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I just had to share this quote because, well, I think it needs to be read.  And reread.  Sarah Bessey is one of the few reasons I haven’t completely given up on reading blogs.  Some days there’s too much anger and misunderstood words on the internet, and she is a peace to me in the storm.  I love her writing, so let me share what she wrote about the Shikh Temple shooting.

Hard conversations are coming, perhaps legislation, around gun control, about hatred, racism, religion, about our culture’s glorification of violence, our nationalism, and the divisions between us, yes, those conversations need to happen, but not just now: now is the time for grieving, now is the time for loving, for burying, for mourning with those who mourn, for gathering humanity together, and for compassion.

I believe that it is precisely because of my Christian faith that I am sitting my heart down, mourning with those that mourn, grieving and honouring, loving and praying. Love casts out fear, and may the mouths of the faithful be filled with words of Love and hope and peace, never fear.

Thank you, Sarah, for your beautiful words.

(Source)

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Dear Benjamin,

Last week you turned the big TWO!!  I was reading the letter I wrote you at 21 months and it’s amazing how much you have changed.  Even over just a few months you change and grow. 

You still talk and talk and talk.  You love to run through the house, play with swords, and tickle Mommy and Daddy.  The dogs drive you crazy (especially Frankie), and when you and Frankie are energetic and chasing each other you both drive US crazy.  We’ve been swimming half a dozen times this summer and if I put you in your swim donut you can swim around the pool yelling “Kick! Kick! Kick!” as your legs frantically propel you forward.  It’s a joy to watch.

We had your birthday party the day after your actual birthday.  Lots of friends and family came over.  I made you chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream.  You started crying when I lit the candle on your cupcake and everyone started singing.  I’m not sure why – maybe the attention? Maybe the singing? However, as soon as we were done and you got to eat the cupcake, you were much better!

You got some neat toys for your birthday and love to play with them.  Lots of animals and blocks and cars and trucks.  Puzzles and dinosaurs and oh, my, the vehicles.  Our house has become a speedway and you are the driver of racing machines darting in, out, and over the couch.

We took a trip to California almost two months ago.  We were worried about how you would do in the plane, but we shouldn’t have worried.  You love any kind of vehicle, planes included.  Daddy sat next to you on the plane and talked about how you were going to go really, really fast, and go up, up, up!  You loved it.  We rode in the car for ages and ages, and you rarely fussed about it.  We drove through random subdivisions in Elk Grove, and you asked if we were going to Mae Mae’s house! It was the cutest thing, and you made Mae Mae’s mom giggle about it when I told her.  We went to a wedding for my best friend Amy.  You love Amy, and you loved dancing at Amy and Keith’s wedding.   We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium, and you had such a blast hanging out with your 3 cousins.  We went camping (which you LOVED) at my old camping site in California.  It was heart-wrenchingly beautiful to see you scale the same rocks I had scaled as a child.  To see you in the “rock club” and down at the water’s edge was an incredible experience for me.  Even though the water was freezing cold you stood in it until your feet turned to chubby little icicles, and you loved it.  Watching you eat s’mores with your cousins is a memory I will treasure forever.

A few weeks ago we travelled to Senatobia, Mississippi to visit Papa’s parents.  Mimi and PaPaw loved you, and we loved visiting them, and you had a good time running around their house and showing off.  A mere week after that we went down to Houston for your cousin Austin’s graduation.  Each road trip you demonstrated your willingness to sit still when needed, your love of movement, and your love of music.  I love how you love music.

Son, I’ll be honest, because it’s my letter and I’m allowed to be: I don’t know what the future holds for you.  What I do know is that you capture the attention of people – your joy, your mannerisms, and your movement.  Watching you is like watching life take place – it’s like observing the best the world has to offer.  Maybe you’re just like every other two-year old on the planet, I’m not sure.  I hope that I can teach you to harness that attention-grabbing skill and use it to better the world around you.  I know that living with you teaches me every day the meaning of slow down. Observe. Breathe. Love. Be patient.

Your Daddy and I talk about you, often, after you’ve finally given up and gone to sleep.  We lay in bed, snuggled, and talk about whether or not we’re doing a good job (most days we think we’re doing OK).  Recently we were talking about your exposure to television and video games.  We don’t want to shelter you from the world and its issues, but we don’t want to desensitize you either.  It’s tough to say “No, we won’t play this video game while Benjamin is awake, because it depicts violence too accurately,” but that’s exactly where we are at. 

This world is dangerous and violent and broken, son, and you’ll have your whole life to learn that.  I hope that we can teach you about the beauty of the world first, and it’s dark side later. 

Eventually, Lucky will die, and you will learn grief.  Eventually, you will ask where Mommy’s parents are, and you will see me cry.  Eventually, you will ask why Jesus hangs on the cross, broken and beaten, and you will learn about sacrifice. 

Our hope, though all of that, is to teach you about love.  Love that shines through grief and brokenness, love that taught Mommy how to heal, love that makes Daddy get up even on the days when his depression beats his heart and soul, love that put Christ on the cross and love that triumphs all of the dark things in this world.

However, before you have to learn all of those things, I want you to know joy.  I want to continue to see my baby boy, beautiful and full of grace and energy, running around squealing with laughter.  I want to continue to love you so much it hurts.  I want to see animals for the first time all over again, though your eyes.  I want to continue to chase the dogs in the backyard until we collapse into fits of giggles.  I want to dance with you in the living room until I’m sweaty and exhausted.  I want these good and wonderful things for you so that when darkness seems to sneak in, you can remember the things from the light.

I hope you understand, one day, how hard it is trying to figure all this stuff out.  I hope you have enough grace to forgive us when we mess up.  I hope I have enough grace to forgive myself!  But either way, we’ll muddle through this crazy adventure together.  Being a Mommy is quite an amazing experience in general, but being Mommy to you – well – I think that’s my favorite job yet.

I love you son, happy 2nd birthday.

Love,
Mama

Grief is a funny thing. It has affected me in so many different ways throughout my life and sometimes it doesn’t feel fair the way I feel. Grief forces me to feel a way I generally don’t want to feel – angry, mad, sad, numb, relieved…etc.

The past few nights I have not slept well at all. You could say I am grieving – and that’s exactly what I am saying – although I don’t have a very good reason to grieve right now. Hmm. I don’t know that I’m wording this very well, let me try again. There’s nothing new that has happened in my life that gives me a reason to be grieving. There.

I kind of feel like this grief may be residual grief that I never really worked through with my folks. Maybe certain things didn’t get dealt with because of the huge big crazy tragedy that was their death. Maybe I didn’t deal with some of the stuff because I was too busy caring for others.

I’ll probably never know.

I know what triggered this, but I won’t elaborate here because the trigger isn’t a part of my story, it belongs to someone else. It’s not important any way. What is important, though, is that I recognize that grief is OK. Even if the grief hits me almost three full years after their death.

So the part of grief that has hit me is this crazy inability to stay asleep. I can’t close my eyes without thinking about terribly depressing subjects and seeing floods of “what ifs” race through my consciousness. When I finally do wrestle myself to sleep, I wake with a start at the slightest disturbance around me. I bolt up, heart racing, and take forever to get back to sleep. As you can imagine, this has been slightly irritating.

So what do I do?

I recognize that this is normal. I recognize that grief is weird and strange and affects everyone differently and maybe this is how I have to grieve – one piece at a time – so I don’t fall apart at the seams. I recognize that my mind has to process things in its own time. I recognize that my job is to sit here, tired, and remember that through all this – the grief and the pain and the sleepless nights – I am not alone. I recognize that this sucks, but that it’s part of life. And I blog about it, so that maybe someone out there googling how to deal with grief will find these words and know that they, too, are not alone.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I miss you guys so much.  I can’t believe you’ve been gone a year.  It’s flown by and dragged in so many different ways.  I’m almost done handling your estate… you guys suck for not having a will, by the way.  What a pain! But some good has come from it – I’ve preached pretty heavily about the importance of a will to my friends, and actually convinced a few to get one.  Their loved ones would thank you in advance, if they knew.

I hate how things ended for us. I hate that you guys are going to miss out on watching your grand kids grow up, I hate that I don’t have your advice to turn to.  I’m glad I have the memories I do have, though.  They comfort me when your loss hits me all over again.

I know you guys did the best you could do to raise us, I just wish you would have focused more on yourselves.  There was obviously a lot of unspoken pain that had never been dealt with.  On both your parts.  It kind of breaks my heart, because while we saw glimpses of it I don’t think any of us really realized the full impact of what we were seeing.  Of course, does anyone ever really understand? Hindsight being 20/20 and all of that.

Dad, do you remember the first anniversary of Grandma Marie’s death? It was May 2002 and I said something about it and you got so angry at me for bringing it up! It had only been one year, and I was still hurting.  I wanted to talk about it, to heal, and you wouldn’t let me have my say.  I think about that now and realize that you were hiding from the pain.  I’m so sorry that I didn’t see that at the time.  I’m not hiding from the pain of losing you, though, because it’s about time our family stopped repeating past mistakes.

Mom, remember the way your face crumpled up when you got the phone call that Nanny died?  I remember the way your voice broke and you wailed.  I did the same thing when I lost you.  I know it’s not fair to say I miss one of you more than the other, but if I’m honest then I miss you most of all.  I can’t call you while I’m in the store anymore and tell you about my day.  I miss the way you laughed and the joy that you made me feel.

Mom and Dad, not a day goes by that it doesn’t hurt me that you’re gone.  I think about the amazing things in my life that are coming up and I mourn your absence.  I wish you could still be here.  It’s only been a year and it feels like yesterday and a million years ago that you were here hugging me, telling me you love me.

I love you too.