It’s still hard for me to fathom that for the past six months Paul has been physically separated from me, from our children, from our families, from his friends, from this created world that filled him with the awe of God's magnificence. How can a man who was so filled with life not be here?
Shortly after Paul's admittance to the hospital because of his stroke, I was sleeping on a cot next to his hospital bed. Sleeping in a hospital is neither restful nor is it comfortable. Add in being hugely pregnant. What more can I say? I don't remember what I dreamt that night. I didn't even remember at the moment I woke. All I knew was that I woke in that dark hospital room screaming for my husband. Screaming for Paul.
At that time neither one of us knew that in little more than a week Paul would be gone. We were just anxious for him to be released, get home to see our kids and then gear up to start chemo at our local hospital. Like everyone, we thought we had lots more time.
That night Paul thought it was cute that I was calling for him. He pulled me into his narrow hospital bed and held me while I cried until everything was better. Paul always made me feel better. He was my invincible Superman who would protect me from all my fears and remind me that it was just a dream...
How many mornings have I woken in the last six months and hoped it was just a dream? Too many to count.
One particularly hard morning, after waking and realizing that this new life isn't just a dream and Paul isn't there to pull me into his arms and make the worries of this life fade away, my mom came in to take his place and hold me while I cried. She said something that lifted me above the pain and helped me to put things in perspective. She said, "This life is the dream. Paul is living in the reality."
I've rolled those words around in my head so many times and they have reminded me of how temporal this world is. This life is just a drop in the bucket of eternity. I only have to look at my kids to see that. Day one they were these scrawny chicken-winged pink newborns and now I have little architects building Lego skyscrapers. Tomorrow they will be fathers with families. A blink of an eye and, God-willing, I will be opening my eyes to the host of loved ones who have gone before me and my Savior God and dear Paul will be the two standing front and center ready to welcome me into "reality". A reality that will have no end and love that will not die. I can't wait!!! But I also know that I have a lot more to do until that day comes. Until then the kids and I daydream and make up stories about that reality, that heaven, that dreamy paradise that God has created for us. Can you imagine how wondrous heaven must be in comparison to all the majestic wonders of this world? What it must feel like to be enveloped in the warmth of God's infinite love? I think I do to the tiniest degree because I knew the greatness of Paul's love for me and I know that it was only a foretaste of God's own love.
Love is where you come in, heroes. Love for a sister, a friend, a stranger you heard about through a social media site. You are now the reminder of God's infinite love for his unworthy daughter. The love I have experienced feels as though it is a giant, radiant sun blasting though the clouds of sadness. It almost makes me feel guilty for not feeling more sad, but who can truly be sad when they know that the one they love has accomplished exactly what he wanted to during this life time- to bring someone, anyone, closer to God and to attain heaven. I truly believe, with my whole heart, that my husband did both of those things. And now others are being touched by the ripples of Paul's goodness.
I am living in a dream and waiting for my turn to enter into an eternal reality, but the dream world I am living in without my husband is not a nightmare. It is a beautiful dream of softly whispered I love yous. In this dream world I am now living in, friends, family and strangers have come together and donated time, money, labor, and the physical needs for my babies and I.
Someone moved across the country to build a home. Someone made a dream kitchen. Someone gave a safe van. Someone brought paint to transform walls. Someone gave my baby a blanket. Someone sent my little girl shoes. Someone put curtains on my windows. Someone put a roof over our head that wouldn't leak. Someone swung a hammer. Someone sent her husband to help a widow while she stayed home and held their own family together. Someone sent a long distant hug to someone they had never met. Someone planted flowers and fruit trees. Someone feed workers. Someone told a story about a man with a crazy red beard who had made them smile. Someone sent money for groceries. Someone sent my sons toys. Someone baked cookies. Someone sent a baby carrier. Someone sent diapers. Someone's class made cards for my children. Someone held a fundraiser. Someone said a prayer. Someone sacrificed. Someone told another about the power of God's love to change even the most tragic, heart-wrenching, painful moments of a person's life into the most miraculous, celebration of a life well lived. We all saw, and continue to see, the face of God in one another.
Because of so many people my children and I are safe and snug in a comfortable and beautiful home. We have lovely porches to eat on while admiring God's creation and the flowers and fruit trees planted in our yard. There is food in our fridge and we are vacuum sealing and canning our garden's harvest to be enjoyed through the year. The kids are establishing a new routine in their new space and they are sleeping better, crying less and praying daily for the people who have helped us and those who have asked for our prayers. We are all learning about love, mercy and compassion and it has changed us.
One of the greatest miracles we've received was the safe arrival of little Paul Blaze who was born in our new home in April. He has his daddy's chin, nose and the same twinkle in his eyes that his daddy had. He is the easiest baby with the sweetest giggle and the warmest smile.
The morning Paul Blaze was born was emotional. He came into the world "in a blaze of glory" the midwife said! He came so quickly that he hadn't had time to clear the gunk from his lungs in the birth canal. He was barely gasping for air and turning a scary shade of purple. They were suctioning him as he struggled to breath. I didn't even realize I said it aloud, but the midwife's assistant later retold how I called out, "Sweet angel Paul, help him!" and at that moment my baby finally opened his eyes. That night my sister-in law recounted all that had happened to her husband and he said, "Let me stop you right there. What I just heard you say was that Paul's lungs were full of crud, he was struggling to breath, they were suctioning him and giving him oxygen." Sound familiar? Those few short minutes seemed like an eternity, but we were once again reminded how blessed we were. His birth was a healing balm for not only my soul, but also for Paul's mom, sister and my own mom. All of whom were there. We cried tears of joy and sorrow. We hugged each other and snuggled the personification of Paul's love. What a gift!
All in all, the past six months have been hard and yet so filled with blessings and miracles. We feel Paul's presence daily and know that he is watching out for the kids and I through the love and generosity of so many.
I wish I were able to send a lovely, hand-written letter to each person who has helped us. Days with the little ones are full, chaotic, messy and wonderful. Most nights I fall asleep on the couch with the baby and my sister has to send me to collapse in my bed. It actually makes it easier to have days so full and filled with little ones love that I don't dwell on the lack of Paul's physical absence, but I do feel guilty about not being able to thank people personally for how amazing they have been. I can never describe the depth of our gratitude. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. You are in my daily prayers. May God bless you immensely for your kindness.
May God bless the work of your hands,
Annie & the Coakley Kids