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.

















  1. Breathe, Run to Jesus, Take it one moment at a time.....
    This is what I share with anyone going through a difficult time whether it is grief or not.
    And I agree hugs and shared tears are the things I remember most.
    Praying for you as you process and grieve with these friends and others.
    Every loss since Jim, hurts deeper than it did before I lost him. Every loss is also an opportunity to guide a hurting soul to the God of all comfort who comforted me.
    Just my rambled thoughts after I read your article.
    HUGS and prayers,

  2. I'm so grieved about Julie and her family's terrible loss. I am praying for them all...especially the 4 year old daughter who is, I'm sure, devastated by the loss of a baby brother plus her parents's grief. There are times when I can hardly wait until Heaven for all of us who have lost babies and (for you) spouses and other loved ones. My great-uncle died in the past week at the very ripe age of 98, but he leaves an 80 year old, grieving widow...

    Praying, Laraba