Time and Time Again

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven we have celebrated four graduations and a wedding.

Wednesday night was another one.  My daughter, Fiona, graduated nursing school.

We are so excited for her!

fiona grad jumping

And, as usual, our family rallied round, pitched in, showed up and made a great fuss over the accomplishment.

It was beautiful and hard all at the same time.

Because time and time again we join hands and hearts to celebrate an achievement, a milestone, a special moment or a holiday and there is always, always, always one missing.

Every photo is just slightly askew- one daughter, three two sons.

family fionas grad (2)

We’ve gotten good at closing ranks, squeezing out the space where he should be standing.  But our hearts mark the gap.

Our hearts will always mark the gap.

I am much better now at actually enjoying these things-I love the way my daughter’s friends surround and encourage her, I laughed at the antics of the children that enjoyed running from adult to adult, getting more attention than they knew what to do with.  I sat and listened with great pride as Fiona gave the closing remarks to her graduating class, drawing from a deep well of wisdom that includes heartache as well as hallelujahs.

And it was all good.  Really, truly  good.

But you have to go home eventually.

Hugging necks and saying “good-bye” is when it always hits me-I hug harder, cling longer, make sure to whisper not only “I love you” but everything I need to say-just in case.

And grown children text their mama so she knows they are safely home.

Dominic’s legacy is this:  We never miss a chance to celebrate one another.

We cling to the good and try to let go of the bad.

We love fiercely and openly and are not ashamed for one minute of our tears or our laughter.

Because you never know.

love the ones god gave you

 

Parenting After Loss: Giving Surviving Siblings Permission to Live

I wrote this post about things I’m learning almost two years ago.

A couple of the things I’m learning are:

There is no limit to the pain you may have to endure this side of heaven.

Lightning can strike twice in the same place, and fear of what you know by experience trumps fear of the unknown by miles.

I’ve buried one child, I do not want to bury another.

So one of the biggest struggles I face is how to parent my surviving adult children.  I do not want their lives circumscribed by my fears.

Are we ALL changed by Dominic’s death?  Absolutely!  But they are young, at the beginning of life and making choices about direction and life partners and what they want out of the years stretching before them. 

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I pray every day they will make those choices from a place of freedom and hope instead of a place of confinement and fear. 

Can something happen to any one of them?  Of course!  But it is no more likely today than it was three years ago when I didn’t think it could happen at all.

I will not let my mind and heart borrow trouble from tomorrow.  I will choose to focus on today and encourage them to do the same.

While Dominic was here-he LIVED.  

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I want his brothers and sister to be completely free to live too.

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Time Travel

This may come as a shock to my city-dwelling readers, but there is not a UPS store on every corner in rural Alabama.

In fact, there isn’t one in the whole county where I live. 

So when I had to return something with a prepaid label,  the nearest place to do it was up the highway and off an exit that I probably haven’t taken in a decade.  After dropping the package, on a whim, I scooted across the street to the Winn Dixie store for just a minute.

As soon as I entered, I knew I’d made a dreadful mistake.  The store had not changed even a little in the years and years since I was last there.  

And the last time I was there was with all four children.  

Those were the days when we piled into our Suburban and did marathon shopping runs to take advantage of every sale in one day.  My kids were experts at finding the right size item specified on whatever coupons we might be using to drop the price even further.  I would dispatch the boys to get heavier things as I went up and down the aisles loading the buggy with canned goods.

So when I walked in and the store even SMELLED the same, I was instantly transported to those days.  I could almost hear the laughter of my sons, see my daughter next to me and feel that blessed togetherness I cherished even then but long for painfully, desperately NOW.  

I’m not sure that my heart didn’t stop for just a second or two.  I know I held my breath.

It was both beautiful to remember and more painful than I could have imagined.

I was utterly unprepared for the grief wave that swept over my heart.

I forced myself to walk slowly to grab the item I needed.  I got in line, made small talk with a friendly customer and a chatty cashier.  And then I practically ran out the door and to my truck in an attempt to escape the sadness.

At home, I let the tears fall.  Sat in silence and gathering darkness and let myself FEEL all the feels.

I am oh, so grateful for every single moment I can remember but oh, so sad there won’t be any more.

it has been said that time heals all wounds rose kennedy clock

 

 

 

 

75 Percent

I have tried blogging at various times through the years and always given up after a few posts.  My life was full and I found that in a few weeks or months I didn’t really have all that much to say.

It’s different this time-I have been writing every day for almost 20 months and seem to always have at least a sentence or two that wants to burst forth from my keyboard.

I think pain births words.

But one thing I never want to forget is that although Dominic is gone from my sight-my other three children are not.  I still have 75 percent of my children with me.

I do not take that for granted.

They are each a successful and highly-functioning adult in their own right.  It would be easy to run from a broken family and run toward a life that didn’t include daily reminders that their mama cries often and is not nearly the woman she once was.

But they don’t.

Instead they check on me, love me and encourage me with text messages and Facebook memes and silly photos.  They listen when I need to download a pile of frustration and disappointment.

They help me remember that life is still happening, even when I wish (in some ways) it wasn’t.

When each one of my children was born I received him or her as a gift from God.  I could not imagine there would be a day when I would treasure them more than I did on that day.

But I do.

I miss Dominic, because he was a gift from God too.

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But I will be forever thankful that, at least for now, I have Fiona, James Michael and Julian.

Forced to give one child back, I will never, ever, take the ones I have left for granted.

beach-and-family-better

 

Attitude Adjustment

This week has been challenging on multiple fronts and the challenges kept coming at the most inopportune moments.  None of the things I faced was truly awful but each wave of stress swept over me exactly when I thought my head would be above water and I could breathe easy for just a bit.

I admit that by Friday morning my attitude was pretty awful.

And I was feeling rather justified and satisfied in my bad attitude-some people had let me down, some people had lashed out against me, my hips hurt, my feet hurt and my “to do” list had lengthened every day instead of getting shorter as I worked through the items.  I was not looking forward to next week which is going to be filled with daily interaction with strangers and increased responsibility for children I don’t know.

But a conversation with my daughter (O Wise One!) helped turn that around.  

She didn’t do it by shaming me or tossing Bible verses at me or refusing to acknowledge the very real challenges, stress and pain I faced.

She did it by turning my heart and mind to the children I would have the opportunity to reach next week in our community through VBS.

She did it by reminding me of the many children she and our family have known through the years that may not need to hear the ABCs of how to receive Christ (because they have heard that before) but may need the undivided attention of a trusted adult for just five minutes out of a long summer.  

let the little children come to me

She helped me remember I love children and I love seeing their faces light up in the glow of genuine affirmation and encouragement.

She reminded me who I really am.  

Sometimes we all need an attitude adjustment and her wise words helped adjust mine.

I have a shepherd’s heart.

It’s why I go to extraordinary lengths to save a member of my flock.  It’s why I will drop everything to come to the aid of a broken heart.  It’s why there is no such thing in our house as being “too busy” when someone reaches out and needs a hug.

But for a few days I forgot that.

I had forgotten my true identity in the frenzy of trying to live up to others’ expectations and in allowing others’ remarks or actions to dictate my own.

I forgot that the only One Who matters is the One Who made me.

When I remember that I am the beloved child of a loving Father Who has promised to meet every need I have through the riches of His bounty in Christ Jesus, I am free to be the person He created me to be.

And that’s who I want to be.

Nothing-you-do-can-change-Gods-love

 

Bad Mama?

I have a heart for ALL mamas-the ones who are just starting out all the way up to the ones who launched their fledglings and have an empty nest.

I especially have a heart for mamas who have had to say “good-bye” to one or more of their precious children-sending them on ahead to heaven.

I’ve never met one that didn’t wonder if she did enough, said enough, loved enough-WAS enough.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

On the one hand, it allows instant communication and easy sharing of special events among friends and family in ways we could only dream about when my kids were tiny. On the other hand, the perfect pictures and carefully curated lives posted for the world to see place great pressure on those of us who look around at our messy houses and messy lives.

Add to that the articles and memes passed around and you have a perfect combination to crush a mama’s spirit.

Are my children being kept safe?  Are they being kept too safe?  Are they in the right school, the right sport, the right music program? Should I feed them this or that?  Am I doing enough?

Am I enough?

Am I a bad mama?

Can I just tell you something struggling mama?  Can I give you a lifeboat in the ocean of doubt?

God chose you before the foundation of the world to be your child’s mama.  He knows everything about you-past. present and future-and He chose YOU to help shape this little life into the person He created your child to be.

Yes, you make mistakes.  

Yes, you are flawed.  

Yes, you will do some things well and some things not so well.

But that is no surprise to God.

Look closely at the families in the Old Testament-you don’t have to get past Genesis to find dysfunction all over the place.  But God isn’t limited by our limitations.  His plan isn’t thwarted by our inability to follow directions.  His purposes do not depend on perfect parenting.  

Hallelujah! AMEN!

So buckle up and hold on-do the best you can to guide your family down the road God lays before you.  You will make some bad decisions and need to do a few U-turns.

That’s OK.  Lean into the One Who made you and made your children.

God has it under control.  

no way to be a perfect mother child in arms

Please Be Patient With Me

Our local high schools hold graduation ceremonies this week.  Such an exciting time for so many families!

My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with senior pictures intermingled with baby photos and exclamations by mamas that they have absolutely NO IDEA where the time has gone.

I totally get it.

I graduated four from high school and college and a couple from graduate school.  And it’s true-all the while you are raising these children it seems like the days are long.

But one day you look up from the hard work of motherhood and realize the years were short.

Too short.

Thankfully for most parents graduation isn’t really an end.  It marks a transition and perhaps growing geographical distance, but the relationship will continue.

Your child may be harder to reach, but they are not utterly beyond your reach.

It may take more effort to arrange lunch or birthday parties or holiday gatherings, but they will still happen.

You might stand at the doorway of their empty room and wonder when they might come home for a visit and wake up under your roof again, but they WILL come home for a visit.

I’m not diminishing the very real sense of loss parents feel when the child they have nurtured begins a life apart.

Empty nest is a real thing.

It’s a hard thing.  It takes time to make necessary adjustments.

But some of us face something harder.

My child is utterly unreachable.  There are no phone calls, texts, Facebook messages or goofy Instagram updates on what he is doing while away from my sight.  He will never sit at my Thanksgiving table again or celebrate his birthday with a cake or special meal. No more presents under the Christmas tree.

And just like you who feel that time has been both fast and slow leading up to graduation-it seems that way to me, too.

Unbearably long since I heard his voice, saw his face and hugged his neck.  Yet also just yesterday since the full weight of his leaving landed hard on my heart. 

I understand how it feels to miss my child in a way I hope you never have to.  

please be patient with me