My sweet boy. He was born on April 10, 2014, and when he was placed on my chest, I looked into his eyes, and the words “Why is he purple?” fell off my lips. Everything changed from that moment on … When he died, I couldn’t figure out why his precious life had been confined to six months and seventeen days. He was too special for that. Little did I know that it was only the beginning. The good he brought to this world is still coming, and as long as I live, it will continue to flow out of me through the love that we still share.
Those beautiful words come from Lexi Behrndt, a single mother, writer, and founder of Scribbles & Crumbs, a website she created after she lost her son Charlie to a congenital heart defect.
“I’ve journeyed as authentically as I can,” Lexi told me. “Because I have a firm conviction that sometimes all someone else needs is someone to go first.”
And that she did. What began as a way for her to heal has transformed into a way to help thousands of others suffering from loss.
After the one-year anniversary of Charlie’s death a few months ago, Lexi felt a change within her.
“I was struck by the idea of coming alive,” Lexi explained. “My heart was changing, and I could feel it. I began sharing, and the more I shared, the more I realized that people would benefit from tangible examples of lives that have risen from the ashes and come alive. It is possible; I just knew I needed to show them, to give them hope.”
After a year of living “robotically,” just trying to get through each day, Lexi realized that she suddenly began to come out of her grief; feeling “true joy” for the first time in a long time.
But with that resurgence came pain, as well. “Opening my heart to true joy also meant facing the pain, rather than numbing myself from both. I believe that truly living after suffering involves feeling both a coexistence of deep sorrow and deep love. There’s nothing wrong with feeling both and being honest about it.”
And so she launched her “On Coming Alive” project, to share the stories of others who have lived through similar tragedies. All at once she was struck by both the heartbreak and the life within those who have lost. “They deserve to have their voices heard … There’s always a reason to keep holding on, to find hope, to find purpose, to love, and to come alive.”
These are some of their stories.
“At least for me, I have begun to see a relationship between grief and gratitude. At first glance, they would seem polar opposites … as different from each other as oil and water, fire and ice, love and hate. Yet the more I come to experience grief and gratitude, the more I begin to see they play an important and symbiotic role.
Grief tells our heart things like, ‘How can I possibly find joy again when so much was lost?’ Gratitude responds softly, ‘Yes, it hurts, but what a blessing it was, even if only a short time.’
Grief screams. It commands and demands. Gratitude whispers. It is soft and subtle.
Grief sees only what was lost, while gratitude sees what was gained.”
“Two of our children, Beckett and Clementine, were sick. Eventually their brains and bodies would give out; it was just a question of when.
As it stands now, I cry everyday. 15 months after my first child went home to Heaven, I weep. For the longest time, I would try to suffocate my urge. My throat would tighten, and the ache would rise up into my cheeks and teeth, like when I swallow too big of a bite of a bagel and it lodges in my chest.
Today, I can steal away for a few minutes and let myself have that time. I leaned into our bathroom doorframe yesterday, staring at the paned glass of our backdoor. The sun was setting, snow still sitting in the corners of the glass, like fluffy white dust that needs to be swept away. My shoulders sank down my back and I inhaled, the tears started before I finished. I did not push them down or away, instead I pulled up on those raw memories as I sank deeper into the wood. Picturing Beckett and Clementine, I rewound and played a little slideshow of my favorite moments. I focused on my pain and relaxed deep into my wounds. Grief needs to honored, it needs to be mourned. It is taxing to wither for minutes at a time everyday, but to be structurally sound I have to let the broken pieces crumble away a little at a time. I let myself have bad moments, and occasionally horrific days, because it is easier to pick myself up from the floor than to try and rescue myself from the bottom of the pit.”
“I thought I knew everything there was to know about true suffering. I thought I knew all aspects of scathing pain.
Until I lost him — my littlest boy. Until I held him while blood no longer coursed through his veins. While all signs of his life were nonexistent. While his body grew cold against my warm skin. As rigor mortis set in. And until his body was pried from my nearly impregnable grasp.
His death forced me into an unrivaled level of pain, one I didn’t think existed.
I thought I had lived through the hardest parts of my life, but his death shoved me down to new depths. It held me under and watched me as I struggled to come up for air. Death held me under until I found the one thing that was stronger, more forceful. The one thing that could save my life from drowning by the weight of his death.
So I made a choice. I chose to wake up every day and search for my son in the beauty of the little things. The everyday things that are often overlooked. I chose to spread his love through the world like a blanket and wrap it around everyone I possibly could.”
Trey and Nicole Flynn
“For 26 months we had circled our entire lives around Holden. It was worth every moment. Now, we were suddenly feeling a gut wrenching low that we knew would never go away.
A few hours earlier he was here. We could touch him, hug him, tell him we loved him, and have him say something funny back not knowing how much it meant to … and now he’s not. Congenital Heart Disease took the future from us. It took our hopes, dreams and the life we imagined. Within minutes, it crushed everything we had planned so carefully for. We couldn’t breathe without the ever-burning thoughts of what he would be like or how our life should be.
We noticed we were able to move the needle ever so slightly. It might seem strange, but talking about Holden continued to be one of our favorite things to do. It was therapeutic in so many ways. The reality was, Holden was so much more than a kid with a CHD, but at the same time, that ‘so much more’ was the biggest reason we needed to educate others on the relatively obscure disease that took him from us. Advocacy. We weren’t sure we could commit to it. The emotion. The stress. The potential for failure. Would we disappoint the son that we had watched fight so hard for so long? But here we are.
We’ve been to Washington, DC twice to talk to legislators about Congenital Heart Disease. We’ve started a foundation. We’ve moved needles. Advocacy. We’ve come alive.”
As for Lexi? These days, she spends her days writing and raising her son Lincoln, a life she describes as “beautiful and messy.”
“We still talk about Charlie everyday, and I’m not sure that will ever stop,” Lexi says. “I believe in Heaven, so I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll see Charlie again.”
The On Coming Alive Project is now open to anyone, no matter how they have suffered. Read all the stories at Scribbles & Crumbs. Lexi is asking everyone to join in with the movement with the hashtag #oncomingalive.