August 30, 2017

Feels a lot like fear

As a fellow widow the author C.S. Lewis once said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

Though there are so many of us who have had to grieve the loss of a loved one, I don’t think many would say they have mastered such a skill.

It’s funny how when you go through something hard everyone seems to dub you as the expert in that subject. And there comes a few split seconds that you actually start to believe that you have it all under control—until you don’t . . . and reality slaps your insignificance back into your face.

I came into this summer prepared that we could possibly lose a part of our family. Emmett’s dad had been battling cancer for a while—not long after his only child was murdered it showed up. More recently doctors had begun to warn us that time was getting limited.

I remember walking into his house—for the millionth time—the day before he died. I could feel it in the air. I had spent hours with him that week, but this time had to be quick as we were driving out of town to go to my grandpas 90th birthday party in Utah.

I choked up. Just like the days before he could sense in me something that was similar to fear. He told me not to be scared. He told me that he would see me again—and for a man who had never known religion, I smiled to know he was thinking of a life after this one. He asked to see Teage, and as I watched his oldest grandson lay by his side I knew in my heart it would be the last time we would see him.

We got the call early the next morning. Papi was gone.

I was expecting him to go, but what I was not expecting was the wave of grief that would surround me all summer long. Grief does feel a lot like fear, but the hardest part about grief is it doesn’t just help you mourn the loss of that moment—it takes you back to every time you have lost before.

So I did what I do best—I marched. I planned a funeral again. I spoke and sang with my girls. And then I spent the next four weeks cleaning out their house.

And that is where my fear really took over. Every day cleaning out the memories of three people I had never planned on losing. Ten years ago—8 months pregnant with Teage—we planned the funeral of Danise, Papi’s wife, after cancer took her suddenly. I didn’t know if Papi would ever smile again after she was gone. They were soul mates those two.

But then he did. And he tried so hard to be the dad and grandpa we all needed. He welled with pride in everything Emmett did—especially our family.

And then he and I lost Emmett. I didn’t know how to tell him, after watching him be alone after all those years. It was rough. That moment fractured many parts of all the relationships I thought were so stable. But unlike so many, he never disappeared. I know it wasn’t easy coming to our house after that, but he did. He usually wore his sunglasses, and I could always see a tear beneath the dark lenses—but he was there. Football games, birthday parties, Christmas—and he never once complained of anything he had lost. He took in Jordyn and Shawn and celebrated them as part of his family. He never distinguished his biological “family” from the rest of us.

Most of the time he came alone—surrounded by my family, and Shawn’s—but he always smiled through it all. 

He even came and sat behind me almost every day at the murder trial. Not because he wanted to be there . . . but because he didn’t want me to be alone. (I will write another post soon about the notes we found that Papi had taken during the trial).

So as I spent most of the summer at their house I had a lot of time to think, to pray, to ponder . . . and many days to fight a feeling that felt a lot like fear. Fear of losing. Fear of loving. Fear of letting go. Fear of not knowing what tomorrow is going to look like.  All the fear I thought I had overcome over the last six years—many days—came flooding around me.

Those split seconds I had spent—just months before—hoping I was some sort of an expert by now, were replaced by many days leaving me wondering if I would ever know anything ever again. I had no desire to blog. I felt pretty unworthy to share anything about finding strength or how to overcome, because frankly I didn’t feel like I was.

And then the coolest thing happened. I was totally and utterly rejected. 

Late one night I received an email from a woman—I had a contract with to go speak next Spring—informing me that we would have to cancel my trip . . . due to my religion. They didn’t want a Mormon girl to come talk about Christ. At first I became defensive. Christ? Isn’t mine the same one that all the other Christian’s believe in? What would make me less worthy to share what His grace has done for me? I was confused, embarrassed, and dumb founded . . . but mainly I was hurt.

That night I cried like a baby girl. I felt alone. I was rejected and left wondering—for the millionth time—if I was enough. The darkness of the grief from the summer came to a head, and a feeling—that felt a lot like fear—took over every ounce of me.

I spent the night praying for peace from what seemed—in the moment—to be another life rejection. Evidence—if we want to go back to my last post—of what I feared I was. A loser? Not worthy? Defiantly not enough.

The next morning I walked out to Tytus sitting on the couch, awake way to early for how late we had stayed up the night before. I am pretty sure he could tell I was a hot mess. I sat down by him and he put his head on me, patted my leg and said, “Jesus made me a good one. ” Thinking he was talking about his Pokemon, the dog, or some other cool thing I asked on, “A good what buddy?” He replied, “A good mom, best I have seen.” I got a little chocked up, “Oh yeah . . . what about me this summer makes you glad I am your mom? I feel like I have hardly even seen you guys as you have spent most of it in Papi’s pool while I cleaned out his house with Roxann. I have been so busy we have only done like two things on our entire summer list. So what makes you think you know I am a good one?” He replied, “I know because . . . everything you do is for us. And Jesus.”

And there it was. I talk a lot about that little glimmer of light—some of us call it grace—when Christ sends us that perfect little moment to help us remember our truths—we can see so clearly. Just because I had spent a lot of the summer hurting, and people thousands of miles away had decided I was not what they were looking for . . . I had done a lot for Him. I was enough for the ones it really counted for.

Never losing anyone—and living a “perfect” plan is not how Christ sends us that love. Going hundreds of miles away to share my heart to a room full of strangers is not where I will find it. Because—just like Christ—we are going to have our own Garden of Gethsemane moments; we are going to have to bear our own crosses—moment after moment.  We are going to have to learn to stand . . . again and again and again.

Some summers are going to be filled with sunscreen and sand. Others are going to be filled with hard work and some feelings that feel a lot like fear. I miss Papi. I know without a doubt he is with his wife and his son and there is so much more to death then we all know.

But what I do know is that no matter what our religion—even those like Papi who never will have one—Jesus loves us all. He doesn’t see us in religion, skin color, or even how we handle those feelings that feel a lot like fear. And I don’t either.

So though this summer was very rarely days that I had planned, I am grateful for the light that showed me through the hard stuff again.

If you are standing at one of those crossroads wondering—for the millionth time—as we all will do, if you are enough . . . I hope today you let that little glimmer of light remind you that you always were.

No broken contract, no imperfect day, no stranger will ever be able to tear us down if we keep searching for our worth in the places that count.

The world is just going to get darker. Keep your head up. Shine like you don’t know how dark it really is. And on those days that feel very similar to fear—don’t lose your faith. Not in yourself, or God, or the world. And especially not in His plan. He has your back . . . just be prepared of how unprepared you might be. “Life is a trip” Papi used to say. And it’s true. Mike. Thanks for being one of my dads. I am grateful for the million times I got to see you then, and the million times I will get to see you again.

Love you the most Big Papi. I know you know now what you only hoped for before. You were enough. He loves you . . . and so do we.

As promised to many who loved Mike and didn't get to the funeral. Here is the audio of my talk and his sisters song, and all the others who shared. Also... a video of the girls song! Thank you Bergen for recording these. I never would have thought to, but they have meant a lot today. 

A few thoughts I wanted to share weeks ago, but didn't post...


Janet said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I have followed your blog for years. I lost a friend this summer to cancer and it hit me really hard. I couldn't figure out why it was so hard and I think your post described it for me. When I was 11 my brother was killed by a drunk driver and so every death that I have had to face since that time, brings back all the old trauma. It makes me feel vulnerable and scared. It makes me afraid to love and get attached. You described it perfectly in this post, I couldn't have described it better. Thank you so much for touching my heart. ❤️

Heather said...

Thank you for being so real and for sharing your thoughts & feelings. That is something I struggle with. You express yourself very well & I love following you through your blog. I love seeing the changes you make for good. You make a difference in other people's lives. All of us struggle with something and seeing other people struggle like we do and overcoming their trials gives me hope that I can always get through mine no matter how trying they are during the trial! You have a beautiful family & they are lucky to call you Mom!

Unknown said...

Just what I needed, when I needed it. Our home was severely damaged in Hurricane Harvey. Before August 27th we were the all American family, loving life and all that it held. In an instant it all changed. The fear of what is ahead for us, the unknown, the loss of so many earthly possessions, is overwhelming. We have 2 children on this journey which magnifies the fear, as you know. I do think fear is a monster that seems to keep me from being able to move very fast in a forward position. Trying hard every single moment. My faith is strong. I have to focus that God's plan is bigger and better than my greatest hope. Moment by moment. I thought of you just the other day and thought this will be the moment my family learns to stand. Thank you for the inspiration.

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