Grief School: Lesson #2 – It’s a Thing

It was just a fourteen-year-old Jeep. Yet, when it sold last week, you would have thought I was selling a kidney for the emotion that was stirred up.

Miles of wandering like a nomad when Hurricane Katrina left us homeless.

Miles of traveling back home to take care of a beloved Aunt who became ill unexpectedly.

Miles of horseback riding lessons.

Miles of soccer games.

Miles of tennis lessons.

Miles of hauling tack trunks and saddles.

Miles of road trips.

Miles of who knows what when that old Jeep was turned over to my older daughter at age 16.

Over 153,000 miles of my life was wrapped up in that Old Jeep. What’s the big deal? I’ve sold and traded vehicles without so much as the bat of a lash. Why was this time so different?

Here’s something you need to know about profound loss. At the moment of loss – odd, unexpected attachments form instantly. Sometimes, you don’t even know that they’ve formed until something threatens that invisible bond – like selling an Old Jeep.

Anything and everything that represents a link to a lost loved one can take on deep (and seemingly illogical) significance. It’s all part of the paradox of loss.

Ziploc bags, vacuum sealers and freezers become strange bedfellows to the bereaved as we desperately cling to a scent that lingers on a favorite tee. A snack left unfinished. Half-empty (or half-full depending on your view) bottles of shampoo, perfume, and wine. 

What do old toothbrushes, deodorant sticks, dirty clothes, old shoes, a garage door opener and a stretched-out hairband have in common? A loved one who is now gone was the last person to touch them.

The towels left on the bathroom floor that might have been “the last straw” one day become the first in a string of precious memories the next. A source of irritation one day; a desperate connection to loved one the next.

So, what can we learn from these strange, unpredictable, and incredibly strong attachments? 

Ask – Don’t Assume

In our eagerness to help in the wake of loss – it is easy to make an innocent mistake. Don’t assume that the shoes in the entryway need to be “picked up” in anticipation of a houseful of visitors. Don’t assume that the open bag of Gardetto’s needs to go in the trash. Don’t assume that making a bed or washing towels three weeks after the funeral will be greeted with gratitude.

But do ask first. Some people prefer to have things picked up quickly. Others will want things to remain unchanged indefinitely. You won’t know until you ask. And chances are – they won’t either.

I get it. We don’t want to “bother” the bereaved. Who needs to make yet another decision when already blindsided with decisions that never should be made? We want to make things as right as we can for them. We want to make things “easy.”

Trust me on this one. Sometimes, we don’t even know that something might matter until we are faced with it. Finding out after the fact that something was moved, changed, “fixed,” or thrown out can be traumatic. That glass of water next to the recliner might be part of the last scene that someone shared with a loved one. Those shoes in the entryway might fool a broken heart into thinking that a loved one is coming home just long enough for the heart and mind to come into sync. That pile of laundry will carry the scent of a loved one much longer than you’d ever imagine. A sibling, a parent, or a spouse might find great comfort curling up in the bed that a loved one left unmade.

Some attachments make sense. Others don’t. And, the bereaved will be the first to admit that the intense attachments to seemingly meaningless items don’t make sense. It doesn’t have to make sense. Cancer doesn’t make sense. Trucks with jacked up tires and drivers who ignore the safety of others doesn’t make sense. Suicide doesn’t make sense. Drugs don’t make sense. Our reactions when these circumstances invade our lives doesn’t have to make sense.

One of the greatest gifts you can give the grieving – treading lightly and going slowly.  Give the bereaved time to process along the way so that well-intentioned acts don’t become additional trauma to a battered heart.

One note to my fellow bereaved – it isn’t the end of the world, if your spouse eats the chocolate square that had taken on special meaning to you. The sun will still come up tomorrow, if someone cleans the bathroom counter thinking that they are making life easier for you. It’s gonna be okay if the Old Jeep finds a home in another driveway.

The love that binds us to these odd little affections is stronger than our odd little affections. The memories are not controlled by the chocolate, cheese, shampoo, perfume, dirty laundry, old shoes, or Old Jeeps. Long after these things have lost their power, love will drive the memories. Love binds these memories forever in our hearts.

Dear Father, when we are the one who has suffered, thank You for sending others to comfort us, to pick up our houses, to make our meals, to take our turn with carpool, and so much more. When we find ourselves being the one to pick up houses, make meals, run carpool, and so much more, thank You for guiding us to be the best comfort that we can to those who are suffering. In the midst of these upside down, inside out situations, we need your Spirit to help both the bereaved and the comforter to make sense of the senseless. Remind us always that our attachments are not to the things – but to the person. And death has no power over the love that binds us to our loved ones because of your ultimate love for us through the sacrifice of your son, Jesus Christ. For this we pray – Amen!

P. S. May the Old Jeep’s new owner enjoy many miles of memories.

SDG

Motherhood is a Dirty Business

Except for the first Mother’s Day after each girl was born, I’ve tended to write Mother’s Day off as “greeting card holiday.” You could blame it on my cold heart and staunch distaste for anything sentimental, but that wouldn’t be a fair assessment (at least on most days). Read more

Who Does That?

Have you ever found yourself in conflict? Someone says or does something that hurts you – deeply. You are left wonder how to handle the situation. What to do next? Sometimes it is not a close relationship, and you let it go. You move on. Other times, moving on isn’t an option.

When this happens in my world, my initial reaction (too frequently) is revenge. A little taste of their own medicine. A little passive-aggressive tit-for-tat. (I’m a work in progress. What can I say?)

Then, once my initial shock, hurt, and disappoint pass, I tend to let it go. But not always in a forgive-and-forget sort of way. Sometimes, my attitude can look a lot more like “let it go” or “write it off.”

Read more

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

Many parts of the country have been experiencing higher than average rainfall totals. However, when I arrived back home to Louisiana earlier this week, I wasn’t prepared for the deluge that engulfed me. Not actual raindrops. Worse. I found myself twisting about in one of life’s “perfect storms.”

A leaky pipe approached from the East. We saw that one coming, and I had planned to address this issue during this trip home. Scheduling weeks in advance, I had one day – and only one day – carefully devoted to the leaky pipe. What I hadn’t seen were the squirrels approaching from the South. Apparently, a gang of squirrels that had made themselves quite comfy in the laundry room over the winter. There’s more. A dead car battery barreled in from the North. The old Jeep wouldn’t crank. I was on foot and at the mercy of friends until I could get it running.  These three events collided on my radar to form a Perfect Storm.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Read more

Gone Too Soon

Over the last week, our nation and the world became a little less dignified. A little less civil. A little less honorable.  A little less humble. A little less colorful. Well . . . it just became a little less. Our former president, George H. W. Bush (a/k/a “Bush 41″), has “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” (borrowing the eloquent words of another former president) After ninety-four full years, Bush 41 joined his beloved, Barbara, and their daughter, Robin, who passed at age three nearly sixty-five years ago.

Even though the Bush family is obviously saddened by their loss, it is so evident that they are also celebrating a long life, well-lived. As well, they should. President Bush’s life was filled with humility, humor, service, love, and so much more.

Celebrating life is so much easier when someone passes away just shy of a century. Read more

The Upside of Down

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 2 John 1:12

This verse seemed appropriate for today as I struggled between my self-imposed pressure of producing a typical blog post and being present – here – in the real world. This week – the real world wins out. I don’t have full-length blog post today.

But – I promised to share this journey with you. I’ve worked at being transparent on down days. It wouldn’t be fair to keep the “good” days from you. Today is one of those. In fact, the last few days have been sprinkled with a light-heartedness that has been elusive for quite some time.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time with various family members. We’ve spent time creating new memories. We’ve laughed. We’ve remembered. A few tears may have bubbled to the surface. Then, we laughed some more.

The downside of up is that tears are forever bound with our joy.

For only a few days this week – I am blessed to spend time with my daughter, Megan. These days are precious. These days are short. These days are hers. These are the days that I get to be face to face with her and make our joy complete.

These  upside of down is that our joy is forever bound with our tears.

A couple of things before I sign off. First, an update on Tahlequah and the rest of the J-Pod. They went MIA for a few days but were again spotted earlier today. She is still holding onto her lost calf. (If, like Megan, you have no idea what I’m talking about, click the link for last week’s blog.)

Second, thank you! At some point after last week’s blog, the mysterious thing that measures the inner workings of blog sites reports that “Dances with a Limp” has reached a pretty significant (at least to me) milestone. Over 5,000 of you have taken a step with me along this journey. THANK YOU

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

You humble me. You honor my baby girl. You give me hope!

 

SDG

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?

Good Friday 2017 was a fairly typical day – except that my youngest daughter had been taken from us just about four weeks prior. I stood in my kitchen chopping vegetables and let my mind wander with the warm breeze that was traipsing through the open doors. And, it hit me.

Let me back up for just a second. Faith, at least for me, has always come with nagging questions. Certain questions have bugged me for as long as I can remember – like – Why did God send his son, Jesus, not merely to die on our behalf but to endure untold suffering in doing so? Why didn’t the Father come and sacrifice Himself? And other questions have been renewed over the last year – like – what kind of God causes me so much suffering? What kind of God abandons me in my darkest hour? Where is this God when I’ve been kicked in the gut – again? Read more