Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Favorite or Least Favorite Time of the Year?

Last year fall was a horribly agonizing countdown to the reminder of the end of Perry's life. We struggled a lot, cried countless tears... all while feeling guilty that I wasn't happy (aren't you supposed to be happy when you are pregnant? I desperately wanted and needed to be and yet my world was still horribly incomplete.)

And this year I guess we are thrown back into the feeling that we are watching a movie where the end is horrible, but we can't shut it off. In odd ways, the memories of Perry come easier this time of year- finding his Halloween Costume at a second hand baby store, the pumpkin hat at the YMCA, the small first frown he gave me when I handed him to ladies at the YMCA, and it isn't all bad. In other ways it's horrible because the bad memories follow the good.

One of the good things we were looking to was taking Paiden to his first fall festival at Hilldale Baptist. My husband geared up to it and was actually excited about the little costumes for Paiden, down to the costume coat that was Perry's. We were planning on reusing, but turning it inside out from a Giraffee to a Koala. I actually could still smell the fabric softner and other scents on the inside... I hadn't washed it after Perry wore it the last/only Halloween.

To my husband, who missed that last/only fall festival, attending Paiden's first was incredibly important to him. And we wanted to experience it together, I made sure I had it off when I looked at the shift calendar.

Then came the news- the fall festival is gone, replaced by two outreach fall festivals in the community. We were all let down. We wanted the festival at our church in the same place. It made us feel closer to Perry to walk the same pavement as we did when he was alive. So I tried to be a sport and we bundled up to go to one of the locations. The first was in the projects- and we thought we spotted it at a field, but it was very small and there didn't seem to be any kids from outside the community. So we picked up and drove to Cunningham. But as we googled to find the location, we discovered it was billed as the school's fall festival. When we got there we drove around looking for a while to discover it was inside the school. The signs outside stated it was a school fall festival. We didn't feel welcome again, and left.

I'm a bit disheartened. My daughter saw the change and said "It's ok Mommy, we can go to the fall festival at the big brick building, you know the one where we said goodbye to Perry."

I wanted to cry. "Honey, the two fall festivals for the other kids replaced it." It saddened me to think that to my daughter the main church campus is important for two reasons (we go to the life center)- the fall festival and Perry's funeral. Now it is only the funeral aspect that remains.

I got to thinking (probably incorrectly?), that while I appreciate outreach, the fall festival was still community outreach and was one of the few threads that used to bind the church together. It drew a lot more children, most were not from our church (it drew a lot of kids from the apartment area my Mom lives)... but take that away and isn't it still worth it just for our kids? I get that Perry is in Heaven by God's grace- the little guy couldn't speak in a complete sentance and demand to get baptised. But I look at my daughter and I desperately want to see her make a conscious decision to accept Christ. Even in my moments of worst doubt, I have tried to keep from getting in the way of her forming a relationship with God. I tried to keep going to church even when I doubted God's love (I know, I know, I've been given so much Grace but try losing a child and tell me that you don't question God or at least examine your religion). I want Church to be a good thing and not just where you go to say goodbye. I want it to be a living comfort, a place that she wants to go to. I want her to have that security, know where she is going after she dies and not fear death. I want to see her progress in the normal way, I want to see her baptised. At the same time, I try really hard not to traumatize her into it as she knows that kids and babies can die. I want her to come to that gradual realization that she needs to ask Christ into her life as a child in any other family in our church might. And I want it to be her decision... not something that I force on her.

She believes she is going to heaven and she understands that there is a connection to Jesus (the baby in the manger). But the pieces don't always make sense together. It's a little like when she comes home from Chruch and recounts the Sunday School lesson- some things are misunderstood in that childlike understanding, and it takes time and exposure before clarity comes. But an important part of that approaching clarity is to be around people that do believe in God so that pieces have an oppurtunity to come together through people that she knows and trusts. I don't want her exposed to the scary side of Halloween that some adults prescribe to. I don't want Christianity to be mere insurance.

Our kids are still the missionfield. And as a parent I believe that we fail horribly if we are so busy that we forget our own child. And busy can be good things as well as the time wasters.

I'm just sad. Sad I don't have three kids here. Sad that I feel robbed of one first that is oddly more important now. Angry that an anniversary date is coming up that no parent should have to deal with.

When the weather turns cool and leaves drop, I think of Perry. When people place the plastic skeletons outside their houses or carve them into pumpkins I start thinking about death and what it has robbed from me like a thief in the night. I think about pumkins still on a porch as the ambulance pulls away without lights on.

So if I get moody, if I seem less forgiving than I should in the fall, is it any wonder?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Giving Yourself Grace

I see so many things about how anger or not forgiving hurts you the most.

Do you want to know a secret? Sometimes it is easier to be angry or mad than to deal with the pain. Sometimes you want to be mad because it means that it is ok for you to feel what you do for a while rather than to give into other peoples expectations that are often based in some fantasy pulled out of a poorly written 'uplifting' work of fiction.

And there's a certain honesty to admitting that. They haven't experienced it, we hope they never do. But it is so hard being expected to give grace so frequently to others as a grieving family when it isn't often extended both ways. I give grace so many times, to strangers who say oddball things, to people who post really hurtful things online (the cutesy ecards primarily), and to others that you hope would know better. At times I am just so worn out. It is a horribly dangerous minefield out there sometimes.

The bad thing about this journey is that it doesn't end in a year. You carry the burden on and get discouraged realizing that this is just the first kilometer of a marathon. You are afraid that if it feels the same, if it takes the same energy for the entire race, you won't make it. You are afraid you must be doing it wrong- after all, you are often told you are not by people on the sidelines who have often never ran a 5K.

Like a marathon, you have to learn that finishing isn't always crossing first. Sometimes it is learning to pace yourself and let the people running beside you that don't have weighted packs pass you just for a short stretch. It is pacing yourself, focusing on your goal, getting up when you stumble. It is running your best race.

Sometimes you have to give yourself grace first, before others give it to you (because many never will), before you give it to others. It is ok to feel this way. It is ok to cut out of events early, even though it has been over a year, it is ok to handle things in a way that feels honest to you- it is ok not to do the generic picture at family gatherings. It is ok to give yourself a break. It is ok to never return to normal expectations. At the same time it is ok to let yourself break from things that served you well early on in your grief but no longer work. Bind the new sores that pop up on your feet and keep going. Learn to pause before the rubbing turns into a sore and put on balm.

Once you give yourself permission, it makes it easier to deal with everyone else who doesn't. I think when you lock yourself into the expected you pull at the bits, and trust me, there's a lot of angry in grief to fuel it. Then you rebel and wind up floundering on your back, crushing more bystanders. Getting out of the expected allows more room for the genuine. It lets you rest a little to regain enough energy to let go of the angry and keep on your journey.

Then you accept that sometimes even when people hurt you deliberately, they aren't worth your hurt anymore. You let go of your expectations for them and accept the relationship that they are capable of.  Perhaps down the road they will grow a little and it can flourish again.

But I am still learning to cut myself slack.

Maybe someday I will run again with that easy fluid motion, even if the pack stays tight on my back. Maybe this pack isn't just crippling, perhaps my muscles are slowly building strength and I will fly when the day comes that it is finally removed. But mostly I think just taking another little step today and not giving up is all I need to continue on and eventually finish.... someday.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.