Memories

memory garden stone

 

Memories are our worst enemy and closest companion. They can evoke a conflict of emotions that leaves behind tears and fears, laughter and joy. They can be both crippling and healing. Each memory has its own nature, and the feel of it will be different on any given day. Some days the memory will embrace you as a tender caress. Others, it will knock you off your feet as an unwelcome blow.

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” – Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore

I often find myself caught in this struggle. On one hand, I cherish the wonderful things that happened in the 27 years that we had Taylor. On the other hand, these recollections leave me feeling cheated and sometimes even victimized, robbed from the opportunity to create new memories. On one hand, I long for the sweet memories to surface in my dreams. On the other hand, I fear nightmares and dread knowing that I will wake and find my sweet dreams only that – a dream. With one hand I pen the memories on paper, because on the other hand I fear that the sound of his voice, the feel of his embrace, his exuberance for life will fade from my memory with each passing day. With one hand I wipe the tears. With the other hand, I praise my God who gave me the gift of my son. Each day I don my boxing gloves in this sparring match with memories and I pursue a part of my healing that will allow me to cherish my memories without letting them control me.

In scripture, the concept of memory is not limited to mental recall, but implies acting in accordance with what is remembered. It leads to action. We find this in Joshua 4:4-7 when Joshua instructed the representatives from each of the 12 tribes to carry a stone to the middle of the Jordan to serve as a sign to future generations of God’s faithfulness in carrying them through the water. In I Samuel 7, Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” These men of God knew that a visible reminder of God’s provision would help give hope to others.

While not placing them on a pedestal in any way equivalent with God, we can act on the memories of those we loved so deeply. We still cry with some of the memories, but we also pray they will help in our own healing and point others to hope.

The way you choose to do this can take on many forms. We chose to honor Taylor by giving to some of the organizations that were dear to him. We also worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma to create a “Taylor Prince Memorial Award” for outstanding volunteer service to the organization. Additionally, we decided that it would be therapeutic for our family to plant a memory garden. This allows us to create something beautiful through the toil of our own hand, just as God began life as we know it in the perfect Garden of Eden. We work hard to sculpt and plant, knowing that we must take care of this creation daily so that the roots might grow deep, that plants might flourish, and that weeds won’t invade. We place the dead seeds in the ground in anticipation of new growth and color in the spring. Do you see the symbolism of God in our own lives?

After many months of planning and preparation, the anticipated day had finally arrived. Today we would begin planting. Each of us had traded our boxing gloves for garden gloves that would give us the opportunity to transform our memories from crippling to healing, from darkness to hope. Each person had been assigned a task and the usual complaints of yard work took on a new voice of willingness.

The April morning was cool and the sun warmed us with its embrace. We worked and talked and listened to the mooing of the cows our neighbor had moved to the pasture next to us only the day before. Our daughter stopped working and was staring at the fence that separated us from the cows. “What’s wrong with that cow?” she asked. I looked to find that one of the cows, out of the 40 acres she had to choose from, had chosen to lay down right beside where we were planting and deliver her baby. We watched the entire process. We heard her bellow as she pushed this new life from her body and watched as she tenderly licked it clean. We watched her carefully attend to her baby as the rest of the herd wandered off for feeding. We watched the wobbly calf struggle and stumble until it finally was able to stand and take its first nourishment from its mother. What a beautiful gift from God! While we were working to honor the memory of our much loved son and brother, He showed us the miracle of new birth and a new beginning.

We continue to plant and replant in our garden. We pull the weeds. We place small remembrances of Taylor and both laugh and cry at what he might think of it all. We have hung a bird feeder to entice my redbird friends. We sit on the bench in the garden and listen to the wind chimes given to us by a thoughtful friend and marvel at the sprouts that rise from the ground and the blossoms that appear on seemingly dead branches in the spring. Here we find solace and lift our hand in thanks to the God who created spring, the God whose dead body was placed in a grave only to be raised as new life thus assuring us that we will one day be reunited with the amazing son He shared with us for 27 years on earth.

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’S praise for he has been good to me.” Psalms 13:5-6

Memories may leave us raw at times as we wrestle with grief. They hurt because you loved much. They also heal because you loved much. Take them as your companion on this grief journey. Let the tears fall when they hurt. Rejoice in the laughter they bring. Stay focused on the remembrances of our Unchanging God to bring you to a place of hope.

 

You are still in my prayers,

Kristi

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Grounded By Fog

cardinal in fog

 

The loss of a child is so overwhelming and counter to nature that your shattered heart will struggle to accept it. The initial response to the loss is shock. You may feel numb, disoriented, confused, panicky, even paralyzed. Shock is a built-in response that can actually cushion the inevitable blow by blocking some of the emotional pain until you are more able to handle the full impact of your grief. For a while the shock acts as a shield, but sooner or later you will give in to the harsh reality that your child is gone. With that reality comes agonizing pain that seems to threaten your own survival. Your life has been stripped bare. The color of your world has been drained with each tear that you shed leaving you parched, and empty. You feel as though you have been ravaged. You are spent and have nothing left to give. A dense, heavy fog rolls into your life and surrounds you, clouding your mind and threatening to ground you. You will struggle to breathe under its thick blanket and the thought of trying to navigate through its density seems impossible.

You long to wake up to a morning sun that will warm the air so that the fog will begin to thin and lift renewing the faded colors of your used-to-be life, but instead you awaken and quickly realize that the fog is still your cloak and the weight of it is exhausting. This is the time you must realize that you have another Son whose mercies are new every morning.

“Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is you faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

 
You may find yourself struggling to trust God through this fog. Grief invades every aspect of who you are, including your spirituality. People will respond in many different ways. You may feel drawn closer to God and find comfort in a faith that sustains you. However, you many feel abandoned. The loss of a child can rock the very foundation of your belief system, at least for a time. You may find yourself angry at God and unable to pray. Often for a Christian this adds another layer to the already heavy burden of guilt. When you find yourself caught in this struggle, this is the very time to be intentional in seeking hope.

 

Hope is the lifeline that you must cling to while the storm rages and the fog sits heavy. I encourage you to be honest with God. He is not asking you to love the circumstances or even understand them; these things break His heart too. Cry out to Him. When the words won’t come, allow the Holy Spirit to carry your tears, your pain, your groans to God as a prayer. He knows your heart. Trust that He is there even when your temporal eyes fail to see Him. When God allows the atmosphere to veil His creation in fog you know that eventually the fog will lift. A breeze may blow causing wisps of fog to dance over the earth unveiling the once hidden beauty of His creation. It was there all the time.

 
Right now you are looking through the densest part of the fog and the future seems obscure.  This fog is temporary.  It may linger for quite some time or it may come and go for years, but He is the compass that will direct your way through this journey that is now shrouded in fog and lead you over time to a light that still shines. So, grab the nail-scared hand of your Heavenly Father. Listen and follow His voice as He whispers telling you to trust and surrender to Him. Even though you are wounded and unable to see who He truly is, His love and goodness are not confined by your limitations. He pierces the darkness and wraps you with a blanket of love. He is limitless.  He is a lighthouse of hope.

 

I pray for all of you daily,             lighthouse

Kristi

 

 

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