Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Birthday Girls on One Day!!

On this special day, we celebrate two of our wonderful girls!!
We love you both with all our hearts and wrap you in a great big birthday hug!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gannet Girl

To My Readers:
I have been blessed with a little on-line community of grieving mothers whose blogs I read day after day. They help me so much, because they often are able to put into words what I am feeling but cannot express. They also comfort me. Yesterday, one of the bloggers, Gannet Girl, asked us to tell her our stories, because she had questions in the aftermath of her own son's death one year ago. The following Question and Answer format is my response to her.

To Gannet Girl:
Yesterday, after I read your post, I gave you my quick comment. Your questions continued to echo through my day, so I sat down in the afternoon and wrote out my long answer-- a summary of my experience of the last year. It took me about two hours, amidst flowing tears and various interruptions, to get it all down. Then I accidentally hit some button on my new, capricious, over-sensitive computer, and it all disappeared. I closed my computer in total defeat with the thought, "I don't think I have the strength to do that again."

Tonight, however, after I read Karen G's Q & A format, I decided "I think I can do that"! And she's right, you do deserve answers. I, too, want those kinds of answers, so I simply appreciate the opportunity to share my experience on the very poignant issues you raise. I hope my answers aren't too depressing, and I hope it helps you in some way.

Gannet Girl's post:
"There is only one thing I want to know. I want to know your story, and yours, and yours. I want to know how you survived, or didn't. I want to know about those hours after 4:00 in the morning, when you wake up and stare at the ceiling, or read email, or try yet another Russian novel. I want to know what it was like when your child died, what it was like when the world broke apart. I want to know what it is like when you climb a mountain or drive to the coast and your child is not with you. I want to know whether your laughter feels different, whether your sight has changed. I want to know what you have to say about this part of the journey, this minute, knowing full well that in the next one your words might be completely different. I want to know about the moments when sheer, raw courage takes over ~ the moments when you put your feet on the floor next to the bed and stand up. I want to know how we are going to do this for years to come."

"I want to know how you survived, or didn't." I have physically survived, but emotionally, I am not so sure how much of me has survived. I feel I am a shell of my former self. It seems the area most impacted is my ability to relate to others, even my family. It's hard for me to socialize, difficult to make small talk, and tiring for me to extend myself. I do what I need to do, but it feels exhausting and I can only do these things for a short time. My husband and I have long silences between us now. It's as if we are tired of the same sad words. We try to help each other and take life very slowly now. We can't take much pressure.

I used to be a counselor on a church staff. Helping people was my life and a great joy, but I can't do it much now. I also used to be a big help to my daughters and my grandchildren, but now I find it exhausting and I am not able to connect with them as I would like. This makes me very sad because these are all of my favorite people, and I hate that I can't be more there for them. It's a cruel irony to me that the loss of one of my blessings makes it so hard for me to enjoy the rest of my blessings.

"I want to know about those hours after 4:00 in the morning, when you wake up and stare at the ceiling, or read email, or try yet another Russian novel. " Bedtime is my worst time of day. Like Karen G, I have flashbacks, which turn into obsessive thinking, replaying things over and over again in my mind, endlessly. I still occasionally experience shock and ask myself if all this really happened. I work very hard to not feel anything at night. I don't drink or take sleeping aids, but I have a rigid "no think" rule at bedtime. I also have a dvd player with headphones that sits on my bedside stand, and as soon as my sad thoughts start, which they do every night when the light goes out, I turn on the dvd and watch something funny like Seinfeld. This also works at 4 am. I have honestly felt like I wouldn't survive the night with the pain in my heart. Everything is easier in the light of day. As far as reading Russian novels, I haven't been able to read much of anything for a year and I have always been a voracious reader. It just requires more sustained attention than I can muster.

"I want to know what it was like when your child died, what it was like when the world broke apart." Joey's death was sudden and unexpected. We had been with him four days prior and had a truly wonderful time together celebrating his sister's college graduation. I hugged him goodbye at the airport and he flew back to L.A.-- and I never spoke with him again. It hurts me just to write those words. He died in his sleep from heart failure, ultimately a complication from epilepsy, though he had no seizure. We were never warned of this possibility and the shock of it still stuns us, as he was fit and healthy and vibrant.

The worst of it was that he lived alone and laid in his bed for two days. That one still torments me. When he didn't appear for a social event, one of his friends went and checked his house and found him. We were at the movies when his friends called us, and my husband grabbed my hand and pulled me out of my seat and took me to the lobby, and told me the words, and I collapsed.

We had to fly to L.A. and when we got there, he was already at the morgue and we couldn't see him till the next day, which was horrendous to us. The mercy was that so many friends were there waiting with sheltering arms for us. After that, it was just a series of painful, unspeakable decisions about his remains and his belongings, and planning a memorial services. All of it still very, very traumatic for me and difficult to ponder.

"I want to know what it is like when you climb a mountain or drive to the coast and your child is not with you. I want to know whether your laughter feels different, whether your sight has changed." This is the worst part for me. You get through the rest of it only to have to face the crushing reality that your child is gone and you will never speak with them again in this life. Your dreams for them are over, your future as a family is totally changed. It's empty and unnatural and overwhelming to suddenly face life without them. I hated that I couldn't reach him by phone or email, or ever see him again. Now I talk with him anyway, and I send messages via Jesus and that's an improvement over the unbreachable brick wall I initially felt separated us. I was crazy with the void of his absence, like I wanted to jump out of my skin. Every one of us hates doing life without Joey, and our hearts are in heaven, though we are still on earth. Every single thing that made up our life has changed. Nothing was left unscathed.

"I want to know what you have to say about this part of the journey, this minute, knowing full well that in the next one your words might be completely different." I don't feel like my life is in my control anymore. It's uncomfortable to me that my feelings change so much and that I have difficulty putting it into words so much of the time. But that's just the way it is. That's why I blog so many pictures of events and the grandkids. I just can't put all the feelings and changes into words. It falls into my catch-all basket broadly labeled "grief behavior".

"I want to know about the moments when sheer, raw courage takes over ~ the moments when you put your feet on the floor next to the bed and stand up. " Packing up my son's belongings was the hardest single thing I have ever done in my life; next to that, doing his memorial services, which I can't even think about, and then packing up our own things and moving cross-country to be with our daughters. I wish I didn't have to do any of it and these things took all my strength and raw courage. I haven't recovered from them. There is so much loss and sheer will power in these actions that I can't even bear to think about them.

"I want to know about the moments right before that, the moments of sadness so deep that you cannot push your feet out from under the covers." All the time-- longing, missing, yearning, aching. Crying so many tears, and still I can't cry hard enough to empty them. There is always a new supply. I don't even bother wiping them away anymore. They just dry on my cheeks and down my neck and on to my chest. The monotonous soundtrack that runs behind our life now: Joey's gone, Joey's gone, Joey's gone. I'm accepting that I have a broken heart that will never heal, and life will never be really good again, but I also feel so deeply, sadly, dismally disappointed by it.

"I want to know how we are going to do this for years to come." For me, truly one day at a time. My faith in God and Heaven has grown, and I am counting on His promises to wipe every tear. I am trusting in God to make this okay one day and that somehow gives me hope for the future. I know now that Jesus came for one reason and that was to destroy Death. I long for that.

For the every day, I keep it as simple as I can. I find it soothing to immerse myself in beautiful things: nature, sky, sea, mountains, trees and flowers, beautiful music and lovely little moments, and in the sweet hugs of my children and grandchildren. Those are the things that help me face the future.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Joey's Last Picture

This picture was taken accidentally the night Joey flew back to LA from Maui. We had been together for the previous 10 days for his sister's graduation from Hawaii Pacific University--celebrated in the header picture above. Some of our friends happened to be at the airport greeting arriving visitors on the night we dropped Joey off. They unintentionally caught Joey going through TSA inspection on the edge of the picture they took as their friends arrived.
We take it as a message from Heaven. His back is turned to us, and he is going where we cannot go. The sign on the glass door says, "Do Not Enter". The "Up" arrow is reflected on the back of his t-shirt, which seems odd and a little miraculous to me. You can see this even better if you double-click on the photo. He has unloaded all his earthly burdens--his backpack and his shoes are in the plastic bin. This was just minutes after he had given his dad and I the most tender goodbye hug at the airport curb.
I wish he could have stayed with us that night. I wish he were still here. I wish for all my children and grandchildren that he were still part of their everyday existence. I wish I could talk with him and hug him. I wish he could hug me. I wish he could give his advice and take the risks of life with us. I wish he were here to make us all laugh. I wish he was here for Rachel and their future, the children that would have been.
I wish, I wish, I wish.
I miss him so very much. I miss his beautiful smile, and the sunshine of his face. I miss our happy reunions and family vacations. I miss watching him work and network, and make his plans. I miss his music and his strumming. I miss his zest and optimism.
I miss my innocence, my ignorance about the cruelty of death.
I miss my hope about the future.
I miss the past.
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
Eccles. 3:6

Friday, September 25, 2009

True Friendship

Tom, Melissa, Jeremy, Ryan.

Joey's second family--also in the header up above.

Melissa, the comforter of comforters.

We all jumped at the same moment...I like this spontaneous moment a lot.

Feet on the ground, arm in arm. The only way to get through life.

Thanks, friends, for everything.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Rom 12:15

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Beautiful Baby Marek Joseph

We paid a SURPRISE visit to see Adam and Stephanie's new baby boy. Adam was working outside on his garage when we showed up, and Stephanie and Marek were asleep. Nice of us to disturb all that domestic tranquility unannounced, don't you think!

In our defense, we had tried to call but our message got garbled, and we were leaving town and baby Marek Joseph was already 10 days old and we needed to see that little boy before he was all grown up! You see, they named him after our son.

We are incredibly touched by this act of love on Adam and Stephanie's part. A living memorial to our son.

Isn't he a handsome little guy?!
A picture of serenity...sleeping so peacefully in Papa's arms...

Nursing so comfortably in his mother's arms...

Waaaahhh! Oh my! What did you do Nana?
Okay! Back to mama!

We love you Adam and Stephanie, and little Marek Joseph. Thanks so much for loving and comforting our family, and for being there for us this year.
You two are awesome!

Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Goodbye Sweet Rachel

When I started writing this post, we had just dropped Rachel off at the airport. It's always hard to say goodbye to her. She is a remarkable girl. She's bright, funny, loving, kind and insightful; in fact, she's pretty perfect, and so we very much miss her spirit here when she's gone.

In this shot, she and Jaime are goofing around at the botanical gardens. These two like to goof around!
Rachel's perseverance with us, and her loyalty to Joey's memory are very meaningful to us. This still takes us by surprise because we aren't the happiest people to be around now. We are always deeply touched that she continues to be with us, grieve with us and make the effort to fly cross-country to see us.
Did I say that she's remarkable?
Here she zooms in on a preying mantis. She's saying, "He's cute".

This is one of Rachel's gifts. She's an excellent photographer and took most of the pictures of my son that I put up here on the blog. She spent more time with him than anyone else the last few years, and she loved to photograph him in all the interesting places they visited. So that is just another great treasure she has given us.

Here they are again, trying to be the same height.

She's become a sister and an auntie and a daughter to our family. When Joey went to Heaven, she lost her future and her dreams. We pray that she will be blessed with the love of a good man again, and that in every way, her future will be bright and full of joy and blessing. Of course, he's going to have to be a man with a brave heart who can pass the gauntlet of all of us, and also not be intimidated by the memory of my son. A tall order for sure, but I believe that he's out there somewhere and we will celebrate when it happens.

And then there's this. Her tattoo of the nickname she called Joey-"Cuy".
Mr. Wonderful is going to have to understand this as well. So that's another reason to pray.

Proverbs 31:10
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Crab Boil with our Friends

This was our grand finale night.

We lingered under the big trees by the lake in JoAnne's beautiful backyard.

Drew scoops the steaming corn and potatoes from the pot.

These Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs were a gorgeous sky blue just a moment before being steamed into this color.

Squeezing lemon over the clams, crabs, scallops, and everything else spread on the table. Then we added bowls of melted butter for dipping. Yum-O!
The only fitting way to say goodbye to our friends--we wish they never had to leave and we miss them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Company of Those Who Understand

On our first day with our special visitors, after the children were off to school, we adults were able to gather together for brunch. I can't describe the deep comfort that came from being around Kevin. I felt peace like I haven't felt for a year. He carries so much of Joey's spirit with him, since they've been best friends since the diaper stage, it was almost as if Joey were with us, too. When all these young adults get together, their humor and laughter brings back the best memories, and it was a joyous reunion.

We got to sit for a couple of hours-- eating, talking and remembering. I missed Joey profoundly, so obviously absent from this gathering of some of his closest companions. It was an unusual mixture of emotions--deep comfort and intense longing at the same time.

I don't think I could have done this without the 16 intervening months we've had to do some healing. I think we all felt some trepidation, not certain whether the reunion would send us back to our original grief. But it didn't and we were comforted in being together, much more than we ever expected. I knew there would be emptiness when they left, but I decided to focus on the gift of this present moment.

Of course, baby Josephine also did her part to keep us in the Present. She stole the spotlight whenever she was awake! She's a bundle of squirmy delight and funny faces. Best of all, she holds so much promise for the future.

Here, Melissa and I being grammies together. My beautiful friend Melissa has walked with me so patiently over the rough road, through the valley of the shadow of death. She is such a compassionate and sensitive person, that I felt completely comforted and understood being with her. Melissa was also kind enough to share Josie, even though she hadn't seen her for a while herself, and thanks to her generosity
... I almost met my Josie cuddle quota!

Ecclesiastes 9:7
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.

Our First Night Together

Tom and Melissa arrived a few hours before the others, so we picked them up and took them out to dinner...just the four of us. We talked about Joey and the kids and how everyone was doing now.

Then Rachel arrived (sans suitcase, Delta gave her an overnight kit), and finally Molly, Kevin and baby Josephine.

And here they are! Yay!!! What a joyful reunion this was.

My precious friend Melissa, Joey's second mom, cradling her new granddaughter Josie, named after Joey. A sweet circle of love.

The days went quickly, but the time was tender and comforting. These people have had the same kind of year we have had, and they understand so much without us having to speak the words. Having them in our home was a balm for our souls.
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coming Today!

These pictures are from over a year ago...the first night together after losing Joey.

Kevin, Molly, Baby Josephine- Joey's best friend and his family.

Melissa and Tom-Joey's second parents.

Rachel- Joey's girlfriend.

They are all coming tonight to visit us.

I'm in a state. Trying to make everything perfect for them, which is, I know, impossible, unneccessary-- but for me, right now, a welcome distraction.

Guests beds made up: check.

Guest bathroom clean: check.

Refrigerator full: check.

Lawn mowed: check.

Chocolate in their rooms: check.

Our home is now a shrine to Joey, like a Catholic church. His pictures and things are in every room. And these are some of the only people on the planet who will understand that and not find it awkward.

They used to visit us at the beach on Maui. Sunshine and sparkling water and swaying palm trees everywhere, through our windows and out our doors. Surfing, sunsets, long dinners on the lanai, laughter, dreams. Life was good then. Everyone was thriving. Nothing hurt for long.

Now, it's different. We're different. But they are coming anyway.

Bless them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Awesome and Beloved Kit Lauer

Kit, Shelly, Me and Joe

This is one of the last pictures we took with our beloved pastor and friend Kit. Kit had leukemia and he went to Heaven a few weeks after this picture was taken. Today is his birthday.

Kit was a real-life hero and the greatest man we have ever known. He had a huge heart and a huge intellect. He just emanated love. He was warm, kind, generous, funny, and spiritually inspiring. He lived his words, and to the very end, he trusted the Lord with UNWAVERING faith. How very blessed we were to know such a good man.

He walked with us through the loss of Joey, and in fact, we had our greatest comfort in Kit's presence after Joey's passing. He was a man living between two worlds in the last few months of his life. It is reassuring for us that he is with Joey, and I am sure Joey celebrated his arrival. Joey loved Kit and we remember how sad he was when he learned that Kit had cancer. Now we can visualize them together, along with Lindsay, Kit's niece.

We miss you, Kit, and think of you today with overflowing gratitude.

We send love and comfort to Shelley, Maisha and Mikey, Buddy, and all the wonderful, incredible Lauers.

Kit Lauer
September 14, 1947-April 24, 2009

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Joey's Best Friend

Kevin and Molly at the Mortuary.

Joey's best friend, Kevin, and his wife Molly, and their baby Josephine (named after Joey) are coming to visit us next week, and I can hardly think of anything else. We haven't seen them since Joey's memorial service in Maui last June. This will be our first time to see precious baby Josie.

Melissa, Joey's second mom, and her husband, Tom, are coming, too, along with beautiful Rachel, Joey's girlfriend. Aren't we blessed? These people love Joey like we do, and have stuck with us through thick and thin. We love them all so much.

So this coming week, we will have the best kind of full house.

A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:17
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Friday, September 11, 2009

How It Feels

The Scream
Edvard Munch
For a long time I was constantly seeking metaphors for my grief. I guess I thought if I described it accurately enough, it would go away. Of course that didn't work, but still I hoped that it might decrease my sense of aloneness. I hoped that if I could describe it in terms another person could understand, they would say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. How devastating. I had no idea it was like that. Tell me more."

This painting perfectly describes how I feel about losing Joey.
The shock, the woe, the terror, the horror, and on a second level, two people walking by, oblivious.

I have learned to be stoic when people don't understand, don't care or don't even pause to acknowledge my grief.
But inside
it absolutely. breaks. my. heart.

Psalm 88:1-3
O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you.
May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Last Sip of Fun

Papa Wampa took all five grands to Busch Gardens as a final farewell to summer. He's known as Mr. Spontaneity. He raised our kids that way too--fun on a moments notice. No regrets on that--life is short.
In the upper photo, our little Jedi is being very intimidating!
The girls do the Cousin Huddle Hug.
Dueling light sabers. Check out those light waves.
Papa Wampa and his favorite homies enjoying the last of summer.
We are so blessed with these five very special people in our lives.
What a comfort they are.

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged...
Proverbs 17:6

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Nana Makes the Rounds for the First Day of School

Here comes the bus! Are we ready?

New clothes! School supplies! The Moms have stimulated the economy to the max!

Clare's the first to go. She takes the early bus to school and the late bus home and she always does it with a smile. Her backpack is big and fully loaded for the acquisition of knowledge!

Izzy takes a slightly later bus, and carries a slightly bigger backpack--in fact, it looks so heavy, it's drooping!
But she's got a smile, too!

Aidan is a proud first grader and he's got the biggest smile of all! He's excited this morning because he gets to go to school ALL day and eat lunch in the cafeteria, too!

(I give that zeal one week!)

On the other hand, his mom's all emotional today--excited for her first full day at home alone in years, yet so sad to send off her precious baby boy.

Bailey's on the last bus and she's the big middle schooler with the enormous backpack. It's so heavy, she's tipping over!

And that's the story of life...the backpack just keeps getting bigger!

Chase is the lucky zombie on the couch. His school doesn't start till tomorrow-- his first day of high school. As his Nana, I feel obligated to protest the hideously large and burdensome backpack he will be forced to carry this year; one that will surely crimp his spine and give him pain in middle age, and should truly be against the law...but, that's tomorrow...

Ecclesiastes 3:1

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven...

Monday, September 07, 2009

Beach Baptism

Our church met at the beach for Labor Day. Here Pastor Steve (with his little sidekick) talks about the meaning of baptism--dying to self, and being raised to new life in Christ.

Heads bowed and eyes closed...we pray for those being baptised this morning.

What better baptismal than the Atlantic Ocean, God's cathedral?
Aidan and Clare wait for their turn.

Here Pastor Steve and Noah dunk Clare good!

Clare emerges surprised and excited. Baptism is a little act with big consequences.
Now Aidan emerges.
He's looking pretty satisfied with the whole experience.

Hugs from the Mamas who are very pleased that their children are followers of Christ and wanting to be baptised.
A very special day for all of us.

COL 2:12
... having been buried with Him in baptism
and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God,
who raised Him from the dead.