Rachael (Rudeen) Klos was part of CVV 6 (all-women’s group) from 2000-2001. During CVV, Rachael worked at the Conflict Center. She grew up in Cottage Grove, Minnesota and went to the College of St. Benedict. After CVV Rachael became a special education teacher. Now she is married to Jeff Klos and they have 3 children: Phoebe, Henry, and Truman.
It’s a phrase that has carried so many different meanings for me over the years.
To the younger me, “home” seemed to always refer to a physical place: Minnesota, my home state, or the house in which I grew up. Beginning with my CVV experience, home became Denver, and the variety of apartments and houses I shared with friends.
As I matured, I came to realize that “home” can be a warm and loving feeling associated with the people closest to us. Regardless of where we physically were, any time I was with my girls from growing up or my dear friends from college, it felt like home. And shortly after I met my husband many years ago, he became home to me.
After a while, my profession of teaching felt like coming home. Quite by accident, I happily found my place in advocating for kids with developmental differences. I was passionate about the services I was providing for families within the world of special education.
But after marriage and the birth of our first child, I knew that my passions had shifted towards family. Gratefully, I was able to step away from my career for a bit to raise our daughter. And, relishing in the beauty of life with my new little family, every day felt like coming home.
Life was good, and I felt invincible.
Until I was completely blindsided.
As we prepared to welcome our first son into our family, we were devastated to learn of a birth defect he had on his abdominal wall. After close monitoring for the remainder of my pregnancy, we were prepared to deliver at Children’s Hospital Colorado and expected a short NICU stay while Henry recovered from a surgery he’d have to repair his Gastroschisis.
But we’d soon learn that Henry’s Life would take a very different – a foreign and utterly terrifying – path. After an emergency surgery at birth, he was left with only 10% of his digestive tract. The 20 cm that remained were very dilated and did not function well. We spent the first three and a half months of Henry’s Life living at the hospital. It was during this time that our beautiful baby boy taught us how to courageously fight. Although we were slowing learning that Henry’s broken body was not created long for this Life, his wise and gentle soul wasn’t finished with us just yet. When Henry was well enough, we transitioned home with support from a truly incredible palliative care company. After sharing 6 months at home of joyous adventures and wondrous love with one another, our families, and our supportive community, Henry’s body grew tired. One Sunday morning in January, before the sun rose, we held our baby boy in our arms as he took his last breath.
My world had completely imploded, and the Life I knew and loved was instantly gone.
* * *
Service and advocacy, reflection, community, spirituality and prayer: these are all important components to living a meaningful Life. While they are not novel to the CVV community, often times these elements can be buried and forgotten as Life, simply, carries on. It is vital that we remember to connect and reflect, especially when we feel isolated and discontented.
After Henry died, I was inherently shattered; the core of my very being irrevocably changed.
And it’s taken – literally – years for me to uncover a desire to rebuild myself and create a new Life of which I can be proud.
This month marks Henry’s 5th birthday. While the ground beneath us softens and greens and the first flowers bud with the promise of new Life, I will be reminded of the joy and certainty of rebirth. We are constantly growing and changing; parts of us die while others are born.
Only recently have I been reminded that – along with returning to a comfortable physical place or spending time with special people or doing something I enjoy – to find the most important meaning of “coming home,” I have to look within.
To quiet the noise around me and listen to that voice in my head. To sift through all the distractions and decipher what’s truly on my mind. And to unpack and interpret what is written on my heart.
For me, coming home has been, and will continue to be, the difficult process of finding myself again after the death of my son.
I’m eternally grateful to have had the last several years to devote solely to my family. However, in that time where the highs and (extreme) lows of motherhood were raw and all-consuming, I lost myself. In giving Life to three beautiful children, I forgot all about mine. And holding one of my babies while he took his last breath completely decimated whatever was left of me.
Now, over 4 years after Henry’s death, it seems I’m ready to be found. I am feeling called to something bigger: a different kind of meaningful service. A personal resurrection is beginning to bloom in my Life, in Henry’s memory and honor. I’m finding that my son is giving me the strength to forge my next steps in the areas of death and dying, pediatric palliative care and hospice, and bereavement. I’m committed to supporting families like mine, being a similar beacon for others that we have been so blessed to receive.
I am fully listening like never before, letting my heart guide this new path I’ve been so desperate to find. Digging deep within, and recognizing all the ways that Henry leads me from the other side, has created a newfound fervor for the future, and a general sense of peace and comfort within.
I feel as if I am finally coming home again.