Thursday, August 30, 2012

Even if by Kutless

THIS is how you get through the loss/death of your child...believing the truth of God, of who He is. Circumstances do NOT dictate God's character. He loves you. He loves me. Remember the TRUTH.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

SEE BY FAITH - an UpWords devotion from Max Lucado

On the wall of a concentration camp, a prisoner had carved the following words:

“I believe in the sun, even though it doesn’t shine.

I believe in love, even when it isn’t shown.

I believe in God, even when he doesn’t speak.”

What hand could have cut such a conviction? What eyes could have seen good in such horror? There’s only one answer: Eyes that chose to see the unseen.

Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians 4:18: “We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will only last a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.”

We can see either the hurt or the Healer.

Mark it down. God knows you and I are blind. He knows living by faith and not by sight doesn’t come naturally. He will help us. Accept his help.

Either live by the facts or see by faith!

From Cast of Characters


Saturday, August 25, 2012

More phantom pains

So this would have been the year Matt graduated. Lord willing, anyway. (He was an incredibly smart kid, but chose not to use his smarts in certain classes. Like English. Which he failed the last quarter of his sophomore year. Which is why I say Lord willing.)

Anyway - here it is near the end of August. Another school year is gearing up, and I have already read two FB friends' posts about how their child will be graduating this year and how graduation party planning is in the works. Honestly, I know the posts are completely innocent. They have no intention whatsoever of causing pain. In fact, I'm absolutely sure I'm not even on their radar when they make references of this kind. I realize this. BUT. But it hurts. I am truly happy for them and rejoice with them. BUT IT HURTS. It feels like I've been unintentionally, accidentally bumped into, right at the spot of amputation. It sets off reverberating ripples of phantom pains.

I don't want to deal with this for the next year, and it's only going to get worse as May and graduations draw near, in my opinion. I also know, Lord willing, that I will get to experience graduations, etc., with our other kids, but the truth remains. Not with Matt. But it is what it is. It's part of life and it's a part of grief. I just remind myself to take a deep breath, remember that my son is alive in Heaven, and that ultimately, these momentary "joys" on this earth are just that. Momentary joys. There is greater joy waiting. Much greater joy.
Permanent and everlasting joy. Hallelujah.

Friday, August 24, 2012

When the ride evens out a bit

Thirteen months on this ride. Because the roller coaster's twists and turns aren't quite as wicked, and the ups and downs aren't as steep at thirteen months, it at least allows you to open your eyes and bravely take a look around. The nauseated feeling in the pit of my stomach is no longer a constant. While I still want off grief's ride, it's not over yet. But at moments when the ride slows, there are times I can open my eyes and catch a view of the things passing by.

I'm noticing beautiful things. Things like the smiles of my other children, the excitement and laughter in their voices, the plans and dreams in their hearts as I listen to them conversing from the back of the van. It's such a different perspective now. The things that used to excite me, just don't anymore. Sure, I still enjoy certain things, but the thrill, their importance, is gone. Grief will prioritize your life. That's for certain. Ask anyone who's experienced a loss and they'll tell you the same thing.

I think what surprises me most is the realization that, while there are things that bring a smile to my face, they fail to penetrate the center of my heart. Yet the joy that exists with other things is deeper, more settled, and does sink into the heart. I don't know how to explain this adequately. It's rather a mystery to me. I don't think I've figured out yet, either, if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm guessing it just means I no longer clutch those things because I now know that they're not as important as I once thought they were. Grief has given me discernment into the things that matter and the things that don't. At least I think it has.

Our family continues to heal on this journey through grief. We are merging back into the fast lane of life, but are content to let others pass. We have realized that merging is mandatory. We have to do life, even if we don't feel like it at times, even if we're uncertain, weak, or afraid. The flow of life's traffic is a constant. But I have determined to be content in the carpooling lane, keeping my eyes on my Chauffeur trusting God to do the navigating.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Grief? Good?

I found myself wondering recently if there is anything good about grief. I came up with two.

One, grief has strengthened my resolve to be a better mom. I have purposed in my heart to not let my son's death be in vain. One of the ways in which I see that happening is in improving my relationships with the rest of my children. My relationship with our oldest was not good, at least definitely not the last two years he was here. I yelled. A LOT. I honestly did not understand him. He was a complete enigma to me. I had, in fact, the contact information of a counselor sitting on my desk the week Matt died. I wanted so badly to have a better relationship with my son. But the opportunity here on earth is forever gone. I do believe that we would have eventually worked things out and gotten on better with one another eventually, but it is something I think I will always regret, not getting the chance to do that or see the results. We only get one chance. One. I am more convicted and convinced, too, that a lot of Matt's and my struggles were because of me. I know without a doubt, and without condemnation, that my response, and my actions, could have been so much better. I will not let my son's death not make a change for the better in me.

Two, the death of my son has left me with a longing for Heaven that would have never been there otherwise. Heaven, which is God's dwelling place, is promised for those of us who trust Jesus Christ as the LORD and Savior of our life. God's plan has always been for us to spend eternity with Him. And this world, earth, is not our home. It is but a poor reflection of our true home, Heaven, seen through the tainted eyes of sin, sickness, and death. Before the loss of my child, my thoughts about Heaven were pretty vague, more along the lines of, "Yeah. It'll be neat." But truthfully, there was no deep burning desire to really go there, no excited anticipation. Just more of a ho-hum, matter-of-fact, "won't that be nice" attitude. I can say with assurance that not a day goes by without thinking of my son, and neither does a day go by now that I also don't think about being in Heaven and living on the new earth, one without death, sorrow, crying, or pain. Eternity without sin, accidents, or sickness. Eternity with God the Father and Jesus His Son, who died for us, so that we might live forever with Him. Amen!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rehab session

Let's be honest. Rehab sucks. It's hard. It's exhausting. It's physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining. I went with a friend yesterday to pick up her boys from Trout Lake Camp. I wasn't "watching where I was going" and got hit by a multitude of thoughts once we got there. For one thing, it didn't occur to me until I stepped out of the van that the last time I was there was in May when our family spent a few days together there to remember Matt's birthday. Then I looked around and saw countless teenage counselors holding up cabin signs for their young crew to locate their assigned groups. All those teenagers. My heart started to shake. I drew a deep breath, squared my shoulders, pushed the thoughts of teenagers out of my mind, and, with determined focus, set about collecting the boys' things.

We loaded in what we could, then headed up the hill for the closing ceremony. Because of the herniated disk in my lower back, I sat on the steps of a nearby cabin, watching and listening to the swarm of kids. But, as usual, alone with my thoughts in the midst of the crowd, I wistfully wondered if Matt would have volunteered to be a counselor. I guessed that he would have, and then tears began to fall as I realized we'd most likely be picking him up from camp as well if death hadn't pierced our lives. 

Now overwhelmed with emotion, I stood up and walked slowly back to the van. I realized that this was a "PT" session. I can't avoid certain situations because they're painful, and I can't avoid teenagers for the next however many years. But I allowed myself to cry without reserve in the privacy of the van. 

The GriefShare (Day 4) devotion titled, "Grief Lasts Longer Than Expected" came to mind. How perfectly fitting it was for the moment. Dr. Larry Crabb states, "The grieving process for me is not so much a matter of getting rid of the pain, but not being controlled by the pain." It's a fine line between letting yourself grieve and being stuck in grief. It takes discernment and a "eternity" perspective. It requires doing the hard work of PT, which guarantees tears and painful stretching. PT validates that the recovery process is grueling, hard fought, considerably longer than anyone anticipates, and necessitates the help of others. It is incredibly humbling and dissolves any belief that a "stiff upper lip" or will-power will be enough to get you through.

I definitely do not like PT, but I can't deny the fact that it's necessary for the recovery process. All I can say is this: I am deeply, deeply thankful that GOD is my therapist. I may stumble and fall, but He will pick me back up. He will see to it that I will walk again. Someday. And definitely not without a limp like Jacob. But with the LORD's help, I will. He's got my back. Death may be fatal, but it's definitely not final.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I am not a dam

The last several days have been a valiant attempt at holding back tears. But God gave us tears for a reason. They're not meant to be held inside, and I am not a dam.

Matt, tonight as I watched your little brothers play together on the trampoline, I wondered what you would be doing if you were here. Would you be working? Would you be on the computer? Would you be at a friend's house? Would you have been at ping pong? But wondering is what broke the dam. I just hurt so much. I miss you more than words can say.

Your dad is doing o.k. He says if he could have you back, he wouldn't, because he knows how great Heaven is. But honestly, in moments like this, I can't say that. I do want you back. I am selfish. I know Heaven is wonderful, too, but I still want you back. I want my life back, struggles with you and all, son. I ache with longing.

Recording artist Jewel has a song called "Satisfied." I heard it several times, and even downloaded it, months before you died. Looking back, I regret not heeding the lyrics and failing to take seriously the foreshadowing of your leaving. The words are true in that the sorrow of regret is a painful, excruciating state for the heart.

by Jewel
If you love somebody
You better let it out
Don't hold it back
While you're trying to figure it out
Don't be timid
Don't be afraid to hurt
Run toward the flame
Run toward the fire
Hold on for all your worth
Cause the only real pain a heart can ever know
Is the sorrow of regret
When you don't let your feelings show

So did you say it
Did you mean it
Did you lay it on the line
Did you make it count
Did you look 'em in the eye
Did they feel it
Did you say it in time
Did you say it out loud
'cause if you did hun
Then you lived some
That feeling inside
That's called satisfied

Busy people walking by
Can't help but worry some
With so many things to do
So little love gets done
Empty hearts everywhere
Drowning but dying of thirst
If you want love
It's not that tough
Start by giving it first
It's so easy to give
Baby can't you see
Just close your eyes open your heart
And do what comes naturally

Well did you say it
Did you mean it
Did you lay it on the line
Did you make it count
Did you look 'em in the eye
Did they feel it
Did you say it in time
Did you say it out loud
'cause if you did hun
Then you lived some
That feeling inside
That's called satisfied

Horses are built to run
The sun is meant to shine above
Flowers are made to bloom
And then there's us
We were born to love

[Repeat Chorus]

Yet I pray you would know, Matt, how much I love you, how much I regret certain things, how much I wish our relationship had been better, how sorry I am for not being a better mother. I can only hope and pray that Heaven allows those who are there to know that, to see that. And I trust that in the time between now and seeing you again that God would continue to hold on to me and remind me of His truths.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fits and starts

I've realized this rehabilitation/healing process isn't smooth. Go figure. I've been discovering a lot of expectations, that I didn't even know I had, aren't very realistic and are downright naive. I had expected by now to be back "in the swing of things." Household things like baking homemade bread weekly, having "normal" sleeping habits, and a return of energy and mental clarity. But I have learned from many in our GriefShare group that these sorts of things don't magically return all at once. They sort of happen in fits and starts. I am just so relieved to know that it's "normal" for those of us in the grief journey, that I am not crazy or abnormal. I am learning to re-adjust my expectations.

I've also twice now caught myself referring to our 2nd born as the "oldest." Oh, how that pains my heart! She is NOT our oldest! I shocked myself both times as soon as the words left my mouth and my ears heard them. I don't know if other bereaved parents have struggled with this, either. It is a paradox to me and I am not sure how to deal with it. It leaves me confused and feeling as if I've betrayed my firstborn.

My heart is also heavy with the knowledge that I am forgetting, that lately I can't remember certain things about Matt. Grief is a double-edged sword in that, though excruciating when it is fresh, it is because the feelings, the smells, the memories, are fresh as well. However, the other side of the sword is a bit duller in that the farther in time from grief that one goes, the "duller" the pain, but then, too, the duller the feelings, the smells, and the memories. It, again, leaves me perplexed, troubled, and deeply saddened.

Moreover, reminders of our loss persist. This week, it was the FB post regarding one of Matt's cousins who will be graduating this upcoming school year, the same as Matt would have, that brought a stab of pain as his mom posted a preview of his Senior pictures. While I am happy for them, it is a bitter pill to swallow as it's also a reminder that that's not something we get to do. Can grief make one jealous? You bet. Just yet another temptation to battle along the journey. I must, however, choose to remember that God is just. It is not unfair. The truth is, we all will have an end to our days and they are not the same for everyone. However, those 18" in getting that truth from the head to the heart seems a lot farther at times.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Taking a spill

Today was hard. I feel like my heart took a big spill. I thought "PT" (physical therapy, a.k.a. grief recovery) had been going well this last week, but as with any recovery, there's good days and bad days. This was a bad day. Dark, heavy, painful. Try as hard as I may, I just couldn't muster the strength to do the exercises/work. I gave it a good try, putting on my game face, but sometimes, as one of our GriefShare videos says, you just have to call it a day. I think I need to go see the Great Physician for stitches.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Remember - a poem


You may weep for me,
but, remember, I am laughing above.

Darkness may engulf the casket,
but, remember, I am dancing in the light.

Grief has broken your heart,
but, remember, mine is rejoicing with the Savior.

Your tears are a close companion,
but, remember, someday God himself will wipe them away.

You may long for my presence,
but, remember, I am where I belong.

You may despise the good-bye,
but, remember, I will greet you again.

*I wrote this tonight as we were waiting for our Bible study to start. (Max Lucado series titled, "You'll Get Through This." Of course, tonight's lesson would appropriately be called, "Good-bye to Good-byes."

Friday, August 10, 2012

It just is

I joined an out-of-town friend in visiting last night, along with some of her other friends. In the course of the conversation, they were discussing their teens, the struggles they were having with them, and just the general parenting conversation that all involves. I sat there, unable to join in. My heart grew heavy listening, and all I wanted to do was get up and leave because I was reminded of my loss once again. But I know that's reality. It just is. I can't (and don't!) expect others to walk on egg shells and monitor their conversations about their teens just because mine died. It hurts, but it's the truth. It's just another part of the grief journey that I'm going to have to get used to. (And I do realize our 2nd born is a teen, now 14. But it's the discussion of older teens, teens that drive, work, are graduating, going off to college, etc. Those are the discussions I can no longer take part in. Not yet, anyway. And not about Matt, not about my oldest, ever again. It just made me sad.) But it is what it is. It just is.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The "firsts"

One would think that after the first year, we'd be over the "firsts." Unfortunately, not. One can't help but be inundated by all the "Back to School" stuff in the stores. Walking by it, all strategically placed by the entrance, brings a sharp pang to my heart as it remembers that Matt would be a Senior this year. Only he isn't going back to school. Ouch.

I immediately try to take captive those thoughts and not go there. Is it denial, I wonder? Am I trying to ignore the pain? Am I stuffing grief? Or am I facing the truth square on and refusing to indulge in the "if only's" and "what if's"?

I often question myself, wondering if it's healthy to squash those kinds of "that will never be" thoughts, because, at the same time, it means I deliberately have to not think about my son. I feel like such a horrible mother because of that. I feel horrible because I still can't look at pictures of him. It is just too painful. Yet I long to hear others talk about him, give me a glimpse of who he was around other people, show us a part of him that we didn't get to see. I don't think most people understand how incredibly comforting and healing it is to hear others talk about your deceased loved one. Memories are all we have left, and in sharing them, it's giving us a part of our loved one back. I wish so many more people would have written a memory of Matt at the "All Things Matt" event.

The reality is, there's going to be a lot more firsts. They maybe won't come crashing in as fast as a tsunami, or as frequently as the pounding of waves on a shore, but they will come, slowly and inevitably. As we continue through this season of sorrow, I just pray for the continued strength and comfort of the LORD, and an abiding focus on the truth of His Word.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Now the real work begins

I am beginning to get a glimpse of why "they"(the many people I've talked to who are 2+ years down the journey of grief) say the 2nd year of grief is harder. I look back to the past twelve months and honestly believe (at least for those whose loss was sudden and unexpected) that the first year is simply pure shock, pure survival, pure "touch and go" as to whether the bereaved will even survive.

Coming out of the first year of grief is like leaving the hospital for the rehab clinic. The first few months after a loss are spent in ICU with the next following months slowly recovering enough to move to the regular floor. Finally, it's time to move to rehab, to enter rehabilitation therapy. Now the real work begins. The first part is simply staying alive, keeping the bereaved living. Once that's accomplished, then it's on to rehab, beginning the recovery process of re-learning how to live again with a part of you missing.

The process of rehabilitation is frustrating and exhausting. I am still not sleeping well, unable to fall asleep most nights until midnight or later. In particularly weak moments when the pain of grief is simply unbearable, I find myself crying out to God asking, "Why? Why did you take my son? Why mine?" It is pain speaking. A year of sleeplessness and continued illness certainly doesn't help with one's state of mind, either.

I have also struggled, from the beginning, with prayer. I found myself (and still do at times) asking, "What's the point? If someone has a set time to die, then why pray?" I have lamented to God. For months now, I have silently inundated Him with my questions and doubts. And I know He hears. I'm not worried, for He knows the honest cry of my heart.

Last night I picked up Streams in the Desert and read the entry for August 1st. What a timely reminder! "My child, you can trust the Man that died for you. If you cannot trust Him whom can you trust?" Also yesterday, a friend posted a link on my FB for one of the speakers on our GriefShare videos. And what should his post be about? Prayer, of course.

Our Heavenly Father is so very tender and loves us so. We can spurn the comfort He gives or turn to Him in trust. I can cling to the hurt I feel or surrender it to Him, allowing Him to be the Great Physician, tending to my grievous wound.

So though there are days and moments of unspeakable pain, and while I don't profess to understand all of it, I know and accept the truth of God's Word because I know He is faithful, and I know His character. 

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, 
this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 
 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  
but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 
 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you
 for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again
 your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me."  
Phil. 1:21-26

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Random tears

Out running errands this morning, I drove up to a stop sign, then burst into tears because I was remembering that Matt always stopped way behind the sign. He was such a cautious and conscientious driver. Just doesn't seem right that he would lose his life as a result of a car accident. A small, quick ambush, but it still sucks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Not prepared

I went to PT this afternoon and the therapist asked, "How's the family?" (It's the same gal I saw 2-3yrs. ago for my bursitis.)  I fell apart and started crying: *sigh* Yeah...moments like that suck.

Heavy of heart

The one year mark of our son's homegoing was this last Sunday. We had a remembrance event and it was a wonderful, wonderful turnout of amazing, supportive friends. But since then, I've had such a heavy heart. I miss my son. It's been one year since he died, but it feels more like four. Yet I've read/heard comments from others about how fast the year went. Well, I can tell you it didn't for me/us. Just one day with grief is endless. I am trying to remember the TRUTH. The truth is, my son is ALIVE in Heaven. And we are now one year closer to seeing him again.