I’m supposed to slow down and be relational I suppose.
I have slowed down. But I don’t know what to do now.
Please direct my path, Oh Lord.
Note written in 2013: It’s hard to believe that was how I was feeling a year ago. Moving to a new neighborhood, leaving my job, my son’s graduation and entrance into adulthood… so many changes I was struggling to adjust to. Then the bottom fell out just a short month later. And still God was there. Loving me, holding me, carrying me.
It doesn’t quite seem possible. A year.
What have I done this past year?
Here are some highlights…
Aug ’13: ran a zombie 5k.
Jul ’13: celebrated dreys 20th bday.
Jun ’13: bought a bench at the zoo
May ’13: planted a garden
Apr ’13: quit my job
Mar ’13: saw Maroon 5
Feb ’13: turned 47
Jan ’13: had my first day of not crying since 8/8/12
Dec ’12: changed home churches
Nov ’12: it’s a blur
Oct ’12: it’s a blur
Sep ’12: it’s a blur… Hey – I know. I started attending the Grief Share support group. There’s something I remember from September.
Aug ’12: planned my sons funeral
Nope – I’m not beating myself up for not “doing” more. I’ve found a healthy pace for me. I haven’t shut down – I’ve stayed engaged with friends and family, read a shit-ton of books, I’ve had some sweet time with God. But I haven’t gone to the extreme of throwing myself into a busy, busy lifestyle either. Yep, a nice healthy pace.
I’ve learned so much this year. So much about God, about this world, about friendship, about love, about sacrifice, about what’s important. Most of all I’ve learned humility (okay – I’m still learning humility). I’ve had nothing to give. I’ve accepted meals, $ to help pay for dreys funeral, books, cards, flowers and gifts. I’ve not written a single thank you note. I’m so grateful for so many people. I’ve dominated many conversations with Drey and my pain – go figure – as the main topic. Would I be able to be the friend that so many have been to me? People tell me they don’t know how I’m surviving this horrible tragedy. I often wonder how my family and friends are surviving me!
Have I told my husband lately how amazing he’s been through this year? He has helplessly watched me in so much pain. I only use the word “helplessly” because I know that’s how he feels.
I believe there are a lot of people – maybe even a few hundred – who are remembering Drey especially now. Last conversations, last looks, last songs, last restaurants, last hugs. The last time I saw Drey was for lunch on August 3rd. I just spent the anniversary of that last lunch with his Dad, his Grandma and 8 of his close friends running a 5k zombie race. Probably not the “normal” way to grieve – but what’s “normal?” There is no rule book for how to grieve. Drey’s friends have been so good to stay in touch and to celebrate his life in a variety of ways. It’s meant a lot that they’ve included his Dad and I.
Somehow I’m still alive. I’ve lived a year without seeing my baby. It’s still so surreal.
I have one favor to everyone reading this:
During this month especially please take the time to check in with friends. Don’t make the mistake of assuming laughter, fun and smiles = happy and healed. Ask if Drey’s on their mind. Then listen. Don’t try to fix anything. Don’t try to make it better. Just listen. Please re-post. I want all of Drey’s friends to see this.
As I sit here, I reflect on these past few years and the culmination of the years that brought me to the great divide—that unmistakable point in my journey when everything changed. This review exposes the man I was and the man I continue to transform into. This is not a story of flawed to perfection; but rather one of presumed perfection to humbly-flawed.
When this review settles on me as a father, I pause and think of my Angel Girl. I loved her as any father loves his daughter. With Angel, I was taken by her gentle confidence. She appeared shy, yet had a strength that grounded her in independence and her caring spirit was her gift.
I was blessed that God prompted me to write her the following letter to fulfill a school project of hers. This was written just one month before that fateful day…
God I put on my helmet of salvation, my peace shoes, my truth belt, my breastplate of righteousness. I choose to pick up my sword and shield. Thank You for giving me these things. I am fully equipped for what sights, smells, sounds, memories and thoughts will come today. Nothing makes its way to me without Your awareness. You have perfectly prepared me. I love that You care about the little things, God. I love that You grieve with me and understand one seemingly silly little thing can cause my breathing to get fast and shallow, the knots in my stomach to tighten, can cause me to become disoriented. You are not the voice in my head telling me to “toughen up.”
No one knows me the way You do. This is such a lonely, lonely grief. No one else carried my baby for nine months. No one else held him and fed him like me. I was Mom. I am Mom. God thank You for being with me in this pain. Thank You for loving me the way You do.
Today is a “good” day. It’s hard to say that – what kind of Mom has a “good” day when her son is gone? But for now the definition of “good” is different from what it used to be. In the beginning I had horrible minutes and barely survivable minutes. Then that changed to hours – then it changed to “okay” hours and now it’s days – even “good” days. A good day means I am able to smile, to find joy and peace in running, reading, or hanging with friends. It means I’m able to eat. It also means I thought of you all day, Drey. That’s still the common denominator in every day… good and bad. When I hear songs we used to enjoy together and when I hear new music. When I look downtown and wonder if you would’ve worked here in Columbus. When I see girls your age, guys your age, and nice cars. When I see little blonde boys with glasses. When I eat raspberries. You’re always here in my mind. I’m learning to have “good” days even though the pain is here, too.
I remember the first time I went for a few minutes without thinking about you… It was several months after you died. I woke up one morning and went to the bathroom. While I was in the bathroom I realized I hadn’t thought of you yet. Wow did I ever feel guilty. I’d been awake for all of 3 – maybe 4 minutes – and hadn’t thought of you. It’s a lot of responsibility being a parent to a child who’s gone, kiddo. Thanks for that! I don’t know who told me it was my responsibility to keep your memory alive, to make sure your legacy continues. But it’s something ingrained in my thinking. I wonder if it’s like that for every grieving parent? I don’t want anyone to forget you. I don’t want people to stop saying your name. I’m slowly finding ways to honor you and your life, baby. And as I find those things it takes a little bit of pressure off of me. It’s like a beach ball… trying to swim the length of a pool while keeping it completely immersed when it’s fully inflated is exhausting. But little by little when I let some air out, it’s not as exhausting to do laps with it. It’s still with me, I still hold on to it tightly and I always will. A bench at the zoo, a walk to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention, even a zombie 5k with your friends. All these things let a little air out of the ball. Do you see how many laps I can swim now, baby? In the beginning I couldn’t even pick up the beach ball let alone get in the pool with it.
I love you.
“Surely Your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
I don’t know how to reconcile Drey’s death with this bible passage, God. Sometimes I am at peace with You. I trust You and I FEEL Your peace. But sometimes I don’t. I have my head knowledge about You and Your goodness. But it’s one thing to KNOW a thing. It’s a whole ‘nother thing to experience it, to FEEL it. And I ain’t feelin it.
I don’t understand. I don’t understand how I got here. I don’t understand how life keeps going. I look at Facebook and see what my friends are up to. So many family pictures and joy. Why me, God? Why can’t I still have my boy?
I’m enjoying quite the pity party this morning. I imagine people reading this (assuming I even post it) and thinking it’s been nearly a year… she should be further along in her healing. I can hear the well-intentioned comments that come across as shallow platitudes when I’m in a mood like this one… “you should be grateful for the 19 years you had him. He always did belong to God.” When I’m in a Spirit-filled frame of mind I know I am blessed. And the peacefulness of knowing I’m blessed by an amazing God can co-exist with the pain. But sometimes I just ain’t feelin it.
Today I throw a big temper tantrum and proclaim my life sucks. I want Drey back. I want to see his face, touch his ears, see those muscular soccer legs, see that smile, hear him say, “Hey, Mom?” which is how so many of his sentences started. I want him back.
What a great weekend – Jazz & Rib Fest and Picnic with the Pops. We listened to the music of Queen at the Pops – loved it! Then they did Bohemian Rhapsody. Robbie had commented that was the song he was most excited to hear. It’s such a fun song – can’t help but think of Wayne’s World when I hear it. But then it began…
It’s typical really. I’ve said it hundreds of times and I’ll say it hundreds more… things are different now. And once again I wasn’t prepared. Robbie & I had completely forgotten what the lyrics were.
If I want to self-protect I’ll need to stop interacting with people, stop listening to music, stop living. Because that’s the only answer if I want to stay away from any reminders of this horrible tragedy. But that’s not what I want AT ALL. I want to live in a BIG way! So I’m back to the topic of guarding my heart.
For quite a while after Drey died I would put on my spiritual armor every morning. I would visualize every single piece of armor being put in place. Funny how I’ve gotten “strong” so haven’t taken the time to do that in a while.
Ephesians 6: 14-17.
14: Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.
15: For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.
16: In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.
17: Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
In February I began praying that God would keep me weak. I wanted to stay as dependent on Him as I was in those first 6 months. There was one time I literally laid on the kitchen floor and couldn’t stand without praying. I was that dependent. That are no words to express the depth of grief. And there are no words to express the depths of God’s love I experienced. But then I lived through Christmas – and somehow that was a milestone for me. I realized I was going to have to continue living and that I could live through even horrible days where memories flooded my every thought. This was a good milestone and I am grateful for it. But it was at this point that I began trotting down my autonomy path. It was so subtle – just a few hours here and there and then a few days here and there the, “I got this from here, God” attitude crept in. When I realized that was happening I began praying that God would keep me weak.
So when Bohemian Rhapsody started I was singing… then I stopped singing and held Robbie’s arm nice and tight. And then I was okay. It’s like a huge wave coming at me – sometimes I’m underwater too long – other times I pop back up quickly. This night I popped back up quickly. It was a sweet reminder for me to pray without ceasing because I don’t “got this.” I need God. I need His Spirit to lead me, to prepare me, and to teach me how to love and live more deeply. And I pray to God to help me remember to put on my armor each morning. God knows exactly what I’ll face each day. Nothing takes Him by surprise.
Shortly after Drey died a friend mentioned something about finding my “green pastures.” I never forgot that. But I wasn’t ready to move forward with that thought until this summer. Psalm 23 vs 1 & 2: The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.
The imagery is about a shepherd and his sheepy’s and lamby’s. It’s cool how God uses natural imagery to show us a supernatural point.
A shepherd cares for his flock. He protects it, he provides for it, he loves it. I’ve come to learn that sheep are really skiddish. They don’t lie down and rest unless 1) they feel safe from predators, 2) there is no conflict with other sheep, 3) they are free from continual insects, and 4) they have food. If any of these 4 things is missing they stand, they’re tense and on full alert, restless. It is ultimately the shepherd that provides these things. Fences are built to keep predators away. A shepherd even sleeps with his flock to protect it from predators and in-fighting. He makes sure they have been treated with various insect repellents. The sheep can’t do these things for themselves. They need their shepherd. Then there’s the need for a green pasture before they can rest… Food, dew, nourishment. It takes hard work on the shepherd’s part to care for the land and keep it flourishing.
So what’s my point?
I sometimes find myself wondering what is it I think I must have before I can lie down. Before I can rest.
Why is my son dead? Wasn’t I devoted to you, Lord? You didn’t cause this God but you did allow it? Why? Why would you?
I don’t have these answers and I don’t anticipate getting them on this side of heaven.
A tangible way to pay it forward? To redeem this horrible loss by savings a life? By ministering to someone who is in pain?
Well, that may happen but I don’t think staying in a state of unrest until/if that happens is healthy.
Instead I’m trying to change my question. Where are my green pastures? Where am I free? Where do I rest mentally, emotionally. Where do I release what’s inside? Where am I free of fear? The answer for me is coming in different forms… I’m collecting my green pastures on a Pinterest board: Green Pastures
Drey’s birthday weekend was exactly as it needed to be. I spent time alone. I left balloons by the soccer field. I cried over coffee with Fred. I got a tattoo. I saw Drey’s friends. I went out to Drey’s favorite restaurant with Robbie and David and we shared memories. I opened unexpected cards. One card read, “don’t let the devil steal your joy.” I liked that.
I ran just over 2 miles today… 12:07 mile. That’s too fast for just getting started. I need to pace myself since it’s the first time I’ve run in a year. But damn it felt good. I feel strong when I run – like a bad ass. I could’ve whooped anyone’s ass in Franklinton, I’m sure of it! 🙂
This grief journey is a long one. It won’t end… I will always grieve to some extent because he’ll always be my baby. And little by little I find my new footing.