A Grandmother’s Story: Dear Chrissie

I’ve been struggling to write this holiday season. I have a bunch of posts that are half-written random streams of consciousness. Hopefully, I’ll have something to post before year-end. I’ve also been taking a reprieve from social media the past few weeks to reset my brain and help with saying goodbye to 2016. In the meantime, Mom is here today with a new post to take us into Christmas this weekend.  -Christina


Christmas is a few days away. Many families are hurrying to finish their last-minute decorating, shopping and baking. Some kids are mailing their “Dear Santa” letters in hopes that their special toy will be under the Christmas tree. In many homes, families are watching traditional television classics such as “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “Scrooge”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “The Christmas Story”. (The latter is one of my favorite movies).

Another yearly tradition that you begin to see on television are our military personnel in surprising reunions with their families. Whether these reunions are depicted in a commercial or shared during a newscast, they are heart-warming and make you realize how precious family are. These are the times when I think most of you, Christina, and a grandson, taken so early. This is why it would be apropos to write this blog to my daughter because there’s nothing more important to me right now but my Chrissie!

During my pregnancy with Christina, my OB-GYN thought I was going to have a boy. When she arrived, it was a different story. Originally, I had thought of the name “Christopher” because of Warren Christopher, the former U.S. Secretary of State. He was instrumental in securing the freedom of 52 Americans hostages in Iran in the 1980s. At the time, I lived in Milwaukee and one of those hostages was a Wisconsinite. I recall several people tied yellow ribbons around trees to signify support of their release. I drove my parents nuts when I decided to tie a yellow ribbon around a newly planted birch tree in our front lawn.

Early on during the pregnancy, I had told my adopted mother that I was going to name my baby after Warren Christopher. Of course, it truly was a different outcome when you arrived and they handed you to me. So, when the doctor asked what name to give you, “Christopher” became “Christina”. I was still very adamant that I was keeping the name “Chris”, but I simply called you, “Chrissie”.

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Me and my Mom, I think around 1983. This photo was taken at my “happy place”, Walt Disney World, as we were waiting for a parade.

To my precious Chrissie,

Thanksgiving has come and gone. We survived! Life goes on. I was relieved to see the wonderful turkey and all the fixins’ you and Brett made. You have been making strides during these couple of months.

Now, it’s Christmas.

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A Grandmother’s Story: My Journey in the Wilderness

Sorry I’ve been away for so long. It’s been more than 2 weeks since the last post. Been struggling with a few things so haven’t felt up to writing either physically or emotionally. Hopefully, I can catch up this weekend to get some thoughts down. In the meantime, my Mom has patiently waited for me to post her most recent piece. Thanks Mom! ~Christina

“Wilderness,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary is defined as a wild, uncultivated, uninhabited area, undisturbed by human activity. Oxford English Dictionary describes it as “an inhospitable region.”

Years ago, when I first came to America, I experienced this type of “wilderness,” when I lived in Alaska for several years with my biological father and his family. I was around 9 years old. Even though we lived inside a military base, the areas surrounding us, were uncultivated and uninhabited. We were surrounded by wilderness with acres after acres of evergreen trees, which during wintertime, especially after a snowfall, looked like lovely white Christmas trees. The homes and buildings looked magical with frozen water freezing mid-stream, forming icicles around the edges and from the rooftops. It was beautiful.

During the weekends, my father would take me to the wilderness, probably for two reasons. One to enjoy nature and also to teach me several lessons, such as fishing, dangers with wildlife and active listening. We would get into his two-door VW bug. As he drove, he would tell me to stay near him and he would say, “It’s beautiful here but it’s dangerous to be out by yourself, so stay close, listen to me, or you will become an appetizer for a bear!”

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Papa McKing out fishing in the Alaskan wilderness

When we got to our destination, he would strap on his holster, a gun on each side of his hips, fishing poles in one hand and a bucket in the other. Sometimes, I wondered if he was even familiar with some of the places he took me. But, he just seemed to know what to do. On one trip, he taught me how to shoot his pistol and shotgun. He said, “You’ve got to be prepared, just in case you need to help keep our family safe.” (I was the eldest of his three children).

A serene stream was a few yards away from our car. He would teach me to fish for trout or salmon. Sometimes we would go by the rocky beachside to catch clams, crabs or other shellfish. We would clean whatever we caught during the trip right where we were, if the weather permitted. We would cook our catch over boiling seawater and open flames. No need to get a permit from the KOA. Nope. It was as open as it could be. I loved it! I have never tasted fish and seafood like that since leaving Alaska. You’ve heard of the famous Alaskan King Crabs? They are large and delicious. It’s become a family favorite. Some crabs are larger than myself. (Another story). It was peaceful and quiet, the sound of your breath would often be deafening. Sometimes, I would think to myself that I would scare off the fish. I was just so young and naive. What did I know? My dad taught me which berries were edible. My young siblings and I loved to pick them off the tiny shrubs. No need to wash them, my father said. It’s all natural. To this day, I remember how delicious those wild salmonberries, red currants, cranberries and wild blackberries tasted. However, my father was always nearby, carefully fishing or cooking our catch, and keeping a keen eye on us, reminding my siblings and I, not to go too far. “Remember the bears,” he would say. Especially when we were picking the berries. Fresh berries and fresh fish always seem to attract wild animals.

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A Grandmother’s Story: I Can Only Imagine

Today, my Mom is back with a post reflecting back on yesterday’s candlelight Wave of Light for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and Remembrance Day. I’d like to thank the dozens of people all over the country – family and friends – who took the time out on a Saturday night to light a candle in honor of our sweet baby. It means the world to us. Watch our video message and candlelighting. ~Christina

Yesterday, I woke up feeling angry not having Emmett with us. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact that October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Since Emmett’s due date has passed, I feel as though I missed another milestone and many other milestones.

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My mom’s candle for the Wave of Light at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2016. #candlesforemmett #pailawareness

I keep thinking I should be with Brett and my daughter, holding a new baby, cooing and aww-ing and making all kinds of crazy noises that grandparents make. Fussing over how to change a diaper and reminding everyone, “hold his tiny head carefully.” That’s what grandparents are supposed to do. Is this how you’re supposed to feel after a loss? Does anyone else out there feel like this as a grandparent who has experienced a loss?

Just last week, my family had another tragedy. My sister’s fiancé lost his only son, Brandon, to a violent crime. What’s really tragic is, he just turned 21 a week earlier. He had a lifetime of things to still experience. Now, there’s another parent struggling with grief. Another parent living with the “what if’s,” regrets and pain. Another parent changed by circumstances. It was extremely hard to see all of Brandon’s friends at his memorial service. All of them so heartbroken and so young. How will his friends be affected by his passing? I know for me, as I said on my previous blog, whether someone lives 90 seconds or 99 years, in Brandon’s situation, 21 years, his loss impacts our lives.

It hurts to hear from people when they say, “Oh, your daughter is young, she can have another child” or “You’ll have another grandchild.” When I hear this, I feel like I’m supposed to forget Emmett. I’m supposed to make my daughter forget Emmett. Why should I trivialize his life because he didn’t live 99 years? Again, anyone else feel like this?

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A Grandmother’s Story: Letting Go and Moving Forward

Today, my mom returns with more about her story as Emmett’s grandmother. Read the first part here. -Christina

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Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

I read this quote by C.S. Lewis on Pinterest. Although there’s some debate whether or not Lewis actually said this, it really hit the nail for me. One because I’m terrible at monkey bars and two, “letting go at some point in order to move forward” is so true. It takes a lot of effort in life to move forward. You have to dig deep, stretch hard, use every ounce of strength and have stamina. This is where I’ll continue telling the story how Emmett blessed my life the short time he was with us.

In one of Christina’s previous posts, she shared a story and sketch by Curtis Wiklund’s struggle about miscarriage. He wrote:

“Most don’t talk about it. I just didn’t know what else to do, but draw on that day….I hope by sharing it, those others out there who are quietly hurting, some far worse than we are, are comforted knowing at least, that you are not alone.”

Some of us have probably experienced situations in our lives that make us ashamed, embarrassed or frightened, yet we choose not to share them. This is why Wiklund’s sketch and what he said resonated with me. We all go through trials and some people suffer silently. You don’t have too!

In my previous post, I also shared that Christina and I share a very unique bond.

That is as “mother and sister”. As a young single mother attending nursing school, I found myself balancing school and caring for a premature baby, it was difficult. I felt guilty, ashamed and unequipped as a young parent. I suffered quietly as Wiklund did. I wanted a better home-life for Christina so I made a difficult decision to give her up for adoption. Fortunately for me, unlike so many young single women, she was adopted by the same family that adopted me.

I could never compare the loss of a child or a death of a child to giving up a child for adoption. Death is so final and often unexpected, tragic. Once Christina was adopted, out of respect for her new parents, I no longer referred to her as “my daughter.” She became my sister. All the feelings as a mother, I internalized. When I got married and moved away, the feeling of “loss” worsened for me. The loss of missing birthdays, the first day at school, proms, graduations, etc. all the milestones….Lost. It was unbearable! I cried often. I also found my car as a safe haven, just as Wiklund’s sketch demonstrated. I was alone.

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A Grandmother’s Story: In the Beginning

You think as a parent you are prepared but you never are. You wish you can take the burdens of your children but you can’t.

Today is Grandparent’s Day. I thought we’d take a moment to hear from my mom, Liza. She shares with us in the first part of her story how she learned about Emmett, her first grandson. We hope to hear from her more in the future and learn more about our special mother-daughter bond. ~Christina

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Image from Amazon

Every morning before scurrying off to work, I take a moment of reflection and read my Bible and a page from a short devotional book. Since the beginning of the year, I was reading a book by Sarah Young called “Jesus Calling”, a 365 Day devotional. I was interested in reading this book due to Sean Lowe’s testimony during his stint as “The Bachelor”. Yes, believe it or not, this show really influenced my reading selection.

I’ll share a short excerpt of what I read the day that changed my life because it was and still is incredible how it prepared me for the trials ahead and still to come.

“I am the resurrection and the Life”; all lasting Life emanates from Me. People search for life for many wrong ways; chasing after fleeting pleasures, accumulating possessions and wealth, trying to deny the inevitable effects of aging…As you come to Me and take my yoke upon you, I fill you with My very Life. This is how I choose to live in the world and accomplish My purposes. The Joy is Mine, and the Glory is Mine, but I bestow them on you as you live in my Presence, inviting me to live fully in you. ‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25), Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt 11:28-29)”

I will never forget the day I read this, it was Tuesday, March 2, 2016. This was significant because this was the day Chrissy would tell me that I would be a grandmother. I was happy for her and Brett. Chrissy and I share a very unique and special relationship but despite all that has happened in our lives, we’ve always managed to come through any obstacles, good or bad, through distance and separations, stronger and better but always filled with support, admiration and love for each other.

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