How We’re Doing & What We’re Up To

(*repost from Caringbridge)

The bookends to our life stories are hardly that (in God’s sight). There are some that would say that Jeremy’s death was the end to a chapter of my life, though it feels to me more like an entire shelf full of books. The past ten years are on one shelf (maybe more). My future, whatever it will come to look like, is beginning on another shelf. But God, He’s the Author of every book on every shelf in the library of my life. And the stories written out in some books bleed into others. Many of the characters and some of the plots, are continued on. So no one book is less important or less needed, nor is one ever reallydone with it. I’m grateful that my history with Jeremy is never over. (It’s still hard to move onto another shelf, waiting to be filled with more stories).

There is such finality in death. There is so much that I lost and so much that I had to give up six months ago. As the days go on, I plead to God to keep writing a good story with our lives. Mostly, I plead for the sake of the boys. But also because, I believe, He will do such a thing. Isn’t there a story about a pleading widow, who kept coming to a judge asking for justice? In some ways, is that not what I’m asking of God? Make this (the story of my life) right again. Or maybe it’s just a pleading for Him to continue to make it right (because despite the fact that in some ways my life situation feels so wrong, I don’t know that from God’s perspective it is). Nevertheless, my faith-filled prayers beckon an answer from a God who is not unjust.

How are we doing?

I don’t mind being asked this question. But I’m often curious what kind of answer is expected (and I wonder how much time you have). And I wonder how much you really want to know…

Short answer: Good. We’re grieving, but we’re living life in a way that’s more than surviving (I think). We’re doing well. 

A possible longer answer: In general, we’re doing well. This week, or this day, has been hard because….(fill in the blank).

Long answer (got time to sit down?): This is hard and difficult and painful and confusing and overwhelming, but I know (in the larger scope of things) we’re “good” (we’re being held by God). 

And my answer, though dependent some on your motive behind the question, is also dependent truly upon how I am doing that day. Sometimes, I’m ready to unload. And sometimes, I don’t feel like I have much to say. Sometimes, I’m asking myself the same question, how are you doing, and my answer (to myself) is I don’t know. I think there is still an element of shock from time to time as well – it would likely be naive of me to think that I’ve come to a point where I’ve fully grasped in my mind and heart what I lost when Jeremy’s body failed.

I had tried to anticipate these current months – there are a lot of celebrations to be had. We’ve already celebrated Aedan’s birthday and Thanksgiving and still to come between now and the end of January is Eli’s birthday, Christmas, our anniversary and my birthday. I hope to enjoy each one. But with two down and four to go, the load is bearing down. The ache. The I just want these months to be over. But the truth is, I want these celebrations to go well. I want them to be fun. I want the boys to know that our world does not revolve around one another, our losses or our gains, or our life circumstances. We are always God’s. And we are called, every day (no matter the day) to offer our lives and our hearts to Him. I anticipate that I will never again experience the date of our anniversary like I will this year. But if He’s with me, it’ll be worth beholding the memories.

I was asked this Thanksgiving if I missed Jeremy’s presence that day more than other days, and truthfully I answered, not strikingly so. When I am with people, I miss him less. It is when I am alone, or when I find myself trying to carry on traditions with the boys that Jeremy and I used to do together with them – that is when I miss him most. And I also realized, that when I picture the “what if he were still here”, the image that comes to mind is always him being very sick and in a lot of pain. And in different ways, the boys and I would be suffering even still. Death is final – there are extreme sorrows that come with that – but there are also small reliefs – there are no more emergency runs to the hospital, there are no more “what if’s”, there are no more medications, there are no more cancelled plans, there are no more frustrations with his body, there are no more moments of trying to live when your body is dying, there are no more explanations that need to be made of why you look so good on the outside but feel so terrible on the inside. There are no more of those complexities. And though I would take him back in a heartbeat, even if he suffered for days on end (that selfish part of me), it is good for me to remember at times all that he’s been spared from.

But still, each new season in the year brings a completely new experience…

I find myself in the toy aisle (one of Jeremy’s favorite locations) looking for Christmas presents for the boys and I think, this is what Jeremy would get them. But then the sorrow hits me and I think, but they don’t want this from me, they want it from him.  And they don’t want to open presents on Christmas morning that are just constant reminders of the one they miss so much. So on a year that I’m tempted to get them more, I think I’ve decided to get them less. This may be a good year to wrap ourselves around that baby boy gift and just let ourselves be satisfied.

I seem to grieve over something different almost every week. There was a week when I grieved over the fact that memories fade with time. Or when single-parenting made it’s debut. When I woke up to those nightmares alone. When the boys hearts were aching for some truth, and I had none to offer (but he would have). When I knew the tone of my voice was less than loving, and he wasn’t there to call me on it. When I sat alone looking at nine years worth of pictures of Aedan and the many realities that conveyed. When I rearranged his writing/recovery room because I couldn’t handle the fact that it served no purpose. And there are many more experiences – some very tangible, and some not so much. I would love, one day, to unpack those experiences for you.

I could say the same of the boys. Aedan hurts the most. He’s the oldest and therefore remembers the most, understands the most and grieves deeply (though at times, doesn’t know how to). He varies between cautiously talking about Jeremy and how deeply he misses him, to not wanting to talk about him at all, not wanting to look at pictures or watch videos. He is still at a point where remembering Jeremy hurts too deeply, but he slowly and cautiously and sometimes, surprisingly, takes steps forward towards healing for his nine-year-old heart. I have so very little to say about Eli and his grief process. For whatever reason, he has been most sheltered from the pain thus far. When he sees his brothers or myself sorrowed, he either stares at us with these profoundly interested eyes or he attempts to bring comfort. Jo Isaac’s heart is aching to remember Jeremy. And I’m grateful for that. He is often missing him, which is vocalized throughout the day but almost always at bedtime. And during the day, if he acts out in disobedience, he either tells me satan is making him do it (but he pronounces it “sie-tan”, like a little english boy), or he says it’s because he misses daddy. And the tears roll down his cheeks. If the sorrow and pain he’s experiencing now is going to help him remember Jeremy, then I’m grateful.

Eli told Jeremy’s mom in a conversation a couple months ago that I’ve cried three times (he’s way off). But I do know which three times he’s talking about. There are moments that the four of us have shared together that usually begin in frustration – and we all end up in tears – and it’s evident at that point that we are not angry with one another. We miss Jeremy. And we’re angry about it and frustrated and confused not by each other, but by our collective loss. As difficult and unwelcome as these moments are, they end well. For we end up seeing each other as we are (quite broken) and find ourselves – these three little boys and their mom – asking God to remake us. To bind us together. And to bind us to Him.

What we’re up to…

If you recall, I decided to postpone my schooling this year so I could enter into this season of grief with time and space. And it’s been good and necessary. And in some ways, I feel like I’ve hardly entered in – it does take time. But I have not regretted this decision at all and have daily experienced the benefits of it. I did realize recently that if I’m going to complete the nursing program that I had started, I will need to rejoin by taking a clinical this spring (April-May). I’d then have the summer off and have a full semester in the fall. I don’t feel ready to make this decision. I don’t feel ready to be back in school. But sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever feel ready. And I realize that if I don’t rejoin this spring, I’m essentially deciding not to complete the program (which is a possibility since there are other roads I could take as well). I would appreciate your prayers over this decision, as it feels somewhat weighty as this year comes to a close.

In terms of daily life, I’m surprised at how little gets done. My list is long and the sorting through many of Jeremy’s things has been very slow – not because I don’t want to, but because of available time. But I’m slowly adjusting my expectations and being satisfied if small steps each day is all I take. And after caring for the boys and myself, that’s about the most I can do. I’m also experiencing the many new roles I’ve inherited from this situation. It’s not just single parenting. It’s not just widowhood and leading my life alone. It’s a studio and music that I never had much to do with before. And his writings that feel like precious jewels that I don’t know how to preserve or how to share with others. And these gadgets, these electronics – merging computers and making my own playlists and preserving documents – it’s a lot. And then socially, well, I’ve inherited a lot of friends and acquaintances. All of this takes a lot of time. But most of it is quite a blessing in the midst of this otherwise barren season.

A collective group of people have made a start on the completion of Jeremy’sA Lutheran Liturgy album. I can’t wait to share it with you. But there’s no end date at this point, so I can’t even give you that for guided anticipation. But what I can offer to you is the Advent album that Jeremy released last year. If you don’t have your hands on it yet, you still can. If you click on the link below, it will lead you to where you can purchase an album or download it.

I pray that this season of advent would bless you in whatever way you need it most – a prayer that I pray for myself and the boys as well.

And an admonition to love your family well.