When I was a child, I moved 13 times in 16 years. At our last house in Colorado, I planted a rose bush by the mailbox. I thought I could will us to stay put with those roots. Everything else I had ever grown was for a single season. Gardens full of fruits and vegetables that only lasted for so many months, before plowing them under. But the rose would ground us.
And three years later, I said goodbye to that rose. And moved from magnificent Colorado to muggy Missouri. In an August heatwave. And I hated my life. I told the rose I would move back when I was 18. Dig it up. Take it to my new Colorado home. But I never moved back.
I ended up loving Missouri. My birth state. I grew accustomed to the heat and the humidity and the mosquitos and a shocking lack of drivers who understood how to use 4-way stops. I fell in love with the trees and flowers and green everywhere. And I fell in love with my husband. At first sight.
We bought our house ten years ago, and I wanted fruit trees. But I had this fear that I would plant trees, only to leave them behind. All that work for naught. So I pushed the thought out year after year after year.
We came home from our honeymoon to this home. We learned we were pregnant with each child in this home. We drove from the hospital to this home. Three times with a newborn babe, and once with a condolence packet from the hospital.
After the twins died, someone anonymously gave me $100 and said I couldn’t spend it on medical bills, gear for Adelaide, or anything for anyone else. It was solely Lyndse Money. So I tithed and spent a solid 24 hours thinking of all the things I could do with $90 whole dollars.
Earrings, clothes, haircuts, wall art, socks. My list. In that order. And in that 24th hour, I said, “Fruit trees.” And I tucked that money into a zipper pocket in my wallet and it sat there. Through medical debt and curriculum shopping and so many Adelaide needs. It was off-limits.
I knew Mother’s Day would be difficult. I volunteered us to work in nursery, because I couldn’t stand to be in service when our sweet Pastor acknowledges all the moms who are grieving this year. I’ve always been the proud beaming mom during the part where he talks about what a gift children are. And now I find myself with a foot in each camp. The smiling mom, surrounded by adoring faces. And the weeping mom, with children in a cemetery.
My children are buried in Mt. Hope. Hope. My word for 2016. For a year that was supposed to bring all things baby and so many joyful moments. And we’ve managed to find that joy buried in grief, but the year felt anything but hopeful.
What I realized was this: we could leave this house. Move closer to a children’s hospital for Adelaide. Relocate for an incredible job offer. We could lose this house. It could be flattened by a tornado. Destroyed by fire. But this house is like carrying a child. You don’t know what will happen. Sometimes you carry that baby for 39 weeks and end up with an emergency c-section after almost 20 hours of labor. Other times, you have an uneventful scheduled c-section to deliver a breech daughter who ends up changing your life at her 9-month checkup. And then you vomit every single day with your third. And you go into labor, but choose a c-section, because your track record isn’t so great in the pelvic department. You are surprised with a precocious mite who most likely could have been born without help. But you’ll never know. Other times, you go to the hospital to return empty-handed. Empty-everything.
My house. My trees. My children. I can’t hang onto any of them with tight fists. They could be gone in an instant. All I can do is enjoy the time I have. We don’t know how long our kids will live, but we still do the mundane with the majestic. I could argue that we don’t know Adelaide’s life expectancy, so I’m going to keep her home and enjoy every second of her life. But I don’t. I have hope that she can learn new things everyday. I send her off to school, where they try to teach her to hold a crayon. Because holding a crayon isn’t a necessary life skill. But it’s worth knowing. Or at least having the opportunity to try to know it. And I don’t spend 12 hours a day holding Graham and Bess, even though they could both die at anytime. Because they need clean clothes and vegetables and books. We spend our days doing a hundred little things and a few big things.
And we planted trees. Not because I have the assurance of seeing them grow and bear fruit, but because I don’t have that assurance. None of us do. We planted trees to remind me everyday that it’s fleeting. But still worth it. There’s still hope in a 2016 that started with fireworks and onesies and then sputtered to an August Friday of remembering two children gone before they could breathe their first air.
Five trees. One for each of my children. My Mother’s Day gift to myself. A gift I’ve wanted for most of my life. But too afraid to risk loving something only to lose it. But February 1st showed me that I had done it and survived. I had lost something worth more than any tree. Any house. Anything this world offers and screams, “You want this! Go buy it!” I lost life. Children.
And Flannery’s tree has apples. I think they will be eaten by a bug this year and that’s fine. It’s fitting for her first fruits to be taken. It’s not the end of it all to lose some apples. Maybe it’s what I need this year. For Flannery’s tree to just be. But the trees are all staked and pruned and watered and lovely. This balance between caring for something that needs me and letting it just exist. Teaching a child to read, but mostly letting him play. Putting her in diapers just a bit longer, but making her put her pink cowgirl boots on the right feet. Taking a daily school photo before I push a wheelchair through double doors, when I would rather just soak her up every minute she’s awake.
I ordered tags for the trees. From a college friend’s wife. Because each tree belongs to one of my children. Graham mentioned that he wanted to take apples from Laurence & Flannery’s trees to their cemetery bench next year and have a picnic. I agreed that this was a fabulous idea. But I wanted to give the caveat: if the trees make it. And then hoped that the trees weren’t lost to disease or drought or neglect. Because Graham has lost so much this year. A six-year-old who fell in love with a Baby Bump. But I need to teach him that we take risks. We love when we aren’t given any promise that it will be returned. We speak to a girl who may not answer back. We replace kitchen cabinet doors when a house may not be standing next week. And we learn addition facts and how to use a screwdriver and brush our teeth. And we continue to love babies in the womb, even though there is always a chance to lose them. And even if you do, you still get up from that hospital bed and brush your teeth. And you brush them everyday. Even on August 26th. Because life keeps going.