Monday, May 19, 2014

 This is written in reverse order, for it to make sense, start at the bottom and read up.

Part 8: The Tragic Day

Because of the magnitude and the pain of this past weeks events, I didn’t want to drag out Amy’s story throughout the week because I know that she is re-reading it here.  The pain will never stop.  Praises to the Lord that Marra Freh is safe with Him.  Her life has made an impact on everyone she has met and everyone she has not met.  Please continue to surround this ENTIRE family with love and prayers as they continue to breathe each and everyday.  I know this is a lot crammed into one day, but I chose to do this after reading today’s memory.  The pain that she and Sten are going through is unbearable.  Take your time in reading through the last final days, as I have continued to add them according to the days that Amy has written them.
In my mind, yesterday was a day of reliving and remembering the events of May 18, 2013. It was a Saturday last year and so vividly etched in my heart now. But, alas, the day came yesterday and I couldn’t bring myself to write a single thing. So haunting. For the past 365 days, I have played and replayed the events of that day over and over and over again in my head, looking for a loophole. Looking for a way that we could go back and change the course. But, this is it.
Today, the 18th of May, 2014 came and I can’t change the anniversary. I can’t make it not be true. So many details of that Saturday haunt me. They wake me up at night, they sneak up on me in moments that should be joyous and I shutter.
I was still in the hospital that morning when Sten had stopped in to see me. He was alone. We talked about the basics and I could tell he was feeling the stress of me being sick and away from home. I asked him not to take Freh to the tournament that afternoon since those events are always so crowded and really not safe. He said she would be fine and that I shouldn’t worry so much. I reminded him how she had taken to running from us and thinking it was funny. He said they would be fine.
He had many things to do that day before leaving for the games, so he said good-bye and I prepared to get into the shower. I was feeling irritated that I just couldn’t be home doing things the way I wanted and being with the kids. I got up to shower and my nurse came in to give me medicine. Again, irritated. I sat on the bed and was texting some sheets people who were arranging to pick up their sheets from another friend that day, I suddenly thought that I needed to call Sten and remind him to put the stroller in the back of the van to use with Freh at the tournament. We had taken it out to accommodate our luggage when we came home from Ethiopia and never put it back in. I had started putting Freh in the buggy straight from her carseat in recent weeks because she would take off running otherwise.
I tried him, but he didn’t answer. I thought I would go get my shower then. As you know, if you have spent any time in the hospital, NOTHING happens fast. I rang for my nurse to bring me stuff to cover my IV while in the shower and it took what seemed like forever to get it. Irritated. I sat and ate some of my lunch, broth and jello….and tried Sten again, no answer. The nurse came in and gave me what I needed to shower and asked me if I needed any pain medicine (I had been having a horrible head ache since Friday.) I decided to hold off on the shower until later and take some pain medicine and a nap.
I woke up, 4:15. I picked up the phone to call Sten again and as I did, it rang. It was my grandmother. We chatted about various things and in my head, I decided that I had missed the opportunity to call Sten about the stroller and I regretted not texting him about it. My GiGi and I continued to talk and then Sten beeped in. I let it go, thinking he just wanted to let me know that they had arrived at the park. It rang again immediately. I told Gigi to hold on a second. I clicked over and what I heard will echo in my head forever. Sten, breathless. screaming my name over and over. The only thing I could make out was Freh had been hit by a car. AMY.
He hung up.
What happened over the next several minutes remain so clear in my memory. You’d think it would be a blur, but it is crystal clear. I climbed out of bed. Put my call light on. Called my sister Kristen who was on her way to come visit me and told her to hurry, Freh had been hit by a car. I called my in-laws, who were at my house. I gathered my things into a bag. I stopped to look out the window. It is so evident now that the information that Sten had said on the phone took about 5 minutes to register in my brain. Then, the nurse came in and when I had to look at another person and say “My daughter has been in an accident, I need to leave.” That is when it hit me. I had no idea how bad it was. I just started to shake. The nurse left to get the charge nurse. I took out my IV and stood there, shaking. Kristen arrived and she was freaking out. Sten called back. The only words I remember were helicopter, CPR, faint pulse and whimper.
I asked him what part of her had been hit, he said he thought it was her chest and back because she had tire marks up her back. I remember thanking God that it wasn’t her head. That she was so tiny and soft-boned that, as long as it wasn’t her head, she would survive.
I don’t remember much of getting to Johns Hopkins. I know I said prayers and begged and pleaded and offered exchanges with God, that if he would only just spare my child…….
We pulled up to the trauma center and we got out. A peace fell over me that to this day I can only explain as the Holy Spirit. We told the gentleman at the desk that we were the family of the infant that was coming in via helicopter. He called on his radio to another security person and then directed us down a long, empty white hallway. He asked us to stand at a door until someone could come get us. It was Krissy, Ben, Karen, Lars and I. Sten was coming with Abe from the tournament. A coach was driving them. In my head I envisioned going in to see my girl on some tubes and maybe with some broken bones and cuts and scrapes. In my world, my kids would always be ok. I mean, I had always been given a chance to fight for them. To advocate and pray them back to health. To persevere on their behalf.
The doors swung open and three people walked out. A doctor. a nurse and another woman. As soon as I saw their faces I knew. They asked who was “mom”. I stood. Then he said it. “I’m sorry. Your daughter didn’t make it. We did everything we could, but she died in the helicopter from severe injuries to her brainstem.” As he spoke, I slid down the wall to the floor. and everyone was talking and crying.
I begged them NO. NO. NO.
Sten came then with Abe. I remember grabbing his face in my hands begging him to never blame himself. I didn’t even know what had happened. That there never even was any reason to blame him. I saw the terror on his face. I felt the weight of ten-thousand years as he held me and we sobbed for our baby. The most precious baby.
It is hard today to look back at that day and see God’s hand. But, over the past year, I have gained a holy perspective and because of the events that followed this horrific Saturday afternoon, I am able to sit here and attest to the palpable power of the Holy Spirit. The people who showed up and literally held us up. They are proof that God is very much real and living and breathing, and He showed up to weep with us. To hold our hands, feed our bellies, wipe our tears. And he has not left us. For our God is fighting for us always. We are not alone.
Run, Marra Freh, Run! She is running with the angels….

Part 7: Friday

Friday. Sten called me in the morning to see if I was up for a little visitor. Of course. I was longing to see her so bad! I don’t recall what time they arrived, but it just so happened that some of my dearest friends who have been an amazing support to me were there, too. Nini had stopped to offer encouragement and Sherry brought me a nice book about friends.
When Sten arrived with Freh, she was so tickled to see other ladies there! She took her socks and shoes off and climbed into the bed with me. I remember her touching one of my IVs and asking if I had “brokened” my arm. She sat with her little bum right next to mine and her legs stretched out along the bed, skinny ankles, bare feet wiggling back and forth. Sherry played “this little piggy” with her and she giggled. The nurse brought her some juice and she ate some graham crackers that were on my table. She held the straw so carefully in her long skinny fingers and was so careful not to spill anything on my bed. The nurses were so enamored with her, stating several times just how beautiful she was and what a light she had in her eyes.
I agreed.
I hugged Freh tight when she left with Sten and told her I would see her tomorrow. The picture etched in my memory is of her, in Sten’s arms, standing in the doorway to my hospital room. She waved, blew me a kiss, then rested her head on Sten’s shoulder and off they went. The last kiss. The final wave good-bye. I blink and she is there, just under my eyelids. Just like she was that last day. Uneven ponytails.  Graham crackers and juice in her belly. But, she’s not.

After everyone left, my nurse came back in and sat down next to my bed. She wanted to know all about Frehiwot and her adoption and what it meant to me to have such a beautiful gift. I shared with her all of the redemption and glory to God for having such an amazing child. She cried when I spoke to her about Freh. She said she wanted to adopt but didn’t think her husband would agree. We prayed about it, right then and there.
She left the room and a little while later the charge nurse came in to change my IV bag and she said that my nurse had shared my testimony of adoption with her. She, too wanted to learn more. She said that she felt a deep connection with me and that Freh was so blessed to have us. I reminded her that we were the lucky ones.

Part 6: Fighting for Freh!

Thursday. I didn’t see Frehiwot in the hospital this day last year. I was really feeling cruddy and Sten’s parents were keeping her pretty entertained at home. I missed the kids. I was really missing Jenna and Freh because I hadn’t seen them much at all over the past almost two weeks.

This day stands out in my mind for one major reason. It was another big, scary event in my life to date in which I was left with no answers. The doctors had made their rounds telling me once again, that they had no real idea what was making me so sick. My blood work was a mess, yet the diagnostic tests were all looking pretty good. This felt so eerily familiar to 2010, when I laid in a hospital bed with fluid in my lungs and in heart failure and not one doctor, not even the attending cardiologist at Johns Hopkins could give a reason for me being so ill. I remember praying out loud in my hospital bed on several occasions in 2010, for God to reveal the cause of my sickness, for a plan to be put in place that would get me out of that misery and back home to my children and Sten. In total, I spent 40 days in the hospital.
My family was worn from trips to Baltimore and juggling life, trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. But, wow! Did people show up to help! For eight straight weeks, we had every meal covered. I was bathed in so much prayer, and loved so perfectly by the Body, His people. Every need was met, so perfectly. Never in my life to that point had I ever been so close to the Lord.
I had opportunity to share scripture with nurses and doctors, to talk about life, to really consider my purpose. We were waiting at that time to be matched with a baby from Ethiopia. I remember praying for the child that God had already chosen to be ours. I asked for protection over her little life. (I later came to know that she was born on a day that I was re-admitted to the hospital and I had thought so long and hard about her that day, praying that I would get through whatever was causing me to be so sick and that we wouldn’t have to tell our agency to put us on hold)

After three months of in and out of the hospital, I started to get better and was finally home to stay. But, the Lord knew how to keep me right there, depending on him. Struggles with a teenage son, extensive physical therapy for a neck injury….all daily reminders of my complete dependence on him for my life. So many things were without reasons. Why had I been so sick? Why did I fall and hurt my neck so bad? Why was our son rebelling so terribly?
All the while, He kept whispering for me trust him fully. I did my best, working on my fears and anxieties everyday. And then we received the call that we had been matched with a 6 month old girl in Ethiopia! It was a day I will never ever forget. The kids were all so thrilled and excited! I went to work and my friends there cried with me. I was in love with Frehiwot from the first thought of her in my heart, but to finally see her big brown eyes and her sweet face, I was all in. Head over heels, people!

Getting through her adoption process was brutal. the enemy was trying to steal away any joy or glory throughout the entire 7 months until we brought her home. Nov. 15, 2011 was the day we received word that the US government was not going to approve her orphan status and therefore, we could not adopt her unless we proved their information wrong. I remember I was in Walmart when I opened that dreaded email. I had called my friend Sarah whose little boy was in ET with Freh and I went into total panic mode. I had no idea what to do, who to turn to, how to even process the information in front of me. I drove home in hysterics and wept and wept at the thought of losing our girl. Being denied her because of some paperwork discrepancies. It was awful. I prayed, begging God to give us a plan, options, tangible solutions.

After hiring an immigration attorney (we love you, Kelly!) and having some divine connections made in Ethiopia, we decided that I, mom-turned-warrior, would get on a plane and go to Ethiopia to find Freh’s birth mom and get the documents I would need to bring her home. I was a tad crazy. I mean, all I had was a phone number of some guy in Ethiopia who would help with the investigation and drive me. I did’t know him from Adam then…but God gave me a peace and the courage to face the challenge and to go to the far corner of Africa and get what I needed to bring Frehiwot home. As it turns out, that guy I was so afraid of, turned out to be one of the most God-fearing, loving, giving men I will meet this side of Heaven. Ephrim and his wife Yeshi are considered family now. We love them so deeply and stay with them everytime we travel to Ethiopia! Ephrim and I had amazing success on our trip to Assela to find Freh’s birth mom. As he calls them, divine appointments, were happening left and right on our trip.

Think for just a second about how logistically impossible what I did was. Small village on the other side of the globe with a man I had never met and we got every single piece of information we needed to get Freh home! (the delays that followed were because of paperwork and translation snafus) But, because I fully relied on the sovereignty of God, and trusted Him with the people he had placed in my life, we did it!

So many times we are faced with uncertainty. Just like it was for us this day last year. We had just been in Ethiopia to adopt Mihret, had learned of her brother and agreed to become his family as well. I was there, in that dang bed AGAIN, with doctors scratching their heads, not knowing. So much out of my control. And I surrendered right there. I laid my burdens down and let him do what he does so well in my life. Put pieces together. Place his people, with servant hearts and open arms right here, in my life to bear the burden alongside. That is a true, divine gift. Look around at your life. There are people in your midst that are not there by chance.

The true divinity in this is when we can literally throw our arms up, risking it all and give it over to Him. The one who knows us more intimately than our own mothers. Laying there in that hospital bed, I knew I had to give up control of whether or not the girls’ hair wash brushed and if the boys had brushed their teeth. If Abe had clothes to wear to the upcoming Bat Mitzvah of his dear friend, Mia. I had to trust that all of those details would be worked out.

Now, almost one year since losing the precious child for whom I trusted God when man said I could not have her, I have had to literally force myself to continue to trust Him. I have to know, without a doubt, that HE KNEW. HE KNEW that she was only going to live to be 4 days shy of two and a half. He knew. And he used me and Sten to get her here, into THIS family, so that her days could be filled with love. I ask myself almost daily, WHY US? Why did you use me to go there and fight so damn hard, only to have to kiss her cold forehead good-bye just 15 months later?
And always, Trust. The words is right there in my heart all the time. Trust Him who knows you. Trust in the master plan.

I cry the hardest at night and when I am in the car alone. Recently, I just got so so mad at God and had to pull the car over because I was yelling and screaming and crying at Him. I want so badly to see the other side. To see the full picture. To know the why. I got myself together, pulled back onto the road and when I switched the radio back on, a voice on the station read this verse “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” Romans 15:13.

All joy and peace in believing. So, in believing in His work, I will have joy and peace? Well, it’s a start. Sure better than allowing myself to think that this will kill me or that I will never really live again. Believing that I will hold a baby in my arms again. Believing that my children will be better, not bitter. Believing that my marriage will persevere when we are both beat down by grief. Believing that all of my children will one day trust Him the way I do. Believing that Frehiwot is more perfect now than she was here. Believing that I will sink my face into her luscious curls again, one day, in eternity.

Part 5: ER Visit & Hospital Stay

This Wednesday, last year…… I had gotten much worse with whatever sickness was hitting me. We debated ER vs. Doc office. Sten called and got me a 6pm appointment at the doctor. I had a high fever and terrible pain and weakness. My urine was the color of rootbeer and we debated staying home, too. It was Eli’s 11th Birthday and I wanted to celebrate him with our family. Sten’s parents were still in town (bless.their.hearts.) and I just didn’t want to go. But, alas, 5:40 had come and Sten brought Freh up to our room to help me get ready to go. She had a purse on her arm and came over to the bed to show it to me. It had her Dora figure in it and a beaded bracelet and a few other toys. She looked all over in the room for a place to hang her purse asking, “Where can I put dis?” I pointed to the end of the bed where there was a ridge on the footboard and said, “Put it there” She turned with a big grin on her face and said “Good idea” I remember earlier that day, I had been downstairs with her for a few minutes and had put her hair in asymmetric puffs and they were messing with my “selective OCD” and for a minute right before I left, I contemplated fixing her hair. I decided she looked fine and I would be home to bathe her in the morning and we could do something really cute with her hair. I miss her hair.
PWEEEAAASSSEEEE fix my hair again….
I gave her a big big hug and Sten carried her downstairs. I kissed Eli and apologized for being sick on his birthday. I said I would have cake with him when I got home later. Sten helped me to the car.
As it turned out, my doctor saw me for five minutes and urged us to get the ER, I was sicker than I thought. I was admitted that night with what looked to be a liver infection. As I laid there in the ER, I remember thinking that was pretty much the worst I had ever felt physically.
This makes me think about the times over the past year when I am certain my “grief boxes” were quite full and I ignored them and it found ways to come out in my physical body. Grief of this magnitude will reek havoc on your life, your spirit, your body, your mind, your relationships….but only if you let it. It has taken a painstaking effort this past year to tend to each of those areas with such precision and determination. I have failed on many occasions to nurture my body, my mind, my relationships. I have even been physically and mentally and emotionally and spiritually frozen at times. Stress paralyzed, it’s a real thing. (ADD moment, if you haven’t seen Mom’s Night Out, go see it.)
Anyhow, being frozen is scary. Like awful terror scary. My house has been dirtier this past year than ever before, I have gone days without showering, I eat really bad food or don’t eat at all. Laundry sits in my washing machine for two days and I can’t commit to switching the loads. I write notes and birthday cards and can’t take them to the mailbox. The pendulum swings wildly between loss of control and controlling everything in sight. It sucks, really.
Sweetness Redefined
BUT, when I snap back into reality, I focus and can multi-task like a boss. The longest stretches of normal have come when I am daily reading The Word and praying (even if my prayers are ugly and pathetic). When God said he was close the broken-hearted and the crushed in spirit, that was NO JOKE. I haven’t had many moments of dwelling on what an awful thing this was to happen to us, but more of moments of what is the purpose, how will this glorify God when it hurts THIS bad? How can I further Frehiwot’s fingerprint on the world? How can I serve God and his people better because of this loss?
Forever Sten and Amy’s Sunshine!

Part 4: The Last Kiss

This night, last year, was the last night I would ever kiss my sweet baby good night. I remember Sten brought her to see me after she had her snack and we snuggled for just a minute because I was in lots of pain and had a fever. He carried her to her room, just on the other side of our wall and I could hear him singing to her (he always got carried away and I sometimes thought the whole neighborhood could hear him. What I would give to hear that sound again.) she was giggling and asking a million questions. I distinctly remember wishing they’d be quiet. I didn’t feel good. Couldn’t they just turn it down a bit. He loved bedtime with her. She loved her daddy.
This is a GREAT picture!

Many times in the last year I have heard echoes of her voice just on the other side of that wall. Singing, giggling, talking to her puppy. Sometimes, when it’s quiet here and I’m alone, I will sit and listen for her or go into her room and wrap myself in her blankie and sing Baby Mine to her. I try to remember every single time I rocked her. I regret those nights that I rushed through because I was tired, spent. Just one minute longer. One night more.
She Changed Their World

Part 3: Illness

By this day last year, I was well into whatever sickness we had returned home with from Ethiopia. I don’t have too many memories from Mothers Day last year because I was throwing up all day. By now, we had decided to keep sweet Freh away from me and my germs as much as we could because we didn’t want her to get sick.
She would come to my bedroom door and knock so softly and say “you in nare Mommy?” And try to open the door. I can hear her little feet running on the hardwood floors upstairs. And her voice behind that door. A few times, she got the door open and ran to my bed. She would just stay a minute and I sent her on her way. I remember once she put her hand on my arm and said “you so sick, mommy?” I told her yes and smooshed my face into her big mass of hair and inhaled her scent like it was medicinal.
The Best Medicine

Off and on that day, she would pop in to see me and check on me. She spent the day with Farmor and Farfar (Sten’s parents who were staying with us) they were so good to her. I remember thinking that I was gonna start feeling much better by Tuesday and I wanted to finish switching Freh’s winter clothes out for all the summer stuff I had bought at Target a few weeks ago.
Love for Daddy

Part 2: Returning Home

This day, May 11, 2013 we came home from Ethiopia after being there for court hearings to become Mihret’s legal parents. We got home around 5. Abe, Eli and Sten were all pretty sick with some kind of stomach virus. I got them settled at home and then went straight to my sister Kristen’s to pick up Jenna and Frehiwot. I remember Freh was playing in Krissy’s toy room and I snuck in and watched her for a minute before she realized I was there. Then she came running to me and snuggled right in to this space in my neck that she filled so perfectly. I inhaled her. I had missed her scent and touch and voice so much! On the way home, Jenna asked all about our trip and Freh kept asking if I’d give her a bath!
Baby Loves Bubbles

I was so tired from the trip, but as soon as we got in the door we were both headed up the steps to the tub. We sat in my room for a good thirty minutes taking out her braids and beads that Miss Hannah had put in the week before. I remember it as such a sweet time. She was giggling and talking to me about playing outside and about how she got a bee in her eye (no doubt a gnat!) after all the braids were out, I took her to the tub and I bathed her and washed her hair and coiled those long curls around my fingers. It took me another thirty minutes or so, little did I know it would be the very last time I got to wash her. Bath time had always been such am intimate time for Freh and I. We sang together, talked, I did her hair in the tub and I always studied every inch of her as she played with her toys, marveling that she was MINE. Sometimes I would get overwhelmed with the enormity of that, other times I was reduced to tears because of the beauty of our bond that had come so easily. My back would ache after leaning over her thick curls, but I always looked forward to that time! When she was all done and rinsed, I wrapped her in a towel and scooped her up. We stopped at the mirror and when she saw herself, she gasped “You put my curls back on! Thank you, Mommy! My hair won’t be noisy now!”
Epic Hair

I dressed her in her PJs and we went downstairs with Jenna and snuggled on the couch together. We watched three episodes of Dora together and ate pretzels. I rocked her to sleep that night and I remember thanking God for getting me back safely to her and the rest of the kids. I praised Him for the precious child that laid there in my arms.

Part I: Unpacking – Amy’s Story of Losing Sweet Freh

This week, I will be posting on the story of Marra Frehiwot’s story.  She is the young daughter of Sten and Amy Olsson.  I have never met the Olsson’s personally, but we have walked the adoption journey together and we hope to someday meet.  This is a difficult story of love, redemption, illness, God, faith, and loss. Please be respectful in any comments made as the Olsson’s have given me permission to share their story, as written by Amy, as well as pictures.
Seriously….look at Sten’s face. That is a daddy IN LOVE with the ladies in his life.
Beauty and Love.
This week is my week to “unpack” some emotional boxes that I have had to compartmentalize in order to continue to mother my five other children (including one brand new to family life and all the challenges that come with that) to support and love my husband, to serve God and to not self destruct. Some may cringe and become unsettled reading my raw memories and emotions, but this process is very healing for me. Thank you to everyone who continues to love and pray for us. We need you. We are grateful.

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