Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Mourning -- Ten Things That (Still) Make Me Sad

As we approach our third holiday season since Hannah went to Heaven, I've been dealing with the now-familiar wave of grief that always seems to come around this time of year.  After the loss of a child, there are the big, obvious things that make you sad, like the holidays, your child's birthday, the anniversary of their death, or their empty bedroom ... but there are also little things, things that would seem completely inconsequential to others, but things that must be dealt with on a daily, or nearly daily, basis. 

Since I missed this month's Ten on the Tenth (I'm going to blame that on Bethany's basketball schedule), I thought I would list ten things that still make me sad on a daily basis, even though it's been nearly three years since Hannah went to Heaven. 

1.  Grocery shopping -- Hannah loved Chex Mix and green olives...two things that no one else in the family eats.  I used to buy them just for her.  She would sit and eat green olives right out of the jar like they were candy.  As her health deteriorated and her sense of taste was affected by radiation and chemotherapy, her tastes dwindled to basically three things:  Oranges, Michelina frozen fettucini, and Special K with Red Berries cereal.  It was not uncommon for her to eat a bowl of cereal, some fettucini, and an orange in the middle of the night in the last month of her life.  It makes me very sad to go grocery shopping and not buy any of these things ... I will actually avert my eyes as I walk down the aisles so I don't have to see any of these items.

2.  Seeing her high school friends -- I was at our high school football game on Friday night, and watched as her two best high school friends walked by together, laughing and talking.  I always feel such a tug in my heart whenever I see her friends from school, knowing that they are home from college for the weekend, spending time with their families.  Really makes me miss my girl.

3.  Getting out three plates for dinner -- Even after almost three years, I never pull plates out of the cabinet without an awareness that I'm only getting three of them instead of four.  The evening we came home from the hospice center after Hannah's death in February of 2009, there was a nice, warm supper waiting for us on the counter from a sweet family in our Sunday School class.  Amazingly, we were actually hungry, not having eaten all day, and we decided to sit down and eat.  I opened up the cabinet and pulled out four plates.  I was pulling four forks out of the silverware tray, when Brad pointed out to me what I was doing.  The heartache I felt as I put one of those plates back into the cabinet is repeated every time I get out three plates for dinner.

4.  Seeing mothers and daughters together -- Whenever I see mothers and their nearly-adult daughters together, especially shopping, I feel that familiar pang.  Hannah and I were great shopping buddies.  Of course, she loved it when we shopped for her, but she would also encourage me to shop for myself.  She would find outfits for me to try on, and waited patiently while I changed into them and modeled for her.  She actually helped bring my wardrobe into the 21st century from the 1990s 1980s.  I miss those days.

5.  Going to Bethany's school events -- Bethany is very active in school and church activities, and I love watching her play basketball, high jump, and cheer.  It's one of my favorite things to do.  But there's always a sadness that Hannah is not there to cheer her on.  I know she'd be in college now and would miss a lot of these events anyway, but she'd be following her activities closely, and would come to anything she was able to.  Last week Bethany played in a basketball tournament at Ouachita Baptist University, where Hannah would have been a student, and it would have been so much fun for us to have watched those games together.  Hannah was not athletic, and she knew it, but I think that made her appreciate Bethany's athleticism even more.  She was definitely her sister's biggest fan, even coming to watch her play basketball in the last month of her life, when she couldn't even walk without assistance.  It makes me sad that Bethany doesn't get to hear her voice in the stands cheering her on.

6.  Sharing new things with her -- It seems like there's always something I want to tell her or show her, like the beauty of the changing leaves, or a new song by Switchfoot, or the new comforter I found on sale at Kohl's yesterday.  I want to show her how much the trees we planted have grown, and show her all the changes that have taken place on her high school campus in the past couple of years.  And it seems that if I ever say something like, "I wish Hannah could see this", some sweet, kind, well-meaning person will say, "Oh, she already knows about it."  And that's probably true (although with all the beauty surrounding her, does she really pay attention to what's going on here on earth....I'm not really sure about that), but it's not especially helpful when I'm missing her physical presence.

7.  The grave -- Thankfully, I don't have to deal with her grave on a daily basis.  I know that many bereaved parents get a great deal of comfort from visiting their child's grave, and that is wonderful.  There is no comfort for me there...only pain.  Her grave is located in a cemetery near the Sullivan family deer camp, which is where we often have family gatherings.  It is excruciating to drive right past her grave on the way to a family get-together.  Some completely illogical part of my brain feels like we ought to stop, pick her up, and bring her with us.  It makes me very sad that we can't.

8.  Changing seasons -- For some reason, as one season fades into another, the sadness hits me again.  I think maybe it's because the changing seasons are a sign of time passing ... stretching out the number of days since I last saw her, talked to her, held her hand. 

9.  Her cousins -- Hannah was the oldest of all her cousins by about 3 1/2 years.  As a natural-born leader, she was adored by all her younger cousins.  She kept them all in line, squelched all the bickering, and served as director and narrator of the annual cousin nativity play at Christmas time.  It absolutely breaks my heart to know that three of her cousins will never remember her ... one was almost two when she died, one only three months, and one yet unborn.  Their parents have done a wonderful job of  making sure they know who Hannah was, but it just makes me so sad that they never had the opportunity to know her.

10.  While We're Waiting -- Whenever we have a While We're Waiting event, I always wish I could sit down with her and tell her all about it, and it makes me sad that I can't, because I know she'd enjoy hearing all about it.  But then it hits me ... While We're Waiting would not exist if she were here.  The Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry would not exist if she were here.  The lives that God has used these ministries to touch would remain untouched. 

So, why write about the things that make me sad?  The other day, I found this quote by Ed Welch: “I find that there are three levels of clarity. When I only think about something, my thoughts are embryonic and muddled. When I speak about it, my thoughts become clearer, though not always. When I write about it, I jump to a new level of clarity.”  Wow, can I relate to that quote! 

I've been feeling the need lately to clarify for myself what exactly are the things that trigger my sadness.  Maybe by specifically identifying them, I can be better prepared for their onslaught.  And maybe there's someone reading this who can relate ... who might read these things and realize, like one of the Moms who came to our last While We're Waiting Weekend, that they are not the only one who deals with this kind of stuff on a daily basis. 

I've been faciliating the Beth Moore study "Patriarchs" for the last several weeks at our church.  In last week's video, she talked about how she had been the victim of sexual abuse of a child, and finally had the opportunity to confront the perpetrator.  She described being dismayed and broken-hearted by the fact that he just didn't seem to "get it."  He seemed to have no idea (or no concern) how her life had been impacted by his actions.  She concluded by stating that even if no one else "gets it", God does.  Wow!  What a comfort that was to me!  Even some of my most illogical thoughts and feelings, He "gets."  And even though those things still bring sadness to my heart, it sure helps to know that He cares and understands!


Cathie said...

Thanks, Jill.

amyleatabor said...

One of the many things for me is seeing the children's choir @ church perform. All I can think of is that Joel should be up there singing. I even ask myself, "where is he?" even though I know the answer.

Darci said...

You say so many things that so many others would like to say. Thank you, Jill. Prayers....

Bonnie said...

It's the big and the little things we miss about our loved ones being gone. Thank you for articulating yours for us.