"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘letting go’ Category

If Only I Had the Words

As a parent, I’ve found myself having to explain things in discussions with my kids that I’m not always comfortable with because they’re topics I’m not sure I grasp myself. On the past two Mondays, our family has learned of deaths of people my kids know who have unexpectedly passed at a young age. And while my kids are old enough to have past experience with deaths of pets and even great grandparents, it is tough to process the death of someone who they saw in their everyday lives that they never thought twice about not seeing again.

Last Monday we learned that a boy Erin goes to school with died over the weekend in an ATV accident. She went all through grade school with him and he was her “locker neighbor”. I wanted to have words of wisdom to share with her, but I found that I struggled with trying to make sense of it. He was only thirteen years old. He should be pestering his parents about picking out new school clothes, school supplies and those new “kicks” he wanted. Instead his mother has to pick out what he will be buried in while his father struggles to survive his own life threatening injuries suffered in the accident. Damned if I can explain to my daughter how to understand that.

Tonight we found out about the death of my daughter Emily’s volleyball coach. She died suddenly in her sleep over the weekend. Not only was she was the mother of six children at home, she was a coach and mentor to many involved in the sport. A very devoted Christian, she was the Director of the Patriette Lights Volleyball League and taught the girls so much more than volleyball—she taught them about playing with graciousness and as a representative of Christ. While I know in my heart that she’s gone home to be in His Kingdom, the selfish part of me just wants Patty to be here on Earth with her family and the volleyball girls, modeling her faith for them like she always did.

The way we individually deal with grief and loss are handled differently for everyone, and I see my children learning as they grow how that all plays out. I’m not afraid to tell them that I don’t know what to say because sometimes there aren’t any words. Sometimes there are only hugs or tears or sighs that we have to get through before we can start to remember the things about that person that made him or her special to us. And I have to remember that it’s okay to just leave it at that.

It is in times like these that I am grateful that I have faith, even though I think I’m a lousy witness to it. As Christians we believe that people who have died who knew Christ really are “in a better place”. But I cannot say those words to people who are hurting and are devastated at losing someone. I cannot quote scripture and point out places where Christ tells his followers that He’s prepared a room in Heaven for those who believe. When someone dies, especially when it’s unexpected or the person was young, I think it’s natural for those left behind just to want their loved one back. I believe most people, even those who have faith in Heaven, want to hear that person laugh again and say “I love you” and for life to be the way it was before he or she died. I don’t think that makes me any less of a Christian to respect those feelings. Sympathizing with their pain just makes me human. And God can handle much more than our mere humanity and emotions.

I don’t think I will ever fully comprehend why there are people who have to leave us too soon, nor do I feel like I’ll ever become an expert in the field of grief counseling. I will always wish I had the right words. Instead, I only know what comforts me personally: my belief that God loves us more than we can even imagine, as cliché as that may sound.

Our former pastor, a man whose faith I admire greatly, once told us something that I try to keep in mind about death, whether in regards to my own or others. When questioned what Heaven would be like, he said that he didn’t know what Heaven amounted to—what it would look like, or what form our souls would take. “But I have no fear about that because God loves us so much and I don’t have to worry. It is better than anything we can ever imagine.” It may not be the perfect words, but it’s a start.

Rest in Peace Chance and Patty. You will be missed.

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The End of Ordinary Summer

In truth, life is anything but ordinary while raising kids. There are ordinary seasons in life, of course, (the potty training stages, the pre-school years, the middle school years, etc.) but the seasons string together in such a way that they fool me into believing they are a seamless stretch of time. Sometimes it’s not until something new starts up that I realize that something else has ended, having gone away quietly without a formal goodbye. School is the obvious exception—each year has a definite start and end.

I have school bus-shaped picture frames for Tyler, Emily and Erin that have places for every school year’s photo. In the fall when they return to school and get their yearbook picture taken, I dutifully put in their new photo in their School Years’ frames. Right now as the school year winds down for the kids I’m once again reminded that they are growing up with another grade under their belts.

Except this summer is different. It is the last ordinary summer. Tyler’s picture frame will be full next fall.

One could argue that last summer, the first summer Tyler had his driver’s license and got his first job, was our first non-ordinary summer. After all, it was the first time that we had to consider his employment when we made our annual vacation to the lake. But to me, last summer doesn’t count. His part time job at the golf course didn’t interfere with our family’s plans, and his boss was very accommodating with letting him have time off, so it wasn’t an issue. He was still home sleeping in his bedroom almost every night, like he will be this summer. But he’s a Junior in high school now, so I know that next summer will be different. He will have graduated high school and be preparing to go to college in the fall. Thus, the end of the era and life as we now know it.

For the last fourteen years, every fall began a new school year, whether it be in pre-school, elementary, middle or high school. And while each beginning brought new friends, interests and classes, as expected, there was a continuity with kids being in school in the fall. It’s been our way of life as a family almost as long as we’ve been a family. The kids can’t remember anything else, and life PK (pre-kids) seems so very long ago it’s like it was lived by someone else.

While I don’t mean it to sound so gloomy and melancholy, it does make me stop and think—and appreciate—all this summer as a family will be. I know that I probably am a little overly sentimental about my kids growing up. I thought I’d gotten better than I used to be about it. When they were little I put off going through their closets to weed out outgrown clothing because all I could hear in my head the whole time I did was the song Puff the Magic Dragon. Those too short pants and shirts were a physically tangible sign that my babies were moving on and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I tortured myself with dwelling on that fact—masochistic, I know.

As a parent, I want my kids to grow up to be healthy and independent, so it’s rather hypocritical of me to be sad when they do exactly that. After all, if Tyler was 30 and still lived at home with us I’d be upset then, too. Ironically, Darrell and I have been encouraging him to go away somewhere for college. I lived at home when I went to college, and although I joined a sorority and enjoyed my college days, I never felt like I had the same type of college experience as my friends who went away to school. I want my son to have the opportunity to be semi-independent in the way that only being a college kid away from home allows. But that requires me to accept that he is growing up and is no longer a little kid. And I will, because I never want to hold him back from being the person he was meant to be.

Time with our kids—these short seasons—shouldn’t be taken for granted anyway, but this summer I plan to especially cherish the time we spend together as a family. It may be the last ordinary summer as we now know it, but it can also be the first summer of a new season and a new chapter in our family’s history. Long live summer!

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