December 05, 2016

Still Here Nine Months Later

December 10 will mark nine months of living without My Kevin. Nine months since I woke up and wondered why he wasn't laying next to me. Nine months since I casually walked down the stairs to see what he was up to. Nine months since I found him sprawled across his desk, unresponsive. Nine months since I raced up the stairs to grab my phone and call 911. Nine months since I gave my husband CPR, to no avail. Nine months since I walked into that hospital room, watched them turn off all the machines, and said good bye to the body laying there, knowing My Kevin had already been welcomed Home by his Father. Nine months. It seems like so long ago and just like yesterday all at the same time.

Normally when this anniversary rolls around, the words come to me pretty naturally and freely. This time, not so much. This last month or so I have felt so numb. So foggy. So not really here. It's been like those first few weeks all over again. It's hard to focus. Hard to concentrate. Hard to hear others or even notice they are around. (Yeah, that's been great for school time! NOT!) I am sure there are words in my head and heart somewhere, but I just don't seem to be able to reach them.

I am writing this note a little early because, on the actual anniversary date, I'll be in STL preparing to run a 15K with some beautiful ladies. (How I got to that point could be a completely different blog post!) I am not even sure what to share with you right now. I feel like I say the same things over and over. You're probably tired of hearing this story by now. Perhaps once we mark that first year there will be less counting. Less marking. Less writing the same thing over and over again. Or, perhaps the counting will help me keep moving. I really don't know. I guess we'll all just have to wait and see!  Anyway, here are some things I've come to realize over the last nine months:

I am not mad at God. In fact, I have never been angry with Him over Kevin's death. I remember that, when Kevin was in rehab, the family counselor kept asking what made me angry about the situation. I felt dumb because, honestly, I didn't feel mad. She, of course, kept pushing and I just didn't know what to say. Then, one of the recovery counselors admitted that he differed with all the other counselors where anger was concerned. He said that most often he found family members were truly not angry with the addict. They were tired, confused, frustrated, saddened, but rarely angry. However, most of those emotions show themselves easiest through angry actions, therefore making others think we are angry. He nailed it. At least for me. There isn't anger. There's confusion. Frustration. Grief. Wishing for other outcomes. But not angry. In fact, one of the sweetest things God has taught me through this is that, for the Believer, death is the sweetest grace we could ever receive. (I wish I could say that truth made me less fearful of death, but, well, I am not there, yet.) Death, entering eternity with his Father, was a beautiful grace gift straight from the hand of our good, good God. That's why, in the end, I cannot be angry with God over Kevin's death. I cannot be angry with God for lavishing my husband with grace.

I struggle with the shame of his manner of death. The kids and I read missionary biographies every morning as we eat breakfast. Recently, we read Elisabeth Elliott's biography, which also included the account of Jim Elliott's death. WARNING: RAW HONESTY HERE! I struggled for days with the manner in which the Lord allowed Kevin's life on this earth to end. I wasn't angry, but I cried again and again, "It's just not fair! Kevin loved You! He served You well for many years. Even in the ravages of addiction he cried out to You for help and so often it felt like You refused to listen or help. He loved sharing Christ with people, whether through music or conversation or through reading the Word. He would have been right there with Jim Elliott and those men, desiring for these precious people to know the truth of the Gospel. He would have given his life, yet, rather than an honorable death giving his life for the sake of others knowing Christ, he died alone in his basement in fear of life without a drug that had taken over his life. THIS SUCKS AND IT'S JUST NOT FAIR! Why couldn't his death have been more fitting of the man he truly was?" I sent several desperate texts to beautiful ladies because I couldn't get past the shame and tears and sadness I had for Kevin. BUT GOD, kept pointing me back to that first point, FOR THE BELIEVER, DEATH IS A GIFT OF GRACE STRAIGHT FROM THE HAND OF GOD. Period. End of story. No matter how the death comes. No matter how deep the feeling of loss on this side. IT'S GRACE. GRACE! GOD'S GRACE! GRACE THAT IS GREATER THAN ALL OUR SINS!

We are ALL grieving. That's just the reality of living in this lost and broken world. Dreams come crashing to the ground. Reality isn't what we hoped it would be. We lose those we love. Friendships change or fall apart. Friends and family move. We are called to pick up and move. Life seems like it's constantly in transition with no calm in sight. It looks differently for all of us, but we're all still grieving. So love each other. Deal kindly with one another. #justshowup Be brave and show up for those struggling today. You might be the one struggling tomorrow and need someone else to show up for you.

Finding your tribe and digging in for the long haul is the only way to get through this hard, cold, dark world. I cannot express to you how it would have been impossible for my little family to survive these last nine months without the beautiful tribe of family and friends the Lord has placed around us. I can text at any time of day with any need or request. I can vent. I can cry. I can admit my failures and weaknesses. I can shout my victories and count my joys. I can be real, raw, and honest and they never walk away. FIND YOUR TRIBE! I can't give you a how-to on finding your tribe, but you'll know when you've found it. Sadly, tribes are most often formed and beautifully solidified through pain and suffering and surviving the dark moments together. Many of those I am closest with didn't have those friendships deepened until crisis entered my life. Dig in. Hold on. And love each other well.

God's Word will be a balm to your soul if you will let it. When hard times and grief come your way, don't give up your time in the word. Make the time. Carve it out and refuse to do anything else until you've spent time in the Word. Even if all you can do is one Psalm a day. His word is living and active and He's got something for you in there! Buy a guided Bible study if you have to, whatever it takes to keep your mind and eyes on the Truth.Write it out and hang it on the mirror. Print out verses and put them on your door so you see them as you leave the house each morning. Carry index cards with scripture on them in your pocket. Whatever it takes!

Oh, Father, in all of life's ups and downs, hard anniversaries, and dark days, teach me to stay focused on You. Teach me to lead my children well, through grief, and to point them to You at all times. Oh, Father, fill me to overflowing with Your Spirit so that when others see me all they see is You. Fill Sophie to overflowing with Your Spirit so that when others see her all they see is You. Oh, Father, thank You for loving Ethan and desiring His salvation. Let today be the day you say to him, "Today you are my son and today I am your Father." Let today be the day of his salvation so You can fill him to overflowing with Your Spirit so when others see him all they see is You. Lord, use this hard time in our lives to make all of us more compassionate and more sensitive to others and what they need. Use this sadness in our lives to teach us about true joy. Use us to shine brightly for You.

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