‘Tis a Fearful Thing

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –

to be,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.”

Judah Halevi

For a parent whose child has died, the awareness that death CAN touch the people you love at any time is greatly enhanced. Before Jason died, I innocently was unaware of the ravages and searing grief the death of a child can leave in its wake. I guess I felt immune. I felt that God heard my fervent prayers and protected my family. My life had a plan. My kids were going to grow up, go to college, get married, have grandkids for us to love and spoil.

It never dawned on my that one of my children would die – at least not before me, not as a healthy, wonderful, handsome 19-year old with the whole world before him. I was so excited for Jason as he was ready to enter the next phase of his life – finish and graduate from college, get a job, get married, have kids. I couldn’t wait to hold Jason’s kids. I was looking forward to rejoicing with him on the various aspects of his life. He was my sunshine, my joy, my precious boy. I didn’t expect him to die. I didn’t expect to outlive him. I didn’t expect death to touch him.

For a long time after Jason died, panic and fear gripped my heart with each siren I heard.  I tend to worry about things concerning my family, anyway – Joe climbing on the roof to clean the gutters, Jenna driving a long distance, stuff like that – but now, there’s an understanding of stark reality behind the worry.

In some respects, I suppose it’s like anything traumatic – you don’t know the walk until you’ve actually walked the walk. We all know on some level of subconscious understanding that people we love will die. We know to some extent that it will be hard to lose someone we love and that we will grieve their death. We assume we will outlive our parents, our grandparents, but know that at some point they will die before we do. We just don’t expect our children to die.

I love my family so much. It is a fearful thing to realize that I am not immune from death’s reach, that they are not immune, that death can reach out and touch the ones I so dearly love. I don’t live in fear, but sometimes the window cracks open to that fear, because I truly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that death can reach out and touch any of those I love at any time. We are frail human beings. Jason worked out at the school gym and played various sports. He took care of himself. He was smart and wise beyond his years. He was physically strong. But he was physically no match for a speeding car driven by a drunk driver.

As I sat across from my husband in the Wild Wing Cafe yesterday, watching the Carolina Panther football game on the big screen TV’s, I felt a huge rush of overwhelming love for Joe. He is such a wonderful man and I love him so much. He is kind, thoughtful, fun. That rush of love was followed by the thought, “I don’t know what I’d do without him.” I seriously don’t know what I would do without him, and the thought of that gripped my heart with anguish. It is a fearful thing to think of a life without him. It is a fearful thing to think about living without any of my family.

Because Joe is retired and I am still working, Joe will call me quite often when he is close by to see if I would like to have lunch. I say Joe is retired, but he has never been one to sit still. He helps our older neighbor around his house and yard, he drives for Uber and Lyft, he helps out around the office with whatever may need done in the maintenance area. He likes to stay busy. I’m sure it seems odd to the people in the office that I go to lunch with Joe as much as I do, but I truly appreciate every moment I have with Joe.

In the whole scheme of things, we are rather frail, fragile creatures. No matter what precautions we take, there are a lot of things beyond our control. We and the people we love are given only a certain number of days. Our days are finite. We are given only a certain number of days with the people we love. I never, ever would have thought in my wildest nightmares that I would have only 7,157 days with Jason. We have to do our best to make each and every one of our days count, and to show the people in our lives how much we care for and appreciate them.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is. Psalm 39:4

https://biblehub.com/psalms/39-4.htm

Oh, my boy. How I miss you. “Your life has lived in me, your laugh once lifted me, your word was gift to me. To remember this brings painful joy.” ‘Tis a painful thing that death reached out and took you from us. I love you yesterday, today, forever. ~Mom

Hugs,

as always,

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Welcome Home

As a mother who has two children waiting for her in heaven, this made me cry. I look forward to that day when I will see Jason again and meet the baby we never knew. (By the way, just a reminder that this is not about politics. It’s about the death of a child and a joyful reunion.)

30710952_1581408315229420_7278797010583420928_n

Credit: https://www.facebook.com/marshallramseyfanpage/posts/1665775960142290?hc_location=ufi

A death more painful than her own:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/04/17/one-last-time-barbara-bush-has-already-faced-a-death-more-painful-than-her-own/?utm_term=.e1fa854e9722

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

 

 

Why We Will Never Get Over It

I would like to share this Facebook post in its entirety. It is the most comprehensive article I’ve read about the longevity of grief following the death of a child.

WHY WE WILL NEVER GET OVER IT

Unfortunately bereaved parents get judged often. By those who know us and by those who don’t.

We are often criticized and pathologized for grieving (for remembering our child.) People erroneously think we are stuck, depressed, and/or clinically-something, if we still cry, ache, and miss our child; if we still remember them; if we continue speaking their name and grieving for them– especially if the grieving has been going on “too long.” Too long could mean 3 months, 6 months, a year– a decade, or longer. It couldn’t possibly be healthy to grieve THAT long, right?

Wrong. We will grieve forever because we love forever. There is no end to our love for our child, therefore there is no end to our grief– not in our lifetime, anyway. We will grieve forever. We will never get over it.

The presumption is that since our child’s death happened years ago– a presumably finite event– how are we not over it by now? As if child loss is something you can get over– likening it to something far less horrific that can be conquered if you only try hard enough, think positively, or pull yourself up by the bootstraps. As if it’s a hurdle you can easily jump over, or a roadblock you can simply go around and then move on. As if sunshine, rainbows and unicorns will magically greet you once enough time has passed and you cross into “I’m-over-it” land. This may work for other things, but not child loss.

It’s time to bust a long-standing myth about child loss and grief. There is no getting over it. Child loss is not something you get over. Ever. You don’t get over watching the living, breathing piece of your heart and soul, your flesh and blood, your child– die. It’s simply not. possible. to get over the death of your child. You will grieve the death of your child until your last breath.

It is said that the decision to have a child is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” When your child dies your heart is obliterated, broken beyond repair. When your child dies, a huge part of you dies, too. And there is no getting that part back again. Over time you can try to put the pieces of yourself back together again, but they don’t fit the same. There are huge pieces missing, no matter what you do. No matter how long it’s been.

The pain– visible or not– is with us every breath and every step we take, every second of every day. The scars never heal. We are not defined by child loss, but we are certainly marked by it. Forever.

Normal died the day our child did. There is no guidebook for how to survive, or how to grieve. No formula. No roadmap. No start here, end there. The truth is bereaved parents will grieve the loss of their child until their last breath. It may seem confusing why bereaved parents do the things we do; how we’ve chosen to survive and navigate life post-tragedy. From outside of grief, it likely won’t make sense to an onlooker. The good news is, if you don’t understand, breathe a deep sigh of relief and remember one thing: you’re so fortunate (#blessed/lucky/_______) you don’t.

Ultimately to understand means to be bereaved. Which we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. We hope no one else truly understands. Ever.

We would have given our life one million times over + infinity to save our child– but, unfortunately we weren’t given that choice. And so, for the rest of our lives, we have to learn how to live with the pain. A pain that is so excruciating, so much like torture, so unimaginable, there’s not even an apt word for it in the English language.

We trip over grief just when we thought we had it contained, figured out, put away, managed. We fall into grief potholes when we least expect it.

We become adept at carrying it, stuffing it, hiding it places. It leaks from our eyes when we least expect it. We sob in the shower, the car, on the bathroom floor. We dry our tears, put our masks back on, so we can move and be and live in the world, to the best of our ability.

Grief steals the person we used to be, and we grieve that, too. The person staring back at us in the mirror becomes almost unrecognizable. We wish we could be who we used to be, too.

We are broken, but there is no fix for our heartache.

We carry it with us, always. Grief exhausts us to the bone. There is no reprieve. No minute, hour, or day off from being a bereaved parent. Once a bereaved parent, always a bereaved parent. There is no going back.

Even during happy or joyful moments, the pain and sadness is always there. A permanent undercurrent, a pulse of pain.

We learn how to carry it all: the joy, the pain, the love, the sadness. Eventually we become an expert at carrying it all.

The moment our child died is now, yesterday, tomorrow, forever. It is the past, the present, and the future. It was not just one finite horrific moment in time that happened last whenever. It is not just the moment, the hour, the second, the millisecond our life became permanently divided into before and after.

You might say, “But she died last year!” Or 10 years ago, or five. No. No, she didn’t.

Our child dies all over again every morning we wake up.
And again every moment they are (yet again) missing.
And again every moment in between.
And again every breath we take.

Our child dies again every moment they are not here with us– for the rest of our lives.

The truth of this fact is almost impossible to express. How many deaths can one parent endure?

For the rest of our lives we will struggle to accept and understand this very fact: our child is dead. And in the incessant replay of our minds our child will keep dying all over again for the rest of our lives.

This is child loss. It is never over. It is always happening. Again and again and again.

We live and relive it. It is now, yesterday, tomorrow– forever.

Just like our love for our child is now, yesterday, tomorrow, forever. It spans both directions. There is no end.

Please remember this next time you hear someone tell a bereaved parent they are dwelling, stuck, depressed, not moving on; that they should just hurry up and get over it– or any other common judgment or misconception. Our pain, our love, and our child cannot be watered down to such phrases, such shallow summations. It does not even begin to capture or express the reality of our day-to-day lives, nor the eternal ache and love in our hearts.

To understand child loss, you have to think about every second, minute, hour, day, month and year a bereaved parent has to live without their precious child– a lifetime— not just the finite moment in time their child died. Every missed milestone, every heart beat, every breath without them, hurts. It hurts now, now and now. It will still be painful 10 and 20 years from now. It will remain an ever-present ache in our heart, soul, mind and body always– until our very last breath.

Child loss is never over. It is a loss that spans a bereaved parent’s entire life.

This is why we will never, ever, get over it. Because “it” is our precious, irreplaceable child. There is no getting over it. There is only love (and pain) to be bravely and courageously carried– for a lifetime.

Credit: https://www.facebook.com/grievingmother/?hc_ref=ARSEvo0TbFrXW87SCMCbS9RBugZy_gSeO59bV5Pe8o1pgHen6yhrdK5uyJYJhCG9ldc

~Becky

Church

My husband and I sat on the bed a while back, discussing how hard it’s been since Jason died to find a church to attend where we fit. We belonged to one of the largest church in the Pacific Northwest when Jason died. Although we really loved the church and its youthful energy, because we had existing, extensive connections to Christian homeschool and church friends and activities, we didn’t get terribly connected there.

After Jason died, it was really hard to go back. For a long time, when I walked in the sanctuary for services, I could picture the photographs of Jason we used for his memorial service up on the big screens on either side of the stage . The church’s youthful, energetic, joyful vibe contrasted sharply with the deep grief I felt, and many times we left during the service. Sometimes it was just too loud for me; I became extremely sound sensitive after Jason died. I felt antsy and trapped at times. It was just hard to be there all the way around.

We had designated the church’s computer school for contributions in Jason’s honor. The computer school taught computer classes to anyone in the community for a minimal cost. Jason, our computer science student. We felt like he would appreciate it and it would be a good way to honor one of his interests. With the contributions they received, they were able to purchase some necessary equipment so they could continue their ministry.

Although the support we received from the church before and during Jason’s memorial service was incredible, we basically fell off the radar not long afterwards. The youth pastor’s wife left a message for Jenna once, but then never called back. I don’t remember hearing from anyone else. I think they felt we had adequate support elsewhere. If only they knew nothing could be farther from the truth.

We haven’t found a church that’s a fit for us since then. Not that we haven’t tried; we really, truly have. As the “new people,” fitting into an already-existing group is hard enough, but the death of a child makes it even harder and we – I guess I should say “I” – just don’t even have the energy or desire to try. I still feel antsy and trapped at times. I also recognize the fact that I just don’t trust Christians with my broken heart any more; I have too many scars from the way Christian people have treated us. And I don’t want to be pitied or to be treated like a project to try to fix. I’m not really sure how to explain it to a person who has not lost a child…or even to a bereaved parent whose church, friends and family adequately supported them when their child died.

Part of the problem is that so many of the same, old church patterns and/or programs no longer seem relevant. The music or message or platitudes a lot of times haven’t felt like the balm to our broken hearts and lives that we have desperately craved. I miss the days when church felt like a safe place, when it felt like home, a place to love and be loved. It just seems like we just don’t fit anywhere any more, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

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.]

Restless Winds

Nor’easter winds have been blowing through Western North Carolina, with downed trees and power lines predicted. They started yesterday evening and are not supposed to diminish until sometime tomorrow.

It feels as if they reflect the restlessness in my soul on this day, March 2nd, the day before the anniversary of Jason’s death. I feel like I want to take off and run somewhere far away, as if I could ever get away from the pain and what this time of year represents.

Oh, how this mama’s heart hurts.

Missing you, my precious boy.

~Mom

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Question about Non-Profits for Helping Bereaved Parents

I have had a project in my mind for a long time – a non-profit for helping and supporting bereaved parents. I don’t want to duplicate what others have done, but I have wanted to do something to help. Whatever I do, I want it to be entirely relevant and workable.

What I have in mind is something that’s very ambitious – or at least could be in the long run – so I’m not sure if I have the wherewithal to do anything that ambitious, and I don’t think I can do it alone. My heart is telling me that now may be the time. I say that out loud with fear and trepidation, as I haven’t said those words to hardly anyone and I’ve never outlined what I have in mind to anyone.

So, my question is this: Do you know of any non-profit organizations that specifically help and provide resources for bereaved parents? If so, what is their focus, size, any other specifics? Could you please also provide a web link, if one is available? If you have started a non-profit, what has been your process/experience? If you don’t want to put anything public on this site, you can email me at onewomansperspective@hotmail.com.

Thank you.

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney