Some Sundays evolve into...”I have to get my life organized....”. I just get overwhelmed by the number of ‘things’ out of place, not done, unsure... and I bargain with myself that if I can just get organized, I can do this.
As the list lengthened in my head, the first item I wanted to rearrange was my purse.
I hate purses.
So, if I get one, it has to be better than the one I’m already enduring- one compartment, one inside pocket, one outside pocket, straps 10 inches at least, not more than $50, preferably less than $30. Not extravagant requests...
A trip to Target to explore my options seemed to be my first step, along with a pledge to be on task with organizing as soon as I rectified the purse situation.
I love Target.
My daughter loves Target.
Upon entering, I’m drawn to the shoes. A cute leopard pair of low pumps catches my eye- knowing they would have been in my daughter’s closet. Tay would not only have the courage to wear leopard, she would begin the bargaining- pointing out the low Target price would be EVEN lower once we explained to Daddy that since we wear the same size, it’s like purchasing two 10$ pairs of shoes, her green eyes conspiring, dancing with every syllable. The joy this child brings – even now.
Remembering my bargain with myself, I made a mental note to look for the shoes on-line and went in search of a purse that would help me organize my life.
Target locates the purses in the center front of the store- perfect for listening to the families in the check-out lines and catching fragments of conversations between moms and their children as they enter and exit. Honestly, it’s never intentional- years of lunch duty in school cafeterias just trains a body’s ears to be present. Taylor would catch me silently and involuntarily intruding and interrupt with a stern, “Mother...stop it.”
Still today’s Target conversations - so universal, so regular, so typical of every Target experience....
“Mom, can I have....”
“Hey, Mama did you see...”
“What did we discuss in the car?”
When the child’s pretended ignorance warrants no answer, the mama answers her own question, “We discussed whining. Do you remember what we decided whining is?”
Studying the red-gridded cart in front of her, the curly headed cherub offers a gentle, “uh-huh”.
Mama stops unloading her cart, drops her eyes and asks- “Do you remember wanting the glitter pens 10 minutes ago and whining when I said no?”
Without acknowledging the question or perhaps acknowledging it with a physical response, the little girl of five or six moves beyond her mother’s loving glare to the back of cart, pretending to be enthralled by its wheels.
Then...A mom and her daughter enter the front door and my wandering ears light upon the words, “Alright Kylee can you tell me what we discussed in the car about shopping in Target?”
Little Kylee skipped in front of her mother, briskly turning her back to mouth of opportunity Target offered, “Yes Mommy.... but Mommy you know that one aisle....” their voices trailing off into the marketing maze that is Target. I smiled knowing Kylee’s bargaining was finding- no doubt- a loop-hole in her mama’s talk about Target expectations. I know a little girl like Kylee.
We bargain; Target bargains; our children bargain. Sometimes everyone goes home happy; other times one of goes home crushed, disappointed or frustrated. My daughter and I always bargained in Target – we bargained about calories and how we would work off the Ruffles, the oreos. We bargained about “if I purchased this, she would cover that”. I can’t walk into Target and not see Taylor and bargains, the ones she would win and the ones I would lose.
I remember the dozens of five-dollar movies I moved out of Taylor’s apartment after her sophomore year of college, and then again two months later after a drunk driver took her life from us. In May, she swore most of them were Kendall’s, her roommate. Later that fall, Kendall and I laughed at how Taylor Renee justified their purchase. (BTW -They ALL belonged to Tay.) We surmised she had bargained with herself, her own bank account, that she conspired, no doubt, to get her daddy to make up the difference and how she sometimes just said – “I’ll figure it out later.”
As I left the purse section, without the item that would organize my life, I thought about the bargains, the pleading, the begging and the tears Taylor’s daddy and I spent those hours in the ICU after the wreck. I thought about the messages her friends sent her phone and her social media pages willing her to recover, bargaining with God to heal her.
I thought - we never really leave our small, wide-eyed youthful selves when we want something, when we really, really yearn for that which seems beyond our reach. And so, we bargain.
I struggle with Paul’s words, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
If I stop there, my broken heart whispers, “but Paul, you never lost a child.”
I know Paul suffered other atrocities, but feeding me facts when I am sad, when I need to be sad, isn’t what I want, nor am I ready to listen.
So, when I am ready to listen, to help myself, to be less of a victim, I keep reading and face verse 13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
When I find my center, sitting in my car in the parking lot of Target, shedding tears for the daughter for whom I’ll never buy another Dr. Pepper, with whom I’ll never shop for a wedding dress, to whom I’ll never listen narrate the joys and trials of raising her own daughter- I am reminded of the orchestration of His strength in the absence of mine.
Days go by and we just get up and do our day, ambling through it sometimes with purpose, sometimes numb; other days begin and somewhere the magnitude of what this world is missing without Taylor Renee begs us to question how in the hell we are up and walking around. The answer is found in verse 13 and in other scriptures like:
He is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day.
Other days end with a fifteen-year old girl crying because she lost her father not once, but twice – the day he left her, and the day he died – and this hell that we are living suddenly becomes useful – when I tell my new charge –
"I get it"…take her hand, listen and remember these words…
And I miss her
For many in our path, my daughter’s death is just a fact, an event.
I think they look at us and think we’ve moved on.
It isn’t a fact for me; every day my daughter’s death is still a tragedy. However more and more, I can’t talk about it.
As if talking about it would dissolve the glue I’ve used to stand myself back up.
As if talking about it would give me the necessary strength to comfort the pain in her daddy’s eyes when he shares his heart, when he makes his soul vulnerable.
As if talking about how broken I am would invoke the winds, I sometimes long for, that would billow across our plains and take me with it in infinitesimal pieces.
Families with small children play effortlessly in the pool in front of me. Pushing my headphones deeper into my ears, I allow the music to play over the sounds of the humanity in front of me. My friend said the words I’ve only thought silently aloud, “Hate to be fatalistic, but which ones of these babies get to live, go to college, get married..." We hate knowing that not every baby gets to grow up. We live in the joy of the miracles other families experience and battle the evil question of "Why?"
Which lives will be quieted not by music but by gunfire riveting out of a heart so full of hate that those of who know Jesus wish only that he would return and rescue this old world?
Which lives will be silenced by a disease that note by note takes the vibrant music of youth and health?
Which lives dancing will be stilled by a soul inebriated by a kind of
emptiness that poisons all reason?
Part of me is still lying half asleep in my bed on Greeley Street on a Saturday night in July of 2014 waiting for my girl to stand at my bedside whispering- "Mama, I’m home.".... The other part of me gets up every day to love my boys and the children God puts in my path.
So I ease the headphones out of my ears and listen to the laughter bouncing off the water's surface. I watch daddies throw their babies in the air and soak in the gleeful shrieks from little bellies. I giggle at the toddlers already waddling on their heels but laden with a water filled swim diapers doing their best to pad heel after heel away from their mamas, and I thank God for goodness that thrives in spite of and in the midst of the empty hate.
Hurt is still hurt. God is still God. And in those two truths lies the one good thing. The prayers and faith that have sustained us these last five years will last one more day because they were/are fueled by love, a love powerful enough to get us up for 9,125 days, a powerful love.
"If I could speak all the languages of earth and angels, but didn't love others, I would only be noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." 1 Corinthians 13:1
This world that allows parents to bury their children needs a whole lot more love and hundreds of thousands fewer opinions. Opinions didn't feed us; opinion didn't comfort us; opinions didn't remember Taylor or say her name. Only love did.
Your opinion will likely only validate the thoughts of those who already think like you. Your love, your light could change the heart next to you, and the next one, and the next. #Golighttheworld was sister's hashtag while she was still in high school - long before we knew the world could end. It meant for Tay and for us - to take the gifts we have been given and share them - bring light to the darkness, bring love.
My son called me last night, in the waning hours of his time off. I so appreciate that he recognizes my need to hear his voice even if he has no real need to hear mine. A text will suffice.
He sounded tired but peaceful, and peace is something that has evaded him.
Within moments, he began to recount his week with his campers as he is a counselor this summer at New Life Ranch in Colcord, Oklahoma.
Before he began, I had to let him know he was on the speaker and that my friends were in the car. During his second or third sentence, his voice booming over the speakers in my car, he offered humbly, “One of my campers who didn’t know Christ gave his life to God this week.”
Of course, we responded with great joy.
My heart is doubly glad tonight. I’m not sure if it’s ever okay to truly be selfish but in this moment I am- a selfish mom.
Tremendously joyful for the heart who heard enough about Love, that he wanted to rest within it. However, I am equally thankful for the peaceful, joy in my son’s voice as he narrated the victory.
Not his exuberant joy of a championship.
Not his anticipated joy of a scholarship.
Not his "expected accomplishment" voice that accompanies so many of his personal victories -
No this voice was sheer fulfillment for witnessing an eternal victory.
Don’t judge him too harshly if you think him too ambitious; winning is a pretty big deal in this family. We push hard and firmly believe to whom much is given much is expected.
I’m just so humbled, so thankful, so proud Wade was there. It’s a little selfish of me but also more proof that “he who began a good work in us will see it through to completion all for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We are Easter people and we believe in life everlasting, even when...
I wonder what the phrase means, “and all the saints rejoice when a new soul is claimed for Christ”. Is it as simple and trite as the Christmas classic indicates and a bell rings? Do the angels burst out singing?
Since the Bible tells us God has each of the stars named and each hair on our heads numbered, does heaven light up with a new name? Or is it so ethereal, so purely spiritual that those in heaven just know.
I can’t help but wonder as that is where the other side of my heart lives. I giggle slightly - likely on the edge of sacrilege- to think of the sarcasm that would follow as she heard the good news...
“Nice job, freak boy.”
“Bout time kiddie-menu”
“Glad you didn’t screw that up punk”
If sarcasm was a part of God’s perfect plan, then trust me Taylor Renee had a couple one-liners for her baby brother.
Still, in all seriousness, it is always a good, a very good thing, when another name is added to the book of life - a new life, and this mamma's heart is moved that her boy wanted to share.
Reposting from June of 2015 - Sometimes I just need to return to what I have already learned...
Two of my friends, Rebecka and Josie, sent me quotes within hours of each other. Quotes about light. When friends listen so intently that they hear what you say and what you don't say and then say the words you left rattling around inside you - you know you are loved; you know you are held by a power greater than just Fate.
Here's what they shared....
"Burn through. Become the light. You are not done yet." Iain Thomas
"Some people reflect light; some deflect it, you by some miracle seem to collect it." Mark Danielewski (punctuation his)
"Light cannot be captured; it can only be reflected." Physics professor
I needed their light - as July approaches. I wish it wouldn't.
I continue re-read Grace Disguised, the book Tracy Waychoff sent me. The final chapter contains this paragraph, and when I read it today on my lunch hour, my heart stopped searching for a few hours.
The author writes about losing his mother, his wife and his four year old daughter in a car wreck caused by a drunk driver. The entire book is about finding a pathway or following a pathway through grief from any kind of loss.
"The accident itself bewilders me as much today as it did three years ago. Much good has come from it, but all the good in world will never make the accident itself good. It remains a horrible, tragic and evil event to me. A million people could be helped as a result of the tragedy, but that would not be enough to explain and justify it. .... I do not believe that I lost three members of my family in order that I might change for the better, raise three healthy children, or write a book. I still want them back, and I always will, no matter what happens as a result of their deaths." (Sittser, 199) I feel like this is our story; I could insert our details and leave every word the same, except I would never use the word accident.
Our pathway, those of us connected to and by Taylor Renee, seems to be sharing light, her light, our light, God's light. I love the line in her blog from last summer when she wrote that she traveled around Oklahoma and Texas facilitating cheer camps and "pouring light" into those girls.
I love that Josie sent me the quotes about light and that 1 Thessalonians 5:5 is tattooed on her ankle. "You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness."
I am moved by Rebecka's perceptiveness.
They remind me that even though evil walked through the door almost eleven months ago and took something very, very precious from us -we do not belong in the dark; we do not belong in the grip of evil.
We have to keep burning. We are not done yet. These are Josie's words; these are Rebecka's words. These are Taylor's words and these are scripture..
I am just repeating them, clinging to them, praying I can live up to them, thanking them for them - the words and the hearts.
Years ago, when I was very young, my sister and I would pluck purple irises from our garden and red and pink roses, wrap their young stems in a wet paper towel, and scamper next door to our neighbors' houses. We lived on the top of a hill on the then outskirts of town in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Our three houses dotted the hilltop surrounded by pasture, cows, and quail birds.
To our immediate left lived an older couple who often had Oreos and other sweet treats for us when we would come visit. Just beyond them lived a pediatrician and his wife. As time passed, we would soon babysit for their children.
When May Day would arrive, we would wrap our blooming stems, lay them gently on our neighbors' doorsteps, gingerly ring the doorbell and then quickly run to hide. The pleasure of our May Day surprise occurring as we watched our friends look for the 'givers' of the spring blooms. We would giggle and be light-footed the entire day as two little blonde cherubs up to mischievous good. I still remember the pure joy of those May mornings.
I spent hours today staring at a computer screen answering inane questions for a federal grant. (One of us is seriously lacking in something - either me or the feds- as it seems to me I am answering the same question over and over again - and yet trying to make it different.) During my fourth hour of deliberate but needed monotony, a faint knock rattled by office door.
It was May Day.
Except, instead of running off, my spring cherubs sauntered into my office bringing me the beautiful pink flowers pictured above. A colleague, her niece and her one-of-a-kind sassy brown-eyed daughter offered me a bouquet and a hug.
Administrators don't cry - but mammas do.
I received hugs and warmth and light from four wonderful ladies today (the flowers are from this Sassy Cherub's grandmother!)
I really think her t-shirt or at least the meme for this photo should read -
"Whut. - that all you got?
Next time, stud,
bring a whole truck load."
There's not too many gifts better than a little girl's hug.
Thank you, Miss Sutton, and tell all the girls in your family how much they mean to me!
He was born two weeks later than his due date. I was waddling around – looking behind me at the two-hundred-pound mark - following a head-strong red-headed four-year-old fireball reminding my ob-gyn that both the baby and I were both just getting fat and furry. Finally, we agreed on a date to induce – oh how I hate Pitocin, and yet, I needed to get this boy into the world.
At noon on the prescribed date, the delivery team decided the baby boy was sunny-side up and needed to be turned. I will spare you the physical details required to turn a baby that is still in-utero – but if you have ever watched a rancher or farmer help a struggling heifer calve – the process is similar. A few hours later, when I was still not progressing as I should have, the doctor asked me if I just wanted to go home and try again later.
I think I said – rather matter-of-factly- “Get this baby out of me. I don’t care if you go through my nose.”
Pitocin can make a mother’s contractions begin, but it doesn’t finish the job. I received an epidural mid-afternoon and thought, “Just a few hours more. I can do this.” Six hours later, after ALLof the epidural was gone and in the midst of the 10thor 11thstage of labor, I was still pregnant! Joey was bravely holding a basin beneath my chin (I say bravely as he doesn’t really handle bodily fluids of others well); visitors were coming into my room expecting to see a sweet newborn, only to exit quickly as the sight that they met was anything but cute…
Things were still just as unattractive as, yes – watching a rancher help a heifer calve.
After 18+ hours, the baby’s heartbeat began to show signs of crisis. The doctor, patted my left hip and said, “Hey – how’s my favorite little athlete!”
“Hey – we don’t like the distress the baby’s heartbeat is showing so we are going to perform a caesarean.”
“How many minutes?
His turn, “What?”
“How many minutes until you begin the surgery?”
“Okay. That’s 7 contractions. I need for you to understand. THERE WILL NOT BE AN EIGHTH.” I looked at my hand gripping the doctor’s tie and decided to release.
Once the surgery began, my arms were tied down to the operating table. Consequently, when Wade entered the world, the nurse could only bring his face to mine, turning my sweet boy’s face gently toward mine so that my nose could nuzzle his until I lifted my cheek so that it pressed against the sweet, untouched skin of husband’s son.
I have heard women say that you forget the pains of labor when you experience the joy of motherhood. I did not. I remember every moment – including the next seven days my son spent in the NICU – suffering from a spontaneous pneumothorax and pneumonia.
I remember every moment, so that I can tell you that every moment since then has been infinitesimally worth the almost 24 hours it took to bring Wade Garrett into the world. Every moment it required to bring my 11-pound, 22-inch baby boy to our family deserves and occupies a home in my memory.
He is 21 as of just a few minutes after midnight on April 18th.
He is 21.
This man-child who has towered above me since he was 16, this toe-headed baby boy we use to call “puppy” because he preferred to cuddle up with his mama more than anything, this holy creation only God could have given to two simple creatures like his daddy and me is my sweet baby Wade.
His six-foot four inch and more frame stands confident and tall as his faith anchors him, compels him to serve, beckons him to stand apart and humbles him. His brilliance empowers him and simultaneously isolates him – as he sits on more than 83 hours of A as a sophomore in college and works toward 13 more.
I don’t know how you call a 21-year-old man “puppy” or “sweet boy” – but this is who he is to me, who he will always be.
It’s hard to imagine how his now manly frame was once fragile and dependent upon me for nourishment and comfort, for guidance and wisdom, for safety and solace. Vividly, I remember the darkness of his nursery – lit only by the small night light on the wall – the whispers only a mother and child can share, the moments, holding him close to me as he nursed in the early hours of the new day – when he and I were the only souls stirring, the only two people who mattered. I don’t know how you describe holding a being you created and watching him grow into a creature who can no longer be physically held.
He was in 8thgrade when I chose his verse – “be strong and courageous” not knowing how much strength and courage he would need to learn how to traverse a world without his first best friend, his care-taker, his guide, the one who would bully him and yet be his biggest defender, his big sister. God gives us the things we need – always.
Be strong and courageous, Wade Garrett.
You are named for your grandfather, a brave and kind gentleman, a World War II veteran, a man of great faith, and my first hero….Edwin “Pat” Wadeand a sweet, talented, blonde-headed wide receiver from Midwest City High School, GarrettBell, – who knew the value of a sacrifice crack block on the goal line and the importance of a fabulous, handsome, charismatic, balls-out coach.
I remember planning for you….
I remember wanting you….
I remember praying for you…
I remember how soft your cheeks felt just after midnight 21 years ago…
I remember how you nuzzled my neck…
… how you played with the ends of my hair as I read to you at night
… how you laughed at your own jokes… how you still do….
… how you tormented your sister… how you howled when she had had enough
… how your laughter bounded down the stairs
… how you slept the first ten years of your life on the living room couch
… how you realized you were smarter than most the kids you knew
… how you light up when you serve others
… how you persevered in the midst of great, great loss…
… how well you have loved your father and I…
You amaze me, humble me, stifle me and inspire me. Why I ever wanted to be anything but your mama only God knows – but being your mama is the best title I have ever held or will ever hold.
You are my heart.
Happy Birthday, sweet baby Wade.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with your wherever you go.”
18While Jesus was saying these things, a synagogue leader came and knelt before Him. “My daughter has just died,” he said. “But come and place Your hand on her, and she will live.”
19So Jesus got up and went with him, along with His disciples. 20Suddenly a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak. 21She said to herself, “If only I touch His cloak, I will be healed.”
22Jesus turned and saw her. “Take courage, daughter,” He said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was cured from that very hour.
The irony contained in these verses thickens for me each time I think of it, read it.
In the beginning, a daughter does not die. Before the passage ends, a woman suffering experiences healing. In the middle, there's .... faith.
Day in and day out, I run into the foreign, the unrecognizable, the ulterior universe where Taylor is just gone. "How can she just be...gone..."
As I chase the 'hem of his garment" believing that my daughter is not lost - but rather sitting at the Master's feet, reveling in the glory of heaven I am confronted with the middle of the passage... faith.
The little girl is raised from her sleep, the woman is healed as a result of a deep, abiding faith.
As often as I pray that the pain would cease, I should pray that my faith would increase... until then we will chase the hem of his robe and #golighttheworld...
Losing a child doesn't get any easier.
I have read countless books, endless posts on grief, searched scripture. While every parent's path is different, we have walked roughly 1700 days and losing Taylor is always just.... yesterday; we lose her every morning I open my eyes and my ears fail to hear her voice say, "hi mama", and as we approach the fifth anniversary of her death- we know when tomorrow dawns, we will lose her again. Time has moved us on, but we lose details as so much of US is still in 2014 - still in denial.
There are those who offer that I shouldn't look at everything through the filter of losing Taylor - how thankful I am they think I have a choice, that their wisdom is ignorant of the unholy, unnatural surreal reality of walking this earth without your child. I am truly grateful, without malice, but with mounting impatience.
The weight of being all we have pulls at our son's broad shoulders - the necessary friction between a young man leaving his childhood home complicated by our grief and fear. His courage and defiant, head-strong-will square those shoulders daily; he will persevere, while we will once again practice our faith and let go.
We have a purpose, and we find quiet peace in caring for the kids in our paths. We have love and an enduring friendship that withstands the palpable silence that grief often sits between us - each heart broken unable to heal the other. Even when one of us cuts through the soft thickness meekly uttering, "I miss her" the other is left only to say, "yes".
So we take a few of her ashes with us when we travel to places she had yet to see-knowing the glory of heaven surpasses each earthly location and she misses nothing. Still, it comforts us. Last Saturday, we boarded a catamaran and sailed an hour into the Gulf of Mexico as a spring day at the southernmost point of sweet Taylor's #merica ended. And in the shadows of the sunset, while the ocean rocked us back to a time when the world was whole, the last embers of the day fittingly blazed red.
A soft dusk surrounded the catamaran, and day surrendered. Sun yellow petals floated behind Taylor's ashes, and we let a peaceful, if unrequited, stillness lead us back to shore. Thankful that out of all the moms and dads God could have given Taylor Renee to, he chose us. Thankful, He still chooses us.
"Dear Lord, please continue to fight for us so that we may endure whatever hardship that comes."
I don't usually expect shoulder taps from God while I am binging on Netflix. Probably another failure on my part. My daughter thinks a dose of Netflix or just movie watching in general was always good for the soul. Today, she was right, I wish you could see her face when she knew she was right and we had to tell her she was right. Sometimes she was incredulous with wide green eyes that we had just caught up and other times she us unaffected and smugly perturbed that we were indeed that slow.
This prayer, offered by an African father living in the 21st century without electricity or running water, poignantly reminded me that we are to develop a theology of suffering. His sincerity of faith stood in bold contrast to the bleak existence he eaked out as a maize farmer in Malawi, and yet its sharp contrast to my prayers shamed me.
The movie is fantastic, illustrating the tremendous love of family, the heritage of farming, the courage and initiative of a young man, the power of learning, and the indelible strength of the human spirit. I am told the book is even better and that there is a children's version of the story as well. Called "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind", the movie exemplified our pastor's words for me - "We need to cultivate a theology of suffering."
Where I do not expect to suffer, this gentleman farmer did. He knew of life's hardships and he asked God to "fight for him". Of all I have ever asked of God, I have never thought to ask him that. I have felt the desperation and prayed simple short cries for help - but I have never prayed that he would fight for us.
Dear Lord -continue to fight for us so that we may endure whatever hardship that comes. So much different from - please save us. It offers a different mindset, and includes the expectation that we will endure.
Hardships will come.
We acknowledge our loss every day - generally in the quiet of our own hearts as it is a burden we resist laying on others. But he fights for us - because so many good people pray - we have been fought over and for and we endure.
That he fights for us is a good thing....
Exodus 14:14 - "The Lord will fight for you..."