18 months. It's been 18 months. 18 months since I held your hand. Kissed your lips. Heard your voice. Laughed with you. Talked to you. Argued with you. Played a game with you. Watched a movie with you. 18 months since I watched them turn off all the machines and all hope of your life on this earth continuing vanished.
A lot can happen in 18 months. The three of us have grown and changed. We've continued to laugh and cry. We've started a lot of things, yet finished very few. We have some new floors and new paint on the walls. We've survived a lot of firsts, all the while knowing we still have a lot of hard firsts and hard moments ahead of us. There's always an empty spot at the table. In the van. In every picture. The stories and memories and pictures are more precious than ever, but many days they just don't feel like enough.
I watched a movie just last night called In Lieu of Flowers. It was an indie fiick that wasn't really what I expected, but had some lines I couldn't shake out of my head. They seemed to so perfectly capture this thing, this seeming monster, called grief:
Therapist: "The Kubler-Ross model of 5 stages of grieving is really only supposed to act as a loose framework for everything from the grief of losing a loved one to the grief of someone who is dying himself."
Eric: "Is there a difference?"
Rachel: "I've been thinking about when I got mono in college. I mean, I know it's not uncommon, a lot of people get it at that age. But, I had it pretty bad. I was in bed for almost a month and my spleen was really swollen. Um, I know it sounds stupid, but, it was huge. The swelling just would not go down and I remember after about two weeks of it I honestly couldn't remember what it felt like to not be sick. To just feel healthy. Of course, two weeks later I was fine and I probably soon forgot what it had been like to feel so sick, but, um, with this, I can't seem to get to that point. For two years now I've been waiting for the swelling to go down. I've been waiting to feel healthy again. And I almost can't remember what that's like anymore."
Rachel: "Does it ever go away?
Dad: "I don't know, Rachel. But it'll be different, I promise you.
Rachel: "How? I mean, every time I feel like I might be getting a little bit better, I just go right back to where I was."
Dad: "Rachel, sweetie, that's just not true. Do you remember the first 6 months?"
Oh, how I often feel like I am not further along in this journey than I was that early morning 18 months ago. But that is simply not true. It is a lie of the enemy. I have learned and grown and changed. Perhaps not all the changes were good changes, or at least the changes I was wanting for my life, but I haven't been as stagnant as my mind is trying to make me feel.
Much of the last 18 months has been a blur, if I am honest. It's been a lot of other people picking up my slack and me learning that sometimes I just have to say no. It's been a lot of late night tears and having to admit to my kids I just don't have it all together most of the time. It's been learning to ask for and accept help. Here are some of the best things I've learned since my life was seemingly turned upside down 18 months ago:
God hears and answers our prayers. Not always in our timing or in the exact way we wanted, but it's always in the most perfect way. In the way that will be for our good and His glory. What could have been better for Kevin than eternal wholeness and healing? Yeah, that hurts here as we go on without him, but it's also been a reminder that my idea for Kevin's healing wasn't perfect, left a lot of room for pain and heartache for all three of us, and honestly, was kind of selfish on my part. But God knew, as He always does, what was best. There was no more gracious answer to our prayers for Kevin's healing than for his Father to welcome him home, whole, healed, no shame, no guilt.
I am grieving because my Father gives good gifts. If God hadn't given us the gift of a wonderful husband and father in the first place, we'd have no reason to grieve. We'd be missing nothing. Life would not have been interrupted at all. Each tear is a reminder that my Creator loves me and has lavished me with amazing gifts, each and every day. The pain sucks, but I wouldn't trade any of it if it would mean that we never had Kevin in our lives.
Being rooted in Christ has kept my head above water and was my sustenance when it felt like I was in the desert. It sounds cliche, I am sure, but it's true. The hardest days to keep walking were the days that I ignored my time in the word and refused to pour out my heart in prayer. He's a big God. He can take anything we throw at Him. I promise. His word is full of the words and concepts we need. Read it. Even when you don't feel like it. Even if just one chapter or just a few verses is all you can do that day. Read it. Even when you're angry. Or bitter. Or sad. Or depressed. Or lonely. Or making poor choice after poor choice. Scream your frustrations to Him. Tell Him you're afraid to ask Him anything else because last time you did, He let your husband die. Lay it all on the table. He'll listen. He'll comfort. He'll speak truth. He'll heal. He'll redeem. He'll rescue. He'll rebuild. But you can't walk away. Dig in. Even when it hurts. Even when it's the last thing you want to do. Dig into the word. Continue to pray. He'll show up.
Root yourself in a community committed to always pointing you back to Christ. It will make all the difference. When they hear or see your pain, they'll cry with you. They'll be angry with you. They'll be hurt with you. But they'll also pray over you. Speak scripture over you. Point out the enemy's lies as they cover you in God's truth. They'll make your bed. Brush your hair. Take care of your kids. Do your laundry. Sit next to you while you stare into space with nothing to say. Write thank you notes for you. Just.show.up. I don't know how people survive anything in this life without this kind of support. I don't know how we survived when we were pulling ourselves away from it for so long. I believe wholeheartedly that if we'd pushed aside the shame and pride as soon as we realized we were dealing with addiction, Kevin would be sitting beside me as we watched The West Wing for the hundredth time right now.
I've learned so much more, but I have a headache and need to spend some time with the kids before they go to bed. I often go back and read my blogs and, though I can't remember even typing most of them, I am amazed at all that God has done through grief in my life.
Can I put in a little plug, that's time sensitive? If you are in Hannibal, MO Sept. 10 and Sept. 24, come to Calvary Baptist Church to hear the sermons those two mornings. You won't regret it. You'll learn just a few of the things that are essential to surviving in this lost, dark, broken world. You'll learn the truth that God really is in control and that His glory is far more important than my deliverance or comfort. And that's hard to hear. And it's painful in the moment. But, I am oh so glad His glory outlasts and outshines my pain! Our Lifegroups at Calvary will start digging into these concepts even deeper starting Sunday night. We'd love to have you join us. Don't go through the pain and the heartache alone!