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Lanterns & Stones

IMG_0276Preparations for this day, the second anniversary of the girls’s death, started a few weeks back. We ordered a package of Chinese Sky Lanterns and emailed family informing them that we intended to bring them to our Christmas celebration. The family was gathering on Christmas Eve and we wanted to give everyone a chance to write a message on a lantern, in preparation for flight. We also invited family to join us for the launch, December 26, 2015, at approximately 2:45 p.m. – Bethany & Katie’s heaven date and time.

In early afternoon it began to mist. The forecast for rain left me anxious. Following the news that our daughters’ fingerprints were not available so we could order a much desired memorial necklace for me and key chain for David, being able to launch the lanterns on the day of the girls’ death took on an increased level of importance for me.

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Family gathered at my in-laws home and we caravanned to the launch site. By the time we arrived, it was still misting and what had been a calm day had turned into a gusty day. ┬áThe manufacturer’s instructions said to choose a calm day and to have water or a fire extinguisher handy. We gave it a valiant effort, attempting to light a test lantern (one without a message) but it was not to be.

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We thanked the family for coming out and dispersed quickly because it had gotten considerably colder. On the way home, I looked over at my husband and quietly asked, “Are you disappointed?” (David doesn’t volunteer his feelings. If I want to know, I have to ask). A simple “Yes” was his reply.

“I am too, but you know, I’m not surprised, and not because of the weather. I guess I’ve grown accustomed to disappointment.”

And I have, but disappointment cuts much deeper when your hopes are tied to your dead child. Every dashed hope feels as if God is allowing you to be repeatedly kicked while you are down. It may be unreasonable, but then emotions are frequently illogical under the best of circumstances, and the anniversary of your child’s death is by no stretch of the imagination the best of circumstances.

The lanterns remained in our vehicle. No sense unloading them only to have them be a visual reminder of our disappointment every time our eyes landed upon the box in which they were shipped. They would go home with us the next day. Maybe we could try again on the anniversary of burial, I thought. It would be an equally fitting day, but that did not happen either.

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The truth is, we are destined to be disappointed over and over in the years to come. We will encounter big and small missed opportunities; there’s just no way to avoid it because Bethany and Katie are forever lost to us for the remainder of our days.

So maybe, it’s not a bad thing that I wasn’t surprised by the aborted lantern launch. Painful as it might be, I need to have realistic expectations where my girls are concerned. Even when the plans I make are a resounding success, they will still be bittersweet because my heart will always long for Bethany and Katie’s presence. Choosing to acknowledge circumstances that might derail my hoped for plans, will guard my heart from bitter disappointment. I need to protect my heart because it is considerably more vulnerable than it was in the past. I need to prepare for deferred hope because I don’t want to live a life underscored by constant sadness.

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If I picked up a stone and painted upon it’s surface the name of each and every disappointment I suffered through and stored those stones in a glass jar placed in a prominent location in my home where I’d look upon them every day; the constant visual reminder would surely result in bitterness and resentment toward God. However, if I placed those same stones in a lidded wooden box and set them in the same location, my response to those disappointments would be much different. I would no longer be able to see the evidence of my many disappointments. The same number of stones would accumulate in each container, but the lidded box would conceal exactly how much disappointment I’d suffered while the glass container would reveal the same information. One container demands you keep record of every perceived wrong, the other encourages you to release those over time. There’s nothing wrong with naming your disappointments. Doesn’t the Lord ask us to cast our burdens upon Him?
Satan encourages us to keep score. God invites us to surrender our disappointments to Him. Satan encourages dissatisfaction. The Holy Spirit helps us carry the weight of our disappointments until His supernatural work enables us to recognize them for what they really are; light and momentary afflictions.

So while I’m disappointed that my plans fell through, I will look for another launch date. Does it really matter that those lanterns light the sky on the day of the girls’ deaths or burial. Not so much, because I miss them every day. I don’t need to wait for a significant date to light up the sky displaying our love and longing for Bethany, Katie and Cole too.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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Dread & Anticipation

(Originally posted on Facebook 10/11/14)
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The next three months are filled with the dreaded firsts that the bereaved anticipate with trepidation – birthdays, holidays, and the anniversary of the death itself. Having previous experience grieving the loss of a child, I have found that for me personally, the anticipation of the holiday or anniversary, is often worse than the day itself. Even so, while that means the holiday or anniversary is bearable, the days leading up to them are generally characterized by an undercurrent of sadness. It’s a time where emotions normally tamped down bubble to the surface far more easily resulting in anxiety, primarily regarding the ability to keep my emotions in check in public settings. Therefore, the most notable manifestation of my anxiety will likely be a silent withdrawal from unnecessary activities.

Such an absence does not signal the inability to cope with grief in a healthy manner, but rather a desire for both privacy and an awareness that a display of emotions often makes others very uncomfortable.

In addition to the normal grief triggers the upcoming months hold, on the 23rd of this month, just four days after what would have been Katie’s 17th birthday, the first of the criminal legal proceedings begin. The McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney has convened a Coroner’s Inquest. Inquests are rare legal proceedings. A jury of six is selected and witnesses are called to testify.

The purpose of an Inquest is to determine cause of death when death occurs under suspicious circumstances or by violence. The jury decides if the death was natural, accidental, suicide or murder and if “culpable conduct” contributed to the death. Proving a “culpable mental state” is required in order to gain a conviction for involuntary manslaughter. The jury’s decision as a result of the Inquest will determine if the Prosecutor will file misdemeanor or felony charges against the driver responsible for the accident.

The attorney who is handling the civil litigation (our personal attorney), has told us he expects misdemeanor charges will ultimately be filed and that we can realistically expect the court case to be completely resolved before the end of the year.

So, the next three months will likely be emotional and somewhat stressful. While I know God has a purpose and a plan, that He will see us through every birthday, holiday, the anniversary of the girl’s deaths and the prosecution and sentencing of those responsible, I am also painfully aware that my thoughts are not His thoughts and that His ways are not my ways.

God’s goals are in many ways far more simplistic than mine. His highest priorities involve reaching and redeeming the lost, and conforming the saved into the image of Christ, which sometimes involves time spent on the Potter’s wheel and/or in the Refiner’s fire.

I, on the other hand, AM NOT HOLY! While I too am interested in the salvation of the lost and being conformed into the image of Christ, those goals, if I’m completely honest, are not always, and maybe not even frequently, at the top of my priority list. I am distracted by worldly things, worldly hopes and dreams and sometimes I rebel against or even resent the means God uses to achieve His goals (I’ve heard that still small voice whisper, “Janet, why do you kick against the pricks?”), and sometimes I simply acknowledge His plans with little more than weary, disappointed, resignation; which I guess most accurately expresses how I have viewed the circumstances I have found myself thrust into over the last nine months.

In spite of how I personally feel about God’s most recent intrusion into my . . . Uh, I mean, in spite of how I personally feel about the means God has chosen to achieve His goals (which I believe extend beyond my immediate family), I am completely confident that the Holy Spirit is actively performing a spiritual work within me that God highly values. And one day I will value it too.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Faith, Grief

 

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