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

Grand Teton Afternoon - Mountains

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

Squatter’s rights

Intruder

So ugly he’s cute?

I don’t know about you, but I find relief from grief in the form of an occasional belly laugh. Absolutely not in the beginning, but after some time had passed, I welcomed a diversion from the heaviness of grief. Occasionally I have shared with you stories which provided a bit of humor for me, in hopes that, if you are in such a need, they will provide the opportunity for you to laugh as well. Laughter helps break up the cycle of grief, even if only for a moment . . . before sadness takes over again.

Do you remember reading about my lil’ orphan kitten, Rudy? I thought his story was finished, but, as it turns out, there is an epilogue. If you haven’t read the story of Rudy, you may want to read it first. You will find it in the archives, entitled “Soakin’ Up the Love”, posted April, 2016.

Some of you may remember that I fashioned a cozy house inside an old trash can to help Rudy survive his first winter. Laying the can on its side, I filled it with a variety of fuzzy pillows around the sides to help insulate against winter’s chill. I even included a furry pet bed, refused by my indoor cats, pushing it to the back of the can. It was the least that I could do to help Rudy stay warm and toasty all winter. Luckily he took right to it.

In the mornings I would open the door to the patio and call, “Here, Rudy. Come and eat breakfast!” There would be a rustling in his “den”, followed by a tiny “meow”, then his little black head would poke out. All was well until the temperature outside plummeted to single digits and stayed there. I would let Rudy into the garage so he could curl up close to me for a few moments to get warm. As much as Rudy needed me for warmth, I needed him for comfort. We grievers who have pets know how much they comfort us when we are sad.

Bundled up in the garage in the freezing cold I knew that Rudy was not keeping warm outside, with sharp winds buffeting his den. Plan B began to take shape in my head. Would Rudy stay in the garage? He might still be cold, but he would be out of the wind. Using a blanket and pillow I fashioned a soft spot in a chair where Rudy could curl up. I took into consideration his other needs and made a proper litter box, which he quickly adapted to. Indoor “plumbing” has to be more inviting than cold snow, right? Rudy might still be cold, but at least he would be out of the wind and blowing snow.

About now you are thinking . . . it sounds like outdoor Rudy had taken a giant step toward becoming indoor Rudy . . . making him my 4th furry child, but I haven’t weakened that much . . . yet. lol

When the temperature finally inched upward to a balmy 30 degrees, I attempted to switch Rudy back to his outdoor house. He balked. When he wouldn’t go inside his den on his own, I tried to push him inside. He planted his back feet down firmly and wouldn’t budge. The harder I tried to “help,” the more he resisted. Apparently he preferred being on the chair in the cold rather than in the trash can in the cold. Poor little thing.

Going out the patio door one day, I was surprised to see one of the pillows sticking out of Rudy’s den. Funny, I thought to myself. Rudy isn’t sleeping in there  . . . and hubby isn’t in the “dog house” at the moment, so who or what could be disturbing the pillows? It was time to investigate. It would be dark in the trash can, so I pulled the pillow out, and tossed it aside. There was just enough light as I bent down and peered in.

The trash can was . . . occupied! What? Who had the audacity to set up squatter’s rights in Rudy’s house? It looked like the fur of a light-colored cat, and I supposed it was one of garden-variety critters that regularly jaywalked our property. Then my presence disturbed the occupant . . . and it looked up. I immediately recognized its snout. That was NOT a cat face. You already know from the picture above . . . it was a possum! Yuck! They are such ugly creatures.

Now it was perfectly clear why Rudy did not want to sleep in there! Bug-eyed, I backed away from the den and immediately hurried to find my hubby. Grabbing a broom, my hero poked and prodded at the intruder until, hissing and growling, it begrudgingly vacated the trash can . . . and with further “assistance,” vacated our yard. Hopefully he won’t return, but there are no guarantees. He definitely won’t stop trying if I leave the trash can on its side, inviting him to return where he had been snug and warm.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The possum in this illustration is not a “roaring lion,” but he did barge in uninvited and planned to stay. This is what the enemy does in our lives if given the opportunity, doesn’t he? Satan is sneaky, conniving, and dishonest. He may seem harmless, but don’t be fooled. He preys on the weak and the grieving, to cause further death and pain wherever possible. If not ousted, he considers himself an invited guest . . . and nothing could be further from the truth!

Verse shared from the New International Version (NIV)

 

Jesus Christ, Life-giving Warrior

“But the Lord says: I will stand up and show my power and might.” Isaiah 33:10 NIV

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Power being displayed in the heavens. The Life-giver is flexing His muscles.

Inception of life is a powerful thing, and we are in awe and overjoyed when our baby is born. At the other end of the spectrum, we hate life at its end as it ebbs away into death. Loss of life leaves us in overwhelming sorrow. How can anything good come from it? Today we will read a story which is intended to create within your heart and mine, a surge of hope and courage to sustain us along our way.

I write for the purpose of sharing messages of hope with hurting hearts; however, the messages don’t always begin there. Sometimes they start with the last memory I have of my firstborn, so bear with me. The last time I saw him . . . the last picture I have in my head . . . is of him in repose. He looked asleep, but there was no warmth to my touch or rapid eye movement that naturally occurs when we dream. There was no rise and fall of his chest. The horrible truth . . . so hard to face . . . this was my son . . . and this was a deep sleep from which he would not awaken. Why? Because the enemy who pushed him toward suicide, holds him in the vice grip of death . . . for now. But not forever. Read on if you are interested in a powerful story with a powerful outcome. It’s a Bible story that fuels my faith and hope in rebirth.

Death came to the little town of Bethany, leaving two sisters, Mary and Martha, in overwhelming sorrow. Their only brother, Lazarus, whom they loved and depended on for everything, became ill and died. The sisters’ hearts were burdened with grief. Tears streamed unchecked down their cheeks. They clung to each other for support as muscular men moved the heavy slab of stone to rest against the hillside cave where their brother was laid to rest. Multitudes of people from the rocky hillside witnessed the burial. They had gathered to show respect for the sisters in their loss.

Mary and Martha, walking arm in arm, slowly make their way back home. As was the custom, mourners, neighbors, and townspeople, will linger a while longer to provide comfort. But there was only one face they had longed to see . . . had hoped He’d come in time . . . but He did not come, and now it is too late. Life is over for Lazarus. What were they to do without him? Just the thought of his absence starts the tears flowing again. As the sisters were about to find out, we who mourn know that after the burial service is over, our grieving has just begun.

Not so long ago, life was a normal routine for the three siblings: Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Jesus and His disciples had become acquainted with this family, and often traveled to Bethany to spend time resting and relaxing in their home. They enjoyed each other’s company, and it was an opportunity for Jesus to recharge. He and the fellas needed breaks from the throngs of people who surrounded them wherever they went. Jesus was lovingly doing the work His Father had sent Him to do, but His human nature became exhausted, and He craved R & R just like we do. The hours they spent together in Bethany were precious. All was wonderful until Lazarus’s health suddenly declined.

One day a messenger came running up to Jesus and said simply, “Lord, your dear friend is sick” (John 11:3 GNT). To answer the question reflected on the faces of His disciples, Jesus responded, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son” (v 4). These words may have heightened the disciples’ curiosity, but undoubtedly they missed the meaning. Apparently Jesus said no more, and they remained where they were, healing and teaching for two more days.

After two days had passed, Jesus announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up” (vs 11). Like the disciples, I would also have assumed that if Lazarus was “asleep,” then he would get well. But Jesus clarified what He meant stating, “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him” (vs 14, 15). (Further details of Jesus’ choice of word for “death” appears at the end.)

Along with curiosity, there was something else astir in the air that the disciples couldn’t quite put their finger on. Jesus’ words were confusing, and yet He said they would see God’s glory! Like a distant drum beat growing steadily louder, excitement began to build. Tensions mounted as they hurried to keep up with their Master, who was definitely acting like a Man on a mission.

Finally Jesus and His disciples were nearing the outskirts of Bethany. Someone spotted them afar off, and word spread like wildfire through the house of mourning.  Martha is the first sister to hear the news. Hurriedly she makes her way to Jesus, who is walking toward her. Dropping to her knees, and with a voice full of pain, Martha wailed, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died” (vs 21). Jesus drew her to Him and wrapped His arms around her. There were words exchanged between them that aren’t included here, but you can read the entire story in John chapter 11. Jesus had come for one purpose. It was about to be made perfectly clear to the sisters and all others in attendance.

Now Jesus is standing motionless outside the cave where Lazarus is buried. His regal bearing speaks volumes. The air is electric as if a storm is brewing. Tension is palpable. Anger wells up within The Warrior. His brow furrows. His jaw tightens. His nostrils flare like a bull in the ring ready to charge. Jesus is staring down the enemy bullfighter, Death.

Death is the enemy, and it’s personal with Jesus. Satan is death. He is a killing machine, but his days are numbered. Satan will die, but until that day Jesus rages at death and the agony it brings, not only to Lazarus’ loved ones, but also to us!

Today we are poised to witness a showdown between the Life-giver and the life-taker. The stakes are high. Battle lines are drawn. Those gathered with Mary and Martha do not have spiritual eyes; they cannot see who opposes Jesus, but Satan is there. Death is his domain. If the devil has his way, Lazarus will stay dead! But Satan is facing the all-powerful Life-giver against whom he has no power!

Jesus knows what He is about to do. The sisters, mourners, and townspeople do not know. His disciples should have had an inkling, but they do not know either. Jesus sees tears in the eyes of His good friends. He hears the mourners wailing. His heart is touched, and He weeps. He weeps because He has a tender heart for all who have grieved down through the years of time. He weeps in spite of the most amazing miracle just seconds away.

“Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, ‘Remove the stone.’ The older sister was quick to protest, ‘Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!’” (John 11:38, 39 MSG)

Four days following death was enough time for the process of decay to begin and Martha is pointing that out. Jesus deliberately delayed this special miracle to counteract the commonly held belief that for three days following death, the spirit of the dead person can return and revive him. After four days no one could deny that Jesus had brought His friend back to life.

We know how the story ends, don’t we? Jesus shouts a command, Lazarus is raised back to life, and God is glorified. Tears of sadness are turned to tears of joy! “By giving life to Lazarus, Jesus sets in motion his own death” but that does not stop Him (biblegateway.com). Today’s miracle was for His friends, Lazarus and his sisters, and for us. Every time we read this Bible story, we are encouraged that one day soon Jesus will again exercise His power over death. One day soon it will be my turn, your turn.

What can we take away from this story? Hope. Hope in eternal life. Only Jesus can give life. To the believer, He is the Life-giver not the life-taker. No matter how many days or decades or millenniums it has been, nothing can stop the Life-giver from bringing new, immortal life into His sleeping children.

I am ready for this same Warrior, who fought for Lazarus, to fight for my child! I want my “Lazarus moment”, don’t you? It’s time we are reunited with our children!

Note the promise given to the disciples as Jesus ascended before their eyes. Two of His angels said to the disciples: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 NIV).

Jesus will come back. He will display His mighty power. We will have our Lazarus moment!

“Death is called ‘sleep’ at least 50 times in the Bible. We are to regard it as a sound, dreamless, painless, unaware sleep. A person may have been in the tomb 1,000 years, but when raised in the resurrection it will seem to him that he only dozed off for a moment. They all wait in their graves for the resurrection. (John 5:28-29) Death is not life in heaven, hell, limbo, or purgatory. It is not life of any kind. In death the soul does not live, the spirit does not live, the body does not live. The words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are used over 1,600 times in the Bible, but not one time are either given any life or personality or wisdom or knowledge when separated from the body. Body plus breath equals ‘soul’. Breath is not referring to one’s common breathing, but breath as the ‘divine spark of life,’ and when someone dies, the spirit (or breath) returns to God, not the disembodied soul. When a man dies, ‘his breath goeth forth, he returneth to earth; in that very day his thoughts perish’ Psalm 146:4.” (wwco.com)

Scripture from the Good News Translation (GNT); New International Version (NIV), and The Message (MSG)

 

This entry was posted on June 17, 2016. 2 Comments

Calling all prayer warriors

I make no apologies. I am appealing to praying people all over the globe. Even if you do not pray, pause to think of the impact multiple prayers can have on those who are on the brink of death by their own choice. Somewhere there is a person right now who is in a battle for his life. Evil forces shout very negative things in his mind, and his resistance to their demands is weakening. I’m afraid he or she represents far too many. The statistics are ascending not descending. Suicide numbers are now higher than vehicular accidental death. Let’s remind ourselves that there are 99 deaths by suicide every 66 minutes worldwide! Or to break down the math even further . . . every 40 seconds. 40 SECONDS! These numbers are staggering! Many of us are also in great heartache. It’s personal for us because we can add a beloved name and sweet face to these statistics. It’s your child. It’s my child, and it’s so heart wrenching.file0001404780822

I am calling out to rally Prayer Warriors from the north, south, east and west to pray for even one person because God loves for us to pray. He loves for us to have a conversation with Him. It matters not whether we are alone or in a group. There is power in prayer. We don’t have to convince God to save; He has already done so, but He sends even more power to earth through His Holy Spirit and His angels when we pray. God is mighty to save to the uttermost, and in His Word we find the proof:

“Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Dear Reader, you and I both know that hindsight is 20/20. I now realize that I should have pushed to do more for my firstborn in his time of great need . . . if only I had known. If he had been lost in the woods, in the mountains, or at sea, within minutes, search parties would have been dispatched to look for him. Somehow it’s not the same when they are “lost” in their own little world of pain.

With all the Prayer Warriors I knew, I didn’t call one. Why didn’t I? It’s an agonizing question, to be sure, but one for which I have no answer. And what’s worse, I didn’t even think to call. I was praying and pacing, worried out of my mind. Hindsight suggests that it would have been helpful to have someone with me; someone to pray with me, her arm around my shoulders, but I prayed alone. I cannot reverse my child’s death any more than you can. I admit that it’s unlikely anything could have been done to save him. It would be easy to dwell on the “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s,” but I choose not to. I encourage you not to dwell on them either. They serve no earthly good, and the ravages of guilt only zap our strength.

When I allow myself to think about how my firstborn died, I choose to believe that heaven was present with him. I can’t imagine the Creator of heaven and earth would leave my child, His child, alone at such a time. Maybe his personal guardian angel,”Gabe”, who was with him when he was born and throughout his life, was with him when he died. I don’t understand how God could let him die, but I’m learning to accept that His ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9) and someday I will understand. You will, too.

Max Lucado, an author many times, over has this to say about prayer: “If you want to deepen your prayer life—pray! Don’t prepare to pray. Just pray. Don’t read about prayer. Just pray. Don’t attend a lecture on prayer or engage in discussion about prayer. Just pray! James 5:13 says anyone who’s having troubles should pray. Anyone who’s happy should sing praises! Posture, tone, and place–these are personal matters. Do what works for you. Just don’t over-think it! In other words, don’t be so concerned about wrapping the gift that you never give it! Better to pray awkwardly than not at all. And if you feel you should only pray when you’re inspired, that’s okay! Just see to it that you’re inspired every day!”

Max Lucado, Grace for the Moment

Scripture versions: Hebrews from Amplified Bible (AMP), Isaiah from New International Version (NIV)

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on June 3, 2016. 2 Comments

“Etched in Stone”

More than 58,000 names

As of 05/2015, there are 58,307 names. (wikipedia)

“I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name . . .” Revelation 2:17b

It is awesome and sobering to walk the length of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. I had wanted to visit the memorial for a long time. A member of my family died in the Vietnam War. I found him among the 58,307 brave, fallen heroes. Running my hand over his name, etched in the smooth granite surface, it gave me a sickening feeling to think about the awful price his death extracted from his parents, sibling, and others who loved him. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride that my cousin was willing to fight, and give his life if necessary, to defend his homeland.

Recently while rifling through boxes of old greeting cards, I came across a sweet one. On the front of this slightly yellowed card, was a sketch of a tiny baby, but it was the words on the inside, that made it so special. As I read my handwriting, I was instantly transported back to an awesome time; the beginning of my motherhood.

In my hands, once again, I held the birth announcement for our first child, a baby boy. On the card I had written the details we parents couldn’t wait to tell family and friends. Naturally they wanted to know the time of his birth, how much he weighed, and how many inches in length from the top of his head to his toes, and we eagerly shared it!

My, how time has changed everything. I can’t pull that card out now and tease him a little, reminding him how tiny and wrinkled he was when he was brand new. I can’t tell him, once again, how it felt to hold him for the first time. So many wonderful firsts to remember. So many memories to treasure, especially now that suicide has robbed me of his life.

I haven’t written to my precious firstborn lately. I think I will write an update on the backside of this card. Of course it won’t all fit, but we will pretend that it does. You don’t mind if I share it with you, do you?

“My Sweet Son, I loved picking out your name before you were born. I felt so proud the first time I wrote your name on this little card which I quickly mailed to family and friends, so they could share in our joy. It didn’t seem real that you were ours . . . even after all the pain to bring you into the world. Tiny and sweet, you were a precious bundle sent straight from heaven and into our waiting arms.

“How can it be that the only way I see your name from now on is on your marker? So cold. Unfeeling. Impersonal. So final is your resting place. Etched in bronze is the day you were born, and the day you died. How can it be that all we have left of you is in bronze? How can it be that all we have left to remind us that you once lived is a dash? How can a dash represent your life? So unfair! The ache in my heart reminds me that the time you had on this earth was much too short. The raised bronze letters, that spell your name, are more durable than a baby card, but they don’t give me joy. I look down at your name, your beautiful name . . . and the forever river of tears begins to flow.

“Your sleep will be sweet, my precious son, until we meet again (Prov. 3:24). Until then, I write to honor your life and your name. I write to encourage others who grieve. I write to inspire hope when all seems hopeless. I write to remind all of us that there is a higher power larger than ourselves. This higher power, on whom my hope is centered, is Jesus Christ, the Living Hope. Because He lives, we have eternity to look forward to. Because He lives, life is more than dates and dashes. Because He lives, we will have new life without end. My son, no more will your name be etched in stone, bronze, or marble. No more will you need to be etched in my heart . . . when at last I see your beautiful face.”

Love you forever,

Mom

“I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name . . .” Revelation 2:17b

Verses shared: The Message Bible (MSG), New International Version (NIV)

 

 
This entry was posted on May 20, 2016. 4 Comments