Heavens of Brass

I don’t know how or when it started, but I grew up feeling God was with me, protecting me, that somehow I was favored. It’s not as if I had a wonderful or remarkable childhood or was anyone special. I can’t even explain why I felt like that. It wasn’t really a conscious thought, but I just knew God really, truly cared about me, that he heard my prayers and that they “availed much.” I had a real assurance that I mattered to Him.

As a parent, I truly believed that my prayers for my kids and their friends and for our family really made a difference in this world. Even when our baby died, my faith that God cared and heard my prayers wasn’t shaken. I woke up nearly every night at 3:30 a.m., went downstairs to kneel in front of the couch and pray for our kids, for their friends, for our family. I believed God would protect our kids, that he heard my prayers for them and that he had a plan for them. One year, I gave Jason a beautiful framed scripture that he kept by his bed –  “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. Jeremiah 29:11” From the time Jason was born, both Joe and I felt like God’s hand was on him and he had a special purpose in this world. Even as a little boy, he just radiated love and kindness and joy and empathy.

But, I felt like all of that changed when Jason died. For a while, I felt like God was close to me right after Jason died and I could really tell people were praying for us. But, as I wrote in my journal a a couple months later, I could tell that people were moving on and had quit praying for us. I also felt like God had removed his hand of protection, that He no longer heard my prayers. My world came crashing down. I was free falling down a bottomless black hole with nothing and no one to stop me or hear my cries.

I felt God’s presence incredibly close after Jason died. I felt the prayers of people who knew us, lifting us up before the Most High. Somewhere along the line, it seemed as though God wasn’t paying attention any more, that He really didn’t care about the anguish we were going through. Somewhere along the line, I felt like God had abandoned us. I felt like the heavens were brass and my prayers weren’t even reaching the ceiling. I felt that people were no longer praying for us. Somewhere along the line, it seemed as though God’s people didn’t care so much any more. God’s people abandoned us.

https://onewomansperspective02.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/a-crisis-of-faith/

I have struggled with my faith since then, and it seems as nothing has been right or gone right since Jason died. We have truly walked a hard and rocky path since March 3, 2002. Nearly everyone we knew abandoned us. We have wandered and wandered, trying to find a place to be “at home.” We have few I would consider true friends. People we have cared about and trusted have hurt us and proven themselves uncaring and untrustworthy. We have walked through so many difficult things since then, only a fraction of which I have talked about here. The God of grace and mercy I thought I knew seems to have turned his back, and I feel like my prayers go no higher than hitting a heaven of brass. I feel like, as it says in Deuteronomy 28:23, “The skies above will be as unyielding as bronze, and the earth beneath will be as hard as iron.”

I wrote earlier about what it is like to have a crisis of faith.

One of the things I miss most since Jason died (besides Jason and my life as I knew it before my world was shattered) is my unquestioning faith in God. I remember times when my heart was so full with love for God that I thought it would burst. I don’t feel that way any more, at least for now. I remember standing by the cassette player (yes, cassette player) with my eyes closed, singing my pledge of devotion to God along with Andrea Crouch or Clay Crosse. I remember being so moved by a song as I sang in the choir that I could hardly get the words out. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15) was my anthem. I would have died for my faith, for God.

But what happens when it’s not you who are “slayed” and it’s your child who dies? What happens when you have to face life without your child, when you have to figure out how to go on living without your child? Then it’s not quite so easy to say, is it? I doubt that there isn’t one parent whose child died that gladly wouldn’t have taken his or her child’s place. I would much rather take the brunt of something awful FOR my children than it happen TO any of them. I would gladly have died in Jason’s place.

I keep on trying and trying, praying and hoping for things to turn around for us, but nothing has changed and we are so weary. I feel like I am losing hope. They say hope springs eternal, but I’m not so sure about that any more. The Bible encourages us to “build yourself up in your most holy faith.” What happens when you run out of energy to keep on trying to do that? Where is the “rest for the weary” that is promised?

I have had a crisis of faith. Does that mean I don’t believe in God? No. It just means it seems that what I thought I knew about God wasn’t accurate. It means that what I thought God would “do” for me, He wouldn’t or didn’t do. I thought that if I prayed for my kids that they would be protected. I thought that if I served God with all my heart and tried to do the right things God would make things right for me. I believed that God heard my fervent prayers, that my prayers “availed much” (James 5:16) in the kingdom of heaven and on earth, and that God answered my prayers. I believed God protected my family. I guess I sort of saw God like my own personal genie who could grant me whatever wish I wished for if I wished hard enough for it. That’s not faith; that’s wishful thinking.

Right after Jason died, I remember praying and praying that God would make something good come out of Jason’s death. I didn’t want Jason’s life and death to be for nothing. Both my husband and I felt, from the moment Jason was born, that God had great plans for his life. We felt that he was to do something great for God. And then God didn’t protect Jason and he died. After he died, I prayed that Jason’s life would be like a pebble dropped in a pond, that the ripples of his precious life would be like concentric rings and reach far and wide. Surely, there had to be more to Jason’s life and his living than he would die at the age of 19 before he barely was into adulthood. Surely, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28),” don’t they? I guess I’m still looking for the “good” to come out of Jason’s death, as I can’t say that I’ve seen it yet.

https://onewomansperspective02.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/a-crisis-of-faith/

I’ve been a Christian for a long time. I picture my faith like a large tree with roots that go deep. But that tree has been nearly cut off at ground level. I’m questioning everything I took for granted – the sayings, the teachings, the cliches, the formulas, the things I thought I knew and understood to be true. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. I think God is big enough and has enough grace to handle my questioning.

I feel like my faith will grow again from the roots up, but it may not look the same as it did. I don’t want some pie-in-the-sky cliche. It’s got to apply to the tough stuff, to daily life. I want a faith and a hope that is real, practical, strong. I want a “rubber meets the road” faith in God that will carry me until I see my boy again.

https://onewomansperspective02.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/the-question-of-faith/

Easter is seen as a time of hope, of renewal, of celebrating the risen Christ. I am very thankful that Jesus died for my sins and that he rose again so that I might have eternal life. Because of that, I know that I will see Jason again.  As I said on Easter last year, “I am thankful for the hope that Easter represents: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a way for us to reconcile our sinful, human natures with the holiness of God, Jesus Christ’s victory over death when he rose from the grave, and the promise of eternal life after death. Without the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, I would have no hope of seeing Jason again. And I am so incredibly thankful for that hope.” But, I will admit that I still struggle.

My goal in writing this on Easter morning is not to be a downer. If you are one of those people whose Easter is full of joy and hope, if you are celebrating with family, kids, grandkids or friends, if you feel the joy and happiness that Easter might bring, I am so happy for you!

I would ask, however, that you not forget those who might be struggling on this Easter. Those who are alone. Those who are estranged from their kids or family. Those who don’t have the picture-perfect, Easter egg hunting relationship with their grandkids. Those who are missing dearly loved ones. Those whose children have died. Those who are struggling with their faith. Those who feel like the heavens are brass and that God has forsaken them. I’m positive I am not the only one who feels this way. As with all holidays, I believe it’s good to have a reminder to think of and pray for those who may not be as fortunate.

I Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 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. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

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

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. 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.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+13&version=NIV

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

[I wrote this on Easter morning, but didn’t get a chance to post it before we left the house for the day.]

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Easter Just Isn’t the Same Any More

IMG_6927Easter just isn’t the same any more, not since Jason died.

Growing up in the home of a pastor, we always celebrated Easter in a special way. New dresses, new shoes, special radio program prepared by the “Singing Knudson’s,” special music and message for church service. We, of course, did none of the Easter bunny stuff at all. It was all about celebrating the burial and resurrection of Jesus.

1988 Easter  36.jpgWe continued the traditions after Joe and I got married and our kids were born. I bought or sewed new clothes for the kids. I made a new dress for myself. I got up really early on Easter Sunday morning and put together the kids’ Easter baskets, filling them with things I had been secretly collecting for weeks. I put the baskets in front of their bedroom doors to find when they first woke up. After breakfast, off we went to church, bright and early on Easter Sunday morning, to celebrate our risen Savior. We went out to lunch after the service, clothed in our Sunday finest. We had Easter egg hunts, either in the park or at our house, with Joe hiding the eggs over and over again for the kids to find. One year, my mom came to visit us for Easter. It was so much fun. Easter was full of fun and joy.

After Jason died, it seemed as though we tried to carry on with the way things had been. We tried to be “normal,” like we used to be. When your world shatters and everything you know changes or disappears, I suppose you try to hold on to what you know in an effort to find your bearings again. Joe had gone back to work, and Jenna and I had gone back to college a week after Jason died. Since Jenna was participating in the Running Start program (going to college and receiving both high school and college credits while still in high school), she needed to complete her credits in order to graduate. So, we went back to school. The car she had shared with Jason had been destroyed in the accident, so we rode to school together until we could find a car for her.

Easter 2002 was on March 31st, just four weeks after Jason died. On Easter Sunday morning, we got up, got dressed and got ready to go to church. As we started to drive to church, Jenna told us she just couldn’t go. Joe and I realized that we just couldn’t go, either. We turned around and went back home, sat on the bed and cried and cried and cried. It was a horrible day, our first “holiday” without Jason.

I think that was the day I began to realize that I didn’t have to – I couldn’t – carry on the way things had been in the past. The “normal” I had known was gone. It was just a very small inkling of realization, one that I would continue – and keep continuing – to learn. I didn’t have to push my family or myself to keep trying to carry on as usual, because the “usual” was no more. I wasn’t the same. None of us were the same. We didn’t have to go to Easter Sunday service four weeks after Jason died, just because it was something we always had done. We needed to do what we felt we could do, what we wanted or needed to do for ourselves.

I wish someone had told me this way back then, that it was okay to give myself permission not to keep on trying to do things the way they had been done. I kept trying to be strong, kept trying to put on a good face, kept trying to go on the way I had before. It was so exhausting trying to act like I had “before.” That’s the thing, though. For a parent whose child has died, there is a very clear line between the “before” and the “after.” Nothing is the same. Nothing will ever be the same. Easter – and all holidays – can never be the same. How could they be? There is a huge hole in our families, in our lives, in our celebrations. We just have to find a way to find new meaning in those events or special days, and new traditions or ways to celebrate.

I am thankful for the hope that Easter represents: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a way for us to reconcile our sinful, human natures with the holiness of God, Jesus Christ’s victory over death when he rose from the grave, and the promise of eternal life after death. Without the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, I would have no hope of seeing Jason again. And I am so incredibly thankful for that hope.

My precious Jason, I miss you in this Easter season and every day. I love you. I look forward to the day I will see you again.

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

 

Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday is coming up soon, and my boss reminded me of that fact a few days ago. Birthday reminders of clients and employees pop up on his calendar, and he had noticed mine coming up. I just kind of crinkled my nose and went back to working. I’m sure he thought my response to that reminder was very underwhelming.

I like my boss. He’s a good guy. He’s generous and nice to me. That’s important to me as a general rule, but especially important in the workplace since I spend nearly as much waking time at work with him during the week as I do at home with my family. He’s really busy, always has a million things on his mind, and so we don’t chitchat a whole lot about personal things. That’s okay. I would really rather not talk about myself or my life, anyway. The point here is that I’ve never said anything to him about Jason or the death of a child. As a result, I’m sure he thought my reaction to his birthday reminder was a typical female-not-wanting-to-get-older thing.

It got me thinking about what I would say if he commented about my reaction to my birthday. Do I just minimize my reaction and let him think that I just don’t want to get any older? Or do I tell him the truth – that I would really rather skip over my birthday and most “holidays” entirely because of Jason’s death? What exactly would I say? Mentioning the death of a child can really make things awkward. Do I say something or let him be comfortable in his lack of knowledge about Jason? What if the topic of how many children I have or something of the like comes up some other time or way? I guess I just need to process this in case the topic of my birthday and lack of enthusiasm about it comes up again before the actual day.

I’ve always loved holidays and everything that goes along with them – birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July. Making Halloween costumes, planning birthday parties, getting ready to host the 4th of July at our house, baking cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas morning. You name it. I loved it all with a passion.

I loved shopping for stuff for Easter baskets for the kids. I’d keep my eyes open for weeks before Easter for cute stuffed animals and unique things I could buy. One year I got each of them a bottle of sparking cider for their baskets. My husband kind of scratched his head on that one, but I knew that all of them loved sparkling cider and that they would probably get a kick out of having their own bottles to drink. I’d get up early on Easter morning, sit on the floor of our bedroom in front of the closet where I had been hiding everything, put the baskets together, and then set them in front of their bedroom doors so they could find them first thing when they got up. It made me so very happy to surprise them like that.

As I wrote that last paragraph, I physically felt the excitement I used to feel as I got ready for holidays and events, and it made me smile the biggest smile. But then it was followed by tears welling up in my eyes, because…well…holidays just aren’t the same for me any more. You see, holidays bring into focus the holes in my life, especially the huge hole left by Jason and the aftermath of his death. I have too many holes in my life and struggles surround those holes, and they make holidays really hard. They’re all hard, but holidays that celebrate “me” are hard for me in a different way than other holidays.

Everyone likes to feel special to family and friends and that their lives are celebrated by family and friends. I was no different. I wanted to be surprised by gifts and celebrated on my birthday, to be honored on Mother’s Day, to have love gifts or flowers from my husband on Valentine’s Day, to get well-thought-out-just-for-me presents for Christmas.

I remember one Mother’s Day it seemed as if no one had made any advance preparations to celebrate “my day.” It was one of those “Oh, by the way, Becky, where would YOU like to go for dinner?” years, and it rather peeved me a bit that not more thought had gone into celebrating “me.” Selfish. It just makes me feel so selfish now. How I wish I hadn’t been so selfish.

I guess that’s why I especially don’t like celebrating holidays where the focus is on me. I would gladly trade every single one of them just to have the ordinary days back of being together with my entire family. There were times when other things – “me” things or some activity or perceived need to be addressed – that seemed so important to me at the time. Now, I honestly can’t remember most of what they were. If I can’t remember what they are now, how could I have thought they were so important then? What really is important in this life? If I could just take back all of the times I was selfish – times when I thought I needed “me” time or when I thought I wasn’t being valued as much as I thought I was supposed to be – or when I thought I had too much to do to sit down and play a game of chess or cards with Jason, I would do it in a heartbeat.

You see, I’m just not that important in the whole scheme of things. I don’t feel the need to be celebrated any more. I’d rather the focus be on the people I love than on me. They mean the world to me.

If I could just communicate one thing to parents, it would be to cherish and value their family and those ordinary days with their kids. I see parents rushing their kids along or harping at them for one thing or another. It breaks my heart. Don’t realize how much more important those precious treasures right in front of their noses are than getting on to the next store or whatever? When those moments are gone forever – and especially if those children are gone forever – all of a sudden you see things with a new perspective. I know there are a lot of parents who are really trying really hard to do it right and who value their children beyond measure. It just seems like there are also those who forget how short those days are in the rush of adult things they feel they need to do.

Every parent has regrets, I would venture to say, and wishes they had done certain things differently. I have bucket loads of regrets and things I wish I could or had done differently. There’s nothing I can do about them now, and so I just have to deal with it as best I can.

I think I’ll just skip over my birthday this year and see if I can figure out how to reflect – or perhaps deflect – that attention to someone else so they can feel valued and important.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

Sometimes my heart just hurts

Honestly, sometimes my heart just hurts.

It has surprised my how close to the surface my grief has been this month over losing Jason. I really thought I had turned a corner last year when I went back to Seattle. For some reason, it felt like the ten-year mark was a major turning point.

But, I have found myself close to tears at unexpected times during this entire month, times when my heart hurts so much the tears want to spill out. This March marks the end of eleven years without Jason and beginning of the twelfth year. Moving forward into twelve years – it feels like I’m once again walking through molasses. The loss of Jason – and so many, many other losses – feels particularly acute right now.

Perhaps it’s just the time of year, the month of the year that Jason died. Perhaps it’s a time when accumulative losses seem particularly heavy. Perhaps it’s remembering the excitement of putting together Easter baskets to leave outside the kids’ rooms on Easter morning…and missing that time like crazy…missing my boy like crazy. Jason, even at 19, kept the Easter bunnies I put in his basket.

Perhaps it’s the unsettled-ness that we seem to continue to walk through since Jason died. There felt like such a contented, settled, happy feeling before Jason died. True, everything was not rosy all the time, but there was happiness and hope and determination to keep moving toward better things ahead. Since then there has been losses of jobs, friends, home; moving here and there, trying to find a place where we “fit.”

Perhaps it’s waiting for spring to arrive outside…and waiting for spring to arrive in the deep places of my heart and grief. Perhaps it’s trying to find a meaningful purpose for my life, a reason for trying so hard to keep on living my life in spite of all this pain and loss. Perhaps it’s just the weariness of the journey on this Good Friday before Easter.

Sometimes the effort of the journey catches up with me and I get weary of trying so hard…and sometimes my heart just hurts. I guess the price of loving a sweet, wonderful boy so much is having my heart heart so much that he’s gone.

© 2013 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

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