Visible Wounds

A sweet friend made sure I had Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book, Lament for a Son, in my hands just days after Dominic’s accident.  And it was one of the most helpful, kindest gifts I ever received.  It still lives by my chair and I look at it often.

It might have been the similarities in circumstances that took our sons-his died in a mountain climbing accident, mine in a motorcycle accident-or it might have been our shared theology, but when I read his words, they spoke my heart.

A professor of philosophy and a believer in Christ, he refuses to gloss over the hard edges of grief and pain.  He faces the questions head-on and brings me with him into the dark chamber of sorrow, letting me sit in silence and feel the heaviness of loss.

He does not wrap his experience up into a tidy package.

It may be counter-intuitive to those who have not experienced child loss to know that I find his lack of tidy ending MORE encouraging than the books I read that try to tell me it will all be just fine.

Because my heart screams that it will NOT be “fine” this side of heaven.  I will NOT understand this side of heaven.  I WILL NOT be satisfied with any answer this side of heaven.

There are many quotes from this book that speak to my heart, but this one sums up so much of what I am learning through loss:

If sympathy for the world’s wounds is not enlarged by our anguish, if love for those around us is not expanded, if gratitude for what is good does not flame up, if insight is not deepened, if commitment to what is important is not strengthened, if aching for a new day is not intensified, if hope is weakened and faith diminished, if from the experience of death comes nothing good, then death has won. Then death, be proud.

So I shall struggle to live the reality of Christ’s rising and death’s dying. In my living, my son’s dying will not be the last word. But as I rise up, I bear the wounds of his death. My rising does not remove them. They mark me. If you want to know who I am, put your hand in.

~Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

As I wrote on Dominic’s first Remembrance Day, April 12, 2015:

Two truths have been burned on my Soul. One, broken hearts still beat. We are surrounded by wounded people. Walking gently through this life is the greatest blessing we can give to one another.

And two, LOVE WINS. There is no force as strong or attractive or eternal as love. God’s love for us and our love for Him and one another will be the song we sing forever. It would behoove us all to learn it here on earth.

I am not who I was two years ago.  

My heart has been both broken and made larger.

My eyes see the pain in the eyes of those around me.  My ears hear the strain in a muttered, “I’m fine.”

I have no patience for petty disputes and silly games.  I am more empty of envy and more full of love.

And my arms reach further and wider to embrace and encourage the wounded.

As I have been comforted, I want to comfort others.

Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must].

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 AMP

 

 

A Tribute

Dominic was an amazing man-he lived harder and braver and louder than most.  He was a unique light in this world and now he is gone.

I will never stop missing him.

There is no way to sum up a person’s life-not even a relatively short one-in the number of words allotted to a newspaper article. But I am grateful the Crimson and White gave it a shot–click here to read their tribute:

Law Student Remembered for Kindness, Selflessness

Running Ahead–I’m Coming!

My first post on this blog.

Now it has been two years since the morning the deputy brought the news to my front door.  Two years since I heard my son’s voice.  Two years since my life was turned upside down.

It seems unbelievably long ago–like a dream.  Yet also like yesterday–like that bad feeling you get when you wake from a nightmare and it just won’t go away.

I am not as fragile as I was on that day.  But I am just as broken. The pieces of a shattered heart never fit back together to make a perfect whole.

The burden is not lighter.  But I am stronger.

The pain is no less but I have learned to endure it.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 TLB

 

“From the start, if you didn’t want Dominic to do something, you couldn’t let him see you do it.”   Read the rest:  Running Ahead

When Time Shall Be No More

Tomorrow will be two years since my life was changed forever, 731 days since my heart was shattered, 17,544 hours since Dominic’s accident.

I never dreaded time the way I do now.  Gray hair and wrinkles didn’t faze me.  My children growing from babies to toddlers to high school graduates was exciting, not sad.

But now, I am oh, so aware, of the days and months that have passed since Dominic left us.  I look back to the years we had with him and hate to see them falling further and further into the past.

I look ahead  with ambivalence to the years that may lie between now and my reunion with the son I love and miss.

The Bible describes Heaven as a place where “time will be no more” and I’ve always considered that concept in terms of an unending opportunity to enjoy Jesus and those we love for ever and ever.

But something occurred to me the other day:  timelessness itself will be a gift unimaginable.

In this body, I am bound in time.  My life is divided into “before”  and “after”.  But there will be a day when it won’t be.

There will be a day when I will also inhabit the timeless eternity where Jesus reigns and Dominic resides.

I don’t know if I will remember the details of this life, the pain and the heartache-maybe, because Scripture tells me that God will wipe away every tear-but I firmly believe that I will be able to enter fully into the “now” of heaven’s timelessness without a sense of loss.

I will be free from this body of sin and death, free from the burden of grief and pain, free of the weight of sorrow.

For ever and ever. Amen.

Nothing that has cursed mankind shall exist any longer; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be within the city. His servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name will be upon their foreheads. Night shall be no more; they have no more need for either lamplight or sunlight, for the Lord God will shed his light upon them and they shall reign as kings for timeless ages.

Revelation 22:3-5 Phillips

Permission Granted: Please Share

I’m not the most tech savvy individual and I freely admit it.

Dominic was our resident tech advisor and among other things I lost when he was taken from us was my own personal “help” desk.  Now I muddle through the best I can.

I’m also not too excited about exploring popular Facebook posts that purport to give you insider information. But I did check out a recent post making the rounds and discovered that FB DOES hide some of my messages.

I have no idea what kind of filter they use to decide what messages I should see and what messages should be sequestered into the “filtered messages” folder, but I wish they would just stop!

I found messages from MONTHS ago from mamas trying to contact me about my blog and many asking permission to share a post or to print a post and pass it along to another grieving family.

I was heartbroken that I didn’t receive these requests in a timely way and I pray that in each case, they decided to share anyway.

So, since I have no idea how to stop FB from filtering messages, I would like to make this plain:  PERMISSION GRANTED to anyone who finds these posts helpful to share them.

As long as you make no changes, share them in entirety and cite thelifeididntchoose.com as the source, share away.

You can share one of several ways-there are buttons at the bottom of each post for FB, Twitter, and Reddit.  You can copy and paste into an email or email the link.  Or you can print them for physical distribution.

If you want to sign up to receive the posts in your own email, there is a link on the right side of each post inviting you to “follow blog via email”-this makes it easier to share a post via email.

If you have a WordPress site, you can follow through your own site as well.

Finally, at the top right corner there is a “contact” button-you are welcome to contact me anytime through email.  I try to answer within a day.

I cannot bring my son back-but I can honor his memory by sharing faithfully what God is teaching me as I make this journey.

I am thankful and humbled that others find my words helpful. 

If you know someone that might also find them helpful, please pass them along.  

 

 

 

Stronger

If you meet me now at the grocery store or pass me in church, I probably won’t cry.

I will most likely ask you how you are, what you’ve been doing and smile when you share the latest family news even if in the midst of the words a thousand alarms go off in my head, reminding me of Dominic.

Because I’m stronger.

There’s a common misconception about grief among those who have never experienced the loss of a close loved one.

It goes something like this:  The first few weeks, months and the first holidays celebrated without them are the hardest.  But once the bereaved make it through THOSE, things get EASIER.

I’m here to tell you that, at least for me, it’s just not true.

A better picture of how I am continuing in this grief journey is to think of it as weight lifting.   I started with a 250 pound barbell raised over my head-no warning, no training-that knocked me to my knees and threatened to press the life out of me.  But friends and family came alongside and helped me lift the heavy weight for a season.

And I survived.

Each day, I have to get out of bed and lift that weight.

  • Over time, my muscles have grown stronger.
  • Over time, I’ve become more adept at keeping my grip.
  • Over time, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to balance the bar more evenly, to situate myself more strategically beneath it and to breathe through the lifting so that I don’t become light-headed and faint.

But there are still days, still moments, when my balance is off and I can be crushed by the weight of grief.  There are times when life adds a few more pounds onto the bar and even my stronger arms are unable to lift it up and carry on.

And in those moments or on those days, the full weight of sorrow and pain and longing overwhelm me.  That’s when I understand how Paul felt when he wrote:

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe.  

2 Corinthians 4: 8-10

I sit in my floor and cry out to God for mercy, cry out to Him for strength, cry out to Him for grace to rise and carry on.

I am thankful that it’s no longer every day.  I’m relieved that I can do routine things more easily.  I can smile. I can even laugh.

I am stronger.  I am more capable.

But I am never completely free of the load.  

 

 

The Problem of [Un]Answered Prayer

When it’s not your kid you can think of all kinds of lofty, theologically correct arguments or reasons for why God answers one prayer and not another–for why one person is healed and not another–for why one person survives a devastating-should-have-killed-him accident but not another.

But when it is your child that doesn’t survive or isn’t healed or is stolen through the violent actions of someone else…well, that’s a different matter entirely.

I prayed every day for my children.  I asked God to protect them, to give them wisdom, to draw them to Himself and to guide their steps.

I never thought I was “giving orders” to God, but I did expect that my prayers would be honored-that by praying in obedience to biblical commands and in accord with scriptural principles I was making a difference in the heavenlies.

Like Daniel, who received word that his prayers had helped Gabriel fight against the prince of the air opposing him, I sent my petitions as weapons and armor against any schemes of the evil one  that might threaten to undo my family. (Daniel 10: 1-13)

Herein lies the problem:   when things go well, when the job comes through, the test score is great and the person walks out of the hospital, healed and whole, we say, “God answered prayers.”

And I believe that He does.

But if we ascribe glory and praise and honor and thanksgiving for the blessings received, how are we to understand and talk about the ones denied?

The nation of Israel was looking for Messiah-expecting Him.

Yet when He came, most missed Him.  They had decided for themselves what He would look like, what He would do and how He would rescue them from bondage.

God’s ways are inscrutable.

I’m not arguing that prayer doesn’t matter.

It does.

I am commanded to pray. And God’s faithfulness to answer prayer is documented from Genesis through Revelation.

But I would argue that the way we speak about prayer, as if we understand how it works and how God works in it and through it, is often unhelpful.

The book of Job pulls back the curtain on what was happening in the heavenlies when God allowed Satan access to Job’s life.  We know that Job’s earthly suffering represented a testimony for God against the Accuser.

But there’s no evidence that Job ever knew.

There was no dramatic revelation by God to this man that had lost EVERYTHING except his own life (which he would have gladly given up) and his wife (who, it seems, went on to bear him more children-oh joy!). Instead, God confronts Job with questions, not answers.

My heart wants answers, not more questions.

I doubt that I will have them this side of heaven.

So I have decided to speak more honestly about my experience with prayer, to refuse to pretend I understand how it works any more than I understand how God breathes life into bodies or takes souls to heaven.

I will pray, as best I can-mostly recalling God’s own words to Him-and resist my desire to think that because I pray, I can direct His hand.

When Jesus was in agony at Gethsemene, He asked His Father to take the bitter cup from HIm, but in the end, submitted to God’s will and plan.

That is all I have left for me as well-to submit and be made into whatever God has ordained.

I will trust in the goodness and faithful love of my Heavenly Father, because He IS my Father.

I will lean into His heart even when I cannot see or understand the work of His hands and follow because He is the One Who will lead me Home.

he is faithful who has promised