Hoodwinked . . . again!

I should have taken a picture of my cat’s latest caper. To you my readers it would be positive proof what a stinker he is. I guess I was too “steamed” at the time to think to take one. Since a picture is worth 1000 words, the crust edges left in this picture gives you a visual hint that he has an appetite for people food; he would gladly have gnawed on this pizza crust if he had been given the opportunity, for he loves bread. This meal he missed. Read on to find the dessert he didn’t . . .

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You could call him a villain, but his name is Pippy. He sleeps all day and goes on the prowl at night. Anything with an attractive aroma is fair game. My son calls him Satan. I wouldn’t go that far, but he is full of mischief.

If I had a video camera, his nightly exploits would be entertaining. At people meals this cat will stare you down with every bite you take. He’s brazen enough to take swipes with his paw at morsels of food heading for his “tenant’s” mouth. If he gets lucky, he’ll get an unexpected morsel, and the score tips in his favor.

Recently I got reminded, yet again, that I may be off my game, but Pippy is never off his. If I get an “F” in food storage, all the better for my “shenanigans” cat. He will chew through paper bags, plastic wrap, or tin foil to reach something that smells delightful. His nose works overtime to hunt for something sweet or salty. My mistake at night means cleaning up his mess in the morning.

One night I forgot to put white chocolate away. Pippy honed in on the aroma of chocolate, which he had never tasted until this caper. Fortunately for him, its consumption did not appear to have an ill effect.

A few nights later, I failed to put marshmallows away behind closed doors, and “Sherlock” was on the case. I had triple bagged the marshmallows, assuming they’d be safe, but Pippy tore through all the layers of wrapping and helped himself. Chocolate + marshmallow + hmm . . . one more item . . . ahh, graham crackers! Pippy just missed making s’mores! Sigh. Will I ever learn?

When I pause to think back to the time when our hijinks cat found us, he was a bitsy “pipsqueak”. Skinny and determined are two adjectives that best described this little kitten, who had picked us to provide home and comfort. How could we have known that just a few short weeks later, our firstborn would take his life? Wracked by grief, we were inconsolable. The only creature who could get through to us was little Pipsqueak. He was frail, but also feisty. There were so many times in those first months after losing our son that he made us laugh in spite of our hearts’ resistance. I dubbed him our “God kitty,” for who else could have foreseen our need for laughter breaks in our grief?

~ Pippy wanted to live, and in some small way, known only to our Creator, he was willing us to live too. ~

Pippy is all grown up now and still the determined stinker. If I get careless, he wins. Unfortunately, I have to admit that there is a parallel in my spiritual life. Just like my cat, I may be off my game at times, but Satan is never off his. When I don’t spend time fortifying myself with the “bread of life” in my Bible, I can feel the enemy’s hot breath bearing down on me, waiting for the opportunity to attack. He will always take full advantage of my weaknesses. He will never play fairly. Being described as a roaring lion, he’s always on the prowl to devour spiritually as many humans as possible, so he won’t die alone (1 Peter 5:8). Just as I must be vigilant with food storage, I must also arm myself with truth so that Satan can’t trip me up.

The good news for all who are interested is that Satan’s days are numbered! As soon as Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished,” on Calvary’s cross, the countdown began for the devil’s demise. The hands on the clock of time seem to move too slowly for us grievers, who are eager to see our precious loved ones again. Never fear. Satan will be destroyed forever! Death will die! No hint of sin, sorrow, or pain will ever mar our lives again (Nahum 1:9). We will be forever free to enjoy the wonders of eternity with our precious children and others we love. We will never be parted again. Yippee!

“The last hostile power to be destroyed is death itself.” 1 Corinthians 15:26 

Scripture shared from The Voice 

 

Taking a Break

I have been writing my blog and sharing it with both members and friends on Facebook for over 4 years. I feel strongly that there are those who need the particular words God gives me that week to write. I hate to take a break for medical reasons, and if it is His will, I will be back at my computer, writing again before long.

The problem which keeps me from writing now are the muscle spasms, that apparently, are a part of phase two of breast cancer ~ the expansion phase. So for the time being, I cannot type enough to fill more than a few paragraphs before the sharp, painful spasms overwhelm me. I know you understand that this life is full of difficulties. This one is to be weathered just like all the other ones we face.

Please don’t forget about me and drop your membership. You certainly have access to the months and years of posts on file. Go back and read a few for your comfort. God will lead you to just the right ones. Perhaps the archives will hold you until I can return.

I am unable to send this message to every grief site. If I could, I would try to write and send something special for you to read, but this break I must take for now, includes all aspects of blogging. I will send this message to my author page and perhaps those who read it there will pass it along to the grief sites they are members of, etc. That will help to spread the word. God bless you all.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3) Encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12)

God willing, I will be back . . . soon.

Love you, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on November 4, 2016. 7 Comments

Fragrant Words Fitly Spoken

“After we hugged, and I walked away, all I could think about for the rest of the day is what you will be facing the rest of your life, living without your firstborn son. Your fragrant perfume . . . ”

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“The pleasant aroma of your fragrance rises in the air…” Song of Solomon 1:3a Voice

Every time I open my cosmetic drawer and reach for a bottle of fragrance, I see a bottle which I have not touched since the death of my firstborn to suicide a number of years ago. It’s a lovely perfume by a well-known designer. Even so, I cannot bring myself to wear it. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I wore it to my son’s funeral. In spite of its sweet fragrance, the perfume is forever attached to the horrific memories associated with my son’s death.

Receiving lines. Remember the receiving line at your child’s funeral? Can you recall the names of all the people who loved your child and came by to pay their respects? For me, most faces remain blurred. A few I remember. Some friends were so choked up they could hardly speak. Others offered hugs with a few whispered words. Even though I cannot recall all their faces, I know they all came because of their love for my son and his family.

A short time after the funeral I was in the grocery store, mechanically dropping things expected to sustain life into my cart. My life seemed fractured beyond repair. I wandered from aisle to aisle, feeling overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of normal. Suddenly in front of me was a lady whom I had last seen at the funeral. We smiled a greeting. I would have preferred to keep on going so that the tears would not spill over, but instead, I remembered my manners and stopped. After a hug of greeting followed by a little chitchat, she said something I have never forgotten. A few precious words from her heart to mine, as she recalled the memory of that receiving line:

“After we hugged, and I walked away, all I could think about for the rest of the day is what you will be facing the rest of your life . . . living without your firstborn son. Your fragrant perfume clung to me. All that day and evening, every time its pleasant sweetness graced my nose, I sent up a prayer for you.”

I was touched. Her kind words stirred a deep place of pain within my shattered heart. Tears welled up in my eyes as I fished around in my purse for a tissue. We hugged again and went our separate ways, but the blessing continues. Whenever I recall our meeting . . . the sweet fragrance of her words still lingers and blesses me.

A well-spoken word at just the right moment is like golden apples in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11 Voice

Recently I came across a little story in the Reader’s Digest entitled “The Kindness of Strangers.” Someone else had a similar experience involving a sweet fragrance:

“A woman at our yard sale wore a perfume that smelled heavenly and familiar.

“What are you wearing?” I asked.

“White Shoulders,” she said.

Suddenly, I was bowled over by a flood of memories. White Shoulders was the one gift I could count on at Christmas from my late mother. We chatted awhile, and she bought some things and left. A few hours later, she returned holding a new bottle of White Shoulders. I don’t recall which one of us started crying first.”

. . . the sweetness of a friend is a fragrant forest. Proverbs 27:9b GW

Media Stooksbury, Powell, TN, RD, October, 2015

Scripture selections: The Voice (VOICE); GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on October 14, 2016. 2 Comments

Surviving Cancer: Fight the Fight

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“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fear is a word that fits quite naturally in company with the word, cancer. Before I could wring my hands in fear or be scheduled for surgery, I happen to come across this piece that addresses fear head on. I would like to share portions of it with you, layering it between my own words. Perhaps it will serve as a reminder, through the lens of my own experience, that fear can immobilize. (Citation is listed at the bottom.)

“A new president was about to take office. After Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in, he gave his inaugural address. One of the things he said as he tried to bolster the morale of his disheartened countrymen has become immortal. He said, ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself!’

“What a profound statement! Roosevelt knew what fear can do. Fear paralyzes us. It causes ambition and courage to leak out and leaves us without resources to face even the simplest situations. Fear is defined as ‘an emotion aroused by threatening evil or impending pain, accompanied by a desire to avoid or escape it; apprehension or dread.'”

I have something that looms large on the horizon. As I mentioned in a previous blog, it’s cancer. Should I fear it? I can’t say that it was ever on my bucket list, but then . . . neither was suicide. Surviving the loss of my firstborn to suicide shattered my heart and hobbled my soul, but I refuse to allow it to kill my spirit. I pray that cancer will not do me in either. I face both journeys in Christ.

 For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLV

“Fear is part of our Creator’s loving provision for us. Properly controlled, fear protects us from harm and motivates us toward positive action. If you were to see a bear in the woods, you wouldn’t go up and pet it—you’d flee as fast as you could. Your sensible fear protects you. Uncontrolled fear, however, can lock us into an emotional prison and stunt our personal and spiritual growth. Unrestrained fear darkens our lives; it colors everything we do. It is a great obstacle to our spiritual growth.”

Now I face surgery to remove the cancerous tumor. A portion of my feminine curves will be removed. That fact is certain. How this will impact me emotionally is uncertain. I assume that I will deal with it as I go along. But first, the scalpel in the hands of an experienced surgeon, who entrusts her work to the hands of my divine Physician, will remove the “enemy.” Then the long healing process can begin.

In this day and age one can look at anything on the internet, including breasts. In fact, did you know that you can look at hundreds of before-surgery and after-reconstruction pictures of breasts, and it’s not considered in poor taste? I am learning that the World Wide Web is yet another way to gain knowledge about my cancer surgery. I am both amazed and grateful to other women, diagnosed with breast cancer, who are willing to reveal their private selves to inform patients like me. I suppose I am also attempting to desensitize myself to my new reality. Actually the after pictures look quite normal. Perhaps I have nothing to fear, and in part, I have these brave women to thank for it.

“Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer, with about 60,000 new cases in the United States each year. About one in every five new breast cancer cases is ductal carcinoma in situ.” (Cancer Treatment Centers of America)

“If God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear and we know that He loves us perfectly, why are we still afraid? How can we be freed from the paralysis this kind of fear generates? We must learn to fight fear with fear—another kind of fear that is the antidote for our uncontrolled fears. It’s called the fear of the Lord.

“When we have the fear of the Lord, it means we look upon God with awe or reverence, an attitude accompanied by obedience, knowing, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10a NIV).”

I appreciate all the prayers from my readers as I embark on this new adventure into the unknown. Perhaps I will give an update in the future (at the one-year mark if not before), as the shock of surgery wears off, comfort returns, and I begin adjusting to yet another “new normal.”

Quotes from Lesson 5, “Nothing to Fear But Fear” in the series entitled “Facing Your Feelings” (“Bible dot org”)

Scripture quoted from New Life Version (NLV); New International Version (NIV)

This entry was posted on September 30, 2016. 4 Comments

Surviving Cancer: Riding Tandem

I was powerless to change the course of my precious child’s life. I am not powerless to change the course of mine.

My grief journey has taken a companion. The fire-breathing “dragon” has struck again. I have been diagnosed with breast cancer. It feels foreign to type a sentence that begins with “I” and ends with the dreaded “C” word. Perhaps the more I type it, the less foreign it will sound? I’m in good company as you will note in the current statistics for 2016 from the American Cancer Society:

  • About 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 61,000 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,450 women will die from breast cancer.  

Some of my readers may be waging their own battles with cancer or other diseases. Maybe if we continue to share our struggles ~ no matter what they are ~ inspiring and encouraging one another to keep moving in the right direction, we will diminish the power that disease seems to hold over us. After all, God says in 3 John 2 that He wants us to prosper and be in good health, so He’s is on our side, too!

For years now I have awakened remembering that my firstborn will never come home again. Sadly there is nothing I can do to change that fact. With the new diagnosis, I wake up not only remembering that my son will never come home again but also  knowing that I have cancer. Death is a fact I cannot change. I am fortunate that this type of cancer has given me a choice. I can choose to succumb to fear and do nothing, or I can take action and continue to live.                                                             

To share or not to share. (I would not want to embarrass any of my male readers.) Okay. Maybe in the sharing I am reminding all of us to search for humor in even the most humorless situations.  

Most of us have likely experienced the dreaded mammogram. The results of mine suggested that further testing should be done, and I was scheduled for a biopsy. At first glance the set-up for the biopsy appeared similar to the mammogram, except the ratio of clinician to patient was 4 to 1, not the usual 1 to 1. There was the doctor, three clinicians, and me. Instead of standing, like one does for a mammogram, I was allowed to sit. Piece of cake, I thought.

The ladies were nice, and the doctor was gentle, but they pulled and pushed and squeezed the stuffins’ out of my, ah, piece of meat” in order to guide the doctor to the spot in question, so she could insert a needle. The needle would munch little tissue samples from the lesion, which would be sent to the lab for examination.

Suddenly I felt a familiar touch of wooziness. Oh, no! Surely I won’t faint! Apparently I had been pushed, prodded, and told one too many times to keep my eyes closed so I would not see what the doctor was doing, and yep . . . I fainted. I’m sure it was only seconds later when I opened my eyes. My chair had been tilted back, and I was looking up into a “sea” of faces. A voice asked me to state my name and birthdate, the usual, “Do you know who you are?” drill. Apparently I passed. lol

There was chatter about calling it a day and rescheduling my appointment, but I had already been numbed up, which was no picnic, so I asked if there were other options. In response they suggested that I roll unto my side. They wanted to find out if they could do a biopsy with me lying in that position, which translates to “guinea pig.” There was more pushing, pulling, and taping the other “girl” out of the way. Thankfully there were no pictures taken to mark this event, and the doctor was able to complete the biopsy. The staff expressed their relief that the “trial and error” worked. Me, too.

Two days later my doctor gave me the results. It was cancer, but caught early. The next step would be surgery. I have always tried to be fully honest and transparent with my grieving readers. With your permission I will add my cancer story to ride tandem with my continued journey into grief. It will be a part of the path that meanders where it will as I embark on this new unknown.

Day after day there is the temptation to quit, to succumb to the pain: pain from sorrow, disease, or chronic illness. Each day I choose life, I may also choose to face the pain with courage.

Just like every day in my journey thus far, I choose life. I choose to do whatever it takes to continue living, and if that includes surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, so be it. Wow. Do I have a choice? Absolutely. I could take a chance with my life. I could face each day knowing an “enemy” has invaded my tissues ~ uninvited and unannounced, and do nothing about it. But I’d rather fight this enemy. Actually, I want God to fight this enemy with me.

I would love for you to add my name to your prayer list. We are in this mess together, you and I ~ this mess called life. We lift each other up, and, hand in hand, we take new steps forward each and every day.

My simple prayer to God is tucked in the pages of His Word:

When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone. Psalm 56:3

Scripture from The Voice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on September 16, 2016. 6 Comments

Have No Fear

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I look up to the mountains ~ does my help come from there? Ps 121:1

Do we dare trust the words written under the picture above? They were obviously written a long time ago by a man named David. Not only old, they are outdated, right? How can they apply to us, today, in a world which seems to be going mad.

Sometimes I feel like our world is careening out of control, teetering precariously on the cusp of a cliff ready to hurl off course into the vast unknown. Ever think that when you close your eyes at night, you may awaken to the end of the world? Some of you may enjoy movies which have frightening titles like: Armageddon, Doomsday, or World War Z. The titles, alone, suggest gloom and doom to me, even if the substance is more silly than scary.

What are we to make of all the horror and havoc going on within our blue planet? From outer space, it may look pretty, calm, and serene, but civilization as we know it, seems to be running amuck. You agree? Not a day goes by without the nightly news blaring that, somewhere in the world, someone has donned protective or explosive gear, gone to a place teaming with humanity, and blasted the innocent with bullets, killing many instantly. Police quickly rally, return fire, and either kill the gunman, or he blows himself up. The carnage is sickening, horrific. If this is not bad enough, we now have to be on the lookout for crazy truck drivers who intend to plow into crowds of celebrating people, mowing them down like grass. It’s too much.

This world is full of sick people, who think nothing of killing others just because they are different. Almost daily now, bad guys are picking off good guys in blue, who put their lives on the line to protect Americans.

Not long ago we watched our televisions as videos captured the people of Dallas running away from the sound of gun fire while police ran toward it, risking their lives. Five of those brave men never arrived home that night.

I don’t like calling our attention to the current state of play, but it’s hard to ignore. Those of us who are living the worst pain ever, having lost children to suicide, can’t absorb more tragedy. We are bursting at the seams in sorrow already. Is there no safe place to lay down one’s head without dreading tomorrow?

We know that our country is poised for change in Washington DC as we approach an election this fall. I don’t envy those who are actively campaigning to be our next President. That person’s plate will be heaped high with trouble before the first day in office. Who is best suited to put on a hard hat and attempt the impossible? Can either candidate promise peace and safety? These last three words, “peace and safety,” bring this text to mind:

They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14b NLT

Today “there is no peace.” I have come to realize in my own mind, that there is no leader in Washington DC, or in the world, present or future, who can keep me safe; one who will have my back before he protects his or her own. Even those closest to me don’t have the power to keep me safe. The way I see it, no one but God has the power to protect me. Only He can keep me safe. When I read my Bible, considering it as a whole, I get the distinct impression that God is more focused on keeping me safe for eternity rather than safe in the here and now, and I’m okay with that. The concept makes sense to me.

Some readers may agree that we cannot rely on a human being to carry us to safety. I look up to the mountains, and higher still, from where my help comes. Jesus has promised to return, wake up those who loved Him, and wing us to heaven where it will be peaceful forevermore. The bad stuff of earth will become a distant memory.

While others are crouching in terror and fearful of what may come, those who put their faith and trust in God don’t need to fear. In fact, the last book in the Bible tells us not to fear (Revelation 1:17). I know. It’s easier said than done, right? But think of it this way: if I take Him at His word day by day, trusting Him to keep His promise to comfort me in my grief, I will soon learn that I can lean on Him completely as He carries me forward step by step. He is reliable and trustworthy. And why should I trust Him? Because there is no one on earth who loves you and me more than God does. Not one. Nada.

You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything. Colossians 2:10 MSG

Is there hope? You expect me to say, “yes,” and I won’t let you down. I have good reason to hope. I don’t have to rely on a single person to carry me to safety. I rely on Jesus Christ to take care of me now and wing me to heaven when He returns. Like a popular gospel song promises, “I’ve read the back of the book, and we win.” Yes. I’ve read the last book of the Bible, Revelation, “the big reveal” if you will, and He does win! Jesus Christ wins!

Therefore, friend, let’s not worry about the future. There will certainly be more trouble. Scripture has promised it (John 16:33). But there are also plenty of assurances that, no matter what happens, God will see us through until Jesus returns. So why should we fear? You and I have experienced the worst . . . we are surviving the worst, are we not?

Scripture shared from the New Living Translation (NLT); The Message (MSG)

 

 

This entry was posted on September 2, 2016. 6 Comments

The Swift Goodbye

 ~ Sorrows come to stretch our places in the heart for joy. ~ Markham

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In Honor of My Son ~ Gone Too Soon

August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005

Nancy Reagan died in March, 2016 at the age of 94. She outlived her President husband by 12 years. Now she is buried beside the man she adored for 52 years. During the twilight of their lives, “Ronnie” became ill with Alzheimer’s disease. Nancy took care of him, as his mind slowly faded. The former First Lady called it “the long, slow goodbye”. I understand that statement. It is aptly named. My mother lost herself in the same disease. It slowly took her mind and shriveled her body. All the while my dad lovingly cared for her until her death 18 years later.

It was sad to lose first my mom and then my dad five years later in 2001. It was sadder still to lose my firstborn son to suicide four years after my dad died. Thinking about Ms. Reagan’s description of her husband’s slow fade from life, I felt the opposite was true with the death of my son. For me his death was more like “the swift goodbye.”

It’s been over ten years since my son died. Years of reflection have afforded some charity, however there will always be questions without answers. One comes to mind out of the pain of ongoing grief: “couldn’t I have done that?” Meaning, couldn’t I have done all those final tasks to honor my son which others did in my place? At the time total exhaustion required many helping hands, and I will always be grateful for them. It’s now, after years have gone by, that my hands ache to do more than put flowers on my son’s grave. Readers can tell that this is very personal for me, but I share it with you in case you, too, find your reflections fraught with questions. One should be allowed the freedom to ask them, even if only in the quiet of one’s mine, don’t you agree?

After the sudden, shocking death of my son, I remember feeling so rushed. If I had a choice, I would have preferred to slow the process down, so that my mind could attempt to catch up, (which, of course, IS impossible). It happened as if I was living in a blur and out of focus. Someone alerted my other children. I don’t even know who called them. I think now, couldn’t I have done that? Perhaps someone thought they were “sparing” me added grief. Why spare me? There is absolutely nothing from which one can be spared after death by suicide.

From a safe distance now I look back at the rush of activity which followed my son’s death and think, I would have preferred to be involved in every scene, every decision no matter how miniscule, for each was important. I was present in every scene at his birth, so why not at his death? I was notified of his passing, but not summoned to identify him. I have no recollection as to why not. Was it because I didn’t think to ask? People hurried us here and there to make decisions while we were dazed and shocked to the marrow. We agreed to arrangements no parent should ever have to make. We signed documents no parent should ever have to sign.

I don’t remember putting any thought into selecting his casket . . .  having never shopped for one before. (Is one supposed to shop for such a thing?) I have only a vague memory of that awful display room. I probably pointed at one through eyes brimming with tears, and hurried back out of there. Thoughtful friends offered to buy my son’s burial clothes. I agreed at the time. Years later I think, couldn’t I have done that?

It seemed like an eternity before we were allowed to see him at the mortuary. I had been praying, “God, if possible, please let it not be my son.” Unfortunately, there was no denying that this young man, with his short, sandy hair, fine handsome features, and beautiful hands, was mine. This man-child was once a bitty “bump” in my belly. This man-child, from the first tiny flutter, had my heart. Nothing bad could ever separate us. Isn’t that the hope of every parent?

Even though I am forced to accept my son’s death, I still love him with all my heart. I could never stop loving the baby I struggled to bring into this world ~ my mind already filled with the hopes and dreams I planned for him. May I never forget each detail, each nuance, each memory of him, all tucked inside my heart. Although I rage against it, somehow I must accept that this is all I have left of him . . . for now.

It seemed to me that there was little time allowed for closure before the final service. Why the rush? Does death have an expiration date? There is no prior planning like one may do for aging parents. Losing one’s child to suicide is shocking, numbing, and so brutally final. Preparations were made quickly and plans finalized. Now I look back and wonder, could I have requested that we slow it down a bit? Why the rush? I would have the rest of my life to process, grieve, and reflect.

All that remained of our sad, swift goodbye was to lower the heavy lid, and shut out daylight forever from the light of my life. Again, why the rush? Could I have asked everyone to leave, so that I could be alone with my son? Perhaps I could have eased into the shock of it all if I had been allowed to sit by him a little longer, touching him, studying his features, and crying more buckets of tears.

Would I have been allowed to stay until I was ready to leave? I doubt it, but I never thought to ask. Perhaps such a request would have been considered irrational behavior. We grievers are easily labeled by those who don’t have any personal experience with losing a child. I know the mortuary personnel were just doing their jobs. For them most funerals are business as usual. Naturally they want to close up and go home, but my heart was screaming, I’m not ready to leave! Can’t I stay by my son just one night? I can’t bear to part with him yet!

I know I will see this man-child again one day. He will look just like I remember him when he was alive, only better. We will squeeze the stuffins’ out of each other in a giant embrace. He will smile his awesome smile again. He will throw back his head and laugh for the sheer joy of being together again, forever this time, and forever free of pain. What a reunion it will be!

God will take away all their tears. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All the old things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Verse from the New Life Version (NLV)

This entry was posted on August 19, 2016. 8 Comments

Almost Full Circle

“Most women say there is no greater pain than to bear a child. I say there is no greater pain than to bury one.”

Whoever wrote this quote, thank you. From this mother’s heart to yours, there is no greater truth on this earth. First I read these powerful words on social media, then I tried to find the source to give proper credit but failed in my attempt. I can’t let them go. They stick in my brain, taking me back to the beginning . . . so long ago now, but I remember the details as if it were yesterday . . .  particularly when I am forced to face yet another anniversary of my firstborn’s death.

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Children are a heritage from the Lord.

In honor of my son ~ gone too soon

August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005

My firstborn was long awaited and excitedly planned for. We got the room ready, filled up the drawers with tiny baby things, and put the crib together. Then we waited. We didn’t have long, for our little guy had already planned to come out early, and he would do it on his terms ~ backside out first.

Breech birth is not delicate and sweet the way nature intended. It required x-rays on the hard surface of the x-ray table while in labor and lots of tugging during delivery. All was done in a record time of four hours. Once I got to hold my sweet baby boy, I easily forgot the struggle it took to bring him into the world.

Our precious newborn was so tiny and wrinkled, so sweet and fragile, that we hesitated to even hold him, but that didn’t last long. Before we knew what hit us, he was front and center, disrupting any life we had before and instantly changing us into a family. Daddy was ecstatic and refreshed. Mommy was thrilled and exhausted. Now I was to learn how it feels to be permanently tired until our nest would once again be empty.

Sandwiched between birth and death is a lot of living, creating many memories. Some are laced with pain, but many more bring a smile to my face, even as tears threaten to spill over. If you are also outliving a precious child, you know the painful truth of the quote above; no doubt words pulled from deep within this mother’s heart. She is a mother who knows and understands that this pain sets up residence in our hearts forever.

Time passed quickly and soon I was very pregnant with our second child. When he was born, it didn’t take long before I realized that two children were not only double love, but also double work and double trouble. Toddler big brother was so curious about this new creature. He stared at his tiny baby brother in wide-eyed wonderment. After all, this was not the four-legged pony he’d asked for, but rather a two-legged, smaller version of himself.

One morning, soon after I had arrived home from the hospital with our second son, I had gotten little sleep because new baby brother had been fussy all night. In the wee hours of the morning, I finally took him to bed with me, hoping the two of us could at least doze a little before big brother woke up. That plan, however, was short-lived. Big brother was awake early, out of bed, and ready to get on with his day. I scooted off the bed and called to him to follow me to the kitchen. My plan was to fix him breakfast to keep him occupied while I took care of baby brother.

When I reached the kitchen, I turned around, but my toddler was not behind me. Quickly retracing my steps to the bedroom, my heart nearly thudded to a stop as I looked upon a frightening scene. Big brother, who could barely climb up on our high bed by himself, sat precariously on the edge. With one chubby hand, he dangled baby brother by one foot HEAD FIRST over the edge of the bed, and with the other chubby hand, he was patting him on the bottom. How could my toddler, who was barely out of babyhood himself, get our newborn in that position? Now was the time for action, not questions. With a thankful prayer, I quickly scooped up my baby before his head hit the floor! Calling a cheery, “Let’s go eat breakfast,” I led the way to the kitchen again. Oh, the innocent actions of the young and the curious! And life with two was just beginning.

Whew! That was a close call. Unfortunately, babies don’t come with owners’ manuals. We can read and prepare as much as possible, but when those little ones enter the world, it’s both a reality check and a rude awakening. I would have to use the eyes God created for me, and the extra pair He planted on the back of my head especially for mothering. (Of course I didn’t really have them there, but the kids didn’t know that!)

Some memories are more amusing than others. This one is definitely not on the funny list, but fortunately, it had a good outcome. It was a quick first lesson on how to juggle two babies. This mother became quickly aware that until little brother got big enough to squawk loudly enough to be heard, or be able to fend off his bro, her eyes would ever be watching. Thankfully, God’s eyes would be watching, too (Job 34:21).

I replay scenes that were exasperating then, but now I can laugh when they come to mind. I wish I would have worried less back then about my children being squeaky clean . . . opting instead to be more relaxed, enjoying what each new day brought us. But that was then. If I had a do-over, I would likely savor the moments as if they were our last. But one never plans on dreading the future, do we? We are more likely to dream about all the things we will do together on vacations, where our children will go to school, or what they might likely be when they grow up. Why would it be any other way?

From older brother holding baby brother by the foot, to younger brother holding a velvet box, both memories are to be cherished: the first because it was the beginning of our family being complete, and the second because it was the tearful beginning of our family being incomplete . . . and a lifetime of knowing the lasting pain of burying a child. We would miss our son. Younger brother would miss his older brother. Precious, earthly bonds forever broken.

I don’t want to end this piece with sadness but with hope. I’ve come almost full circle. In breathless anticipation I wait and hope for Jesus’ soon return, when the mortal, dusty rags of earth will be traded in for the immortal robes of heaven.  My family will be joined together once again . . . complete. We will never, ever be separated again. I can hardly wait!

We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life.  1 Corinthians 15:53

 Scripture shared from The Voice Bible (VOICE)

This entry was posted on August 5, 2016. 2 Comments

Yanked out by the roots

Another growing season is upon us bringing heat and humidity in abundance. My plants won’t complain as long as I give them plenty of water. I don’t have a green thumb, but I am gratified to see flowers and vegetables adjusting well to the pots in which I planted them, and then moved them where they could drink in the sunshine along the patio’s edge. With a balance of blooms and vegetables, we get to enjoy both beauty and flavor all summer long. The first veggies to parade a pop of color were sweet cherry tomatoes. Yum. They are so good. The blooms? Not so much. Here’s their story.

Hubby and I were scratching our heads. We’d been outsmarted by a critter of some kind. It was determined to turn my patio creation into pots of dead plants. Not many mornings after I finished planting flats of pink and lavender buds, I discovered that something or someone decided to un-pot the tiny impatiens I had so tenderly planted, for there was dirt and plants scattered on the ground! That’s strange, I thought. What animal would do that? Could my outdoor kitty, Rudy, have done it? He didn’t look guilty, but do cats ever look guilty? I picked up the traumatized plants, scraped up the dirt, and repotted the wilted little things. I had no way to anchor them against an unseen foe, except to helplessly add more dirt, pack it down, and hope it wouldn’t happen again.

You guessed it. It did. Whatever was picking on my plants returned in the dead of night and did it again! This time the varmint also trashed my blueberry bush, tossing it out on the lawn. Now I was really ticked. That blueberry had set me back some serious greenbacks. What is going on? If the varmint wanted to play rough, then I’d play rough, too, so off I went to the garden store to buy a roll of chicken wire. I wrapped the rims of the pots, the ones the culprit seemed to favor, with 6-8″ width of wire. If it returned it would have to get creative to dig in my pots again. All became quiet on the patio. Guess the wire worked.

Meanwhile . . . hubby busied himself setting up a chipmunk trap. He thought the wild thing was likely a squirrel or chipmunk. He put a nice little snack of peanut butter and crackers inside the trap, and carefully set it near the patio. The next morning the snack was gone . . . but so was the trap! The guilty creature had hauled the empty trap some 20 ft. away from the patio! What?? Whatever performed this feat had more muscle than a tiny chipmunk.

If you want to catch a bigger “rat” set a bigger trap, right? This time it was personal for hubby, and off to the garden store he went. He returned home with a bigger trap, all right. It was big enough to catch a whole generation of chipmunks. He set the trap with the usual snack, and went to bed dreaming of the big game he’d catch, which would surely to give him bragging rights at the water cooler the next day.

Well. Well. Well. Guess what was looking out at us from inside the trap the next morning? A raccoon! A very unhappy raccoon at that! We took his mug shot so we would not forget his “smile,” then hubby carefully lifted the trap into the truck bed, and hauled him far enough away so he couldn’t easily find his way back. We could only hope he did not leave a family behind to carry on the tradition . . .

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Parent teaching the youngins’ how to forage the neighborhood

Not too many days later, you guessed it. Once again, a critter picked on my impatiens. Somehow it reached over the wire, and unearthed the plants again. (Hmm. Mr. Raccoon must not be a bachelor.) This time hubby got ambitious, and set both traps, loading them with yummy treats. The next morning they were both occupied! There was a large raccoon in the big trap and a baby raccoon in the little trap. Baby was squalling its head off, letting us know its displeasure. They had occupied themselves by pulling up the grass under the traps in their attempt to “eat and run.” Once again hubby made a trip out of town, but this time he went in the opposite direction. No doubt we split up a family. We still have no idea why they took a liking to my plants when, clearly, there was nothing there for them to eat. If some of my readers have had similar experiences (and solutions) they wish to share, I’m all ears.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to relate this story to grief. Or maybe not. After all, I love nature’s beauty; it often soothes my aching heart, changing my focus. (I’m even trying to see the humor in our raccoon fiasco.) You and I face struggles every day in our grief journeys. Like my flowers taking abuse from a mischievous raccoon, I, too, feel yanked out of my place from time to time. When I feel raw and traumatized, it helps me to return to the source of my strength; my Anchor, my Hope.

We both know what it feels like to be blindsided by the sudden, tragic loss of a child to suicide or other unexpected causes. It’s hard to regain one’s footing after loss. Every day we are reminded, in countless ways, that we are outliving one so precious. In my experience it has taken years to come to grips with the loss of my firstborn and to begin healing. Just when I think I have finally settled into my new normal, another “culprit” comes along and “yanks me out by the roots,” making me feel unsettled all over again ~ such as the recent diagnosis of breast cancer. (More about that in a later blog.)

Do you ever feel yanked out by the roots? Misplaced? Hurt by the words or actions of others? Do you wonder if your new normal will be better, worse, or resemble your old normal? Do you find it hard to see beauty, or humor in the quirky happenings of life? Is it easier to be serious than lighthearted? I know. This grief journey is full of highs, lows, bumps, curves, and the unexpected. It can be the pits, but we are survivors, you and I, right? We take baby steps forward, taking one breath at a time, and lean on the one who keeps us anchored.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. We who run for our very lives to God, have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God.” Hebrews 6:19 NIV; 6:18-20a MSG

Scripture from the New International Version (NIV); The Message (MSG) paraphrased

 

 

 

From lost to found

I have gone astray like a sheep. Psalm 119:176

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I can relate to the text above. Being lost is a physical condition in which I find myself on occasion. Each incident is temporary, but, while in the throes of it, it can seem overwhelming. I also know what it feels like to be emotionally lost. Many of you know exactly what I mean. Being blindsided by tragedy flattens one for an unknown period of time. And even when you can pick yourself up and move forward, it’s easy to fall back into feeling emotionally lost all over again. Don’t lose heart. It’s all about the healing process, slow and sure.

Recalling times when I have felt lost and discouraged, my mind happened upon a cute memory back when I was mommy to two little ones. Memories, such as this one, have helped lighten my emotional load. Bear in mind that I have been on my journey longer than many of you. You may not be able to remember good memories yet; meanwhile, maybe you can enjoy the memory I am about to share.

To set the stage I was fortunate to be able to stay home with my boys while they were preschoolers. Back then there was less pressure to start them early. If I had been working, my paycheck would have gone toward the expense of daycare. Instead we decided that until our children were ready for kindergarten, I would stay home with them. Not everyone could make the same decision, but it was one I have never regretted. Because my boys and I were always together, it sometimes meant we had to run errands, which of course, little boys are never excited to do. This story took place while the boys were quite young, and yes, it was shopping day.

They were two little cherubs most of the time, but shopping was NOT something they enjoyed on their BEST day. Wherever I went, they went. This particular day we were heading to a shopping center outside our familiar part of town.

I have to admit they were being good little guys, entertaining themselves with their toys and books in the back seat, even with their chatter increasing in volume once in a while. Meanwhile, I was making wrong turn after wrong turn ~ there was no GPS back then. The kiddie chatter was distracting me at a critical juncture, so I said, “Boys, Mommy has made a mistake and she needs to have you be quiet for a few minutes until she gets turned around.” Obediently they hushed to a whisper.

Quiet as mice, the boys played with their toys. After just a few minutes, we were headed in the right direction. It was so peaceful in the car that I was reluctant to give it up. Having the opportunity to soak up silence was a rare treat in those early years. We were just humming along when a timid little voice piped up from the back seat, “Mommy, are you through making mistakes now?” A heart-melting question. Rare, sweet footage in my memory garden. Am I finished making mistakes? Hardly.

We fall in love with our first child when excitedly we discover we have a baby bump. Once placed in our arms, we cannot imagine life without this baby. There is never a thought of death. Why should there be? We assume our children will continue to live long, fulfilling lives way after we are gone. We expect the natural order of things, do we not?

We get rudely awakened to the unnatural order of things when we are blindsided by tragedy. We are shocked senseless and flounder in disbelief. Numbness sets in. We feel disconnected between heart and mind. Nothing makes sense from the words tossed about in our hearing. This can’t be real. We feel lost and want to go into hiding. Blame rears its ugly head. Self-doubt and guilt become daily snacks we gulp down without resistance. Instead of nighttime bringing relief, we roll and toss, wondering what we could have done differently. Could other decisions or actions have saved our beloved children? Like a pet hamster, running round and round and getting nowhere on his exercise wheel, our minds can play and replay the facts surrounding the death of our children. It’s as if blame and guilt have been programmed to play in our minds continuously night and day. Will it ever stop?

Is it possible to take a break from the negative feed flowing through one’s mind? Maybe not at first, but after some time has passed, it is possible. I have been able to take a break. In fact, my mind is free from the steady diet of negative thoughts. Please send me a comment if you are ready to take such a break. I will gladly guide you.

For me, connecting with God has helped immensely. When the tempter urges me to return to a place of overwhelming sadness, heaven sends relief in the form of Scripture such as this one:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

Is there possibly a spiritual connection to being lost? Could I lose my way spiritually and not know it? Do I deliberately push God away, especially if I blame Him for the loss of my child? Just as I finally got turned around and headed in the right direction in this story, we can come to realize that we need someone greater than ourselves to help navigate through the waters of grief. The line from a popular hymn comes to mind: “I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” Perhaps this line refers to being lost and found, not only physically, but also spiritually.

PS – Blogging has helped me focus on what’s most important for me, and since I’ve begun to write, I feel a little less lost. I write to help others feel a little less lost, too. My purpose is to help encourage and inspire readers who are also on a grief journey wherever it shall lead them.

Hymn, “Amazing Grace” by John Newton, published 1779.

 Scripture shared from the Amplified Bible (AMP) and The Message (MSG)

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 15, 2016. 4 Comments