The Power of Remembrance

I hate New Year’s Resolutions. Always have, always will. I heard on the news the other day that most people abandon their Resolutions by January 17 or something like that (only 10 days to go!). Let’s just say that human beings have little staying power when it comes to resolutions … sounds a lot like law-making/breaking to me. For these and many other reasons (maybe my penchant for rebelliousness?) I never make them. But today I read an amazing guest blog over at The Waiting and it got me thinking that a “2014 Remembrance List” might not be a bad idea.

Happy Tennis-Filled 2014!

You may wonder why I feel the need to make a list of things I want to remember this year. If you read my last post or connect with me on FB, you know how much the end of 2013 devastated me, decimated me, even. I haven’t been able to write anything since the account of my last days with my Sister back on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I’ve been stymied by loss, heartache, and grief to the point where I began to doubt even my own thoughts! Gathering them together in one place has been almost impossible. I realized today that recent circumstances have robbed me of some things that are crucial for me to remember.

It’s time to banish forgetfulness. It’s time to say, “enough!” to the painful distractions which have weakened my ability to remember important, life-giving things I’m learning along the way. It’s time SOMEONE (and since no one else is going to do it for me, that someone has got to be ME) reminded me of some things I have allowed pain and loss to steal.

1. There is a sense in which we all die alone, but I don’t have to grieve that way.

This process called grief is completely new to me (despite losing a close cousin 4 years ago). I remember thinking in early December that it’s odd someone my age has not lost at least one parent, but instead is first grieving a Sister. I have found myself floundering in uncertainty, wondering if I’m grieving “right” or some such nonsense. It’s been very difficult letting go of the better half of my family’s female self. I have not come to the place where I can imagine half a lifetime without my Sister beside me.

Ever since her passing, I have experienced an almost uncontrollable urge to go into seclusion. Maybe it’s because when I’m with other people, I can’t stop myself from rehashing the entire painful ordeal over and over again. I end up feeling bad for the folks listening to me as they quietly say, “I am so sorry for your loss. I don’t know what to say.” Don’t worry, I already said it all – and more. And it’s okay. For a person who almost exclusively processes thoughts aloud, there is no other sane way for me to grieve. It’s who I am. It’s where I am. And. It’s. O. K. I cannot grieve alone. Thankfully, I don’t have to. Which brings me to my next point.

2. In the middle of grieving your losses, remember to be thankful.

No doubt, the biggest obstacle to gratitude of late was the barrage of painful circumstances inundating the last half of 2013, beginning with my father’s face-crushing fall in June, culminating with my mother’s femur-shattering misstep on the day of my sister’s funeral in December, and all of the heartache in between! Sometimes when I think back on the overwhelming sorrows of the last 6 months I lose the ability to breathe. But what would really cripple me would be an inability to give thanks! So here is today’s short list of thankfulness:

– In August of 2013 my eldest Daughter was set free from a 5-year-long devastating relationship!

As incredible as it may sound, by the end of 2013, so much “bad” had happened that I was finding it hard to remember that a nightmare relationship of control, manipulation, fear, and pain had ended for my precious daughter! Now she stands FREE and in relationship with a wonderful, loving, person who has no need to control or wound her. The magnitude of my gratitude for this one blessing cannot be expressed – but it ABSOLUTELY must not be forgotten!

– My Parents and 2 Brothers are still with me … grieving with me.

They knew my Sister like I did and together we know her better. We have the shared experience of her life and, now, her death. I am thankful that we can grieve side-by-side.

– My Sister gave me so many wonderful gifts that live on beyond her life here on earth.

Precious memories of a deep friendship, beautiful examples of what love looks like, parenting insights, a commitment to excellence and beauty in everything she did filled with the power to inspire, artistic ideals along with encouragement to explore my own untapped depths, laughter and songs, never mind the countless pieces of art in my house (and out) bearing her signature. I will grieve losing you … in my grief I promise not to forget the gifts you have given.

 – My life is filled to overflowing with wonderful people who love me …

… who listen to me, put up with me, eat and drink with me, laugh with me … WITH me. And yes, even grieve with me. I am not alone. Not by a long shot.

– One of my favorite Bible verses: “It came to pass …”

Almost 50 years into this gig, I have figured out that everything comes to pass, even grief. I have this hope.

– Finally, a heart that feels pain.

This may sound odd to you, but the ability to feel pain is a blessing. I spent a lot of years shut off from my own feelings, unable to connect to my heart. Maybe the feelings were too overwhelming, maybe it was a mechanism of self-protection; no matter the reason, I was good at shutting down – too good. And I learned (the hard way) that severing the connection with one’s emotions is indiscriminate: You either feel or you don’t. Shutting out pain = shutting out joy. Unfortunately, it’s an addiction (connected to control) with a long road home. That’s a road I hope to never travel again. So I will embrace the pain and walk through it with gratitude to new joys.

And the final thing I need to remember at this juncture of my life:

3. Don’t believe the ‘press’ that comes from 14 or 22 yr.-olds you raised.

In fact, trust your instincts and don’t listen to the ‘press’ from any corner. When I read the above-mentioned blog post, The Waiting it turns out is Indeed the Hardest Part, one of the lines jolted me into wakefulness. It felt like coming out of a nightmare.

I can’t speak to being a father; so I’ll stick to what I know best: I am a mother, a good mother.

My first thought was, “I’m not.” Huh? What was that? I’m not a good mother?? Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute, hold the phone, stop the presses, rewind even! Who says I’m not a good mother? Oh, right, lots of people. Let’s see, some of my Christian friends think that because I don’t drag my kids to Sunday school anymore, that makes me a bad mother. My Atheist friends condemn me for telling my children that Jesus loves them so much He’d rather die than live without them – and I actually believe it, too. The media tells me I’m spending too much time at work; those same talking heads then turn around and tell me I’m not focusing enough on my own actualization through a rewarding career (the-kids-be-damned!). My 14-yr. old thinks I’m out of touch with today’s pop culture (AMEN to that, Buddy!) and my 22-yr. old thinks my zeal for archaic moral ideals means I’m judging her = unloving mother.

Bad press. All untrue. I continue to dedicate the majority of my time, resources, thoughts, energy, love, frustration, determination, and actions to raising my children. I have been available at any and every hour of the day or night to bandage, listen, teach, scold, feed, clean up after, laugh with, and love my kids for the past 24+ years. This will never change.

That blog was a resounding”Aha” moment in my journey right here, right now. Dawn showed me that my 2 youngest kids have an interpretation of their growing up years which I was unprepared for; but their reinterpretation of events will never nullify the truth: that God gave me to them as a Mom and them to me as my Kids; in the end, I always only sought to raise them with nurturing love and support, and will continue to do so even as I am challenged to find new ways to walk in relationship with them as (almost) adults.

This is my 2014 Remembrance List. May it be etched on my soul in such a way that my future is transformed into loving community, acceptance of what is, and the strength to move forward with confidence.

Thanks for reading, and May God bless you all with a Happy, Healthy, Joy-and Tennis!-Filled 2014!!

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9 thoughts on “The Power of Remembrance

  1. I am deeply honored and touched that you found my blog post meaningful. Thank YOU for taking the time to read it and share your thoughts here. I will have to go back and read the posts, but I am so very sorry for your enormous loss. I understand very well, as I have experienced a lot of loss. I write about it often on my blog, Tales From the Motherland. I recently reblogged a post that I wrote right after being present for my mother’s death, 2 years ago. I’ll spare you the difficult details, but really… a lot of loss. I am 50, and my sister is terminally ill, with the same genetic illness that took my mother, grandmother, and aunt, and that effects my younger sister and brother. I dread that time when I will do this again!

    Your recent losses are still so very fresh, and you are in the throws of grieving. Be very gentle with yourself and do not judge. We all grieve in different ways and it is a process… a long one. There are phases that are inevitable (as many have written about). I work at Hospice and have spent a lot of my life staring death down… and trying to make sense of what is senseless, really. Don’t try and second-guess what you are feeling, or question whether you are grieving correctly… just let it come, in its own way. Again, I am very sorry for the pain you are in; it sounds truly devastating. Siblings are such an important part of our lives; losing them is an enormous loss. I’m sending you healing thoughts and hopes for peace. Thank you for sharing my work, and I’m so glad it helped, or resonated for you. Dawn http://talesfromthemotherland.me/

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    1. Dawn,

      Thank you so much for stopping by. Your words are a great encouragement to me to press on! I will definitely be wandering around your blog in the coming months. Sounds like a wonderful resource to turn to as I navigate this road called grief. I’m so very sorry for your losses and what you know you will be facing in the future. One of my dear friends has lost close to the same magnitude as you, and, like you, her stalwart strength is a daily encouragement to everyone she knows. I often thought that God gave her the burden knowing she would carry it well.

      May you find abundant joy in 2014!
      -C

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  2. So much wisdom here! I like the part about not believing the “bad press” about us. It’s strange, but so true, that we have to defend and protect ourselves from others’ negativity and realize they are just groping around in the dark too–no wiser than us, and often projecting their own insecurities. Easier to say than do, of course.

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    1. Projection is SO real, it’s almost scary at times. But I have become determined not to ‘let’ anyone else dictate how I behave. I am committed to taking responsibility for my actions, good or bad, and remembering that I too project. What I project is a choice I have – I can either live out of my fear and pain or out of love and grace. In spite of continuing failures I will press on to live out of love.

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  3. I hope writing this helped you gain a surer footing, Cindy. Don’t listen to others – except those who’re committed to supporting and loving you. Christians are some of the biggest disappointments as people in times of grief. And I won’t tell you to hold onto God. Our grip isn’t that strong. It is nail-scarred Hands that grip you. You’ll continue to grieve a long time and a part of you will never be the same. I hope you ease peacefully into your new normal.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, I love that picture you painted of the nail-scarred hands hanging onto me. Amen to that! He never lets go! Never Let Go is one of my favorite songs by David Crowder Band. Thanks too for the encouragement. The blog really did help me move on. And I’ve been looking at photos of my sister since then. I miss her, but I’m so thankful for the time we had! God bless you BIG!

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  4. Pingback: Because, blindsided. | Judah First

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