brothers

Face to Face With Grief

I’ve discovered that I tend to want to find an escape when faced with uncomfortable emotions like grief or frustration. Or maybe it goes so far as to be any time I feel completely out of control of what is going on around me. My means of escape are harmless in and of themselves: shopping (well, that may not be completely harmless….); going out with a friend; going out to do something – anything; meeting with my pastor; or even just our normal scheduled activities; and I even escape with comfort foods.

Why do I do that? I know it’s probably a pretty normal response to difficult situations and emotions, but I “know better”. I’m supposed to know that escaping won’t solve anything, and that the answer to my grief cannot be found in any person or thing or activity. I know Jesus is the only Person who completely understands, and He is the only One who is truly “acquainted with (my) sorrows”.

Perhaps I’m not so much escaping as I am simply looking for something to soften the harsh reality of my grief – a pillow on which to lay my broken heart until it feels better. My routines – especially the ones that involve church – can be a pseudo-comfort. I’ve been expecting my friends to assuage my sorrow to some extent, and part of me has been terrified that they would forget. I’ve been fighting to keep Rusty’s memory alive in everyone’s hearts – or was it just my heartache I wanted them to remember?

Last week, the anniversary of Rusty’s death, made me realize all this, because I didn’t have a way to escape. It was Spring Break, every midweek activity was cancelled at both of the churches I am involved with (I’ll explain how I came to be involved with 2 churches in a different post.) My worship pastor, who has been my grief counselor in many ways this past year, was out of town with his family. My pastor was out of commission due to an injury requiring surgery. My friends were busy enjoying their own Spring Break activities. Every means I would normally use to escape was unavailable to me last week.

So it was just me and God. I wish I could tell you what a wonderful week of sweet, comforting, healing communion I enjoyed with the Lord. But I can’t. For some reason, I was holding Him at arms’ length. I knew He was there, and I was even talking to Him some, but I did not throw myself into His arms like I could have. I didn’t spend my evenings, after everyone was in bed, pouring my heart out to Him. Why? Why do I do that? Am I afraid? If so, of what?? Am I angry? Yes, that’s very possible.

But the Lord is good. He is faithful and long-suffering. He still upheld me because of the prayers of my friends. He has been there in this whole, long, excruciating season of my soul. He met me at church on Sunday. First, while I was working in the nursery, He had a nice lady who only knew the gist of what had happened, asked me for all the details. I could ┬áhave politely declined to answer, but I didn’t. I think the Lord wanted my heart to be exposed, because every single song during the service met me right where I was. It was as if the whole service had been planned for me. I know it wasn’t, except for in God’s plan. It was hard, and I cried a lot, but it was healing.

So I learned that I need to put my arms down, and stop trying to find something or someone else to “fix me”. I need to not be afraid to come face to face with my grief. For when I do, I’ll probably find myself face to face with God, who alone can comfort and heal.

Categories: brothers, choices, church, grief, lessons, Uncategorized, worship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blessings in the Storm

The Lord has been showing/reminding me of how much He had His hand on everything that happened this week a year ago. It is such a blessed reassurance that Rusty’s death was part of His sovereign plan, and He did everything to prepare us for it.

First of all, He had been telling me since September of 2010 that a storm was coming to my family that was unlike anything we’ve ever been through. Around the beginning of 2o11, I felt like the Lord was preparing me for a family member’s death. I even already had it in my head of who I would call first and who I would ask them to call; what I would need to do; etc. And the night Rusty died, I didn’t have to think about it, which is good since I couldn’t think. There’s a lot more that God did in the months before Rusty died to prepare me. I never dreamed it would be his death that I was preparing for, and certainly did not feel prepared for it, but in hindsight, I am so thankful that the Lord apparently WAS doing a work in my heart. I’ll never know how I would have handled it without that, and I’m glad for that.

The night he died, two of my favorite people in the world came out to my mom’s house to be with us – my pastor, Harry Walls, and my worship pastor, Kevin Moore. I couldn’t believe they BOTH came out, and I was SO thankful to see them there. Kevin was an invaluable support and help for me throughout that week as I did most of the funeral service planning, and he went with Darrell (my other brother) and me when we had to tell Dad what happened. Kevin is normally out of town with his family on Spring Break. He is this year. But for whatever reason, he was in town and available for us. God did that. Pastor Harry is also unavailable this week because he had to have surgery. What if that had happened a year ago? God made sure both of them were there for us that night and that week. He didn’t have to do that, but I am so glad He did. How would I have made it through that awful week without them?

Then there’s the circumstances around Rusty’s death itself. As hard and traumatic as it was, it was as gentle as it possibly could have been. I can see now how God had His hand on every aspect of what He allowed to happen that day. For instance, there was only one spot where one could stand and see Rusty from the yard, and Mom’s neighbor just happened to come over and visit her, stood in that spot, and saw him. Mom didn’t have to find him alone. He allowed someone – a nurse, no less – to be with her – someone who was used to emergency situations and knew what to do.

So even in the worst storm of our lives, God is there. He never fails. I can trust Him no matter what, even when it feels like my world turned upside-down.

 

 

Categories: brothers, death, God, grief, Rusty, storms, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surprised by Grief?

I’m sorry for all these hard, serious posts here lately. It’s just where I am right now – I guess because the one-year mark of Rusty’s suicide is less than a month away now. I promise this blog will not always be this heavy.

The night of Rusty’s death, when my mom called to tell me, my boys heard me crying and came in to see why. I didn’t realize they were in the room, so when Preston came in to see what was wrong, I blurted it out. The look on Harris’ face still makes tears come to my eyes just thinking about it. When I hung up, he said, “Uncle Rusty is dead?!?!” – like he couldn’t believe it or understand it. Then he burst into tears, and I held him as we cried together.

David, on the other hand, just took off running back down the hallway. After handing Harris off to Preston, and getting Amy Beth out of the tub (which is where she was when my mom called and who was too young to understand what was happening), I went to check on David. He was in his room, just slowly pacing around the room. I hugged him and asked if he was okay. He said yeah. I asked him if he realized what had happened. He said “Yes, Uncle Rusty died. But that’s okay because we’ll see him again in Heaven, won’t we?” I told him we would, but it was still okay to be sad that he’s not still here with us. But he never acted sad. I never saw him cry.

Fast forward to this past Sunday afternoon. My brother, Darrell, had brought his 4-wheeler by and was taking the kids for rides on it. I went inside for a few moments, and then heard the doorbell ring. It was David. He looked very upset and said Uncle Darrell said he couldn’t ride on it ever again. I knew Darrell wouldn’t have said anything like that, but David ran up to his room, slammed the door, and just started wailing. I went upstairs to see what was wrong, and David told me he was mad at Uncle Darrell, and scared. He cried and cried and cried, wailing with all his might. I just held him, wondering what on earth was really going on. And then it hit me – could this be his grief over Rusty’s death finally coming to the surface? Could it be that those emotions of fear, anger, sadness, that his brain didn’t understand and didn’t know what to do with, have finally found their outlet by being re-directed at the other uncle, who was still here and was a physical person to react to? If so, what do I do with this? How do I help him?

I just kept holding him. I didn’t try to shush him, but let him cry it out. At one point, Harris came in to see why David was so upset. When I mentioned that I thought some of it might have to do with Rusty, David started crying even harder. When he was done, I suggested working on a puzzle together. He has always loved puzzles, and even though I didn’t think of this at the time, maybe it helps us in our grief because it’s constructive – putting the pieces back together so that the picture makes sense, the way we wish we could with our hearts. But we can’t on our own. Only God can, and He will.

Categories: brothers, children, grief, Rusty, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Last Day With Rusty

Today (well, most likely yesterday to most of you who will read this on Monday) marks one year since the last time I saw my brother. I was dreading this day; at one point even thinking that after today, all my memories of him would be over. One of the things I’ve done this past year to get through the big occasions/holidays, was to think to myself “This time last year, Rusty was doing this with us.”, and so part of me was scared that after today, I wouldn’t have that crutch.

I’ve also been dreading it because it’s another step of separation from having him here with us. And it’s a big step. Not as big a step as the 1 year anniversary of his death will be, but almost. After all, after Feb. 19, 2011, Rusty’s role in my life – at least the role he played here on earth – was for all intents and purposes, over.

I have also been regretting that I let so much time pass from the last time I saw Rusty till the day he died that I didn’t try to see him. Granted, he avoided us when he was down, and he got really down really fast. But still, I could’ve…should’ve…would’ve…..

But today, the Lord showed me what a tremendous gift He gave me with that last day. It was an absolutely perfect day in every way. The weather was gorgeous, the temp was perfect. Rusty had come to my house so we could ride out together, with my kids, to Darrell’s house (he’s my other brother- let the jokes begin) to celebrate our dad’s 60th birthday. The conversation on the way there was great and fun. I don’t remember much of what we talked about, but I remember being surprised by his great, upbeat attitude, and I remember us laughing a lot.

He was always a blast for the kids to play with, and that day was no exception. So I’m thankful their last memory of Uncle Rusty was also such a great one.

At one point, we decided to take a photo of all of us on the front steps. It turned out to be a great picture, and of course now it’s a most treasured keepsake. I know the Lord put that idea into my head so that we would have that memento of that special day. I wish I could share it with you, but it’s on my other computer that is not working at the moment.

After we left Darrell and Cindy’s house, we stopped by the park near their house so the kids could play for a few minutes. I have pictures of Rusty pushing Amy Beth in the swing and playing with the boys. Another great memory by which my kids can remember Uncle Rusty.

I remember even that day thinking how extra perfect and wonderful the day had seemed, and I really cherished the time I got to spend with Rusty that day. I wasn’t sure at the time why I felt that way, except that I heard God whispering in my heart, “This is a ‘last time’ moment today. You will not pass this way again.” I know that sounds ridiculous, but I really had that in my heart. I thought it was because Dad might not be with us for long. He’s paralyzed from a stroke and not in the best of health. I never dreamed it would be because Rusty would be gone about a month later.

So yes, I’m sad tonight because I miss my brother so very much, but I am so very thankful that my last day with Rusty was so wonderful.

 

Categories: brothers, grief, Rusty, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Coincidences

I have always said that I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a Sovereign God who is in control of everything, and so if a seeming coincidence happens, it is probably God trying to get my attention about something. Recently I also learned that there is no Hebrew word for coincidence, which further supports my point of view.

So the other day, Monday, to be exact, I had 3 big coincidences. The first one actually started on Sunday night. I came home from “Adoration” at my church (which was SO good. They’re always very worshipful, but the worship went to another level that night. Wow! But I digress.), and was fixing myself something to eat. For some reason, my mind started replaying a Christmas show that I had last seen as an older kid – Claymation Christmas was the name of it I think. I was remember one skit in particular where claymation bells were playing “Carol of the Bells” by hitting themselves upside the head with mallets. It was hilarious! The memory was playing so clearly in my head that I was smothering my laughter so that I wouldn’t have to explain it to my husband, who would think I was nuts (and rightly so, probably). The next morning, my mom called me on my way to take Harris to school and asked if I could stop by Lowe’s (where she works) on my way home and pick up Rusty, my brother, whose car is currently out of commission. He wanted to hang out with me for a while. So one of the first things he said once we got back to my house is, “Guess what I watched last night? Old home movies and things we recorded over the years. Do you remember Claymation Christmas?” !!!!! I was thinking about the show when he was watching it!!!! Now THAT is a seeming coincidence.

The second coincidence happened on my date with my husband that night. We were watching the movie, “Billy: the Early Years”. (A great movie about Billy Graham – how he got saved and called to be an evangelist. It was so funny, moving, and convicting! I highly recommend seeing it! But, I digress again.) The actor playing young Billy was very easy on the eyes, and his mannerisms and the sense of humor that was written into the part made me think of Darrell, my other brother. I was wondering if maybe Darrell was meant to be an evangelist – or at least someone whose livelihood was in full-time ministry. In one scene, Billy is leading his first convert to the Lord and he asks the man’s name. The man’s name is Darrell! What a “coincidence”!

The third one happened at dinner after the movie. Our waiter (excuse me, I mean server) came up and at first I thought it was one of my step-father Hugh’s, sons. (Yes, that would make him my step-brother, but I don’t think of him like that. No hard feelings. It’s just we were mostly grown when our parents got married, so we have never lived together like siblings.) Anyway, this guy had the same hair style, build, size, everything. He even sounded like him! All of this I take in within a couple of seconds. The server then introduces himself – his name is Brandon, which is Hugh’s son’s name!!!!! What are the odds, people?

So now I am prayerfully trying to figure out what God is trying to show me with these 3 big “coincidences” in one day? And all 3 had to do with either a brother or step-brother? Very weird. I almost wish I did believe in coincidences so that I could just chalk it up to that and forget about it.

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