The Undercurrent of My Days

IMG_0703I imagine the earth delights in growth and blooms and mourns each flower picked. Never forgetting the love there was, where thorns were left, do stick. It is not enough to weep and mourn the season will gift the soil. In a short time, the rose will bud to remind you of life once more.

In less than two weeks I will visit my brothers grave for the first time since the day we buried him 13 months ago. In preparation for my heart, I remind myself that his torture is no more. That though I will visit a tombstone where is name is etched, death has no victory. Under a large oak tree in Jacksonville I will lie down and weep for the loss this earth left my heart. But I will also rejoice for you, Justin. Not a single thing on earth compares to your inheritance.

I’m looking forward to the time I’ll spend. I wonder if I will feel you there.  I feel robbed of your presence. But in that, I’m far from alone. That is the true testament of your life here. You were a giver. A lover. You were born into a broken world and you gave and gave your light until it was no more. So thankful for a God of infinite restoration.

It Is Well

Have you ever trenched through the valley and thought, you know what, no! It is NOT well with my soul?

I have.

Sometimes (most times) I still find myself overcoming the anger that boils inside.  I want so badly to reconcile the intensity of my emotions with peace and faith. Being totally transparent, I’ve struggled. Quietly, but so greatly with my faith in God the moment I learned my brother left this earth. The hell of surviving suicide tends to shake the ground you walk on. I questioned God’s goodness. I questioned God’s existence. I questioned heaven and hell and I questioned the significance of life. Suicide changed me.

I grieve EVERY SINGLE GOOD MEMORY. Because even those became tainted. I rethink every smile I saw, every laugh I heard. Doubts surrounding his happiness in any given moment present themselves as a new piece of the pottery laid broken at my feet.
Roman’s 8:28 God Promises to make something Good out of the storms that bring devastation to your life.

BUT HOW?? What good is born of loss?

In this very moment, there is nothing. 

I wish I had faith so strong, that it withstood the shadows of death and still sent Satan trembling away.

Hell, I wish for a great many things.

I’m human. With human thoughts and human pain. The best my brain can understand is still within the scope of the human perspective. Currently, that perspective is dark. My memory is branded by the feel of my brothers cold hardened hands laying in the casket covered in white gloves from his uniform. I cannot erase the very present memory of his hair being the only thing that felt real. alive. HIM.

(After that sentence, I paused writing for nearly 4.5 months.)

My emotions were intense. They developed from a broken place hidden within the shadow of death. Today, I am brought back to the wreckage.

On this day, exactly one year ago, I talked to my brother for the last time. Around 3:30 (via text). He was helping his estranged wife pack the last few things she wanted to keep from their marriage. The finality of his family leaving became the last crushing stone his tender heart would ever endure. Late that night, alone, he returned home. . . to glory.

And what he left behind is nothing compared to what he inherited. Without the hope of heaven, there is surely no way to live in the shadow of death. I know my brother knew the Lord and The Lord knew my brother. For me, the single strand of joy that stretches itself between desparity and this life is a hope for more than what this life has to offer.

We Are Fragile Things

Yes, our people have done the greatest things.
They’ve explored the deepest trenches,
Climbed the highest mountains,
Even traveled to the moon and back.
But we can be fragile things,
Broken by folly and fault,
Taken by tide and turbulence,
Wrought by death and accident.
And we can be mended,
Healed by truth and trust,
Bandaged by season and time,
Recovered by friends and family.
We are fragile things
Broken by loss and fixed with love.

The Japanese embrace an art called kintsukuroi; which is the art of repairing pottery with silver or gold believing the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. I love that.

This world will inevitably break us. Not even one 1peter1-7of us  will escape this earth unharmed. And so knowing the probability of wholeness lives outside human grasp,  the focus becomes restoration. God is doing that in my life. He is restitching the inner fabric of brokenness that I didn’t trust as possibility. Days and months passed and I was bound by anger and deep deep hurt. Anger at God for not breaking the cycle. Anger at God for not intervening. And Hurt for my brother. Mostly, hurt for him. But I hurt too. I also imagined my Nana’s hurt to relive it. . Her cry to God rings in my ears to this day.

Then, there is my mom and dad. They mourn the loss of their 26 year old son. The babe carried in my mothers womb, nursed and loved. rocked and prayed over. Raised and cherished. GONE. My father had a son. There was a boy who he loved more than he loved himself. So how can we declare joy is ahead amidst the ravishing waves of a death??

GOD.

It took me quite some time to appreciate His faithfulness. The initial break was hell. I wont lie. But it was the exhaustion in the days-weeks-months from a very real torturous grief that rocked my faith to its core. My anger with God catapulted a very sinister perspective of life and death. I questioned Him and religion as a whole.

Because HOW or WHY would God allow this to happen? Why not me? break me, God. Not Justin. Hurt me. Destroy me God, not Justin.

But here is a truth I shout- not in anger- but assurance. He is God. And I am not. He gives. And He takes away. And STILL, blessed be the name of The Lord. Justin’s spirit is in each of us that loved him. That spirit is more alive today than yesterday because it now dances at the feet of the Lord. Where there was pain and destruction, there is now wholeness that we yet know.

Floating

scars

Five months have passed and my thoughts seem to reside mostly here, among the present again. I don’t know how it happened. One day (recently), I realized I fell asleep without mascara stained pillow cases greeting me in the morning for nearly a week. Some of the time, I pretend you’re deployed. It’s easier to breathe that way. I can go day to day thinking I’ll see you at Christmas. Military life has conditioned my mind. Perhaps that’s counterproductive, but it’s holding off the waves.

And of course I know your gone. Because when my mind finds its way back to the hell of April 12th . . I’m trapped inside a black void. It feels rather impossible to free myself from the thought of your pain and final moments alone. Nothing haunts me quite the same as your torment. Those thoughts become a trap.

There are times I find myself day dreaming. I’m in your truck. It’s the place I expect to talk to you again in my dreams. I keep thinking if my mind stays here, in the passenger seat consciously, there’s a chance the subconscious will find you here too.  I long to have the tough conversation

As if it’s not too late.

But, in so many ways, I failed you. I’m your big sister. I was your first friend in this life. I can read your face and know your thoughts. and YES, I knew you were depressed. I knew (to some extent) what she was doing. At the time, I didn’t know the full ramification and brutality she manifested in  your life. I knew we needed a heart to heart. I knew I would tell you better things are just ahead. And all that being said,

I was too late.

That’s when I really crash. I feel like I’m drowning in those moments.

Sometimes, I go home on my lunch break. And hidden within the walls of my home (alone)  I SCREAM. As loud as possible. Until it hurts, I scream. Nana says sometimes it is the only way to find release. On days when no one understands this pain, or how it feels to survive suicide or wants to hear me talk about the shadows of hell I’m running from, I find myself taking her advice. Driving home, walking into my closet, hitting the floor and screaming; releasing.

Like the old man said, that’s grief. It finds you in waves. Sometimes the water crashes at your feet. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re drowning in the wreckage. And then sometimes, you find a way to stay afloat. And though the waves are building, I’m managing the raft.

 

 

That Night

justingI’m still not entirely sure what to make of that night.

When the officer answered the phone, I knew death awaited my ears. I don’t remember the full conversation. But I remember that feeling. It was actual hell.

Such depth of absolute despair.  All the fear in my heart mounted into this wave of emotion billowing its way from my stomach into my lungs instinctively cutting off oxygen.  Painfully, I inhaled but it felt like an overwhelming sense of drowning. Mostly, I remember falling. SCREAMING. Denying it was him, they found. Because to admit Justin’s death, meant a part of my own was gone too.

The end of that phone call catapulted a very dark side of my mind.

I ran to the back door searching for air to breathe again. My chest hurt. My thoughts were rampant. WHY GOD!!!!! I begged you! Over and OVER, I pleaded. Why did you forsake him! WHY DID YOU LET HIM DIE! I thought my cries were heard! I believed You when You said You would not ever leave me. But You left him. His final moments were dark and alone and WHERE WERE YOU!!!!! HOW, GOD? Could you not intercede his hell?

I reached the patio but it wasn’t enough. Down the steps, I ran into the yard where the sky was clear. And I fell. Again.

But this time, I cursed GOD. I did. The entity I praised and worshiped my entire life. THE GOD I sung to and fasted for. The ONE I was baptized for; for whom I lived my life. The hope of eternity that I placed all of my marbles towards. Gone.

I chose darkness. Mainly because darkness just consumed my entire existence. In such a literal sense, every single thing in my life felt painfully unimportant. In every way imaginable, I wore his coat of torture.

How could God do this? How could He not step in? WHY DID HE NOT HAVE AN ENCOUNTER WITH MY BROTHER?! If He can create this earth, if His powers include miracles…WHY DID HE NOT INTERCEDE his son? Justin belonged to Him. And yet…

At some point during this mental breakdown,  I realized I would be the one to pick up the phone and deliver this hell to my parents, my little sister, my Nana and Pap, my aunt…my son.

Saving details for our family, I will say this: N O T H I N G in my life has ever prepared me for the destructive news I gave each of those phone calls. If Hell exists, it is full of nights like this.

Finding Freedom in Forgivness

Sometimes, when people hurt us, they cannot (or will not) ever understand how their behavior irrevocably altered our lives. How their actions assisted in parting our very existence into the moment before that happened. . .  from every moment to come.

For 145 days, I’ve watched this story replay in my mind. For 145 days, I wanted her to hurt as badly as I do. As he did. If only she would’ve acknowledged the cruelty and betrayal before that night. She didn’t just break his spirit, his heart. WE’RE ALL BROKEN.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of ways to destroy her in my darkest hours of grief and anger. What I would do to her the moment I saw her again. I thought of how I’d deliver the wretched irreversible hell that she packaged for me. And those I hold closest to my heart.

But, grace. I’m told there is no victory in vengeance. At least at my hands. There is nothing that I will ever do (to repay her this burden) for which The Lord cannot serve in His own time. IN HIS WILL, if He so chooses.

I’m digesting that.

Truthfully, I K N O W that my peace comes from letting go of my brother’s burdens (which aren’t mine to bare) and forgiving. While I’m not complete in that effort, I am getting closer to that place every day. And I won’t stop trying. Not because she asked. Most certainly not because she deserves it or even acknowledges what her self-serving actions caused; but because I need my joy back. My children deserve their mommy. My husband deserves his partner, too.

And I’m convinced that my inner peace will arrive the moment I am able to walk away from the diseased memory her existence bares my heart knowing that while she sabotaged his life and robbed from our family like a thief in the night, someday God will restore my joy.

Lord, I recognize that I’m a work in progress. I’m quick to anger and slow to forgive. I speak before I think. I react before reflecting. So, I ask you to pursue my heart. REFINE ME, Lord and restore my peace. Let this valley of death be used for You. LET JUSTIN’S LIFE bring You glory. I know You are here, God, even when I don’t feel you. Even when it hurts. EVEN WHEN THE PAIN IS MORE THAN I CAN HANDLE. When the anger inside me catapults and I scream out to you for answers, only to hear quiet all around me. Even then, I’m not alone. Sometimes I feel unheard. I feel isolated in my grief. It’s then that I cling to the hope that this life is not permanent. That in our final resting place, we will all find each other again. That you will restore what has been stolen and broken and mend it all. God soften my edges so that even when I am shattered in pieces, I will lift my eyes to you.

Amen.

And until we’re all restored,

I’ll leave this in the crevices and darker corners of my thoughts.

       Isaiah 43:2                                joy

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

 

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