• Katie Russell

Bracing for the Blow

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

- Isaiah 41:10

I wish more than anything that I could remember more of that last day; the day before Noah's stroke. Just like many, we got caught to in the day-to-day, non-stop hustle. Places to be, things to do... you know the routine. Getting out of the house in the morning was sometimes a struggle- wake the boys, tell them to get dressed for the fifth time, eat just one more bite of food, three lunches packed, jackets on, where is your other shoe? Hurry, we are going to be late, and just as we left the house- shoot, I left my coffee on my counter again!

As we would drive the 30 minutes to school, christian radio would blast and all three of us would sing at the top of our lungs to each song. "Mommy, when will my song come on?" Noah would ask. Secretly, I would pray that God would grant him that wish. It brought me so much joy to hear my boys singing songs about a God who loved them dearly. And then it happened, from the very first notes of the song, cheers would erupt and again the singing would ensue.

And then there were times when Kaden's song would come on and EVERY SINGLE TIME Noah would plug his ears and get mad at his brother for being a little bit too enthusiastic as he sang,

"God, I'm running for Your heart I'm running for Your heart Till I am a SOUL ON FIRE!!!!!!!"

Life was a little crazy with a four and six year old, but I loved every minute of it. I was made to be a boy mom.

I remember walking Noah to his classroom, giving him a big hug and kiss and saying a little prayer before sending him into his classroom, dropping his brother off before walking down to my own classroom. It was the daily routine. Never failed, Kaden would struggle with telling me goodbye and as I walked down the hall, a little piece of my heart would break. Somehow, it always made me feel a little better knowing that their classrooms were right next to each other.

Another day, another dollar. Exhausted from surviving another day of Pre-K, I would walk back down the hall to pick up the boys and prepare myself for the drive home, and you guessed it, the radio would be on and all the singing would continue. Though I quickly got tired of the drive, cherished those moments with my boys.

As we got closer to home, we would make a quick pit stop at daddy's school. The boys would run down the halls and immediately jump into Trent's arms. I am sure those moments were the highlight of their days. Kaden would then head straight towards the drums, while Noah would navigate his way towards the whiteboard. Countless times, he would write the same thing over and over, "I love you mom and dad." Perhaps he was making up for all the times he would miss. Did he know something was about to happen?

After wrangling up the boys yet again and perhaps making a quick snack stop, we would make the short trip home. The boys would run inside, leaving a trail of the day's necessities across the house... there's my coffee! Do you think it is still good?

As I sit here in my quiet house, I can't help but think about those memories with a longing just to be able to live them one more time. Those memories represented a time that we will no longer be able to live. A time when I recognized the woman looking back at me in the mirror. One of complete exhaustion but pure joy, void of the crippling waves of grief that would leave me stranded in the undertow begging for just one more chance to breathe. A time when I didn't have to fight the constant battle in my head between allowing my son to be a kid and not becoming paranoid of what could happen- it happened once, it could happen again. A time with living day to day, step by step, didn't have to become vital life sustaining measures. The truth is, I am not the same woman I used to be; she died almost four years ago. And I am learning to be ok with that.

As we face the unreal truth that tomorrow marks four years since our family changed forever, I find myself wishing more than anything that I could stop time. When you lose a child, time does not magically bring healing, or make the pain go away. Time does not heal this wound and it never will. Every year, no matter what, we have to face it head on. One of my friends, who also lost a son, helped me articulate the mixture of emotions I feel facing this soon coming anniversary. It's like you are standing on a railroad track, and you can see the train barreling towards you and no matter what you do, you can't step off the track. It doesn't matter how loud you scream for it to stop, nothing can change what happens in the end.

And so you brace yourself for another blow.

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