Friday, May 30, 2014

Fix My Eyes

Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on you
-Fix My Eyes, For King and Country

When Alif was sick, my faith was strong. When he was at death's door, my faith was strong. When I spent what appeared to be my last night with him, and I said my goodbyes, told him what I loved about him, laughed about fond memories of our life together, thanked him for our four amazing children, my faith still remained strong. I wasn't angry at God. I wasn't disappointed. I was fearful, for sure, about how my children would fare, what our lives would look like, but I felt so tenderly held in my Father's hands that I had no room to doubt His will.

When my Mom died, I fell through. God didn't let me go, that much I know, but I just became such a broken person. Almost a year and a half later, I'm still broken. It's hard to put into words though, even within myself, so I really don't talk about the struggles I'm having in my faith. It's not that I'm angry with God. I'm severely disappointed, desperately lonely and very, very sad. I keep telling myself to hold onto my Father, to talk to Him, read His Words to me, to lean into Him to ride out this storm, but I'm just so tired. I can't work up having faith in His plan, I just can't, and I have been completely unable to figure out why. WHY can I not do the very things I know will help so much? 

Today I was driving and the above-referenced song played on the radio. It's like a bit of advice from the current "me" to the younger one. I absolutely love it and when I heard it before, I thought it would make such a neat graduation song for one of my children. Today, as I sang through the chorus, speakers vibrating with the force of volume, I found myself suddenly in tears. God showed me such a clear picture.

It is like I am holding onto an old, dirty, worn rope, fiercely clinging to . . . my Mom. Fixing my eyes on Him means letting her go, little by little. Every time I release that hold on her, it's as if the grief wound is opened, and my heart bleeds. I know I can trust Him. I know He is good and kind and patient and that above all, He loves me. But my Mom is what I knew in such a tangible way. If I could step outside myself, I would see that letting go of my grip on my Mom would not be an awful, scary fall, because God's hands are right there to catch me, but my flesh just wants what I had. 

It's not a solution, neatly packaged, but when God whispers to my heart, it's a big reminder of how much He cares.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day II

Last year, Mother's Day was a living nightmare. I didn't know how to act, how to be, how to breathe. I literally felt crazy. This year, I just feel sad. We learned about grief in class, and my teacher said that when people are really busy and take grieving in bits and pieces, as they have time, the grieving process lasts longer. Well, I am truly thankful that I had to pull on my shoes and get to school immediately, because I might have really been one of those people who can't get out of bed if I hadn't had somewhere I simply must be.
Amazingly, it isn't that often any more that I feel truly sidelined by my grief. It's been a year and four months, and I still cry a few times a week, still miss my Mom more than I can explain, but I am no longer drowning. Sometimes I really get hit, though, and think to myself, "how will I survive this for half of my life?"
I wish I could talk to my Mom about how she felt when Grandma died. I know she was sad, but it had been a long time coming, and Grandma was relatively old.  I remember her being sad, but I don't remember her being devastated. I wonder if she was, and just carried on like I am now. I wonder if, in her quiet moments, she wept and felt lonely and wondered if she would ever be the same.
I really never knew how much of my identity was in my Mom. It's interesting how I didn't know that I saw myself through her eyes so much. It's like she made me funny and ambitious and patient because she believed me to be those things.
I think about how she would want me to be. I can just picture it - she'd want me to be in counseling, to know that it's okay to be sad. She would know when the next big event is happening and make sure we got there, whether it was a Beth Moore conference or a special concert. We'd have been on a couple of little trips by now for some reason or another, lying side by side in a hotel somewhere, laughing until we cried and eating everything we shouldn't.
I sometimes look at the picture of my little family at her funeral reception, scrutinizing it to see how much my babies have changed. It's not terribly noticeable yet, but in another couple of years, they'll all be completely different people, and I'll grieve again for the them she never knew. My kids will earn awards at Awana, graduate 8th grade, get their driver's licenses, and I'll celebrate those things without her. It's very lonely.
There's a big learning process coming. I can feel it. I am going to be learning to see myself through my Father's eyes instead of through my mom's. He knows me better than she ever could have, and that's saying a lot. He wants even more for my life than she ever could have, and that too is saying a lot. Soon I will be learning to press further into Him, to really find comfort there under His wing. There's a hope in that, and that gets me through some pretty dark days.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Malachi's 16

Dear Malachi,
Sixteen years ago today, you made me a mommy! Daddy and I were so excited, nervous and clueless about becoming parents. None of our friends had children yet, and it just felt like this huge new adventure. It WAS! You brought out a love in us we never knew possible. Those first weeks, even though I had you sleeping in a bassinet at the end of our bed, I put the baby monitor right in there with you and the speaker right next to my ear, just so I could hear you breathing. It felt like you were a part of me - because you were!
I remember those first few weeks, I wondered if you were happy, because you just stared at me with a blank expression on your face. Well duh, babies don't learn to smile for a few weeks! When you did, and that big smile beamed up at me, and those blue eyes sparkled, it was like I'd just made the greatest discovery of all time. Everything you did impressed me.
I remember, too, how easily everyone fell in love with you. Grandpa Payne came over every day after work to carry you around for a while, and you'd always fall asleep with your fuzzy little head against his chest. Papa would come rock you on his lunch hour. Grandma Baldwin could not WAIT to show you off to her coworkers - and buy you every darling baby outfit she could get her hands on. Auntie Megan came to babysit and when you pooped, she said it smelled like freshly baked bread. I'm telling you, we just adored you.
And you know? For the first decade of your life, I think a part of me kind of dreaded your teenage years. People are always talking about how hard the teenage years are, so I wondered how you would BE. Plus, I knew that as the teen years approached, my time with you at home with me would grow shorter. And I couldn't bear the thought. At ALL.
But guess what, son. We're halfway through your teen years already, and you truly become more delightful with every passing year. I *love* your teen years. You're funny - witty - smart, handsome, capable, intelligent, dedicated, hard-working.
I always wondered what it would feel like when my children started to become my friend - when the parenting role would start to change a little bit more into friendship. I'll tell you what it feels like. It feels like when I'm having a bad day, and I'm upset, and you're kind. And I look over and think, "that kid is honestly one of my best friends." That's what it's like.
But I still dread that my time with you at home is growing shorter. I still tear up when I think that someday you won't live here. I guess we'll deal with that when the time comes, huh?
For now, my son, Happy Birthday. You are one of the biggest blessings of my entire life, and I love you so very much.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THE Holiday Season

People always talk about that holiday season - the first one after losing someone you love. It's supposed to be really hard, you know.

Well, Megan and I had our first birthdays without our Mom. We share a birthday, Megan 5 years to the day after me, and it's always been quite an event. My Mom was the queen of birthdays - well, events, really. She always dreamed of being an event planner, and she would have been the best. She had Pinterest in her head long before it ever existed. The birthday rolled around, and it was just awful. It was marginally less awful than it could have been since I shared it with my sister, and we clung to one another, understood the pain and the craziness of having our birthdays without her.

But now here we are, facing our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without our Mom. I've dreaded it since before she died. I mean, last year was pretty darn bad. She was suffering, and we were too, and wondering if she would even be here for Christmas, praying that she would. And she was, but it was not really like Christmas. In a way, I wondered if in a whole year, this might all be easier to face.

I should have known better. Everything reminds me of the emptiness that I feel without her. The Nutcracker is coming, and we bought tickets. We always went with Mom, and she always took us to dinner and bought the kids each a new "nuttus" to celebrate. The year before last, the last time we went, she bought the entire Nutcracker suite for them. I wonder if she knew then that she might not be around for another performance.

This would have been our year to have Thanksgiving with my Mom and Christmas with my in-laws. It's strange, to say the least, to have no plans for Thanksgiving day. I really don't care if Wal-Mart is open on Thanksgiving because this year, it's just another day. Maybe I'll go just to get paper towels or dog food or something.

I wrote out my Christmas planning list and not having my Mom on there was so sad that I haven't even looked at the list again. We're usually just about finished shopping by now, but I just can't hardly go there. I can't fathom celebrating Christ's birth without the one who brought me into the world.

I remember years ago, when my Mom had gone through a lot of hard life events, she just kind of gave up on Christmas decorating. It was so strange, because all the time we were growing up, she went to so much effort to make our home into a Christmas wonderland. To walk into her home, year after year, and see nary a Christmas tree, was depressing. I can understand now, though. It's so painful to think about having Christmas without my Mom that, if it weren't for my children, I might be tempted myself to just hide under the covers and pretend the holidays weren't happening.

But you know, there's another side to all of this. Despite how sad we are here without her, she is living with the King of Kings. She has the heavenly perspective that we, as Christians, strive for. She truly would not want this to be a time of sadness and tears, but a time of hopefulness and celebration, a time of closeness with our family and friends. And most of all, she would want us to draw near to our Savior.

So though I long - ache - for even one hour to sit and talk with my Mom, to laugh with her, to know how she's doing, to tell her how Alif is doing, how we have disability court next week and Malachi just got his learner's permit and Graham has a heart issue that we'll now be monitoring yearly, and how Canaan still sleeps with us at least part of most nights and I love it so much, how nervous and excited I am about starting the nursing program, and on and on and on? I will instead draw near to Jesus. I will pour out my heart to Him and ask Him to carry us through. And because He loves us with a never ending love, He will.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Grief is so weird. I knew that before, having been through some tough things in life, and just from reading about it and watching others go through it. Experiencing grief after the loss of my Mom, though, is just plain weird.

I guess I thought that I would go through the stages in a linear fashion, maybe with some hops forward and back along the way. I did not think I would experience all the stages of grief at the same time for months and months and months. I wonder if it will still be this way years from now.

Granted, in the first few weeks I felt like I lived in an alternate reality, and I cried all day long. I couldn't even count how many times in a day I would cry. It's not like that now, though: some days I do cry several times, but some I don't cry at all.

In some ways, it feels like she's still here and I just haven't heard from her in a really long time, so then I will feel kind of irritated at her, but then I'll remember that she's NOT really here and I can't talk to her now and not EVER, and then I feel devastated, and I cry though it, and then I feel a little bit of peace that yeah, she's not here because she's in Heaven and I wouldn't wish her back even if I could, because I couldn't bear to see her go through pain like that again, to watch her waste away, to feel her pulling away from me - but then again I would, because I am so very desperate to feel her near me, to have her advice, to laugh with her, to go on trips with her, to just flat-out KNOW SHE'S HERE.

Yeah. That's what my brain looks like.

Grief sucks. And I miss my Mom so much I can't hardly stand it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Two years.

Two years have gone by since Alif's illness. It sounds weird to put it that way, because it's not like it was an event that happened and passed and life is back to normal now, but then again it was one of the biggest events of our lives.

Today is Alif's Birthday. It's impossible to celebrate his Birthday without remembering this day two years ago. We decorated his hospital room, read him cards (looking exactly as he did in that picture above, no response at ALL), a nurse bought him a cupcake (which sat, untouched, for well over a week when we finally had to throw it away).

But that night the neurologist had sobering words: Alif would not survive.

There's no way I can explain what that night was like. I knew then that I needed to gather up my courage, trust in the Lord like never before, and make the most of my last weekend with my husband. The neurologist said we would reevaluate on Monday, and that at that time we would need to make some decisions. Basically, he was saying that we would turn off his life support and he would not be likely to live after that.

It boggles my mind that my expectations for my husband went from everything to nothing in no time flat - I mean, the idea that he could live at all - even as a vegetable - was so hopeful. So coming from that point of view, it is amazingly, breathtakingly remarkable to see the man that he is now. He can do so many things! In fact, if you don't know him very well, you could probably spend quite a bit of time with him and not notice any lingering effects from the strokes that he suffered.

But they're there.

There's no need to go into his deficits here and now. It's his birthday, after all! But I ask that if you think of us, please pray. There is so much missing for Alif, and so much pressure on me, that life is definitely not easy.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Alif. I love you so very, very much.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Things have changed and that's for sure

August 12, 2012 was my last post. That was also the end of life as I knew it and a harsh introduction to the most heartbreaking time of my life.

One of my last posts was about Malachi's 8th grade graduation. That was kind of a milestone day in my Mom's health because though she was hosting his graduation party at her community center, and though she attended his graduation, she was unable to come to the party. She didn't feel well, and I think most of us very close to her knew that something wasn't right. And deep down, if we knew something wasn't right, we knew that it had to do with cancer. After all, for the last 18 years, that word has been in the back of our minds, if not at the very forefront. It just never felt like something that was Over and Done With. It lurked - both figuratively and, as we now know, literally.

We tended to symptoms long before we knew that cancer had taken over. Many, many trips to doctors, surgeons, emergency rooms, urgent care, all in the name of pain management, never facing the real problem, because the real problem was too big to face. Finally we knew, though. It was back, and it wasn't curable. Still, we were pretty hopeful at first (well, perhaps it was really all denial). God was so gracious. Things moved only as fast as the three of us (Mom, Megan and I) could handle them. For a disease that had taken over so much of her body, she functioned well at first. Then not so well, and finally, not independently at all, until on January 9, 2013 at 6:15am, she took her final breath and traveled home to her Father - and her mother and father and so many others who had gone before.

It's been almost two months now and it still doesn't feel quite real sometimes. I can again see God's grace, because there have been a few times that it's all felt SO real and SO permanent that I literally have to catch my breath; panic threatens to consume and I cry out to God. Which, let's face it, is what I should be doing every moment of every day.

Writing is therapeutic for me, but what's in my heart is so raw right now. It's not full of optimism and gratitude, though those things exist alongside the darkness, loneliness, panic, desperation, self-pity, sadness. I'm just warning you, those few who may see this, that I want to track what's going on so I can look back on it all someday, but I don't want to have to censor my thoughts, so it's gonna get real up in here. You've been warned. ;-)