Broken Hearts Still Beat

When Dominic was born by c-section, they placed the epidural too high and I was unable to feel my chest rise and fall as I continued to breathe.  It was a frightening experience.  But I WANTED to keep breathing-because I wanted to touch this new life coming into the world and into our family.

When the sheriff came to tell us that Dominic had been killed, I was sure that I wasn’t breathing and my heart stopped beating. I wanted to escape the pain that filled my heart, my soul, my bones.

I think most bereaved mothers will tell you they have absolutely NO IDEA how their bodies continue to live and carry this heavy burden.  We do it for those still here and because having felt the pain of being left behind, our mama hearts want to spare the ones we love as long as we can. But rest assured, it is a daily struggle to decide that we will go on.

I’m not breathing.
They assure me that I am.
My heartbeat thumps the truth for all to hear.
A welcome wail ushers his life into the spotlight of this wide world.
I’m not breathing.
They assure me that I am.
My lungs draw air against my will and my better judgment.
An anguished cry marks the end of his earthly life.
I am breathing.
My body refusing to keep pace with my broken heart.

november 7, 2014

Oaks of Righteousness

We love to see majestic oaks and drink in the beauty of the curving branches and sit beneath the shade of their spreading canopy.  It takes decades for these mighty trees to grow large enough to command attention.  Harsh weather forms the branches into lovely shapes pleasing to the eye.

They stand as a testimony to endurance and strength.

Thirteen years before Dominic’s accident and death, God gave me this scripture when naming our farm-Isaiah 61:1-3:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

At the time, I focused on the glorious picture of finished oaks of righteousness.

In these months after our son’s death, I have begun to understand that the path to displaying the splendor of the faithfulness and father-heart of God is one of mourning, ashes and despair.  Unless I am willing to die to my idea of what life should be and what God should do, I can’t be transformed into the fruit-bearing vessel of grace He intends me to be.

It isn’t easy.  I’m still working to embrace this every day-I continue to rail against the fact that this is my life-but grace is seeping into the broken places.

I trust that God will continue to sustain me by His unfailing love and that one day I will be able to stand as a testimony to faithful endurance and the power of His strength.

Minus More Than One

No child grows up in the SAME family because the addition of another child CHANGES the family. So does the subtraction…

We all miss him.

But each in our own way.

A family isn’t just the sum of its parts.

It isn’t a simple equation that can be worked out on a chalkboard or around a dinner table-this person plus that person equals two persons.

A family is an organic mixture of personalities, relationships, strengths and weaknesses that exponentially influence one another.

I always joked that our family was a ready-made committee.  Wherever we went we brought a fully staffed, action-ready army of six that spread out and triumphed over whatever challenge we faced.

The last great task we conquered together was burying Dominic.

Our family has been diminished by more than one person.  

We have lost the unique relationship that each of us had with him, lost the added strength that those relationships wove into the fabric of our lives.  There are gaping holes everywhere.

Some people say that on earth we can only see the ugly underneath of the beautiful tapestry God is making of our lives.

That’s probably true.

But I long to get a glimpse of what loveliness is to be wrought from these threads.


Dry Bones

drybones-537x362

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