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

Salt In The Wound

In case you are wondering, there appears to be no limit to the depth or number of struggles one may be required to endure this side of heaven.

Sure we’ve all read Job and give mental assent to overwhelming breadth of his loss. 

But, really, how can our hearts even begin to comprehend it when devastation upon devastation is given within seven verses-everything he owned and everything he loved (except his wife) was stolen or destroyed.

It’s so easy to read it and not to FEEL it.  

job and misery

I’m here to tell you I know parents who have lost more than one child.  Parents who have lost their only child.  Parents who have lost a child and then lost their living children’s love and companionship because their family fell apart.  I know bereaved parents who are homeless because they couldn’t keep a job after burying their child.

In addition, there are the everyday struggles we all have to deal with-bad bosses, financial troubles, health issues, frustrating interpersonal relationships.

Right now our family is facing the culmination of a situation that began before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  I’m not free to discuss it but it’s the kind of thing where you need legal advice.

And you want to know what’s harder than dragging my fanny through this nasty mess?

The salt it’s rubbing in the wound of my broken heart.

Because if Dominic were here, he’d be three years out of law school and ready to rock and roll.  I’d have a personal hot line to all the legal counsel a body could stand.  And if he didn’t know the answer, he would have access to the kinds of resources that could find it.

dominic at tims wedding

Instead we have to rely on strangers and hope that they have at least a smidgen of the commitment our own son would have were he able to represent our cause.

I hate so many things about this life.

I hate that the life I thought I would have-the life our whole family thought we would have-is not the one we are stuck with.  One of the things I hate most is every moment when Dominic SHOULD be here and he’s not.

I miss my son.

Not only for the free legal advice, but because his presence lent courage to my heart.

Every hard thing is harder now.

And that is definitely salt in this wound.

sun up not here

 

 

 

Rude Awakening

Even though I got the news from a knock on the door and not a phone call, ever since Dominic’s accident I sleep with my home phone and cell phone next to the bed-I have to be absolutely, utterly reachable.   

There have only been a couple times since he left us that they have rung in the dark of night or early morning, but each time my heart is jolted into overdrive and I cannot go back to sleep.

Yesterday morning I received a series of three (obviously wrong number!) calls around 2:15 a.m.

It was a fax machine-probably auto-dialed-and oh, so annoying because I didn’t even have the satisfaction of calling them back and fussing about their lack of courtesy and bad timing.  

phone ringing

The only good thing about it was that the *beep*beep*beep* on the other end told me instantly it was not an emergency call from a family member.

I tried to go back to sleep.  

I used all the tips and tricks I’ve learned in these four years to calm my heart and distract my thoughts.  The two cats that sleep with me worked their magic and together tried to purr me back to sleep.

just because its all in your head

It was a no-go.  

So I got up and came downstairs.  Made the coffee, made the rounds and dropped feed in bowls inside and outside. 

Sat down and started writing.  

hand-coffee-roosevelt

I do love writing in the wee hours of the morning-my mind is clearer and less prone to distraction.

But I hate rude awakenings.  

It will take half the morning for the adrenaline to work its way out of my system and I’ll be dragging this afternoon just when I need to get things done.

I used to be able to roll over and go back to sleep no matter what woke me in the middle of the night.  

Not anymore.  

heart leaf torn

Repost: No Magic

I was looking for it too, at first.

There had to be a secret path, a magic word, a hidden key that would make this awful child loss journey more manageable.

But there is none.

It seems unbearable to think ahead to the possible years of doing this hard thing.  And it is- UNBEARABLE.  If I look at the missing writ large across the rest of my life, I will crumble beneath the weight of it.

Read the rest here:  No Magic

Wisdom From C.S. Lewis

C.S.Lewis was an amazing man who died one day before I was born and just three years after his beloved wife ran to heaven ahead of him. 

In these later years I’ve often wondered how much grief played a role in his departure.  

I have appreciated his books for decades.  Shared them with others and spent hours reading The Chronicles of Narnia series to my children.

He is a family staple.  

But he can be a bit hard to understand at times-his rich background studying literature informed his own writing style.  So I often have to tease apart longer quotes to get at the meat of what he’s saying.

It’s always worth it.  

I read A GRIEF OBSERVED in my 30’s as another in a long list of “Books You Should Read”.  I gleaned a bit here or there that I thought might be of use later on.

But when Dominic ran ahead to heaven, it was the first book on grief I bought for myself and I read it like a starving man set down to a full table.  

This passage, in particular, was helpful in understanding how my absolute trust in the FACT of ultimate redemption of my pain and sorrow did absolutely NOTHING to take away the pain and sorrow-it only made it bearable.

 

If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.

~C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

My son is safe in the arms of Jesus.  And that is a comfort.  

And I, trusting in that truth and leaning into my faith in Christ, am also comforted that even here, in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, am safe in the arms of Jesus.  I may FEEL lost, but I am NOT lost.

But-and here’s the experiential truth that separates those of us who experience the REALITY of child loss from those that IMAGINE it-my mother’s heart is denied the presence of my son for the rest of my earthly days.

All the things I had hoped for, dreamt of and expected to experience are robbed from me.  

There is no remedy for that.  

Absolutely none.

imagine child loss

 

Not Anti-Social. Just Selectively Social.

Grief changes lots of things.  

I am simply not able to spend energy on frivolous and marginally meaningful social activities anymore. 

I’m sure that hurts some folks feelings and I am truly sorry.

But I can’t help it.  

Truth is, we all have a limited amount of energy to spend on life’s commitments, celebrations and unexpected circumstances.  It’s just that most of us aren’t forced to admit it very often.  Before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I could “rob Peter to pay Paul” as my daddy used to say.  A few days of not enough sleep, a few days of rushing here and there, a few days of biting my tongue and smiling when I wanted to cry were bearable.

I could survive a week or two and then take a day or two to recover.  Good as new.

I don’t have that luxury anymore.  

Now I operate every. single. day. on a razor thin edge of just enough energy to get by and not enough energy to get out of the bed.

So I am selective about social commitments because I know the energy just isn’t there.

I’m not withdrawing, I’m drawing boundaries.

I promise you are still important to me but I may have to check up online instead of in person.

I want to know about every special and exciting thing going on in your life-I want to celebrate with you!-even if it’s from a distance.  

Please don’t scratch me off your list just because I don’t always say “yes” anymore.

I will keep showing up when I can and send a card or gift when I can’t.

I care.  

I promise.  

I’m doing the best I can.

 

Sterkte: The Empowering Strength of God in Me

Yesterday was four years since the day we buried Dominic.  I can barely comprehend it. It’s a terrible thing for a mama’s heart to watch the seasons change and think, “I need to change the flowers on Dominic’s grave.”

But I do it.

It’s one of the last things I can do for this child of my heart.

Sterkte. 

I didn’t even know this word when we buried Dominic.  

But I wish I had.  

Because “sterkte” expresses precisely the supernatural strength and courage that filled my heart, mind and body as I stood for the hours of visitation, sang the worship songs, listened to friends, family and our shepherd/pastor give a message and invitation to a packed sanctuary, then filed out ahead of my son’s casket.

Sterkte literally translates “strength” or “power” but culturally means much more.

It means bravery, strength, fortitude and endurance in the face of fear and insurmountable odds through the empowering strength of God in me.

The morning of Dominic’s funeral-nine long days after his accident-I posted this on Facebook:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” 
~Habakkuk 3: 17-18

dom on mountaintop

Years before, in another dry but hardly tragic season, God had imprinted those verses on my heart.  Even if-even if- there was no way through but through, I was determined to trust God and to lean in and hold onto hope.  

I had no idea how that choice would be tested in the coming days, weeks, months. 

I had no idea that even now, four years later, I would have to hold on just as hard, wake each morning and make that choice once again, refuse the whispers of the enemy of my soul that spread seeds of doubt and confusion.

But in my own strength, all the determination in the world would be for nothing. 

I am not strong enough or brave enough to stand.  

It’s sterkte that held me up that day four years ago when my son’s body was lowered into the ground and dirt shoveled on top.  It’s sterkte that keeps me upright today when tsunami waves of grief still wash over me and sobs escape.  It’s sterkte that gives me strength to hold onto hope and lean into truth and keep marching bravely into a future that may yet hold more heartache.

Habakkuk committed to praise God no matter what happened.  

He understood sterkte.  It was his lifeline. 

After his declaration of purpose, he gives the reason why: 

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

~Habakkuk 3:19

The Lord God is my Strength.

The Lord God is my personal bravery.

The Lord God is my invincible army. 

He is the reason I’m still standing.

melanie feet crocs and driveway step