I've had so many people call me, email me, text me and message me about how this weekend went. Funny, before we left, Nancy asked told us she imagined our families and friends would probably do that, and wondered what we thought we'd say.
I shared that I decided my life can't be overtaken with grief.
Now, I feel I should clarify my last post--and say that though yesterday WAS a new day, it still was a sad day. And there will be many, many, many more to come.
I said I didn't want my new identity to be defined by grief. But for everything, there is a season.
This is my season to grieve. I don't know how long it will last. I know that even when it does, the ache will never be gone, nor will I miss my son any less.
Being at that retreat this weekend, I made peace with that. Seeing families in different stages of their grief was encouraging. As I have always maintained, it can't always hurt like this...our bodies are simply not able to physically sustain this raw, fresh wound. Thank God. Meeting and sharing with other families who have experienced this first hand only reaffirmed this belief.
There's so much that I could share about this weekend, and yet...I just feel so protective over everything that was said and shared. I came to love some of the most precious children in the world, and to hurt so much for their devastated parents. I learned once again that I am SO thankful that the pain I endure is NOT the pain that others have endured. I do not even know how to put into words the way I felt about the courage I saw this weekend.
Now, I know...I HATE it when people tell me how brave or courageous I am and my guess is that these people might feel that way too...we are, in fact, all survivors and only because of the grace of God. But friends...please, I beg of you...the next time you look at your calendar and think, "Oh, good grief...how will I ever get this, that and everything else done--I don't have two minutes to breathe, much less play dress-up or trucks,"....please, PLAY DRESS-UP! PLAY WITH TRUCKS. Do it for me and every single other mom and dad who would give their lives for that basic, simple luxury.
The next time you feel like what you are going through is just not fair--people aggravating you at work, friends or family members being pains in the rear, too busy of a calendar, whatever--please just try, for me, to stop and take a breath and realize that it's not THAT big of a deal.
I realize this is not easy. I know without a doubt that had Matthew survived, you'd see lots of silly little, "What does sleep feel like?" or "We sure do know Matthew's lungs work--he shrieked the whole time we were (fill in the blank)," statuses on Facebook. I know I would have never, ever been able to understand truly how grateful I should be. How could I? How could you if you haven't walked this road? You and I couldn't know, and if truth be told, I am grateful for that too.
If everyone in this world truly was capable of knowing how this feels, we'd live in such a dark, dark place. Everyone's souls would be crushed. There would be no one able of encouraging or giving hope. I used to get so aggravated with John, especially after my mom died, because he just didn't GET how hard it was to lose a parent. Dad was going through chemo, but we were so optimistic about his prognosis. I was seeing a therapist, my dear Dr. Guyer, and he basically asked me why I was so aggravated with John. I told him it was because he just didn't have any empathy. Dr. Guyer always gave me some "Aha!" moments and he did that day. He told me that if I loved John, I wouldn't really wish he had EMPATHY because it would hurt him. Why would I want him to hurt? How could he be strong for me if he was devastated like I was? What I really wanted from John was sympathy--not able to truly understand because that would hurt so much, but to care for, encourage and lift me up when I couldn't do it myself.
He was right. This weekend was a prime example of how much the ability to empathize with others really hurts. And if we all felt that level of hurt, all the time...it would be so hard to be encouraged.
So, while I understand that sadly, perspective often doesn't come save through practical experience, I'd feel irresponsible if I didn't attempt to ask each and every one of you to try and cherish every single moment you have.
I'd love to say this weekend answered all the questions. It didn't. In fact, for both John and me, it brought lots more to the surface.
What it did do, in such a powerful, powerful way is remind us that the questions may not have an earthly answer, but they DO have an eternal answer.
I was reminded that we have been held in God's hands every second.
Mom asked me how I even came upon this retreat. I mentioned this at the retreat but feel it bears mentioning again as I think it is so powerful.
When my mother died, 7 years ago, I bought Nancy's book. If ever there was a time I needed hope, that was it. Further, I needed answers that were backed with solid scripture. I picked it up, began thumbing through it, and though I may have had the intent to go through it day by day, I didn't. I kept it on my nightstand and every now and then picked it up again for a little wisdom here and there. It stayed in my book rotation through several moves, and even though my nightstand was inundated with pregnancy books in the last year, Nancy's book stayed.
The second night we were home after Matthew died, my family had dutifully and ferociously wiped my nightstand clean of any books that they felt would have made me upset. Nancy's book screamed at me. I climbed into bed, opened the book and began to sob. Being the reader that I am, I am sure I had dutifully read the introduction every time I picked it up to read it (I feel every book is owed the honor of the introduction being read!)--and yet, I doubt that any time I had ever read her story before, I felt anything more than that was a sad story for some unknown person.
When I picked it up that night, and read the introduction, I cried. Nancy was not unknown. I bet she didn't even know it, but she had written that book for me. She was no longer a sad story. She was another mother who knew what my heart felt like--times TWO. John and I began that daily devotional that night.
On some post I made, I mentioned her book and much to my surprise, she made a comment! Seriously--famous author taking the time to comment to ME? In any event, I then went to Nancy's website, found the information, asked John if he was interested (much to my surprise, he jumped on it), and the rest was history.
Though I've rambled, my purpose in recanting this is important. I won't lie and say it doesn't bring up a lot of questions for me, but I can't deny God's providence. Seven years ago, that book came into my life. It held significance, though at the time, I didn't realize just how much.
This weekend, a work that God started seven years ago was actualized.
God knows. He knew. He prepared me and began to prepare me seven years ago. On one hand, I can find complete and total comfort in that--trust and belief that God knows what He's doing.
On the other...I find heartbreak...God knew what was to come. He knew what would happen to Matthew.
And a whole slew of "Why?" questions that I've thus far not had rear their ugly heads.
Another day. I'll have to delve into them another day.
In the meantime, I plan to remember that there is an eternal answer.
And I will not allow my joy to be stolen.
My identity will not be forever identified by grief.
I am Matthew's mother...no amount of heartache will ever take the joy of being so away.