Steps To Sainthood

Psalm 68:27 There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them…

In the Catholic Church, there are a few steps to be considered a Saint. Two steps require that miracles must have occurred as a result of the person’s intercession. Our family has always considered Benjamin our little Saint by the way he brought people closer to God while he was alive, but this week, his works have continued after his death. 

The past few weeks, I have been tormented with keeping his memory alive. Since we moved only 7 months before his passing, very few in our community had the opportunity to really get to know Benjamin. They weren’t able to witness his happiness, his smile, his joy, and the peace you received just by being around him. We try to include discussions of Benjamin as much as possible and the kids like to imagine how Benjamin would feel and react to our daily lives. As the kids grow older, I fear they won’t remember him clapping as they danced, playing peak a boo, or his love of life. 

Last week, as I battled this feeling, I received a text from a dear friend hundreds of miles away. We met this family at a conference and we immediately loved them. We have continued to stay in touch and I appreciate them more than they know.  

This is the text I received, “Hey. I hesitated texting you this, but I feel the need to share with you what happened to me today. This afternoon I was here with Coop and chasing the dog around the house trying to get something from him he shouldn’t have had. On one of my laps I looked over at Cooper and noticed he was dusky looking. As soon as I went to suction him his sats plummeted. I ran and got the oxygen on him and it wasn’t making a difference. So for a second I closed my eyes and said a prayer because I thought I was loosing him and I swear to you on everything that I love I saw little Benjamin. He looked right at me and pointed to his trach. So I looked at it and sure enough it had come out and was right under his shirt where I couldn’t tell that it was out. I threw it back in and he instantly came back around. I have no doubt in my mind that he was here with me guiding me through one of the scariest moments of my life.”
I was immediately flooded with tears of joy and tears of grief. I know Benjamin, God’s child, was only given to me a short time, but I am reassured his works will continue. I am so thankful for this Mom sharing, I am so thankful for her friendship, and I am so thankful that Benjamin continues to live and save. God continues to amaze me in how he provides for what we NEED.  
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Benjamin’s purpose is greater than I can ever imagine, and I know that he lives on in many of us. Though physically weak on Earth, he was and still is “the hands and feet of Jesus.”
One miracle down…one to go.πŸ™‚

This also tells me God has big plans for Coop at well… and not just with his love and compassion for the ladies. πŸ˜‰ 

My Muse

Today I read and shared an old blog of Benjamin’s. They are always nice reminders of what’s important in life.  But sometimes they can make me sad realizing that Benjamin was such a muse for me and I feel as though I have lost many of my deep realizations without him. I feel sometimes I have lost my reason to write, and it’s easier now to get caught up in little daily issues. It wasn’t 10 minutes later after this feeling that I read, “Governor bans 2nd trimester abortions.”  Now, as much as I would like to get into that, I won’t at this time. What I do need to express are my feelings of the comments written below the story. 

Many comments filled the page of people saying “a woman should have the right to an abortion if there are problems with the baby.” Specifically, microcephaly was mentioned.  

Benjamin did not have microcephaly, but what these people are saying is “your child may not deserve a life.”  It crushes me to think… 1. You don’t think my child deserves a chance to live. 2. You think that abortion is an easier choice than to maybe, possibly give a little extra care for this child, and 3. They think they get to decide who is worth giving a life to and who can die.  


I KNOW that Benjamin accomplished more than many adults, brought more people closer to Christ, and has made us all examin who we are. I KNOW this should be all of our goals in life, it just took Benjamin only three years to accomplish it.  

And Benjamin is not the only one. I have worked with and met hundreds of families who would all agree with me.   We all know how special ALL our children are, and I have yet to meet a mom or dad of a kid with special needs who wished they would have aborted their child.   ALL of our children are special and if we allow it, they will make us better people. 

So sir or ma’am, who think my child’s life wasn’t worth it, I am sorry you didn’t get to meet my son, but hopefully the army of Christ’s followers he touched will change you. 

Party of 7

One of the first questions someone  asks us on a frequent basis is, “How many children do you have?!?!”  This is not a surprising question as I walk past wearing an infant with a toddler on my hip and two beautiful little girls leading the way… One probably in plastic Barbie heels. It’s the answer that comes with a bit of anxiety. “Five,” is always my answer without hesitation. The following inquiries into their ages and location usually lead to the explanation of Benjamin. I have no anxiety talking about our angel, but more about how I want the other person to feel about asking the question. I answer positively and without pausing as if every family has their own angel in hopes not to make the person, whom I just met, feel uncomfortable or regretful for getting into the small talk with this nutty mom hauling a load of kids. 

This week though, I realized that in a month, when listing their ages, Benjamin will no longer be three.  In my mind he will always be three, but to go along in order of their ages, saying that he is three automatically throws the red flag for more questions. Once again, I love discussing Benjamin, but a stranger may not initially, and sometimes, I just don’t want to deal with the initial reaction. I know I shouldn’t always be concerned about how others react, but it is something I can’t help. 

I am not sure how the year has passed so quickly.  Part of it feels like a dream, part like a nightmare, some of it like it was a decade ago, but most of it like it was yesterday. 
It is never my intention to mention Benjamin for sympathy, or pity, my close friends know I can’t stand that reaction, but instead, I talk of him to make sure he is remembered.  He is still my child I love and care for… He still holds a space in my heart next to the rest of them, he is just the only one that I don’t have to worry   about their future and their salvation… and hopefully, he will help push the rest along in the right direction. 

  

First Christmas in Heaven

  What we learned from Benjamin’s First Christmas in Heaven and the Santa Festivities this year…

1.  Teaching your kid to be good for Santa can backfire…Lennon was up til 1:30 crying because she thought Santa wasn’t coming. (I was beginning to wonder myself). This was after a teary confession the day before about drinking DR Pepper at a friends. (Had to fight back the laughter)

2.  Illness hits after 10pm Christmas Eve… Isla was up til 1:30 crying about an ear ache. (I may have been on the verge of tears myself at this point)

3.  Rush only needed toothbrushes for Christmas. (He has only played with plastic cups and his sisters toothbrushes.) 

4. I realized that we have had a baby announcement on the back of our Christmas card two years in a row. (Wow, that’s crazy.) 

 5. Each holiday, they receive a book from Benjamin. This Christmas I was hesitant on the book I purchased since it hit a little too close to home, but once again Santa knew best. Lennon was so excited to continue to remember her brother during the holidays. (Warning: Grab a tissue before reading.)

  6.  Holidays are tough without Benjamin, and I am not sure if they will get easier. I miss him and I miss him more everyday. I believe I hide my sadness well from the kids, but I can’t help but feel like a part of our life is missing. On the other hand, I am able to better appreciate the holidays with the rest of the kiddos, and what better way to spend Christmas than with the birthday boy Himself. 

7. Seeing the kids understand the  true reason for Christmas is such a blessing. They showed a real appreciation for everything they received… well, Rush will get there.πŸ™‚. There is more talk about Jesus than Santa, and I owe a lot of that to Benjamin, our family and friends,  and this community. 

8. Being blessed isn’t reserved for a few…it’s shown through those who can see past the struggles and can have at least a slight understanding that God’s promises are greater than we can ever imagine.  

  Christmas Blessings to All.

Kateri Annette

Dear Benjamin,

We hope you warned and prepared Kateri for this family before sending her our way :)…

  
Decamber 9th, Kateri entered this world healthy and screaming. You never really appreciate the screams of a newborn baby until you have one that doesn’t. She quickly gave me the scream that says, “I’m ok.”  I feel like she knew I couldn’t handle any pauses. You must have whispered that to her. 

Now, she is home, happy and …relatively safeπŸ™‚ since her big brother wants to love her to death. I hope you warned her. Rush loves and hugs on her and if you guard her in any way, he might toss a toy, narrowly missing her head. We also on occasion, find toys he has tossed her way into the crib hoping she will play. As rough as he can be with her, I am always amazed how he was always to gentle with you. 

   
 Having a new baby in the house is so exciting and fun, but even though I never expected a baby to replace the space you left, I also never expected it to make the space seem larger. I sit in a room surrounded by four amazing kiddos and I can’t help but think how it can’t be complete without you taking up your space on the couch. Last weekend, for the first time, did I realize how well our furniture is placed to perfectly fit your equipment for your perfect spot on the couch.  I am sure most people can’t imagine how you could feel anything missing in this house full of kids, but I do.  On the other hand, a blessing that comes from surviving the valleys is a true appreciation for the peaks…and everything in between.  My eyes are more open now to every moment I have with your siblings, and I thank you for that.  Things that I may have taken for granted before, are now special moments tucked away in my heart knowing that tomorrow on Earth is not promised.

   
   Kateri Annette was chosen for a few reasons. 1.  Kateri is a Native American Saint.  She became a Saint the year Benjamin was born. (Pretty special year). 2. One of our favorite nurses gave Benjamin a prayer card when she moved that was given to her when she was born since they shared the same name, Kateri. We never knew it was her middle name. (She was pretty special as well)  3.  Annette is my Mom’s middle name. We pretended to hate it during the entire pregnancy knowing we were going to choose that name.πŸ™‚ She cried. 

The Holidays

To be honest,  I was kind of dreading the Holidays, knowing that it would be tough without Benjamin. I was right… It’s tough. Though I struggle with occasional sadness, it’s hard to be sad too long with a house full of amazing kiddos, and a husband who knows just what to say, and when to say it. 

It all started with the trip to buy a small tree for the cemetary. Nothing brings Christmas cheer like a woman picking out tree decor in tears.  (Sarcasm) I know it can’t ever be easy dealing with the loss of a child at any age, but sometimes it’s hard to swallow that at 34, I am decorating a cemetary plot.  I would rather be watching Benjamin’s eyes light up at the sight of Christmas lights, or seeing him dance along with his sisters while they decorate the tree, or noticing the excitement when he finds the most perfect Christmas gift. 

  
Two weeks ago, my sadness turned into a complete meltdown over something I hadn’t even thought about… Our family Christmas card. While knowing that I would refuse to take a family picture without Benjamin, I worked on a collage of pictures from this past year. As I scrolled through them, I was reminded of Benjamin’s decline in health. There were few pictures with big smiles, and most pictures he looked pale. It hurt to look through them, and I definitely didn’t want anyone to remember him that way.  I had given up and decided that this family would not be participating in the Christmas card tradition, and I wasn’t sure if we would ever again.  

In a moment where I was alone with Rush, I cried, and cried, and cried, barely able to catch my breath. Rush being the sweet and loving child he is, walked over and placed his head in my lap. He then walked behind the coffee table, crouched down, and jumped up with his modified “peek-a-boo.”  To conclude his cheer up routine, he does this… 

 

It’s amazing how intuitive this kid is at 20 months. 

The next day, we had Sirmon family Christmas pictures. We took a few of us and Benjamin’s plaque, not expecting to use them.  The next day, I pulled up the pictures and God had answered my cry, as he always does. They were perfect, God set that up for me.  I now can’t wait to have our family Christmas cards completed, and for everyone to see them. 

   

  

Tuesday, I took the kids to the cemetary to decorate Benjamin’s Christmas tree.  The girls were so excited and enjoyed every minute never uttering a word of sadness. Lennon and Isla have their moments, but I truly believe they have a better grasp on death and our true eternity better than most adults. I am so proud of them.  Rush was just so happy to be outside. This special moment was something I needed. 

    
 I know it won’t be easy, but we will continue to remind ourselves how lucky we truly are. I can’t think that Benjamin was taken too early from us, but instead know how blessed we were to be given Benjamin for the time he was with us, a true gift. God loaned us his angel, and although just for a short time, it was enough time to change my life and lives around him. 

In less than a week, we will have another miracle to be thankful for…the birth of our fifth child. I can only imagine what Benjamin is telling her before she enters this crazy family.  

   

For Our Salvation

  
Dear Benjamin,

I was so blessed to be part of another retreat this weekend, but this time as a team member. I was there to serve others and in turn was served as well. It’s always nice to have quiet time with God, and a chance to recharge in my faith without the craziness of daily life. On that Holy ground is where I have a chance to listen, and so far, I always receive just what I need. 

There are things in our lives that can help us carry on, there are things in our lives that can motivate us, but there are also things that stick with us enough to change our lives on a daily basis. I once again received a life changing moment this weekend. 

Though we find ourselves “coping” appropriately I guess, I still have the occasional why questions? I believe it’s only human nature, and I find myself asking this question less and less, but it’s nice to finally hear a firm answer to a question that I already really knew the answer. 

Why do things happen in life that cripple us, why do things happen in our life that bring us to our knees, why must we experience such sadness and loss… Why do we not always receive the miracle we think we need? Because, as Father Marks says…

God gives us the “Healing that is most beneficial for our salvation.”  

This is such an amazing statement that I feel is so comforting in a time when questions can occasionally arise. It’s a reminder of what is truly important, not our time here, but instead our eternal life when I will be reunited with you again. Having my special angel in Heaven, makes me want to work even harder to be by your side again. 

Your sisters continue to miss you, each one dealing with things a little differently. Isla loves to talk about the good times with you, while Lennon is still a little sad to share her memories. Lennon has shown us a few times recently that she is fearful we might leave her as well, so hold her close and please whisper comforting thoughts in her ears.  

Rush apparently has nothing but great memories. A few months ago, while we were at Christ the King, I noticed your thank you note I sent after the funeral on a bulletin board. I held Rush up and showed him your pictures. His face immediately changed, and he pointed and started smiling and laughing. I immediately knew he remembered you. I pray he is able to hold on to those memories forever. 

Thank you once again for changing my life, and thank you for helping to lead me to the path that leads to you. 

Today

  Today was just another day in the grieving and healing process. I first wake up to pictures of you three years ago during your first hospital stay. Hospital stays were difficult for so many reasons, but today, I would do anything to be stuck in a hospital with you. 

  Today, we went to purchase a new van. Having your little sister soon, there is no more room for a baby in our semi-converted van. It was God’s intervention that we bought it in the first place, and we have had so many great memories in that van. After moving houses and passing along equipment, this was one of our last things to move past. While KC was handling paperwork, I went outside to clean out the van, never expecting the impact it would have on me. I sat on the floor where your chair sat and cried like a baby. So many great trips… to Minnesota, to the beach, family visits, sporting events, watching parades, and our daily activities. Though I know it’s only a material thing, it feels like I am moving one step further away from you. I know we couldn’t keep it forever, but making the jump was tough. 

  But today, i must focus on the positive. I can’t wait for your sisters’ reactions. They have always been mesmerized by the “magic” van doors, they can now enter on either side, there will now be much needed space between them πŸ˜ƒ, we now have room to carry their friends, and I know we will have many more memories made in our new van. I will focus on their excitement, and of course a little of mine. I did tear up a little four years ago when I had to make the decision to be a “mini-van mom.” πŸ˜‚ I think it’s a little cooler now than they were previously.  

Today, though tough, I remind myself that you will never be forgotten no matter what we must pass along. You are alive and well in our hearts while watching over all of us, patiently waiting for us to be reunited again.  

Today, like everyday, I miss you more than yesterday. 
Mom

Thank You Benny

Today, though sad you are not here with us, I want to thank you. This past weekend we attended the MTM-CNM Conference. Going this year wasn’t an easy decision only five months after you passed away, but I am so thankful we decided to go. Two years ago, the conference for us was all about what KC, you, and I needed. This year, it was all about your sisters. 

We arrived a few days before the majority did to sightsee and enjoy the city. While waiting on the hotel shuttle, I turned around to find Lennon and Isla with their heads pressed against the window happily yelling, “I see a kid with a tube!” We stopped and I allowed them to introduce themselves to the family, a family like ours two years ago with a precious one year old. The girls couldn’t have been more excited and immediately went to talk to and love on this precious little boy. While introducing ourselves, I fought back tears. Tears of excitement, tears of joy, but also tears of sadness knowing that we were the family that had most recently lost their child. I wanted you there with us. 

Two years ago, I looked around knowing that there was a chance that one of these children wouldn’t return, I just never thought it would be you. You were beautifully honored throughout the weekend, and I am so grateful for that. 

Overall I handled my self relatively well with little “waterworks.” I was just so happy to see old friends and to see how all the kiddos had grown and improved. You would have loved it. 

What made me the happiest and most proud all week was watching Lennon and Isla. The way they treat others, love others, care about others is truly amazing. You can definitely see your spirit in them and I thank you for that. Everywhere I turned, Isla had someone’s head on her shoulder, Lennon was snuggled next to someone else, playing peek a boo with the younger kiddos, or enjoying someone’s company during arts and crafts. Children with siblings with special needs are just that, “special.” I look forward to watching Lennon and Isla grow up always having and hopefully showing what you left with them. They may occasionally need a nudge from you. :)  

I thank you for introducing me to wonderful people, beautiful families, and amazing children. I thank you for teaching me love and faith. Most importantly, I thank you for all you have taught your sisters. They cried this weekend because they missed you, then they cried when they had to leave their new friends. Only you could have taught them such compassion and love for others. 

Isla who doesn’t always express her feelings well, said “I wish we could stay here.” I asked why, and she replied, “’cause I like the shirts.”πŸ™‚  Earlier that day, one of the girls asked, “what are we going to do if the new baby needs a tube?”  I replied, “We will love her and care for her just as we did for Benjamin.”  Her response, “I hope she has one.” ☺️ Apparently, you left great memories for Lennon and Isla. 

Seeing you through Lennon and Isla can definitely make such a difficult time a little brighter. Thank you Benny.

Psalm 68:27 There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them… 

Filling Our Home

The past four and a half months have brought a roller coaster of emotions. We have had many ups and many, many downs, but mostly moments that can’t be described as either, and I think sometimes those can be the toughest. Those are the days you don’t want to talk or leave the comforts of your family or home.   This is when the kids, or KC, or a friend with a little nudge from Benjamin and God, has offered just what I needed to help pull me out of “the funk” as I call it, never leaving me to dwell there too long and reminding me how blessed we are to have had this journey with Benjamin. 

Everyone’s favorite question… “How are we doing?” My true feeling, “I don’t know.” I am not sure what is to be expected, or how we should be feeling. I don’t think anyone ever does. What I do know is that we continue to fill our home with love, laughter, faith, and wonderful memories, so I guess we are doing what we need to do to move forward. 

And filling our new home is exactly what we will be doing. About a month after Benjamin left us, KC and I found out we were expecting another baby. This baby, along with the other children, have been our silver linings when sometimes you feel like you are surrounded in a world with grey clouds. This week, I wasn’t surprised to hear we were expecting another girl. I felt that I knew early on what Isla and Rush would be, and about six months ago, I started having dreams of another little girl. At the time, I thought I was crazy, maybe we still are. 😜

We are so excited to welcome another member to our family and I know that this little girl, along with Lennon, Isla, and Rush, will have the most amazing and devoted guardian angel to watch over them until we are reunited again.  

Today I stared at a painting of Benjamin’s hands and feet. I am still in awe of the things that someone that tiny can accomplish in such a short period of time. It really makes you think about your own life, its direction, and what will be left when you leave… other than a ton of kids. 😊