Monday, March 15, 2010

Time for Reflection

I'm reflecting less these days. I don't like that but I know what it is. It's one part intentional busyness, and the other part pain avoidance. I keep moving, trying not to dwell on things for which I have no answers. At first, I went to that rock wall a hundred times a day asking my questions. It was a relentless search for understanding, and I continually banged at those hard, immoveable, unyielding walls. And when I hurt my head, over and over again, with banging at something that was never going to give way, I started going in different directions.

Less, "Why, God?". But more, "What, God?". What do we do with Joey now? What do we do with all this heartbreak? What place does someone who's gone have in our lives? What do we do with his precious things? What do we do with the fragile memories? What can we do to honor his memory? What is important enough to invest in now? What do we do with our broken lives?

Coming up with these answers is like digging in fallow ground. Unlike banging on the rock wall, there are answers to these questions. But it does require hard work to unearth them, and to unearth the right ones. So we are digging, digging, and slowly piecing the answers together, bit by bit. There is no manual. We have to figure it out prayerfully and purposefully. Sometimes through trial and error. What works for one doesn't always work for the others. What works today doesn't necessarily work tomorrow. But I pray we eventually end up with something that all of us can support.

We are learning how to have a relationship with Joey's spirit which is alive and well in Heaven. We stay connected with Joey through memories, dreams and the artifacts of his life. Sunday morning worship always connects me with him as I imagine him doing the same thing we are doing, but in Paradise and at the throne of God. Taking care of his car, "Gunther", is another way of connecting. This one turns out to be an expensive proposition as his VW Vanagon is over 20 year old and, like me, it deteriorates with each new day. This blog and his facebook page help to preserve some of the memories, and so I will keep it going. Memories are difficult because they are fading as time goes on, and thus we have to intentionally remind each other to remember this story or that bit--constant mental archiving to last us till we see him again. Anniversary dates will continue to be a source of anxiety for a long time because they are such big reminders of our loss. I just accept that there will never be the "perfect" way to honor the big days--the day of his birth and the day of his death-- adequately.

The quest to find a way to honor his memory is ongoing. We have still not found a clear cut living memorial, though we have tried several on to see if they fit--causes related to epilepsy, sudden death, trees, music, a Compassion child who shares his name or birthday, Operation Smile...and others. That one is still fluid--we are in search of the right cause, one that sustains our passion. I envy those mothers like Karen Gerstenberger who have created a foundation to their child's memory. With every quilt, her beautiful daughter Katie's memory is honored. But since that is not our story, we continue to trust that in time some just-right-thing will stand out. I would love to know how others do this.

As for finding what is worthy of my time and money investment, that too is a matter of trial and error. For me now, teaching Sunday School rings the bell. I have never been the slightest bit interested in teaching children at church. I could barely get my own in the doors on time, and this harried mother couldn't wait to sit down and be a spectator in the pews. But now I want to have a part in helping every little child I know be prepared for both the moral choices and the suffering and heartbreak that inevitably lie ahead in their lives.

I am so grateful that Joey had that foundation as a child. It didn't make him perfect, but it did help to make him wonderful. And at his final breath, I do believe that his relationship with God, and God's great mercy for those who trust Him, was the most important factor in determining his eternal destiny. So Sunday School, with all its time-sucking preparation and it's creative challenges (cuz it's a sin to bore a child in Jesus' name), and the post-church fatigue from having engaged 25 busy little minds with busy fingers and wiggly bodies, seems very much worth the investment...

...and I don't have to reflect much to see the truth in that.

Is 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


Gberger said...

This is lovely. It is such a clear statement of the path we are on. I know that God will lead you, day by day, to what will bless you AND the world. I can see that He is already doing it, in what you are doing here, in church, and in your heart. His creativity truly knows no bounds. It amazes me; He can make something out of nothing, and he does it all the time. Out of the ashes of what was my life, he is creating new life. It's not what we asked for, but we are receiving what we need (maybe THAT'S what I should have tattooed on my body!)
You are doing a very hard thing, beautifully. You inspire me.

Anonymous said...

Karen, I don't have words to express what your shared today. Much of it is what I seem to be reflecting. I am not sure I even have words for it. Thank you for sharing. Love Sharon

Anonymous said...

Dear Karen,
I read your blog almost every day, as my own therapy for living with the loss of many loved ones. I almost never leave a comment , although I do so mentally almost daily. Perhaps because I don't want to intrude. Perhaps because it is too much to step outside my private grief and be bold enough to share. Regardless, I want to thank you for the comfort that your honesty brings. I also wanted to immediately share my thoughts on your most recent post - before my first reaction faded. What I thought of first was "hope". These little children at your church, my own three little ones, our hope is in them and for them. Yes, we also want to protect them and prepare them as best we can. I think your choice of place to direct your energy right now is so perfect. You are bravely facing life going on when you might rather pull up the covers instead. My little ones were the only reason I got out of bed some mornings, most mornings. I was able to just keep moving - even if I hadn't healed or figured it all out. I'm able to keep moving, with a little light of hope, until I have figured out my new way of being, or allowed God to show me. Thank you for sharing. God Bless you and Joe and your girls and their families on your journey.
with aloha
Valerie Ryden

Anna Flowergardengirl said...

I was just thinking that every day is a new day for you. It is for me too--but you wake up defining how to live it. I just wake up and do same old stuff. I don't have to move any pieces of my mind out of the way to function. Takes twice as much time to live your life as it does mine. Sounds exhausting.

It's pollen season here and I'm not up to doing much of anything and would be a terrible teacher today. I loved how you described your feelings about teaching. Sometimes knowing what God expects of us is enough.

Jeri said...

Your words are very touching. Those children are so blessed to have you as their Sunday School teacher. It's so wonderful that you're investing in those precious lives.

Love & miss you,

Keanae Boy said...

Such lucky kids to have you for a teacher. Wish my grandkids could be in your class! What a wonderful picture of Joey by the fire. We miss you guys so much, and wish we were there now to share in the duties, that will be many, surrounding Sean's recovery. Thank God (and we are still praying)it sounds like he will have little or no residual.

I'm off to Keanae right now to do the mowing, in time for Craig to take the interns out there next weekend.

We love you guys!
Bill and Lu

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Karen, I just loved reading this. Read it to Danny, then to a friend......if it means anything, I did not know your Joey, I had heard of him from others, but through you and your blog something amazing has happened. I KNOW JOEY!!!!!! He is alive in what you post, what you say, what you write! Your heart is so full of him that mine has gradually become full too. ..That is a great gift.. Keep processing outloud for us all to hear...we need it too.....
I love you dearly
Linda Lehmann

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen & Joe,
Although I read your blog frequently I rarely have left a comment - probably because I fear being too shallow.

You are so courageous to allow us into your life. I would feel too vunerable. I know God will lead you on your quest to find what to involve yourself in.

I must say I couldn't be any happier than I am of your recent involvement in your churches Sunday School. I could go on forever on the value of working with kids.

I must say that Karen, the grandmother, has always been very devoted to her church and its childrens ministry. Along with Joe you have given constant words of encouragement to the workers, head volunteers on a classroom remodel, speakers at Tweens family day camp, worship leader at Friday night Tweens, overwhelming supporters in every way and the list goes on.

I am go glad, for all the kids you will have in your classroom, that at this time in your life they get you. I picture Joey watching Jesus placing more jewels on your crown - with a big grin and a clear sense of pride in what his mama is doing for the kingdom.

I hope this lasts for a long time.

Love you,
Toni Spence