Christine, I hope that if I’m ever in your father’s shoes…

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Today, I had supervision during practicum. I rarely write in the moment, but I’ve found myself reflecting on this quite a bit, long after the conversation concluded.

It was technically supervision, but today, it was just life we talked about. Life in the moment.

“Christine, I hope that if I’m ever in your father’s shoes, one of my kids will be what you’ve been for your father.”

It stopped me. Frankly, I never expected such an honest and vulnerable admission. Yet, it wasn’t something new I have heard.

“It’s not about deserving, you know”

He asked me to explain. I did.

I spoke about how we as people are constantly giving worth and taking it away throughout various situations and with people throughout life – those that cross our paths and those that don’t. It’s almost like we have this innate, annoying tendency to measure who is worthy and who is not. Who deserves what and who does not.

I further explained that my father was never perfect.

“Show me a man that claims he is and I will show you a liar”, he responded.

I told him we recently cracked his safe. I found those power of attorney papers, the living will, and the healthcare proxy forms.

I told him about his living will.

“He wants to come home. No matter what…he wants to come home.”

I wondered aloud in his office. I wondered if it was about reciprocity.

Do we do what we can with where we are and what we know?

Or perhaps it’s all about learning what we value and standing up for those values?

I’ve heard “You’re a blessing to your father”, “You’re father is lucky to have you”…etc.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge, I’ve been a pain in his ass.

He has also been a pain in my ass.

We butted heads while I was growing up. We wanted different things for me. I challenged his beliefs and he challenged mine. He later changed his beliefs and I challenged him on knowing what he stood for. Throughout my 20’s and early 30’s, we have had many thought provoking and emotionally-charged conversations. For a guy that doesn’t like to make himself emotionally vulnerable, I knew what this meant for him.

And I do know, that he’s always tried to meet me where I was and I’ve always tried to meet him where he was.

Can we do that for our children?

Can we do that for our parents?

It’s not always easy. I’ll give anyone that. And I get why.

I too have wondered what if I was in his shoes. Would they advocate for me? Would they fight for me? Would they lose patience with me? Would they take it personal? Would they grieve for what they lost, but carry on with what they have? Would they push me? Would they wonder if they made the right decisions? Would they find gratitude? Would they get what they needed when they needed it?

Or maybe this is about him realizing that he can be imperfect and still be loved and worthy?

I’ll never forget the day the neurosurgeon said to me, “If you’re father is the kind of person that is only happy living a perfect life, now is the time to say goodbye”.

Maybe it’s about me not being ready to say goodbye…

Maybe it’s about grace…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

You know that place where you are the daughter and making decisions for your father?

 

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My father made it through emergency neurosurgery that technically “saved his life”.  The surgery lasted about 4 ½ hours.

There have been times in my life where time seems to stand still. I can remember distinct words, smells, feelings, etc. This was one of those times.

The doctors placed him in a medically induced coma following the surgery. His body was in shock and storming. If you’ve never experienced a traumatic brain injury, you may be unfamiliar with storming. It’s basically where the brain can no longer regulate systems. Everything is off the charts – heart rate, blood pressure, etc. It’s intense to watch.

I will never forget the day I saw him cry while in the coma. I’m not sure there are words that can describe the pain and helplessness I felt that day.

After a few days, they reduced the sedation. His body wasn’t ready. He slipped into a coma on his own. On the 8th day, he opened his eyes.

I updated his friends and our family.

What I neglected to report was although his eyes opened, they didn’t align. It was in that moment that I again questioned whether I should have signed those papers for emergency surgery and instead said our goodbyes.

That moment scared me almost as much as the moment when I got the call and realized what was happening.

His right eye was looking all the way to the right – though it wasn’t “looking”.

His left eye was staring straight ahead – thought it wasn’t “staring”.

I began to wonder in that moment in the trauma ICU, if my father would remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. It was the first time I had wondered that since the accident. To be honest, I hadn’t really considered that when I signed the papers.

I had imagined many things, but a vegetative state wasn’t one of them.

On the 9th day, his pupils aligned, though he still didn’t ‘see’ us.

While all this was occurring, there were other angles.

The first night, my little sister cried herself to sleep in our father’s bed. I knew I could not leave her alone. But also, I wanted to be close to her and close to Dad.

I never went home the first 7 days. I slept in my father’s bed and stayed close by my baby sister’s side.

I later told my father that I owed him a few bottles of wine. I drank all but the Chardonnay in his house. Considering the circumstances, I don’t think he cares.

Weeks after the accident, he made out of the trauma ICU. On Christmas day, we watched him walk with assistance from nurses. He amazed us when he again repeated this the following day.

And then, he regressed. He slid back to a minimally conscious state. It was then that I realized this was bigger than anything I have ever experienced.

Without a doubt, I was not ready to say goodbye to my father on the day that he fell from the 2nd or 3rd step of a step-ladder. I signed those papers with a heavy heart and a head full of questions. But I wasn’t ready to tell him goodbye. I know this.

I also know that loss is hard.

About three weeks after the accident, I returned to my practicum site. I am a 3rd year doctoral student who happened to be almost done with the fall semester when the accident occurred, though my practicum, my clinical internship, was to keep going through the semester break. I couldn’t do it.

My supervisor asked me upon my return if I had ever experienced loss.

“I’ve had my share. In some ways, I am old before my time…”

It would’ve been easier if my father would’ve died that day. That may sound crass to many or it may be misinterpreted by those who simply don’t get it.

It would’ve been awful. It would’ve tore a piece of my heart out. But it would’ve been easier.

However, life happens. We roll with our choices. We roll with what life brings us.

And we do the best with what we have most of the time.

I’m at that place I never expected to be for at least another 20 years. You know that place where you are the daughter and making decisions for your father? Yeah, that place.

I’ve gotten the flak from some. Decisions aren’t understood. Updates aren’t appreciated because they look too “negative”. Assumptions and expectations happen.

And there are others who have given me grace. Those ones I can never repay. But some already know this. For it’s not about money or even repayment. It is simply grace…

 

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t been knocked down yet, be aware, it will come…

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If there’s one thing experience has taught me, it’s that life is gonna knock you down. And sometimes it will kick you while you’re there. 

It doesn’t care about your race, gender, educational level, or the amount of money in your bank account.

It doesn’t care if you come from a dysfunctional home or a “healthy” home. It doesn’t care if you have a support network or you’re all alone. It doesn’t care if you have protective factors or already present stressors. It doesn’t care if you have time for it or whether you’re prepared for it.

If you haven’t been knocked down yet, be aware, it will come.

I have been called upon many times throughout the last few years. A common theme in the questions I hear is ‘what did you do when life knocked you down?’ or ‘how did you get back up?’

The short answer… I figured it out.

The long answer…depends on what the knock felt like.

Part of my resolve is my personality. I am a fighter, but one word cannot describe me. I am also a seeker. I have sought answers, mentors, wisdom, a hand to hold, a comforting or encouraging word – but if I find none, or it’s not enough, I look within.

I’m a reflector. A muller. A dissector.

I know myself well, though I’m continuously learning more. I don’t think that’s a process that ever stops – nor should it.

I know that I’ve been knocked down hard throughout life. And yes, there were times that I contributed to that fall. I’m not too proud to own that.

I don’t like being knocked down, though does anyone? I doubt it.

I do enjoy the journey though… not necessarily the falls, but the walk and especially the rise. That initial feeling you get when you look back over your shoulder and think, “Holy crap. I did it!”.

 And I want to keep walking because if there is one thing I know for sure…this life truly is a gift and despite the challenges and falls, I’m gonna keep walking. There are some beautiful moments along the way.

I’ve never lost that.

Throughout all the times I’ve fallen, I have gotten up.

I didn’t always jump up. Trust me. There were times I resembled a newborn calf trying to get to their feet – all wobbly and shaky. Again…depends on how hard the knock was and what it felt like.

And I’ve used many different tools in assistance – I haven’t always been able to get up with the help of my own knees straightening.

There were outstretched hands along the way. There were encouraging words (in print and spoken). There were hugs. There were listening ears. There were even challenging words that motivated me (in print and spoken).

There were times that I felt all alone and had none of the above.  There were times that those things were not enough… those times were not about what I had, but about what I needed to understand about myself. Those times I looked within. I learned to know me better.

Maybe being knocked down is about learning who you are…learning to know yourself better. It’s not always easy, I’ll give anyone that, but I’d argue it’s worth it. There is an opportunity in every knock and every fall throughout life. Perhaps recognizing and embracing that opportunity is also a part of it.

© LifeasChristine, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Live a good life: An open letter to my oldest son…

An open letter to my oldest son Jonathon…

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You called me the other night and forewarned me, “Mom, this is deep, but important and I want an answer”.

I heard you out and finally responded, “I will get back to you on that”.

Roughly a half an hour after hanging up the phone with you, I received your text, “Don’t forget!”

Remember what you said?

Remember how you justified it?

A few months ago you said, “Why would God give me this mind if he knew I was gonna question. I’m probably not a good follower because I question too much. But didn’t He know I was gonna be like this?”

You know how I sometimes grab my phone and start typing in the middle of conversations? It’s usually because I’m making a note and quoting words that I hear because they hit me profoundly and I want to remember them. I want to think about them later, long after the moment has passed. I made note of that remark.

First off Jono, you don’t need justification for wondering about the things you wonder about.

One thing we definitely agree on is that it is curiosity serves as a catalyst for searching for knowledge, understanding, learning, and wisdom. The greatest of these is wisdom. I will leave it up to you to figure out the difference and why that is the most important.

I know that you have thought about death from a young age and all that it entails. I think most of your siblings have experienced this as well. As I believe that the majority of individuals who experience death of a loved one start to grapple with the concept… what it means to live, die, and all the stuff in between.

You never needed to justify your question to me. I know you well.

WHEN YOU DIE MOM, I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO LIVE OUR LIVES. AND IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IF WE ARE HONEST. AND HOPEFULLY YOU DIE BEFORE US, BECAUSE THE ALTERNATIVE WOULD BE TRAGIC FOR YOU AND AGAINST THE NATURE OF HOW THINGS SHOULD WORK. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO REMEMBER YOU. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU DEFINE A GOOD LIFE. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO CARRY ON WITHOUT YOU.

First off, Aaron knows this part, but maybe you should be aware as well. If given a choice, I want to be buried in the back yard. If the back yard doesn’t suffice due to obstacles – find me a field, close to a river bank, or babbling brook – someplace weeping willows thrive. Do not spend money on a cemetery plot – that’s just plain weird to me and I don’t want to be buried in a cemetery full of people I never knew.  Having experiences with funerals, NO ONE is to buy me a $7,000 casket. I don’t care how pretty it is. I want you all to gather together and build me a pine box. It will give you all a chance to laugh, grieve, and work together as a team processing through stuff together. What you do with it and how you all make it, is up to you guys. Flowers can be picked from a field. Plant a willow tree over me. Years later, when the willow is strong, hang a swing, build a tree house, or do both. Don’t forget the hammock.

I want music – all the music that drove you guys nuts while growing up that reminds you of me that you begged me “Not this again”.  Let it be, Roll me away, I need a hero (you will all laugh remembering me yelling ‘Wooo” at just the right moment), Tiny Dancer, Lose Yourself, Runaway Train, etc.

I want food. Lots of good food – no chicken!

And at the end, I want you to blow off fireworks (if available). There’s just something about fireworks that I have always loved. They remind me that I am alive. They bring awe to me. I want you guys to remember that you still are here and to see the beauty in the darkness. I really want fireworks – just make sure you warn the neighbors, in the event that one may be experiencing PTSD.

I want lots of stories, lots of laughter, lots of hugs (good hugs – not those crappy one-handed-so-called-hugs), sharing of memories from those you don’t know, and honest eulogies. God, do not put me on a pedestal. Be careful, because sometimes we do that when we lose those we love – I’ve not only done it, but have witnessed it occurring from others.

So how do I want you all to live your lives after I’m gone? The same way I want you to live your lives while I still breathe.

I want you to question things your taught, not defiantly, but critically thinking things through. Never feel stupid for asking what others say are silly questions. Ask whatever question you need in order to come to the answer you need. But, know that sometimes you can ask all the right questions, and there is no answer. There are some questions in life that you will never get answers to – or the answers that sit well with your heart. When that happens, learn to LET IT BE. There are just some things in life that we will never know answers to. Maybe it comes down to “I don’t know”. Maybe it comes down to faith. Maybe it comes down to acceptance. It may be a combination of factors, but regardless, you all have to be okay with unanswered questions, because they can and do happen throughout life.

Remember when you were little over at the house on Durfee? Remember when we were coloring? I told you when you color, you didn’t have to stay within the lines. You could color outside the lines and you could use any color you wanted, even if it didn’t make sense (i.e. pink elephants, blue flamingos). You were not limited. I want you to understand there is a time and place for coloring outside the lines. It was not a metaphor for going against all rules or lines set before you. It was a lesson that coloring was a time for flow. It was a place and time for you to lose yourself, while gaining yourself at the same time. It was art therapy and never, ever underestimate the value of it. Some do this by yoga, some by running, some by weight-lifting, some by hiking, some by boating, some by music, some by gardening, etc. The means differ, but the results are the same. There’s a mental balancing that occurs. Find your yoga… whatever that may be. You all will need this many times throughout life – life demands balance.

Evaluate your values. Every single one of them. Take an ethics class (you will struggle mentally, but it is so worth it)! This will help all of you really get to the nitty gritty and decipher the difference between ethics, moral, and values. Your values are things that not only I have taught you since you were little, but things that experiences taught you. Critically think and evaluate them. In order to stand for something, you need to understand why you’re standing. Also, remember your values can change or shift throughout life – they are not always set in stone.

When you find yourself selling out, remember your values, and back-track. It’s okay if you screw up, you are human and you are gonna falter, but recognize it, and remedy it – ASAP.

DON’T QUIT!

God, please don’t quit! Life can get very challenging, even down-right hard, do not quit. Get oxygen when you need it, but hang on and don’t you quit.

Understand what your meaning of success is. Personally, my meaning of success does not equate to society’s standard. I’m okay with that. You need to each figure out what success means to you and go for it. You do not need to defend it to others – just live your lives accordingly. Obviously, don’t be idiots with this and look for justification where there is none. Don’t hurt others for your own gratification, etc.

That brings me to the next thing… at the end of each of your lives, will you be able to say you learned through your mistakes? Will you be able to say I did better when I learned? Look up the poem “The Man in the Glass”. I gave it to someone once and it was one that made a big impact on me – around the time when I was where you are at – questioning my life and what it meant to live. At the end of every day, at the end of every mountain climb, at the end of our journeys, it all comes down to us. Every choice and decision we made – are we okay with our choices? If not, turn around, or side-step. Whatever you need to do… do it. Doesn’t matter if we had the perfect story or not, we create the ending…make it worthy!

Never strive for happiness. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and go. Strive for content. You can have a shitty day and not find happiness in it. However, you can have a shitty day and still be content.

Be a shelter for your siblings, family, or friends that need it. Light the way and bring them home if they get lost. Do this for each other because it matters. This is written metaphorically, so you will need to read between the lines and apply it appropriately. Follow your heart when it comes to this.

Which reminds me… listen to your head, but follow your heart – with almost everything: Relationships, marriage, parenting, friendships, strangers, career, etc.

Say what you gotta say. Even if it doesn’t end the way you want it to. This isn’t a free pass for being hurtful or rude, but don’t let things fester. Throw it out on the table and go from there. Sometimes you will have great conversations, sometimes you may be misinterpreted, and sometimes it may end badly. Say the words on your heart – and Jonathon, don’t let alcohol consumption alone enable this for you. Work on that one. Being vulnerable is strength, not weakness.

About vulnerability…. It’s scary as hell – I get it. But those ‘perfect’ people who never show vulnerability… they are a freakin’ mess and as unreal as they come. Maybe you are particular with who you show vulnerability to – that’s okay… but don’t run from it. Denying it leads to a host of issues… In the quiet corners of ourselves, we are all vulnerable and it’s what makes us human. For the love of God, be human – don’t try to be a super hero or stoic!

In regards to stoicism, ask for help when you need it and it’s okay to cry. There will come a day when you need help with something – nobody is good at everything. Drop your defenses and just get help with what you need help with. And if you need to cry – CRY. Scream at the corn if you need to. Ball up in a corner and give yourself a hug if you need. Point is, don’t stay there – refer back to ‘don’t quit’ and go get assistance. Whether it’s assistance with getting a mortgage, having a baby and being scared out of your mind, marriage, a lousy job that you question if you made the right move, or a fight you had with someone, etc. – seek wisdom and guidance always. Never be too proud for this. And listen, mull it over…

Moderation. Everything in moderation. Enough said.

Find and understand faith. This I cannot spell out for you. It has to make sense to each of you or it’s moot.

Always give grace – especially when it’s hard. This is especially important for it has been grace that has sustained me when all else failed. I hope you all come to understand this concept for yourselves and recognize what it is and the value therein.

Forgive – even the unforgivable. This isn’t about them – it’s about you. It doesn’t matter if they ever admit to wrong doing or hurting you – forgive them anyways. There will come a day in each of your lives when you will be standing at a crossroads – forgive or not forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be an idiot and subject yourself to being hurt time and time again, but forgive those that do you wrong. Because honestly, you’re going to wrong others too – and we need forgiveness from others as well. If you don’t forgive, you will find bitterness growing in your hearts. We have spoken about bitter people in the past. They distance everyone from their lives because their bitterness takes over their hearts and lives – do NOT become bitter. Learn to forgive. If you don’t, you will grow old alone and… well, bitter. Miserable. Figure it out and forgive.

There are probably a million more things I could come up with Jonathon, but honestly it boils down to each of you. I believe we are ultimately responsible for our own choices (past a certain point in life) and we have to be okay with the choices we made. Not being okay with our choices – well, therein lies depression, anxiety, etc. And I’m not saying that you need to live perfectly without screwing up. My God, you’ve already screwed up – all of us have. The point is to learn as you go and make those lessons mean something. You know?

Live a good life.

You will each come to decide what a good life is and what it means to each of you.

And this answers your question.

I want each of you to live a good life.

What does that mean to you?

Figure that out.

You know the lessons I have taught you. You know what matters to me, but I am not you and you are not me.

We have to each come to this on our own.

It’s our own unique journey – this gift of life.

You only get one shot.

Make it a good one.

PS – I love you. And I’m proud of all of you. You all got this – this thing called life. You know what you need to do, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s challenging. Even when you have questions. I believe in all of you.

Love,

Mom

 

© LifeasChristine, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

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I pray for weird things maybe…

Four times in the last few years I have heard the words, “You saved my life”.

Those four words brought a mix of emotions.

For the longest time I believed I wasn’t enough to save a life.

I tried once.

I failed.

At least that’s how I viewed it for a long time – as a failure on my end.

I’ve done a lot of reflection and soul searching on that experience.

Can we save people?

I’m not sure it’s black and white, but what it is… is a heavy topic and a loaded question.

I am able to look back on my life and know exactly which individuals threw me a flotation device when I needed one. Does that mean they saved my life or were they merely in the right time, at the right place, with the right words?

Were they a vessel?

I wonder if I could tell them that I wasn’t trying to save their lives. I didn’t know their lives needed saving. And honestly I don’t know how to save a life. I’m good, but I’m not that good. I learned this a long time ago, but that is a story for another day.

I do know that I met them where they were – even in the darkest of places.

I sat with them as long as they needed.

I wonder if they would be surprised to learn that hearing those words brought me humbly to my knees.

For a very long time, I have prayed.

I pray for weird things maybe.

I pray that I am always in the right place, at the right time, with the right words.

The ‘right place’, ‘right time’, and ‘right words’ are without a doubt questionable and can be debated from a million different perspectives. And yet, it is neither here nor there, because in the end, if a life was saved – a life was saved – period.

Most of these conversations took place over the telephone.

If you ever read the day I got the call, you may find irony in the telephone life-saving-scenario.

I was at a loss at a very challenging moment in my life. I had no idea what to do. I was on auto-pilot big time.  A miracle occurred at the precise moment when I felt like I was drowning. I received a phone call. She didn’t take me out of the water, but she threw me a flotation device.

I will never be a savior, but I hope that I will always be in the right place, at the right time, with the right words. I hope that I am given the opportunity to throw a flotation device. And if given that opportunity, I will throw with all the strength that flows within me.

 

© LifeasChristine, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

The day I got the call……

 

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Because I feel music helps… feel free to press play.

 

I was sitting in the middle of the room; the call center. I was at work; my children were at the babysitter’s, all except my oldest who was in kindergarten.

A male co-worker sat in the next cubicle. He got a call. “Christine, I got a call from someone looking for you. A guy in Louisiana. Do you want me to transfer it over?”

Things just got weird.

I asked who it was.

I noticed the commotion while he inquired who was calling me; a personal call at work.

My supervisor came through the door at the other end of the room. I saw her running my way.

Nobody ever ran in the call center.

Things were getting weirder.

She was waving her hands high in the air. She was yelling, “Wait! Don’t transfer that call!”

Nobody knew who she was talking to.

I noticed her though.

I heard her.

It just didn’t register.

Things were getting blurry.

The call had been transferred before she made it to my desk. She was still running towards me.

I wasn’t scared. It was his father. I liked his father. I had just seen him over Christmas, less than a month prior. They had come to visit our children. I thought maybe something happened to one of his grandparents; or maybe someone was in a car accident.

He never even said hello.

“Eric’s gone!”

I had no idea what he was saying.

“What?”

“Eric’s gone Baby…”

“Gone where? Where did he go?”

You see, we had separated about 7 months prior.

I had only seen him once in those 7 months. He showed up unexpectedly one afternoon after work; he had sat in my driveway until I showed up, late October. That was the last time I had seen him.

He had asked me for money and forgiveness.

I gave him what I could; it wasn’t much.

When I left him the final time, he didn’t cope well. I know this.

He lived in a camper too for a while ironically; in the parking lot at his work.

One night, he crashed his car into the building by accident. He lost his job.

He ran when he got scared.

He ran that night.

He ran to Pennsylvania.

I never knew that he was in Pennsylvania; until I got a copy of his cashed out 401k.

They mailed me a copy of the records.

My eyes were fixated on the woman’s name and address where the check was sent. Her name is one, among many that I have not forgotten.

He was running.

I sighed and I wondered, but I let him run.

“Eric’s gone baby”

I stood up from my chair. My supervisor was almost to my cubicle. Things were starting to blur. I didn’t understand.

“I don’t understand! Where did he go?”

“He’s dead” he said, as he broke down.

I screamed that day in the office.

I remember screaming. I think I dropped the phone then.

Everyone in the office stood up, over their cubicles and stared at me. They were all blurry, but I saw them all.

“NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!”

My scream turned into sobbing.

My knees bent.

I fell.

My supervisor was now standing over me. I felt her hand on me. I was on the floor.

I couldn’t think.

I couldn’t process this.

This hurt a lot.

I don’t remember how that phone call ended. I think someone else ended that call.

An old friend from high school worked there with me. She was there that day.

She drove me home.

I never said a word.

I looked out the window.

I cried.

I was trying to process this.

What did this mean? How did this happen? This wasn’t fair!

Oh my God, how do I tell our children?

Oh my God – OUR CHILDREN!

She drove me all the way to my apartment. She found our suitcases. She packed our clothes. She made phone calls.

I think my best friend showed up and helped, but I’m not sure.

It is blurry.

I had her drive me to pick up the children.

They were so excited that I was early.

I was so heartbroken. They were going to be heartbroken.

Why?

Why us?

Why them?

Why him?

Why?

I knew that I didn’t have the answers. How in the world was I going to explain this when I couldn’t even understand it?

I went into auto-pilot. I knew how to auto-pilot.

Auto-pilot is a place where I box up my emotions to get through. There are times in life, when auto-pilot was my only option of survival. It is one foot in front of the other. Keep walking. Don’t look around. Do something. Anything. Don’t feel it yet. Can’t feel it yet. Can’t do it yet. It is auto-pilot. Auto-pilot always ends, eventually. It hurts coming out of auto-pilot.

He was in Louisiana. He had gone down there to go back to diving. He was a commercial deep-sea diver. This made things 100% more challenging.

How was I going to get those kids on a plane, headed for Louisiana without the words? I knew that if I told them we were going to Louisiana, they would get excited.

I could not let them get excited.

How do I avoid this? God, I hated this! I am not strong enough for this.

I didn’t ask for this! I did not want this! This is life – unfair!

He had hurt me, but he didn’t deserve to die. He deserved time. He deserved time to learn, to grow, to heal. I believe everyone deserves that.

Life was so unfair!

I wanted to kick life in the teeth! I felt like a punching bag. I wanted to hit back. I wanted to scream, kick and just fight! I was so tired of all of the unfairness!

Whoever made up that stupid saying, “God only gives you what you can handle” is an idiot!

I was not strong enough for the words.

You probably wondered how I got them on that plane. You probably wonder what words I did use.

I probably failed.

I did the best I could at that time.

After we had picked them all up, I sat them in the living room. It was their first ‘family meeting’; we’ve had many throughout the years, though this was their first.

I didn’t cry. I came down to them.  I sat on the floor with them in the living room. I looked at their faces, all four of them.

I told them that there was an emergency and we had to go on a trip. We were going to the airport. I told them we would talk about it when we got there.

I had no idea what to say. I needed help and no one could help me with this one. No one knew what to say.

I believe it was the first plane ride for three of them.

We boarded the plane a few hours later. I never slept that night. I think we got to Houston around 4 am. I was still trying to figure out what to say.

Houston was a few hours from their house. I don’t even know for sure? Was it 2, 3 or 4 hours? It was the longest 24 hours of my life. Actually, it was kind of a long week that moved in slow motion. I couldn’t speed it up, no matter how hard I tried. It blurred – time.

His parents picked us up. They knew I hadn’t told them yet. I respected that they let me do it – no matter how long it took me. It was my place. It rested on my shoulders; though I didn’t want the job. Looking back, I’m glad they waited and let me do it. Honestly, I don’t think they knew the words to say either. It’s not something you really ‘know’ how to do.

They slept some on the plane, once their excitement wore off. I just couldn’t keep that from happening. They were happy kids most of the time. They were funny kids. They talked to strangers on the plane. They played games. They colored.

When we got to the house, I think they may have gone to bed for a few hours.

I got a phone call that morning. I wasn’t a fan of random phone calls anymore. A few hours before had changed my perspective on random calls. You ever get the feeling like you are waiting for the next shoe to drop? That’s kinda how I felt.

That phone call was a miracle. I believe this. I don’t know how it happened or what made her call, but she saved me. I felt like I was drowning then. I knew I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. I had to tell them.

She threw me a life saver, a floating device. It didn’t take me out of the water, but it kept me from drowning.

It was the school counselor (my oldest was in kindergarten).

When she said my name, I lost it.

And yet, I knew she would help.

She did.

She helped me figure out what to say. She stayed on the phone with me for as long as I needed. She didn’t tell me that this would be easy. She told me this would be hard, but she also gave me tools for the toolbox. She helped me find the words. I could never repay her for what she gave me that day.

Maybe you wonder what she gave me?

I’m not sure I can describe into words. I will try.

Courage?

Help?

Words?

Strength?

Encouragement?

I think she helped me with all of those things and more…..

She helped me pull myself out of auto-pilot briefly. I had to. In order to connect to my children; there couldn’t be any auto-pilot. I knew this. She knew this too. She helped me more than she knew, probably more than she will ever know.

There is something else.

Do you believe in grace? Do you know what grace is? A lot of people don’t. Some do, but I think I have different ideas of what grace is. Grace has sustained me. Through many of my challenges in life, I think there has always been grace; I just didn’t always recognize it. Grace helped me a lot. I don’t know if I can explain it. Maybe there is no explanation of grace.

He rarely called the children or me during that separation. He was fighting demons. He was trying to figure it out. I cut him slack. I knew all of this. I was trying to figure out stuff too.

And yet, three days before he was killed suddenly, he had called.

This is grace.

There is no explanation.

I don’t know why.

I don’t care why.

I just know I will never forget that call.

I wish my kids could remember.

The phone call lasted a long time; maybe two hours?

Our youngest was a baby. I believe she was 18 months old. She couldn’t really carry on a conversation like the rest.

Do you know what he did?

He sang to her.

I remember she sat there with the phone to her ear and sang along with him.

I will never forget this.

I will always be thankful for this.

Grace.

He spoke to the boys too. For a long time he talked to them.

Then he talked to me.

I remember his words.

“I know I’ve made mistakes. If it takes the rest of my life to make it up to you. If it takes the rest of my life, I’m going to do it. I’m going to show you. I’ll prove it to you.”

That was hard!

His words were hard at the time.

They were even harder three days later, when I got the call.

 

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