Give me a moment

This was composed while I waited today for the doctor during my 6 week post-op from my hysterectomy -a day after Father’s day. My surgery was 3 days before Mother’s day. I can hear them checking for an unborn baby’s heartbeat next door. A week after my surgery, my first post-op, I heard the same. It’s a beautiful sound. It’s breath taking moment that I am unexpectedly forced to participate in.  

If you love someone in my shoes or who struggles with infertility or the horrible sorrow that comes with miscarriages– love them enough to give them a moment. I know they want to be excited for you, but emotions tend to rear their heads at odd moments. 

Ladies, and gentlemen, who also struggle with this grief, love yourself enough to give yourself that moment. 

(A letter to a friend)

(Internet search for ultrasound heartbeat)

Give Me A Moment (RKG 6/2017)

Please, just give me a moment. 

Just a few to catch my breath. 

Just a few to stop the tears.

Please, my friend, just give me a moment to grieve. 

Give me a chance to package up these emotions and store them in a safe place. 

I’ll be happy for you in just a moment, but this is still so new. 

No matter how many years go by, knee jerk reactions might still bring tears to my eyes.

It’s not against you, please don’t ever think that.

But, you see, grief is this weird thing. It ebbs and flows and sometimes attempts to drown you like a sneaker wave.

Even if I had known this was needed, so that I can have a better life, grief is waiting for those moments when I think I’m past the pain. 

The what ifs and the could have beens, are annoying little mosquitos waiting to suck the joy out of your moment.

So please. Just give me a moment to spare you unwarranted pain. 

You deserve your joy and your excitement. Please, help me not to tarnish it.

I am so happy for you, my dear sweet friend. I’ll be the first to plan your shower of joy, if you just give me a moment to wipe the unexpected tears from my eyes. 

My joy for you will overshadow these feelings of sadness for a future left unwritten, if you but give me a moment to acknowledge the pain it carries. 

I have such plans to spoil your beloved little joy, books to read, games to play. If you would just sit a moment with me under my little rain cloud. 

Just hold my hand for a moment, please.

I’ll dry off these tears and force my smile until it’s real. I’ll hold that little sweet bundle and count the toes. 

I’ll wait until I’m home, before I think of the no longer possible. 

Don’t give me platitudes because you can’t think of what to say. Just promise me to chew on your words a little before you say them to me.

I don’t want to be bitter, so please just give me a moment. 

I’ll be happy for you. I’ll be so excited for you, if you just know that I need a moment.

A moment to shake hands with my grief. 

A moment to acknowledge the empty space in me. 

A moment to remind myself, that grief is okay, but so is joy. 

Give me a moment to move pass this sorrow so I can be with you in your joy.

Please, give me just a moment.

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This is connected to my post Fight For Your Health if you are curious to what lead to this letter. 

I also encourage you dear reader, that if you find either post encouraging or enlightening, to please like it on this blog so others might be able to find it. In this world of blogs, billions of posts are published every day. Help a writer out and put a star on one that helps you! 

Fight for your health 

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This blog post has to do with women’s health. It may be considered graphic to some. This is my story. In no way am I an expert, but this is my fight for my health.

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I’ve debated about writing such an intimate post for months. Then after finally having surgery three weeks ago, I really started praying about it.

I am not an expert. I did not explore all avenues, but I did commit to a very life changing surgery in the attempt to live better.

I realized that knowledge is power. That doctors don’t know everything. That second, third, fourth, and eighth opinions are worth it because it is my health.

I realized that if I didn’t have my mom, my own age friends, and the multiple years of experience found in the older ladies in my life, I could have very well kept living with the pain. I had three or four doctors tell me it is normal.

It is not normal.

If you are living with similar pain–or any unexplainable pain, you have the right to fight for your health. You have the right to demand the doctors listen to you. If they won’t, find a doctor who will.

You are the one who has to live in your body. No one else. The doctors don’t, your friends and family don’t either.

Your body is telling you something is wrong. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to help it. Those who are use to pain too often accept it until the pain gets so bad you can no longer function.

I was quickly getting to that point.

Every single day I lived with pain as my constant companion.

Every day my lower back felt like someome had my spine in a vice as they twisted and pulled it. Occasionally every few hours, I’d get a hot poker stabbing me in the middle of that vice. The feeling of hot lightening would flare through my legs followed by wobbly knee numbness.

My abdominal muscles were equally tyrannical in their doling out of pain. I did not know a day without cramps. Cramps. Such a tame word for something so encompassing.

These muscle “spasms,” would knock the breath out of me and more than once had me running to the bathroom to throw up. Imagine a water balloon. When you tap it, the whole balloon shakes with the contact. That is how these cramps were like for me. I felt it throughout my whole body.

My back pain would multiply during my cramping sessions. Though moments without cramping were few and far between, and as the years went by, even more fleeting.

I had constant headaches that no medication would touch. Two doctors gave me muscle relaxants to calm the spasms to help relieve the headaches, not the cramps or the back pain. One other doctor told me to take a different relaxant during the worse of my cycle to ease the pain. They wanted to throw pills at the problem rather than find the cause.

I bled every day of the month. I have no clue what a “regular” period looks like. I bought 4 months worth of heavy overnight pads that would usually not last me a complete month.

I was always fatigued, from the pain and the bleeding. I battled nausea throughout the month as well as painful gas and other digestion issues.

There was no relief.

I sought after an chiropractor who at least helped to keep me moving despite the back pain and gave me a few hours to a few miraculous days of less pain.

An acupuncturist who helped me at least manage my digestion issues so it wasn’t too consuming, and she also helped take the sharpest edge off of some of my headaches.

And also a Structural Integrationist, whose knowledge helped me to keep breathing despite the pain. Her work on my muscles helped me keep a range of motion that I think would have disappeared if she hadn’t loosened up my joints.

Despite all of these wonderful practioners who truly know their trade and the human body, I didn’t find lasting relief. I just found temporary bandages that last for too fleeting of a moment.

While I had other damage done to my joints, muscles, and bones due to various injuries, that pain was nothing compared to this.

There is a family history of menstrual cycle problems. Some of the women had hysterectomies after having their children because of the pain and bleeding. At least one of the women had endometriosis and tumors.

Every time I brought up the possibility of endometriosis to the doctors, they told me I was too young or there was no proof that I had it.

They instead prescribed numerous hormone treatments that all made me very sick from the age of 17 to 21. Every time I would complain about a horrible side affect, they’d try another. At least three of those treatments are now featured on ads for medical lawsuits. I eventually gave up on them. They didn’t help anything–no lessening of blood or pain. Didn’t even help with my acne! All I got from them was severe nausea, joint pain, and a crabby attitude.

The only truly conclusive way to prove endometriosis was through exploratory surgery. It would take me nearly nine years of doctor searching to find one who was willing to do that exploratory.

Only for her to do lack luster job of it. She told me that my surgery would last a minimum of an hour and half, but probably be two hours. I would have a minimum of four incisions but will probably have five.

I was praying as I signed the release form, that maybe her scalpel would slip, so I would have to have an emergency hysterectomy. That should tell you how exhausted I was physically and emotionally facing that surgery.

I was under anesthesia for a total of 30 minutes and only had 2 incisions. She found polyps, scrapped my uterus, and was done. That was it. At post-op when I couldn’t handle the disappointment and started crying, she told me that I’d have to get used to my “supposed” pain. And offered me another muscle relaxant.

Her bedside manner sucked.

And my pain became even worse. My bleeding was so excessive after the polyp removal and scrapping, I was changing pads every two hours if I was lucky. My cramping was making me vomit, and no matter how I laid, I couldn’t stop my back from hurting. I’d wake multiple times during the night because it was hurting so badly.

I was becoming bitter. I had trusted my doctors to help me, and they weren’t. My emotional health was finally starting to cave under the pressure of the chronic pain. I was becoming angry at the drop of the hat and my patience was in short supply. I wasn’t me.

The masks that I wore to hide the pain were starting to fray.

It was affecting my ability to care for my client. It was affecting my spiritual life as well.

Three years later, the back pain was so intense I was getting ready to attempt to find a new doctor. I was talking to multiple ladies I trusted and asking for prayer. I was trying to get my nerve up to talk to another doctor.

I had nearly 10 years worth of charts, mapping out the different symptoms and the durations. The first surgeon had barely looked at them. But I knew that I had to be ready, because many doctors had told me to go home for six months and chart before they’d do anything. My mom kept that fresh in my mind, so I constantly updated those charts.

One friend spoke to a nurse friend of her’s about my history and she urged me to get an appointment with the doctor she worked for.

It took that one visit with one of the first doctors I had seen, to get the ball rolling. She remembered my history and how badly I reacted to hormone treatments. And I was bawling. I was at my wits end. She offered other possibilities such as a IUD, new hormone treatments, another scraping, or an ablation, but said that there’s the strong possibility of having to come back in in less than 6 months.

I was done. I had prayed about it for over 12 years. I was mentally prepared for the hard decision. I could not handle the pain any more. If it was just the horrid bleeding and cramping, I could do it. I’ve done it for 20 years. But the back pain. I couldn’t handle that anymore.

The day after my birthday I met with her, and we started getting the blood tests and ultrasound tests out of the way. I was having a hysterectomy. A month and a day later, I got it.

I think I also got to the magical age when they listened to me. Maybe finally at 32 I knew my own mind.

My back pain has basically disappeared. Once my chiropractor gets the surgery kinks out, I think it’ll be great. That twisting vice is gone. It’s only been 3 weeks, but I noticed it in the hospital hours after the surgery. I was laying down and my back wasn’t killing me.

My doctor found clear endometriosis on both fallopian tubes, the left ovary, and on my uterus. There were multiple cysts in both tubes as well as the ovary. She sent my uterus in for a biopsy and they found extensive adenomyosis that was nearly through the uterine wall. The only way to diagnose adenomyosis is through a hysterectomy biopsy according to my research. 

The possibility of me getting pregnant would have been very slim, and being able to carry a baby to term was even less.

My doctor told me that women with endometriosis tend towards bad periods. Women with adenomyosis have hellacious periods, with excruciating back pain.

And 95% of women after a hysterectomy no longer have back pain.

I have to remind myself to still take it slow because my surgery pain from the removal of an organ and a half is nothing in comparison to the pain I’ve been living with.

Do you know that on average it takes women anywhere between 7 and 10 years to get a diagnoses for endometriosis?

It’s considered a low estimate that 1 in 10 women are dealing with horrible pain that can cause miscarriages and infertility. Depending on where the endometriosis spreads to, it also can cause bowl and bladder issues. Some types of endometriosis are even hemorrhagic, which causes bleeding within the belly cavity. 

Both endometriosis and adenomyosis are also notorious for causing problems in a woman’s sex life. The diseases can attach to the pelvic wall and the cervix, which then can become inflamed which leads to infections, torn skin, and horrible pain. All of these added pressures can eventually break down some of the most solid relationships between partners. 

(The following three charts were the most beneficial for me. Because I could say, yes! This is what I’m feeling!)

Dr. Axe’s chart- he promotes all natural treatments

Endo-resolved, a website that offers information & support

A blog about an artist living with Endometriosis 

The emotional toll that these diseases have on a woman are immeasurable. 

We look to other women–mothers, sisters, and friends– for support and encouragement. We want to compare and contrast what we are feeling to know if we should seek medical help. But too often, we either don’t speak up about our own problems, or we mock the other woman’s pain, telling them that they’re being weak and a period isn’t that bad. 

Endometriosis is not just a period. It is a disease that is extremely painful to live with. 

Then when we do get up our gumption to go to the doctor, we find someone who won’t even contemplate the possibility. I’ve been told by various female doctors that painful periods are normal. That heavy bleeding and back pain are normal. That I need to toughen up because I’m going to be living with it for years. 

It is not normal

The emotional toll can be more devastating than the physical sometimes. 

I choose the most drastic step in fixing my pain. I removed any chance of giving birth to my babies. 

No matter how much I wanted an end to my pain, that is still a bitter pill to swallow. I choose the ending of a possibility of a dream of a biological child, for the chance of less pain. When/If I ever have the opportunity of a relationship, that pill may very well feel like it’s choking me. I just pray that the man can love me for more than my uterus. 

I had the chance to not go through with the surgery. I had the opportunity to really pray over it for 12 years. Numerous women don’t get that chance.

I’ve had people tell me that “I never realized you were in so much pain.” Or they would rather mourn over the discarded organ instead of asking how I am doing. 

I can’t Velcro it back in. Nor would I want to.

The surgery isn’t fool proof. There is always a chance that the endometriosis had spread. Though my doctor did look at my bowls, bladder, and surrounding muscles to hopefully make sure it hadn’t, there is always a chance that it was hiding. Some women continue to have problems with the disease even after a complete hysterectomy. 

There is a possibility at a later date that I will have to go back under the knife to remove my remaining ovary if it is painful. We left it in hopes of keeping my hormones in balance. It wasn’t encased in endometriosis like my other one was. 

Endometriosis is not spoken about much. Not nearly enough doctors know about it, or know the symptoms well enough to suspect it. 

Women are speaking about it more. Younger women are seeking help for it. It’s not an older lady problem only. Doctors have to become aware of it so they can help. If you suspect you have it–research it! Gather intel so you can show your doctor how your symptoms match up with women who had it.

Fight for your health. No one else will fight has hard as you do. 

This is my story. It’s still being written. I’m only 3 weeks out from the surgery. But I wanted to share it with you before my memories fade because I don’t necessarily remember the sharpness of the pain i lived with every day. 

This story is very intimate. But it is true. If I can help one woman fight for her health or one man understand a small bit of what their loved one is dealing with, then baring my soul and my underwear drawer for public consumption is worth it. 

I am not ashamed of the choice I made. Everyone deals with pain differently. I figured there was enough pain I have to deal with every day, why keep battling something that can be taken care of?

This is me. Looking forward to being healed and facing the future.

~~For more information about endometriosis and adenomyosis these are a few websites that were helpful for me:

 Hystersisters-This website is dedicated to helping women who are facing a hysterectomy and have already had one. It has forums and articles to help you.

>>It also has information to help the men in a woman’s life understand what this surgery and the recovery entails. Mister Hystersisters

medicinenet.com— a list of symptoms and medical information

Endometriosis Foundation –a resource to help spread awareness and provides valuable information.

Adenomyosis Advice –similar to the Endometriosis Foundation.

Gyn Care –learn the difference. While endometriosis and adenomyosis can happen together, they are two different diseases that can cause different symptoms.

Bad Day Blues

I am having a bad day. 

It’s an accumulation of numerous things totally out of my control. Things have negatively impacted me to the point that I either want to scream or cry out of sheer frustration. But, because I am at work and will continue to be with my client until 9:30 am tomorrow, I do not have those outlets of releasing my frustration open to me.

I have been told, on the rare occasions that I vent online (in other words, I am frustrated because A, B, and C), that I need to “Love Jesus more,” “I need to learn more forgiveness,” or that “this is a time to practice love more.” 

Even when I try to describe what went wrong to someone in person as I try to work through it, I’m told to get over it, or that obviously that person or situation needs more prayer.

I don’t vent much. And when I do, I try very hard, even in my frustration to be focused on the situation, not the person.

So let me just lay it out there, when you are having a BAD DAY, having someone chide you for not loving enough does not make it better. It makes it worse. 

Especially when it has nothing to do with loving someone more! Or when it is someone ELSE who is the one who is harming YOU!

I sometimes think that as a society we have split people into certain categories. Group A can complain and whine and over dramatize every little thing. Group B has to be the one to always comfort and ask questions and NEVER show that you have a bad day and make sure to buck up. On rare occasion, you have Group C that can be fluid.

I’m tired of putting that blasted mask on. I have the right to be honest about myself. I shouldn’t have to hide. I have bad days and some days are HORRIBLE. Some days blend into a week and make you feel like you can’t see the light ever again. 

But: bad days don’t mean I stop loving my family, my friends, my church, or my job. Bad days don’t mean that I’m turning my back on God. Bad days don’t mean that I hate everyone. 

Bad days simply mean that things aren’t going the way I had hoped and planned for. It means that things and people totally out of my control are negatively impacting me. It means that the verbal abuse that I can usually shake off simply got to me this time. It means sometimes it is easier to focus on this little thing that is bugging me than blow up about the big thing that no one knows about. 

I want to tell you– it is OKAY to have a bad day! It doesn’t mean you are a horrible believer or person. It means you are HUMAN. 

Sometimes I have to remind myself of this truth.

But–it is NOT okay to abuse another person (or animal) because your day wasn’t as pretty as you had planned. It is not okay to ruin another person’s day with physical or verbal abuse. It’s not okay to emotionally destroy someone just so you can feel better. That just makes you a bully. 

It is okay to expect someone to listen. Sadly, in this day and age it’s hard to find someone willing. Especially someone is is willing to not say, “Well my day was worse so what do you have to complain about?” (I cannot tell you how many times this happens to me! I swear if I can get through my story without someone hijacking it with theirs it’s a miracle!) 

Most of the time I don’t want a solution, because there is no solution! I just want someone to listen. I want to release the pressure in the cooker that is my life before it explodes. 

I honestly think we all want that. 

I am frustrated. I am having a bad day. I don’t need to be chided by someone who has no clue what else I am dealing with. News flash–no one is perfect! 

I have hope that tomorrow will be better because I have faith in the One who is creating tomorrow. I have hope that my bad day or week doesn’t equal a horrible life. I have hope that things can change. 

I have love for those people who are frustrating me because I know a God who loves me despite how annoying I can be. And I know He loves them just as much. 

And guess what? I still think it’s okay to say you had a bad day! You can be disappointed when things don’t work out the way you had hoped. You can be frustrated that people have lied to you and still love them! Your job can make you want to pull out your hair and you still have the right to say you love it!

Do something to help you smile.

If it’s wearing crazy socks, do it. If it’s petting an animal or eating your comfort food, do it. If it’s binge watching a show that let’s you cry or laugh, don’t let someone make you feel guilty for it. Go for a walk, read a book, color a picture, build a model. 

Take care of yourself. 

It’s okay to have a bad day, just don’t let it make your life bad. 

You are loved. Never forget that.

Do not grieve (JAF Camp 2016)

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I just recently finished serving a week at Joni and Friends Southern Oregon Twin Rocks Family Retreat. This is my fourth year serving at this camp that caters to family with disabilities. These are families who fight for their loved ones so they can get proper medical treatment, education, and spiritual care.

These families travel across the nation to participate in four days of camp on the Oregon Coast, because there isn’t something like it where they live. While more Joni and Friends retreats are being set up, the need is so great that the demand overtaxes the supply. There are families who plan their whole year around these four days, that is how important it is to them.

This camp is a place where the campers can be kids, and families can focus on just loving each other rather than being on the defense against other people’s curiosity and advice. Here they are eagerly anticipated and accepted. They are not considered ‘other’ or ‘different,’ they are simply seen as someone to love.

Short-Term Missionaries (STMS) are volunteers who come and serve these families. They are all age ranges, from 10-80 at least, who are so eager to love on these campers that they save up all year to attend. This is not a camp where volunteers put in a few hours of work in the kitchen to have a free fun time. No, this is a place where STMS are paired with a single camper and their duty is to be their friend for the week. It’s a place where they are truly missionaries whose mission is to show these campers that they are deeply loved, exactly for who they are. We have STMS who do bake sales, garage sales, mow lawns, build birdhouses, and numerous other things, to raise money, because this retreat is that important to them. $450 is a lot of money for a 13 year old to raise, but they do! And now many of them are raising about that much money again, so they can serve in the next week of camp as well. The STMs love it just as much as the families do.

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All of our camp volunteers (STMS) Nearly a 100 kind spirited people giving of their time and money to serve

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Our whole family camp! Campers and STMS together

This year our camp verse could be found in Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” But, the verse is right in the middle of a sentence. What the actual sentence says is, “Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” 

Nehemiah is an amazing book full of God’s mercies and work. It’s about the Israelites getting to go back to the Promised Land, after being put into the chains of slavery due to their sinfulness. It’s about a pagan king who listened to the voice of God and allowed his cup-bearer to leave and build the walls of Jerusalem once again. It’s about the eagerness of the God’s people hearing the words of the Lord once more. It’s about the joy of finding God after years of silence (on the side of the people).

In this section of Scripture, we find the people hearing the Word of the Lord for the first time in years. They were weeping because they hadn’t heard it for so long. But, this was a time to celebrate. The Word was available once more. It was being read from early morning till midday. And the people stood to hear it.

Do not be grieved. Don’t be grieved that before you didn’t understand the Word. Do not be grieved over the past deeds, because now you have the way to make your slate clean. Do not be grieved.

It is a time to rejoice! To revel in what the Lord has done! He has done the unimaginable and it must be savored. He has brought the Israelite nation out of slavery and out of their sin and has brought them back to their forefathers’ Promised Land. The pagan king funded the rebuilding of Jerusalem! How amazing would it have been to be there, to walk back into that land that was your father’s and know that you could come home.

Nehemiah is telling these people who were weeping over the loss of time and of the Word, to not grieve, to rejoice, because that joy of the Lord is your strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Rejoicing and reveling in the Lord gives you strength.

These families with disabilities know what it is like to grieve. Some days, it may feel like they can never find anything to rejoice, but then the joy of the Lord strengthens them. And this camp gives them that strength.

But, at the same time, these families know how to rejoice over the little things. Things that might seem inconsequential to us, but are major milestones for their loved one. And this camp helps them rejoice over them.

Joni and Friends Family Retreat is an experience like no other. It is hard to use words to describe it adequately, because there isn’t one thing similar to pull from to compare. It is often compared to Disney, as being the happiest place on Earth, because at camp, the campers can just be kids. No expectations to fit into any mold that one may insist on being the perfect one. No trying to remember the arbitrary rules of society so that one can be accepted. No acting a certain way so that you won’t be laughed at. No explaining why you do things differently than others, why you walk the way you do, or why you can’t speak.

These people at camp, they understand. They look at you, and see simply, you. You. The one God declares Beloved. You, who God created with great love. You, whose beauty can be seen as God intended, rather than as a mark against the plastic perfection of society. You, whose talents are marveled at, whether you can sing or draw, or throw a ball, or take your first walks on screen. You, you are celebrated for being you.

Here your ticks are accepted. Here sounds that are voiced are cheered. Here you can run because its just so much, and we will run with you, rather than force you to stop. Here your mask can be left at home, and the real you can be let out to enjoy the world as it was meant to be. Here people rush to meet you. Here hesitation and fear have no place as you are loved. Here people will share their food and their space. Here the need for quiet is understood, but so is noise, and what a joyful noise to the Lord we make together! Here miracles happen on a regular basis, voices are found, friendships are made, love is given. Here, angels tread and God blesses those he calls his.

God’s love for you is your strength. He knew you when he placed you in that womb. He knew your life would be difficult, but he knew he wanted you. You were not a mistake. He rejoices in you, every minute of every day. He knows you and loves you just as you are. He gave you spiritual gifts to bless this world, don’t let anyone get between you and worshiping your Father. Share your gifts!

I know a camp where we are eagerly awaiting to celebrate them…

I highly recommend Joni Eareckson Tada’s biography if you have never heard about this ministry. Joni- An Unforgettable Story

http://www.joniandfriends.org/store/product/joni-unforgettable-story-discount/

You can also follow her radio/video series, many of which can be found here:

http://www.joniandfriends.org/jonis-corner/

For more information about Family Retreat, please see:  http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/

For more information about volunteering at a Family retreat, please see:

http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/for-volunteers/

To be Remembered

“To be Remembered”

Today was flower day.
I took my client, who is just a couple of short months away from being 100, out to the two cemeteries where her family resides.

Like always, it was errand day, where we were out and about getting groceries and other needed items. I had a car full of groceries and cemetery day is usually a two or three hour process. I squelched my sigh as best as I could, trying not to think of the food that was rapidly thawing in the surprisingly muggy weather.

I took her to a local store where I could get the car close to where the flowers were kept. Peering through the chain link fence, she asked me to look at the pretty red Daisies that had caught her attention.

“They have to be in bloom. I don’t see any geraniums, do you? They last longer.” She looked anxiously through the fence.

As I parked the car, I assured her I’d take a good look around and make sure to choose the nicest ones.

She had mentioned only getting a flower for her husband’s grave so I double checked, “Just one? Or do you want to do your parents?”

“I want to do my sister’s. Then there is my son’s…”

“Want me to get 10 then? Like usual?” At her nod, I left the car with her laughter following me as I shouted, “Don’t let anyone steal you!”

I took time to look through all the flowers, making sure to pick the nicest, fullest, brightest plants.

As we went to the cemeteries, I was reminded that she’s nearing 100. 100 years of love and death. She pointed at homes along the roads we were on, family members who lived in those homes are now in the cemeteries we visited. 100 years of family and friends. A 100 years of joy and sorrow.

So as I placed the chosen flowers on her family’s graves, I took the time to clean the dead leaves and cut grass off of the stones. I pruned the flowers that we had put on the stones at Easter that were still blooming and made sure to collect any trash.

And I stood in for my client.

I cared for her family in her stead. As she stifled her tears of being the last of her family, I became her feet. I represented her love as I became her hands.

I could have rushed through putting the flowers out, but it was a moment to remind my client that she is known and she is loved.

We all want to be remembered.
We all want to know that we will be missed.
We all want to be known.
We want someone to care.
And ultimately, we want someone to miss us when we are gone.

In our care of our cemeteries, we are telling each other how we will remember our loved ones. And sadly, we don’t necessarily do it very well. Hundreds, if not thousands, of local cemeteries are disappearing as nature reclaims the land. Loved ones of ages past are disappearing from sight and memories.

So, I will be my client’s feet, as she expresses her love to her family. I will take the time to show respect to people I have never met. Because I want to be remembered as well.

I could have rushed through the day, but it was more important to care for my client and her heart. Groceries can wait.

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Grief Illiterate

I have had a phrase resounding in my mind for the last week that I haven’t been able to shake: “We as a culture, are largely grief illiterate.”

It was reporter Maria Shriver, who said this while she and Tom Brokaw were discussing the historic event of Pope Francis visiting the sobering Ground Zero memorial. The reporters talked about how the Pope’s itinerary was not going to have the religious man visiting the site of horrific terror. Because the former Pope had already been there. Pope Francis insisted he would go to Ground Zero, as well as visit with families of those lost on that horrible day 14 years ago.

Another reporter made the remark that with it now being 14 years since the Terror Attacks, the world has moved on. But that it was good to see the Pope taking the time to do something so visual for the families.

As if he was doing it for the PR.

I don’t know the Pope. I don’t know his thought process, but according to the public persona that he exhibits, I don’t think he did it so he would get good ratings.

Perhaps it was Pope Francis’ way of showing the families that they are not forgotten in a world that has moved on. That he still grieves over the senseless act that brought so much pain.

I agree with Shriver. We as a culture are very grief illiterate. We do not know how to grieve. We don’t know how to react when those around us are grieving. We become very uncomfortable.

We, thanks to an extremely misunderstood psychological model of grief, believe that there are 5 stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and once we progress through one stage we won’t slid back into a former stage.

We forget grief is fluid.

We forget because we refuse to really enter into grief, and when we encounter someone who is really feeling their grief, we declare them clinically depressed. Even in that diagnosis, we refuse to allow the needed action of feeling grief.

There is no timetable for grief.

God has given us this amazing ability to cry. To cry tears of joy and of sorrow, and sometimes within minutes of each other. He has created a physical release for the emotions that must burst forth in someway, to relieve the pressure that has settled upon our souls. Salty prisms that pour out of the windows of our souls, reflecting to all who desire to see our deep pain or unbound delight. God created this gift that we refuse to use properly.

Around the world there are many ways cultures show sorrow over the loss of a loved one. Monuments are built to be a standing testament of their love, belongings are burned so that none other may hold what was once theirs, wailing in the streets for hours to let the world know that someone has died, wakes for people to remember, bodies dug up and paraded through town to show they are not forgotten.

Then there are the ones who in their deepest grief, erase the existence of the loved one from the family: names no longer mentioned, photographs removed.

So many ways to express grief.

Somewhere in between these extremes the American culture lies. Even with our morbid fascination with death, we fear it. It is an unknown, with no clear scientific idea of what is on the other side. With our melting pot of religions and cultures, we have a mishmash of ways to show our sorrow, but also an inability to really let it touch us.

Life and grief must go hand in hand. One cannot hold themselves free from emotions. If you do, you never really connect with anyone. But, it is as if we attempt to not feel deeply. We shush those who laugh loudly, turn away from those who cry, all in attempt to not be touched by the emotional confetti they are spewing.

Sorrow, mourning, and grief aren’t bad. They are cleansing in the most base form. It’s God’s release valve.

He commands us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) Because a joy shared is multipled and a sorrow shared is divided.

Much like Pixar ‘ s recent movie “Inside Out” says, joy and sorrow must go hand in hand. Joy makes the sorrow easier to handle because it reminds us of happier times, tells us that we can be happy again. Sorrow makes joy sweeter because it makes memories stand out, and teaches us to love deeper.

As a culture, we suck at expressing grief. It’s because we fear to be weak. Grief is all about being ‘weak’ in the face of memories. It’s about letting the memories run you down, chain you and drag you through every moment and conversation. It’s about the release of pressure on the soul and the cleansing of emotions.

Grief sucks. But, it’s necessary. You don’t have to cry to grieve. There is no set rules about how you HAVE to grieve or even when. Just make sure you do, so the pressure doesn’t force a release, ruining other relationships.

We have the ability, we always have the chance, it’s time to stop being illiterate in grief.

Even as I finish this post, we have more to grieve. Another shooting, another school, more senseless deaths. Even when answers might be found it won’t negate the need to grieve. One won’t just get over the shooting, those directly involved will always bear the emotional scars of this day. There will be days in the future when it will suddenly hit them out of the blue, and tears will come. And that will be a release for their beleaguered hearts and souls.

We do not need to be illiterate in grief. Take a moment to realize that Christ himself grieved. He wept over the death of his friend Lazarus, even though he KNEW he was going to bring Lazarus back to life!

Jesus Christ wept. He grieved. He grieved knowing that it was going to be brief. He grieved because it was good to do so.

So, take a lesson from our Savior. It is good to grieve. There is no set time, place, or length to assign grieving. So, please, when you see someone grieving don’t hurry them up, but sit. Stay awhile with their grief, because a sorrow shared is a sorrow divided. Don’t let them feel alone.

“You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same, nor would you want to. ” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler