Are We There Yet?

If I was behind the wheel on a road trip, it typically meant that I was headed either to a concert (usually One Direction) or a horse show. This also meant that Brooke was in tow. Road trips with Brooke were very much unlike the ones I’ve taken with her older sister. Trips with Megan generally comprise of short talks with music filling the gap. There were no gaps with Brooke. A background of music was overlaid with non-stop chatter.

What if I get nervous and throw up in the ring? Did I tell you about so-and-so? What if it rains and my saddle gets wet? Who’s my favorite this concert – Zayne or Harry? But what about Niall? What if the hotel smells? What if I can’t sell these tickets for better ones? Where are we going to see One D next summer? How much longer? Are we there yet?

These little journeys were peppered with little worries. Life’s journey is bigger and infused with bigger worries. Read more

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 God 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

Does the “Beginning” Ever End?

One of the things “they” say after losing a child is that the second year is worse. No way. I had endured “second years” after my brother, my dad, and others passed away. The first year is by far the worse. That settles it.

Fast forward 355 days or so and I can begin to see what “they” might be talking about.

I barely know what the next step is. I’ve spent nearly a year dutifully marking off each morbid milestone – One month – check; Two months – check; Brooke’s birthday – check; Start of a Fall semester with no Brooke – check; Halloween Horse Show – check; Thanksgiving – check; More birthdays – check; Christmas and New Year’s – check; Megan’s birthday – check; Mardi Gras – check; Gulfport horse show – check; and so much more. Yet, here I sit with the realization that – it doesn’t end. This is just the beginning.

The reality that Brooke is gone – it must seem fairly obvious, but the mind is a tricky thing. The mind gauges just how much reality the heart and body can endure at once. Even when we are sure of “reality,” the mind is there acting as a gatekeeper. Filtering out the bits that are too much for the moment. Saving them for a sunny day. Doling out reality in measured doses.

As the heart and body begin to bear the weight of reality, the mind piles on a little more until eventually the full load comes to bear.

If someone handed you and load and told you that you’d have to carry a 500-pound weight every day for the rest of your life, you’d protest that it is impossible. But if someone handed you just a few pounds here and a few there until 500 pounds was sitting square on your shoulders, it would be different. That’s what losing a child is like. That’s the nature of tragedy. Read more

You Can Take “It” When You Go

After several months in the hospital, the end was near. Aunt had only one desire in the end – she wanted to die at home. So, we brought her home. Hospice came. Family gathered.

It was Meg’s birthday (only 11 at the time) and another young cousin had a birthday approaching within days. What do you do? Read more

Life Doesn’t Feel Fair

My daddy loved little reminders. He carried the same old, worn pictures in his wallet for decades. Joe Rudd was the kind of guy who made refrigerator magnets to commemorate holidays. He wanted us to remember the moments after they had passed.

Daddy also liked books, poems, and pithy sayings. The sound of “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right” still lands impatiently upon my ears. One of his favorite poems was by Mary Stevenson. (Who? Trust me. You know this one.) Read more

Who wants to be the “King of Pain”?

There’s a little black spot on the sun today, that’s my soul up there
It’s the same old thing as yesterday, that’s my soul up there
There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top, that’s my soul up there
There’s a flag pole rag and the wind won’t stop, that’s my soul up there
I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain – 
The Police

“I’ll see your despair and raise you two gloom.” Doesn’t it always seem in this game of life that we are constantly “sweetening” the pot of suffering. A never-ending round of one upping our fellow players. Who wants to be the big “winner” anyway? Who wants to walk away from the table with a wad of woe – peeling each one back like a crisp hundred-dollar bill to spend on future rounds of “Who Has it Worse”? Read more

How to Fill the Empty Seat at the Thanksgiving Table

When tragedy strikes, it becomes a line of demarcation. Like the rings in the trunk of a tree, each misfortune leaves a permanent mark on our souls. There is “before” and “after.” Time marches to a different cadence in the Land of After. The calendar ticks off “should have beens,” “could have beens,” and “would have beens.” The calendar in the Land of After chronicles time with “milestones” and “firsts” nonexistent in the Land of Before. Read more