June Challenge: Eight Legs and Eternity

Day Eight of Kathleen Duncan’s  June 1-30 challenge.

The prompt:  Write a story with eight legs or turn the eight sideways and use “infinity” (eternity) as your prompt.

Eternity is a long time.

Just try and wrap your mind around it.

But when you bury a child, that’s what you think about-the forever that comes when he left his earthly body and entered the Presence of Jesus.

So many hard days followed, so many tears, so much pain.  I wanted to escape to eternity with Dominic.

I would be there eventually anyway, why not now?

But it’s not up to me to determine when I go. So I remain, and try to find a way to make the days count, be useful and stay hope-filled.

And eight legs have helped me stay rooted in the “now” when my heart longs to be in “forever”.

That first Thanksgiving after losing Dominic in April, we  visited our oldest son and his wife in West Virginia where she was a vet.

Touring Lillie’s office, we were introduced to two fluffy, orange kittens that had been abandoned by the road and brought there in hopes of finding a home.

 

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One look and I was smitten.

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It took less than five minutes to decide to take them back with us to Alabama.

Who could resist those faces?

 

At dinner that night, we brainstormed possible names.  I still have the list in my notes on my phone:  Kit Kat, Pumpkin, Scratch and Sniff, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostito.

We decided on names that reflected their roots- Moonshine and White Lightning.

After all, West Virginia is home to as many stills as hills.

Once we got back, their needs became part of my morning routine-a constant and undeniable reminder that I HAD to get out of bed.  And they made me laugh!

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Here is Lightning soaking up the sun in front of the picture window.

 

 

 

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Moonshine’s personality is more relaxed-why sit when you can lay down?

 

 

I used to be able to pick up both of them with one hand, now it takes two hands to pick up one of them!

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They have grown into good companions, great mousers, soft lap warmers and serious purr machines.

I’m very glad these eight legs live in my house.  

They’ve been excellent therapy for my hurting heart.

Benefits of Pet Therapy:

  • lowers blood pressure
  • improves cardiovascular health
  • releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
  • diminishes overall physical pain
  • the act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some folks need
  • lifts spirits and lessens depression
  • decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
  • encourages communcation
  • provides comfort
  • lowers anxiety
  • creates motivation for the client to recover faster
  • reduces loneliness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season of Joy: Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

We want to enjoy the family that gathers, but their presence makes the empty chair more obvious.

It is so hard to find a way to trudge through the tinsel when what you really want to do is climb into bed and wake up when it’s all over.

There are some practical ways family and friends can help grieving parents during the holidays:

  1. Don’t resist or criticize arrangements a bereaved parent makes to help him or her get through this season.  If they are brave enough to broach the subject, receive their suggestions with grace and encourage them with love.  Do your best to accommodate the request.
  2. If the bereaved parent doesn’t approach you–consider thoughtfully, gracefully approaching him or her about what might make the holidays more bearable.  But don’t expect a well-laid plan-I didn’t get a “how-to” book when I buried my child…this is new to me and very, very painful.  I am doing the best I can to keep my head above the waves and I cannot be expected to captain the boat through these turbulant waters.
  3. Don’t be surprised if a bereaved parent doesn’t want to exchange gifts (or at least, not receive gifts).  No one can rewind time or restore my family circle to wholeness and I just can’t think of anything else that I want or need.
  4. Don’t assume that the bereaved parent should be relieved of all meal duties around the holiday.  For some of us, doing the routine things like baking and cooking are healing.  For others, there just isn’t energy for anything other than the most fundamental daily tasks. ASK if they want to contribute.
  5. Don’t corner surviving children for a private update on their parent’s state of mind.  My children are grieving too.  When you expect them to give an update on me you diminish their pain and put them in a difficult position.  If you want to know, ask me.
  6. If there are young children in the family, it might be helpful to offer to take them to some of the parties/gatherings/church services that their parent may not be up to attending. Ask, but don’t be upset if they say “no”–it might still be too traumatic for either the child or the parent to be separated from one another.

I know that life goes on, the calendar pages keep turning and I can’t stop time in its tracks.  I greet each day with as much faith and courage as I can muster. This season requires a little more-and I will need help to make it through.

 

Thankful But Broken

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.

My birthday sometimes falls on the day itself, and I have often been able to celebrate with extended family and friends-a full table of food and a full house of fellowship.

I love the colors of fall, the scents of cinnamon and pumpkin, the freedom from gift-giving pressures that lets me focus on the people in my life.

A few years ago, Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was published sparking a renewed interest in the Christian community to focus on thankfulness as a way to open our hearts to the goodness and faithfulness of God and to open our hands and lives to serve others from our bounty.

An invitation to trust and not be afraid.

Across social media, people began to post , “Today I am thankful for___________.” Instagram.  Facebook.  Twitter.  Good stuff, and good reminders.

And I am thankful.

Really.

I am thankful that my family has managed to survive the loss of Dominic without going crazy  or becoming bitter or running away. We continue to support, love and care for one another.

I am thankful for the few, special friends who have made it a priority to visit me, love me and give me a safe space to vent my grief.

I am thankful that I have food to eat, a place to live and clothes to wear.

I am thankful for my Bible, the one I got while carrying Dominic beneath my heart-the one filled with notes, prayers and underlined passages-because it reminds me that God is still God even when I can’t feel Him.

But I am broken.

Truly.

Losing a child, not being able to save the life your love created, not being there when he breathed his last, not holding his hand as he entered eternity-that is humbling.

My November and Thanksgiving will be quieter than in years past.

No daily posts.  No long lists.

I will lean in and listen hard for the whispered promises that one day heartache will end.

I will open my heart and hand to a hurting world.

I will trust and not be afraid.

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