To Look Upon Their Faces

I never knew the verse below existed before I lost my firstborn to suicide. When I came across it, it spoke to my aching heart about a loving Father ~ the very same one who loved me even when I doubted Him after I lost my son.

Beware that you don’t look down upon a single one of these little children. For I tell you that in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father. Matthew 18:10 TLB

I no longer blame God, but welcome Him to my blog. Somehow this verse tugs at my grieving heart. Many readers have lost their precious children, and many of them have died by suicide. Suicide is part of my story and my heart. I am always looking for verses that touch me where it hurts down deep to somehow provide comfort for myself and others on our journeys of grief.

With your permission let’s imagine this verse in story form. To set the stage I remember that my mother used to paint a mental picture for me by telling me that I had a guardian angel who watched over me. I liked that idea. However, she also mentioned that there was a bad angel lurking about to encourage me to get into trouble. I didn’t like so much since I often got into mischief and paid the price for it.

In your imagination as a parent can you see your child’s angel hovering near the throne of God? I assume these angels are super busy and super fast to be able to not only look upon the face of God but also be near His children to protect them from harm.

Each one of God’s kids, of all ages, shapes, and sizes, has his or her own personal angel. Planet Earth and all of heaven must be swarming with them. I can sort of picture it. If my eyes could be opened to see angels I assume that I would see thousands upon thousands of them coming and going between earth and heaven, perhaps like Jacob pictured in his dream (Genesis 28:12). They not only behold God’s face they also bring messages of hope to hurting hearts like yours and mine.

This text above says to me that I am not to hurt the heart of any child of any age, because that child belongs to God. Also, I am not to hurt the heart of my husband who is also God’s child. I am not to cause harm to any of God’s kids. That’s inclusive. He loves each one as if that child were His one and only. That child has an angel who has the ear of God. Not only that, God’s eyes roam the earth to strengthen the hearts of His beloved children (2 Chron. 16:9). Those of us who believe in the God of heaven know that He is a very personal, hands-on God.

What this boils down to (for me as a mom who has buried a child) is that both of my babies have an angel watching over them. My living child has his guardian angel, and I like to think that my firstborn still has his angel watching the spot where he is buried. Does he stay there all the time? Does he come to be near me when I visit my son’s grave? I don’t know, but I like to imagine that “Gabe” shows up to wrap his arms around me while I shed tears over the loss of my child whose name is permanently etched in bronze. Those moments are always sad, but even in my mourning, I have hope! It is a blessed hope in the Grand Reunion when, once again, I will look upon the face of my sweet Greg!

One day soon Jesus will return to earth and wake up His sleeping children! Mine will be among the throng who awaken. I expect to see my firstborn alive and happy! I expect to look upon his face with joy! Gabe will quickly bring him to me. In my imagination, he will say something like, “Hey, Mama, I am so excited to reintroduce your firstborn son to you! Isn’t he beautiful? Oh, and by the way, I’m Gabe. Greg and I go way back. We have a lot of catching up to do and lots of stories to share. I am beyond excited to see your family together again!”

No, my firstborn no longer has a need for his angel, but when we are together again in heaven I imagine that all of those personal angels will introduce themselves to the earthlings they were in charge of. Then the joyous reunions will continue for all eternity. Until then, may these words bring a ray of hope.

He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully. Luke 4:10 NIV

Scripture shared from  Living Bible (TLB); New International Version (NIV)

 

This entry was posted on February 1, 2020. 2 Comments

In Perfect Peace

~ How does one live peacefully after losing a precious child? ~

I squirmed uneasily in my chair waiting for my name to be called. I wasn’t the least bit relaxed about this appointment because I feared what lay ahead. You see, I was scheduled for warm water therapy which I expected to enjoy . . . except for the bathing suit part. I was scheduled to see a male therapist. Ugh. I could only hope the therapist would make constant eye contact . . . keeping his eyes on mine and not on my marshmallow-y parts, if you know what I mean.

As it turned out the therapist was kind, helpful, and patient. As he instructed, I leaned back in the 94-degree water. I had floating noodles everywhere: behind my neck, under my arms, back, legs, and ankles. I was all set to float, and it was absolutely wonderful. Peaceful. I felt the tension begin to melt away and my body relaxed more than it had in months. Maybe years.

Floating in the warm water with my arms resting on the noodles, my imagination took flight. I imagined that I was leaning against God and totally relaxed because, after all, He’s God. With my head resting on His chest and my hands resting on His arms, we floated in heaven’s crystal River of Life. I could hear the rhythm of God’s heartbeat and His slow, even breathing. It was peaceful. Tranquil. Relaxing. Perfect.

Can you picture it? It felt, well, womb-like.

My twin granddaughters were born early by several weeks. Each tiny girl was lifted from Mommy’s warm womb and placed in an equally warm incubator. No longer were they peacefully floating in nature’s warm bath. I stared at each tiny baby nestled in soft, rolled blankets that surrounded them in womb-like cocoons. I marveled at how quickly they adapted to the outside world.

The birth of my grandbabies was both bitter and sweet: sweet because my son has become a dad and bitter because the death of his older brother broke my heart. Sadly, my grandbabies will never get to meet their uncle on this earth. Perhaps your memories going forward will always be bittersweet, too. Having grandbabies to love somehow softens the edges of bitterness. It seems impossible that out of the ashes of bitterness could come, sweetness. Many of you have commented on social media that your grandchildren have refreshed your life, giving you joy after sorrow. For some grievers, I know it is impossible for you to have grandchildren. I am so sorry if this truth is part of your grief story.

In my world, I don’t live in perfect peace. How about you? Neither warm water therapy or other calming environments provide lasting peace, so how does one live peacefully after losing a precious child or other loved one? Is it even possible? Like you, I can’t always be floating in a tank filled with warm water. I must be about the business of living. My living includes grieving, but I gladly make room for moments of joy. There must be a balance of bitterness to sweetness, don’t you think?

During the early years after my firstborn’s death, I found it difficult to stay on top of grief. It consumed me. The very nature of my loss, along with depression (sadly, a gene-gift likely shared with my Greg), caused me to sink deeper and deeper into the quicksand of sadness, regret, guilt, blame, and the like. Once deep in the quagmire of depression, my thoughts centered on dying, not living. I was tempted to focus on ending my pain rather than living in hope and survival. That negative notion scared me. I called to my higher power for help, and I felt His answering presence.

Whenever the gray clouds of depression gather, I do not wait until they darken to thoughts of suicide before quickly calling on God for relief, and He provides it. Of course, the temptation will come again and again because the enemy does not give up easily, but my God is stronger and mightier than the enemy. It is to Him I turn for relief.

Since peace is a priority for me on my grief journey, maybe I should mentally put myself back in the warm water therapy tank whenever negative feelings worm their way into my mind, but there is a better way, and I can stay dry. According to one of my favorite promises, peace is available right here, right now for all who choose to trust. I feel calmer already.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. 

Verse shared from Isaiah 26:3 New International Version (NIV)

 

 

If Only I Could Ask, Part 2

Dear Reader, If you have not yet read part 1 you may choose to start there. You will find it on my author page, Healing After Suicide, posted November 2019.

Part 2, Conclusion

He drew me in for a hug. We both sniffed and I handed Him a tissue. “Please bear with me while I explain the bigger picture,” He began. “It pleases the enemy when humans think that I destroy their children, but that is not true. It’s an absolute lie! I could never hurt the very ones I design for parents to love. It’s against my nature. I love, not hate. I create, not destroy. When you cry, my *Gracie, I cry with you. I’ve been right beside you all along, and I always will be. I cannot wait to bring Greg to you again. He will be all brand new with a beaming smile and that little chuckle you miss so much. You will recognize him instantly so don’t worry that you won’t. I will be overjoyed to see Moms, Dads, Siblings, Grandparents, and entire family trees celebrating their reunions all over heaven. I am counting the days.”

That was a lot to digest so we swung in silence for a bit. Then He turned and looked deeply into my eyes before He spoke, “If I could I would not allow death to destroy even one child, but if I pushed in with power I would be overriding my original design. My children would no longer be able to make their own choices whether for good or evil. They would be like robots without love and not truly free. There is no love where there is no freedom; these two exist together by design.”

“Freedom is the only way to true happiness,” He continued. “My children, starting with the first parents, have made some terrible decisions and often regrettably. Adam and Eve were very sorry and wanted the opportunity to begin again, but their mistake, their sin, had to run its course. They did repent and came back to me, but the damage had been done to my human race. There were countless generations damaged by their infection before I came into the world. That is why I’m here. That is how we can talk face to face. There will come a time when my mission is complete and I will pay the ultimate price to eradicate sin, but we can talk about that another time. I know you will always grieve for Greg and so will I.”

“Has this overview shed a little light on your understanding?” He asked.

“Yes,” I responded, “but couldn’t you have made just one exception and spared my child?”

“Theoretically yes,” my friend answered, giving my shoulder a squeeze, “but I have no favorites. I love all of my children. Each one is special and unique. Each one deserves to make their own decisions that will develop their characters. As they mature each one must choose who they will serve. You might say it’s a battle of wills; a battle that takes place in the mind. I have placed a desire to worship within each heart I create so it’s natural for humans to worship. Of course, I want them to choose to love and worship me because I can see ahead and know what’s best for them. I long to have a special relationship with each child so that friendship can germinate and grow, but Satan desires worship, too. He wants all created beings to worship him and he is no gentleman. I ask. He forces his way in. He won’t be satisfied until all humans worship him or he will ruin them if they don’t. My power against the dark forces of evil is always with my children and I will come when they call me. I am always there to help guide them. As their creator, I, alone, know each one of my precious children inside and out.”

“This is deep, but I think I get it,” I replied. “I understand that you love each child born and you don’t play favorites. I guess some of your children survive death or their attempts to end their lives while many others do not, starting with the very young. Every death must break your heart.”

“Yes, it does,” He sighed softly. “Dad and I struggle with death. We hate it. It was not in our original plan for humans and it has caused us much anguish down through time. Allowing Greg to carry out his plan hurt our hearts immeasurably, probably even more than it hurts yours. We knew he would no longer suffer; he had been silently suffering a long time. His suffering would be over and he could rest while your suffering would begin. His death and your sorrow have broken our hearts. It is so hard to watch sin to do its work. It would be so much easier to prevent Satan’s destruction in the first place, but then, we would be back to forcing humans rather than allowing them the opportunity to choose for themselves. There is good news though. It won’t be long before the final phase of the plan will take place. My children will soon have all of eternity to enjoy being together with their families. I am so ready to have all of us together forever.”

I smiled up at him, then said, “I am so ready to hug Greg again.” Will the Grand Reunion be soon?”

“Yes, but probably not soon enough for your liking and for all parents and families who long for their missing children, but it will be right on time. You see, I desire for every person to have the opportunity to make a choice to be with me forever. Sadly, not everyone will choose me. Satan has turned many hearts cold, but I won’t give up wooing them until each human has settled in his or her own mind who has their heart, who is their best friend, and who they love most of all.”

My friend wrapped His arms around me in one final hug as He spoke, “I know we’ve just scratched the surface, but perhaps you can have more peace now. Can I ask you to do something for me? Please keep telling grieving hearts that there is hope. Please keep encouraging others by sharing my words of peace. Please explain that death is not from me. And keep telling my grieving children how much I love them.”

“God is love.”

*Gracie is the author’s pen name

1 John 4:8 from New International Version (NIV)

 

This entry was posted on December 1, 2019. 2 Comments

If Only I Could Ask

He cupped my head gently in His strong hands while caressing my cheeks lightly with His thumbs. There were tears glistening in His eyes. My eyes welled up, too. His dark brown eyes studied my light brown ones. It was as if He willed me to fully understand what He was about to say . . .

Part 1

I have fond memories of the old porch swing of my childhood. I remember the creaky sound the swing made as I swung back and forth. I can still recall the aromas on soft summer evenings, especially after a gentle rain . . .                       

If a time machine were possible, in my imagination I would climb aboard and travel back 1000’s of years to sit on another swing deep in a grove of olive trees. There is much I want to talk about with a dear friend and it needs to be face to face. My mind is full of pressing questions my heart can’t let go of. I hope that traveling back in time to chat with my friend will answer them. He knows better than anyone why my firstborn took his own life.

I’ll admit I’m nervous. Although we have communicated in various ways over the years we’ve never actually met. We must meet face to face because my questions are serious and very important to my heart. I need answers. Can He give them? Will His answers satisfy the deep longing in my soul?

His directions were perfect, and I found the swing exactly where he said it would be. It was beautifully handcrafted, smooth to the touch, and made by someone who obviously loved working with wood. The swing was empty; He was not yet there. I sat down to wait for Him and while I waited I gently swung. Swinging back and forth under the quiet canopy of green eased my nerves, but I kept looking around in all directions for Him. Will I recognize Him?

I looked up and saw Him walking toward me, picking His way slowly through low-hanging olive branches. He stopped beside the swing and smiled down at me. His smile melted any remaining fear. We swung in silence for a few moments with only a slight swooshing swing sound to keep us company.

I thought I’d be uncomfortable with the silence like I am in real-time, but I wasn’t. Somehow His presence made me feel loved and protected. Then He spoke. “I am so glad to finally meet you face to face, *Gracie. Thank you for making this journey to spend time with me. I know you are hurting so much from the loss of your son, Greg. He was my son, too, and I miss him so much. Shall we talk about him? I know that’s why you’re here. By the way, I love the name you picked out for him. Gregory fits him perfectly.”

I came prepared with a packet of tissues. Pulling one out I dabbed at my eyes as I replied, “Yes, I love his name. He was Greggy when he was a little munchkin, remember? I miss him so much it feels like my heart is still a gaping wound. I just don’t understand why he killed himself. It seemed like he had so much going for him with his new diploma and all. I have to accept that he’s gone, but if you explain why he died it might help give me some peace. My first questions have been bothering me: Did you take his life so you could have him back? Did you cause me sorrow to give my life purpose? I know I’m not perfect, but surely there’s a less painful way to teach me a life lesson.”

My friend gave a long sigh as He slowly slipped an arm around the back of the swing, coming to rest on my shoulders. I felt His warmth and settled in to hear His reply, “No, my dear Gracie, I do not take beloved children from parents and neither do I cause sorrow to build character.”

“Before I answer more questions it might be helpful to go back to the beginning for a history lesson,” He began. “In perfect love, I created all the beauty you see around you. I created the first couple. Everything was perfect, but there was a snag. I knew the enemy would show up sooner or later to try to infect the new couple with evil. You see, the enemy was kicked out of heaven after he repeatedly lied about me to the other angels in an attempt to stage a takeover because he wanted to rule. The angels who sided with him were cast out of heaven with him and they all freely roam this earth.”

“This may be difficult to grasp,” He continued, “but I desired that my created beings have complete freedom to make their own choices. This design was intentional, not a flaw. Within every heart has been placed the desire for worship. Who one chooses to worship is a personal matter; each is free to decide. To design humans with free will was risky on my part. Naturally, I want my children to freely choose to worship their creator, but I will never force my choices on them. Love isn’t real love if it is demanded. The heart can only love freely if it can choose freely. Therefore, every child I create is free to love, worship, and follow whomever they choose as they mature.

“We both know that the enemy showed up in the form of a beautiful, talking serpent. He captured Eve’s attention with his smooth, enticing words, and sadly, both Eve and Adam chose to believe him rather than their creator. Instantly Planet Earth felt the effects of their choice. Plants wilted, thorns and thistles burst from the soil, and the first couple was forced from the perfect garden they loved. They would now know hardship where they had only known peace. They would know death in addition to life as they buried their second son, murdered by his older brother. Planet Earth was now tainted with evil. Perfection was no more. My created beings would forever feel the effects of Satan’s lies and deceit. They would know the ugly truth that he is the father of death, and he is determined to destroy the lives of my children. It breaks my heart.”

The story of Planet Earth’s beginning was familiar to me. It had become clear that the enemy had ruined this world. Was it his influence that pushed my son to take his own life? Feeling the agony of this question weighing down my soul I asked my friend, “Why was the enemy allowed freedom to kill my boy? I prayed for him all his life. Please help me understand why you didn’t exercise power over the enemy and spare his life?”

He makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil.  Matthew 5:45 NIV

To be continued. Part 2 will be posted next month.

*Gracie is the author’s pen name

Verse shared from New Internation Version (NIV)

 

This entry was posted on October 14, 2019. 2 Comments

Just a Touch

From long ago, her story is both gripping and miraculous. Is she a mom? It’s not known but in my imagination, I assume she is. As her story spills out from the pages of an ancient book we see her desperation in a life filled with stain, pain, and shame. In spite of hardships her faith never wavered. Although her life may not mirror mine or yours, her story reminds me to keep living in faith while my journey of grief continues.

Her story paints a picture of a woman without an identity, but I will give her one and call her Isabella. She built a life with her husband (I’ll call him Samuel) and their three beautiful sons who she was forced to watch grow up from afar. Why afar? Because her bleeding never stopped after the birth of her third child. Strangely, her womb failed to heal completely as it had after the births of her other two children. It was just a bit of spotting at first. She didn’t worry about it or seek medical attention, telling herself I am older this time around, therefore my body is taking longer to heal.

No one outside Isabella’s home knew of her problem. People in her day never spoke of such personal matters. Obviously, her husband knew since she could not lie next to him until her bleeding stopped. In her culture menstrual bleeding was considered unclean. During her cycle a woman must remain separate from others; no touching allowed. If a woman touched anything, including what she sat on, it would be impure until re-blessed by the village Rabbi. Needing the Rabbi to make a house call would, in itself, remind her of her shame.

Think about it. Isabella could not touch her husband and children. She could not pass food at the table. She could only cuddle her youngest child while she nursed him at her breast, but that did not last very long. Now it had been years since she had touched her loved ones. She could not go out among people to attend temple services or shop at the market, which must have added to her loneliness. Most of all, her marriage relationship was strained to the max without the physical contact Isabella and Samuel longed for. What could she do?

In spite of the rules and shame that had kept her silent, Isabella finally gave in to her husband’s pleas and made an appointment to see the village doctor. He examined her and prescribed treatment, but two months later she was no better. She even sought help from a specialist in the next village, but still, her condition did not improve. Over and over she saw doctors who bled her of her finances but could not stop her bleeding. In addition to her shame, humiliation, and isolation now came excruciating pain in her abdomen and lower back. Day in and day out she was confined to her bed often groaning in agony. However, for twelve long years, Isabella’s faith never wavered. Daily she prayed to her higher power for a miracle.

Now Isabella’s nest was downsized by two, and her youngest was a teenager. His brothers had grown into men, chosen wives, and were living their own lives in nearby villages. Whenever they came home to visit they hugged their father and brother, but not their mother. How sad for Isabella that uppermost in her mind had to be I must not touch those I love. Now her sons would surely become fathers, and she would never get to hold her grandbabies. The cry of her heart was always, Lord, how long must I suffer?

As her story unravels Isabella hears that the Master is coming to her village. She has also heard that He has the power to heal. Certain that He could heal her if she could just touch Him propelled her out in public and into the crowd that surrounded Him. Breaking all the rules she stretched out her hand, barely touching the hem of the Master’s garment as He walked by. Her touch, in faith, healed her. Jesus came to her rescue and set her free! Isabella’s incredible story ended with a miracle! How excited, relieved, and free she must have felt when, at last, she could clasp her precious children and husband to her breast!

Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace. 

It was just a touch. But this touch was everything to Isabella. She must have felt a current of new life surge through her body. The Master felt it, too. He, who knows everything, asked a rhetorical question, “Who touched me?” The story goes on to tell what happened next.

Jesus knew all about Isabella and her problem. Given the opportunity to share her instant healing, Isabella’s story could’ve been just what another person in the crowd needed to hear that day. No doubt there were people listening who were weak in faith, and the story of miraculous healing was just what they needed to jumpstart their own faith.

I can relate to this mother’s story in that I cannot touch my child either. It is out of my control. I have sorrow that cannot be satiated no matter how much professional help I seek. Isabella got her miracle, the one she prayed for. I have to wait for mine, but hopefully not much longer. Soon I will be able to touch my Greg again and wrap him in a huge hug. At last our family will be whole once more.

I must ask you, Dear Reader, have you gotten your miracle? The one you long for? How thrilling it will be to have our loved ones back in our arms again. This time it will be forever!

Isabella’s story, Mark 5:25-34

Scripture shared from New International Version (NIV)

 

 

 

This entry was posted on October 11, 2019. 3 Comments

Glow in the Dark

~  Is there such a thing as glowing grief? ~

A friend of mine shared the following story on social media which the author had posted on Instagram. Good stories get passed from place to place. This one is worth sharing here because I think it fits into my grief journey. Maybe it will fit into yours, too. Here is Anna Marie Blessing’s story:

“I was in Dollar Tree last night, and there was a lady with her two kids behind me in the LONG line. One was a big kid, and the other one was a toddler. The bigger one had a pack of glow sticks, and the toddler was screaming for them. The Mom opened the pack and gave him one which stopped his tears. He walked around with it smiling; but then the bigger boy took it, and the toddler started screaming again. Just as the Mom was about to fuss, the older child bent the glow stick and handed it back to the toddler. As we walked outside at the same time, the toddler noticed that the stick was now glowing; and his brother said, ‘I had to break it so that you could get the full effect from it.’

“I could hear God saying to me, ‘I had to break you to show you why I created you. You had to go through it so you could fulfill your purpose.’

“That precious child was happy just swinging that ‘unbroken’ glow stick around in the air because he didn’t understand what it was created to do – which was to ‘glow.’

“There are some people who will be content just ‘being,’ but some of us that God has chosen . . . we have to be ‘broken.’ We have to get sick. We have to lose our job. We go through a divorce. We have to bury our spouse, parents, best friend, or our child . . .

“In those moments of desperation, God is breaking us. But . . . when the breaking is done, then we will be able to see the reason for which we were created. So when you see us glowing, just know that we have been broken but healing by His Grace and Mercy!”

My Comments

I ask you, friend, does grace glow? Does grief glow? What does that even mean? I imagine we are in agreement that there is nothing glowing about grief. I agree that there are circumstances in this life that break us. Breaking is painful. The loss of one’s child is the worst pain one can have in this life, at least it was for me after losing my firstborn to suicide. I could see nothing good about it at all! I never thought I would until I realized (a long, long time later) that my new normal was different from my old normal. My heart, although deeply scarred, was becoming deeper, richer, fuller. I no longer cared about the fluffy stuff people around me cared about. I had become focused on living with hope. Living for the moment I get to hug my Greg again.

It has taken years on my grief journey (and much writing) to realize that in the big picture of life, amazingly, grace and grief do glow. Each time I reach out to help someone new to their grief journey, I put this theory to the test. Those of us who have been on our journeys for a while know how utterly consuming sorrow is. One cannot see through or beyond the darkness of it. So is it possible to glow a little and light the path of another griever?

Looking back with nearly 20/20 clarity all I can figure about my child’s mind before his death was that it must have been totally dark. He could see no ray of light at the end of the tunnel, no way to see beyond his pain. The night he ended his life he nearly ended mine. My heart is deeply scarred, but God is helping me see beyond the darkness that my precious son could not. I can see a ray of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Can you? I have hope. Do you? For me, hope somehow “cushions” the journey. Can it also cast a glow along the trail of tears?

It is my desire to “glow in the dark” for someone in deep sorrow. It is my prayer that somehow my words will cast a ray of light upon their path. Figuratively I “hand” them a broken glow stick by writing something that touches their experience. I imagine giving them a cyber hug or putting my arm around their shoulders while walking with them until they get their footing.

I believe God is the giver of all good gifts and grace is one of them. It has nothing to do with me, but as I reach out to help another, we both glow in the darkness with the gifts He gives.

You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14,16

Original story “Broken and Fixed” by Anna Marie Blessing

Verse from the Living Bible (TLB) 

 

This entry was posted on September 6, 2019. 6 Comments

We Both Lost a Son

Is there beauty in grief?

~ In memory of my beloved son, August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005 ~

In my mind’s eye, I imagined myself peering over God’s shoulder, watching as He attached a radiant gem of vivid green (peridot is my firstborn’s birthstone) to my tapestry. Curiously I wondered why the gem? After all, wasn’t He attaching exquisite beauty during the greatest tragedy of my life? God looked up and our eyes met. His eyes were brimming with tears. Seeing God in tears made my eyes well up, too, but I was still puzzled. Why would God be overcome with sadness while working on something so beautiful? Then it hit me. God knew my sorrow intimately, because He, too, had lost a son.

If you, dear friend, are new to your grief, this piece may be one you’ll choose to set aside to read later. I am about to share the beginning of my journey and what happened that awful day. I won’t share details, but there could be triggers.

The nightmare began early one morning when the phone rang. It was my son’s boss calling to say that Greg had not shown up at work. Since it was unlike him to be late, the boss suggested I call the police and request a “well check” be made at his residence. With a pounding heart and shaky fingers, I located the number and dialed.

Minutes dragged into hours and still no call from the police. I couldn’t help but watch the clock. Why didn’t they call? Didn’t they know how anxious I was? I could barely breathe. My heart hammered so loudly I couldn’t think. Could it be something worse? No! I dare not let myself think worse. Not now.

Over and over I prayed, “Please, God, let him be safe. Please protect my boy.”

Finally, I got an answer, but not the one I prayed for. My son was not safe. He was found dead and would be moved to the county morgue. Those ugly, final, horrible words. “NO!!!!!!!” I screamed over and over, falling to the floor in a heap of sobs and total disbelief.

Shock set in. My mind rebelled. There had to be a mistake. Perhaps the police went to the wrong address. My mind refused to accept the news I had just been given. Reality is slow in coming, thank God for that, but I had to collect myself and let my husband know. Others helped by calling family members to let them know. The nightmare was in full swing. A dense thick fog rolled in and engulfed me. Why, oh why?

My heart cried, “God, how could You allow this to happen to my boy? You knew this was coming, so why didn’t you stop it? This was my firstborn son! I lost my boy!!!”

I didn’t get an answer that day or in the days that followed. As most of us know only too well, a tragic loss takes everything and gives nothing in return. Losing my firstborn son to suicide was the worst experience of my life. It sucked me dry. If you, too, know this pain first hand, I am so sorry for your loss.

So why the tapestry illustration? The tapestry is a poetic way for me to represent my life on earth. In my imagination, it is unfinished because my life is unfinished. God painstakingly works the fine stitches with real gold thread as He ponders the moments that have transpired in His daughter’s life. Yes! I am God’s daughter and so are you! (Whether one believes in Him or not doesn’t change the fact that each child is either His son or daughter.)

Before gold can be used in my tapestry it must first be melted in the fires of tragedy to remove the impurities before it is spun into fine gold thread. God adds precious gems in places where my faith has been thoroughly tested, like the terrible tragedy that took the life of my son.

What do the gems represent? Gems are formed deep in the earth where all the right combinations come together: minerals, pressure, and heat. Once cut and polished they are a pure vision to behold. Likewise, my heart grows deeper and richer in thought and action after tested by the pressure of adversity. Just as stress is required to make gems bright and beautiful my soul has the opportunity to be refined and purified under the stress of loss.

The knowing look in the teary eyes of God told me that He understood my sorrow. He lost His only Son to crucifixion. It must have been torture for Him to not intervene. I wondered . . . was it torture, also, for God to not intervene to save the life of my son?

It is most difficult for us to comprehend that our children are allowed to die. I don’t have the infinite mind of God, but this much I understand: He did not intervene to save His own Son because Jesus was on a life-and-death mission to save Planet Earth. If God had stepped in and prevented His Son’s sacrifice that would have changed the trajectory of humanity. There would be no hope of a Grand Reunion with our children someday.

I am so relieved I have reason to hope that I will see my beloved son again. While I wait in expectation, I cling to this truth: God knows my pain for He has experienced worse. For now, this must be enough. After all, I will have all of eternity to get my questions answered. With my firstborn sitting right beside me and surrounded by my family, we will listen as God fills in the missing details of Greg’s story. He will fill in the details of your story, too. Can you picture it?

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

Verse selected from New International Version (NIV)

This entry was posted on August 3, 2019. 4 Comments

My Heart Must Go On

~ I can no more stop loving my child who lives than I can stop loving my child who died ~

Dare I return to the beginning of sorrows? Yes, I dare to return to my story, but in a different way ~ through my heart. My heart was no more than a beating, necessary-for-life organ until my son’s heart stopped beating. Over the years I have thought more deeply, even spiritually, about this vital organ and I will share some of my thoughts with you for your consideration and response if you like.

Now at year thirteen, I have had a longer period of time (more than most) to reflect on the loss of my firstborn to suicide. He was such a tiny human at birth. He came early and was born breech, weighing a smidge under 6 lbs. I thought he was huge to birth as I stubbornly stuck to my original plan to do a natural birth. Not sure I’d do that today, but I did it then.

He was tiny and perfect. I fell in love with every inch of him. Ten fingers, ten toes, with wrinkly skin all over, I thought he was the most beautiful baby ever. My heart swelled to bursting with love for this little one.

My firstborn was a toddler when his brother was born. The two of them were close, like two peas in a pod, and did everything together. They fought hard and they played hard. I didn’t appreciate the fighting, but I loved watching them at play, their heads touching while they were engrossed in something.

My boys remained close as they grew up, choosing their own friends and particular interests, but I soon noted changes that were troubling in my firstborn. I did my best to be there for him, encouraging him to talk since he was more quiet and introverted than his brother. My firstborn lived for 30 years. He died two weeks before his 31st birthday and within hours after I had a cheerful conversation with him. He was found the next day in his apartment. The Police said he died by suicide.

I will tell you that the pain of loss is in equal measure to the unconditional love a mother has toward her child. That love does not end with the child’s last breath. That love is permanent and non-negotiable. It is fixed for life. I will feel this deep, ferocious love for both of my children until I draw my last breath. I can no more stop loving my child who lives than I can stop loving my child who died. This love after death stays the same depth, therefore I cannot forget my child. Do not worry that you will forget your child (or other loved one). The details of their being are etched in the lining of your heart.

Thinking about my love that won’t let my child go makes me more aware of my heart which has been designed by the Master Designer. He created deep pockets in a mother’s heart to hold both memories of laughter and tears. He designed a mother’s heart to be neither fickle nor temperamental. A mother loves unconditionally. She is unable to love otherwise, this child she bore or adopted. This love is complete. It needs no adjustments and transcends Planet Earth.

Perhaps this delicate design with depth and character is why I could never forget my child. It’s impossible. I think God says so. In fact, He compares my forgetting to His. He points out the obvious so that I begin to grasp just how very much He loves:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15

God loves all of His children. Each one is His creation with His loving stamp of approval. I picture Him sitting back on His heels after designing each one of my boys. With a smile tugging at the corners of His mouth He says. “There you are. Now you are perfect and ready to be delivered to your mom. She’s gonna love you with the heart I gave her. Never forget that no matter how much she loves you, I still love you more.”

So what is a mom to do with a heart that won’t forget and always grieves? I cannot speak for you, but I can answer in my frailty as a mom. My heart must go on. I must go on loving those God has entrusted me to love and live my best life with hope. Hope walks beside me in my grief since I believe that it’s just a matter of time before I will be reunited with my firstborn again. We will hug each other not wanting to let go. We will be all smiles as we face life together in the beauty of heaven where there is only joy forevermore.

Verse courtesy of New International Version (NIV)

 

 

This entry was posted on July 5, 2019. 4 Comments

Think Before You Leap

 ~ Moments matter and can save your life ~

Please share this with someone you are worried about:

All moments matter. Even the moment you find yourself standing at the edge of a precipice, trying to get the courage to jump. If you are on the brink of making a life or death decision, please pause right where you stand. Better yet, take a few steps back and sit down by me. Let’s chat before you decide to leap. At the very least, pause to read this post before you do anything rash. It might remind you that your life is worth saving.

You hurt horribly this minute, right? Maybe you’ve hurt bad for a long time and you just want relief. I get it. Pain in the heart and mind really hurt. They can even cause you to block everything and everyone else out, but before you do may I suggest that this moment is not all about you? “Of course, it’s all about me,” you reply. “How could it not be?” Please listen while I explain. I know a thing or two about suicide since I was forced to bury my firstborn child who was about your age.

It’s not just about you. It’s about those who birthed you, raised you, and love you unconditionally. We are all in this life together; when one hurts we all hurt. If you tell someone how much you hurt and seriously seek a listening ear from someone you trust, it might just make the difference between life and death.

If you walk off that edge into nothingness, your death will be swift. Final. There can be no do-over. And just because you are gone does not mean you are forgotten. Those who love you will be broken forever. They will mourn your death for as long as they live, maybe even want to join you. Did you know they loved you that much? They do and their love for you runs deep, painfully deep if you go through with this. Are you sure you want to leave such a pain-filled legacy behind?

Obviously, you are thinking about jumping to your death. Around the world, there are countless others just like you pondering whether life is worth living. They may be choosing to use a firearm or rope or pills. There are many ways to kill oneself, but no way is worth losing your life over. No matter the method you choose those who find you will never be able to get that final scene out of their minds. It will be there when they close their eyes to sleep. It will be there when they wake up. They will forever see you in a way that they never ever expected. Should you happen to think that you will make a statement by your death. Statement to whom? What is it that you think you can say by your death that you can’t say to get help to live?

Let me tell you what it’s like to mourn a child. I lost my firstborn to suicide 13 years ago. He was a funny, bright, loving, caring young man. He had so much life to live with the degrees he had earned and the golfing he loved. He had people yet to meet and likely one of them would stand by him and love him for the rest of their lives together, but he didn’t think so. A break up broke him, and he made that final decision to end his pain.

Let me tell you that hearing such horrific news sent my life into a tailspin. The loss of my son ended my life as I knew it, and I wanted to join him. How could I go on? Losing my firstborn changed everything. I will never be the same even with others in my life who love me. I will always be thinking of him and aching to have him back in my life.

Here is what it would be like for your family if you choose to die. After the shock of your death wears off reality sets in. Your mom, dad, and siblings will wake up every morning and it hits them anew: you are really gone! You will never walk through the front door again. They will never give you a hug, hear your voice, or enjoy your contagious laugh. They will never get to look into your eyes and see you smile back at them. Losing a child devastates those who love you. Does the pain you feel right now really outweigh the pain your death will leave with your family forever? Please think about that long and hard.

You may be wondering why your world seems to have turned against you. Or why you only see pain ahead and not joy. Or why your life feels like a black tunnel with no light at the end. Perhaps you suffer from depression. Depression can make you feel that way. You may be too embarrassed to ask for help, but please leave the precipice behind you and go seek help. Why not delay this decision a bit longer? What’s the rush?

Believe it or not, there is a science behind suicidal thoughts. If someone has an illness in the brain, the wiring system no longer functions as it’s supposed to. Synaps don’t fire precisely, leading to troubled thoughts in the frontal lobe. Stuff that normally doesn’t make sense, like suicide, suddenly does. If that has happened to you, know that your brain is not functioning correctly, so get help. Suicide should never be the only option.

Moments matter and can save your life. You may not agree right now, but life is worth living. Come walk with me back into life. We will do this together because your life is worth everything. Tomorrow is another day . . . with new opportunities. A new day with a clean slate . . . where you can begin again.

Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love. Psalm 109:26 

Verse shared from New International Version (NIV)

~ Life is precious so choose life ~

 

This entry was posted on June 14, 2019. 4 Comments

Scratch ‘n Sniff

~ Dad, today is your day ~

I have a story to share about my hubby, and yes, it’s at his expense. Father’s Day is the perfect time to tell it, right? Some years back it was nearing Father’s Day and the fliers in our mailbox were full of ideas for possible gifts for Dad. I had been thinking about getting the father of my children some new cologne when I opened a flier splashed with pictures of seductive scents in the centerfold. My teasing streak kicked in. You might as well know that I’ve had one since childhood. It got me into trouble back then. Was it going to get me into trouble now?

Hubby was looking at the mail when I plopped down beside him with the flier in hand. I opened it to the pages of sexy colognes with, “Hey Honey, I’m thinking about buying you a new cologne for Father’s Day. I’d like to know your preferences. Would you “scratch ‘n sniff” these pictures to see which fragrance you prefer?” Now we both know that won’t work, but apparently, he didn’t.

I fully expected Hubby to give me “the look” and resume his reading. Instead, he appeared interested as he took the flyer from me. I was stunned at what he did next. He bent over, scratched the picture of a bottle, then sniffed. I was ready to crack up. I didn’t want to give my face away so I moved to the computer and pretended to be deeply engrossed in something on the screen while watching Hubby out of the corner of one eye. He scratched ‘n sniffed picture after picture, then went back to previous pictures, sniffing again as if making comparisons. What was he smelling anyway? I couldn’t believe I was pulling this prank off as bubbles of laughter threatened to spill. Could I hold it together just a wee bit longer?

Finished with his testing Hubby sat up straight and with a serious look on his face said, “I think I like this one best.” I busted out laughing. “What’s so funny?” Hubby asked. You can imagine how that conversation went, and I will leave it to your imagination.

Yes, this was a silly prank and Hubby bit hook, line, and sinker. Laughter is good for the soul, is it not? Is laughter good for the sad soul as well? Laughter is not easy to come by nor appreciated after we lose someone precious. I realize that most of my audience is made up of Moms since we “get” that we are in this grief together, but Father’s hurt, too. We may not understand their grief, which we view as far different from our own, but grieve they do.

A Dad who loses a child loses a best friend. My Hubby lost his golfing buddy. He lost the one who paddled a canoe with him mile after mile from lake to lake when they went on summer camping trips. No matter the good memories made, Dads suffer, too. They may appear stoic, but hopefully, they find a way to let the pain out.

Thousands of us grieve openly on social media. It’s a place we feel welcomed and comforted by others who get how we feel. There are many more Moms than Dads who make comments. I wish there were more Dads. They would feel less alone, don’t you think? I want to acknowledge that there are Stepdads among us, too. These men don’t have an easy assignment. They see their other half torn up by grief, one they may be at a loss to understand. The child gone is hers, not theirs. They may act indifferent or even say “get over it” types of comments. Neither response is helpful. How much harder it must be for moms to grieve in such an environment and my heart goes out to them. There is no easy solution and I won’t try to offer one. Each grief situation is unique, but when we come here we feel less alone. That in itself could be helpful if Dads and Stepdads understood.

Laughter may not be your thing and you may have no interest in even smiling right now, but I encourage you to make room in your thoughts for the future possibility. You can never dishonor your child (or other loved one) by laughter any more than you can by your tears. Emotions just are. We didn’t design them. We just experience them.

It was soon after my son died by suicide. Friends were driving us to places to make decisions that no parent ever wants to make. Hubby and I were in the backseat and someone in the front seat said something clever, probably trying to lighten the mood (people around us think they need to do that). Without thinking, I laughed out loud. Immediately, someone responded, “Now that’s the Anita we want to hear.” Instantly, I froze and choked back the urge to vomit. Had I been inappropriate? It felt so wrong to laugh at such a moment.

Others around us are quick to want us back the way we were before death descended. They want to see the sparkle return to our eyes. Hear us laugh. Maybe they are uncomfortable with our sorrow, but it’s not about them. It will never be about them. It will only be about them if they, too, should suffer the loss of a child. Meanwhile, I would like to tell them all to do some simple things like ~ show up ~ shut up ~ listen up ~ offer hugs. Share of your bounty since we will not think about food. Really, just be there.

Maybe one day you’ll laugh and it will feel like a breath of fresh air to your soul. Laughter is healing and we all need healing on this lifelong journey. Perhaps along with me, you will one day hope in this promise:

He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21

Verse from New Living Translation (NLT)

 

 

This entry was posted on June 7, 2019. 2 Comments