Tage Monroe

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Tage Monroe

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Tage Monroe

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Author/s: Molly Monroe


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Letter to Tage from Mommy

Dear Tage,

I can’t possibly find the perfect, concluding words to say to you in this final letter.  But I don’t think it will be my final letter, actually, because I think that you have made such an impact on me that I will be writing to you for years to come.  So here is what I want to say to you today, my love.

Today, I imagine you as a little four year old boy.  You and I are walking along the streets of our neighborhood, stopping to pick up good walking sticks or to look at a cool bug or to throw some rocks in the pond.  We are talking about life and bugs and sticks, and like all curious little kids, you are asking me about a thousand questions that all start with the word, “Why?”

I feel like that same little four year old today, buddy.  My world has been shattered, and as I look at all the little pieces I still hold in my hands, I have so many questions that start with “why” and so many wonderings that I would love to ask our Heavenly Father.  For instance…

I don’t know why you were even sick in the first place.  I don’t know why you had to be the baby whose mitochondria didn’t work correctly, and therefore your brain tissue started to die, and therefore you couldn’t smile at us, babble and coo at your grandparents, reach out for toys with our friends, sit up and play with your aunts and uncles, or try to crawl after Marty and his waggly tail.  I don’t know why we had to spend days with you in the hospital with tubes in your nose and IVs in your tiny, little arms.  I don’t know why you didn’t get to enjoy all the yummy flavors this world has to offer, and instead, we fed you through a plastic tube.  I don’t know why this disease, the one you had, does not have a cure.

I don’t know why you’re gone.  We just left your body at the cemetery a few hours ago, and it seemed so wrong to leave you there and drive away from you.  It seems so wrong that you haven’t been in your nursery these past few mornings just waiting for me to come and pick you up and looking at me with the brightest and deepest blue eyes I have ever seen, with that sparkle in them that was the closest thing to a smile you ever gave us.  It seems so wrong to have to put away all of your toys, seats, and swings, to take your car seat out of our car and put it up in the attic.  It seems so wrong to not get to hold you anymore, to kiss your squishy lips and smell your sweet scent, my baby’s scent.  The only place that still smells like you is your “puppy bed” where you spent so much time in these final days, and I dread the day that I bend down and breathe in only to find your scent has faded.

I don’t know why you were taken so soon before we could make the memories we wanted.  It seems wrong that we didn’t even get to show you Christmas tree lights – you would have loved their bright, sparkly twinkles.  It seems wrong that we won’t get to celebrate your first birthday and watch you smear cake all over your face.  It seems wrong that we won’t get to go hunting for bugs and sticks to make swords or that we won’t run next to you down our street as you learn to ride a bike or that we won’t take your picture on the front step on your first day of Kindergarten.

I don’t know why we don’t get to see you grow up.  We won’t get to practice your spelling words with you at the kitchen table, chaperone your field trips or watch you play sports or leave on your first date.  There are thousands of things we won’t get to do here with you, Tage, thousands of questions I have for Jesus when I see Him face to face someday, thousands of things that I just don’t know…

But in the midst of all the whys, and the hurt, and the deep ache in my heart today, my sweet boy, I want you to know that there are many true things I do know.

I know that you are the greatest gift I have ever been given.  From the moment I knew you existed, I loved you.  I loved carrying you for nine months and awaiting your arrival with such joy and expectation.  I loved getting to finally hold you in my arms 12 hours after you were born and to feel the deepest sense of love and safety I had ever known as I held you close to my heart for the first time while a knot formed in my throat.  I could barely contain myself.  I knew that I would forever protect you and defend you and sacrifice myself for you.

I know that I loved rocking together in your room in the middle of the night, listening to your tiny sighs, catching little glimpses of your sleepy eyes as you would open and close them and soaking up the moments of just you and me.  I loved praying over you during those quiet mid-night meetings, knowing Jesus was right there with us smiling in those moments, too, and that my mom, your Muv, was watching us proudly.  I know you’ve met her by now.  Isn’t she the best?  She was the one who taught me what love is in the first place.

I know that I have learned more about God because of you, Tage.  I see how He loves us now, with the deep and over-flowing love of a parent.  I see that just how you were not able to do anything to make us love you more (no smiles, no noises, no silly interactions, nothing to brag about that would make other parents jealous), we still loved you more than ourselves, more than we can even express.  You did nothing that would make us love you more or less.  We just loved you with everything we had because you were ours.  And that is how the Lord feels about me, and about everyone on this earth.  He doesn’t care if we’re looking at Him or not, loving Him back or not, doing things for Him or not…He loves us because we are His.  And nothing we do could make Him love us more or less.  He loves me like that, and He loves you like that, Little Tager Tot.

Most of all, my baby, I know that because of this love of God’s, this is not the end of the story.  Of our story.  He doesn’t want to be separated from us, His children, either, so He made a way for us to spend eternity with Him.  He sent His first child, a son, Jesus, to die for us, to bridge the gap between our sin and His perfect love.  It was the greatest gift He could possibly give us.  And all we have to do is except the gift.  We don’t have to smile at Him, coo and babble at Him, or do anything that would make Him more proud of us.  We just accept it, because He can’t help but love us.  We are His kids.

I know that while I ache for you, Tage Thomas, I WILL see you again.  I don’t understand all the details of what’s to come, but I do know that Jesus is making all things new.  When He returns to earth, death will raise it’s white flag.  He will defeat death, and it will be no more.  He will restore this broken earth to way it was meant to be, and He will live among us.  We have never known anything like the joy we will have on that day!  Heaven will be here, because Jesus will be here.  There will not be sickness, or crying, or lonliness, or anything sad.  The Bible tells us that He will make a new heaven and a new earth…none of this floating on a cloud stuff with spirit bodies.  No, we will have new bodies that work perfectly, and the earth will be more beautiful than we could ever imagine with none of the bad stuff like weeds, carcasses, and abandoned buildings.  The Bible says that our minds couldn’t even imagine what all God has in store for us on that day.  Oh, how I long for that day, Tage.

I know that on that day, I will hug you again, my boy.  And we can go off on the adventures we didn’t get to have here, only they will be better.  Better sticks.  Cooler bugs.  Greater adventures.  And it won’t be just you and me, but we’ll be with all the people we love who love Jesus, too.  I probably won’t even care to ask Jesus all my questions, because it will all become clear in that moment.

Oh, that moment.  Yes, I grieve. I miss you, Tage, more than I can bear.  I don’t know how I will make it for decades to come without you.  It seems like it will be forever until I see you again.  But we do not grieve as those who have no hope.  Our hope is in Jesus, and because of Jesus, I WILL see you again.  Yes, we lost you down here, but you are not lost.  We know right where you are.

So, tell Muv I say hi.  Tell Jesus thank you.

I love you, Tager.

I’ll see you soon, Buddy.

Love, Mommy

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Faith: Doing the Hardest Things


“I just have so much I’m carrying,” I sobbed as I looked up into the counselor’s kind face.

“What are you carrying?” he asked.

I ejected the contents of my heart all over him. “Well, I’m avoiding going back to places for the first time without Tage because it feels like a hot iron poking an already bleeding wound, and I hate those moments. And, I have a constant, pressing fear that my pregnancy days are over, and I’m just not sure I can handle that because I want babies more than anything, and we don’t know where we stand with other options, but I have my first OB appointment since Tage died on Tuesday, and I just don’t want to go in there with all the pregnant people. And then soon, I’ll start a part-time summer nanny job hanging out with a couple kids while their parents work, but I thought those days ended last March when Tage was born, and I don’t like that I’m in the my thirties still babysitting other people’s kids, but I know I need something to fill my time. And recently, a large part of my church community changed churches, when I need my community now more than ever, and I don’t feel like there is a place where Josh and I fit right now on Sundays or in social circles. Then, in ten days, I am taking a five day trip to meet my sister’s new baby boy who was born three days after Tage’s first birthday, and I’m not sure I can handle seeing him, because when she announced she was pregant, Josh and I thought it would be the first dad/son home alone weekend, and I could go help my sister and tell my nephew all about Tage, and then return to Tage. I just know there will be so many hard parts of that trip, not to mention the continual heartache I feel over the boy I miss so terribly much which clings so tightly to me all the time. Oh, and I am more than likely going back to teaching next fall, which makes me angry that I have to make this decision at all because all I wanted to do (and what I was sure I would be doing) was to stay home with Tage — I LOVED being home with Tage — but I have to tell them by next Friday.”

Perhaps a bit shocked by the overwhelming list, he raised his eyebrows and said, “Wow, that’s a lot.” Then, a second later he added, “So what are you going to do about going back to teaching?”

Of all the things on the list, I was floored he’d picked that one.

“Umm, well, I know I probably should go back because being at home alone all day leads me to a dark place really fast. But I’m just so mad that I have to go! I thought when I turned the lights off in my classroom on that final Friday, I was saying goodbye to a job-job and hello to the job of motherhood, which is what I had wanted more than anything all along! I just can’t believe he’s gone now, and I have to make this decision. I don’t know if I can handle being around other peoples’ kids all day and returning phone calls from “concerned” parents over their child’s A-. I think I’d wanna say, ‘Well your son is alive, so be grateful and who cares about a freaking A-!?’ ”

He pointed to the tissues on the table beside me, and I realized that my face was soaked, covered with thick tears of grief. Okay, so maybe I needed to talk with a counselor more than I thought.

After blowing my nose, I looked back up at him to see what he’d say to me as I sat emotionally filleted before him.

He leaned his face forward a bit and looked me straight in the eyes. Then, gently but firmly he said without hesitation, “Molly, You need to go back to work.”

If it was anyone else, I would’ve been fuming because how dare they say that to me! But my counselor knows a thing or two about grief: he lost his wife and daughter in a car accident some years ago. I know he gets it. I trust him.

He went on to explain how he slowly crept back into work after his losses, how it forced him to get back into society and to give his time and attention to something other than grief all day. It made sense, but dang it, I just didn’t want to. This was not part of my plan. Like, at all.

This week, I read a powerful part of scripture. Many have heard the verse Jeremiah 29:11:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

What a powerful promise in the midst of suffering. But what makes it even more amazing is what comes in the verses just before it. Jeremiah, God’s appointed spokesman, wrote this letter to the people held captive in Babylon:

The Lord Almighty, the God is Israel, sends this message to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food you produce. Marry, and have children. Then find spouses for them, and have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held captive, for if Babylon has peace, so will you…the truth is that you will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

How much more powerful Jeremiah 29:11 is to me when I read the verses before it! God SEES the people in their plight as slaves to their enemy, and He knows how they suffer. Yet, He tells them that in the midst of the suffering, they must not stay curled up in the fetal position and let their lives come to a grinding halt until the disaster has passed. Instead, He urges them to keep living life: to find a home, to do work that will provide for their needs (food), to have children and grandchildren, to work to make their current city or circumstances better in whatever ways they can, and to pray for that which holds them captive!

Which means He urges us to do the same thing, to keep living our daily lives in the midst of the suffering, to cultivate a life in the midst of disappointments, to pray about the areas where we are held captive, to do these hardest things.

I can imagine how angry the people may have felt when they heard this from the Lord. I’m sure they didn’t want to think about staying in their current situation for long, let alone for 70 years! I’m sure they wanted to wrap up this suffering as soon as possible, not to plant food and plan to stay and settle in there for a while! I’m sure they, like me, often shouted, “But this is not what I had planned for my life, Lord!”

And God’s response to all of us is, “I understand your confusion, dear one, but I know what I am working in your life, even with this pain. My plans are good plans that will prosper you, bring you hope and a good, good future. I know what I’m doing with this hardship, and it has an explicit purpose and a known end point. I know exactly when that is, and I will not allow even one excessive hurt to press you. I am creating something in you that you wouldn’t imagine. Can you believe Me?”

[Deep breath. Exhale.]

So, I’m working on doing the hardest things in the midst of this season of disappointment and broken dreams and sorrow. I’m planting seeds for the future while I wait for God’s good plans to unfold.

To start, I chose to sub for the last three months of the school year. On my first day back, I walked in the front office, and our precious secretaries said, “Hi Molly! It’s so nice to see your face! You get to come sign in over here now with the subs!” I about bawled right there, but I held it together. I walked into my old classroom, knowing the last time I’d been in there, Tage was with me, and he napped on the floor while I cleaned out my stuff. It was HARD. But the second day was much better.

I went to the OB full of anxiety and dread, but was delighted to see they’d remodeled, and the place looked completely different! (I guess change CAN be a good thing…sometimes.) The new nurse asked me how many pregnancies I’d had. Two. And how many births? One. Oh, and how old is that child now? Well, he passed away in November. And all the emptiness came rushing over me, and I failed to hold in my tears. Then, she cried with me, which assured me that this is all very sad. I cried some more when my doctor came in and talked with me for over 30 minutes. She cried with me, too. It was HARD. But the second visit was better, even when I heard the sound of the baby’s heart beat in the room next door. Ugh, HARD.

I have also been hanging out with two boys this summer. I dreaded the first day of that, too, afraid that all summer with them I’d be thinking about last summer with Tage and wishing so desperately that I could have had this summer with him, too. It was HARD. But, luckily for me, they had renovated a large part of their house this year, so it looked like a new space, too! And I have noticed a huge difference in my daily moods while staying busy with them during the days. It’s been really, really helpful.

I did go meet my new nephew, Ollie. I could write a whole post on just that. I started crying when we were 10 minutes outside of Duluth. I cried every night when I went to bed because little baby boys are my favorite, and I miss mine, and Ollie has the greatest big smile that Tage never did, and my sister, Marylou is an incredible mom and I’m just so sad that I can’t be for her what I had always dreamt I’d be able to be for her at this time in her life, and I grieve that our boys won’t be growing up together and a million other things like that. The pain is just too much for me sometimes. It was and is HARD. But she has been so gracious and loving toward me, and Ollie is the cutest little guy with the silliest grins that make all of us smile. They are coming to visit in July, and it will be hard and also so, so good. I can’t wait to hold Ollie and show him pictures of his cousin, Tage, and I’ll probably cry because it’s SO HARD, but Ollie won’t remember my tears, so it’s okay.

And I am going back to teaching 5th grade in the fall. It is certainly not part of my plan. But as I’ve seen my compassionate co-workers and the kind families that I teach, and as I’ve gotten to have an intentional season of grief, and as I’ve seen the benefits of having a summer job (just like my counselor told me), I think he’s absolutely right. It is good to go back to work. It is HARD. But it is good.

Because I’m learning that the HARDEST things are the necessary things. They are part of obeying God by actively and intentionally cultivating a life — my life — even when it is not going the way I had planned.

So, I’m slowing doing the hardest things, because He says they are beneficial things to do. Because this is not the end of the story. Because I’m choosing to trust He really does know the plans He has for me, and that they are plans for good and not for disaster, plans to give me Hope and a blindingly bright future.







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Grace and Manna

I’ve tried to get rid of the sorrow.

I’ve tried an array of manmade remedies that might dull the pain: sleeping the day away, vegging in front of a screen, liquid in a long-stemmed glass, treating myself to lavish purchases I had never allowed until now. Let me assure you: they don’t work.

Sure, there is a small exhilaration in the short moment, but Tage is still gone. I might forget about the ache for a few minutes, but it always returns, and I usually feel guilty when it does that I tried to block him out for a second. I don’t want to block him out. I just want him back.

But he’s not coming back, we are starting to realize that now that the crowds have gone home.

I usually wake up in the mornings and cry that we have to live another day without him, and then I go about my day doing all sorts of time-consuming-nothings, and then comes the night. The nights are the hardest. The dark and the quiet both seem to lend themselves to reflection and thinking…

I hate the dark and the quiet, the time of the day when our shield comes down and the truth of our grief comes seeping in slowly until we are all but drowning in it.

It’s at night when I miss Tage most, because I feel like I’ve been away from him all day and it should be time to come home and see him. But he’s not there. So, every night as I struggle to fall asleep, I pull out my phone and silently look through every single picture of him I have on it, and I ache that he’s not here but then I smile because he was just the sweetest, most wonderful gift I have ever received. And every night, I silently cry. I’ve become a really good silent crier, so that I don’t wake Josh.

It was a few days ago, as I was scrolling through those pictures with tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat, that I asked God one more time, “How am I going to live for 60 more years without him?”

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before. I don’t know what that means though. I don’t understand how You will be enough.

He answered me through a note in mail.

The note came from Deborah (name changed to protect her privacy), a woman in our church. I was opening cards at our kitchen table and reading them out loud to Josh, and I opened Deborah’s card and started to speak her first sentence, “Sixty-four years ago this month, I lost my middle son at the age of one month and three weeks.”

I couldn’t keep reading until I composed myself again.

Now, I’m not suggesting that trying to “top” someone’s story of grief is the best way to console them. But that’s not what Deborah was doing. Deborah’s story was like a salve for me. She’s made it. Lovely Ms. Deborah has continued going after losing her less than two-month old son for these last sixty-four years.

How did she do it? How will I do it?

“My grace is sufficient for you, Molly.” Yes, Lord, I hear You. But what does that look like? How do I experience your grace in my life through this?

Again, God didn’t answer me right away. He left that question of mine hanging in the air, and I trusted that He would answer it when it would be best.

And then later this week, I came across this verse in Exodus 16 where it talks about how God provided a special food, called manna, for the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for 40 years:

Each morning everyone gathered as much (manna) as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.

And then just like that, I got it.

Just like He did for the Israelites in the desert every day for forty years, God is providing just what I need for each day right now. Not more, not less. Just enough for each day. Just enough for today.

I don’t have to worry about figuring out the next sixty years right now, because, once again, He’s got this.

People have wondered how we’re not falling completely apart right now, how we are able to get out for a little each day, how we are able to smile or laugh at times, how we are able to continue looking to Him. It’s completely, 100%, without-a-doubt because He’s provided what we needed each day.

I’m not saying that we don’t cry, because oh we do. We are so much more introverted right now that we have ever been because we are very, very sad and constantly exhausted and grieving. I just finished another sob-fest in Tage’s empty nursery while rocking in his chair. It hurts. We hurt. But we don’t despair because He keeps reminding us that He’s still got it. He’s got what we need to get through today. Not more. Not less. His grace, His presence, His love…it really is sufficient. It is enough. HE is enough for us to get through this awful, awful reality.

I never got that until now.

Today, I looked at the rest of that verse, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

He has not taken our pain away, but we are discovering that His grace is truly sufficient. We are completely weak, and yet, we sense His power working in us in ways that can only be Jesus.

It’s not a bad place to be at the end of our rope, because in our weakness, He can step in in great power, incomprehensible power. I never thought I could be strong enough to survive the death of a child, but I never needed to…until now. God didn’t have to give us the strength to do it, until now. Now, we’ve asked Him to come. You’ve prayed for Him to be near to us, to give us a “peace that passes understanding, a hope for the future, a supernatural strength.” And He is doing just that. Right alongside the pain.

This is what He means when He says His strength is made perfect in our weakness, what it means when He says He is near to the broken-hearted, what it means when He says He will never leave us or forsake us.

Here is the truth we can claim in Jesus Christ according to 2 Corinthians 4:7-9:

“…this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I don’t know how He does it, but He really is giving us what we need each day. Just enough peace to prevent us from completely freaking out, just enough laughter that we’re not consumed by the tears, just enough snail mail to remind us that we’re not alone, and just enough comfort through His Words to remind us that He isn’t lying when He says His grace, like manna, is sufficient for us.

Molly Monroe

About

I love stories about people.

I love stories about what God does in and for and through His people.

But I never expected that grief would be such a part of God’s story with me.

In 2009, I lost my mom (and best friend) to melanoma cancer. I was only twenty-four at the time, and it completely rocked my world.

In 2012, my husband, Josh, and I lost our first child due to a miscarriage. In 2014, we lost our 8-month-old son, Tage, to a rare metabolic disease called Leigh’s Disease. It is still rocking my world.

Yet despite the pain, God’s presence is more present than it ever was before.

As Tage’s illness progressed, I started a CaringBridge site to keep our loved ones informed. I always tried to write truthfully and vulnerably. I wanted to point people to God. There were over 20,000 views to our CaringBridge page during this season and hundreds of Facebook messages telling us how Tage’s story was impacting their lives in big ways. God-sized ways.

During the outpouring of love at Tage’s funeral, many people encouraged me to continue writing, and so, I will continue to share my story, here, in this space. I humbly invite you to pull up a chair and join me. Questions, doubt, trust, faith, joy, sorrow, uncertainty…it is all welcomed here.
You are welcome here.

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Check it out at mollymonroe.com

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