Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Maybe I'm A Different Breed. Maybe I'm Not Listening

     The title of this post was taken from the song Sail by Awolnation.

      One of my favorite books is From The Corner Of His Eye by Dean Koontz. I don't usually read books more than once, but this one has always been an exception for me. It explores the idea of alternate realities. While this isn't a new concept or idea, it's one in which I can identify with in this type of setting. This book forced me to look at how every decision I make could affect the lives of those around me, and likewise the decision not to act could have similar consequences. It's funny that I knew the importance of this, and yet did I or have I lived my life that way? Am I now? How often do we allow ourselves to get caught up in the things that truly do not matter. How often do we walk through life simply missing the bigger picture. In the aftermath of a tragedy, we usually tend to humble ourselves enough that we set our priorities in order, but how long does that last. If we truly realized the potential we all have to touch the lives of those around us, would we take that responsibility so lightly? I'll end by sharing one of my favorite parts of the book. 

“Not one day in anyone’s life is an uneventful day, no day without profound meaning, no matter how dull and boring it might seem, no matter whether you are a seamstress or a queen, a shoeshine boy, or a movie star, a renowned philosopher or a Down’s-syndrome child. Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others, both by conscious acts of will and unconscious example. Each smallest act of kindness—even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, a compliment that engenders a smile—reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away. Likewise, each small meanness, each thoughtless expression of hatred, each envious and bitter act, regardless of how petty, can inspire others, and is therefore the seed that ultimately produces evil fruit, poisoning people whom you have never met and never will. All human lives are so profoundly and intricately entwined—those dead, those living, those generations yet to come—that the fate of all is the fate of each, and the hope of humanity rests in every heart and in every pair of hands. Therefore, after every failure, we are obliged to strive again for success, and when faced with the end of one thing, we must build something new and better in the ashes, just as from pain and grief, we must weave hope, for each of us is a thread critical to the strength—to the very survival of the human tapestry.
Every hour in every life contains such often-unrecognized potential to affect the world that the great days and thrilling possibilities are combined always in this momentous day.” 

Friday, November 11, 2011

And Now I Cling To What I Knew. I Saw Exactly What Was True

The title of this post was taken from the song After the Storm by Mumford and Sons.

This post was not written by me. A friend, John Mullineaux, wrote this and it held such meaning for me that I had to share. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Yeah…? Well…It Didn’t Happen That Way So Just Get Over It

Some of you know that John is my favorite gospel in the scriptures (I might be biased on that opinion though). I’ve posted scripture from this gospel before…even some recently. I usually leave the word as it is for the reader to get what was meant for them in the scripture I feel moved to post but this is one whole section that I really feel should come with an explanation of what it means to me. I’m not going to go over all of it, just the parts most important to me.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This scripture is kind of the alpha and omega for me. I memorized this scripture when I was 2 or 3 and it was the only one I knew for the longest time. I didn’t understand it at the time and it didn’t really mean anything to me. However, through all of my childhood and into my adulthood, I recalled these words from time to time and wondered if it was really that simple.


And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

I tried to learn this as my second scripture. I wasn’t really touched by it particularly until I read 1-12 all together. I put this here because; if you’ll notice that the first was 3:16, that will give you a little insight into my personality. I never did learn this one.

3:17 – 18

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

            I learned this shortly after deciding that only knowing one scripture was not enough for me. I still don’t know it by heart but I now think there is not really a way to mention 3:16 with out 3:17-18. This just paints the picture more completely for me.

8:5-7 & 10-11

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her…
…When Jesus had lifted up himself, and he saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord.  And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

            I often heard people talk about 8:7 when I was growing up. I heard it in and out of different churches but I never knew the story until I read it for myself. I knew the basic lesson here is not to judge people but I never really understood what it meant not to judge someone. It means we can’t judge them for anything. Not things that they do that we wouldn’t; not things that we are told not to do as children that “should be” “basic manners for anyone;” and not things the scriptures teach us are to be avoided…nothing.
            When I read this, I picture myself standing in front of the judgment seat having rampantly judged people in my life knowing and not caring and the Lord says to me something like, “You’ve judged many unfairly in your life. Now you must be judged as you judged them.” This is not good for me. The swearing alone would fill the Library of Congress complete with sections for regular swearing, made up swear words, sentences that were comprised only of swear words, and a small annex of words that, while technically aren’t swear words, wear used in a swearing context. When I think of it this way, most of the time I can change judgment into realizing that I don’t know why people do what they do and it isn’t my place to decide right and wrong.


Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.

            I think anyone who knows the story behind this one would agree that there is no greater display of compassion known to man. This is an excerpt from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Yes he’s the Lord and yes he could raise anyone from the dead. So why did he cry? He knew he was about to bring Lazarus back and yet he wept with the family and friends of Lazarus.
This is where I learned that it’s okay to have your own feelings. That may not make sense to a lot of people out there but that’s what it means to me. Jesus didn’t tell anyone it would be okay; he didn’t tell them that it would get better with time; he didn’t say, “Hey! There’s no reason to cry.” He just cried with them.
Like most of the things I’ve learned from the gospel, I really needed this. I solicited all the stories and gathered all the council I could from people who had been through what I was going through and I was just about tired of the same old platitudes. I was grateful for all the help and comfort I received but I was just plain tired.
I was tired of feeling like I was facing everything alone. Tired of people looking at me with the “poor guy” look. Tired of hurting. Tired of crying. Tired of replaying those stories in my head and realizing I’m way behind every timeline I’ve gotten. Tired of people telling me, “Man! You got the raw end of that deal! You’re better off. Why are you still sad about that?” I just wanted my life back the way it was before all this. I wanted so badly to wake up and realize it was the worst dream I had ever had. Then I just got mad.
And then I was mad about everything. Mad at what happened. Mad at being alone. Mad that my heart, soul, and whole life was ripped away in one day. Mad that all my plans meant nothing. Mad that no one I talked to could muster anything more than, “You get through it.” Most of all, I was mad that I was still sad. I was so mad that I wasn’t “completely better” yet that whenever I started to get sad I would tell myself some version of, “Yeah? You had a plan for your life and this didn’t fit in? Well…it didn’t happen that way so just get over it.”
Upon reading this scripture, I realized that my grief is my own. I don’t need to be 100% by any given time or date no matter what’s down the road or around the corner; no matter what anyone else knows. Everyone deals with things differently. So, I wept, Jesus wept, and I felt better.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This scripture is kind of the alpha and omega for me…
Now that I understand how it is this simple and how it isn’t simple at all, I love this one even more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When The Day Is Long And The Night, The Night Is Yours Alone, When You're Sure You've Had Enough Of This Life, Well Hang On

   The title of this post was taken from the song Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.

      Monday was a beautiful day here. It wasn't hot, but it wasn't too cold. The kids came home from school only to run back outside to ride their bikes and play on their scooters. My dad was here to fix my door, and all seemed okay. Well, it seemed okay until Tyler comes running up the driveway screaming "Sebastian is hurt. Sebastian is hurt." I ran down the driveway to see him sitting in the road screaming that his leg was hurting. A girl from down the street had apparently run him over on her bike as he was STANDING in the road. Tyler and Mason are crying by this point. A friend was there, and helped me walk him into the house. He sat on the couch and as I began to ask him questions I soon realized that something wasn't right. He couldn't tell me what day of the week it was, and he couldn't tell me what had happened outside. He didn't remember seeing my dad working on the door, and he didn't remember putting his bike away. The back of his head was red, and he was complaining of his ear hurting. Feeling like I should probably take him to the ER, I called Mandaly for her opinion. She was on her way back from Roanoke, but said I should take him. My dad kept the other two kids and off we went.
     We got to the ER and waited about 45 minutes to see the doctor. He ordered a CT Scan. I tried to be positive as we waited for the results. Honestly I figured it might be a concussion, but I didn't want Sebastian to know I was worried. He was really tired, but they wouldn't let him sleep. The doctor finally comes back and says that it doesn't look good. He has a skull fracture and some bleeding in his brain. Then he said they would be transferring him out, to UVA. My heart sank and the tears came. I froze not knowing what to say or who to call first. Thank heavens my mom was there. The doctor came back about 15 minutes later, and says it will take the ambulance an hour to pick him up, and then there would be the two hour drive, so instead he would be flown out. The helicopter would be there soon and it would only be a 25 minute flight. More tears as I tried to process this. By this point my sister is with us, and has volunteered to drive me over. I kissed Sebastian, as they strapped him to the backboard and put the neck brace on. As we left and stopped for gas I heard the helicopter take off. Numb, that's all I felt.
   A two hour drive. It actually went by pretty fast and before I knew it we were there and in the emergency room with him. They did another CT scan, and the result showed two skull fractures, and the blood on his brain. He also had blood in his middle ear, and that's why he had complained of his ear hurting. The bleeding had stopped, but he needed to stay for observations and more scans the next day. At 4:30 AM we finally moved to pediatric ICU, and he was able to sleep. I slept for about an hour. The next day we were moved to a regular room. All scans showed that everything looked the same, so we were allowed to come home on Wednesday. What a long few days. 
     He has been sleeping a lot, and hasn't had much of an appetite. There has been such an outpouring of love from everyone at church, school, his soccer team, people on FB. I really appreciate everyone. Scott and Marie were able to come and visit and that lifted his spirits while he was there. I truly do appreciate all the text messages, the food that was brought over, and the cards that were sent. I know that in times of need I have people we can count on. I also had a good friend John, who kept me company through text message. As annoying as I'm sure that must have gotten for him :). 
     So, that is where my week stands. I am going back to work tomorrow, but Sebastian is out of school until the 21. We go back on the 22 for more scans. I'm not sure the reason behind everything that we seem to be going through lately, but I'm trying to put on a brave face and move on. I realize that this isn't very eloquent, but it's an update for those of you who read this and care. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'm Falling Apart, I'm Barely Breathing With A Broken Heart That's Still Beating

      The title of this post was taken from the song Broken by Lifehouse.

     I met Deb while taking my Masters classes for special education. She was bubbly, hard working, and always had something to say. I was shy, reserved, and often didn't talk. As the weeks, and classes went on, we became friends. We even applied for, and was hired at the same private day school, as special education teachers. From then on we were friends. She taught me all she knew about Montessori learning styles, and we would bounce ideas off each other. We started having Monday night family dinners together. One week she would cook, and the next I would. Our children looked forward to those Monday nights together. Her daughters would sometimes babysit for me, so that she and I could go out to dinner. One night I was working late, trying to finish report cards. She came to the school, looked me in the eye, and said "Get home to your family. This does not matter at seven at night. Your family does." She always helped me keep my perspective.
     Deb, had a personality like no other. She was often very blunt with me in what she thought, and had no trouble telling me what I needed to do to get myself on track. I took lessons from her, and her life experiences. When she had to be put on dialysis, I remember her smirking, and saying "Eh, no biggie, I'll get through it. It's just a kidney." I remember taking off work to be with her on one of the occasions she had to have her peritoneal catheter replaced. She joked with the doctors the whole time. 
     For awhile we lost touch. Life got busy, and our visits became fewer and further between. Mike passed away on her birthday, April 14. For a week Deb never left our side. She cleaned my house, did my laundry, bathed my kids, and helped with meals. She was there for every step of that process. We talked a lot over the last six months. From her reminding me that I have beautiful children to live for, to her candid advice. 
     About a month ago we went shopping for material. She wanted to take Mike's old shirts and make quilts for myself and the kids. We picked out all kinds of fabric, and all the things she would need. She was so excited to do this for us. It's the kind of friend she was. That day we went out to dinner, and we talked about our families. She talked a lot about her girls, as she always did, and you could see how proud she was of them and all of their accomplishments. She cared nothing for herself, but she wanted everything for her children. She talked of her love for her husband, and how she was enjoying his trips in. We talked of our future plans, and how she wanted to go back to college. She listened as I quietly talked of my day to day struggles. She gently reminded me that she would always be here for us. 
    Last Tuesday Deb sent me a text and said she wasn't feeling well that she was in a lot of pain, and that her husband was going to take her to UVA the next day. Her last text to me was this

"No worries now...there is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. I will be ok...always am."

Always the fighter, and never the one to show concern for herself, I believed her. Yesterday, when I hadn't heard from her I sent her a text and told her I was worried about her, and thinking of her.
     Today at 1:56 pm I received a phone call from Deb's daughter. I had missed the call, but thinking it was odd she would call, I immediately called her back. She informed me that they were taking Deb off life support. My heart sank to my stomach, and the tears came. I had to ask for her to repeat it again, because my mind wasn't able to process it the first time around. I went back to my class and cried. How could my bright bubbly friend, the one who thought of everyone except herself, be on life support. Where had I been the last four days not to know that things were that bad. She passed away shortly thereafter. I couldn't hold it together. The kids were so fond of Deb, and they took it pretty hard. Tyler crying that it wasn't fair, and worrying that she would see her daughters anymore. I cried most of the evening. I pulled it together enough to take Mason trick or treating, but my heart wasn't in it. Deb often joked that Mike passing on her birthday would forever change how she saw that day. Her passing on Halloween, will forever change how I see this day.
     I miss my friend. I will miss her random messages of encouragement. I will miss our quiet talks on her front porch. I will miss her laughter, especially when she was laughing at me over something I couldn't quiet do right. She often joked about my lack of gardening skills, and she helped keep my plants alive. I ache for what her daughters are going through. I hate that my kids now have this in common with them. 
     I'm a little angry too. I'm angry that my heart has been ripped open by another loss. Mike in April, a student from our school passed over the summer, and now Deb. We've lost two pets this year, and I'm not sure how much more the kids can take. How much more will I have to endure? My heart is once again breaking and there seems to be nothing I can do about it. I'm tired. Simply tired. 
     Rest in peace my dear Deb, and know that your legacy lives on in the many lives you've touched. Paint rainbows with Mike, and give him the hugs I can not. Watch over all of those who love you, and know that you will forever be missed.