We will always remember Ellie for her love for others, her creativity, sensitivity, and delight in life! Ellie's light has spread far and wide... may it continue to shine in our hearts.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Random thoughts...

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. After all of the craziness of working on the house, and finally coming to a point where there's not much more to do, I kind of crashed. I have been so exhausted. So, I've not been doing too much these days other than laying low and relaxing.

I've been thinking a lot about grief. The news of Steven Curtis Chapman's loss of his daughter Maria last week has hit hard. (For those of you who don't know, Steven is a Christian singer who has three grown children and three little girls that they adopted from China. Steven and his wife have a foundation that helps families adopt children from China. Their family is close to our hearts because, not only do we love his music, we have a niece from China and very close friends with a daughter from China. Just a few days ago, one of Steven's sons accidentally ran over the youngest girl in the driveway of their home.) Whenever I hear of another family loosing a child, it's as if the "club" has just gotten a new member. But it's a club that no one wants to join! No-one wants it, and no-one wants to see it happen to someone else. When someone loses a child, those of us who have gone before remember what it was like for us in the beginning days. And we know what road the new ones will go down.

I've been thinking about how to mesh the ideas of grief and faith. I am aware of the fact that I've written very little about God in these past 5 months. I have not lost faith - not even a little bit. The whole time that Ellie was being treated for cancer, God constantly spoke words of encouragement to my heart. It was such a time of stretching and growing and being encouraged by the promises of God. It was a time of drawing close to God and relying on His strength because I had none of my own. Now that Ellie is gone, it is a time of just resting close to the heart of God. I am constantly reminded of Larry Brown's words at the memorial services about trusting in the character of God. Right now, God feels very close, but He is not speaking much. It's like how I dealt with Ellie. I taught her what to do, how to be - I encouraged her in every way that I knew how. But when the pain was at it's worst, all I could do was hold her and stroke her... remind her to breathe... and say "I'm sorry." I am so sorry that you have to go through this - so sorry for the pain. I wish that I could take it away, but all I can do is hold you. I love you. That is where I stand with God right now. There are no lessons, not really even any "encouragements" so to speak. Just His arms and reminders of His love. It is enough. It is all that I can handle right now - being held and remembering to breathe.

So how does the day to day grief play out? Much differently for each of us.

Ethan will seem mostly o.k., playing and having fun, and then kind of unravel at the seams. Loretta has had some good talks with him and he has expressed that he wishes that he had died instead of Ellie. He misses her so much. When he and John went to get their hair cut, Ethan decided to get his shaved off - and John joined him. I think that it made Ethan feel closer to Ellie somehow. Ethan also pretends to be an animal when he's in a situation that makes him nervous. He also gets angry over little things sometimes. But, thankfully, at home he's a good talker and very open about his feelings. I would so much rather know what he's thinking, even if it's unpleasant, than let it stay buried in his heart.

John faithfully goes to work and faces the host of seemingly "normal" people, going about their "normal" lives. He often struggles with the feeling that he's going through the motions - talking and laughing - while he's crying on the inside. He's watched co-workers give tours to their wife and daughter, or be met after work at the door by happy little girls... Those are the days that really gut-punch him. So he will come home and look at hundreds of pictures of Ellie, listen to her favorite music, and cry. John's days off tend to re-charge him. He loves hiking with Ethan, watching movies with me, working in the yard... The home times seem to be the balm to his wounds.

I tend to be pretty up and down. When I get lost in the decorating and art projects, I tend to feel the happiest - the most normal. But when I'm not doing those things, I don't seem to know who I am anymore. It's strange. The one thing that I used to be completely solid on was exactly who I was. I don't know that I've ever gone through an "identity crisis" of these proportions. Most of the time I just feel uncertain. I don't know what to wear, what to do, what to say... I simply don't know. It's a big blank. Being creative is about the only constant, but I even struggle with that sometimes. I was trying to paint the other day, and found myself praying and begging God to help me know how to paint. I just couldn't do it - I didn't know what to do. That seems to be a recurring theme for me. It reminds me of something that happened with Ellie when we were in the hospital in Florida. She was nauseous from the chemo, and we had to give her an oral antibiotic. She had to take it, so so we worked with her, begged her, threatened her, encouraged her... Nothing was working. It had been hours of torture for all three of us. I will never forget the moment when she was sitting on the toilet. She started sobbing and put her head down in her hands and just kept saying "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do..." I think that our hearts broke into a thousand pieces at that point. But that's how I feel. I don't know what to do. I don't know who I am. I don't know how to make it better. I knew that I would never be the same person that I used to be, but I just didn't expect to have the old me replaced with a question mark.

I've also taken to hearing Ellie in my head. I've gone through periods of numbness, and then phases of severe pain over memories and pictures. Now I've taken to hearing her voice and seeing her expressions with such clarity. Sometimes it hurts, and other times it's almost comforting. Something will happen, and I'll hear Ellie's dry little sarcastic comeback in my head. It cracks me up sometimes. Other times I will see something that she would so appreciate and her reaction to it will play out in my head. Mostly I like it. But it just breaks my heart that I can't touch her. That's the part that I miss the most - the feel of her. It's the part of her that no pictures, videos, memories or thoughts of her can reach.

So... that's where we're at. It's not pretty. But it's not as bad as it's been. I guess that's the part of grief that I do have figured out - it's a process. Ever changing. Very individual. And there's no way out except through. I'm sorry, I don't want to go through. I want one of those convenient little exits like they have hidden throughout Ikea. But there aren't any exits out of this chaos. Still... there are the loving arms of my Father, God. And just now I heard His "I love you." It came in the form of a very energetic hug from a small cheetah named Duma.

12 Comments:

At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah,
I have not left a comment for a while, but I have been keeping up with you. I can relate so well to your blog today. About 6 months after our son Levi died, a 2 year old in our church accidentally drowned. When I found out, I felt like I was experiencing our loss over again. I went to the viewing which is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had to walk and stand in the same room where we had been months before with our own sweet baby. The Lord allowed me to help serve a meal to them and talk with the mom and she really opened up to me. It was so healing to me to encourage her that God was with her and He would carry her THROUGH! I'm like you, wanting to get off a closer exit, but it has been 2 1/2 years and the Lord is still there carrying me through. It is a new way of life because you are operating without someone on this earth, but that is waiting on you in heaven. I'm not the same person I used to be either, but one day ~ I will be reunited with the part of me that is missing and so will you. Thanks for sharing your heart! It is encouraging to me as I see where the Lord has brought me through and I will continue to pray for you as He does the same for you!


Love, Nicki in Duncan, SC

 
At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearly painting the picture of your heart! You remain in my prayers,
Sharon

 
At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I check in everyday...thank you for sharing your journey. We still pray for you!! Les

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger LindaSueBuhl said...

I tried to post a comment the other day but it disappeared into the blogmonster. Thank you for your honesty. I thought of you as soon as we heard about the Chapmans. No words of wisdom here, I do want you to know we pray for your family. Please tell Duma he is a strong and mighty creature - admired by many.

 
At 6:33 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Dearheart,
I can only pray that pouring your heart out in words on here somehow helps with that healing process. Writing seems to be so therapeutic...I can only thank you for being so real and sharing with us your deep and private thoughts and pain...it helps us pray clearer for you all! There just aren't any words. I know what you mean about the SCC family...when I heard, I just bawled. It is def a 'club' that no one wants to join nor wants anyone else to join. When my Chloe got hurt, all I could do was hold her and love her and tell her I was sorry. Whew, I went through the kleenex as I read this a.m. There is no greater pain than watching your child in pain. Hopefully, our loving Father is able to show us HIS great love for us...in that, He watched Jesus die FOR US...so that we may have life. He is truly the only One who can make any sense in tragedy.
With much love and prayers,
Kari Schmidt

 
At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah - when I heard about SCC's daughter, Maria on Thursday morning I thought of you. The excruciating pain they are going through - as you are, too. I went on line to read about the Chapman family and also saw a "Faith and Fame" on Gospel Music Network this past Saturday. From those sites I clicked to others: a friend of the women who wrote "Held" which Natalie Grant sings. She (the friend) has a blog and reminded me of you. She lost her first child (infant/?miscarriage), has 2 children, and when pregnant with her 3rd found out the baby was not developing and would live only a few hours when born...if she survived the birth at all. Like you she is a woman of faith. I wanted to get you two together and say 'show others your grief and how you are getting through each day. Show people how God is real!' We all keep saying how strong you are - and we mean that. You are strong in the fact that you share so much with us - most of us strangers to you. But we know (especially from this last post) that you're not superwoman (meaning 'everything's fine; life is happy). You are Sarah - wife, mother, and the person we all fell in love with because of sweet Ellie. Your words, honesty and opening of your heart are what we see. I think a lot of us keep in touch because you make us stronger with your words. I hope what we write helps a little in comforting you. Hugs, Sarah. You are a wonderful person - you're YOU. Gerry

 
At 7:05 AM, Blogger "Bug" said...

Sarah,
I'm always amazed at how well you put into words what you are feeling. You really do have a gift with writing. You have a tremendous ability to allow people to understand what you are feeling.

Our thoughts were the same about SCC - I gasped when I heard about Maria and thought, they have "entered into a new group" with this event. My heart breaks for them and, like for you guys, I want to take it all away and make it okay. But, we all know that God is the only one who can truly accomplish that. Perhaps, through this tragedy, more hearts are being prepared to adopt or help others adopt. Certainly, the news of this has reached people who may have never heard of SCC or Shaohannah's Hope.

For now, I pray. For your family and for theirs. I envision Ellie and Maria... dancing... Two of God's little princesses basking in all things heaven. That puts a smily on my face! :-)

BTW - You have done a fabulous job on the new place! (another gift you have) I love the vinyl lettering on the walls and all the little touches of Ellie all over the place.

Much love to all of you!

Debbie

 
At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WE CONTINUE TO KEEP YOU ALL IN PRAYER.WHEN I HEARD WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHAPMAN'S I IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT OF YOU ALL. I PRAY FOR GOD'S COMFORT AND GRACE AND YOU TO FEEL HIS LOVING ARMS AROUND YOU ALWAYS. THANK YOU FOR ALWAYS SHARING YOUR TRUE HEART WITH ALL OF US. YOU ARE SUCH A BLESSING. BE STRONG AND GOD BLESS. LOVE SIMONS FAMILY

 
At 8:23 AM, Blogger Kate said...

A little p.s....in my blog reading there have been a few others who have joined that 'club' of loss....here is a link to a young woman who just lost 2 premie baby boys. I don't know, somehow I had the thought to give you the link. Do what you like with it. I am not sure if she is a Believer to be honest. Ok, here it is:http://www.ishouldbefoldinglaundry.com/ (her name is Beth). There is one more...Angie...her baby girl died soon after she was born. Angie is married to Todd who sings in Selah. Here is her blog, I was really touched by her recent post on the past and the pitcher and thought of you. http://audreycaroline.blogspot.com/

Ok, Love to you! Kari :)

 
At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah,

I hope you will be patient with the long post. This is from Lysa Terkeurst's blog (http://lysaterkeurst.blogspot.com)Lysa started Proverbs 31 Ministry, and is a motivational speaker and writer for women. She also hosts a "She Speaks" conference that helps women develop their skills for speaking, writing, and women's leadership. She wrote about grief after hearing about the death of Steven Curtis Chapman's daughter.

Friday, May 23, 2008
Deep Grief

Sometimes when we lose things it causes a temporary panic that rises and falls in a mini-tidal wave fashion. Like earlier this year when I lost my camera with all our ski pictures on it. The panic escalated, crested with some hand wringing and mind racing, and then slowly ebbed away.

But sometimes a loss cuts into your heart so viciously that it forever redefines who you are and how you think. It's what I call deep grief.

The kind that strains against everything you've ever believed. So much so you wonder how the promises that seemed so real on those thin Bible pages yesterday, could possibly ever stand up under the weight of this enormous sadness today.

I once stood at the side of a casket too small to accept. Pink roses draped everywhere. And I watched my mom as she laid across the casket refusing to let go. How could she let go? Part of her heart laid within, so quiet and so still.

I stood paralyzed and stunned. Just days ago we were laughing and doing everyday things and assuming that all of our lives stretched before us in spans of many, many years. And then suddenly it all stopped.

In the flurry of funeral plans and memorial services we all operated on automatic. People were everywhere. Soft chatter filled in the gaps that our stunned silence could not. And enough food was brought in to feed the whole neighborhood.

But eventually people went back to their own lives. The soft chatter dissipated. The food stopped coming. And we were forced to carry on. Only we had deep grief wrapped about us that made our throats feel strangled and our feet stuck in mud.

I remember I tried to go to McDonalds to order a happy meal. But I couldn't. I sat in the drive-thru with the speaker spouting words at me I couldn't process. She kept asking if she could take my order.

Yeah I had an order. Take away my bloodshot eyes. Take away my desire to hurt the doctors that couldn't save my sister. Take away my anger toward God. And then take away my guilt for being the one that lived. I'll take all that with no onions and extra ketchup please.

I drove away sobbing. How dare they offer happy meals. No one should be happy today. Or tomorrow. Or next year.

This is the reality of deep grief. Even when you love God and believe in His promises. Even when you know without a doubt that you will see your loved one again. Even when you know hope is still there.

It takes time.

It takes wading through an ocean of tears.

It takes finding a possession of your loved one that you thought was lost and realizing God did that just to comfort you. It takes discovering one day that the sun still shines. It takes being caught off guard when you catch yourself smiling only to realize it's okay.

It takes prayer. It takes making the decision to stop asking for answers and start asking for perspective. It takes telling people to please not avoid saying her name- you want to hear it, over and over and over again.

Then one day you take off the blanket of deep grief. You fold it neatly and tuck it away. You no longer hate it or resist it. For underneath it wondrous things have happened. Things that could have only come about when Divine hope intersects with a broken world.

And finally you can see years stretching before you once again. You look up, blow a kiss, wipe a tear and find it's still possible to dance.

May we all keep the family of Steven Curtis and Marybeth Chapman in our prayers for all the time it will take to discover their dance again.

Lysa


Lysa, what a beautiful expression of grief. (Only one who has been there can understand beautiful and grief in the same sentence.)

After my son's death, my "McDonalds" moment was sitting in the car at a stoplight - watching a man mow his yard. I started crying... how dare he act so normal - my son just died and he didn't even care! I hated the adage "Life goes on" because life would never be the same, and I didn't want to go on.

In time, God has mended my broken heart with tiny stitches of precious memories. He has turned that hated adage "Life goes on" into an eternal promise - one day I will see my son again. I can move forward with the confidence that the prize is before me - not behind me.

I'm praying God's sufficent grace will sustain the Chapman family in their grief; and turn their ashes into beauty through His tender mercies and unfailing love.
Psalm 30

By grace alone,
Susan


Sarah, I pray that blanket of darkness will provide comfort and warmth as God knits your broken heart with his healing hands. "I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places, so that you may know that I, the Lord, the God of Israel, call you by your name." Isa 45:3

He knows your name, he knows your hurts... He will meet you beneath the covers.

Still praying for you and your family,
Susan (& Charlie) Howe

 
At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah, I haven't posted in a while, but I check in with you everyday. There really isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about all of you. Thank you for your words. I continue to learn from you in SO many ways! Love, Beth Horn

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Thank you for sharing. I too am part of the "club" that no one wants to be a part of and I too have had those painful memories brought to the surface again of my daughter's death 5 years ago. You painted such a good picture of God just holding you and letting you know He was there. I felt so empty and felt such a deep hurt like part of me was gone but I always knew God was there. He kept me going. You can read about our daughter at burningvapor.blogspot.com. Go to February 11th. That was the 5 year anniversary. Thank you again for sharing.

 

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