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)

 

 

 

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

My Hiding Place

Catnap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse shared from The Message (MSG)

 

Eyes Only for You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses shared from New International Version (NIV)

 

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

Faces of Grief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse shared from The Voice (VOICE)

 

 

This entry was posted on March 31, 2018. 6 Comments

Pierced Your soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I Am Depression – 2

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

DSC_03511-Sun and shadow figure

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

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

Part Two

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

~Depression is war against the mind~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture from The Voice (VOICE)                          

 

 

 

I Am Depression

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

DSC_03511-Sun and shadow figure

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

I finally came to the conclusion that depression greatly influenced my son’s suicide. Working through all the guilt, and growing in the process, I feel I would be remiss if I did not share my personal thoughts of what I have come to understand. In doing so, it is my purpose to nudge this silent killer out into the open and shine light where there has been mostly darkness.

Parts One and Two of this opinion piece probe depression from a different angle, one that is outside the diagnosis of clinical depression. It is intended to help broaden our view of this invisible disease. Let me say up front: clinical depression has diagnosable components requiring medical attention like any other disease. It is not my intention to imply otherwise.

My description of depression is neither clinical nor scientific, but an endeavor to see it from a spiritual viewpoint. We are, after all, spiritual beings. It is doubtful that you have read anything that connects depression to spiritual thought, but anything to do with the mind is spiritually related. It is the seat of reason; the one place where we are influenced for either good or evil. Think about it: where else can decision-making processes be influenced but in the mind? If it were possible to quantify, I wonder how many decisions made by folks suffering from depression could be traced to a negative, invisible force?

Much to my regret, my son undoubtedly inherited a weakness for depression from me. Trying to connect the dots after his death led me to suspect that depression dogged his steps ~ like a “hired gun” hounds his prey ~ most of his young life, leading him to finally give in to the weight of his problems and end his pain. 

Let’s set the stage with a bit of world history. Sin entered our pristine planet when Eve was blindsided by the first lie ever uttered. It came from the mouth of a dazzling, camouflaged serpent curled up in a lush fruit tree. As predicted, decay and death soon followed. Conflict appeared, whereas before, all creation hummed in harmony. Thus, a “spiritual war” between good and evil commenced here on Planet Earth.

Our first parents had barely begun to live their story before their firstborn son became so angry with his younger brother that he murdered him. Sad to say, this same evil continues to this day. If one listens to news reports, how can there be any doubt that we are rapidly becoming a lawless society?

The devil was a murderer from the beginning. He has never been truthful. He doesn’t know what the truth is. Whenever he tells a lie, he’s doing what comes naturally to him. He’s a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44b  

Ever since you and I took our first breathes in this world, we have been influenced by both good and evil. (If you doubt this is true, do you remember when your good-natured, bubble-blowing baby turned into a tantrum-throwing toddler?) Now that I have your attention, let’s ponder the dark side of our existence for a moment. Using our imaginations, let’s pretend that we can see into a realm which is closed to our eyes. In this piece, Depression has been given characteristics and a voice to appear more real, almost human, thus sharpening our instincts.

Part One

Depression speaks to me: “Hi there. Have we met? Ah, yes. I remember you. Pardon my momentary memory lapse. I oversee the care of so many clients that I sometimes forget names, but I remember watching you grow up. If memory serves, ‘fun-loving’ best described your personality back then, am I right? I tread silently, secretly, leaving no evidence that humans can detect, so you couldn’t see me, but I was there . . . watching you. Like a cat patiently watches a mouse hole, I was waiting for an opportunity to cast a pall over your life and change your personality from fun-loving to dull and drab. How does change like that come about? It’s mind control, pure and simple. Let me explain.

“I’ll begin by sharing our plan for mind control. Beginning at birth, my plan for all babies is the same. My staff and I keep our eyes on them, watching their personalities take shape. We carefully note the nuances of facial expression and body language which we can influence as they grow. Like warming and shaping clay, we have more influence over children while they are young and pliable, like tender shoots. This gives us greater control over their minds. In addition to their age, we zero in on children we perceive to be weak, sickly, or introverted. They make our job easier.

“The success of our mission during the formative years is virtually guaranteed if we get parents involved. If we can coerce them to reprimand their children constantly with negative phrases such as, you’re nuthin’ and you’ll amount to nuthin’, these words will transfer to autopilot and likely repeat in their heads for the rest of their lives, unless they wise up and realize that they are being manipulated (like you did later in life).

“Now back to your life. I, personally, took you as my client. While you were busy growing up, attending school and making friends, I kept you worried whether or not your friends could tell that you suffered from me. Later on, it didn’t matter whether you were seeking employment or searching for that special someone to marry, I was always right there in your head, whispering suggestions to keep you off-balance, bewildered, and insecure. Naturally you wondered if everyone else felt the same way in their heads, (but you wouldn’t dare ask them). You worried that something was wrong with you. You were experiencing what we call ‘predictable outcomes.’ Time tested methods over thousands of years has always yielded depressed minds. Yes, we agree with the experts. It is all in the mind.

“My goal for you was simple. Destroy your self-esteem. I worked hard to ensure that you felt insecure, unloved, and even invisible early in your marriage. I wanted you to feel too ashamed to tell anyone how I made you feel, unless, of course, you were willing to pay for a shrink’s advice. I made sure you would never admit to anyone that you were depressed. Your life was perfect as far as others could see. Who’d believe you if you tried to admit otherwise? You figured out that trying to tell someone your secret left you feeling even more ashamed and depressed . . . a vicious cycle of entrapment. My plan was working beautifully!

“By the time you had become a mother I had become a permanent fixture in your head. Factor in chronic pain from this and that, and you were so enslaved to exhaustion that I now had the perfect setup to push you down, way down into the dark well of depression. Mission accomplished! You had not the slightest inkling that I was enmeshed in your life. I love it when nobody suspects me!”

“At times, I feel overwhelmed and my depression leads me into darkness.” Dorothy Hamill

Scripture from God’s Word Translation (GW)

Next blog concludes this 2-part series 

 

 

Exposure

This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18

 

Often the winter holidays bring to mind memories of Christmases past. It has been long enough since my son died that sweeter memories have percolated to the surface of my thoughts. It’s hard the first months, maybe even years, to think of anything positive, so don’t feel discouraged if this is where you are. It won’t always be so.

As I recall this story I am about to share with you, my son had grown to the age where he thought he was old enough to make his own decisions without parental input. Having no prior experience at parenting, and he being my first child, I probably let out the “leash” a little too slowly for his liking. This led him to become my teacher at times and say in exasperation, “Mom, I can do it by myself!” This is a precious memory born out of one of those experiences.

Christmas was just around the corner, and like many churches the world over, our little church was decked out in finery. The Christmas tree lights twinkled, and the poinsettia plants, lining the platform, added velvety-red beauty to the usual greenery.

All the decorating was a reminder that soon a manger display would take its place front and center. Now it was time to put the finishing touches on the annual Christmas program. The Children’s Divisions were humming with activity, as teachers assigned music and readings to kids of all ages. My firstborn was chosen to read a verse from the book of Matthew which would signal the beginning of the much-anticipated event.

I asked my son if he needed any help learning the passage, just in case there was a challenging word or two he did not know how to pronounce. He said, “No, Mom. I can do it by myself.” Of course he could. What was I thinking? I should have checked the version from which he read, just in case. I forgot that his little Bible was the King James version with its “old” English style. My precious little boy stood up on stage and recited the passage from Matthew this way:

“. . . When as his mother Mary was exposed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child . . .”

Bless his sweet heart. Of course the word “espoused” could trip anybody up. He was truthful; Mary had been exposed.

My son, growing independent far too fast for my liking, had no idea why his reading evoked chuckles from across the congregation. We parents stifled our mirth, realizing that our son could be embarrassed by his faux pas. I don’t think he caught his mispronunciation, and I never brought it to his attention; innocence is so tender in young children. Years later this story would become a cherished memory added to the few I have left of him now.

Sadly, my firstborn grew up insecure and lonely. In his quiet nature, he could not easily open up and speak of his pain. Looking back now, I see more clearly what I could not see then. No doubt he suffered with depression and all the struggles that go with this silent disease. My firstborn got to the place where he could no longer handle his problems. He just wanted the pain to stop. He wanted peace, not pain, and he got it when he ended his life.

Who but God knew that my son would grow up lonely. Who but God knew that he craved a special relationship with someone, and he felt it would elude him forever. Who but God knew that all he wanted was a wife and family.

I sometimes pause to read a parent’s description of the child she or he lost to suicide. The child is always pictured as gentle, helpful, the kind of person who would gladly give the shirt off his back if someone needed it. It is the vast contrast between their sweet characters and their final, harsh action that make their deaths so hard to comprehend and nearly impossible to accept.

What gives me comfort, even during the holiday season, is to remind myself that my son came into this world designed just the way his Creator intended: sweet-natured, tender-hearted, lovable ~ no doubt just like your child. God knew my child before he was ever born. He knew the number of hairs on his head. He had engraved the name we chose on the palm of his hand. God also knew how many days my son would live. Nevertheless, this child was too special not to make us a family, even though our hearts would one day break under the strain of pain and loss.

I once heard someone say something like this, and it stuck with me: where we put a period, God puts a comma. Or to quote T.D, Jakes, “It’s not over, until the Lord says it’s over.”  God has put a comma after my son’s name. He cannot forget my child any more than he can forget yours. Someday soon the God of heaven will reunite children with parents. This time for all eternity!

Verse selected from Good News Translation (GNT)

 

 

This entry was posted on December 1, 2017. 4 Comments

Glory on Tour

God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Psalm 19:1

What’s not to love about this picture? The colors, under a canopy of thick clouds, are brilliant hues of red, yellow, orange and green. I don’t have the luxury of living in Alaska where I can savor views like this, but we are seeing fall colors emerge here, too. We don’t have tundra, but the maples, oaks, and birches are strutting their beauty like papa peacocks. Occasional winds and rain bring leaves fluttering to the ground in whirlwinds, constantly shifting their positions in a game of tag. All too soon we are raking and blowing the leaves into fluffy piles like the white stuff soon to follow.

A few years back I was walking outside and talking to God, while getting some exercise. The air was cool. The bright fall colors were made more vivid by the sun’s reflection. Gorgeous. Just in that moment of peace, a thud hit my stomach. My son was not able to see this beautiful day. He was sleeping under a blanket of soft green a few miles away. “Not fair,” I wailed at heaven above the blue sky. No, not the least bit fair. And your loss is not fair either. We would change our circumstances in a heartbeat, but it is beyond our control.

My loss was the result of suicide. What was the cause of yours? Cancer? Street drugs? Vehicular homicide? Old age? Or from suicide just like mine. Tough coping isn’t it? If the death of your loved one was recent, the pain is horrendously harsh, and I am so sorry. The force with which reality hits us pushes our backs to the wall, defying comprehension.

I chose to bury myself for weeks, months, after the death of my son. I didn’t have a job to go to like my husband did. He said it gave him some relief to be forced to concentrate on other things. I was slowly being smothered by four walls which felt like they were closing in for the kill. Silence was brutal, broken only by the occasional ring of the telephone. I couldn’t care less. I had no place to go. No hole to dig where I could bury the pain. It was mine to keep forever. I did not want it, but I did not want to give it up entirely either. The pain of losing one of my children was more than I wanted to bear, but I had no choice. He was my flesh and blood. I loved him from the moment I realized he was growing inside my tummy. I could not stop loving him in death. I know I will love him as long as I draw breath.

Sad, emotional picture, I know. Over time I have been able to release lots of the pain washed in tears and words. As God guided me to journal my thoughts in what became a book, “Shattered by Suicide,” I felt the pain shift, suffocating me less and less. Eventually it became obvious to my foggy brain that the Healer was guiding my every move. He was in this mess with me. What a defining moment! God was in this with me, and he will never leave me, says Deuteronomy 31:6. Our Creator God (Job 35:10), the same One who created the breathtaking scenery in the picture above, was not going anywhere. He was, and is, still holding my hand as we walk side by side. Sometimes we chat. Sometimes we walk along in silence absorbed in the beauty that he smiles upon us every day. Take a look around. And then . . .

Take a moment to thank God. I just did.

 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! Ephesians 2:7-8

Verses shared from The Message (MSG)

Double Blessings

Twin kids

. . . she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me’ . . . Luke 15:9b

It is unfathomable to me how new life could ever burst forth out of the ashes of sorrow, but thankfully it does. New life will soon burst forth in our family, and I am ecstatic! All I have to do is wait in expectant expectation until this sweet, new journey begins. I just had to share the good news with my readers . . . my kids are making me a grandma! And not just one baby, but two! My youngest son and his lovely wife will soon become parents to identical twin baby girls!

Those of you who are proud members of the “Grandparents Society” will let me “sign up,” won’t you? Surely this club allows members exclusive bragging rights. I don’t wish to bore you, but I would like to share the prefix to this exciting new journey, already a cherished memory. (Also, I’m open to any advice other grandparents have to share.)

Hubby and I had already been surprised with the announcement, “We’re pregnant!” Days later, after the ultrasound, the kids popped in. As my daughter-in-law (really just my “daughter”) stepped across the threshold, she put her phone up close so I could get a good look at the screen. Yes, it was obviously an ultrasound picture which, quite frankly, I have always struggled to see anything remotely human on those things. This time I saw it plainly: there were two tiny “dots” on the screen. Dumbfounded, I looked up and met her blue eyes, opened wide in amazement. “T-w-i-n-s?? I asked.

“Yes! We are having TWO babies!” she squealed.

Chatting like magpies, both my son and new mommy blew passed me into the kitchen. First my daughter said breathlessly, “I don’t know how this happened. *We don’t have twins in our family.”

I responded, “My grandma had twins.”

Suddenly my son was all ears, his normal deep voice cracking in tenor. “She did? Why didn’t I know that!?”

I responded, “Probably because it wasn’t important before.”

“Well, it’s important now! I want to know everything!” he exclaimed between bites of a sandwich they bought on the way over.

It seems that when the kids saw the ultrasound screen, and the attendant pointed out Baby A and Baby B, my son’s reaction was quick. “I think I’m going to faint.” Someone rolled a chair up behind his knees, and he plopped down heavily. “Whew!” he exclaimed. “This is a lot to take in!”

My daughter seemed to be thinking out loud. We’ll need two of everything: two car seats, two strollers, two high chairs . . . and from long distance her dad interjected . . . and two college tuitions! Thanks for the reminder, Dad. Whew! It is a lot to take in!

It’s been a few weeks, and both families have had a chance to digest the news. It won’t be long now before parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles will excitedly welcome two little bundles of joy into the world.

As I share the beginning of our wonderful journey with you, dear reader, I am aware that some of you have likely lost babies either before or after they were born and before you got the chance to get to know them. As you read this piece, your heart may be acutely reminded of your loss, and I am so sorry if that is your story. No matter the age of the children we have buried there will always be painful reminders.

My blog is mostly about the grief journey and rightly so. Together, we explore the many facets of grief that we face each and every day in this circle of life. We celebrate all the milestones: births, weddings, graduations, birthdays, and the like. When the circle of life ends in death, our hearts break, and we mourn our losses.

Here’s the good news! This amazing circle of life, with its exciting new beginning for our family, comes in to nestle alongside the memories of a precious child lost. This co-mingling of life and death, which circles from birth to death and back around to birth again, will come to an end before eternity begins. We could be disoriented by the newness of heaven, but I doubt for long. Never again will one flower wilt, one leaf wither, or one person die. And therein lies our hope.

See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years.           Isaiah 65:17, 19-20a 

PS – As can happen with multiple births, our babies came early before this piece was posted. We are blessed that they are both healthy.

Scripture shared from the New International Version (NIV)

 

 

 

This entry was posted on October 13, 2017. 2 Comments