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Bohemian Rhapsody

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.

Green Pastures

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.

    Answers?

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.

    Results?

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

Happy birthday. I started running again.

20 years

20 years

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! ūüôā

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.

20 short years ago

Drey 1st pic with Mom

Drey 1st pic with Mom

The emptiness is back. Who am I kidding… it never really left. It was more tolerable. But I knew July and August were coming. I knew it. And yet I didn’t know. And now I’m here and I know.

Can’t you distract yourself? Think of something else. Drink a little – or a lot. Go shopping. Dive into a project. Jump back into your career. Exercise and get your body uber-healthy.

These are all good things in the right dosage. But they don’t make a lasting dent in this grief.

Losing your child is gut wrenching.
Losing someone violently is hideous, surreal.
Losing someone because they chose to die is agonizing.
All three together in one day, in one instant, is simply not survivable apart from God.

July 10, 1993 I woke up in labor at 7:20 a.m. Mom’s remember these things. My pains weren’t too intense and were about an hour apart. But I knew. He wasn’t born until nearly 26 hours later. He always was a stubborn little shit. He got that from his Dad.

I love you. I remember you. I miss you.

Things are different now

Self protect

Self protect

Self protection

Self protection

I’ve always been pretty open and transparent with everyone in my life. Most everyone knows I’ve been divorced twice, that I love the Lord, that I listen to hip hop music, that the words coming out of my mouth are sometimes a bit colorful. It never really mattered to me if you were my boss, my pastor or my best friend – I’m the same me.

But things are different now. Since Drey died I have a tight inner-circle that I can share things with. Very tight. In part because the depths of this pain is unreal. And in part because I’ve been hurt by comments and questions.

In January I was speaking with a customer at work and during our conversation I shared that my son took his life last summer. He said if one of his teenage girls killed themselves he’s pretty sure he’d be okay because he knows they’re Christian and they’d be in heaven. While he said this he shared about two ways – by visually demonstrating – they might kill themselves. “You never know, someone can hang themselves or shoot themselves…” He had no idea how matter-of-fact and cold his comments were. He didn’t mean to be hurtful – I’m sure of it. I was able to keep it together for the rest of the work day but when I got home the tears poured. I told Robbie I couldn’t be vulnerable anymore. It just wasn’t an option. Life looked different for me now. We have to be careful what movies we see, what restaurants we go to, what music I listen to, where we drive and on and on and flippin on. And now the reality that I couldn’t even be the same ‘ol open me hit me square in the face.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about the difference between being self-protective and guarding my heart. There is a difference… when I’m self-protective my focus is ONLY on ME ME ME. It’s an attempt at not getting hurt, of not breaking down. But I miss out on laughter, on being comforted, on growing closer to friends and family. So, little by little, I’m learning to guard my heart instead. For me that means I limit commitments around hard dates in anticipation of being emotionally exhausted. I’ve learned which friends are good at just listening and call on them on the super emotional days. I’ve learned seeing several people all at once that I haven’t seen in a while is hard so I’m cautious when making those plans. And yes, I’ve learned before sharing with someone the news about my son to quietly pray about it first.

Phil 4: 6,7 Do not be anxious for anything, but with prayer and petition present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.‚ÄĚ

A Mother’s love

A note written to Drey when he was 8 years. He was 19 when he took his life – he never saw this note. It expresses my heart, my mind set. And I’m so grateful to have found it.

11/19/2001
Drey –
I would like to write more regular journal entries to you but I know I have the best
of intentions and then get sooo busy so I won’t make any promises.

A few nights ago I was reading the Prayer book I had bought you. Specifically, I read
the way I signed it to you. I mentioned that the decision for your Dad and I to get a
divorce was a hard decision but that it was the right one.

I was wrong‚Ķ it was not the right decision. It is rarely God’s will for any two people
who were joined in marriage to get a divorce. The Bible is quite clear on this and as I’ve
been growing spiritually I can see I was not thinking clearly at the time of our divorce
nor was I thinking clearly at the time I signed the prayer book for you.

I wish I had been a walking Christian while I was married to your Dad. Things could
have been different. My prayer (and yours too!) has been that your Dad will
accept Christ. He’s a good man and a good father but he’d be an even better father
if he could look at you through God’s eyes instead of his own. I know that’s what I
try to do.

My prayer for you is one I pray often… I pray you will grow up knowing that God loves
you and you are secure in Him. I pray you’ll be secure and confidant knowing that I
love you so very much no matter what choices you’ve made or will make. You truly
have the blessing of my unconditional acceptance. I pray you will find a wonderful
Christian woman someday who you will marry. And the two of you will grow closer
to the Lord and to one another.

You mean so very much to me, Drey. I wish I knew how to be the best Mom to you.
But I know I will make mistakes. I hope you will be able to see past my mistakes and
know that I loved you even though I did some goofy things!

Well, I’m at work right now and I’d better get back to business. Just wanted to take a
few minutes to let you know how loved you are. Mommy

Today: I hesitated with posting this letter. 1) My husband, Robbie, is pretty flippin awesome. What will he think of this? 2) Isn’t it a bit self-serving to post this letter? Look at me! I was (am??) a great Mom! But I’ve chosen to post it because I believe it’s a testament to how loving our God is. To work through a broken person like me (I had just gone through my 2nd divorce when I wrote this) so that I could love my son’s father, love my son, and then to redeem my pain and my choices by blessing me with a wonderful husband, a Divorce Care ministry, and hundreds of other blessings?! Yes, I ache without my son. Yes, I have questions with no answers. But God is still love and loving.

Some lessons must be learned again and again

Through the years I’ve collected a few mantras for directing my thoughts – especially when there’s conflict.¬†

Seek first to understand – then to be understood.

Always assume positive intent.

Stay curious.

All good reminders that often make up my “self talk.”¬† Not so much yesterday…

I received a card in the mail from the parents of one of Drey’s friends.¬† I was so pleased – because I hadn’t heard from them since Drey had died which left me sad.¬† I waited to open the card until I felt ready.¬† (I’ve learned that sometimes cards contain pictures or stories about Drey that are WELCOMED but it’s best that I prepare myself.¬† Kind of a guarding my heart ’til I’m ready thing).¬†¬† I opened the card yesterday afternoon.¬† The card was addressed to Fred & Kris¬†– Drey’s Dad and Stepmom.¬† I was crushed.¬† Not only had I not heard from¬†D & M but apparently they¬†were reaching out to¬†Fred¬†& Kris.¬†¬†The accusations began in my mind…¬† “Drey¬†talked to his friends about you, Denise.¬† Everyone knows you were a shitty Mom¬†EXCEPT YOU!¬† But what¬†was it I hadn’t provided for Drey?¬† I loved him so dearly!¬† What would’ve caused him to speak negatively about me to his friends?”¬†¬† And then the comparing began… “I attended more soccer games during high school than his Dad did.¬† I was the one that took him to get his drivers license.¬† It was me at the doctor and dentist appointments.¬† OMG – is this why so many marriages that suffer the loss of a child end in divorce?¬† Do they start comparing their love and finding fault with each other?”¬† The tears began pouring.¬† Deep, gut-wrenching wails.¬† I texted A – a soccer Mom who has¬†stayed in touch.¬† “WTF A?¬† Was I a bad¬†Mom?¬† Did Drey hate me?”¬† She¬†did her best to reassure me that wasn’t the case.¬† Grieving parents need that reassurance… from their family, from their kid’s friends, from co-workers who remember the pictures and stories that were shared over the years.¬† We forget.¬† We¬†get confused. ¬†We question EVERYTHING.¬†

So I sat down Рa little more calm Рand cried some more.  My thoughts continued to bounce between worrying what others thought of my parenting skills to questioning the skills myself. 

A few hours later I read an email from Drey’s Dad, “Hey D – wanted to let you know I received a card from¬†D & M that was meant for you and Robbie.”¬†

Silly me.

Seek first to understand then to be understood.

Always assume positive intent.

Stay curious.