Friday Favorite: Day 33 of 365 Days of Motivation

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”  –Joseph Campbell

Whether your dream was the picket fence and 2 kids with the mini van and the handsome husband or the urban dream of living in Manhattan with  your lawyer wife or even living off the land after marrying a cowboy–this was never part of your dream.

Husbands and wives are supposed to raise children  and grow old together until old age silently steals one away from the other. This reality is far from that dream. It isn’t what you planned, but it doesn’t have to mean a life wasted.

This life is different, and probably harder than you had ever imagined a life could be. This life might be more of a challenge than you feel you can handle. Humans are resilient–able to meet intense challenges through dedication and hard work. Using their experiences, especially the difficult ones, to come back better, stronger, and more amazing than they knew possible.

This is where you are now: You can hold on to the life you had planned–the perfect life. Or, perhaps, you can accept that life is different, and allow yourself to see the new life that is waiting just beyond the fog.

Five Ways to Help Kids Heal

Bad things happen at all ages. No matter how old we are when we lose a parent, it hurts. And as the parent left standing, the only thing you want to do is make it hurt less. I can’t speak to the technical psychological effects of losing a parent nor do I have absolute ways to change any of it. I can’t do that because I am not a licensed therapist and I don’t want to pretend to be one.

What I can do is give you some ideas. Ideas give you a starting point to work from. These are ideas that have either helped me or my kids grieve and heal. Hopefully they will help you too!

1. No Expectations
Each person grieves in their own way. It may be similar to the way you grieve or almost unrecognizable. Let them have their time to do it their way. Our normal plan of actions as parents is to see all the pitfalls and guide our kids through it through clear expectations and consequences or rewards. This time though, it’s different.

Forcing them into what we think they need or down a path we see fit might not only delay their healing, but also create more problems than they are already facing. Forcing their hand might create resentment and mistrust. This leads us to the rest of the list.

2. Don’t Be Afraid To Grieve, Keep Boundaries Intact
Kids are looking to you for advice on how to do this. Its okay, in fact important, to show them it is okay to be sad. Let them see you work through this, that’s how they are going to get through this, and the next loss, and the next. Keep in mind, you are still their parent. You are their rock they tie their lifeline to. If your foundations seems shaky, it leaves them uneasy also. It is hard for them to see you hurt and harder for them to see you struggle. We, as parents, have to be cautious in how much we let them inside.

When Randy died, Kayla was seven, Brendan was five, and Emily was only 7 months old. The first thing Kayla asked when she found out her dad died was, “How are we going to live? Will we have money?” She asked because she knew I didn’t work. Dad was the sole provider. At seven, she knew this was a game changer. She immediately showed signs that she wanted to take care of me. It was not her job to take care of me—it was my job to take care of me, and her.

I knew I wanted her to see me sad because I felt it was important for her to know that I loved him and missed him. I wanted her to know it’s okay to be vulnerable, to hurt like you have never hurt before—beyond that I wanted her to know she was not alone in that pain.

I hid the really dark times from her. I dealt with those privately and with the help of a counselor. I let the kids see a counselor when they felt they needed to and once in a while I took them to play with the counselor even if they didn’t feel like they needed to talk.

So, don’t be afraid to hurt openly. Make sure the kids know that you are okay. That this will be okay and that you will do it together.

3. Listen. Really Listen.
Kids may or may not have a lot to say. Emily obviously did not understand what was going on in our lives. Brendan and Kayla did, but on very different levels and they are very different people. Handling the same would have misguided, at best.

Kayla talked about it often. She wanted to see a counselor. She wanted to know what was normal and needed to hear it was going to be okay. Brendan was different. He didn’t understand, there was no way for him to fully process what happened. I listened and did what they needed me to. Sometimes I had to guess, and sometimes I guessed wrong. Other times, I nailed it.

Even though Emily was just a baby, I couldn’t discount her perceptions. She couldn’t tell me she knew something was different, but I knew she could feel if something was wrong. I knew she would never see her daddy again, so I just tried to love her more. So, I held her tighter, took naps with her on my chest, talked sweeter, played longer, and tried to keep my tears at a minimum.

Listening is more than hearing the words they say. Sometimes it is watching their body language or behaviors and deciphering what that means. Since kids don’t always understand the process and they don’t always have words to express the things they do understand. Listening requires figuring it all out–it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Paying attention to the way they talk to their friends. Analyzing their drawings. Deciphering the tones in their conversations.

4. Find Normal–Again.
The first thing the chaplain at the hospital told me was to get the kids back into the normal routine. It’s a long story, but there was nothing, and I mean nothing, normal about our lives at that point. I couldn’t find normal with a map and a compass. Our lives were that upside down and inside out. I also didn’t understand why. I couldn’t exactly sweep this under the rug and act like it didn’t happen. It just seemed counterproductive to me. Since I didn’t know up from down, I did exactly what she said.

When I got home from the hospital, I called everyone I could think of to get the kids enrolled in their own school since the first day of school was Monday (and this was Saturday).  As soon as I could, I moved back into our old house. I did not understand it. I did not know how to get it all done. And, it certainly was not easy. I did the best I could and once I was clear-headed, I understood why.

Getting the kids back to normal does not erase the event. Losing a parent causes their world to implode. One parent is gone, the other is a mess and nothing is what it is supposed to be. Putting them back in that routine gives them some resemblance of once was. It gives them a space in time when they can be who they were before that event–where they don’t have to be the kid who lost a parent, but rather just a kid. It keeps them from crawling under the covers and never coming back out. It slowly turns their world right side up and right side out. Nothing will bring back their parent, but they will learn how to live life the way they were meant to live it, even if it means with one less parent.

5. Family and Individual Counseling.
I know I mention this all the time, but there is nothing you could do that will have a more profound affect on their healing. As parents, we can do a lot for our kids, but maybe the very best thing we can do is teach them to ask for help when they need it. This is a time when everyone could use a helping hand.

Counseling gets a bad name. People attach it to this idea that there is something wrong with someone who needs counseling. That isn’t true.  If you hired a plumber to fix a pipe because you didn’t have the knowledge or tools, would you feel insufficient or like something was wrong with you? Probably not. Do you feel like the world is watching you if you take your car to a mechanic? No, because you know you didn’t go to school to learn about the complicated nature of an engine.

Counselors are armed with knowledge and tools to get you through this. There isn’t something wrong with you, there is something broken in your life and it needs to be fixed. A counselor cannot fix it for you, but they can bear some of the weight for you. They can give you tools to figure it out. They can be the temporary foundation until you create a solid permanent  one.

Counselors can be a tremendous help for kids too, for all the same reasons listed above. Beyond that, knowing that you are getting help lets them know that everything will be okay. It also shows them that it’s okay to ask someone to help. They see that they don’t have to hurt alone or carry this burden alone. Instead they see that people care, that everything is fixable, that they are never ever alone, and that if mom is acting a little off, they have a safe place to try and work that out.

Nothing is as simple as this list, but this gives you a great place to start and a nice road map to follow.

Friday Favorite: I’ve Learned…

Preface: This was written just over a year ago. I have always liked this piece. For me, it is simple and to the point. When we grieve, we go back and forth between emotions (stages) and we get sort of lost and stuck. We have to take a little time to remember how to redirect ourselves. This is the way I stayed on the right path–this was my roadmap of sorts.
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I was 25 years old, thought I had my life figured out. I had dreamed of these days since I was young and now, after some hard times and a lot of growing pains, my dreams were coming true. Randy and I had the family we always wanted, his new job provided more than we had hoped for, and to top it all off, we were happy. Couldn’t ask for more than that. We knew there would always be challenges in life. Challenges that we couldn’t predict, but that was okay, because we always had each other. We never dreamed either of us would have to face life alone. 

I was thrust into a new life. This new chapter, unlike the first, came with no one to guide me. Growing up, I always had my parents guidance, this time, I was the leader. While sifting through the ashes of the life I once knew, I learned many things.

Life Doesn’t Knock
I learned very quickly that life doesn’t knock. This uninvited guest walks right in and makes itself at home. Sometimes, life brings wonderful surprises that we never could have imagined. Other times, it brings our worst nightmares to life. This time was worse than any nightmare.

Losing him in a car wreck ripped my future from my grasp. Every dream I had ever dreamed, gone in a flash. Everything I thought to be true was now under a microscope. How I felt about God, my future, and even my past scrutinized every single day. Nothing made sense anymore. I quite literally had to accept my past and redesign my future.

At first, I took life step by step. Often it felt like I was walking on tiny stones across a  wide angry river, hoping to get from one shore to another. One mistake and I’d drown. Over time, with help, the stones became larger and closer together as the angry river quietly receded. I made it to the other side. I built a different life, never forgetting the old.

 “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”  –Joseph Campbell

Life is Undetermined
There is no way to know when our uninvited guest will show up again. All we can do is live the best we know how with whatever surprises have been thrown our way. There is no shame in falling and no absolution for standing up again. There is a time and season for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

Life is Best Lived With an Open Heart
When life is full of happiness and rainbows, we let the world in. We live life outloud. We want everyone to share in our light. Maybe we even want to make sure they know our light is as bright as theirs. Living in the best of times is easy.

When life gets us down, we close ourselves off, sometimes we give up. We place blame and get angry. We shut down. No one likes to feel vulnerable and no one likes to be looking up to see someone elses light shining bright while their own barely flickers. Those gloomy, dark times are when we should open up. Open ourselves to possibilities and blessings.

When my grandparents started slipping mentally and physically, it was hard to reach out and ask for help. We wanted to close ourselves up, hide, and handle it the best we could. It came to a point where we felt like we were going to drowned if we didn’t get help. We hired a home helper. A friend of a friend. Recently, I learned that she was in a bad place before stepping in to help my grandparents. She was losing weight, had no money, and was slipping into a serious depression. We knew hiring her would help us. We knew she was in need of a job and it would help her. What we did not know was the depth our help would reach. She smiles now, she has gained some weight back, and she has found love. All of that might have happened without us. It seems from this viewpoint that both of our lights were flickering and when we combined them, it gave us both strength and our lights were shining brighter. To be honest, she would never have been my first choice, but we opened up and gave her a chance. Who knew the good that would come from that decision?

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. –Maya Angelou

Life Continues
Our lives cannot stop because we have lost someone or something. We can’t quit going forward because we hurt or because it is difficult. We have to keep living. We have to face our fears, stare them in the eyes, and walk right past them without flinching. Once you have faced that fear and conquered it, what is there that can hold you down?

           You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really step to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

We need to keep living for the things we have lost and living for the people and things yet to come. Life is meant to be lived moving forward.  I don’t mean to make that sound easy, because it isn’t. It is something that is possible and things that are possible deserve a chance. There are amazing and wonderful adventures and wonderful endings for those who take a chance. 

“The great courageous act we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.” –Oprah Winfrey

So, take that step, keep moving. Day by day things will get easier, dreams closer. Life is definitely different now, but it doesn’t have to be over. Live life, heal your wounds, and reach your dreams. 

Let’s Talk About Love

You were cruising around, enjoying life when BAM!–your life changed forever. It’s rough. The first year is a nightmare. The second year I was ready to move forward because I couldn’t live in that limbo anymore, but hadn’t quite figured out how to do that yet. Year three was the year all the pieces came together.

I didn’t just sit around hoping things would get better or easier for me. It was a very conscious growth pattern for me. I had to heal and navigate the waters of dating again. It was a juggling act, one that I definitely struggled with at times. Back then I certainly didn’t have all the answers and I’m not sure I fully understood what the problems were. Now, I have a difference perspective.

First, I had to let go of some baggage. I had to find away to make room in my life for someone new. Baggage makes you sluggish and slow to respond. It weights down your thoughts and your ability to connect with someone else. I dumped a lot of negative thoughts and feelings and kept with me the good things. I didn’t block the negative from my memory– never want to forget because that is where I learned a lot of lessons (the hard way). I took away their power though–no longer would those pieces leave me feeling guilty, ashamed, or neglectful. I quit shoulding and iffing myself to a slow death.  Know what? It felt good.

Next, I quit comparing my new life to my old. I could not keep looking back and saying, “well, if this would have happened then that would have worked out because …” or “there is no way Randy would have….” That was hard to do! The first thing I want to do when things went wrong was to find someone to blame it on. And when you have a past where you and your spouse or partner parted on good terms (or great) it is easy find refuge in those sweet memories where you felt safe and loved.  A new relationship is the land of unknown. There is a little fear of being left again. It’s hard to let someone all the way in–that just isn’t fair, to anyone.

It was as if I expected Tim to just step into Randy’s spot and keep going in the roles Randy and I had created for ourselves in our relationship. What a ridiculous expectation! Tim wasn’t Randy. Tim was different from Randy. I didn’t start liking Tim because he was like Randy. I liked Tim for Tim. It was hard for me, and caused many arguments, to find a way to relate to Tim like Tim instead of like Randy. Every time I would go off and pout, in my mind, about how Randy wouldn’t have done this and how he never would have made me feel like that. It was lies I told myself to justify my own skewed view of this relationship. Tim couldn’t live in Randy’s place. I had to set Randy aside (not forgotten, but to the side) and let things fall into place with Tim.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. We don’t like change, so falling into old patterns feels much better than putting ourselves in the open, especially when the painful loss is still fresh in our hearts. The only way to get through this part is to work on it. Every time my mind would start to head for the comfort of the past, I had to reel myself back in. I had to be conscious of my expectations for Tim and holding back my feelings.

I wanted to make sure Tim didn’t feel second best, because he wasn’t second best–he was a different relationship, not a second class relationship. It was (and still is) important to be very aware of subtle ways that I might inadvertently make him feel second. I put away some pictures of Randy. I had to find a way to balance my conversations with Tim. He shouldn’t have to hear about Randy every other sentence, but I refused to never talk about Randy. I never wanted to forget that time and I never wanted the kids to forget either. Hearing about how amazing Randy was, from everyone, probably left Tim wondering each time if he was good enough– how could he compare. It shouldn’t be about that. Tim never should have had to feel that way or have those questions. And, had he not been dating a widow, he probably never would have felt that way. It just meant I had to keep working on thinking more and behaving better.

I kept these battles inside. In fact, I’m not sure that Tim knows to this day what was going on in my brain. If I am telling the truth, I am not so sure I completely understood this 12 years ago either. I actively and consciously tried to reign myself in, but I am not sure I understood then that I was trying to force Tim into someone else’s role in my life. Tim probably thought I was being impossible–and maybe I was. I was just trying to find my way. Good thing Tim is patient.

Tim is an amazing man and I didn’t want to lose him or push him away because I couldn’t navigate my own thoughts and feelings. It is hard in the beginning because you miss companionship, yet you haven’t worked through all the stuff floating around in your heart, nor have you put all the pieces of your heart back together. If you have found someone you adore, it’s best to be honest with yourself, be conscious of your new love’s feelings, and be willing to build a new relationship instead of filling in the gaps of an old one. You both deserve that.

 

Day 57: 365 Days of Motivation

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  –Maria Robinson

I like to have a map of where I am going and time frame of when I will get there and sometimes when there are twists and turns in my path, it throws me for a loop. I feel out-of-place, lost, and chaotic. I know I can’t start over though. I can’t go to where I was before it happened and do it over a different way.

There are paths that take us places we never thought we would be. Some of them are because we made bad choices, some of them are because someone else made bad choices, and yet some of them are because someone made good choices. And there we are, left in the open, standing on our heads in the middle of nowhere. There is one thing to do–turn yourself upright and start moving. Your ending might be different, but it doesn’t have to be labeled a tragedy. It can still be a success story. Start today. Stand up, brush yourself off, and take the first step on a new journey.

 

Friday Favorite: Day 16

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” — Bern Williams

Life can’t be lived in reverse; we can’t change history. All we can do is the best we know how with what we have been handed. It may feel like you are completely broken and you don’t know how to fix it. Though you may feel broken, you are not. You are wounded, so deeply wounded–the wounds will heal.

This is a process, a journey. Give yourself time to go through the process fully. Life will never be the same, but it will get better. One day, when you look back at the day your life was shattered, you will see how far  you have come. There will come a day when life will be good again.

Friday Favorite: Mantra, War Cry…Same Thing

Most who know me, and many of you who read this blog, have noticed I find, create and live by different words, poems, or quotes. I don’t go around looking for words to live by. Instead, they seem to find me. They find me when I am unsure how to make the rain stop or the wind subside. They jump out of movies and books. Sometimes a friend’s story or blog makes me think in a way I never thought before. Those are words to live by.

I have my favorites. Typically, it is what ever got me through the most recent storm. There are storms so deeply personal or intense that no one else’s words seem to fit. In those moments, one has to look deep inside and muster some sort of reason or logic to survive. See, in times of trouble, I often do a lot of thinking and analyzing. I run through scenarios and possible answers to my problems. It’s in those times, I create my own mantra. It’s my war cry.

It’s the words that say, “You will get through this.” It’s the words that remind me this crisis will not last forever. There will be an after. Bad things don’t only happen to bad people. Good people see plenty of trouble, sometimes more than their share. And, often, when good people suffer, there is no logic or reason to the suffering. No way to explain it away or change the outcome. It’s those times that I know I couldn’t make it without my mantra, my war cry.

Until recently, I have always kept my mantras quiet, my war cry more of a whisper.  I protected myself because I was afraid. Afraid people would view me as stupid, simple, or naïve. I am not afraid anymore.

I realized long ago, I am average. If something has benefited me, chances are it will also benefit someone else.  No one gets through this world unscathed. No one can effectively navigate the rough seas alone. People need other people to survive. People need their own ideas to fill in the gaps where logic and reason fail to explain devastation. Everyone needs a mantra. When life leaves us feeling like wounded soldiers, we need a war cry.

Be listening for those unexpected words. Often, they are as much as one knows how to give. Allow them to seep into your heart. Let them be the mortar, holding the pieces together until you can heal. Find your mantra, your war cry.

Friday Favorite: Courage, No Better Friend (early edition)

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston Churchill

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Courage is an ever-changing, ever faithful friend.

Courage is always admirable, yet sometimes, remains elusive. Its form may change to fit each situation, but if you are dedicated, it’s always a perfect fit.

Courage can be loud. Courage is the tears military wives shed as they send their husbands to unknown parts of the world. Its Rosa Parks on a bus. Courage is the soldier who faces war.  It is the police officer who draws his weapon to protect you. It’s the child who seeks help for a friend. Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Courage isn’t always loud. Sometime is a soft whisper or an inaudible murmur. It’s the struggle to put one foot in front of the other when adversity surrounds you.

Sometimes, life leaves you shattered; courage picks up the pieces so you can move forward. Courage is a child who sits in a hospital bed, sick. It’s the aged person who continues to get out of bed every day even when though they can’t remember whose house they are in. After an awful day, courage is the voice in your head that says, “tomorrow will be better.” Courage, if we are lucky, sits at our side as we hang off the edge of a cliff. Courage is heaven-sent.

Courage can roar or come as a whisper. It comes in all different sizes, shapes, and ages. It knows no color, pay scale, or sexual orientation. Courage, can never be underestimated. Whatever form, you will find no better friend. There are times in our lives that we lose our courage. There are even times when we fall so far down that we don’t care where it went.

You aren’t alone. It happens to the best, and the worst, of us. It’s okay to live in that moment. There will come a time, hopefully sooner than later, when you hear courage knocking at your door. Let it in. It will stay at your side. Courage will hold your hand and give worthwhile advice. Listen. It can re-build your spirit.

When you are ready, courage will help you put one foot in front of the other until  you can do it on your own. It will guide you, back to the person you once were. I know it is hard to hear all the cheery kinds of do-gooder ideas people give you. Don’t worry, they don’t believe it either. It’s just something nice to say when you have no idea what to say. It’s what you tell someone when you have no experience, ideas, or education that can help the situation.

You should know: They are right. It will get better. Eventually, it will be okay. It might never be the perfection you had imagined. It probably isn’t what you deserve, but it is what it is supposed to be, by divine design. And one day, it will be better. It will definitely be different, but different doesn’t mean terrible. It means different.

It doesn’t happen over night and it doesn’t happen as easily as they might make it seem. There is no exact path. No right or wrong direction to travel. You might feel better one day and falling apart the next. It’s okay. It’s all okay. Live in the moment, don’t pass up life because it gets hard. Whatever it is, as much as it hurts, it’s worth living. Your courage, will help you.

Because of courage, you can accomplish anything, even the things that once seemed insurmountable. Please don’t give up. Whether it is money, kids, family, illness, career, or even death of a loved one–it will be better one day. Your friend has your back.

Take a deep breath, and say hello to your best friend, courage.

Friday Favorite: The Hardest Day

Saturday, August 18, 2001 will go down as the absolute hardest day of my life.

As I bolted through the doors, I was on display. A room full of people, lined up in chairs, focused on the crazy woman bursting into  the otherwise calm room.  The security guard and I locked eyes. I could tell he was waiting for me. His voice was calm as he asked me for my  name. My first name was enough. He knew who I was. He gestured around the corner. With a step and turn of my head, my fears confirmed.

There it was–a sign over the door. The tan sign stood apart from the stark white walls. It read, “Quiet Room”.  Ironic since it screamed at me. I shuttered. Thinking to myself, “Please. No, no, no.” I took a deep breath and allowed my eyes to fall away from the sign as I  glanced around the room. There, I saw our family, quietly weeping. They could barely stand to look me. Their stares glued to their hands. Crumpled, wet tissues wrapped around their fingers. Shuttering shoulders. It was more than I could handle. I grabbed the door frame for support as I laid my head on the door in defeat and whispered,

‘No. It can’t be. Please, tell me it isn’t true.”

I knew in my heart it was true. I could feel it. My mother-in-law lifted her head and nodded. Our families silent tears turned into sobs muffled behind their grimacing faces.

A thin woman with short dark brown hair and glasses hesitantly moved towards me. I didn’t know her and I wasn’t sure what her plan was. I am not sure it mattered. I was in shock. Ideas swirled through my head until it made me dizzy.  She gently placed her hand on mine, and when I didn’t push her away, she moved it around my shoulders. With her grasp, she encouraged me to come inside that tiny room thick with grief.

“Sara, would you come in and sit with us?”

The guard slowly closed the door behind us.

What else was I going to do? I had no thoughts of my own; at least none that were clear. I followed her into the room. It was small. The walls lined with maroon chairs and average tables, typical of doctor offices and hospitals. Fake flowers and boxes of tissues decorated the sparsely lit room. She sat with me on one side. My mother at the end of the room and Randy’s parents across from us. She calmly took one of my hands in hers and handed me a box of tissues with her other.

“Sara,” she tenderly continued, ” I’m Kathy. I am a chaplain here at the hospital. You know that Randy has been in a terrible car wreck.”

I nodded. I wanted to tell her I knew he died. I wanted her to quit talking.  I couldn’t stop her. I couldn’t speak. I wondered if maybe I was wrong and he was just badly hurt. I knew she would never tell me what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that he was going to have a tough recovery, but that he would be okay. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. She was going to tell me what I ready knew. Her message written on faces of loved ones. On the guard’s face. On the sign to the room. There was no mistaking the truth. I briefly glanced at her face as I waited for the devastating news.

“I’m sorry, Sara. He didn’t make it. They did everything they could, but it just wasn’t enough.”

A tear crawled down her cheek. I lowered my head. My lip was trembling. My tears silently fell one after the other, collecting on my shirt.  No one in the room could contain their cries. The kind of noise that comes from pain so intense it rips you apart from the inside out.

I couldn’t look up. I just wanted to rip her hands from me and run. I wanted to hide.

“What happened? I squeaked. “Was it his fault?”

I needed to know if it was his fault. He was always so tired when he left because he wasn’t a morning person. I often worried about him falling asleep at the wheel.

“No, no.” Kathy assured me. “The other driver crossed into his lane. Alcohol may be involved,  but we don’t know that for sure yet.”

I just shook my head. This stuff happens on the news, not to us. I still couldn’t lift my head. I just couldn’t. My own pain was enough. I couldn’t bear to look up and face his parents. Hearing my husband was dead was almost more than I could take. I couldn’t bear to stare into their grief. Kathy pulled her own tissue from the box.

“Can I see him?” I muttered.

“Whenever you are ready.”

“I’ll never be ready. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.”

“I know,” she continued,”It just isn’t fair.”

“Can you call my Pastor? I think I want him here.”

“Of course.” She answered.

I just shook my head. Unfair didn’t do this justice. How was I going to tell my kids? What were we going to do? I wanted Randy to hold me. That’s what happened when I was lost, hurt, or unsure. He would hold me and tell me it would be fine. Who is going to do that? How was I going to make it through something this terrible thing without him? I knew it wasn’t going to get any easier to stand up from that chair.

“I’m ready.”

Kathy walked me down a hallway and we turned into a chilly, bare room where he laid peacefully.

Covered with a thin white sheet, folded down at his shoulders. His dark hair looked black against his pale complexion and the bright white sheet. His lips tinged blue. He looked perfect except a tiny scratch on his chin. At the edge of the room, I almost collapsed. This was instantly real. I just kept shaking my head. The soft-spoken chaplain encouraged me to touch him and talk to him if I wanted. Everyone waited while I slowly made my way around the gurney until I reached his chest. I laid on his chest and sobbed. It’s as close as I would get to him ever holding me again.

“We’ll give you some time, Sara.”

My family and Kathy left me alone to say my goodbyes. I was so sad and so angry. How could he leave me like that? We have three children. We had a baby! Why didn’t he ever wear a seat belt?

I calmed myself. I knew it wasn’t his fault. He would never leave us on purpose. I talked to him a little. I told him that I loved him. I told him that I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this without him, but I would. I promised to never forget him and to always make sure the kids knew him. I promised to do the best I could. I told him how happy the past couple years had made me and that I would miss him more than he could ever imagine.

I knew I couldn’t stay there forever. I knew I had to leave him. How do you leave someone you love so much laying there, by himself, waiting to be put in a cold drawer in the morgue. Leaving him in that room was the hardest thing I ever did.

Kathy peeked in. “I know it’s hard. Is there anything I can do for you? Anything I can get you?”

“Yeah,” I quipped, “about another 50 years.”

“Oh, honey. I wish I could.”

“Me, too.”

With that, I kissed his forehead and ran my fingers through his soft hair one last time. I turned around and just left him there. To be honest, part of me still carries guilt about that. I know I didn’t have a choice, but it’s still one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Back in the room we discussed donations. Randy and I both had always said we would donate anything that we possibly could. We donated his corneas and skin for burn victims. I found peace in knowing that something truly good could come from something so awful.

The nurse brought in his broken watch and a bloody $20 bill. He was on his way to work for a day of overtime on his day off. He was even supposed to get a steak dinner, which is why he came back in the house that morning and grabbed  that $20. They would reimburse him later for the dinner. He loved a good steak dinner. In all the commotion (we were staying with my parents until we could move into our new house. The accident happened on Saturday, we were scheduled to close on Monday. All of our stuff was all ready there, waiting) he left his wallet on our temporary dresser.

“Sara, ” I looked up to see the nurse speaking, “I just wanted to tell you that I had to call your doctor to notify him of Randy’s death. I have never had a doctor show such a genuine concern for your well-being and sadness for the family. Your doctor thinks a lot of you. He would like you to call him in the next few days or as soon as you feel like you can.”

I nodded. “Thank you. He is amazing and I appreciate his concern.”

Something caught my eye as I was lowering my head  again. As, I looked back at the door, I saw a tall figure enter. It was our Pastor. The Pastor who had baptized us just a little over a year earlier. We hugged and we prayed. Well, I should say, he trembled through his fumbling words for a prayer as the rest of us sobbed.

“Anything we can do for you?” Kathy asked. “Anything you would like to ask his nurse? Would you like to know his injuries?”

“No. I don’t. He’s dead and knowing how that happened does not change that fact. It would just give me a mental picture I can’t handle right now.”

Kathy understood.

My dad appeared in the doorway. Just as terrified  and saddened as everyone else. He had been sitting with the older kids, preparing for Brendan’s 5th birthday party planned for later that day when he received the call. Seeing him made me question where the kids were, what they knew, what about the party, and oh my gosh, how was I ever going to tell them this?

The chaplain and I discussed how to tell the kids. She told me that straight forward talk using the actual term ‘dead’ was best. It seemed harsh, but allowing them to feel like Daddy was coming home or waking up wasn’t fair. I had to be as honest as their age and understanding would allow. Kathy’s other piece of advice was to get them back in a regular routine as soon as possible.

Another set of worries flowed into my head. Not only were we expecting to live in another house that following week, but that house was over an hour away from our old house. It meant registering them in another school and buying supplies for the new school. I didn’t even know where I was going to live, or how to get all of our clothes and belongings, how was I going to get them back in a routine? If I moved back into our old house, I would have to register them and buy supplies all over again. School started on Monday here (Monday was also Brendan’s actual birthday). How could I get that all done? Who do I call to get the process started? What a mess! From top to bottom, nothing easy about it. I felt like almost every breath was another brick to the head.

After filling out and signing paper after paper, we had to leave. There was nothing else to do there. I consciously had to put one foot in front of the other to get to the car. I had been dropped off at the hospital because no one wanted me to drive, so I rode to Grandma’s house with my mom. Grandma had watched the baby, Emily. My aunt and uncle and picked up the kids from Dad so he could go to the hospital. They would be meeting us at Grandma’s to tell the kids. All of the family from the hospital, and the Pastor, followed us for moral support. Emily was only 7 months and had no idea what was going on. Kayla was seven and Brendan almost five.

On the way home, I called friends, family, and the funeral home. No one could believe the news. No one. Everyone wanted to be with us. Everyone had their own grief. They had sorrow for me and the kids. They grieved for themselves as friends. Beyond that, it made them face their own  lives. We were proof that bad things do happen to good people. They wondered what would happen if this happened to them. It made it real-this really could happen to them. It was clear, no one knows what tomorrow holds.

We arrived at Grandma’s before the older kids. We gathered a brief plan on how to tell them. It was quiet. No one had much to say. You can only sob for so long and you can only say, “What a Shame.” or “What a great guy.” so many times. There is really not much to say after that. There was some speculation about the other driver and how the crash happened, but mostly, we all sat in our own silent internal chaos.

The kids came in and I wanted nothing more than to hug them and kiss them. They were bouncing as they walked through the door. Because they knew they were supposed to be helping Papa get ready for the party and that plans changed, they were expecting to hear the party had moved or that they were walking into a surprise. Ugh. Stab me through the heart. My heart hurt and my stomach dropped. Telling them was going to be bad enough. How can I possibly do it now? Several of us, including Pastor Bob, me and the kids went in the sun room off the main part of the house and closed the glass door to shut out the rest of the noise. The kids disposition changed. They knew this no longer felt like a surprise, but rather an incoming bomb. They were right.

I held Brendan on my lap and Kayla sat next to me with my arm around her.

“I have bad news.I just left the hospital. This morning Daddy was on the way to work and had a really bad accident.”

“Is he okay?” Kayla asked with tears in her eyes.

Their scared little faces seemed to hold hope for his recovery.  After all, that’s what I had hoped for too. This was all so hard for me to understand. How do I expect a five and seven-year old to do what I can’t do? I couldn’t even fathom where to begin. I had no idea what tomorrow would hold.

Through tears and a shaky voice, I respond, “No, honey. I’m sorry, but your daddy died this morning.”

Kayla’s reaction was what I would expect, complete devastation. Brendan, fell asleep. I knew he was trying to block it out. He would later tell me that he wasn’t blocking it out. Instead, he was hoping he would fall asleep, wake up, and find out it was all a bad dream.

Kayla had two very important and logical concerns.

The first was, who will take care of us? How will we get money? Daddy was the only one who worked? Kayla is a worrier by nature. I knew I had to choose my words wisely. I knew, instantly, I would have to make her understand that we would be okay. That mommy would take care of us and she didn’t have to worry. She had to know I was okay or she would worry herself sick about how to make me okay.

Her other questions was would I ever date and marry again. There was a 2 year period, or close to it, that Randy and I really struggled with our marriage. It was so bad that we had decided  (well, I did and he just had to go along with it even thought it wasn’t what he wanted) that he would move out. That scared him, more than I ever thought it would. He discovered that maybe he valued me, the kids, and the life we had more than he had realized . We started working on us, and our relationship, but not before I got a full-time job and put the kids in day care for a few hours a day. I was serious. If he didn’t want to be in a relationship that worked, I was prepared to live on my own.

He came to me and told me that he really wanted to work on us. That he hated the thought of losing me. The thought of it affected him more than he could have imagined. We spent days living on bare minimum sleep so we could talk. We talked and talked. We discovered a lot about ourselves as teens and about our relationship. We really looked at where we started and where we ended up. How much we had changed. When we actually realized that we were in love and not just together for the kids. It was an epiphany for both of us and the beginning of something amazing.

The last two years, or more, of our marriage, we were so unbelievably happy. Honestly, inside and outside, our marriage could not have been better. We really had figured it out. And, we finalized it with baptisms and one last baby, Emily.

Kayla never forgot that time in our lives. The fighting and daycare rocked her world. And she was angry about it. She was convinced  the reason we were fighting was because I just wanted to date other men. That I just didn’t want her daddy anymore. So, when Randy died, her thought was, that I was going to move on to the next one. Adult problems, choices, and solutions that no seven-year old could comprehend. It took her years to forgive me and understand how difficult that period of discourse was for me and Randy.

That became the new hardest task I ever completed. We all talked, guessed, made up stuff that could have happened to cause that accident in between many visits from other family and friends. I think we were all trying to avoid being alone with our own thoughts, but eventually, we had to go home and face our thoughts.

Finally, the kids and I went back to my parents house, our temporary home. I knew the next day would hold more tasks that would test the rankings on the ‘hardest thing I ever did ‘ scale. Life didn’t ask. Nope. It tore through my world like a tornado twirls through a town; destroying everything in its path. So began the journey.

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“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”   -Washington Irving

Introducing Friday Favorite!

When you run a blog, sometimes older posts get lost among the new stuff. There are some that have been with you since the beginning and were here for ever post. And, there are those readers that come along that read something that catches their eye; they had back to the beginning to see where it all started. Unfortunately, most of us do not have time to do that.

I didn’t write any post with the intention of it getting lost in the shuffle. Some posts I loved, others were just okay. I will let you judge for yourself because I am starting a new feature called ‘Friday Favorite’ where I pick an older post and re-post it. Look for it every single Friday.