Lesson Learned

It’s a lesson you never forget once you’ve learned it.

It’s lesson you never learn unless you have to.

The destruction of property-even every single thing you own on this earth-is awful, frightening and life-changing. 

But it’s still LIFE.

My parents were caught in the fury that was Hurricane Michael.  They were miles inland, a community that had never seen anything like this in four generations that had lived in the house where they rode out the storm.

Their property and home took a hit, but they are OK.

mama and papa at james wedding filter

And for this mama with one son in heaven and one deployed half-way around the world, that’s ALL THAT MATTERS.

We can rebuild a house.  We can buy more stuff.  

But I can’t replace the people I love.  

Life and Death.

I know that lesson well.

where theres life theres hope

Oh, Glorious Day!

The body, the casket of this immortal jewel, is left for a season to the dishonors of the tomb. But it is only for a brief ‘night-watch.’ That dust is precious, because redeemed. Body as well as soul was purchased by the life-blood of Immanuel.

~George S. McGuinness, The Bow In the Cloud,

I have to pass the church cemetery where my son’s body waits every time I leave my home since it’s right down the road.

I always remind myself that he is facing east,

waiting for the trumpet,

and will rise, whole, healed and joy-filled

If you know that this is not the only world, the only body, the only life — that one day you will have a perfect life — you will be able to persevere through any type of adversity. There is hope on the other side, and there will be calm after the storm.

Paul writes: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).”

The resurrection gives us hope. It confirms that this life isn’t the end of our story

~Dave Furman, Kiss the Wave

if we died with christ we will be raised with him

The Elephant in the Room

I’ve often been the person who refused to go along with some group’s plan to ignore a real issue and try to talk around it.  

I usually begin like this, “I know it’s hard to talk about, but let’s be honest and…”

I’m even more inclined in that direction now. If my son’s instant and untimely death has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there’s no use pretending.

So I’m not going to pretend:  Western society doesn’t do grief well.  

grief is often the elephant in the room

I’m not sure that was always the case but like so many other unpleasant, sad and/or uncomfortable aspects of life, we’ve sequestered grief to separate buildings and specialists. We’ve tried to clean it up and clear it away from the everyday.

Like they say, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

If we can hide it, we don’t have to deal with it. 

But I’m here to tell you, you WILL have to deal with it.  One day, one way or another, death will come knocking at YOUR door.  No one gets out of here alive.  

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  

Let’s stop ignoring death and grief and how one person’s departure for Heaven leaves others behind trying to deal with the loss, the pain, and the hole that missing life leaves in their hearts.

I know it will take effort to learn the language of grief.  It’s a lost language and it will feel strange on your tongue.  

The more you use it, the more you will realize that it’s really just the language of love with a slight accent.  There are a few more pauses between words, a bit more emphasis in some places and less in others.

And when you don’t know what to say, it’s fine to admit that. 

Just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

Because that means you see the elephant too.  

A High Price to Pay

I have learned a lot in these four years since Dominic ran ahead ahead to heaven.

But what a price to pay for wisdom!

It’s certainly not one I’d have agreed to up front.

Yet, here I am, older and oh, so much wiser, than I would have been if I had not buried a child.

Sometimes I resent that I wasn’t given the choice.  I would trade any wisdom, no matter how beautiful and valuable for the life of my  son.

No contest.

But since I cannot have him back, I’m trying hard to pay attention to the lessons grief is teaching me.  I try to embrace the insights sorrow is showing my heart.  I will not treat lightly any wisdom I may find in this Valley.  I won’t dishonor my son’s life by making little of the things his death has revealed to  me.

And I will not stay silent.

I will shout from the rooftops, from the hillsides, from any bit of altitude I can gain that the most important thing in life is love.

Love of God.

Love of people.

Nothing else really matters.

love God love others rocks

Everything else can be bought and sold.

But love cannot be traded for money-it is priceless, eternal and immortal.

Our bodies don’t last forever, but love does.  

Our hopes may be dashed, but love lives.

Our breath may be exhausted, but love never runs out.

the answer is still and again love

Obliterated

You think because you have “imagined” it, you have an inkling.

But you don’t.  

You can’t.  

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind.
~Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

This was one of the most surprising things to me-that in spite of all the books I’d read, movies I’d seen, people I’d known (who had grieved a loss in my company)- I knew absolutely nothing of grief.

I did not know it would totally destroy who I was-leaving bits so small that I had no idea how to put them back together.

I did not know it would so completely block the light of the sun that I wouldn’t be able to tell day from night.

I didn’t know that it would change the taste of food, the smell of flowers, the sound of the wind so that everything I tasted, smelled and heard was death.  

Thankfully, slowly, the bits have come back together and formed a semblance of the me that was before.  

Before grief.

But not really the same.  A hollowed out husk of who I was.  Familiar shape without the substance.  

I’m learning to live with the me that’s left.  

Holding on to hope.

Leaning into love.  

empty statue

Original artist : Albert György
Bronze Statue located at Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Bereaved Parents Month Post: Have I Lost My Mind?

Here I am four years into this journey and I still have days when I think I have utterly lost my mind.  

Not because of internal cues but because of external pressure by family and friends to conform to some idea THEY have of what grief after child loss should look like.

I have to remind myself that they have NO IDEA what this is like and that if I am managing to move along-even at a snail’s pace-I’m just fine.

I wrote this a couple years ago in response to a private message sent to me by a friend:

“It was just over a year after Dominic’s accident and a friend forwarded an article about odd behaviors of those who were “stuck’ in grief.  Along with the forward was a little tag, “Reminds me of you.”

It hurt my feelings.

And it was inappropriate.”

Read the rest here:  I am NOT Crazy!

Death is The Enemy, Jesus Our Victory

We live in a culture where we see death often but experience it rarely.  

Movies, video games, cartoons, news stories all flash images of death across the screen so frequently that most of us either ignore them or they register only as numbers, not as human beings.

Of course many of the images are manufactured-the actors don’t REALLY die, the characters in video games are not real-but how often do we wait for a news report to tell us how many AMERICANS died in a plane crash or terror attack?

As if only those affiliated in some way with our own heritage “count”.

But when death comes knocking at your own door, walks in and settles down, that changes everything.  

I can no longer sit and consume death like a meal, meant to feed my appetite for entertainment.

And every single time I hear a report listing casualties I think of the families ripped apart by the absence of a life they loved.

Death is the enemy.  

When Satan tempted Adam and Eve he said, “You shall not surely die.”  

He was wrong.

A single sin ushered in all kinds of sorrow and woe and the ultimate sadness was death.  It meant separation from breath and life, separation from those we love and, without the atoning blood of Christ, separation from God in eternity.  

My ninety-nine-year-old aunt died this week.  She lived a long, useful and fairly healthy life (until the last couple of years).

You’d think that in light of my own son dying at only twenty-three I’d be more OK with her leaving this life and moving to Heaven.  

But I’m not.  

Somehow her death-more than all the other souls I’ve known and loved that have left us since Dom ran ahead-has knocked me to my knees.

mel and mattie lou sahara

Maybe it was how hard and how long she fought against our common enemy.  

Maybe it was just the time of year.  

I don’t know.  

But she reminded me again that death is always sad.

And that Jesus is the only One Who can save us from death’s power.  

jesus the shepherd the i am