My Sons’ Death was a Springboard: Part One

My sons’ death was a springboard into the deeper understanding of three important things:

  1. The human condition
  2. The power of relationship
  3. The gift of a day

Today, I share #1 with you…

Open my eyes, to see people as you see them. This was a daily prayer of mine… little did I know that my sons’ death would precipitate God answering that prayer for me.  Until my son died of a drug overdose in May of 2018, I believe I was living in somewhat of a naïve, idealistic bubble in quasi-pursuit of living the American dream: the, have-jobs-got-house-got-car-got church-got-kids-and-the-proverbial-golden-dog mode where only the really bad stuff happens to those “other people.” My circle of influence and camaraderie was with like-minded folk. After my sons death, I was catapulted into another circle, the wider circle of people who suffer, struggle, and who have been broken by circumstances of life and I could never have been able to see them, unless I was first broken myself. You know the childish sassy-come-back of, “it takes one to know one”… well that’s true, I’d say, it takes being broken to be able to truly see the broken, with your heart.

Broken, is the human condition. Broken, is what God sees and it’s the entire reason why Jesus was born in the manger and nailed to a cross.  The beginning to seeing how God sees, means seeing the brokenness of the human condition.

Truth is, we are all broken in some way – so be gentle with each other and take the time to really see people underneath their brokenness.

Ephesians 4:2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whole of Merry Christmas in Just 4 Words

“Merry Christmas”… what does that mean anyway?

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la, etc….

Happy Holidays. 

Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men.

… And all the other typical quoted quotes pervade the songs, the cards, and the movies.

But, I can tell you the whole Christmas deal in just 4 words.

Born.

Died.

Rose.

Coming Back.

That’s the whole of Merry Christmas from beginning to end, and the why.

First, Christmas is a celebration of the baby-Jesus being born in the manger; the scene is sung about, depicted on cards, and given subtle due credit in seasonal movies.  But, why celebrate this particular birth?

Second, what happens to that oh-so-sweet-baby-lying-in-that manger? He dies; His was no peaceful passing.  He dies after being stripped, beaten til bloody, spit upon, and nailed alive, to a cross, for all to see.

Third: When death takes his last breath away, this baby-from-the-manger-grown-up is buried just like all the other dead of the day – in a tomb. Yet, when three ladies go, to pay their respects, the tomb was found empty – this grown man walked about as alive as ever and then rose up into the sky and entered heaven; this grown-man simultaneously was God, is God – this is how He could ascend. He sits there even now, with his Father, and gives full rest and peace to my son, Caleb, who has been in His presence since May 27, 2018.

Lastly, just wait.

Wait, because one day, this same Jesus will come back to get all of us who believe on Him and love Him. Everyone will see this, no eye left closed, and this will be the end.

This is the whole of Merry Christmas.  It is the full story of why we celebrate.  Jesus, and all He embodies in promise and love for us, is our peace on earth and our happy in the holidays; ‘Tis the season to be Jolly…. merry measure clothes us when we size it all up against these 4 words that tell it all.

Born.

Died.

Rose.

Coming Back.

So dear friends and readers – I extend to you all with my words and my art – Merry Christmas to you all. May you understand the whole story and find no excuse not to be Jolly!

See you in the New Year!

 

 

 

Holidays: Not a Time of Cheer for Everyone

Expecting one, who has lost their legs in an accident, to get up and walk like they use to, is ridiculous. They cannot do it – even with all the best wishing in the world – because life for them has been altered forever.

The same is true for every.single.person. who has suffered a tragedy, no matter what it was, or when it was; time makes no difference. Loss from disease or accident, expected or sudden – it does not matter – it’s all the same terrible.

For me, my tragedy is the sudden, unexpected death of my son to an overdose, eighteen months ago. I am altered for life – not just for a time, or a season; Life for me will never be the same. I walk around with a weight that bears down and a hole that has blown through my heart.

The trouble with holidays is that the expectation for everyone to be of good cheer, be happy, and enjoy the season is rampant.

And for some, it is very hard to embrace the holidays where “family all together” carving turkey at the proverbial Norman Rockwell table is thrown in our faces by ads, movies, and the general chatter of the holiday season.

While I am blessed to have a large, living family still gathered around, my momma’s heart weighs heavy… there is still one empty chair, one forever missing in the “family” photo, and one less child eating the traditional Christmas cookies – specifically, the butterscotch ones.

WHAT. TO. DO……?

That’s a question with a two-fold answer.

What to do if you are the friend, or family member, of someone who is not full of cheer and suffers with a broken heart this holiday season: 

  1. Be patient and do not judge when they do not want to attend a christmas tea, or the cookie swap, or even put up a tree.
  2. Extend the offer of conversation, a listening ear, and willingness to just be there alongside; try to understand; allow their feelings to just be.
  3. Do a practical help if possible – doing life is hard under normal day-to-day circumstances when a heart is broken – even more difficult during the holiday season, getting out of bed, some days, might be the total accomplishment for the day.

What to do if you are the one suffering from a tragedy, the same or different, as me:

  1. Have faith, God knows your pain and heartbreak; Trust He will provide all you need.
  2. There’s no way around the holidays – we just have to go through them;  even if you have nothing but tears – let yourself feel what you feel – be true to yourself, but be kind to those around you – it’s no ones fault.
  3. Don’t turn away from well intentioned acts of love; allow God to work in you, as well as in the well intentioned.

 God has not forgotten me, nor has he forgotten you;

“God is close to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18a

So yeh – Holidays: not a time of cheer for everyone – but I tell you the truth, there is something even better than good cheer, it is knowing that you are loved by God with an everlasting love, no matter what…and in that, there is  HOPE – there for the taking, for everyone.

Be authentic in this season of holidays, Jesus loves, you just as you are.

Are you suffering with grief of one sort or another?

Are you local to the Pioneer Valley?

If so, I invite you to “SONGS for the NIGHT”

(click above, on Songs for the Night, for details)

 

My calendar is marked, is yours?

WHY GOD?

This is my question; WHY GOD?

I have whispered it, wailed it, and wondered it over and over and over again.

On my knees, with tears that fall gently and slowly, and in my tears that run non-stop, down my face and into my lap as I spew trembling, devastated words.

Why my son?

Why this way?

Why weren’t my efforts enough?

Why didn’t you answer my prayers?

Why. Why . Why God?

Each WHY I cry seems to define the hole that has been blown through my heart a little more each time; a haunting, emptiness is created and its name is void. In this void I wait; like a pleading child that wishes things are not as they are, and I wait for my Father’s answers.

Audible answers do not come.

God is sovereign.
He doesn’t have to answer me at all; who am I to question God? But, because I am His child, He is patient with all my hard questions and loves me still.

The grief period has gone and I stumble like one groping in the dark, looking for the light switch; I am in mourning.

Hope is my mantra; I stand on the Rock and recall all I know in my heart; I mourn with hope.

Over time, as I still whisper, wail, and wonder, I consider these answers:

Why my son? Why in this way? I answer, why not my son, because God uses each of us for His purpose, even if we do not understand the reasons; maybe our son, because God knew I am his mother and I would be willing to tell our terrible story so that others may be spared this trauma and maybe another son or daughter might not die?

Why weren’t my efforts enough? I answer, because I am not God. I answer, maybe it actually has nothing to do with my efforts at all… enough is a way of beating myself up and I should not go there. I know I did all I could because I am his mother and I loved him more than anyone else. Except God. God loved him more and that brings me to my last cry.

Why didn’t God answer my prayers? I answer, He did… just not the way I asked Him to; God loved Caleb so much, that he spared him anymore suffering on this earth; God freed him of his daily pain and struggles and He saved him right into heaven. What more peace can I have, than to know my son rests in the arms of Jesus?

Yes. I will mourn til the day I leave this earth and that is when I will have the audible answers.

For now, I leave you with two things:

  1.  A telling of our story
  2. A song that is fitting

IF you share a similar story, I encourage you to have Hope and run to God, even with all your WHY GOD questions; May you know the bigness of God’s love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Be Aware of Drug Overdose?

“Someone dies every 14 minutes from drug overdose in this country.”

My son, Caleb, was one of them; He died of an overdose in May of 2018.

So….Why be aware of drug overdose?

I tell you the truth – no one is immune from this epidemic;

don’t be lulled into false security thinking: “this will never happen to my family…”

Because that’s what I thought… that’s what many other mothers who grieve their son’s and daughter’s thought… none of us ever wanted to be in this grieving-an-overdose-death-club.  I know my son did not want to overdose… he had plans for his life – but they were altered by one mistake, one night.

I want you to know that overdoses happen to good, kind, lovable people, like my son; too often, overdose is fatal.

I want you to know that some people are lucky to survive overdose and have a second chance at life; Evan, one of my son’s sober house buddy’s, is one of these survivors.

He says, “waking up from an overdose is probably one of the worst things you can experience…It’s so scary… it takes me a little while to cool down and come to reality and appreciate that I’m alive and apologize to whoever cared about me… All I can say is be grateful for the life that you have.”

So… you may ask…why does someone overdose?

Evan shares, “I would have to say depression and or heartbreak, stress (is what) pushed me to my limits… I (knew I ) had a way out of all this by using drugs as an escape.” I can concur, because I know my son suffered from these ailments as well and am certain that his feelings of despair drove him to relapse after 5 months of clean time.

So… what’s one thing you can do to fight this epidemic of overdose death?

Know what Narcan is and get trained in how to use it and have it on hand at all times.

Caleb’s good friend, Allison, came to a Narcan training during a local Vigil event put on by the local Sober house, Honest Beginnings and SOAAR group a few months after my son’s death. After making a luminary to honor my son, Allison was trained and equipped with Narcan – did she think she’d have to actually ever use it?  Hear her story from this past school year:

It was a weeknight at 9pm on my college campus here in Western Mass. Not the time that anyone would expect to need Narcan. I definitely didn’t….I was walking home (after doing homework with a friend). I heard someone yelling for help down the road. I went to check it out and it was two college aged guys. One was on the ground. He was really cold and clammy. His breaths were really short. I recognized these as symptoms of a possible overdose….I told him to call 911 while I went to my car to get Narcan. I gave it to the guy on the ground and the ambulance showed up not too long after. I honestly do not know what happened after that, but I do know that I am incredibly happy that I had the Narcan and that I had been trained to use it.”

Allison’s personal message to everyone:

I hope that someday there will be no need for Narcan, but until that day, everyone should have it and know how to use it. I also hope that some day the stigma will be gone so people can ask for help without worrying about the backlash.”

Get trained in Narcan and know how to use it… you could save a life!

Mostly, I want you to know that so many people suffer from all kinds of things and feel hopeless and helpless. Not everyone has the support systems they need, nor does everyone have the inner strength to choose the better ways of dealing with struggles and hurts and scars and they do make the mistake of using a substance to soothe their pains – this does not make them bad people or ones to be afraid of or shunned.

So, I urge everyone to value all life and show love to everyone… it is the second greatest command after loving God;

He says: love others.

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

Not some others, not the others that are likeable and most like yourself…  no…  love others – all the others.

What’s this got to do with overdose?

Maybe, just maybe if we as a people can master just these two commands of God, then maybe Allison could see her hopes come true – a time when there would be no need for Narcan – a time when all stigma is gone and people can feel free to ask for help.

Just maybe…

Do your part to soberly respect Overdose Awareness Month (August):

Be educated, get trained in Narcan & have it on hand, and LOVE OTHERS… really.

 

The PTSD of Grief

Trauma’s experience comes back to slap you in the face and knock you down when you least expect it while you grieve; this is PTSD.  Sounds, visuals, and even the time of day can trigger the pain all over again. This is one such moment for me:

moon thru the trees

Stepping out into the night air

this late at night

when all is quiet and still,

a chill reverberates through my veins.

 

The moon is high

and the damp cool breeze

freezes the memory even as my breath exhales a cloud

into the starlit space.

 

Visceral memory awakens

and I shiver and shake

back to the side of the road

on the night of your accident;

my stomach knots into a square.

 

The lights flash yellow and orange and blue and blindingly white

as trucks and cars are askew and many

blocking the way for everyone except us, your dad and me;

only we were allowed in.

 

Fear like no fear I felt before

overwhelmed me more than my imaginings

anticipated…

 

Waiting was hard.

Seeing was hard.

Comprehending was hard

and the ground beneath me was hard

and wet

and consuming me in the farmers’ meadow

like fermenting dung, and it all stunk!

 

I breathed deep

because I think I just stopped

from the shock of it all.

Disbelief and amazement stunned me

when I realized how close to death you came.

 

Even now,

as I step into this night months and months later

fear overtakes me

and I can feel the damp and see the lights and hear the confusion;

You were almost taken by the angel of death,

if it were not for the angel of life that carried you thru those juxtaposed poles

as you flew airbone

down into the belly of the farmers meadow.

 

Slapped across the face I feel the sting again, and again, and again;

PTSD for me

every time I step out into the night air

this late at night

when all is quiet and still …

and a chill reverberates through my veins.

 

You weren’t taken then,

but little did I know

time would only be yours for just so many months more…

and then you really would be gone.

Forever gone from my earthly-momma-grasp;

No more cool, moon-lit nights for you.

 

Deep, deep, deep it sits way down inside –

my fear was fully realized.

What I did not know,

was that night

was just a prelude to the worst night of my life.

I just can’t shake it; PTSD.

Fear like no fear I felt before remains within my bones.

One viscerally locked memory flows into the next…

 

Son,

I miss you so much.

***

 

So the question remains, “what do we do with the pain that re-occurs; how do we deal with this grief induced PTSD?”

I will tell you,

I just allow myself to feel it.

The pain and tears are what they are;

The hour passes and I am still me and I know

that God has been holding my hand

the whole time;

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”  Isaiah 41:13

As I approach my first Mother’s Day without my son, Caleb, I anticipate pain and sorrow to be heavily pressing upon my momma-heart even as I take joy in my other children both near and far.  I will not fear because I know God will be helping me get through the day.

If you are a grieving momma, I say, put your hand in His and let Him be your help you too!

 

 

 

 

 

What the Church has over the AA/NA Meetings

PART TWO:

Following up from What AA/NA has over the Church ….
To be fair,
there is something the Church at large has over the AA/NA Meetings; there is something the AA/NA meetings can learn from the Church…
But,
they need to come up from the basement fellowship halls and enter the Sanctuary, to see and hear it for themselves.

AA/NA books containing the 12-Steps allude to it, but don’t quite come out and stand boldly with it, because it might keep some people in recovery away from entering thru the doors of a Meeting.
And yet…
As I was privy to listen to so many heart stirring stories at the meetings, I could not help but think about the one thing that the Church and it’s Book has over these meetings and their 12-step support book, even though similar themes run throughout – both books encourage:
• Surrender
• Personal inventory
• Humble repentance
• Call to making amends
• Call to living peaceably
• Engagement with prayer
• Sharing the way that works , with others
• Believing in God
Admittedly, I am surprised at how many similar themes there are between the two books. One might be as good as the other…

Except, Jesus.
The Jesus factor is the one thing that the Church has over the AA/NA Meetings.

I have witnessed the speaking about God in the meetings and in the Serenity prayer that is often a closing ritual for these gatherings. I understand that the majority of people in recovery are referring to God as an entity who is a power greater than themselves, an acknowledgement that they are not in control. And this is so very great!
God is in control. HE is all powerful, all present, all knowing and is the Creator of our very beings.

BUT,
it is not the whole story and I am afraid that this is where some people in Recovery are missing out.

Except Jesus; God’s Son, Jesus.
The Jesus factor makes it all personal and where victorious living begins.

I can tell you so, because I know, because I am personal with Jesus.
Did you know that when you believe in the name and person of Jesus and all He did for you, you are:
• made a new creation
• given a new identity
• given power over death

How is this possible? What did Jesus do for you and for me?

Like a regular hero – He jumped in front of the bus and pushed us out of the way!
Jesus was born, in order to die; He took the punishment of each of our sins upon himself and willingly sacrificed His own life for ours by dying a criminals death on a cross.

But that is only half the story!
He then was buried in a tomb, typical for those days…… but not typical,

God, the One who has all power, caused an earthquake to open the tomb and Jesus rose from the dead and spoke to his women friends, telling them to tell his other friends that he is alive, just as he foretold them days ago.

Best of all, and the key point here: Jesus then rose to heaven and now sits at His father’s side… well, that would be God… the one we all mention in the Serenity prayer

These events are known as the Good News, and we, church-going Christians, who love Jesus, are here to proclaim and share it with everyone who will listen.

Just like Step # 12 in the 12-step book mandates, share with others the way that works.

This is my moment to invite anyone in Recovery to consider the Jesus factor
He is the Way that works the best.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life… John 14:6a

I believe true and full recovery is possible and sustainable through the power that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ power is stronger than addiction of any kind.

I heard someone in a meeting say, anything can be your higher power,

…“like that rock over there”…
I am here to tell you,
the only Rock that has higher power over you to aide in the full and final defeating of your beastly addiction is
Jesus Himself – the Rock of your Salvation.

SO, I invite you, who are in Recovery, if you have not already, please come up from the basement fellowship halls and enter the Sanctuary; local? Visit my church.