Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Look for the Helpers

I'm falling apart

I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart
That's still beating
In the pain
There is healing
In your name
I find meaning
So I'm holding on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
Barely holding on to you


Tomorrow will be 3 months since we said good-bye to our son, Benjamin.  I've found in the major events of my life the 3 month mark is when I'm tired of being strong (or at least pretending to be) and the numbness of the past 3 months suddenly turns into lots of other emotions....sadness, anger, exhaustion, and deep, deep loss.  In the grief world, it's also at this point that most people have returned back to their lives (as they should) and you feel alone in all of this.  You feel that if you ask for help you are "needy" and "should be over it" already.  But anyone who has lost a loved one, will tell you that this most definitely isn't the case.

I don't tell you all of this for pity or so that you'll feel sorry for you, but rather what I've finally learned or that I am still learning.  You may be familiar with the saying from the late Mr. Rogers that says, 

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."  

This past week I met with my therapist and I was telling her that I had a moment in my prayer time this week in the daily readings from the Psalm that said "The Lord is kind and merciful."  I've read that Psalm many times in my life, as I'm sure many of you have.  But the Lord challenged me this time around.  If the Lord is indeed as kind and as merciful as I believe Him to be, then He can't be the same God who is making the tragic and difficult events in my life occur.  Those can't coincide.  So my therapist posed a question, she asked me where then did I see this kind and merciful Jesus in the tragedies. The answer that came to my mind was in His people.  

My brother who came over at 6:30 in the morning so my husband could meet us at the hospital when our son was recovering from a major seizure.  The friend who dropped off groceries on our porch because she knew we wouldn't want to be away from him.  My mom, who when I asked, got on a plane to come stay with us so that I could have some extra support as I navigate this grief with two young children to take care of.  The cards in the mail.  The meals prepared.  The kind messages and comments in social media.  I began to see Jesus in His people, both the expected and unexpected.

Sometimes we miss God, because He comes in ways (and people) we don't expect. God hasn't left me alone or abandoned me.  He is kind and merciful and in those time when I needed Him most He sent His people.  And I needed to be reminded of that fact.  Because I was very much questioning and accusing God of His role, or lack there of, in my life lately.  I was reminded of the scripture that says, "The Lord is always close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18. I just missed that from Him.  I didn't recognize His face in the faces of my helpers.  

Then today as I drove down the highway after dropping my mom off at the airport, and life once again was resting on my shoulders, the song from Lifehouse came on the radio, and I was reminded that despite the tragedies and difficulties, I find meaning in God and that I can keep holding on, because He is near in the people He has put in my life. 

So thank you for those of you who showed me Jesus.  Thank you for the times in my life that were the hardest, you were there in the ways I needed.  

And I challenge all of you....look for the helpers,  they are always there if you look hard enough. 

Until heaven....

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Bond of Brothers

When we lost our 4th son, Benjamin, after having two living children, we were obviously devastated.  I remember telling my OB that we were so excited that we were finally going to have an uneventful pregnancy. But here we were at the place of devastation and disbelief once again.  In between my numbness and tears, I remember closing my eyes and seeing a vision of Jackson, our first born, greeting Benjamin as he came into heaven.  In that moment of utter despair, I had a moment of peace knowing that if I had to lose my boys to heaven, not only would they only know the joy and peace of heaven, but they wouldn't be alone. They would have each other.

I've found myself thinking about a conversation that I had with my therapist (we might as well let that little secret out of the bag....yes, I have been seeing a therapist since shortly after we lost Jackson) about the fact that I hadn't been able to enjoy this pregnancy as much because I really hadn't had time to deal with my grieving of losing a child coupled with a very scary and eventful pregnancy with my oldest living child that resulted in a 65 day stay in the NICU, after 3 long weeks of me being there myself.  Clearly, I have a good relationship with my therapist, 4 years and a lot of money later, but she and I are oddly very different when it comes to spirituality.  Although, she has encouraged me in my faith walk just as much as some of my best theologically astute friends has.  (Imagine that...we can learn things from people we don't get agree with? Another blog...another time...). Anyways, on this occasion she was encouraging me to put Jackson "to rest."  That maybe it was time for me to focus on my living children more.  She was in no way telling me to forget about him or act as if he hadn't existed, but rather find the closure I was looking for.  And it's important for that to occur, we can't just dwell in misery or in an unhealthy spot of grief, I did really need closure.   She was worried that my children might have a "ghost brother" in whom we would idolize to some degree.  Again, I saw her wisdom and understood where she was coming from.  And for awhile I really focused on that.  We finally got a name plate put on Jackson's niche a few days before our youngest living son was born.  I put away a few of Jackson's memorabilia and I embraced welcoming our new son home at 38 weeks.

But I soon realized that there was a piece of the puzzle that my therapist didn't have, because of her differing spirituality.  I went back to my middle school religion classes where I taught my students about the communion of saints.  As Catholics, we believe in the idea that there is communication, prayer, and love between all those in heaven, in purgatory, and on earth.  These 3 places don't function as separate places, rather we are all apart of a loving and prayerful community supporting one another.  Two of my children may no longer be living here on this earth, but they are definitely alive and can continue to be apart of my family's lives.  My living children look upon their brother's photos each day as they pass by playing trucks or watching TV.  Jackson and Benjamin's names will always be remembered and spoken aloud.  My children will always know they can ask their brothers to pray for them at any time.  Their relationships can live on until one day we are all reunited in heaven.   We don't dwell on the topic, or even talk about them every day or even week, but I find great consolation in knowing that all of my children can continue to be there for each other, to have a relationship (albeit much different than an early relationship), and when they reunite one day they'll know each other's love from years of being brothers.

This picture hangs in one of my boy's rooms and always reminds me that their brothers are never far away.

My friends, there is such beauty in that.  There is such consolation in my heart because of this, knowing that they will all know each other in a way only God could've designed.  I don't know how I would survive if I didn't believe in the after life.  If my family couldn't one day be reunited in our heavenly court.  And so I'm able to wait a little longer with a greater hope knowing not only what awaits me in heaven, but who.

Until heaven...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Shaken Faith

Two days ago I put this blog into movement and was excited to share my story of how I have relied so heavily on my faith after losing two children to heaven.  And this morning,  as the paramedics carried my seizing older son to the ambulance as I quickly put on my coat and jacket, the only words coming out of my mouth were: "Don't you dare, God...Don't you dare....you don't get to take another child from me.  I won't survive this if you do."

Twelve hours later, I am at a different spot and my little boy is playing in his bed instead of sleeping per usual.  Tonight I'm glad to hear his babbling because it lets me know he's ok.  My husband will camp out with him tonight, because he doesn't sleep well in our bed, and we will be grateful tomorrow when he sees his Dr. and we formulate a plan.

Here's the thing....what we witnessed today, our child having a Grand Mal seizure, is beyond frightening for any parent.  But when you're a parent who has lost a child, the fear of losing another child is never far from you.  You're always kind of waiting for the other proverbial shoe to fall.  So the hypocrisy or contradiction of my words and actions wasn't lost on me.  I am a woman of faith who I believe has only survived losing my children because of that faith, and yet when trauma strikes again, I'm raising my fist to heaven and letting God know just exactly how I feel in that moment.

In some ways today I felt like a modern day Job.  Although his story is far more extreme, I could relate to him when he would ask God to spare him any further grief, that it would be better for God to take his life than to put him through any further agony.  Today, for awhile, I was Job.  And maybe that's dramatic, but it's honest.  It's where I was at.  How much more testing in the fire was I going to be asked to endure?

So where does my strong faith come in?  I think what I realize is that God has big shoulders.  It's ok if we yell out to Him in times of fear and agony.  He can handle us questioning His role in our lives.  He waits for us.  He's a gentleman like that.  It's ok to question and wonder just where He is in times when it feels like He's abandoned us.  And then, if we allow Him, He reminds us that He's still there.

When my little boy was dancing around the living room tonight to his favorite "Truck Songs" videos...God reminded me He was still on the thrown.  Tonight we have a happy, little guy who hopefully doesn't remember much of what happened today (he's gonna think it's pretty cool one day to know he got to ride in an ambulance.) God reminds us that His mercy is new each new day. His joy comes in the morning.  He never abandons His children, even when (especially when) there isn't a happy ending.  And although sometimes I have to remind myself of that truth, I know in my heart of hearts, just like Job, God will comfort and restore my faith.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Until Heaven...

When I, a Catholic blogger and mother, decided to begin this ministry and blog, I kept trying to find the perfect title.  Who would've thought that it would be the faith of my muslim friends that would capture my message?

 In the Islamic faith,  when a woman suffers a miscarriage, still birth, or loses a child it is believed that on the Day of Judgment that same child testifies to God, holds your hands, and walks you into Heaven, personally.  Women who have suffered such a loss are therefore destined for Paradise.

I read that one day on my local support group's Facebook page and tears fell down my face and hope grew inside of me in a way I haven't experienced since losing my sons.  Heaven...that's where I will meet my boys, Jackson and Benjamin, again.  Although Catholicism and the Muslim faith don't share all the same theology, I believe that if my boys aren't there to greet me when I hopefully obtain heaven, they will meet me just inside those pearly gates and run into my arms.   So when I thought of starting this ministry, that is the vision that stayed with me.

Heaven. Heaven is where I will once again meet my heavenly sons.  And so we wait until heaven.

I pray that this blog touches your hearts and souls.  I pray that if you are grieving the loss of a child, if your arms are empty and aching, that you find hope in your day.  I pray specifically for those of you who wait upon not only heaven, but pray for the courage and strength to once again conceive another child.  I pray that those of you who have earthly children, continue to find the joy in their lives and all the while mourning that child's loss of a sibling and friend.

My friends....I pray for you...and walk with you....Until heaven....