Lesson From the House of Mourning

Our  culture consumes death like candy bars-video games, violent television series and gory movies.  Halloween is one of the biggest “holidays” celebrated in America.

We are desensitized to news stories of destruction and devastation because we’ve “seen” it all.

Yet we are a society that shuns mourning.

We can’t stand to hear the keening wail of mothers following the linen clad bodies of their fallen children.

We segregate funerals to special buildings that look like low-slung country clubs complete with ornate light fixtures, clean bathrooms and temperature controlled environments.  In many places we no longer bury our dead next to a church where the living and the gone before mingle, waiting the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All this so we can ignore the lesson of Solomon.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart.”

Ecclesiastes 7:2 HCSB

woman-mourning

I was only three but I remember my great-grandaddy laid out in the living room.

My parents didn’t hide me away in some corner and allow me to grow up pretending death didn’t exist.  They didn’t shield me from visiting my ailing relatives or from standing by the gravesides of my ancestors.

I brought my children to funerals from an early age.

There’s no use pretending that people’s bodies don’t die.  Sooner or later it catches up to you.

But while our bodies don’t last forever, our spirits do.  We are eternal beings, you and me.

It’s not a question of IF we will live forever, but WHERE.

And that was Solomon’s point:  decide while you still can who and what has your heart.

Because that choice determines where you spend eternity.

There is only one way to the Father’s House-through Jesus.

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.

C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

Do you know Jesus?

He KNOWS you.  He LOVES you. And He died for YOU.

He rose to conquer death for you.

He has made a Way where there was no way.

No one gets out of here alive…choose this day whom you will serve.

It makes an eternal difference.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of alland richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-13 NIV

hand-and-without-faith-it-is-impossible-to-please-god

Repost: A Different Me

I’m not the same me  I was two years ago.

I no longer look with confidence down the driveway as friends and family pull away, certain that we will see one another soon.

I whisper, “Be safe” when we part, but know that they are not the keeper of their days and that “being safe” doesn’t mean everyone escapes deadly peril.

Read the rest here:  A Different Me

How Many Children Do You Have?

A friend shared this poem recently.  I had never read it before but it spoke to my heart.
Whenever someone asks, “How many children do you have?”
I always give the true answer, ” I have four children.”
Because I do.
we-are-seven-1
We Are Seven

By William Wordsworth

———A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

“The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (Pearson, 2006)

 

wisdom-is-often-nearer-when-we-stoop-than-when-we-soar

Bereaved Parent’s Wish List

This list is adapted from a friend’s Facebook post (with permission) and a list published by Children’s Hospital of Colorado.

BEREAVED PARENT’S WISH LIST:

1. I wish my child hadn’t died. I wish I had my child back.

2. I wish you wouldn’t be afraid to speak my child’s name. My child lived and was very important to me. I need to hear that my child was important to you also.

3. If I cry and get emotional when you talk about my child, I wish you knew that it isn’t because you have hurt me. My child’s death is the cause of my tears.

4. Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn’t shy away from me. I need you now more than ever.

5. I might be sad and I might cry, but I wish you would let me talk about my child.

6. I wish you wouldn’t expect my grief to be over in a certain amount of time. I wish you could understand that my grief will never be over. I will suffer the death of my child until the day I die.

7. I am working very hard on my recovery, but I wish you could understand that I will never fully recover. I will always miss my child, and I will always grieve that my child is gone.

8. I wish you wouldn’t expect me to “not think about it” or to “move on.” Neither will happen, so don’t frustrate yourself.

9. When I say, “I’m doing okay,” I wish you could understand that I don’t “feel” okay and that I struggle daily.

10. I wish you knew that all of the grief reactions I’m having are very normal. Depression, anger, hopelessness, and overwhelming sadness are all to be expected. So, please excuse me when I’m quiet and withdrawn or irritable or cranky.

11. I wish you understood that grief changes people. When my child died, a big part of me died as well. I am not the same person I was before my child died and I will never be that person again.

12. I wish very much that you could understand …understand my loss and my grief, my silence and my tears, my void and my pain but I am so very thankful you don’t share my experience.  

 

Speak Your Peace-You May Not Get Another Chance

Just a couple of days before Dominic left us, I and another one of my kids had a fuss.

He was frustrated and stressed and I was vulnerable and stressed and a few stray words ended up hurting my feelings.

I said, “I can’t talk anymore now”,  and hung up the phone in tears.

He was sorry and I was sorry and we immediately exchanged texts and let the feelings cool so we could resume our conversation the next day.

He sent me flowers.

flower-arrangement

They were still beautiful when he came home to bury his brother.

Our family observes a rule:  Don’t part in the heat of anger.

We may not be over our pain and the reason for the dispute may be legitimate, but NOTHING trumps relationship.

I am so very thankful for that rule.  Because one burden I don’t have to carry is that I might have left Dominic wondering if everything was OK between us.

It was.

So I say to you:

  • Speak your peace.
  • Say you’re sorry.
  • Move TOWARD the people you love and not away from them.

I pray every time I hear a siren that the person they are going to rescue will be alright.  I pray that the family that loves that person will get another chance.  I pray that the call that’s made is, “Come to the hospital to see me” and not “Come to the morgue”.

But you never know-you have NO guarantee that the last time you see or speak to someone you care about won’t be the LAST time.

And then you cannot undo the horror of regret that they might have left this world wondering if you loved them.

“I love you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want to stay angry with you.  Please forgive me.”

Say it loud, say it often, say it NOW.

 

 

 

Repost: Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

A close  family member is facing a difficult, scary and extensive surgery.

It’s one more reminder that we live in a broken world.  

The victory Christ gained is real.  But we do not yet have the full benefit of all its fruit.

We still face death.

We still bear pain.  

We still long for that day when ALL will be made right. 

Until then, we Live Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Repost: How Do You Breathe?

“It was the question I asked the bereaved mother that came to my son’s funeral.

It was the question a mother asked me as we stood by her granddaughter’s casket, surrounded by family and flowers.

And it is the right question.

Because when the breath leaves the body of your child, and you look down at the shell that used to be the home of a vibrant, living soul, you simply can. not. breathe.”

Read the rest here:  How Do You Breathe?

I Don’t Know How I’m Doing

People see me, these years and months after Dominic left us and ask, “How are you doing?”

I come up with an answer because that’s the law of conversation-you ask something and I answer, then I ask something and you answer.

are-you-ok

Gotta keep that ball rolling.  

If it drops we are both forced to stand there wondering what to do with our bodies, our faces and our thoughts.

But right now, I don’t know HOW I’m doing.

I am definitely past the crying-every-single-day stage.  The deep sense of loss still strangles me but I’ve learned to pretend it’s not there and just keep on keeping on.

I can look at his photo (most times) and not feel the sucker punch as my heart realizes-once again-he is not coming back.  

Ever.

I’ve developed routines to work around the hardest part of a week-Friday night into Saturday morning-so my mind and body follow the rut like cows headed to water.

cowpath

One-foot-in-front-of-the-other.

“A thousand mile journey begins with the first step” and all that.

I try to lean into the life I have NOW.  The life I would have never imagined or chosen for myself but the one I wake up to every day.

There is no EASY way to lose a child but I almost envy parents whose child’s death has given them a cause to fight for. Sometimes the circumstances surrounding loss lend themselves to a crusade which at least gives a parent somewhere to focus his or her sorrow.

What can I say about Dominic’s leaving?

Don’t ride motorcycles?

Sure, but that was my position before they were ever purchased.  I was always only barely able to contain my anxious thoughts as my sons went from here to there on two wheels with no protective shell.

I’ve learned to push down the pain and that means I stuff every other feeling as well.

I can’t select JUST the pain to hold inside.

So that leaves me here-not knowing how I’m doing.

Am I better?  

Healing?

Or just plain numb because to feel whatever I’m really feeling is too hard to embrace?

I have no idea.

smile-question

 

 

Repost: Slow Fade

 

Each time Dominic should be here but isn’t, I lose just a little bit more.

fading-away

“It would be easier, in a way, if it happened all at once.

If the vivid memories of his voice, his laugh, his body language, his sense of humor just disappeared-POOF!-now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t. Then I could make a single adjustment.”

Read the rest here:  Slow Fade

A Peek Inside My Heart: What Grieving Parents Want You to Know

For the next few days I’m probably going to be cycling through some posts that received the most response from readers.  A family member is facing serious and complex surgery Monday, October 24th and I’m going to be focused on that.

If I get a chance, I’ll add new content-but as all of us know, there’s no telling what a day will bring.

Until then, I hope that if you missed these, they will be helpful or if you’ve forgotten about them, they will be refreshing and encouraging again.

 

“People say, “I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.”

Read the rest: What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know