Child Loss: Not A Single Event

Child loss is not a single event. 

Of course the moment when the last breath leaves a body is noted and duly recorded because the law requires such.  I can pull out Dominic’s death certificate (what an ugly thing to have to say about my child!) and it reads:  Time of Death:  1:10 a.m. April 12, 2014.  

But I didn’t know about it until 4: 15 that morning when the deputy rang the bell.  

So for me, his death came then.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/04/14/child-loss-is-not-a-single-event/

I Won’t Let Bitterness Be My Legacy

Oh, how easy it would be to become bitter!  

If I’m honest, part of me just wants to tell the world to “Get lost!”. 

But the wiser part of me knows that’s neither a helpful nor healthy response to even this most awful burden of child loss.  

Lament is how we bring our sorrow to God. Without lament, we won’t know how to process pain. Silence, bitterness, and even anger can dominate our spiritual lives instead.

~Mark Vroegop – Dark Clouds Deep Mercy

Because my bitter spirit wouldn’t stop with me.  It would spread like kudzu on an Alabama roadside.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/14/bitterness-is-a-terrible-legacy/

So What Did You Do With Your “Extra” Day?

It rolls around every four years in man’s attempt to keep the calendar in tune with the cosmos.

It’s really a rather rough alignment but it’s the best we can do.

Truth is that each year there’s about one-quarter of a day unaccounted for even though our minds and bodies don’t notice so we tack on a whole day every four years and act like we catch up.

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We don’t.

Most of us plod along as if the Monday (or Saturday, this year) is just another day in a series. For some it’s a bonus work day (maybe a bit extra in the check this month?). For many it’s only a date.

But for the tiny portion of the population who were born or married on this date, it’s a celebration.

Once every four years they get to mark-on the very day-what most of us take for granted. Friends and families can gather and honor a life or a marriage without trying to figure out whether to do it the day before or the day after.

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This is the second Leap Day that’s rolled around since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven and it got me thinking about that little extra time each year or each month or each day holds that I hardly notice.

What if I took those moments (or hours) and wove them into something more meaningful than playing a game on my phone, watching another show on Hulu or scrolling through social media?

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What if I choose to redeem those scraps of time that I normally toss away like they don’t matter?

  • In five minutes I can write a card, text or message to a friend.
  • In ten minutes I can call and set up a lunch or coffee date.
  • In thirty minutes I can preheat the oven and toss a storebought pie inside to take to my elderly neighbor.

So many opportunities to let someone know they are not forgotten nor unimportant.

February twenty-ninth didn’t really feel all that “extra” to me since I mostly did what I do every Saturday.

But it did make me think about how I spend my time.

How about you?

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The Best Time To Plant A Tree

Life is really rather unforgiving, isn’t it?

I can only live forward and there are no do-overs.

No amount of regret can roll back the clock and give me another chance to do it right, do it better or just do it at all.

I can’t undo or redo my past.

If I’ve made blunders, hurt hearts, missed opportunities or just plain screwed up, I have to live with that. And other people might have to live with the damage I’ve inflicted.

I need to own that.

But it is not helpful to let regret stop me working NOW to repair, restore and rebuild relationships.

Sometimes my best efforts may be rebuffed.

If I’ve hurt someone’s heart they have every single right to tell me, “No. I won’t let you back in.” I don’t get to establish a timeline for their healing. But if I don’t try to make amends I can be sure the rift won’t be mended.

If someone has hurt me I can choose to look beyond that pain, forgive the offense and commit to begin now, leaving the past in the past, and start fresh.

If so much time has passed that it feels awkward-so what? Embarrassment is a small price to pay for restoration.

So write a letter.

Send a card.

Make a phone call.

Offer peace.

There’s a proverb that’s been spoken by my family for years. It goes like this. A young man asks an old farmer, “When’s the best time to plant a tree?”

The old man answers, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. But the next best time is now.”

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I can’t go back and sow seed or plant trees when I wish I had.

But I can start now and plant for the future.

Who knows what kind of fruit it might bear?

Knocked Down But Not Destroyed: Earthly Days, Eternal Impact

Eternity is impossible for the human mind to grasp.

We talk about it even though we can’t really understand what it means because it’s so far outside our experience and imagination.

But it’s a fact and it matters.

The life I live on earth, made up of days, years and decades is but a blip on the screen of God’s eternal timeline.

Yet what I do here and now will ripple throughout forever.

Taking hold of that fact, clinging tightly to that truth can help me make choices that will make a real difference.

To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.

I Corinthians 9:25 TL

I remember one particularly grueling semester in college.  I had foolishly stacked five upper level political science classes on top of one another thinking that taking them together would be easier.

That was a dumb idea.

The end of semester assignments included 200 pages of written term papers along with essay tests and other random bits.  For two weeks I fell asleep on my bedroom floor, pen in hand, legal pad underneath my head and surrounded by dozens of open books I used for reference.

After composing the papers, I had to type them, add footnotes and bibliography and deliver them. All back before computers and word processing programs made it easy and electronic!

Oh, how I wanted to give up and give in!  I was certain that I was not going to make it.  I just knew that my body or mind or both would give out before I completed the task.

But they didn’t and I did manage to make it through.

I was willing to put forth the effort and pay the price for a letter grade!

No one cares what I made on those essays.  No one asks me about my college classes or grades.  At 56 I can’t even remember what I wrote about.

Now I face a much more challenging task:  Living without the companionship of one of my precious children.  The “grade” I make on this effort has eternal impact.  

This is the Valley of Weeping, yet Christ promises it will become a place of refreshing.

“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!”

Psalm 84:6 TLB

I can’t see an end for this grueling work.  There’s no “semester break” circled on my calendar.

But there will be an end to this toil and pain-just as surely as there was an end those many years ago.

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And the reward for faithfully completing this assignment is so much more valuable than a good grade.

Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.

Phillipians 3:12-16

This reward is eternal-a never-ending supply of God’s grace and love and joy that will overwhelm the toil and pain I’ve endured.

Reunion.

Redemption.

Restoration.

So while I wait, I encourage my heart with this truth:

We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despairWe are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. 11 For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account ]f Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:8 VOICE

God invites me to join Him in the work He is doing. 

Isn’t that mind-blowing? 

He could announce the Gospel from the mountaintops or have angels declare it from the heavens, but He doesn’t. 

He has ordained that these fragile bodies of ours, these fickle hearts, these often disobedient hands carry the Good News to the ends of the earth.

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The God of Heaven entrusts me with His love, empowers me with His strength and commissions me as an ambassador of reconciliation to reach a world longing for reconciliation-with Him and with one another. 

So when I look up and say, “I don’t have time”.  He says, “Get your priorities straight.” 

When I whine, “I don’t know what to do”.  He says, “I’ve got that covered.  Just look around and do what’s at hand.” 

When I groan, “It won’t make a difference anyway”.  He says, “Do you doubt the power of obedience to the Gospel to change the world?”

My life makes a difference.

Your life makes a difference.

Eternity is shaped, in part, by how we spend it.

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This post is the second in a series I began writing for a presentation I gave last Saturday entitled “Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Well: Making Kingdom Work a Priority”.

This is post is the third in a series I wrote for a presentation entitled “Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Well: Making Kingdom Work a Priority”.

If you want to read the first post, you can find it here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2020/02/07/today-is-a-gift/

The second is here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2020/02/11/life-has-limits-i-want-my-legacy-to-last/

Today Is A Gift

“Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.” ~unknown

Do we treat each day as a gift from a loving God, a present wrapped up in His grace and goodness, to be opened with joy, used with care and set lovingly on the shelf of life when done?

Or do we bear it as a burden?

I’ll admit not all days are equal.

Some ARE burdens.

No one (I don’t think!) loves going to the dentist. Few of us are keen on doing taxes or taking tests or slogging through the rain to work or school.

Some of us have much heavier burdens as we wake to an empty bed, an empty heart or an empty bank account.

But even these awful days are a gift.

Why?

Because God’s mercies are new every morning. The rising sun brings fresh opportunity to rest in, rely on and relish God’s grace, goodness and promised strength.

And every new day means we have more time.

More time to love the people we love, more time to find new people to love, more time to do the good works which God in Christ has planned for us to do.

We wake each morning to the same 24 hours given every other soul on this planet.  It’s ours to choose. 

How will we spend it?  Will we fill it with foolish things? With important things?

Here’s how I do it:

  • Put the significant and essential things in first. Time with the Lord, time with family, time with my own thoughts. (Orienting my heart and mind to what truly matters first thing makes the rest of the day so much better.)
  • Then the necessary. Work, school, chores, appointments, cooking and meals. (No way around having to do these things, but I can still choose to fit them in AFTER the most important and valuable ones.)
  • Finally, the incidental things. Facebook, television, window (internet) shopping, binge watching Netflix. (So hard to discipline my heart to focus on what will truly make a difference instead of distracting myself with the trivial.)

And surprisingly I manage most days to get it done (even checking social media).

Life is not an emergency, although I often live as if it is.

I careen around the corner of hour after hour like I’m driving a car out of control, begging someone to make it stop.

I can make it stop.

I can take my foot off the accelerator, park it and decide where and how fast I’m going to drive tomorrow.

Every single day is an opportunity to choose.

I can start fresh and make time for the things that are truly important.

If I want to.

You Choose: What’s Your Legacy?


I can’t tell you how many people try to tell me what Dominic’s “legacy” is.  They extol his positive virtues and comment on how many lives he touched in his short 23 years.

They want me to be consoled with the intangible, relational, immeasurable impact of his life on the lives of others.

Yet they continue to live as if their OWN legacy will be determined by the amount of stuff they acquire or the size of their retirement accounts or the money they leave behind for others to spend.

It can’t be both.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/12/22/whats-your-legacy/

Thirty-Five Years and Counting

Some people say they’d love to know what life has around the corner.

Not me.

At least not much past tomorrow morning.

If my husband and I had known thirty-five years ago what our lives would be like along the way, we may very well have turned tail and run in the other direction!

hector and me 29 anniversary

There have been many, many good things in those years.

We have four beautiful children whom we love so much.  Two are married and their spouses are a blessing to our family.

And this year our first grandchild made his dramatic appearance at only twenty-eight weeks!  We are oh, so thankful he’s doing well.

It’s a brand new feeling to watch your son with his.

ryker and jm june 19

There have been a fair number of not-so-good things too. 

Job layoffs, illness, the death of Hector’s parents one right after the other and the stress and strain of life’s details when it seemed we couldn’t get a break.

But nothing compares to burying Dominic.  

How does a heart learn to live with a giant piece missing?

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We have, though. 

We’ve muddled through.

The commitment we made all those years ago has stood firm.

It’s battered, crumpled, muddied and torn, but it remains the guiding promise of our lives together.

traditional wedding vows

For You, a Moment; For Me, a Lifetime

I used to look at tombstones in cemeteries and do the math between the dates. 

I was most focused on how long this person or that person walked the earth. 

I still do that sometimes.  But now I do something else as well. 

I look to the left and the right to see if the person who ran ahead left parents behind.  My eye is drawn to the solitary stones with the same last name next to a double monument clearly honoring a married pair.

grieving mother at grave

And then I do a different kind of math. 

I count the years between the last breath of the child and the last breath of his or her mama.

Because while that first date marked an end for everyone else, for the mama, it marked the beginning of the rest of her life- a life she never imagined nor would have chosen.  

I wonder how many lives have been cut short by the effects of grief.  I know some folks have tried to research it, but it’s so hard.  Because grief ends up doing things to bodies that look like aging or like other disease processes and it’s really difficult to tease it out.

But those of us who live this life know. 

We know.  

What’s a moment for everyone else, is a lifetime for us.  What is a date on the calendar, a trip to a funeral home, a casserole delivered to a door in hopes of lifting spirits for everyone else, is so much more for us.

grief as timeless as love

I don’t begrudge your ignorance. 

I celebrate it! 

My heart breaks every single time another name is added to the roles of “bereaved parent”.

I think a lot about the generations gone before.  Before vaccinations, before penicillin, before so many modern blessings that lengthen life and give hope where there used to be none.

I think about the families involved in WWI and WWII.  I understand the need to call the first war “The Great War” and assume such atrocities would stop mankind from falling headlong into them again.

But it didn’t.  

So, so many families that made the highest sacrifice. 

So, so many parents that hung that photo of their son or daughter on the wall and never moved it-because they were as frozen in time as their child.  

cant-fix-it-my-family-is-always-achingly-incomplete

I have a friend who does home-based physical therapy.  She often goes to the homes of elderly patients and lovingly and gracefully listens to their stories.  If it is part of their history, they almost always point out the child who never grew older and tell the tale of how much they miss him or her.

It’s so, so hard for others to understand how very different child loss and out-of-order death is from any other loss in this life.  

But it is not a moment.  

It is not even a week or month or years.  

It’s a lifetime. 

We miss them and mourn them for a lifetime.  

grief is a pain that cant be spoken goes on and on

 

Grief Lasts As Long As Love Does

I know that before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I didn’t really think a lot about grief.  

I had lost grandparents and other relatives, but no one so close to me that the thought of how I was supposed to relate to them after death made a daily difference.  

I realized when Dominic left, that all the love I ever felt for him I still felt. 

All the parts of me that belonged to him still belonged to him and the parts of him that belonged to me still belonged to me.  

grief is the last act of love angel and candle

Love doesn’t die.  Love lives as long as the person doing the loving has breath.  

Grief doesn’t replace love. 

It IS love.  

all acts of grief are normal