Healing is a process that takes as long as it takes and may never be complete this side of eternity. It’s a folding in of the hard parts of my story, an acknowledgement of the way I am changed because of the wounds I’ve received. It involves scar tissue and sore spots and ongoing pain.
Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of Dominic running ahead to Heaven. I spent a portion of the day thinking about all the people who ministered to our family in those first days and weeks.
What a difference they made!
When our hearts were full of sorrow, they helped us bear the burden. When we couldn’t think straight and make important decisions they came alongside and guided us through. When the dark closed in around us, they held our hands and held a light.
If you want to know what to do when someone you love is thrust into a life they didn’t choose, show up.
You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be present.
This weekend another family joined the ranks of the bereaved.
A beloved son left for heaven in a car accident.
The mama’s best friend messaged to ask what she could do to help this newly broken heart.
I don’t often pull the “you never know if today may be the last day for someone you love” card.
But I’m going to do it now.
People. Just stop.
Your need for a latte does not trump the necessity to stay away from potential sources of infection. Your need to socialize with friends because you “just can’t stand to sit inside one more minute” is not an excuse for ignoring requests from health care professionals to stay home.
Your careless and carefree attitude is putting others at risk.
It’s entirely possible that if or when you contract Covid19 it’s no more than a miserable two weeks. But it’s also entirely possible that the person you give it to might die.
Trust me, you don’t want to be the one who brought it home to your mama, your daddy, your spouse or your child.
There is nothing easy about watching someone you love suffer. It’s even harder to be forbidden from sitting next to his or her bedside, holding a hand, wiping a fevered forehead.
Dominic died almost six years ago. It is no easier on my heart this minute than it was then.
This is not a joke, not overblown, not a government conspiracy or a hoax perpetrated by whomever you think might do such a thing.
Do you love your family and friends?
REALLY love them?
If you do, thenSTAY HOME!
For those of you (like two of my children) who perform essential work during this crisis, thank you.
And may God place a hedgeof protection around you and those you love.
I wrote this last year around this time. I was planning my daughter’s wedding and coming off an extremely stress-filled and difficult year.
Little did I know more wounding was in store.
And now we find ourselves collectively fearful of an invisible enemy. We are holding our breath, waiting to see what the worst will be.
In this hour of need, we wounded soldiers have something to offer our frightened friends and neighbors. Suffering well gives us authority to offer true compassion and genuine love.
Let’s be the light.
So often we hide our wounds.
Sometimes it’s because others have shamed us into covering up. Sometimes it’s because our hearts have been stomped on by folks who might mean well but really don’t understand what it’s like to live every day with a messy and unfinished story.
I was talking to my dad the other morning as I do every morning.
We catch one another up on personal news and then turn to the world at large.
After another day of dismal and disconcerting headlines I asked my retired fighter pilot/flight instructor/still flying/recently bereaved dad, “So, how are you REALLY doing?”
He replied, “I’m flying the plane.”
He told me the first rule of flying was: NO MATTER WHAT– never, never, never stop flying the plane.
Even if the only thing you can do is fly it into a crash.
Focus on the essentials.
Don’t be distracted by incidentals.
Save all your energy for the things you CANdo something about and ignore the things you can’t control.
As he was talking I realized that somewhere in my 56 years he had taught me this lesson well although he’d never taught me to fly.
So that’s what we are doing.
It’s what we’re all doing.
We are taking care of the things we can and trying hard to not waste any energy on things we can’t. We’re checking on one another, encouraging one another, making sure each one is getting proper nutrition and rest and refusing to sweat the small stuff.
I can’t see my ICU nurse daughter because she’s possibly been exposed to the virus and I am immunosuppressed.
So I dug through my stash and sent her and the foster kids she helps her best friend parent a box brimming full of random craft supplies to stave off boredom.
It’s not much but it’s something I CAN do.
I’m walking every day and keeping my cardiovascular system as fit as possible.
I’m writing and posting on several public Facebook pages I maintain. One is dedicated to bereaved parents, another to general spiritual encouragement and a third to educational resources for parents who suddenly find themselves having to teach their children at home when they were used to sending them off to school.
I have cleaned out a few random corners that should have been cleaned months (let’s be honest-years!) ago. And I’m checking in on friends and neighbors.
My public health officer son is running crazy so I don’t bombard him with texts or messages but I try to shoot him at least one encouraging word every day. He calls when he can and just last evening treated us to a FaceTime session with our little Captain.
Seeking joy wherever we can find it is part of our daily routine. And nothing says “JOY!” like this happy smile.
My husband is working from home (THAT’S an adjustment for this women who loves her quiet time!) so I fixed him up a work station and make sure I don’t interrupt his conference call by hollering something from the kitchen (or vacuuming under his feet). He’s making some adjustments to my preference for light-hearted viewing in the evenings and saving his heavier, action-packed choices for after I go to bed.
Kind of a trial run for his retirement.
The son that lives close by has become our errand runner and grocery store shopper.
He picks up what we need, being extra careful to clean his hands and clothes before bringing it into the house. He shopped for our elderly neighbor as well. He’s doing his part to maintain a buffer between those of us who may be more susceptible and the virus.
Flying the plane means we are keeping our wits about us, doing the important and necessary things.
But it also means we are finding moments to take a breath, enjoy a laugh, watch a sunset, go for a walk, listen to the birds sing, play with the dog or cats, share a funny meme, and eat meals together.
We can’t control the world but we can control our reaction to what it tosses our way.
We can’t guarantee our safety but we can choose to do things that enhance it.
“People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
It’s easy when you’re scared to shout loudly at whatever scapegoat crosses your path. But it’s hardly helpful.
My earnest hope in this season of worldwide fear is this: that people will show themselves to be more compassionate than they think they are, that communities will come together instead of falling apart and that while politicians may work hard to spin headlines one way or the other, citizens will insist on helping one another instead of hating one another.
A friend recently posted that not all the lessons of grief are bitter.
Some are sweet.
I’ve learned a lot on this journey. And one of the sweet things I’ve learned is that the best thing to offer fellow travelers is a bit of my heart instead of a piece of my mind.
I’ve written before that I am oh, so thankful I had NO IDEA Dominic would leave us that early April morning in 2014.
It would have cast an awful shadow over all those years we were blessed with his presence.
But there are some things I wish I’d known.
I wish I had known how hard it is to conjure up his voice now that it’s been nearly six years since I heard it.
I would have taken more short videos, just to have his laugh, his sarcasm, his deep mellow “Hey!” handy on my phone for the moments when I long to hear it. I wouldn’t have erased the backlog of recorded messages on the landline just one day earlier.
I wish I had known there were so few photographs of us together.
I would have gotten over myself much sooner and stuck my fat bottom in every shot my family begged me to take. I would have made certain there was at least one of him and me on each birthday, at special occasions and when he graduated high school and college. I was always the one taking them, organizing something or just to self-conscious to be in the picture.
I wish I had saved more cards, notes and random bits of flotsam from over the years with his words, his handwriting, his childish drawings.
Just a month before he left us, I cleaned out two decades of home schooling records and carelessly tossed so many bits of him into the bed of my truck, hauling it to the dump. Back then it felt like I was unburdening myself of too much paper and too many frivolous memories. Now it feels like an incalculable loss.
I would have listened more often to the wonderful sound of his drums banging away upstairs.
I took a walk most afternoons and Dominic timed his practice for when I was out of the house because it was so very loud. It was considerate and kind. And I DID get to hear him through the windows as I made my rounds but I really, really wish I’d just stopped and fully appreciated his talent.
I could list so many more ways I’d have arranged life differently-if I had KNOWN.
But I didn’t.
So I make my way through another spring, remembering, remembering, remembering.