Visions of my daughter.

I often post photos of my daughter at or around her death. I’m not sure if there is any significance to that other than it was how I remember her most. The vibrancy of her soul oozes out of each photo. One might even be able to stare into her eyes and see what a beautiful person she was, inside and out.

In the last months of her life she chose different paths than I would have predicted. She became less focused on material things, which for a teenager seemed a bit out of character. When months before it was “mom, I need this movie or I need a new cell phone” – it was always “I need”. Then the summer before her death she changed. She began to ask “Can I go buy a card and balloon for a friend at school?” or “Can I go read to kindergarteners?” – I remember thinking “who is this child?”. It’s as if her old soul knew that her time was near.

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Brittany – one of her senior pictures from 2006

I knew my daughter pretty well, but it was after her death did I understand the beautiful young woman she truly was becoming. Her friends and classmates wrote about her either on her memory board at her Celebration of Life or in cards sent to me in the weeks after. I found out she had a passion to help others who did not feel accepted. She would often come to the “rescue” of student at school and tell people to give them a chance. Perhaps she understood how it felt more than people knew what it was like to be ousted and often times bullied by her peers.

One of her school friends sent me this note and it truly helped me in the weeks and months after Brittany’s death. We had dealt with so much pain and sadness over her school years and I found it touching that perhaps in hindsight people remembered her for who she truly was. Here is a little snippet from that letter:

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From Hannah

At 17, Brittany was wise beyond her years and loved with every fiber of her being. All along I thought I was raising my daughter when in fact, she was here to teach me about life. It took her death and the days and weeks after to realize that. In fact, I’m still learning every day what a gift life is and how God moves in ways to create space for learning those valuable lessons.

Perhaps with the busyness of life, school, work and managing a chronic illness – we all got lost in the day-to-day getting by and may have missed those beautiful moments. I was privileged to have been witness to just a few, but I know for sure there were far more than I ever knew.

The lesson here is to stop and enjoy those moments when they happen. Don’t let life get in the way of experiencing who your children are as people. The gifts they are from God, which are lessons for us all to learn. Sometimes the lessons are not comfortable or it seems like the world is against us, but in reality it’s a life lesson to share with others. So put down the phones, the cameras, the videos, work and go out into the world with your children and experience life as it’s happening. It will be in those moments you will come to understand the awesome human being they are and more importantly who you are.

Until next time,

M

 

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Hugs. Memories. Regrets.

I follow a few blogs of parents who have lost a child and I’m always in awe of the raw emotion that is shared by these parents and how their stories help all of us to understand what lies deep within the broken hearts of grieving parents. I see a wide variety of scenarios that occurred in these parents lives and sometimes I am struck by how my own story could have been a little different had I known my daughter was not going to live to see her 18thbirthday. What would I have done differently had I known.

One blog that breaks my heart each time I read a post is written by a grieving father who writes so eloquently and with saw raw emotion about his son Mitchell and their family’s journey of grief and knowing their son would eventually die from his disease. They had many opportunities to chronicle the every day life of caring for their son and provided many experiences that eased his pain and I’m certain theirs. My story, my daughter Brittany’s story is different, but did it have to be. I don’t know. I perhaps was in denial that she could die from epilepsy. I knew life would not be “normal” like others but certainly I never thought she would die after having a seizure. I was wrong.

What would I have done differently? I would have taken more pictures of her. I would have hugged her more often. I would have captured our time together in a way that would have provided a story of her life in a way that I could have shared with you all. I would have tried harder – maybe if had I only known….

That leads me to the next thought… We should live our lives as if we believed it would end any moment. I think if we did, we’d capture those every day moments and make sure we chronicled the story to share with others.  There is a message in these deep and painful questions. What I’m saying here is – hug your kids often, spend more time with them, take pictures and videos of the good times and maybe the not so good times. Journal together about their childhood and teenage years. Teach them that they are the most important thing in your life.

What would I have done differently? I would have danced in the rain with her. I would have gone to Costa Rica with her on her mission trip. I would have allowed her to swing higher and laugh so hard our stomachs would hurt – well we really did that. We certainly would have done more selfies! I am so glad I do have wonderful video and beautiful pictures of her that remind me that she did exist. That she walked this earth as my daughter; I was her mother.  But I crave more. I want more. I long for more.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to make amends with your kids, your loved ones. Make more time to smell, touch, feel life. Write about it. Tuck it away so one day, you can tell them the stories of their childhood from the books and videos you took. Most of all spend time just being with them. Even when they are driving you crazy. I miss those times the most.

I did a lot of wonderful things over the years with my daughter, but it will never be enough to last my lifetime of missing her.

Until next time,

M

Mother’s Day

Well my friends Mother’s Day is again upon us and for those of us who have come to dread this day because our mothers or children have died and left a sad place in their hearts and no desire to celebrate Mother’s Day, I especially hold you up in prayer.

I know all too well how difficult this day can be and go out of my way to bypass the greeting card section, or flower shops where it’s all about Mother’s Day. The pain cuts too deep still for me. But someone I know on social media posted information that I did not know about the origin of Mother’s Day. I searched for a reliable source to confirm what she posted. And I’ve put a link below for you to copy and paste into your browsers should you be interested in reading it.

Reading the article and post by my friend made me pause for just a minute to understand who inspired Mother’s Day – a grieving mother. And while it does not take the sting away from this day, it does provide a different perspective.

I am always reminded by those in my tribe that I am still celebrated as a mother. And I appreciate that gift because I am grateful and honored to have had the chance to be a mother. I was lucky. I got that chance that many do not of giving birth and raising a child. Some never get that chance.

I lost my mom when I was seven months pregnant with my only child. I lost so much too soon. So, while I choose not to celebrate this day it’s not because I don’t honor her memory – it’s just a sad day for me. I don’t have a mother to celebrate nor do I have any living children. So for me it’s another day in May.

For all of you wonderful mothers, please know I’m holding you up in prayer and thankfulness that you are honored and treasured. Especially for my followers or those who read this post who’ve lost a child, I hold you close to my heart and stand with you each Mother’s Day knowing it’s one of the toughest days we have to face.

Much love and admiration,

M

http://time.com/4771354/mothers-day-history-origins/

Grief and Hope

The quiet whisper of hope has yet again gotten my attention as we enter into this Easter holiday. Through the death and resurrection of Christ I have been able to grieve and have hope after experiencing the loss of my only child. But that hope was not as present when I lost my mom nearly 30 years ago. What 30 years? I don’t even know how the time just goes by. I don’t remember her voice anymore. I was a mad at God back then. Angry with Him because I just didn’t understand why. Still don’t.

I wrestled with my faith for five long years all while trying to raise my one daughter who had developed epilepsy at the age of five. Also, have I mentioned I was also in nursing school then. It was a rocky time for me. Losing my mom was difficult – I was only 31. I had so much I wanted to share with her – you see, she was my best friend. We talked every day and then she was gone. It was like that part of my life severed from my body.

I suffered in anger for a long time. Then one day she came to me in a dream and told me enough – that she was ok and I needed to be ok too. I was thankful for that visit because it was life changing for me. I could finally process through the stages of grief and move on with life raising a five-year old and finishing nursing school.

Grief has been part of my life for a very long time. I have grieved losing my childhood because of divorce. I grieved the loss of my father who chose to walk away from his family and didn’t care what happened to us. I have grieved the loss of who I was to be when someone took my innocence for their own sick pleasure. I have grieved the loss of having a normal teenage life-like so many of my other friends. I have grieved the loss of my daughter’s life because of the chronic illness that plagued her and the future she was robbed of because of it. In a span of 17 years, I have grieved the loss of a mother, a grandmother and daughter. I have grieved….

I think grief will always be a part of my life. It is in the fabric of who I have become. It became evident I had to lean as hard as I could into God and to let Him take care of me. I could have just given up. I did want to give up sometimes. God has been so very good to me. He has placed the right people in my life and the right time. Who stood me up when I couldn’t stand. Who fed me when I couldn’t eat. Who clothed me when all I wanted was to give up. He also showed me what He gave up so that I could have life. His son.

I understood very clearly one day God knew my pain because He too lost a child. But very quickly He also showed me the hope I needed to grab ahold of and never let go of and that is the resurrection. It is in the resurrection that I have been able to stand up and walk the path of grief and hope. It is every Easter that I am washed over by such grief and joy because of the sacrifice and the promise all in one weekend. It’s not easy my friends, but I do it every day and so can you.

Hope is life-sustaining for grieving souls. Grab onto that hope and this weekend when you go to your church with your family – just imagine the gravity of God’s loss and in raising his son, Jesus, we are all saved. I can only imagine what that day will be when I can stand at the feet of Jesus surrounded by His glory and my family I’ve missed all these years. I can only imagine how wonderful that reunion will be.

That is how I walk through this journey.

Happy Easter

until next time

M

The past. The present. The future.

So I have been thinking a lot lately about life and in looking back at my past life it seems like it belongs to someone else. Even as I browse through my old blog posts, it’s as if I’m reading about someone else’s experience. I get lost in the memories and confuse them with questioning whether it was a reality or a dream or a nightmare. I can quickly get myself upright when I look at pictures of me and Brittany or watch a video of her – but still it seems like it happened a lifetime ago.

Then I realize that the same thing is happening to me that happened to me after I lost my mom. My best friend in life. I began to forget her voice and what it felt like to be hugged by her. It’s happening again and it’s so hard to digest it all. I’m losing the ability to remember Brittany’s voice and her laugh. I can see it pictures or hear it in videos – and I’m so grateful for that. But losing the ability to recall her in my life has been a bit startling to me.

In the early days of my grief I could still feel her and sense she was around. I longed for her, to hold her and get my little hugs at the end of a long day. But now, I can’t even feel it. Even when I try to feel it. It’s just gone. As if she never existed. How can that be? Why does that happen? How does one reconcile that? I do not know. I know I have been dealing with loss for a long time but this one is just so hard.

It used to be so hard to live in the present  because I wanted so much to go back to the past where we had each other. Even though life was hard dealing with chronic illness and the financial woes that came from caring for her – I’d never trade for anything. Never. But living in the present is easier now – it’s a distraction – a means to distance myself from that painful event, like so many others. Don’t get me wrong, I still consider myself blessed for all that I have been given and still receive today. I’m loved by many and feel that love every day. It has been my life line. But not one day doesn’t go by without understanding the void that resides in my heart. Not one day!

The future, my hope has always been grounded in Christ and knowing one day all this pain and sorrow and loss will go away and we will be reunited again. This is how I have made it this far and how I will continue to love, cherish, extend grace and walk in the light of Jesus. Helping others with grief. Still not sure what that looks like but this blog is part of it. My book will be part of it. My life will be a living offering to my fellow grievers and I hope in some way I am helping you by sharing my story and the story of unimaginable grief and unexpected blessings.

I can’t help but think about the many people who join this journey without ever asking to. My heart goes out to those parents and families of those who recently lost their children, their husbands, fathers, and friends to such a violent act. My heart is broken for them because this journey is not easy. It’s hard. It takes a village to carry them through it. I pray for them daily and I know God is walking beside them and I’m fairly certain carrying them in the most darkest of moments. May God bless them and wrap his arms around them as they begin to navigate their grief.

Until next time,

M

Mayhem

Today at church the message was about how mayhem can derail you on journey in life. Mayhem is everywhere. Mayhem can get in your way and distract you from whatever it is your are trying to achieve. I thought about how relatable it is to grief –  mayhem.

may·hem
noun
noun: mayhem
  1. violent or damaging disorder; chaos.
    “complete mayhem broke out”
    synonyms: chaos, disorder, havoc, bedlam, pandemonium, tumult, uproar, turmoil, commotion, all hell broken loose, maelstrom, trouble, disturbance, confusion, riot, anarchy, violence, insanity, madness;

    mayhem definition – source

    What struck me about the definition is the synonyms that are listed above. Many of these listed I have experienced through grief since my daughter passed. Words describing the many waking minutes, hours, days and weeks that slayed my body to the point of shear exhaustion.

    I don’t experience this phenomena as much any more and I am grateful for that because the pain of going through that time was too unbearable to continue. I would have surely died of a broken heart. God reached down one day and lifted me out of the dark hole of grief and uprighted me on my feet and pointed me in the direction of healing. I’m still on that path. Make no mistake – the pain is still raw and it can hit with no warning; but the mayhem – well it’s calmed down to what I like to call a slight buzz.

    The buzz is always there and some days when I get really quiet and calm, I become more aware of it. That is when I write and process what I’m feeling. I had to reconcile my daughter’s death many years ago. Now I continue to reconcile the life I live without her. That is a different type of grief. But grief nonetheless.

    On our walk with grief, mayhem is all around us and if we have a good support system we can take our grief and sorrow and turn it into an opportunity to serve others who are unfortunately starting their journey. They need us. There are so many ways to help others and when we do that we heal our  hearts just a little more.

    Until next time,

    M

Another Christmas Without You

IMG_6588Here I sit another Christmas without you. The 12th to be exact. In remembrance of her I think about one of the funniest videos of her opening presents and putting bows and ribbons all over herself. She loved making people laugh. That was her gift on this earth. She helped us all forget the ravages of her disease and the daily grind of dealing with all the medications, doctor and hospital visits; and things that she struggled to do that many did without even blinking an eye.  She never let it get her down. Maybe for some fleeting moments she questioned “why me” but she entered every day with a smile and gratitude for being alive. Many of us don’t ever understand that.

Gratitude is something we should all stop and consider daily, but especially at Christmas. So much was given so that we could have life. If you’ve lost a child, as many of you who read this blog have, then you know what that pain feels like. God gave his son so that we may live. What a gift that is. I know my Brittany lives in Heaven and sits at the feet of Jesus and while I miss her so much my heart breaks daily in her absence, I am grateful she is with Jesus.

While the memories of Christmas past greet me with joy this holiday season, I am also left gasping for air at the gravity of the space that is vacant now. Christmas is just not the same “holiday” as it once was. It’s different. I continue to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, but the “holiday” is just not the same. How could it be? It’s hard to explain to anyone who is walking along side me now in this different life. I don’t even understand it so how in the world can I explain it.

I don’t believe it will ever be the same, I mean, how could it? But here is the thing… I am trying hard to make new memories and living out my purpose – still not knowing what that looks like entirely. I’m focusing on what can be and finding ways to honor my daughter’s life. Honoring does not mean woefully spending my life in misery. It means finding purpose for why she was here and how can I lift that up into something meaningful for others. But it does NOT negate the fact that her physical presence has left a devastating mark on my heart and soul. I just can’t live a life in sorrow. It is not at the core of who I am.

Many blessings to you and your families as you celebrate the holidays and it is my hope for you that the new year brings continued healing and purpose.

Until Next Time,

M