Repost: Not What I Had Planned

I don’t get to choose.

I don’t get to plan the way life is going to be.

Oh, I bring out the calendar and mark down the days:  birthdays, holidays, special events and obligations.

calender

But then one dark morning a knock stops the clock and makes the world spin faster all at once.

I’m suspended and plunged under in the same breath.

Read the rest here:  Not What I Had Planned

Refuse to Cause Pain

I’m a kinder, gentler person than I was before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

It’s a high price to pay to learn to walk more grace-filled through this life.

I’ve come to find out that every heart has a story.  Every heart is carrying a burden.-perhaps not the same as mine, but a burden nonetheless.

And what causes the most pain in this life (next to the burden itself) is when another person runs over my heart without thinking about the burden it may hold inside.

So I have purposed not to do that to other people.

refuse to cause pain

I certainly forget sometimes-in the heat of a moment, in the rush of daily life, when driving behind a car that just won’t go any faster-but it’s becoming a habit more and more.

I try to look-really look-at the person in front of me to see what might be hiding behind her eyes.

Is she a young mom working a retail job and trying to make ends meet?  An older man still working because his Social Security check runs out before the month does?  A teen driver frightened to make that left hand turn across traffic?  Someone fighting addiction or just out of cancer treatment?  A heart that is lonely because she doesn’t have any close friends or a kind voice welcoming her home each day?

The list is endless.

I am committed to offering the tiny bit of life and light I can to each heart I meet.  And that’s how I think about them-as hearts inside fragile bodies-not as obstacles in the way of me accomplishing a task.

I will do my best not to cause pain.

It’s my daily offering.

It honors the price I’ve paid to learn this lesson.

Sun & Shade: Picking My Path

I walk the half-mile stretch down and back on my driveway at least four or five times a day.

In the winter I follow the sun.

In the summer I follow the shade.

The path I choose to take either adds to or subtracts from my ability to make the trek in relative comfort.

It would be foolish for me to not take advantage of available provisions.  It would be silly for me to shiver or sweat more just because I was too lazy to adjust my trajectory.

I can’t change the absolute temperature outside but I can influence how I experience it.

I’ve found that the same practical wisdom applies to my grief journey:  I can make things easier or harder on my heart by making even small changes in how I face a day or situation.

I can’t change the fact that my son is dead.  But I can influence how I experience it.

On days when I am struggling with sorrow, I seek out some “sunshine”-both actual sunshine by getting outdoors and figurative sunshine by feeding my soul with positive images, thoughts and the truth of Scripture.

sunrise brightest

I minimize my interaction with “negative Nellies” and sites or shows or books or places that send me further down the path of despair.

I share my struggle with safe people who will listen and not try to correct me or force me into pretending that sorrow is not what I feel.

I go to bed early, knowing that each sunrise brings new mercies from our Heavenly Father and that one bad day does not have to define a week.

steadfast-love-in-the-morning

On days when I’m overwhelmed with the “heat” of commitment or too many people or too much activity, I seek out some “shade”-I look for a spot in my schedule where I can rest a bit and catch my breath.

I reassess and find things I can give up.  I find other ways to meet obligations that give me more space and require less frantic scrambling.

I make myself sit down and slow down, even if it is for just fifteen minutes.

let-yourself-rest

I’m honest with my family and friends, because if I’m not I will end up being ugly and hurting someone’s feelings.

So, so many things about grief are outside my control.  I cannot anticipate every random trigger that might land me in a puddle of tears.

Life goes on and continues to demand my participation.

I want to be fully present for my loved ones.  I want to show up and make merry for all the special occasions.

So I try to use wisdom in how I approach each day, assessing my grief “temperature” so that I can do what’s necessary to ensure I’m emotionally healthy enough to do what I really want to do.

Shade in summer.

Sun in winter.

between stimulus and response

Decisions, Decisions-The Complicated Everyday World of Child Loss

Sometimes I wonder why in the world am I so exhausted?

Why does it drain me to go to the grocery store?

Why do I have to gird my loins as if going into battle to make a phone call or a doctor’s appointment or to handle the normal, pesky details of living?

THIS. This is why:  Every single thing I do or say is complicated now.  No simple answers, no easy, breezy interactions with strangers.

I weigh every word, strategically plan each stop on my shopping route and choose carefully when and where to meet a friend for lunch.

Nothing is simple.

One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.

“How many children do you have?”

A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store.  But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.

I decided from the beginning that I would say, “four” in answer to that query.

But that doesn’t always get me off the hook.  A follow-up of, “Oh, what do they do?” means that I have to make a decision:  do I go down the line, including Dominic in any kind of detail or do I gloss over the fact that one of my children now lives in heaven?

Read the rest here:  It’s Complicated

Sunrise, Sunset

It’s my habit to watch the sunrise and the sunset every day.

I usually greet the morning in my rocking chair, looking out my east-facing picture window.  It never gets old to watch darkness chased away by relentless light rising over the tops of trees.

sunrise trees

Beautiful.

Every. Time.

Sunset is a little trickier.

I don’t have a clear view of the west from inside my house and the western edge of my property is peppered with tall trees so I usually only see the beginning of the end of every day.  But one of my favorite things to do is watch the golden glow of lingering light touch the tops of the highest pines and then slip away as the sun sinks below the horizon.

Another day has come and gone.

time-travelAnd the days become weeks that become months that become years.

 

Sometimes the days are long. 

But the years are short.

Some days bring news I don’t want to hear.  Some bring shouts of rejoicing. Either way I’m not the keeper of my days.  The sun neither rises nor sets at my bidding.

But I have choices in the daylight hours.  I can work while the sun is shining or I can worry that it might set soon.

I can take advantage of the light or I can wring my hands anticipating the darkness.

I am not naive. 

I wish I were. 

I wish I didn’t know by experience how much a heart can long for days gone by, days wasted, days that could have held more love and laughter but were overshadowed by worry or hurry or just indifference.

think-you-have-time

So I watch the sunrise to remind me that TODAY is a gift.  And I watch the sunset to remind me that the gift of today is gone forever.

What have I done with it?  Who have I loved?  Where have I placed my energy and purpose and hope?  

Every day is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  

I never want to forget that.  

 

Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

~Sheldon Harnick

Be Present

I remember the first year cell phones became common among my children’s friends.

We hosted an event at our home and I watched, amused, as the guests realized, one by one, that there was NO cell service out here in the country.

get smart hear me now

Cut off from their electronic connection to everyone not in attendance, they were forced to be fully present with those that were.

Some of them embraced the opportunity while others bemoaned the fact they had to carry on face-to-face conversations.

And when they found out we didn’t have cable TV, well, THAT was a whole other disappointment!

What seemed natural to me and my family was unusual and uncomfortable for most of them.

Being present takes effort.

It’s so much easier to listen with one ear while pointing the other toward Facebook, YouTube, music or some other distraction.

It’s a lot harder to sit quietly through the same story you’ve heard every Christmas.  It requires self-discipline to lean in and love on that difficult aunt or uncle who can be so critical but is really so desperate for compassionate companionship. It is unnatural to lay aside our own desire to be the center of attention and make room for someone else instead.

But being present is the present only YOU can give.

wherever you are be all there

And it is the present that others will remember long after the trinket you bought them has been lost or broken.

So put down the phone. Turn off the TV.  Hide the remote and close the apps.

BE with your people.  They, and you, are a gift.

Today is a treasure that will never be repeated.  

Treat it that way.  

 

 

 

Transforming Pain

I have had my share of pain in life-physical, emotional and psychological. 

Some of it I’ve brought on myself and some of it has been thrust upon me.  

None of it was pleasant.

But by far the most excruciating pain I have endured is the death of my son.  If someone could have induced this pain for five minutes as a preview before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I would have sworn I couldn’t have withstood it for five minutes more.

Yet here I am not just minutes or months but years later.  Still standing.

How?  By the grace of God and by choosing to transform that pain into something besides just pain.

I cannot ignore the pain.  It has changed me. But I won’t let it dominate me. 

Instead I let is goad me into being a better me than I might have been if my heart were whole and unbroken.

I am gentler, more eager to listen to hurting hearts.  I am less likely to judge others and more likely to lend a helping hand.  I am committed to walk gently through this life and to cause as little harm as possible and bring as much joy as is mine to give.

I definitely walk with a limp. 

But I won’t let it stop me from walking.