Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 411


July 21, 2014

Day 411


From things that make me happy to things that make me sad...


A grief wave caught up with me over the weekend and this one has had a vicious undertow.  I can't think of one thing that triggered it.  Saturday night I was driving over to my friend, Emi's, house.  A group of us from our Sunday School class were going out.  David was home from camp, finally, my mouth was feeling good after a whole week of pain, I was getting a break from the Littles...and I, inexplicably,  cried all the way to her house.


I feel like I haven't been able to break free of this wave yet.  All day yesterday and  today I have fought physical and emotional fatigue.  Today has been especially rough.  I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night, which might be a contributing factor.  I had a little girl with repeated bad dreams and an especially  needy cat (yes, I know...) in the middle of the night.


Although I do have to say I am proud of myself in that I don't feel like I've shortchanged the kids or been grumpy with them because I haven't felt well.  Normally, they are the first ones to get the short end of my emotional stick.  I'm keeping up a good front.


Today I had to run a number of errands.  Several times I thought I saw Paul.  Of course it wasn't him - just some other balding, middle aged guy.  But my heart wanted to see him.


I miss him.  Terribly.  I cannot imagine a day in the future when I won't.  At times, I am anxious to move on with my life.  I find myself thinking about another husband, a new life, maybe some stepchildren (not too many, though - the thought of raising someone else's kids is a bit overwhelming right now)...happiness.  Sometimes I can even imagine a happy day where I'm not necessarily remarried either, just enjoying time with my children (who are all older in my imagination, quiet, potty trained, and no longer rubbing purple make-up into my brand new carpet or engraving their new bunkbeds with an ink pen.  That was Ellie.  Yesterday.)  I see myself as mother of the groom and cooing over a brand new grandbaby, taking my girls bra and  prom dress shopping,  and I get excited by those images and I yearn for them now. 


Because I want to be happy.  Because I don't want to hurt anymore.


Last week I read a post on one of my widow forums from a widow of 4 years.  She stated emphatically that she will never, ever, ever date or remarry.  On one hand, I could sympathize with her feelings but found myself really hoping that that's not me in 3 years.  In three years, I hope I'm ready for more life.


But I know that what would make me happiest is if my life wasn't where it is.  I want what was supposed to be.  I want to be a family of 8 again.  And I want to be fussing about my still undone house and Paul's irregular hours.  I want to groan every morning because he wants me to make him breakfast and I think food in the morning is a grossly overrated idea.  I want to worry about how we're going to pay the bills this next month and I want to plan our next date night.


All these things I think would make me happy, but I also know that there were seeds of discontent in all of it.  So many things we don't appreciate until we don't have them any longer.  I had a happy life, but I was not always happy living it.


And yet, I am aware that my  ultimate aim in life is NOT happiness.  It is holiness.  As a human my natural instinct is to crave that which I think will bring happiness.  As a Christian I must yearn for what makes me more like Christ.  Right now that's hardship.  It's deprivation.  It's soul-splitting grief.  As long as I set my thoughts on what has been taken I will only feel cheated.


But I can't "talk myself out of" grief either.  It just is.  The act of involuntarily  uncoupling must be more painful than any other necessity of life, I think.  There is a mystery about the "one-fleshness" referred to in Scripture.  It's not just sexual, although that's a big part of it.  Over time, it really is a melding of two separate units into one.  Two selfish personalities learn to die daily to themselves and to live for the other.  Eventually, it can be hard to distinguish where one ends and the other begins, so entwined have their lives, souls, and personalities become.


And then death comes, ripping apart the seams that have been woven so tightly together.  One is gone and the other is left alone, vulnerable, exposed, and raw.  The one left behind doesn't even know who she is without the other.  If she doesn't know who she is, then how can she exist - alone?


Am I esoteric enough tonight?  Just tired.  Just hurting.  Just wanting it to be over.  Wishing I was endowed with an always-sunny personality, someone who could whip out a Bible verse for every emotion, and assuring others that everything is fine because I have Jesus.

And tomorrow, after a good night's sleep, it may be fine.  I may laugh with my children again and exchange funny text messages with a friend.  I may smile because Will calls or someone drops me a caring card in the mail.  All these things happen on a routine basis.  But none of it will mean that I am finished grieving.  It won't mean that I no longer miss my husband.  It won't mean that I don't cry while driving to friends' houses.




I stained my deck Friday, which was a first-time experience.  I got the floor and inside of the railings done before I ran out of stain.  I picked up some more today but will have to wait until it cools down to tackle the rest.  I don't know if the deck looks like it's supposed to.  There are some sections that tell me I would have been better to hire out this job.  My feet and ankles look like they've had an unfortunate encounter with self-tanning cream!  But all in all, I don't think I did too badly of a job.  That poor wood was so thirsty.  It just soaked up the stain the second I put in on and I did two coats.  We've just been so busy since we moved here 10 years ago that the deck was always low-priority.  With all our construction work it was never really a space we could enjoy - seems like it was always holding big boards or construction materials or was half dismantled.  Yesterday, the kids and I grilled steaks and ate lunch out there.  Of course, they complained non stop about the flies and heat and maybe it would have been better if we had just eaten inside!  I really thought it might have been better to stay inside when I scrubbing red jello off my freshly stained boards a few hours later...


I think I'm going to go ahead and stain the picnic table Paul made.  Well, I kind of have to now since I dripped stain on it the other day while doing the deck!  I'm toying with the idea of doing the swingset and front porch, too.  But I may save that for another summer.



The other day Ellie quietly watched me put on some make-up.  I got done and then she solemnly said, "Mommy - you a little pitty (pretty)!"  Thanks, I think...I was reminded of when Will was two years old.   I was making french fries and he commented on how there sure were a "lot, a lot of fries, Mommy!"  I used the opportunity to attempt to teach him a truth about how much I loved him.  Using his words, I told him how his mom loved him, "a lot, a lot!"  Will was quiet for a moment and then replied, "Will loves you a little bit."  That still cracks me up, all these years later!


I realized tonight that David is now taller than Ben.  I had them stand back to back and just barely, David has passed his big brother.  When he came back Saturday I found myself suddenly noticing his bulging arm muscles and the way his chest is beginning to fill out.  Presumably this didn't all happen in five days time, but I guess I never noticed before that his scrawny boy body is slowly maturing.  He stood before the church last evening to give an account of his week at camp and I was struck by a new poise he posseses, along with a comfortable self-awareness.  He may turn out all right after all...If nothing else, he's guaranteed to be tall!



I was doing some filing the other night and while filing bank statements I suddenly realized that the account I opened last fall for Ben's Special Needs Trust has been slowly drained by account fees issued by the bank.  I didn't think this was supposed to happen. Evidently, I really need to keep a closer eye on my account totals...  I funded the account with the bare minimum needed to open it and have no intention of funding it further until I die.  At that time, it would be funded with life insurance proceeds.  I had to open the account in order to set up the trust.  I just got approval on the trust, which has been a bit of a nightmare.  It took the Dept. of Human Services EIGHT months to get back to me, although my attorney pointed out to me today that the paper is stamped with approval dating back to February!  That's a whole 'nother story, anyway.  So, my mind began to whirl.  What to do about this bank account?  Do I just need to budget $6 a month for the rest of my life to pay for this thing?  That's a lot of money!  But I can't have the trust without the account attached to it.  And if I don't have the trust, then Ben's needed services are not protected if he should come into or earn a certain amount of money.


It was upsetting.  Last night as I drifted off to sleep I asked the Lord to go before me on this matter.  I told him I didn't know if I had misunderstood something when setting up the account, but I needed favor from the bank and I needed wisdom to know what to ask for and what to do. 


Then this morning was a hard morning.  I couldn't wake up for anything.  I didn't feel well.  Grief's cruel talons dug especially hard into my heart.  Getting dressed and getting Ben and the Littles fed and out the door was an especially burdensome task.


My first stop was to meet with my financial guy to sign some papers and get some help with  paperwork (I'm finally getting around to claiming Paul's pension from a job he worked in Omaha).  Free of children, I could listen to whatever I wanted on my mp3 player - no requests for Elvis (Ben) or songs from the Frozen soundtrack (you can guess who).  Pastor Young's voice came through my radio.  It was Paul's funeral all over again.  I listened to him.  I don't know how many times I've heard this message since June 11 of last year.  Enough.  But not enough that I don't want to hear it again.


  He said something I've obviously heard him say before on my player, but today I heard it.  Addressing me at the funeral he said, "Sarah, face the future without fear."  The topic of fear is a blog post in of itself.  I am intimately aquainted with that emotion these days.  But still,


Face the future without fear


How can I do that? 


Because I have someone to go before me, to fight battles in my stead, so that I don't have to become war-weary or injured by fighting them on my own.


I am protected.


I went to the bank, found my favorite banker who has handled all my financial widowhood papers and such, and explained my concerns.  Concerned, she pulled up my account and told me an error had been made.  The money would be returned to my account and I did not need to worry about it anymore.  And that was it!


Face the future without fear
























Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 408

July 18, 2014

Day 408


It's a rare day that I have absolutely nowhere to go - I am enjoying it!  I have my to-do list and I am busy staining the deck in-between crossing things off the list and tending to the kids.  David has been gone at camp all week and I have missed him.  He does such a good job of running interference with all these short people for me!  He comes home tomorrow afternoon and an opportunity has arisen for me to go out with some women from my SS class in the evening.  I am thinking of putting David on babysitting duty as soon as he gets home.  I shouldn't...but I probably will!


The week has been dominated by my mouth saga.  I have issues going on currently with my upper right side.  In late May, an old filling cracked a molar and the tooth completely crumbled.  I have a temporary crown in there and it's not visible when I smile.  I am putting off the work until January when my waiting period on my dental insurance is up.  Even with that, I'll still have a $2600 bill.  I'm going to have to have an implant put in and my dentist has warned me that the nerve is so close to the surface that it could "go" at any time and then I'd have to have the work done immediately, regardless of my waiting period.  To that end, I've been told to "baby" that side of my mouth and I have been.


But then last weekend my upper left side started bothering me.  I pinpointed the offending tooth and realized it was one that has never had any dental work.  Presumably, I just needed a filling.  I fought irritation at first.  Monday, I was completely kid-free, which almost never happens.  Will and David were up at camp, Ben was at Genesis, and the Littles were with Mishelle - woo-hoo!  Hours to tend to only me!  And  I had to go the dentist...grrr....But, I forced myself to look at the bright side, that I didn't have to scrounge for sitter and that my dentist could work me in that day.  Of course, I had to look harder for that bright side when she informed me that the bothersome tooth is holding up my bridge and because of that I'd have to see an endodontist.  I didn't have a cavity, but needed a root canal.  She sent me home on antibiotics and hydrocodeine, which makes me drowsy. I ended up taking that only at night because I just can't function in the day with codeine in my system.  Plus, I think 3 Advil work faster anyway.


So, Mishelle took the kidlets for me again yesterday and Ben had Genesis and I headed out to W. Des Moines to the endodontist.  I was just sick over the money this was going to cost me.  But I guess that's what it's (money) there for.  I couldn't live on Advil until January.  The procedure really wasn't bad.  The dentist (surgeon?) doing it was super nice and explained each step of the process to me.  He sent me home on steroids because he said the inflammation in there was really, really bad.  The pharmacist warned me that the steroids would make it hard to fall asleep and she was right.  I forced myself to go down at midnight last night (I had taken the pill at 1pm) but it still took a little bit to fall asleep.  From one extreme (with the pain pills) to the other, I guess!  I'm a little achy today but it's not the pain I had earlier this week.  And my face doesn't even look bruised, like it has after some dental encounters.  I'm still thinking the best thing to do is to pull them all out and just get dentures...but I've sunk too much money into my mouth now to do that!


I used my new mower for the first time this week.  When I was considering what kind of a mower to get, riding or push, the boys moaned to me that it would take 3+ hours to mow if I went with a push mower.  We have a third of an acre, but the house and garage sit on that, so it just makes for a really large yard - which is great for a lot of kids.  Not so great for mowing.  I went with a fancy self-propelled mower for a variety of reasons.  Boy, this thing is nice!  It even starts with the push of a button.  I did end up with several blisters on my hands and the callouses on my big toes sure were hurting afterwards.  I probably just need to wear better shoes when mowing instead of my flip flops.  It took me less than two hours to get the whole thing done.  I wore ear protectors and just walked around and around, singing and praying while I worked.  Maybe this will be good for my tummy flab, too...



Ellie got her nightgown on this week, waltzed into the kitchen, and asked, "How Me look?"  I'm quite sure not a one of my boys ever asked me that, particularly when wearing their pajamas! Nonplussed, I said, "Uh, pretty, I guess!"  Delighted, Ellie twirled and exclaimed, "Thank you, Mommy!"




I heard on the radio this week that the boys' old pediatrician in Council Bluffs has been arrested for having thousands of child porn images on his computer.  Yikes...I didn't use him all that long.  Back then, I was still figuring out my own philosophies on child medical care and I went through several years, especially after Ben was born, looking for the right fit for a doctor for my kids.  I really did not find one until we moved out here.  I do remember that this particular doctor in Council Bluffs challenged me when I told him I wanted Will to have the chicken pox vaccine, which was brand new back then.  I wish I would have listened to him.  But anyway...I'm guessing this doctor is probably in his sixties by now.  Child porn possession is a federal crime so that means he'll be going away for decades - essentially the rest of his life.  I don't disagree with the punishment, but this is why I warn and warn my boys about the danger of pornography.  What can seem so innocent at first can quickly morph into a raging, consuming monster of the mind  that will cost its viewer everything.



I followed a link on Facebook this week about the top 100 names (so far) of 2014.  Five of my kids' names made it on the lists.  But, evidently, David isn't all that popular anymore because names like "Hugo" and "Gus" beat him out.  Seriously.  At our medium-sized church, there are 3 young men with the name of "David" so I am guessing that 15-20 years ago, "David" would have made the list.  I don't care.  When I was choosing names for the kids, I deliberately shied away from overly-popular ones and focused more on meaning, as well as what I liked.  We chose David's name to honor Paul's grandpa and because of its meaning ("beloved").  Plus, I really, really like the Biblical David.  Still, I love to read these kind of lists.


Tuesday was Baby Oliver's funeral.  It was nice- sad, but nice.  Ellie sure was a handful, though.  You'd think the kid had never sat through an entire church service the way she squirmed and wriggled throughout the entire service.  Good grief!  All three were quite fascinated to see the tiny baby in his casket.  I couldn't resist stroking his face.  To my surprise, he was soft.  Maybe it was fine hair that babies are coated with after birth.  I don't know.  Paul was just so hard, like a manniquin.  I remember hugging him in his coffin (and discovering by that how it is they dress corpses - they split the clothing up the back) wishing desparetly to feel some familiarity, but not finding it.  The pad underneath his thumb was still fleshy, though, so I remember I kept stroking and squeezing that part of him.


They chose a large cemetery for Oliver that has a special "Babyland" section.  I loved it.  It was such a mixture of sweetness and sadness as I walked around, reading the other gravestones.  Sam and Lizzie were quite enamoured by it, too, and kept asking me to read the stones to them.


A couple of days later, Sam said to me, quite earnestly, "We can never again see or touch Baby Oliver here on earth - only in Heaven."  I've sensed that he is beginning to view Heaven as a very real place, not just this nebulous location that's talked about in church.  Earlier this week, we'd been talking about how people exist either here on earth or up in Heaven, but not in both places at once.  Since then, Sam has had a few questions about what Heaven is like and where exactly it is and so forth.


I told Sam he was right and commented that maybe Dad had already met Oliver and talked to him.  Lizzie piped up, "No, I bet he's holding him, like this!" And she made a cradling motion with her arms.  So sweet.  If there's one good thing that can come out of facing death at such a tender age, it's that my kids are gaining a perspective and understanding that most children their age do not have, for lack of experience.  As parents, we want to protect our children from sad and painful experiences, but this is really a good thing for them, I think. 



One moment, they'll be saying sweet things and demonstrating understanding beyond their years and the next they are back to being onery little kids again!  Lizzie found me in the house one day this week and demanded to know if it was true that in China, boys have the babies!  I looked up at Sam and he had his hands over his mouth, covering a smirk, no doubt.  Brothers!


Sam very seriously told us a few days ago, "I know now who I'm going to marry someday."  All the nagging and pleading from his sisters could not get him to divulge that little tidbit of information, though.  That is all he'd say - just enough to arouse intense curiousity.  He's like his dad in that way!  I guess we'll all have to wait to find out who is on his mind!



A new book for the girls arrived early this week.  It's called, "The Colors of Us."  I've been ordering books here and there off Amazon for the girls in recent months.  Sam calls them, "black girl books" and so that's what Lizzie and Ellie call them now, too!  Totally politically incorrect, I'm sure...But I realized sometime this last year that we have no childrens books featuring black children that I'm aware of.  I've written before how I don't want the girls growing up thinking there is something special about one race over another (that can go a myriad of directions) but at the same time I know they desire to identify with those that look similar to themselves.  So anyway, this book arrived and it is so neat!  It's about a little girl who obviously lives in a very multi-cultural diverse area (probably the inner city, judging by the illustrations).  My adoption Facebook groups tell me that if I want to be a "good" adoptive parent that this is what I must do - pack up and move somewhere where my children can interact and identify with others of like skin color.  I live in central Iowa in farm country.  It's not going to happen.  I'm not even going to take them to cultural events out here because most of them occur in very unsafe areas of Des Moines.  But we may try for some out-of-town events when the girls get older. 

 Anyway, this book opens up to a two-page spread of hands of all different colors, from white to black black.  The girls and Sam had such fun matching their own hands to this page!  It was so neat for me to watch them.  From there, the three of them started holding their arms against eachother, comparing colors.  All this time I've thought Ellie was darker than Lizzie, but arms together, they seem to be the exact same shade of brown.  Although, Lizzie has darkened this summer with all her time in the pool (yes, black people DO tan, I've discovered!).  The book was delightful and I'm so glad I got it.  After we read it, we were able to have a really good discussion about  God's love of color and variety and how no one color of skin is better or worse than the other, etc. 


After months of not dreaming once about Paul, I've had a couple close together.  I'm not sure why.  They have not been especially poignant dreams.  I haven't sensed any "messages" from beyond the grave in them.  But they've been nice to have, just the same.  I don't even remember the first one all that well anymore.  I just know Paul was in it and I was talking to him.  In the second, Paul had come back, but I was very conscious of the fact that his time with us was going to be limited.  We were headed to church and I realized that only the kids were in the van with me.  I wondered out loud why Paul had not gone with us.  In my dream, Will looked at me and said, "Because Dad knew that if he came, you would only been looking at him and not paying attention in church."  There might be a message in that one.  I hope I have some more dreams sometime.  They're comforting, even if they are nonsensical at times.



My pictures arrived yesterday!  I've eagerly been awaiting them ever since I got the email last weekend letting me know they had shipped.  These are the canvas prints I ordered from a website Julie suggested.  They were inexpensive and so perfect!  I ordered a 20X25 one of our family standing at Paul's grave for the living room.  The thing is huge!  It's a good thing I like how I look in the picture or I might be wincing every single time I walk into the living room for the next 3 years (when I plan to get new family pics done)!


I also ordered a 10X14 canvas of the picture of our hands surrounding Paul's Bible which is laying on top of the quilt made out of his clothing.  I LOVE this picture.  Paul was especially fond of  1Corinthians 13 and had the entire chapter memorized and would often quote from it.  When we were dating he had begun a rather exhaustive project of coloring different passages in the Bible, differentiating topic with certain color.  You can clearly see that in the pages that are opened for this picture.  I gave the Bible to David.  I know he will treasure it.


So, I had this whole idea planned out for that picture.  Rarely do things work out as well in real life as they do in our minds.  But this one did!  I had a blank wall in my kitchen that I was kind of saving for pictures of my grandchildren.  But considering that I am years away yet from grandmotherhood, I decided to go ahead and claim that wall now.  I bought 19 cheap 5X7 and mostly 4X6 frames from Hobby Lobby.  Even cheap, that many sure added up!  I spraypainted them all a shiny deep red color (have I mentioned how much I love spray paint?  I think I have...) and framed prints from our photo taking sesion.  I hung the canvas Bible print in the middle and then strategically hung the smaller prints around it.  I love it!


It did occur to me, though, that anyone who walks into our home might develop the impression that I have a rather elevated opinion of myself and the kids, to have surrounded myself with so many photos!  I really don't think I do.  The pictures just make me happy.  I was thinking about previous generations.  When Mom and Dad would dress their kids in their best and Dad would tighten his skinny tie and Mom would snap her long gloves into place and carefully balance her pillbox hat onto her stiff, coiled hair and head down to the local photographer's studio, what did they come home with?  I'm thinking it was probably nothing more than an 8X10 black and white shot that would sit, framed, on top of the tv console.  I seriously doubt they would hang 20 pictures of themselves in their home!  But then I thought back further to the times of royalty when the rich would commission painters to put their images onto canvas or sheepskin or whatever.  Those were not tiny little prints!


Oh well.  It really doesn't matter.  I've always enjoyed getting new pictures done, even if it's just the kids' annual birthday shots.  This particular photo shoot was especially poignant, of course.  For one thing, it ended up being done one year to the day after we had originally scheduled family pictures.  We were supposed to do them June 8 of last year.  But Paul died and I didn't feel up to doing pictures without him for a long time.  And then a lot of these shots were taken at his grave.  That's kind of ghoulish in one sense, but comforting in the other.  In fact, if you look closely, you can see Paul in the shots since I have a photo of us on the gravestone.  To me it's a tangible reminder of what I told the kids the morning I had to tell them their dad had died in the night - we are still a family.  We may be floundering at times and wondering which side is up and not sure of our next step, but we're a family.



My new book arrived today.  It's called, "Widows Wear Stilettos."  The subtitle is "A practical and emotional guide for the Young Widow."  I ordered it strictly because the title makes me smile.  It's not a Christian book that I am aware of and   I may find things I can't agree with, but hopefully, something will be helpful.  If nothing else, I'll just grin every time I pick it up and read the title!


I did recently learn the Elisabeth Elliot has a book dealing with widowhood.  I had wondered if she did but had not been successful in finding anything.  But apparently one of her books she wrote in between husbands (she is on her 3rd marriage, having been widowed twice) deals extensively with that.  The title has "Lonliness" in it.  Anyway, I want to order that one, too.  Elisabeth Elliott and Dr. Laura Schlessinger did more to shape my early attitudes about marriage and motherhood than anyone else in the world, I think.  I am grateful to those women.  I didn't know them personally, but they were mentors to me when I needed them most.


Three things that are making me smile this week.  Well, three things not including  the relief that my unplanned for root canal brought...


1) Pinterest  I actually set up an account over a year ago but never figured how to use it and didn't take the time to do so.  Over July 4th, Kirsti sat down with me and showed me how to navigate.  I am in love!  I now have so many ideas for cooking and decorating and fun times with the kids.  I even accidentally deleted a board last night but it didn't cause me too much angst because I know I'll find other stuff to fill it up again pretty fast.  I'll have to live another 100 years (which I definitely don't want to do) in order to use all the ideas I'm finding, but it's fun to think that sometime I might try them all.


2) Weird Al  My boys have been crazy about his parodies since they discovered him during their pre-teen years.  I've always endured him with rolled eyeballs, although some of his songs are pretty good.  I might even admit to having one or two of his songs on my mp3 player.  This week he released a parody of "Blurred Lines" (which is not a very appropriate song) called, "Word Crimes."  My writerly friends are going crazy over this version and I have to admit, I sat and watched it today and howled throughout most of it.  Here's the link: Word Crimes


3) Peach Mango Mio  I had a coupon for Mio drink flavoring when grocery shopping a couple of weeks ago.  I picked up this flavor and have been using it in my Soda Stream.  Oh, wow...I may never drink Coke ever again!


I hope all my readers are finding things to make them happy this week, too!


















Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 401


July 11, 2014

Day 401


I passed day 400 yesterday and didn't even realize it.  That means in a little over three months I'll hit the 500 day mark.  That sounds like a lot.  It IS a lot.  Last Sunday was the 6th.  I even blogged on the 6th, writing out the date.  But yet it wasn't until the next day that it occurred to me that, oh - it had been the 6th - 13 months.   And I'm such a "date" person!


So much sadness lately...I seem to start out all my posts on down notes like this.  I'm surprised I have even the readers I do, as a result.  I ought to start my posts with the happy, fun tidbits and gradually wind down to the more pressing matters.  But I think it makes me feel better to get the sad out of the way first.


Death seems everywhere lately, so oppressive and weighty.  In the last 2 weeks, I've "experienced" it three times.  Ok, not personally, although Paul's death is a continual presence in my life and that fact undoubtedly causes me to feel others' pain from death to a greater degree now.  My old home ec teacher died, then the wife of the guy I went to school with, and now...Baby Oliver.  I am so sad.


My friend Julie took our family pictures a few weeks ago.  She and her husband have twenty year old twins, her husband has a mid-twenties daughter from a previous relationship that Julie joyfully claims as hers, and they have a 4 year old daughter.  Right before Christmas they were gifted with the news that another baby was on the way.  They were so surprised but thankful for this unexpected life.  This was their final shot at parenthood, their last chance to mold a little person, and a blessing that would keep them laughing into their elder  years.  Julie was due the first of August and was lumbering quite a bit as she took our pictures a month ago.  In fact, I remember warning the Littles to not say anything about her being, "fat!"  Julie delivered little Oliver yesterday morning, but he had already gone to live with Jesus.  He was beautiful and perfect, but so, so still...

Julie called me with the news yesterday while I was in the Home Depot, attempting to buy a lawn mower while keeping the Littles corralled.  I immediately burst into tears.  Lizzie, who moments before had been prancing all over the store and deliberately antagonizing her siblings, immediately wrapped her arms around me and kissed my hand.  Sam anxiously kept asking, "What's wrong, Mom?  What's wrong, Mom?" 


It took awhile for me to finish things up in the store.  Since I know nothing about lawn mowers, I had asked the employee to take it out of the box, assemble it for me, and teach me how to use it (I'm getting assertive in my older years!).  It's a good thing he did, because he had trouble putting the automatic starter together and had to take it over to the service dept.  That's when Julie's call came.  But then he came back and I had to force myself to listen while the employee taught me how to use the mower, but all the while I could only think about Keith and Julie and how I wanted to jump on the interstate and fly down to the hospital where they sat holding their dead baby.  I felt so divided and I'm sure the employee had some serious doubts as to how much I was understanding all he was telling me.


In those moments I suddenly experienced a flash of understanding that I had been lacking before.  When Paul died there were many that were there for me, continually.  While I was cloaked in a blessed numbness, some people seemed to be even more grief stricken than I was, at least outwardly.  When Julie called with the news, I wanted to immediately clasp her to myself and take the pain for her, to absorb it into my body as if that were even possible.  At the same time, though, I could feel the walls around my heart start to go up - kind of like drawbridges to ancient castles.  If I stepped away then I wouldn't have to bear her hurt.  If I stepped away, then I wouldn't have to risk saying the wrong thing.  If I stepped away, then I wouldn't have to be uncomfortable or give of my already-busy time.  Perhaps this is why some people that I thought  should have been there for me were not.  Perhaps my pain was just more than they could bear themselves.  I'm not excusing them because there is a clear right/wrong directive here.  But I get it now.  The day before yesterday I didn't.


Julie  came home this morning and this afternoon my pastor's wife and I went to see her.  I felt like I fumbled it up a bit.  There was so much I wanted to say about grief but I know Julie and Keith can't comprehend a whole lot right now.  I've learned so much this last year and it was tempting to try to dump it all on them, but I knew couldn't do that. I'm afraid I might have said even too much.    At least I was there even if I didn't do anything else right.  So, I sat and cried with them.  And from what I remember about the early days after Paul's death, that's all you really need - somebody to cry with you.




Will should be home sometime tonight.  It's ridiculous how excited I get on days like this.  I remember distinctly when he was about 3 he drove me absolutely nuts.  Every time I was in the kitchen he had to be there right beside me, "Can I help, Mom, huh?  Can I, Mom, can I?"  When I would walk through our tiny little rental house doing housework or going to the bathroom - whatever -  he would immediately and Every.Single.Time. ask, "Where you going, Mom?  Whatcha doing?"  I felt like I was going to lose my mind if I didn't escape from this child...And now?  Life has a way of coming full circle as I now angle for bits and pieces of his attention.


I am proud of myself.  I got all his paperwork done for Faith this past week and mailed his down payment.  This weekend we need to sit down and make a shopping list for everything he'll need for his dorm and then I need to get started working on that.  I think the next time I will see him is when the camp season is finished and he has about 4 days before heading off to college.


I assume he's feeling better now.  Last week when I saw him briefly he mentioned how he'd been climbing up on roofs and cleaning out the gutters on some of the camp buildings - in the rain.  I asked him dubiously what the camp director had to say about that.  Will replied airly, "Oh, he just says to be careful!"


So Monday of this week I got a call from Will, asking me about his medical insurance.  My Mom-Radar immediately started flashing as I envisioned what sort of injury he had just sustained (perhaps one from falling off a rain-slicked roof?).  I was somewhat relieved when he informed me that he was only sick and was calling me after-the-fact of managing to get himself to Urgent Care and the pharmacy for an antibiotic and some Advil Cold and Sinus.  He was diagnosed with an ear infection, he said.  Although, he said his ear didn't hurt at all and I'm harrumphing on my end.  I'd trust a plumber to make a proper medical diagnosis before I would the staff at any urgent care facility.  I think they scrape the bottom of the medical school pools and staff all urgent care facilities with them.  But, they can prescribe antibiotics and that is what Will needed in this case even if I have my doubts about the "ear infection."


 Lizzie heard that Will was sick and she very seriously asked, "Did he get bit by a rattlesnake?"




I've still been attacking my stacked-up scrapbooks with vigor.  I'm getting a LOT of pages done this summer.  Right now I'm working on the pictures from our 20th anniversary trip.  Remembering those days makes me alternate between smiling and fighting back tears.  Just a few pages earlier I had all the little heart-shaped sticky notes Paul had written out and stuck somewhere for me to find, one for each day of February, leading up to our anniversary on the 20th.  Doing those couple of pages was unbelievably hard.  But I'm glad I did them anyway.




This week Sam, matter-of-factly, stated, "The more kids you have, the busier you are!"  I'm not so sure that's really true.  I think mostly it depends on what kind of kids you have.  Some are definitely lower "maintenance" in their needs and personalities than others.  I didn't bother to explain that to him, but just asked, "So does that mean you don't want to have very many of your own someday?"  Sam shook his head and said, "I don't know.  I just know that if I have a lot, then I'm going to be really busy."


It was kind of cute, but his observation made me sad, too.  Enough of my children have commented on my busyness that I am fearful this is a loud, loud message they are receiving - Mom is too busy, don't bother Mom, she doesn't have time for your petty needs because she's too busy, Mom's crabby because she's too busy, we're eating chicken nuggets again because Mom's too busy (actually, they wouldn't complain about that one!), etc.  I have even, honestly, been kicking around the idea of sending Sam and Lizzie to school because of the time it takes to homeschool them.  But I don't have a peace about that, either, and don't plan to do it anytime soon.  I don't want to be so busy that I miss their childhoods.  I don't want the memories of me - or worse yet, the design they pattern their own adult lives after - to be one of a  tired, cranky mother.  I don't want them to remember standing at the back window waving at me as I pulled out of the driveway once again.  But how to change?  I keep telling myself that once the work on the house is done it will be better.  And maybe it will be.  I will finish up the laundry room this weekend and I only have a couple more projects to do on the house before it is totally and completely done.  And there's no real hurry on those two particular projects, either.  But what if Paul had not died?  My house would have never been completed during the kids' growing up years.  I would have had to figure out how to be a present and happy mother despite the chaos of construction.


I suspect the answer has more to do with learning to cope within the chaos and not letting it control me.  And somehow, in the midst, I need to learn to convey to each of my children just how precious they are to me and how, I will drop everything to listen to their concerns (which, admittedly, is not so easy when their current and main concern is about how their brother is crossing his eyes at them or their sister keeps breathing loudly!).  But I do need wisdom in parenting, especially now that I do not have a partner.  Of course, that fact, ironically or not-so-much, is one of the chief reasons that I AM so busy...


My busyness is costing me things, though.  I was struck anew with this realization just last night.  Feeling so heavy hearted for Julie, I began to think what I could offer her besides my presence and sympathy.  It took but a moment for me to decide that Scripture could offer far more than I ever could.  God is the author of sympathy (empathy, really, since Jesus experienced every human emotion we can have) and love.  I began to thumb through my mental index of verses that had been especially comforting to me this last year.  I sat down on my bed and skimmed through the entire book of Psalms, jotting down verses and chapters as they leapt out at me.  And then in the back of my Bible, I found a list of references I had jotted down last summer.  In fact, that list was written on the back of a to-do list I had been keeping at the time.  One of the things on the list was, "order autopsy report."  Wow...I think I'll be saving that piece of paper.  Anyway, I ended up coming up with a list of about 30 different verses and passages that I copied out into a Word document.  It's certainly not an exhaustive list by any means, but it's a start.  I printed it out and gave it to Julie today.  I hope that she won't wait too long to read through it.  I know from experience there is no counsel, no comfort, and no hope that can supercede the Word of God. 


I found myself greatly encouraged as I did all this typing last night.  I'm still grieving Paul.  It's only been 13 months.  These other recent deaths have increased my sadness levels, of course, and I needed to be reminded of God's promises.  I found myself a little sad, though.  How much MORE comfort I could have received this last year if I had not been so busy and would have immersed myself in Scripture! Some of it was simply unavoidable, of course, and I can't shoulder the blame for everything.  Widowhood is a whole different experience, as is single parenting.  Both are extremely demanding and exact a heavy toll on those that wear the mantle.  But I could have made more time for God's Word.  I should have.


I will.