Five Years of Faithfulness

For my fellow Christ followers, my early morning post may have been a disappointment.  

We’re all schooled in the “right” things to say in the midst of a trial, aren’t we?  

“God is good!”  

“I know the end of the story!”

“Death doesn’t have the last word!”

And on, and on, and on….

True. Every single one of them.  

And yet…

If we are honest (and often we are not, because spiritual honesty is absolutely underrated in the church) we will also have to admit that KNOWING all those things doesn’t minimize pain.

It only makes it tolerable.  

But I don’t want leave anyone doubting for one minute that God has been faithful these past five years. 

He most certainly HAS.  

He has been a silent Source of hope and strength and breath and grace.  He has lifted my head when I couldn’t do it myself.  He has sent His faithful flock to minister to my needs and the needs of my family.  He has held me when I would have let go.

I have wrestled and questioned and even shouted but I’ve never, ever doubted He was here.  

faith does not eliminate questions but faith knows wehre to take them

I wish I could tell you that there was some super-spiritual moment when He assured me of Dominic’s safety in Heaven, but there hasn’t been.  

I wish I could tell you of a morning when His love and assurance and Presence washed over me to take away the angst, but I can’t.  

What I can say is that the Word I hid in my heart before this awful pain was also lodged there has been enough.  That deep well of living water has been more than adequate to quench my thirsty soul.  The torch of truth has been sufficient light along even this black-as-night path.

walk by faith feet on path

My faith is still just that-faith.  

I don’t have special revelation nor an extra dose of grace.  

I’m just following my Shepherd, trusting that He will lead me Home.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

How Can It Be Five Years??!!

We all experience it from time to time-that moment when your head comprehends that life has kept going but your heart refuses to keep pace.  

So today, I’m looking at a calendar that assures me it has been five years since that deputy knocked on my door. 

It’s a fact.  

My heart says, “It cannot be true.  It cannot be that long since I saw my living, breathing son cross the threshold of our family home.  It cannot be that long since I made the phone calls that still echo in my ears.  It can. not. possibly. be. that. long.”

And yet it is.  

If folks ask me how I’m doing, how my family is doing, I usually say we are OK.

Because, all things considered, we ARE. 

beach-and-family-better

None of us find daily life unmanageable.  None of us have fallen prey to addiction or unhealthy coping mechanisms.  None of us sit inside all day, moping and mourning the loss of a life we couldn’t hold onto even if we had seen it slipping away in time to take a firmer grip.

But we are absolutely, utterly, profoundly CHANGED.  

I often think back to old Star Trek episodes that showed crew members transporting to the surface of an unknown planet.  Their bodies were broken down into the tiniest component molecules and reassembled somewhere else.

I think that’s what this life is like. 

We’ve all been disassembled and reassembled. 

But instead of everything falling back into place, there are missing bits here and there, gaps too small for others to see but very, very real to us.  Connections lost.  Memories without proper context.

dont recognize myself without one of my sons

Feelings floating free of any anchor, bubbling up at the most inconvenient moments.  

And we all just plain MISS HIM.

We miss Hector Dominic DeSimone and who he is, what he brought to the table and car rides and family gatherings.

We miss who we were before we knew loss that burrows deep in your bones.  We miss the unmitigated joy and celebration we could toss around like confetti at the slightest provocation.

So today, unlike most days, we will give in to the sorrow.  We will remember that morning.  We won’t brush away the tears or the sad memories.  

He is worth every second and every heartache.

He is never forgotten.  

He is always, always on our minds.  

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Springtime Preview: Countdown to April

We’ve had an unusually warm winter this year.  

Not at all like the winter in 2014 which was punctuated by several deep freeze days and one giant “Snowmeggedon” that resulted in hundreds of people trapped in cars, at work or in schools.  

But there are other things that strike a chord in my heart and make me feel like I’m reliving that January through April. 

Lots of rain-both here and at my parents’ place in Florida.  A few days before Dominic left us, I sent him a photo of his younger brother nearly knee deep in creek water that had spilled from the banks into a nearby field.  He couldn’t believe it!  I still have the texts.

julian and creek in 2014

 

As for my parents’ home-well the rain has already filled the ponds which have risen across some spots in the dirt road that connects them to everywhere.  In 2014, the water got so high they were forced to evacuate for months as travel became nearly impossible except for lifted trucks or tractors.  It probably won’t reach that state again since dirt has been added to the road bed but it’s coming awful close and that taps memories and feelings in ways it’s hard to explain.

The year Dominic left us was going to be a year full of celebrations, culminations and hearty parties.  Julian was graduating with a Business Management degree, James Michael was wrapping up Veterinary School, Dominic would have survived the first two years of Law School with relatively easy classes left, Fiona was advancing in her Masters of Public Health Degree and James Michael and Lillie were getting married.

We thought all we’d need to “survive” that year was a cold winter and wet spring.  

We were wrong. 

This year is another year of celebration:  Fiona is marrying Brandon.  James Michael is coming home from deployment and will welcome, along with Lillie, his first child.  My husband will retire.

And all the preparation, along with the rain, is making me anxious.  

I wish it didn’t.  

Something about the timing, the temperature, the smell of green grass growing and leaves unfurling just overwhelms my heart.  

I’m so much better at planning now than I was just a year ago.  I can think more clearly, work more consistently, stay on track and make progress much better than those first years after Dominic ran ahead.

I have notebooks stacked on my table, decorations stacked in the room that used to be Dom’s.  Plastic bins full of tidbits we’ll use for the wedding and bridal showers.  My dress is sleeved in plastic and hung on the door for safe keeping.

I’m as ready as I can be.  

But once you’ve made big plans and had them shattered in an instant, once you’ve looked far forward to exciting times and had dancing turned to mourning, once you’ve done all the right things to make everything right and it’s gone all wrong-well, you just can’t shake the feeling that it might happen again.

I’m working hard to throw off the mantle of hesitation and anxiety that threatens to weigh me down.

I’m doing everything I can to remind my heart that this is an entirely different year, these are completely different celebrations.

Some days I am really good at it.  

Others, not so much.  

But I AM looking forward to all the beautiful things on my calendar.  

New marriage.  New life.  Bigger family circle.  

Spring is the year’s promise.   

I’m hanging on to that.  ❤

no winter lasts foreer and no spring skips its turn

Child Loss: When It’s Been YEARS-How To Bless a Grieving Parent

Please hear me. 

I do NOT blame you that my son and my sorrow have drifted down your list of “things that need attention”.  Your life is as busy as mine once was and your calendar full of commitments and celebrations that require your attendance.

There is no way you would know it’s 69 days until the fifth anniversary of Dominic’s sudden absence. 

There is no reason for you to be aware that as the southern landscape turns to spring, my heart and mind turn to death.  

But it’s the truth. 

Read the rest here:  When It’s Been YEARS-How to Bless a Grieving Parent

Child Loss: Marking the Milestones

When your child is born you take notes.

You plan to mark this day as a special milestone for the rest of your life.

You absolutely, positively NEVER think you will have to mark another one:  the day he or she leaves this life and leaves you behind.

But some parents have to mark both.  The dash in the middle is shorter than we anticipated, and our child’s life ends before ours.

grieving mother at grave

So how do you do it?  How in the world do you observe the polar opposite of a birthday?

Here are some ideas (shared with permission) that parents shared recently in an online discussion sparked by one mom’s very honest admission that she just didn’t have it in her to create another video montage from the same old photos to mark yet another year without the earthly companionship of her precious son:

Don’t do anything.  That is an option. We do not have to draw a red circle around THAT day on the calendar, gather folks as if  it’s a celebration.  As one mama said, “Yes, the day they left us does not need to be ‘remembered’.”  For some parents, going to work like it’s a regular day, engaging in whatever normal activities are required, ticking the hours off on the clock until night falls and the earth turns to the next day may be the very best choice.  Another mama wrote this:  “I have friends who celebrate a ‘heaven day’ for their son.  I can’t.  I just can’t.  If it were up to me, I would probably go camp somewhere all alone, and not move a muscle for the entire day.”

Do something big (or small).  Some parents choose this day to hold an annual “Celebration of Life”.  It might take the form of a balloon release, or lantern release at home, at a park or other outdoor venue or at the cemetery.  It might be lunch or dinner out at your child’s favorite restaurant or at home with your child’s favorite menu.  Invite friends and family to join you and ask that they bring a photograph or memory and share.  One mom said that such an event kind of happened organically and spontaneously when contacted by her son’s widow:  “We went to one of [his] favorite restaurants.  Told funny stories about him, talked about how missed he is, then went o his grave and put fresh flowers.”

balloon release

Serve others.  Did your child have a special interest in a particular charity or community organization?  Maybe you can spend this day volunteering or raising awareness/money for that group.  Often having something to do helps a heart from sinking into despair.  If the group allows, maybe put up a sign saying, “Volunteering today in honor of __________” and attach appropriate photos of your child.  Some parents whose child died from cancer or suicide or violence participate in walks or fundraisers that highlight those causes.

Encourage Random Acts of Kindness (RAK).  I plan to do this one in April.  It will be five years (!) and I can barely stand it.  But so many of the comments from Dominic’s friends after he left for Heaven went something like this one, “He was always doing something for someone else.  Fixing their car or showing up when they needed an encouraging word.”  He was known for his many acts of generosity and kindness and I feel like he lives on in the hearts of others because of that.  I had cards printed ( I intentionally let his “dates” off) which I will distribute well in advance of April 12th for friends and family to leave behind when they do a RAK in memory of Dom.  Vistaprint and other online publishing companies offer reasonable prices and will guide you through the process step-by-step.

random act of kindness

Escape.  Lots of us find being at home (alone or in the company of others) too hard to bear.  Many received word of their child’s death at home and as the day creeps closer, the memories crowd every corner of mental and physical space and are inescapable.  So sometimes parents plan a trip around this time.  Go somewhere your child would have loved to go or go somewhere he or she enjoyed visiting.  Take photos and post them in honor of your child if you want to.

Focus on family.  You may not want to be alone, but the thought of being with anyone outside your closest grief circle is overwhelming.  That’s OK.  Spend time with the people who, like you, are most affected by your child’s absence.  You don’t have to do anything special.  You can make room for them to speak or not speak about their grief as they choose.  Sometimes just having another warm body in the room is enough to ward of the chill of despondency.

grieving dad

Flip the script.  For those of us who believe that this life is not all there is, the day can be one of celebration.  Our children have escaped life full of sorrow and trouble and are safe forever in the arms of Jesus, where we will also be one day.  Waiting is hard, but waiting is not forever.

Simply allow yourself to feel the full force of missing and grief.  “As far as his death day, for me, that is a day when I allow myself to fully feel and express the pain of my loss.  It is a way to (temporarily) empty myself of all this pain, so I can breathe again to face another day.  I will sit in his sweatshirt, listen to reflective music, cry a lot, talk to him, pray to God, and just allow myself to feel all the pain and emotion that everyday responsibilities cause me to stuff away.”  If you can manage it, taking the day off work and giving yourself grace and space to grieve in ways that are denied so often may be the very best way to experience the day.

Here’s a list of ways some parents honor their child on this day:  

  • Giving away stuffed toys with a card or note explaining why.
  • Taking goodies to first responders and/or nurses who were served their family during an accident or illness.
  • Handing out Bibles or books in memory of their child.
  • Making memory baskets for parent whose child will be born straight into heaven.
  • Adding to a scholarship fund or other charitable fund in honor of their child.
  • Placing balloons, flowers or other special decorations on their child’s final resting place.
  • Lighting candles, releasing butterflies, balloons or lanterns.
  • Placing a memorial advertisement in a local paper.

Do or don’t do whatever helps you make it through those twenty-four hours that represent another year of sorrow, another year of missing.  

missing child from arms

There is NO wrong way to mark or not mark this day. 

It’s up to you and your heart.  

And absolutely does not require anyone else’s permission or approval.  

dont trade authenticity for approval

 

 

Another Milestone

I began this blog almost a year and a half into my grief journey.

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At first I wasn’t fully committed to writing on a regular basis.

I certainly never thought I’d write every day.

But this month marks a milestone:  From November 1, 2015 to today I have posted at least once a day.  Not every post original-some reposts of my blog or links to other blogs.

But I’ve shown up.

And it has been helpful to me, even if it hasn’t helped anyone else.

I had been journaling since the day I got the news but was too raw and too hurt to share my thoughts with anyone but God.

Goodness, I’d been journaling for almost 20 years and never expected to share any of it with anyone.  It was my way of working through hard emotions, recording insights and venting things that wouldn’t be helpful for others to hear.

But here I am-letting so much of it out to the world.

Every time I press “post” I still tremble.  Am I saying something helpful? Hurtful? Foolish? Wise?  I never know until I get some feedback.

I appreciate everyone who has commented on or “liked” or shared a post.

It gives me courage to carry on.

My only ambition for this effort is that I remain authentic, faithful and honest about the journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

I want to finish well. I want to make Dominic proud.

It is my way of redeeming the pain.

Thank you for joining me in the journey.

easier-to-begin-than-finish-well