Prayer:“I don’t understand this one. You’re going to have to help me with this. I don’t get it. Why did they have to die? Why couldn’t you just take someone else? This just doesn’t make sense. I don’t get it.”
I admit that I have thought about the following: Why did she have to die in a car accident? Why did he have to die with Alzheimer’s? Why did she die before seeing me graduate?
I know it’s not acceptable Christian vernacular, but I’m guilty of asking God why he didn’t take someone else’s life in place of the ones I love. I thought of the rapists, the murderers, the pedophiles… the ones deemed by society as below hell’s respect of persons, then I thought of how sweet my persons were. How undeserving their deaths were in my eyes. I couldn’t wrap my rationale around the reality of my persons no longer being a phone call away and to be brutally honest, I was pissed. Why would a good God take away pieces of my heart? Some deaths were easier to handle while others pushed me off my axis. What was I supposed to do with that… all of that anger and confusion?
I questioned my faith. I questioned the validity of the Bible. I didn’t want to hear that they were “in a better place.” I wanted them here. With me. No exceptions. No soothing back rubs. No funeral flowers. Just here… where I could touch them. Talk to them. Love on them again. At those times, the only prayer I could release were the words above and I had to trust that God wanted to hear my pain just as much as my praise.
During those seasons, I clung to this Bible verse with every fiber of my weakness. It was the only thing that made sense because it described how I felt.
The most difficult thing to do was to crawl my way back to Love after feeling scorned by it. I had to come to terms with the truth that I didn’t know the prayers of my persons. It could have been one of relief or swiftness. I don’t know. I just knew I was hurting and my prayer lines were on life support. Eventually, I made my way from a crawl to a kneel like a fighter recovering from a blow. Kneeling transitioned to standing. Breathing slowly. Then came walking forward. No one could rush me or assign a path to my process. Only God could resuscitate me back to life and I had to grow to the point to let Him do it.
I love you all and pray that you feel confident to pray a real prayer of grief whenever you’re ready. He can handle it. Trust me. I’m a living, breathing, walking witness of that. You are still more than a conqueror. You are still strong. It’s just time for you to be honest about the rest.
Hello, Sweethearts! I hope you’ve had good days between last Wednesday and this one.
My late father’s birthday was this week and instead of writing a lamenting post, I want to share three lessons Pop taught me in word and in deed.
– LESSON #1 –
You are not responsible for how people treat you, but you areresponsible for how you treat them.
My father was a pastor and before that, he was a deacon. For the majority of his life, he was in a position of servitude. I watched him load his pickup truck with lawn tools to cut the grass of those who couldn’t do it themselves. I heard him pray for people who cursed him. I saw him use kind words as weapons. He would share vegetables from his garden. He would always tell me “You don’t have to give an account for how folks treat you. You got to give an account of how you treat them.” And you know what? He was so right. Every time I wanted to say something hurtful to someone that hurt me, I remembered Pop’s words. To this day, his voice resides in my ears and acts as a stop sign. A gentle reminder that I am only responsible for myself. Someone can treat me horribly, but I don’t have to accept her/his behavior on my plate. I do, however, have to take responsibility for how I respond. That is the only thing that will require an answer from my Creator. (Sidebar: Pop loved to cook and was excellent at it.)
– LESSON #2 –
Say what you mean; mean what you say.
When he married my mother and we became a blended family, he made a point to show me that he was trustworthy. This meant having my mother’s meal ready when she came home for lunch. He also picked me up from school when I was on the floor debilitated from extreme menstrual cramps. With a limp from a stroke, he still rushed to the door of restaurants to open it for me. When my mother and I were mistreated, he was our defender. Immorality was not his cup of tea and spoke up when necessary. Pop’s lesson took root into my spirit because his word was everything. Whatever he said was authentic and solid whether it was encouraging or corrective. The more birthdays I have, the more I absorb this quality.
– LESSON #3 –
Preserve your name.
I have a fond memory of Pop sending me to the local feed store to pick up food for the 20+ hunting beagles in our backyard. I didn’t need money. I didn’t need a note. I just needed his name. My dad had a tab that he settled every month with the owner. They had an understanding that only worked because Pop displayed good character. How simple, yet priceless that is. He was that way about everything though. If something did not align with his moral compass, he did not engage in it for the sake of his reputation. If he was wrong, he admitted it and asked for forgiveness. I try my best to maintain the same decorum. He taught me that your name is the only thing you truly own. Everything attached to it determines your altitude, connectivity, and longevity. I can only hope that when I die, my name is preserved in the heart of those I served just like Pop.
Sweethearts, I pray that you are hugged by loving memories if you’re missing someone right now. I want to also give you permission to miss her voice, his smile, her laugh, his snore… everything. It doesn’t mean you’re weak in your spiritual beliefs; it means you’re a spiritual being in a human body that longs for another spiritual being outside of her/his earthly frame. That’s all. This week, I heard my dad’s chuckle and felt his love all around. I cried a little and let myself marinate in his sweetness. It was a beautifully intimate moment. So, the next time you’re experiencing a memory of your loved one or you miss them so much that your heart aches, just close your eyes and say “I feel you.” Once for your loved one and once for the God who allowed you two to merge moments in time.
I am so grateful that last week’s post reached your heart. You told me in person, on Facebook, and through direct message how much it helped you and that you are keeping me and my family in your prayers. You are why I take the time to write each week. (((HUGS))) to all of you and thank you again for your support.
Below is a post I wrote in August 2017 and I’m ready to share it. Oddly enough, these lessons still apply. Hope it helps. If it does, let me know. – CJW
It seems like life slowed down a lot after my father passed away. I’ve been on auto-pilot, getting things done on the list, but vitality is a visitor. And no, this isn’t a sad soliloquy about how much I’ve lamented over the last three weeks. This post is actually a summary of how much I have learned experienced in the month of August and some of the lessons completely surprised me.
I listened to a few friends who felt like they have lost themselves in their parental and marital roles. I realized I don’t know how to do that. I think no matter what I do, how full my schedule may be, I always have a sense of self. I may not like her sometimes, but I always know who she is. That may repel some and draw others, and I am at peace with that.
When someone loves you, s/he will show it. Maybe not the way you want them to, but they’ll respect you enough to try. I am so grateful for people that do. I get distracted by those that don’t, but I’m working on shutting those blinds and pulling those curtains for good.
Pull people closer if they are worth the intimacy and don’t be afraid to say how you feel. If you’re hurt, say it. If you’re happy, say that too. Don’t just welp when you’re wounded. Say something when your soul is happy.
Allow friends to “see” you… in all of your messy glory. The best friendships I have are because of this rule. They’re the grittiest, most beautiful kaleidoscope of experiences I could never describe with justice. I share moments with people. That’s my gift and my desire. But, some moments multiply exponentially into priceless relationships. Keep watering those and they will refresh you too.
No matter what you do, someone’s lie will always be the truth to her/him. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Save your energy. Literally and spiritually. Let them live with the lie.
Honor is an big word. You have to open your heart wide to do it. Some flies get it in, but that’s part of the price. To honor is to open yourself and be humble toward someone’s esteem. And it doesn’t end after death.
Family is anywhere Love lives. What a sweet feeling to be counted as a family member by the blood of Love alone. You are born into one, and there’s something special about being adopted into another.
Legacy is everything and we are building it everyday… good and bad. My sisterfriend shared the legacy of her family and I was excited to see the fruit of her family’s labor. What a beautiful aftermath bore in the midst of segregation, heartbreak, economic development, and old-fashioned hard work. What legacy are we leaving? Bullet holes? Student loans? Shattered hearts?
Seek your insecurities and stare them down. Talk directly to them and don’t let them wiggle out of your sight. Don’t let them shade the truth with a different color.
God knows where you live. You don’t have to hide in your dark hours. You have a Father that knows your name and each star in the sky and each animal on the planet. You don’t have to fear your humanity; just know that you are clothed in divinity through the blood of Jesus and He gets it.
It’s OK to retreat. You need to refuel and recharge sometime, just like a car and a cell phone. No one has the right to make you feel guilty about doing so. Instead of fighting from fumes, choose to regroup so you can live more efficiently. Now, don’t randomly disappear where your loved ones think you’re unsafe. You are loved and will be missed, OK? OK. So, at least tell one person that you’re taking some time.
Peace & Thanks for listening, Sweethearts. Keep shining, keep breathing, and wind down safely. I’m praying for you!
It’s been two weeks since I’ve blogged because my reservoir of words was empty. Now, I can connect again, so here goes. As always, I hope my transparency can help you as it is helping me heal and grieve.
Peace & Thanks for listening in advance.
I’ve only had two boyfriends in my life and the second gentleman became my husband. That should tell you how stringent I am when it comes to making decisions. My forever made it a point to let me know that he was intentional about me and what can I say? He passed my tests and I said yes.
So, when the best friend of my former husband called on Father’s Day and said “It’s not looking good and…,” my answer was the same. I knew I had to be there. No matter what. I immediately adjusted my route and was at the hospital in about 25 minutes. It was the least I could do. The least I could be for the man I vowed to love forever, regardless of what those papers said.
We had a beautiful beginning, a sweet middle, an amicable denouement, and a beautiful friendship all over again. It’s not what normally happens, I know, but it was us.
Was everything perfect? Of course not, but we had a love and respect for each other that wouldn’t disintegrate. And I appreciate that part of God’s plan. The fragments of questions that float around in my mind, I will never understand and I try to not to marinate on too much. It was devastating to say the least, watching him fight and knowing he was going to let go. As I walked into his hospital room, my heart began to throb in pain. I felt like someone had loosely stitched it together in light of my father’s passing less than a year ago, but the inner part of me was about to make it burst. We had gone through this before, he and I… the undulation of health. Like a Pavlovian subject, I switched into “wife mode” – talk to God, talk to him, touch him gently, kiss his face, rub his head, listen to the nurses, watch the monitors, ask questions, remember names the medical team, notate medicines given, nap during sponge bath, keep up with anything he needs to know when he wakes up… Something was different this time. Every beep echoed sadness in the hallways of my soul and the tears just wouldn’t stop stampeded down my face.
Being a Christian, of course I was hoping for a miracle of any kind, but I could feel that prayer request being removed from my fingers every time the medical team told me differently. I took a picture of me holding his hand so I could show him when he woke up. We were supposed to have lunch that week and I thought it would be a great topic of discussion. A part of me wanted to ask him over shrimp and grits to describe what he saw, felt, and heard as he lay in that bed. Did he hear us? Could he see angels? Was he talking to God Himself? Silly, I know, but I wanted to chat all about it as we laughed about another school year down in the books. Singing and praying and crying and meditating, I held his hand along with Mark and his wife. The lower the blood pressure, the less strength in those stitches that held my heart together. At the last beep, they couldn’t hold any longer and my heart bled mercilessly.
Needless to say, I’m letting myself feel everything now and staying soaked in prayer along the way. I couldn’t start grieving for my father until months after he passed away and this time, I am allowing myself to just be. If tears fall at school, so be it. Just the other night, I screamed and cried out in anguish on my way home from work. The outpour of support has been amazing, but some fail to realize my spirit has an open wound that resembles more of a widow than an ex-wife. And that’s OK. It had only been a little over a year since we divorced and we weren’t bitter. We weren’t angry. We were simply us and I now understand what he was trying to do. I hate the pain, but I get it. Before, during, and after our marriage, the most important title was Friend. Such a rarity it is to come full circle with someone. I couldn’t have asked for a greater honor in this life.
It was a pleasure to love you, Shawn, and that love extends beyond the grave. My heart cries into the heavens as you enjoy your new home, but I’m so happy for your relief. The world may have lost your beautiful mind, body, and spirit, but your legacy will live in us all. Always and forever grateful.
I share this not as a lament, but to encourage anyone who is grieving a loved one anywhere in your soul. Be present. Be human. Be tender. It doesn’t mean you’re not a “good Christian” (whatever that means anyway) and that you just need to “get over it” (insert same sentiment here). Jesus cried too and He understood what it meant to grieve the inevitable. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Yes, joy comes in the morning, but there is a new morning everyday, so it’s OK if you have to get a refill on that joy more than once. He has plenty and will never run dry. That’s what I’m leaning on right now.
I love you and I’m praying for you. Keep me in prayer too, please. In the words of my mother, God’s got a whole world out here, so let’s make the best use of our time while we’re here, OK?
Merry Christmas, Sweethearts! I know a photo of Serena may not be your thought of Christmas, but allow me to explain why it perfectly fits mine.
I had to protect my Merry yesterday (and for the last couple of weeks, for that matter.) I mean, I fiercely protected it like Serena Williams defending her side of the tennis court. A few people got clap-backs that they inadvertently signed up for. Rude shoppers, irresponsible drivers, and inconsiderate individuals/former friends in my circle could have sucked the happy right out of my bubble, but I swatted them like flies… and I have no remorse.
They didn’t know that I had to fight to gather my Merry.
I searched for its pieces while crawling through the barren forest of my spiritual winter. I scrounged. I foraged. I created little piles of joy around me, forming a 360-degree barrier between me and the world – me and the reality of my bank account, professional transition, and life changes. I replayed fond memories of my father instead of anticipating his absence on yet another holiday. Four months later and I still patch the holes of my heart with thoughts of his smile to protect the cracks of my heart from the cold winds of grief. My piles of Merry were the only boundaries I had to keep the darkness from penetrating my oxygenated peace.
So, you had best believe, that I defended my happy with everything I had yesterday. To keep from crying sporadically in public places, I thought of his spirit dancing and I spoke to him.
“I love you.”
“I miss you.”
“Thanks for everything.”
To keep from royally cussing someone clean out (as we say in the South), I retracted the sporty backhand that was perfectly poised under my tongue and said “Have a blessed day.” Friends that were jolly as long as I supported them have surprisingly fallen away like leaves from trees when reciprocity made sense. I stuffed a little happy there too so the wind couldn’t get in and make me bitter. I let the angels do their jobs. I summoned God the Father to comfort me and the Holy Spirit to keep aerating my Merry with reminders of Truth. I let a harvest of joy grow from seeds of gratefulness. As I stood in front of my heater, I thanked Him for warmth. As my feet hurt from working, I thanked Him for the opportunity. As I drove on lesser gas as I normally do, I thanked Him for my wheels. As I coughed and massaged my face from sinus pain, I thanked Him for life. When I ate leftovers, I thanked Him for provision. Upon receiving random messages from sweet friends, I released the expectation from hearing from certain ones and truly let the peace of God rule and wash the hurt away. These things fortified my Merry and I wasn’t letting anything rob me of it.
Maybe you’re like me. You’re holding onto your Merry with both hands and you’re trying to keep it alive in the midst of hardship, loss, or change. I pray that you protect it with everything you got – that you exhibit the grit needed to keep the light in your spirit on, that you regain the strength and courage to fight for your happy, fight for your joy, and fight for your right to live. Don’t be distracted by what you don’t have. Defend what you have and let God heal the cracks. Let the angels of protection do their jobs. Hold fiercely to the Truth that Jesus was born so you could live.
You are loved.
You are cared for.
You are the reason Christmas exists, and your Christmas is Merry because Merry is a state of mind.
I love you and Merry Christmas, Sweethearts! Peace & Thanks for listening!
Photo of Serena Williams courtesy of Tennis.com
Photo of Christmas tree ornaments courtesy of Lowes.com
Thursday, November 23, 2017 = Thanksgiving. You know what that means. Football, Food, and Shopping were the menu for most people. Me? I was just glad to make it to the day.
I didn’t know what it would be like having the first family holiday without my father. Would I write about my feelings I dreaded to experience? Would I cry and sluggishly get dressed? Would I opt out of attending Thanksgiving dinner altogether? All three options were fair game.
I was used to monitoring his plate and cleaning his face. Massaging his neck as his head sunk into deep slumber. Holding his hand so his spirit knew I was there. Making sure he was positioned in the car just right so the seat belt would go over him properly. He wasn’t there, but I was making it. It was then, at the dinner table when I looked over at the chair where he would normally sit, that I said to myself – “Thanks for letting us have him.”
He was truly a gift, and the gift wasn’t taken away. He continues to live every time I think about him.
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, Sweethearts. A special prayer went to heaven for those who are missing loved ones too. I got your back.