Maturing In Grief

Hey buddy. I thought I would write you and catch you up on some things. It’s 2 AM and I was doing this in my head so I thought I would put it on paper. Putting it on paper these days means that you are dictating something to your phone. That would totally blow you away. And, you know I don’t do anything at 2 AM unless it’s important. Honestly, Abbie woke me up because she had to go to the bathroom and I took our new golden retriever puppy out at the same time. I know you would feel the same way Collin does and be protective of Abbie versus the excitement of the new puppy. It’s hard to believe we got Abbie one month before you started feeling sick.

I haven’t written to you in a long time. Actually, my writing has slowed. Not for the lack of thought, but just a lack of time and discouragement. It is not that you are not thought of, it’s just the days of hearing your voice have long gone; a day I knew would come and I have dreaded.

Last year (2022) we did a study of heaven in Sunday School. I was so anxious to dive into the word and here what Carolyn had to say about where you are and where we will eventually be together. I know too often I loosely use the term of seeing you when I see a goose, or comment during a ball game that you’re the angel in the outfield, or tell someone that I know was close to you that you are an angel on their shoulder. I know none of that’s true and you are not something that can be put in a pocket and carried around. And I definitely know you are not an angel in heaven. People misinterpret scripture and we don’t become angels when we die and float on clouds! Maybe it comforts me that it’s the memory of you that is carried around. I have no doubt that you are doing exactly God intended-spending time with Him, praising Jesus, and hopefully talking to many of the prophets you read about. It would be nice to think that you are looking down on me and your family, but I know you would not want to see so much of the sadness in this world. And frankly, it’s not biblical. Neither is this, really, but it sure makes me feel better. Some people journal every day, but I blog.

Several things happened in church this last Sunday that brought you to mind. While we were singing the songs I consider contemporary worship, there was a little girl probably between the age of five and eight in the seats behind me, and she was singing every word to the songs. I started to cry because one, it was just so precious, and two, I knew that mother was teaching her children by listening to the music in the car (like we used to do). Pastor Matt announced that we will be studying in James very soon. Honestly, I can’t remember if I rolled my eyes or had a feeling of excitement knowing that James was one of your favorite books in the Bible. Either way, it will be a great study and I know that I will learn much from what Pastor Matt has to say. (You would love him, by the way. He knows Papa K.)

Lastly, it was announced that Impact is coming up soon. Your Aunt Donna and I had a collective sigh. We know it’s not Impact in our minds and should still be D-Now, but I think during the many changes in the regime at church, the name was changed to move with the times. I get that. But while others move on, I have keen awareness that it is January and the beginning of the season I dread every year, January through July. I wish I could sleep January through July and wake up in August for vacation. We know that is not how life works.

Many things happened in the last year. Your dad, Collin, and I all had surgery. Too bad it wasn’t all at the same time. Your dad started treatments at West Clinic and is going every three weeks. While it’s heavy on my heart that he has to endure this, we know it’s what is best and it’s helping to reduce the cancer in his neck. So many around us are being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I just don’t understand why people are suffering.

I didn’t ask for donations to St. Jude for your birthday this last year. So many give to St. Jude and that’s such a blessing but I wanted to do something different. This idea actually came to life while on a short vacation and the Ralph Lauren store in Pigeon Forge was all in. I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish this idea that I intended to be very small. I took a chance and put the word out (Venmo would be your friend, I know that for sure) that I was in Pigeon Forge and wanted to buy Polo hats to give out to St. Jude and West Clinic patients in honor of your birthday. I had in my mind that I would probably end up buying maybe 10 hats. Those 10 hats turned into being over 200 to be gifted away from donations. We almost bought the store out and I came home and ordered more as the money continued to come in. I remember getting a message from a friend of mine that was given a hat at West Clinic in your memory. What a blessing to see things come full circle and help others. The circle of life. Just had to put the Lion King reference in here for you. The money I had leftover from the collections I gave to the Collierville football team to add to your scholarship for a senior football player.

I don’t know if mature is the right word, but I think purchasing the hats for others last year was much more constructive than being huddled up in a ball in bed. There was such joy blessing others. It’s something you would do and I hope to come up with something for your birthday in July.

Out of the blue last night I got a text from a sweet family friend of the family that I have not heard from in probably 8 plus years. She sent a picture of her microwave and said she still stops her microwave when there is 13 seconds left on the timer. The small gesture of a simple text has such an impact on this mama’s heart. People might call that a Godwink, but I think it is a blessing that people are still carrying you close to their heart. That’s my greatest desire. Matter of fact, just this week Tara Peeper sent me a text with the picture of the song 10,000 Reasons on her first day back to school. And Gina Johnson got a purple toothbrush today and sent me a picture and thought of you. Purplely, we said! Oh, how I hope people will continue to reach out with their precious thoughts. Whereas they might think it would cause sadness, it actually helps so much in the healing.

I got another message from a dear friend that told me she holds the last decade of memories of you close to her heart. That meant the world to me. When many of us who are faced with our own mortality or that of our loved ones, we seem to understand the grieving process a smidge better, and the way you handled your journey to Jesus has helped all of us. I know one day Jesus will heal me of the grief I carry, however heavy it might be at the time. But you know I’m one strong mama.

A lady came into the new law firm I work for and she made the remark that I looked familiar. I gave my standard line, “Do you remember the Collierville football player who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012 and was the pray for Trey movement?” She immediately said oh yes, we prayed for him. I said well I’m his mother. Whether or not that is how she recognized me is not the point. The point is I opened the door to share your faith story, and maybe it’s a little selfish of me that I know I’m keeping your legacy alive. Even though my coworker knows your story, I know she probably thought I was crazy in bringing you up. But she will be a mom one day and understand.

Well, I still miss you incredibly. Things are starting to move into place upstairs. I finally cleaned out your closet. I take that back, I just took your billion clothes off the rack. I’ve told your dad that is my New Year’s resolution is to get upstairs totally cleaned out. I have no idea why he laughed at me. Maybe because that hasn’t been done in 10 years. Now that it’s starting to bother me, it’s time to get things done. I might have to rent a dumpster!

I read this in an article about cancer, “It’s common for the grief process to take a year or longer. A grieving person must resolve the emotional and life changes that come with the death of a loved one. The pain may become less intense, but it’s normal to feel emotionally involved with the deceased for many years.” While that statement is so true, I wonder what is their definition of “many years.” I think I have matured in my grief because the pain is not so intense and my tears no longer flow as often as they did. Oh, but it will catch me off guard at times! That has nothing to do with how much I miss you being with us, it is more about accepting reality.

We need a place we can turn to when we are going through the dark valleys of our souls. Having hidden in literal caves to escape death from King Saul, David knew the value of having a good, safe hiding place. For David, God was his refuge that was entirely trustworthy and reliable in all circumstances.

I remind myself that God knows my heart’s innermost cries. Our feelings of fear, anger, frustration, and everything else is safe in His hands. I have held tight to David’s prayer in Psalm 9:9-10, which says “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Oppressed? Yes. I still feel the pressure from society to conform to the norm that I should be in a certain stage of grief. I feel like that is putting me in a box of when I can and cannot talk about you and feel comfortable with others dealing with the memory of your death. I think, personally, it takes a lot of guts to talk about you. You know I’m laughing because you would talk about yourself all day long.

I could go on and on, but it’s now 3:50 AM and if I have a migraine tomorrow because I did this, your dad’s gonna kill me. And the dogs are getting restless because I’m talking. Thanks a lot buddy, now I’ll never go back to sleep. I guess this is getting me back for all the nights that we ate oatmeal together at 3 AM and I did your laundry.

We (the family) are all close to the heart of God, and my prayer is that He will be even more merciful during these next seven months as we walk through moment by moment that we experienced together until your last breath. Your Aunt Donna and I talked about that yesterday, the day you took your last breath, who was there, how she felt. I have given my book about you two some of my coworkers and they have a fear of reading it because of sadness. They have no idea the many moments that we spent in laughter. I never thought the memories of laughter would be in the forefront of the memories of such heartache, but I’m SLOWLY getting there.

This song just came to mind that your ducky (Madison) has sung in memory of you and the words are so fitting.

When the pieces seem too shattered to gather off the floor
And all that seems to matter is I don’t feel you anymore
When I’m over come by fear and I hate everything I know
If this waiting last forever, I’m afraid I might let go
I need a reason to sing, I need a reason to sing
I need to know that you’re still holding the whole world in your hands.
Will there be a victory
Will you sing it over me now
Your peace is the melody
You sing it over me now
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that you’re still holding the whole world in your hands
That is a reason to sing!

Love, mama.

PS It’s 5:50 am and I never went back to sleep! So I haven’t proofread this!

And we ate oatmeal just like we had in Hawaii!

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