“In May 2015 I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Psychology, ending the semester well versed in Positive Psychology. I had truly taken it with passion and practiced everyday how to be positive. It had granted me the best few months of my life, full of happiness and hope for the future. I decided to go back to school for my Master’s that fall and enjoyed my Kansas summer letting go of toxic relationships and just simply being happy. I lost 20 pounds by October, my grades were up and I had my best friend right by my side after being in a new town.
I never was one for Halloween, but in my new state of mind, I embraced it by dressing up fully and ended up having one of the best nights of my life. I was just so happy. On November 4th, I started the day calling my big brother, Mark. He didn’t answer which wasn’t out of the norm, but he always called me back. For some reason, my heart strings tugged and I swear I called him another 20 times before I went to work that afternoon. My older brother Jeff called me while I was at work, wondering what I was doing, and I even brought it up to him. ‘Have you spoke to Mark recently?,’ I asked. ‘No, why?,’ Jeff responded. ‘Because I’ve tried calling him all day and I’m worried. Let me know if you hear from him,’ I said before hanging up the phone. Little did I know that my brother Jeff was on the verge on tears. Less than an hour later, my mother and Jeff showed up to my work. I was so excited to see them because how fun is it to have your family visit you? We ended up on the patio in casual conversation. I was so naïve as to why they were there.
Finally, they told me my big brother, Mark, had passed away. It was all a blur. I don’t remember who said anything first. I know I fell to my knees sobbing after realizing they were not joking. They picked me up and walked me to my car. Shock held me together as we discussed whatever we did for the next few hours.
I finally drove myself home where I got the chance to finally be alone. I was told to find pictures for his slideshow as I was the keeper of all things with any sentiment. I pulled out the tub I had, full of loose-leaf pictures. Sitting on my knees, I started going through the years we had together. Each picture making me sob harder than the one before. At one point I couldn’t even control the tears, they just kept falling. How could this radiant, loving man be gone? He was my big brother, my mentor, my best friend. He was my father figure from such a young age, when he first realized before I did, that I would never be more important than the drugs and alcohol that consumed my actual father.
He was only 28 and a father to two small boys who made his world go round. He was so happy and always was the light at the end of every dark tunnel. I remember seeing a quote shortly after he passed that really weighed on me. ‘Why do all the good people die so young, too soon? When you’re in a garden, which flowers do you pick first? The most beautiful ones.’ The holidays and birthdays that followed made me angry and saddened my heart so much that I honestly didn’t know what the point of life was. How could I finally have found myself, my happiness, for it to be shattered so shortly afterwards?
I decided to move in with my mom and if I can be honest here, I completely give up. Through all my struggles with my addicted father, manipulative boyfriend and countless broken promises, I always managed to keep moving forward. But this time was different, this time I had lost my person who always helped me see the light through all of those situations. Now that my light was gone, what was the point? That New Year’s I made my resolution: to simply give up.
I didn’t know exactly how to execute this resolution of mine, but I decided the first step was to move out of my house with my roommate and in with my mom. On January 4th, 2016, the day my big brother’s son was born, I decided to let my roommate know that I would be moving out before our lease was up. She was not happy, but in my state of mind I didn’t care what made anyone else happy. I went to work where it was extremely busy and didn’t even have a chance to stop and really take in just what was happening. I served a single gentleman at the bar never realizing how much it would change my life. He tried talking to me, but it was just too busy. He came in the next day when it happened to be a much slower shift and struck up conversation with me. Knowing my resolution, I thought he was silly, trying to flirt with me. In fact, I told him about my big brother passing fairly quickly in our conversation because I had learned to use it as a defense mechanism. No one wants to talk to the sad, broken woman. But, he did. He had just lost his best friend the same year as my brother, on his birthday. Somehow, it brought us together and we ended up chatting through my whole shift with the night ending in him asking me out.
‘So, it sounds like you might wanna go out with me sometime.’ He stated in his shyness. I laughed in response saying, ‘No, it sounds like YOU would like to go out with me sometime.’ That was the beginning to life as I know it now.
Derek swept me away with non-stop talk at dinner and then sang to me at karaoke. I don’t know why but instead of fighting it, I just went with it. Here I was lost and broken and he thought I was beautiful. He did everything possible to make me know he loved me from first sight. A few weeks later, instead of moving in with my mom, I moved in with him. It was crazy, but I’d never been more willing to give something a chance before in my life.
The day before Valentines I found out I was pregnant. Derek and I were driving down the road and he was just chatting away. We had only been together for such a short time and I didn’t know how to tell him. Finally, I just blurted it out as he was talking, ‘I’m pregnant.’ What?’ He asked as if he hadn’t heard me. ‘I’m PREGNANT!’ I exclaimed. He punched the brakes right in the middle of the road, shocked until he had realized what he had done. He started driving again and was silent while he processed it and finally said, ‘This is AWESOME!’ as his eyes gleamed with excitement. It was hard, but we made it through those months. Both dealing with our own grief, trying our hardest to be there for the other person during their moments, but being fulfilled with love every time we saw our son’s heartbeat and prepared for his arrival. We celebrated our nine months that October 4th and on the 14th we welcomed our firstborn, Dawson Lee.
To be honest, Derek and I probably rescued each other, but Dawson saved us both. We were still young and dumb and hurting. We moved a couple times; we went through our version of lows that could’ve ripped us a part many times. But I knew I loved that man the moment he sang to me that first night and I am so thankful he never gave up on me even though I gave him plenty of chances to while getting through that first year of grief. Three years later and I have never been so thankful that he never gave up on me, that I never let the storm overtake me.
Remember the Master’s degree I was still working on? In December of 2017 I found myself finally bringing that chapter to a close. I was flying home to walk the stage for my hard work, but also to share with my family that Derek and I would be adding a second addition to our little family. My son and I exited that plane full of excitement when we saw my mom’s face. It makes me emotional each time I see her because it took us a long time, and the loss of our favorite person, to establish the relationship we have today. We drove home catching each other up on everything, I told her about the new baby on the way and Derek was taking his own flight to meet us after work. As soon as we made it to the house, I used the restroom, and that’s when everything changed. Something wasn’t right and immediately we were headed to the ER. My mom sat with me and entertained my son as I was being told that there wasn’t a hear beat. I forget the exact scientific terminology, but I know it meant I would not be having this baby. I had just told my mom, and now she was comforting me as I cried over my lost child.
I know Derek hates flying, but I know he hates even more being told the saddening news about our baby. He had just picked up the car of his dreams for us to enjoy that weekend and instead he drove home in silence as the loss was sinking in. The doctors couldn’t pinpoint exactly when my miscarriage would happen, so we decided that I would still walk the stage. After all, that’s exactly what I came there to do. I felt fine physically as I got ready that night, only emotions eating at me as we drove to the university. I put on my cap and gown, my cap decorated with sunflowers and a picture of my big brother who always wanted to walk across the stage one day. I tried to give him that. As I sat in my seat while the president talked to the crowd, everything started happening. And while I walked across that stage, my body finally let go of the baby it had so desperately tried to hold on to.
I still have the picture they force you to take right after you get off the stage. It’s funny how you can plaster a smile on your face and no one would even know the difference. If only they looked closer at the tears ready to spill over my cheekbones. I immediately walked out of the auditorium and proceeded to the bathroom where I lost my baby. I will never understand just why it had to happen that way, but I tried to just hold onto what I did have, my boys, Derek and Dawson and thankfully my family.
We got through the next year leaning on each other and soaking up the moments that meant the most, watching our boy grow. What a light he has always been. In December 2018, I was to turn 28. The age we lost my big brother. It was a strange feeling and I silently counted the days down while trying to figure out just how I would feel that day. I spent the day, two days before Christmas, spoiling my son with everything Santa and family. It was odd for me to be 28 and my big brother not 31 and it almost made me numb, wondering when in the next year the emotions would control me because he wasn’t here. On New Year’s Eve, Derek and I found out we were expecting again. Only one week later. I was shocked, terrified and so thankful. How amazing that two different people, from the same family, could live such different lives. One life lost at 28, and another getting the chance to give life at 28.
We held onto this baby boy of ours. For five whole months. I was afraid that if we shared him, we would lose him. I didn’t have the same symptoms as I did with Dawson. In fact, I had the same ones from when we lost our baby. I was scared each time I went to the doctors. My first visit they couldn’t find his heartbeat and I just laid there thinking, ‘Here we go again’ as my heart sank. Thankfully, it’s possible he is just as stubborn as his mother and demanded for them to use the big ultrasound machine and not just a heartbeat monitor. We shared our firstborn on Mother’s Day that year and decided this would be the day we would share our second boy. It was a day full of ups and downs as I was still struck with fear that once we shared him, we may lose him.
When I joined a new mom group for the Atlanta area, I was so excited when I got to be a part of a group of women honoring their rainbow babies. I got to choose between orange and yellow and it was very fitting that I got to be yellow for my sunflowers back home in Kansas. Our photographer asked us to write a short story to allow her a small insight to who we were and how we got to where we are today. As I drove to work the morning before the photoshoot, I silently went over what I wanted to include in my story, it really hitting me that my big brother has always been the beginning of life for me in everything. From when I was young and didn’t understand the lack of the father I had, to being my best friend when I was in my teenage years, to being my big brother when a boy broke my heart and to always encouraging me to be myself and strive for great things.
He was the reason for the beginning of my relationship with Derek, instead of his death being the reason I’d drive him away. He brought us even closer. He was the beginning of my new life as a mother, as I had always struggled with my relationship with God. But now? I truly believe God and Jesus exist due to his absence, because the only way I got through his death was by being given the chance at new life. He was there when I was losing my second baby while walking across the stage. I walked, because HE wanted to walk, and I know I couldn’t have gotten through what I did without that mentality. And, I don’t find it anything short of miracle that instead of drowning in being 28 this year, the year he lost his life, that I was given yet another chance to bring life into this world. To continue to fulfill everything I ever wanted, to be mother.
I cried that day in my car, while driving to work. I cried because he is gone, because he will never get to share in the life I finally have been blessed with. It started to drizzle rain and as I turned onto Route 400, I looked up and there it was. A rainbow shooting straight up from the ground and into the sky. The biggest one I had every seen. It was like the movie Bruce Almighty, like it had been pulled from the sky just for me. I know my big brother is still doing what he always did – taking care of me.
I don’t understand why certain things have to happen, but I do know that you can either let it destroy or drive you. I cannot wait to welcome our newest addition, giving my son the sibling he never knew he needed, and the new soul both Derek and I long for after losing our second. Really, all three of my boys were the rainbow after the darkest storms I’ve ever faced. Derek, stepping up while I was broken and teaching me just who a man is and who a father should be. Dawson to show me life after the hardest death I’ve ever experienced; and now this little boy to bring life where once one was lost. Rainbows truly are a promise after the storm, look up to them.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by RayAnnon Bluemel of the Atlanta area. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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