No last words

We didn’t hear any last words. No words of wisdom. No declarations of everlasting love. None.

Cancer robbed us of those moments, there should have been more. There should have been time, but God had decided his time was done, he should go Home.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but I’ll never know. I had imagined it would have made it better but looking back through reason I don’t see how. How any words, no matter how heroic, loving or true could have made the moments after any more enduring. Not many I can think of.

I’ve written of this before, one entry about your hardest moment however, is not enough. No matter the amount of words, it would never be enough. Is there a word for “don’t worry, you won’t die from grief although it seems you might” or are there words when said together form some kind of magic as to take away the pain? From what I know, no there is not. Nor will there ever ever be.

I know from words spoken in life that he loved us, that he cared and didn’t want us to hurt. But when he was gone I wanted to hear them again. I have letters, I have cards and they have many loving words on them. So much so that reading them can bring tears as they help me remember their meaning. But words on a page, on this page, don’t bring anyone back to life.

Grief; a great sorrow caused by a loss. It’s not grief if there was nothing to lose. It only hurts because I loved and lost. Finding love again is wonderful, and truly a gift I never expected. But receiving a new gift, a new love, does not take all the pain of losing the other. It comes some of the way but the echoes from the crevasse can still haunt at times. Images of his pain, of my pain, of my kids’ can still sound out from the deepest places.

I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I know I can still love him, and at the same time love again. I do find comfort from other words, often those from my faith. Words that seep love, comfort and wisdom I could never dream up. Words beyond who I am, and beyond who my husband was. They help me. Within them I find an understanding, not of what I have lost, but for the pain and sadness. I find comfort in that. Loss is loss though and sometimes it just bites.

Today I was bitten when reminded. But these words help, it’s my therapy. I cried so many tears that seemed empty, but somehow this here on this page does not seem quite so empty. Nothing fills the whole gap, I am wounded. But it helps.

“For I am persuaded beyond doubt that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

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Still Believing

I am speaking to my own heart today, I am telling it to listen carefully, don’t shut down heart, don’t tune out this time. I’m yet not sure it’s listening, but I’m giving it a go. It wants to shy away, to sit in the back, to not be noticed as it wonders why. Why?

Why?

A long time after grief began, I found a smile on my face and I felt a sigh. It was a deep, relief filled sigh that I had indeed found hope again. Stress and anxiety lifted slowly, gratefulness for this hope grew and a respect for life heightened.

But I forgot a very important fact… Life still goes on and it’s not all happy. It’s not always as it should be, grief returns, people get sick, and hard, hard days are still part of life. It’s as if there’s some arthritis from the wound, it’s healed, I can walk, but it left some decay behind. So when conditions aren’t right, I feel it again. Agony. Cancer shouldn’t be able to touch my loved ones again, but it does. The agony of losing should be a thing of the past, but it’s not. My heart should not have to feel this again, but that’s just not realistic. Life, the good and the bad still march on whether I am prepared for it or not.

But why? 

Is God still good?

Is He a carer of my soul?

Is He really all powerful?

Can I trust Him?

Does He really want the best for me?

Is He even listening?  

I’ve learnt to answer “Yes” and yes there is sickness and death and horrid things that should never happen. Yes it doesn’t seem fair (don’t even get me started on that one!). But I still believe it through pain and when it’s hard. Why?

Why?

It’s nothing to do with a survey, it’s not a feeling, but a discipline of belief I can be sure of. Doubt surfaces for sure, and many questions race around my brain but at the end of the day I know there’s a whisper inside that knows hope will still come around the corner. There is a “however” on the end of the sentence that invites my heart to know there is something more.

There is more to death than grief, there is an eternity spent pain free in a better place. There is another side to hard times as we pull together and unite around common concern. There is another side to loss if I choose it. I can choose to add new people, new family, new love…if I choose. It’s not what I imagined in the beginning but it’s still good if I choose it.

I know by now that there are many, many questions in life that cannot be answered, won’t be answered, I don’t like that. That those “why’s” are not answered how I would like them to be and some days are just plain hard. If I make my heart listen it might bleed. If I summon it out of the fog it will need to go through reality before it can see hope. I cannot hear the whisper if I ignore the reason for hearing it. I cannot feel the relief until I know the pain.

When I walk with a limp I protect my wound, my broken limb, my pain from the blows of the world. When my heart hurts I protect it too. I put on my brave face, I distract conversation away from the pain and I keep in the shallows away from the deep stirrings that probe too much. I still don’t like the pain. I’m still a person. So I’m trying “however” on the end of lifes’ sentences. However, the treatment might be good. However, we are loved. However, there is yet hope. I’m hoping God is there in the however, planted firmly in between the pain and the hope that lies beyond. I’m not looking for new answers to all the hard questions, I’m choosing to keep believing what I began believing before grief began.

I’m praying my and my loved ones hearts understand. Understand we are loved, understand we know it hurts and understand we are all in this together. I’m praying we hear the whispers of hope over the noise of the why’s.

I’m praying. 

Hope.

MI Rainbow blessings getty


Blended Life

Complications. Family. Same thing.

Blending 2 families. I shouldn’t have romanticized it. But I did.

I quickly went from dreams of happy family dinners to lying awake praying I, the wicked stepmother, would not be murdered in my sleep! The kids are good, really, we just had to get used to each other. That implies a lot of change, and kids don’t like change.

My second husband and I have 3 kids each. Yes many, many Brady Bunch jokes are made at our expense. Ha ha, fake laughter ensues…it is not like a fictional half hour sitcom, and no live in maid to clean up all our mess. Wouldn’t that be nice?

At times there have been silent meals at the dinner table, countless complaints about outings together, and endless moaning about the extra chores that come with a large household. Tensions high and relaxing became a thing of the past. A perfect recipe for stress and strain. It didn’t mean we had made a mistake, it just meant we needed more patience, more time and more unconditional love…a tonne more unconditional love.

We are not perfect, not in the past, not now, but we can get along now. We do talk at dinner and we can go away together with only the normal amounts of stress and organisation. There are no perfect steps to take to get to normal. Each family is different, heck each child is different. All I can offer is this – learn to respect, trust and love unconditionally .

Respect the relationships that exist, in fact, encourage them. Time between biological parent and child is important. They have lost part of their family so don’t add to the loss by insisting on everything changing. Respect their personal space, no matter how messy it gets! I’m not good at mess, it stresses me, so I just try not to look. Their room is their room. Basics for regular cleaning are asked for, but beyond that, if they can live in it, to quote a teenager “Whatever!”.

Our kids all had a parent die, a mum and a dad that cannot be replaced. EVER. We know that, we respect that and encourage talking about them. They are gone, but always and forever a very integral part of who we are. Best advice I can offer, don’t try and change that, be a big enough person to understand there are now 4 parents in the family.

Trust, this one took me awhile to figure out. When you birth babies you get to know each other from the ground up, the good, the bad and the ugly. Your kids know what to do, what not to do, and you teach them your values. The new kids do things how they have been trained, problem is it’s different, not wrong, just different. Motives shouldn’t be questioned, not washing a dish does not mean they hate you! It means they are a kid! I had to learn not to judge their attitudes. We all have them, those thoughts of “why should I” or “it’s not fair”. Not everything they do is a reaction to me, it may be, or it may be because they hate their new normal that they didn’t choose. Fair enough, they love their mum, and I’m new, I get it. I know my biological kids would never do anything wrong…cough, cough…of course they do. Each day offers me an education, learning to trust and hopefully one day be trusted back. 

Unconditional love loves flows out of decisions. I can’t wait to feel it. It flows out of respect and trust. It grows from the little things. Looking for moments is helpful, listen if they will tell you about their day, give help if it’s asked for, remember their traditions, find ways to laugh together etc. Then before you know it, you have a little bit of history together, then you have memories, then you have a medium to grow in. It takes a lot of praying that it will be OK, and then a lot of trusting God that He listened and it really will be OK. But the results are worth it. 

We still have a way to go, but we are OK and learning to love each other.

Respect. Trust. Love. We can’t go wrong.

SassyLanePhotography-542


HOPE

Words have power. God’s words have power. They offer hope when before there was none. They help you walk around a corner to your “suddenly” from whence you see hope. HOPE. I love that word. Not always seen, heard or felt, but it lingers in the background offering a sense that it can be OK again. It will be OK again.

Getting to suddenly isn’t as sudden as we would like. Losing hope causes your world to bottom out and it’s a steady climb up through the elements.

At first you can’t see why the grief, the betrayal, the tragedy that stole your hope, didn’t kill you. Or you wished it did because somehow that seems easier than what you are forced to bear in its wake. Darkness shrouds the hope that once was and leaves you alone, scared, and stuck under the covers.

Hopeless.

But as sure as night follows day, dark clouds do lift and seasons change. I know the winter can feel cold and unsure with hope frozen beneath the surface. Please remember this, ice melts, clouds move on and you can feel warm in the sunshine again.

Changing seasons is natural, but we don’t always like it. We see birth and death and we  navigate the life in-between. Sometimes we even hang onto winter because of the questions screaming in our heart.

How can I move on without my love?

What if I am hurt again?

What if my feelings don’t change?

Can it ever be the same again?

What will everyone think if I dare to be happy again?

We think if we let go and trust the sunshine to warm us, and it doesn’t, we have lost. Then it truly is over. Better not to try. Just leave me alone! Here’s where words come in handy. Right in the middle of the indecisionh is where a little injection of something from outside of ourselves helps. If we choose to believe them it’s like a leap from the highest cliff with no view of what’s in front of us. It’s faith and trust that believing words from an ancient book still have power to change.

Little-by-little. Minute-by-minute. Day-by-day.

Truthfully, at first I couldn’t make that leap. I had nothing left, no excess oomph … I hid in bed. But eventually what  helped was a knowing, sometimes a very faint knowing, that God did love me, He did somehow have my best in mind. The mystery will always remain as to “Why?”, but if you stay paralyzed there, you can’t leap.

My hope for you is that you can leap one day. Over and over until you see Hope like a beautiful summer rain welcoming you in to dance. It can be OK again. You can see hope again.

Believe. Trust. Hope.

John 14 image


Sucker Punch

A sucker-punch is an unexpected uppercut to the diaphragm often referred to as a “bitch move” as it leaves the victim breathless and without defence against the blows that follow.

The aftermath of tragedy can be the same, blow after blow and not a clue how to go on. In the haze, you don’t know what to dodge. Chest constricts, ribs ache, can’t breathe…

Endless paperwork, bills, decisions, loneliness, hopelessness, lostness, and then

A birthday

Christmas

Anniversaries

Each “special” day comes at you with vengeance. You want to hide away, frightened of the attack. You try to slip into the shadows away from the phone calls and the looks of pity. You just can’t get smacked down anymore. You really don’t think you can finish the bout, you expect that it should kill you.

But it doesn’t.

You live, you don’t know why or how, but you live. Somehow you catch your breath, stand a little taller and you can see the fight. You can dodge the punch you thought would kill you, you stand taller, it doesn’t hit you.

While you were clinging to the side of the ring, gasping for breath, head stooped, you couldn’t see. Couldn’t see hope, couldn’t see love, couldn’t see reason. In those moments where the pangs of grief didn’t engulf you, breath filled your lungs and gave oxygen to hope. As you dared to step out of the shadows and pray for more, healing could come. The bruises fade and your limp disappears. God heard you.

You can see what’s coming, you know what to expect and it’s possible to prepare for it. You are stronger. The initial tragedy hasn’t changed but you have. You don’t cower, you see the pain differently.

Yes, you are stronger.

Trust grows, determination deepens, and hope for a future does return. Never the same, but grit your teeth and turn to face the fight, step into it knowing you are strong.

Hope returned. I love Hope.


Remember the Smiles

Sadness can alter your memory. It can trick you into believing the lie that suffering was all there was to living. It isn’t true. Amidst the suffering there was true life, the one were a joke was laughed at, a hand was held, or  “hey how are you” was shared. These small things in the everyday mattered, and still matter.

The end did not negate the years of holding his babies, of taking them to soccer, of kissing me goodnight, of the worst dad jokes possible or of just sitting together wherever we were…because the place didn’t matter.

Hope finds it hard to return if it has to fight through regret and guilt. They where the bookends that held me captive, torturing me with a continual reel to reel of all that was bad in the end days. The “what ifs” intertwining each chapter with nagging questions.

“What if I had prayed harder…”

“What if we had tried another doctor…”

“What if he had wanted to stay a bit more…”

“What if I had been more…”

Answer-less questions that feed guilt because they can’t be answered from the grave.  

Before the suffering I knew the answers. Yes he loved me and knew I loved him. Yes his kids were his greatest achievements and nothing could alter that. Yes he found joy in life, in nature, in his faith and those he loved.  They were unaltered memories. They didn’t have question marks.

I had added the question marks to the statements of his life. I had warped the looking-glass of my memory. I had forgotten the smiles and could only see his pain.

I needed to see hope again. To believe hope was possible. I remember falling to my knees on my bedroom floor, desperate to know that moving on was OK. Stuck between the holding on and the letting go. Only a decision away but uncertain if letting go would leave him behind.  I asked God to free my heart of the guilt and betrayal that pushed hope away. To let go of those unanswerable weights and open my life up to new possibilities…even if that was on my own.

I needed to understand that choosing to live was in fact what he had wanted, even though every pore oozed the contrary. I took small steps and made small decisions that supported hope until it became a habit. Grace filled the space guilt left behind and I was able to walk on. Hope grew into a new life because you can’t grow moving backwards.

Honouring those who have died doesn’t have to be sad, live the life they supported, be all you can be. Intertwine the best of them into who you are and go forward knowing they are always in your heart. Smiling …until you meet again.

my honey


Sally.

Our pup died today.

I was in the vet surgery, but could just have easily been back in that ICU room loosing all over again.

It rushes back, the pain, the grip on your insides that squeezes and oozes.

At this point in time I haven’t told 2 of my kids, one overseas, one at work early. I don’t want to load more grief into their worlds, they have suffered enough. But I know I have to and have faith that they will feel enough love around them to ease the grip on their insides.

Loss is compounding, it doesn’t just add up together and let you feel it one singular part at a time. It all piles on top of itself like a weighted vest, suddenly and all consuming.

family 0073Sally was 15 and a half. She was part of our family, she grew up with my kids, came on holidays and was part of our family photo shoot. She was part of us. I remember when I came home without her master, she was sad and confused. She would look past me begging for her master to come behind me…but he never did.  But she kept loving us, kept needing our attention, kept being part of the family. We will miss her.

Here’s to a very, very good pup, loved and adored by us all.

Sally, you can go to your master now xxx


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