Lessons Learned

I don’t believe for one minute that child loss is a test or curriculum or punishment.  

But I  do believe there are things I can learn from it. 

I absolutely believe there are things I HAVE learned and am learning in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

What are some of those lessons?

I know life is hard.  Not just for me or for those who suffer my particular tragedy or difficulty.  Life is hard for everyone.  If I can’t see the burden someone is carrying, that’s either because they are good at hiding it or I’m not looking closely enough.

I know many things remain broken for a lifetime.  They simply can’t be fixed, put back together or patched up to even resemble what they used to look like.  And there’s no shame in that.  Brokenness is not failure.  For most of us, the brokenness is a result of what has happened TO us, not choices we made ourselves.  For those whose brokenness is magnified by poor choices,  it’s no less devastating.

I know people give up on you.  Some folks simply cannot bear to see another person’s pain so they leave.  Others are too self-absorbed to make room for long term compassionate companionship.  A few turn away, disgusted because they are convinced it can’t happen to them and if it did, they’d handle it so. much. better.

I know people stand by you.  If you had asked me to write a list of the ten people (outside my family) that would still be walking with me over four years later, I’d have only gotten two of them right.  People I would never have imagined have stepped up and stepped in and refused to run away no matter how ugly it gets.  They are gifts from God and I treasure them.

I know that time is not on our side.  We think that tomorrow is the perfect day for sending the card, writing the note, making the phone call.  But tomorrow may not come-not for me or for the person that means so much to my heart.  Bless today.  Give today.  Be present.  Today.

I know that, for me, my faith has been shaken but not destroyed.  I have dragged out every single thing I believe and held it up to the glaring light of child loss.  It burned away the superfluous, decorative and/or foolish things but has left the rock-solid foundation of my faith intact.  I am as convinced today as ever that God will redeem, restore and resurrect what the enemy has stolen.  I am not forsaken.

I know that love lives.  I never imagined I would have to love a child of mine from earth while he or she was already in Heaven, but I do.  And I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter whether I have his physical companionship because all the love I’ve ever felt is still there.  I miss him like crazy.  I can’t wait until we are together.  I hate our broken family circle.  But the circle of love we weave in and out through our hearts and our stories cannot be broken.  It is eternal.

I’ve learned that I can hold out and hold on. 

I can keep moving forward even with a limp or at a snail’s pace. 

I’ve learned that if I lean in and latch on to love, life can still have beauty and purpose. 

learned a lot this year deer

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

Flying Lessons

My dad is a pilot and flight instructor.  

He’s flown everything from a single engine private plane to a fighter jet in all kinds of weather-good and bad.

When I was a little girl, he’d take me with him sometimes while he gave a flight lesson.  If he was teaching instrument flying, the student would wear a hood that restricted his vision to just the plane’s instrument panel.

No external visual cues allowed.

student pilot instrument hood

The test came when the student’s senses told him something different than the instruments were telling him-would he give in to what he thought was true but couldn’t validate OR would he rely on the trusty instruments that had proven faithful?

Some students just could not let go of their feelings and never did gain their instrument flight rating.

airplane-instrument-training

Some learned (even when it went against everything they were feeling) to lean on the absolutely reliable instruments to guide them safely to their destination.

These years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven feel like instrument flying.

clouds

I’m in the clouds.

The landmarks I’ve used for navigation all my life are obscured and sometimes I can’t even tell if I’m upside down or right side up. I don’t know if I’m going fast enough to stay in the air or if I’m about to stall.  I’m tempted to use my feelings to determine true north and to decide on a course of action.

But I know if I do, I’m likely to crash.

If I ignore the trustworthy and unchangeable truth of God’s Word, I will find myself headed exactly opposite of where I want to go.

If I refuse to listen to good counsel-people I can trust and who are in a position to see my blind spots-then I cannot correct my path.

When a student decided not to pay attention to the instruments, my dad was right there to take over and get them safely back on the ground.  

But for this flight I’m on my own.  If I decide to trust my untrustworthy feelings, there’s no one to rescue me.  

I have to make a choice.  

I have to learn to acknowledge but not trust the feelings that would send me spiraling downward and reach for the truth that can help me steady my flight.

I have got to plot my course based on absolute, reliable Truth.  

The pilots that learn to fly in heavy clouds often still feel frightened.  They sometimes still feel confused and disoriented.

But they have learned that it’s possible to feel those things and not act on them. 

I am learning that too. 

hold-the-truth

Why I Won’t Forget Death: Lessons in Living

The other day I listened to an NPR interview of Amy Tan, author of the Joy Luck Club among other best-selling titles.

Her brother and father died within an year of one another when she was fifteen.

I was spell-bound as she recounted some of how that experience shaped her adolescence and still shapes her today.  I identified with things I am observing in my children and things I feel in my own heart.

She said she thinks about death every day.  Not in a morbid sense, but in the sense that she is very aware death is every human’s experience, eventually.

Some of her friends call her paranoid.

Some of my friends call me gloomy.

But she went on to say that thinking about death gave her a precious gift:  It made her constantly evaluate if what she is doing right now matters, if it is truly her passion and if it is something she will be glad she did when her time comes to pass from this life into the next.

I think she’s right.

Solomon said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that [day of death] is the end of every man, And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning.”  Ephesians 7:2 AMP

It’s easy to get caught up in everyday details and forget the sweep of life.  It’s tempting to fritter away a day, a month, a year, a decade doing meaningless and unfulfilling things.  But my time is limited-whether I am 20 or 40 or 60.

Burying Dominic has made me zealous to make every day count.  It has made me impatient with foolish pursuits and material measures marking success or failure.

I will not waste the years I have left on things that don’t matter.

And I will measure what matters by the yardstick of death.

“Whatever will matter on our dying day, and then when we stand before the Lord, is what matters most today, right now, at this instant.”
~Ray Ortlund

life in your years

Things I’m Learning

The way things are supposed to be isn’t always the way things are.

I can experience joy and sorrow in the same breath.

The capacity to love and extend grace is enlarged by suffering if I submit to it and don’t fight it.

Never, never, NEVER underestimate the power of presence or texts or the random, “thinking of you” card.

Encouragement comes from unexpected sources.

Truth is the best defense against lies.

I was not nearly as grace-filled or kind as I thought I was before Dominic died. I’m trying to do better.

Hard things are hard.

Sad things are sad.

There’s no use pretending to be stronger than I am, God knows already and no one else is served by my pretending.

Questions are o.k.

My faith is a gift from God, is kept by God and I cannot “lose” it.

Grief is exhausting.

Life is exhausting.

Doing both at the same time is REALLY exhausting.

There is no limit to the pain you may have to endure this side of heaven.

Lightning can strike twice in the same place, and fear of what you know by experience trumps fear of the unknown by miles.

I can decide where to focus my thoughts.

Feeding fear is a choice. feeling fear is not.