cancer · family · grief · parenting · special needs parenting

The Price of Deeper Thoughts

It was on the wall in my mother’s bedroom, a poem written by her grandmother. I loved it as a child, even though I possessed only a superficial understanding of it at the time.

My great-grandmother was a gardener and a writer; I’d like to think we’d get along famously, as kindred spirits. I wonder if she had any idea what the words she put down on paper those years ago would mean to me.

The hot house flowers are beauties,

They have grown without a pain.

Somehow I’d like to set them out

And let them feel the rain.

With just a dash of wind in it,

Though t’would break a leaf or two.

I know they’d smell much sweeter

If they felt a Summer’s dew.

My daughter is a darling,

And of culture has her share,

But I hope some day to see her

Grieved enough to she’d a tear

For something she can never help

No matter how she tries.

T’would steal some joy, but deeper thoughts

Would peep from out her eyes.

I never got a chance to raise a hot house flower. I couldn’t have sheltered my children, because the storm came right into their home.

And when the winds raged and the storms came again and again, my hope against hope was in my great-grandmother’s words. That my one and only truly typical child would some day have those deeper thoughts peep from out her eyes. That building her strength in the storm would bring resilience and splendor that cannot be gained in any other fashion.

And I pushed back the fear that the torrent would destroy her.

She has had more than her share of joy stolen, but she is reaping the deeper thoughts. They aren’t always pleasant, and sometimes downright frightening, but they’re hard earned and stunning to behold.

cancer · grief

Yes Think, Certainly Pray, but Also DO!

It’s been eight years since Ben was diagnosed with cancer. Much of that time has become hazy in my recollection. Sleepless nights combined with fear and grief has blurred those days into a giant blob of yuck in my mind.

But what I do remember is crystal clear.

I remember every single person who ever stepped foot in his hospital room to visit us.

I remember every kind soul who knocked on our door with a meal.

I’ll never forget even those who took the time to mail a card.

Some people went above and beyond, like my husband’s co-worker who made us meals every week for months, or his cousin who made projects of eBaying memorabilia and sent us the proceeds, she did that for years. And she made it sound like we did her a favor by giving her such a fun and rewarding project.

The doers.

No matter how small or big, I remember the doers.

I know that many people prayed for us. I know that time was not wasted, that praying is valuable, precious even.

But the ones who took the next step and took the initiative to be a part of the answer to the prayers, they’re the ones God is using.

I have always been a procrastinator. I have stellar intentons and mediocre follow through, so I have let that ship sail more than once.

But follow through matters.

Follow through can be as simple as a text or email or as creative as making beaucoup bucks on eBay and sending it off in the mail.

It needn’t be a burden if you lack time or resources.

But if you really want someone to know that their suffering matters, take the next step. Think or pray, then do.

grief · Uncategorized

What You See (And What You Don’t)

What you see is me being strong.

What you don’t see are all the times I’m so very weak.

What you see is me smiling.

What you don’t see is the pain creasing the corner of the smile.

What you hear is my laugh.

What you don’t hear is the effort it takes to produce the laugh.

What you see is me looking perfectly normal.

What you don’t see is the giant hole in my heart.

What you see is my stoicism.

What you don’t see is my vulnerability.

What you see is how well I’m coping.

What you don’t see is the enormous effort it takes to do it.

What you see is that grief seems to have come and gone.

What you don’t see is how I just don’t want to burden you with it.

What you can see is taking everything I have. It seems like I’m supposed to pick up and move on, so I put on the show and do my best, but it’s a thin veneer. Life only pauses briefly for grief, then it zooms ahead at normal speed, forcing the griever to keep up.

Often it’s easier that way. I feel like I’m staying ahead of it when I keep moving, but it’s right there on my back all along, just waiting for me to remember the weight of it. And when I notice it it crushes me.

So if I seem a little edgy, a little quiet, or have a hard time coming out of my shell, I need you to remember this: I’m not trying to be difficult; in fact I’d much rather just be my normal self again. Truth is I barely remember how to be her right now, and I’m afraid she’s never coming back, which makes this even harder.

Please don’t hold it against me, I’m doing my very best.

grief · parenting

Grubby Gratitude

With Thanksgiving Day situated toward the end of the year it’s natural to reflect back and take stock on the cumulative blessings of the year.

I believe in gratitude, I believe that focusing on all that we have to appreciate is a worthy practice no matter what, and especially valuable in times of heartache. So, this November I’ve been on a quest to find my gratitude and to meditate on the good in the world and my life.

What I have found is much like what I imagine finding gold to be like. I’m busy looking for something sparkly and clean, clearly beautiful and valuable. What I find is specks in an ordinary rock, stuck in the mud. It’s valuable, but so much more complicated than I expected.

I don’t remember the last time our family had a “normal” year. A year in which we didn’t go to bed on New Year’s Eve ready to bid good riddance to the heartaches of previous twelve months. And I don’t remember a Thanksgiving on which we didn’t have a lengthy list of things that make our hearts swell with gratitude. The problem is that too often the hardships cover the blessings, disguising them and making them look less valuable.

Looks are deceiving.

Nothing nothing will undo the pain of living through tragedy. This year our blessings, which are many, are shrouded in heartache. But they are there. They’re beautiful and worthy and wonderful. It takes work to reach into the mess and pluck them out of the yuck and clean them up. I find myself reluctant to start because the dirt looks like how I feel.

This year my gratitude is grubby, but it is there. It’s going to be a work in progress, but I don’t want to be so overwhelmed by the mess that I don’t even try.

My giving of thanks will be subdued, I might not be able to muster effusive delight over the many things in life that I have to be grateful for. Rather, I will be intentionally noting the beauty around me, seeking it out and tucking it away in the depths of my heart, where it will fortify and warm me in the days to come.

grief · parenting

A Grief Observed

It’s been almost 2 months.

Living through child loss for 2 months feels simultaneously like no time at all and like an eternity.

I keep chasing the same thoughts around like a dust devil until it disappears. Then awhile later it blows back up and spins in circles until it gives up again. I never catch it. It never stops returning.

I go back in time reviewing all of the interactions. Could I change one and have a different outcome? After chasing them all down I only return even more unsure.

If I could just hug you, and shake you, then hug you again. I’d probably yell for good measure, then another hug.

But that’s not an option anymore.

I think I’m stuck in the anger stage of grief. Anger at you, anger at me, and especially at all the shit that happened to you; at the broken road you were put on, over which none of us had control.

My head knows there’s nothing I could have done, but my heart won’t let it go.

Maybe I should be looking forward to a heavenly reunion, but there’s too much bitter in that bittersweet thought.

I hope that the peace which always eluded you is now yours. That’s my only comfort.

I hope that the trauma that burdened you like a mountainous backpack has been cast off and into an endless abyss where it’s weight will never crush you again.

Is it too late to remind you that I love you, that you are worthy and deserving of love? Perhaps you know that now in a way that was impossible to grasp when you were here.

I miss you. I always will.