Back to School-Examining the Past, Embracing the Future

As we wind down from Labor Day weekend full of activities at our local round-up and fair, I’m encompassed by a little quiet reflection this eve of the first day surrounds me.   I am exhausted from the hustle and bustle of early mornings and late nights. My days consisted of carnivals, nursing a twisted ankle, applying band aids to cuts, welcoming a spontaneous guest for the weekend, enduring the jaw dropping booby traps from my adorable five-year old, and did I mention the impromptu piglet that suddenly joined the family on Saturday.    Pig pen construction still in progress.  All I can do is laugh. Nothing really surprises me anymore.

Among the laundry, cooking and house cleaning to come, getting back on a schedule is something to look forward to.   Yet as I scroll through social media and texts, my mind is overwhelmed by first day of school pictures of all these children.

For a mother whose child has died it hurts.  Honestly, it’s bittersweet and sucks really. Part of you longs with envy at those parents of children getting to revel in the excitement of classmates, lockers and team sports and those whose kids are healthy and happy.  Of course we’re delighted for them, however, we grieving parents never get over it. While I am grateful for my other four children entering school, no matter how many years have passed, this time of year we are involuntarily given that dreaded reminder that our child is gone.

Today Lydia should be starting her sophomore year. Wow. That is so hard to imagine. However, I do find myself wondering how she would dress and do her hair. Would she wear make-up? Still love dresses? Be playing volleyball because of course she would be so tall?  Would she be driving?

I can’t help but to think of my life ten years ago.  Lydia had just passed away six weeks earlier, 7/16/08.  It was time for Hunter to start preschool.  I wanted to keep him with me, but knew he needed social interaction with kids his age.  Staying in his depressing dungeon of a home alone was not the best place.

Months of driving him eight miles one way to preschool, I would cry every morning on the way there and on the way back home, sobbing at the wheel as I felt the eeriness of an empty car seat behind me, saying softly to myself “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”    Sadly, I would drop him off, then weep and wail uncontrollably all the way home, crawling back into bed alone where I would remain until it was time to pick him up.  For months this was my routine.

Completely heartbreaking.

Yet I vividly remember those days in the trenches, nearly six years ago, home as a single parent to a two month old, a two-year old, 3-year-old, and six-year-old, while my husband began a new job and relocated to a new town.  It was crazy.

There were times when I didn’t think I could do it.   Working part-time while up to my ears in diapers and potty training, spills and refereeing sibling rivalry, while laundry and housekeeping didn’t stand a chance.  Reruns of Dora the Explorer and Barney the Dinosaur played incessantly.  Fueled by coffee and chocolate, daily mocha’s became my saving grace.

To say I was exhausted was an understatement. The circles under my eyes were evidence that could not be dismissed.  To say I didn’t enjoy it would be wrong, because I did.  But in all seriousness, it was so hard.

I used to fantasize about the day that all kids would be in school and I could actually have a moment to myself to do my own thing, to even clean the house and go to the bathroom alone.  To just breathe.

Baby after baby came, life was busy.  I put my grief on hold, focusing on these new blessings in my life. They were indeed a much-needed buffer to the pain I was holding on the inside.  Yet as the years progressed, and gradually each child entered school age, I was left with my baby who is now five.  The last couple years, we have enjoyed our togetherness, special activities and 1/1 time.

The day I had been eager for the last four years has arrived. Now my youngest enters kindergarten.  This little spitfire who makes me laugh all day, telling jokes, yet generously gives hugs and kisses, always wanting to protect and love his mama will be on his own.

Another chilling reminder of the day my Lydia anxiously awaited for, the first day of kindergarten she never got to see, her youngest brother is now experiencing.  Bittersweet for sure.

The day has come I am once again alone, but this time it’s different.  Looking back, I cannot believe how fast time went by. The day I begged and pleaded for in my desperate moments has arrived and now I am not quite sure how I feel about it.  In a way, I’m sad for me but excited for him.  The new world that awaits, he is sure to find fascinating.

I have come to a different kind of sadness. It’s not one of sorrow, but one filled with hope and expectation. Remembering where I used to be and seeing how far I have come, I look forward to starting a new chapter laced with endless possibilities, embracing change and knowing this journey I’m on is not my own.

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future-Corrie Ten Boom

In the meantime, I will enjoy what’s left of summer and eagerly anticipate the days of autumn to come. My favorite time of year.

No matter what season you are in, brighter days are ahead. Just hang on-one day at a time!

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

https://pixabay.com/en/users/Victoria_Borodinova-6314823/

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Sacred Words-The Sweeter Side of Grief

“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.” ~Elizabeth Edwards

The past two weeks I have received two heart stirring emails from people whose lives were touched by Lydia. Unexpected and completely random, I was caught off guard but in a good way. Today I wanted to share with you one that my aunt had sent a few days ago of her last day with Lydia, just a couple weeks before she died.

As I read her email, her vivid and picturesque descriptions made the pages come to life. I actually felt like I was reliving these last moments with her again.  Her quirky sense of humor, boisterous and sassy attitude, yet loving and gentle nature seeped through.  Smiles, coupled with a laugh and lots of hot tears appeared simultaneously.  Needless to say, this made my year.   What a gift.

Have you ever received letters or stories from others about your loved one?  Being on the receiving end, I know how valuable these sacred words are to a grieving parent.   We crave them. It’s like keeping that connection alive, to hear their name, and seeing how they touched another’s life.

So before you head off shopping, to the gym, or any other place I strongly encourage you to write those notes to hurting hearts, letting them know what their loved one meant to you. Stop hesitating and just do it-myself included. Think of the enormous impact you will make in the life of someone whose heart is full of sorrow.

The best gift we can give a grieving parent or any grieving heart, is to share those soul touching memories about loved ones.  This my friends, is the sweeter side of grief.

Here are beautiful words, etched with love from my aunt whom Lydia adored.  I hope you get to see her personality shine as much as I did.

~On the journey with you~

LYDIA GREER 2008
Oh to be five again…
            When we called ahead on Sunday, July 13th to let Lydia and family know that we were only 15 minutes away from arriving for our visit, Lydia and I agreed we’d start with a manicure. I had learned to keep a bottle of pink nail polish in the car because a few months previous we had a rainy day rendezvous at the gun show.  Wishing for some little girly-activities, we strolled table to table asking the vendors if anyone had nail polish, but no one had a display of beauty products.
             So on this summery day in Redmond, we arranged ourselves in the shade and brightened our fingertips with pink. Pink was THE color of that day…from her toes to her nose, I admired her pink shoes, pink shorts, pink sun top, and especially the pink roses in her cheeks. …and now we pampered our hands…all the while recalling the fun we had in deer camp with her hourly offer to freshen up my nail color. “Of course it needs that little chip re-painted”. Her funny-bone was delighted by talking her Dad, brother, uncles and Grandpas into having a bit of color on THEIR fingertips too! She loved her people.
            In a while, she joined the dinner preparations: setting the table just so, asking for help to turn the doorknob, “cause my arm doesn’t like to turn that way”, then shucking corn, snacking on cheese for the burgers and exclaiming “SIT BY ME! And then filling up on chocolate milk so she couldn’t get in one bite of her dinner…unswayed by predictions of night time hunger…she announced, “I’m full”
             The summer evening was toasty-warm for a stroll hand-in-hand around Uncle Danny’s neighborhood. “Let’s see if there is a house for sale and get one of those papers all about it. Let’s stop and visit everyone who gave me candy last Halloween. Let’s knock on the doors and ask each house if they’ve seen the dog on the poster that disappeared on the 4th of July. Let’s blow these dandelion tops and make a wish. Let’s wiggle through this fence and see what they’re building over there. Let’s go home and I’ll sing.”
            Returning to the yard and finding the guys sitting in lawn chairs visiting, she had a perfect stage. She plucked leaves from the big willow bush as “Tickets” to enter her theater and launched into her repertoire: Hannah Montana, High school Musical and her standard:  “…..I’m cool, I’m cool…Some people say I’m hot, but I’m coooool!” Her encore was a charade of animal actions and sounds as a quiz for the audience.
            Must she make time for a bath? Reluctantly departing to wash off the prickly grass of the outdoor stage she soon dashed back to report she had a little more time to visit ’cause  “Mom’s just laughing and amazed!! Danny’s gotta learn to clean the tub.”
            The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast out and once again I was honored with her wish that we could sit side by side. Ordering confidently, she subbed link sausage for bacon and announced, “yes, I eat the crusts” of the French toast I helped her cut.
              Afterwards, sending Daphne on her errand with the request for blue nail polish, Lydia explored our motel across the street and sat right up to the telephone to begin dialing her family.  Every number memorized for Grammies, aunties and cousins, she stayed in touch … if a phone was at hand, I learned she was ready to place a call. Since this time was pretend with phone cradled in her shoulder she listened, replying  “uh huh…uh huh…uh huh…” all the while taking copious notes.
            Back at the dining room table, drawing and visiting and tending to a pedicure, she pointed out her ruffled sun top for the day was a loaner from her friend…how nice to be the same size and share. I learned she had mastered the swimming strokes and “I don’t even need the noodle to hold me up now!” 
            Packing up to return home, we hugged goodbye, planning for another grand time together. Now, as I imagine God’s heavenly Welcoming Committee enlivened with the enthusiasm of Lydia, I must say it helps to feel good about arriving in heaven for our next Grand Time Together.  In her short five years, she learned to embrace us at a full run …her arms outstretched for hugs of joy. I know I wasn’t the only one she loved. It was her practice, and she made us all feel like a million dollars!
            Remembering her rosy cheeks which completed that snappy outfit of pinks clothes, today it seemed like pink roses were a good symbol of the delicate color and softness of Lydia’s happy face. 
            I watch roses grow from bud to full expansive bloom, bursting with beauty and then gone, the petals scattered away on breezes. I am sorry to see the flower go, but I know the petals will nourish the garden and help new beauty come to life. Lydia was a beautiful gift of God. She knew she was God’s child and that Jesus loved her. She delighted in doing the most important job God can give us…loving others. God bless her generous and accepting heart.
Auntie M’ loved Lydia…
LydiaHunter1

 

 

 

Cover image photo credit-Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

 

Beautifully Scarred

Whether it’s the large scar on my leg resembling claw marks from the barbed wire fence when I was 17, or the circular scar from the mole removed 15 years ago, or the jagged lines that reside on my upper arm from the car accident, scars tell stories of our challenges in life.   We remember the moments we were hurting and received the initiations into our permanent wounds.

Not long ago, I had my first appointment at a new dermatologist. As the doctor perused the moles on my body, he finally came to my left arm. Focusing on my shoulder, I tensed up as he worked his way down, running his hands over my jagged and raised scar.  My scar!  The scar that serves as a daily reminder of that tragic day.

 

It turned out exactly as I predicted it would.  Just an hour before, the scene played in my mind formatting my response to the question I knew was coming.

Here it comes…

“What happened to your arm?” The man in the white coat asked politely.

“It was a car accident,” I replied succinctly, not wanting to elaborate as I waited for the follow up that was sure to come.

“Wow, was anyone injured? That looks like it really hurt.”

Yep, there it came. The million dollar question.  Stumbling a bit over my words, I blurted out “Actually, my five year old daughter passed away in the accident.  It was ten years ago.”

And then, all I heard was a big sigh and “Oh…”  The poor doctor and his friendly assistant didn’t know what to say.  To break the awkward silence, I shared with them how God has blessed my life since that tragic day.  No other words were said.

And you know what?  It didn’t bother me like it used to.  Strange as it may sound, it made me feel good to seize this opportunity to discuss it and offer a bit of perspective on life.

For years I dreaded the hot weather, refusing to wear sleeveless tops, as it didn’t take long for an innocent conversation to navigate towards my arm. Was it that obvious? I suppose so. Subtle glances from others still happen today, and of course I notice every single one of them.

I’ve instinctively learned to casually change conversations or introduce a new topic, just to avoid the uncomfortableness of others. I guess I’ve lived with this for ten years now and it’s just become a natural reaction.

The other day, I ran across an old photo of our family weeks before Lydia died.  Instantly I noticed my arm.  It was exposed and smooth, perfect skin with no blemishes in sight.  If only I could rewind time, to feel my complete seamless skin, wrap my arms around my daughter, and have a do over never taking anything for granted.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  Now, my scar is a part of me both internally and externally. It represents my journey, where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, delicately balancing life in two worlds.  It represents a woman of strength and great courage, someone who has survived the unimaginable.  It signifies the old me, my life before Lydia died and my fierce battle fought and renewed spirit found in the years after. Quite amazing actually.

This morning while blow drying my hair, I looked in the mirror and saw that prominent reflection of the deep wound.  With gratefulness and unending love, I am thankful for this attention getting and humbling reminder of God’s grace.  Beautifully scarred.

With love~

Daphne

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