RSS

Tag Archives: bereaved parents

Created for . . .

strandeddanipettreyIf you’ve read my blog posts in the past you probably know that I love to read. When I was a child it seemed as if my parents took us to the library once a week. I have a few distinct memories of the Swanson Library in Omaha, Nebraska. From my child-sized view, it was a huge library filled with a treasure trove of books and resources. It stood as a playground in my mind. I remember the hallways and the room where movies were shown, the book drop bin outside in front of the library, the long counter where books were stamped for checkout and I have a very clear image of standing in front of a bookcase filled to the brim with fictional escapes to dreamlike places and lives. The library is a very vivid image of my childhood.

I’m an avid reader. One the genres I enjoy reading is Christian fiction. The authors have expanded my understanding of scripture and taught me lessons that have stayed tucked in the forefront of my mind because of the story wound around the theological message.

One such book touched my heart as the parent of a stillborn child. I’d long ago laid down the question of why realizing there would never be an answer good enough to satisfy my grieving heart this side of Heaven. But there is a second why question that had never been answered satisfactorily that has lingered in the recesses of my mind for almost 25 years. That question is why create Cole at all just to have him die before he lived outside of my womb?

In the last year, I happened upon the best answer I’ve ever encountered in a book called “Stranded” by Dani Pettrey. In the course of the storyline, one character asks another why God would create his son just to let him die. The character responds that his son wasn’t born to die, he was born for eternity. That one sentence just grabbed me and it hasn’t let go.

As I have pondered this explanation, the conclusion drawn has expanded in scope in my mind. You see, every creature created by God Almighty, not just the miscarried, stillborn, aborted, or baby who dies shortly after birth, but every single human being ever created was not created for this world alone. Every single one was created for eternity. We were all created for a forever relationship with God.

To use the old dot and line analogy, our lives here on earth can be represented by the dot, and eternity is represented by the line. It looks like this:

.______________________________________________________________

That word picture doesn’t always help me to grasp the concept of eternity. But, if I’m standing on a hilltop or the top of a mountain looking down at the valley below and beyond, it feels more real. In that case, the place I stand is the dot and the line is as far as the eye can see stretching out before me . . . and beyond. That idea blows my mind.

eternalperspectiveIn comparison, our earthly lives are barely a blip on the radar of our eternal future. This is why the scriptures can so boldly proclaim that our suffering in this world is nothing more than a light and momentary affliction.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” ~ 2 Peter 3:8

When we think about the suffering of Christ, the suffering of the Father while Christ was abused, spit on, whipped, and had nails pounded into his wrists and feet, we often think the time of Christ’s suffering was short. His absence from the disciples and His other followers a mere three days (prior to His ascension), yet from a heavenly perspective, Christ’s one full day of suffering in equivalent to 1000 years. If every year is equated to a thousand years then God the Father awaited the resurrection of His beloved son for 3,000 years. And Christ’s lifetime (living life as a human as opposed to deity alone) lasted 365 individual days times 33 years of life or 12,045 days. When you multiply that by 1000 years Christ lived the equivalent of 12,045,000 years separated from His Father, and has lived far more separated from all of His creation. I don’t know about you, but that’s a sobering thought for me.

We were created for eternity. It’s our free-will choice where we will spend those eternal days. A failure to make a decision is, in fact, a decision. Allow me to plead with you to make a wise choice. When you consider that a mere 33 years is equivalent to 12,045 days, that’s a lot of time spent in your eternal home. But 12,045 days will feel like 12,045,000 years when spent in hell as opposed to Heaven.

Yes, I believe in Hell. The Bible writes very vividly about it. It’s not the fun party place we like to believe it to be. It is a place of endless torment, isolation, sorrow and fear. Yet, we all have a choice. No one need go there.

No one.

Everyone spends eternity somewhere.

Where will you spend it?

 

*Photo credit goes to Karen Blankenship. Pictured is Matthew Sanders.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Faith, Grief

 

Tags: , , ,

If it walks like a duck . . . 

 

duckwaddle2June or July or somewhere around there—the first person went where angels fear to tread and recommended that I find a new perspective regarding my circumstances. It was a subtle message, but I grasped it right off. At the time I remember thinking, “Am I behaving in such a way that others feel the need to give me the positive thinking message?” The mere suggestion made me doubt myself.

Frankly, I thought I was doing pretty well considering I’d just buried two children and had been learning to care for my disabled daughter in new and challenging ways.

David, Gracen and I laughed a lot the first year. We developed a sarcastic and dark sense of humor and released our grief through laughter more than tears. But apparently, I did not appear joyful, which I’m guessing, outwardly looks like happiness. I wasn’t wearing the Christian mask of perfection. It didn’t take long for me to learn that it’s not okay to be real in the expression of my emotions and struggles. It’s not okay for others to be uncomfortable because of my sorrow. It’s not okay to grieve after a certain point in time.

The funny thing is, everyone has a different idea of when that point in time officially starts. At least one person determined that six or seven months was adequate. Most people generously grant you a year. After that, well, you’re not really grieving—you’re just throwing the biggest pity party known to man.

These days, if I can get out of the house, I am no longer walking in the grief-cloud. I can follow a conversation (better)—maybe even remember details important to others. I can laugh and smile and my life’s circumstances are no longer in the forefront of my mind.

No, they’ve moved to the back of my mind.

Always present.

Always lingering and lurking and awaiting a trigger so that they can move back to the forefront once again.

I can’t explain how it happened but at some point being a disciple of Christ was not a role I played here or there; it became ingrained in my very being. The same thing happened when I became a mother. Doing motherly things wasn’t always in the forefront of my mind, but being a mother became a part of me I was constantly cognizant of.

Furthermore, the role of a special needs mother became a larger and larger part of my identity as ARSACS progressed in Gracen and Katie’s bodies. Every activity had to be filtered through how it would, could, or could not be accomplished. From homework to PE, sleepovers and simple accessibility considerations.

Everything!

The point came where Gracen needed all her everyday clothing in the top two rows of her dresser because she could no longer bend over to remove things from the lower drawers without losing her balance. So when I say everything, I’m not exaggerating a whole lot. I guess watching tv itself hasn’t changed, but getting seated on the sofa to watch tv has.

Christianity, motherhood, special needs parenting all became a part of my identity. The same thing has taken place since the deaths of three of my four children. Bereaved parent has joined the ranks of my personal identity.

Maybe you don’t see me that way but if someone asked who I was, how would you describe me to another? By outside identifiers; my height, weight and hair color—then you add in the other things commonly known about me or any other individual.

ladysnakecharmerIn Christian circles, you wouldn’t identify me by my faith unless there was something very unique about it. “She’s the woman that worships with snakes.” I guarantee you, if anyone in my church family included snakes as part of their normal worship activities everyone would know who that individual was, if not by name or sight, then by reputation.

astonmartincarWe all have a reputation. Some good, some bad, most a mix of both. The lady who drives the Aston Martin would certainly be known in most communities. And we all have things that make up our identity. Very few disabled people don’t recognize their disability as part of their identity, but it’s a defining characteristic of that person. Just like being an athlete or scholar, doctor, or maid becomes not only how others identify them but how they identify themselves.

Bereaved parent is a role that’s identified me for almost a quarter of a century now. But three years ago it became a much bigger part of who I am. Being a special needs mom has been part of my identity for twenty years, but in the last five and particularly the last three it’s become a much bigger part of my identity.

If you were describing me to a group of people in my church, I doubt others would begin with the fact that I’m married to David, that I’m a stay at home mom. Most people would skip right over the physical descriptors and start right in with, “She’s the woman with the daughter in a wheelchair”, or “She’s the woman whose two daughters died in that car accident. You know—the one that happened the day after Christmas.” And any church member whose been there more than three years would likely know exactly who I am. People want me to move past my grief yet it’s the very thing they use to describe me to others.

We are what we do or what happens to us as much as we are our appearance. If you describe someone among a group of Christians as being unsaved, it’s likely that you might be able to identify that person by their outward appearance, the things they say and how they behave and treat others. If not, the Christians among you are probably not the best representatives of Christ.

bbirdoneoftheseThe point I’m trying to make is that you should expect behavior that correlates with the descriptors you use to define someone. The unsaved among the saved may be dressed less modestly. Their speech may be liberally sprinkled with expletives. You might see them drinking to intoxication, or find them bragging about things they’ve said or done that are not common among believers. oneofthesebbirdUnless you are dealing with an abnormally moral individual there should be recognizable differences between the lost and the saved. You expect them to fit the Sesame Street standard—you know—one of these things is not like the other. That’s the Sesame Street Standard.

So please, if you are going to identify me as a special needs mother or a bereaved parent, please expect me to look and act like one. It shouldn’t always be outwardly evident in my appearance and in many ways (after the first few years) it may not be as behaviorally evident, but I will always be a special needs mom. I will always be a bereaved parent. In many ways, I’m unique because of those aspects of my identity. But when I hear the move on message; I hear that somehow I’m not supposed to look or act like the individual you’ve identified me to be. There will always be some evidence of my identity. 

Always.

I may cry at unexpected moments, flee a meeting, avoid a wedding, miss church but I may also be the individual in the group who always notices the elderly adult that needs help with a door or carrying a drink. I may be more aware of the child left behind or flat out ostracized. I may be the woman known for validating the feelings of others. The one who can hear the good, bad and ugly and still see the heart beneath. I may visit people in the hospital that I don’t know. I may encourage the broken, answer faith questions for the doubter or burst out in anger at the mistreatment of another.

Expect me to be who I am, please! And if I surprise you, woohoo, that says a lot about my progress in healing. But if I don’t; judgment, criticism, accusations of self-pity, gossip, disguised as prayer requests or not, are not welcome. I’m not justifying sinful actions, just the normal emotions and temptations we all face.

babyduckwaddle2I am who I am.

I am who God created me to be.

I am who He knew I’d be.

He’s no more disappointed in me than He is in you.

Hear me as I whisper words of another’s hard-earned wisdom . . .

Let it be!

Waddle, waddle…

 
9 Comments

Posted by on January 12, 2017 in Faith, Grief, Muscular Dystrophy

 

Tags: , , , ,

A Look Back

There are days I choose  to look back. Not because I want to wallow in self-pity but because those days are just significant in our lives. Below you will find my blog posts from the first anniversary of Bethany and Katie’s burial and then the second anniversary. Today, I really don’t have anything to add. Some of the memories are fading. That’s not an entirely good thing. . .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    

Flashback – Anniversary of the Funeral

A year ago today Bethany and Katie were laid to rest. January 4, 2014, runs through my mind in bits and pieces like a slideshow of still photos – moments captured in my mind – interspersed with video-like footage – blurred images alongside others in sharp focus.
Memories of personal encounters during the visitation – my college roommate’s husband standing before me unashamed as tears fell from his eyes – impossibly young friends, teachers and school nurses extending sympathy – friends who had driven several hours, many of whom hadn’t seen us in almost ten years – a man who only identified himself as “a friend”. Bethany’s broken-hearted boyfriend and his equally broken-hearted mother standing alongside her sister and the soft pink tulips (Bethany’s favorite flower) we cherished.

Pastor Wes and Lisa meeting with us just prior to the start of the service. The comfort and blessing provided by the presence and participation of Bill Boren, our Pastor from Kansas City and long-time friend, who had performed our son’s funeral twenty plus years before. The music and message.

The sight of those two flower draped caskets standing in the cold air at staggered heights one in front of the other, the cemetery chapel providing a fitting backdrop at the graveside service. How I wish I’d taken a picture of that starkly beautiful, sobering and painful view.
The luncheon that followed – and the hospitality the church ladies extended in inviting and making welcome the numerous international students Bethany had befriended at UCA.

The discovery of the stroke my oldest brother suffered leaving him hospitalized at Northwest Regional.

The dark drive back to Little Rock with my crazy brother who was insanely willing to spend three hours on the road with us all because he wanted thirty minutes with Gracen before taking upon himself the responsibility of driving Bethany’s car another three hours back to Bentonville, in what had become inclement weather, before driving on to Tulsa planning to catch a flight home that same night.

Today was a day of bittersweet flashbacks of well remembered, sharply-edged pain, gently buffed smooth and soft by hugs of comfort and sorrow shared between friends and family. Yes, a year ago today Bethany and Katie were laid to rest and tonight Gracen will drift off to sleep in her over-sized Pineville Fire and Rescue t-shirt.

 

January 4, 2016


The alarm rings and David and I rise. This is not our home, not our room, not our en suite bathroom. How could we stay there without a single one of our girls?

We hit the showers and iron clothes and dress in fine, dark clothes befitting the occasion before slicing a pill in half and taking turns swallowing the pieces down. The room is bright but our hearts are not.

We pack up our things and exit heading off to do the thing we least want to do but cannot bear not to. It is January 4, 2014, and it is chilly out. Another day of moving cement encased feet, one in front of another. It’s day ten.

We arrive at the church and head to the sanctuary where we are greeted and hugged by longtime family friends, Jack and Sherry Erisman and their grown and married daughter, Maryann. We turn and enter the darkened and silent sanctuary; empty but for two identical flower-draped caskets, and pictures of our smiling daughters standing alongside. We walk slowly forward where I lay a hand first on one, and then the other casket, thankful we chose the bright, vibrant sprays of flowers, so reflective of Bethany and Katie in life.

I don’t want to be here! No, that’s not right. I don’t want to have reason to be here. I wish the nightmare would end. Wish I’d awake to find we’re pulling into our driveway ten days prior, December 26, 2013, at 3:15 in the afternoon. That’s the time we would have arrived home had we not encountered Troy Robins. Wish I could watch my three daughters, my impatient dog, O’rane and David climb from the van, stretch and tumble into the house dragging blankets, pillows, electronics and suitcases along with them. If only I could rewrite that day! If only . . .

Instead, Pastor Wes George and his wife Lisa join us and we prepare for the visitation that will be held before the funeral begins. David and I stand facing the rear of the sanctuary, to the right of the caskets which will not be open for viewing. Ten days is too long. And then the doors open and people begin lining up to share our sorrow and express their condolences.

That half-pill erased most of my anxiety over strangers and reporters. Simple gratitude remained for those who patiently waited to hug us and tell us of their prayers on our behalf – for those who stooped to place a shoulder beneath the cross we struggled to carry that day and the nine before. My focus was narrow. The person before me, David to my left and Bethany then Katie to my right.

It was time. Pastor and Lisa drew us back into the choir room behind the platform at the front of the sanctuary, gave us last minute instructions, inquired as to how we were holding up and gave us a moment to take a deep breath before the girls final service began. And the music started – “He’s Been Faithful to Me”.

We reentered the sanctuary and took our seats huddling together, holding hands and focusing on the music and the brief synopsis of our girls’ far too brief lives. Clinging to scriptures of faith and hope – scriptures of our loving God and an eternal future for our girls and for ourselves.

All too soon we were loaded into a car and driven to the cemetery where we found the girls’ caskets set at staggered heights with Hunt Chapel serving as a fitting backdrop for the faith we profess. A few final words were spoken, and then . . . we turned our backs and walked away, my heals wobbling and sinking into the grass as we crossed the expanse of lawn back to the car. We left our girls for the last time – the last time – in that beautiful and cold cemetery where nothing and no one would ever hurt them again. Oh, the agony of it!

My only regret is that I do not have a picture of the graveside service. The tent with friends standing and seated, the staggered flower topped caskets, the chapel and David and I standing before it all. It’s an important, albeit devastating moment of our lives. I’d like to have that moment under glass so I can slide my finger over it as I remember the beauty of the place, the beauty of the sorrow, and the beauty of broken hearts. Broken hearts are beautiful. They reflect raw love in the wake of incomprehensible loss.

I remember that day in graphic detail. The ride back to the church, the meal served upstairs for friends and family, the international students in attendance, the ladies who served lunch. I remember padding downstairs in stocking feet to load up plants and flowers to take to the hospital hoping to brighten Gracen’s room, hoping to share her sisters’ last day with her and so I could hold onto their beauty and fragrance until they were no more. I remember saying goodbye to family, changing clothes in a bathroom stall, a quick stop home and driving back to Little Rock. I remember the vast relief of seeing and touching Gracen again – still breathing – Thank God she was still breathing!

And as tears roll down my cheeks, I remember that day as if I am walking through it again on weighted feet with leaden heart as keening sounds claw their way up my throat to tightly clamped teeth and lips holding back the shrieks of pain and sorrow in deference to the now twenty year-old girl who lies on the sofa in the other room; oblivious to my journey down memory lane.

Yes, I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I think it will forever feel like yesterday.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Faith, Grief

 

Tags: , , , ,

No, No, No!

My heart lies in tatters once again as I hear of the loss of another son, another grandson. It’s personal this time. People I know and love . . . the second such family in two months time . . . it makes me nauseous.

Oh, how helpless I feel!

I don’t want to be there to help. . .

No, no, no!

I want to rewind the clock so this is not their present stunned and horrified reality!

I want to save them from this anguish like none other.

And since I can’t. . .

I want to draw them close and catch their tears.

I want to receive and heal their broken and distraught hearts.

I want to listen to every painful word and let them know they are loved.

That God still loves them—will still be faithful to them—that there are mercies.

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed because his mercies never diminish. They are new every morning; great is thy faith[fulness].” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23 (Jubilee Bible 2000)

There is no silver lining! Nothing will ever make this loss acceptable or justify it for the family even when a good work of the Lord is later revealed. Silver linings imply that this horrible loss can be wrapped up in some future good, tied with a pretty bow and completely nullify the bad. The bad is made good.  Mercies, on the other hand, are blessings within and after and in spite of any tragedy.

There are mercies!

He can take the shattered pieces of our lives and in time make something good and beautiful but still cracked and scarred for all to see. He can make us beautifully broken but never unblemished by the ravages of sin in this world.

And everyday from the moment of loss until my friends step into eternity there will be mercies.

Small mercies in the midst of overwhelming sorrow and despair.

God doesn’t promise to fix this in the here and now. He promises to draw close, to catch our tears. He promises to be faithful to us. He promises new mercies every day.

Here I sit several states away and I can’t ignore the parallel that lies before me. I am afar off but the wonders of technology allow me to be close via phones, social media, Skype, cars and planes.

In many ways I can immediately respond if my friends reach out.

But they know I can’t wiggle my nose and be in actual hugging distance instantly.

They know that God sees them, and responds immediately to their call for help . . . but at the same time they are separated from His physical touch.

Consequently, the bereaved often feel alone, abandoned and betrayed. Please don’t correct these feelings. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you feel the same? Validate those feelings! It’s not sinful to feel any of those things. Hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

“My soul has been cast far away from peace; I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished And so has my hope and expectation from the Lord.”~ Lamentations 3:17-18 (Amplified Bible)

In many ways grieving families are simply inconsolable.

They don’t want to be consoled . . .

They want to go back!

Back to the moments before their lives were so tragically changed.

Three years later I can testify to this truth:  while life moves relentlessly forward there are parts of a parent’s heart that stand still in shocked horror indefinitely.

How can this be?

Surely, this is not real?

I’ll wake up from this nightmare!

God, please let me awake from this nightmare! 

Let it all be a terrible dream . . . a horrible mistake.

Please God, take this cup from me!

Yet the die has been cast and lives have unraveled in unimaginable ways.

Every sight thereafter will be seen through a lens of grief. Every written and spoken word filtered through grief. Every joyous event that follows will not be felt with pure, unblemished joy as in the past but will be bittersweet—tainted by the fact that you are no longer whole and you long for the presence of the one out of reach.

Faith will be shaken.

Minds fogged by confusion and fear, anger and frustration, and a sorrow so deep they will never find its limits.

They are shattered.

Not merely broken.

Utterly shattered!

Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not. ~ Jeremiah 31:15 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Mourn with those who mourn!

Weep with those who weep!

God’s mercies will be new every single morning.

He has His job; we have ours.

Today, once again, I mourn for and with others. Won’t you join with me and carry those who grieve before the throne of grace?

Anguished prayers for parents, siblings and family as a whole rise in begging supplication for God’s mercies to rain down—for His presence and love to wash over every shattered heart—for this to be nothing more than a terrible dream!

The desperate prayer of my heart to see faith made sight is far more urgent today.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cry for help! Do not ignore my sobbing! For I am dependent on you, like one residing outside his native land; I am at your mercy, just as all my ancestors were.” ~ Psalm 39:12 (NET Bible) 

If you know of a bereaved family, please pray them through the holidays. If you don’t, please pray for the VanGulick, Vickers and Williams families who will each be missing their son, sibling or grandson while others gather with intact families and celebrate together. These families are secure in their confidence that Harry and O’rane will celebrate Christ’s birth in His presence; but their hearts will ache with the absence of their presence (as my friend Melanie is known to say). Please cry out to Jesus on their behalf!


*Follow the link below to read more about the beautiful sculpture pictured above. It’s only a few brief paragraphs.

Rachel Weeping for her Children Sculpture

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on December 15, 2016 in Faith, Grief, Links

 

Tags: , , , ,

How to Discourage a Suffering Friend » Vaneetha Rendall

The holidays are upon us and we will soon be interacting with friends, family and acquaintances that we don’t see on a regular basis. As a result, you may find yourself visiting with a suffering friend or family member–wanting to be supportive and encouraging but not really sure how to go about it. There are some common phrases we’ve all used, but they aren’t always received in the way we intend them to be. Therefore, it’s probably more important to know what not to say and why.

I encourage you to read this article by Vaneetha Rendall. The information is worthwhile anytime, but it might make your holidays more enjoyable for everyone if you read it in advance of the typical get togethers common this time of year.

Below is a teaser and a link for the article. I hope you will take the time to follow the link and read this informative article – for yourself, and for the suffering people you love.

“What’s the best way to discourage a suffering friend?

I can tell you what I’ve done.

I’ve told suffering friends about how other people are going through more painful trials. I’ve given examples of how brave, godly and optimistic these other people are. I’ve freely doled out advice, even mini-sermons, about how their horrible situations will turn out for the best. . .”

Source: How to Discourage a Suffering Friend » Vaneetha Rendall

 
Comments Off on How to Discourage a Suffering Friend » Vaneetha Rendall

Posted by on November 21, 2016 in Adversity, Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief

 

Tags: , , , ,

Present Tense

I recently began a post with the intention of talking about one thing and ended up writing about something entirely different. Maybe the Holy Spirit had a hand in that.

Regardless, as I looked back thinking I would begin the the second post a new way, I just couldn’t determine a more appropriate introduction for either subject. So bear with me please, if you think you’ve read this message before—because you have—at least the initial part of this post. But your final destination will be an entirely different place, and looking back, I hope you will consider both worthy of thoughtful consideration. So here we go . . .

simple-present-tenseI have found in recent times that I have begun speaking of Bethany and Katie in the present tense.

It just feels right.

And . . .

The Bible tells us that we are eternal beings.

 

One day, sitting in the sanctuary of our home church, Pastor Wes George said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “We all spend eternity somewhere.”

This was before Bethany and Katie died.

And you know, he didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but the way he framed it, just seemed to boil it down to a profoundly powerful succinct message of truth.

We all spend eternity somewhere.

If I believe that truth, and I do, then this statement is also true:

In spite of the death of the body, life goes on; for the deceased.

Because we are mere mortals and cannot look beyond the veil to see life in eternity play out, we think of death as the end.

But its not.

Satan wants you to believe that’s true.

But . . .

Jesus conquered both death and the grave.

There is more to this world than the eye can see and ears can hear. More than any of our senses can catalog and identify.

There’s more.

Much, much more.

goethe-quote-the-soul-is-indestructible-and-its-activity-willThis is why believers do not grieve without hope. Faith and hope do not prevent the pain and suffering death brings; they give us a reason to continue on—something good to look forward to. I don’t know about you, but I need something good to look forward to with anticipation. I still fight with discouragement and even despair, but in the end, I have an unwavering confidence in the hope of Heaven.

So, I intentionally choose to speak of my deceased children in the present tense. I also speak of the deceased children of other bereaved parents in the present tense when I converse with them online for two reasons. First, their children live on, just absent of the earthly shell by which we commonly identified them. And secondly, while we can’t see or be a part of the daily lives of the children we’ve lost, those children have a legacy here in the world we reside in that lives and breathes on in the lives of others.

One of a bereaved parents biggest fears is that their child will be forgotten or deemed irrelevant by society at large. And you know what? It happens every single day. Family and friends cease speaking your child’s name. Time moves on. People forget the significant events in others lives as their own issues demand precedence.

I can’t tell you how many times a friend has said to me, “I’d forgotten you had a son.” It’s been twenty-four years and I understand that very few people ever actually saw my son in the flesh. They had no interaction with him at all and they have busy and demanding lives as well. Remembering my stillborn son is not a reasonable expectation even if it hurts when those we share deeper relationships with forget.

leaving-a-legacyAdditionally, many a friend was not present during my pregnancy. We met after Cole’s birth and burial. And when we moved into our new community and made friends, I told the people I met that I had three children. It’s more work than I want to routinely take on to recover a conversation gone south when others discover the tragic death of my son. And frankly, I’m not the most socially adept person out there.

It should be noted that I, like many bereaved parents, struggled greatly with how to answer the question of how many children I have. (*A footnote regarding this question can be found at the bottom of the page).

So yes, children get forgotten. And sadly some, especially those lost by miscarriage, stillbirth, or death shortly after birth are deemed irrelevant which is no great surprise when you consider the cheap regard with which life is held in this day and age.

Every life is relevant and valuable and carries forth a living legacy. Some leave a smaller footprint than others, but each one impacts their world. Even miscarried and aborted babies have a legacy.

You see, every child conceived impacts the lives of those who come in contact with them in some way or another. I would not be the neurotic (smile) woman I am today had I not conceived Cole, Bethany and Katie. Each one of my children changed me; shaped me. They’ve individually and together changed the way I think and interact with others. They’ve helped to refine my faith. They’ve taught me about joy and sorrow and the value of a sense of humor. They’ve increased my understanding of others, made me more caring and generous—more empathetic.

Cole’s footprint is much smaller than Bethany and Katie’s. Bethany & Katie both interacted with the world to a far greater degree. They’ve touched and impacted the lives of every person they ever came into contact with to one degree or another and their individual legacies will be carried forward. They may have contributed to an acquaintance’s overall self-image by a single act of kindness or a rude rejection. The smallest interaction can result in enormous life changes for an individual and then carry on to all the people they later interact with – good or bad.

legacyinpeopleAs a result, the children with the shortest of life spans can also carry great legacies. The child aborted or miscarried, changes their parents. The life of a child that dies in utero or shortly after birth of a disease, for example, may carry forth a legacy of treatment that prevents the death of a multitude of children the world over.

In spite of the fact that the earthly shells belonging to three of my four children have died, my children live on in and through me and the people they encountered in life. They also live on in the eternal unseen world and so I choose to behave as such. Check out this dialogue from John chapter 11 verses 23-26 between Jesus and Martha following the death of her brother Lazarus:

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

I believe this.

So please, don’t freak out, or correct me if you hear me refer to Cole, Bethany or Katie in the present tense. I’m not crazy, delusional or in denial.

I’m enlightened.

I hope you are too!

 

*Bereaved parents are never comfortable with leaving any of their children unacknowledged which equates with a lack of value or worth and that my friend, is absolutely repulsive to a grieving parent. So bereaved parents adopt various answers to that simple question.

Some give the exact number and deal with the fallout when follow up questions are asked and the death of their child is eventually revealed. Some state only the number of their living children. Many answer with how many they have here and add the number of children in Heaven. And others base their response on how much or little they will interact with that individual in the future.

However they choose to respond should be respected by friends, family and acquaintances. The opinion of others is irrelevant. It is not okay to tell a bereaved parent that they should not count their dead child because it makes others uncomfortable. If that how you feel, suck it up and keep it to yourself. Don’t add to the burden the bereaved already carry by forcing your opinions or convictions upon them. It is also not okay to tack on to a conversation the death or means of death of a child mentioned or left out of the count. By doing so, you are tossing the bereaved into a situation they may not be prepared to deal with. Recognize that this everyday question has become one that reveals vulnerabilities not normally laid open with anyone outside ones closest relationships.

Please demonstrate the utmost respect for the parent’s choice in responding to the question of how many children they have; it’s disrespectful to do otherwise.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

Tags: , , ,

Another Birthday in Absentia 

Today, November 2nd,  is the date of Bethany’s 23rd birthday. I have nothing to give her except maybe a moment of recognition – of remembrance. The hour of her birth was recorded one hour and one minute after the hour of her brother’s. I’m not sure what significance that holds, if any at all, but it’s a detail I’ve always held onto.

The doctor who delivered Cole, delivered Bethany. The nurse who assisted with Cole’s birth, assisted with Bethany’s. That meant a lot to me. The nurse was actually assisting another patient and saw my name on the labor & delivery whiteboard and traded patients in order to be my nurse. I felt as if these were gifts God gave to David and I. Maybe a gift to the doctor and nurse too – it’s no fun to help a mother deliver their stillborn child. Medical professionals carry wounds too. So I like to think God overlaid a bad experience with a good one for all of us.

Bethany was named Bethany Joy, but I later wished we’d hyphenated her name. A good family friend bought her a sippy cup with her name and it’s meaning when she was very young. Bethany was not excited to learn that Bethany means ‘House of poverty.’ I liked to tease that the full meaning of her name then was,’House of poverty and joy.’ If her name held true she would be joyfully poor. Much better than bitterly poor!

Bethany was a sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway at the time of her death. It was a long time later when I heard that the school paper published an article about her death. It was even longer, on the second anniversary of her burial in fact, when I actually saw the article. 

So on Bethany’s third birthday in Heaven, here is the article her school paper published (keep scrolling down to read the article):

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 1, 2016 in Grief

 

Tags: ,

 
%d bloggers like this: