Dry Bones

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Grief has sapped the strength from my body and the life from my bones.  It has turned this forward-thinking planner into someone who rarely ponders even an hour from now.  I was a visionary.  Now I’m a survivor.

I understand why Naomi changed her name to Mara-“bitter”.

When I read her story in the book of Ruth, I’m tempted to challenge her across time to “look on the bright side” and to “think of the future”.  But she felt her hope and her future had died and been buried with her husband and sons.  She was old.  She was spent.  She couldn’t understand what God was doing or imagine life beyond this moment or this day.

She was dried up-down to the bones.  The breath of the promise of God had left her heart and she was barely there.

But God brought joy back into her life, He breathed life into her dry bones.

The book of Ezekiel records an amazing vision.  God shows the prophet a valley of dry bones. Very dry bones. No-life-even-in-the-marrow bones.  And He challenges Ezekiel to prophesy to them:

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37: 4-6 NIV)

I long to have the LORD make His breath enter once again into my own dry bones. So I read His word and prophesy to my dry bones.

He is the God of the resurrection, and He will redeem my sorrow and pain.  He IS the breath of life.   I am clinging to His promises and trusting His heart.

 One day, these dry bones will dance!

The Good, the Hard and the Ugly

Sundays are both good and hard…good because I am with other people who believe that this life is not all there is and hard because to many of them it is still only a belief, not the lifeline they cling to for the next breath, the next heartbeat and the next step.

I’m thankful that in our country, relatively few parents bury children, but burying mine has put an invisible wall between those that can quote “all things work together for good” because they found a parking place close to the store in the rain, and me-who will have to wait until I reach heaven to see the ultimate good of my son’s untimely death.

The ugly truth is that while I wait in hope and with faith, I want my son back.  I want my family restored.  I long to see all four of my children once again around the table-laughing, fussing and sharing life together.

I trust in the Lord’s promise of redemption and restoration.

But the valley I walk in the meantime is hard and lonely.  His Word sheds light on my path but does not fully dispel the inky darkness of grief and pain.  I walk in half-lit places, stumbling on, clinging to Him.  I long for the sunshine of heaven.

“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”

John 6:68

A Thousand Ways to Miss Him

There are obvious stumbling blocks on this road of grief-birthdays, holidays, the anniversary of the day Dominic died. I can steel myself to face these dates as they ruthlessly approach.  I devise ingenious ways to pay less attention to these agonizing reminders that my son’s living presence is no longer part of Thanksgiving, Christmas and family celebrations.

I have removed all the wall-hanging calendars that used to be my favorite way to mark time and count the days until the next happy gathering. It’s a feeble defense.

But there is nothing that can stop the breath-sucking, heart-stopping sneak attacks of longing that creep up, unannounced with a fierceness that belies the ordinary object or word or action that precipitate them.

“How are your children doing?” someone asks.  I start with the oldest and count down-I have to skip Dominic and my heart stops-he’s still in heaven and I’m still here.

Facebook post noting his peer’s success.  I’m so proud of him or her, but reminded that Dominic’s opportunities to impact this world are buried with him.

Our table for six that will always have one chair empty.

The photos that remind me Dominic will never grow older.  I can never update his portrait.

His dusty mug hanging beneath the cabinets because it is unused for nearly eighteen months.

Cereal still on my pantry shelf-he was the only one that liked that kind.

Walking by Bath and Body Works and the smell reminding me of how he always got me the good handsoap for my birthday because I was too cheap to buy it for myself. I can’t go inside.

A dark head and squared shoulders-for a second-is that Dominic over there?  Hope rises to be dashed by reality.

Someone (who means well) asks, “How are you?”  I want to scream that I’m surviving, am still walking, standing, functioning but that really, how do you expect me to be?

I miss my son.  I miss my life before my family was torn asunder. I miss the confidence I once had in the Sunday School answers that I too often dished out to people walking hard paths. I miss the old me that wasn’t missing the old me.

A Single Candle

 

Death is surrounded by ritual and sharing.

Friends pour in and bring food, church members call and drop by, cards arrive in the mail to express sympathy and solidarity.  We compose and publish an obituary.  We choose the songs for a funeral.  We stand and greet the mourners who file by the casket, shaking hands and heads and sharing stories and sorrows.  Together we lower the casket and eat a meal.

So much activity.

So many people.

But then you go home.  To the empty room.  To the empty heart.

Funerals are public, but grief is solitary.

The comfort offered by others sheds light on my path, but in the darkness of night it’s only the light of a single candle that helps me find the way toward sunrise.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden, He asked His disciples to keep watch with Him but hey fell asleep.  He struggled alone to embrace and accept the will of His Father.

I think often of His pain and find it easy to understand that He sweat blood.  

The light that gave Him courage to face the grim task before Him was the promise of the unfailing love of the Father and the trustworthy character of His God.

It was the only hope for victory out of seeming defeat.

Sometimes I struggle to find courage to face the task of grieving my son for a lifetime.  I cling to the promise of God’s unfailing love.  I trust that He will redeem and bring victory.

This is the Light I cling to in the inky black of sleepless nights:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.”  ~ Revelation 21:4

A Life in Scraps

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Just a few months before Dominic was killed, this hoarding homeschool mama decided that it was time to finally give up some of the thousands of pages of handwritten, color-crayoned papers stacked in the attic, the storage building and floating in corners and crevices throughout the house.

Four children and twenty-two years of teaching them at home had produced a mountain of memories.  I began to sort through the ones I deemed “most important to keep” and “everything else”.  

Several loads were taken to the dump and tossed unceremoniously onto the trash pile.

It felt like freedom.

Now it feels like regret and longing.

Because what I have left of the physical presence of my son is represented in the scraps I have kept-the clothes, the notes, the scribbled comments in the margins of his notebooks and college texts.

I hear his voice in the tweets– his wit and wisdom, cynicism and societal critique.

Sometimes I hold them and think of the boy,the teen,the man who wrote them.

Sometimes I hurry past because thinking of who he was and feeling the absence of who he would be right now is too great to bear.

I wish he had left more voice mails-

I don’t erase them anymore.

Running Ahead

From the start, if you didn’t want Dominic to do something, you couldn’t let him see you do it.  One glance and he memorized the steps to turn on the TV, the computer, the video player (yes, he was a child of the 90’s).  If he saw his dad use a hammer, the first chance he got to lay hands on one found him pounding away.  He was always up for being first.

I never thought he would be the first to get to heaven.

On April 12, 2014 my third born child, in the prime of his life, fit and healthy, strong and lovely, died in a motorcycle accident.

No warning.  No good-bye.

Here one instant, gone the next.  He was twenty-three and less than a mile from his apartment.

There are no words for the moment when your world is changed from what you imagine it can be to the unbearable reality of what it is.  The ache that begins in your gut and spreads to edges of your soul.  “My child is dead.”  You must repeat it to yourself because it cannot be true.  But it is.

I am a bereaved mother and join the millions of women who have buried a child.  It is no place for a mama-standing by her child’s grave.

This is not the life I would choose but it is the one I have been given.  I am learning to walk this new way, with this burden of grief on my shoulders. God is still God and I will choose to remember that.

“Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him;” Job 13:15

I Didn’t Choose This Life

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I didn’t choose this life.  I didn’t choose to become a bereaved mother–a mama mourning the too-soon loss of one of her precious children.  But God, in His wisdom, has chosen this life for me.  This blog is a peek into my heart.

I am a journal keeping, Scripture reading, favorite verse copying woman.  In the three and a half years before Dominic’s death, I had slowed my Bible reading to a crawl–limiting myself to one chapter a day and writing it out in my journal.  After decades of church attendance, I realized that the stories had become too easy to rush through, the verses too familiar to resonate deeply in my spirit. So I had just finished my journey through God’s Word in this way when my son was killed.

It was obvious to me that God had been preparing my heart for that awful moment for three and a half years!  In His mercy and grace I had no clue.  No premonitions.  No idea that one Saturday morning I would wake to the news that my child had died instantly.

I am trying to be as honest as my heart allows.  I want others to see both the pain of loss and the faithfulness of God in the midst of loss.

I will not minimize the darkness.  Because light shines brightest in darkness.