Then and Now: Trial by Fire

It’s not a cozy, warm-yourself-up fire in my safe fireplace.  

It’s a raging, too-hot-to-survive inferno, blazing away and uncontrollable.  

Losing my son is refining me, burning off the excess, drawing out the inner woman.

April 14, 2014

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. IN ALL THIS YOU GREATLY REJOICE, THOUGH NOW FOR A LITTLE WHILE YOU MAY HAVE HAD TO SUFFER GRIEF IN ALL KINDS OF TRIALS, –These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV

 My heart is broken open wide, Father.  

Fill it with love, compassion, grace, peace, hope and mercy-but never seal it shut-let what You fill it with spill out

“These three remain-faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.”

April 29, 2016

I’m still in the fire.

I don’t know if I am used to the heat or if it has burned down to a cooler flame but it is more bearable to be here.

God has answered my whispered prayer:

He has filled and is filling my heart.

He has not allowed grief to make it hard.

“But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.”
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then and Now: The Morning After

April 13, 2014: The Morning After

Everyone is home-everyone except Dominic.  Quiet now that there’s just us.  How did I even manage to close my eyes last night?  How are we going to face another day? How are we going to face all the days to come?

This is the song that came first to mind even as I sat crying in disbelief:

“Alleluia!  Alleluia! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!”

You can watch it here:  Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith

  And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
   You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.”

   Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

  The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:9-14 NIV

Either it is true and everything will be well-or it is not true and nothing will be well.

IT IS TRUE.

HE IS TRUE.

God is on His throne.

“Melanie”-clad in black. Covered in sorrow but trusting in God.

“He who sows in tears shall reap in joy.” Psalm 126:5

eyes of the lord attentive

April 29, 2016

Today I still cling to those verses, still hold those promises close to my heart.

Some mornings I wake and cannot wrap my mind around the fact that my son is gone.

Sunrise finds me crying out to God, begging Him to make it untrue, to turn back the clock and miraculously restore my life before loss.

It is still hard and I still struggle.

But I believe,

I believe,

I believe.  

Then and Now: God’s Grace in Grief

I’ve kept a spiritual journal for decades.  Every now and then I like to gather the pages, look back and reflect.

My journaling intensified after Dominic’s accident.  

Writing out my thoughts, questions, pain and sorrow was one way to process the grief.  I copied quotes and scripture.  I prayed prayers and screamed, “WHY???”.  I tried to document the moments when I felt God close and when I felt He was far away.

As I filled each notebook, I added the dates it covered and tucked it away.  I wasn’t sure when I would be able to look at those painful pages again.

A couple months ago I brought the pile of journals and set them by my chair.  A couple weeks after that, I started reading them.

Some of the entries are still too painful to read.

Some of the events too personal to share.

But over the next few days I’m going to offer a peek into the first hard days after loss.

The days when breathing is a chore, when it still seems like a bad dream, when part of my heart was certain Dominic would walk through the door once again even after I had seen his body lowered into the ground.

My prayer in sharing is this:  that those who read know that God did not abandon me in despair; that it is possible to survive the seemingly unbearable loss of a child; that God does not despise our honest lament; and that when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Lord shall lift up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19).

April 12, 2014 (The day of the accident)

The LORD gives and the LORD takes away:  Blessed be the Name of the LORD.  May my soul find rest in Thee alone.  May my eyes look only to Thy Face.  May my heart’s peace be the Prince of Peace.  “Dominic”-belonging to God-You gave him to me and he is Yours once again.  Marana Tha-Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

 

 

Helping My Children Walk Through Grief

Bereaved parents often have several tasks before them in the days and months and years following the death of a child.  And one of them is to help their surviving children navigate loss.

I have three earthbound children.  And they are grieving.

Their world changed in the same instant mine did.  Their hearts are broken too.

I found it hard to watch the pain I saw written on the faces of my kids.  Harder still to know that as much as I wanted to be the guide in this situation, I was as lost as they were. My mama instincts demanded that I “make it better” -but I was and am, powerless to do that.

So I settled on being honest.

I decided that I wouldn’t hide my sorrow or my struggle in an attempt to protect them.

Because, really, how could I protect a heart that had been introduced so forcefully to the truth that WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL?

How could I try to manage their sorrow when mine was overflowing?

I acknowledged the pain-the pain of losing Dominic;  the pain of not being able to say, “good-bye”; the pain of never knowing exactly what had happened; the pain of feeling like God had closed His eyes or looked the other way while Dominic ran off the road; and the pain of watching each other in pain with no way to soothe or stop it.

I didn’t draw boundaries around how they were supposed to behave.  

I asked that we not hurt one another in our sorrow-that we not cast blame, that we not lash out-but other than this request, I made room for tears, shouts, pounding of fists or whatever else we needed to do to let out some of the emotion bottled up inside.

I do not insist that they give Sunday School answers to tough questions.  I understand that they are struggling as much as I am. We are all dissecting our faith and our understanding of Who God is, what He is doing, and whether we can trust Him with our hearts again.

We talk-about Dominic and about their lives.  I try to listen.  Sometimes I’m not as good at that as I would hope to be.

I respect their need for space or their need for companionship.  I haven’t tried to be the sole source of support for any of them.

I’m not offended if they choose to express grief in ways that are different than my own.

I am well aware that it is likely they will carry this loss for more years than I will and that they must find their own way to bear that burden.

They haven’t only lost a brother, they’ve also lost the family in which they grew up, the parents they used to have and the sense of safety that pervades childhood.  

Their eyes are opened to the fact that bad things happen.

And sometimes bad things happen with no apparent reason and absolutely no forewarning.

We love one another.  We acknowledge the impact Dom’s life and his leaving has left on us. We don’t sweat the small stuff (most of the time).

And we focus on making sure each one of us makes it through.

Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

David Ogden Stiers

 

Guiding Light

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”

John 8:12 MSG

He didn’t say that there would be no darkness.

He didn’t promise that night would never come.

Instead, He declared that those who follow Him would have a guiding light. That those who look to the Good Shepherd won’t get lost, because He will lead the way.

Even though I am now two years into this grief journey, there are still sleepless nights. And as I lie in bed, remembering Dominic, rehearsing the events surrounding his accident, feeling the pain and longing for relief-it is the trustworthy lamp of Christ’s Presence and the eternal truth of His Word that sheds light on my path.

A Single Candle

The Cost of Conquest

The Bible says that in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.

Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.

Romans 8: 37 AMPC

I don’t feel like a conqueror.  I feel like a fighter.

I don’t feel like a victor.  I feel like someone in the midst of battle.

I was considering that when this thought came to mind:

“Conquerors have been in battle. Conquerors bear scars.   

Conquerors win, but it costs them something.”

I want to picture the victorious Christian life clean, simple, no wounds, no scars.

But victory cost Jesus everything.

He not only give up His life, He was beaten, mocked, humiliated, paraded in the street for all to see and condemned to the cross.

He bore the physical pain.

He bore the emotional and psychological pain.

And then He bore the most dreadful pain-the pain that only HE could bear-the pain of the just wrath of His Father in Heaven poured out on Him in payment for the sins of the world.

He rose, after three days in the grave.

And He had scars.  

His scars bore witness to His pain and suffering, but also to His victory.

Burying my son was painful.  Living each day carrying his memory and the sorrow of missing him is hard.  My life has been turned upside down and inside out.

I am weary and I bear scars.

But I refuse to be overcome by what I know in my heart is a temporary separation.

I will claw my way each day out of the pit of despair and drag myself into the light of the promises of God’s Word.

One day I will stand with the redeemed, my scars bearing witness to Christ’s victory over death and pain and every single thing that tried to separate me from His love:

So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing. 36 As the psalm says,

On Your behalf, our lives are endangered constantly;
    we are like sheep awaiting slaughter.

But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. For I have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39 VOICE

 

What I Want You to Know About My Grief

I am so very thankful I live in a country where the vast majority of parents do not know what it’s like to bury a child.

I am part of a relatively small group.  Bereaved parents make up a tiny segment of the population.

It’s possible that you may never be close friends with someone who has lost a child.

And because death and dying are unpopular subjects, and because grieving parents can become very good at hiding the pain, even if you DO meet someone whose child has died, they may never tell you about it.

So, so many of the friends I have made on this journey live each day bearing the weight of grief AND the heavy burden of being misunderstood-at work, in church, even in their own extended families.

One of the first posts I wrote was born out of this angst-birthed in pain as I realized that even well-meaning friends and family members who have not experienced child loss really don’t have any idea how it feels :

People say, “I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

Read the rest: What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know