Wildflowers In The Weeds: Finding Joy Again

I’d like to encourage my fellow travelers in this Valley today.

Often I write about and share the hardest parts of this journey. Because there are so, so many hard parts!

And they are rarely spoken about above a whisper (if at all!) in greater society. I am determined to be as honest as possible lest I know of a hidden danger along the way and fail to warn you.

But there are also precious joys tucked away along the difficult path.

The trick is to train your eye to see them and your heart to receive them.

I’ll be the first to admit that for months (probably two years) despair and sorrow and loss were all I could truly feel.

Bereft is the word I’d choose if forced to choose only one.

I became so adept at finding the sad in every situation I fell out of practice in finding anything else.

To be honest, it didn’t take much to find the sad. Holidays were duller, celebrations were always missing one, even a sunrise didn’t shine as brightly knowing Dominic was never going to set eyes on that day’s bright glow.

At some point, unbidden, a tiny spark of gratitude-like a wildflower among weeds-drew my heart to joy. Even if I tried, I couldn’t help responding to the fact that not every moment of every day was clad in mourning clothes.

Little by little color seeped back into my life.

I found that if I grabbed those bits, held them close and meditated upon them, they soon came closer and closer together. They grew to fill not just moments but sometimes hours.

Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I become so mired in yesterday’s hurts, that I miss entirely the living gifts this day might hold.

“Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow” from Every Moment Holy Vol. II: Death, Grief & Hope

I’ve written before that Gratitude and Grieving coexist.

I can’t weigh all my blessings on a giant cosmic scale against the bruising of child loss and make it balance. But I have also realized that I don’t have to live in a constant state of bitter sadness just to prove I love my son.

Life continues.

It brings good things, hard things, beautiful blessings and awful bruising. I have-in the years since Dom left us-had challenges and triumphs.

I’m learning that if I pluck the flowers of joy when I see them, I’m better able to survive the moments of despair when they overtake me.

Lifting The Cup of Sorrow

See, here’s the thingto the outside world, my son’s death happened at a single point in time.

But to me, his death is a continuous event.

I must lift the cup of sorrow every day to parched lips.  I must choose to take it to the One Who can help me lift it.

Jesus knows this cup.

Read the rest here: My Cup Overflows

Looking Forward: A New Season of Grief

For a long, long time I couldn’t bear to see a monthly calendar.

I didn’t want to be reminded that time refused to stand still for my broken heart and I hated there were no more “Dominic” events to scribble in on the blank squares.

Around the third year I was able to once again mark major events like birthdays, holidays and short family trips. But it was even longer before I was able to truly look forward with excitement to those things.

Seven plus years, multiple family changes, a pandemic, retirement and a grandchild have reshaped my heart so that I’m genuinely thrilled to prepare and participate in most things from family meals to “Granny Camp” (which I get to host next week!).

I’m not forgetting nor minimizing Dominic by diving into these events with gusto. In fact, I’m sure he would approve.

So I’m entering a new season of grief-one which makes room for current joys and celebrations while still holding space for Dominic.

I can be present and participate without reserve.

I am making memories with those who are still here.

Enjoying every moment.

Tiny Flickers of Light


A fellow bereaved mom commented on my recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

Read the rest here: Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

Prisoner Of Hope

When Jesus claimed me as His child, I was liberated from darkness and made a prisoner of hope.

No matter how black the night, there is a pinhole of light. No matter how crushing the despair, there is a sliver of strength. When I want to stay under the covers, He beckons me to come out and I cannot resist.

I am a slave to the promise of Heaven.

I am bound by hope to the One who makes the rain, the One who spoke the mountains, the One who breathed the stars, the One who gives and takes.

And in that hope I find perfect freedom.

Glory.

My fears were drowned in perfect love

You rescued me

And I will stand and sing

I am a child of God

No Longer Slaves by Joel Case / Jonathan David Helser / Brian Mark Johnson

The music reminds me of the Glory to come, and I know Dominic would approve.

Music was his passion.

I like to think of him surrounded by songs and sounds of unimaginable beauty. So I count the days, and I count it joy that I will see him again.

I can hear him saying, “Do you really believe, Mom?”

Yes, sweet boy.

I do.

Can I Feel Joy Again?

In case you’re wondering if joy will ever return, I want to assure you that it most certainly can.

It will take a lot longer than you wish it might, but it is there, waiting for you to welcome it.

At first it just felt WRONG to have a moment of happiness because if the pain of missing Dominic somehow didn’t fill my heart I was afraid it meant my love for him was fading. If the broken pieces were knitted back together then maybe one day they’d mend so well I couldn’t find the spot where he fit in.

But I’ve learned no amount of present joy will squeeze out that space where Dominic lives.

I can love him, miss him, sorrow over his absence and still revel in the beautiful blessings the Lord brings into my life.

Just this week I had the privilege of watching my grandson while his mother and father had a little time away. It was so much fun (and hard work!). I had forgotten how exciting it is to view the world through a young child’s eyes. Everything is new, everything is wonderful, everything is worthy of exploration and comment.

The little fellow walked down the hall my great-grandmother walked, my grandmother walked and my mother walked pointing a finger and asking, “This?” as he passed photos and paintings, doo dads and doorways.

The sixth generation to hear the creaking hardwood and learn about life.

What joy!

We showed him family photos and talked about Uncle Dominic. It raised a lump in my throat each time but it also helped me place Dom in his story-helped me learn how to talk about the uncle he will never know except for what we share.

I’m not going to lie.

More than a few times tears threatened to make their way down my cheek as I held his little hand and remembered holding another one just like it decades ago. Nostalgia can be hard to swallow when it’s all you have left of someone you love.

But I reminded my heart that it is big enough for both.

I can miss what I once had AND delight in what I have now.

Both are gifts I cherish and hold dear.

joy and sorrow | Poetry Joy

Celebrating the Good Things

Our family’s experience was a bit unusual though hardly unique.

In the two months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven we had Easter, two graduations, a wedding, Mother’s Day and his birthday.

So we were thrust right into the uncomfortable whirlwind of celebration and mourning from the start.

I remember having to dig deep to let the happy come out through the muck and mire of sorrow.

But even then, it was there.

Six years later and it’s much easier to let laughter loose and produce a genuine smile for those Kodak camera moments.

Six years later there are a heap of things to be happy about not the least of which is the addition of this little fella to the family circle.

From frightening beginnings to a first birthday full of love, laughter, food and fun my grandson has come a long, long way.

A couple of days ago was the one year anniversary of his coming home from NICU-what a glorious day when he made that trip safely and slept the first night in his crib next to his parents’ bed!

I am still in awe of how this story (that could have had a much different ending) has a beautiful one.

Last night his dad FaceTimed us and we got to see our little Captain cutting up, laughing, taking a few tentative steps, reacting to our voices and generally having a great time.

It’s balm to my soul.

It doesn’t fill the space where Dominic should be but it has enlarged my heart once again.

If you are wondering if you will ever feel joy or gladness again, hang on.

Celebrate the good things even when it’s hard.

It’s not treason to let love and laughter back in.

It’s The Weight of Death That Changes Us

Death will always be terrible.

Easter Weekend seems to be the only time we can we crawl out of this uncomfortable skin, call a dark and deadly Friday “Good” and skip to the joy of Resurrection Sunday.

Real life doesn’t let you do that.

Real life means you have to walk through the trauma of Friday and the uncertainty of Saturday, perhaps believing but not yet seeing the hope of Sunday.

Don’t crawl out.

Don’t confuse crucifixion’s pain with resurrection’s joy. It is the weight of death that changes us.

Fiona DeSimone, my daughter

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

I trusted Jesus at an early age and I have lived my life beneath the shadow of the wings of the Almighty God.

But I never-not really-grasped the horror of the crucifixion until I watched as my own son’s body was lowered in the ground.

Death. is. awful.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/03/25/10006/

Defying Fear: First Birthdays and New Memories

A year ago I was in the same city under very different circumstances.

My first grandson had been born at just over 28 weeks because his mama developed HELLP syndrome and was in mortal danger. Both he and she were in the hospital while we held our collective breath, begging for them to be OK.

We were filled with quiet but uneasy joy knowing as we do how death can come to steal it away.

This Sunday, family and friends gathered to watch this little guy grab his first birthday cake with gusto and smear his mama and daddy with blue icing.

You’d never know he got such a tentative start in life just by looking at him.

Grateful is too small a word for how we feel.

Melanie ❤


THIS YEAR:

LAST year:

Last week was a roller coaster.

My first grandchild-a boy-was born prematurely on Saturday after several days of heart stopping, breath robbing drama as his mama went back and forth to the hospital three times in as many days.

My son, his father, is deployed overseas and paddling as fast as he can to get home.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/11/fear-of-what-you-know/

It Gets Heavier Before We Grow Stronger

Oh, the weight of missing the son I love!

I thought I understood just how heavy it was the moment the deputy’s words sank deep inside and crushed my heart.

But I didn’t know the half of it.

You really can’t know how large a person’s absence is until you’ve explored the edges of the world without him or her.

When folks started coming up our long and winding drive, even though I knew full well he would not be among them, my eyes strained to see inside every car. When his friends gathered in our front yard, I couldn’t help looking through the picture window trying to make out his face among the crowd. When we walked into his now-empty apartment I thought surely he was in his bedroom, around the corner, just out out of sight.

But he was nowhere to be found. And the hole in my heart where he should be but wasn’t got bigger.

Those were just the early days.

In the weeks, months and years to follow I found everywhere I set my foot that followed a path we’d walked together, I missed him. When the next movie in a series was released, he wasn’t there to watch it with me. Family gatherings, holidays, birthdays, graduations all went on without him and my heart counted his absence.

From sunrise to sunset my heart marks all the Dominic-sized spaces in a day.

At night, dark stillness invites me to recite them.

But after more than five years, most people no longer see any tale-tell sign of this mama’s heart longing desperately for one more minute, one more hug, one more quick exchange of “I love you!”

I have grown stronger and better able to carry this load of missing.

Daily exercise will do that.

And it IS a daily exercise-lifting the missing up on my shoulders or carrying it in a basket on my head like women hauling water from a well far away has taught me to bear it well.

Getty Images

I still miss him.

I will always miss him.

Greater strength means I can shift the missing to make room for living. I can carry that weight and still find room to carry joy.

Image result for joy and grief