Happy birthday, my precious Mr. Jay…

AND CAN IT BE, IN A WORLD SO FULL AND BUSY, THE LOSS OF ONE CREATURE MAKES A VOID SO WIDE AND DEEP THAT NOTHING BUT THE WIDTH AND DEPTH OF ETERNITY CAN FILL IT UP?         Charles Dickens

Oh, my precious boy…how I miss you…I love you…

Jason's birthday - July 29, 1982

Jason’s birthday – July 29, 1982

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My precious Mr. Jay

 

Jason David Carney - 7/29/82 - 3/3/02

Jason David Carney – 7/29/82 – 3/3/02

© 2015 Rebecca R. Carney

 

Lost in thought on a Sunday morning

Listening to Pandora this morning – this Father’s Day 2015 – songs from my childhood have put me in a contemplative mood. “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.” “I Love to Tell the Story.” “Farther Along.” Songs that remind me of my dad and my growing up years in the church.

sc0018cf1c01Since my father was a preacher, Sundays growing up were busy with church and church-related activities. We kids were responsible for folding the bulletins on the way to church. Church was 25 miles north of where we lived, so we had a half hour to fold them and do whatever else we needed to do to get ready for the day. Dad had prepared the content of the bulletins on Saturday. Mom had typed them up and printed them out on the mimeograph machine in the dining room late Saturday evening.

sc00025c1301Sunday School  was followed by the morning church service where we, as a family, may or may not have been involved in singing “special music.” Since we were small children, all of us had been involved front and center of church services. Church was our second home. My very earliest memories are of falling asleep on a church pew, standing up in front of the congregation singing “Jesus Loves Me” or standing beside my sister as she quoted the 23rd Psalm. She couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5, and I still remember wondering how she could remember all those words and feeling bad because I was too nervous to chime in.

After church, we would go home, eat the pot roast that had been cooking on the stove while we were at church, and then get ready to record the music for the radio broadcast that would be played on two radio stations the following week.

sc0080c86eDad had prepared the “song list” for the day. We, in varying family-member combinations, sang trios, duets, solos or all together. Mom played the piano, organ and accordion; Dad played twelve different instruments, including the guitar, trumpet, trombone, banjo. Sometimes we would have a theme for the program. My favorite was the “old time cowboy service,” complete with sounds my dad made with his mouth that sounded like a horse clip-clopping up to the church door. Dad would add a 15-minute message to the music a day or so later, and the reel-to-reel tapes would be sent to a radio station in the neighboring town and off to another station over the state line in Utah.

sc003843be02In the evening, we would all get in the car and head back to church for the evening service, sometimes either preceded or followed by a “fellowship” time. Wednesday evenings were dedicated to a Bible study and prayer service. Since my junior and high school was 50 miles south, we would get off the bus after school on Wednesday evenings, eat a quick bite for dinner, and then head out for the 25 miles north to church. Up until I graduated from high school, I think I missed one service. One service. Period. And now I have a tough time just going to church.

Ever since Jason died, I have struggled with going to church and with my faith. At first, it was hard to watch people smiling and clapping just like “normal” when our lives were anything but normal any more. Carrying on “church” as we used to, like nothing had happened and as if Jason had not died, was impossible. The noise of the whole thing rattled my nerves and made me extremely antsy. And then there was the whole “disappearing act” by people we knew.

We felt so burned by the way we were treated by Christians after Jason died. I, especially, felt deserted by man and God. We had no blood-related family within 2000 miles, so all of us looked to and relied on our church and homeschool Christian “family” to be there for us. For some reason, they just couldn’t be the support we needed. And it has really affected me. It has affected all of us. Since then, finding a place where both Joe and I feel “at home” in a church has not been easy.

I’ve written extensively about how alone we were and how difficult that time was. I reached out to fellow Christians like a person drowning, desperately grabbing for a lifeline, and felt ignored or like I got my hand slapped. The church I knew as a source of comfort, support and friendship became a reminder of great loss and so many secondary losses. Loss of faith, loss of friendship, loss of support, loss of feeling safe and loved. The strong, genuine connection I felt to church, to fellow Christians and to God still feels somewhat broken. I no longer see church as a source of friendship, comfort or solace. I am very guarded toward church people…and toward being open with people in general. Instead of feeling comfortable and home-y, church still makes me tense and anxious, although not as much as it used to right after Jason died.

I’ve written about my crisis of faith before, too. As I said in my earlier post, I don’t believe that a crisis of faith is a sin. It just means that what I thought I believed didn’t line up with what I’ve experienced. It means I’m still working on adjusting my beliefs. There’s so much I don’t understand about this life and why things happen the way they do. I still struggle so much with Jason’s death and the way our lives have changed beyond measure. It’s just so hard to lose a child. Life is never the same. I keep on trying to find a purpose and keep trying to fan the flames of my faith. I miss feeling a part of something, though. I miss a strong and real connection to fellow believers. I miss my unquestioning faith and my strong connection to God.

Joe and I went to a bluegrass festival the end of February, just a week before March 3rd (the day Jason died) and attended the Sunday morning musical performances. A wonderful group of young musicians named Flatt Lonesome sang a song, He Still Hears, that brought both of us to tears. It’s comforting to know that, no matter what happens to me and no matter how much I struggle, no matter how , God still cares about me and hears me when I pray. He will never give up on me.

He Still Hears

 

When the days can seem so long and the nights are longer still

In times like these you can question God’s good will

Your heart is hurting so and you lost the strength to stand

Cry out the Lord He hears you still

 

He still hears when it seems you’re all alone

He still hears when your bread is turned to stone

God will work according to His perfect all-wise will

Cry out to the Lord He hears you still

 

When your heart is growing cold and the fire is all but out

And life’s hard work brings on an empty chill

Just stir the coals again rebuild the fire the storms have quenched

And cry out the Lord He hears you still

 

He still hears when it seems you’re all alone

He still hears when your bread is turned to stone

God will work according to His perfect all-wise will

Cry out to the Lord He hears you still

Today I will remind myself that I come from a history of faith and a heritage of believers. I will remind myself that the roots of my faith are long-standing and deep. I will remind myself that God still hears me when I pray.

© 2015 Rebecca R. Carney

Edited 6/22/15

HEY, VICTIM……

Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective:

I think most parents who have lost a child can relate to the recent blog on Soul Searching Solace about being labeled a “victim” for not moving on “quickly enough.”

https://onewomansperspective02.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/people-are-getting-tired-of-our-troubles/

Originally posted on Soul Searching Solace:

“You can be a victim in one situation but that doesn’t mean you are a victim in all situations. I’m just saying.”

Not positive, but I believe these words were directed toward me (in a sly way) after I expressed my hurt and disappointment in people in my life who I feel have not been there for me since Ben’s death. If they were meant for me, those words came from a person who I loved but have not spoken with in more than a year and a half. They hurt me deeply.

If I am allowed to be a “victim” in only one situation, I obviously became one on the day that Ben died. I supposedly used up my one chance then so I guess that means that I am to separate everything that has happened to me since Ben’s death, and who I now am, from the actual…

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How many children do you have?

My husband and I went out to dinner the other night with my bosses, their spouses and an out-of-town businessman whom I had only met once previously. In the course of conversation,  the businessman asked me, “How many children do you have?” “Three,” I answered. “How old are they?” he asked.

Most parents proudly rattle off the names and ages of their kids or grandkids, where they live, what they do, where they go to school, their latest accomplishments, and the like. To a parent who has had a child die, it’s not that easy or carefree any more.

You would think, after all these years, it would get easier to answer these questions than it used to be in the years following Jason’s death. I thought I had it figured out what to say, but then I stumble on the words.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that, no matter how long it’s been or what the situation is, they’re never easy questions to answer when you have lost a child. Some questions just prick that tender spot in your heart. Sometimes it hammers the place in your heart. Sometimes tears are so close to the surface that it takes everything you have to keep yourself together.

As a person who generally sees both sides of every coin, part of me wants to stay absolutely true to who I am and the experiences I have gone through. I want to honor the memory of our precious son – the most wonderful young man in the world – no matter how uncomfortable it makes others. But, I also know that saying our precious son was killed by a drunk driver when he was 19 years old is conversation stopper. Conversation comes to a screeching halt and things get really awkward all of a sudden. It makes everyone uncomfortable. Conversation gets stilted and everyone tiptoes around the topic of a child dying while working to find a comfortable flow in the conversation again. It’s hard to be the one who makes people so uncomfortable.

One thing that a bereaved parent learns very early on is that, if you want people to stay around you and to interact with you, the responsibility falls on YOU to make people comfortable. In spite of everything we have gone through, WE have to work to make people comfortable around US. And sometimes that means that, in certain circumstances, I don’t mention the fact that I have lost the most awesome son in the world. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it is.

And so, I talked briefly about Jenna and what she’s doing…and about Eric, where he lives, what he does, how many kids he has…silently asking Jason to forgive me for avoiding talking about him. It’s just not easy any more.

I read an awesome post recently concerning the topic of bereaved parents hiding their pain. She talks about our reality being different than what we show people around us. I highly recommend reading it: https://kathleenduncan.wordpress.com/what-bereaved-parents-want-you-to-know-but-may-not-say/

© 2015 Rebecca R. Carney

Jason David Carney.

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Jason,

Today I will think about your kindness. I will think about your loving heart. I will think about how you loved to sit on the counter in the kitchen and talk to me as I cooked dinner. I will think about your fantastic hugs. I will think about what joy you brought into our lives. I will think about your love of chess and your patience in teaching anyone who wanted to learn the game you truly enjoyed. I will think about playing Yahtzee with you. I will think about your smile and your beautiful blue eyes. I will think about how you loved to laugh and your great sense of humor. I will think about how hard you studied and what a great student you were. I will think about your empathetic and encouraging spirit. I will think about your love of God and that I will see you again. I will think of your sense of humor. I will think of your love for your sister and what a good friend and big brother you were to her. I will think about how you cherished your friends and what a good friend you were to each of them. I will think about your life. I will think of all the wonderful qualities God gave you and how you shared them with the people around you. I will cherish all these memories in my heart.

I will think about you…and how much I miss you…oh, how I miss you!!

I love you,

Mom

Jason David Carney

7/29/82 – 3/3/02

© 2015 Rebecca R. Carney

 

 

Vignettes

Snowy day, slippery roads. My boss sends me a text to say I don’t have to come in to work today, so I set about catching up on some projects at home. Laundry. Organizing. I pull out the sewing machine to repair some broken seams.  I plug my headphones into my ipod, set the music to shuffle the songs, and hum along with the tunes as I sew.

And then a song from Phantom of the Opera comes on that is so closely linked in my mind to Jason, I feel like I have stepped back into that time long ago, almost like I’m watching a vignette. The scene plays out so clearly as if it were yesterday. The chandelier. The beautiful 5th Avenue Theatre. Climbing up the steps to find our seats. The swell of the music. The orchestra. The rich, beautiful voices.

Jason and his sweetheart had invited her parents and Joe and me to go to dinner with them downtown Seattle and then to see Phantom of the Opera at the 5th Avenue Theatre. A triple date. We were so thrilled to be invited. We hardly knew her parents at the time, and were looking forward to getting to know them better. It seemed as though this relationship might go somewhere, and we could not have been more thrilled to spend time together with Jason and the one he loved.

We all dressed up, although none of us parents looked nearly as dapper as the young couple. He in his three piece suit, overcoat and fedora. She in a full length gown and beautiful cape she had made. They made quite a pair. Classy.

A single song, and I am back into that time, walking through that vignette in my mind.

It took me a long time to be able to listen to the soundtrack of Phantom of the Opera. There is still one song that brings me to tears nearly every time. Although Cristine, the main female lead, sings this song about her father’s death, the words are way too true for me not to feel their impact.

I miss you, my Mr. Jay. Wishing you were somehow here again…

WISHING YOU WERE SOMEHOW HERE AGAIN

Wishing you were somehow here again
Wishing you were somehow near
Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed
Somehow you would be here

Wishing I could hear your voice again
Knowing that I never would
Dreaming of you won’t help me to do
All that you dreamed I could
Passing bells and sculpted angels
Cold and monumental
Seem for you the wrong companions
You were warm and gentle

Phantom Of The Opera – Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again Lyrics | MetroLyrics

© 2015 Rebecca R. Carney

Another one of those “What Not to Say to Bereaved Parents” posts

I know it’s really hard to know what to say to a bereaved parent. There are some really good books and blog articles out there on what to say or not say, though, and I would like to encourage people to read them should they know someone whose child died. It would be really helpful for you – and, as a result, to the parent whose child has died – to be proactive in finding out what might help and what might hurt. Take the initiative – right away – to do some reading about will really help or what not to say to a bereaved parent.

One author on the Still Standing website writes:

If you’re a bereaved parent, you can probably count on at least five hands the number of phrases you wish people would never, ever say to you.  If only there was a way for the world to learn how to speak compassionately to the brokenhearted.  What many people believe is a comforting statement, most often is not…There seems to be a large gap between intention and what’s actually being communicated to those of us who are hurting. (http://stillstandingmag.com/2014/01/6-things-never-say-bereaved-parent/)

“A large gap between intention and what’s actually being communicated…” I think this is very true.

I know that, when people say things to a bereaved parent, most people usually have really good intentions. It’s just that the same framework that may work in other circumstances doesn’t necessarily work for a parent who has lost a child. The filters are different. The receiving heart is different. The deep, broken rawness of a bereaved parent’s heart accentuates and drives deep both the hurtful comments/actions and the well-intentioned stumbles in trying to communicate. What is intended to give comfort does not and may actually cause much more damage than good.

My precious Mr. JayOn Jason’s birthday last year, my sister shared a picture of Jason and wrote a nice tribute to him:

Let me introduce you to Jason, my nephew. He was fun, so smart, loved people, and had many friends, both his peers and adults. He loved Jesus. He and his friend Alina were killed by a drunk driver. He was 19. We live with two realities: first, our understanding that he is now in our future where we will all be together again one day soon, and then our present ache at his absence. He was loved. He mattered to his family. I wish we could all understand how important we are to someone. So today and always, I will remember Jason with great joy and I will smile.

It was a wonderful tribute, I thought, from the heart of a loving aunt. She also had quite a few nice comments, too, in response to her post.

However, one mutual acquaintance recently saw the photo and wrote, “…the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. Job 1:21…” (capital letters her emphasis). I must say this didn’t particularly comfort me in any way. What it communicated to me was that I was supposed to thank God for letting Jason die.

I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and has been given to us for instruction, inspiration, and edification. I believe hope and comfort can be found in the Bible. For some reason, though, I think Christians feel that, just because what they quote to a fellow Christian parent who has lost a child is a Bible verse, that it should be the ultimate comfort. I would strongly caution this assumption when quote Bible verses to a bereaved parent, though. I don’t think it necessarily comes across as the comfort you think it will.

I also strongly caution the same assumption about giving a book to a bereaved parent. Usually it’s a book about a fellow Christian – one, of course, who has walked through a difficult situation or great loss and has “triumphed” over his or her situation or loss – that is given to “inspire” the bereaved parent to “move on” or triumph over the tragedy. When giving this type of book, though, the message behind the gift that comes across is, “This person suffered a terrible tragedy and got over it. You should be able to do the same.”

Just a side note to books concerning bereaved parents: Most bereaved parents do a lot of reading, anyway, after the death of a child, trying to find resources that will help them. They usually read until they find some that help them, individually, concerning their own loss. For me, I have quite a library of books on grief. I purchased the books I read and marked them up extensively. Most have comments in the margins. Some have a big “NO” written through pages or paragraphs. Obviously, the some books were of more help to me than others. I always look to see if the author is a bereaved parent; next, if it has been been authored by a bereaved parent, I then look at when the book was written relative to the loss. To me, both of these make a difference in the “weight” a book carries when I read it.

I realize it’s usually just a matter of not knowing how to respond to a parent whose child has died. People don’t know what to say and a Bible verse comes to mind, so they say it. They see a book they think will “help,” purchase it, and give it to the bereaved parent. People want to say or do something – anything! – that will bring comfort to a parent whose child has died.

It’s important to realize that saying or doing these types of things may stifle honest communication from a bereaved parent about the grief he or she is experiencing. Let me say that again: These types of things may stifle honest communication from a bereaved parent. Instead of open communication, it comes across as “This is the Word of God and YOU WILL ACCEPT IT.” It puts unnecessary pressure on a bereaved parent to “recover” quickly. It makes the bereaved parent feel like he or she can’t talk honestly about the deep grief felt over the death of a child. It makes us feel, as Christians, that we don’t have the right to fully grieve our loss. It makes us feel that, because we have God “on our side,” everything should be okay. As I said in an earlier post:

In their book The Grief Recovery Handbook, J. James and R. Friedman (in a chapter entitled “Academy Award Recovery”) state, “In a relatively short time, the griever discovers that he or she must indeed ‘act recovered’ in order to be treated in an acceptable manner.” In order to not be left alone and for people to want to be around you, the griever has to take steps to only show an acceptable amount of grief so people are not uncomfortable. In our society, people who appear “strong” or who don’t bring attention to their grief or quickly recover from adversity are admired. Bereaved parents have an expectation put on them that they should recover quickly. If they don’t, there is a tendency to want to “help” a bereaved parent move on down the road. It’s usually not necessarily for their benefit, but rather so that people around will be more comfortable.

https://onewomansperspective02.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/check-the-shoulds-and-misconceptions-at-the-door-it-takes-a-long-time-and-its-hard-work/

As Christian parents, we believe a child is a gift from God. We dedicate our children to God. We fervently pray for our children. We pray for their protection. We pray for their friends. We pray for their future spouses. We pray for their future children, our future grandchildren. We take our children to church and try to raise them in a Godly manner. We are thrilled when the day comes when they ask Jesus into their hearts.

I remember praying, as a fellow blogger wrote, for the person who would one day become Jason’s bride. I truly believed God was preparing a life partner for him. I truly believed I have the privilege of attending Jason’s wedding and being a grandparent to his children. I prayed and prayed and prayed for Jason – for all of my kids. I believed my prayers mattered and that God would answer my prayers. I “prayed” Bible verses for my kids.

The child of a Christian parent dies. Now what? How do we reconcile all those prayers for our children’s protection with a God who let our child die? For me, it hasn’t been an easy thing to do.

I believe Jason is in Heaven and that I will see him again one day, and that brings me comfort. I remember the day he prayed with my husband, asking Jesus into his heart. We were thrilled. I know that Jason loved God and wanted to serve him with his whole heart. In my mind, I still picture Jason standing in church the Sunday before he died, eyes closed and hands raised to God in worship.

What I’m trying to get across is that, more than anything, we as bereaved parents we don’t need Bible verses quoted to us or inspirational books given to us. You don’t have to say anything. Nothing you say will take away the deep grief of losing a child. We don’t need the additional pressure of feeling like we should respond a certain way or recover quickly, just because we are Christians. We need you to BE there. Please don’t disappear, just because you feel like you don’t know what to say or do. We need you to step into the messiness of our grief and hold us close as we cry. We need to honestly grieve the death of our child. We need to know you honestly grieve the death of our child. We need you to show God’s love by your actions. We need to know you care.

© 2015 Rebecca R. Carney