Of Signs and Such

I’m writing about something I’ve never told anyone before. I know there are bereaved parents who look for signs from their departed children, but I’m not one of them. There have been times when I’ve been some place and felt like Jason was particularly close in my heart and thoughts. There have been times when I’ve walked through a room or something and it smelled like Jason – like his favorite cologne or something else that reminded me of him – in one particular area. We don’t even live in the house where Jason grew up and most everything I have that belonged to Jason is in storage, so it kind of catches me by surprise when it happens. There are times when it feels like Jason is far away and times when he feels very near. Why do people who have died feel closer at some times than others? I don’t know. There are times when God has felt close and times when he’s felt so very far away. Why? I don’t know. There are lots of things I don’t know or understand.

March 3 2005 020On the morning of March 3, 2005, I was really low. It was the third anniversary of Jason’s death. After taking a shower, I came downstairs and into the breakfast nook where Joe was sitting at the table. As I looked out the sliding door to the backyard, I looked at Joe and exclaimed, “It looks like your name is written in the clouds out there!” He said, “I know!” I ran upstairs and got my camera to take a picture because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I just sat and watched it for the longest time.

I’m not one to hyper-spiritualize things or try to find some spiritual hidden meaning in everything. But I do believe God wrote Joe’s name in the clouds that morning. It had been a very long, lonely struggle for three years, and both of us were very weary. I think Joe particularly needed encouragement at that time. The Bible says that God is near to the brokenhearted. I honestly believe this was God’s way of being close to Joe on that morning, March 3, 2005.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

Don’t Give Up

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work, you don’t give up.” (Anne Lamott)

Thank you to Providence Firestorm for this most timely reminder posted on her blog. It was just what I needed to read today.

Don’t Give Up

The Anne Lamott quote also made me think of Galatians 6:9: “..Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Although I’m sure a theologian could explain the “correct” meaning of this passage, it has always had a double meaning to me. In one instance, the “not be weary in well doing” portion reminds me to always keep on trying to do my best in everything I do no matter how hard things get or how discouraging things may seem – sort of the “keep on keeping on, don’t get tired of doing what’s right, don’t let the circumstances get you down” type of thing. It’s sort of like a pep talk to my heart. “You can do it; sure you can!!”

On the other hand, the “not be weary in well doing (or doing well)” portion also reminds me to seek out and continue benevolence (acts of kindness or charity) and to not tire in these activities. I never should get tired of or stop treating others as I would want to be treated. I never should stop doing random acts of kindness no matter what people around me do or how they act. I am the one responsible for my actions; I am the only one who will stand before God to account for what I did or did not do when I had the opportunity to do it.

The first one is a determination in my heart to do the right thing and to keep on doing the right thing. It starts from inside of me. It encourages me to keep on doing a good job at whatever is in front of me. The second one is a reminder for genuine and ongoing outward acts of kindnesses toward others. It’s an unselfish action and act of my hands (or words I may say, etc.). It’s not done for the purposes of show or accolades. As a matter of fact, these acts may never be acknowledged or noticed. Sometimes it’s better that way. God notices…and that’s the only one who really matters in the end.

This verse also reminds me that change or results may not be not immediate – “in due season.” “Due season” – however long it takes. Sometimes we don’t see immediate results or results in the lifetime. We may not notice results at all until we can look backwards from down the road or from an eternal perspective. It takes time one small step at a time, one individual thing at at time – just as walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death following the loss of a loved one takes time; just as planting an acorn seed and waiting for it to grow into a tree that will give shade takes time. I didn’t know I could survive the death of a child; I just had to keep on concentrating on one moment at a time.

My dad was both a school teacher and a preacher (a Baptist preacher in an area 98% Mormon!) in the small town where I grew up. Sometimes it seemed like his teaching and preaching didn’t make a lot of difference. But following his death and at his memorial service, I was amazed and comforted by the stories of how Dad positively affected lives in the school and in the community.

We don’t know what a difference we can make in someone’s day…or in a life. We may never know in this lifetime…thus, the admonition to “not be weary in well doing” and reminder that we will reap “in due season”…and the encouragement to hope and to “just show up and try to do the right thing, [and] the dawn will come.”

An Unexpected and Encouraging Reference

When I looked up the correct wording of Galatians 6:9 on a Bible website (see above), the first commentary note on that verse led me to 1 Corinthians 15:58: “…your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Although this, too, is encouraging to know (and certainly a good reminder of why it’s good to “not be weary in well doing”), I discovered an unexpected commentary and reference on this verse concerning hope following death:

…Such is the prospect which is before the Christian. He shall indeed die like other people. But his death is a sleep – a calm, gentle, undisturbed sleep, in the expectation of being again awaked to a brighter Day…He has the assurance that his Saviour rose, and that his people shall therefore also rise….He has painful proof that his body is corruptible, but it will be incorruptible; that it is now vile, but it will be glorious; that it is weak, frail, feeble, but it will yet be strong, and no more subject to disease or decay…And he will be brought under the power of death. but death shall be robbed of its honors, and despoiled of its triumph. Its sting from the saint is taken away…The grave is not to him the gloomy abode, the permanent resting-place of his body; it is a place of rest for a little time; grateful like the bed of down to a wearied frame, where he may lie down and repose after the fatigues of the day, and gently wait for the morning.

He has nothing to fear in death; nothing to fear in the dying pang, the gloom, the chill, the sweat, the paleness, the fixedness of death; nothing to fear in the chilliness, the darkness, the silence, the corruption of the grave. All this is in the way to immortality, and is closely and indissolubly connected with immortality…And in view of all this, we should be patient, faithful, laborious, self-denying; we should engage with zeal in the work of the Lord; we should calmly wait till our change come…

(http://bible.cc/1_corinthians/15-58.htm, Barnes Notes on the Bible)

I don’t know what I would do without the hope of seeing Jason again. I look forward to the day when I will see Jason, my mom and dad, my grandparents, and others I dearly love. I know that all of them are watching and cheering me on, encouraging me to “not be weary in well doing”…and I’m gonna keep on trying!

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

Sifting, Sifting, Sifting in the Process of Loss

Once again, I realized today how much I appreciate the blog community. I love reading something from a fellow blogger that provides a nugget of inspiration, challenge or thought.

This morning, as I caught up on one of my favorite blogs written by a woman who lost her home and all its contents to a Texas firestorm, I read a post written about the process of putting together an inventory and considering priorities following loss. My heart aches for her and the lifetime of history she has lost!! So many things – gone! – in one moment of time, beyond her control! It made me consider the sifting processes that have happened in my own life over the years and the things that really matter to me. Her post made me stop and think about what is really, truly important to me.

In the Inaugural Day storm that hit the Seattle area in 1993, a large double-trunked fir tree fell on the house we were renting at the time. Jason, Jenna and I – all who were watching from the kitchen window as the trees swayed dramatically in the wind – turned and ran frantically as the huge tree fell toward us. As it fell, the tree turned so that a trunk of the tree fell on either end of the house instead of both trunks landing right on top of us. One trunk fell right on the end of the kitchen table where Eric normally worked on his schoolwork; fortunately, he had stayed in bed to stay warm since the power was out. Although incredibly shaken by the whole experience, I was so thankful that my family was safe! Enough damage was done to the house that we had to move everything out in one day and put all of our stuff in storage until we found another place to live.

“Houseless” (notice I don’t say “homeless”), we stayed back-and-forth with a couple of families over the next few months as we tried to find a house to buy. Moving a family of 5 from place to place for months – while looking for houses and trying to maintain a school schedule – was not an easy thing to do. After making offers on a couple of houses and having the deals fall through, we decided to purchase a piece of land and contract to have a house built. Following Memorial Day, we left the friends we were staying with and headed out by car for a vacation down the West Coast to California. From there, I traveled with the kids to visit family in the Midwest for the summer while Joe returned to find an apartment to rent until our home was built.

When the kids and I returned in the fall to Seattle and the rental apartment, I discovered my husband (without consulting me, bless his heart!) had “gone through” everything we had in storage and “gotten rid of some things” he deemed unnecessary, condensing our houseful of goods (we’re talking 2400 square feet!) so that it fit into a two-bedroom apartment. Let’s just say that I am a collector, don’t change very easily, and have a hard time letting go of things; my husband is a minimalist, not a collector of stuff, and has little trouble letting go of most material things.

I LIKE my “stuff”!! My stuff reminds me of times, things, and people I want to remember!! There are memories tied to my stuff! There’s a reason I keep and hold onto my stuff! Although I will admit it took some major eye-blinking, tongue-biting and word-swallowing when I found out, I kept reminding myself how thankful I was that my family was safe and most important “stuff” was safe and in tact. At the time, however, I felt that a lot of what I valued and considered important was going through a sifting process of loss. I came to realize, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could live without all that stuff as long as my family was safe.

After being in an apartment rental for a year, we moved into our home. Ahhh…the room….the space…the four bedrooms! It was wonderful…and a space we managed to fill full with a lot of additional “stuff” over the next ten years.

After Jason died, I felt like I went through a major, long sifting process of a different kind. Relationships, expectations, future plans, dreams, hopes, faith – all of these and more went through the grinder of deep loss and then into the sifter. Many things fell out or got sifted out in the process – some by my choice, some through no choice of my own. Going through Jason’s room was a major sifting process, one that was incredibly painful and hard to do. It also became evident that our house – a house I loved in a state/location I loved – was too large for just my husband and me to manage on our own and that my husband was ready for a change – away from the “gray dome” of Washington, away from places steeped in painful memories and reminders of Jason’s death.

Since we were only taking bare essentials with us, I once again started the sifting process. Sifting, sifting, sifting. What did I really want to keep and what could I live without or replace? At times, I felt like if I heard the words “we need to get rid of” one more time I would scream! The only things we took with us to Oklahoma were some clothes, photos and a few momentos. As we continue to look for a place for our hearts to be at home, they are still the only things we now and are in storage in Oklahoma. I feel like I have been in a sifting process for so long!

In reality, we come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. I can only think of a few important number of things that make it out of the sifting process here on earth and into eternity – our tears, our deeds (good or bad), our eternal souls, faith, hope and love. Can you think of any more?

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

Being present for those who deeply grieve

In the years since Jason died, I’ve read many “do’s and don’ts” lists in articles and books written concerning how to help the grieving. I’ve even written about how to help those who deeply grieve. Without a doubt, I think all of these lists and writings help and give understanding and insight.

As I read a blog this morning about being present for those who grieve, though, I started thinking that if I had to state how to help a person who is deeply grieving in only two sentences, this is what I would say: Be short on words, long on presence and compassion. Don’t offer an explanation; offer your heart.

That is the essence, the distillation, the easy-to-remember nugget, the “advice in a nutshell” for helping those who deeply grieve. If someone is in the situation of needing/wanting to help someone who is grieving, I hope s/he will take time to fully read the helpful “do and don’t” lists, but will use these two short sentences as a trigger or reminder of how to help.

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

Great Expectations

My husband and I started talking this morning over breakfast about expectations and hope. I had earlier read to him a portion of a blog written by a young mother who expressed grief that her birth experience had not been what she thought it should have been and how she resented being told that she should “get over it.” This precipitated a discussion concerning some of our own – well, specifically, some of my own – expectations and hopes that have not turned out quite like I thought they would.

My husband – bless his heart – is a very black and white person. I, on the other hand, am a person who sees both sides of the coin. Being a woman, I also approach things on a much more emotional level than he does, especially when it comes to things that hurt, are not fair to, or cause pain to my family. I have a tendency to expect things to go or to be a certain way. As I choked up while talking about some hopes and expectations close to my heart that have not turned out as I wished they had, my husband commented concerning a few, “That’s just not logical. There’s no reason to expect they should have turned out that way.” Ahhh – Spock and his logic (Star Trek) have nothing on this man!

I think, though, we are hardwired to hope. You know, “hope springs eternal” and all that. We then add our own expectations – sometimes unrealistic expectations – to our hopes. It’s hard not to add our own expectations (the “shoulds”) to the visions we hold close to our hearts. We picture things the way we want and think things should be – with hope and expectation. We have hopes and expectations for our relationships, for our families, for our kids, for our jobs, for our futures, for every aspect of our lives. We want, hope, expect for things to go a certain way. We want, hope, expect things to turn out for the best.

When Jason was in high school, I printed and framed Jeremiah 29:11 for him. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”* It sat on his bedside table. I expected Jason to prosper and to have a future. I believed God had a plan for Jason’s life – for all of our kids’ lives. I hoped for good things for Jason – for all of my kids. I expected God to protect my kids; I prayed for God to protect them and help them.

I hoped and expected my kids would all have good friends who would value them for the incredible people they are and stand by them through thick and thin. I hoped and expected that they find jobs that would be fulfilling and a life that would be equally fulfilling. I looked forward to my kids graduating from college, marrying, having children (probably). I hoped for the absolute best for my kids; I still hope for these things and pray for the best for my kids and grandkids.

I expected for our home to be a place to which our kids would return with their own families; one that would be filled with family, friends, and fun for holidays or for just any ordinary day; one where I could do crafts and bake cookies with our grandkids. I expected my life to continue on its path into a future I envisioned and had planned. I still have many hopes and expectations, although I feel they are more subdued than they used to be.

What I did not expect was for Jason to die. I did not expect to walk this long, difficult walk through grief. I didn’t expect people we counted on to disappear when we needed them the most. I didn’t expect to move from a place and home I loved. I didn’t expect my family to face some of the heartbreaks and difficult struggles they have. I didn’t expect to be 50-something (ah-hum) years old trying to better educate myself in order find a good-paying, fulfilling job so we can have enough money for retirement. I didn’t expect to have so much trouble finding once again a place to call home – a place where my heart feels at home – and a good job.

What do you do when your hopes and expectations aren’t met, when they disappear into thin air or are crushed to smithereens?

I think this has been one of the greatest struggles for me following Jason’s death and the ripple-effect of events/situations following his death. Sometimes it surprises me how long and far-reaching the ripples go and what they affect. I have a strong belief in the fairness of things and tend to expect that things “should” be a certain way. I still struggle sometimes with adjusting my expectations to the reality that now is. It’s hard for me to let go of those hopes and expectations when things seem unfair; I’m afraid I am not one to let go easily.

Proverbs 13:12 says: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”** Deferred means “withheld for or until a stated time”; fulfilled means “to measure up to…to convert into reality.”*** Sometimes I feel like I’m over the “hope deferred” parts of life and am ready for the “longing fulfilled” parts; I’m over the “heart sick” parts and ready for the “tree of life” parts. Sometimes I just want to say “Enough already!” and instantly see things change for the better. I’m ready for some of my deep longings to become realities. I think all of us would prefer the “longing fulfilled” rather than the “hope deferred.”

You just can’t pick and choose some things that happen to you, though. Sometimes our “great expectations” just don’t happen the way we think they should.

Joe and watched a movie a long time ago (I think it was Richard Dreyfuss in Lost In Yonkers) where the main character’s sister kept going on and on about how she wanted and pictured her life to be a certain way. It wasn’t turning out the way she wanted it to be, the way she pictured it should be, but she wasn’t actively doing anything to make anything change. She was just complaining about the way it was. Finally, in exasperation after listening to this for countless years, the main character turns to her and yells, “So, change the picture!!” Although some “pictures” are easier to change and some expectations are easier to release than others, that’s become a reminder to ourselves. “Change the picture!”

I don’ think it happens just like that – change the picture. And it certainly isn’t up to someone else to change the picture for you or, without solicitation, to tell you when or how you should change it. It’s your life; you have to own your own changes in order for them to mean something to you. Sometimes a person may ask an opinion or solicit help, but for change to really stick it has to mean something and come from deep within. No one can do it for you. Sometimes it’s a painfully long and agonizing process that requires painting over that ruined picture or a long time and hard, consistent work to plant a landscape so that it is no longer a vast wasteland but a beautiful, productive garden. The healing is in the process of change, one step at a time.

I don’t want to get stuck in my lost expectations or keep my focus on the hopes that have been deferred. I don’t want the landscape of my life to be of a wasteland of unfulfilled expectations or the way I wish things were; I want it to be a beautiful garden, that stained glass window through which God can shine. I want to keep learning and growing from the experiences I’ve had. I just keep reminding myself that there are so many things I don’t understand here on earth. Life isn’t fair. Why do things go well for certain people and not others? I don’t know. Maybe it just seems they do. I think most people have expectations that aren’t met and heartbreaks of their own. I won’t have the answers to why my some of my hopes were deferred and some of my expectations weren’t met on things that are important to me until I see God face to face. I will keep on hoping and doing the best I can.

I want Jason to be proud of me and the way I have lived my life. I want to get to Heaven and have God say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I want my life to mean something. I will remind myself to hope, to love, to forgive, to remember, to persevere, to appreciate those in my life who care, and to notice the beauty in each day. I will remind myself that some day I will understand, even though I don’t now. As 1 Corinthians 13 says:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.****

*http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+29%3A11&version=NIV

**http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+13%3A12&version=NIV

***http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary

****http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians+13&version=NIV

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

My Hope, My Faith

My hope in seeing Jason again lies in my firm belief that, on the third day after His death, Jesus rose from the dead, thereby conquering death and the grave. It has been and will forever be my faith and my hope.

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

For those of us who are Christians, our hope of seeing our loved ones again lies in the risen Christ. Because of the death of Jesus and His resurrection, I know that I will see Jason again.

CC

Good Friday quote

View original post