Archive for the ‘bitter~sweet’ Category

Vitality

I love plants.  I’m sure this comes as no surprise for those of you who know me.  I have many houseplants, too many gardens, and dreams of more even though I struggle to maintain what I already have.  I love them not only for their beauty and life, but for their metaphor.  Plants offer a vocabulary for what many struggle to express with words.  They speak in simple terms about nature and nurture, about rest and struggle, about quiet and solitude, and about life and death.

I was watering one particular plant today when it occurred to me that this peace lily needed a prune.  The tall, gangly stalks had grown bedraggled and torn, and quietly underneath them whispered abundant fresh, baby green growth.  Now this plant does not actually belong to me; it was a gift for my dear friend after the death of her mother almost two years ago. After being neglected during a holiday break, my friend and I had returned to school to find the plant struggling, barely alive.  I nursed it back to health with a lot of water and some serious pruning.  As it needed more attention, I took it home to repot it and provide more attention than would be available at school.  The plant has experienced a difficult year.  There were times after I repotted it that I was certain I had killed it.  There were times after I pruned it that I was certain I had killed it.  There were times after I moved it to sunnier or shadier places that I was certain I had killed it.  And yet it lived to finally (insert deep, relieved breath here) produce healthy new starts.

 

My heart ached for my friend as I realized that this has been her story also.  Thankfully, I do not know what it’s like to lose a parent, but with my own experience of loss I can certainly relate to death’s impact, the grieving process, and the ways we emerge from those experiences.  Like the lily, my friend experienced trauma:  confusion, grief, anger, wilting…She had no choice but to move on from that loss, but how does one do that exactly?  There’s no manual, no Idiot’s-Guide-to. So we stumble forward – a little too much water here, a little too much neglect there.  Maybe we try a new pot – new rituals, new definitions of a life we thought we had figured out.  Sometimes it’s too sunny so we readjust.  Sometimes it’s too shady and we yearn for the sun we once knew.

 

We wish desperately for time to move faster to release us from this torrent of unchosen new.  And it is time that helps to heal, every day, while we do the work of breathing and slowly unfurling; learning new rituals, new patterns, new norms. Yet even when time has blessed us and we have slowly learned the new dance rhythms, there is at times a pruning that must still occur.  For the dance has two steps forward, but one step back.  And when we step back, we do the hard work of re-membering, re-grieving, re-living, and honoring what once was, before it’s time to yet again move forward.  

 

We have to decide what to hold on to as those steps backward become less painful yet more crucial.  How do we honor the time we had with those we loved?  Sometimes the memories we cling to become too burdensome and only hide the new growth yearning to thrive underneath.  Do we hold tightly to the ways they failed us?  To the ways we failed them?  Does this keep us from moving forward?  If we let it go, what peace may await?  What sacred new growth emerges as we prune?

new growth

 

Pruning is hard work.  It takes time, self-awareness, vulnerability, and courage, but it produces a more fertile place within us from which we are able to love better, and reflect our loved one’s vibrant beauty to all those around us.  We offer our new growth, our vitality to our loved ones and our communities.  And we are not alone when we do the hard work.  There are many who are ready to walk alongside us as we grieve, breathe, and learn our new dance.

Posted on July 22nd, 2017 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

The Work of Christmas

I found myself praying for strangers as I was Christmas shopping this year – the stress on people’s faces, the grim looks as dollar after dollar was being spent on STUFF. Stuff the stockings, stuff the boxes, stuff the houses… how many were in the very act of putting themselves in debt. It felt extremely HEAVY.
I love Christmas for what it represents to me as a Christian. I love the way it still feels magical as friends and family (and even strangers) reach out in loving ways toward one another. But I DON’T love what our westernized culture (myself included) has allowed Christmas to become.
In a prayer I read to my students yesterday, it said that “Heaviness is not from my kingdom.” If Christmas was about the very incarnation of the kingdom here on earth, and that kingdom isn’t heavy, then what in the heck am I witnessing and participating in? And what should I be doing instead?
#foodforthought

 

The work of Christmas

 

Posted on January 7th, 2017 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

It’s just a tattoo

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)

That’s how the light gets in

                                              Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”                      

 

 

I don’t remember exactly when I decided to get one. After Kate died, I didn’t want to decide anything – not dinner, not whether the other girls needed a bath that night…certainly not anything big like moving out of that sacredly painful house like my husband was hell-bent on doing, as soon as physically and financially possible. The preschool moms provided dinners for weeks – food would just magically appear in the blue igloo cooler on my porch – no awkward thank yous or conversations necessary – it was a godsend. Some even included trinkets and gifts for the girls – another gift for me, as I did not have to help them decide what to play next.

But early on I did make one decision: if I couldn’t hold her in my arms, I would have a tattoo to memorialize the spot on my inner wrist where I cradled her head, where I physically held her body. It was also a place that felt exposed and vulnerable; a place where I can witness my life’s blood seemingly at the surface of my body, yet perceive the strength with which my own body wraps around itself, protecting and shielding.

Tattoos were not a “thing” then, a fad that have now become commonplace. I cannot remember what it was that inspired that decision; only that once I had decided, it would someday be. As a teenager, I always said I’d never get a tattoo unless it was something I loved so fervently, so passionately that I’d want it on my body for the rest of my life. Even with my decision made, this mantra, I found, was unchanged. And so 10 years passed with the decision made, yet no action. Around the 10-year anniversary of Kate’s death, I asked a beloved and talented friend if she would help me create this art for my body.

I knew I wanted to incorporate Kate’s name or initials, and I thought I wanted to incorporate a butterfly since that was such an important part of my recovery process (as if it’s a process that will ever end…). I did not, however, want a typical tattoo – an overt butterfly or obvious text. I’m still unwrapping my feelings on this, but from what I can observe so far, I wanted a symbol – a subtle story told with delicate lines and curves, an invitation to remember and retell, an opportunity to reconnect and feel. I wanted softness because she was soft and I am vulnerable. I wanted angles because I do not choose hard turns in my life, but they often choose me and what I do with those, often alter the trajectory of a life, of my story.

just a tattoo

just a tattoo

My sister told me I was brave. It occurred to me as I read her text that I was not only brave to willingly choose to encounter the physical pain, but that I am brave everyday I wear this tattoo – I offer my story to whomever may ask. I am brave because there will be days and times that I don’t want to walk down that specific road, but may have to anyway. I already experience this with family and friends who share this story, but now it’s an open invitation. And so I accept my sister’s wise acknowledgement – I am brave.

I am brave because I don’t tuck my girl in a box of photos and memories. I am brave because in tasting the sweet, I will forever taste the bitter, yet I still choose to partake in the meal. I am brave because I want to be open, be vulnerable, be real – and not be safe. I don’t believe I was put here on this Earth to just play it safe – although that would usually be my first choice, to be honest. But when I was at my emptiest, I was filled – just like the blue igloo cooler. I didn’t ask; I didn’t decide; I just simply received.

For Christmas this year, I gifted my family members jewelry made using a Japanese technique called “Kintsugi.” In this process, broken pottery is made whole again with gold – making the item stronger, more beautiful, and more valuable than when it was in its original form. This metaphor speaks loudly to my heart and my experience. Whether it’s pain, grief, failure, loss, or whatever makes us broken, it is in the long practice of healing and honoring that brokenness that we become better and stronger than before. But we are not mended to sit on a shelf and look pretty. My calling is to be a vessel of humble love and honesty – through my words here and my physical self out in the world – and share my self and Kate’s light from my broken, yet resilient vessel.

My decision – my tattoo – is my rebel cry of hope. Against my safe tendencies, against what this world often offers, against lies and avoidance…I say “no.” And I open my hands and offer my brave, vulnerable, humble kintsugi self.

just a tattoo

just a tattoo

Posted on December 30th, 2016 by LilBS  |  2 Comments »

On the Verge

Listen to your life.

See it for the fathomless mystery that it is

In the boredom and pain of it

no less than in the excitement and gladness:

touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it

because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,

and life itself is grace.

                                                    Frederic Buechner

 

My soul has been demanding that I write. Oh, I’ve been ignoring it for a good while, choosing instead to regain what I felt I lost as I was finishing my Master’s degree: time in my garden, time to exercise, time to read, time to clean, time with my family, time experiencing the present. I did that this summer, truly attempting to rest in the present moments. And although my closet still needs cleaned out – oh my gosh, the clothing pile has morphed into a mountain. (I’m not kidding, I’m pretty sure I saw a snowcap on it the last time I dared go in there.); and although my main garden is still a jungle (I’m pretty sure I lost my youngest child in there for a few days in August.); and although I didn’t clean every window in my house, I am proud to say that I did a decent job of staying present and finding joy in the simple moments.

 

Yet still my soul demanded…

 

…because in my attempt to stay present and connect with what had been put “on hold,” I was also avoiding a fear – what if I can no longer write? What if I am just repeating the same story? The same words? The same old me? People read my blog; people like my blog. I want to inspire, feel, create, gift, speak truth…not disappoint. I don’t know exactly where this fear came from, but I do know that I will not let it steal my voice anymore.

 

My friend Gina introduced me to a song yesterday called, “The Verge,” by Owl City and through some gentle nudging by the Spirit, I recognized that this is how I’m feeling these days – on the verge: of crying, of creating, of singing, of laughing, of fear, of joy. It’s rare that we are on the mountaintop or in the valley; we are most often on the verge of either.

 

And so…on the verge of something, and with a humble spirit, I write.

 

The other day I was driving Syd to work. I’ve been taking a different route over to Kings Island, where my beautiful girl is a singing, dancing cartoon character with a giant head, who delights many a young towhead like she once was. On this day, I had my two youngest – Colt and Ian – along for the ride, and on the way home, I decided to stop by the cemetery where Kate is buried. I’d driven this way a few times, and Ian had even asked me recently if we could “visit Kate,” but I had put it off.

 

A moment after I had decided to go to the cemetery, I stopped at a traffic light and waited to turn right. Glancing over to my left, I noticed a young, blonde child strapped into a carseat in the back of the car next to me. As I made eye contact, the child – pacifier in mouth – smiled at me. My breath caught in my throat and a sharp pain lanced my chest. I had seen this smile before from my Kate, and it was often behind the beloved paci. As the light turned green, and the cars shifted forward, the child smiled even bigger at me, and then waved.

 

Tears came to my eyes as I felt myself longing to follow that car and that smile. And I remembered another time when maybe a few weeks or months after Kate died (time was painfully irrelevant after the death of my child) and I was in the local Walmart. I had been behind a mother carrying a child in a black and white coat very similar to one I’d had Kate in that previous fall. I willed myself to look away and continue my shopping. But as I turned down the cosmetics aisle (an aisle I very rarely frequent), I had an irrational urge to follow that child and see its face. I turned back around and sought out the duo, walking around with my cart in an almost panicked state of mind, but I never found them.

 

I remember berating myself for such stupid behavior, but looking back I was just so desperate for a piece of her, for the smell of her hair, for the dimples on her hands…for the smile behind the paci. Those are the sacred pieces of the puzzle for me. It’s not the soccer trophy my 8 year old holds, it’s the oh-my-gosh-when-will-this-kid’s-teeth-grow-in grin right above it. It’s not the diploma still in its well-protected cardboard envelope on a dusty desk in my bedroom; it’s the conversations with classmates and professors that expanded and renewed a mind ready to be challenged once again. It’s not a perfect, inspirational blog; it’s the writing about simple, hallowed moments of ordinary life, which I have recorded before, and which I will continue to share.

On the Verge

On the Verge

 

Life is about being on the verge. It’s two little boys’ attempt to understand who this sister was and why she died and why they want to come visit her in this odd place none of their other friends understand. It’s about my 6 year old asking me if I was ok, and my 8 year old saying, “I’m sorry that happened to you, Mommy.” They are always on the verge of redefining Kate’s life and death as they mature. And I am always on the verge of the same damn thing.

 

I’m teaching the story of Joseph to my freshmen. At the end of the story, Joseph tells his brothers who plotted to kill him and who sold him into slavery that they had planned all of it for evil, but God had used it for good, for in a crazy series of events, Joseph had become second in command of Egypt and had been able, then, to feed his family during the famine. Talk about forgiveness and grace and humility and REDEMPTION; this has become one of my favorite passages in the bible.

 

I know God has Kate. And I know God is still redeeming her death in ways that I don’t even understand yet. When I can’t hold her hand, THAT is the hope that I cling to. But, oh my goodness, am I thankful for that smile behind the paci. Because, you see, I’m always on the verge of seeing my girl once again.

 

 

Posted on October 21st, 2016 by LilBS  |  2 Comments »

Joy is a Choice

When I lost Kate, I was 5 months pregnant with our first son, Ty. Of course, this precipitated extra concern for his welfare, as he was being housed by a grieving mother.  But without much conscious thought, my instincts kicked in and I was able to feed my body (seriously, when have I EVER failed to feed this body?!) and this new baby in the way that he needed to be nourished.

4 months later our serious, thoughtful, sensitive baby boy entered our world. I won’t lie and say I felt the same kind of joy as during the births of our girls, but there was something even more powerful born that day – the promise of joy. And for a mother who was still reeling from the shock and suffering that accompanies losing a child, that promise was something beautiful and tangent. In Ty’s birth, more than perhaps any event in my life, I was reminded (or maybe it was then that I first truly learned) that joy can be a choice.

Joy is a Choice

Joy is a Choice

Joy is a choice.

One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, says “Gratitude precedes the miracle.”  This is so much more than a quote to me – it is the air I breathe. For it is in being thankful for the time I had with Kate that I am able to continue living without her. It was in being thankful for this baby boy, that I was able to choose and feel joy again.

It was a miracle.

Joy is a Choice

Joy is a Choice

That serious, joy-reminding baby how now become a rambunctious, intelligent, athletic, 8 year old. I cannot fathom how that happened so very quickly, but here we are. He is still so very sensitive – I often wonder if it’s because of what he endured in the womb as we were connected in my physical and emotional grief. It is one of the many mysteries held deep within this mother’s heart. And he continues to teach me how to choose joy, only now it’s in the form of smelly, tousled, soccer-practiced hair and perennially dirty fingernails messy from prying up carefully-placed rocks from my flower garden.

He teaches me to choose joy when he says no to my embrace and yes to Dad’s. He teaches me to choose joy when there is roller skating AND basketball-playing AND Skylander-tossing AND Keith Urban-singing ALL at the same time. He teaches me to choose joy even as I stumble and flail about, entering this new boy-mom territory that involves so much more more than the boy manuals teach.

Joy is a Choice

Joy is a Choice

I am so thankful for my Ty-Ty. And in that, the miracle abounds wrapped in grace and hope and love.  I choose joy. Thank you, buddy.

 

 

 

 

Posted on April 10th, 2014 by LilBS  |  3 Comments »

“Again, Again.”

It’s rare when I get a moment to relax with my husband. At all hours of the day there are things that separate us physically – stress, paperwork, laptops, frustration, and a myriad of children’s legs, arms, mopheads of hair…

But there are some evenings when the stars align and bedtimes work and if Benadryl is involved I’m not saying, when we have a moment together to breathe.  We had one of these moments two nights ago and we were chatting and enjoying some evening television when a commercial came on (I can’t even remember what it was advertising) and a toddler voice said, “Again, again.”

And it was like Kate, speaking to me. I was immediately transported to our old house on Tuscarora where I was sitting cross-legged on that bed where Sydney now sleeps, pajama’ed Kate on my lap reading:

“The sun has set not long ago/now everybody goes below/to take a bath in one big tub/with soap all over scrub, scrub, scrub/they hang their towels on the wall/and find pajamas, big and small/with some on top and some beneath/they brush and brush and brush their teeth.”

(from The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton)

I could feel her wispy hair brushing my chin and see her chubby cheeks as she turned her head and with paci squeezed between teeth said, “Again, again.” And I would begin again – because with that request, how couldn’t I? It’s one of my most cherished memories of my girl. That book shares the sacred space with her earthly body because that’s how I remember her best, curled up in my lap cheerfully demanding, “Again, again!”

And it makes me happy, and of course sad.

And I shared that memory with my husband and we just sat with it. And held each other. And I just knew in my gut that there was something more to hearing that little toddler voice again. So I tucked it away in my heart, ready for when that “more” would unfold.

Today I read on Ann Voskamp’s website aholyexperience.com the word “Radaph” or pursued. And how God is pursuing and even chasing us. And it struck a chord in me.  When I am blessed with specific memories about my time with Kate, though always (always) tinged with bittersweetness, I feel as if I’ve received a gift. I admit that I am often weak and pray specifically to “know” that Kate is okay, or that I can get (another) affirmation that she is safe in his arms. These instances such as this random commercial provide this affirmation and remind me of not only how much God loves me, but how much he still pursues me with that love.

“God is so bent on blessing – he chases.  And God’s blessings don’t pursue temporarily – but relentlessly. It’s right there in his Word: His goodness and mercy pursue me not just some days – but all the days of my life. No shadow of death can overshadow the goodness and mercy that shadows the child of God.” (A. Voskamp)

One of my greatest fears following Kate’s death was that I would never see the way God would redeem that loss. But he pursues me with his love and that redemption, maybe not in the large impactful ways I demanded, but in the small voice of a toddler reminding me of great love and patience and connection.

Posted on March 14th, 2014 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

Raw

My grandmother just passed away a little over a week ago. On the morning of her funeral, I woke up from the best – and worst – dream of my life so far. I don’t remember any details of the story except that I had my Kate back. There was no visual of her, no sense of how old she was or where we were or anything. She was just by my side, and I was filled with such a sense of joy and completion. And then, somehow, she was taken away from me again…and I felt such devastation, I cannot even explain. And as I shared this with people in my dream, no one seemed to care.

No one seemed to care.

And with that, an 8 year old scab was wrenched from its sacred place, and I was Raw. Raw.  Raw. I couldn’t even brush my teeth that morning without crying. And there I was, back at the funeral home to face it once again: the casket, those reeking death lilies, the stifled whispers.

Raw.

But I am a master of disguise (at least in my own mind). I pulled it together, honored my Grandma, and enjoyed the time spent with my family. But the raw-ness did not dissipate. This Christmas has been extra difficult as a result. Every smile has felt sadness, every act of tradition a little empty, moments of togetherness  missing the one… the balance of bitter and sweet a little heavy on the bitter.

It didn’t take me back to the day of her death – not really. There has been significant healing under that scab. What an ugly word – scab. As I was looking up words in the thesaurus to replace it, I found the word, shell. I think this works as an even better description of how I felt – like the protective shell had been ripped apart, exposing such vulnerability and emptiness of which I have not felt in quite some time. That feeling of wholeness…of completion is not something I will ever experience again, not in this lifetime. There is much joy, and there is fulfillment, and happiness…but never completion. To have that again – even in a dream – and then lose it was heartbreaking.

And the most puzzling part of all this for me was the fact that when I lost her again in my dream, no one cared. They literally shrugged their shoulders and went back to their conversations. It wasn’t anyone specific, or anyone I recognized…it was more this general hurtful feeling of being very, very alone. As I’ve struggled with this dream – how to interpret it, how to understand it, if I should even give it my time or concern – I think I’ve reached some answers.

1. Funerals will just always be hard. Duh. There are things about them that touch raw, vulnerable places inside me. I am acutely aware that others around me lovingly want to protect me from this, and either are afraid to ask, or ask hesitantly if I’m okay. I want to encourage those people that it’s okay to ask me (or not). Kate’s funeral is one more piece of an intricate puzzle that weaves her together inside my heart. It’s a piece that holds sadness and anger, but most of that has been healed – it’s still there, but it’s been layered over with lots of time and love.

2. This one is key. I am alone. Ok, so before all of you quickly call, text, and message me that you’re there for me, I know you are – I know, really. But here is the cold, hard fact: I alone know what it means for me as mother to lose my daughter Kate. My husband, children, parents, friends, all know what it’s like to lose Kate, but they lost her as her father, her siblings, her grandparents, etc. Other friends who have lost children know what it means to lose their child. But there is an aspect of loss, of grief that will always hold loneliness. I think this was what that second part of my dream was trying to communicate.

3. Ultimately, I am never alone. So how about that for conflicting points?! Shortly after Kate died, one of my close friends had an image of God holding me in his hand. The ONLY reason I know I keep functioning, feel happiness, and continue life (incomplete) is because of the one who holds me. He has so, so many tools. I have an amazing support system who are always ready to give a quick hug or say a prayer. And even when I think I’m being super strong, they see through my charade and lift me up in ways that never cease to amaze me.

4. I am ashamed to admit that I’m jealous. I’m jealous that my grandparents and Grandma Cecil get to spend this time with Kate. I know my friend Linda is laughing with her constantly. It’s really not fair. It’s comforting that they are together. But it also kind of sucks, to be bluntly honest. I desperately hope I get to make up (somehow) all this lost time with her.

5. I still don’t know what to say to people at funerals. I put pressure on myself to know what to say, how to act…after all, I have firsthand experience with loss, right?   But this is where #2 comes in again. I lost my grandma, but my mom lost her MOM. That’s a big difference, one that I can’t begin to fathom. But I am a devout believer in grace. I try to remember that I don’t need to have the right words…I can be there, offer help, and offer hugs and encouragement. I hope that it’s enough even if it never feels like it.

6. Sometimes I pray that I can know she’s really okay – for proof of some sort. As a believer, I’m kind of ashamed to admit that. After that dream, I’m not sure I want to pray it anymore…it was too painful to have her and lose her again, even in a dream realm. But one day this week, I had this strange experience of light. Several times, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an unexplained light – almost like something shiny was reflecting the sun – but there was nothing I could find to explain it. It was so very comforting…after all, one of Kate’s earliest words was “light.” I’m just going to hold onto it and savor it as best I can.  Better to find comfort in the unexplained than to reason it all away.

7. Where there is room for more healing, there will be continued growth. And here is where I think I will end this reflection. I am frankly shocked at how raw I’ve been made to feel 8 years after losing Kate. My first thoughts upon having such heartache again were that I was regressing, or maybe I hadn’t faced something and had buried it…only to have to face it for real (or as my kids say, “for real life”) now – 8 years later. Obviously there is something to this. It was a not a dream to be dismissed or discarded, but an opportunity for reflection and growth. This is actually just occuring to me right now, as I’m writing these lines. I’m hopeful for what is yet to be discovered, unearthed. And I guess that’s what’s really at the core of this for me – HOPE. I’m hopeful that God continues to speak into this story in ways that redeem my loss, and speak to others of his love.  Maybe – no, I’m certain – it’s because I have such a strong foundation of love and support, that I’m even able to have this sort of dream and grow from it.

Just when I think I have it figured out. And maybe when I begin to get a little full of myself and my certainty. A little raw-ness for a lot of hope turns out to be a pretty good exchange. Guess that’s what I’ll be looking for in 2014.

 

Posted on December 26th, 2013 by LilBS  |  2 Comments »

I Remember You

In honor of my Grandma, Vivian Zander:

 

I remember you… in a large farmhouse with rooms to explore, a large sunporch for playing with cousins, frolicking kittens (oh, how I wanted to sneak them into the car with me),  a hay-scented barn, rusty scalloped lawn chairs, cow fields full of patties, ripe bursting blackberries.

 

I remember you…at the kitchen sink, preparing a large breakfast for me while your teenage daughters whisked by, Carnation Instant Breakfast shake in hand.

 

I remember you… defending my litle sister when I picked on her…I’m glad she had you in her corner when I wasn’t playing nice.

 

I remember you…packing a special pb&j sandwich for me because I didn’t like ham.

 

I remember you…providing the sugar bowl for us when we had to eat  your “grown-up” cereal for breakfast.

 

I remember you… baking pies. Chocolate, banana cream, coconut cream…almost every night. Heavenly delicious-ness.

 

I remember you… sobbing at Grandpa’s funeral. It made such an impression that I can still hear it in my memory. I’m overwhelmed with joy that you are reunited once again.

 

I remember you… always ready to talk about anything St. Louis Cardinals. I  loved that you were such a fan.

 

I remember you…playing cards. One time I collected the wrong hand in Shanghai Rummy, and I was devastated.  You let it count, even though you were extremely competitive. True grandmotherly love at its best.

 

I remember you…and your expressive face. My mom makes some of the same expressions sometimes and I’ve never been more thankful for that.

 

I remember you… sitting in a chair by the dance floor at my wedding. You may have been the only person I stopped dancing to talk to, and I’m so glad I did.

 

I remember you…telling me how difficult it was to spend so much time raising a large family that would one day leave you. And how proud you were of them, but how much you missed each one.

 

I remember you…not saying a word to me in line at Kate’s funeral, and then finding out later it was because my mom told you I was worried about hearing any cliched platitudes and not knowing how to respond. I am forever glad you were there AND spoke to me.

 

Please keep an eye on my girl until I get there.

I love you, Grandma. I will remember you.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on December 11th, 2013 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

Like a Ghost

My alternative title for this post is “The Long and Winding Road”  because here’s the thing about grief:  it never ends.  Oh, the intensity of it lessens over time and it looks different every day; some days it’s even mostly absent.  But even in its absence, it is present as a ghost:  hovering, affecting, waiting.  One of the hardest things about my grief is that it is shared.  I feel like I have good outlets for dealing with those difficult moments.  I have patient friends willing to let me expound.  I am blessed with the ability to write as catharsis.  And I have an extremely supportive family who is always quick to sense when I need a hug, a supportive email, or even a change of subject.

But I am not the only one who lost Kate.

After the initial grieving period, my husband had a much different grieving process than I did.  This makes sense, of course, because grief touches every person differently at each stage.  There are many obvious contributing factors – gender, social roles, personality, upbringing, etc.  But regardless of why he acts the way he does, one thing remains troublesome – it is beyond my control.   UGH.  And in many ways, it is more excruciating to watch those you love grieve than to go through it yourself.  At least for me.

My husband’s grief – much like mine – rears its head in unpredictable moments.  This year he was unable to return to the type of job he was working at the time we lost our daughter, mostly because of the residual memories it stirred and the pain and stress that created.  And though I come from a strong matriarchal home and feel equipped to lead our family when called upon, to say that I feel most comfortable in that position would be a lie.  I rely on my husband’s strength and innate leadership (even when I don’t want to admit it), and to see him struggling is honest, but heavy.

My daughters’ grief is ever-evolving as they mature.  My oldest daughter is a nurturing caregiver by nature, and I think she keeps much of her thoughts about Kate inside so as not to upset anyone or bring additional pain.  Recently, however, she was speaking about her experience with losing Kate with some friends and was so emotionally affected that she shared it with me.  I am extremely thankful for the times she is willing to share her heart with me, but it is frustrating to be unable to fix her pain.  My second daughter has recently bemoaned the loss of a younger sister.  She mentioned it in passing, almost out of frustration, but there is pain and loss behind the complaints.

I don’t yet know what it will look like to raise three boys who lost a sister they will never know in this life.  Her name and story come up fairly often, but the limited relationship is almost a more painful burden to bear than if they had known and lost her.  My youngest son at age 3 has created several imaginary friends – one of whom is named Kate.  While I love that he has created some connection at least to her name, it is still not an easy thing to hear.

I don’t envision myself as a control freak, but when faced with this lack of control…

It’s all I can do to maintain a calm, collected front when really I feel like screaming inside ~ out of anger, out of frustration, out of unfairness, out of sadness. Oh, I cry if I need to cry and I speak honestly. I try to let them have the moment they need to and be there with them throughout it… some days it just bites that this is part of our story.

I know God is walking through this with me.  And I remind myself that he is walking with them, too. And then I remind myself that it’s okay to feel this way.  Grief is just like that ~ you kind of make it up as you go along.  But it is there ~ always there ~ like a ghost.

 

 

Posted on November 14th, 2013 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

I said, “Yes.”

My friends and I are reading Love Does by Bob Goff in our weekly bible study group.  Among today’s questions regarding Chapter 9 was one that asked if we had ever been asked by God to do something and said “Yes.”  And it further questioned what that experience looked like.  I didn’t answer it within the group, partly because I have discussed my answer with these ladies many times before, and also because my answer takes me to an emotional place I wasn’t prepared to enter into today. But I said a big, “Yes” to God several years ago.

I remember it clearly.  My husband and I were in our kitchen in our Tuscarora Drive house.  We were dancing around the kitchen island with our three girls, listening to music.  My husband chose a new cd and song, and as it began to play he sang along, “Come on Becky… let’s go for a ride.”  I hadn’t heard this song before and the fact that it had my name in it made it one that I listened to even more eagerly than others….as if it were written just for me.  The fact that my husband was singing the lyrics to me made the song sound even more like a personal invitation.

Here is the song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zCnDulGkaU

This may seem like an innocent “Christian” song that happens to have my name in it, but in reality it was life-changing.  Within those few minutes listening to my husband sing along with Mr. Rice, I felt the world shift on its axle ever so slightly.  It is hard to explain, but I heard someone asking me those words in the song.

“C’mon, Becky, let’s go for a ride?”

I felt as though a pause button had been pushed.  I recollect a frozen smile on my face, trying to act nonchalant around my family in the midst of something happening that I could not recognize or describe…it was surreal; it was dreamlike; it was ephemeral.  But it was very, very concrete.  The moment passed quickly, but I felt a major shift happening for which I had no words or context.

At the time, I only focused on my husband singing those lyrics.  We have similar beliefs, but vastly different experiences when it comes to our Christianity.  My husband’s background is very evangelical and he likes to wear his faith on his sleeve.  My background is very Catholic and my faith at the time proved a more private issue.  He liked (likes) to challenge my beliefs and ask me why I believe what I do which is often frustrating for me and pushed me way out of my comfort zone.  As I listened to that song, I thought the physical and emotional stirring I was experiencing was between he and I.

On that evening in our kitchen, I said “yes” to my husband.  I said it inside my own head, not ready to share the vulnerable nature of my answer with him quite yet.  Up to that point in our marriage, I had fought pretty hard against his challenging questions, often defending my faith because he was irritating me rather than because I fully trusted what I was arguing.  My conscious decision that evening was to take this journey with him instead of near him.  That doesn’t mean I was ready to shuck my faith and beliefs, just ready to consider his as well.

It was a significant alteration in our relationship, even though I didn’t verbalize it to him until much later.  What I did not realize at that moment, was that the song’s question was not really coming from Rob.

Kate died later that year.

In the days following Kate’s death, I was slammed with the memory of that song and that transformative evening.  And it was in those dark days of grief and soul-emptying, that I realized I had said “Yes” to God that night.  I wholeheartedly trust that God had asked me to take this specific journey with Him.  I don’t believe He was asking me if I would choose for Kate to die, but I am firmly convinced that He invited me to allow her death to be a place where He might take root…in me and for others.  It was only in my empty, hollowed-out sorrow that I was able to recognize the question God was really asking me, AND to acknowledge I had told Him yes.

It was not an easy pill to swallow.  There were (and are) days that I raged inside; the nerve of a God who would ask me to take such a journey.  How dare He??  There were (and are) days that I felt completely inadequate to be such a vessel.  But in the midst of the worst heartache and distress, I felt God’s presence.  I felt the Spirit give me a moment of joy and gratitude on the very evening following our loss.  I felt carried by more friends and family than I knew existed.  I felt strength that can only be explained by the presence of God.

I said “Yes” to Him and He held me in the palm of His hand.  And I see now that it was a path that made redemption possible in Kate’s story.  I do not mean to suggest that I am the only redemptive factor, but that God used me to bring redemption in an otherwise tragic narrative.  It has given me a “piece of peace,” which ironically was a name I had given to my sweet Kate only months prior to losing her.

I haven’t listened to the song previously mentioned since I lost my daughter.  In fact, posting it here is the first time I have listened to it since that important night years ago.  But as I listen, I say again, “Yes.”

I renew my vow to walk this precipitous journey not simply near God and my husband, but with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on July 26th, 2013 by LilBS  |  3 Comments »