Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Blue or White?

Well, the final week of 2012 was certainly an interesting one around here.  As you read in my last post, our part of the state was hit by a massive (for Arkansas) winter storm on Christmas Day.  Freezing rain began to fall around noon ... enough to glaze every limb and twig with a glistening coat of ice ...

... followed by eight inches of beautiful snow!

While all this made for a lovely white Christmas, the combination of ice and snow was more than our poor trees could handle.  Large limbs and entire trees began falling from the weight of the ice and the gusty winds, even before the snow added its bulk.  If you've ever experienced an ice storm, you know the eerie sound made by limbs popping off trees ... It's a sound you'll never forget.  Our electricity began to flicker early in the afternoon, and by 4:30, before the snow even began to fall, we were in the dark.  

It wasn't so bad at first.  Bethany had spent the morning having Christmas with her boyfriend's family, and with the weather deteriorating so rapidly, we decided to just have her stay with them rather than try to come home.  She argued vehemently, begging us to let her come home so she could be snowed in with her parents instead, but we insisted that she stay there for her own safety.  (Did you detect the sarcasm in that last statement?  I hope so.)  Anyway, it was just the two of us snowed in on Christmas Day.  We built a fire in the fireplace, and played a rousing game of Dominoes by lantern-light.

As it got later, and darker, and colder, we decided to drag the guest bedroom mattress into the living room in front of the fire.  Sounds cozy, doesn't it?  Not so much, actually.  The only cozy part was the side closest to the fire, which my gallant husband let me have.  And because our fireplace is really just designed for ambiance, not real heat, you can only fit about four logs in it at a time.  And it only takes about an hour for all of those logs to burn up.  So that means you must feed this fireplace about every hour or so, or it goes out.  And when (not if) it goes out, it gets really cold.  

We made it through the first night okay, and the second day as well.  It was still kind of an adventure at this point.  We did venture out on the highway late in the afternoon, and were amazed at the number of fallen trees and limbs.  There were parts of the main highway into town that were down to one lane.  We made it to McDonald's, where we enjoyed some warm food and charged our phones.  We played Dominoes again that second evening, although it was pretty darn chilly sitting at the table by this time.  We crawled back into our makeshift bed wearing layers of clothing and multiple pairs of socks.  We fed the fire periodically throughout the night, but sure enough, it was out by morning.

And by this time, it was cold!  We had no way of measuring the temperature in the house at this point, but maybe this will give you some idea of how cold it was.  That morning, I opened the cabinet under the sink where I keep the dog food, and reached in to scoop Lacee some food.  As I pulled the cup up out of the bag, I did a double take.  The white cup I had used for years to scoop Lacee's food had somehow been replaced by a blue one.  How could this happen, when nobody ever feeds the dog but me?  I tried to remember when I had switched to a different cup, but I sure didn't remember doing it ... not that that necessarily meant anything.  I looked at the cup more closely, saw the Summit Bank logo on it ... and then noticed that it had white splotches on it wherever I had been touching it.  Then it hit me.  It wasn't a different cup!  It was the same cup -- the kind of cup that changes color when you pour a cold liquid into it!  It was cold enough in the house to turn my white cup blue!

Here's what the cup normally looks like...

And here's what it looked like that morning...

Baby, it was cold in our house!

At that point, we decided to leave.  We packed up our stuff, and headed over to Bethany's boyfriend's family's house.  They had been inviting us to come stay, and we had been insisting we could tough it out ... until we heard that the electric company was predicting that our power wouldn't be restored until 2013 (literally)!  We spent one night there, sleeping on a mattress in front of their fireplace, and enjoyed their hospitality, as well as the lights, warmth and hot showers courtesy of their generator.  

As it began to sink in, though, that we really were in for the long haul as far as power restoration was concerned, we decided to head out of town.  Bethany begged and pleaded to come with us, but we insisted that she stay with Other Brad's family (more sarcasm).  Anyway, we spent the next two days in the tiny town of Briggsville, Arkansas, staying in my husband's grandmother's former home ... which had power.  It was so nice to have all the heat, light, and hot water we wanted, simply at the flip of a switch.  The wifi was pretty awesome, too.

Yesterday morning, we attended Briggsville United Methodist Church.  Counting the two of us and the preacher's family of four, the total attendance was 12.  Yes, that's right ... 12.  As the service was about to begin, I was asked if I played the piano.  Um, no ... at least not for the last thirty-something years.  So we sang our hymns acapella.  And it was nice.  I love singing the old hymns, accompaniment or not.

After church, we decided to take a chance and come on home.  We'd been in contact with one of our neighbors each day, and after days of no activity whatsoever, he finally reported that there were Entergy trucks working on our street.  We figured that surely we would have power back that day, so we headed home.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, the house was just as cold and dark as it was when we left it two days earlier.  We decided we would go get something to eat and decide what to do ... in other words, which friend we were going to hit up for a warm place to sleep that night.  But just as we pulled the door shut behind us ... lo and behold, our neighbor's Christmas lights came on!  After some jumping up and down and squealing (OK, that was just me), we went back inside to find our house all lit up.  I went to check the thermostat, and this is what it read...

No wonder the cup was blue!

So, we've spent last night and today just soaking up the luxury of sleeping in our own bed, being comfortably warm, and having an abundance of hot water.  I really didn't miss watching TV all that time (there's no TV at Briggsville), but it was kind of nice to watch a movie this evening.  Yes, that's how we are spending New Year's Eve ... quietly, just the way I like it.

I could draw all kinds of spiritual parallels from my experiences of this past week.  But I'm not.  I only have one simple, rather personal, thing to share.

For some reason, my mind keeps going back to that blue cup.  I think sometimes I'm like that cup ... I make myself cold and stiff and blue.  Especially when I'm trying to get through the holidays without my girl ... or driving back and forth in front of her grave beside the road at Briggsville ... or facing the start of yet another year without her.  At times that becomes my defense mechanism ... I feel like if I can make myself cold enough and hard enough, I can fend off the heartbreak.  I'm a stoic, from a long line of stoics, and that's just what we do.  But is that what my Heavenly Father wants me to do?  I don't think so.  By holding that cold cup in my hand, I could change the blue back to white.  In the same way, if I fully rest in my Father's hand and let Him hold me, my cold, hard heart begins to warm and soften.  Then, I can receive His comfort.  And then, only then, can He shape me to fit His purpose.

Just because God's purpose was complete for Hannah doesn't mean His purpose is complete for me.  I don't believe I'd still be here if He was done with me.  In fact, I feel like His purpose for me is just beginning.  And so, in 2013, my goal is to be less "blue" and more "white".  Less hard and closed up, and more flexible and open.  Less focused on me and more in tune with Him.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss what God has for me in 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dear Hannah...

I actually wrote this post on the evening of Christmas Day.  However, due to the winter storm mentioned in the letter below, I've been unable to post it until now.  We are actually into Day 4 of no electricity, and the electric company is saying it could be 2013 (literally!) before we have our power back.  After three nights of sleeping on a mattress on the floor in front of the fireplace, we decided to head someplace warmer, and this evening, we are comfortably settled into Brad's grandmother's old house in Briggsville (where our While We're Waiting Dads' retreats are held).  We have the heat on high, I've got clothes in the washer, we are looking forward to hot showers, and we have Internet!  Amazing how exciting it is to flip a switch and have the lights come on after four days in the dark!  Anyway, I hope you all had a warm and wonderful Christmas, and enjoy this little peek into ours.

Dear Hannah,

Well, another Christmas has come and gone.  Can’t believe this is the fourth one we’ve celebrated without you here.  Let me tell you … it’s been a memorable Christmas!

As soon as school was out this past Friday, we loaded into the car and headed to Grandma & Grandpa’s house for the Sullivan family Christmas.  Bethany’s boyfriend, Brad, came with us.  I know you remember Brad … He was in your class at school, and used to sit at the same lunch table with you.  It’s kinda funny … I always wondered if the two of you might end up together … it never crossed my mind that he and Bethany would possibly end up together!  They’ve actually been dating for a year and a half now, and who knows … this could be the real thing!  Sometimes it gets a little confusing since he and your dad share the same name, so we call him “Other Brad.”  Even the cousins have started calling him that!

Anyway, we had a great time with all the family in Van Buren.  On Saturday, we celebrated Faith’s fourth birthday.  I know … can you believe she’s four years old already?  The last time you saw her, she was just a tiny little baby.  And I suppose you know about Madison … she’s about six months old and has the chubbiest cheeks you’ve ever seen!  Grandma & Grandpa rented a bounce house for the afternoon and all the cousins and the uncles jumped around in it.  Faith got a t-ball set for her birthday, and of course, her uncles opened it up, and they and all the cousins played softball in the yard with it.  We all had a good laugh about how much you would have enjoyed playing along with them … even though as Dad fondly remarked, “You couldn’t hit a watermelon with an ironing board.”  I remember how you would laugh so hard at yourself sometimes you could hardly stand up.

On Saturday evening we went to “Mr. Scrooge”, a musical production put on by Grandma & Grandpa’s church.  It was really good and reminded me so much of when you had a role in “It’s a Wonderful Life” back when we lived in El Dorado.  That was so much fun!

On Sunday morning we had breakfast and then Christmas in our PJ’s.  Well, those of us who remembered to bring presentable PJ’s wore them anyway.  Bethany woke up that morning with a fever, which took a little fun out of the present opening.  We all talked about the fact that this will be the last Christmas with all of the cousins as “kids.”  Next Christmas, Bethany and Emily will be high school graduates and halfway through their first year of college.  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  After all the present-opening chaos was over and the wrapping paper, bows, and boxes had been cleared away, we spent some time talking about you and how your life had changed our lives.  Everybody misses you, girl.  Christmas is just not the same without you.  Since you’ve been gone, there have been no cousin nativity plays or sing-alongs around the piano with Grandma.  Nobody seems to have the heart for it.  I know I don’t.  We took off soon after that, wanting to get Bethany home and hopefully feeling better.

On the morning Christmas Eve, we were awaked by Bethany, who had a 102 degree fever.  She spent the entire day on the couch, and only brightened up a little bit when Other Brad came over to see her.  He ended up spending most of the day over here, leaving only to attend the Christmas Eve service at his church with his folks.  Our church also had a Christmas Eve service, and guess who the speaker was?  Dad!  He talked about the hope, peace, and joy we can have because the Christ child came to earth.  He made a great point about the fact that peace and joy is only available to us because of the hope that Christ brings.  I only know this because I typed his notes … I didn’t actually go to the service.   I stayed home with Bethany.  She was too sick to go to church, and I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her home alone on Christmas Eve!  It kind of reminded me of all those times we spent at home together while you were sick.  The rest of the world just seemed to go on by back in those days.

Both Dad and Other Brad came back to the house after the church services, and we spent the evening opening our presents.  I actually hung a stocking this year for Other Brad, and bought him a few presents.  It felt good to shop for two kids for a change, after shopping for only one for the past few years.  I think Bethany liked all her gifts … her favorite was probably a Keurig coffee maker.  Since she’s the only one in the family who likes coffee, it only makes sense to brew one cup at a time.  And she can take it to college next year, so she can stay up late and study for those final exams!

After we opened presents we watched a couple episodes of Duck Dynasty.  You’d love Duck Dynasty … the men on that show are totally obsessed with hunting.  They would remind you so much of your Dad and your uncles!  They all have long hair and beards.  Dad started growing a beard during deer season this year, and still has it … He actually kind of looks like he belongs on the show!  I think you’d be surprised at how much white silver he has in his beard now!  You remember how he used to laugh out loud when we watched America’s Funniest Home Videos … well, he does that when he watches this show.  It makes it twice as funny for the rest of us watching it.  After that, Bethany was ready for bed.  She was still feeling pretty rotten.

So, finally we get to Christmas Day.  All week, the weatherman had been forecasting a white Christmas, but you know how they are … they kept changing their predictions.  One day, they’d say it was all going to go north of us, the next day, it was all going to go south of us.  One day, it was going to be 8-10 inches, the next day, it was 1-3 inches.  Thankfully, Bethany felt much better when she woke up today, and planned to head over to Other Brad’s house to open presents with his family.  By about 10:00, light freezing rain was starting to fall, so Dad drove her over there.  He came back home, and we spent the day relaxing and watching the ice gradually begin to build on the tree branches.  By the afternoon, all the trees were glazed with ice and the wind began to howl.  Of course, Bethany was snowed in at Other Brad's house by now ... you know she hated that!  ;-)

Anyway, by 3:30, the power went off, and we knew we were in for a long, cold evening.  You know how Dad always has to go exploring when something exciting is going on, so the two of us loaded up in the car and went for a drive.  There were limbs and trees down all over the Cove … it was no wonder the power was out!  We drove on into town, and wouldn’t you know it, the Waffle House was open.  On the spur of the moment, we decided to stop there and eat.  We had a good laugh about eating Christmas dinner at Waffle House.  After that, we headed home, got the fireplace stoked up really good (so thankful we have one!), and played Dominoes by lantern light.  We dragged the guest room mattress into the living room, and we’re planning to sleep in front of the fire tonight.  At last check out the window, we have eight or more inches of snow.

Christmas sure has changed for us since the days when you and Bethany wore your matching red plaid flannel PJs and dragged us out of bed before daylight to open presents.  When you left, we went through a huge transition in the way our family celebrates the season … and now that Bethany is growing up so quickly and will soon be leaving home, we are finding ourselves transitioning again.  They say that change is a necessary part of life, and I suppose that’s true.  I would give up everything I have to go back to those red flannel PJ days … but I know that’s not possible.   And how could I ever ask you to give up everything you have now to go back?  No, I love you too much to do that. 

And so we wait with perseverance, as Romans 8:25 says, until the next big transition in our lives.  And that will happen when that Christ Child, born as a helpless baby, returns triumphantly to retrieve His bride.  Now that’s a transition I can get excited about!

I love you, Hannah My Joy, and I miss you.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- "I'll Be Home for Christmas"

"I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams..."

This has to be one of the most-loved Christmas songs of all time.  I had always liked the song just fine ... until Hannah went to Heaven, that is.  And then it just kind of made me mad.

It made me mad that Hannah wouldn't be home for Christmas ... not ever.  It made me mad to think about all those families who excitedly anticipated their children coming home for the holidays ... when my child never would.  And really, the "mad" was a result of being so sad.  

Tuesday evening, I heard that song on K-LOVE radio, and automatically reached up to change the station.  I was on my way to a "While We're Waiting" get-together at our friends, the Browns', home, and I just really didn't want to hear that song right before spending the evening with a whole group of people whose kids wouldn't be home for Christmas.

But then it hit me.  Before my hand even touched the radio button, it hit me.  

Hannah is home for Christmas.  I'm the one who's out of place.

Because of that baby born in a manger so many years ago, this world is not our home.  And aren't you glad that it's not?  It just keeps getting darker and darker.  This is not the world we were made for.

Heaven is our home.  We just haven't gotten there yet.

So, from now on, when I hear that song ... I'm going to try to change my focus.  Instead of being sad and mad that Hannah is not going to be in our home for Christmas, I will choose to rejoice that she is in her home ... which one day, will be my home, too ... and then we'll never spend another Christmas apart.  

And that's what I'm thinking about on this Thursday evening, just a few days before we celebrate our fourth Christmas without our girl.  I still miss her so much ... with every breath I take ... but I have peace in knowing she's home for Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Heavy Hearted

My heart has been so heavy ever since I heard the news of what happened in Connecticut on Friday.

I have to be honest and say that I know very few details of what actually happened at that elementary school that day.  I've read a couple of internet articles about it, just enough to have a rough idea of the events that took place, but I find that I don't really want to know too many details.  I have studiously avoided watching any television accounts of the tragedy ... I pretty much had the house to myself over the weekend, with Brad gone hunting and Bethany spending time with her boyfriend's family ... and the only time I turned on the TV on was to watch the Razorback basketball game in the background while I wrapped presents on Saturday evening.  When the Columbine shootings took place in 1999, I watched all the news coverage, and the scenes from that day are still burned into my memory.  I do not want these new images in my mind ... so I am insulating myself from it all.  Is that the right way to handle this?  I don't know, but that's where I'm at.

Part of my job at the elementary school in our little community is to do educational screenings with kindergarten and first grade students three times a year ... in the fall, mid-year, and in the spring.  Over the past two weeks, I've been doing the mid-year screenings, and I've spent several hours sitting down one-on-one with these little ones ... listening to them lisping out their ABC's, identifying sounds in words, and making up clever little sentences with words I give them.  Each one of them is so beautiful, so innocent, such an amazing creation in the image of God ... The thought of something like that happening to even just one of them is just beyond what I can imagine.

You know, back when Columbine happened, I remember feeling sad for those families.  I had a heightened interest in that story because my cousins had graduated from that high school several years previously.  In fact, that school was just down the street from where they lived.  I tried to imagine what those families were going through, but I just couldn't.  So my sorrow for these families was shallow, at best.  I just couldn't relate ... I had no idea what it must feel like to have your child suddenly ripped away from you.

I still don't.  But now I do know how it feels to receive a phone call that changes your life forever.  I know how it feels to plead with God to somehow let your child be a survivor.  I know the indescribable pain of realizing you will not see your child again in this life.  And as I ponder last Friday's events ... all of those feelings come rushing back as I know what those parents will be experiencing over the next days, weeks, months, and years.  So my heart is heavy, so heavy.

Everyone seems to have an opinion ... we need gun control, we need God back in the schools, we need better security, we need to pull our kids out of the public schools and home school them all.  Me?  I've got nothing.  I don't know how we can fix this world we live in ... In fact, I don't think we can.  The talking heads and the pundits can debate that stuff all day long (and I'm guessing they are -- yet another reason I'm avoiding the television), but they are not going to solve this kind of problem.

Remember, this is not the first time that innocents have been slaughtered at the hand of sinful men.  Herod ordered thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of babies killed right before that first Christmas.  And what about the Jewish children murdered in the holocaust, or in the killing fields of Cambodia or Rwanda?  And let's not forget the countless babies who never even had the chance to take a breath because they were purposely aborted in their mother's wombs.  What a messed-up world we live in!

In the seventh chapter of Daniel, Daniel has a dream, and in it, he has a vision of the Ancient of Days.  Here's how he describes Him, starting in verse 9.

"As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.    A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened."

That's when this world's problems will be solved.  The Ancient of Days will not be mocked.  One day all the wrongs of this world will be made right.  And days like last Friday make me say, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

Friday, December 14, 2012

Free-For-All Friday -- Things That Made Me Smile

Thought I'd share some photos of things that recently made me smile in today's edition of Free-For-All Friday.  Enjoy!

When Hannah went to Heaven, our church was in the process of building a new activities center/youth building.  Two dogwoods were planted out front, and one was designated as "Hannah's tree."  The week of Thanksgiving one of my sweet friends from church asked me if I had seen Hannah's tree lately.  Uh no, I hadn't paid much attention to it recently.  She said I needed to go look at it, because it had a flower on it.  Sure enough, there was a bloom on that dogwood tree ... during the week of Thanksgiving!  Made me smile!

Here's something else that made me smile.  One of our While We're Waiting board members gave birth to this beautiful little boy last week.  This guy is really a blessing to their family, after their little girl was stillborn a few years back.  God is still in the blessing business.  Look at that sweet face ... He's even got a little smile!

This picture of our dog Lacee made me smile.  She spent last Saturday morning at the doggie beauty salon, and it obviously wore her out.  Being beautiful is hard work!

We finally got our Christmas tree up this past week.  We decided to get a live tree again this year, so off we went to Lowe's to pick one out.  After critically examining what felt like every tree on the lot, Bethany finally chose the "perfect one", and we brought it home and decorated it.  We decided just to do a "JOY" tree this year, and the results made us all smile.

Take a close look at this picture.  These are the feet of Bethany and her basketball teammates.  If you look carefully at the toes of their shoes, you'll see that they spell out "PHILIPPIANS 4:13".  Isn't that cool?  Big smile from this Mom. (Oh, and Bethany is the "H"!)

Bethany's boyfriend, Brad, came home from college yesterday, beginning his five-week long Christmas break.  That makes Bethany smile ... which, of course, makes me smile!

Finally, what may be my most favorite picture ever.  A dear friend emailed this one to me, because she knows how much I love the word "JOY".  You just can't help but smile when you look at this picture, because it's just so stinkin' cute.  But, the reason I really love it is because it so perfectly captures what so many are feeling this time of year.  We know we're supposed to have the joy of the season (and deep down we do), but with all the busy-ness, stress, and emotion of the season, sometimes we just want to sit down and have a good cry.  I love the girl in the middle ... her face just makes me smile.

So, there you go ... a few things that have made me smile over the last few weeks.  Hopefully they brought a smile to your face, too!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ten on the Tenth -- 10 Grief-Related Things I Had Completely Wrong

I've been wrong about a lot of things in my life.  Like when I thought I would would grow up to be a world-class gymnast someday.  Wrong.  Or how I thought I would marry a Dutchman and move back to northern Wisconsin as soon as I was old enough.  Double wrong.  (Thank goodness!)  Or how I swore I would never give up my CD collection for an iPod or prefer e-books to real books.  I was soooo wrong on that one.

But perhaps there is no topic I've been more wrong about than that of suffering and grief.  It's been almost five years now since Hannah was diagnosed with cancer, and almost four since she left us for Heaven.  And boy, have I learned a lot -- things that I suppose can only be learned through experience, and by the grace of God.

So, here we go ... Ten Things I Was Completely, Utterly, Totally Wrong About.

1.  I believed my family was immune to suffering.  I don't think that's because I had any false notion that Christians don't suffer ... Look at Corrie ten Boom, Joni Eareckson, and the apostle Paul!  No, I think I was just basing that idea on past history.  I honestly had never experienced any real adversity in my life up until the time of Hannah's diagnosis.  I guess I thought that was just going to continue indefinitely.  I was wrong.

2.  I believed that grief lasted a relatively short time ... that when a loved one died, you were very, very sad for awhile ... maybe somewhere between three to six months ... and then you were over it.  Maybe you were sad again at Christmas time or on that person's birthday, but for the most part, life went back to normal.  Oh boy, was I wrong on this one.  I've come to realize that I will never be "over" Hannah's death.  The grief resulting from her death has become woven into the very fiber of my life, and will be until the day I am reunited with her in Heaven.  That doesn't mean I spend my days crying ... sometimes I do; more often I don't ... but the ache of grief deep inside never leaves me.

3.  I believed that there was a right way and a wrong way to grieve.  And I was really good at identifying the things I thought were wrong.  If someone went to the grave every day, that was wrong.  And if someone hardly ever (or never) went to the grave, that was wrong.  If someone cried too much, that was wrong.  If someone didn't cry enough, that was wrong.  I now know that the only thing wrong with all those things was me and my judgmental attitude!  Everyone grieves differently, and there's nothing wrong with that.  One caveat here ... there is one way to grieve wrong ... and that is to turn away from the God of all comfort.

4.  I believed that if someone died after a prolonged illness, the grief was lessened by relief that the person was no longer suffering.  I remember I always used to feel better for the family if I heard that someone died after being sick for a long time, because I thought they wouldn't be nearly as sad as if the person had died suddenly.  How could I have been so wrong?  I can't deny that there was some relief when Hannah left for Heaven, because it was so clear she could no longer remain on this earth, but it did not lessen the grief we experienced when we lost her.

5.  I believed that parents who lost children experienced different levels of grief, depending upon what age the child was who died, how they died, and a variety of other factors.  It didn't take me long to discover how wrong I was on this one.  I've met many, many parents now who have lost children at all different ages and to all different causes, and one thing I've learned is that although our losses are all different, the pain is the same.  Grief is grief.  It all hurts.

6.  I believed that siblings did not suffer the intensity of grief that parents do upon the loss of a child.  You know, we always hear how resilient kids are ... how they can bounce back from a tragedy so easily.  Maybe the age of the sibling(s) makes a difference ... all I have personal knowledge of is a young teenage sibling ... but I was wrong on this one, too.  I think kids are sometimes better at hiding their grief than we are ... and I know some work very hard to hide their grief because they don't want to add to their parents' pain ... but their pain is deep and their suffering is real.

7.  I believed I would never forget all those little things about Hannah ... the sound of her voice, the music of her laugh, the tilt of her chin.  And I haven't, completely, but I have to say that some of those things are beginning to fade after nearly four years.  And it doesn't help that her appearance, her spirit, and even the sound of her voice, were so changed over the last year of her life by cancer.  Sometimes I long to dream about her, just to be reminded of all those things that made up who she was.  It used to really bother me that those memories were fading, but knowing that the next time I see Hannah she will be fully restored definitely helps.

8.  I believed I would never survive four days after Hannah's death, much less nearly four years.  Obviously, I was wrong about that.  It's so hard in those early days of grief to see past where you are ... I remember looking at other parents who had lost children years earlier and wondering how they could possibly even still be alive.  I could not imagine would it would be like to be one month out, six months out, a year out, five years out.  Now that I am one of those parents, all I can say is that it's only by the grace of God.

9.  I believed that bereaved parents were the scariest people around.  If I knew someone had lost a child, I avoided them at all costs.  If I saw them coming down the church hallway, I suddenly had to go to the bathroom.  If I ran into them at Walmart, I suddenly remembered something I needed on the other side of the store.  I had no idea what to say to these people.  Now that I am one of these people, there is no one else I'd rather spend time with.  I am drawn to moms and dads who have lost children like Santa is drawn to cookies.  We understand each other, and we have an instantaneous bond.  I love bereaved parents.  They are the most amazing people I know.

10.  When my daughter died, I believed my life would be impoverished from that point forward.  Of course, I knew intellectually that I would survive (in spite of #8 above), but I couldn't imagine how.  I resigned myself to a life far below what my expectations for it had been.  I mean, how could I ever really live again without my precious child?  Happily, I was wrong on this one, too.  I can honestly say, without qualification, that the last four years of my life have been the richest.  The incredible people I would never have met, the awesome experiences I never would have had, the inspiring stories I never would have heard ... now that would be true poverty!  Instead, I have had the privilege of witnessing the hand of God working in my own life and that of others.  It doesn't get any richer than that, folks.

So, there you go.  Ten Grief-Related Things I Had Completely Wrong.  I could actually probably do ten more on January 10th ... I clearly had a lot to learn.  Thankfully, my Father is a patient teacher.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ouachita LipDub 2012

After my last post about OBU, I just had to pass along this link.  Kinda makes you wish you were an OBU Tiger too, huh?  :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Mourning -- OBU or Heaven ... Hmmmmm

Ahhhh ... Good old OBU, my alma mater.  How I love that place!  I entered the hallowed halls of OBU as a shy, nerdy freshman in the fall of 1984, and left as a confident, married woman in the spring of 1988 with a bachelor's degree in speech-language pathology.  There are so many good memories wrapped up in those four years ... I would probably have to start another blog to record them all!

When my oldest daughter, Hannah, was but a preschooler, she decided she wanted to follow in her parents' footsteps and go to Ouachita.  She proudly wore her "Future Tiger" t-shirt and proclaimed to anyone who cared that she was going to go to Ouachita when she grew up.  As she got older, she never wavered in her decision, even making plans to room with her good friend, Brittany.  Brad and I excitedly looked forward to going to visit her in the dorm (especially since it's only a 40 minute drive down the interstate) and to attending all of her OBU events as proud alumni parents.  When Hannah died of cancer in the spring of her junior year of high school, all that changed.

We do go to Ouachita's campus twice a year, but it's not to visit our daughter in the dorm or to cheer her on at Tiger Tunes.  After her death, we established the Hannah Joy Scholarship in her memory.  It's not a large amount of money by any means ... just enough to help a student out with books and a few expenses ... but because of that, we get invited to a banquet in the spring and again around Christmas time.  In the spring, we have the opportunity to meet the scholarship recipient (who is chosen by an OBU scholarship committee), and the Christmas banquet is just a "Thank you for your donation" type thing.

So, on Saturday evening we went to the annual "thank you" banquet.  The dinner was nice ... the food is always amazing ... and afterward, Brad and I spent some time walking around the campus.  The weather was unseasonably warm, and I've always loved Ouachita's campus at night.  Many things have changed since we were students there years ago, but a lot of things have remained the same, and I'm glad about that.

But, as we walked, I couldn't help but be sad about why we were there at all.  This was not the way it was supposed to be.  I should be like all my Facebook friends ... going to visit my daughter at college for a special occasion, excitedly anticipating her coming home for the holidays, mailing her homemade treats to help her get through finals week.  How did my life turn out like this ... where instead of receiving hugs from my now 21-year-old daughter, I was receiving honors for giving a scholarship that I would much rather not have a reason to give at all?

It's at times like this that I have to remind myself that Hannah is not missing a thing by not being a student at OBU.  As nice as their new dorms seem to be, they sure can't compare with a mansion in Heaven!  I'm the one who feels robbed and cheated by missing out on these times with her, and I have to remember that in the eternal scheme of things, I'm really not missing anything either.  What's a 3-week visit home for the holidays compared to an eternity together in Heaven?  Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

And that's what I'm thinking about on this cloudy, gray Monday "mourning" before I head off to work.