Friday, April 25, 2014

A million years, a million tears, He hears

I heard your voice today and it took me back a million years. A million years, but only two and a half in reality. Your sister and brother found the old mini tape recorder of yours from when you were 10 or 12 years old. They played the tapes and had great fun listening to it. I haven't heard your voice in so long. It made me cry. As desperately as I long to hear your voice, it's also excruciating because the reality is you're not here, and you're not coming back. And I don't know how long it will be before I see you again. Grief twisted my heart, and I can think of no other word that better fits the description than bittersweet. You sounded so happy on the tape, whispering how you were going to sneak up on your sister. I remember you recording any and every thing with that recorder! We laughed as we listened to your recording of me teaching one of your siblings to read, you narrating and interjecting sarcastic comments. So like you. I miss you more than words can say.

A million teardrops have fallen from my eyes since July 29, 2011. Never would I have thought it was possible to cry so much in my life. The effects of grief are more far-reaching than I ever imagined, also. It changes relationships, it changes friendships, it changes families. It changes routine, it changes life. Some of those changes are reversible, but most are not. Death of a child is a point of no return for the bereaved. It is a new beginning, unwanted and unfamiliar.

Eventually, however, it begins to look a bit less frightening, and you start to recognize the surroundings. If you're willing, you begin to rebuild. It is painstakingly slow work. It is paradoxical and solitary. Yet, simultaneously, it is crowded with fellow travelers. Earlier this week, I thought of a poem I had heard of before, many years ago. It's titled, "Welcome to Holland."   Though it was written to describe the experience of being a parent of a child with disabilities, the journey of child loss has several similar reactions.

As my family continues on this road of loss with this drastically changed landscape, I am strengthened and encouraged by God's word, by the continued support of many, and by some incredibly gifted authors. Authors such as Joni Eareckson-Tada (A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty) and Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts). I am blessed by writers such as Kimberly Henderson. Her blog post, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, came at the exact moment the LORD knew I needed it. Only He had heard my heart's cry earlier this week when I had lamented silently to Him that I would give anything to hear Matt's voice again. And then Matt's brother and sister came downstairs unexpectedly with Matt's mini tape recorder shortly thereafter. Oh, the love of my Savior unto me! He is my help and stay. (Psalm 18:1,18)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Trout Lake Camp, Toshiba, and T.V.

For weeks I've been wondering what to do for Matt's birthday. I, of course, want to find a way to honor his memory. One of the ways I thought of is to give a memorial gift to Trout Lake Camps. It was Matt's favorite place to go. He loved it there, and it's an amazing, beautiful place. The people there are tremendous and have such a heart for God and for His Word. Trout Lake Camp has also been a place that Matt's brothers and sisters have come to love, as well. We hope to have many years of sending them to Trout, creating special memories that will last a lifetime, as well as growing and challenging them in their faith.

Another "birthday" idea I have is to give a laptop to someone in need if we were able to raise enough money through memorial gifts. Matt was a genius when it came to computers, so it seems only logical to do something like this. However, I don't have the faintest idea how to implement it! I may save this idea for next year.

Finally, the last idea I've contemplated is to donate a new t.v. to our church. Matt's entire 16 years were spent at Bethel. He ran the sound board during worship service and donated his media technology skills, as well, for various events like the GLS. He and his dad were responsible for keeping the church computers working, also. He was extremely good at what he did and wasn't afraid of technology. The only bummer about it is that it changes so fast! Hence, the reason for the new t.v. idea.

I don't think there's anything more important to a grieving parent than the desire to keep their child's memory alive. We want desperately to know that others aren't going to forget. Our child existed, and though they are no longer physically present (this side of heaven), they continue to remain in our hearts every second of the day. The acknowledgement of our children from others is beyond comforting. It speaks volumes and infuses a breath of fresh air when they are mentioned.

I'm guessing that a donation to Trout Lake Camps for Matt's birthday this year is what we'll do because, frankly, it's the easiest logistically. The link above makes it super easy if you are so inclined to help us honor (what would be) Matt's 19th birthday. These three ideas embody Matt and his personality. That's what makes them so special and brings us comfort in this journey.

I'd like to say a heartfelt "THANK YOU," in advance, to those of you who donate a gift in any amount. Nothing is too small. Every gift given is an acknowledgement that my son's life mattered. It's that acknowledgement that also brings healing. It truly is appreciated.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dear Matt,

Your birthday is in just three weeks. You'd be 19yrs old. (Oh, how I want so desperately to say instead, "you'll be...") I've now missed three years of your life, three birthdays. My heart hurts so badly, the ache so intense. As is the way of grief, the anticipation of these "special" days stirs up the ashes of my sorrow, blowing upon the embers and causing them to reignite. Again, I just want to go away until it's over. *sigh* I hate grief. I hate death.

If it were not for God and His word, I would certainly despair. He has been good to me. I have much to be thankful for. I have much to live for. I have much to look forward to.

Psalm 119:89-94
Forever, O Lord,
Your word is settled in heaven. 
Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations;
You established the earth, and it stands. 
They stand this day according to Your ordinances, 
For all things are Your servants. 
If Your law had not been my delight,
Then I would have perished in my affliction. 
I will never forget Your precepts,
For by them You have revived me. 
I am Yours, save me;
For I have sought Your precepts.

I am so thankful for the promises of God, for His comfort, and for the hope that He gives. He continues to surround me with His love and truth. Of all things, Kay Arthur (on the video at my Precepts Bible study on the book of John this week) made a statement that really struck home. She said, "There is no choice; the wound must heal." I don't recall how it related to the study at all, but it really ministered to me. Only when I allow the Great Physician to work on my wound will healing happen. He is the healer. I must allow Him to do His work. I have to trust Him that He knows what He's doing, that His plan is best. 

I miss you, son. I miss your voice and the way you sauntered into a room. I miss cutting your hair. I miss seeing you with your friends. I miss your genius at the computer. I miss seeing you at the dinner table. I miss your quiet presence. For every "miss," however, I remind myself that God says it will be worth it, that there will be an eternal glory that far outweighs this excruciating, temporary separation. (2 Cor.4:17) I love you, Matt

Love, Mom 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The fluidness of grief

We celebrated child #6's birthday on the 29th. Though it was a "29th" (the day our 16yo. son died), the day was a good one. Of course, Mr. Stoic (Matt) came to our minds many times on Saturday, but grief wasn't at the forefront or the center of attention. It doesn't often overwhelm anymore. Instead, it has transformed into a dull ache. The raging tsunami of grief that characterized the beginning of the journey now lies quietly like a puddle.

I find myself often perplexed at this changing state of sorrow. It is a curious thing to witness while in the midst of it. It feels a bit disorienting, this life melded with death. As if somehow I'm supposed to figure out how the scales of joy and sorrow balance. Yet I am unequipped and feel very much like a bystander. I am not the one who weighs out the trials and blessings in this temporary life. It is God. He is the potter, and we are the clay. (Isaiah 64:8, 45:9, 29:16) I do, however, get to decide how I respond to these trials, to this shaping and molding. Maybe I'm not supposed to figure out how the scales work, but instead, to accurately reflect the weight of what has been deposited upon each.

I am thankful this week for weighing joy. The joy of memories, the joy of birthdays with little boys (two in one week!), and the joy of studying His word, precept upon precept.