Still Wrestling

If you’re looking on from the outside you might well think that I’ve laid most of my questions to rest; that I’m no longer wrestling with trying to comprehend both the sovereignty of God and the goodness of God;  and that I’ve figured out how to reconcile verses that seem to promise protection for those that love the Lord and the reality of death and destruction of some of the very same people.

But you would be wrong.

I do experience the peace that passes all understanding.  I do rely on Jesus to be the Arbiter of Truth and the Umpire of my questions:

Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].

Colossians 3:15 AMP

.I am trusting fully in the ultimate redemption of my pain.

Yet there are moments when I am overwhelmed by the “whys”. Thankfully they don’t come as often as they used to.

Still, I refuse to pretend that I have it all figured out.  Five months later I continue to identify with what I wrote here:  Wrestling With God

 

Slow Fade

It would be easier, in a way, if it happened all at once.

If the vivid memories of his voice, his laugh, his body language, his sense of humor just disappeared-POOF!-now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t. Then I could make a single adjustment.

But that’s not how it is.  Instead, the living proof of his existence recedes like a wave from the shoreline, only there’s no returning surge to remind me of the force that was Dominic.

Each new day marks one more rotation of the earth, one more sunrise and sunset that places me further from the last time I saw him, the last time I heard his voice, the last time I hugged his neck.

And there is no cure for time marching on.  There is no “pause” button that I can push to let me catch my breath and allow my heart to comprehend the reality my body and mind must embrace.

Small mementos that are insignificant to those around me crumble to dust between my fingers.  Eventually I’m forced to sweep them up and put them away forever.

His friends find jobs, get married, have children-wonderful life events, things I celebrate with them-but they also remind me that he will never do those things.  I will never hold his child, relieved the labor is over, thrilled to see his eyes or nose in a tiny face looking back at me.

The subtle and constant change keeps me off-balance.  As soon as I think I have found my footing on this new plateau of loss, the earth moves beneath me and I’m stumbling once again.  

I came across this quote not long after Dominic left us.  When I first read it, I didn’t really understand.

But now I do.

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.”

John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

 

 

Nothing Left Unsaid

I happened to be traveling recently and saw that Anderson Cooper, son of Gloria Vanderbilt, has filmed a documentary about his mother titled Nothing Left Unsaid.  I don’t know much about him or the film, but the title immediately struck a chord in my heart.

I am learning so much through grieving my son.

I am learning by hard experience that we may not have tomorrow.  

And I am learning that what weighs most heavily on my heart is not the things I said or did but the things I didn’t say or didn’t do.  The brick wall of regret is built of things unsaid and undone.  

love the ones god gave you

So I try to be more faithful and timely in telling people, “thank you”.  I strive to demonstrate my love and gratitude in ways that others find meaningful and helpful. I refuse to be embarrassed or shushed into silence when strong emotion wells in my throat begging to be released.

Not everyone is woken from the stupor of assuming there will be a tomorrow as violently or suddenly as I was-but everyone will have a moment when they realize the opportunity to express love to a particular person has been snatched away.  

  • What grudges are you holding?
  • What anger or bitterness keeps you from reaching out?
  • What fear binds you to your chair, preventing you from making that call or visit?
  • What words of blessing do you need to speak over the bowed head of someone you love?

When I leave this earth, I want to leave knowing that I have said it all– nothing left unsaid.

 

words

 

A Different Me

I’m not the same me  I was two years ago.

I no longer look with confidence down the driveway as friends and family pull away, certain that we will see one another soon.

I whisper, “Be safe” when we part, but know that they are not the keeper of their days and that “being safe” doesn’t mean everyone escapes deadly peril.

I don’t have the luxury of emotional distance when I read the newspaper anymore.

I can’t watch the text scroll by on CNN or FoxNews and allow my eyes and heart to glaze over as numbers representing lives flash by.

Burying my son has tenderized me.

My mind drifts effortlessly and immediately to the ones left behind any time there is mention of a murder or a suicide or an accident.

And my spirit rejoices  when a heroic rescue uncovers someone buried in the rubble or a passerby stops to help a person who otherwise faced certain doom.  Second chances make me cry happy tears.

I have higher tolerance for the failures of others and lower tolerance for hatefulness and unkindness.

Maybe I’m just tired, but I find it easier to extend grace than to fuel anger.

I don’t care what latest or greatest movie, TV show, fashion fad or IPhone App has just been released-ads for a better, bigger, newer anything don’t entice me.

Don’t try to draw me into drama or worry or hand-wringing over politics or social media or foolish disputes.  There is no part of my heart with room for that.

I will exhaust myself loving others but not on loving things.

I’m a pilgrim and a stranger on this earth. I’m walking a path in a foreign land, looking forward to my heavenly home.  

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.

Hebrews 11:8-10 MSG

 

 

 

 

Learning to Grieve With Hope

One of the things I am learning in this journey of child loss is that while I can work hard to frame my experience through the Truth of Scripture, I cannot deny my feelings.

I cling to and copy down and recite Bible verses on a daily basis.  I feed my heart and soul and spirit with heavenly manna and trust that it will sustain me.

But if I ignore or distract myself from acknowledging the feelings raging within me, I am only delaying an inevitable confrontation-they will not be put aside forever.

Paul didn’t say, “don’t grieve”.  He said, “grieve with hope”.

Hope gives me something to hold onto. Hope gives me courage to keep going.  Hope grants me vision so I can look forward to a time when pain will end.

But it does not end the pain.  It does not remove the ache of longing.  It does not erase the sorrow.

Read more:  Grieving With Hope

 

Visible Wounds

A sweet friend made sure I had Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book, Lament for a Son, in my hands just days after Dominic’s accident.  And it was one of the most helpful, kindest gifts I ever received.  It still lives by my chair and I look at it often.

It might have been the similarities in circumstances that took our sons-his died in a mountain climbing accident, mine in a motorcycle accident-or it might have been our shared theology, but when I read his words, they spoke my heart.

A professor of philosophy and a believer in Christ, he refuses to gloss over the hard edges of grief and pain.  He faces the questions head-on and brings me with him into the dark chamber of sorrow, letting me sit in silence and feel the heaviness of loss.

He does not wrap his experience up into a tidy package.

It may be counter-intuitive to those who have not experienced child loss to know that I find his lack of tidy ending MORE encouraging than the books I read that try to tell me it will all be just fine.

Because my heart screams that it will NOT be “fine” this side of heaven.  I will NOT understand this side of heaven.  I WILL NOT be satisfied with any answer this side of heaven.

There are many quotes from this book that speak to my heart, but this one sums up so much of what I am learning through loss:

If sympathy for the world’s wounds is not enlarged by our anguish, if love for those around us is not expanded, if gratitude for what is good does not flame up, if insight is not deepened, if commitment to what is important is not strengthened, if aching for a new day is not intensified, if hope is weakened and faith diminished, if from the experience of death comes nothing good, then death has won. Then death, be proud.

So I shall struggle to live the reality of Christ’s rising and death’s dying. In my living, my son’s dying will not be the last word. But as I rise up, I bear the wounds of his death. My rising does not remove them. They mark me. If you want to know who I am, put your hand in.

~Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

As I wrote on Dominic’s first Remembrance Day, April 12, 2015:

Two truths have been burned on my Soul. One, broken hearts still beat. We are surrounded by wounded people. Walking gently through this life is the greatest blessing we can give to one another.

And two, LOVE WINS. There is no force as strong or attractive or eternal as love. God’s love for us and our love for Him and one another will be the song we sing forever. It would behoove us all to learn it here on earth.

I am not who I was two years ago.  

My heart has been both broken and made larger.

My eyes see the pain in the eyes of those around me.  My ears hear the strain in a muttered, “I’m fine.”

I have no patience for petty disputes and silly games.  I am more empty of envy and more full of love.

And my arms reach further and wider to embrace and encourage the wounded.

As I have been comforted, I want to comfort others.

Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 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 1:3-5 AMP

 

 

A Tribute

Dominic was an amazing man-he lived harder and braver and louder than most.  He was a unique light in this world and now he is gone.

I will never stop missing him.

There is no way to sum up a person’s life-not even a relatively short one-in the number of words allotted to a newspaper article. But I am grateful the Crimson and White gave it a shot–click here to read their tribute:

Law Student Remembered for Kindness, Selflessness