in the same situation? I have appreciated others sharing their common pain with me, it links us closer. We NICU moms, we PICU moms, we angel moms. So here I am in the grocery store, my new friend, knows someone, who knows someone, she too is in a wheelchair… but listen to this, her husband was hit by a bus. I am not sure of what my expression was, she took it as shock—I mean really, people don’t get hit by a bus. She continued with all the drama that our story has to tell… tears in my eyes, my throat tight. It was the first time I had heard someone else tell the story. I could see that it helped her, she wanted it to help me, at least I wasn’t as bad as that lady… She was trying to uplift me with stories of how it could be worse. It’s ironic. It’s funny. And with it and other experiences I began to see how the last few years were not just for us, that in sharing Katelynn with each of you we also shared a piece of our hearts raw, and pulsating for good and bad with anyone who heard the story our testimony of God’s power.

I said I was not prepared to deal with the side effects of sharing our story. I wasn’t prepared for the praise, it made me uncomfortable to be praised for surviving—I didn’t realize how others were watching. I did what I did for the man who calls me wife, the little people that call me mom. We lived our life and the circumstances that we were dealt—with faith and gratitude for what we do have. Our knowledge of an atoning Savior who makes all things possible, even thriving amongst tragedy. For whatever reason I cannot comfortably examine, the Lord has chosen to make many of our challenges public and thus making manifest His hand. The lady in the grocery store told my story to a lady in a wheelchair, she meant to inspire me. I never told her it was me, it wasn’t important that she know who - its not about us - really the story I have to tell, the story I was made to tell, is a story, it’s a good story. It’s a long story. I didn’t ask to tell it, honestly I don’t want to be the lady that makes people cry I much rather put them at ease with a funny story... like the one about the constipated cat, it s good one ask me about it, great sound effects…

I also wasn’t prepared for the voice that would speak against me. I wasn’t prepared to be attacked. Was I naive to think that a protective bubble should be drawn around grieving parents? I do think that there should be, and for those of you who know someone who has lost a child - give them the benefit of the doubt. My faults are mine to work through as are each of ours. I don’t wish to discuss this publicly, as it is the words I have written here about my daughter, the actions I took in how I moved forward from her death. I mention this as an explanation, not to the persons who have removed themselves from us, but to explain my silence to those of you who read Katelynn’s life. I let the voice of few silence my voice. I have been writing, but not posting them on the FB/ blog.

After the heart attack I gave a talk at my churches girl’s camp. Originally I had been asked to speak on image. It is something I do with my job. But because of the heart attack I knew that I had to speak to some of what that experience taught us. I talked of the miracle; I talked of my love for my husband. I challenged the girls to prepare for lives challenges so that when they come that they will know that God will comfort them – that they will find peace in their darkest moments.

A friend of mine, who also happens to work as an editor, heard that talk. She said I should write a book. What a funny idea, me write a book! I have never thought of that. I assured her that I am not a writer. Then the FB page/ blog, when the topic came up again she said no, I was a writer. This was a surprise to me. Yes I got A in school for my writing. This doesn’t mean one should write a book. I am not a gramatitian—that is clear. Run on sentences, sign language grammar, and the use of (---) well, I am not a writer. Well, evidently I am a writer. On February 4th I took my book outline, and five or so chapters. She loved it, she was not terrified by my run on sentences… she loved my transitions, the humor—well she liked it. I agreed to write the book. Since then I have chosen the title it is “ More laughter than tears” It will be sometime in coming, as I am busy enough. I have committed to give a transcript at the end of Ailsa’s first grade year. She started kindergarten this week. I am not anxious to put my tender feelings out for whom ever can pick them off a shelf. That said I realize that this is something I am to do. Not to immortalize Katelynn, her life needs no more meaning and purpose than it has, her work is complete. She has done her mission well. This much to my shock, is something I am to do. I have been asked to do some speeches from women’s groups, to more girl’s camp, and some volunteer groups. I have a story that others want to hear, that helps them, and an angel whom I can’t disappoint. God asks of each of us a purpose. The one I wanted, I don’t get. So wa-wa—I am moving forward with the path I am on. A little limp, a hole in my heart, hand in hand with my husband, and joy in the knowledge that I will see Katelynn again. I hope to make all three of my children proud.

Monday, May 24, 2010

“After a while, though the grief did not go away from us, it grew quiet. What had seemed a storm wailing through the entire darkness seemed to come in at last and lie down.” Jayber Crow

Grief. It is a lonely feeling. It has been our companion. Grief’s emotional tirades would be easier to deal with if you could visit it. It would be the funny/ quirky relation that you make a visit to out of obligation. Unfortunately grief never leaves you alone; it’s constant pecking for attention leaves you exhausted. You knew when Grief came to live with you that it would be an ordeal to exist with this demanding person. But then what choice do you have? I have heard others speak of its nature, how they knew someone who Grief lived with, how they turned to diversion, to depression they lost it. I wonder why I am told these stories of those who Grief destroyed. I see those who have never had Grief tell me how I should act, how I should feel. This too baffles me. Do they know how demanding a houseguest Grief to be? They don’t. They reveal their ignorance by claiming to have the answers. Those of us who know Grief’s temperament, can say it all without saying words. Ripping ourselves from Grief never works—he hunts you. You must make life with Grief - you must make him a place and move forward. He will tug at you every second, in every conversation and in every moment of laughter. He will tell you that joy is a betrayal. He will tell you many things that speak to every pain, as he knows them intimately because he lives with you. He knows when you are down and pulls at the heart twisting it out of some pleasure he derives. The lady that once said to me, “Do you ever wonder why some babies live and others die?” while she loving caresses her beautiful child, Grief in his sense of irony brings us together often. Grief is twisted by nature and he can twist those who live with him. So in making my place a heaven with Grief living here too is not an easy balance. After all that Grief is capable of doing, I still have a choice. I still have a choice as to how I will respond. It is not easy but it is necessary, it is crucial to not only my own survival but also to that of my family. Choice. I have that power and I am not alone despites Grief’s demands. I have my covenants, the love of a Godly man and my Savior who shares the burden, who really does all the clean up from Grief’s messes. He too has felt Grief beyond anything I can understand and the worst kind - the eternal kind. Our visitor Grief can only hurt us here, now as we miss the simple moments we so wanted—the Grief that our Savior knows is why I must work so hard not to know. Eternal Grief is too terrible to ponder the havoc—it is to be worked against.

A year ago today we lost Katelynn. We said goodbye in the most permanent way life has to offer, we reminded ourselves of the promises. I wondered how I would live without her, would the pain always be this intense? The answer is yes. It is intense, it is there always and yet somehow we still managed to find breath. Unfortunately we didn’t all die in our sleep that night and unfortunately no large meteor has taken out our household. Life… each day comes and we find ourselves having to do life without her. The habits we have engrained before Katelynn are a comfort to us as we find life’s joys without her. A daily reminder of what we don’t have is before us embodied in the joy we have in Nathaniel and Ailsa, however ominous our sorrow is, our love too moves us forward. When Katelynn died, I had two kids who were experiencing this too. Their testimony has not yet been cast and they look to us. I am left with so much joy and pain mingled together that I have had to find comfort in agony, joy in pain, patience with ignorance of myself and others, and peace in turmoil. Life for us will always be bitter sweet so we must seek for ways to make the bitter teach, the turmoil to remind and for the joy to be eternal.

When Nathaniel and Ailsa ask why did Katelynn die? Why? These are not casual questions. They are not questions I can give them easy answers for; all I can do is tell them of Our Elder Brother, what He has said. The things we each carry here are heavy, but God has made us stronger to carry the burden, with that knowledge I am left with gratitude. Gratitude that through the pain we feel we are finding life’s joys that through the loss of Katelynn we can know, not hope, but know that she is in a wonderful place busy, happy and she too misses us, but in the glory that she sees she is excited for us, just as we would be waiting in some exotic locale for a loved one—she looks around and feels excitement. I don’t want to disappoint her and miss my plane. I don’t want any of my family to miss the plane to this exciting fabulous place we are all going to someday. With any trip one must pack, one must prepare, one must have the funds these things come from hard work, preparation, and sacrifice. We don’t show up at the airport and then be told if we are going to Bali or Cabo. We buy a ticket, we decide where we are going, our flight may get delayed but we choose where we are going. Katelynn’s flight came earlier than I was ready for, I feel like I wasn’t able to pack her bag. Does she know what arrangements we have made for the trip? She does, the travel guide has chosen the itinerary. We are just to go with the plans laid and no one likes a grumpy travel companion. I can pack Nathaniel and Ailsa’s bag, each day I lay something else needed in their case. I pack in mine too. I realize I won’t need some of the things that I thought I would, like diapers, but I do need more patience than I thought. So each day I plan for the future embracing the part that is mine and seek to do it well.

The last 54 days—we can’t help but look back and look at what was a year ago. The dates have significance that before were just other days, that now are seared in my conscious. Left with such a contrast of what was just a year ago, it is shocking at what we hold now. April 1st, May 17th, May 24th, May 30th—each a date that holds a special blessing and a deep loss. I have more feelings of each of these dates than I can briefly express. I am amazed and grateful of the strength of Atonement to hold us through our loss. I am aware of my own lack of perfection and the perfection of a loving Saviour who, when allowed, really will take the burden. I am often asked, “Why are you OK?” There are many reasons why I shouldn’t be sane, but I am. And really I have very little credit that I can claim as mine, what I have done right is to trust Him – the rest is His. I felt opposition like I have rarely known and some people treat me differently. Some are extra nice, others are cruel, and some are just oblivious. Relatively few really ask with sincerity how we are and it is shocking, though few in numbers, at who wants to tear us down. I shouldn’t expect a pass in life from pain, and I don’t but I am still surprised that others would seek to be offended by some nebulous offense, like I give to much eye contact when speaking, or didn’t say they were great enough, or I had the gall to propose we get together sometime… are there really those who would kick someone when they are down? It seems so. I am left asking myself if I am more kind to those in pain, or are my judgments too harsh?

We have never felt such a contrast of overwhelming support and so alone as we have this last year. Our friends have surrounded us with support that is amazing. We have had to find the faith to endure in not getting what we want. Yet there is peace with what is… God has a plan, and little by little He lets us in on another piece.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Katelynn's first birthday!

10am: decorating with brother and sister pink cupcakes very top heavy.

Noon: Lunch at Primary Children’s Hospital

1pm: Playing Primary children’s playroom.

2pm: In the angel garden singing happy birthday to Katelynn with her doctors and nurses (Nathaniel’s’ idea—how sweet is that!) Presents from Katelynn for Nathaniel and Ailsa.

5pm: Balloon release at Katelynn’s resting place – 54 balloons for the days we had her.

6pm: Hot soup at our house

6:30pm: Cake with lots of friends about 30 friends came by to celebrate with us—and it was a celebration, of friendship, blessings and joy that Katelynn brought.

Today was happy. We didn’t stand around sad about Katelynn. We had a daylong party The kids can’t wait until Katelynn’s next birthday!

Only you can prevent forest fires:

Katelynn would be one… what would be and what is, so apart in their contrast. I have been told in time that it won’t bleed. This individual had lost a child ten years prior, the wound for them now doesn’t pulsate it is not a hemorrhaging pain. It always hurts but joy can be felt again. That the constant feeling of loss is there, the ache both physical and emotional tugs at me, even in moments of simple pleasure the thoughts of what we planned on are always there and it hurts deeply-- only those who have lost a child can understand this level of hurt. I don’t mean to insult or exclude those who feel the loss of a parent or grandparent, but almost universally every parent of an angel I talk to is amazed that others tell them, “I understand how you feel, I lost my father, grandfather, mother. . .” the list goes on, but it is not the same. Both Nathan and I lost a grandparent the year before Katelynn. It was sad, we felt the remorse of time gone, opportunities lost, but we celebrated their life lived well. With the death of a child there is no feeling of completing the journey. It is the incompleteness of death that nags so viciously at each moment that is where the hemorrhaging comes in. Death makes us bleed, a wound leaves a mark, but constant blood loss is deadly, it is cause for alarm. We understand the gravity of the medical situation with no medical training hemorrhaging is a scary thing. People say to me, “I can’t imagine the loss of a child.” Sometimes I want to respond with “nor can I.” The loss is so intense it carries with it a destructive force. It is hard to comprehend continuing to breath let alone living a life of joy. After Katelynn’s passing, I knew death was so permanent, so intense and the pain of my prior losses, of Winnie, my grandmother- figure who died when I was eight, I miss her and think of her on special days. The recent death of my grandfather and I’m remembering working on his sheep ranch, remembering the lessons he taught, the stories, the peaceful silence. The loss of our pregnancies, the babies that we never held, the baby medicine refers to as fetus, its look not yet as a child at just over three months along. Seven miscarriages; their loss rocked my womanly heart so wrapped in the pain that I almost hardened under the pressure of the angst. My encounters with death both prepared me and alarmed me with the encompassing sorrow I now faced. Like a wildfire burning all in its path, the idea of a fresh growth too far away to ease the destruction that comes. It may seem for us who witness a burning to say it is best for the land, but for that rabbit, that tree, if they could feel as we do, are not comforted that a seedling may come to sprout, that other rabbits and deer will be in a growing forest. It may seem trite but only I can prevent the fires in my life. I let this fire burn and it will destroy everything I am, everything and everyone around me. All past joy, future joy and all goodness that could come from the life of Katelynn.

I watch a TV show, the characters had gone through a terrible divorce, in Book of Mormon language they lived riotous living, this radical shift in their behavior was all explained. They had a child, the child died. Thus the characters in large part died too. In most of these scripts they have no other children.

I have two other children. Could my love and loss of Katelynn lead to a wildfire of destruction in their life? The death of their sister possibly lead to a conversation like this: “What happened? Why is your mom a nut job?” And it all is explained with a shrug, an accepted fact by all wiped away in some mutual understanding we give the justifiably crazy because she lost her child to death? So probable a scenario, and I am the only one in control of my decision… I choose to not destroy the future and eternity of my other two children.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas 2009

To summarize this year seems daunting. So, you may know that in 2007 our big news was the bus accident (it hit Nathan while he was riding his road bike), in 2008 it was Nathan’s heart attack, and this year 2009 it is the life and death of Katelynn. We sincerely hope for a boring 2010!

On December 26, 2008, Leta had an ultrasound: it showed some problems. As 2009 began, Leta had been on bed rest for four months. Our thoughts, actions, and prayers were all focused for Katelynn. Each of us had a job to do that was far from the normal. Nathan, in addition to his job—that he does so well with such focus in the midst of hardship—had to do Leta’s chores, laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc., while I, Leta, was to avoid becoming permanently disabled by staying down. Leta used a cane, two canes, a walker, and then a wheelchair. Leta’s OB said it was the most painful pregnancy he had ever witnessed… Leta is oddly proud of this: with all his years as an OB, it is good to know if you are enduring pain you couldn’t before comprehend, you aren’t being wimpy! Leta’s ability to do became less and less as others did more and more of what she was accustom to doing. Our church ward, our friends and Leta’s parents overwhelmed us with willingness to help with anything they could. So much so that the idea of writing thank you notes is impossible! So much love and service has been given to us: Thank You!

And, let us not overlook Nathaniel and Ailsa in their efforts and sacrifice to get their little sister to this earth. At times, they had to get their own snacks and learn to be independent beyond their years. Ailsa can make a great peanut butter sandwich, which is not a small accomplishment for being four. She also enjoyed total control over what color combinations she would wear. Nathaniel once was sent off to afternoon kindergarten hungry because Leta forgot to remind him to eat. When he was delivered home by a helping neighbor, he announced he was hungry. Leta felt mortified at her oversight. But, he brought her a snack first before helping himself, without being asked to, selfless remembering Leta’s needs first. What a great accomplishment at any age, let alone his of six at the time. Each of the kids enjoyed activities, school, soccer, football, dance, hikes with their Dad, playtime with Pia (a wonderful young lady we were blessed to have as our nanny) and time reading while cuddling with Mom. After seven months of family sacrifice, Katelynn was born on April 1, 2009. Our time with her is sacred: it has made us better people. As many of you know, we have our blog on Katelynn at We miss her deeply and are thankful for the continued service given by those close to us here, but also by the love extended to Katelynn by our friends and family from literally all over the world.

While some may wonder how one little baby born in a stable could have such an impact, we have a fresh understanding. Katelynn was just one baby, her purpose not even a small crumb to that of the King of all Kings. Yet, in her presence, were all things pure, all things good, and we are forever altered by her 54 days with us. We had hopes that we would have her home, but that was not to be. Though it is so hard, we are so thankful for the message of this Christmas Season to remind each of us that life with all its challenges, with all the good and bad, the message comes back to one baby, who grew to a man, who exemplified to mankind obedience to His Father’s will. For all the suffering, He made possible through His atonement the greatest of all gifts: eternal life.

The Greene family is thankful. We are thankful for the prayers of our friends, our ward family and our families. We are thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ that teaches that families are forever, that there is a plan of happiness, and that our Katelynn is busy doing good in the spirit world. When Nathaniel and Ailsa ask what Katelynn is doing, we tell them she is teaching people about Jesus and how much Jesus loves them. We tell them that she is so happy except that she misses us, that she won’t be fully happy until we are together in Heaven again. In thinking of our own grief, Nathan and Leta are again renewing our commitment to be better, to work harder, and to live better. As we went to Disneyland in her honor, as we traveled to see Nathan’s family at Thanksgiving time, and as we go about the daily events of our lives, it is our hope to remember the gift, the honor, and the message of this last year.

There is nothing more important than family. It is only through the plan of our Savior, through his atonement that we can all be together again. On our wall hangs our favorite picture of Katelynn next to it the words: “We CHOOSE to be an ETERNAL family.” Since each of you are also our family it is our wish to share with you our love, our gratitude—and with all that has happened—our testimony that our Jesus Christ lives, He loves us, and may we remember Him and choose to follow the Babe whose birth we celebrate.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nothing rips your heart so as your child truly grieving and nothing makes it soar like your child’s hand clenched in excitement, feet pounding in anticipation of an upcoming thrill. These are the words that came to my mind as I watched Ailsa while we were about to go on Thunder Mountain for the second time in a row—good times—good times. We decided that the kids, and us, had had a very tough last year, and needed to do something apart from our routine of trauma followed by another trauma—it is not a routine I recommend.

Around the time of Katelynn’s funeral, it came to Nathan and me that we should do something crazy fun – like Disneyland. Once discussed, it felt right, so we began to plan the trip. I had no reservations till I saw the cost of such a trip. The most expensive trip we have ever taken was three years ago when we went to Sea World and Legoland—it was just under a 1000.00 dollars. This trip would with hotel, food, etc., would be more than three times that amount. The money I have put aside for Katelynn’s marker would go to this trip. Yet as the day grew closer, the little girl in me got more excited. The kids were beyond excited. As I was busy making sure the home was perfectly clean for our departure and everything packed, I was concerned less with the money and more gratified that we could give our kids such an opportunity. What a way to grieve, what a way to let them know that they are important, and what a way to honor Katelynn’s memory: to do something crazy fun and to take her (in spirit) with us.

Ailsa had been looking at one of the brochures with me. On the cover, Mickey Mouse-shaped balloons dance over the skyline of a castle… she asked, “get a balloon like that too.” You know kids, if you say yes you are locked in, and there we would be with an overpriced balloon and where do you put a balloon when you go on a ride? So, attempting to dissuade her, I recommended that we not get a balloon and that we get her something else that would be easier to carry and not get so easily lost. Ailsa looked up at me with the look kids get when they feel they are explaining the obvious, “Not for me, for Katelynn,” then with a thoughtful tone, “write Katelynn’s name on it so Jesus knows to give to Katelynn.” Trying to keep my voice even, I commended her on her idea. What an amazing little girl she is. For several days, Ailsa would check in with me—Katelynn’s balloon—the question if Ailsa wanted Katelynn with us in Disneyland was answered.

Katelynn in the minds of all of us would also be coming. We packed Katelynn’s bear that sat on the shelf of Katelynn’s NICU bed tucked among medical devices, usually next to my mug marked boldly “Mama Greene.” Each time now that I drink from it, the water almost tastes like the water at the NICU. I have been known to caress the letters as though they were fine engraving—not the hurried marker writings they are. We have so little of Katelynn physically that the simplest mundane becomes precious—the teddy bear is so clearly the most normal thing of a baby’s nursery. It was a $4.98 plush animal from Walmart. I know because I removed the tag. Nathan’s cousin Dave and his wife Lizette bought it when they planned to visit us and to see Katelynn in the NICU. I imagine them wondering what do you give a baby who is expected to be in the hospital for a long while. Well, the bear was selected. A gift wasn’t necessary, of course: their wanting to meet Katelynn was the best gift to us. Every new parent loves to show off their baby. The bear stood near Katelynn, so it was, and remains, worth so much. At first I would cringe as the children squeezed it, wanting the bear to remain pristine, then I realized the greater purpose was for Katelynn’s bear to be worn with love, to receive the kisses and hugs all loved little bears are meant to receive. While it was initially a simple gift from Dave and Lizett, did they have any idea the love that would be endowed on this little crème bear? If the teddy bears could talk… So, along came Katelynn’s bear to Disneyland. Her bear sat in the basket of my scooter, or more often held by the kids taken on rides. We took pictures of her bear with the characters, in niches and crannies all over the park. In arranging the trip, I had asked what perks they had, wanting this to be the trip of all Disneyland trips—character breakfast, dinner with goofy, dinner with Ariel, magic morning, meal plan. I was an easy sale. We wanted the kids to look back and think how much fun they had, and since they couldn’t be at any better age to embrace the magic of Disneyland—we went all out.

I was prone to happy tears, seeing the kids run in front, seeing them hug, seeing the joy of a ride, seeing a hug to a special little bear, seeing Nathaniel flex his muscles with Mr. Incredible, Mickey Mouse shaped waffles would bring a tear… crying happily. The happier the kids were, the more a tear was likely to come, to do so in Katelynn’s honor. She is never far from my thoughts, and at times, I thought surely now I wouldn’t have the thoughts of her pulling me. But, as I was on a roller coaster, it seemed a funny moment to be pondering why, how, and if I would ever feel like my mind is not being pulled, making a decision moment by moment to not embrace sadness but to embrace the joy, the real purpose of Katelynn. I felt Katelynn urge me to know that she was glad we were happy, glad that we were choosing to honor her memory with not just the tears that unavoidable come, but with happiness that she lived and happiness that she will again live and that we can be with her again in the next life. Disneyland was one aspect of the choice to be happy; we make the decision to embrace joy everyday, so there is hope in that. Hope is good. Each morning when I wake up, the shock of her death sweeps over me. I can’t say it is a new thought as my dreams are filled with her sometimes peaceful memories and other moments so real they draw upon the most tender motherly feelings, difficult in the time they lived, horrified as they are replayed in my slumber. Such difficult memories are to be kept simply as points of no regret that we didn’t shy away from: we were fully dedicated to our baby girl. She is there, as each of my children is here: a mother never forgets their children. Katelynn misses us as we miss her and as the rides moved us from side to side, the thrill of each moment, I felt not only Katelynn’s approval but her presence enjoying our joy… There are a lot of things I will miss out on having to wait for more time with Katelynn, yet I feel that I got one back with this trip. I got to take all three of my children to Disneyland!

Ailsa said the second day of the trip, in all seriousness, “Mom, can we move to Disneyland?” And why wouldn’t she want to move there? I told her we couldn’t afford it! My favorite part was the breakfast in Ariel’s Grotto— where we get to dine with the princesses. As we were sitting eating our tower of food—with pastries, fruit, cheeses and crackers—the announcer for the princesses invited Ailsa to come over with him to be the honorary princess. Any little girl would be thrilled to have such a fun honor. This year in Disneyland they ask what we are celebrating. We weren’t always sure what to say. Nathan said it best when he said “survival.” So, as Ailsa was invited up we were asked what we were celebrating. We spoke of Katelynn, how she loves the kids who showed him the little bear. The kids spoke with such animation and happiness that the “cast members” would look at us, like did I hear that right and how are you all OK? Some would have pained smiles, almost veiled panic as people realize they are taking about their sister that has died, which provided opportunities to share our knowledge that we know where Katelynn is. Hope and joy are very much about Katelynn. Attaching despairing sadness to her memory would be a disservice to Katelynn’s life. As the time for the princesses came near, Nathan ready with the camera, the Royal Attendant announced:

Here ye, here ye! This is Princess Ailsa with her family and Princess Katelynn, whose wonderful idea it was to bring her family to Disneyland!

Those who might have torn themselves from their own tower of food to look would have seen one child, but thought nothing of it. Perhaps Princess Katelynn was too shy to stand up with her sister? If they had looked and seen the mother, perhaps, then, they might think something was different as I had tears streaming down my face. Nathan and I had a hard time thinking of much to top that moment, so normal-- a family with three kids in Disneyland, but for us it would be a rare moment of having our three children together laughing and hugging, talking to and laughing with princesses. Cinderella was especially kind: she did, after all, have a hard childhood. Hard times help us to each increase our empathy. Cinderella gave the kids very one-on-one attention. She is now this household’s favorite Disney princess.

Later, when we were again dining with the princesses, the kids were overjoyed with happiness to see Cinderella again, which fortunately was the same lady. The kids caught her up on our adventures, literally making her fall over with hugs... I never thought I would be cajoling my children into apologizing to a fairytale character. Sir Bigsby, the royal announcer, was also there again, and yes that is his real name, I asked. How perfect it was that he has a British accent. Sir. Bigsby pulled me aside to say:

I have been thinking about your family. We the princesses and I have talked about you. A lot of people come to Disneyland to celebrate a variety of things. They come because someone is dying, but we have never known anyone to come to celebrate the life of someone, despite their death. You have given your children a gift.

This is around the time that I noticed Nathan helping Cinderella up from the forceful love of Nathaniel and Ailsa, we both laughed as he continued, “Your kids are thriving, happy, they are making it through this because of the example of you and your husband.” He shook Nathan by the hand, and expressed what an honor it was to meet him. Nathan was a little puzzled at the emphasis of his words, so I filled him in later. As the kids ran ahead that day we talked a lot of what was said. The kids are OK. The grief therapist at Primaries says that, and with what their teachers and Sir Brigsby have shared: what more confirmation do you need? We are a pretty normal family, we laugh, we cry…we just have an angel watching out for us and for us that is the happiest place on earth!