Falling Down and Getting Up Again

I hate that question that every doctor’s office asks now, “Have you had any falls in the past twelve months?”

I always say, “no” even though that’s rarely true.  

Because I know what they are looking for is evidence of disease that might be impacting balance and I’m perfectly free of that so I don’t want to place a red flag in my medical chart.

But I fall down pretty regularly.  Mostly because I trip over something as I’m walking from one animal enclosure to another, hands full of buckets and mind somewhere else.

The other day was one of those moments.  

I was done feeding our beagles, headed back to the house when my feet found a random piece of looped wire on the ground.  (I still have no idea where it came from!)

There’s that split second when you know a fall is coming and your mind tries to figure out how to stop it even as your body is giving in to gravity.

Down I went!  Hard!  On my left knee and right wrist but sparing my head.  

It really, really hurt.  In fact, it hurt so badly that I simply rolled over and rocked back and forth for a second or two.

helpless turtle

Then I realized there was no help for it but to put weight on those knees and wrists and get up.  So I took a deep breath, counted to ten and pushed myself up.  I hobbled back into the house to survey the damage and put ice on my knee.

And I reminded myself once again that I can do things that are hard, that are painful and that seem impossible.  

strengh grows when you go on anyway

Life is full of falls-real ones that bang up body parts and figurative ones that wreak havoc with hearts.

They all hurt.  

When I find myself down and out I have a choice. 

I can sit in the pain and lie helpless and hopeless. 

Or I can take a deep breath, gather my courage and get up.  

Every time I choose courage, I build up my reserve and strengthen my resolve and make it more likely I’ll get up every time.  

fear is a reaction courage is a decision

 

Cheerleaders Are More Important Than You Think

I‘ve never been the cheerleader type. 

No long legs, long hair or graceful moves that might have caught the eye of the ever watchful gatekeepers who picked the favored few each year to represent beauty on the sidelines.

So (I’ll be honest here) I really didn’t give the position much thought beyond the fact that those girls always got asked to dances first.

But in these years since Dominic left us I’ve learned something very important about cheerleaders-both the ones in the cute clothes at sporting events and the ones that come alongside others in real life:  they make a difference.  

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

Cheerleaders are more important than you think.

Someone calling courage can mean a heart holds on when it’s about to let go.

Someone reminding you what’s at stake if you give up can help you dig deep for that last bit of effort hiding inside.

Someone chanting rhythm to your plodding forward progress can provide another focus for your mind besides the throbbing pain in every step.  

Someone showing up and standing by your side even when the odds are against you says, “You are worth the effort-win or lose!”

courage-dear-heart

You don’t have to be a certain size or a certain type to be a real-life cheerleader.  

You don’t even have to fit into those cute little skirts.

The only qualification is an unqualified commitment to showing up and being seen and holding on and hanging in no matter where life takes the ones you love.  

You have the power to be the difference in somebody’s life. 

I guarantee it.

So get out there and cheer them on! 

cheerleaders

A Challenging Year: For Better or Worse

One year ago today I came in from Wednesday night church to a message on my answering machine:

“Melanie, when you get this, call me on my cell phone.  I’m on my way to Dothan.  Your mama was lifeflighted and I’m headed to the hospital”

I have no idea what else my dad said because that was as far as I got before shutting down the message and dialing his number with shaky fingers.

Because when you’ve endured the worst possible news-the news that is utterly final-it only takes half a second for your brain and body to jump from alright to utterly terrified.

So began nearly three months of trying to help my mother recover from a fall, a heart attack and serious complications from congestive heart failure.

It’s been a year and she’s doing so much better.

But it has been a hard row to hoe as they say in the South.

Papa has carried the lion’s share of the burden. 

He’s learned to keep up with Mama’s medications, her doctor’s appointments and plan menus.  He’s had to decipher the complex world of home health care, durable medical equipment and getting a handicapped parking tag.  He’s cooked, cleaned and kept Mama company since she is unable to go anywhere by herself anymore.

And that means he is as homebound as she.

Of course, poor Mama has had to endure all kinds of medical procedures, uncomfortable hospital beds, loss of autonomy and is now tethered to oxygen.  

I am oh, so proud of both of them!  

They are learning to live this new life together.  

Which is exactly what I expected from a pair that has done just that for over 57 years!

wedding rings

Repost: Baby Steps and Falling Forward

Sometimes I schedule a post the night before and wake up to a day that contradicts everything I just wrote.

Grief is like that.

Good day.  Bad day.  Better day. Worse day.

Read the rest here:  Baby Steps and Falling Forward

Shifting The Weight, Bearing the Burden

I told the two children with me that morning that we were going to survive this awful blow.

And we have.

It has been hard and ugly and more painful than anything else we’ve ever had to do. 

But we’re still standing.

And I want to encourage the hearts that are just starting down this broken road:  You really CAN make it.

Some of you reading this are saying, “But I don’t want to make it.  I want to lie down and give up and be out of this pain.”  

I don’t blame you. 

That’s precisely how my heart felt for months and months.  The only thing that kept me holding onto hope was a strong desire that my precious family not have to bury another person they loved.  It was enough to force my lungs to draw one more breath, and then another, and then another.

ok to just breathe

The breaths turned into minutes turned into hours turned into days-then weeks, months and finally, years.

Here I am, four plus years into this Valley and I can tell you this:

Sorrow is no longer all I feel and my son’s absence no longer all I see.  

Yes, every single minute grief runs like background noise in my brain.  I can go from OK to devastated in a heartbeat.

Yes, I miss Dominic like crazy.

I miss the family we used to have.

I miss the me I used to be.

But I am also living, loving and even laughing my way through many days.

I can go from tearful to joyful in a heartbeat too.  I am even more grateful for the children that walk the earth with me.  I try harder to be present, to listen, to lean in and love more fully.

The broken me is a more compassionate woman who knows the value of a minute spent with someone you love.  

I’ve learned to shift the weight of grief to one hip and make room for other things.  

It’s hard.  

It’s going to stay hard. 

But with God’s help, I’m strong enough to make it.  

track record for bad days is 100

Keep on Keeping On

One of the challenges in this journey as it lengthens into years is that it is just so DAILY.

life is just so daily

Milestone dates and holidays aside, most of the time I’m just a woman trying to make it through 24 hours at a time.  I’m just doing all the things life requires without letting grief overwhelm me.

I’ve gotten pretty good at it too.  

Sorrow is no longer all I feel and my son’s absence is no longer all I see.

I laugh as well as cry.  I look forward to my living children joining me around the table.  I anticipate changing seasons and plan holiday meals again.

But much of my time is spent plodding faithfully forward to a future I cannot see and a reunion I long for.  

Maybe it’s because I’m only at four years but I haven’t yet recovered a sense of excitement about the future no matter what wonderful event might be waiting on the calendar.

I cannot recapture joyful anticipation.  

The best I can do is not be afraid of what might be around the corner.  

And keep on keeping on.  

never, never never give up

What is Suffering?

The slim little book, LAMENT FOR A SON, by Nicolas Wolterstorff was a lifeline for me in the first few weeks after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

It wasn’t just because both of our young adult sons died in an accident.

It was mostly because Wolterstorff refused to distill the experience down to one-liners.  

He admitted that (even ten years later-which was the copy of the book I received) he was still struggling to make sense of all the feelings and spiritual implications of child loss.

And I love, love, love that he picks out every single thread and follows it as far as it goes.

Here is an excerpt on suffering:  

What is suffering? When something prized or loved is ripped away or never granted — work, someone loved, recognition of one’s dignity, life without physical pain — that is suffering.
Or rather, that is when suffering happens. What it IS, I do not know. For many days I had been reflecting on it. Then suddenly, as I watched the flicker of orange-pink evening light on almost still water, the thought overwhelmed me: I understand nothing of it. Of pain, yes: cut fingers, broken bones. Of sorrow and suffering, nothing at all. Suffering is a mystery as deep as any in our existence. It is not of course a mystery whose reality some doubt. Suffering keeps its face hid from each while making itself known to all.
We are one in suffering. Some are wealthy, some bright; some athletic, some admired. But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. If I hadn’t loved him, there wouldn’t be this agony.


This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.


~Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

My heart receives two truths from his words: 

  • that if I love, I WILL suffer.  That’s the nature of love-risking all for the benefit of another means that my heart is ultimately in their hands; and
  • pain is part of but not all of suffering.  Pain can often be dulled, dealt with, the source remedied.  Suffering is a state of the heart, mind, soul and spirit.  It can rarely be undone.  It must simply be endured.  

Understanding that the only way I could never suffer would be to never love helped me embrace this blow with a willing heart.  Even if I had known it was coming, I would still have chosen to love my son.  All the years I had are worth all the years I will carry this burden.

ann voskamp love will always cost you grief

And understanding that there is no cure for suffering changes my perspective from looking for a way out to looking for a way to persevere.  

Nicholas Wolterstorff will never know my name but I will never forget his.

I am so grateful for Wolterstorff’s words.  

So thankful that he chose to share them with others.

Forever in his debt for being one of the first hands proffered to me on this journey.