God Wins…but can I ?

A Mother's Journey


1 Comment

Numbing Effects of Trauma

It was so lovely sitting outside a couple of nights ago. Wafting summer breezes create spectacular evenings. And, as I found out this morning, my annoying mosquito friends are also enjoying the night air – at my expense.

Last night, the itching started on my right calf, then my left foot, then the left side of my forehead. I started scratching my skin because it felt good. Temporarily. Now, I have four big welts and the bitten areas hurt; I didn’t even know I was a delicacy the other evening.

A revelation hit me as I was thinking about these little enemies  – robbers of summer peace and joy. Mosquitoes and their bites are metaphors for life trauma.

When a mosquito bites, I usually have no clue that it is coming for me. I don’t get much warning. Similarly, tragedies, more often than not, have hit me out of nowhere.

After a mosquito lands, it immediately secretes its paralyzing saliva – numbing me, so that I don’t know it’s probing around my skin.

Life trauma is similar. A life-altering, negative circumstance can come out of nowhere. When a trauma situation lands on me, it shocks, numbs and paralyzes my emotional, physical and spiritual system.

I may not realize for either days, weeks or years how deep the pain is. For trauma to “take” from me, it has to numb me.

It’s after time passes, the pain and agony increase. Just like the lingering result of a mosquito bite.

My natural reaction to relieve the pain is to focus on the wound – just as scratching an itchy mosquito bite brings temporary relief.

Some of the ways that I deal with trauma offer temporary comfort.

Some comfort comes when I:

  • Feel angry at the enemy that created the wound
  • Resent the wound itself
  • Pick at the wound
  • Analyze the situation
  • Ask “Why me?”
  • Curse the enemy
  • Ignore the injury
  • Succumb to results of the injury

As I look at the red, burning, near-bleeding welts on my leg, I think about the choice I have – either I keep scratching at these darn bites, or try to find a better way to deal with the pain – such as finding a truly, comforting salve.

Mosquito bites. Trauma.

Coincidence in pairing the two?

Hmmm. Something to consider.

My next step is to seriously think about the reason that I’m struggling with moving closer to a true, longer-term comfort. And dare I say healing?

I don’t have an immediate next revelation, but want to share this metaphor with you – just in case you can relate to it too.

Blog_mesquito

Note: Focusing on this verse today, “… your rod and your staff, they comfort me. “ Psalm 23:4

 


3 Comments

The Gift of “Remembering” during Graduation Ceremony

I’m not at my personal best when I’m blind sided – especially, about personal matters. Most people are probably similar to me and aren’t comfortable when taken off guard. It seems that usually when I’m surprised by something – that “something” isn’t good.

In April, I had an unexpected call from the counselor at my kids’ high school. There’s no reason that I’d get a call from the counselor, especially since my son graduated 4 years ago and my daughter passed away 3+ years ago.

“Mrs. Guthrie, we know that Leah would have graduated this May. We’d like to do something to honor her during graduation ceremony; please call me and we can talk about it,” the counselor said.

Wow! I was stunned. Someone, other than me, is doing something to honor my daughter’s memory.

A grateful feeling came over me, especially as I knew graduation was around the corner. I didn’t know how I was going to react to the end of this school year. This spring would have been such a marker time in my daughter’s life. Some days it’s still so hard to believe that she’s not here to experience this right of passage toward college and adulthood.

When I talked with the counselor, she shared a list of ways that the school district wanted to honor Leah. I kept my emotions in check, but had a lump in my throat most of the conversation. The counselor kindly sought our approval.

My husband and I agreed to all the items planned. The big question was “Can we go to the actual graduation ceremony?” After discussing the possibility, we decided to attend. I really wanted to be there for Leah’s friends. She loved her friends so much. As I’ve gotten to know her “besties” more the last few years, I understand the reason that she loved them and I’ve grown to love them too. They are beautiful, smart, young women.

A few days before the ceremony, my husband and I were a bit anxious. It’s so hard to predict emotional reactions to these marker events without our daughter. We decided to arrive close to start time, so that we didn’t have to interact with all the excited families before the ceremony.

Sitting in silence most of the event, I tried to take in the whole experience. Having been a grade school volunteer for many years, it was nice to hear familiar names and see the “grown up” seniors.

Focusing on her friends and cheering for them (quite loudly), I got through the ceremony.

The gift the high school gave us included:

  • An empty seat where Leah would have sat
  • Flowers on the empty seat
  • Her name in the program
  • Her name on the scrolling marquee
  • Announcing her name in alpha order along with the other students as they  accepted their diplomas
  • Her cap
  • Her diploma

When the students left the stadium, the principal handed my husband and me the flowers, Leah’s diploma and cap. The whole experience almost felt – holy.

As we congratulated Leah’s friends, we also felt Leah was celebrated.

I’m so proud of our school district. I wish all parents who’ve lost children were treated with the respect and care that we were shown during graduation.

The high school gave us the gift of honoring Leah –  and we had the choice whether or not to accept it. We chose to accept. Some parents may have a difficult time accepting a similar gift.

My advice to anyone reading this post is: always choose to remember a child who passed away. It is far better to honor the child and his or her parents than to act as though the child never lived.

After a parent loses a child, one of the emotional fears is that people will forget your child or never speak his/her name again.

The fact that the school celebrated our daughter is priceless. Especially since she only attended six days of Freshman year.

So touched. So blessed. And incredibly grateful.

Facebook_Blog graduation

The flowers given to us in Leah’s memory at the senior graduation ceremony.

 

 

 

 


2 Comments

Giving you back

You brought me incredible joy

from the first moment I knew

you were alive.

Seeing your love for me in your

eyes melted my heart.

You left an imprint on my soul that time will

never erase.

Trusting that you loved me

as much as I loved you –

was an incredible gift.

As you grew, my love for you deepened more than

I ever dreamed possible.

Being your mother made me so incredibly proud

as I saw you develop such a kind personality.

My heart grew larger because of you.

Although all our days weren’t blissful,

I knew that our affection for one another was real.

I wished for more time with you,

but you loved being out and about

and with special friends.

And I’m glad you had them.

Sadly, I got the time with you because you had no choice

but to give it to me.

Your suffering broke my heart.

Your strength and dignity were remarkable.

It was the honor of my life to serve you.

I am forever proud to call you my child.

When we had to say goodbye, it broke my

heart to give you back.

Each day that I open my eyes without you, there is an ache in my soul.

Know that my love for you lives on forever.

On this Mother’s Day, my love

for you

is just as bright as always.

You will never be forgotten.

You are remembered my little miss.

Facebook_Mother's Day

Note: A message to my sweet daughter Leah, who I had to give back when she was much too young – forever 15. I dedicate this prose to all the loving moms who also had to give a child back much too soon. My heart goes out to you.

 

 

 

 


1 Comment

Baby Steps Forward…

For me, living life after child loss is similar to learning to walk again.

Picture a toddler as she learns to walk.

“Little one” tries to pull herself up on the couch after struggling several times.

Then bam! – she falls on her diaper-padded behind! Ouch!

But, little one courageously pulls herself up and holds onto the couch.

With anticipation she takes the first step, legs straight and looking a bit like a mini-Frankenstein. Then, little one swings her leg forward and takes  a step with the other foot.

Then, plop. Falls on her behind again! This time the fall hurts and she starts to cry.

She hears momma saying, “Don’t give up. Try again.” Little one dioesn’t even realize that momma is watching.

So she gets up and tries again.

This time when she stands up, she isn’t aware that she’s not holding on to the couch. When little one realizes that she’s not holding on, she freaks out a bit and falls. Womp!

Now, she is stuck in the middle of the floor. With no one around this time, she’s got to move somehow, so she gets up and tries again.

One little foot in front of the other – until there’s some momentum and she takes at least 10 steps. Little one’s standing tall and proud.

The excitement to walk creates an exhilarating feeling and little one starts running. The problem is that she hasn’t really learned to walk, so her running creates too much uncontrolled energy and Wham! – she falls again.

Sometimes I feel as though I am “little one.” My recent life journey feels similar to the stages of learning to walk.

At first, it felt impossible to get up and get my feet on the floor in the mornings after Leah passed away.

I was dazed – the shock of my circumstance made me dizzy, unable to walk. Life was calling me to get going, but my sadness made it hard to securely stand. I kept trying to get up and take a step forward and bam! – a thought, a memory, another loss hit me and I fell.

The first couple falls really hurt, but after awhile my “padded behind” became a bit numb to the internal or external obstacles.

So for a year, I’d just get up and try moving through the grief – meeting friends for coffee, reengaging with my career, attending family events, paying bills. Regular life stuff. Each experience felt new because my ability to walk was different – and the truth is that my inner world was very different.

People who care about me wanted me to get up and walk. They knew I did before; why couldn’t I walk again? In my former life, I was a runner – metaphorically speaking. I’m an initiator and activator. So, people expected me to take my hands off the couch and get going – attending events, leading projects, initiating coffee dates, looking for new client work, etc.

So, like the momma, they’d tell me, “Don’t give up. Try again.” I needed to hear these words. Sometimes people would extend a hand to help as momma would, of course, help little one learn to walk. Other times, they’d call to me from the other room. However they encouraged me, they were supportive and I needed to hear the affirmation.

Sometimes it was frustrating to hear, “Don’t give up. Try again.” I wanted to say, “Well, it’s easy for you to say. Do you see how hard it is to walk? I’m learning all over again. These shoes are heavy and uncomfortable. Give me a break.” I needed the tough love, but sometimes it hurt.

The changes in my life, after losing Leah, caused me to walk very slowly – kinda like the Frankenstein-walking toddler.

As my legs became stronger and more used to living my new life, I began to engage more proactively with other people – and started volunteering my time to causes that would be special to Leah.

By the second year, it was a good feeling to stand strong and feel balanced. To know that I wouldn’t fall down, tumbling into sadness or depression, as easily as it happened the first year after losing Leah.

Today, three years after losing Leah, I feel fresh energy and enthusiastically want to do activities that I love again: such as hosting holidays, spending time with other children, doing crafts with family members, shopping for girly things, hanging out with friends for a ladies night out, hosting fundraising events in Leah’s memory, etc.

So, I get going and wham! – when I least expect it, I’m unsteady and fall! Ouch! Falls still hurt! And sometimes, they are more painful the longer that I go without falling. My “heart legs” can get a “cramp” because I am running and experiencing too much too fast. The feeling of joy can actually throw me off balance because in spite of positive experiences – I miss my girl.

Some of the falls have a recovery time. I’ve learned that, when participating in some events, I need to give myself a “restoration day” – a day to just rest and talk to no one and do nothing. For example, we hosted Easter at my home this year; it was beautiful and fun and wonderful. And –  it took me two days to reorient myself to daily tasks after doing so.

Leah’s high school graduation would be next month. Her high school plans to honor her at the ceremony – an incredibly meaningful and beautiful gesture. As excited as I am thinking about this event, I know that, for me, this experience will be a toddler run. I’ll need to be careful that I’m holding onto something, or someone, so that I don’t fall. I’m already going to plan some restoration time after that event.

It’s good to feel progress as I learn to walk again. I’m learning to be kind to myself and aware of what a big deal it is – to learn to walk. It takes time. If you are learning to put one foot in front of the other again, for any reason, I hope you give yourself grace too – everyone moves forward at a different pace.

Blog_baby steps

 

 

 

 

 

 


1 Comment

When a phone call changes everything

It’s a typical afternoon.

The sun is shining through my office window.

Looking through a pile of papers that need to be reviewed,

I hear laughter down the hallway.

The phone rings. I think, “Should I pick it up?” 

It’s a phone number that I don’t recognize, but I need to answer.

I’m half-hoping that it’s a sales call, but … it isn’t.

I get up and shut the door.

It’s a call any parent doesn’t want to receive.

The doctor’s office shares that the scans “are positive.”

“I’m so sorry, your daughter’s cancer has spread.”

My entire body goes numb.

Heart pounding, I can’t believe that what I am hearing is true.

“I must be in a bad dream; this can’t be real,” I hear myself say.

Unsure, how to respond, I’m frozen in time.

In one dimension, I’m asking a million questions.

In another dimension, I can’t even remember my name.

“You’ll have to get to the hospital immediately. We may need to do urgent surgery,” the doctor says.

I numbly respond, “What? We’ve only been home an hour.”

He says, “I’m sorry, you need to come back.”

Arms limp, I hang up the phone.

A hopeful day turned into a nightmare … that quickly.

With one phone call.

One call.

In my mind, I hear my pastor saying these sentences, countless times,

“Life is hard. Any of us could get ‘that’ phone call at any time. Are you prepared?”

I can’t even think clearly. How can I be prepared for this seemingly impossible situation?

I go into autopilot and the protective mom, deep inside me, activates.

Everything I believe about a loving, caring and healing God must kick in now or I’ll drown in shock and pain.

I bring my daughter to the hospital and tread through a nightmare month.

Since this situation I just described, I’ve received several of these “life altering” phone calls.

We all get them.

The calls all sound different.

  • “Meet me in the HR room in 5 minutes.”
  • “Your wife isn’t doing well.”
  • “Your son was found … and it’s bad news.”
  • “Your friend was in an accident.”
  • “Your child was caught with drugs.”

Yet, all the calls have a common denominator.

They often stun us and dramatically throw us off balance;

it’s as though a huge, ocean wave knocks us over.

We believe that we are drowning.

These calls demand more of us than we have to give.

At least, what we ‘think’ we have to give.

As soon as we rise above water, we gasp for air and start swimming.

The ability to move in deep water is a gift.

A gift of inner strength that grows with time.

An irony of life is that we most learn to swim in deep water when we

are forced, through circumstance, to be in deep water.

The potential for these phone calls doesn’t seem to lessen as the years pass.

The calls seem to increase.

Hopefully, what comes with each call is the resolve

to withstand the shock and the strength to move forward.

Blog_Phone call

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


22 Comments

From Hell to Heaven in 9 days

If hell is a place of agony, I’ve been there for several days.

Three years ago at this time, I was sitting on the edge of a dark precipice – looking into a heartbreaking and scary unknown.

For you see, my sweet Leah was in final stages of abdominal sarcoma cancer. We wanted to keep Leah at home, but the disease was spreading rapidly and she needed pain meds via IV, so we took her to hospice. Our goal was to make her comfortable and bring her back home.

She did not come back home. Little did I realize that, as we drove away in the ambulance, she would never enter our front door again.  I knew from the 30 minute ride to the hospital that this bad experience was getting worse, but my instinct to take care of my girl took over my emotions.

I’ve avoided the hospice topic for three years. Why? The process of dying is hard to think about and even harder to talk about. It’s a topic many of us push aside and avoid. Who wants to hear stories of death? It’s depressing and uncomfortable.

Having walked  the “valley of the shadow of death” with Leah, I have a different perspective about the dying process and talking about it.

If heaven is a place of of supernatural peace, I’ve also been there for several days.

leah_softly

After the first few days of frustration and tension in hospice, it’s as though a soft cloud enveloped the four of us in Leah’s hospice room. She became more comfortable and relaxed. No longer able to open her eyes, she knew who was in the room and when family members left the room. Each time that I stepped away to use the bathroom, she called for me – knowing I left her side. It was as though she was seeing with her eyes shut.

The onsite chaplain explained to me that while Leah’s body was dying, her spirit was growing stronger. As I listened, I thought, “Hmmm, it sounds nice, but this comment is probably what he has to say. It’s part of his job description.” During the nine days in hospice, I came to believe his statement as truth. Her spirit WAS growing stronger.

Leah, with eyes closed, shared some images that clearly comforted her and, in turn, comforted me. She motioned with her hand and said that she wanted to “sit on the white blanket again” and she wanted to see the “fishes again.” It’s as though a beauty was calling her – wooing her.

During Leah’s final three days, the three of us spent 24/7 with her and it was as though we were having a sleepover. The three of us (my husband, son and I) took turns playing our favorite songs on my iPad – filling the room with music. Relaxed as though in a hotel room, we chatted about funny experiences and memories. When Leah got a little restless, I sang Christmas songs to her, which calmed her. (Humorous because I have a lousy singing voice.) For her nine days in hospice, I stopped being a caregiver and nurse. I was able to just be “mom” and focus on fully loving Leah.

Laying next to Leah the 9th morning, I could sense the time for her to go was coming, so I called Mark and Grant to her bedside. And within ten minutes, she took her final breath. I have no doubt she moved right into God’s presence and walked through His front door – the door of her true home. Her final expression was peaceful and beautiful; there was a slight smile on her face.

Her hospice nurse wisely said to me, “Her suffering is over and now yours has just begun.” Again, words proven true.

Today, I’m honoring the day she passed away. I miss her. I will always miss my sweet girl – every day that I breathe. Time does not heal or take away the longing for her presence.

Your willingness to share my journey, of loss and restoration, is a gift. My spirit is lightened when I share my love for my little miss. I deeply thank you for reading my posts and entering into this space with me.

If I can give you a gift in return, I hope you are at peace thinking about your final moments. If not, and you desire to have the supernatural peace Leah had, God is there for you –  all you need to do is call upon Him.

I have confidence in this verse, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

I am counting on this promise.

Blessings.

Marie

leah_hands

Note: Our hospice team was amazing. They were kind, compassionate, thoughtful and very sensitive. One of the coordinators asked if we wanted a mold of Leah and me holding hands. Leah agreed to it and I am so very grateful. It’s made of plaster; I keep it in a box so it doesn’t break, but took it out to show you.


2 Comments

What Watching “Laura and Rob” Taught Me about Loving Leah

It is so sad to hear that Mary Tyler Moore passed away yesterday. As a little girl, I could never get enough of The Dick Van Dyke Show.  It was fun to watch Rob, Laura, Buddy and Sally get in and out of hysterically funny situations. Hearing the signature opening music and seeing Rob trip over that ottoman became part of my life growing up.

 
As I got older, I rarely watched the reruns. Then, several years ago, I started introducing my children to the shows that I loved as a kid such as: the Brady Bunch, Bewitched, That Girl, The Partridge Family – and my all time favorite – The Dick Van Dyke show.

 
To my surprise, Leah LOVED watching the crazy antics of Rob Petrie.
It was enjoyable to see her reaction to the funny skits such as when Laura decided to become a blond, when Rob gave Laura a hideously ugly necklace, when Sally advertised on national TV she wanted a husband, when Laura opened Rob’s mail and a boat expanded in their living room and on and on…..

After Leah had surgeries and chemotherapy, we watched lots of TV. The Dick Van Dyke Show is on Netflix, so it became a favorite past time for us – giving us something positive on which to focus. Watching the Petrie antics helped us relax and fall asleep.

dick van dyke.

Leah, more of an introvert, wasn’t a chatty person. And I really like to talk. It was a challenge for me, an extrovert, to relate to Leah’s communication style.
I wanted to ask her so many questions and talk about lots of topics. Talking didn’t comfort her. What she needed was just for me to be in the room with her and watch an entertaining show. Her love language was time together.

So, this extrovert had to learn to be quiet-just sit-and be present. It was hard. In doing so, I learned Leah loved good humor and herself had a great sense of humor. I think we watched every episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, well over 100 of them, at least 10 times. Seriously.

Looking back, I believe God was working through the Petrie’s personalities to comfort Leah in a unique way – especially the last months of her illness. I am grateful that God used a talented actor and actress and my favorite comedy to bring joy to my daughter’s life during such a difficult time.

 
I hope Leah and “Laura” have met in heaven. Mary’s excellent acting enabled me to connect with my daughter in a priceless way.

So, if you are looking for a good laugh – watch one of Leah’s favorite episodes “The Curious Thing about Women.” Thank you Mary Tyler Moore.
facebook_mtm-1

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10