Monday, October 26, 2015

Denial? No way. Really?

As is my habit, I was listening to Charles Stanley at 5:30 this morning and he had some earth-shattering news for me.

The premise of his message was how you sometimes can’t know a real personal relationship with God because of baggage in your past that you have spent years denying.  He spoke of how children from abused or neglectful homes will build coping skills to survive hurtful things in their lives and those coping skills though useful to help them “survive” their immediate trauma do not always serve them well later in life.  He said that one of those coping mechanisms is denial; the ability to cover up, smooth over and stuff down the things that you feel so hurtful that you cannot face the pain.  So you just go about “pretending” it didn’t happen; thinking if you can just avoid it long enough that you will just eventually get over it.  “Pretending”?  Wait, did he just say pretending?

I thought I understood the word “denial” and it never would have occurred to me that my "pretending” was in any way related to “denial”.  I was not in denial.  After all how on earth could you deny this kind of loss?  You can’t.  It is in your face twenty-four/seven.  I face it.  I face it hundreds of times a week.  They are all gone.  There is no denying that even if I wanted to – I couldn’t.

Apparently though, I can sit in denial of certain aspects of this horror by avoiding all of the pain involved in participating in --let’s say, the Holidays...

Like sitting at the Thanksgiving table with three empty chairs – three!  And the traditional pumpkin pie that no one in my family ever really liked… but Brian, or the fact that our last family Thanksgiving Dinner was hosted by Kara at their house; the house that was sold on the courthouse steps; the house they completely remodeled themselves; the house they brought Paxton home from the hospital to; the house they lived in and loved and died in.  

And then there is Christmas.  My lame attempt to avoid dealing with what all of the pain of Christmas without all of my children will feel like, Christmas presents with no baby and all of the memories of all the Christmases past or having to make a decision about a Christmas stocking that has been hanging in our home at Christmas for the past forty years that will now either be orphaned standing alone untouched on Christmas morning or left abandoned in the attic from here on out.  And all of the Christmas ornaments that have graced our family tree for the past thirty years or so will now be like a dagger to my heart with every memory they provoke.  

And like my running away for Mother’s Day – the day set aside for mothers; a day when you always remember the birth of each and every one of the children that made you a mother.  Also the day that excavates memories of little hand-prints, homemade cards with stick pictures of me and lop-sided handmade ashtrays.  Mother’s Day a day to remind me how totally unnatural it is that I am living and my child and grandchild are not. 

And Birthdays – more days that I have avoided by pretending they were just another day.  Because of memories of favorite cartoon characters on a cake from birthdays past, of a favorite Teddy Bear named Fred that became a member of our family for several years or memories of milestone days; those that have been and those that will never be; reminders that they are all forever stuck in time in the “terrible two’s”; twenty-nine and holding and fabulous forty - plus one. 

And birthdays that are way overshadowed by another day now – a death day; the terrible anniversary of the worst day in my life. 

I have been using my avoidance as a coping skill never realizing it was anywhere akin to denial and I too, have been of the opinion that if I could do this long enough at some point I would be healed enough that I could live and have some semblance of normalcy – maybe- someday. 

His message to me this morning that came through loud and clear was that it does not work.  You only heal by acknowledging and working through – dealing with the hard and hurtful stuff.  Learning to live with it; learning how to live in spite of it. 

What he didn’t tell me was: How?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I've gone a little backwards and I've been kind of running off the rails lately.

The other night I drifted off to sleep and about an hour into what might have been a good restful sleep I "suddenly" remembered that Brian was dead.  In my sleep I had actually "forgotten" it and for just a split second when I woke up "remembering" I thought I had dreamed it and that it was not really true and then when I realized it was it was like hearing it for the first time all over again.  It rattled me so badly until I could not go back to sleep for hours.

How in the hell does that still happen?!  How can I live in the midst of this horror with it never leaving my mind day or night and suddenly have it hit me like it is all new and I am hearing it for the first time??? How?  I mean it was absolutely just like it was brand new - almost 14 months later.  I don't understand that.  I really don't.  But it is unnerving.

And I have been a mess ever since.

And this entire week - I have done little else but hide and sob.  I have been thinking about all of them but most especially missing Paxton again.  I have just been remembering him and all that he was; how sweet he was; how much he loved really simple things - like his little hot wheels cars. How he didn't really care all that much about lots of toys or complicated toys with batteries or remote controls or things that made noise or had motion like most kids.  He was a very simple child.  He had every toy known to man but what he loved was his plain simple little cars that he pushed around himself. He even played with them in the bathtub.  He had robotic cars that made engine noises, honked their horns, had flashing lights and ran by themselves,  But in a minute he would sidestep those and opt for his hot wheels. He had racetracks, computerized games and toys, books, movies, tents, telephones, a motorized tractor, a swing set, a trampoline, musical instruments, a bicycle, a motorized car that he could drive himself - literally everything a child could dream of.  But what he loved were his cars. He watched cartoons but only loved the ones that had lots of songs.  He loved music and different sounds and he paid attention to voices, accents, inflections and tones and used them even when he didn't have words.  He loved all animals and had absolutely no fear when it came to animals.  He would have walked up to a grizzly bear with his hands outstretched. He loved to dance and sing and he understood things that were so far above what he should have known.  Brian brought him over fishing for the first time just weeks before they died and he thought Paxton was going to be so excited to catch his first fish.  Brian cast out and got a bite and handed the rod and reel to Paxton and helped him reel the fish in.  Paxton saw the fish struggling on the line and he knew he absolutely knew that it was hurting the fish and he started screaming: NO!NO!NO!NO! and turned away refusing to look.

A couple of years ago there was a huge community yard sale and a lady there must have had a half acre of toys for sale.  Brian and Kara came and brought Paxton and Brian set him down right in the middle of all those toys and told him to get whatever he wanted.  There must have been over 300 toys there and he picked up two little cars and a school bus and went back to his daddy for him to pick him up.  He was ready to go.  Out of 300 toys - two tiny cars and small school bus was all he wanted! He was always just satisfied with the smallest simplest things and happy with whatever he had.

I have typically had very little patience with children and have not wanted to babysit anyone's children in years.  Raised mine and half-raised a few of other people's and I was kind of over it. But it was definitely different with him.  Although he wore me out I wanted as much time with him as I could get.  Sometimes I was glad to see him go home simply because my body could not keep up with his energy level and I was exhausted but I wanted him with me - always. I never turned down time with him no matter what until my sister got sick.  I had a love for him that even I did not understand.  I could not hardly go two weeks without seeing him or I was in withdrawals.

I have never been so broken over anything in my entire life as I am over the loss of that little boy. Broken.  The joy has gone out of my life.  I miss him so bad every single day until I could scream and cry all day every day.  I don't give in to it because I am desperately afraid I will go past the point of no return.  I don't.  But I so could.  I stand strong fooling the rest of the world but the truth is I'm a mess.

It is good in a way that I am able to hold up and function – but in another way it is not so good because I am laughing when I want to cry and going to my job, cooking and doing laundry when I really just want to go to close all the blinds, stay in my pajamas, never comb my hair and pull the covers up over my head.

Sometimes I am proud that I am able to keep going and other times it feels like it is choking me to death and I want desperately to just actually do what I really want to do and stop pretending that I’m okay. I want to give in to it and just scream to the top of my lungs. “I want my children back- NOW! I can’t do this anymore!”

And I suppose that I am a pretty strong person – or I used to be. But what most people may not realize is that what makes one strong is a long history of surviving many difficult circumstances. And though it’s true you are made stronger or at least you are able to appear stronger – the down side is that there is also a “cumulative effect” from all of that hardship. And inside you live in fear that at some point there is going to come a time when your mind and your body just say: “No more.”

What very few understand about that appearance of “doing well” is that though I may not react like a lot of people might that does not mean that I don’t feel the same things. They just stay quietly inside like a cancer that hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  No visible trauma on the outside but all the while it is silently, methodically destroying me from the inside out. All of the sadness and devastation that anyone else would feel – is still there and I absolutely feel every ounce of it. Most days I literally feel like I'm choking as I stifle the urge to cry and scream because I will never see my son, my daughter in law or my baby again.

Brian was always such a delight to me. If you have children then you know they are all different.  He was the only child that I had that would come to me and openly talk about whatever was on his heart. When he was a preteen, he would come to me at night and ask me if we could talk and we would sit up way past our bedtimes while he poured out his heart to me. He used to talk to me openly sometimes in tears about his puppy-love heartbreaks. We talked about God and spiritual things and he shared with me his dreams and aspirations and he often confided to me his deepest fears in life. Nothing went on in his life that I did not know about because we talked. As a child and even a teen, he was mindful, respectful and kind. As a general rule, he went where he said he was going and came home when I told him to be home. He was kind and loving and conscientious. Then at seventeen he made some really bad choices that affected the rest of his entire life. And I watched as life beat him down and changed him from the happy, carefree and funny child he had always been to a nervous, worried, anxious young adult in a bad marriage that destroyed his trust and ruined his life for the next 18 years until Kara came along.

Kara – I am also so brokenhearted over her and so terribly sad for her family. she adored both her mom and dad. And I used to envy the type of close relationship she and her mom shared - more like best friends than parent and adult child. And she loved life so much! She was beautiful, young, talented and energetic. She had a beautiful voice and loved to sing Karaoke and used to dream of singing professionally. And she worshipped that baby and he was the light of her life. I have seldom ever seen anyone that enjoyed being a mother more than she did. She treasured every moment with him. She thought everything he ever did was adorable and she carefully observed and recorded almost every move he made. And she loved my son. What more could you ask for? Though she was younger than he was by eleven years, she thought he hung the moon. She was the wife I always hoped and prayed he would someday find. She was the one that I hoped would make up for all of the hurt and disillusionment that he had with his first marriage. She was proud of him and she thought he was way more brilliant than he actually was! I used to laugh at the fact that she absolutely thought he could do anything. If he’d told her he was planning to build a rocket to the moon and was going to start a shuttle service on weekends – she would have called me breathless with excitement at what he was going to do and ask me if I realized that he was going to be famous some day! I believe she loved him with all her heart and even though she was young and talented and absolutely beautiful – on her wedding day she confided in me that she never thought she would ever get married and still could not believe that he actually wanted to marry her

And that baby – number ten counting my step-daughter’s two sons –was the absolute light of my life. I was so young when most of the others came along and I had not really gotten over the trauma of three teenagers yet. So I could never fully enjoy them like I should have which makes me very sad. So when Brian told me they were expecting a baby – I admit I was less than thrilled. I had five grandchildren before I was forty and all were born to very young parents. I loved them. Oh my, how I loved them but I worried. Non-stop. So much so that it stole much of the joy out of having them. I worried about what, up to that point, irresponsible kids would do with a baby. I worried how they would take care of them. I worried how on earth they would afford milk and diapers and clothes and medicine and the bazillion other things that a baby needs. I worried how on earth I could help them when I was at my financial breaking point and they just kept coming. I had done nothing but worry about them and I was just about “babied out” by this time and the last thing on earth I expected was for a baby to come along and wedge his way into my heart like he did. As a matter of fact a few years back when I was without a cat and begging my husband to let me get another one I laughed one day and asked him “Well what would you rather have a cat, or a puppy or a baby?” thinking of course, that I had him on that one. His answer that stopped me dead in my tracks was --a baby! I almost fell out of my seat. “And why on earth would you say that?” I asked baffled. And his smart answer? “Because I figured that would be the one thing you absolutely would not want!” I just cracked up. He had me. So no, I did not expect for him to melt my heart like he did.

When I think of him --I want to sit in the middle of the floor with a lap full of hot wheels cars and a pacifier and sob till my heart bursts. I want to scream and rage at the unfairness of it all and the waste of such beautiful lives. In some ways I want to be okay again and in other ways I don’t want to live another day because so much of the joy has gone out of my life. I cannot imagine that I will never see him run or play or hear him laugh or sing again. Though I had managed to live fifty eight years without knowing him and only had him for such a short time, he made such an impact on my life until I cannot imagine now having to live another day without him. The sadness and devastation is at times, almost too much to bear. Most of the time, I just feel like I am dead inside. I’m functioning but I don’t know how or why. So I may look like I’m doing quite well on the surface and I’m glad that I do – but the honest truth is I know I will never even be okay again.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I've been thinking...

And I'd like to know what you think.

And I've been reading again and for anyone going through a faith crisis this is the best resource I have found that addresses grief, loss, tragedy - as they relate to your faith. Lifelines for Tough Times by Mike Fabarez.

In the book it says that good comes from these tragedies although not always like you might expect; that sometimes other people's lives are positively affected or changed in some way.

So with that in mind, what I am wondering is could this tragedy have brought some to know God; or brought someone closer to God? Could it have given some a clearer appreciation of the life they have; or a deeper appreciation for the loved ones they have?   Could it have made some aware of issues in their own family that need addressing?  Could it have lead some to pay attention to what could be warning signs?  Could it have made someone change the way they relate to others; comfort others in their grief or judge others? Has this made anyone aware that everything they see on the news might not be true and that every story has another side?  Has it made anyone question their complete trust and faith in local law enforcement?  Has it made anyone in hearing a tragic story on the news now think about the alleged guilty party's family?  Has it made anyone think that this could happen to you?

Has my story, Brian's story or this blog in any way affected you?  If so, I would like to hear your story. Would you please let me know?

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Little Hope... goes a long way

I have prayed for help.  I have prayed for faith to fully return, for trust, for a renewed relationship.  I have hung on hoping for answers, relief, "beauty from the ashes" –something good to be made from this misery; some lessons, some divine revelation –something.   


Two weeks ago I had an incident that hit me really hard and actually made things worse.  It won't make sense to some, heck, it didn't make sense to me but after a lot of thought I've come to understand it a little better.  And since it was a part of this insanity, I'm going to write about it here. 
At dinner one night on our screened porch a little bird had landed on our feeder.  It is just maybe two feet from the table that we eat most meals at.  As I was watching him he literally flew at us and hit the screen and then began to struggle to fly at all.  I knew something was wrong with the little bird but he managed to fly onto a lower limb in a tree close by so we finished up with dinner and went inside.  The next morning I went out and began to look around for him.  In a few minutes I saw the still struggling little bird had managed to get down the hill from the house into some low-growing juniper and had apparently found refuge in the thick greenery there on the ground.  He caught my eye as he hopped upward fluttering around trying to fly up from the ground and get airborne.  No more than three minutes after I walked out to try and find him he fluttered up and then right back down and right into our lake!  I panicked.  Screaming for my husband to go get a dip net or the little Jon boat and come and get him out.  It hopped up and down in the water but the little wings that already weren’t working too well were now wet and he could only manage a few inches before he fell back into the water.  I stood on the side of the bank calling to him trying to give him some bearings as to where land was; hoping he could limp his way to the bank or that my husband could get the dip net there in time.  The little bird continued to struggle and I found myself praying out loud for God to please not let the little bird die.  Let me be able to save him and not watch him struggle and then die right in front of me.  I just did not think I could take anymore death.  The little bird sat there struggling about five minutes and then he just got still, and quietly rolled under the water. 
I just lost it.
Sobbing hysterically and literally railing at God and my husband and life in general.  I cried on and off for a solid week - over a dead bird.   Later when I’d calmed down while trying to make sense of my crazed reaction to an obviously sick or injured bird, I realized in some ways the little bird represented so much more to me.  The whole episode made me think of what I’d said about the survivor from a shipwreck I described in an earlier post (Shipwrecked).  The little bird did just like I said the survivor would do when all hope was lost – it struggled until it’s will to live depleted and it then just gave up and quietly slipped under the water.  At the time, I wrote that, I completely understood the fight to live as long as you had hope but when you saw your hopes of living through your crisis dashed over and over and though you prayed --help never came.  And death loomed large on the horizon.  At some point, just for the relief you would just quit fighting and quietly let go.  To me, in some crazy way the little bird represented my struggle to make it through this though I continue to hope and pray for relief nothing gets better and I think I loosely equated his fate with mine.
The following week – one week to the day exactly after the little bird drowned, I was driving home from work and a mile from home in the middle of the road sat a little bird.  I assumed it would fly away to safety when I got closer but as I passed I realized I had not seen him move.  When I looked back in the rear view mirror, the little bird though only a foot away as my car went past at about 30 MPH  - just sat there. 
He was almost on the yellow line right in the middle of the road.  I stopped the car and put it in reverse, backed up expecting to find the little bird actually dead or broken but there it sat --huddled down and looking terrified but alive.  I got out of the car and reached for the little bird.  It sat there still while I picked it up but as soon as I did he lowered his head and closed his eyes.  I drove the rest of the way home holding the tiny injured bird in one hand figuring he wouldn’t live fifteen minutes but after the prior week --I just had to try.  I came home and fixed him a little box with some tree limbs and leaves in it; warmed a hand towel in the dryer and made a little “nest” and sat the little bird in the center surrounded by the warmth of the towel.  Immediately he opened his eyes and started looking around.  I put him on my screened porch where all the birds outside were feeding, chirping, flying around just on the other side of the screen and left him while I went to change clothes and start dinner.  About twenty minutes later I went out to check on the little bird half expecting him to have died but instead I couldn’t find him.  He wasn’t in the box anywhere.  I looked around and there he sat on the ledge of the porch three feet above the box!  I went to pick him up and he flew to the other side of the porch where his feet got stuck in the screen.  I walked over and carefully unhung his nails from the screen and set him outside on the deck rail and to my delight he promptly flew away!

What does it all mean?  I'm not completely sure but I do feel that he was another gift.