Jonah: Dip in the Sea

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A dip in the sea would not be my choice of escape, but it was Jonah’s

Ever likened your grief journey to something that makes sense, like a roller coaster ride? Those of us in survival mode understand the ups and downs, twists and turns of grief. Perhaps Jonah knew a thing or two about a bumpy ride, and, like ours, it was not of his choosing.

I haven’t had a deep-sea experience equal to Jonah’s, but riding the turbulent tide of emotions after my firstborn died by suicide might be akin to the rough ride he took inside a giant fish. First, let’s set the stage for Act Two of this story.

The book of Jonah chronicles the real-life experiences of this Old Testament prophet, including a few days of R & R in a “mammal motel,” after he decided to ditch God’s “mission impossible” assignment. God had a job for Jonah to do in the city of Nineveh. Jonah said he would go, then changed his mind and hightailed it to the harbor where he boarded a ship heading to Tarshish, the farthest port in the opposite direction. (You may read Act One, Jonah: The Man Who Ran, posted May 20, 2017, in my blog archives.)

He paid for the trip and went on board. He wanted to go to Tarshish to get away from the Lord. Jonah 1:3b 

Jonah paid his fare, climbed the gangplank, and settled himself down in the hold of the ship rather than on deck with other passengers. Perhaps he thought that he could hide from God in that dark place. Suddenly, a terrible storm came up and threatened the lives of all on board. The crew moved quickly to lighten the load by throwing cargo into the broiling sea. At that point, Jonah appeared from his hiding spot. He told the men to throw him overboard, and the storm would stop. It was a preposterous suggestion, but the men did as instructed and tossed Jonah overboard. The sea immediately became calm. Before Jonah could gulp too much sea water, he was swallowed by a huge fish.

Wow! It would be frightening, to say the least, to come to one’s senses inside the belly of a whale. For three days and nights, Jonah sat amid the slimy mix of seaweed and gastric juices. To make matters worse he was probably seasick from being tossed about like a rag doll with every leap of this giant of the sea.

I can imagine Jonah felt around in the dark (and it would be dark . . . whales don’t have windows) for any protruding skeletal part to hold onto while taking the wildest ride of his life. Sleep was unlikely in his “prison cell,” so Jonah had plenty of time to think. He probably pondered his recent decision to lie to God by first saying he would obey, then secretly doing otherwise.

God did not need sonar to pinpoint which fish entombed Jonah. He knew exactly where His prophet was because He put him there. No doubt Jonah was learning a valuable lesson. When he was finally coughed up on land he set off to Nineveh to do the errand God had assigned to him in the first place. This would have been a hard lesson in obedience which, undoubtedly, Jonah never forgot.

I was not tossed into the sea like Jonah, but I fell into a sea of grief when I lost my firstborn to suicide. I wasn’t stuck inside a whale’s belly, but I crawled under a “rock” while in the throes of deep pain and depression. After everyone returned to their homes and my hubby returned to work, I felt very much alone. In some ways, the solitude may have been as uncomfortable to me as the whale’s belly was to Jonah, and just like Jonah, I had some processing to do.

I knew no one who was going through what I was going through. Where could I turn? Who would understand? My mind was in turmoil as these and other questions swirled in my head. The God I had always relied on had allowed my precious son to take his own life. He had the power to stop him, so why didn’t He? This is one of my “why” questions which remains unanswered directly, however, God has helped me to understand and accept my son’s death.

In the twelve plus years without my firstborn, my grief journey has never stayed the same. Some days I float on calm, peaceful waters. Other days my grief turns stormy with choppy waves threatening to capsize me, but through it all, I can honestly say that the healing process has inched me forward baby step by baby step. This is not to say that I don’t “revisit” the various stages of grief. I surely do, but my emotions have not forced me back to the beginning when the pain of it was shocking and horrific.

Please take heart if you are new to your grief journey. I get the horror of it when tragedy strikes, and it takes lots of time to realize what actually happened. There is no schedule for how long we stay at the beginning of sorrows; one stays until one is ready to take a baby step forward.

Just as God kept His eyes on Jonah, He keeps His eyes on me. I didn’t feel His presence in the beginning, but I came to know it and be comforted by it. It took time for me to grasp that the God of heaven knew exactly where I was, and perhaps, He was right beside me in my hiding place.

Please know that your higher power is aware of who you are and where you are. He knows how you feel. He knows all about the stormy sorrow that saturates your soul. Trust that you are covered in comfort and peace.

The Lord has become my stronghold. My God has become my rock of refuge. Psalm 94:22 

Scripture shared from GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on November 2, 2018. 2 Comments

Tiny Toes

~ In honor of the twins first year ~

My identical twin granddaughters decided they had been in their tight living quarters long enough and came out a few weeks early to meet their parents. Hubby and I tiptoed into the NICU. I held my breath as I gazed at them for the first time. Never before had I seen a preemie baby up close. I was in awe, speechless. Instantly I was in love with my grandbabies.

“Gramps” and I had been invited to share this moment with our children and their precious babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. One baby was cocooned sweetly in a soft blanket which hugged her tiny body inside the protective incubator. A breathing apparatus, called a C-PAP, covered most of her little face, but I could still see her tiny cheeks in the semi-darkness. I stared in wonderment at my new granddaughter who looked as “snug as a bug.”

Not so for her even smaller twin sister. The nurse was working with her as we entered the private room. Her tiny cry reminded me of the sound a newborn kitten makes. Instantly she bonded to my heart. Weighing in at two pounds and 12 ounces she was telling the world that being messed with made her unhappy. I peered at her from the other side of the incubator. She was lying on her side with her tiny legs drawn up. Her hands made little fists as she sucked her pacifier. She may have been unhappy, but she was beautiful from her tiny toes to the top of her dark hair.

Just glimpses. No holding yet, but I am certain I will never behold anything more lovely the rest of my days. I left the room humbled and awed by the Master Designer who makes exquisiteness out of nothing, who designs babies equipped with everything they need to grow. It’s all there in miniature. All they need are parents who will love, nurture, and protect them in an often hostile world.

I could see the paternal protective instincts already taking shape in the stance of my son who stood next to the nurse, watching her work. They were conversing in soft tones. He looked as if he wanted to absorb every detail about his daughter’s care.

After weeks in the NICU, both babies are home at last. I have held them, awed by each delicate feature from their button noses to their tiny toes. I have witnessed their daddy with his large hands deftly change a tiny diaper. My son has become a dad forevermore.

My little granddaughters are pure perfection in an imperfect world. How will they adjust? Only time will tell. I am so blessed that I get to enjoy watching them grow. They will be curious and probably ask many questions. They may even want to know about their uncle, their daddy’s brother who died by suicide. They will want the truth. What they are told will be up to their parents. Death is a part of this life, something I wish they never had to know. While they are small and sweet they will only know innocence and purity.

It is amazing, is it not, that in the midst of sadness our stories could include something wonderful? I would never have thought it possible that out of the ashes of sorrow could come sweetness. My hope for each grieving reader is that during your journey you will experience new life, rebirth, something that will revive your soul. We deserve to be refreshed.

Our children have guardian angels who look upon the face of God. I find this truly awesome and comforting. I love pondering the fact that my granddaughters have angels who watch over them.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10 

Verse shared from New International Version (NIV)

 

This entry was posted on October 5, 2018. 9 Comments

The Coming Cure

Hold on! A cure is coming!

In the beginning God created . . . Genesis 1:1a

As I pen these words, the newest grandchild of my editor friend is being laid to rest. This sweet child never got the opportunity to fill her lungs with fresh air or look in the faces of her mommy and daddy. Her parents eagerly awaited her birth so they could hold her and call her by name. Later, with tear-stained faces they gazed at her, marveling at her perfection. Knowing that soon they would see her no more they committed to memory each delicate feature. Shock and utter disbelief engulfed them as they realized they had to whisper goodbye before they could say hello, and it shattered their hearts. How could it be possible that their beautiful daughter’s life was over before it began?

I can’t imagine the agony these parents must feel. They will never get to change their daughter’s diapers, dress her in frilly outfits, watch her take her first step, save her first tooth, or hear her squeal with delight as she greets grandma at every precious visit. No firsts. Only sorrow. How could the circle of life be so cruel?

Those of us on a grief journey identify with the excruciating pain the parents must feel and the endless questions which have no answers. Collectively, we’ve lost our children before birth, as newborns, toddlers, preschoolers, teens and so on. My firstborn died at the young age of 30. I will never feel that I had enough time with him before he ended his pain and took his own life. I know you feel the same; there will never be enough time.

We know the circle of life. Incongruently, we live it, love it, and hate it. We love the birth of each new baby, but we hate the end of life whether it comes after a loved one lived a full life or any age before. We hate surviving without our children who die from so many causes; the worst is, in my opinion, the shock of sudden death from suicide or murder. We are never ready to lose those we love, and still, the circle of life continues as it always has.

It gives me some perspective when I explore the beginning of life when God blew his breath into the man he had just formed out of Eden dirt, and the first man’s chest filled with air from his Creator’s lungs. He sat up, blinked at God’s smiling face, and heard God call him by name, “Adam, welcome to eternal life!”

I can’t imagine that God had a plan B just in case plan A failed, but perhaps He did. We do have recorded in the Bible God’s warning to our first parents. He told them to expect an enemy to make an appearance. They were warned to heed God’s instruction and be prepared to take cover. In the lush grandeur of the Garden of Eden, I rather imagine neither Adam nor Eve could believe that an enemy lurked about with ill will on his mind.

Those of us familiar with the Genesis story know what happened next. The sin of Adam and Eve changed the trajectory of Planet Earth forever. In our present day, we know that the circle of life holds both life and death because our planet has always been under the siege of the enemy, Satan. Even though we are created in God’s image, we are still born into sin, the sin of all generations, including the present generation.

I know this is a solemn blog so far, but I don’t apologize for sharing my personal truth. It is a harsh, sobering reality. Those of us on a grief journey come to realize slowly that this journey will likely be lifelong. We accept the life part. It is almost impossible to accept the death part, but hold on . . . a cure is coming!

I am confident that one day soon there will be no more death. No more disease. No more war. No more famine. No more sin. No more pain from any cause. There will even be no more tears! God himself will wipe them away (Revelation 21:4). These are promises I cling to. These are promises I pray that many readers will cling to. The circle of life takes courage to live, but we can stand tall, shoulder to shoulder, in faith that the eternal life we’ve been promised, will be just that. Eternal!

As I worked on this piece, the tune of an old gospel song, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” kept streaming through my mind. Some of you might have heard it before. I remember it best sung by Johnny Cash in his familiar baritone. The title is asking a question about the circle of life, knowing that the circle is broken over and over in this life, as we are forced to bury those we love. The chorus, however, looks forward to a time when the circle will no longer be broken in the “by and by.” I have included the chorus below. Hum along if you like.

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

Verses shared from New Living Translation (NLT)

This entry was posted on September 1, 2018. 8 Comments

He Ain’t Heavy

“He ain’t heavy . . . he’s m’ brother.”

He Ain't heavy

Gone too soon ~ 1974 to 2005 ~ Forget you never 

Born and raised in Nebraska, I am familiar with the story of Boys Town. It was originally “founded as a boys’ orphanage in 1917 by Edward J. Flanagan, a Roman Catholic priest working in Omaha.” This non-profit organization “is dedicated to caring for its children and families, with national headquarters in the village of Boys Town, Nebraska.” (Wikipedia)

“In 1943 Boys Town adopted as its image and logo a picture of a boy carrying a younger boy on his back, captioned ‘He ain’t heavy, Father … he’s m’ brother!’ They felt it epitomized the importance of their residents caring for each other and having someone care about them.” (Wikipedia)

I like Neil Diamond’s rendition by the same title. I don’t know what prompted Neil to record this song, but when I listen to him sing it on YouTube, it moves me to tears. The lyrics, combined with the purpose of Boys Town, reminds me of a time when my two boys looked out for one another.

In honor of my sons . . . the younger outliving the older

I was blessed to give birth to two boys of my own, about two years apart. The younger is now alone after the older died by suicide. You know the pain of loss if you, too, have been forced to bury a precious child. Let me say how sorry I am for your pain. The sudden and tragic loss of someone we hold dear leaves a sorrow like no other, does it not? When we factor in that it was a decision they chose, well, that kicks the pain up to the stratosphere. No doubt, we are left to carry the “why” questions that echo and re-echo in the chambers of our broken hearts for the rest of our lives.

Perhaps you know the tight bond that can develop between siblings. Mine referred to each other, not by their first names, but possessively as “my brother.” I heard this phrase often while they were growing up, and it always made me smile. In spite of their boyish tussles and arguments, they loved each other unconditionally.

I can recall a time when my firstborn kept his baby brother from harm. You might say he kept him in “protective custody.” He put a box over him and sat on the box to watch his favorite television program! Naturally, I did not think my firstborn was protecting his baby brother when I finally solved the mystery of his disappearance. When I recall this story now, I can’t help but smile at my firstborn’s childish (but creative) behavior, and long to have them back as children again . . . back to a time when our family was whole.

As my boys grew up, their protective instincts did a flip. Now the younger protected the older. As the younger grew stronger, more athletic, and could easily make friends from among his peers, their roles seemed to reverse. Knowing his older brother desired to be more outgoing and athletic like he was, he seemed to look out for him in many ways. He was, in his own way, carrying him like the boy in the picture. In my memory, he was a living example of the Boys Town logo, “He ain’t heavy, he’s m’ brother.”

Fast forward to a sad memory of mine ~ one you may choose not to read if your loss is very fresh. The picture remains vivid in my mind. It was time for our family to honor son and brother one last time. Again the famous phrase “He ain’t heavy . . .” comes to mind as my memory zooms to a scene just before the graveside service.

We got out of our vehicle just as the mortuary men got out of theirs. One of them carried something square hidden in red velvet. I knew what it was, and a sinking feeling hit my gut. (I had to resist the urge to bolt and throw up somewhere private.)

As the man carrying the box approached us, he asked a simple question, “Would one of you like to carry this?” Immediately, the younger brother spoke up, “Yes, I’ll carry it.”

Years later, I ponder my son’s quick response. These four words “Yes, I’ll carry it” are a priceless expression of love between brothers. In my thinking the younger brother was saying, He’s my brother, so, of course, I’ll carry him, love him, weep uncontrollably over him, hug the box for dear life, and never want to let him go. In his own way, he was still protecting his older brother.

The box covered in red velvet ~ simply a tidied-up closure to the tragic ending of a beautiful life. His beautiful life snuffed out way too soon.                                                                   

I have a picture in my mind. It’s my family. We are ecstatic with joy as we are reunited once again and this time it will be forever! I can’t wait to see my sons share bear hugs and high fives as they greet each other after being separated for so long. I can see my sons playing golf with their dad at the best courses all over the cosmos. I predict that they will teach their step-brother how to play the game, for he will now have all the time eternity as to offer.

I know that you, dear reader, also long for the day when your family is reunited. The precious child from whom you have long been separated will be gathered in your arms forever. I can only imagine how this reunion will be, and I like to think about it. Plan for it. I pray that it will soon become a reality.

Meanwhile, I know how difficult it is to put one foot in front of the other. Pain and sorrow easily overwhelm us. It is during times of deep grief that I try to visualize God carrying me, just like He carried a hurting soul in the poem, “Footprints in the Sand.” As the poem says, if I see only one set of footprints, it does not mean I have been left to suffer alone. Rather, it means God has reached down and gathered me in His arms. Even if He were to gather many of us in His arms at one time . . . we ain’t heavy.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Psalm 68:19 

Scripture from New Living Translation (NLT)

The Anchor Holds

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“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.” Sarah Dessen

The pain we survivors face is both terrifying and relentless in its thirst to threaten our very existence. You have your story, as I have mine. Our grief journeys are as alike as they are different. Please feel free to share bits of your story to bless us all.

When I got word that my firstborn had taken his life, I thought my heart would stop. Shock set in. Like a boat in a storm, I came loose from my moorings and set adrift. As the tide carried me farther and farther out to sea, my anchor came loose and sank out of sight. Pelted with rain my compass slipped from my wet hand, and it, too, sank from sight. The fierce wind tore at my sail until it was shredded and useless. How long would I be tossed about by the gigantic waves? Would I survive? Would I see land again? Would I ever be moored safely in my harbor once more?

The little boat analogy may not make sense to you, but it is my attempt to describe how I felt in the throes of fresh grief. The pain of suicide had never touched my life in any way before 2005. Now I was in the grip of it. I was to become well acquainted with the smothering, horrific pain my heart had never felt before; a pain so harsh that it defied description. If grief became my anchor, as the quotes above suggest, then it definitely weighed me down. And yet, my son was no longer too heavy to carry. Light as a feather I carry him forever in my heart.

In these days of our lives, when the sorrow of loss can feel enormous, is there hope? If so, what gives us hope? I am reminded of a campaign slogan, “Hope and Change,” which was repeated often in the months leading up to the U.S. election in 2004. It was what we were promised, remember? Those words filled us with hope for a brighter future, did they not? Was our former President able to accomplish his promises? Did he bring about hope and change? Our answers are likely divided along party lines, but should they be? Isn’t it a human condition to desire hope? Is there even one human on earth, sitting President or otherwise, who is able to offer hope for hurting hearts in our world today? Maybe not. Perhaps we should look higher.

I’d like to share a paragraph with you from a devotional by John Eldredge:

“We are used to thinking of the great movements of history, even the movements in our immediate relationships, as being impersonal, if not arbitrary. But with God, who notes the fall of every sparrow, the events of our lives are thoughtfully and thoroughly orchestrated to bring about our redemption. The days of our lives were ordered and numbered before there was one of them, says the psalmist (139:16). And yet, the ways of his redemption often leave us trembling and fearful. ‘Do you really care for me, God?'”

The quote includes the question, “Does God care?” Does He care that I am in pain? Does He promise hope and change? Will He deliver? It is my belief that He will. It seems like it’s taking “forever” for us to be reunited with our precious children again, but it will happen just as He promised (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

I know that I will never have the mind of God or understand His ways (Isaiah 55:9). Only in heaven will I get all of my questions answered, where my God will unravel the mystery surrounding my firstborn’s death. Families together again, as if for the first time, will have joy without sadness, peace without pain, abundant health without a hint of disease, and best of all, never-ending life without death. Until heaven, God is my hope and anchor.

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” Hebrews 6:19a

I love the song The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz and Arthur Jackson; the lyrics fit my loss and grief. I share the first verse and chorus with you. You may listen to the entire piece on YouTube.

“I have journeyed through the long dark night. Out on the open sea. By faith alone, sight unknown, and yet his eyes were watching me. The anchor holds though the ship’s been battered. The anchor holds though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas, the anchor holds in spite of the storm.”

Quote by Sarah Dessen, “The Truth About Forever”

Quote by John Eldredge, Ransomed Heart Ministries

Scripture from New Living Translation (NLT)

 

 

 

This entry was posted on June 29, 2018. 4 Comments

My Hiding Place

Catnap

Naptime at my age (and no, I’m not telling), is welcomed and refreshing any hour of the day. When I feel the need for a nap coming on, I head to my favorite place and my favorite recliner. (I have a small bedroom where I can close the door against my furry friends who are heat-seeking “missiles” craving a warm lap.)

This particular day my backside had no sooner sunk into my comfy chair when out popped Bailey from underneath! His sudden appearance startled me. I didn’t realize that his favorite hideout was under my chair when he seeks some alone time. I got up to let him out since he hates a shut door standing between him and freedom. Obviously, my naptime ruined his. Poor baby.

This little run-in with my cat brought a memory to mind that I will share with you if you don’t object. It happened years ago soon after losing my firstborn to suicide. After my hubby returned to work (from his grief leave) I had the house to myself during the day. It became my hiding place of sorts. I was too sad to force myself out into the public unless it was Thursday. On Thursday I made sure I had plenty of errands to run to keep my mind focused elsewhere for the afternoon hours.

Thursdays were a painful reminder of the hours I paced and prayed for my son’s safety, but my prayers were not answered in the way I wanted. Instead, in the early afternoon, I got the awful call from the police telling me they found my son, dead, in his apartment. For weeks and weeks, I could never be home Thursday afternoon or I would be tempted to watch the clock and relive every diminutive detail from that awful day.

My home was my safe haven. If I didn’t have to go out, I stayed behind closed doors. Others might judge me as “hiding out” from life, but how could they possibly understand unless they had walked for a minute in my shoes? No one chooses to lose a precious child. And only those who likewise suffer get it.

If I needed an outlet, I had the computer to keep me abreast of the news as much as I cared to know. I had no social media connection back then, but I had email, and there were always plenty of messages to open.

One day while going through the emails, I came across something that had been forwarded from someone (who loved my son very much, mind you, and had attended the funeral just a short time before). The subject line of the email said something about being tired of the long winter. Innocent, right? I clicked to open it and instantly froze.

There’s no need for details except to say that the picture was of a snowman (sitting like a person) on a park bench with a caption that read something like, “If spring doesn’t hurry up, I will k— myself.” What!!? Then I took a closer look at the snowman. “He” had a —- tied around his neck, an implement commonly used for suicide. In fact, it was the very same method my firstborn used to end his life! One could think . . . just a thoughtless oversight. However, the action still baffles me. Even though the person was cognizant of the details of my son’s death, they still chose to forward the email to me.

Some folks might have reacted differently if they had looked at my computer screen that day, but my reaction was automatic: I jumped up from the chair and ran through the house screaming before collapsing on a sofa, crying my eyes out. This is where my hubby found me and tried to calm me down. To this day I never open emails from people I am not certain I can trust.

My home had always been my safe place; a place where I felt secure in my solitude of grief, but the medium of cyber communication broke down my wall of security and invaded my space. Going forward, I am even more vigilant and protective of my shattered heart. I imagine you are as well.

This incident and my explosive reaction may seem trivial, even silly to some, but readers who are grieving a loss to suicide know the strange phenomena of triggers. In fact, you might recall situations in your own experience that set you off, triggering a garden-variety of emotions and tears. It doesn’t take much in the beginning, and not surprisingly, triggers can happen anytime, anywhere, and even after years have passed.

Since my son’s death, I have discovered that I need comforting more than ever before in my life. I have also discovered that there is a higher power who can provide that comfort. He is the God of heaven. He is my soft place to fall. He is my rock (Psalm 18:31) and under His wings, I am sheltered (Psalm 91:4). He mourns with me. He loves me more than I can comprehend. He is my personal truth. And He is my hiding place.

God is good, a hiding place in tough times . . . Nahum 1:7

Verse shared from The Message (MSG)

 

Eyes Only for You

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  1 John 3:1a

With your permission, I will share a story about my youngest son (but don’t tell him, lol). Several years ago my son began dating a lovely young woman. Later he proposed to her, and wedding plans were in full swing. I could tell by the way he looked at her ~ as if he could not get his fill ~ that he was totally smitten. She is a sweetheart, and we embraced his choice with pleasure. For a period of time educational pursuits separated them by hundreds of miles, forcing them to continue their courtship long distance.

The month of May was fast approaching, bringing yet another Mother’s Day. I would prefer to not celebrate; however, there were other feelings to consider since my hubby and youngest son wanted to take me to lunch. I appreciated the invitation and determined to muster up some holiday spirit in spite of the pain each holiday brings.

Unlike previous Mother’s Day holidays, this one encompassed a special surprise. My son’s fiancée had let hubby and me in on a little secret: she had purchased a round-trip ticket and was flying in to surprise her unsuspecting fiancé!

At last, it was Mother’s Day. My hubby and son found a table in the restaurant while I, supposedly, was making a quick return to a store in the mall where we were having lunch. Actually, I was meeting my son’s fiancée at the bookstore around the corner from the restaurant. The excitement was written all over her face as the seconds ticked down to the culmination of the grand secret!

Meanwhile, back at the restaurant my son was texting his fiancée like he did every other day. He peppered her with questions like: “How is your day going? What are you doing?” Feeling giddy about meeting my son in just a few minutes, his fiancée giggled as she “made up” logical answers, as if she were far, far away. Back and forth zipped the texts. We were enjoying the thrill of building tension, but we didn’t want to keep the guys waiting too long.

Moments later I settled into my seat across the table from my son. He barely acknowledged my presence; he was so preoccupied with texting the one he missed so much. His body language spoke a clear message: I wish I was having lunch with the love of my life right now. For some reason, Mom and Dad didn’t quite fill the bill, but this lunch was about to get a lot better.

A few seconds later she slid into the vacant chair. He looked up. Shock registered on his face. You could have blown him over with a feather! He appeared stunned! I have never known him at a loss for words, but there he sat dumbstruck, gazing at his lady. I watched as realization slowly crept across his face as it dawned on him that he was really and truly looking into the face of his beloved fiancée. Then he broke into a broad smile. It was so gratifying to watch the lovebirds stare into each other’s eyes. Neither of them could stop smiling! Words appeared to be unnecessary. My son kept reaching out to touch his sweetheart as if he needed reassurance that she was real and not a figment of his imagination. Can you picture it?

I can’t help but wonder: does God feel this way about me? Does He have eyes only for me? For you? Does He look into the eyes of our children with so much love He’s about to burst? As I ponder the imagery laced through these questions, I can imagine Him saying: I am God, and I love you. I have your name engraved on the palms of my hands. If I had a refrigerator, your name would be on it. I know all about you, even the number of hairs on your head. I am intimately in love with every inch of you, and I always will be (John 16:27; Isaiah 49:16; Luke 12:7, paraphrased). The pictures that come to mind make me smile. The love in these words sounds warm and tender. Do you think He really is that loving toward His kids? I think so. Actually, according to His Word, I know so.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Dear Reader, as you read this happy reunion story your heart may be permeated with pain. All of our days, following the loss of a child, are often filled to the brim with sadness. It is always worse on holidays when we miss them so much the grief overflows the banks of our hearts. We might find it difficult to enjoy a precious moment because the heart is so preoccupied with thoughts of the one missing such a happy occasion. I know how hard it is. The death of a beloved child to suicide, as is my story, seems to paint the world forever in perennial shades of gray, obscuring the light of the sun.

Friend, I read the sad remarks rung from your aching heart on social media. You say that the one you miss was the “love of your life.” You remember your son or daughter as a kind, gentle, loving soul. You say how strong the connection was between the two of you and still is. We tend to remember all the good things about them and wonder how they could slip from our lives so quickly and totally, leaving us feeling like we are missing a limb. We can’t wait to look into their eyes once more, and soon we will for eternity has been promised! Soon we shall see our children face to face! Joyfully we will lock eyes with the ones we have waited to see for so long.

Verses shared from New International Version (NIV)

 

This entry was posted on May 4, 2018. 4 Comments

Faces of Grief

I live in the eastern half of the United States where it appears that we are on the cusp of a seasonal change . . . finally! I’m no groundhog forecaster, but winter looks poised to cast off her cold, white wrappings in favor of the soft pastels of spring. And just as the seasons change, those who grieve face seasonal changes of their own. From birth through the golden years there are natural changes that require constant adjusting.

Even though many of us walk a grief journey, we don’t take our first steps at the same time or handle our losses exactly the same way. However, no matter the differences among us, collectively we “get” the deep pain we bear. We are well aware of the grief that is a permanent part of our steps going forward. Like the changing seasons, our grieving faces are constantly changing, too.

Let’s ponder some of grief’s faces, shall we? You may have other faces that fit your personal experience, and, as they come to mind, I encourage you to respond and share your thoughts with our growing community of cyber survivors.

The denial face ~ There is not one survivor who cannot recall the exact moment tragedy struck . . . it was as if the hands of time stopped at that precise second, right? I remember exactly where I stood, the time of day, the day of the week, and the crush of excruciating pain at hearing the worst words on earth. That precise moment, when it seemed like time stopped forever, is forever frozen in my memory.

Oh, how I wanted to believe that my son had not done the unthinkable . . . How could he take his own life? There followed a whole host of reactions: disbelief, shock, and denial to name a few. Remember them? If you are here, may I hasten to add that the denial face will pass. 

The foggy face ~ As caring people gathered around, I could appreciate their desire to love and comfort me, but where could I go to be alone? I needed to think, but I couldn’t think. I wanted to be a good hostess, but I felt dull, lifeless, and numb thru and thru. I remember people trying to coax some life into me, insisting that I eat, but I wasn’t hungry.

Someone attempted to start a conversation by asking the question, “Have you been working on any crafts lately?” C-r-a-f-t-s? The word sounds vaguely familiar, I remember thinking. I stared back at the questioner and didn’t answer. At that moment I had no idea what she was talking about and could care less. Can you relate? If you are here, may I hasten to add that the foggy face will pass.

The angry face ~ Sometimes anger barges in as grief begins. Being a secondary emotion to pain, it takes its rightful place. It’s natural to want a solution. Guilt and blame take their places in our minds, too. They may be directed outward to others or inward to self. Sometimes, as in my experience, others direct their pain toward those who are hurting the most. As the grief journey moves along, anger and guilt will likely come and go, which does not mean the person is going backward. It is common to re-visit the stages of grief throughout the journey. Most of us feel an insatiable burden to put all the puzzle pieces of tragic loss together somehow. It is our effort to make sense out of the senseless act that claimed the life of someone we love.

The reality face ~ Remember this one? I think my reality was attached to a ton of bricks . . . and it hit hard. The realization that my firstborn would never darken my doorway again hit me even harder. Bruised, battered, and shattered beyond recognition of the old normal, was this to be my new reality? Was this the beginning of a new normal? Was I going to pine for the old normal, or would I like the new one? I am here to say that I am adjusting to my new normal and getting comfortable in my new skin. You will, too.

The mask face ~ This one is hard to describe because I could wear a different mask at any given time. Maybe you do, too? If I had errands to run, my mask was made of stone, my jaw set. If I passed someone, I did not make eye contact. Those first months after my son died I feared I would lose control and burst into tears if I even looked into someone else’s eyes. Over time this changed. I no longer see my son’s likeness in the distant faces of young men. In my experience, the masks slowly dissolved away as I became more comfortable with my new normal and the faces of others felt less intrusive.

The turnabout face ~ I’ve been on this journey long enough to be able to look back with almost 20/20 clarity. No. Not all of my questions have answers, but I have been able to put the picture together and come to some understanding as to why my son died. Missing answers equals missing puzzle pieces. I will have to wait until I see my son again to finish the puzzle . . . but with the rush of excitement at seeing him again, I doubt I’ll care.

The forward face ~ This is the face I wear now, as I face forward in anticipation of the King of King’s awesome soon return. I will, at last, see my firstborn son again (1 Thes. 4:16). I have peace in spite of losing him because I know he is not suffering. He knows nothing of my sorrow (Eccl. 9:5). The Bible says that we will go to heaven together, and I like that (1 Thes. 4:15). I can’t wait to hug him again. I can’t wait to see his smiling face and hear the musical notes in his laughter.

Living with hope does not mean I no longer grieve. I surely do. But in the seasons of change now, I have the opportunity to give back by helping others navigate their own grief journeys. May you be blessed today, my friend.

“O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am.” Psalm 139:1

Verse shared from The Voice (VOICE)

 

 

This entry was posted on March 31, 2018. 8 Comments

Pierced Your soul

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Ever wondered what it might have been like to be the mom of Jesus? There is much to Mary’s story; it is an interesting read from the Gospels in the New Testament. Rather than give a broad view of Mary’s story, I would like to focus on one part, the dedication of Baby Jesus.

When our babies were a few months old, we had them each dedicated as part of the church service. It is a special time when parents can’t help but beam with pride. A flower, such as a fragrant rose, is handed to the mother. A card tucked inside a child’s Bible is handed to the parent whose hands are empty. Then the pastor reaches for the baby. He takes it in his arms while he prays over this precious bundle from heaven, asking God to bless the child as it grows.

Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for his dedication. Perhaps it was similar in purpose to mine or yours, but there was a distinct difference in the words spoken over this baby.

It so happened that Simeon was the officiating priest that day. God had promised him that before he died, he would see with his own eyes, the prayed-for Messiah of his people. Perhaps every time parents brought their new baby for dedication, he wondered, is this the special Child?

When Simeon saw the Baby, he knew this was the Messiah. He gently took the Child from Mary’s arms, held Him up and praised God, saying, “O Lord, you have kept your word to me. You have let me see the Instrument of your salvation which you are sending to us to save all people. He will be a saving light to the world and an honor to Israel.” Luke 2:28-32 CW

We felt humble pride when our babies were prayed over. We also realized the awesome responsibility that was ours to rear our children to know how much God loved them. No doubt Jesus’s parents felt the same awesome responsibility; however, there was one huge difference ~ they were rearing the Son of God!

Unlike us, Jesus’s parents heard a stinging pronouncement as part of their dedication. I wonder what crossed their minds when Simeon added these words:

“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.  As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2:34b-35 NLT

My baby? What do you mean, “pierce my soul?” If you were Mary, can you imagine what would go thru your mind, wondering what Simeon meant by such harsh words? Wouldn’t such a happy event be overshadowed with feelings of impending doom? The parents may have wondered, how long will we have our precious child before something dreadful happens to him? 

Those of us who have buried a child know a bit of Mary’s sorrow, do we not? We can read ahead in the gospels about her Son’s death. Joseph had long since died, leaving Mary to suffer alone. She, along with Jesus’s disciples, had to watch Him be brutally beaten before His flesh was pierced to a rough-timbered cross, bringing the long-ago prophetic words to life.

If I had been Mary, I don’t know if I could have watch such horror, and yet, how could she not? He was her child. She struggled thru pain to give Him birth. She loved this child with all her heart. He grew up to became a Man among men, and at His death her soul was pierced.

I feel a likeness to Mary as I, too, struggled to bring my firstborn into the world. He was tiny, a bit immature, and his cry reminded me of the meow of a newborn kitten. I held my breath. Was he healthy? His cry sounded so weak. He was little, but he grew to be strong. No parents could have loved him more, but then he did the unthinkable . . . and ended his pain. When my firstborn died by suicide . . . my very soul was pierced.

No one is ever prepared to lose a child from any cause, but when one is blindsided with death by choice, without a doubt, it pierces the soul. Every Mom who feels her soul was pierced by the death of her precious child, has something in common with Mary.

There will come a day when there is no more sorrow or suffering or pain. No death. No suicide. No disease. At long last families will be reunited permanently! Nothing but joy and gladness forevermore!

Once I become familiar with my new heavenly surroundings, I may look for Jesus’s mother and engage her in conversation. We might compare notes about how our kids grew up in different parts of the globe and thousands of years apart, and then, how their lives ended, forcing us to outlive them. I would imagine that I might come away from such a conversation grateful that Mary’s story was not my story . . . mine was bad enough. I think it would naturally follow that both of us are very grateful to have our sons with us for eternity . . . because hers saved the world!

He was pierced for our sins; He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment and pain that made us whole was placed on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 CW

Scripture from The Clear Word Paraphrase (CW) and the New Living Translation (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on March 2, 2018. 8 Comments

I Am Depression – 2

I have struggled with depression most of my life. It tags along, uninvited, like a strip of toilet paper stuck to my shoe. 

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Reach for the sun. Let it shine in to break up the shadows.

Attention Readers: This post completes a 2-part series entitled “I Am Depression.” If you have not read Part One, you will find it on my blog posted last month. For best understanding of my position on this topic, please begin there. Thanks.

Part Two

The purpose of writing this opinion piece is to bring this silent killer out in the open and shine light where there has been only darkness. Is it possible there could be a connection between the enemy of our souls and a troubled mind?

~Depression is war against the mind~

Depression continues speaking: “I manage other cases in addition to yours, but mostly, I operate as CEO of my organization and oversee all clients from the reports given me by my staff. I trained my staff to listen carefully and watch for signs of weakness in order to deepen the client’s depression. Nearly all human frailties stem from depression in some way.

“My goal is to control every mind. Ever heard the expression ‘the devil is in the details?’ It’s true. I am! We achieve greater success with our clients when we pour more and more negative chatter into their minds while stirring their thoughts: thoughts fed by insecurity, poor self-esteem, sadness, lethargy, helplessness, hopelessness, and the like. You look surprised! You mean you didn’t know we could fill the mind?

“With negative thoughts playing continuously like a broken record in the minds of our clients, they are less inclined to focus on healthy thoughts. Another way to look at it is this: a healthy mind is a quiet mind. It stands to reason, then, that an unhealthy mind is a noisy mind, full of the trash talk we force feed them. The louder the noise, the harder it becomes to concentrate on anything else. Focus leads to action, and what we push them to focus on leads to harmful actions to self or others. It’s nothing personal. It’s just the way we do business.

“My plan has been successful for thousands of years. It was designed to carry depression forward from generation to generation, allowing me to reinvent myself into the next generation of children. We love to see ‘our’ babies grow up with the pain and shame I cause them. They take me everywhere; they are too young to recognize my presence. They think everyone has distress in their brains, since they have no idea what it feels like to be without it. Ha! I love how sneaky I am! 

“We are more than just the disease of depression; we are all diseases. Just as you are one person, but manage several roles all at one time, I, as commander-in-chief of my organization, manage several roles and have many responsibilities. Perhaps it’s time for me to reveal who I am. Actually, who we are. We are Depression. We are Suicide. We are all evil. My real name is Satan, and my staff are demons. You don’t look surprised . . . hmm, I thought you had figured it out.

“My story began thousands of years ago in heaven where I, Lucifer, wanted more responsibility. Actually, I wanted to be like God. I rallied other angels around me, and they listened to my complaints about God. Many signed a petition and sided with me. Long story short, the uproar resulted in war. My angels and I lost. We were kicked out of heaven. My name changed. So did theirs.

“Since I am no longer welcome in heaven, I take my rage out on God by destroying His created humans any way I can. Depression and Suicide are favorite roles, coveted by all demons, but only the best of the best get to enjoy these assignments alongside me. In your world I cannot be seen. I am invisible to most, and the realm in which my demons and I operate is also invisible to humans. Even though you cannot see us at work it’s a beehive of activity everywhere we are!

“You might be interested to note that we keep accurate statistics. My corporation has single-handedly covered much of the world’s population in depression. In fact, I know the World Health Organization estimates that there are 350 million humans, of all ages, suffering from depression which keeps us very busy. If we meet our goals, the numbers will continue to rise at a rapid rate.

“People can survive their entire lives with depression, but I have a loftier goal. I work tirelessly to shorten human life. Once humans feel so hopeless and helpless that suffocating darkness settles over their brains, it’s time to call in the professionals ~ my most loyal demons who covet the title, Demon Suicide. I believe you’ve met one of them . . .

“Yes. I, personally, handed your son’s case over to a Suicide Demon. After a Depression Demon had influenced, badgered, and nudged him until he weakened, I sent a Suicide Demon in to take over. My Suicide Demons have additional arsenal they employ, and before long, we had achieved our goal . . . and your son died. Mission accomplished! In this battle God lost and we won!

“Causing disease and death to humans is what we do. It is our daily business everywhere around the world. What makes our undercover work so rewarding is that most humans don’t ever suspect us. They don’t believe we exist, let alone cause all disease and death. Instead, they blame God when they get sick, or when their child dies. Parents have no idea that war between us and God has been raging over the lives of children since the Garden of Eden. When their offspring die, it’s a win for our side!

“I know you quote the Bible, but I can, too! I know you point to this text when you talk about me. Here, let me quote it for you: ‘A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy’ (John 10:10). Yep, that’s me. I must admit it describes me perfectly. Predictable outcomes empower me to keep doing what I do best: lie, cheat, steal, coerce, corrupt . . . whatever it takes to pressure God’s kids into taking their own lives. The younger they kill themselves the happier we are.”

Dear Reader, if you have read the entire piece, you may think this interpretation of depression (and suicide) ridiculous, but I read your comments. One of you mentioned that reading Part One dredged up old memories of childhood insecurities. Another said this piece was an overwhelming reminder of the number of generations her family had been contaminated by depression. You get that it is serious stuff. I might add: if you pause to consider the content of paranormal programming on mainstream media these days, you might even agree that there could be a connection between the enemy and a diseased mind. Although ancient, this Bible text seems current:

“We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

This verse gives me the shivers to imagine demons lurking about in the darkness of this world. There is an actual war going on, a spiritual war between good and evil which we cannot see, but that does not mean it is not there. Let’s note the differences between the warring sides, particularly their voices:

The voice of God is a voice of love. He can only speak the truth, and he does so with our best life in mind. The verse warns us that the enemy is evil, sneaky, crafty. His counterfeit voice speaks lies, not truth, even though the lies may soothe the heart for a time. One must choose wise. But first, one must search, with discernment, for the genuine in order to uncover the counterfeit. Only God can fight the enemy that would take us down. Only God can heal the heart. Only you and I can give our hearts to God.

As a suicide survivor, I look back over my firstborn’s life and wonder what more could I have done? It took years for me to finally conclude that my son must have been very depression to take his own life. Surely a healthy mind wants to live!

I know this topic is deep, so I welcome your questions and comments. Even though the focus has been on the negative force of depression, I want to remind you that evil demons aren’t the only beings watching our children. Thankfully each precious child, born on earth, has a pure guardian angel who looks on the face of God (Matthew 18:10). 

Scripture from The Voice (VOICE)