A Father’s Heart

IMG_8140I’ve never known a man to have such a huge father’s heart as my husband, Joe. His heart for his children knows no bounds.

From the moment the kids were born, Joe relished being a dad. Even from the minute we found out I was pregnant, he could hardly wait until the baby was born. He truly delighted in the birth of each of our kids.

He would come home after a long day of work (and a long drive home!!) and would play swamp monster, take them swimming, play ball out in the yard, wrestle on the floor, on and on. Each night was completed with Joe reading a book – Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Polaris Jack, But No Elephants, Richard Scarry. If he got tired of reading the same book over and over, he’d read it backwards as the kids laughed hilariously. If he got tired of playing the same game over and over, he’d make up his own hilarious rules. His greatest joy was being the one to pray a prayer to ask Jesus into their hearts. He wanted to be able to spend eternity with his children.

Once in a while, the kids and I would meet Joe downtown Seattle for lunch. We’d have lunch and then go to the Seattle Center and walk around. If Joe wasn’t busy at work, he would take the kids on the tram back to work with him to spend the rest of the day. They loved spending time with their daddy.

As they got older, he helped prepare for and host parties for the kids and their friends, helped our daughter and her friend dye their hair, polished Jason’s shoes as he got ready to go to a prom, taught each of them to ride a bike and later to drive. I couldn’t begin to list the many different ways he spent time and was involved with our kids. He loved being involved in their lives…and they loved him being involved. Always a people person, Joe could always be found in the middle of a group of kids, playing right along with them, making up games. The more the merrier, the more the fun. We rarely had a babysitter, instead taking the kids with us wherever we went. We loved having them with us.

Joe played more games of chess with Jason than I could count. He paid for the kids’ education, bought their first car for them, helped our older son start (and stay) in business, paid off his debts to help get on him feet when he was struggling. He has helped emotionally, spiritually, financially – just to name a few. To say that he was an involved dad would be an understatement…and the kids loved every minute of it. He celebrated each triumph with them and grieved each sorrow with them. To say that he loves his kids so much also would be an understatement.

Joe struggled terribly when Jason died. He was so devastated. I was so worried about him. He went back to work – and Jenna and I went back to school – a week after the accident. I think we all tried to jump back in too early, but we didn’t know any different. Joe had an hour and a half drive to and from work, his route taking him by either the cemetery or the accident site every day. Many days he would come home from work, and I knew he had been crying.

102_0734.JPGJoe told me once that he always imagined our house in Snohomish being filled with our kids and grandkids. He was looking forward to being a grandpa. He could picture it filled with family and friends.

After Jason died, the emptiness echoed around us. Our friends disappeared and left us alone. Our daughter was busy with school, working and taking dance lessons. Our older son had moved out not long after his son was born. He, too, went to school, worked a labor-intensive job and helped take care of his son, Michael. Although we have three grandchildren now and have tried to stay in touch and have a relationship with them, it has been difficult. With long distance relationships, it takes encouragement from parents and effort on all parties for it to work. Much to our sorrow, it just hasn’t happened very much. Let’s just say it’s not the ideal Norman Rockwell grandparent-grandchild relationship. It’s very sad.

Yesterday, our new neighbors (who have bought the property across the street and will be building a house there) came by their property to play in the creek. They are a young couple with two adorable children and stop by regularly for picnics and to let the kids play by the creek. I notice Joe periodically looking longingly out the window at them, wishing he could be a part of the fun. We had to run some errands and Joe saw a sporting goods store that had big balls in bins in front of the store for sale. He went over to look at them, thinking to buy one for the kids to play with. Since we try very hard to not encroach on their privacy, especially since they usually bring friends with them, Joe decided not to buy one. He was very quiet on the way home and I could tell how much he misses being around “young people” and especially kids. He wants to be the grandpa that hangs out and plays with his grandkids. He was just so sad.

We miss getting together with people. We miss being around young people. We miss our kids. We always thought we would continue the fun of raising our kids once our grandkids were born. It just hasn’t happened that way. Our son, daughter-in-law and grandkids live all the way across the country and it continues to be a difficult situation. Jason he is gone. He will never get married. He will never have kids. He would have been a great dad. Our daughter and son-in-law live four hours away. They have made a decision not to have kids, and we respect their decision. This coronavirus thing has made it difficult to see them. Both Joe and I have been horribly burned by people we trusted and struggle with trusting friendships. As a result, we really don’t have any close friends and are alone a lot of the time.

fullsizeoutput_c607We just celebrated our 44th anniversary. I love this man more than I could ever put into words. We have been through ups and downs, many moves hither and yon, difficult things no parent should face, health issues, on and on. We have survived and I love him more today than when we got married.

I heard this song the other day and thought of Joe when I heard it. It’s written in the form of a rhetorical question – Could I Love You Any More? – to which the answer is: I don’t know how I could love him any more than I already do. I love him with my whole heart.

Seven billion people in the world
Finding you is like a miracle
Only this wonder remains

Could I love you any more? (Question’s rhetorical)
Could I love you any more? (Oh, this feels phenomenal)
Could I love you any more? (Love is all there is)

Could I love you any more? (It’s inexhaustible)
Could I love you any more? (Oh, love is unstoppable)
Could I love you any more? (Love is all there is)

Wishing happy Father’s Day to my precious hubby. I wish I could take away your sadness and fill the gaps left by Jason’s death. You are an amazing man and I am so thankful for you.

~Becky

© 2020 Rebecca R. Carney

Memorial Day 2020

As we drove home today following a weekend visit with our daughter and son-in-law, we passed a church with a Memorial Day marquee that said:

Instead of mourning their death, thank God they lived.

I have to admit that I struggle with not letting sayings like this really irritate me. To me – and I’m speaking strictly in my own humble opinion – people who spout sayings like this (or in this case put on a church marquee) have no idea what it’s like to deeply mourn the loss of a dearly loved person, especially the death of a child. A saying like this could easily be interpreted as condemnation for someone who is mourning. At best, those saying things like this are horribly misinformed. At worst, it’s a slap in the face for those grieving the loss of a loved one.

Mourning the death of a loved one and being thankful that they lived is not an either/or situation. I am so thankful that Jason was born. I am so incredibly thankful he was born into our family. Being thankful for his life doesn’t mean that I don’t mourn his death or that I don’t miss him every day of my life. It’s an awfully huge assumption that both grief and thankfulness cannot co-exist.

Those who mourn should not to be judged or condemned for not being thankful. The Bible calls those who mourn blessed. Consider the words of Jesus said in the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3-10

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5&version=NIV

Hugs to all of you missing dearly loved ones today.

~Becky

© 2020 Rebecca R. Carney

 

 

Mother’s Day – When motherhood doesn’t go as expected.

I wish I could skip right over Mother’s Day. There’s no getting around it. Mother’s Day makes me sad.

The only thing I ever wanted to be in life was a mother. I pictured a Norman Rockwell family – mom, dad, happy, healthy, loving kids with whom I would have a life-long, loving and happy relationship. Family Christmases. Holidays together. Celebrating important life events together. Grandkids running around the house.

Things don’t always go as planned or as we hope they will.

Jason is gone. He was my sunshine, my loving, kind, wonderful boy. He was hope for a daughter-in-law and grandchildren who would love us and want to be around us. I miss him so much.

Our older son lives all the way across the country and is married to a woman who has no respect nor care for us and actively communicates the same to our son and grandchildren. We do all we can to try to maintain a relationship and show them how much we care – call, visit whenever we can (at great financial cost to us), send gifts for nearly every occasion, etc. I can’t tell if it makes any difference at all. It breaks my heart.

Our daughter and son-in-law don’t live close to us any more and we miss them like crazy. She communicated to us a long time ago that she had no desire to ever have any children. That’s fine; it’s certainly her choice and we respect that. Our son-in-law has grown to care about us – and we for him – and for that I am thankful. He is from El Salvador and called me on Friday – Mother’s Day in El Salvador – to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day (right after he called his own mom). It was very sweet.

Other things, some I can’t talk about, have absolutely crushed my heart. Some days the cross feels so heavy and I am tired.

Motherhood – and life in general – doesn’t always go as expected. Most days I keep on moving down this road of life, but some days I just have to sit and let the tears flow. Broken dreams. Broken heart. Today is one of those days.

Hugs to all mothers with broken hearts and empty arms this Mother’s Day and every day.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Sweet Memories

For Thanksgiving Day and Christmas morning, I used to get up really early to start making fresh cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls for my family on these very special days. I would set my alarm for 4 a.m., go downstairs and begin the process of mixing the dough. I’d turn on the oven light for a bit, just long enough to warm the oven up a little, while I got the ingredients together.

The milk went into a large pan and onto a burner to warm to just the right temperature. When it got warm enough, I’d take it off the burner and add in the butter to melt and pinch of salt, gradually mixing in a flour/sugar/yeast mixture, along with the eggs, and then beat it on high for one minute. After that, I’d start adding more flour bit by bit and mixing by hand, eventually pouring the mixture onto the freshly-washed and floured kitchen table, kneading the dough until it was just the right consistency. Once it was all mixed to the perfect consistency, the dough (covered by wax paper and a clean kitchen towel) went back into the now-greased pan and into the oven that had been warmed by the oven light. There it would sit until it had risen to the perfect, fluffy height.

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Dough for cinnamon rolls – Christmas 2000

I’d go back to bed, setting my alarm to wake up and go back downstairs in another hour and a half or so. I would pull the dough out of the oven, carefully remove the wax paper, and then poke two fingers down into the dough. Sometimes it would have risen so much it would look like a muffin with dough pooching over the side of the pan. There’s something so satisfying about poking fingers into beautiful, raised dough. And it smells so wonderfully yeast-y. I’d then fold the dough in on itself to deflate it a bit so I could get it ready for the next step.

I’d take a big knife and carefully section each of the dough balls into quarter-portions – some for dinner rolls and the rest (most of it) for cinnamon rolls. I started with the dinner rolls, because they were the quickest to put together. Half dollar-sized chunks of dough were pulled off and rolled into little balls. Into greased cupcake pans they would go, three to a cup, to make cloverleaf dinner rolls. Covered and set onto the stove to rise, I’d move onto making cinnamon rolls.fullsizeoutput_139b3

The remaining sections of dough were individually rolled one at a time into rectangular shapes, and then slathered with partially-melted butter and generously sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar. Some had nuts and raisins added, some only nuts, some neither nuts nor raisins. The dough was then rolled up tightly into a long roll and scissored into sections with dental floss. Into the greased, waiting pans the dough would go, ready to be covered and set in the still-warmish oven to rise again.

This time, because the cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls didn’t need to rise as long, I usually set my alarm just to make sure I put them into the oven in time, but I didn’t sleep. Sometimes I’d use the time to take a shower and clean up the kitchen, although I usually cleaned as I went along.

fullsizeoutput_139bfOnce my alarm went off, back to the kitchen I would go to begin the baking process. The whole house filled with the wonderful smell of fresh bread and cinnamon. That usually brought everyone downstairs and we would begin our Christmas morning traditions – eating warm cinnamon rolls while Joe read the Christmas story. Orange juice, milk, coffee, and fruit would complete our Christmas morning feast.

We all munched cinnamon rolls while listening to the story of the birth of our Savior, sometimes taking turns reading so Joe would have time to enjoy the his cinnamon roll while it was nice and warm. The oven would then be repurposed to bake Christmas Day dinner –  sometimes a ham, sometimes a turkey, sometimes both.

I usually would mix up two or three huge pans of dough, having been sternly told by my family the night before to make sure I made enough cinnamon rolls. Believe me, we never ran out of cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. People would drift back into the kitchen all morning and into the afternoon to get another bite of a cinnamon roll.

I don’t make cinnamon rolls any more. I tried to continue with the tradition, but it never brought the same joy. That first Christmas after Jason died, I’m sure my tears were added to the dough. It was such a tough year to celebrate Christmas at all. Jason had asked me the year before to teach him to make bread, especially cinnamon rolls. He wanted to get up with me on the next Christmas morning and help me make them so he could learn. He didn’t live to see that next Christmas morning.

Yesterday, my husband and I went for lunch to a local cafe here in town called City Bakery. It’s really a combination coffee shop/bakery/sandwich shop. It has a very comfortable vibe with people drinking coffee or eating a sandwich while chatting with a friend or relative, students studying or people on their laptops.

One menu item that City Bakery has is something they call “sticky buns.” They look and taste almost exactly like the cinnamon rolls I used to make. Mine were a little bigger and had a little more gooey stuff inside, I think, but to eat a warm cinnamon roll at City Bakery is like slipping right back in time to those Christmases when Jason was here and I got up early to make cinnamon rolls.

 

 

Sweet memories, but, oh, how I miss my boy. I would give anything to go back to those days.

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney

When our kids were born, we decided not to do the whole Santa thing with our kids. With my dad being a pastor, Santa was never part of our Christmases growing up, anyway; it was all about the birth of Jesus.

Growing up, my husband’s family encouraged asking Santa for gifts, taking photos with Santa, opening up presents on Christmas morning from Santa. When Joe found out, as a young boy, that the gifts were bought by his parents and not given to him by Santa, he felt like his parents had lied to him. He felt betrayed. Santa was a myth; his parents had lied. Therefore, he was absolutely adamant that our kids would know that Christmas was all about Jesus and not Santa, that the greatest gift of all was Jesus being born on earth. Gifts were bought, given and received by people who loved each other.

We did, however, put up stockings. Instead of gifts from Santa, we bought each other small gifts to put in the stockings. One year, my sister made all of us beautiful, handmade stockings. By Christmas morning, the stockings were overflowing with fun little gifts.

After Jason died, I really struggled with what to do about the stockings. It didn’t seem right to put them all up and continue the tradition of filling them with small gifts. If we did that, four stockings would be full and Jason’s would hang empty. I couldn’t put up just four stockings so we could continue our “before” tradition. I couldn’t just leave them in a box over Christmas. We had to figure out a new tradition.

I came up with the idea of Christmas bingo. We still hung up the stockings as decorations, but we came up with a new tradition. We bought fun little items, ones we typically would have put in each other’s stockings. Instead, all the gifts were put on a table and we played bingo. Whoever won the bingo game got to pick a prize. We chose an age-appropriate bingo game, depending on the year and who was with us at Christmas. Some years, we played “bingo” with card games; whoever won the card game got to pick a prize. It has ended up being a hit with all ages.

When a child dies, traditions that a family used to do only highlight the empty hole left by the child’s death. I can’t tell you how much I struggled that first Christmas. I tried so hard to maintain the Christmas traditions as we knew them – partly because I didn’t know what else to do, partly because I was trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, partly to try to maintain our traditions.

After the death of a child, holidays are incredibly difficult times. If you are experiencing such a loss, please know that you are not alone. I pray that God – along with your family and friends – will hold you especially close this season.

Missing my boy, this Christmas season and every day.

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

My husband and I are going back to Seattle for Christmas this year. It’s been three years since we’ve been there. Although we no longer actually have a physical home there, Seattle will always feel like home to me. It’s never an easy thing to do, this going back to the “home” that used to be, the one that remained after Jason died.

I know that there will be times when we will be in places that are poignantly familiar. I know that, at times, there may be triggers. We will go to visit Jason’s grave. I know that we will miss Jason like crazy.

As I cleaned closets today, one of the songs that came on my iTunes was a song sung by Jimmy Durante – “I’ll be Seeing You.” It brought tears to my eyes.

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishing well
I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summers day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll seeing you.
Songwriters: Irving Kahal / Sammy Fain
I’ll Be Seeing You lyrics © BMG Rights Management
Here’s to you, my precious boy. I know that everywhere I look, I’ll be seeing you and missing you. Life is not the same without you.
~Mom
© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney