Wednesday, February 25, 2015

One choice

Brian could never have imagined how many lives "this" has affected.  The trickle down fallout of this kind of tragic loss, and the mind-boggling mysteries and deep confusion, has hurt, disillusioned and literally destroyed so many.  Like ripples in a pond --they just keep radiating out touching more and more in all directions. 

No one thinks about how many people their one single life touches.  Or how one single act can keep on destroying lives for years to come.  The mental images that keep one up night after night; the depression that sucks all joy from another; the marriages that could not survive all the grief and sadness; the self-destructive behaviors of still another; the guilt; the anger; the blame; the falling away of the previously devout Christian; the faltering faith of others.  The ripple effect has touched so many, hurt so many, destroyed so many...

It is impossible to know how many.  Not one life or two lives or even the three lives affected that night...but hundreds of lives forever altered.

Could any of us imagine that one single decision we might make has the ability to alter hundreds of other people's lives?  Could we even guess that one simple choice, made in a weak moment could have such far-reaching, devastating effects on so many?  We would never be so bold or so arrogant as to believe we could affect another's eternal future and yet, that is what every single choice we ever make is capable of doing. 

Not just the choice to take a life but every single choice we make -- every word --every deed good or bad makes a difference in someone's life.  We either make the choice to help, to uplift, to edify, to improve, to comfort, to encourage or to love or we make the choice to hurt, to embarrass, to discourage, to disillusion or to depress someone. 

Very few, if any, choices we make have "no" effect on those whose lives we touch.  Even "paper or plastic" has far-reaching, long term effects on the planet which consequently hurts --everybody.

So before you light that cigarette; before you reach for that joint or that pill or that drug of choice, before you pick up that bottle, before you make that secret phone call, hit send on that text, before you post the next message on Facebook or cut someone off in traffic - think about what unalterable difference you may be making in someone else's life. 

Sometimes one simple decision, one seemingly innocent choice can: lead to a divorce that alters the rest of your child's life; lead to a drug overdose that you may not come back from; can cause someone else to feel so hopeless or despondent as to commit suicide; can cause a wreck that will kill someone's mother, husband or child; can ruin someone's reputation and leave them bitter and angry; can cause the loss of a job that supports a family; can cause someone to have their children permanently taken away; can cause someone to lose their faith. 

One choice.

One choice caused almost 3,000 people to lose their lives on September 11, 2001 leaving in the wake orphaned children, widowed wives and husbands, devastated families, neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers thousands of miles away were affected.

One choice cost up to 20 million Jews to live in the most horrific conditions and then lose their lives in the gas chambers during the holocaust.

And One choice caused the downfall of mankind to sin - causing suffering and sickness and death to come to the whole world until the end of time.

What will your next choice cause?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Six months later...

Today is six months since the horrific day that rocked our world.  The day that forever changed everything about who we were as a family; how we celebrate holidays; how I spend my weekends and how I now view the world.

There have been as I've noted before many changes since that tragic August day but much more than just the tangible physical changes such as my living arrangements, my best friends, my work arrangements etc.  The changes I refer to now are emotional and spiritual in nature.  Things like my tolerance, my fears, my views of security, my views on life and death, prayer, expectation, love and life goals.

My tolerance for certain things seems to have completely reversed.  The things I used to have a low tolerance for like waiting in a doctors office or sitting in traffic or having my dinner interrupted by sales calls - suddenly do not bother me hardly at all.  After seven months of sitting in the BMT clinic hours on end and having no control over anything regarding the course of my daily life - those no longer rattle me.  However, I find that I have almost no tolerance now for shallow, disloyal and self-centered people. Suddenly now I am quick to let go of people that I should have let go of long ago but just never could.  I think it comes down to finally realizing what I do and do not have control over.

My fears - in some things I have less fear and in others I now have more.  I have less fear about illness, disease or death.  They seem totally unimportant to me now.  But fears where my family are concerned are much stronger as I came to realize that the worst I could ever have imagined - has already happened so anything is possible.  In a little over six weeks I faced losing my sister and best friend as she was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia and then lost my youngest son, my daughter in law and the baby that I adored.  I realized cruelly that we are not exempt from the worst that the world has to offer and suddenly I no longer feel protected.  Prayers did not stop this and my false sense of security has been shattered.  So that fear is very real as I now know I live with no safety net.

Goals - I used to have life goals, hopes dreams and expectations for how our life would be.  My to do list now consists of just being able to get my shoes on the right feet today.

Prayer - I used to pray when I woke up; pray when I drove; pray before I went to sleep and sometimes in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep.  I kept a prayer journal --several as a matter of fact.  I didn't just pray at church on Sunday I literally prayed about everything.  I asked for God's guidance in everything.  I looked for His hand in every situation and I saw miracles in the everyday.  For someone that literally prayed about everything six months ago - I am now afraid to pray for or about anything.  And my everyday miracle now is that I am still waking up.

I think back about some of the last things I prayed for before all of this happened.  I prayed for a closer relationship with my daughter.  And we certainly have that now as we have been drawn closer together by the common bond of the tragic loss of three people we dearly loved.  We now share in the mystery, the pain and the horror of living through a triple death. 

I prayed I could be more patient and tolerant.  As I said that too was answered as I sat an average of six hours a day in a bone marrow transplant clinic with my sister and my best friend as she went through hell fighting for her life. 

I also prayed that Brian would be able to find some peace in his life...

And the last thing on my constant list that I prayed for before all this happened was for God to help me be a better person and give me a closer walk with God.  I have just read, in a book called Walking with God through Pain and Suffering --that tragedy and affliction brings a whole new level of closeness in one's relationship to God. 

I might suggest now that you be very careful what you pray for.

Friday, February 13, 2015

True human compassion, an equal opportunity emotion

Lately when I hear of a tragic event on the news such as the one that happened a few weeks back right here in the community where I live - where an older couple went missing after placing an ad on Craig's List to buy a classic car.  They were found murdered and their car in the bottom of a pond.  The husband, a Vietnam Veteran, active in his church and regularly serving his community.  They were loving parents and grandparents and both physically and financially supported a local homeless shelter. 

I, of course, like the rest of the TV- viewing public following that news story --was devastated at the horror of their tragic deaths.  I felt pity and sympathy and compassion for the couple's daughters and grandchildren and appalled and disgusted at the horror that the accused man could do such a thing to another human being and crushed by the loss of such pillars of the community.

However, I noticed something different in myself as of late, I am also now seeing another side of the story.  A side that leaves me also sympathetic to the families of the "accused".  Of course I am thinking of and praying for the victim's family as always but prior to our "now" sadly, I have to admit that I have never given much sympathy or compassion to the families of the accused.  Why not? 

I am ashamed to say that until I became one of them I really never gave them much thought.

I have done just like everyone else and shoved them under the rug of indignation and lumped them right into the same category as the accused or never thought of them at all.  But this time I as heard the accused man's father on TV say that "he had to have been set up, this was just not him.  He could never have done anything like this..."  I suddenly felt very sad for them and very ashamed at my previous lack of compassion.  I now knew what it was like to be in their shoes.  I remember saying very close to those same words about my child.  I recall the trauma and shock and debilitating disbelief at first and then later, the dark depression, personal devastation, shame and deep anguish of being treated as if we had no right to even love our family member.

Why was it so difficult for people to see that we too had lost a family member?  I recall wanting desperately to defend him and who he was at his core and who he had been for the previous 41 years.  I wanted to cry openly to friends, church members and co-workers telling them of my tragic loss but quickly realized they extended no sympathy to him and little to none for anyone connected to him.  They didn't want to hear what a great dad he was or how much we all loved him.  We either got looks of blatant disgust or they just quickly changed the subject or backed away from us the first opportunity they got and then avoided us like the plague.

At first I was oblivious to it but over the next few weeks, I came to realize they saw him only as a monster and they only saw us only as an extension of him.

I was a mother.  I had lost my youngest son, my daughter-in-law and my two year old grandchild. 

Under any circumstances that was a horrific tragedy and unfathomable loss.

For weeks I did not even made the connection that no one else even acknowledged that we too, were crushed by the loss of our son, brother, nephew and dad; that we were also victims of this horrific event; that my son was loved and missed by our entire family or that I was still his mother and devastated by the loss of my child.

We were treated differently by law enforcement.  We were treated with animosity and disrespect by the coroner in charge.  We were treated with anger and disgust by the various people in businesses that we had to deal with after their death whether attempting to take care of his business, get his bills paid or get his utilities turned off.

It was a side of this I wish I had never had cause to know but it is a side of it that has opened my eyes.  Though I am certain I would never have treated the accused's family with any animosity - I admit I would not have thought of them with  the same level of sympathy and or empathy that I would have the victim's family. So I have been just as guilty of the same judgmental insensitivity.

Never again. 

I now look at the accused's family with a whole new level of empathy.  And in some ways maybe because I now walk in their shoes, even more compassion simply because I know there are so many more levels of grief for them.  And because I now know that no one understands their loss or their love.  I now know the shame, stigma and the personal devastation they face along with that loss and yet and they have done nothing to deserve this either.   

It has been a soul-bearing; moment of truth; eye-opening lesson in love and human compassion. 

We've all said it but do we believe it?  "There, but for the grace of God - go I."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

More life lessons

I have had a difficult time again lately and could not make myself sit down and write.  Really unusual since this has been all that has stood between me and insanity.

The good news is that my sister is doing very well and moved back to her house on the five month anniversary of the kid’s death.  The bad news is that I have come to realize that the "grief-work" I thought I was doing turned out to be "grief-postponed" instead ---it has gotten a toe-hold and has come back with a vengeance.

I am better to some extent and my bad meltdown days are getting farther apart but still some days the darkness completely engulfs me until I don’t feel like I can breathe.  Some days the panic attacks still hit as it still ambushes me as if it is brand new and I am hearing it for the first time. 

Especially this past week because we are finally going to make the move in the direction of selling Brian and Kara’s house.  It has been hanging in limbo for five months.  Every time I would start - I would break down and just could not move forward with it.  The thoughts of losing one more part of them was just too much.

But the bills on it are still continuing and we can’t keep supporting an empty house. The homeowners insurance will run out soon and they will not renew it as it is still vacant.  And the longer it sits vacant the better the chances of vandals coming in and tearing it up.  So as if I didn’t have enough on my heart I now have to dispose of the home they loved. 

The house was bought right after the baby was born.  They brought him home from the hospital there.  It was there he learned to crawl and push a diaper box as he taught himself how to walk.  I can still see him running wild down the hall with a bucket on his head - covering his eyes!  He has ridden his little tractor up and down through the house and pushed a hot wheels car a million miles.  It was there he had his first baby crush on the little girl Alisa next door.  And he had two birthday parties there.  It was the only home he ever knew. 

The thoughts of selling the home that Brian and Kara put their heart and soul and every spare dime into --literally makes me want to throw up. 

Keeping it on the other hand considering that is also where they all died one horrible night –also makes me want to throw up.  There is no good answer and no easy out but the lesser of the two evils seems to be to sell it and get it off of us.  I have never been able to go back in it.  I have never even driven down the street or ever seen it again.  I just can’t.  And in light of that fact, selling it seems like the only option.  But it is heart-breaking to me just the same. 

I’m a hang-on forever kind of person.  I never get rid of anything.  And anytime I do, it is an emotional struggle.  Literally “everything” has sentimental value to me and for two cents I fear I could be a hoarder.  So this is hard on so many levels. 

But I feel another change coming on as I realize I no longer care about anything like I used to.  “Things” are just that –things.  And for the first time in my entire life I feel like I could get rid of every single thing in my house and not care. 

People are all that is important.  The people in your life are really absolutely all that count.  I’ve always known it but not to the magnitude that I do now.  I have always loved and cherished the people in my life but like many others I am blatantly guilty of chronic consumerism - striving and getting, buying and wanting more.  I’ve worked my life away --to buy “stuff”.  Stuff I now wish I could get rid of because it feels like it is weighing me down.  I worked my children’s childhood away and traded my grandchildren’s sweet baby days for a paycheck and a new car.  I was just doing what we all do to "get by" or so I thought at the time and then I looked up one day and they were grown.  I had a house full of useless stuff and my children were grown and gone. 

Paxton was my second chance; my opportunity to get my priorities in order and realize how precious the time was and I tried not to miss a minute.  He was my chance to know and acknowledge and enjoy what was really important in life. 

The day he poured out a $10 Costco sized canister of cinnamon I laughed at the look of “uh oh I’m busted” on his little brown smudgy face.  I thought his little brown feet were hysterical as he stood both feet covered in cinnamon smelling like a homemade apple pie!

That would not have been my reaction 15 years ago.

I used to stop right in the middle of cooking Sunday dinner to crawl in the floor to play chase as he ran and hid behind the sofa or play our favorite game of hide and seek behind the sofa pillows.  He played in my kitchen cabinets with "clean" Tupperware and I turned the TV off at night and rocked him until he got too big and wouldn’t let me anymore.  I enjoyed every single moment of him but even so it made me sad to think about all the time and all the love and all the delight I had missed with all the others while I was working, tired and grumpy. 

There are no do-overs in life.  Make the time you have with those you love count.  Babies don't wait. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sweet memories of my funny baby

Paxton in the bathroom vanity cabinet
after he carefully moved all of Kara's
things to the floor so he would fit

Paxton hiding in the night stand on top
of books and binders
I'm in serious need of a new phone after mine took a dive off the hood of my car and had been run over by several cars before we retrieved it.     Sounds simple enough but I’m terrified I will lose some of Kara or Brian’s messages when I switch so I‘ve been going through them to make sure I have all pictures and videos saved.  In doing so, I have found where Kara would frequently text me the latest picture of Paxton “hiding”.  He loved to hide and play in weird places.
Paxton Playing in the bottom drawer of the stove
Almost too big now and he has
brought his big teddy bear
and favorite fuzzy blue blanket
And my favorite Christmas gift!
He has hidden in the nightstand on top of books and binders at just 15 months old.  It appears that he is crawling in there to sleep.  One of the first hiding pictures she sent was of him hiding in his bookcase he had not yet even started walking and he walked at 8 months old.  I put my favorite childhood poem with it called - what else but… “I’m hiding” and framed one for Kara and both grandmothers.  And the last one I ever received of him hiding was him in the kitchen cabinet with his teddy.

Wearing Daddy's clothes
and shoes.  He told Kara
"I daddy."

He also loved to play pretend.  I have the funniest video of him holding a stick of firewood using it like a cane and walking bent over and slow as Kara tells him to show Nana how to “walk like an old man!”  There is also one where he is “camping out” in the living room after he dragged all of his bed covers and his pillow and made himself a bed on top of the coffee table.  I have a video of him running wild through the house in a dragon costume he refused to take off --two weeks after Halloween.   And he was not opposed to wearing his Papa’s old farm hat and green nail polish!

Paxton trying out Mama's
new Michael Kors Flip Flops
I'd bought her for her 30th birthday
Rocking the red heels!
Trying on hats in Charming Charlie's
Can't decide which color lip gloss
goes with his T-shirt