All I ever wanted to be was a mother, but I never could have anticipated the extreme circumstances in which I would learn the supreme sacrifice of motherhood, the devastating destruction a disease would have on a precious life.
If one looked up the definition for LOSS, it might read: Heather’s Life. It all began when I was 19 and brought my newborn home for our new journey. Little did I know that three short days later, I would hear the words “terminal disease.” I soon learned that my first child was born with epidermolysis bullosa (EB) (junctional recessive). EB is a group of inherited connective tissue diseases that cause blisters in the skin and mucosal membranes. It is a skin blistering disease where minor trauma to the skin causes the skin to be as fragile as butterfly wings.
I could hardly say the name of the disease, much less know how to care for her. But I immediately became her biggest advocate by learning all that I could and taking care of her the best that I knew how. We lived in the children’s hospital for many months, spending time cherishing the days we had together. I read books and sang songs as she lay there in her little jammies.
My sweet daughter died on Thanksgiving Day that year. I remember lying in front of the Christmas tree that year, looking at her empty cradle for several days, longing to have her back in my arms.
And so I began my journey of living with loss and not coping very well. I read books and went to meetings searching for answers to the question of how to go on after losing a child. There was no manual that came along with that part of life.
Four years later, after giving birth to my third child, we immediately discovered that he too was born with the same terminal disease. I couldn’t believe that I was right back on that long-suffering path watching another one of my children suffer so severely from pain. He passed away on Halloween that year.
I was distraught. I was crushed. I was depressed. I was sad. I longed to be a good mom to my second born healthy child but every holiday season, the emotions, memories, and sadness would trigger me back into depression.
I soon realized that if I wanted things to be different, I had to get up and change something. I began doing random acts of service and looking for opportunities to serve and volunteer my time. I began feeling JOY; not just a happy feeling, but a deep, long-lasting kind of happy. With every act of service, I was healing. I couldn’t get enough of it, and I wanted to do more.
It became a way of life for me. I soon learned that happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Nothing will change the fact that I’ve lost two children. I decided to love life and give service. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the painful memories, or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the beautiful memories I have. Each day I am alive is a gift, and I have an opportunity to take what I have gone through and bless someone else.
I eventually developed the idea to do a fundraiser for the children in the hospital in honor of my two angel babies. I began collecting books and pajamas and collected enough to fill a little wagon my first year. It was pure JOY to turn the years of pain from loss into giving back and blessing the lives of many others. I chose Halloween to deliver my donations, which is a holiday that I struggle with since the loss of my son.
I had dreams of this growing bigger each year. And that is exactly what happened! I collected $10,000 worth of pajamas and books for the Children’s HealthSM in Dallas. While delivering my large amount of donations to the hospital, I had the opportunity to share with several people why I was there, and our hearts were instantly connected. Hearts were touched and lives were blessed. Turning my loss into service is so rewarding and healing.
Heather Earl is a successful business owner and is currently working on developing a non-profit organization in Forney, Texas. Heather is also a motivational speaker and certified life coach and spends her time mentoring women to find JOY in their journey. She has endured many life trials, including losing two of her four children to a skin disease called epidermolysis bullosa (junctional recessive). She spends her free time reading inspiring material, sharing anything uplifting, listening to music, serving at her church, and enjoying many random acts of kindness. But ultimately, she loves spending time with her two teenagers and husband of 25 years. She believes that everyone has something to contribute and is on a mission to help anyone believe that too. Come with me to find joy in the journey at http://heatherearljoyinthejourney.blogspot.com.