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.”

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.

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… 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 – a little more calm – and 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. 

Psalm 19 reflections. Verses 7-11

Psalm 19: 7-11(NLT):  The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.  The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 

The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. 

Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever.  The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. 

They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold.  They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.

They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.


Reflections:  the idea of having my soul revived was and still is very appealing to say the least.  The first few months after Drey died I thought I was going to die.  Literally.  I didn’t think it was physically possible to carry the heaviness.  God carried me in ways I’ll never know this side of heaven.  Not only did I FEEL Him at times – there were times I FELT when people were praying for me – but I also knew there was simply no other explanation for how I was still breathing.  It was entirely God’s doing.  I realize I’m typing in past tense… it “was” God’s doing that I could continue breathing.  So what about now?  Am I now strong enough that I’m saying, “I got this now, God.  I’m good.  Thanks for your help”?  Gross.  I pray that God would keep me weak because his grace is all I need.  

Plumb’s song, “Need You Now”  God thank you for keeping me breathing.

Psalm 19 reflections. Verses 1-6

Psalm 19: 1-6(NLT): The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete ready to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.

Reflections: God loves us so much that he makes Himself known in His creation.
“Heavens” in this passage refers to outter space – the sky, the stars. Not the home of God.
God created the sky, the sun, all the stars. He spoke them into existence. Think about that… wow! When I let my imagination take flight the idea of speaking even an ant into existence is truly mind boggling! What would I have it look like? What would it’s purpose be? Would it be living? Would it fly? Would it talk? Would it be food? What would it taste like? What color would it be? So many decisions to create one little bitty ant.
The sun – THE SUN. Damn! Have you read about it lately? I read the wikipedia highlights this morning.
It’s diameter is 109 times larger than earth’s. It’s mass is 330k times denser than earth’s. God spoke the sun into existence. OMG – literally! Just pausing and reflecting on this leaves me in absolute awe. Consider all the sun does. Nothing can hide from its heat! What an amazing, amazing God! God is all power and all powerful. God is the great I AM.

Another small step…

I held a baby yesterday. This wasn’t a small step – it was a big one. I’ve wondered a few times since Drey died if I’d ever be able to hold a baby again. Well last night my question was answered. I didn’t have much choice in the matter really. A mom friend was doing multiple things and handed me baby Sophie. It happened so quickly I had no time to think it through. I just did what comes naturally for a mom. Sophie was on my hip and I was immediately swaying.

My thoughts dashed between “Doesn’t my mom friend know I failed to keep my son alive? What’s she thinking giving me her sweet little baby to hold?” To “Oh my dear God, please, I don’t want to cry. Please keep my precious memories of Drey as a baby stuffed safely away far from the surface.”

In the end I did okay. When I gave Sophie back to her mom Sophie gave me a sweet little smile revealing just a few front baby teeth. I accepted that smile as a little gift from God and remembered to thank Him.

Happy to be home…

After a peaceful 4 days in Hocking Hills I am now back home.

It was wonderful to spend quiet time away.

My favorite part of the trip was a thunderstorm that came through. Since there were so many trees I hadn’t really looked up at the sky to notice the clouds headed my way. So the first sign of the storm was a loud roar of thunder. It jolted me into a fast, deep awareness of God. Psalm 104:7 reads, “At Your command, the water fled; at the sound of YOUR thunder, it hurried away.” I love that… it is HIS thunder! God is sovereign.

Sovereign… such a big word. Not a word I fully grasp. Supreme power. Permanent authority. Self-governing. Nothing happens without God’s awareness. Nothing. A leaf doesn’t even fall to the ground without His knowledge. It’s hard for my finite human mind to comprehend such power. Thankfully I don’t need to fully comprehend it. He asks if I will trust Him. Trust doesn’t mean He answers to me. Or that I have to ‘make sense’ of everything that happens. Even though I have no explanation for why He allows pain, deep pain, to continue on in this fallen world I still trust Him. I trust Him.

The news

My son died on August 8, 2012.  Tears well up as I type these words.

Drey meant the world to me.

He committed suicide.  “Committed.”  Implying it was a crime.  People “commit” murder.  My son was no criminal.  He took his own life.

Drey had just graduated high school and had just celebrated his 19th birthday.

He was my only child.