Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Sheer, Terrible Beauty

One very ordinary Thursday, a precious friend poured out her heart to me about her son’s death by suicide.

******

“She’s gone,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the line. “We sang and prayed with her.” His wife had succumbed to cancer on that fall Saturday morning.

******

I received a terrible phone call that my best friend from high school’s two daughters were killed in a wrong-way crash by a drunk driver. It was Good Friday.

******

“Do you want me to come over?” I asked my close friend as soon as she spilled the ugly news that her brother had taken his own life.

******

I could go on and on and on. Loss. Death. Unstoppable grief.

So much sadness. So little understanding.

Each person loved so fiercely.
Each tender one lost too early.
Each story shared bravely with me.

*****************************************

Nothing is more sacred than to share another’s pain. It brings both great sorrow and surprising healing. Each time I enter into this very “holy ground” space, I count it as one of the greatest gifts I will ever know in this lifetime, the gift of another in their most vulnerable and real and raw place. Sheer, terrible beauty.

For those of you who have wildly loved and lost a precious someone, I pray today that you would find a safe space to share your true heart, the one that might be hurting. I pray that those who listen would dive deep and sit still and share some measure of your grief and suffering, so that you would feel unexplainably loved and cared for. I pray that in God’s vast wisdom, compassion, kindness, mercy and love, He brings unfathomable healing to you in the places only He can reach.

We share every part of this life together, including the great sorrows we face, arms and hearts wrapped around each other, each one of us helping the other hobble along toward redemption.

*****************************************

Please feel free to share the first name of someone you have loved and lost in the comments. I would just like to hold the space for them today.

#grief #healing #hope

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Mommy has canser (#leapday2016)

“Mommy has canser.”

“I went to the Turtle Back Zoo.”

“I like ice cream.”

Leap Day 2016.

Three short thoughts written as part of a letter I had my nine-year-old niece write in a letter to her future Leap Day 2020 self.

My eight-year-old nephew wrote one too.

Four years ago, these two every-day kids came to stay with me for several weeks while their mom was undergoing intensive treatment for “canser.”

Four years ago, they didn’t know if their mom would be here for Leap Day 2020.

Four years ago, they were kids whose favorite movies were Frozen and Star Wars (like every other tween girl and boy).

It’s now Leap Day 2020.

I sent my now twelve- and thirteen-year old nephew and niece their letters 500 miles away.

Four years have passed since those words were penciled on loose-leaf paper.

Four years, where they have endured the worst: the loss of their mom.

Four years, where my brother picked up the pieces and entered in a new normal without his wife to help him navigate the journey without her.

Four years, where my then 17-year-old niece (the “older sister”) gathered her own heart together and plugged away at her future as a nurse one painful and healing day at a time.

Four years, where this little family laughed and cried, played and worked, fought and made-up, just like the rest of us.

Leap Day 2016 feels like yesterday, those two kids sitting at my kitchen counter, their future unknown, penning words to themselves.

I didn’t know if heartache or hope would come before those letters were read four years later.

Yes, heartache came in like an untamed beast, threatening to rip this family to shreds.

BUT that is not the end of the story.

Four years later, I can say HOPE reached in louder as God took extra, tender care of this little family without their wife and mom.

Four years later, there are two budding teens who are smart and kind and full of life, with friends and pets and who still secretly like Frozen and Star Wars. HOPE.

Four years later, there is a man who has fought hard to help his family take their next right steps and love each other no matter what comes their way. He rocks as a dad! HOPE.

Four years later, there is a Registered Nurse, who trusted God and got up every morning to go to school, putting one foot in front of the other. She started her first job this month. HOPE.

Leap Day 2024.

Four years from now. What will life bring?

To my brother and his family?

To me and mine?

Frozen 3? Ten more Star Wars movies?

Laughter? Tears?

Work? Play?

Fights? Forgiveness?

Heartache?

Yes.

But, that will not be the end of the story.

HOPE will reach in louder.

God will take extra, tender care of us all.

#thereisgreathope #leapday2020 #herviewfromhome #hopewriters #dollymamanj

Posted in Friendship, Grief

Grief – One Friend’s Journal Entry (For Steven)

“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self.  The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love.  The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other.  This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.”  (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)

Grief.  Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it.  We question what to say when someone is grieving.  We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.”  We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us.  Should we come close or give the other space?  It can be a very confusing time for everyone.  And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself,  I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain.  It’s just downright uncomfortable.

The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving.   And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider.  I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it.  After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.

I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer.  My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.

My friend lost her precious brother to suicide.  He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.

Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.

I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide.  This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.

A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years.  His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him.  He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.

One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday.  They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.

You have your own stories.  So much horror.  So much sadness.  Grief multiplied.

This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet.  Me too.  At times.  But not today.  Come with me.  Lean in.  Learn along side of me.  Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old.  I promise you that it’s not all horrible.

When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort.  Yes.  All of those things.   Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious.  Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away.  I ask that you would read on.

Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017.  Four months later.

Steven is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone from me.  How can this be?  How can he be gone, just gone?  I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged.  He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together.  All those things are gone.

My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place.  It is an empty space…and it will stay empty.  It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him.  My own future will always hold this empty space.  I am suffering.  I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.

This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place.  I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all.  Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together.  If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.

I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories.  Memories of the two of us.  All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected.  All the treasured memories we had together with others.  Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.

I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.