Book Review: Remember to Breathe

I’m a member of several online bereaved parents groups.

They are safe spaces to share my heart and be assured the ones who read what I write understand my pain.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to develop friendships with some of the women who, like me, have experienced child loss and who have made a choice to seek God in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Evelyn Fannell is one such friend.

I was drawn immediately to her honest but grace-filled posts and comments in our groups. I recognized a heart that was full of Scripture but was, like me, dissatisfied with pat answers to the difficult questions a mother has when her child is taken suddenly, unexpectedly and tragically.

When life throws you a curve, even if you hurt so much you feel like giving up or giving in, remember to breathe. Deeply. Hold on to that breath as though it were your last, and it will get you through the next moment. And you’ll get through the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that…until that when you see your beloved again.

Just remember to breathe.

Evelyn Fannell, Remember to Breathe, page 169

She has written a memoir that is honest, helpful and hope-filled.

Her son, Joseph, was killed by a distracted driver just a short distance from his destination.

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No mama’s heart is prepared to get THAT phone call. It knocks the wind right out of you. But from the beginning, Evelyn knew if she was to survive this, she had to remember to breathe.

In Remember to Breathe, Evelyn draws on her experience walking the road of child loss and her relationship with her Savior and weaves them together in a way that grieving parents will find authentic and encouraging.

Even in my dreams, God reminded me to live and to breathe.

There aren’t words to describe how devastating it has been to lose my youngest child. But I have learned and grown through the experience of grief, and one of the lessons I’ve learned is something I think applies in a lot of different situations.

It is okay NOT to be okay.

Evelyn Fannell, Remember to Breathe, page 43

I’ve said here before that we have to exhale in order to inhale.

Remember to Breathe is one woman’s account of doing just that-letting go of the things and thoughts that weigh us down on this journey and inhaling the grace, mercy and courage of our Shepherd.

If your heart is longing for an authentic example to follow, I highly recommend this book.

“Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship”

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ~ Tuesdays with Morrie

A parent’s love doesn’t end simply because a child leaves this earth.  

The relationship is not over as long as a  bereaved parent’s heart beats. 

i carry your heart ee cummingsSo we face a challenge:  How do we express love to and honor relationship with a child out of sight and out of reach. 

We tell our stories and theirs.  We start foundations or fund scholarships or do Random Acts of Kindness in honor of our son or daughter.  We lobby legislators and city councils.  We fight for changes in medical protocol. We post pictures on social media to keep their lights bright in friends’ and family’s memories. 

And we say their names.

Because death can take a body, but it can’t steal a relationship.  

 

death-ends-a-life-not-a-relationship-gentle green

Repost: No Words

Some days there are just no words for this journey.

Sometimes I can only feel what I feel

and do what I do

and cry when I cry.

Today is like that.

I cannot wrap my mind around the FACT that my son is dead.

Read the rest here:  No Words

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. 

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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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Sudden and Unwelcome Change

I woke up just past midnight to notice my bedside clock flashing off and on, indicating the power had gone out for at least a few minutes at some point after I fell asleep. 

“No worries, ” I thought as I rolled over and drifted off.  

An hour or so later and the cold woke me again.  No power.  This time for several hours.

I snuggled deeper under the warm covers and decided to go back to sleep.  Surely it’d be on by morning.

And it was.  

But it set my mind thinking as I got up, turned on the light in the kitchen and plugged up the coffee pot:  My morning routine would be utterly disrupted if electricity hadn’t begun flowing again.  

hands and coffee

No warm house, no warm shower, no hot coffee, no way to get online and post the blog (cell service is unavailable at my home), no handy portable phones to make necessary calls should the power also be out at our church just a mile down the road.

I could go on and on.

Of course each of these difficulties could be surmounted.

It would take extra effort and be frustrating, but I could manage to get by without coffee and plug up the old phone to make phone calls.  The blog could wait.  And it’s unlikely that the outage would last more than a few hours or a day and then things would be back to normal.

Imagine, though, being used to the modern convenience of electricity at the flip of a switch and then being suddenly plunged into darkness and disconnection.

Unprepared-no matches, no alternative fuel sources, no extra warm clothes for winter days and nights-just plucked from the world you knew and dropped into a world you didn’t.

That’s what it felt like when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  No warning, no chance to think through what life might be like, what changes I would have to accommodate, how I would need to face the days, weeks, months and years of his absence.  

family never gets over the death of a loved one

I went to bed and expected to wake to the world I knew.  

Instead I woke to a world I could never have imagined.  

And just like I rarely consider the dozens and dozens of ways electricity impacts my life-makes it easier, brighter, better-until it’s unavailable;  I had NO IDEA how Dominic’s leaving would touch every corner of every moment of every day.

Last night I slept through the power outage.  Other than resetting my blinking clocks it will require no adjustments this morning.

I can’t sleep through child loss.  

When I wake, I face it anew each day.  

And it continues to require adjustments, even now.  

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Shadows and Celebrations

One of my children told me recently that every celebration and holiday over the past few years had a shadow over it. 

I know.

But I can’t help it.

I wish I could find a light bright enough to drive out the shadows.

But there isn’t.

I’m trying.  Really, truly trying.  I want to be able to join in without reserve, without that still small voice whispering, “This won’t last”, in my head.

Because that’s really the shadow, isn’t it?

Not *just* the one who is missing, the incomplete family photo, the empty chair at the dinner table-but the fact that I know, know, know what I didn’t used to know.

I know life is fleeting and death can come for anyone at any time.

I wish I could forget that lesson.

Because that is what casts the longest shadow.

you think you have forever but you don't

 

When Your First Thought Is, “Oh No, Not Again!”

Last night I woke to my youngest son’s ringtone at nearly midnight.

I missed the call but when I looked, realized it was the third time he’d tried.  

My heart skipped several beats as I dialed him back only to have it go directly to voicemail.  I tried again and a second later, he answered.

“What’s wrong??!!!”

(Because he never calls me late at night unless something is wrong!)

Julian was downstairs at the front door and needed me to let him in because he’d received some odd texts from his dad- a series of random letters and emojis scrolled across his screen.

He’d tried to call him.  No answer. 

Tried texting him back.  No message except more of the same random letters and images.  

So he drove over from his house just a few miles away, the whole time running a dozen scenarios through his head.

  • “Is dad having a stroke? Mom is asleep upstairs and won’t know.”
  • “Is someone in the house and dad’s only able to randomly swipe his thumb on the screen trying to ask for help?”
  • “Why won’t mom answer her phone?  Do they have her too?”

Five miles and ten minutes is a lifetime when all you can think of is another family member needing help- or worse.  

As I was coming downstairs to let Julian inside, my husband woke up and asked me what was wrong.  We got to the door at the same moment and let our big, burly bear of a son inside.

It took him a split second to realize that all was well and then it poured outthe fear, the panic, the intense self-control necessary not to simply break down the door and barge in, the pent up grief that lives inside each one of us since Dominic left and is always about to spill out and over when we think of another loss.  

He melted into his dad’s arms.  

This is how our hearts are wired since that morning nearly five years ago. 

When the thing you never think will happen, happens, it becomes the first thing you think of when you can’t get in touch with someone. 

Panic is always a breath away.  

family never gets over the death of a loved one