This day

I always know I am blessed but I don’t always feel blessed. Today I do. I am grateful for dozens of things and thanking God for every single one of them. 

I got to enjoy time at the Ohio State fair with my Mom and a few of her friends today. 

I got to have a meeting with people who care deeply for suicide postvention today. 

I got a surprise gift of fresh, delicious peaches today. 

I got a surprise cake, ice cream and bottle of champagne in celebration of Drey’s life today. 

I got a wonderful text message today. 

I got a loving voice mail today.

I have a wonderful husband who takes care of me every day. 

I love my job as the LOSS Coordinator every day. 

I have 3 stinky, cuddly dogs I get to love on every day.

I have a mom who spoils me and thinks I’m awesome every day.

I get to sneak away for 4 days and hike, read, canoe, swim and sit in a hot tub all by myself.

I have a good God who showers me with these earthly blessings and with infinitely more heavenly blessings. 

Yes, I am ready to start year 4 of this new life.

The isolation of it

As time marches on, the circle of loved ones I can be sad with grows smaller. But thank God You’ve provided a circle.

You weep with me always, God, not just when the calendar says it’s a hard day. 

I’m going dark. 

Sometimes it feels wrong for taking up people’s time with my Drey tears. But Your word says You collect my tears. How blessed I am to have an infinite, powerful creator who is so personal and loving. So attentive to me.

I should’ve left town sooner or at least completed more stuff before today so I could just chill. I have to hold on till Thursday. Just 3 more days then I can go. I was doing ok… Just pluggin along even on August 1 and 2. But now it’s time to rearrange my calendar, lower my expectations of the “to do” list and increase the expectations of the “just be” list. 

I want to be understood. But this sorrow will always be too personal. There are a finite number of descriptive words. And words aren’t experiences. Words aren’t love. Words aren’t feelings. Words are inadequate. So what’s the point? Sometimes it’s easier in silence.

I should’ve gone dark sooner. 

One foot in front of the other. That’s all. I’m learning You are All, slowly. Someday I’ll be home. I can love while I wait.

Thank You for the glimpses of learning how to love people. Thank You for caring for others through me. For prompting me to love by prayer. To love by sitting. To love with silence. I never knew pain. Now I know this pain. Now I know pain is personal, unique and not shareable or comparable. Now I can be comfortable not knowing and not fixing, just sitting and praying.

I’ve never been more sad, more hopeful, more confident or more at peace.

Just breathe.

And after that deep breath… more grateful. 

Personalized 1 Corinthians 13

If I devote myself to ’round the clock service to others, but don’t have Jesus, my service is meaningless. If I have full knowledge of all circumstances, motives and intentions leading up to 8.8.12, but I don’t have Jesus, my knowledge is but dust. If I have the power to turn back time and undo what’s been done, but I don’t have Jesus, my power amounts to nothing. 

Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not boast or envy; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. He does not force His way or His perspective on me. He is not irritable or resentful; He never rejoices at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus does not compare His suffering to mine; He does not discount my pain. Jesus does not keep score. Jesus stays alongside me in all things. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Jesus never ends. As for good works, knowledge, and power they will pass away. For without Jesus I only work and know in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a woman, I gave up childish ways. And so there will be a great transformation again… For now as a grown woman I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And this transformation will be greater. 

So now faith, hope, and Jesus abide, these three; but the greatest of these is Jesus.

Thank you JRue and CT Teacher for your sharing.

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV):

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Fault and Intent

It might’ve been a breakthrough… I don’t know. It’s only been 9 days so I can’t say for sure.

Sobbing last Saturday morning, July 4, I told Robbie that maybe it wasn’t my “fault” Drey died.

I had just finished reading Appointments With Heaven – a book written by Steven Curtis Chapman’s closest friend Reggie Anderson. I don’t remember who recommended the book – if anyone did for that matter. I’m fairly cynical so picking up a book about someone claiming to experience supernatural events isn’t something I’d normally read. But my husband is rock solid, smart and discerning. And if he says Steven Curtis Chapman – who wrote the forward to this book endorsing it – is trustworthy and has a healthy biblical knowledge, then ok. I’ll read it.

The book was good. Not so much because of the supernatural experiences he’d had but because of Anderson’s honesty about the tragedies he’d experienced in his life. He questioned his faith multiple times. His honesty about his anger and doubt about God is what made this book good. Then I neared the end of it and I found myself leaping through the final pages in anticipation and excitement…

The last few chapters of the book addressed the accidental death of Chapman’s young daughter in 2008. Chapman’s son accidentally ran over her when pulling into their driveway. She was running out to ask her big brother to help her reach the monkey bars. Horrible, sickening tragedy. How does a family cope? I was eager to learn how the family responded…

After reading those last few chapters I knew clearly that 17-year-old Will had been behind the wheel of the vehicle that killed little 5-year old Maria. It was his “fault.” But “fault” wasn’t the right word because it was never ever ever his intent for this to happen. Never. In this horrible tragedy, intent – not fault – was all that mattered. Of course no one blamed Will. It was an accident. He was driving carefully. He should not be paralyzed by guilt. He loved Maria so very much.

The Chapman family did an interview with Larry King just a few months after Maria’s death – watch it here. Simply amazing.

It’s only been 9 days since I finished the book. I’m still digesting it, processing it.There are too many layers to this story, this grief, this hope, to adequately and succinctly write about now. All I know is that I was humbled by the question I’m sure God put on my heart… Why had I never applied this logic to my own situation? I never ever ever intended for any of my choices to result in Drey’s suicide. I would have given my life for him. I loved him very much and did all I could to make sure he knew that, too.

So, through sobs, standing in our hallway outside Drey’s room, 2 years 10 months and 26 days after he died, I told Robbie that maybe – just maybe – it’s not my “fault” Drey died.

My new view 

Drey’s death has revealed lots of character flaws… No wait…  Drey’s death has presented me with more opportunities to cooperate with God as He’s been working on my character. That sounds better. There’s nothing like a tragedy that knocks you off your feet, forces bittersweet dependence and produces fertile ground for sanctification. 

I am grateful for the new view I have. It’s peaceful. 

I am not grateful for how I got here. It’s gut wrenching.      

I’m coolio with the sacrifices I’ve had to make since Drey died. 

I’m devastated over why I’ve had to make the sacrifices I have. 

I live at a delightfully, refreshing pace more often. 

I wish I could’ve learned this pace without losing Drey.

I couldn’t do what I do without passion. God knew what He was doing. He prepared me the best He could. He was infinitely joyful, angry and devastated the day Drey was born. All at the same time. He knew. He sees all. He’s not limited by time. To see a new mothers love and at the same time to know the heartbreak her future held. To delight in the joy of a little boy scoring his first soccer goal while knowing the psychological pain he would soon experience. Surely the only thing more painful than what we live with would have been knowing what was coming ahead of time. How does God handle feelings of intense joy and devastation at the same time?  He knows how the story ends. There’s no other explanation. Can I have faith in what He’s told me about the end of the story?

Guilt after suicide. Oh – and First Watch on Sunday!

One of the worst things about losing someone to suicide is the guilt. Don’t get me wrong… there’s plenty of pain not related to guilt, too. But I can rattle off dozens – maybe even hundreds – of reasons why my son’s death is my fault. From that Mai tai I drank 3 weeks into my pregnancy (I didn’t know I was pregnant yet) that I’m certain caused a faulty serotonin development level in his brain (aka: depression) to getting a text message that said. “Hey – I love you” and not immediately going to make sure he was ok.

It’s not just me. I hear it from other survivors, too.

Robbie tries to reassure me that I was a great mom. That Drey knew I loved him. At one point I told Robbie Drey killed himself because I let him play violent video games when he was too young. He reminded me of the time Drey’s friend had Grand Theft Auto and Drey wanted to play. 6th or 7th grade maybe? I made Drey and his friend play it in front of me and I asked questions about what they thought of the different things they saw. Good Mom, right? Thank you for that reminder, Robbie. I did care, I was engaged. So my index finger formed a check mark in the air. Meaning what? I got one right? Now I can be guilt-free? I’m constantly grading myself. And every parenting choice I ever made is all or nothing. Pass or fail. It either sits on the side of the ledger that contributed to Drey’s death or it sits on the side that communicated my love for him. Nothing’s neutral.

I experience relief from the guilt when I don’t think about it. In the beginning I couldn’t help but to think about it 24/7. Then after the first year or so I was able to control my thoughts – sometimes. Or at least catch myself sooner. You know, before my thoughts turned into a ruminating pile of “I should have” pain. 

I don’t share this so friends will feel sorry for me and tell me it wasn’t my fault. What’s most helpful is to acknowledge my ache of responsibility… don’t attempt to convince me otherwise. Only God can do that. So pray, pray, pray.

I share this for fellow guilt-ridden survivors. You are not alone. I know it hurts like hell. The pit of despair is gut-wrenching. AND WE HAVE TO LEARN TO LIVE WITH IT. The relief I experience from reminding myself of when I “got it right” is fleeting. And my ability to block out the guilty thoughts is completely unsustainable. The only true relief comes from acknowledging I am not a perfect parent.  God is! Yep – here I go gettin all religious and shit. The football stadium verse – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Why did He send His son to overcome death? 1) Because God is holy and righteous. He couldn’t just willy nilly grade on a curve and say some character flaws are ok and others aren’t. Our imperfection had to be paid for in order to be in His presence for eternity. 2) Because God loves us perfectly and wants us with Him. How could He not provide a way to be with the loves of His life?! He delights in us!

So I remain in the fight. Sometimes the guilt wins my mood, sometimes peace does. I’ve learned to steer clear of scenarios like this Sunday… the teaching/church service is from Ephesians 6 on parenting. No thank you. Instead First Watch and Floridian French toast – or maybe fresh fruit crepes? are calling my name 🙂 Oh – and coffee with lotsa hazelnut creamer! Num num num! Want to join me? First Watch Sunday at 10a – German Village on High St. 

Thank You for loving me, God. Thank You for knowing what it’s like to lose your only son. I’m never alone. 

Capacity changes post 8.8.12

I’ve overextended myself. 

I’ve reached my saturation point. 

I didn’t realize it until I showed up at Taco Bell when I should’ve been at the school. Until I scheduled the LOSS display to be in 2 places at the same time for this weekend. Until I showed up at an appt that had been cancelled. And even after being reminded it had been moved to a different day and seeing where I updated my calendar still not remembering ever making that change.

Before Drey died I would get overwhelmed – but less often. Big time less often. And I cannot remember a time when I sat through an entire green light in my own little world. Nor did I make calendar mistakes. Nope. “Overwhelmed” would look like pissy, irritable, over-functioning; not confusion and forgetfulness. My capacity has been significantly altered post 8.8.12.

It scares the shit out of me. How completely confused I can get. Even when I haven’t overdone it. My pride has taken a healthy beating these past 3 years. 

I’m learning to say “no” to requests. But it doesn’t come naturally. More often than not I’m still pushing myself to get through “just this one more thing then you’ll be able to relax.” It’s not right. I’m carrying responsibility, tasks, goals, whatever – that God never intended for me to carry. I need my quiet time every morning. It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity. My day is better – and I’m better for everyone around me – if I go slower. And ultimately that’s a blessing in spite of what my pride screams.

Yes, my capacity has changed considerably. My capacity to accomplish stuff but also my capacity to empathize, to love, to be patient, to be silent.

I wonder if I’ll ever be comfortable in this new skin?

I’m thankful

I have quiet time with God about half of my mornings… The plan is every morning but my busy-body self has other ideas. 

My quiet time consists of several topics but one that’s consistent is thankfulness to God. There are hundreds of things to be thankful for… From hot coffee to His Son and everything in between. One thing that’s always at the top of my list is to thank Him I’m no longer working. Well – no longer working on someone else’s terms. 

Last week, two people asked me if I missed it – Cheryl’s and corporate life in general. “Not at all!” sprang from my mouth before I had a chance to consider my response might be hard to hear to a corporate person. I miss many of the people… I’m blessed to have had awesome bosses, peers and teams. My face lights up when I see them. 😊

And I miss the money – kind of. I know it sounds weird but money plays a different role for me than it used to. Of course leading a start-up non-profit organization requires money. And God has been providing in His timing. Money isn’t a source to get my entertainment anymore… now it’s a source for brief respites from the emotional work. It’s an opportunity to soak in a warm tub full of God’s grace that smells like lavender. The difference between the two – entertainment vs respite – is subtle and I imagine it’s not noticeable to most people. That movie, that long weekend in NOLA… 3 years ago they were entertainment now they’re respites.

It’s an attitude adjustment I wish I could’ve grasped without the cost. 

I Can Choose My Attitude… Sometimes

Since Drey died I pout a lot. If I’m not feeling guilty or angry… There’s a good chance the feeling of choice is selfpity.

Sometimes I have no choice but to sob and yell at God, “it’s not fair!” But as the weeks and months have somehow turned into years… Almost 3 of ’em… I’m learning that part of integrating this grief into my life means choosing more and more often to believe something other than what my feelings are telling me. 

My son, my only child, my favorite dude, my sweet pea, my Dreyster. He’s dead. My heart will remain broken until heaven. Trying to fix or change my feelings will never work. Instead I’m learning to exercise my “knowledge muscles.” They not only need strengthened but they need maintained because atrophy can set in within minutes.

I KNOW I am blessed. I don’t feel blessed very often. And sadly I don’t act blessed very often. But that doesn’t change the truth: I AM blessed. 

I can choose to ask God “why.”

I can choose to dwell on what could’ve been – what should’ve been.

I can choose to continually throughout the day again and again ask God for the strength, wisdom and discernment I need to cultivate a grateful heart.

I can choose to acknowledge my feelings rather than justify them or deny them.

I can choose to remember I am the creation and not the creator.

I can choose to push myself to attend events that leave me sad, fragile and vulnerable in order to prove to everyone I’m just fine. 

I can choose to say “no” to plans and sit on my patio, crying, letting God’s Word do its thing, free of guilt.

I can choose to believe I’m “too much” to be around. 

I can choose to feel isolated and misunderstood.

I can choose to let God lovingly work on your character.

I have nothing to prove. I’ve been placed in these circumstances. I ache and I am broken. Sometimes there’s just no point in fussing about it. 

Forever Young

Forever Young came out when Fred and I were just dating. I knew when I saw the video and listened to the lyrics that it would be a song I somehow sang to my child at their high school graduation.

Well, my singing was – and is – horrific so instead it was Rod Stewart’s voice that went with the video full of happy memories of watching you grow up.

A song inspired me a handful of years before you were even born and it was indeed a part of your high school graduation.

That song softly played in the background of my mind while you were growing up. “Whatever road you chose I’m right behind you, win or lose…” That song reflected the unconditional love I had for you. It reflected my delight in you. I don’t know if you ever even heard that song. The sound to the video was turned down at your grad party – but I knew it was playing. Did you? How about 2 months later at your funeral? Did you hear it then? Did you hear that song that by God’s grace reflected His love through me to you all those years? Those short 19 years?

I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. But the “it’s not fair” sobs are never far from the surface. I miss you. Do you see the love in my heart, baby?

Forever Young by Rod Stewart


Happy Boy. Proud Mom. 5 years old

Happy Boy. Proud Mom. 5 years old