Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Missing him -

I have a million song lyrics that could write this better than I can tonight. I found myself wishing it was Friday,
just so I could pour out my heart and few would find it their opinion to say I couldn't. 

But then I remembered that God is God on all the days, and I am here for me. I am writing for me.

"And I don't know what to say, to properly convey the lines of this earth, the lines of your face.
I am small and unsure, but more and more I learn - there are no words for this." 
~ "Skyline Hill" by Jenny & Tyler ~ 

I've felt hurt all day. I've been thrown into a day I haven't known how to handle. I've been grumpy and unsure and quick to tears all day. And mostly, I've been missing Avery. I wanted so much all day to put up a picture of his adorable face and just title it "Missing him.". No one could fault me for that. 

Oh, how true it is that there are Bad Days and Good Days. Don't ever underestimate that statement. I don't. Because I have lots of good days, lots of really, really good days. And then there are the days you wake up and wonder how on earth this all happened and how we got here, and how do we survive today. There are those bad days. Days you want to scream and cry and throw things and be mad. 

It isn't that I've been dwelling on it, isn't any huge thing, it just was ... a day of ... hurt. I hurt today.

I missed Avery, with his millions of smiles and the way he felt in my arms. 
I missed Avery, with the joy I felt taking him to the beach I prayed so much for him,
and the laughter we shared when the cold May water washed over his toes. 
I missed Avery, comforting him in the backseat and finding his passie, and rocking him to sleep.
I missed Avery, with the knowledge that I was his Auntie, and he was visiting my world, and I - his.
I missed Avery, and the hilarious way he loved the Mickey Mouse we bought him. 
I missed Avery, with his beams of light-year smile aimed at every living girl in the universe. 
I missed Avery, and the way my shoulder ached from holding him for hours, but I didn't want to let go. 
I missed Avery, the way his Mama's eyes teared up as tears streamed down my face when I held him for the first time. 
I missed Avery, and his bald, precious head that I kissed a million times in that short weekend. 
I missed Avery, who in all 4 sweet, amazing months old, who had so transformed his parents lives into living grace. 
I missed Avery, and the knowledge I could buy him a hundred pieces of clothing because he was special. 
I missed Avery, and I missed knowing he was here

It is days like today that kick over the bucket of goodness and make you feel like all that will ever flow out of you for days will only be tears. It is days like today that you can't wait to be over, but don't want to wake up to the same thing the next morning and you want sweet dreams in the night. 

This morning I woke up panicked, thinking something was terribly wrong and wondering what it could possibly be. And then, all these....almost 17 months later, I realized it was just my heart reminding me that waking up will always feel wrong when I realize that he is gone. It just IS. 

No ifs, ands, or buts. It hurts and aches like I wouldn't ever believe. 

June 1, 2013 ~ Colorado

Mid-day, I gave up trying to be normal, and went with being real....I posted on Facebook that every time a new acquaintance friends me on FB, my heart breaks a little bit more because they won't know who Avery is and will inevitably ask who he is.
And that it really is the little things that sting every time

It felt nice to just be real with that little part of my world, with my friends. And then someone posted a funny comment on my sad status...trying, I'm sure, to lighten the mood. It didn't work. I sat at my computer and cried. 

Avery was the presence of mercy and the living joy of answered prayers. To his parents, to his family, to his friends....to me. Every time I thought of him, I would burst into praise to God for His great gift of Avery, I was overwhelmed at the thought of him, easily moved to tears of thankfulness for him. I was so thankful that he was perfectly fine, and doing so incredibly well. 

And then all of a sudden, he was sick, and not doing well at all. When God took Avery to live with Him....I was beyond stunned. We begged the Healer to heal, and He said No. He said Not Here. There are no words for that. There still are no words for it. 

I wanted it here more than I wanted to live another day. 

My secondhand grief could not be higher if it was my own true nephew or family. 

And it is hard not to feel robbed. I had 5 short days with him, and lots of FB pictures, and it flew by, just like *that*. Like the snapping of fingers, 16 months - unbelievably fast. And now again, another 16 months. I'm still reeling in that shock. I'm still crying over the photos of his face. 

I'm still missing him, and I expect that I always will. You always miss the ones you love, whether they live here and you are separated by distance, or if they live in Heaven, and you are separated by this life and the next life.

And now is not when you come up with words that do not cover this, or when you ask me if we were close, or how an infection could spread so fast, because I don't know. I don't have answers.

I just know that the God I love and trust is still the God I love and trust. 

And it aches that I have to explain over and over who this little baby is that I can't stop talking about. 
It breaks my heart that I must go through the details over and over and over. It is all I can do to hold it together and make it to the part of the story where I choke out that he is in Heaven with Jesus. 

It aches because I don't want to say what I must say, that I want to show you the latest photo of him,
that I want you to be able to know him, that I want to be his Auntie again and hold him again.
It breaks my heart that he is gone. And I know most of you didn't know him. 
But see in my eyes and my heart that I loved him to distraction, to the moon and back. 
And when you've heard how he came into our world, and how he changed my life and my prayers and how he made me long for Heaven like I've never known and how he stole my heart with his smile ... when you've heard it all, and I'm choking back tears, then let me remember him daily. 

Because he is honestly one of the most precious and wonderful people I've ever known. 
And I was missing him today. 

With love always,
~ Jemmie ~ 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Together -

From Lisa-Jo Baker, the Gypsy Mama"On Fridays around these parts we like to write. Not for comments or traffic or anyone else's agenda. But for fun, for practice, for joy at the sound of syllables, sentences and paragraphs all strung together by the voice of the speaker. We love to just write without worrying if it's just right or not. For five minutes flat."

Today's prompt: Together

~ Go ~ 

Ah. Together. 

Such a happy, lovely sounding thought. Sweet memories flow over me at the sound of it slipping off my tongue. Together. It's easy to smile at knowing we could be, will be, have been - together

Like Anne Shirley says in Anne of Green Gables"True friends are always together in spirit." 

So I go looking for pictures of all of us together, and I find many. It's hard to stop smiling when I realize how many I have, and it's also hard to believe that God has blessed me so much with each one of you....each one of you readers, and each one of you -
 my friends, my family, my community. 

Myself and one of my best friends, Laurie. Fripp Island, SC. March 2013

The bittersweet strikes its chord, but I was expecting that. 

There are those who I'd love one more "together" with, but I won't have for a very long time: 
Those baby togethers with Avery, his brilliant blue eyes holding mine with a touch of amusement. 
The teasing jokes and constant hugs with Barbara, if I got the rare chance to be around her. 
The long e-mails with Mrs. Young, and the very short conversations with Mrs. Sproul. 
The hugs and guitar songs floating over us at Thanksgiving when Daddy and Mr. Gilchrist played. 
The way my Grandparents each said my name a different way, and hugged the daylights out of me. 

The knowing I could BE together with them, if time or space permitted. It does sting.
But it stings less when I know we will have together time again. It will only sting for a little while, and then no more. 

And I find myself floating back to the smiling photos, the sunglass ones of the beach and the hilarious ones with the crazy faces that we probably won't ever blog, the holding hands and enjoying life ones....

But together isn't just nearness in a physical sense:

It is phone calls whenever you need someone to cry to, and your best friend picks up. 
It is long e-mails back and forth about anything and everything and life in general. 
It is a short walk or a long walk or a hike up a mountain, and your whining makes you both laugh.
It is the way praying makes you love people you don't even know, and blogs bring you close. 
It is sitting in the quiet with your Dad on a bench, not needing words.
It is hugging your Mom at the end of a long day, and knowing you are loved completely. 
It is remembering great memories with your sister and enjoying reliving times shared. 

It is living life, sharing memories. It is blessings, hopes, dreams, joys, sorrows, tears, laughter. 
It is love, it is tender, it is real, it is gracious, it is precious, it is sweet. 

It is my favorite. I love to be together. 

~ Stop ~ 

With much love always, 
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Monday, October 21, 2013

I don't understand Cancer -

"To all the wonders God will do, imagination's blind.
What He has made, He'll make anew, in the twinkling of an eye!
For death itself will be destroyed, swallowed up by life.
Because He is risen, with Him we will rise. We will rise." 
~ Dave Fournier (SGM 2011) ~

Today I received news that Jamie's friend passed away from a long battle with an aggressive cancer. I mentioned Craig in my last post. I'm so, so glad that he is whole and well and cancer free now. But I felt that infamous grief kick me in the gut and the tears have been streaming down my face for 30 minutes now. I've been praying for Craig ever since Jamie mentioned him after my "Grief & Love" post. I've been aching for healing for him, I've been begging for peace and comfort for him and his family, I've been asking for grace to meet them in unexpected places, and for rest to be easy. 

I'm constantly amazed how God brings total strangers and makes them feel like friends just because you pray for them. I've felt that for years for so many people I've never met, and Craig will go on that list. I know his family will probably never read this - but please, please keep them in your prayers. 

Last week found me 70 feet above a river, pounding out a rhythm of hope and ache and prayers for everyone with cancer on a bridge that faces towards the sea. Praying for Craig, for Kara, for the families I love where cancer has struck. Hurt and trust and fear mixed into these sentences:

I know how to manually expose a camera without even looking to adjust a photo while I take it -
but I don't understand cancer. 

I know how to swim with rip currents and I know how to survive my share of tumbles in waves - 
but I don't understand cancer. 

I know how orbiters and rockets take off and what it takes them to shoot from earth to space -
but I don't understand cancer. 

I know how to breathe deep and stop to think when I'm in a dangerous situation - 
but I don't understand cancer. 

I know how to dive into deep topics and bypass all sorts of "social rules" and just hug a stranger - 
but I don't understand cancer. 

I know how to put my thoughts into words and words into posts and journals and stories - 
but I don't understand cancer. 

I know how flats form and sharps meet and those chords strike that note that moves your heart in music - but I don't understand cancer. 

I know how to survive funerals and I know how they work and what loss feels like - 
but I don't understand cancer. 

I know how to trim trees, and I know how to paint the right way, thanks to my Daddy.
I know how to drive well and how to survive hydroplaning on a highway.
I know how to walk on trusses through an attic, walk on scaffolding and hang upside down with a flashlight.
I know how the waves of the sea move and can listen for breaks with my eyes closed. 
I understand and know these things and more.....but not cancer. And not death. 

Not why God takes some so young. Not why cancer seems to be given to the mighty, the special, the rare that make you want to be more than who you are. Not why cancer comes back after it was gone for so long, or why treatments fail.

I don't have any wise words about cancer, and I never will. I don't understand it, and I never will.

Yet God has never asked me to understand, and He has never asked me to try to figure it out. He is never frustrated with all of my questions and tears. He is patient with me, as a kind, loving Heavenly Father. Things do not change just because I question this reality. His loving will is still good and perfect and He is for us, no matter how much or little I can understand right now. 

And He does not ask me to wise, but He does call me to rest:
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." ~ Matt. 11:28

He calls me to abide:
"Abide in Me, and I in you." ~ John 15:4

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." ~ Psalm 91:1-3

"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever." ~ Psalm 125:1 

And I know that God has written every single one of our days before we ever were born: 
"Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written,
the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." ~ Psalm 139:16

Cancer is....unexplainable. Heartbreaking. Terrible. Striking to the heart of those we know. Cancer doesn't get little happy stickers and sweet endings and Pinterest quotes that make it all better.
Cancer rips away life in the worst way of dying.

But God gives life, and more than this life in one single leap - He gives LIFE everlasting. 

And oh, right now, walking through pain is realizing we are not seeing this through the light of Eternity. It is not what we SEE, but what we KNOW. One day, we will SEE. We must trust and wait. 

 Cancer has a way of instantly reminding you of everyone you've ever lost to it, and it's an unwelcome tide of emotions. I didn't do a very good job of riding that today, but I am so thankful that because my God has gone before us in all things, in every way that He could ever take us to be with Him, He has prepared with His love and grace to meet us.....that because of Christ and His mercy, I don't NEED to understand at all. 

Because at the end of the day: Cancer or Healing. Life or Death. Earth or Heaven .... God wins. 

"I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings." ~ Psalm 61:4

With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Heights and Sorrows -

It hasn't been an easy week
It wasn't an easy Sunday, and it has just dragged into the week. Sunday found me with a panicked heart during church, so I sat down and decided breathing was better than singing. Lord knows I didn't want to sing anyway. Singing meant remembering and remembering meant crying and crying meant leaving and crying meant no oxygen and no oxygen meant tachycardic. So no singing was fine with me. 

And no matter how much everyone loves that song, it still stings. It does more than sting. It twists a knife into my heart and cuts deep. I made it through because my moans were the same tune as the bass line on the piano. Nothing brings it back like that song, and I can't stand it. Can't stand the flood of memories that surround me like a shroud and won't leave. I spend the rest of the day walking in a fog, trying to forget. 

So it was not a good start to my week. And today has felt like one big.....good reason to cry. I'm sure 5 nights of nightmares haven't helped this at all. I can't put my finger on what exactly it is, but I wake up panicked and knowing something is terribly wrong. It's exhausting and hard and I'm done with it. 

Today I realized something new. My prior belief about heights was that I didn't like them. I think I just rolled myself in with that crowd, because I assumed that was the only way. Either you liked it or you didn't. But today I realized that I love heights, I always have. 

I love heights, I just don't like jumping from them. 

When I'm at a hotel, what floor do I want to be on? The top one. I love planes, and flying, and I'm sure I could sit on top of parking garages and watch the scenery for hours. My favorite peaceful place is as high up a tree as I can go, and then snuggling in and closing my eyes. But jumping down from a tree? Nope. I love mountains, I love climbing them, I love standing on the peaks, I love daringly getting close to the edge. But jumping off a cliff into the water? No way

I'm a huge fan of bridges, and leaning way over the railing, feeling the wind and looking far out. But falling from one? That terrifies me. And it was today that I realized I actually love heights, I just hate the idea of falling from them and getting hurt. 

It was a few hours later that I would realize what a great analogy to my life that is. 

Life before sorrow is like the mountain top peak, when nothing can touch you and joy is all you know. 
Loss is the free fall, with no parachute and nothing to slow you down in a wind tunnel of panic. 
Grief is the smack at the bottom, with the wind knocked out of you and no desire to get up, you just want to breathe and want to be back up at the mountain top before life tossed you over the edge. 

It was days like today that left me feeling completely inadequate and unwilling to peel myself off the ground and do this hard, frustrating, confusing life. I am tired of praying. I am especially tired of praying for healing when I'm 99% sure that the sweet people I'm praying for will be gone to Heaven before I am, and that my desperate prayers for healing will not be answered like I want.

It is sad and it is hard and I can't help but scream because I want it so much for them. 

And I want to share some of those here, in case you would join me in prayer for these sweet people: 

1. My sweet friend Jamie (firefighter Jamie and EmilyBrower's bestie since forever)...Jamie's fellow firefighter and friend is on hospice care after a long battle with a very aggressive cancer. He's 27. Please be praying for him and for his family, and for Jamie too. 

2. Mrs. Stiemann shared the link on FB to her blog, I went on over, and spent the next hour reading through posts and crying. I've never met Kara, but I sure want to give her a huge long hug and pray with her. She is an amazing woman, and the recent results came back - Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She's a pastor's wife in CO, and they have four adorable, young children. You can follow along with them here, at Kara's blog - Mundane Faithfulness. Please be praying for God's mercy in their lives.  

3. A hard anniversary is coming up for Avery's parents, John and Audra. Please be praying for peace, for tangible comfort and grace in their lives, and for those morning mercies to uplift their hearts daily.

Maybe you know just what I'm talking about, and have prayed your heart out too long and hard as I have. 
Tonight I want to share a song with you that has come to bless me during sad nights. 

And like every day, I go to bed, pray and hope and realize that in the morning, there will be new mercies and new grace and it will be just as deep for those who are aching to be healed. And in the night, the only thing that will comfort me is that it will not always be this way. That the King Who rules will take us to His kingdom, and we are promised LIFE always with Him. 

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

October 29, 2011 ~ Black Mountain, NC

You can listen to it HERE. The whole album is worth listening to! 

"Kingdom of Heaven" 
by Tyler Somers and Jennifer Somers (2011) 

"Where death shall be no more
No mourning, crying or pain, 
Every tear He'll wipe away
In the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Where nothing is accursed, 
a City with a crystal river.
The throne of God and of the Lamb
In the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Set your mind, your mind, your mind, on things above.
Set your eyes, your eyes, your eyes on the risen Son. 

Where there shall be no night, 
Nor need for sun to shine.
The Lord Himself will be the light
In the Kingdom of Heaven.

Set your mind, your mind, your mind, on things above.
Set your eyes, your eyes, your eyes on the risen Son. 

Behold, the home of God is with man (4x)

Behold, the home of God is with man, 
Behold, the home of God is with man,
Set your mind, your mind, your mind, on things above.
Let your heart, your heart, your heart, give Him all your love.

O let the thirsty come
O let the one who wants
Drink freely from the water
Of the Kingdom of Heaven."

Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7, 2013 -

Today marks one year since my wonderful, precious Grandma Florence slipped from this world to enter into Heaven to be with the Savior she worshipped and adored. It was a loss for us, and a celebration for her! I fully intended to write a huge post with lots of photos and words, and I couldn't bring myself to do it. To go through all the photos would just be too hard on me. I realized as I started it, and as I tried to get some of it done...that I was so tired. I'm tired of sorting through funeral photos, I'm tired of taking funeral photos and I'm tired of anything to do with it. 

Put tired and emotional work together and it usually leaves me in a crying mess on the floor. So I decided I would just let it go, after all, it doesn't really matter. What matters is remembering her and the JOY that she has known for a full year! It has probably zoomed by for her as much as it has for us!! 

And though this won't be a long post, I want to take a moment and thank so many friends here in FL, and from afar, who loved us through our sad days and served us in every way they could. The body of Christ is a beautiful, tender, mercy-filled thing in grief, and we've been loved so well. 
Thank you! 

Tonight a storm moved in, the wind whipped the trees and these dark blue, grey and white clouds obscured the sunset. I thought how like grief that was. Grief and earth are the clouds that obscure our sight of Heaven, but God and His mercy shine the sunbeams out the top so we can see the glories of His promises to us. 

I thought it was very fitting that it rained today, after all, it rained the night before she died, when I took this photo - 

She is very missed. Grandma Florence, and my Mom, and in front, myself and Kimberly. 

This life will swiftly be gone, like the storm that whipped through here, and then we shall be at Home forever with the Lord. I can't wait. Until then, it is a sweet knowing that I will see my Grandmother again, and that just as last year, when we mourned her passing, we also rejoiced, and are still rejoicing a year later, how fully ALIVE she is! 

"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." 
~ Psalm 16:11 ~

"Well the bear will be gentle, and the wolf will be tame, 
and the lion shall lay down by the lamb.
And the beasts from the wild shall be led by a child,
and I'll be changed, changed from this creature that I am!

There will be peace in the valley for me someday.
There will be peace in the valley for me, O Lord I pray. 
There'll be no sadness, no sorrow, no trouble I see - 
There will be peace in the valley for me."
~ Thomas A. Dorsey ~ 

With love and joy,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Reflections (19) -

This morning I woke up to my whole world dripping water. I thought it was a heavy dew, as Florida springs forth those often, to replenish the earth after the high heat, but upon further inspection, I realized it had rained overnight. The water was dripping from the Spanish moss from the oak trees, and the sun was bursting through. I stood for a few moments to admire and to delight. So beautiful! I don't know about you, but sunbeams bursting through heavy oaks to light up rain and bugs and sand just takes my breath away and leaves me in tears sometimes. 

And I thought it was the perfect day to share my currently favorite page of a book right now, on Sunday Reflections. Usually I read about five pages of this book, because I can't get enough of it, but the last 2 weeks, I've been stuck here, staying here, because it is what I need to remember every morning. 

I read it every day I was sick and sad. And I'm still reading it every day. It was, I thought, a wonderful way to look at the sad month of anniversaries of October. And after hearing from some friends of their griefs and praying right along with them, I thought we needed it more than ever. I hope and pray you are as blessed by it as I am.

With much love always, 
~ Jean Marie ~ 

It is from "Beside Still Waters" by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 
(My currently favorite book to read, aside from the Bible) 
Italics added by me. 

"In Days of Trials" ~ Deut. 33:27 ~ by C.H. Spurgeon

"Some of you are enduring deep affliction. In your extraordinary trial, remember the depth of divine faithfulness. You may be unable to comprehend why, but I urge you to believe in the firmness and stability of divine affection. You will have comfort in proportion to your trials. If you have shallow trials, you shall have shallow graces. If you have deep afflictions you will obtain deeper proof of God's faithfulness. 

I could lay down and die when I think of life's trials, but like Sarah (Gen.21:6) I recover and laugh when I remember that the eternal God is our refuge and that underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut.33:27). 

God will not fail. God will not take away His hand until He has finished His purpose concerning us. 

Great trials bring great promises. Much afflicted one, there are great and mighty words that are not meant for saints of easier experiences. You will drink from the deep golden goblets reserved for those giants who can drink a great portion of wormwood, but God will also supply deep drinks of the well-refined wines on the lees (Is. 25:6). 

Trials greatly enlarge the soul. Thus I do not want, in my better mind, to escape great trials, since they involve great graces. If my strength shall be as my days (Deut. 33:25), then let my days be long and dark, for my strength will be mighty, God will be glorified, and I will be blessed. I earnestly urge every tested Christian to dwell on this truth, for it may be a great comfort. 

There is love, immortal, unchanging love, in Heaven toward you, which will never grow cold. You will be helped. God would sooner cease to be than cease to be faithful. Be of good courage, for today He will strengthen your heart." 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Grief & Love -

Hi y'all. It's October again. And with October comes a load of memories and (supposedly in most parts of America) Autumn and with Autumn comes joy and sorrow and reminders of grief and so many other things that I just feel bursting about to share. 

Before I jump right in to what I want to say, I'm warning you to hold on and read this post first, if you haven't already (or even if you have). So many things that this post is about I've already written about there. So that is a pre-story, if you will. :) Or part 1, and this is part 2, that will echo part 1. 

You are probably wondering what on earth has possessed me to be so serious and all, and for those of you who know October and why it is sad, maybe you won't be surprised, but it is just a well-known fact in my family that the first week or two of October is hard. It's hard for our dear friends who lost their son, and because we love them so much, it is hard for us too. And maybe it is because the summers have put on these stunningly gorgeous sunset displays every night this week, or maybe it is because I watched an excellent movie on grief last night and cried my eyes out, or maybe it is just because I'm so inspired by writing, and I mean, really writing...that I'm finally able to put this long-thought-of post into words and try to express it all here. 

I'm praying I don't stumble and mess it all up, but if I do, please give me grace, because this IS my place

This post is about Grief, and this post is about Love. And it is about who I am because of those two. 

(And all of these photos are from October 2011 in North Carolina)

I was first hit hard by grief when I was thirteen years old. My beloved Sunday School teacher died of ALS, and I was devastated. I had only been a Christian for all of 2 years (or a little less), and this was the last thing that made sense. God didn't make sense, and when I say I was devastated, I mean it. It was in his class that the love for the Bible grew in my heart and took on life, it was through his teaching that I wanted to be more than what I knew about myself, it was in his class and those years that I came to Christ. He never raised his voice in class, and spoke with humility and joy. When he died of ALS, I was stunned, shocked, brokenhearted. Just writing about it makes me tear up. He died the day after 9-11, and his funeral was soon after. 

I grieved in a way I didn't know was possible. It poured down rain the day of his funeral, I can still "look around" in my memories at the huge circle of us from our church, and see faces. I can still feel the rain dripping down my back from the umbrella. I didn't care about the rain. My Daddy was taking me away much too soon from the crowd, and I broke away at the sight of my two best friends - Whitney and Dargan. Classmates, friends, devastated hearts in young kids....the three of us made a ring of hugs and sobbed our hearts out. I remember once looking up to see adults watching us with tears in their eyes. We could easily express what they were holding back. Tears. Pain. Loss. 

My Grandmother died 10 months later, and my Grandfather 10 months after her. Both equally hard losses. I was devastated all over again, heart-broken all over again, cried for nights into my pillow. 

and then, it seemed....life calmed down. No one else was dying, no one else was sick. Yes, we had some traumatic losses, an "honorary" grandmother of ours died in a heart-wrenching accident, but for the most part it seemed like life......just went on. My family went on. After awhile, I stopped trying to explain grief to people, because I grieved so hard and held on so much and most of my friends and family did not grieve that way. I'm not saying they were not sad, but it was just different. 

I had become accustomed to holding myself back from my family because I felt so misunderstood. Oh, my poor parents. They tried and tried. It wasn't for years that it would come out how much losing my teacher had affected me. I couldn't sing It Is Well for years without bawling, and there is a special song that I haven't sung or listened to since then. It is just so painful to think back upon.

Then adding losing my grandparents on top of that....I had tried so hard not to cry too often, until one night after watching a sad movie at my friend's house, I cried for a solid half hour, just because one scene reminded me of my grandfather. At a party a few years later, I cried for about an hour because someone at that party had just received news that their grandfather had died, and I knew just what that felt like. Everyone there was assuming I knew him personally, and when they discovered I didn't, were of course, concerned. It just all was too real to me. So raw. 

And before you all think my parents were insensitive or didn't try hard enough to reach me, let me stop you, because they tried. They didn't always understand, but they did try. But this was all before I could even explain how I grieved, I just knew how I did grieve. Man, I could write a book on the misconceptions of grief and what Biblical grief really looks like! Seriously! :) 

My Mother is an amazing woman. She calls you on the phone to catch up and is on her feet in the kitchen all day preparing a meal for someone when they've suffered a loss. She is there to drop everything and drive you to the airport or the hospital or to stay a few days with you near the hospital so you are not alone. She is loyal and faithful and kind. 

But she doesn't grieve like me. 

My Daddy is a very compassionate man. He cries at movies, is so tenderhearted, and writes amazing sympathy cards with words that flow just right when words so often get stuck in sorrow. He goes to funerals and shakes hands and shares stories that make people laugh, and he cares, deeply, faithfully. 

He grieves more like me, but not just like me. 

And so, it seemed to me for years....that I was alone in my grief. 
(Mom, Dad, please don't cry, it's okay. Promise. This is all part of the story.) 

And before this all gets so incredibly long, and before I give you an exhausting list of everyone I've ever lost, and every grief I've ever known (which would be way too much even for me), then let me just get around to October of 2009 when our world shattered right along with our dear friends. 

With the news of the loss of their son, our world was shattered and our hearts along with it. We took them dinner and Mom and I stood in their kitchen, and we hugged, and we sobbed and we grieved. It was heartbreakingly sad, incredibly hard and completely unreal. Their loss was huge

And with that October, in 2009, the world once more tumbled into an array of funerals. Just a few months later, Melody left this world for our true Home, and it seemed 2010 was spent trying to recover, with the stunning loss of our "honorary" grandfather in early June, and the loss of our dog a few weeks after my birthday. 2011 brought cancer. 2 of my best friends lost their siblings, 1 friend of mine, and my friends lost their mother (Mrs. Sproul), all to cancer, and all before Christmas. I spent the New Year of 2012 praying for no more grief, 6 months later I was standing on a hillside, saying goodbye to a little boy named Avery, and that was the start of a very terrible summer. 

I had 5 funerals in 4 months, the last of them my Grandmother's. There was Avery in early June, early July our friends lost their full-term baby, so another baby funeral, a few weeks later, our friends lost their son, Lane, in a car accident, then in early October, Shannon Sproul passed away, and just days after that, my Grandmother in Ohio died. 

By the time my Grandmother's funeral rolled around ..... I was numb. I was more than numb. I had fallen quiet in the place that I grieved most. Funerals is what I knew, oh I knew how it all worked. I was very quiet.

And so - it is October again. Tonight it will be 1 year that sweet Shannon left these Shadowlands for her heavenly Home, her Lord, and her Mama. Today it was 16 months since Avery left this world for his heavenly Home and his sweet 2 siblings. Next Monday it will be a year that my Grandmother went to see her Savior. Next Tuesday it will be 4 years for our dear friends' son and brother went to Heaven.

You can see why October can be hard here. You can see why grieving is so talked about here. And it's SO HARD because every year I feel like I have no claim to write about any of it. Because almost all of these people I've loved, even though I have loved them from my own heart, my grief is second-hand to their real families. So every little bit, I think "Oh. I really need to pull back and let it go.", and I try just for a moment to convince myself not to let it be such a huge deal all the time. And then I sit down and cry. Like I am doing right now.   

Because this is what this whole, long review comes down to: When my friends grieve .... I grieve.

No ifs, ands, or buts. I've never lost a sibling, I've never lost a parent, and I've never lost a best friend. But I have lost, and I have grieved, and I have mourned, and all of them deeply. 

I feel keenly loss, sorrow, pain, grief. It is who I am, how God made me to be. I may not have claim to first-hand sorrow, but I have been brought much into second-hand sorrow by the loving hand of God. I have known much grief, have suffered much pain, have desired more of Heaven than I ever thought possible. I have cried more tears and gone to more funerals than I can wrap my mind around. 

Those of you who are way older than me, I'm sure you are shaking your heads and thinking how young and inexperienced I am in such sad things, but let me tell you - I am not. I am perhaps, young, and yes, not as wise as you, but I am not inexperienced in sorrow. For my age, at least, I am more experienced than most of my peers.

And here, my friends, is where grief and love come together for me. 

This quote sums me up quite well, by Jane Austen ~ 
"There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. 
I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature." 

I love hard. It is why loss is devastating and breakups are worth crying over for months. I love hard and grieve hard, and those of you who are my friends, you know I love to spend time with you, just to be with you, "Just to be sure of you." like Piglet says to Pooh. I love to care for you, I love to know you. I really have no notion or intention of loving people by halves. 

When my friend Laurie left their house in a rush for a devastating funeral in NC, my Mom and I went over to her house and tidied up the house. I was so desperate to do something helpful that I cleaned her entire fridge from top to bottom. I'm not sure she wanted that, but it was all I could do for her. 

When Avery was sick, I desperately wanted to drive up to see him in the hospital. My parents couldn't get away, and didn't want me driving up (understandably) by myself to TN. In the panic and stricken hurt of that night, though, I came close about 15 times to disobeying them. I stopped myself short each time I started to pack things up, planning to just get in the car and drive as long as I could, to get there to maybe hold his hand, or just pray in that waiting room, anything to be nearer to him than I was in FL. 

The morning after Shannon went to Heaven, I had just dropped off my Mom at the airport, and I called Mrs. Stiemann to ask if there was anything I could do, and if at all possible, if I could come hug Darby and Delaney. She texted Darby, and Darby said I could come help shop for clothes at Target. So there at Target in Sanford we met up. I walked into Target and we hugged and smiled, because who is having a meltdown in Target...not us. We bought Starbucks, tried on sunglasses and laughed until our sides ached, because laughter in the midst of intense sorrow tends to take over unexpectedly and we both knew better than to stifle it down, and bought mascara and nail polish and then they bought funeral dresses. Incredibly surreal. But I was aching to be tangibly close, and thankfully, I was able to.  

When the Foster's good friend Anne died of cancer some weeks ago, I asked Becs if I could go to the funeral. I had prayed for Anne for 2 years, and only met her once, but I so much wanted to go to be with them, to be with my friend in her sadness. I went and I hugged and I wept, and I ended up working the drink table, just to help out in any way I could. 

When anniversaries roll around, I want to be there, I want to hug and cry and remember. I want to write cards and share and console. I want to honor and listen and be a friend. I want to do dishes and buy groceries and show up with a bouquet of flowers because it was the only thing that seemed right. I want to get on a plane and fly out for the funeral because it is so important and be there when your beloved dies and do anything for you that I possibly can, or hug you as many times as you need it. 

"Red lights are flashing on a highway. I wonder if we're gonna ever get home. 
I wonder if we're gonna ever get home tonight.... 
But if you break down, I'll drive out and find you.
 If you forget my love, I'll try to remind you, and stay by you when it don't come easy. 
When it don't come easy." ~ Patty Griffin  

And oh, I don't want this to sound at all like I am bragging about how to love in a way that brings praise. Because let me tell you, this is not the way to do it....I have been told more times than probably any other trait (except childlikeness) that I cannot grieve the way I do. I listened to them for far too long before I realized they were wrong. Without even realizing it, they were wrong. I have been criticized up and down for being too sad in the wrong moments, for being too down, for remembering too many anniversaries. Let me tell you how to do it if you want people to notice and critique you: Love hard. 

People aren't used to it, only like it in movies, get tired of it in real life, don't want to understand it. 

I have one sentence that debunks this entire theory, and it is from the Bible. Here it is: 
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." ~ Romans 12:15

Y'all all know I have no problem with rejoicing at all, whatsoever. ;) So why is it so hard for so many to understand why I also so easily weep with those who are weeping? It is easy for me to slip into mourning with others, perhaps because I have mourned much. Tears have never made me uncomfortable. I would hug perfect strangers if they needed it. Weeping with those who weep is an incredible GIFT to the one who is sad. It shows empathy, compassion, care. It shows them they are not alone. It shows them that in that moment, you are dwelling with them in their hurt, and shouldering the load of pain and walking alongside them where they are. It is love in liquid form, from a tender heart. 

In the valley, when it is hardest to see joy and to know sweetness, I want to be there to comfort as I have been comforted. It is true my family and I are still learning to walk in grief together, but I have never known my Heavenly Father to ever leave me less than comforted. His grace has met me at every grave, at every pain, in every sorrow. He has led me through grief with mercy and kindness. 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 

And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, 
so also you will partake of the consolation." ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, 7

Love speaks Truth, from one broken-hearted grieving friend to another. This is what we know. What we do not always see, but what we knowThat as we partake of this bitter cup, it will one day be sweet. That as we grieve and weep and remember and mourn now, one day these things will be no more. That death only separates us for a little while, and then never again. We shall be at Home forever with the Lord. 

So this is my plea to you - be tangible love to others when they are grieving. If it means taking care of their kids for an afternoon...if it means buying groceries....if it means calling and leaving a voicemail every now and then...if it means stepping out of your comfort zone and letting the silence be instead of trying to give an answer....if it means showing up at their door just to give them a real hug... if it means praying the night away... if it means saying you are sad their loved one has gone away.... if it is Love, if it is Compassion, if it is Comfort - show it to one another. If it means weeping with them ... weep. Do not let them suffer and mourn alone. Grief feels incredibly lonely enough as it is. 

And everyone who read this very long post, thank you for wanting to know more of me. This was all so incredibly hard to write out, I cried my way off and on through the whole thing. It is such a sensitive thing, because I want to write and honor and remember people I have loved, but I never ever want their families to feel as though I am trying to be as important in my grief as they are in theirs. Second hand grief is a helpless, hard grief, because not only do you mourn your loss, you mourn their loss, and the fact that you can do absolutely nothing to lessen that pain. 

But it has been an incredible, amazing, stunning, astounding JOY to watch so many of these families walk in trust in the One Who called their precious ones Home to Him. Mourning and rejoicing go gloriously hand in hand in Biblical grief. I know the Lord has been glorified, and that has always been the prayer. For years and years "Oh, Lord, be glorified in this.". What a testament to His faithfulness. 

"God would sooner cease to be than cease to be faithful." ~ C.H.Spurgeon

On the topic of love, and loving deeply, I leave you with this. 
In the grand words of Pooh (with the exception of the word "blessed" subbed in for "lucky" - 
"How blessed I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." ~ A.A. Milne

And just know that because I have loved much, I have been blessed much. I have been loved much, so it is easy to love much in return. My family has graciously, kindly, sweetly, tangibly, encouragingly, comfortingly loved me every day of my life. And God's love towards me is so high that I cannot even dream of the depths of it. Every morning I get up to new mercies and every funeral I go to, I know a deeper grace from God. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever known - to be known and loved by an infinite God, and to know that He prepares our true Home for us and readies us for it every single day.

And on that note, I bid you all a good night, and a most blessed October. 
With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~