Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Four Weeks and One Year...

Saturday was one year ago since I started the blog with my post Four Weeks.  It has been one heck of a ride since that first post.

When it was mentioned to me that maybe I should start a blog, I had no idea why, since I had never even read a blog.  I had no idea what I would do with it, what I would write or how it could possibly help.  But as I’ve said before I latched onto anything and everything that anyone suggested. I: read everything I could get my hands on, attended Grief Share, called a counselor, contacted Stephen Ministries, tried to pray, took whatever time off from work that was appropriate, went back to work to get back engaged in life, clung to family, wrote in my journal (which I have always done.) Read the bible, listened to preaching and teaching and Christian music.  Anything and everything that I even heard of that might help me survive this with my sanity intact –I tried.  So when starting a blog was suggested and writing had always been my natural outlet and my way to cope –I started a blog.  And while I can’t say that any one thing was most instrumental in my survival the blog has certainly played a huge part.  And yes, there are still days when it is still up in the air whether I will make it all the way through it, but I have managed to survive it one day at a time, one step at a time, one “post” at a time for thirteen months today -- a feat I never believed possible thirteen months ago.

Here I have found peace, faith, friends, comfort and release.  I have been able to write out my feelings, my love, my hurts, my memories, my devastation, my disappointments, my insecurities, my life-lessons and my grief.

I have been able through this to express some of the isolating loneliness of this horror and find solace in the friends and family that I have here because I can say the things on my heart here that I would likely never say in person.   It has helped me to be able to recognize blessings and miracles and gifts as I have written through my day to day survival.  I have found friends that have been my support and I hope and pray that it has been some comfort for others; that perhaps something I may have said or acknowledged may have helped someone else along this grief road or if nothing else – let someone know they were not alone and give them hope in the fact that if I can survive “this” freight train – they too can survive theirs. 

Through writing here I have been able to lay things out in black and white, sort through them and organize them in my mind helping me at times to see things I would have otherwise missed.  I have rediscovered my love for music and found a new love in the hope and healing words of Praise and Worship because of a reader here that had actually been through a similar experience. I have been able to post sweet memories of my baby boy, funny pictures and honor all that he was as I relived my short time with him.  I have been able to honor the memory of my daughter-in-law and express some of what she meant to me and our entire family and I have been free to acknowledge my love for my son, relive the joy that he was to us and recount some of the reasons that I can never believe this horrific conclusion about what happened and I have been free to express my disappointment, my anger and resulting insecurities with the way the Sheriff’s Department handled the "investigation". 

A year ago there was no way I could have imagined all this blog would mean to me.  It has been all of the above and much more.  Thank you for being there with me as I struggled to survive this.

Many, many days, this has been my only safe place to fall.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Storms of Life

I have been bombarded lately with a common message coming at me from a variety of areas.  I listen to Charles Stanley’s radio message at 5:30 every morning on my ride to work.  I also listen to a local Christian radio station that does a Daily Devotion every morning.  I also have a Bible app that has a Bible verse of the day.  These three different forms of media have all come together with a common message this week. The Storms of Life – their cause and meaning.   There are three types of storms that God allows in your life. 

There are Protecting storms – as in you did not get that job that you were hoping and praying for – you feel at the time that it was a storm or an unanswered prayer but perhaps instead it was because the company was going to close and you would have been left jobless.  Or perhaps you prayed for things to work out in a relationship with a certain person but that did not happen and you are disappointed but you later meet the love of your life.  Your seemingly unanswered prayer was actually a form of God’s protection.  I’m sure if you think back you can recall a time when you have asked God for something only to find out later that you were thankful He did not allow you to have whatever you had asked for.

Then there are Correcting storms – storms that hit your life as a direct result of some sin or some wrong choice that you have made.  God is not trying to destroy you with these storms of correction but instead guide you to the best choices for your life for your own benefit. - Proverbs 3:11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of his correction for who the Lord loveth, he correcteth even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.  Ask yourself this about whatever you are going through – Is this a storm of correction?  Is there something in my life that needs correcting.  Is this a disciplinary storm that God has allowed in my life to open my eyes to something I am doing that is out of His will or is pushing me farther away from my walk with Him?  His purpose is to move us constantly in the direction of a closer walk with Him. Our goal should be to be more Christ-like.  Is there something in your life; gossip, lust, envy, an addiction or an error in thinking that may be blocking that goal?  If so, He will do whatever it takes to get your attention and get you back on the right track.  That is a correcting storm.

And then there are Perfecting storms – A storm that has come into your life as a test to refine you like gold in a fire to remove the impurities in your life or like in Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus tells the Apostle Peter “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  This was an Apostle of Jesus Christ who had listened to his teachings and left his personal life to walk with Jesus for three years.  But Simon Peter had such a love and loyalty to Jesus he began to be arrogant about it.  In the next verse 33: Peter says, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”  In Matthew 26: 33:  “Though all men shall be offended because of thee yet will I never be offended.”  And in verse 35 he goes on to say “I should die with thee yet will I not deny thee.”  But when Jesus asked him to come to the garden with Him and watch and pray – he fell asleep.  And when the guards came and arrested Jesus Peter in fear for his own life, denied even knowing Jesus three different times.  So though Peter loved the Lord, he was arrogant and prideful about that love and his faith.  He was not nearly as strong as he had thought.  So Jesus agreed to let Satan “sift” him as wheat – to test and try his faith not so Jesus would know the depth of that faith for He already knew but so that Peter could see his own shortcomings.  So he could no longer hide from his failures as a loyal friend and follower of Jesus.  I’m sure this was an eye opening experience for Peter.  I’m sure he was filled with confusion, remorse and shame.  But it gave him an honest assessment of how his strength, bravery, loyalty and faith was tested and found lacking. God knew that Peter’s pride was going to have to be destroyed if he were ever going to be of any real use.  Peter suffered a Perfecting storm.

And yet again this morning still another confirmation as Charles Stanley spoke of “works” making you feel justified when in fact nothing but what Jesus did on the cross could ever justify you.  There is nothing you, personally, can ever do to make Him love you more or make you right in His eyes.  Nothing.  He was saying that just because you go to church three times a week, tithe 10%, teach Sunday School or sing in the choir --that does not justify you to Jesus.  He was making the point that you were made “free” from the bondage of the law but it hit home with a different message to my heart entirely.

I have spent nearly thirteen months assessing the Tsunami that decimated our lives August 2014; initially just trying to survive the storm - dodge flying debris, tread the rising flood waters, cling desperately to whatever small pieces of solid ground I could find and then after I survived the first waves of destruction I began trying to make sense of it. 

Prior to that storm I, like Peter, would have sworn nothing could shake my faith. I pretty much felt like I too, would have gone to prison or faced death in a minute.  I was “secure” in my faith and my relationship with God was, I thought, unshakable.  I was in church almost every week for the past 22 years, I tithed, and did all of the other things that I thought was expected of me as a Christian. I cared about people, I gave to charities and tried to help people in need.  I was proud to be able to do what little I did in the church and while I never consciously thought I could “work” my way into Heaven or gain brownie points with God or even work to make restitution for any sins in my life, I apparently did think it would somehow keep disasters of this magnitude away from my life because the first thing that hit me was the unfairness and the devastating feeling that I had been betrayed by the God I loved and trusted. 

Obviously, I had a huge issue with pride as well.  Let me tell you there is absolutely nothing that can humble you right down to the dirt like the devastation of losing three members of your family at once and the shame and horror and yes, even guilt of having the whole world believe the son you love with all your heart --took the life of his wife and child. 

While I recall thinking I would gladly give my life for God – I can confess here and now that I absolutely never entertained the illusion that I would be willing to give the life of my child or grandchild.  Giving one’s life sounds like the maximum sacrifice but let me assure you it is not.  I know first-hand what a maximum sacrifice looks like and it is certainly not my life.  My life has not meant two cents to me this entire year.  Sacrificing my life would seem like a cheesy consolation prize.

Like Peter, when three times he denied even knowing Jesus, I have come to the humbling conclusion – that my faith, love and loyalty has been “sifted as wheat" and found seriously lacking.   

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Seven Dwarves of Despair

Today I received an email from another grieving mom that I have come to know through the common bond of loss; whose son died five days after Brian, Kara and Paxton.  She has just come through not only her first year anniversary but her son's twenty-second birthday four days before.  She is in deep despair yet again.  She sent me this little excerpt from a book: The Art of Support: Reaching Out to Others in Times of Loss by Lee Franklin (Chapter Two)

The excerpt was called the Seven Dwarves of Despair.  I found it spot on and decided to include it here for obvious reasons.

Spacey - This dwarf moves in almost immediately, he causes difficulty in concentrating, emotional and mental numbness.  He is forever losing things, forgetting things - but his presence is protection from being overwhelmed with the reality of our loss.  The world is still moving rapidly, while the world of a griever is s-l-o-w and out of sync.

Empty - Focuses on the pain within - loss of purpose.  Why bother (with just about anything)? He usually shows up with his best friend, Lonely.
Lonely - Constant reminder that the world is missing a very important person and telling you that life will NEVER be the same - or even good again.  Anytime you go out, all you see is other families with the equivalent of who you lost.  A huge void is there and our task is to learn to re-engage in life with that huge, missing piece.
Guilty - You should have... Why didn't you...? This dwarf looks for someone to blame - and often results in self-blame (and reasons don't have to be and often are NOT rational).  We often blame ourselves for contributing to the loss; for not handling the grief "well" and for the effect our grief has on others - why should they want to be around us when we don't like our own company?  Oh, there is no shortage of guilt!
Worry - Loss triggers fear and anxiety.  Worry is an outward manifestation of fear.  Fretting, dreading, doubting and our minds playing "worst case scenario" of any and every situation is common.  It is a natural response to fear the unfamiliar - and the world has become extremely unfamiliar.  A feeling of abandonment is also common with this dwarf.
Angry - Often misunderstood and difficult to express, one may deny that anger exists.  Whether acknowledged or suppressed, anger is a powerful emotion - it needs to be expressed responsibly and respectfully.
and Gloomy - Very unpredictable - this dwarf is the first to come and the very last to leave.  We expect a certain amount of sadness with a loss; but the "trigger' that come at unexpected times can suddenly intensify the feelings to an overwhelming level.  Seeing an item in the grocery store, hearing a song, seeing an old email, or finding a piece of paper with their handwriting on it, can put us in an embarrassing predicament quickly.
These are just a small sampling of the crazy emotions that rule the life of a griever.  Trust me, there are hundreds more. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

You've Got Mail...

Today I got an email --- from Kara.  Someone of course had hacked her old Email from six years ago and there in my inbox blaring at me like it is perfectly normal, is an unnerving email that says it is from "Kara".

This morning while trying to clear up some memory on my new almost full phone, thanks to the fact that I saved every text from my old phone and six hundred pictures and all the spur of the moment videos Kara would send daily,  I was surprised to find a string of texts from Brian that have managed to elude me for a solid year. They were sent from his new work phone and a different number so they had not come up under his name when I had searched for any emails or texts from them. In it he had sent me a picture of, as he put it, "your little monkey" as he was eating breakfast in the Waffle House.  It was taken the weekend before they all died.

So today I sort of heard from all three of them and that made for a very hard day.

We are back home from my "run away" vacation - the distraction that was supposed to keep me from remembering the first anniversary of their death. It did it's job, but I had to come home sometime and our first day home is Sunday --the day Paxton and I always played hide and seek with the couch cushions after we got home from church and Sunday School together.  Then afterwards Brian would call and say: "Hey, how long are you going to be home..." and he and Kara would come by to pick the baby up. So it was typically a day that I usually had play time with Paxton and saw both Brian and Kara and today, in one day, I get an email from her, a new string of texts from him and a picture of Paxton...Meltdown.

These were likely another "gift" but it has been a hard couple of weeks and it just seemed like taunting at the time.