Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Grief and Holy Days

Many who are grieving find the holidays to be treacherous and unholy ground.  Facing those traditional days without their loved one is just too much to bear. I was the exception rather than the norm when it came to this.  In my now dark and scary world where everything was changed I found the the holidays to be a relief because they were traditional. They did not change.  I was drawn out of my tiny, grief focused life and found refuge in family.

A few weeks before Leroy died in July we had spent a weekend at my cousin Carla's a couple hours upriver. It was a time of fun, freedom and family. We made memories. Following his death our extended family Thanksgiving was hosted by Carla as well.  We gathered there with family.  I brought the scrapbook we were creating about him.  On the coffee table was a candle lit in his memory, tucked in the flowers around the base was a small wishbone.  He always asked for the wishbone.  After other family members left we stayed for the rest of weekend.  It was a time of missing, healing and tears. We made memories. The Biker read a book about the death of a beloved son and cried. If you know him, he is not a reader and at that time tears did not come easily either.  In a drawer there was a small pad of paper. Imprinted into it was the letter Leroy had written to his Auntie Nunie.  If you knew him you would know that reading and writing did not come easily to him either.  Artist that he was, all around the edges he had drawn flowers and curly ques.  He was so proud of that letter. His eyes sparkled with excitement as he told me she would have to write back to him because he asked how the baby was doing!

Once again it is Thanksgiving. We are here in Virginia Beach to celebrate with our sailor. In his living room is a candle. Beside it is a small framed photograph of a small, brown eyed boy holding his baby brother.  Six years between them but they were good buds.  Twenty-two years later, we still miss him.

Holidays. Holy days.  How do we do this?

Find a way to honor your loved one as part of your celebration.  It does not have to be extravagant just meaningful to you.

Change a few things but do not change everything. Remember you are not the only one grieving though our grief fogged mind has made our focus that small.  Think about those nearest and dearest to you and what their needs may be.  Not celebrating at all may seem best to us, however, especially for children, losing the holiday along with their favorite traditions may be too big a loss to bear with the loss they are already enduring.  We can easily make those whom we are still blessed to have in our lives feel as if their life is no longer important to us because of death. Love them.

If others beyond your nearest and dearest do not like the changes you are making in your holiday traditions and celebrations, offer them grace. They do not understand.

Have a plan.  You may tweak it when the time comes, change it up or abandon it completely but have a plan. Death leaves us feeling helpless and out of control.  A plan that did not work is better than no plan at all which leaves you feeling more helpless and out of control.  Be patient with yourself.  You are finding your way through rough and rocky ground you have not traveled before.

Often the anticipation of the holiday is worse than the day itself. Anticipation of the pain is often worse than the pain itself. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to cry and miss and wish. It is okay to be happy and enjoy yourself in spite of it all.

May your season be holy and wear red shoes for courage - Pat

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Time - The Poem

Poetry has been and is a part of my healing process.
I did not write this poem.  It came to me.  I wrote it down.


God is all eternity.
He doesn’t measure time.
Here on earth  it pushes us
With steady, metered rhyme.

Time was running way to fast,
The years were flying by.
A week seemed but a day
An hour, the a wink of an eye.

One night in it’s headlong rush
Time crashed, it stopped, stood still.
A mighty hand had reached inside,
And stopped the spinning wheels.

Your little heart stopped beating,
My leaping, lively one.
Your little feet stopped climbing,
You had reached the highest rung.  

Time just stopped and stood there,
A heavy, crushing weight,
Holding fear, and pain, and anger
Inside it’s iron gate.

Slowly the wheels started turning
As if in agony.
The hours that flew so quickly by
Seemed to fill eternity.

Time hurry, go on, faster
Rush on past this pain.
Make the years go flying
Heal my heart again.

I am sorry, Time has answered
This has come to stay.
I can only ease your sorrow,
I cannot make it go away.

My little one, you’re off and running,
You’re  running on ahead.
No measured steps of pain for you,
Timeless freedom is yours instead.

Your little feet are off and running,
Climbing, leaping as before.
I am waiting . . . waiting to join you.
Where time shall be no more.

pja   1991 November 20

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grief and Time

It has been said "Time heals all wounds."  Time does not heal grief but it does take time for grief to heal. It is a process. It can be a long process. Each grief is as different as the griever. Each grief is as different as the relationship being grieved.

When we build relationships we build files of information in our hearts and minds each pertaining to that relationship.  The longer we know someone and more time we invest the more files we have.  When death ends the relationship the files still remain. As we grieve we open files and examine the contents. We remember and grieve what once was and what will never be.  Files that were once labeled "Alive, Active, Loved" are eventually labeled "Deceased, Missed, Still Loved". It is something that cannot be hurried. Each file is opened in it's time. We go through all those "firsts", first birthday, first holidays, first time grocery shopping alone. It is seasonal to the year, and also to the seasons of life.  We grieve each milestone as it passes.

In relationships that end almost before they begin as in miscarriage, stillborn or newborn death we cling to the small files we have. We grieve the milestones that never were, that never will never be. As each birthday passes we wonder who and what might have been.

When a relationship is rocky, rough or broken the grief process is harder. We not only grieve or regret what was, we grieve for what could have been but now will never be. Reconciliation is now something we must try to achieve alone.

Yes, grief takes time and you need to give yourself permission to grieve.

"You give yourself permission to grieve by recognizing the need for grieving. Grieving is the natural way of working through the loss of love. Grieving is not weakness or the absence of faith.  Grieving is as natural as crying when you hurt, sleeping when you are tired, or sneezing when your nose itches. It is nature's way of healing a broken heart."ᵃ

Give yourself permission to grieve and then give yourself permission to heal as well. Jesus asked the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-8) "Do you want to be well?"  If we want to heal from our grief we have to choose to be well.

"There must come a time when you assume responsibility for your own grief recovery. There is no timetable.  You will come to it when you are ready. When you get there your choice is to say 'I want to get well' or to say 'I can't'. If you say 'I can't,' growth will stop and wait for your decision to get well."ᵃ

Leroy died 22 years ago.  He is still gone. I still miss him. It still hurts. His death has defined me and who I am today but it no longer defines my life. It no longer consumes me, my time, my thoughts, my emotions and all my energy. I have chosen to heal. I remember and the memories are sweet. We pass those days and milestones and tears will still fall but I am healed.

Give yourself permission to grieve.
It takes time.
Give yourself permission to heal.
And wear red shoes for courage.

ᵃ Quotes from Don't Take My Grief Away by Doug Manning. (HarperSanFransisco)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Grief Quotes

They say that time in heaven is compared to 'the blink of an eye' for us on this earth. Sometimes it helps me to think of my child running ahead of me through a beautiful field of wildflowers and butterflies; so happy and completely caught up in what she is doing that when she looks behind her, I'll already be there."
~Author Unknown
from Eve Somero Anderson

A sunset in one land is a sunrise in another.
2013 Feb 8 Our Daily Bread

We mourn because we love; we love because we are Loved. It is the Love of Christ in us that flows through us to those we love. When that flow of love is interrupted we feel as though part of us has been ripped away. This is mourning. Mourning leads to healing; healing is accomplished by the strengthening of the remaining bonds of love and the establishment of new bonds. With Christ as the source of Love, our love will again be made whole.
Jon Johnson 2013 February

For now, I remember grief work is hallowing work. - Kelley Nikondeha

Friday, October 18, 2013

Road of Grief

The road of grief has no shortcuts
 or detours. The only way to healing
 is straight through the night.
So shed every tear.
Cry every cry.
Think every thought.
Feel every feeling.
Embrace every pain.
Tell every story.
Ask every question.
Remember every memory.
Treasure every belonging.
Look at every picture.
Pray every prayer.
Sing every song.
Read every book.
Write every word.
And somewhere along the journey
you will find the morning light.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Tears

I have walked a road of grief and come along side many as they have walked their road of grief. I am not an expert on grief and mourning.  I do not pretend to understand another's grief but right now I am in a season when so many around me are mourning, in grief so raw and fresh  that I have decided to share what I have learned on this journey. I cannot walk it for you or tell you exactly what lies ahead but maybe I can come along side, shine a little light and give you hope. I don't plan to post on a certain day or follow a prescribed pattern because grief is not like that.  I will write as it comes because grief does not follow time tables or predicted patterns. It comes as it will.

Grief is no respecter of persons. It does not distinguish between the young and the old, male or female. It doesn't care about the color of your skin, who your ancestors are, whether you are smart, ugly, rich or poor, a peon or the president. Grief comes to all of us, even old dogs and children.

My first encounter with grief was when I was child.  Both of my grandmothers died the year I was eight. Was the word grief even in my vocabulary? I doubt it but I grieved.  I remember that sadness and those songs that can take me back there even now.  Yes, you liked or even loved the songs you chose for the funeral but now forevermore they will pierce your soul.  Twenty-two years after saying good-bye to the Runner I can sometimes sing "Jesus Loves Me" without tears.  It pierces yet brings joy  remembering a little brown eyed boy who sang slow and off-key in that gravelly voice with his whole heart. Yes, Jesus loves me this I know.

"Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted."

Be comforted and wear red shoes for courage - Pat

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the wee hours...

The dishwasher swishes and hums. The Biker sleeps. Pandora plays. My heart has been many places today.  Since Christmas day many chairs have been emptied. One by one they have gone away.   With each one goes a little part of our hearts til they are bleeding, ragged holes: missing, aching, wishing. Life goes on.  With life is struggle. Fighting for life. Fighting to let go.  Life breathes. Hope. A bright small moon shines over a world awakening to spring.  Spring that follows winter. Seedtime and harvest = Promise.  Supper + Garden  + Cross + Tomb + Resurrection = Hope. Heaven waits. Hope rises. Bleeding ragged hearts hold on. He holds our bleeding hearts in His own bleeding hands. He holds hope and healing and heaven. He holds it all: life, death, breath, hope. Heaven.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Power of the Resurrection.

"He went walking and leaping and praising God
 Walking and leaping and praising God..."

These words were running through my head as we stood in a small room hidden in the bowels of the hospital.  We were lead there through many twistings and turnings after those other words.  Life crashing, mind numbing, heart twisting, gut turning words: dead on arrival.  Later I would second guess myself and wonder.  And shoulda, woulda, coulda.  Wonder if I should have commanded him "In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!".  Would he have gotten up and walked?  Could I have done that?  I wonder.

Sometime later I had a dream.  He was there on large plywood box in the yard, cold and still.  My sisters and I were gathered all around.  Someone cried "Get up!"  And he did. He came leaping down from there with a big missing teeth smile on his face.  We were laughing and crying, and all talking at once.  He was holding my hand.  Then he looked up at me.  His face was sad and his eyes  filled with tears.
"But I don't want to stay. I want to go back"
"It's OK" I said "You can go."
I woke up and he was gone.  I wanted so much to keep him but I had to let him go.

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Waiting for the trumpet - Pat

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2013 Ash Wednesday

"Come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
the sheep of His hand.    Psalm 95:6-7

                    Sheep in Kenya by Julie Ann

"Our lives can become a wilderness when experiences expose our frail and tenuous existence.  Episodes of bewilderment, abandonment, and inner terror reveal our soul restless cravings and fundamental neediness.
In the wilderness we can lose our bearings.
Or regain them."  (Dr. Timothy S. Laniak)

"Amen is our cry of belonging to Christ, the one whose promises can be fully trusted, who is shelter and guiding star in the desert we sometimes make of our lives." (St. Mary's Press)

Amen! quite literally: "I will drive my tent peg into that."

Lashing one's tent so that when the sudden desert winds come up the shelter stands secure. Like the firm placement of a piton for a rock climber, the driving of a tent peg for a desert traveler can mean life or death.
                           "On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,
                           all other ground is sinking sand."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apple Pancakes

Tuesdays are busy days with Bible Study so the meal plan for supper is Easy. The afternoon had gotten gobbled up with year end/new year book keeping. I was getting hungry.  Hot dogs were penciled in but I was not in a hot dog mood.  As I was browsing online a fruit pancake recipe popped up. It called for fresh blueberries and raspberries. Hmmm...have frozen raspberries. The fruit pancake idea brought to mind a lined yellow paper that has been in my recipe collection for many years.  Autumn Apple Pancakes.

Written in the handwriting of a young teen girl it is a recipe that Leroy brought home. It may have come from our beloved baby sitter Tina but I do not remember. It is one of those memories that got lost in the fuzzy years after he died.                              

As I chopped apples, mixed and measured I reminisced how down through the years without him I have been given Leroy gifts. Another of our babysitters sent me a some pictures he had colored and given her. One year when I was visiting my Mama she returned to me all the letters I had written her the first few years of our marriage. Heart squeezing, breath taking diaries of my all little ones baby years spilling over with Leroy stories. 

As the bacon sizzled and the pancakes turned golden brown I savored my memories. Amanda and Levi collaborated on a photo book for the Biker and I for Christmas for this year. He secretly uploaded pictures from my Leroy file to her photo account. She created and ordered the gift. She also found a gift at the craft fair that she knew would be perfect for me. It was just my style: a little cowboy boot filled with twigs, red berries and rusty tin stars poking out every which way.  

What Amanda did not know is that this boot is also a Leroy gift. His very first pair of cowboy boots was almost identical to this one and about that size. We bought Levi a pair of black leather boots and a grey two-tone pair one size smaller for Leroy.  I placed it in the Harley window, tweaked the stars and tucked in a  wishbone. He always asked for the wishbone. Heaven is a place where all the wishes of every little wisher come true.  At the end of the pancake recipe it says ENJOY! with a smiley face. We did.

Love from Leroy.