When grandmas find their youngest sons, dead by their own hand…when those grandmas slip into dementia and mini-strokes overtake them, even when special grandmas die
I Still Believe.
Though the questions still fog up my mind
With promises I still seem to bear
When moms have brain tumors and lymphoma and when prognosis looks good and things are hopeful hopeful. Even then, when she dies anyway
I Still Believe.
Even when answers slowly unwind
It’s my heart I see you prepare
When friends…people who call themselves friends, kick me while I’m down and knowingly inflict unbearable pain
I Still Believe.
But its now that I feel your grace fall like rain
From every fingertip washing away my pain
When I run away from home because I’m too pissed off to be around “friends”
I Still Believe.
The only place I can go is into your arms
Where I throw to you my feeble prayers
When You say in no uncertain terms, “Go back to your friend. Put up with her abuse.” I understand you are Jehovah Roi, the God Who Sees Me
I Still Believe.
In brokenness I can see that this is your will for me
Help me to know you are near
When I submit to Your authority and go back–and I hit a fawn still new with spots and it flies in the air and smashes down on the top of my car and I see it hit the road in the rearview mirror. Even when I see it’s mama right behind it. Even when the pain is too great to bear and I can’t see through my tears
It was very hard for me to hit “publish” on this one.
* * *
In October of 1999, Zane was born. Phil was driving our semi over the road and he was home one day out of every thirty. That year, Jill and I spent New Year’s Eve together afraid for Y2K. We survived.
In 2000, we filed bankruptcy on that semi and moved back to Indiana and lived with my parents for a short time. Phil found a driving in job in Chicago and he was home two days out of every seven.
In 2001, 9/11 happened and I was scared for our lives. I’d never, ever heard it so quiet outside as when all planes were grounded. That month, we found a duplex to rent, Zane turned 2, potty-trained and I was still trying to decide if I was a good mom or not.
In 2002…Phil got a local job hauling fuel and was home EVERY night.
In 2003, Phil and I bought the Knox house. I started attending a church for the first time since I was let down by a different church back in 1992.
In 2004, doctors thought Phil had cancer. He didn’t. He did, however, punch a wall and break his hand and have to have pins put in.
In 2005, I was reading my Bible daily, active in Women’s ministry (and Phil in men’s ministry) and I was really getting to know God. Jill told me she had breast cancer and had already been battling it for a year. She’d already had a mastectomy and chemo and radiation. She made me get a breast exam. And I think they thought I had cancer. I then had an ultra sound. Then a mammogram (and platypus poop.) Then I had to see a surgeon. He told me I didn’t have breast cancer.
In 2006, I was called to write. “Write.” (I noticed I posted that on 12/02/06. Wonder if that has anything to do with 12:26?) That year, I also lost my Uncle Ed. I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when I felt as close to God. And that’s also the year my church gave me a wake up call–lying about me, accusing me of ridiculous things, and leaving me alone during a time of huge, monumental need. Phil thought he was having a heart attack. Our fridge broke. Phil lost his job. Phil had double hernia surgery. We almost lost our house. 2006 was probably the hardest year of my life. I felt so alone that year. And God taught me more about His love than I could’ve ever expected.
In 2007, my thyroid completely shut down and I’ve been trying to get my brain (and my body and my life) back ever since. It’s also the year I was asked to be on the editing team at The Midnight Diner.
In 2008, I lost my best friend, Jill in January. She might have survived Y2K, but she did not survive breast cancer. And then my grandma passed away in September. I was asked to be Editor-in-chief of The Midnight Diner.
In 2009, We were taken on a trip of a lifetime to Key West and Marco Island, Florida in March. Phil quit truck driving altogether! He started working as property manager for a local retreat center. We were blessed with a grandson in April. Around May, I finally started feeling like myself again with the help of some replacement thyroid hormone. We moved in June and I’ve been trying to figure out what life is now that Phil’s home all day, every day and now that everything has changed.
* * *
I started this post with the intention of talking about how I feel separated from God right now. I mean, I know He’s there, He just feels distant to me and I remember hearing people talk about feeling this way and I distinctly remember thinking, “I will NEVER feel that way. I will always feel as close to God as I do at this very moment.”
I was going to talk about this new Bible I got, The Books of the Bible–with no verse references–and how I was going to start reading that for the New Year.
But I got caught up in looking at the way things got so ugly during the time I was closest to God. I remember what I went through and the lessons I learned after I did Beth Moore’s Believing God study. Things I haven’t found the courage to write about.
And though God says, “Do not be afraid.”
I am afraid.
I’m afraid that if I get close to Him again, something worse will happen. And I don’t know how to let go of that fear.
Phil received a Pottery Barn Daily System for his birthday and the wall is now wired and Phil installed this very cool, very useful calendar, corkboard, whiteboard, charging station, and digital frame. (No pics yet!)
As if I need more reason to love this thing? So.
Speaking of calendars…how many of you have made time to enjoy life?
Quit being so busy. Quit overbooking yourself and your family. Take control of your time and vow to spend time with those you love and enjoy. Don’t you know how fast it all goes by?
I lost some veryimportantpeople in the past few years and it’s now, Christmas season, when I tend to miss them most because they were so big a part of my Christmases. The void is unfillable. The grief is overwhelming at times. And I know how many times I’ve wished I would’ve spent a little more time with them. I don’t remember what I did instead of visiting them and making memories, all I know is the memories aren’t there because I chose to do other things instead. Unimportant things.
I want that to change for the people I still have here to love.
Chronologically speaking, I’m not doing well here and I’m going to have to back things up a bit. Most of the story I’ve told has been from 2005 until now, but there’s a pretty big event that I skipped right over, it was what put me in the hot seat.
There’s so much backstory that its hard to really know at this point what is important and what’s not. Uncle Ed was only thirteen years older than me, he was my big brother that I didn’t have. When mom and dad got married, they bought a house across the alley from Grandma and Uncle Ed and I spent the majority of my childhood there because my grandma spoiled me. She bought me Cocoa Puffs and microwave chicken patties and took me to the bowling alley on her league nights and let me have all the Coke and fried mozzarella sticks I wanted on top of giving me pocketfuls of quarters to play Ms. Pac Man. Uncle Ed and his buddies treated me like the kid sister. In one of his old yearbooks, all his friends signed messages to me. I was two at the time. I remember one said, “Give me smoochies, Michelle” because I’d toddle around kissing all my big brothers. I wish I had that yearbook now. Most of them were at the funeral and I miss them.
I wasn’t a very nice kid growing up and I caused my parents dump trucks full of problems. I don’t know why. Can you imagine me…being rebellious? Ha! I haven’t ever been able to deal well with rules, its something that is just in my blood, something that makes me fight to break out. When I’d fight with my parents I’d go to grandma and Uncle Ed’s. But the time I started driving, Uncle Ed had married and moved, so I’d drive to his house. I’m pretty sure I spent more time at his house than I did my own. Aunt Tammy had to go back to work weeks after Andrew was born and they paid me to come straight from school to their house to watch the boys, Frank was a toddler and Andrew, newborn. Uncle Ed worked midnights and slept from the time I got there until it was time for him to leave and then Aunt Tammy would come home. I can’t remember how long I did this, but it seems like it was quite awhile.
I moved to Missouri in March of 1995 and Uncle Ed’s third son, Kyle was just a little tyke. The week after I left home for the first time, Kyle was admitted to the hospital for a rare blood disorder and I got a call that I might have to come home for a bone marrow transplant if no one else matched. I was mortified that I was 600 miles from home, there wasn’t anything I could do. Things worked out, Kyle’s a teenager now and healthy as ever, but I still have a hard time with the whole not being there thing.
Zane was born late in 1999 and I wasn’t clear on what religion I was and Catholic ritual says you baptize a child around six weeks of age. So I told Phil that I thought I should do it, otherwise I’d never hear the end of from my grandmother. This was the first time Phil and I had spoke of God, religion, denomination, etc…it didn’t go well. At.all.
Phil refused to be part of it.
His grandmother, Grandma Barnes, wanted to meet my family so she drove with me to Indiana for the Christening and Phil met us there (he was driving the semi). I think the only reason Phil came was because Grandma Barnes was there and I often wonder if that’s why she asked to come with me?
Phil refused to even come to the church. Uncle Ed stood in Phil’s place. I understand now why Phil was so dead-set against the Christening, but I didn’t then and that’s a story for another day.
When we moved back to Indiana in 2000, we lived with Uncle Ed for maybe a half a year or so, I really don’t recall exactly how long it was, but I loved being with him and the boys. I had missed them so much the six years we were in Missouri.
By 2004, which is the year I’m trying to get to for this event that was so pivotal in the story, Phil and I had bought a house about an hour from the rest of my family. Uncle Ed’s downward spiral had started maybe in the previous year or two? Until September 2004, I was pretty unclear and had just heard stories of him acting strange and taking a lot of over-the-counter Rx narcotics.
He’d have withdrawls, which none of the doctors or hospitals saw for what it was. Sometimes I wonder if my brother, sister-in-law, Phil and I were the only ones to see things clear? Uncle Ed would take a ninety day script of Vicodin in just three or four weeks and shortly after develop “symptoms” uncontrollable shakes which he said was nerve pain. Please don’t think I’m crass, cold or unsympathetic to his actual pain. Uncle Ed did suffer a horrible accident and several complications, and I know in my heart, he did have pain. However, I’m convinced that his shakes were not nerve related. They were the direct result of coming off of highly addictive narcotics. This is the kind of stuff I learned in September 2004.
It was a big weekend for our family. My cousin Jen was getting married! You know how Catholics love weddings, it was something all of us were looking forward to. In telling this story now, I realize that no one in the family really knows what happened that night except me. Uncle Ed didn’t feel good. He didn’t want to go to the wedding and told my mom he was going to stay home, my mom called and told me.
My stomach sank and a feeling of dread like I’ve never known wrapped me up and squeezed, breathing was difficult. I told my mom I wasn’t going to the wedding either, I said it before I even knew the words were coming out of my mouth. I don’t think she really thought it was necessary for me to stay with him, but I knew if I didn’t he’d be dead. I saw it as she was telling me he was staying home, but I couldn’t tell her that.
After a phone call to Uncle Ed, I was on my way to pick him up, he’d stay a couple days at my house. He’d just had something–a surgery, a hospital stay, I can’t remember, but he wasn’t released to drive, although he made short trips to the grocery store, etc…so it wasn’t like he was completely disabled. Insisting that I be in control of his meds, I took charge. Things were already at a point that some of the family was aware he was abusing his medication, but from my perspective, no one really seemed to do anything. He handed over the pills willingly and we had a great talk, about God even, on the drive to my house. He started to dose off towards the end of the hour trip, so I let him sleep.
Phil had dinner ready when we got to our house and we ate together and talked, Phil had to work five in the afternoon until five in the morning, so he left shortly after Uncle Ed and I arrived. On our property is a place we have huge bonfires. In the summer and fall, Phil and I often have a fire and sit with a glass of wine for me, a beer for him and watch the fire, the stars, listen to the frogs, and talk. Uncle Ed wanted a bonfire and I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to relax and talk, but it was too early to start the fire. He asked if he could get on our riding lawn mower because it was relaxing for him and his yard was so small he couldn’t enjoy the wide openness of the country. So of course I let him. Figured it couldn’t hurt anything.
He didn’t even make it around the yard once. This is the best picture I have to help describe the scene. Just to the right, where the tree is cut off in the picture…there’s a telephone pole. If you look at the road in this picture, you can almost tell there’s a ditch between the road and the yard, but it doesn’t look that deep, the picture is kind of deceptive. Anyway, right before the telephone pole, Uncle Ed crashed the riding lawn mower into the ditch and was hanging over the steering wheel, unconscious.