Friday, June 28, 2013

23 months

Dear Matt,
With each passing month, I wonder. I wonder, "Will it get any easier?" "Do I want it to get any easier?" "What does moving forward look like in five years?" "Will this bone-marrow-deep sorrow ever be any less?" "Does joy really exist? A joy as deep as the grief?" "Is God's word really true?" I don't have the answers, and my faith is sore. I still wake every morning thinking, "This can't be real. How can you really be gone?" I can't believe I've gone 23 months without seeing your face, without hearing your voice, without watching you lope nightly into the kitchen at 10:30pm, opening the cupboard door for your bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. I miss cutting your hair. I miss seeing you play with your little brothers. I miss seeing you hanging out with Josh and Luke. I miss your strong, quiet presence. I wanted so badly to send out graduation announcements and host a graduation party. But it wasn't meant to be. God had different plans. So very different.

Instead of collecting graduation gifts, we are collecting memorial donations. Instead of touring colleges with you, I am touring them with David. Bittersweet doesn't begin to describe these feelings. Yet I am deeply, deeply grateful for David, for the person he is, for the experiences we have with him. He is a gift, as you were.

But there are times along this grief journey that I simply can't walk anymore. My legs fail me. My spirit lies crumpled in the dark. My soul cries out. I know God is there, though I don't see Him in these dark moments. I know these are the times when my Heavenly Father gently picks me up in His arms and carries me. He reminds me of His unfailing love and faithfulness. 

O how He loves you and me

O how He loves you and me
O how He loves you and me
He gave His life, what more could He give? 
O how He loves you
O how He loves me
O how He loves you and me 
Jesus to Calvary did go
His love for mankind to show
What He did there brought hope from despair
Author: Kurt Kaiser
Lyrics are copyrights:
? 1975 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.) - CCLI 15850 

All the Way My Savior Leads Me

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.
All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.
Words: Fanny Crosby

Psalm 61
1Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

 Isaiah 41:10
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; 
for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; 
yea, I will help thee; yea, 
I will uphold thee with the right hand 
of my righteousness."

Isaiah 51:12a
"I, even I, am he that comforteth you." 

I called out to Him, and He heard my cry. The next morning my inbox was filled with the following devotional, Striving Where He is Sovereign, by James MacDonald. Oh, to rest in Him. To be loved by Him. To be humbled by Him. He is my Abba Father who loves me with an everlasting love. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

How not to say the wrong thing

I came across the following article and thought it to be quite insightful and thought-provoking.

How not to say the wrong thing 

When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan's colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn't feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague's response? "This isn't just about you."
"It's not?" Susan wondered. "My breast cancer is not about me? It's about you?"
The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit. She was no longer covered with tubes and lines and monitors, but she was still in rough shape. A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie's husband, Pat. "I wasn't prepared for this," she told him. "I don't know if I can handle it."
This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say. And it was wrong in the same way Susan's colleague's remark was wrong.
Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.
Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie's aneurysm, that's Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie's aneurysm, that was Katie's husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan's patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring.
Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.
When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it. Don't, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don't need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, "I'm sorry" or "This must really be hard for you" or "Can I bring you a pot roast?" Don't say, "You should hear what happened to me" or "Here's what I would do if I were you." And don't say, "This is really bringing me down."
If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.
Comfort IN, dump OUT.
There was nothing wrong with Katie's friend saying she was not prepared for how horrible Katie looked, or even that she didn't think she could handle it. The mistake was that she said those things to Pat. She dumped IN.
Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn't do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.
Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don't just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.
Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you're talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.
And don't worry. You'll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.
Susan Silk is a clinical psychologist. Barry Goldman is an arbitrator and mediator and the author of "The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators."


Friday, June 14, 2013

Father's Day

Anyone who has experienced the loss of a child can tell you that grieving is hard, painful, and exhausting. Watching my husband grieve has been (and is) heart-wrenching. I don't know where or how our society got the idea that men aren't supposed to cry, or that tears are a sign of weakness, because it simply isn't true. I am so thankful for the Bible, for the examples it shows of how to grieve and how to respond to loss.

The honest cries and laments of David fill the pages of the book of Psalms. The commingling of Job's worship and grief is displayed like the neon lettering of a billboard. The disappointment, the anger, and the questioning of the Almighty from God-fearing men, fill the pages of the Bible from beginning to end.

I have seen my husband grieve these past 22 1/2 months, all the while giving his sorrow to the only One who can bring healing. A strong man is a man who allows himself to grieve. My husband is a man of strength. God's strength.

To all the fathers who have outlived their children, I pray God's peace and strength to you on Father's Day. May it be blessed with His love, filled with His comfort, and overflowing with His joy.   

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

When you see it coming

I was going to title this post, "Avoiding the unavoidable," but it's not possible. There are things along the grief journey that one simply can't avoid no matter how hard one tries to step around it, over it, or under it. Deny it all one wants, it doesn't go away, it's not a mirage. Denial.doesn'

Matt's "would-be" graduation is one of them. I can't deny it. Oh, I could try. It would be easier, yes, if David were not here. But David is here (our Brazilian exchange student), and he is participating in the graduation ceremony. I want so much to just run away, to bury my head in the sand and pretend it doesn't exist. I'd like to crawl into bed and not wake up until next week. But I can't. It seems as if the only choice I have in this "fight or flight" situation is "fight." Only I'm feeling like dust, no strength, no form. I feel trampled and left for dead.

Thankfully, however, I know better by now that my strength comes from the LORD. I know that in those moments when I am overcome by grief, I can turn to my Heavenly Father. He is where I pour out my heart, my fears, and my pain. He is the one who listens and hears my cries. He knows my pain, and he provides the way of comfort. He has given me precious friends who continue to pray for me and my family. He gives me daily joys and reminds me of His abundant blessings.

As sorrowful as this week is, it is also joyful. My family and I are incredibly blessed and humbled to have David with us. David is a blessing. He is not a replacement for Matt. (No one, and no thing, can replace a loved one. Each person is an individual, unique, treasured gift from God.)

I have had to be purposeful in looking for the joy that God has given. It is a choice. I can deny the gifts God gives, choosing not to see them, choosing not to be thankful, or I can give my hurting heart to God, where He safely and tenderly holds it, understanding how fragile it is. It isn't easy, but there comes a time when one must let the Great Physician do His work. Only He can remove the gangrene grief cultivates.

The journey of grief continues, but I am never alone. My God is with me. He sees the beginning from the end. Facing the "should have's," like graduation, is only possible because of the GRACE God gives. This week, and especially tomorrow, is bittersweet. But I am sucking in every breath my Heavenly Father exhales as His holds me in His arms, my head resting on my Daddy's chest. Not for a moment have I been forsaken.

Not For A Moment
Meredith Andrews

You were reaching through the storm
Walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me


After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

You were singing in the dark
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me


After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

And every step every breath you are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my heart at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it's hard
You will never leave me
After all


After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me