Choosing Brokenness

From the world’s perspective there are only two potential responses to trials-better or bitter.

I can either use the struggle to strengthen my resolve to take charge of my life or I can give up and give in, wallowing in self pity.  

If I embrace popular culture as my guide, the best outcome I can hope for is that I grow as a result of sorrow, pain, conflict, tragedy and hardship.

But Scripture tells me that there is a third option:  I can choose brokenness.  

I can choose to submit my heart and my life to God and His purpose.  

I can lie prostrate, unprotected, impotent and trust that the One Who made me will ultimately remake these shattered pieces of what’s left of my life into a masterpiece, declaring His faithfulness and goodness.

“But enduring deep pain and unchangeable circumstances requires continued commitment to face the fork in the road over and over, and to choose well each time.”

It is A Daily Struggle

 

Why Not?

I cannot bring Dominic back-I cannot have my child once again in my arms.  I cannot undo the damage death has wrought and the great gash loss has made in my heart.  

And so I am left with my pain and my questions.

“Why?” is not a particularly fruitful question (although I ask it still).

 “Why not?” is probably more helpful.

If I consider the lives of all the people God chose as examples of His faithfulness and grace there is not one who escapes heartache.

Not even one was allowed to walk this sod untouched by suffering that forced them to lean hard into the only Hope that lasts for eternity.

Adam and Eve reaped the consequences of their sin, were cast from the Garden and buried one son murdered by the other.

Noah watched the world descend into unbelievable wickedness around him and then witnessed the destruction of all flesh on earth.

Abraham left the familiar, trudged for years in a land promised but not given, had a son that he loved but had to send away because he was begotten outside the plan and will of God. He finally received the son of promise but was aked to sacrifice him.

He grew old without the blessing of possessing much of what God had promised him.

Jacob reaped the reward of his deception but lived a complicated and heartbreaking life.

Joseph enjoys a happy ending,  but it was a long lonely path that led him there.

David, Moses, Paul, the apostles, Elizabeth, Hannah, Mary, Esther, Ruth-all were called to walk in sorrow as vessels of God’s glory.

Only recently in human history have we been able, in small pockets of abundance, to mistakenly assume this mortal life is as wonderful (or, dare I say it?) MORE wonderful than the promised eternal life provided by God through the ultimate and complete suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.

I want victory without war.  

I want harvest without planting and working the fields.

I want to be happy and satisfied here yet still have a heart for heaven.

It is impossible to have both.

Only in light of eternity am I free to live a life set apart for God’s use in the here and now.

Only as a recipient of God’s grace can I be a conduit of that grace to others.

Only in deep sorrow can I find the true value of Christ’s promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Only alone can I fully appreciate the gift of God’s constant companionship.

Only when I am truly hungry can I taste the bread that satisfies my soul.

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope].

John 6:68 AMP

Displaying Our Scars

What if, instead of hiding my pain, I allowed others to see it and offer it as a testimony of the power and grace of God in my life?

What if, instead of pretending that “everything is alright”, I admit that it’s not, but that God is still on the throne?

What if, instead of creating a gulf between myself and others by walling off parts of my life that I deem too messy, I throw open the door and invite folks inside-mess and all?

My scars make me who I am.  My struggles are part of who I am becoming.  And my messy life is the only one I’m likely to have this side of Heaven.

As I’ve written before:

If the people I meet think that I have it all together all the time, they are going to be much less likely to admit that they don’t.  And let’s be real, none of us have it all together.

We all have at least one place in our lives that hurts and that needs healing.

Everyone has scars.

Authenticity is the key to opening doors and creating communities where one person can reach out to another and where genuine healing can begin.

You can read more here:  Dropping the Mask

 

Graduations and Weddings and Trips, Oh My!

Almost anyone you ask anticipates that Thanksgiving and Christmas, two family-centered holidays, are difficult days and seasons  for bereaved parents.

And they are.  

Especially for families that enjoyed special times around the table, unhurried visits reminiscing about years past and traditions that reinforce the unique heritage of their shared history.

But this time of year is also challenging for me and many other parents who have lost a child.

The mailbox is flooded with graduation and wedding announcements. Social media newsfeeds are packed full of smiling parents surrounding relieved and grinning kids proudly displaying the culmination of their educational efforts.

Pretty soon photos will be rolling in as folks head to their personal “happy place” for family fun in the sun, mountains or amusement park.

Our own family participated in two graduations and a wedding within weeks of Dominic’s accident.

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My youngest child, Julian, graduated from UAB on April 26th-five days after we buried Dominic.

 

 

He walked the same stage where his brother had given the undergraduate commencement speech  a few years prior.

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Less than two more weeks and we were celebrating Dr. James Michael DeSimone as he graduated from Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine.

Six weeks later-James Michael married his bride, Lillie, on June 21, two days shy of my thirtieth anniversary.

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Last May, Dominic’s University of Alabama School of Law class graduated.

Some of his friends graciously arranged for me to receive his Juris Doctorate degree posthumously.

I sat, both proud and stricken, as his name was announced at the end of the graduating class and his photo flashed on the giant screen above my head.

So please bear with me and all the other mamas whose children aren’t here.  

While I rejoice with those that rejoice, I am also reminded, again, of what I have lost.

If it takes a little longer for me to send a graduation card, if I don’t “like” your status or post a sweet comment-it’s really NOT you, it’s ME.

lifetime

 

 

 

It’s Complicated

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?

I try to gauge whether or not the person is deeply interested or just being polite. No sense making them feel uncomfortable if they are really only making chitchat.

All of these calculations flash through my mind in an instant but they are distracting and draining.

“Want to go to a movie?”

Maybe.  

First I have to look up the plot (something I never did before because I didn’t want to ruin it).  I can’t be stuck in a dark theater in the middle of a row full of people with no way out if larger-than-life there will be anything that sends me back to Dominic’s accident.

Same standards for television shows or books-but it’s easier to turn those off or set them down.

Sitting in church can be excruciating.  

A hymn or chorus, a Bible text, a random statement from the pulpit-any or all of those things can lead my thoughts down a path that takes me to a dark place where sorrow is overwhelming.

No matter how much I long to listen and participate, I find myself literally biting my tongue so that I don’t burst into loud sobs.

It doesn’t happen every Sunday, but I never know when it might.

Social media is an emotional minefield.  

first world problems

 

I confess that in the first days after Dominic left us, I had to limit the posts that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed.  It was too difficult to see complaints about children growing up or graduating and how hard it was to “let them go”. I could not take whiny status updates that included having to wait in line for the new iPhone.

It’s easier now that my grief isn’t so raw but there are days…

Making a meal, I reach for his favorite ingredient or leave something out because “Dominic doesn’t like it that way” and then I remember he won’t be here to eat it.

waves of grief

 

Music can transport me to a moment of joy or pain with a single note.

Sometimes I walk in a store and smell coffee-he loved coffee-and I have to turn around and leave.  Other times the fragrance draws my mind to sweet memories of shared Starbucks runs for a caffeine infusion.

 

If you ask me to do something next week or next month, I might say, “yes” and then find on that day I just. can’t. go.  

I used to be a woman who lived by her calendar and commitments, but now I’m someone who never knows what a day will bring.

Learning to live with this changed me is an ongoing process and exhausting at times.

So much energy is used up negotiating what used to be simple things that there’s not enough left for pursuing new interests or delving deeper into old ones.

I’m trying to reach equilibrium.  

I long for a time when simple things are simple again.

But I don’t think it will be today.

courage doesn't always roar

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

In recent years I’ve noticed more awareness of how hard it can be for women who struggle with infertility to walk into church on Mother’s Day and I am glad.

Pews filled with other women’s children and bulletin announcements, public recognition of “oldest mother”, “youngest mother”, “mother with the most children” along with the obligatory sermon based on Proverbs 31 conspire in a litany of accusation against the barren womb.

Some of these women choose to stay home.  Others may be silently lifting a prayer for grace or may, like Hannah, be begging God for a child.

As a bereaved mother, this is a complicated holiday for me too.

I am so, so thankful for all my children.

I received each as a gift from God and treasure them in my heart.

Being a mother has been and continues to be the most demanding and most rewarding thing I have ever done or ever hope to do.

I used to look forward to Mother’s Day.

Not so much because it celebrated me as a mom, but because it was a moment to pause, reflect and remember how wonderful it is to be surrounded by my children.

But there’s no train from here to Heaven, no telephone line that can bridge the gap between where I am and where Dominic is.

I will never again be able to gather my children around our earthly table, see each of their faces, hug their necks.

So bear with me.

  • Let me be happy for the children I can see and sad for the one I can’t.
  • I might join in with singing, or I might just close my eyes and remember Sundays past when we were sitting in the same pew, together and strong.
  • If you see me rush out of the sanctuary at the end of service, please don’t stop me.  Let me go-I may have held back sobs during the closing prayer and need to escape and let them loose.

And if you think of me and other mothers who have buried children, pray for me and for them.

Pray that we finish strong, that we persevere and that we continue to cling to the One Who can carry us through the rest of our days with hope and courage.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

Romans 15:13 AMP

 

 

 

Love Doesn’t End

I know that others want desperately me to be “better”.  They want me to be happy and carefree and back to the Melanie they knew before child loss.

And not just for their sake, for mine too.  

It’s hard to watch someone you care about in pain.

But my reality has been forever changed.

It’s no more likely that I can revert to the person I was before Dominic left us than that I could revert to the person I was before I became a mother.

How many times have you heard, “Becoming a mother changed EVERYTHING”?

Holding my baby for the first time was truly love at first sight.  And that love never ends.

Losing my son did not end my love for him.

Great grief is the price I pay for great love.

I pay it willingly.

Watching the young mother with her infant, the older mama and her child at play in a park, the joy and pride of the even older woman as her son or daughter graduates high school, college or gets married–how could anyone think a mother’s grief could be small?

How can all the love and all the hopes and all the dreams of a mama’s heart be squeezed into days or weeks or months of tears and sorrow?

Read the rest here:

Love: The Reason I Grieve

 

Then and Now: How Can Death and Life Inhabit the Same Frame?

April 17, 2014

Father, I have received through Your hand a most grievous wound-part of my heart has been ripped from my chest and I will limp through life forever changed, forever broken.

My beautiful, fearless, strong son has been struck down in his youth. I am dismayed that my body will continue to live when my spirit is crushed.

How can death and life inhabit the same frame?

How can I attend to the externals of commonplace things when all I want to do is hurry through to the eternal home You have prepared for me?

Oh Jesus!  Hold my baby!  I know that You were with him and I know that you love him.  I know (I have to know-or I couldn’t breathe) that you love me!

What a steep price to pay  for a tender heart-fill me up with grace, mercy and love.  Make our circle stronger and more resiliant.

Help me to love, to be love, to show love, to give love, to eat,sleep, drink love.

“Here I am, LORD, and the children You have given me-make us as signs and symbols to Your people, for the glory of Your Name.” ~Isaiah 8:18

If I believe that only Your Word and the people You have made are eternal, then I must order the rest of the life You give me to align with that truth.

Take this mother’s heart and make this pain count for something.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of the joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you:  Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” ~John 16:21-22

Lord, I choose to believe that this pain will produce the life You have ordained and that joy will be the ultimate outcome.

April 30, 2016

I continue to carry both death and life in my body and my heart.

Death reminds me of the cost of sin, of the price of redemption and of how fragile and temporary our earthly existence.  It makes me uncomfortable here-is a constant thorn in my flesh.

I cannot lay it aside or ignore it.

The undeniable presence of death contrasts sharply with the equally undeniable life of Christ sustaining me.

I have been asked how I can believe in what I cannot see or touch. How I can trust a God Who allowed such pain in my life.

It is true that I can’t see God,  I can’t prove His existence.

But the fact that I’m still holding onto hope gives testimony to the life of Christ in me.

This is in keeping with my own eager desire and persistent expectation and hope, that I shall not disgrace myself nor be put to shame in anything; but that with the utmost freedom of speech and unfailing courage, now as always heretofore, Christ (the Messiah) will be magnified and get glory and praise in this body of mine and be boldly exalted in my person, whether through (by) life or through (by) death.

For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity].

Philippians 1:20-21 AMP

 

 

Then and Now: Trial by Fire

It’s not a cozy, warm-yourself-up fire in my safe fireplace.  

It’s a raging, too-hot-to-survive inferno, blazing away and uncontrollable.  

Losing my son is refining me, burning off the excess, drawing out the inner woman.

April 14, 2014

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. IN ALL THIS YOU GREATLY REJOICE, THOUGH NOW FOR A LITTLE WHILE YOU MAY HAVE HAD TO SUFFER GRIEF IN ALL KINDS OF TRIALS, –These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV

 My heart is broken open wide, Father.  

Fill it with love, compassion, grace, peace, hope and mercy-but never seal it shut-let what You fill it with spill out

“These three remain-faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.”

April 29, 2016

I’m still in the fire.

I don’t know if I am used to the heat or if it has burned down to a cooler flame but it is more bearable to be here.

God has answered my whispered prayer:

He has filled and is filling my heart.

He has not allowed grief to make it hard.

“But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.”
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then and Now: The Morning After

April 13, 2014: The Morning After

Everyone is home-everyone except Dominic.  Quiet now that there’s just us.  How did I even manage to close my eyes last night?  How are we going to face another day? How are we going to face all the days to come?

This is the song that came first to mind even as I sat crying in disbelief:

“Alleluia!  Alleluia! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!”

You can watch it here:  Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith

  And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
   You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.”

   Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

  The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:9-14 NIV

Either it is true and everything will be well-or it is not true and nothing will be well.

IT IS TRUE.

HE IS TRUE.

God is on His throne.

“Melanie”-clad in black. Covered in sorrow but trusting in God.

“He who sows in tears shall reap in joy.” Psalm 126:5

eyes of the lord attentive

April 29, 2016

Today I still cling to those verses, still hold those promises close to my heart.

Some mornings I wake and cannot wrap my mind around the fact that my son is gone.

Sunrise finds me crying out to God, begging Him to make it untrue, to turn back the clock and miraculously restore my life before loss.

It is still hard and I still struggle.

But I believe,

I believe,

I believe.  

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