Herbie, the Reluctant Passenger

~ Laughter gives balance to a heavy heart ~

Some of you may remember the movie “The Love Bug” which made its debut in 1968. This comedy and other movies that followed was created for the character, Herbie, a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own.

I’m sure my boys enjoyed watching Herbie’s antics on the television screen on more than one occasion. Perhaps that’s where pet “Herbie” got his name. Herbie was my younger son’s hamster. Each boy had one, but “Bear,” who belonged to my firstborn son, was not the playful type, being a very serious hamster. Herbie, on the other hand, took the boys’ handling in stride . . . or at least pretended to.

I looked out for the pets, making sure the boys kept them locked in their cages when they weren’t playing with them. I didn’t fancy hunting for a missing rodent ~ especially since I had an identity issue with the hamster’s “glorified mouse” likeness . . . and I hate mice! Brrrr. It makes me shiver to just think about them.

We were replacing our old linoleum at the time this story took place. The new flooring was laid down, and the boys, always eager to make houses out of stacked boxes, readily found a use for the large tube left behind. I thought nothing of it when I saw that they had repurposed the tubing as a tunnel, rolling their toy trucks down the ramp with their little toy people riding inside.

Apparently, the boys got bored playing with toy people, which led to more creative considerations. I can just imagine one boy saying, “Let’s bring Herbie out to play tunnel with us,” and the other responding, “Yeah, that’s a great idea!”

Poor Herbie. I’m sure this new game went way beyond his tolerance of children at play, especially when he found himself the star of the show. The next time I passed by the tunnel, I did a double take. Herbie was taking the “joy” ride of his life. He was perched in a toy truck, and the boys were sending him down the tunnel at “breakneck” speed. When the truck hit the floor the sudden stop sent Herbie tumbling over the top. The boys hee-hawed. Thankfully Herbie was not hurt. Needless to say, mom stepped in and put a stop to Herbie’s truck rides. To sum up this escapade, Herbie’s idea of play and friendship was undoubtedly different from my boys being boys.

No doubt your children had pets, too. Can you recall some of those memories? It helped me considerably when I could finally recall pleasant memories of my children at play. The burden placed on our hearts when we bury a child is heavy and hard to bear. I think that laughter helps to give life balance.

I could say that this little story sort of reminds me of . . . well, me. You might say I was a reluctant passenger, too. After my firstborn son died, we were taken to places to make decisions no parent should ever have to make. We had to sign documents no parent should ever have to sign. We had to give permission for others to lower our son into the earth whether we liked it or not, for that was the decision we made.

You might say we became “owners” of a parcel of land in the cemetery after we decided it was to be our son’s resting place. We had lived near this cemetery for years. We drove by it often and nary gave it a thought, but no more. Now that my son is buried there I strain my eyes toward the spot he occupies as I drive by . . . if I don’t pull in. My eyes fill with tears. This cemetery has become a precious place.

You may be in the throes of deep grief right now as you read these words. You may feel totally abandoned by those who you are tethered to by blood. Perhaps a close friend you had always relied upon slowly faded from view after your loss. I know what that feels like, for it happened to me. Who knew that cyber friendships could be born out of loss and fill in some of the empty places?

Don’t lose heart. We are in good company right here on social media, because we share with people who “get it” as we trudge the trails of our grief journeys together. We are in it for the long haul, are we not? As a blogger, I have crossed paths with many of you on grief sites. I am privileged to call you my friends even though we may never meet. Mysteriously and wondrously you fill the vacancies created by those who have faded away.

There are examples of friendship in God’s Word. Jesus and His Father were friends. Jesus came to earth to share that wonderful friendship with His disciples who shared it far and wide:

The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends. You are my friends if you obey my commandments. I don’t call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. But I’ve called you friends because I’ve made known to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father. John 15:13-15

Verses from GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

 

 

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Rear View


My eyes have seen . . . Job 13:1a 

Suicide cut a wide swath through the underpinnings of my life. I no longer knew the direction I was headed or what I would do when I got there. Surrounded by fog, strain as I might, I could not see what lay ahead. It was as if I was expected to navigate through the mist wearing coke-bottle lenses smeared with grease.

As the fog began to dissipate I could get my bearings a bit. Now I worried about my other child. Would he be safe? He lived so far away. What would life be like for him without his “other half?” You could have told me not to worry, but I would have worried anyway. I was so afraid that I would lose him, too.

Those of us who lose a beloved someone, especially a precious child, have no idea how to move forward. It feels like our gears are stuck in neutral. The motor is ready and willing to take us somewhere, but we have no idea where to go. So we stay stuck, even hiding at home like I did.

It is easy to say to others “don’t do as I did,” but when one plunges suddenly into the icy waves of grief, rules go out the window. The body automatically goes into survival mode which is why I think we are so foggy in the beginning. Personally, I think that if my mind and heart had remained connected during the initial period of shock I don’t think I would have survived the loss of my firstborn to suicide. The added clarity, alone, would have killed me.

Who can describe what the pain of such loss feels like? I have made the effort to do so for a few years now by blogging on grief sites, but have I made a dent? There are still phrases swirling around in my head that won’t slow down long enough for me to know what they say. I think my heart knows, but my heart hasn’t been able to adequately tell my brain. Those of us living the trauma of sudden loss find ourselves at a loss for words, do we not?

May you find encouragement from my take on the rear view of survivorship. I can say it succinctly in one sentence. For me only in looking back do I have 20/20 vision. I do not suggest that I can look back at the puzzle representing my firstborn’s life and see it complete with all its pieces in place. No, there are still pieces missing; there are blank spaces at the end of his story. I will never know the answer to the most important question, “Why?”

On social media grief sites, names of new members appear every day. For the many newbies, my heart bleeds with yours. Others may have been on their journeys for months, even years, but still, don’t you sometimes feel like you got the awful news yesterday? Me, too. There are days when I can put myself back at the beginning to be enveloped by the sudden swoop of unimaginable pain. Again, I am so sorry for all of our losses. No matter the ages of our children we expect them to continue their lives long after we are gone. Not the other way around.

Dear Reader, after you have searched for answers and stumbled through the maze of blame and guilt, may time on your grief journey bring you to a place of hope and peace. Perhaps you will be able to look in the rearview mirror and get a sense of how far you’ve come. May your new normal become a place where memories of days gone live peacefully alongside painful ones. All memories are worth keeping because they are all we have left of our precious children.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 

Verses shared from New International Version (NIV)

This entry was posted on February 1, 2019. 14 Comments

Sadness Transferred

~ A mother is only as happy as her saddest child ~

In the movie, Loving Leah, a story about love and loss in a Jewish family, the mother said to the daughter, “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child,” a line I thought was quite profound. As I listened to the exchange between the mother and her recently widowed daughter, the phrase instantly made sense to me. Even though their circumstances were different from mine they fit within my personal story of loss. Immediately it drew me back to a time of horrific tragedy and deep sorrow.

“A mother is only as happy as her saddest child” was my personal truth when my firstborn was alive. His sadness was my sadness; his worries, my worries. He was always on my mind as I pondered ways I might lend a helping hand. I admit that I worried about him a lot, that is, up until he ended his pain. His sadness is now all mine. My sad story began where his sad story ended.

My firstborn died a number of years ago. Having lots of time to process missing him and reflecting on what may have led him to take his life, I believe that he was, in part, filled with deep sadness for what he thought his life should have been. Lost loves likely led him to feel he would never have what he wanted most: a home to share with a loving wife and surrounded by children. Probably, like many in his age group, he longed to have a family of his own which he thought would never happen.

It puts my heart in emotional overload when I attempt to grasp the pain my son must have been in. The words of pain he did not share were symbolically transferred to my heart upon his death. At the beginning of my sorrow my brain was too foggy to have words, but a few years later I began to write. My writings became a healing balm for my heart.

When my firstborn tragically lost his life to suicide, the pain of inconceivable magnitude could find no way to escape, so it turned inward. It burned up any feelings of love I had in my heart and became the ashes of hatred. It burned against God because there was no one else to blame. All my pent-up guilt, bitterness, and rage became like cancer and ate into my soul.

I had no job to occupy the daylight hours like everyone I knew, so I had no one to confide in during those long, slow days. Because I blamed God, I didn’t feel like talking to Him. I had nowhere to turn. My mind raced with such questions as, why did my boy have to die? Why is my mind muddled and confused now when it was crystal clear before I lost my son? How could a split-second decision change me forever? Will love ever return? I couldn’t love. I didn’t deserve to love. My firstborn, who I loved more than life itself, had died on my watch. Didn’t that make me a poor excuse of a mother? I felt burned out. Hollow inside. There was nothing left. My son’s decision left my family in tatters. I lost my son, my God, and my capability to love those left behind in a millisecond. My life, as I knew it, had shattered into a billion bits.

Emotions ran high those first few days when family and friends gathered to give love and support. Some tried to muffle the emotional pain with anger. Others seemed to be looking around for the “murderer,” but could find no one who fit the description. In the absence of blame, conversations shifted away from my loss to other topics less sensitive and painful, but I was not ready to think about everyday-life stuff. I was neck-deep in the quicksand of grief and could barely focus on anything going on around me.

Tenderly we laid our precious son and brother in his final resting place with all the love and dignity we could muster. Some family attended while others sulked and refused, heaping even more pain on our family.

My firstborn will never again speak to me on this earth, but he no longer feels the pain he did while alive. He does not know of my mourning. He does not see me place fresh flowers on his grave and wipe away tears. He cannot read the words of hope engraved on his marker. His suffering on earth has ended. Peace, which eluded him in life, is his in death.

Just as I ache for my child I know you ache for yours, and I am so sorry for your suffering. I suspect I will mourn my loss until Jesus returns, but therein lies my hope! My hope is in Jesus Christ, Son of the living God! I rest in His promise of heaven where there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). It is a day I long for, hope for, live for.

Jesus said to her, I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on) Me, although he may die, yet he shall live. John 11:25 

Scripture shared from Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

 

 

This entry was posted on January 4, 2019. 4 Comments

Gift of Hope

 ~ Can a grieving heart gift another grieving heart? ~

I read a devotional recently in which the author pulled thoughts from Philippians 1:6. As I pondered the words I wondered can this verse, from so long ago, actually fit my grief walk today? Here is the verse and thoughts as to how I think it dovetails with my journey:

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Occasionally in my blog, I have mentioned that I “hold God’s feet to the fire” (meaning I hold Him to His promises) especially as I live in expectation of seeing my firstborn alive again. There are so many promises in God’s Word which give me confidence that we will be reunited once more with those we have been forced to bury. However, the text above implies a confidence not only in a future reunion but in everyday life. Like me, you might be wondering can God work through me? I’ve been shattered by loss, so how can I accomplish anything worthwhile?

In a devotional from which my ideas were launched, author Joni Eareckson Tada recalls taking steps in her mind to hold God’s feet to the fire after she lost the use of the lower half of her body in a diving accident. She probably went through much emotional trauma thinking her life was over, as far as usefulness, but she took hold of the promise in Philippians, and God is actively working through her in many ways.

I didn’t lose the use of my body, but I thought my mind and heart were forever useless after my firstborn died by suicide. Like many of you, I was so broken I could barely breathe. What good could I possibly be to myself or anyone else? I really didn’t care. Even after the numbness lifted, I still didn’t care. Loss of a child is so brutal that it takes everything from the once-normal person you knew yourself to be. It felt like the familiar me had been ripped out by the roots, leaving nothing from which to build a new me.

One way I can help both of us see if the text above applies to the here and now is for me to share my story. I have shared it with you before, but each time I share it I feel empowered to keep moving forward, expecting God to supply the words for the writing He has called me to do. I do it for His glory and my son’s honor. (Bear in mind that newbies to grief have no interest in moving forward . . . it was years before I could.)

Years after my son died I felt God was speaking to my heart. Don’t ask how I knew it was Him. I just knew that the thought was too preposterous to be my own. This is what I heard God whisper to my heart one day, “I want you to reach out to help others in similar sorrow.” I caught my breath. What was that?? The thought did not repeat. My immediate response out loud was you’ve got to be kidding, right? How in the world can a shattered heart help another shattered heart? No answer came, but a seed was planted.

I was already journaling my private thoughts to God. Earlier he had given me that suggestion. At first, I bulked, but once I gave in and began to purge my pain (for His eyes only) I started to feel a wee bit lighter. Over time, and many words later, I discovered that journaling was cathartic to my soul. I began to heal. Only God knew that writing would “unjam” the thoughts of pain that were all crowded together inside my mind and heart.

Long story short, journaling turned out to be not so private. God orchestrated them to be published in my first book, Shattered By Suicide. Later still, I began to blog on social media which led to cyber contacts with grievers suffering from suicide and other losses. As we connect, heart to heart, God reminds me that He reaches His long arm of love, through me and others, to bless and comfort those in sorrow. It is evident now that He “began a good work in me” in spite of my shattered heart. All He asks is that we be willing, and He will do the rest.

Dear Reader, are you confident as the text above suggests you can be? Impossible, right? I found out that I didn’t have to be confident to answer God’s call. I accepted it (albeit kicking and screaming) and He still supplies the power for all that is needed. He knew that journaling would help me live my sorrow in a better way. He knew that if I reached out to grasp the hand of another in sorrow, we would both be blessed, and blessing is healing.

Who knew that a grieving heart could “gift” hope to another grieving heart? I now know it’s possible. Now you know. The work God starts in you He supplies the power to carry it forward until we are, once again, united with our precious loved ones. Live with the gift of hope, my friend.

Verse shared from New International Version (NIV)

Joni Eareckson Tada’s website is Joni and Friends dot org

 

 

Jonah: Dip in the Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture shared from GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

 

 

 

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

Tiny Toes

~ In honor of the twins first year ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse shared from New International Version (NIV)

 

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

The Coming Cure

Hold on! A cure is coming!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses shared from New Living Translation (NLT)

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

He Ain’t Heavy

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

He Ain't heavy

Gone too soon ~ 1974 to 2005 ~ Forget you never 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture from New Living Translation (NLT)

The Anchor Holds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote by Sarah Dessen, “The Truth About Forever”

Quote by John Eldredge, Ransomed Heart Ministries

Scripture from New Living Translation (NLT)

 

 

 

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

My Hiding Place

Catnap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse shared from The Message (MSG)