Beauty from ashes. That's what kept going through my head and heart as we pulled into Aurora, CO. This summer we had our staff conference in Ft Collins (the same reason we were there 2 years ago when Harrison was born). We decided if we were that close, we needed to go back to Harrison's birthplace.
I was nervous to go back honestly. It was such a dark time of my life, although obviously mixed with joy because it was when we first met our sweet son. But it is a place synonymous with such grief, such loneliness, such emotional turmoil that part of me was afraid of the flood of emotions that might come when we stepped foot in that place again. The Lord was very gracious and made it a very sweet day. Throughout the day I got texts from friends and family letting me know they were praying and that meant the world to know our time was being covered in prayer. One friend said she was praying that my heart would focus on the good the Lord has done and not the "what-ifs." And that is really where my heart was at- so thankful that was the case!
We were able to re-connect with our favorite nurses and went by the Ronald McDonald House as well- our home away from home! There were 4 main nurses that we were closest to- and we were able to see 3 of them. Such a blessing.
First we saw Al (pictured above) who was gracious enough to swing by our hotel to see us after he just worked a 12 hour shift! Al was probably the nurse we had most often and the one we have kept up with best these past 2 years. I'll never forget, during one of the roughest nights we had (when Harrison was placed back on the respirator), him seeing me weeping and tears filling his eyes as well. What kind people the Lord placed in our lives to care for our son! Al loved getting to see Harrison running all over and to see how big he had gotten. It makes me tear up even now, but when Al saw him during our visit he said "I remember those eyes!" With all the preemies he's cared for in the past 2 years, how special of him to say that!
After we visited with Al, we went over to the hospital to visit the NICU and see one of our other nurses who was on duty.
It was pretty surreal walking up to the hospital. Especially since we had to park right next to the helicopter pad I landed on! Somehow I wasn't bawling my eyes out as we walked past so many places with so many memories: the courtyard where I came and sat and got fresh air when i needed a NICU break; the parking lot where I wept as my dad drove me away from the hospital for the first time ("I don't even know where I am." I flew in at night so I'd never even seen the hospital or surrounding area. And now I was going to live here. And we were pulling away without my baby.); or the lobby where I had so many phone conversations filling in friends and family on how Harrison was doing; the pump room where I did LOTS of crying, grieving that I was sitting in a stupid, random, sterile room instead of holding my baby (ok I didn't go in the pump room this time, i just past the door!); the elevator where the "sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach" would always begin; the double doors we walked through each day, not knowing what news would be on the other side of them. As we reached the NICU desk I could no longer stop the tears. But I was thankful that the tears were overwhelmingly from feeling grateful. Look what God did here! We are back with our 2 year old son and he is doing perfect. More than I could have ever dreamed.
Here we are with Kim. You may remember but Kim is not only a preemie nurse but a preemie mom as well. Harrison was her first patient back from maternity leave as she had just had her son very early. Again, how kind of the Lord to cross our paths. It was such a help to know she could relate on the mom level and understand exactly what I was going through.
Two years before as we walked down that hallway hand in hand with Harrison in his carseat and his oxygen tank rolling behind, I couldn't wait to be home. But part of me also couldn't wait to be back one day to see this place that forever changed our lives. I left the hospital this trip with a very grateful and worshipful heart that we were able to come back. It was one of the most special days of my life. It was as if God was reminding my heart, "see, I am good, I was always good and I making beautiful things out of what seemed like it could never be beautiful."
Well we couldn't be back in Aurora without going to the Ronald McDonald House so we headed there next. We walked in and explained to the person working the desk that we had stayed there and introduced her to Harrison. It was so odd to have Harrison there with us this time- I had forgotten that he had actually never stayed there! Only Josh and I had! We went up to the 3rd floor and were able to go by our door, now occupied by another family, who I promptly prayed for!
Whew this room. The place where I hit my knees when I got scary news. The place where we had some of our hardest and some of the sweetest moments of our marriage. The place where I sat and read hundreds of cards from friends and strangers all over the country- oh how much those meant to us! The place where, lets be honest, I hated being most of the time and grumbled with the Lord for making me be there. But a place that has been redeemed now as I look back at it. Truly a home away from home, a safe place where we could process, be alone, have meals provided by volunteers and host family when they came in town.
And then we figured we needed a picture with the clown himself. Harrison did not approve. Thank you Lord for this ministry- how fabulous to not have to think about the details of where to live, what to cook, etc when your child is in the hospital!
Before we left Aurora, we had one more nurse to see. Lauren, our sweet nurse who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after Harrison was born. She was the one who told Josh on day one "We are damn good at what we do." They were and I can't tell you how much we needed to hear that at the moment she said it! I'll never forget Lauren stopping by one day when she wasn't scheduled to work. She was at the hospital getting her chemo treatments but stopped by to see how Harrison was doing. That's love people. And that's being damn good at your job. In the two years since we'd seen her the cancer had returned and she was recovering from a bone marrow transplant. Her diagnosis is good but join us in praying for her. What a joy to my heart to see her, the woman who gave Harrison his first bath and changed his itty bitty diapers, now chasing him around a hotel lobby two years later.
Beauty from ashes. It's really the best way I can describe what my heart experienced that day. Thank you Father that you love your children dearly and that, even when they can't see it, you are doing the work of redemption. (And thank you readers for your prayers! We are still so thankful and know he was one prayed for little boy!)