Dance in the Downpour

Dear Gabby,

Today as you were busy giving sloppy open mouth kisses to your adoring grandparents, your Uncle Dan and I spent our day listening with our ears and digesting with our hearts a host of information, wisdom, and advice from writers who have already gone ahead of us. I am listening to these writers because I want to learn how to write my story and your Daddy’s story so it will not be lost, and that it can be a part of your story.

I’m sorry to say that what I discovered about writing today is very much like that first tooth in your mouth that is still stubbornly hiding behind your gummy smile. It’s there, but it can be quite a process of pain and it is very uncomfortable. And of course to help relieve your pain, you chew on coffee tables, people’s fingers and Mommy’s I Phone cord. It’s taken me a while to realize this, but you are teaching me to work through the pain of my writing instead of screaming about it. And I can only work through it by involving others into my story. Granted sometimes chewing on fingers is easier then chewing on people’s heartstrings. A physical reaction of pain is easier to see from a friend then an emotional reaction to pain, especially the pain in my own life.

I realized today that I have a lot of work and a lot of writing ahead of me. I love writing. I love writing about you and your Daddy and the small drop of knowledge I have of God in the vast ocean of who He is. I will always love to write, but I have to decide if I should still write on the nights when I am sad and lonely, or the nights when I am tired, or the nights when I am lazy. On those nights when you’re dreaming of that first taste of Mommy’s Reese Pieces with your new and long awaited teeth, I will be laying in bed wondering if writing with that much passion, vulnerability and work is really worth it? (I have to admit, it’s very hard to resist those cute beanie boo eyes of yours. Inching closer to me in such anticipation almost transforms me into this programmed robotic mom who would give you anything you wanted.)

So Peanut, if you see me this week sitting down at my computer, but produce a look of confusion, discouragement and anxiety, you will know that your Mommy answered her question. She answered herself; yes, it is worth the “hard” to share the story. It is worth the nakedness to have the open, unfiltered community. It is worth the risk of failure for the chance to love and to live as I have always been called by Christ.

One day, my daughter, you will have many adventures. You will have places that you want to go and things that you want to do. And the best things are when you get to play in the mud and rain and get dirty. Its easy to live in a partly cloudy, predictable and pleasant climate, but where’s the fun in that? Not just the fun but where is the joy, where is the wonder in predictable? I might regret saying this, but I give you permission to live and get messy. I want you to feel the wet and residual clumps of mud between your sinking toes into the earth below, I want you to see the masterpiece of beauty when you create your first finger painting, I want you to hear the cry of other kids who are hurting, I want you to smell the rain in the middle of a downpour, and I want you to speak the truth to your friends through fear and rejection and self-consciousness.

Things are very unpredictable right now and your Mommy feels like she is caught in a downpour. Many adults that I know do not like to get caught in a downpour of rain. Once you start caring about what you look like, you probably wont like it either. But your Mommy is learning to appreciate the downpour, like a child.  In the downpour you can play and dance and feel a freedom that is unlike any other feeling in the world. You just have to get past the heavy clothes which cling to your body, the standing water in your shoes announcing to everyone you’re presence by a “squish” and it reveals your appearance to others; disheveled, imperfect and messy. Is it worth it? Gabby, do you think it’s worth it for Mommy to dance in the downpour?

A perspective on grief and loss.


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Grief and loss are very weird emotions. As our pastor reminded us, it can look different and be different for all of us. What I have realized is that my grief, and I am sure this is true of others, has come in several stages.  There were many tears in the hospital and at home while Chris was still here. After talking to Palliative Care and understanding that Chris has a very short time, there were friends and extended family who came to see him.  For several weeks I experienced and heard each person say good-bye to Chris for the last time. It was hard. It was hard to say good-bye every time someone else did.  It was hard to fight against my emotions that Chris was going to die and I would have loss, but that he hasn’t died yet. It was hard to accept what was really happening, despite knowing in my heart and mind that it would one day. It was hard to not be afraid. It was hard at the end too. (My details below are only to help you have a little better understanding of my grief and pain in order that others will be comforted who have gone through similar situations. It is not for you to feel sorry or be given the horrid details)

For several days, 5 I believe, Chris lived longer then what his hospice nurses expected. He was ready and we all told Chris good-bye. We took shifts to stay with him around the clock. Some of his pain and nausea meds made him hallucinate and laying in a bed all day for several days was causing him to have bed sores. He could no longer stand or sit up without help. He could not hold his own bowels and had to wear a diaper. His feet turned cold from the blood conserving itself towards the organs. He then could not lift or more his legs. He was coherent right until the end. Things were confusing and the lack of blood circulation created some disconnect but when you said, “I love you,” he said, “I love you” back. There were many times when Chris thought it was time and we would all gather around and say I love you and good bye. We would hold his hands and cry. We would pray. And Chris’s body would keep fighting and it wasn’t wanting to quit. His last 8 hours were painful and uncomfortable. All night he was very restless. He would tell whoever was up with him that he had to sit up. Then he would immediately want to lay back down. He wanted pulled and turned and readjusted. When it became my shift at 6 in the morning, he was in pain and was trying to breath through it. His heart rate was high because of the lack of blood. Chris, for several weeks, was bleeding internally. After 1 then 2 then another 2 ml of Roxanol (liquid morphine) and the pain wasn’t subsiding, I knew we were very close, but I was focused. I was terrified that he would be in uncontrollable pain at the end. I gave him another 4 ml and we were at our absolute max. We held hands and I tried to keep him comfortable. When his mom got up and came out to sit beside him I called hospice to have a nurse come out. I wanted someone’s help to keep his pain under control. I got off the phone and came to kneel down beside his bed. I could tell he was still in pain despite that he never complained. Then he said, “This is it, its time for me to go now. I’m going to sleep, I love you.” I said, “I love you too.” I watched him breath as he tried to rest and then his mom and I started talking. A couple minutes later, with both of us beside him, I looked down at Chris sleeping and there was blood draping from the corner of his mouth. His chest rose and fell, never rising again.

My grief was loud and uncontrollable. For 10 minutes I cried hard, clinging to his hand. I could hear myself in my sadness, and I just couldn’t stop myself. Everyone who had gone back to bed was back up and around Chris, each grieving in our own way. Then I just had this release, and I became calm. I stepped away grabbing a tissue. I left to take a shower, and in that moment I felt tremendous loss but also an equally felt relief that it was all over. The struggle was done and the race was completed.

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From the time of Chris’s death until his memorial service I became focused again. It was Chris’s goal that even after he was gone, Christ would be proclaimed to those who attended his memorial. I worked on obituaries, memorial cards, the selection of songs and the order of service. I stayed busy. I compiled stories and asked specific people to read at his service, including myself. Then the day finally came. I had been looking forward to it all week. It was Chris’s long talked about accomplishment. Then all of a sudden we were there and people started showing up and before I knew it we were walking in. In my hand was little Lorenzo’s hand and the rest of the bunch behind me. In what seemed like seconds we were already done with the first slideshow and friends were coming up to read. The entire day completely flew by. I was so tired at the end of the day but, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and couldn’t stop the intense feelings that it was all over. Only this time the feelings were heavy and painfully overbearing. It was all over and now my life has to go on with out him. Everything has been accomplished. His purpose was over. It was a long night.

It has been 3 days since the memorial service and each day is getting easier. There are still times when I cry and other times when I am surprised I’m not crying. I still laugh when my daughter makes a silly face and smile just as much as I did before but I am different. I have changed. Its not bad, its actually a very good thing. I have grown in ways that I feel like its been overnight. I am in a strange middle ground, a land between, but I am learning to find joy in it. I don’t want to be too distracted or busy and I don’t want to be lazy and discouraged.

I want to truly live exactly where I am, in the present. Not in the past and not in the future.

It is not very often in life that you have a chance to start over and seek a new direction, a new purpose. It is scary, but I am not afraid, because I am not alone. God is here and is with me.

It has to be a celebration as much as a service to remember.

This may sound strange but I am looking forward to Sunday more then I ever thought I would.  Yes, it will be hard to hear and see the stories and memories of your husband instead of him sitting right there beside you. And it will be hard to come up with an answer when someone asks me, “How are you doing?” It will also be difficult as an introvert, to be the center of attention, and my pain and loss as the center of attention. Despite all this, my heart is already rejoicing just at the thought of hundreds of our friends and family in the same room singing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Worship His holy name!”  I can’t wait for people to hear of our Savior who is still alive, Chris’s very reason for living and who he is with now. And I look forward to sharing with others Chris’s example, in both his life and death, of how to truly serve Christ.

The last week has been hard but good. When everything is quiet and I am laying in my bed its hard not to cry. I miss him and everything about him. Its also hard to not having him sitting beside me, making everyone laugh, when I am out with a big group of friends. Its funny how at first seeing and talking to everyone takes your mind off of things and then you step back and realize that it will never be the same. A part of you is gone. Yet, I have to be thankful that God and God’s people have really taken care of me. Many details and decisions will be successful because of friends, some who I know really well and others who I just met, who have lifted my load. Chris dreamed of a service after his death that accurately portrayed the gospel of Christ. It was my goal to help him make that happen, but I cannot take the credit for this one. Our pastor cancelled his trip to the Ukraine in order to be here to lead the service. A mom that only heard about what happened, not personally knowing us, created the memorial cards. A friend paid for the many many memorial cards! Finally, a really good friend has spent upwards of 30 hours in creating picture slideshows that will help people visualize Chris’s life and example.

It has to be a celebration as much as a service to remember. There will be many at the service tomorrow who are already part of the body of Christ and will both morn and rejoice. Chris is with God, our Lord and Jesus, our deliverer. He is where we all want to be. There will also be some who mourn and wonder how people can rejoice at such a loss. My hope is that through Chris’s life and story the message of God’s grace and love towards us will “make sense” to those who haven’t believed it and followed it for themselves.

I want to also remind you that if you would like to come tomorrow to celebrate Chris’s life, you are more then welcome. It is at Ada Bible Church. It is tomorrow, Sunday, February 23. Doors open at 2:00 Service starts at 3:00

8899 Cascade Road SEAda MI, 49301

Pray for tomorrow that the words and pictures and songs will all be used by God to bring about His kingdom. Thank you also for  so many of you who have been such an encouragement to me through your comments, your cards and your posts/reposts on Facebook. Its much appreciated!