Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Old Lyme has suffered a loss.  A vibrant 41-year-old woman lost her three year battle with breast cancer.  She leaves behind a fourth grader, a first grader and a preschooler.  This one hit me hard because John was in the first grade and Hunter was only a year younger when we lost Sean.  And they're all boys.  I heard that she said, "I just don't want my boys to grow up without a mother."  Those words echoed Sean's who worried about the boys growing up without him. 

I think about their wedding days when their wife is dancing with her father, who will they dance with?  I think about all that I'm trying to teach my boys.  That they really need to tell their wife how beautiful she is every day.  She'll really like that I say.  That they should let the girls at the bus stop go on before them even though they don't understand why yet.  That just because burping and farting may be funny, there is truly a time and place for it.    I'm trying to teach them to be good citizens but more importantly to be good and kind men and husbands.  My heart is grieving and praying that these boys will be surrounded with good strong women to guide them. 

Today I read one of the letters that Sean left me.  Just about nearly did me in.  Made me heave and cry it was so beautiful.  He wrote, "Wife, mourn for me.  Mourn bitterly for me.  But when that time is done, smile.  Live your life and breathe.  Then breathe again.  I'm with my Father."  These words carry me.  They give me hope and a future.  That one day in the future I will be able to talk with Sean again.  That all is not truly lost.  God, may this family have that same comfort. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wednesday Night

Last night was a particularly difficult night.  Every Wednesday night during Awana, I have two free hours by myself.  Usually I love that time.  Last week I went to the library, the week before I hunkered down at Panera reading to my heart's content.  But last night I forgot the book that I was reading and I didn't have much direction or goal for the night.  I've discovered that busyness and plans are the best way to handle grief and sorrow. 

I found myself at Target and could only manage to kill one hour.  I just didn't have the heart to walk around anymore looking at stuff I didn't need or couldn't really afford right now.  Then I went to my car and I cried.  I cried because Wednesday nights were going to be Sean's and my night.  They were going to be a rare respite from the chaos of the week.  A chance to talk uninterrupted.  In that moment in the car, I missed him with an ache that went straight to my bones.  And now they were never going to come to pass. 

Then I went to Kohl's.  Things have been a little tight right now financially and I have made a promise to myself in this year that I would cut back on unnecessary purchases.  But a good purchase has always been known to make me feel better.  Well I found myself in the bathroom section and I found a shower curtain displayed that would have looked wonderful in my bathroom.  I also found a lovely cup that would beautifully display our toothbrushes.  I couldn't find the shower curtain in the right section and a nice sales person offered to run upstairs to see if she could locate one.  I told myself that if she found it, it just had to be a sign from God and it was okay for me to buy one, the credit card bill be darned!  She didn't find one.  As I searched another aisle, I came across it.  It was 35.00 on sale!  And with the cup it would have been over 50.00.  I couldn't really pay that off in a month and I mentally figured out the interest rate.  It just kept eating at me as the grief was eating at me before. 

I love the Scripture that says, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."  A person who was acting like a child would have bought that stuff.  She would have been more stressed and snapped at her children.  She would have been temporarily happy but so frustrated and angry at herself when the bill arrived in the mail. 

Thankfully I did what I should have been doing more of since Sean passed away and I walked away from that store empty-handed.  I felt a little freer, I felt proud of myself and I felt like I put some childish ways behind me.  I knew that I missed my husband with a gut-wrenching intensity and I was still going to feel whether I had a new shower curtain or not. 

So, I'm going to have a better plan for Wednesday nights.  I'll cry in the car and that's okay.  I'll mess up in the future and that's okay too.  I'll remember my darn book..and I'll have some great Wednesday nights. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lately I've come to a pretty big revelation in my life.  Ready?  I gotta be me.  That's it.  It seems pretty simple but to me it's kind of earthshattering.  I've tried so hard to fit into a mold that I think people want me to be that I'm exhausted most of the time.  I'm quirky, I talk a lot and I talk fast.  Sean said to me one time, "Jen, you're the most alive person I know."  And I'm slowly coming to the realization that that's okay.  Do I want to be cool?  Sure.  Do I want to be calm? Absolutely.  But, I'm not.  I used to think that growing up was letting go of all.  Now I think maybe it's embracing all that you are, good and bad and being okay with that. 

Parenting is hard.  It is literally the hardest thing I've ever done.  And I've been pretty open when I'm struggling.  I need that.  I need someone to look at me and say, "I've been there".  "I yelled at my kids today too!"  "I messed up too!"  It honestly feels like my life has been saved a little bit in that moment.  I have these people around me who don't share what they're going through.  They put on this cool exterior when I know they're drowning just like I am.  And I've tried to go down that road.  AND IT'S NOT ME.  I gotta know someone is down here in the trenches with me getting just as dirty and tired and frustrated and blessed as I am. 

Grieving is hard.  There is two other families in my town who suffered a loss very close to when I did.  The women are different than me.  They prefer to stay home and be alone in their loss.  Let me just say: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But then there's nothng wrong with my need to be around people.  If I'm not, then I start to feel like the weight of my loss will crush me.  For so long, I looked to them and thought they were suffering "correctly" and I wasn't.  I laugh.  A lot.  I have to find the humor in a situation or I will lose it.  And that won't be pretty.  Again, another thing I thought I was doing wrong.  But I am slowly coming to realize that my sense of humor is a gift from God. 

I can still hear Sean's words in my head.  I think that's pretty great.  I can pretty much look at any situation and know exactly what he would say.  There was one day when he looked right in my eyes and he said, "Why is that you're always the one who's wrong and they're right?"  I think about that A LOT since he died.  Why are they right and I'm wrong?  Can't we just be going through life differently?  Can't we both be right with our own distinct personalities? 

This life is hard.  A rose garden we definitely were not promised.

I think what it is is that I'm tired of feeling bad about myself.  It's like this ache in my heart that I'm finally ready to let go of. 

Monday, May 14, 2012


Saturday the boys and I went to see Sean's grave for the first time.  It was long overdue and we only went because John really wanted to see it.  I gotta admit that I had a pit in my stomach and couldn't stop crying the days leading up to the trip.  There's just something about seeing the name of the person you love the most on a gravestone that can make it pretty real.  Because of the weather conditions at the time of Sean's death, he wasn't buried for a couple of months later, so I really didn't have any idea where he was located in the cemetary.  Gratefully I have a friend who has visited him.  When I spoke with her before the trip I expressed my sadness and dread at going.  And she said that she didn't think seeing his grave would be any harder or make it more real for me because I miss him so much every day.  I got a little angry at that.  She's never been a widow and knew she couldn't possibly understand.  She went on to say that his grave was really beautiful and that it's a place that honors him.  I honestly got a little more angry.  He isn't there...I was afraid of questions the boys may have and answers maybe I wouldn't have....I was scared. 

So I went.  It's amazing what I will do for these children, the hell that I will walk through.  And the strangest thing happened.  I didn't fall apart, the boys were happy and I walked away realizing that my friend was right all along.  I know that Sean is with the Lord, like I know my own name.  I know even though his body is there, his spirit sits with the legions of angels praising the name of his Best Friend.  But, there is something about a grave.  We pass through this world quickly, and in Sean's case, much too quickly.  And it's comforting to me that there is some piece of granite in a beautiful little corner of the world with his name on it.  A little piece that says Sean was here and he isn't forgotten. 

I'm going to visit a little more often.  What I've learned about my daily grieving process, and what I'm grateful for, is that I'm not really ever able to get caught up in it.  The phone rings, a child cries, responsibilities beckon and tears are quickly, maybe too quickly, wiped away.  That brief moment of time has passed.  But, when I go to the cemetary all will be quiet.  There I will just be able to be a widow. A woman who just needs to sit and cry for the love that is gone.  And in this season of my life I'm grateful that such a place exists. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Our Two Gifts

On Sean's birthday, I like to think that today we gave him two gifts.  The first came from me.  Let me explain.  When the whole Hillary Clinton book came out about how it takes a village to raise a child I honestly thought it was a crock.  I still think the main influences on a child are their parents and was too much of a control freak to think that anyone else really made that much of a difference.  And then January 11, 2011 came along and that theory was blown out the window.  Half of my whole was gone.  And I truly began to realize that I need the people that are in my sons' lives.  I need their teachers, their Sunday School leaders, their Awana leaders, their friends, their friend's families to help me raise these children.  And that was really not more true than yesterday.  Logistically, my life can be a little difficult but thankfully I have really kind people nearby to help.  Hunter had a birthday party to go to and I arranged for John to go to his friend Mason's house.  Let me interrupt myself here.  Back story:  John would ride the Superman ride at Six Flags but would not get on his bike.  Literally.  He was terrified of the thing.  And I just knew in my heart it was time for him to get on it and ride.  I asked Grant, Mason's father to help me.  He was a good one to ask, I don't know too many more laid back people than him.  I brought John and the bike to his house during that birthday party and said, "Will you please teach my son how to ride his bike?"  Confession time: that was hard for me.  I felt like a little bit of a failure as a parent with this.  I felt like it was my responsibility to teach him but I knew that I just wasn't the one.  And that was all right.  So, I dropped him off and did what I do best - I cried halfway to the party.  Tears that I wouldn't see him learn, tears that Sean wouldn't be the one to teach him and, honestly, relief that I could pass that on to someone else. So, Sean's first gift was my acceptance that maybe I can't always be the be-all and end-all in my sons' lives (persish the thought).  But there will be people in their lives that will come alongside them and love them.  What a gift to their father.  

The second gift came from my John himself.  I got to Grant's house after the party and he said, "Yeah, he knows how to ride and he's doing a good job."  Just like that.  You know how your children will ultimately teach you more than you'll teach them?  Yeah.  I got that in spades.  John got on the bike, looked me straight in the eye and said, "Mama, I just didn't know how much fun it would be."  God, I love that little boy.  Talk about a life lesson right there.  How many times have we missed something because of fear and missed all that fun?  I know I have.  So, I think the gift John gave was his willingness to try (once his mother went away) and he did it.  John is living through the darkest days of his life and he triumphed.  He could have kicked and screamed and refused to even try.  Sean is watching that.  I can only imagine that he was cheering him on from above.  And I hope that we made him proud. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sean's Birthday

Tomorrow is Sean's birthday.  Tomorrow he would have been 49 years old.  And all I want to do in the quiet moments of today is cry. 

I got so many phone calls and cards on the anniversary of Sean's death and it made me heartsick.  Not the love that people showed, but that the darkest day of my life was given any attention at all.  The notice of the day gave weight to it.   I talked with a friend who has gone through a devastating loss this year too and when people asked her what she planned to do to commemorate the one-year loss of her daughter, she hit the nail on the head.  She said, "I'm going to try to forget the worst day of my life."  That's how I feel too.  I appreciated the love that people showed but I just hated being reminded of it so much.

But, his birthday.  That's a different story.  That's a day that should be remembered.  Sean was in a word magnificent.  He was the hardest working man I know, he was the kindest, most honest, forgiving, loving man to ever grace this planet.  I was so proud to be his wife and he loved me and our sons.  His birthday honestly always used to stress me endlessly.  He loved angel food cake, his favorite, and I struggled every year to make a good one for him.  He didn't have a lot of family so I felt a great responsibility to really show him how loved he was on his birthday.  I would give anything to have to make another one of those dreadful cakes.  And fret over not doing enough or worrying that I had gone way overboard.   

He honestly lived every single day of his life.  He gave and he gave and sometimes fell into bed with the exhaustion of the day after serving so many people in his life.  I'm going to tell his sons what a remarkable husband he was, how he was the one who took the first lock of the boys' hair, how much he loved them.  I'm going to try to show them the husband and father he was so that one day they will follow in his footsteps.  That they will one day grow into the same kind of man he was.  I see his kindness and his patience in John.  I see his impishness and his generosity in Hunter.  I'm just so very proud that I get to live with his children every day. 

Your birthday is a celebration of your life.  The years you've lived and the ones still down the road.  It's a day to take stock and make some changes if you need to.  It's a big day.  So, as I sit here on the eve of Sean's birthday, my heart is sad.
He was taken away from people who loved him so much.   But I won't let them forget.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Lesson I Learned From My New Hat

This is a picture of the hat I recently knitted for myself.  To say I love this hat would be a huge understatement.  I loved the whole process of knitting it because it wasn't easy.  I had to rip it out and start over about five times.  I was frustrated and angry but I kept at it.  And the finished item was something I just adored.  And I'm so glad I persevered. 

Saturday morning rolls around and I start to get ready to go to John's basketball game.  It's a Park and Rec game held at our local middle school.  And I really want to wear my new hat.  So, I put it on.  Then I took it off.  Then I put it on again and took it off again.  I did this about five times.  I even stooped so low to ask John (who's only 7 for goodness sake) if it looked okay.  It was bordering on ridiculous.  Gosh, I miss Sean, he really had such patience for me when I got like this. 

It's only a hat....I know, I know.  But  I just worried that people would think I look silly.  It's hard when you're forty but your heart feels sixteen.  So I talked to myself a lot.  I have a confession to make.  I worry about what people think of me.  All the time.  It almost borders on excessive.  And I know deep down in my heart it has to stop. 

When Sean died, part of me died too.  And I don't say that to sound maudlin, it's just the truth.  When he died, I looked at the world differently and I honestly have tried to embrace that and live in a way that's opposite of how I used to.  When the love of your life is gone and the world completely stops making sense and your life will never look the same again, things that used to matter don't anymore.  And I keep forgetting that.  It doesn't matter what people think of my new hat.  I love it.  And that is ALL that matters.

So I wore my hat on Saturday morning and I didn't even cause a blip in the world.  It didn't cause an international incident and I'm pretty sure the people of Old Lyme aren't buzzing about it.  But, it was a huge step for me.  I shed a little more of the old Jen and that was pretty big for me.  I started listening to that still small voice that is crying out to be heard.