DSCF7306I am sharing what I wrote right after school got out in June. Just feel led to for some reason.

I just finished up one full year at Sandburg without my long time partner, friend and daughter, Carly Grace. It was excruciatingly hard to begin with, but over time became somewhat easier. Of course, never a day, never and hour passed without thinking of her, grieving still the loss, and having true heartache. I suppose over time that will lessen, too, but for now it remains part of the journey. I miss her and can’t shake the sorrow I have for her, having been taken so young, so suddenly and so shockingly. But….I must trust God’s sovereignty, that He knows what obstacles Carly faced, and in His mercy, took her home to a better place. Still…..I miss her.

As I think about this past year and 4 months, the challenges, the blessings, the changes, and the things that haven’t changed.

People. The family and friends that I am blessed with have been, literally, life savers. Without their love and support I don’t know if I could have made it through this past year. Though I’d like to believe that God gave me the strength, the comfort and the support I needed, I know that it was not just something between Him and me. He brought many angels in human form to surround us with prayers, practical support and just plain love from the heart.

My family. Frank, my husband, friend and supporter of 35 years was my rock throughout. Though he was hurting and grieving, too, he still was the one I could lean on and cry on and depend on, always. Frank, of course, handled his grief differently. I say “of course” because everyone handles grief in a different way. There is no right way; there is no wrong way. But it must be done. Grief cannot be ignored; swept under the rug; buried. If one tries to push it down, it will eventually resurface and the steps of grief will have to  be walked through then. These important “pieces of grief” I learned through Grief Share, a faith-based support group that Frank and I joined several months after losing Carly. I am thankful for that group, and to the facilitators, Helen, Lori and Bill, Kirsten, Per and Marilyn for leading in such a wonderful caring way, having dealt with their own loses and helping others deal with theirs.

When I lost my parents, almost 20 years ago now, it was hard, but nothing like this. I say “lost” when I talk of my dear loved ones who are no longer here, but I know they are not lost, just relocated, found actually, in a better place, Heaven. Of this I have no doubt. I am  thankful to have the faith that I will see them again. That this place on earth is not our real home, but a real perfect home in Heaven awaits us. As I type this a butterfly hovers outside my window. I have a penchant for butterflies, as more than just a few people referred to Carly Grace being as free as a butterfly now. When I see butterflies, have a dream like the one the other night, or find a penny (pennies from Heaven), I think of them as kisses from God. Little things that bring comfort and peace and a bit of joy.

The night before Carly left this plain, I spent the night by her side in the ICU. I wasn’t going to leave my girl. And my other girl, Carrie Joy, was not going to leave me. She, indeed, more than epitomizes her middle name. Carrie has always been a Joy. Not that we’ve always seen eye-to-eye on things; after all, she is her mother’s daughter. I had wondered as my girls got older and I did, too, “why are my girls so snarky??” As I was pointing that finger, however, the Lord was turning it right back in my snarky face! Hmmm…okay. I get it. Children learn what they live. She mentioned just recently that she needs to soften up that side of herself. Carrie has always had a generous and giving heart and has been there to go that extra mile to “honor her father and mother”. I so much love that about her.

I dearly love all of my family. Frank, Carrie, Colin, Shawn, Amanda, Alex and Myles. My brothers and their families. All so precious to me. I have been blessed. I am seriously guilty of not taking the time and effort to show those I love, just how much I do. These things become so much more apparent when you lose someone. In church we have been encouraged to have a block party. I need to have a family party first!

I had lunch with my friend, Lana, a while back. She lost her husband a month before we lost Carly. We share our journey and did attend Grief Share together. It is good to talk about our “new normal”. The fact that things will never be the same, but very different. Always a heavy sadness will lay on the heart that was once buoyant and happy. Of course, there are good times with laughter and light moments, but always with the underlying presence of sadness as a constant unwanted companion. This too, shall pass. Not entirely, but will morph into something softer and easier. I am sharing a handout we received at Grief Share.

How do I know I’m moving forward through grief?

There is a different kind of sadness, a change from a bitter sadness to a sweet sadness.

You are planning for the future and finding rewarding and meaningful activities to pursue.

You can talk about your loved one, your loss, without feeling hopeless or helpless. You share your memories with others.

You give yourself permission to take a break from grief to enjoy other aspects of life. You do not see this break as a betrayal of your love for the one who is gone.

Where there once was “we”, you learn to say “I” or “me”.

You return to eating and sleeping as you did before the death.

More often, you feel free form the heaviness of loss; your sense of humor returns, and you can enjoy pleasure without guilt.

You feel you are relating more openly with others.

You are exercising regularly.

Your loss will always be a part of you~it makes you the person you are today and the person you will be in the future. Now and again, you will be caught up in a resurgence of feelings of grief. This will happen with decreasing frequency as time goes on, but may in fact never cease entirely.

Blessings on your journey~

DSCF7880Okay…so I am trying this for the first time. Technology is often not my friend, but I feel  I need to do this for a greater purpose, so technology aside, I will proceed.

Words are constantly revolving around in my brain. Yes…..I am very random, and maybe I’m the only one who can follow the rabbit trail; all I know is I want to put my words somewhere, in an effort, selfishly, to help myself through this often mind-boggling experience, but more importantly, to help others through their journey.

Ever since facebook came into existence, it has opened up a whole world of communication for a whole lot of people. I, for one, have been very thankful for it, as it has put me in touch with old friends and has given me a few new friends, as well. But recently I discovered, again in my own head, that I have been spending far too much time on facebook and have been dependent on others to feed my need.

When Carly’s accident first happened, I counted on those around me, friends and family, to come to MY rescue. Why? Because I was so afraid and so unsure of what was to come. Even before she was gone, the journey of grief had started. This road had never been traveled. Though I knew my main resource was God, and my faith was in Him and Him alone, and I always felt His presence, I was still at a significant loss of what to do about the present circumstances and those to come. I was helpless. Facebook gave me a platform to cry out to others in the wee hours before God called Carly home. You, my friends, were there when the world around me was asleep. I could count on you to hear my heart, dress my wounds and wipe my tears away. Yes, I had God to cry out to….always. But, as my dear former pastor, Jerry Coleman once put it, “sometimes you need people in skin”. You were there for me. And for that I am very thankful. One gets to feel very needy and very self-centered when one in inconsolable.

It is easy to say, “I have faith that God is working all things together for good.” It is another thing to live it out when your child’s life, your life, and your family’s lives have been turned upside down. The fears, the doctors’ words, the black and white facts confronting you. What am I to do with this? It certainly was not all about me. It was all about Carly Grace. As she lay there in the ER, unconscious and hooked up to a ventilator, “to assist her in her breathing”, and the words of the doctor, making much sense to him as he presents it, but making no sense to me, “There is no major bleed in her brain, but I am concerned about the scattered pattern of small bleeds present. It points to her having had a brain shear, from an impact to her head on one side followed by a second impact on the other. It is not a hopeful scenario.” What? What?? He may as well have been talking in another language. All I heard was “not hopeful”. If there is no hope, than what is there? Oh, dear God! Miracle here! This can’t be how it ends.

Oh, how I would love to be here saying THAT miracle came, that she is a walking, talking, back-to-normal, funny and feisty Carly that we all knew and love. How I would love to be able to say to the skeptics, “See! Believe! Only have faith!” How many times I have said, “Why? Why, Lord, didn’t you show your glory by healing her from all of this?” As my former pastor put it; this belongs in the box of Mystery and Majesty. Some questions will never be answered, at least not to our liking. But one day we will know and understand.

But we had to go somewhere. Somewhere from where we were. Somewhere from the ICU. Somewhere from the final moments when we had to say goodbye. Somewhere….else. Anywhere else. Anywhere is a big place, a place to run away to, or to run away from. But it is a place we all face one day, unwillingly. It is a journey to a place, to that anywhere, that place where we can come to terms with grief and faith.

These words seem to be opposites to me. Grief. Wikipedia..and we all know we can get the real deal from Wikipedia….puts it this way: Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Wow. That does not say it all. thefreedictionary.com says it more realistically: deep mental anguish. Yes…. deep…. mental….anguish. I know most who might happen to read this have suffered deep mental anguish. Anguish, to me says a feeling you really can’t put into words. You only feel it deep inside your soul. Anguish you can’t extinguish. If you haven’t felt it, I am sorry to say, you probably will. Loss is inevitable. Your response to that loss may differ from someone else’s, but you will experience it. 

I am writing this now because, believe it or not, one year and three months later, it has finally sunk in that Carly is no longer here. Whether I am a slow learner, have been in an extended state of denial, or whether this is something others have done, I don’t know. As I said, I have never done this before. I lost my parents almost 20 years ago, but those deaths didn’t have near the same impact. You expect to lose your parents. You don’t expect to lose your child. How many time have you heard “no parent should have to bury their child”. Any parent would have to agree with that, especially those parents who have had to. It is, indeed, an unexpected journey. I will end today’s entry, but will start at the beginning with my next on that other word “faith”. I would so appreciate input from others who have walked this path, to enlighten it for both myself and for other readers. God bless you.

DSCF0776Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1.

Personally, all I can say about faith is not going to convince anyone to have faith. When you have faith in someone, you trust them. They are as good as their word. You trust that person because they have proven themselves to be trustworthy. Having faith in God is just like that. Only difference….you have to believe in God’s existence first off, then you have to believe He is trustworthy. I trust God because He has proven Himself to be trustworthy in my life. No, not everything has gone the way I’ve wanted or the way I’ve thought it should. And I can’t say these things haven’t shaken my faith or made me ask questions. But that’s okay. God is a big God and He can take our questions. He can take it when we are angry or confused over our circumstances. Is God good, even when things go really sour? Faith in God is tested at these trying times. Does one draw closer to God in the midst of the trial or does one’s anger and confusion drive them from the Source of peace and comfort? There remains the age old question, “why do bad things happen to good people?”. Okay, if you are expecting me to come up with a spiritual bandage, talking about the goodness of God and the purpose He has in the suffering. well, you’d be partly right. Yes, God has proven to be trustworthy in my life, as I said before. And yet, I do have lingering questions about why bad things happen. Bad things happen to everyone, right? Whether a person is good or bad,  something bad is likely to happen to them in their lifetime. A common response to the “Why Me?” question is “Why NOT Me?” Things just happen. Accidents happen. Evil happens. Illness happens. Things happen that we have absolutely no control over. Why doesn’t God intervene and stop these things? I could go into the theological discussion that because Adam and Eve sinned, they set us up to live in a fallen world forever. Had they only listened to the voice of God we would live forever in paradise! What were they thinking??  Just as they made bad choices, we make bad choices. Sometimes we suffer at the hand of another’s bad choices. Sometimes we suffer and there is no one to blame. Many questions call for answers. But answers, no matter how credible, can really cause one to feel good when that bad thing has happened. What is needed is caring, comfort, love and support. Action, not answers.

When Carly Grace was born 31+ years ago, the doctor’s didn’t give her more than three days to live. Why did God intervene then? Why did He bless us with 30 years with Carly? Did we deserve it any more than another parent who loses their newborn? Of course not. Are we thankful? Of course we are. Would losing her 30 years ago have tested my faith? Of course it would have. ( I have been sharing Corbin Alfred McHenry’s story , Prayers for Corbin on facebook, whose little life hangs in the balance as I write this. Read his story to see how his mom has found faith). My hope is that I would have kept the faith and used my experience to help other people deal with their loss. It didn’t happen then. It happened a year ago. And now, I hope to use my experience, my loss, my pain, to help others through their loss. The scenario may differ in time and place and cause, but with God’s help I can take what has been painful and sad, and help other people with their grief, and with God’s direction help lead them into His place of comfort and peace instead of a place of dark bitterness and hopelessness. Have you seen for yourself someone who has chosen the latter? I don’t think any kind of good can arise from that. Have you seen for yourself someone who chooses, instead, to look to God for peace and comfort in the midst of their darkest time?I These “pillars of faith” are the people whose lives have spoken the loudest to me. I see a hope, I see peace. I see a light in their eyes and in their spirit. Of course the scars of pain and sadness might remain, but their continued faith in God has built my own faith in Him. My own mom was the biggest picture of faith to me. No matter what came her way, she always pointed the way to God and His love and mercy. And yet, at age 70, she suffered a debilitating stroke following heart surgery that left her without speech and hemiplegic. I thought, how could this happen to a woman of such great faith? She should have recovered and been in better shape than before her surgery! And yet, over the next 6 years before God took her home, she remained a light of faith to me. The light remained in her face, in her eyes and in her spirit. She taught me volumes in her silence that I could not have learned anywhere else. Her example to me showed me that, in God’s strength, we can be conquerers even in the worst of times. Though she never regained what she had lost, she never lost her faith. Of that I am more than positive.  Though pain and loss may paralyze us for a moment, it can’t keep us there. Where there is faith, there is hope, where there is hope, there is light, where there is light, there is no darkness. Choose faith. Choose light.