When It’s All Been Said and Done

What would you die for?

What are you living for?

These are the questions that fill my mind most days.

It’s easier to think about what I would die for:  my family, my God. Definitely not stuff…

But if I were to die for something, it would be a moment in time, an unrepeatable and finished work.

It’s much more challenging to think about what I will live for.  I have to decide and commit to THAT over and over.

Living after losing a child is a daily exercise of walking in two dimensions–the here and now and the world to come.

My first journal entries after Dominic died were filled with prayers begging God to pour His love, mercy and grace into my broken heart and to make me a vessel of healing for others–to not allow me to become bitter or hard or uncaring–

It was the only good I could imagine coming from the horror of burying my child.

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and heaven after
For you’ve joined me at my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone…

When It’s All Been Said and Done (lyrics)

We each only get this one life–how are we going to spend it?

When It’s All Been Said and Done By Robin Mark

Jubilee

Two years ago today I turned fifty.  I was celebrated by family and friends with a sweet surprise party organized by my children.

It was going to be my Year of Jubilee–a year of celebration and freedom.

About three years before, I had figured up on fingers as I sent my last homeschooled child to college that in 2013/2014:

All my children would be through undergraduate studies;

James Michael would be married and have his DVM degree;

and Dominic would be in the home stretch for Law School.

I had no idea I would bury my child.

I have thought a lot about how the year didn’t go as I planned and about how my year of celebration turned into a year of mourning. Instead of feeling free, I felt bound by sorrow and sadness, weighed down by grief and the gravity of carrying this heavy burden.

My fiftieth year stripped me of all illusion:

that what I hold is my own possession;

that this physical life is all there is;

that I have any control over the future;

or that my plans are secure.

I did not willingly surrender my child but surrendering him I was forced to accept that what I thought was mine is only on loan from God.

It is a hard, hard lesson--one that can find room only in a broken heart:

“Do I delight in what God gives me or in Who God is?”

It doesn’t seem that the children of Israel ever observed the Year of Jubilee. It was just too painful to return land to the original owner, to free slaves when you depended on their labor.  It was too hard to give back what God had given to them.

There is a certain freedom in letting go–a certain weightlessness that comes from an open hand.  It is not the freedom I would have chosen, but perhaps the one I need…

I discovered that Jubilee is really about what I hold in my heart and not what I have in my hands.

Adonai is all I have,” I say;
therefore I will put my hope in him.

Adonai is good to those waiting for him,
to those who are seeking him out.
It is good to wait patiently
for the saving help of Adonai.

Lamentations 3:24-26 CJB

 

 

 

 

Dry Places

I discovered these one morning in the hard ground of my gravel driveway.

New life where one would never look for it.

Are you walking in a hard, dry  land?

I am.

But I trust that God is working even here. And one day life will burst forth beautiful and full.

 Even if the fig tree does not grow figs and there is no fruit on the vines, even if the olives do not grow and the fields give no food, even if there are no sheep within the fence and no cattle in the cattle-building, yet I will have joy in the Lord. I will be glad in the God Who saves me.

Habbakkuk 3: 17-18 NLV

 

 

 

Season of Joy: Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

We want to enjoy the family that gathers, but their presence makes the empty chair more obvious.

It is so hard to find a way to trudge through the tinsel when what you really want to do is climb into bed and wake up when it’s all over.

There are some practical ways family and friends can help grieving parents during the holidays:

  1. Don’t resist or criticize arrangements a bereaved parent makes to help him or her get through this season.  If they are brave enough to broach the subject, receive their suggestions with grace and encourage them with love.  Do your best to accommodate the request.
  2. If the bereaved parent doesn’t approach you–consider thoughtfully, gracefully approaching him or her about what might make the holidays more bearable.  But don’t expect a well-laid plan-I didn’t get a “how-to” book when I buried my child…this is new to me and very, very painful.  I am doing the best I can to keep my head above the waves and I cannot be expected to captain the boat through these turbulant waters.
  3. Don’t be surprised if a bereaved parent doesn’t want to exchange gifts (or at least, not receive gifts).  No one can rewind time or restore my family circle to wholeness and I just can’t think of anything else that I want or need.
  4. Don’t assume that the bereaved parent should be relieved of all meal duties around the holiday.  For some of us, doing the routine things like baking and cooking are healing.  For others, there just isn’t energy for anything other than the most fundamental daily tasks. ASK if they want to contribute.
  5. Don’t corner surviving children for a private update on their parent’s state of mind.  My children are grieving too.  When you expect them to give an update on me you diminish their pain and put them in a difficult position.  If you want to know, ask me.
  6. If there are young children in the family, it might be helpful to offer to take them to some of the parties/gatherings/church services that their parent may not be up to attending. Ask, but don’t be upset if they say “no”–it might still be too traumatic for either the child or the parent to be separated from one another.

I know that life goes on, the calendar pages keep turning and I can’t stop time in its tracks.  I greet each day with as much faith and courage as I can muster. This season requires a little more-and I will need help to make it through.

 

Crowing in the Dark

Walking the path of a bereaved mother is hard and uncomfortable

Right now my world feels dark…sunrise seems far off and uncertain. But I know in my heart the night won’t last forever.

The roosters on my farm remind me that what I see is not all there is.

Ever ponder why God made roosters crow? Some of my scientific friends will give me the biology of it but, really, why?

I think it was to bring Him glory and announce His faithfulness.

Even when the light is imperceptible to human eyes, the rooster sees the promise of the coming day and cannot contain himself in his joy.

My roosters start their call to worship about 3:30 each morning. When weather permits and my bedroom window is open, I hear first one and then the other, declaring the beginning of a new day.

It looks like night to me.

But maybe they perceive the faintest glimmer of light cresting over the horizon.

Or maybe they just announce it because they trust the One Who brings the sunrise even when they can’t yet see the sun.

So I will follow their example and trust even in the darkness and declare the truth–the Son is coming and physical death is not the end of the story

Jesus promised:

I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security).10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” John 10:9-10 AMP

 

 

Handle With Care

A bereaved parent’s grief doesn’t fit an easy-to-understand narrative. And it flies in the face of the American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.

You can’t beat it–it’s not a football game-there is  no winning team.

You can’t lose it–it’s not the extra 10 pounds you’ve been carrying since last Christmas.

You can’t get over it–it’s not a teenage love affair that will pale in comparison when the real thing comes along.

You can only survive it.  You can heal from it, but it will take a lifetime and require very special care.

I have a young friend whose first child was born with a life-threatening heart defect.  At just a few months of age, her little girl received a heart transplant.  Without it, she would have died.  With her new heart, this sweet baby will live-but her parents must observe careful protocols to protect that heart and she will never outgrow the scar from the surgery that saved her life.

Burying Dominic wounded my heart so deeply that while I know it will heal–it is beginning to, I think–it will bear the scars and require special handling as long as I walk this earth.

So when I thank you for an invitation, but choose not to go…I’m not rejecting you, I’m protecting my heart.  Please ask again–tomorrow might be a better day, and going somewhere or being with someone could be just what I need.

If you call and I don’t pick up…I might be crying, or about to, and I choose not to burden you with my grief.  Call in a day or two or next week–keep trying.

A text or email or card is so helpful.  I can read these when I’m ready and respond when it’s easier for me to think.

And please, please, please don’t look for the moment or day or year when I will be “back to my old self”.  My old self was buried with my son.  I am still “me”–but a different me than I would have chosen.

I know it makes you uncomfortable–it makes me uncomfortable too.

But because I trust in the finished work of Christ, I know that one day my heart will be completely healed.

I hurt but I have hope. This pain will be redeemed and my scars will be beautiful.

“For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must]”  2 Corinthians 1:5.

Life Goes On

Today James Michael turns twenty eight! Since May of last year, he graduated from Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, got married, trained and served as a deputy sheriff in West Virginia, moved twice, and joined the Air Force.  Just typing this leaves me breathless.

But it’s true:  life goes on.

Our surviving children have done a bang-up job of pushing through and moving forward even with the burden of grief weighing them down.

I don’t know how they do it.  

I have managed a few minor projects but am still unable to think beyond today.

I struggle to carry grief and plan ahead.

When you realize that your world can change in an instant, it seems silly to mark things out on a calendar as if paper and ink controlled the universe.

So I celebrate the days as they come and cling to the promise that God has a plan and purpose for this pain.  I place my heart in the hands of the One Who made it and trust that He will make it whole again.

 I rest in the reassurance that death is not victorious and the grave is not eternal.

 But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! 

I Corinthians 15: 51-57 (MSG)