When Life Gives You Lemons (Well, You Know the Rest)

You’d think that after having the most unexpected and awful and out-of-control thing happen to me, I’d stop looking for patterns or certainty in life.

But, being human, and a former control freak, I just can’t quit.

So I still use a calendar, still try to make plans, still depend on others to keep their word and adhere to (a semblance) of schedule.

Silly me!

Remember this post:  Salt In The Wound?

Well I flew to California-neither a simple nor cheap undertaking-to handle this business.  In a one hour meeting, one party to the process declared a “personal conflict” and the whole thing is now moved to the end of July.

Wow!  Yep.  Couldn’t send an email a couple days ahead and save me a trip, could you?

So here I am, laughing because  If You Don’t Laugh, You’ll Cry

And working to make lemonade out of these lemons life keeps tossing my way.

Here’s my list so far:

  • The weather was great.  It amounted to an extended spring season for me since it’s already in the high 80’s and low 90’s in Alabama.
  • Sidewalks everywhere.  I could walk to the store, the library, the park.  I managed a walk every day for a week.
  • Time to write.  There is still a mile-long “to do” list around the farm but since I wasn’t there, I could ignore it and spend more time writing.  Those walks help clear my mind and focus my thoughts.
  • A couple quick day trips to fun spots with my husband.  One of the things we’ve tried to do since he’s been out here is use my visits to explore California.  This time we went to San Juan Capistrano and learned more about the mission system that was instrumental in settling the state.  We also visited the Getty Museum.  Both places had beautiful buildings and gardens, as you can see in the pictures at the end of this post.
  • A renewed sense of gratitude for southern culture and graciousness.  I’m sorry if I offend any left coast readers but as a group (NOT individuals) these are just not my people.  I smile, nod and speak when I meet someone on the street or in a grocery store aisle.  With few exceptions, people out there just don’t do that.  I feel torn between being (what I consider) rude and respecting their customs.  I missed my redneck brothers and sisters 🙂
  • Some much needed rest and sleep.  Once my body adjusted to the time change, I slept longer out there than I have most nights for years.  Maybe it’s the walking or cooler temps or just the lack of morning cues from home, but I was able to get a good 7 or 8 hours every night.

I’ve always tended to be a “glass half full” kind of gal, but since Dom left us, it can be harder to find the bright side of hard situations.  

I’m working at it.  

Making this list will help my heart refuse despair when I have to board that plane again in just two short months.

(I hope ❤ )

 

 

It’s No Sin To Grieve

You’d be surprised how often Christians are shamed for grief.

Families are encouraged to call their loved one’s service a “celebration of life” instead of a “memorial” or “funeral”.

Of course I celebrate my son’s life-he was a gift-but the day I followed his casket to the cemetery didn’t feel like a celebration, it felt like death.

I continue to grieve what has been ripped violently from me.

Until all is redeemed and restored in heaven, I will walk this Valley in tears.

Grief is not sin.  

It wasn’t until another grieving mom asked the question that I realized there are some (many?) in the community of believers that think grief is sin.

Not at first, mind you-everyone is “allowed” a certain amount of time to get over the loss of a dream, the loss of a job, the loss of health or the loss of a loved one.

But carry that sadness and wounded heart too publicly for too long and you better be ready for someone to question your faith.

Read the rest here:  Grief is Not Sin

 

Messy Edits

Yesterday’s post was a mess for those of you who receive it through email.  

I’m sorry.

What had been a previous draft was tacked onto the bottom of what I wanted to send out so the whole thing was not really how I meant it to be.

But maybe it was how it should have been.

Because that’s where I find myself so often this side of child loss-all the careful editing of words and careful managing of appearances is impossible.   I just don’t have the resources or the energy.  So too often (for my own comfort and probably the comfort of others) the words just tumble out.

A fire hose instead of the gentle trickle I’d rather them be.

That’s why I rely on writing whenever possible.  It gives me a chance to start, stop and revisit what I want to say and how I want to say it.

But yesterday, well, you got the fire hose version.  

There was so much I wanted to say-I wanted to thank Brenda for the portrait and share how having a new picture was truly a balm for my soul-and also to express how I am still unbelievably sad that my son will never grow older.

I intended to blend the two into a seamless post but couldn’t do it so I left it alone for a few hours.  Grief brain kicked in, I forgot about the second bit and just hit “publish”.

So you got the messy version.  The version that lives inside my heart and mind most days.  It’s not pretty and there is a constant battle between hope and helplessness.

I work hard to hold onto hope.  

I keep fighting.  

But it’s messy.

those that wait in hope shall not be ashamed

You Should Be Here-Another Birthday Without You

Our family has never been one for formal portraits.  

Growing up, my dad was an avid recorder of moments with both still and moving pictures, so we just didn’t do the whole “go down to the portrait studio” thing.

I did have a couple made of my first two children when the local department stores used to run specials.

There’s only one of Dominic taken just before Julian was born.

But adding a fourth child to our busy household put an end to that.  

I’ve got piles of snapshots, video and online photos, but not many fancy, well-lit, well composed formal portraits of any of us.

Of course, there are no new images of Dominic since 2014-he’s frozen in time-and that hurts my heart.

Barreling on to the fourth anniversary of his leaving, I decided to do something about that.  I needed a new way of seeing him-a way that both honored who he is and also honored the sorrow I carry because he is no longer here with me.  

So a beautiful and talented bereaved mom friend, Brenda Ehly, Artistic Remedies By Brenda , created this likeness of Dominic.

dom pastel arctic filter (2)

I love it.  

And I love her for making it.  She captured more than a replica of his face, she captured his smile, his warmth, his energy.

Today is his birthday.  

He would have been 28.  

Like I said last year:  I will never get used to waking to a sunrise that is supposed to mark another year of fellowship and enjoyment of my third child but instead is a reminder that the life that was Dominic is no more on this earth.

But this year I have a new and very special picture to hang in his honor.  

It helps my heart.  

Lots of bereaved parents refer to their child as “forever ___”.  I’ve never felt comfortable with that.

I don’t know if it’s because I can’t imagine Dominic’s growth stifled and stilled or if it’s because I defiantly insist on counting the years even though he is now outside time with Jesus.

So here I am.

Another birthday without him.  Another May 28th when he SHOULD be here but he’s not.  Another holiday weekend that used to include so much more than a cookout.

No quibbling over dessert because birthday boy got to choose.

The past eight months have been a whirlwind for lots of reasons.  It started with my mama’s fall, her hospitalization and recovery in August through November,  slid into the holidays and fast-forwarded to spring.  It included two bereaved parents events as well as two other ten day trips away from home.

I’m tired.

And when I’m tired I’m much more vulnerable to being overwhelmed by grief.

So I sit here, rain falling, tears falling and just wishing Dominic wasn’t dead.

On good days I can look past my missing and grab hold of the beauty of his life.

But not today.

 

It’s My Story and I’ll Cry If I Want To

I don’t cry nearly as much as I used to.

That kind of bothers me.

I don’t know if I’m just not as sad or if I’ve just used up most of my tears.

I think it’s a bit of both.

I DO still cry.  And I try hard to remember that I do not need to be ashamed of my tears.  I don’t need to apologize for them-even if they make some folks uncomfortable.

Because, gee whiz(!), if  YOU are uncomfortable watching me cry, how uncomfortable do you think I am that I risk crying in public?

Weeping is NOT something which Christians are not supposed to do or to feel. Hot tears sliding down our cheeks, salty in the corner of our lips, is not a wrong thing to feel as part of our experience of life. It is only when the final enemy is destroyed and the last victory is won that all tears are to be wiped away. Until then we are meant to weep with those who weep, as well as to rejoice with those who rejoice … It is God who will wipe away all tears.

~Edith Schaeffer, Affliction

Sometimes I wish I could cry more.  I wish I could still get the release that sobs secured early on in this journey.

Now the aching sorrow seeps deep into my bones and settles in the marrow only to be freed when my body joins Dominic’s in the ground.

The truth is, I still hurt.

The tears are always near the surface but I can’t always let them flow.

I need to cry. 

I need to bear witness to this ongoing grief and give vent to the deep pain that my heart carries every. single. day.

I find it remarkable that even though Jesus himself mourned with tears, many within the Christian community set their jaw in opposition to this practice of ‘godly mourning and weeping.’ In our culture, we seem to have lost the significant practice of mourning and weeping. This lack has taken a toll on us physically, emotionally, and spiritually … Waiting and weeping go hand-in-hand.
~Jan Frank, A Graceful Waiting

I’m waiting for the day my tears will be redeemed.  Waiting for the restoration of what the enemy has stolen.  Waiting for faith to become sight.  

Trusting.

Holding on.

Offering my tears as testimony to both my sorrow and my hope.  

God not only knows your tears, but He records them and retains them? Why? So that one day He may transform them into gems of joy and glory. No tears are ever wasted when you follow Him.

~Warren Wiersbe, With the Word

Season of Grief: How a Heart Marks the Days

It’s different for every heart.

But each of us who know child loss have a season of grief.

It’s so much more than “just” the day our child left for Heaven.

For me, it starts in November and runs through the end of May-fully half of

every.

single.

year.   

November 2013 was my 50th birthday and the kids arranged a surprise party for me at Dominic’s apartment.  My husband was home from California and we were all together for my birthday, Thanksgiving and the Iron Bowl.  So many memories, so many moments.

As the leaves begin to turn in Alabama, my heart begins the countdown.

Then that Christmas-it would be the last one where the table was full and all I have are a few fuzzy photos because we anticipated a spring season of graduations and a wedding.  Plenty of time for better pictures when we were dressed for the camera.

As we hang the lights and the nights get longer, my heart gets sadder.

January was back to routine.  Everyone busy.  James Michael and Julian would be graduating soon.  We had normal back and forth texts and messages, never knowing how precious these few recorded words would become.

As we move toward warmer weather, my heart grows cold.

February 14, 2014 was Julian’s birthday and for a couple of hours all the kids were home. We sat outside on an old trailer laughing and cutting up.  Someone suggested a photo.  Everyone demurred because we were in ragged work clothes and thought it was a waste of time.  Oh, how I wish I had that picture now!

But there’s no going back.

I saw Dominic in March a few times.  Since he lived just 25 miles away I would meet him to go to Sam’s Club and stock up on basic food stuffs.  He came out to our place to work on a friend’s car.  He and Julian met up and made a road trip for Spring Break.

It was the last time I’d see him alive.  My heart hates turning the calendar to April.

April.  What can I say about this awful, awful month? 

I will never be able to recapture any sense of hopeful anticipation as flowers bloom and leaves bud.  I don’t care when the last frost might be because try as I might, I can’t plant a garden.  When the first really beautiful day arrives, whether or not it corresponds to Dom’s death date, it only makes me fearful other young men will take their bikes out for a ride after a long, cold winter.  I wonder how many mamas wake to a knock or phone call. 

The smell of cut grass reminds me of the people that came to help us clean up before the funeral.  The sun streaming in the living room window conjures the mornings I woke and dared it to shine in the face of such tragedy.

My heart barely holds on.

And then May.  Mother’s Day-what kind of mother lets her son die?  Even though logic tells me otherwise, my heart still accuses.

Graduations, weddingsreminders that Dominic never got to finish his law degree, will never marry and that every single molecule of him is gone, gone, gone-no children, no likeness ever looking back at me again in this life. 

Finally, there’s his birthday-the one he missed by only a few short weeks.  Forever 23.  Never any older.  May 28th comes and goes.  Sometimes it’s on Memorial Day like the year he was born but often not.  So I gird my loins to face the date AND the day.

My heart hurts but breathes a sigh of relief.

This season is over.  But it will come again.

So I try, try, try to cram as much into the intervening months as possible.

The calendar is relentless.

 

Just. Say. It.

I’m not sure when I began practicing this but I make a habit of telling people I love them even if it makes them uncomfortable.promise me something tell them you love themI remember saying it to my granddaddy who never told anyone-as far as I know-that he loved them.

I spoke it over each child as soon as she or he was laid in my arms.

Growing up, I closed every telephone conversation with, “I love you” and taught my husband to do the same.

tell the people you love that hou love them

I also try hard to tell people other important things right when I think of them, instead of “later”-whenever THAT may be.

when you see something beautiful speak it

I’m so, so glad I do and I did.

I have many regrets about Dominic’s too-soon departure from this life.

But I don’t have this one:  Unspoken words of love and affirmation.

The last time he was home, it was nearing final exams and I felt like I needed him to know how very proud I was of him and how very much I admired the man he had become.  So I stopped him as he was leaving, turned his strong shoulders to face me square, and looked him in the eye to give him words of blessing.

I didn’t get to hold his hand as he left this life. 

But I’m confident as he breathed his last, he knew he was loved.

 

 

heart hands and sunset

Don’t wait to tell the people that are important to you that they ARE important to you.

Don’t save words for “next time”, “later” or “when we get together again”.

Just say it.

Now.

Right now.

greatest weakness of humans optimus prime