Friday, July 29, 2016

1,828 days

1,828 days. Five years since I've seen my son. Oh, the ache that remains. There are, still, no words to describe what it's like to live with this kind of loss. This blog has been my feeble attempt at describing it, however. It's been a place of refuge where I can pour out my heart to God in my native language, the language that comes naturally to me: the written word. It's been a window into the grief world for those on the outside seeking how to best help their loved ones who are in "the club no one wants to be a part of." I hope and pray it's been helpful, but more so, honoring to God and glorifying Him.

While I am tempted to count each of these 1,828 days as lost with my son, I am reminded of one of the lyrics from the well-known hymn, Amazing Grace, penned by John Newton:
"When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we’d first begun."
These are words that give me hope, that help me grieve with hope. (1 Thess. 4:13) For our short time on this earth results in absolutely not one day less in heaven. For each day that passes here without my precious son, I have not lost one day in eternity with him. In fact, time in heaven does not count down or shorten. Every day in heaven is forward. Unlike this earthly life, in heaven we will always look forward, there will always be a next day. This life may not have tomorrow, but heaven always does. What a glorious thought.

Gregory Floyd, A Grief Unveiled:

Today, as we mark these 1,828 days without Matt, we remember where our hope is placed, in whom it is placed. We continue to press forward with the GoFundMe campaign so that others, through the ministry of Trout Lake Camps, can experience the hope and salvation through Jesus Christ that we, and Matt, have. We are only $810 from our goal. We invite you to wear #Mattsblueshirt today and, if you are able, give to the GoFundMe in memory of our son.

I can't thank you enough for supporting us. Your prayers, thoughts, donations, and love are appreciated more than words can convey. They have carried us through.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

For the 5 year anniversary

I found out yesterday that Matt created several Facebook pages. Of course, they were all weird and totally "him." They each reflected his personality and likes. He also had a few events he attended, and one of the events he "attended" gave us a laugh and left us shaking our heads in amusement. It was an event titled, "Wear A Blue Shirt Day." Yes, his favorite color was blue and he had a few favorite blue shirts that he wore frequently.

But it's a certain shade of blue.

It's not baby blue, and it's not dark blue, either. It's a tricky shade to describe and hard to pinpoint. I finally found the right hue, though, after a bit of online searching. It's called cerulean. Cerulean is a deep sky-blue color.

The 29th this year is a bit different than past years for several reasons. We've had a French foreign exchange student staying with us for the month of July. It's been wonderful and we only wish we could keep her for the year and not just a month! As it turns out, her departure date is the 29th. This year, also, two of the kids will be gone over the anniversary date. Our second oldest is away for the summer working, and our fourth child (teen) leaves tomorrow and returns the 30th.

Of course, as a parent, I want all of us together on this significant date, but it isn't possible. Things change, and life with teenagers and young adults is definitely not like it was when they were toddlers. It's no longer my calendar, but my calendar and theirs!

However, in an attempt to keep us "together" on this day, I'm running with an idea that came from Matt's Facebook "Wear A Blue Shirt" event. I'll be getting some cerulean blue t-shirts for us to wear on the 29th. While the 5 Year Remembrance GoFundMe campaign is our "plan" for observing this anniversary, I want something tangible for the day, something I can do.

I invite you to join us and wear a cerulean blue t-shirt on the 29th for Matt. (#Mattsblueshirt) Feel free to send me a picture of it, too! It would warm my heart and bring us comfort in knowing that Matt isn't forgotten.

Thank you for walking this journey with us.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

One of "those" days

I dreamt about Matt Saturday night. I don’t often dream about him. In fact, I’d say it’s less than five times in the last five years. It’s one of those grief parent things where you long to dream about your child and yet dread it. Longing because it’s in your dreams that you get to see them again. You get to touch them, talk to them, and be with them. It is such indescribable joy.

But then you wake up.

And reality sucks because the ache that you had finally managed to control comes roaring painfully alive when you wake from the dream. And you’re left afresh with the pain of your child’s absence once again.

This is what Sunday morning for me ended up like. In a deep sleep, I was ecstatic, taking Matt around to friends and family, showing him off, telling them, “Look! He’s back! Matt’s alive!” But in the space of a few seconds, from sleep to awake, he was gone. And the reality that my son died hit my waking consciousness like a bucket of ice water.

I rose with a heavy heart and knew it was going to be one of “those” days, those days where I had to fight harder to find joy, to give thanks, and to dig deeper to grab hold of God’s truth. It was one of the “those” days where looking at pictures doesn’t bring comfort, but instead, a disbelief that he is gone. You’d think after almost five years, there would no longer be any disbelief.

But there is. Still.

We got ready and drove to our “home away from home” church, one we visit a few times a year when we’re away. It’s a beautiful community of believers, and I was looking forward to worshiping with them. We arrived and were informed that the schedule of service was a bit different due to the holiday weekend. The message would be condensed as they had a special guest. Their guest was a gentleman by the name of T.K. Hilton who has been an opening musician for Loretta Lynn.

Music has been instrumental in this grief journey for me, providing much comfort and resonating with truth. Sunday morning was no different. What a treat it was to listen to T.K. Though I’m not a country music fan, I am a fan of hymns. Hymns are saturated with the truth of God’s word. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I smiled as T.K. began to play the first few notes of the familiar hymn “I’ll Fly Away.”

This song, for whatever reason, gives me joy and hope. I had woken with the harsh reminder that my son had died, but the lyrics to “I’ll Fly Away” reminded me of the truth, the truth that Matt is alive and all is good where he is at. I don’t ever have to worry about his safety or fear for his future. He is home.

T.K. also sang and played “God on the Mountain,” another favorite of mine. Again, a perfect reminder of God’s promises, that “when things go wrong, He’ll make them right” and “the God of the day is still God in the night.” Such comfort for my heart, these words.

What a blessing it was to worship on Sunday, for it also reminded me that God is in control. He is in the details. I don’t have to worry about “those” days. I don’t have to fret about the outcome of the GoFundMe campaign or fear the 29th. I can sleep without anxiety because I know that someday, I will wake with eternal joy. God is bigger than our dreams and more fulfilling than anything we can imagine. I am thankful that though my Sunday began as one of “those” days, God is one of “those” Gods: Able, Only, and Always.

**A tremendous THANK YOU to all who have donated toward Matt's five year remembrance GoFundMe campaign. There are just over three weeks left to reach our goal, and you have already hit the halfway mark! Thanks to you, hundreds of campers will hear the good news of Jesus Christ and experience some awesome Knockerball fun while at Trout Lake Camps. Please consider giving in memory of Matt if you haven't already. **