Our girl turned 15 years old last week. I remember the day she was born vividly. I remember how thrilled we were to have a girl…and we weren’t the only ones! When we got settled in the labor and delivery room at UCLA on September 9, 2002, an adorable nurse came bouncing in and said with a clap of her hands “So, what are we having today?” to which I replied “We don’t know, we like to be surprised and we have two boys at home who can’t wait to find out too.”…”WAIT! You already have two boys and you don’t know what this baby is??”…the anticipation in the whole room heightened at that point. Rolf took a picture of me holding Olivia just moments after she was born and that same nurse was captured in the background of the snapshot with a big smile and tears streaming down her face. Ha Ha! It was hard for even the nurse to NOT get caught up in our joy over Olivia’s arrival. 🙂 I knew that day that Olivia would be a special addition to our family…but I certainly could not have imagined the many ways her “specialness” would be demonstrated in her young life so far. The courage, poise and transparency she displayed at Rudy’s funeral standing alone at the podium sharing stories about her little brother was a perfect snapshot of how Olivia navigated life with Rudy too. Her young spirit continues to be tested and she continues to emerge with a beauty and strength of faith that inspires and amazes us. I am so grateful for our girl.
Rolf, Olivia and I had our first counseling session and I’m grateful for the opportunity we’re having to do it together. I’m sure as our journey through grief continues, there may be times we seek individual counseling but, for now, it feels right to be together. I think it’s good for Olivia to watch Rolf and I process our grief openly and I think it’s good for Rolf and I to not only hear where her heart is at but to hear what’s being spoken into her life as well (not in a smothering, controlling way but as quiet observers with a big picture perspective). A significant observation pointed out to Olivia by the counselor in our first session was that Rudy taught her her capacity to love (and, as a side note, how important that will be as the boys start to come around). The side note was shared with a smile but it did get me thinking. It’s true. I do believe Rudy revealed to all of us our capacity to love and I pray this has a lasting impact on the big sibs for sure. They have learned through their experience with Rudy to love unselfishly and deeply (and also what a valuable gift that is to give) and this will serve them well as they mature in their understanding of love, maybe meet the loves of their lives and, God willing, have children of their own someday.
But I also believe that part of understanding our capacity to love is recognizing that we are, at the same time, lovable. Being people of faith and trusting in the unconditional love of God, Rolf and I purposed to teach our kids from day one that they are loved by God for no other reason than simply who they were created to be. From the very moment they were conceived and came into being, (before they could do anything to deserve it) they were loved by God and, therefore, are lovable. As parents, we try to demonstrate that kind of love to our kids but we’re human and we do it clumsily. Rudy, however, was great at it and I would often say to the big sibs “How does it feel to be so completely adored?”. As Rolf shared at the funeral, Rudy didn’t love with his mind as much as he loved with his heart and his soul and he had special ways of communicating his love that were more often than not directed toward his big sibs. Rudy adored his three siblings because of who they were at their core…”core to core love” is the only kind of love Rudy knew how to express and in doing so, we all learned how deeply we could love another.
Of course, with a deep capacity to love comes a deep capacity to hurt which is where we are now. There are lessons to be learned in the pain of grief but it’s hard to see them now…those lessons will come into focus someday down the line. For now, though, my prayer is that we all recognize that as we confront the pain we’re carving out an even greater capacity to love and, I pray, we find comfort in the fact that core to core love doesn’t end no matter the distance.
Warning: I know post mortem photographs are uncomfortable for a lot of people so I’ll post the following picture far below so you need to scroll down if you want to see it. I know it’s sensitive and and I know it’s sacred which is why I’m sharing it. Sometimes, to avoid discomfort is to miss a beautiful moment…in this case, a picture of what one’s deep capacity to love looks like. This picture was taken in the SB mortuary…it was the first time the big sibs saw Rudy after he was taken away from the ER in Oklahoma the morning he died. It was a difficult outing…I don’t think any of them wanted to be there particularly but Rolf and I felt it was important they see Rudy once before his viewing a couple of days later. It was hard but they did it…they pushed through their fear and their discomfort and took full advantage of the opportunity. Olivia made Rudy a friendship bracelet and when I asked her if she wanted to give it to the mortician to put on him, she said she wanted to do it herself. So, with Wilson’s help gently lifting Rudy’s arm so she could easily wrap it around Rudy’s wrist and with Max watching close behind, all three partnered in one last expression of love toward Rudy. It was magnificent. A moment I’ll never forget.
Please keep praying for us friends. It sounds so selfish (and so needy) but we need God’s restorative power now more than ever…Rolf and I, especially, continue to battle lack of sleep, numbness, inability to focus. All to be expected, I know, but nonetheless challenging to navigate. Thank you!!!