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Monday, November 16, 2015

Heart Clouds, Stories & Purpose!

Friends, I just had the most amazing week! Over and over this week, I had an overwhelming sense that my life and purpose is just a very small piece to something really big and fantastic and I have adrenalin coursing through my body as I am frantically typing.

All week I could just feel something brewing within me and around me. It was as if little heart bubbles were boiling up inside of me, ribbons of magic swirling around me, and big squishy heart clouds floating by me. It might sound crazy but there were times this week when I would stop what I was doing and look around me, half expecting to see those ribbons and heart clouds, I was just so aware that there was this special something lingering close by all week. Anyway, I had this incredible series of events unfold, some really great, some less great, but as I was sort of connecting the dots of these events, my heart was just bursting and I went running for my laptop to pour my thoughts out and for the first time in a long, long, time I feel so inspired to share with you!

The week started by attending my dear friend’s fundraiser. Jenn Hinkle and her husband Mark have this spectacular event every year in St. Louis called Ollie Hinkle: I {heart} Food & Wine. This is an event where the best restaurants in St. Louis offer tastings of their food, along with fantastic wines and local craft beer. In addition to all of the yumminess there is an auction, raffles, live music, and all of the money raised at the event goes to The Children’s Heart Foundation, a national organization who is dedicated to Congenital Heart Defect research. I just love everything about this event and the people who put it on! Greg and I have been to this event for the last three years, but this year there was something extra special in the air. There must have been 600 people in attendance and between friends and neighbors, heart families whom we have become close with over the years, staff from St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and friends who are in the restaurant business whom attended the event, I was able to connect with so many friends and people whom I just adore. I was with my tribe. I was with my people. I felt this being surrounded by people who get me, and really see me. I gave out so many hugs that night, and I really felt the love of the friends who were hugging me back.  I am usually the girl who is itching to get home and put my pajamas on but as the night progressed I was aware I was genuinely enjoying myself, and my heart was overflowing.

Towards the end of the event, Jenn spoke about her son, Ollie and what this event means to her and Mark. This was the best therapy that I have had in years. I stood in the back of this massive room full of people and wiped tears from my cheeks and tried to keep my chin from quivering as I fought back an ugly cry. It was as if the heart clouds parted and light streamed down on Jenn and I really SAW Jenn, and really HEARD Jenn. I could feel her words ring true in my soul. I got her message. She misses her Ollie, and she is dedicated to funding CHD research, but really she works so hard on this event for her Ollie. Putting her heart and soul into the event is a way of claiming a little power, of honoring her boy and celebrating his life. In the past, Jenn has not addressed the attendees like this, but I am SO THANKFUL that she did so I could soak up her words and all of the love that she showered us with. As she was talking I scanned the room and noticed so many people just clinging onto every word that she offered and it struck me how important it is for us grieving Moms to talk about the children we have lost, to share our stories, and to share the stories of our little ones. We need to talk about them as much as we want to talk about our living kids. They might not be with us physically, but really truly, they not only live in our hearts but they really do live in our everyday lives. Their living breathing bodies may be gone, but they are still with us and they live through us. The chapter of a child who is lost never ends. That chapter isn’t left behind. We don’t “get over” those children. Their energy is with us always. Just like our living kids they motivate us, they drive us, they inspire us and just like our living kids we want to do what is best for them, we want to honor them, celebrate them, brag about them and claim them.

I remember when Isla was born being just completely amazed at how much I loved that little baby. She came out and it was as if this hidden little compartment in my heart opened up and all of this love that had always been there just seeped out and overpowered our lives instantly. Or maybe I could just feel this once coiled up, invisible, powerful, heartstring being outstretched and connecting her to me. The feeling was overwhelming and such a powerful introduction into motherhood. And then with my next two kids, I felt the same thing. I felt the overwhelming presence of endless love. I wasn’t sure I could love Oakes as much as Isla, and then I had real anxiety later that I would never love Esme as much as Oakes, but with each child, a surprising amount of love always consumed me. It was strong and abundant. I could always identify that that new love which was surfacing came from a deep and endless place. And the thing is that when you loose a child, that love doesn’t vanish. It doesn’t pass away. Your love still runs over from that deep and endless place. It still multiplies as the years pass. That heartstring is still there connecting you to your baby. Even thought that babe may not be sitting at the dining room table every night, and you aren’t tucking that little one into bed, they come and go through your day. You feel them and hear them and see them in new ways. You learn how to be this new kind of parent to that child on the other side. It has taken time, a big pivoting motion out of some really hard grief, and a million tears to really see and get that Oakes is still with me. I know it. I can prove it. He has passed over, he died, he is in heaven, he is on the other side. You can call it whatever you want. Yes, in the most obvious way he is gone, but at the same time he is absolutely, undeniable, without question still on earth.

I see Oakes in both of his sisters. I see him in his Dad. I see him in me. I see him in his cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. I see him every time I see a little heart in nature, or I spot a heart in my everyday routines. I see him in the kids and families that Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation helps, I see him in all of his nurses (and their new little babies). I see him in Oak trees and acorns. I see him in my dreams. I see him in everyday little miracles. I see him everywhere, and I see him everyday. And every time I see him, I feel him. I feel his strength, his amazingness, his drive. I feel him nudging me along. I feel him loving me. And I am just now seeing and really feeling in my heart that I don’t want to keep all of him and his visits, and his little lessons and his continued strength and amazingness just to myself anymore. I have always felt this definite resolution that the work I do for and with MOHF will be some of the best work that I will do in my life, but I am just now realizing that sharing Oakes as I see him today, sharing him with the world, is another sort of purpose.  

My fantastic week started with that love fest fundraiser that the Hinkles put on but it also included lots of normal, usual events that are part of my typical week. When I mentioned connecting the dots of this really cool week, that was me scanning the week and seeing a handful of moments or conversations, little messages or signs that all seemed to bring me to this place of feeling inspired to share just a little bit of my heart with you.

When I listened to Jenn talk about Ollie and the work she does in his name I was touched by so many parts of her life that I can relate to in really big ways. I was touched by the love that she still has for her son and her interest to talk about him.  Standing there listening to Jenn, made my heart break for this brave friend of mine, but for the first time since having Oakes and sharing his story I could see that, yes, I want to talk about my son, but it is pretty powerful to be on the other side of the storytelling. Experiencing the loss of a child is one thing, sharing it is another, but to be able to hear it, to have insight into how one navigates those hard times, how they push through, choose joy, embarrass life and love - that is real gift.

I hope something in this post resonates with you. I hope you feel hearts bubbling within you. I hope you feel a tug on your own heartstrings. I hope your have the courage to do something brave and mighty today.  And now that I have felt what a gift it is to hear someone else’s story, so close to me, I really hope I feel this inspiration to run to my computer again soon so that I can share more with you and explore this new possible purpose.

XO, Becky

PS: Thank you Jenn. Thank you, Ollie. I see you, and I hear you both! XO 

The Hinkle Family in 2012.
Maddie, Jenn, Ollie & Mark.