I Get To Choose: Light Bearer or Candle Snuffer?

One of the rituals I observe when the time changes and night closes in so very early is to light a candle each evening in the dark.

I’ve done it for years but now as I do it, I think of Dominic.

It is my small way of declaring the truth that darkness will not win.

It’s my protest against despair and hopelessness that threatens to undo methreatens to undo ALL of us at one time or another.

Read the rest here: Light Bearers and Candle Snuffers

Wildflowers In The Weeds: Finding Joy Again

I’d like to encourage my fellow travelers in this Valley today.

Often I write about and share the hardest parts of this journey. Because there are so, so many hard parts!

And they are rarely spoken about above a whisper (if at all!) in greater society. I am determined to be as honest as possible lest I know of a hidden danger along the way and fail to warn you.

But there are also precious joys tucked away along the difficult path.

The trick is to train your eye to see them and your heart to receive them.

I’ll be the first to admit that for months (probably two years) despair and sorrow and loss were all I could truly feel.

Bereft is the word I’d choose if forced to choose only one.

I became so adept at finding the sad in every situation I fell out of practice in finding anything else.

To be honest, it didn’t take much to find the sad. Holidays were duller, celebrations were always missing one, even a sunrise didn’t shine as brightly knowing Dominic was never going to set eyes on that day’s bright glow.

At some point, unbidden, a tiny spark of gratitude-like a wildflower among weeds-drew my heart to joy. Even if I tried, I couldn’t help responding to the fact that not every moment of every day was clad in mourning clothes.

Little by little color seeped back into my life.

I found that if I grabbed those bits, held them close and meditated upon them, they soon came closer and closer together. They grew to fill not just moments but sometimes hours.

Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I become so mired in yesterday’s hurts, that I miss entirely the living gifts this day might hold.

“Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow” from Every Moment Holy Vol. II: Death, Grief & Hope

I’ve written before that Gratitude and Grieving coexist.

I can’t weigh all my blessings on a giant cosmic scale against the bruising of child loss and make it balance. But I have also realized that I don’t have to live in a constant state of bitter sadness just to prove I love my son.

Life continues.

It brings good things, hard things, beautiful blessings and awful bruising. I have-in the years since Dom left us-had challenges and triumphs.

I’m learning that if I pluck the flowers of joy when I see them, I’m better able to survive the moments of despair when they overtake me.

Some Good News.

I’ve written before how grief impacts physical health.

It’s true that our hearts and our bodies are intricately connected and stress in one area inevitably produces effects in the other.

I thought I had made it past the “critical period” when child loss might show up in my body but I was wrong.

Christmas Eve Day landed me in the hospital with a massive GI bleed. It wasn’t the first time I’d had such an incident. They began in 2007 and this made the sixth trip to the emergency room for the same problem-third since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

But this is the first time it’s taken nine long months to rebuild the red blood cells I lost.

I’m sure age and my autoimmune disease have something to do with it. Still, I’ve been pretty puny trying to do chores around this place with insufficient oxygen flowing to my muscles and my lungs. It’s been a challenge walking up the long hill from the horse pen to the front door. It’s been hard marching up and down the stairs in the house carrying laundry and sundry other things.

Tuesday, though, I got some really good news!

I get bi-monthly infusions for my RA and it’s standard practice to run labs before to make sure my body can tolerate the onslaught of potent medicine flowing through my veins.

For the first time in nine months the results showed I had a normal blood count.

I suspected that it had finally crept up into normal range because when I had my grandson here a couple weeks ago I was able to keep up with him. But it was lovely to get empirical confirmation.

And just like bad news drags me lower since Dom left us, good news boosts me higher.

There was a time when I thought I didn’t want to keep going-the pain was too great, the burden too heavy.

Thankfully, I’m not still in that pit of despair.

I miss Dominic. I miss the family we were. I mourn the uncle and (probably) husband he would have been.

But I have people here who I love. I have a life that still has meaning and purpose.

And I’m incredibly grateful for good news.

Holy Saturday: Living Between Pain And Promise

Yes, I live on the other side of the Resurrection-I know the end of the disciples’ vigil-I am convinced of the empty tomb, the ascended Lord and my Great High Priest’s intercession at the right hand of the Father.

But what I long for I cannot hold.  What I hope for I cannot touch.  What I know to be true I cannot see.

I live in the space between “it looks like everything has gone horribly wrong” and “Hallelujah!”.

It is painful.  It is hard.

 And it will last for a lifetime, not just a few days.

Read the rest here: Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

New Mercies Every Morning


I love to read familiar verses in different translations or paraphrases.

It helps my heart hear what I might otherwise miss because familiarity DOES breed a form a contempt even when considering the Word of God.

Recently, on my way through verses on HOPE I copied out Lamentations 3: 19-26.

A couple of the verses are ones most of us have seen or heard often:

mercies new every morning

But back up a little bit, and read it in a different version ( the VOICE) and it takes on even greater meaning for those of us walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. 

Read the rest here: New Mercies 

Healing Is Not Linear

I remember thinking in the early days, weeks and months of this journey that healing was impossible.

The wound was too great, too deep and too devastating to allow for that.

No amount of work or help or wishful thinking could undo the damage.

But I was wrong.

Little by little the shattered pieces of my heart began to reassemble themselves into a very fragile, not-quite-the-same, semblance of the old shape.

When life knocks me around (as it still does quite often) a bit falls off here and there and I have to begin again to put my heart back together.

It’s not simple.

It’s not a straight line.

It’s not a once and done thing.

But it’s possible.

Some Days, Still on the Edge

I wrote this three years ago.

Even writing that makes my heart skip a beat! How can I be heading toward surviving six years after that fateful morning? It hardly seems possible and yet it’s true.

And some days I still find myself on the edge of despair, of anxiety attacks, of deep sorrow and darkness.

But not as often.

For that, I’m thankful.

❤ Melanie

Almost three years and here I am-

still on the edge.

On the edge of an anxiety attack.

On the edge of the cliff of deep sorrow and darkness that threatens to swallow every thing bright in my life.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/02/02/on-the-edge/

There’s A Moment When The Light Makes It Through Again

This past week has been both hard and wonderful.

Some things happened that mean the next few months are going to be extra painful, extra stressful and extra challenging.

But I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.

As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.

One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.

When I was forced unwillingly on this long, hard journey, everything was dark. Nothing sparked joy. The whole world became a grainy black and white image on an ancient TV and it was fuzzy, flat and utterly uninteresting.

What’s worse, my heart could only REALLY feel two things-pain and love-and they were so inextricably intertwined I was no longer sure which was which.

I couldn’t run fast enough or far enough to escape the darkness or the pain.

I had to face all the awful of child loss, embrace it, feel it, work through it, talk about it in safe spaces with safe people and sit quietly for hours with my thoughts and uncomfortable emotions. I had to let time do the work that only time can do.

There are no shortcuts on this journey.

And then there was a moment when I saw something beautiful and felt something wonderful and I didn’t have to TELL my heart it was beautiful and wonderful.

I just KNEW and I could FEEL it.

At first, these moments didn’t last long and were isolated. But eventually the moments came faster, lasted longer and were closer together. I learned to embrace them, hold onto them, build upon them and look for them.

Now, the moments of light, life and color make up most of my days.

I have not forgotten Dominic. My heart aches to see him again, hold him again, share life with him again. But I’ve learned to hold that yearning for the life I used to have and gratitude for the life I live now in the same heart. I’ve found that allowing joy to fill my soul doesn’t push him away or to the side as if he doesn’t matter.

So if you think there is no way you can survive this awful, awful journey, keep going.

If you are still in the dark days and fearful light will never penetrate the depth of your pain and despair, hold on.

If your world has gone colorless, don’t give up.

Look for your moment, it’s coming.

And when it does, grab it.

There’s more where that came from.

Grief-It’s Really Just Love

At first grief felt only like sorrow and longing and brokenness.

Then it felt like confusion and anxiety and despair.

A little further along this journey it mostly felt like apathy.

Now it feels like love.

It’s the same love that helped me hold on when I was face first in the toilet every morning for seven months. Morning sickness with Dominic lasted nearly the whole pregnancy! With two young children already in our home, it was one of the hardest seasons of my life.

It’s the same love that demanded they bring me my baby when they whisked him away due to “concerns” after birth. Twenty-four hours later, c-section or no c-section, I told the nurse I’d be marching my butt down to the nursery if they didn’t bring him to me right away. (It was a different time-no real “rooming in”.)

It’s the same love that worked with my frustrated little boy to make his words sound clear and correct. Slow down, hit the hard consonants, be precise in how you form your lips. He grew up to give the undergraduate address when he graduated from UAB in front of thousands.

It’s the same love that listened when he told me his troubles, his fears and his dreams. So, so many nights he’d come in, flop down backwards on my bed and proceed to talk until I was just about to drift off to sleep.

It’s the same love that held his hand as people walked by expressing condolences.

It’s the same love that kissed his cold cheek before they lowered the casket lid. Told him, “Good-bye” and walked upright from the sanctuary.

I refused to dishonor his brave life by giving in to my personal fear.

Grief is really just love.

Dominic has been my son since he sat safely in my womb.

He’s still my son.

My love is not diminished because I can no longer touch him.

Love lives.

Forever.

When Sleep Won’t Fix It

I learned early on to make do on less sleep than I really need.

Four children in six years will do that to you.

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

It’s not that I have a physical need for sleep these days-although there are many nights when sleep eludes me.

It’s more that I am soul weary. 

Worn down in ways that sleep won’t touch.  Frayed and frazzled and falling down tired.

I wake up hopeful every morning.  “Today is going to be a productive, encouraging day!”

Sometimes I make it as far as lunchtime before fatigue sets in and overwhelms my good intentions.

I wish it were just a matter of extra shut eye!  I wish I could crawl up in the bed for 24 hours and wake refreshed, renewed and ready to go.

But I can’t.

Sleep won’t fix what’s wrong with me.

It can help.

If I’m physically drained in addition to emotionally exhausted then that’s never a good thing.  My fuse is shorter by the minute when my body is crying for rest.

sleep night terrors

Lack of sunlight, gray days and added stress from holiday preparations and obligations deepens the weariness in my bones.  I feel guilty sometimes because I know my life is still full of many blessings.  I really, truly do NOT take them for granted.  (How could I when I know how quickly and unexpectedly they can be gone?)

Still, all the blessings in the world can’t undo this exhaustion.

I’m well aware that discouragement begets discouragement and try so very hard to strive against it.  But in the end, I’m not sure I’m successful.

When I say to someone, “I’m so very tired!” they nearly always suggest a nap.  Trust me, if a nap would erase this soul weariness, I’d take one every single day.

But it doesn’t, so I don’t.

Instead I go outside and breathe some fresh air, make a cup of hot tea and sit down with a good book, or just sit down and watch the Christmas lights or a candle with my cat in my lap.

hand-coffee-roosevelt

That seems to help. 

It resets my focus and refuels my soul.

Night closes in and I find I’ve made it through another day.  <3

glowing candles huff post

 

 

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