4 Years……

Lizz 8 121120094 years have come.  1,460 days since that horrific phone call when I heard the words no parent ever wants to hear:  “They are gone Mom, they are all gone.”  Leading up to this date, I have come to expect the sleepless nights, staying up till you are so exhausted that you have to fall asleep.  The inability to focus at work on difficult critical thinking problems and there is just this heaviness that hangs on you.   So I have become better at listening to that inner voice and have found that having a project to stay busy and keeping the day normal as possible is helpful for me.

With each passing year, the longer I walk this grief journey I become more determined to reflect on the joy and my gratefulness of having them in my life to begin with.  It’s a tightrope for sure, not being pulled into darkness.  But as I have learned grief and joy both co-exist in our hearts and even though there are tough days, I choose to focus on the amazing gift she and the boys were to begin with.  The last two years, I have distributed Random Acts of Kindness cards and it has warmed my heart to hear the stories of kindness people have done and shared the story about my blue eyed daughter and grandsons.  I hope people will continue this with me, because it is the joy and gratitude side of the tight rope I always want to lean.

So, when this grief visitor comes to visit me every year I try to approach it in what does this loss teach me this year?  You see I think this journey of loss and healing is sort of like an onion.  You peel yourself back each year, with each anniversary date, birthday, holiday.  I have chosen to be open to those moments and see what God and my heart is going to show me.

And what has this anniversary taught me?  Gratitude.  Gratitude that of all the women in the world, Lizz called me Mom and the boys called me Nana.  And even though days like today are tough,  I consider it one of my greatest blessings.

I also want to help others that have experienced loss.  I want in some small way to change our culture where bereaved parents can share about the memories of their children without the judging, the pity and shame.  And so, I choose to talk about grief and loss and I talk about her and the boys, in hope of giving others a place to do the same.  Because it is that place where healing begins.  Not allowing those opportunities simply deepens our pain.  I get that it’s uncomfortable.  And you don’t know what to say.  You don’t have to say anything.  You just have to be willing to sit with someone in the mess…..in the uncomfortableness of it all.  Sometimes it means we are sad, we don’t understand why we feel what we feel……why we can’t remember things, why it’s hard to focus.  But if we are blessed to have family, friends and even strangers model for us that we can survive great loss…….and even thrive, that is a wonderful, precious and beautiful thing.  I pray that God will use me and my brokenness to help others.  I believe in all of my being, this is part of why I am here….one of why I walk this earth.

You see, the other day, I went into Pier 1.  I love Pier 1 and they have Sunflower dishes this season and I know I needed to go see them.  I was checking out, and the woman commented on my wallet and purse (which also has sunflowers) and that I clearly liked them.  I saw this as an opportunity to share the story of Lizz and the boys.  I have come to a place where I no longer break down in a hot mess when I talk about them.  The woman behind the counter began to cry and told me that she very recently lost her daughter to brain cancer.  She was diagnosed and quickly gone.  Her daughter was her only child.  I realized then, this was no longer just a check out, it was a God appointment.  I walked behind the counter and we both hugged and cried.  She asked me how long it had been, and I knew then what an opportunity to serve this mom.  She said:  Oh, you give me hope.  Hope that there is life after this terrible loss, and hope that it gets better.  I told her it does.  God’s grace and tender mercies will provide her with what she needs.  But the hole never goes away….and what you decide to do with it will make all the difference.

And then I sat in my car and thanked God for the opportunity and I heard him impress on my heart:  “I know it hurts.  It will always hurt some.  But it is the hurt where you can love and reach out like no one can.”

And so, I try (and don’t get me wrong I fail….a lot) to remember that God does his best work in our hurt and our brokenness if we let him.  We are the light in this world to others to know their pain, in a personal way, to connect, to share hope and display His glory.

Do I have it all figured out?  OH MY NO!  I anticipate on significant days like today when the grief visitor shows up in full force, I continue to learn.  But no matter what the lesson grief has for me, I always want to show that LOVE WINS and God’s grace is sufficient.

Some things I do every anniversary.  There are memorial wreaths I make.  They always involve sunflowers and super heroes.  John and I take them to the cemetery and we spend time cleaning their headstones and the special place around it.  We go very early, since it gets so hot this time of year.

 

I then try to stay busy and love hearing about the things people are doing in memory of Lizz and the boys.  It brings such joy to me on such a difficult day.  So thank you to everyone that embraced the opportunity to participate in random acts of kindness on this day….to give of yourself.

 

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I place memorials in the Salado and Lexington paper.  Honoring them in two places where she and the boys grew up and loved.

 

3rd Anniversary Salado revised

3rd anniversary Memorial Lexington revised

This year, I did something different.  I will give away a sunflower wreath with three ladybugs later this evening.  And I will work on making another 12 sunflower wreaths that people ordered.  Making wreaths have been a healing and rewarding way for me to honor Lizz and the boys.

I close with this years video.  Many of you have seen these pictures.  But the music has changed over the years.  If you didn’t know Lizz and the boys, I hope this video helps you feel like you do.  For those that did, I hope you enjoy their smiles, dimples and those blue eyes as we remember……

Until next time,

Julie