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

 

 

 

 

The Authority of Compassion

I don’t like pain.

I don’t enjoy suffering.  

But deep pain and suffering have left a lasting impression on my soul.  Experiencing the loss of a child has enlarged my heart and sharpened my senses to the pain and suffering around me.

Choosing transparency in pain is hard and vulnerability is frightening.

But when I let others in, they see that I am just like them. I struggle, I cry out for mercy, I need God’s grace, mercy and strength to carry on.

And that lends authority to my invitation to meet Jesus.

It changes a “sales pitch” into a genuine message backed up by the evidence of His compassion and care in my own broken life.

Even more, they know that I KNOW-I understand pain, I understand struggle and I understand desperation.

Jesus came, in part, to embody the heart of God to the world.  He came to give abundant proof that God loves us.  He walked gently among the wounded and healed the sick and hurting.

Jesus has all authority because He was obedient in suffering.  His love for us kept Him bound to the cross.  His Father’s love raised Him from the dead.

When I choose compassion, when I choose to suffer alongside the suffering, I am most like Him.

And my living example of His eternal one is a powerful testimony of His work in my life and a grace-filled invitation for others to receive forgiveness, grace and mercy in their own time of need.

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned.

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

 

 

Then and Now: Sacrifice of Praise

April 21, 2014

We bury Dom today-the day after Resurrection Sunday-we will place his mortal shell into the ground from whence he came.

But Father, I know that this is not the end.  I know that what makes Dominic, “Dominic” is not what I will bury.

He is alive and with You-he is stronger than he’s ever been, more full of life than he would possibly know on earth.

I know that You are sovereign and You are love.

At this moment, I don’t understand how losing Dom is a loving act of a loving Father but I must trust in Your character regardless of circumstances.

“I heard and my [whole inner self] trembled; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones and under me [down to my feet]; I tremble. I will wait quietly for the day of trouble and distress when there shall come up against [my] people him who is about to invade and oppress them.

Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!”

Habakkuk 3:16-18

May 3, 2016

I tremble still.

I often do not feel fruitful or particularly hopeful.

I wait for redemption and restoration.  

But my praise is not dependent upon my understanding of what God is doing.

My praise is a proclamation of Who God is.

So I declare with my mouth and speak truth to my heart:

Know (perceive, recognize, and understand with approval) that the Lord is God! It is He Who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His]! We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless andaffectionately praise His name!

For the Lord is good; His mercy and loving-kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations.

Psalm 100:3-5 AMPC

Then and Now: Open Hands, Open Heart

April 19, 2014

One week ago today my world was torn asunder, my eyes opened to the reality of what I said I believed-that any day, any moment, can be the last.  I was forced to face the test-second only to my own death should I have time to think before I die-of whether or not Scripture tells the truth or a tale:

Whether the loving God I claim to serve is for me or against me.

Whether this earthly existence is a path leading to the eternal life Christ promised or just a fleeting moment leading to eternal nothingness.

Will I define the rest of my days by what I have lost, always staring down the hole of emptiness left by Dominic’s breathing, vital absence or will I lift my eyes to the Eternal God and define my life by the very real connection I now have in Heaven?

Will I let grace, mercy and love fill me to overflowing and spill out into the lives of those around me or will I embrace bitterness and defeat and shrivel up so that my story dishonors the generous life Dominic lived?

By God’s grace, I choose love.

If my hands are open to the blessing, then they must be open to the pain.

If my heart is open to the memories and love, then it must be open to the grief and sorrow.

Oh LORD!  You have bruised me so that I will always be tender!

To walk with kindness and mercy and grace toward everyone-make that the legacy of my precious boy!

May 2, 2016

I continue to make the daily choice to hold out my empty hands to the God I serve.

Some days, it’s a greater challenge than others.

Sometimes I want to clinch my fists and cry, “No more!”

I would like to think that burying my son had filled up the quota of pain and hurt for a lifetime.  I want to believe that since I’ve been wounded so grievously, God would spare me further struggle.

But that’s not true.

Life goes on.  

I still face problems, I still face disappointment, I still face hardships and sorrow.

That is when I have to decide:  Will I close my heart and hands to the One Who can fill them with life and hope as well as grief and pain?

Where would I go?

I, like Peter, proclaim:

“Master, to whom would [I] go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. [I’ve] already committed [myself], confident that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:68 MSG

 

Guiding Light

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”

John 8:12 MSG

He didn’t say that there would be no darkness.

He didn’t promise that night would never come.

Instead, He declared that those who follow Him would have a guiding light. That those who look to the Good Shepherd won’t get lost, because He will lead the way.

Even though I am now two years into this grief journey, there are still sleepless nights. And as I lie in bed, remembering Dominic, rehearsing the events surrounding his accident, feeling the pain and longing for relief-it is the trustworthy lamp of Christ’s Presence and the eternal truth of His Word that sheds light on my path.

A Single Candle

Messy Lives, Merciful Savior

Growing up digesting Disney fairy tales can warp your sense of reality.

There are no unblemished princes or perfect princesses out there.  The bad guys don’t always get what they deserve and the good guys don’t always win.

At least not here on earth.

I want the scales to balance, I want the last chapter to wrap up all the loose ends and expose all the secrets.  I want to know what happened and why-oh, to know WHY!

But that’s not how it is.  I live a messy life with untidy edges.

So do most people.

The Bible doesn’t gloss over the hard places of life.  God’s Word doesn’t hide the faults of God’s heroes. His Spirit directed the men who penned the holy pages to tell it all-the good, the bad AND the ugly.

I think sometimes in our desire to demonstrate the power of Christ in our lives we want to tie things up into a perfect package.

I know I do-I want desperately to be able to say that I can see the good in Dominic’s death. I long to be able to point to a finished monument of redeemed pain and restored joy.

But I’m compelled to tell it like it is.

And it is just plain HARD.

But God uses the broken things of this life to display His glory.

Because then there is NO DOUBT as to the Source of strength.  He leaves no room for boasting.

He declares His power and faithful love by taking those of us who are weak and stumbling and leading us home, redeemed and victorious.

For look at your own calling as Christians, my brothers. You don’t see among you many of the wise (according to this world’s judgment) nor many of the ruling class, nor many from the noblest families. But God has chosen what the world calls foolish to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world calls weak to shame the strong. He has chosen things of little strength and small repute, yes and even things which have no real existence to explode the pretensions of the things that are—that no man may boast in the presence of God. Yet from this same God you have received your standing in Jesus Christ, and he has become for us the true wisdom, a matter, in practice, of being made righteous and holy, in fact, of being redeemed. And this makes us see the truth of scripture: ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.

I Corinthians 1:26-31 PHILLIPS

 

 

More Time

The other day I needed to get something in the room where we have Dominic’s things stored-not the boxed-up-not-dealing-with-them-now things-but the personal things that bear his scent, his mark, his personality.

And the warm spring air had concentrated the odor that is him just behind the doorway.  It caught me by surprise-that I could still smell him, still feel his presence, still be so certain that he had just passed by this very spot.

My mama heart cried, “More time!”

Just one more minute,

one more hug,

one more “I love you”,

one more breath.

But it would never be enough.  

One more would only feed my longing for the next minute.

There is no earthly cure for this heart sickness.  No words to make it better.  No medicine strong enough to numb the pain of missing him.

So I wait.

I wait for my heart to heal enough so that I can focus on something other than healing.

I wait for passion to return to my soul.

I wait for a day-just one day-when joyful moments outweigh sorrowful ones.

I wait for the promised beauty from ashes.

I wait for faith to be made sight.

And while I wait, I turn my heart and mind and strength toward the One Who is Faithful and True.

Nothing that has cursed mankind shall exist any longer; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be within the city. His servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name will be upon their foreheads. Night shall be no more; they have no more need for either lamplight or sunlight, for the Lord God will shed his light upon them and they shall reign as kings for timeless ages.

Then the angel said to me, “These words are true and to be trusted, for the Lord God, who inspired the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must shortly happen.”

“See, I come quickly! Happy is the man who pays heed to the words of the prophecy in this book.”

Revelation 22:3-7 PHILLLIPS