Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Love Your Family, Because One Day God Will Take Them Home

I've been thinking and praying about this post for weeks, that's why it took me so long to write. I've come to some surprising conclusions in the process. November has always been my worst month. Here's why.

On my eighteenth birthday I awoke to the phone ringing. I was always the first one awake, and was usually handed my baby sister to care for. Since it was my birthday and I wanted to sleep in, I rolled over and pretended not to hear. I waited a while before dragging myself up and going to the living room to watch TV. A little while later I heard my dad and step mom coming up the stairs.

"Do you know a Jason Brink?" my dad asked.
"Yeah," I answered.
"How about an Elizabeth Shubert?"
"Yeah, she's like my best friend." I said, getting nervous.
"Well, Elizabeth called. Jason died in a car crash last night."

I don't remember anything else about that conversation. I know I asked to call Elizabeth, and I know she and I talked briefly. I also know my dad returned a short time later and wished me a happy birthday. I didn't care about my birthday, I just wanted to die. I could not imagine life without Jason, my confidant, encourager and best friend. I just talked to him a week ago! How could he be dead?

I could write a novella about that birthday and the weeks that followed. Maybe I will for NANO month. I'll spare you the details, but just know Jason was the first young person I knew who died. Sure my great-grandma died a few years before, and I'd attended the wake for an elderly church member before that, but losing a classmate is a whole different grief. I didn't understand why God took Jason. I felt it was a personal attack on me, something I did wrong caused it. I was young and didn't know any better.

In 2008 my dad called me while I was spending time with Shaun. He demanded that I go to my cousin Daven's right away. I knew by his tone something was wrong. I expected my grandma died. When he met me in the front yard and told me Evan, Daven's six-year-old son didn't wake up that morning, I was shocked. How does a healthy child die in his sleep? I'd heard of Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC), but never thought it would happen to MY family. Once again, a novel could be written on the impact Evan's death had on the whole family (don't worry! I'm not planning on it!). Many of us are closer for it, some have drifted further apart. We all dealt with it in our own way, each as unique as the family member grieving. Most of us tried to find a middle ground, a safe place to stand in the pit. We each handled it in our own way, none were right and none were wrong. Looking back I also feel sorry for my dad. How do you tell a child someone she loves died, twice?! It's been five years, and we're still changing from Evan's death.

Later that year I returned to college. My three-year-old daughter and I moved in with my mom, step dad and sister. I was ready to face the world as a single mom, and excited for what my education would do. My cousin Carolyn was pregnant with her fourth girl, but I didn't give it much thought. One night while I was working, Mom & Lee (my step dad) came in to Citgo to tell me they were going to see Carolyn, she was in labor and it wasn't going well. I reminded them to tell everyone hello for me, and asked that they give the new princess a kiss.

When they returned later that evening, I was disturbed by the change in their moods. Mom was confident Carolyn was dying. She didn't really understand what happened, just that it was bad and didn't look good for Carolyn. Her baby, Liberty Belle, was fine. My mom has a flair for the dramatic, so I murmured a prayer and brushed it off.

When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, there was a feeling of death in the air. So much so I was certain Carolyn had already passed. We stayed for hours, and were finally allowed in one at a time to say our goodbyes. She was in some sort of coma.*

I didn't deal with any of the deaths well to that point, but with Carolyn's I shut it aside. I told Shaun I would deal with it if and when I ever got pregnant again. I was just getting back in school, had a preschooler to worry about, and didn't have time for grief. For future reference, this is NOT a healthy way to handle loss. I would NEVER suggest it to anyone.

This brings us to another reason I lost William: I was just reaching a point in my pregnancy where I felt better, I was more energized, and ready to tackle my grief over Carolyn, Evan and even some residue from Jason. God, in his own clever way, gave me the chance to do just that. When William died I had at least four years of grief I poured out. I firmly believe that's one of the reasons it took me so long to come to a place of acceptance.

For the past nine years I have approached May and November with a certain amount of trepidation. I was terrified something bad would happen. Now I am confident if anything bad does happen, God is in control. I am no longer grieving the losses. Do I still miss them? Desperately. Do I wish I could talk to them? Every day. Am I confident they are in a better place, and I will see them again? Absolutely. I've seen many good things come from each death: Jason prepared me for a lifetime of grief, he taught me how to grieve so I could better handle it the next time, and the next, and the next. Evan taught me to enjoy every moment with my children. He taught me to be kind and always remind them how much I love them. He also taught me the importance of raising children to follow Christ, because no age is too young to return home to Him. Carolyn taught me to enjoy each pregnancy. She reminded me even in the twenty-first century mothers die giving birth in America. Tomorrow is not promised, so hold your children today.

Wow. That was long and emotional! Thanks for reading to the end.

God Bless!

*There have been several causes suggested. I don't know what is fact or hearsay. What I know for sure is the doctors had never seen anything like it. She was the only mom Good Samaritan has ever lost, and everyone was devastated. If you have any medical knowledge and would like to explain anything to me, feel free to contact me.

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