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. 

 

 

 

Costly Obedience

If the only place you get your food is the grocery store with overflowing shelves and more choices than any one person truly needs, then this verse won’t mean much to you.

If you’ve never depended on a homemade pantry stocked with home-canned jars for your winter supply, it’s hard to understand.

But if you’ve ever had to choose between putting that last bit of corn into the ground or into your mouth, you won’t have any trouble imagining the tears that flow as you place each kernel beneath the dirt with a prayer begging for a bumper crop.

And then you wait.

Because only the planting in faith is MY business.  The growing is God’s.

Those who walk the fields to sow, casting their seed in tears,
    will one day tread those same long rows, amazed by what’s appeared.
  Those who weep as they walk
    and plant with sighs
Will return singing with joy,
    when they bring home the harvest.

Psalm 126:5-6 VOICE

In dark and burdensome seasons of life, I am tempted to cling tightly to what I can hold in MY hand instead of clinging tightly in faith to the One Who holds me in HIS hand.

Sowing in tears is choosing to walk obediently even when obedience is costly and there is no visible evidence that it will produce a good result.

There may be a long wait-perhaps my entire lifetime-to see the harvest of choosing obedience in faith.

But there WILL be a harvest.

He guarantees it.

And then the tears will turn to JOY.

sow in tears 2

 

 

Generations: Love Lasts

Today is my mama’s birthday.  

We won’t be celebrating with cake and ice cream, party streamers and funny hats.  But we will be celebrating that she is here with us for another turn of the calendar page.

Because 25 days ago she was taken by lifeflight to the hospital and we weren’t sure she would be.

I’ve been down here with my parents more than at my own home these past weeks.

I woke this morning in the house my great-grandmother lived in, my grandmother lived in and in which my parents now live.  I am the fourth generation to pad toward the kitchen in the dark, make the coffee and make my way toward the screened in front porch to talk to Jesus and watch the sunrise.

I’ve been thinking about not only the lives lived here, but the passing of time and those that have run ahead to heaven.

My great-grandfather was laid out in the living room.  As a curious three-year-old my daddy told me Papa Cox was “sleeping” when I asked, “why?”.

My great-grandmother buried two children -those tiny bodies are laid to rest in the churchyard next to the rest of my kin gone before.

My grandmother suffered a massive stroke standing at the kitchen counter making breakfast and never woke again.

I have buried a son and started a new plot in the churchyard near my own home in Alabama-the DeSimones will wait together for that glorious Day.

desimones uab family

Time doesn’t stop.  The world will turn and the sun will rise.  The years will pass and so, too, the generations.

It does no good to rail against the clock or the seasons.  

This is trite, but true:  Do not take the people you love for granted.  Do not assume that there will be a “next time” for saying the things that need to be said, for giving a hug, for speaking blessing.

Say it.

Do it.

Not because you are afraid of death, but because while you live, you choose LIFE, you choose LOVE.

So today I won’t worry that I haven’t had a chance to get Mama a present or that she doesn’t feel like eating cake.

I will focus instead on the fact that she is HERE-that I am HERE-and that we are together.

I will be thankful that I have had many opportunities these last weeks to make sure no words are left unsaid.  

I will rest assured that she knows she is loved.

IMG_2211

Dispelling Marriage Myths Surrounding Child Loss

Today my husband and I celebrate 33 years of marriage.  

Our thirtieth anniversary was a mere two months after we buried our son.

Here’s the last “before” anniversary photo (2013)-unfeigned smiles, genuine joy, excitement to have made it that far:

hector and me 29 anniversary

This is us on our thirtieth anniversary, at our oldest son’s wedding -holding one another up as best we could:

IMG_2151

This is us last Christmas:  

beach hector and me and boys in sand

We are definitely the worse for wear, but we are still here.

Together.

There are a lot of myths floating around about what happens to a marriage on the other side of child loss.  The one tossed out most often cites a “study” reporting 90 percent of marriages fail after the death of a child.  

It’s just not true.

But the danger is that if you believe it is true, you may stop trying.  You may stop reaching out across the painful abyss that threatens to keep you apart forever.  You may decide that living alone with your broken heart is better than living alongside someone who may be broken in very different ways than you are.

It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The truth is that child loss is no more likely to destroy a marriage than a list of other terrible life events-even though child loss is the most terrible.

A child’s death shakes a marriage to its foundations and reveals the weak spots. And EVERY marriage has weak spots.

So the challenge in this season of marriage-like every season of marriage-is to turn toward one another instead of away.  Choose to do the work necessary to make it:

  • Do the best you can to take care of your own emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual health so that you can come together stronger and better able to help one another.
  • Assume the best and not the worst about your spouse.
  • Allow for different grieving styles and different ways of honoring your missing child.
  • Get help from others.
  • Don’t expect your spouse to carry your load of grief as well as his or her own.

It takes energy and commitment right when we don’t have any to spare. But at least in this, we have a choice.

I have already lost so much over which I had no control.  

I will fight for what I CAN hold onto as hard as I know how.

wedding rings