Friday, November 3, 2017

A Family of 5, a family of 4, a family of?

I was raised in a family of 5, I had an older sister and a younger sister and I was fortunate enough to be the middle child. I loved my childhood, my immediate family and extended family and I couldn't wait to have a family of my own. I grew up and got married (much later than I had hoped but in God's perfect timing). I then had my first child and was blessed beyond all reason and had 2 more. I was once again in a family of 5, and I loved it! I was living the dream that I always wanted and I couldn't be happier....then we lost Jennifer.

We recently went on vacation, the first one in years as a family. We knew we wanted to do this with our boys and create some new memories, especially after these last several months. We made all the plans and reservations and were excited to go to Florida. My only problem that I wasn't anticipating was making reservations for only 4 people. We didn't need the extra bed in our hotel, when we stood in line for a ride, every time they ask "how many?" my heart wanted to scream...5, 3 in one seat and 2 in another! We always took turns on who would ride with whom. We would go out to eat and they would ask "how many?" again I would say 4 but I wanted desperately to say 5! It felt, incomplete, it felt, wrong. I even felt guilty. 

There are 5 of us, aren't there? It's not like Jennifer never was, or has been forgotten, never! The problem is, that now I seriously struggle with how to answer the question "how many in your family?" You see when it comes to a ride, even though it is painful I know to say 4, but what do I say when someone asks, "how many children do you have?"If I say 3, inevitably I am asked, how old are they, or what are their names, what do they do? When I explain that one isn't with us it then becomes uncomfortable and they have to say, they are sorry or what happened, etc. If I only say 2 children, I am torn apart and feel I am cheating my beautiful girl. You see she will always be my baby. Those that already know our story may understand but meeting new people makes it awkward and strange. I don't really know how to explain it to where it makes sense. I feel like I am rambling or not making myself clear but this is where I am right now. My family of 5 isn't complete anymore and nothing will change that, it will always be a family of...?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A single strand of hair

It has been several months since Jennifer passed away. Many people have asked how we are are holding up. It's an honest question, one that I have a hard time answering. You see it honestly depends on the day or even the moment. Sometimes it seems like an eternity since I have heard her laugh or gotten to kiss her good night. I am afraid I will forget the sound of her voice. Other times it seems like she is just down the hall and I can imagine her in there texting her friends and doing a puzzle. There are days that I laugh and have a great time with my boys or friends but then I feel horribly guilty for not being sad. I know I shouldn't feel this way and no matter what anyone says it won't change the way I feel. I can hear people with good intentions telling me that Jennifer wouldn't want me to be sad and she is no longer in pain. The truth is I think she would want me to be sad a little because she would know that I miss her and love her incredibly. I also know she is better off and I will see her again, but right now it still hurts and I want to be selfish and have her here with me. 

I do have some really good days. I also have some days that make me feel shattered all over again. One of those days happened a couple of weeks ago. I decided on a whim to wear one of Jennifer's bright pink over shirts. I can't even tell you why or why it was even out. I didn't go into her closest to find it. Anyway, I put it on and went out and about wearing it proudly, I went to church that night and was singing when I looked down and saw a single strand of long blond hair wrapped loosely around a big pink button. I knew immediately that it was Jennifer's and started crying. It was tangible, it was her, she wasn't here but her hair still was. It wasn't fair, it was painful, it felt wrong. I didn't want to let go of that beautiful single strand. I gently laid it back on the sweater and wound it around the button. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. It was a part of her, a part that grew with her, something with DNA. I wanted to keep it forever.

Today we tried to go through her closet. We didn't last long and didn't do everything. I know why people keep so much when a loved one dies. She had so much chapstick and lip gloss ( another obsession she had) I didn't want to throw any of it out. My baby had used it, her lips had touched it. It honestly hurt to throw it away, and yet keeping it doesn't make sense. No one wants used chapstick. The clothes smelled like her and I didn't want to let them go. Almost every item held a memory. We would remember her favorites and all the pink clothes. Several were set aside, probably more than should have been. We stopped there, we didn't go through her baby dolls, puzzles, coloring books or anything else. The clothes did us in, I know there are strands of hair all over them. I look at her hairbrush and I don't want to clean it out. I don't want to go through her make up or babies. I honestly don't know when I will be ready. I don't think time will make this part easier. It will always be painful but it also holds beautiful memories: Her sweet 16 dress, her prom dress, her favorite hoody, her "I Love Lucy" t-shirt, all hold wonderful memories. 

Honestly we are doing better most of the time but when those little or not so little moments come they hurt. I am getting used to them and learning to let them come. God is my comforter and grief is very real. We live in a broken, sinful world and I am not exempt from the pain. This is not my home and I long to see my beautiful Sweetcheeks again. Until then I praise my Lord and show others to also. This life is painful and sometimes sucks, God knows that and that is why I long for a day when all my suffering is over. Thank God, He is my Comforter! 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The month of May

May is a month that I look forward to every year. It holds a lot of memories and excitement for many reasons. I love May!
Growing up it meant the end of the school year and summer vacation. It meant my grandmothers birthday, two of my aunts birthdays and one of my favorite Uncles birthdays. It is also the month I was born in. One of my very first concrete memories I can put a time frame on is my 4th birthday party at Humpty Dumpty land and a pretend makeup set with a plastic tube of bright berry colored lipstick, complete with the slant. I loved pretending to apply it. My favorite color is Emerald green, which just happens to be my birthstone.  May is the month that Mother's Day is. I grew up alway, always wanting to be a mommy. I remember vividly the day I found out I was pregnant, I was due in May!! I had my daughter on a Friday just before Mother's Day, I was thrilled. I went on to have two more children that have been a blessing and one shares a May birthday as well. My first nephew was born in May and I was there when he was born. So many wonderful memories happen in this wonderful month. 
This year May still holds the same holidays but with a pain that is beyond measure. My beautiful daughter won't be here to celebrate her 19th birthday, she won't help us celebrate her brother's birthday or mine. Mother's Day is going to be almost as hard as her birthday. I am bowing out, this month. I will celebrate with my boys but I am hoping to mostly survive this month and will be glad to see June. I may not answer phone calls or texts. I thank God work will be busy this month. I thank God for allowing me to become a mother, but with becoming a mother and all the joy and happiness it brings, it also brings and abundance of pain, maybe that is why when you first become a mother, you have morning sickness and labor pain. The heart ache never goes away but it is worth it all. Oh June please come quickly. Please keep praying for us, we so appreciate it.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Silent Treatment

The Silent Treatment, we have all heard of it and know what it means, but for me it doesn't mean being silent. If or should I say when, I get upset, angry or hurt at someone, I will likely still talk to them but it will be vague, or shallow. When I don't want to talk to my husband I will still say things like, "did you pick up the prescriptions" or "I have a PTA meeting next week". He may ask me "what's for dinner?" and I will answer. However I don't say what is really bothering me or anything of great importance. Anyone watching us sees everything as being fine. For me it is the same way with God. I didn't even realize it at first. For the last several months I have been going through the motions or spending time wth God. This is good that I still have the habit, we need it during the hard times especially. I wake up I read my devotional I pray etc. but it is very generic, like saying grace before a meal. I have read the same devotional several days in a row because I honestly don't remember what I have read. I don't participate in Sunday School like I have. Anyone that knows me knows that I love to talk.. I haven't been. I show up, I go through the motions but there is no depth. I don't pray like I should. I am not doing my Bible study. I tell God I am sad but I don't cry out and say what I am truly feeing: " I love You, I trust You, but this hurts, this doesn't feel fair, etc." and I don't listen for His reply. I am trying to punish Him by not speaking to Him but it is really hurting me and my family. A friend of mine said Satan is attacking. I shouldn't be surprised. Beth Moore once said, that Satan will attack when you are down. We think he won't because we have already been through so much, but Satan is no gentleman, he is going to take every opportunity he can. He is a liar, thief, devourer. So why should I not expect it? I see the results of it clearly when I open my eyes. My relationships are hurting, my house is really suffering, even for me. I hate house work but it's worse than ever. My family is suffering. I don't think I even realized at first that I wasn't talking to God, I think it has taken a while to see the effects it is having. While we are still hurting, it seems to be getting worse not better. Satan is loving it I am sure. I haven't been spending time with my Lord and Savior like I really should or my family. I need to crawl into my Abba Father's lap and cry, however long that takes. I need to tell Him that I don't like this, that it hurts, and I miss Jennifer way too much for this to be okay or fair. I want my boys to have their sister back. They are hurting and it shows, maybe not in the same way as I am but I see it affecting them. God is close to the broken hearted, there are so many scriptures I could go to and pour over, but I haven't. When I give my husband the silent treatment we both hurt but I think I suffer more. I loose communication with my best friend, I feel alone and isolated. It is the same way with God. I hurt, I am alone, I loose that comfort that I need and I suffer, so does my family. I need to break the silence, it's not like God doesn't already know how I feel, or what I will say. He wants to help me grieve and heal but I need to let him. Abba Father, help me to find my voice again.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Going back to ICU

I knew I wanted to go back to the ICU at the hospital eventually. I just wasn't sure when I wanted to go. I couldn't go right away, I didn't have it in me. I couldn't wait too long, because they may not remember. I decided it was time and I wanted to make sure a couple of nurses especially were going to be there. I wanted to say thank you. I don't think they hear it enough. Nursing, especially in ICU tends to feel like a thankless job. They work hard and often don't see a happy ending. So I went to a local cookie shop and picked up several dozen fresh cookies and drove to the place that had been home for 5 weeks. I knew it would be difficult, I knew it would be emotional and I thought I was prepared. I was wrong. Parking felt eerily familiar. Walking into the hospital and getting on the elevator was uncomfortable, but walking down the long corridor was physically painful. My stomach churned, my head hurt, I felt like I couldn't breathe. Calling on the wall phone and I was shaky and felt like I was going to panic. They buzzed me back and I lost my voice. My eyes blurred and I began to sob. I couldn't look in Jennifer's room, it hurt too much and flooded back memories. I told several of our favorite nurses thank you, I told them they made a terrible situation more bearable. They made a difference, they work hard and they deserve more credit. I wanted them to know that I continue to pray for them. I couldn't thank them enough. I also couldn't wait to leave. The pain was huge, it hung in the air and I wanted out. I also know I had to do it. I wanted to do it. These people are amazing and they took beautiful care of my precious girl. I couldn't let that go. Thank you nurses for standing on your feet all day and doing so many thankless tasks. I for one appreciate you! Maybe one day I will bring cookies again. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mosaics part 2

I have been truly fascinated with mosaics since God showed me the similarities between myself and them. I have researched more and more and continue to be amazed. Mosaic tiles are usually rough around the edges, boy do I feel that way. When they are broken parts shatter that are no longer usable, hhmm, ditto. You can use a lot of different colors and seriously make any picture or design imaginable. God can put my many parts back together to create anything, He desires. When making a mosaic you need the pieces to be very close together, almost touching. It is like healing, there will be a scar but the skin is connected. You can't just use anything to glue and seal the tiles. I can't just use anything to put myself back together, not drugs, alcohol, shopping, food, etc. I have to use God, His word, prayer, friends and family. If I don't I will break and shatter again or not be usable. Mosaics are often made out of glass, especially in churches because....they reflect the light. That is my hope to reflect the light of my Savior. 

Little things still are painful. Signing a card for a wonderful couple today at church that have been married 75 years was painful. I signed the card for our family and I didn't sign Jennifer's name. That was a first and it was so hard. Little pieces of mosaic if placed in the wrong place will change the picture or have to be removed, broken off and replaced. School days are easier than evenings or weekends. I can stay busy. Busy making a mosaic, waiting to see the finished project. Waiting to see what I will become, Waiting for the process to be finished. Just about anything can be covered in mosaic pieces. God is unlimited in what He can do. It takes time, just like any art work. You take your time and do your best, and that is what I want. I want it to take time to heal correctly and piece by piece. I don't know how long that will be and every piece of art is unique, so I will be different than even Paul or her brothers. We will each have our own beautiful look some day and I believe it will take years even to complete. I wonder if any artist out there is doing a continual mosaic project that is always being worked on. I have a feeling that is what I will be. I think Jennifer would have loved these rain boots. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


I had the pleasure of going to see friends this weekend. I was busy almost constantly with different friends. I loved it, it was both comforting and healing. I went to dinner with some terrific friends Friday night. We have a lot in common, wives, mom's, our children are close in age, etc. We ate, talked, laughed and I got to talk about Jennifer. I needed it. Saturday morning I had brunch with another group of amazing ladies. They encouraged me, prayed for me and poured their wisdom into me. Their kids are mostly grown and out of the house, one has lost a child close in age to Jennifer. They ha e walked where I am walking, they survived and so will I. Saturday night I went to dinner with a great group of fellow educators. We used to work together and we laughed, talked about school and our education system, I talked about Jennifer and it felt good.  I also got some good one on one time with several friends over the weekend. I visited with families that Jennifer loved. I cried, I laughed and I did some healing. I started to realize that it takes all kinds of friend, family and situations to help me heal. I will never be the same, my life was shattered when Jennifer passed away. I do know though that I will heal. I look at my life as a mosaic, I had a beautiful life and family, I broke into a thousand pieces but all these wonderful people are helping me to become something just as beautiful. It will look different, it will take time, it might even be used differently, but it will be beautiful. They are the glue God uses to help me. I am so thankful. I don't know what I will look like in the days, weeks and even years ahead but I know I have a lot of amazing people in my life that are helping me put the pieces back together, thanks to God. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Back to work

I started back to work this week. It was both difficult and good. I knew sitting at home wasn't going to help, especially when the boys went back to school. The idea of sitting around at home in a quiet house was not appealing. I would sulk, pout, whine, and get super depressed. All of that might be okay for a little while but not all day long every day. So I knew I needed to get back to doing what I love at school. I got up the first morning and it hit me. I didn't get to make Jennifer's lunch, I didn't get to check to make sure she was up and taking her shower (which she always was), she didn't come down the hall and ask what I put in her lunch and what she could have for breakfast. It was hard. I am sure the boys felt it also. 
Going into work was what I needed, I needed to keep busy and I love my job. They are supportive and appreciate me as well. They were glad to see me but most didn't know what to do or say. I wouldn't have known what to do or say either if I had been in their position. Sometimes it felt like there was the proverbial elephant in the room. It's okay because I know they do care. I can tell you for me personally, if you want to know what to do or say, ask. You can ask me just about anything, talk about my daughter, please! Yes I miss her but sharing what she went through or some of her stories is a privilege for me. I want to talk about her. I am also a hugger. I know some people are not but sometimes it's nice to have a hug, especially right now. And if I have a tear or two it's okay. Don't feel guilty for bringing up Jennifer, tears are going to come sometimes, especially for the next several months. It is a journey and a process. Finding joy and healing in this takes time but it happens. I still laugh and have peace and hope. God is holding myself and my family and lots of praying is getting us through. I thank God for my job and I am so grateful I have a place to go back to. It helps the healing. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The year 2016

I could say that 2016 was a terrible year and a lot of people would agree with me or at least allow me to feel that way. The truth however is that 2016 was a pretty good year with the last 6 weeks being difficult. I can't pin the entire year on just the last several weeks. 
I work at a great school doing what I love. I have worked with several grades and teachers and have learned so much and they are such a great supportive group. My kids have grown and done some amazing things. As soon as Jennifer learned about prom in the Fall of 2015 she knew she would go. She had a confidence that I envied. She never doubted that someone would ask her to go, she even figured more than one would ask and she would choose. I always wanted to go to prom but never dreamed I would be asked. Jennifer was asked and went and had the time of her life. I loved watching blossom and grow into an amazing young lady. She tried out for a school play, again something I wouldn't have done even though I thought it would be fun. she got a part and even had a speaking part in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I was so amazed and proud. She went to three different high schools but Sturgis was by far the best fit and she just came into her own and was loved. Levi continued to grow literally so tall and did great in school and drama. Nathaniel was a delight to watch grow and be crazy. He started having seizures but God has taken care of him and we delight in watching him try new things. We went to court to get permanent custody of Jennifer for her safety. We made it a celebration for all of us.  I was fortunate to go to camp for the 4th year in a row and work with some great kids and not just my own. They challenged me and I think I grew more than the amazing young people did. They are resilient and have gone through so much and still keep praising God. We had several friends visit over the summer, some of which we hadn't seen in years. We ended the summer with a wonderful visit with my mom and sister. We hadn't seen them in two years so it was super special. We saw God do some amazing things for us and others. In the middle of November Jennifer went into the hospital. We still saw God work and do great things. She will never finish high school, she was planning on going to Prom again this year, that won't happen and I grieve for what never will be.We had so many people encourage us and our family. People from all over the world that was have never met and those I hadn't heard from in years came together to pray and encourage us. We cried out to God and He heard. I have had people tell me it should have been them that God took not Jennifer but I disagree. As hard as it is I know Jennifer is with her Lord and Savior. Someone else may not be ready for that and dying without Christ means eternal separation from Him...Hell. I don't want that for anyone. So as much as I miss our beautiful girl I am grateful that she had chosen Christ and those who haven't still have a chance. I know already that 2017 is going to be painful and a lot of healing and growing. I accept that and expect it. I am as ready as I can be. I will cry, I will laugh, I will grieve, I will grow. I will survive because I have Christ and I have hope. I pray that each of you have a 2017 that is full of growth and blessings.