Category Archives: grief

Legos

It was one word written in green marker on a piece of paper in tidy handwriting.

Legos?

The paper, crumpled and left on the middle of the table was answer enough. Clearly no.

Bedtime had arrived. Time to put the game and tea cups and ice cream dishes away and head upstairs for teeth brushing and cuddle. The younger first, then the older. Hence, the note.

If the younger leveraged her cards right, she would get some coveted Lego time with the older. Things were not looking hopeful, according to the crumpled paper I cleared from the table.

I gathered it up, released my need to save it for posterity, and carried it to my bathroom to throw it in the trash can. That is when the tears, then sobs, began. I collapsed onto the toilet seat and cried.

They come easily, lately, the tears, at all the wrong times.

These were for approaching endings. For this particular ending that felt so close. The ending of Legos.

Three years ago another older sister bought a large Lego set for her birthday. It now sits in a bin in the basement. I know it won’t be long before this older sister will lose interest, if she has not already.

Time is short. It is so long.

I weep for final endings. There was always another on the horizon. I weep for missed opportunities. I weep for a little girl inside who does not know why she is crying but cannot seem to stop.

I need to go upstairs to read, but the piano calls me to sit and calm my heart. I begin to play.

Footsteps run down the stairs, and before I can begin to lecture, words fly from an excited little sister’s mouth.

We’re going to play Legos for cuddle!

Feet run up the steps and a bedroom door slams shut. I hear laughter and excited voices behind it.

Playing Legos for cuddle means a few minutes for me to write instead of read, though somehow I think an older sister will finagle a few pages of the Hobbit from me anyway, and I will concede because of Legos and the gift of a little more time.

Where are the Words?

Trauma takes our words which is why I sit in shock and disbelief over the news of a mass shooting in Las Vegas yesterday. The post I had hoped to write feels trite and self-centered in the wake of hearing about those who are only beginning to grieve the loss of loved ones and whose lives are forever altered by bullets and blood. Where are the words for this?

I did not hear the news until everyone had been dropped off at school. Switching from morning music to NPR, I was stunned by the story and the sounds of chaos that the soundbites played. My heart sank as I engaged the latest in a series of traumas that have been only a social media click or news report away.

Yesterday Steve was listening to an Allender Center Podcast on catastrophic stories while cleaning the kitchen. I joined him in the space to begin lunch preparation for the upcoming week. I had listened to this episode when it originally aired. Houston was the focus, having been left in the wake of the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe.

Sadly, Houston is now old news in the world of media coverage. We barreled on to scenes from Florida and Irma and then to the islands with Maria, and even those images are fading. New sights and sounds of trauma are here to flood us.

Yet there are still people living the trauma that overtook them. Just because we no longer see the pictures, does not mean that the houses have been rebuilt, the people have food, water, and clothing, that infrastructures are safe. Lives have been forever changed. Loved ones grieve from a distance, helpless and hurting.

I enter the house, bracing myself with dread. I know what will come later in the day, should I choose to look and listen ~ the comments, the commentary, the anger, the solutions, the accusations. I was looking forward to this month with anticipation, and now it just feels heavy. What is the point of anything? It is easy for me to slide down the path of despair.

The thief comes to steal, kill, destroy.

Dewey jumps up on my leg, patting me with his paws, waiting for me to clip on his leash for our morning walk. I leash him, grab a bag, and leave my phone in my room, choosing to disconnect and unplug even if only for half and hour. We walk.

The air is crisp, the sky is brilliant, the sun is dazzling, the shadows are long. Dewey steps along happily engaging the world as we do together each morning. He invites me to presence in his dog-like way, by doing his new trick of jumping and grabbing his leash in his mouth as if to say, Look at me walking myself! Aren’t I clever? Watch me jump!

I choose to see the beauty, because the broken is all around. It’s on the length of sidewalk I did not walk, because I know the dead squirrel is there, and I do not want to see or smell death right now. I almost stepped in it last night. The terror is real. I walk and ponder and pray.

Returning home, I settle onto my favorite couch with my Bible and journal. Lighting a candle the color of tears, I am reminded that Jesus weeps with me, and that he is here. He is Emmanuel, God with me, in the midst of the chaos and confusion when I have no words. I don’t have words for this.

I am grateful that I chose to love this morning before I knew this story. I drove the forgotten items into school without anger. I laughed over the irony of the poor quiz grade while signing the interim envelope. I let the little things go. I put on my Do Justice, Love Mercy, Be Humble shirt before I knew.

It reminds me of how to love, because that is what there is when there are no words. And we never know when we will no longer have the chance or the choice.

 

Friendship Friday ~ Goodbye Buddy

We said goodbye to Roo’s beloved guinea pig this past Wednesday night. It was the eve of two years to the day that he came home with us from the pet store. It was completely unexpected.

Wednesday morning, eager with anticipation of meeting a friend in Martinsburg, WVa, for lunch, I had no idea that the evening’s at-home date would be interrupted by a knock on the TV room door by a traumatized child.

In fact, I still had not broken it to my parents that when they took care of him for us while we were on vacation, he would need at least one cage change. I was still figuring all of the details out, not knowing that by the end of the day there would be no need.

Buddy was in his cage and kicking his legs. I thought he was having a bad dream, so I picked him up, but he went limp. Something is really wrong with him.

We rushed upstairs with her. Indeed, something was very wrong, as confirmed by her father, the brave one of us when it comes to all things animal-related. I brought a dish towel to wrap him in, while Steve held and confirmed that, indeed, Buddy was dead.

I began to cry, then sob, in the hall with my daughter. The bedroom door of the youngest opened upon hearing the commotion. She came out, heard the news, and began to cry. She also wanted to hold Buddy.

She is a braver soul than I.

I knocked on brother’s door to alert him, as well, knowing that he would want to be aware. He came out and joined the sadness. So did sister at the end of the hall.

We made our way downstairs to the living room and sat together. Tears were flowing and words spoken of Buddy’s days with us.

Most recently, because of summer break, he had spent more time downstairs on the laps of those who were doing their screen time. The kids called him a Buddy Loaf and dubbed him their therapy guinea pig.

He was well-loved.

Even Dewey, who tried to get a little too close and curious to Buddy at every opportunity, was noticeably out of sorts.

He mirrored everyone’s sadness.

Buddy’s death was sudden, unexpected, and happened as his ten-year-old owner was holding him. It was a trifecta of trauma for her. We are processing this grief together. It is hard and sad.

In the midst of the hard, there is good.

I am grateful that just last Sunday our pastor brought a perspective of pets and heaven to us in a hopeful tone. This gave Roo much comfort the following evening as she went to bed in the same way and space that 24 hours earlier had found her watching the life slip from her pet.

I am grateful that he did not die while we were on vacation.

I am grateful that it was summer break and that he was getting a lot of attention.

Mostly I am grateful for kids who love big and deeply and well.

Goodby, Buddy. You were loved so much that it hurts that you are gone. Thank you for the joy you brought to us and the contribution that you made to our compost pile each week. You will be missed.

Ending Well

February 23 is when I first dared speak it. I was at an extra-curricular fair at the high school and connected with a safe sister who teaches there. I knew she would hold my words in confidence while holding me accountable to them. I had spoken them to my husband the day before.

I’ve made the decision to leave Good Shepherd at the end of this school year.

It felt terrifying, yet I knew I was the only one who could make the decision. No one else could do it for me. I needed to use my own voice. Hearing that voice speaking the words aloud stirred a mixture of fear and peace, confidence and uncertainty, joy and sorrow, relief and grief.

There was So. Much. Ambivalence. attached to the decision to end my teaching season.

There were nudges in the direction. I had agreed to two years when I signed on to return to the classroom. This was year four. There were changes going on in my world both internally and externally. There was little margin for the best with all of the good I was doing.

Wrestling with the decision was hard.

It was hard to imagine leaving the students and other teachers whom I dearly loved.

It was hard to imagine finding a replacement for my income.

It was hard to imagine walking by faith and not by sight. It was terrifying, but I knew it was time to step out.

I don’t know what’s next, but I know what’s now.

I penned these words in my journal the weekend I composed a resignation letter.  I turned in the letter on Monday morning, and then spoke in person to those I knew needed to hear the words directly from me, not in a memo or through the grapevine. I let them feel their feelings while I felt mine, not rushing through or trying to fix. It was so hard.

Again I wrote,

There are so many feelings inside. So much stirring. With the end of this chapter in sight, I need to be attentive to what is required to attend to the hearts around me and finish well. I am trusting what God has in store for me as good.

Last night was rough when the lights went out and things were still. I began to wrestle with the reality to end my time at Good Shepherd and with adulthood. What about all of the unknowns? Will you be there, God? Of course you will! How can I not trust that you have been and will be?

Holding my decision until an official word from the school office was released was challenging. I longed to write about my version of The End, May’s theme for Red Tent Living, and process on my blog, but the timing wasn’t right. I wanted to honor the timing.

I am glad that I did.

The day that the student intent letter went home with the information that I would not be the classroom teacher in the fall, there were many big feelings from small people, some of whom I had taught for all four years due to the nature of our program. There were feelings from adults, as well.

Today my students found out I am not returning next year. There were lots of feelings and emotions. Next week will be long. I need to trust.

There is much to ponder and process still about how that final week went. It was long. It was good. It was full. It was kind.

It is finished.

Major Marriage Milestone

Twenty-five years.

Twenty-five anniversaries, holding on and holding hope.

I want to have big silver anniversary words, but I don’t. And that is okay. It has to be.

I have the words that a friend offered at the end of his congratulatory Facebook comment on Steve’s wall.

. . . a great example of a rugged marriage.

YES!

rugged marriage

Thank you, Alvin. Those are exactly the words that affirm the beautiful hard that is found in celebrating 25 years of becoming one while growing up together and having three of our eight children before our brains were fully formed!

This day has felt rugged. It certainly hasn’t been the stuff of which silver anniversary dreams are made. As a final blow, we had to cancel the sitter for our evening out due to uncertain stomachs. We had to engage disappointment and pain.

This season feels rugged as I find more words for my own story and style of relating and engaging and how that has affected those closest to me. As Steve and I struggle to find more words for our story together, we recognize the help that we need. It is okay to need help.

A dear sister heard my heart and affirmed my words as I processed with her via text.

A silver star with a 25 on it doesn’t negate the hurt and disappointment. Or the joy. There is joy underneath, but right now it is being eclipsed by the ache. And marriage is about more than just how I feel today.

Climbing out of the valley and learning to walk on level ground isn’t as easy as it sounds!

One of the significant assaults of evil in this period is to try to triumph through regret. It is easy to survey all that might have been and grieve that it has taken so long to savor and delight in life. Add to this the desire to remove all the debris we have brought into the lives of our children, friends, and family, and it is easy to feel terrible and to work frantically to restore all that is broken. We must resist this seduction. Grief is freeing, but regret is the cul-de-sac of despair. (Dan Allender, Healing the Wounded Heart, 233).

So tonight we will have our regularly scheduled date night and not the fancy dinner out gifted us by our kids. Rather than circling the cul-de-sac again and again, I will try to feel the disappointment and grieve what is not, and then move on to the goodness that is an evening together with the hope of a future ahead of us.

We will persist. We will toast our twenty-five years of beautiful, rugged marriage with chicken soup and ginger-ale!

Here’s to us!

Aftermath and Anticipation

I sit in day two. That’s what this is. The aftermath. Burial.

Christmas Eve Eve was day one. Death. The melting down day that started full of such hope and excitement.

Brunch at The Little Grill with my luvvvah to plan and regroup for the next few days was a breath of fresh air. After so much fullness to manage in both of our lives, it was nice to have a moment to connect.

The day stretched before us, and we mapped it out. Shopping. A movie with the kids. Pizza night. Good things. We began to execute our plan. Check things off.

Home for lunch and a dog walk and assessment of who really wanted to see Rogue One found five of us going and three of us free to stay home.

I went.

No spoilers here. I watched most of the movie, missing only the dozing-off parts, but waking in time for what mattered. I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

The fullness in my chest at the end was a combination of nostalgia, Star Wars is the first movie my family watched on the Beta Vision in our living room back on Nicholson St. ~ in Spanish, remembering, I saw Return of the Jedi for a middle-school friend’s birthday in a fancy theater with a curtain that pulled back followed by a sleep-over at her house, and grief, I miss playing that bass line on the bassoon for pieces like the Star Wars theme music. Music just stays with you like that, and you remember the rhythms and notes and feelings.

I didn’t cry, though. Much. Maybe a tear.

This has been my clue that something big was brewing. My lack of tears. I attended two funeral/memorial services over the past two weeks and had few tears. I have felt big feelings that deserved the honor of weeping for them, and nothing would come. Just numbness.

I was aware that this wasn’t good. I kept going. I have to keep going.

After the movie, my son needed to go to Costco with a member, and that was me. It was empty and calm, and I decided to get the rest of the Christmas groceries while the space was less frenetic than usual.

Pushing through the heaviness mounting inside, I began to fill the cart. Realizing the blessing of being able to do so, I tried to smile, to trick my brain into feeling happy. It wasn’t really working. I kept going.

Sparing the details, my stress level boiled up and over and all of the kind tears that have been inviting me to feel them were shoved aside by the ugly ones that I was able to keep in check until returning home where they spilled and spewed up and over and out.

There were a lot of tears. And sobs. And tissues. I filled an entire Target bag with soggy sobby tissues. All the things I had to cry for, the griefs to feel, the achings and longings came pouring out.

So here is today.

Christmas Eve.

I sit in the aftermath of copious tears with a throbbing head and puffy eyes. Lots of voices chatter outside of my bedroom door. I hear other doors open and shut. People come and go. Discussions take place. I try to find motivation to finish up the few things that I have left on my list. They are important.

In order to do that I must get moving!

My hope is that yesterday’s tears have watered my heart enough to keep it soft and open with anticipation for what is coming.

Resurrection.

Tissues and Tears

I am away with my love this weekend. We are relaxing at Lake Anna in the midst of a season of difficult challenges. Maybe it should be seasons. The seasons have rolled into years.

The years have been hard.

It is difficult for me to be in the early morning quiet. I recognize this, as anxiety begins to mount at the prospect of an unstructured day ahead. I do not have words to give the man sitting at the opposite end of the sofa as I stare out the window at the sun rising over the water.

Pulling a creamy-soft throw from the back of the sofa and tucking it around me, I curl into a fetal position, resting my head on a square pillow. A tear falls. I feel it slip out of the corner of my eye, roll down my cheek and drip off of my face. More threaten to fall, betraying that all is not well.

I am not fine, and I have thirty-six hours to figure it out, before I have to go back. That is how it has always felt.

This is your chance. You had better not waste it or squander it or use it unwisely, because another one won’t be coming around any time soon! Redeem that time, Sister. You have been given much, and of you much is required.

Mustering every ounce of courage to make any sound come out of my mouth, I use my voice to share what is inside. It feels terrifying. There is a battle raging in my head. I want to stay behind the wall.

I don’t know how to be me by myself, and I sure don’t know how to be me and you by ourselves, and I am going to just ruin all of this!

Tears explode and fall in full-force sobs. I am sobbing on our first of two mornings together without parental and adult responsibilities before we have to go back. I feel self-contempt mounting and fight it fiercely.

Why can’t I just be carefree and fun?

Love pulls my feet into his lap and offers me comfort. He lets me ugly-cry and sob and leans over to rub my scalp and hug me. I feel so much resistance and try to stay present. I try to receive care without gauging what it will cost me.

Care comes at a cost, you know. Will this be worth it?

I fight against resistance to share with and be real with this life-partner who sits with me on the other side of the wall. Coming out from behind it is so scary and so hard and so risky for me.

I am met with safety and kindness. There is no judgment or expectation.

Love shares his feelings about sitting on the same side of the wall with me. I try not to twist them into something they are not.

They are only love and gratitude. I can choose to receive, which I do.

Grateful for the kindness offered to me to just be and process, I pull out a journal and begin to write. Thoughts come. Curiosities. More tears. I reach for tissues that begin to pile up. I consider taking a picture of them. That just seems wrong. I resist the urge.

Love gives me the space that I need. Little do I know I am being watched from above.

Always.