Even if I could erase loss from our family’s story, we’d still be muddling through the holidays trying to meet needs, expectations and holiday hopes all while juggling schedules and unwanted surprises.
Add child loss and sibling loss to the mix and there’s potential for a real mess!
So one of the things I’ve learned on this journey is I have to ask-and ask again-what my surviving children want and need for the holidays.
And then I have to LISTEN well.
We certainly haven’t managed holidays since Dom left us with grace and aplomb. In fact, some have been downright awful.
But we are still trying to make space and give grace so they are less stressful and more joy-filled.
I have never wanted to make my life journey with blinders on. I realized young that MY perspective is not the only one. I understand that more clearly now.
So I try hard to think about, acknowledge and accommodate the feelings and needs of others.
But it’s especially challenging since Dominic left us. And doubly so this time of year when every sight, smell and song screams, “It’s the holidays andHE IS NOT HERE!“
I may not be as thoughtful to some in my circle as want to be, but I will expend every ounce of energy and effort I can muster to make space for my living children’s needs during this season.
Truth is, beyond my single vote or my social media post or a letter (remember those!) I might write to an elected official or the editor of a local paper, I don’t have much influence in the larger world.
But I can absolutely make my family, my place of worship and my community a safe space for reasonable people to share opinions, seek solutions and save the best parts of what makes us human.
There’s not a lot I can add to this post from last year-it’s all about giving and receiving grace.
It’s about refusing to label, categorize, dehumanize, point fingers and standing steadfast for long held ideas without considering new information and new insights.
We’ve got to do better, y’all.
We have to.
There is so much going on right now in our country and our world that hurts my heart.
I could get on my soapbox and pontificate about what policies should be or what politicians should do but my tiny voice wouldn’t make a difference on the grander stage.
My world is pretty small in comparison to social influencers and the ones who want to be.
Even still, what I do and what I say each day matters.
I think Dominic’s death has made me brave in this one tiny place: I say things I might not have said before. I risk pain in relationships where I might not have been willing to risk before. I assume that if I don’t speak important truths RIGHT NOW I might not get another chance.
I long to be a burden bearer for my friends and family because I know what it is to bear a burden.
So I ask and don’t assume.
If someone wants to be left alone, then they are free to tell me.
But I will not stay silent or keep away simply for my own comfort.
This incident happened awhile ago but it still rankles me.
I’m not one to insist we need to self-censor everything we say or share because it *might* offend someone else. That’s just exhausting!
But…BUT…when someone makes me aware that I’m adding to their burden with my words I’m quick to shut up.
Laying down idle conversation is a small price to pay to love a friend well.
I had a very uncomfortable exchange with someone at church Wednesday night.
We have a light potluck dinner each Wednesday before Bible Study and I’m on kitchen duty. So I was uncovering dishes, adding spoons and getting things ready when conversation erupted around me about a “horrible wreck just up the road.”
I kept silent and tried to focus on the plastic wrap and aluminum foil but couldn’t help hearing the animated relaying of detail after detail until it reached a crescendo ending in someone declaring that, “Well, those people just drive too fast. They don’t even care about themselves.”
If you have lived a blessed life where the greatest challenge to your faith has been disappointment and not destruction then I am so, so happy for you. Really.
Some of us have dragged our broken hearts through the church doors out of habit with little hope we might find the genuine comfort we need to survive inside.
Because experience taught us that while it is perfectly acceptable to raise a hand and ask for prayer one or two weeks in a row, it better not become a predictable pattern. Patience with unsolvable and messy ongoing situations runs thin as leaders turn the discussion toward “victory in Jesus”.
But that isn’t what Christ came for-not that we don’t have ultimate and even some temporal victory through Him.
He came for the broken and breathless. He came in the flesh because our flesh is weak and life is hard and bad things happen.
We’ve got to do a better job welcoming and ministering to hurting hearts.
We have to.
I am a shepherd. My goats and sheep depend on me for food, for guidance and for their security.
And every day I am reminded that a shepherd’s heart is revealed by the way he or she cares for the weakest and most vulnerable of the flock.
But most of us are far removed from the daily reminder of pastoral life that was commonly accessible to the authors and readers of the Bible thousands of years ago. So it’s no surprise that we tend to forget the connection between a shepherd’s life and a pastor’s calling.
I admit I’m full of words. When my mama came to pick me up when her best friend was babysitting for awhile, she said, “You can’t have her yet, she’s telling me all kinds of things!”
More than once my mouth got me in trouble.
It’s still the source of most of my problems.
But for a time after Dominic left I found that the only words I could muster beyond what was absolutely necessary were written in my journal. Because the words I wanted to say were bitter and harsh and tasted bad as they came up my throat and threatened to roll off my tongue.
I’m pretty sure that every single grieving parent I know has gotten at least one private message, text or phone call that starts like this, “I know that I haven’t lost a child, but…” and ends with some sort of advice that seeks to correct a perceived flaw in how the parent is grieving (in public) his or her missing child.