Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Angel Day

The Wednesday before Christmas, was Andrew's "Angel Day." I still can't believe it has been a year.  It feels like it has been forever, but at the same time it seems like it all just happened yesterday.   
We were blessed with being in Wenatchee (near Andrew's grave) for this day, so we were able to visit it often.  Most of the pictures were taken during our visit on December 21st.  The kids each brought a flower and we got a little Christmas tree for the grave.
 I have been pondering a lot the last few weeks about what I have learned from this trial and what changes I need to continue to make in my life.   Our bedtime routine has taken a whole new meaning to  us.  If the kids ask for another book or another story, we have a hard time saying no.  Most the time they end up with a shorter story.  .
 I have thought a lot about how much Heavenly Father's hands were involved in blessing us with being Andrew's eternal family.  When Travis was only six or seven months old, both Eric and I had distinct impressions that our family was missing someone.  We were told again by multiple doctors that our chances of becoming pregnant were close to impossible.  We knew there was a baby out there that was meant to be in our family, so we felt like we needed to get approved for adoption again.  We officially got approved with LDS Family Services in May of '09, a few months before Eric started dental school.  

We got a call September 22nd that a birth mother had chosen us to parent her little boy who was due any day.  We were so excited and began waiting for more details, but we didn't hear anything for a few weeks and thought our new Birth Mom had changed her mind.  We got a call Monday, October 12th that she was in labor at the hospital and still on board for placement with us.  Our case worker asked me how quickly I could get to the Tri-Cities.  I left the kids with Eric's parents in Wenatchee, and Eric met me at the hospital (he was in Spokane in class).  We arrived shortly after his birth.  Andrew was such a perfect baby.  From the first time I held him, I knew he was ours and was meant to be in our family.  He had the chubbiest cheeks and the most perfect lips.

After Andrew's death, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet his birth mom.  She is one of the most beautiful people we have ever met, inside and out.  This visit revealed the Lord's hand in so many ways.  She didn't find out she was pregnant with Andrew until she had been beaten so badly by her boyfriend that she was admitted to the hospital.  She had two previous children with the same birth father and didn't feel like she could bring another child into the difficult and turbulent home that her children were already living in.  She was so selfless, even in that most difficult time that she chose what was best for Andrew over what she wanted.

As we visited with her, our hearts were deeply touched as she shared her story with us.  From her side of the story, she had some really special experiences that led her to LDS Family Services and then to our family.  She is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and she didn't know what LDS Family Services was until after she had given birth to Andrew.  Not long after she found out that she was pregnant, she was looking through the phone book for a salon for her sister, and she happened upon the phone number for LDS Family Services, and she immediately felt an impression that she needed to call the number and talk to them about adoption.  After returning to the number for several weeks, she called it soon met with a case worker.  Initially, she wanted the case worker to select a family for her to place with, but he provided her with a collection of adoptive family profiles and asked her to prayerfully select a family to adopt her expectant son.  As she read through the profiles, she said that she kept getting stuck at ours and kept feeling that our family would provide Andrew with the love that he deserved.  Her description of this experience made it really clear that she was being directly guided by guidance of the Holy Spirit in this decision.  In her words, there were many wonderful families that wanted to adopt, but ours was the one that was supposed to adopt Andrew.  Heavenly Father's hand was undoubtedly involved in bringing Andrew into our family.  One of the most touching parts of the visit with our hero, was when she told us about her experience in the hospital.

She said that even right after Andrew was born, she wasn't sure if she could go through with the adoption.  She already loved him deeply.  Being a mother was the joy of her life, and she wanted more than anything to hold Andrew, to hug him, and to bring him home.  She said that was all she wanted to do, and the nurse asked her several times, "do you want to hold him?".  Each time, she declined, but she wanted to hold him so badly.  She never held him, because she knew that if she held him, she would not be able to let go of him.  At last, the nurse told Our Hero that I had arrived and that she was going to take Andrew down the hall to meet his new parents.  One last time, the nurse asked if she would like to hold him.  Our Hero sat on her bed, having just delivered a beautiful baby, with the adoption case worker seated in front of her, waiting for signatures, and the nurse offering the chance to hold the baby whom moments earlier she had given birth to.  In that crucial moment, this exhausted, incredible woman chose to give Andrew what she knew she could not.  All she wanted was to hold him, but all she wanted for him was to have something better - this is why she is our hero.

Over the months our visit with her, we communicated by phone and text messages with our hero.  This communication was so special.  We felt as though we had connected with a long, lost family member.  Every time we talked to her or received a text from her, we treasured that contact.  Every time we think of her or talk of her, we are filled with deep and sincere gratitude, love, respect, admiration, and appreciation.  Some of our most special and heart-felt moments are when we ponder the selfless, eternal gift that she gave to our family.  She has changed our family forever.  The hardest part of this relationship currently is that we lost contact.  She moved just weeks after our visit, her phone number was changed, and her email address continues to be returned.  We will continue to pray that our contact will resume, but until then, we are so deeply thankful for the contact that we have had; this small window of time and communication has made us better people and a stronger family.  To Andrew's Birth Mom, Our Hero, We Love You!!!
I have been thinking a lot about "tender mercies" and one of the biggest ones is our Jared.  We can't get enough of him.  He has been so loved and appreciated and has helped each one of us in so many ways. We have been able to keep our arms full even with such a large hole missing in our hearts.  We feel that Heavenly Father took the hardest thing we could've ever imagined experiencing, and showed us in many ways that He loved us and He made it so we could endure it.  
We now have a picture of Andrew, Jesus, and a Temple in every room of our house.  We are constantly reminded of what is important in life.  It is because of Jesus' life and the promises we have made in the Temple, that we know we will be able to be with Andrew again.  There have been multiple times when I am frustrated or upset, and I look up at the wall and see Andrew smiling back at me and I am again reminded of what is important in life.  
People have asked us what they could do for us or what they do when someone they know is experiencing a similar loss, and we always say to love them.  Acknowledge them.  Give them a hug and just ask how they are doing.  We love talking about Andrew and appreciate anyone else who wants to.  I know, it is hard to know what to say.  Just say "sorry" or give them a hug.  Lots of people didn't know what to say to us, so they didn't say anything, and that made things more difficult at times.
We are so grateful for the love and kindness that has been shown to us.  I still go back and read the messages and notes that were sent to us during that difficult time.  Thank you for thinking of us.  Thank you for taking the time to write us notes or for saying prayers for our family.  We have appreciated you!
We have learned how much service helps to heal.  Soon after we got back to our house after Andrew died, we had some friends over for dinner and we shared our love of CrossFit with her. She said she wanted to get in shape, so I told her I would love to train her.  She started coming over and we decided it would be beneficial to open it up to more people.  We added to our home/garage gym and opened it up to three mornings a week for anyone interested.  So, instead of thinking about how hard life is and how much I miss our Andrew, I was able to research workouts and exercises.  Three days a week, I had to get moving and get our house cleaned up and workout with friends.  By serving these ladies, who we have now formed great friendships with, I was able to focus on others and not on myself and the pain I was feeling.  Thinking about others has been one of our greatest ways to not get swallowed up in grief.
My relationship with Eric has been strengthened and I have such a new appreciation for him.  He knows when to call me or when I need him.  He knows what to say and what to do.  Eric has become an even better Dad and husband.
I feel like life has lost some of its innocence.  I used to think nothing really bad could ever happen.  Now, if I don't hear Jared for a few minutes, sometimes the worst crosses my mind.  It is bad, but it is part of our new reality.

Releasing balloons to Andrew has helped Aubree, Tanner, and Travis imagine Andrew receive something from them.  They kiss the balloon and give him a message before they release it.  We love you, Andrew! 
We thank Heavenly Father everyday that he blessed us with being Andrew's parents.  He is the most perfect little boy.  He has taught us more in his short life than we have ever learned before.  He has helped us to become more like the people we need to become. 
We are so grateful for the amount of pictures we have of this little boy.  He is so precious and so perfect.  I wish I had more video, but I am so grateful for each little bit we do have.  
We have heard many times throughout the last year the quote, "I can do hard things."  Nothing puts life into true perspective like losing a loved one.  Nothing else really matters, but the Gospel and family.  We have learned to get rid of distractions from our lives (I can still remove a lot more).  We appreciate Jared pulling on us, wanting to be picked up.  We appreciate having to close the dishwasher so it doesn't get unloaded.  We appreciate the laundry that gets unfolded and all the food that gets thrown on the ground from high chairs.  We have learned to appreciate things differently.  Everyday we try to live worthy of raising Andrew someday.  It hurts everyday, but the knowledge that we will see our Buddy Boy again has comforted us so much.
I love what Eric posted on his Facebook wall on that day.  He puts his thoughts into words so well.

My heart is full of gratitude for the blessing of being the father of Andrew Josiah Nygard. Today is the one year anniversary of the day my precious son died.

Most of all, I am thankful for the knowledge that I have that I can be with him again. I don't usually proclaim my faith on Facebook, but today I feel compelled to share that I know that there is a God in Heaven. I know that He hears and answers prayers. I know that true and meaningful joy can be found through Our Savior - Jesus Christ. I know that He loves me and my family; we feel of His love daily. He has taken our hearts from being broken to being healed. The pain and sadness has been replaced with comfort, peace, joy, gratitude, and eternal hope. I know that one of the most loving and kind things the Lord has done for me is to let me have Andrew in my home for 14 months. Andrew is in my heart always, and he has changed the way I live my everyday life (although I still have a lot of things to improve on). I know that death is not the end of our being, but it is an essential step in each of our eternal progress. I know that I can be with my angel son again; the thing that remains to be seen is if I will live worthy of that eternal blessing. I love my angel son!
I have started watching the videos of Andrew with Jared.  He giggles and loves watching them.  They would be such cute buddies...


Adam & Brandi said...

Eric and Jenny, thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of your angel baby. Adalynn loved watching the video. I loved it too, I was smiling amongst all the tears. I think about your family more than you'll ever know. We love you all deeply. We are extremely sorry for your loss. Hope you have a wonderful day and and exceptionally good and memorable New Year.

Britty said...

Oh Jenny, I love reading all about Andrew. His smile! He was so cute. One of my best friends here lost her little 3-week old to SIDS right around when you did, and I sent her this post be because you have gained so much wisdom from this experience. You really do understand so much more than the average naive person. I loved hearing Andrew's birth story. What a happy time he had being a part of your family while he was here. He looked so happy. You are a wonderful example to me, and I really needed this dose of inspiration because 4 kids is killin me! I have been focusing on slowing down, and this post reinforced that. Love you so much and miss our BYU days! Say hi to the whole fam for me, too!

Stephanie B said...

I am amazed by your family's strength. You are amazing. Thanks for sharing your story and your testimony.

Cher said...

Thank you for sharing all of this. I love you so much.

knygard said...

The last photo of Andrew I think is my favorite I have seen of him. We have learned so much from Andrew. We have also learned so much watching the righteous way you and Eric have accepted Andrew passing and how you have taken his blessing to your family and given it as a blessing to others.

MelissaR said...

You guys are truly inspiring. I love the video of Tanner making Andrew laugh so hard he starts crying. It's such a treasure! Love you guys!

Katie said...

Thank you for sharing your story. Your family makes me want to be better. You guys are amazing.

kim said...

Thank you for sharing that with us, your life and experiences remind me to slow down and gives me the opportunity to remember what really matters. Just this week I was reading a conference talk with Isaac and Eliza "You Matter to Him" by President Uchtdorf. After reading it through I asked the kids what is it that we need to learn from this talk. They replied "our Heavenly Father loves us. No matter where we are or how lonely we are He loves us." I am grateful for the opportunity we have to be reminded of that message. He created us and truely love us. Thank you again for sharing.

Debbie said...

Jenny, I feel privileged to read your thoughts. You have learned amazing things thru this experience. I love you and Eric and all you have taught me.

Melanie said...

This is beautiful. Not a dry eye in the house.

Andrew's birth mom really was a hero and you guys were the perfect family for him to come to.

Thank you for continually reminding me of what is TRULY important in life.

I love you guys!

Toby and Tammy said...

Thank you for sharing. Love you guys.

TeaTree Photography said...

Thank you Jen and Eric!! Just recommitted myself to see the joy in the every day life. :)
Beautiful Boy!

netdera said...

hmm! nice family
may u live log

lorie said...

my last name is also nygard. my husband mother, father, and sister were born in finland. my husband also had a twin brother named eric who passed away when he was only one. i enjoyed seeing more nygards and wonder if we are related. sincerely lorie nygard from michigan