Okay, so let’s get back to the story.
Take a breath Nicole. You got this.
I’ve just buried my son; I’ve moved back to Ohio from Georgia; and my job was successfully transferred.The only thing left was for me to put my life together. How do I do that when just a month ago I was an active mother to the most precious baby boy there was? How do I just move on without his touch, hearing his coo, or smelling that fresh baby scent? How do I find joy when his laugh and smile gave that to me? I had to redefine life as a bereaved mother. Not an easy thing to do.
For a while, I just was whatever I was. Angry. Furious. Agnostic. Dark. Whatever I was feeling, I allowed that to play out because being optimistic was nauseating. I was not trying to hear anything optimistic about the trauma I just went through. I hated when people would tell me “God makes no mistakes (that is the worse thing you can say to someone who just a child)”, “Everything happens for a reason”, and “You can have more children (BURN- and yes people actually did say that to me). I was in pretty bad shape. I didn’t go out to do anything fun and I think I didn’t talk to my friends on the phone for about 2-3 months. I was depressed. I was lost without my baby. But I had to make a choice. I could continue to wallow in my pain, or try to move forward with my life. To be honest, that was a really hard decision because wallowing didn’t sound like a bad idea. To feel some sort of connection to my child, I visited his grave everyday for a few weeks. In the bitter cold in January, I only felt warmth being close to my son.
After a while, I returned to work and began looking for an apartment. Before I knew it, it was August 2008. This was the month where God placed two angels in my life, Kim and Nicole Murray. These two women are very near and dear to me as they have helped me find happiness, they made me laugh, and became an overall breath of fresh air. I am eternally in debt to them and their contribution to my life. Between the two of them, I started doing things that I had never done before. I traveled internationally, I tried different foods, and became aware of certain local and domestic social issues that my heart currently bleeds for.
My heart towards God hadn’t necessarily changed, but it didn’t get any worse. I just was existing. I didn’t care to get to know Him or engage in a relationship. But let me tell you how God works. Kim and her, now husband, Mark attended a church in Cincinnati known as Crossroads. During my undergrad program I had always heard of this church and wanted to visit but never got around to doing it. Well now, I had a friend who I trusted ask me to go to church with her. Not for any other reason aside from just asking casually. Slightly hesitant, I decided to go. I went to the church wondering and thinking “please don’t tell me how God doesn’t make mistakes and how I should embrace Him.” Guess what, quite the opposite happened. I went to Crossroads shortly after a girl died during a play performance they conduct every holiday season called “Awaited”. The feeling, although “spirit-filled”, was grim. I didn’t know what I was walking into.
The pastor, Brian Tome, began speaking about what happened and, although it wasn’t his daughter who passed away, he spoke with such passion, anger, and hope that had me captivated immediately. I remember him speaking about how he was mad at God because he didn’t understand why this had to happen and he also spoke to the feelings of the parent of the girl who died. I had never heard a pastor be so honest and open about his feeling towards…God that it made me feel validated for how I felt. But how could this be? Was God okay with me being mad at Him? Does this mean that I won’t go to hell? Brian’s honestly, completely wiped the slate clean for me with everything I thought I knew about God. I had to start over. So I did RESET.
RESET was a six-week journey that the entire church was doing at the time that tackled important topics about who God was, what kind of man Jesus was, and proof of his existence. During that six-week period my other friend, Nicole, and I grew very close as we were in the same group. I was blown away at this new concept of being in a relationship with God. I always thought God was at the top of the pyramid and we had to follow the hand book (Holy Bible) as is without question and God picked who He loved more based upon the good deeds they did. I had no idea that a relationship with God was to be as honest as my relationship with my husband. This new way of viewing God helped me to mend my differences and start a real relationship with Him. From this I became more active in the community, I created new relationships, and I went to South Africa where my point of view on being a mother changed forever.
I traveled to Mamelodi, South Africa for 10 days during a mission trip with Crossroads, my new church. As excited I was about going to South Africa, I was also nervous about the overall experience. I have heard from so many people who have attended South Africa say that it changes you and you are never the same when you come back and I was intimidated by what that meant. Change how? What am I going to see that will change me so much? I found out the answer as soon as we landed. When we went into the airport we were immediately greeted by our partner church with music and dancing. I had never seen anything like it and I was still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I was on a different continent away from my family in a place where the smoke of apartheid was still apparent. I was going crazy on the inside. Why did I sign up for this? I want to go back home where things are “normal”.
We stayed at a beautiful resort that had wild game on the premises and rosters; the food was amazing and…different, but delicious; and the accommodations were very comfortable. Each day was a different task that began with morning worship. There was so much I’d seen that I don’t know if I could put it all in this single blog post. I may have to do a blog series just about my trip to South Africa.
Along with seeing beautiful people who loved God so much live in 10X10 huts they called home; seeing people go through trash everyday; witnessing children walk around using plastic 20 oz. bottles as shoes or barefoot; and lines as long as Target on Black Friday to receive medical attention, my heart changed. I changed. These people have less than I do and still praise God anyway. How? Why? I’d seen people with horrible medical conditions and went into the houses of people who were dying of HIV and had no option for treatment. Yet, here I am with my broken heart and they are still so happy and full of life. How do I get back to that place? Well the start of that place started with a little girl named Khesani. A little girl who I will remember for the rest of my life.
I was in a place where I made up in my mind that I didn’t want to have children. Apart of me did, but I couldn’t imagine possibly going through another loss like that. Therefore, it was best that I didn’t have anymore children and just spoil my nieces and nephews as if they were my own. On the very last day of our trip, we had this big gathering and service with all the people we worked with that lived in South Africa for a final farewell. It was if my heart was a magnet because as soon as this sweet baby girl walked through the door, it was as if my soul connected to her and I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. I ask her caretaker if I could hold her and she allowed me to the entire service. She was so sweet and calm. It was as if she knew I was going to hold her. It was the first time I had held a baby since I lost my son, which was 2 ½ years before the trip. As I was holding her I felt this sense of familiarity and comfort that I remembered so well. And as I was holding her, tears from my eyes fell freely. Almost without me knowing. As clear as someone who was talking to me to my face, I heard:
“You can do this again Nicole. You will be a mom again and everything will be okay. Don’t be afraid. I have never left you and I never will.”
As the service ended and it was time for me to return Khesani back to her caretaker, I couldn’t help but to ask about her mom. The caretaker proceeded to tell me that Khesani was an orphan and her mom had died a week ago from HIV. As if my heart couldn’t break any further. Her mom was the same age as me. So you see, Khesani lost her mother and I lost my child, and both of our broken hearts gave each other the comfort needed from our loss if only for a moment. I know she doesn’t remember me and I even tried to adopt her. But in case we ever find each other again, I want to let the world know that it is because of Khesani and her pure heart, having Calvin became possible.