Sunflowers among the weeds...International Bereaved Mother's Day 05/05/19

Sunday, May 5th is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. I’ve done blog posts in the past, and after spending some time editing sunflowers that I happened upon here locally, I saw an opportunity to share in part what I saw while photographing these beauties.

Sunflower season here in Solano and Yolo Counties will be sometime in June, and yet I was able to find a few springing up in a field where they were last year. Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers. I’ve added a few fun facts about them just to give you an understanding of how amazing they are. Sunflowers are used to demonstrate a mathematical term called a Fibonacci sequence. You can also see this sequence in artichokes and cauliflowers. While reading about this sequence in sunflowers researchers have found that the patterns can be inconsistent in sunflowers and quoting the article “real life is messy.” This is a truth that is lived out daily in the life of a bereaved parent and when speaking about loss and grief. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/sunflowers-show-complex-fibonacci-sequences It is the only flower to have the word “flower” in its name. Sunflower removes toxins and is a natural decontaminator of soil. They have been used to clean up dirt at some of the biggest environments disasters, including Chernobyl and Fukushima. Sunflowers are native to the Americas. Some of these facts come from this article. https://www.thespruce.com/fun-facts-about-sunflowers-3972329 As you might now see sunflowers have a medicinal quality to them. They have been used to heal and remove toxins from soil. As I photographed these beautiful flowers, I was struck by the fact that even though they were growing among weeds, they thrived. I saw a few bees although they seemed to be moving slowly and possibly dying. So much about these flowers lead me to see myself and other bereaved mothers the same way.

These flowers were strong. Even though the weeds had dropped some of the seeds to strike down these flowers they still stood firm...strong almost like flower sentinels. They’re looking for the sun and following its course across the sky. They are beautiful. Some of their petals hidden from the sun but just as yellow and brilliant as the noonday sun. Some of these beauties had yet to open, and many of them winking so to speak as only a few of their petals had started to open.

This blog goes out to all of you who mourn the loss of your child/ren. You inspire me. Even amid your loss, you continue to move towards health. You still remind me that you are bright sunflower standing firm in your memories of your child/ren. You are learning that your loss has defined for you those things that are toxic and you move towards removing them from your path. Some of you are still trying to figure out what you need and yet, you persevere opening up just a few of your petals as you follow your path. The loss of your child will continue to shape each move you make. It will define who you are and why you do what you do. I pray that you continue to remain strong and resilient. Standing tall like a sunflower.

Spring means...New things are coming.

There seems to me that I have so much content in my head but can’t find words to share the impact that grief and loss have had on me during spring this year. The ending of cool weather and the start of warmer weather brings with it an array of different and complicated emotions.

Our son Alex set off on his journey on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) just as Spring was launching and has been on the trail for over a month so far. Most of our correspondence is via text message with our ability to track him via global navigation. We also have been able to FaceTime with him and that was one of the best gifts my husband received for his birthday. (LOVE TECHNOLOGY) Spring brings with it celebrations of birthdays, Easter, and this year one of the best super blooms in California history. There have been engagements and birth announcements. I’ve been busy with photography and just a feeling of excitement. Yet with those feelings comes the overwhelming sense of what is not…

I recently was reading the results of taking the Enneagram test and although the language is different then other personality tests (I’m a 7) much of the content is the same. I love people, fun, and things that aren’t rote or routine. I love to laugh, meet people, I can be passionate and if not tempered that passion can become a tangent. I’m learning to quiet the busyness in my head to tap into the creative part of me. All this to say not much about me has changed. The only difference is most of those traits are now filtered through grief and loss. I’m feeling like so much of my life has been about others and now that I’m older and possibly wiser I desire to have a purpose. To look at the world through a different lens and to serve my community in ways that make the world a better place.

So part of what spring has done for me is it has helped to shape some of my next steps…these actions look more like a pebble than a stepping stone and they’re the things that are moving me forward. There is still a pause in me…it comes with the territory. My family~John, Alex and Evan have always been the people who’ve propelled me…to hold me…to challenge my thinking when I get to deep into my head. Now I just have to step into what I’m supposed to do. I’m a little scared. I’m actually really petrified, but I’m at a place where as of today I’ve experienced my most significant loss. Loss changes us…well it has changed me. So as I look for those things that inspire me towards purpose I bring along with me the brokenness that is my heart. I look for a way to find comfort in the mission that God is calling me to.

Post Script~Many of you may know that our son Alex is raising money for Donate for Life West as part of his journey on the PCT. In addition to that April is National Donate Life Month and he wants to raise awareness about organ donations. I’ve added the link to the GoFundMe account below. Please donate if you can.

https://www.gofundme.com/PCT-NDLM?sharetype=teams&member=1914332&pc=ot_co_dashboard_a&rcid=009a7141efd04e32b1b79026faa2e765&fbclid=IwAR2b_ZljQYTMg4zIIl8PNeKJZZHOxu-IMH3GAbPP8JoBqQLcKc_FoQwai8s

For now that is enough...

I’ve been away from my blog since before Christmas. Most days are filled with job responsibilities and regular household chores there is something in me that seems different not all together me. I keep thinking that things will get back to how they always were. That life as I’ve known it good or bad will return, and all will feel normal. Then I realize my life isn’t normal. It will never look like it did. My life will never have Evan in the spaces he usually occupied. EVER. I go back to those spaces hoping to find him…to sense his presence. It’s hard to describe to people how your mind works after your child has gone. I look at photos and think to myself it feels like he is here. But there is such an emptiness. There is such emptiness in the spaces he once inhabited. There is an emptiness in the world since he left. My words feel hollow…without real form or bones to help them take shape. I was driving this morning, and I had this feeling of everything continues, but yet my heart wants to go backward. I want to recapture what once was and bring it into the future to live with me here. I want Evan to come home. I’m learning to navigate the parts of me that are healing and the parts that are gaping wounds. I’m trying to find and listen to my voice and yet I want to be a voice for my son too so that he is not forgotten. Saturday mark many anniversaries-it’s my Dad’s 2nd birthday in Heaven. It also is 822 days since Evan was taken off life support to give life to 5 others. As I've walked out my journey, I also realize many parents/siblings that are walking out the same feelings, anniversaries, the same emptiness, the same longing that our family has. I say this for understanding. That I can bring you along with me as a conscientious/thoughtful/ observer.

To be mindful that we miss our person(s). That we want to hear their name. That you can't stop our pain. (IT WILL BE FOREVER) That we're not stuck. We are living each moment of each day with a wound that is healing but will always be there for us. Even if you can't see it. That you can show us love by sharing stories about our person. We're doing our best, and sometimes that may not be enough. For now, my soul is healing along with the soul of our family, and that is enough.

Christmas Sweaters, Sheep Hats, and Songs Unsung.

Most of my days are filled with busyness. My photography business is thriving in this season. My job keeps me busy with community stuff. We/I are surrounded by an extensive circle of friends and family. I’ve not written much over the last few weeks. Its very hard sometimes to convey the thoughts and pondering of a grieving parent. The holidays are filled with wonder and magic…grief although not part of the Christmas story it’s those early memories of birth and life that make the holidays at times so hard. This is our third Christmas without Evan and although softer the edges are still rough. https://whatsyourgrief.com/grief-made-you-cry-holiday-season/?fbclid=IwAR0hPT1OGomkWkK62J4EhRx34Kk84rWyPtbEGKudH5z84wR-t7jLkBSqN_4

Some of the sweet memories of long ago Christmas’ are not very fresh in my mind. It’s not until I go to a sweet school program and see children dressed in their holiday bests does the rush of memories return. Most days I can be present with friends who are enjoying seeing their kiddos perform the best and sweetest Christmas tunes. But in those moments the file cabinet opens, and the files start flying out. With that, I’m immediately ushered to a Christmas program from Pre-School or Kindergarten days with my boys. It was always something that was important to us to be at our kids' programs. Wise man costumes, Christmas sweaters, sheep hats and so much more. Most of my ponderings are melancholy. I miss those days and on some level miss that for Evan I will never see these kinds of days played out with his kiddos. That the planet will not see songs sung by Evan’s kiddos. Yes, this is what this grieving mom thinks. I’m not alone in this thought. We miss the future, and we look to hold on to the past. Holidays are sticky that way especially when you have memories that are tied to traditions, and you’ve not started new ones cause it’s too painful to change the one thing you miss so much. We are trying new things and seeing what works and tweak them as we go. Maybe the thing that makes my heart sing and cry is that I choose to be present with friends who currently are experiencing these great moments. I see the love they have for their child and the special way their heart sings when they see their kiddo perform. It takes me back to those moments and just for a split second I’m transformed to that time in history when I too had a heart that sung and burst with love for my kiddos as they performed.

What I've Learned...

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned over the last two year since Evan’s death. The 2nd year has been one of the hardest as I’ve come out of the fog of the first year to find that time and people keep moving. Leaving me far behind and at times unable or wanting to catch up. I’ve learned that grief has no timeline for those who are grieving, but it does for those who aren’t. I’ve learned that everyone grieves differently and as much as you might want to be understood there will only be a few that can walk along the path with you. It takes a lot of work, patience, and love. It’s not for everyone, and most of it is yours to own. I’ve learned about myself through group and individual counseling that grief has a way of shaking up our lives and through the help of others taking the brokenness of our past gives us hope for the future. I’ve learned the incredible void that has been left in my life now that Evan is not physically here. I see that void in others as well, but that’s not my story to tell. I’ve learned that the 2nd year is by far harder than the first and the further away I get from my real/earthly time with Evan the space between the then and now becomes quieter. What’s not quiet are my thoughts…pictures and memories are never silent. They are the things that keep you in the present, and I desire to keep you present. I'm your mom, and you’re important to me so I will ALWAYS want to keep you present and I’m giving myself permission to do so. I’ve learned that the Lord in the midst of our yearning and longing gives us Hope and comfort. That He allows that space between Heaven and Earth to come together so that we can be comforted by not only those around us but also by those who we have released to His loving care. I’ve learned that who I was before Evan’s death has changed and that I will never be her again. Grief and loss don’t define me but they’ve changed me. That who I am now is different…and who I was will not return. That person I was is missed at times, but she no longer fits in the space that I now currently occupy.

Tonight we will come together to remember and to use the spoken word to do that. You now become a part of the great cloud of witnesses who contiues to cheer us on and remind us that you are not that far away.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Touch of Heaven

This morning at maybe 3:30am you entered into my dreams, and that has not happened to me since before the accident. I hung between waking and sleep just because the realness of your presence was tangible. When I finally had woken up I wanted to write all of it down. I’m weeping cause the nearness of you was so real. I could see you and sense you as if you genuinely were here. You were whole. I saw you just like you were before you left to go out with your friends. Nearly clear shaven and haircut like the first photo in this gallery. Your eyes had a smile in them. You held me in the hug that always brought comfort and understanding. You had on a black sweatshirt I remember that you wore and black jeans. I heard you downstairs in the bathroom you were looking in the mirror. You saw me and said I know you don’t think I’m here, but it’s me. You came to me, and you gave me the biggest hug, and you said I know you miss me. I couldn’t speak. I wish I could have said more to you although it didn't seem necessary. You seemed to understand. You seemed to know that I miss you. That all of us miss you. I honestly have not cried as much as I have in the last few days as I have since you died. These aren't just tears this is guttural crying from the depths of my soul. My soul cries for you. Thank you for reaching out from eternity to let me know you understand our longing for you. That you see the longing, your brother has for you. That you know how much you are missed. The ache in my heart is without quenching, but I also am so thankful that you came to me. Thank you for such a great hug. I wish so much that you were here and although I know that cannot be I'm grateful Evan that you reached out from eternity to give your mom a hug and hold me close. Grief has a strange way of showing up in the time and space that you least expect it. Today it took my breath away and I am still trying to make sense of all of the feelings that it brings.


Spring Forward, Fall is Back...

"How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days." - John Burroughs

Sunday, September 23rd marked the beginning of Fall, and that always brings about all of the Fall feelings. The one thought at the forefront in my mind is that I miss Evan. This isn’t a rare thing as I miss Evan every day, but maybe I'm anticipating the fact that this will be another birthday without him. This time of year has always been a favorite of mine. All the colors, the cooler mornings and warm afternoons, the anticipation of celebrations and just the vibe of Fall...but alas I'm overcome with melancholy. I know it will dissipate over time only to come back sometimes strong than when it left, but it lingers through January. The new year and winter time brings its own set of emotions and feelings with it.

I'm trying hard to be in a different state of mind as I approach this birthday. I'm battling the voices and memories inside my head that want to take me back and then yank me forward. I want to find a place that is restoring/filling me, but I also want to be mindful of remembering. When you are mentioned, you are present, and my desperate need for you to be in the present with me is the thing that I think is the most difficult for those who don't understand. I can't help but think that I'm celebrating yet another birthday and you are not here. That I will continue to celebrate birthdays and you won’t be here. That my future does not hold you and yet the past is filled with you. So the question is where do I want to be? And where should I be? The answer to these ponderings can't be answered by me at this time cause the space between the want and should is too vast.

The last few weeks I've kept busy with event photography and other thing photography related. I've been working, and in all the busyness I've been able to keep the memories that are inside my head at bay. That doesn't change that you won't be here to give me a hug or debate the latest political challenges. That makes me weepy...pretty much most of my memories make me weepy. I know it makes people uncomfortable. I know they want it to be ok. I know that they have the best intentions. I know that I'm loved and cared for in the best way. I just feel on some level that I've been cheated, robbed of moments in the future. I sometimes think that I worry about what people think. I’m learning that in all of this I am ok. That what I do and what I say can be judged, but in the end, I must walk out my grief in the way that fits me. I’m grateful for people who understand this truth. I’m especially thankful to my son Alex who walks along this path with me. Although we each are walking our own way, I realize that a portion of this journey we are walking in tandem with each other. Helping each other to take the next step and at times stopping to mourn our loss together. The vacancy of our loss is real to us as a family and the pain of that is raw and at times so very painful.

Sunflowers and what they're teaching me...

We are just a few weeks away from the start of Fall. It’s hard to imagine that when we have days that the temperature is close to 100 degrees but by the ticking of time the calendar inches closer to the date that signifies to us that cooler weather and falling leaves is around the corner. There is something that always tugs in me as we say so long to summer and welcome the coming of fall. I’m kinda a big fan of most of the seasons but fall and spring are usually my favorites. Spring as it brings the beauty of new birth after a winter of loss. Summer is filled with long days in the sun and warm evenings of smooth conversations. Fall brings with it the vibrant changes in nature and for me it was always a time to plan for significant milestones as it is my birthday season and the birth dates for my boys. 

Much of the joy and excitement of fall has changed for me since Evan’s death. There is almost this resistance/hesitance to slow down the movement of time. I can’t really explain it other than fall was always such a great season for me but I have sustain such a significant amount of loss during this season I want to stay parked in summer indefinitly. The reason being is maybe not so obvious to most but summer is easier. There are no time constraints. The days are longer the nights are shorter and the sunflowers are blooming. All of it doesn’t remind me that soon you will need to start walking towards fall. Because fall holds with its beauty a measure of pain. 

This year in my travels the process of this beauty for ashes was much more evident for me as I watched the transformation of my beloved sunflowers. If you follow me even a little you know I start my search for sunflowers in early May as they are just starting the growing season here locally. I try hard to extend my watch through the summer but this year I went out to some of the fields as they were dying. The significance of the dying process for sunflowers is just as important as the beauty they bring to us as we drive by the fields. It permitted me to be fully part of the loss of these flowers and to understand the great impact they have in their beauty and in their dying. 

Today, September 9th. 2018,  which is 22 months since Evan's death and is a few months shy of what would be his 28th birthday. Alex and I will celebrate our birthdays next month. The Earth will keep spinning. The trees will change and days will get shorter. But what I wonder does the significance of Evan’s life that was so vibrant when he was living continue in his dying?? Does the impact he made continue even though he isn’t here to have his voice heard? As I ponder those things I think of the beautiful sunflowers.  

https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/yolo-grows-sunflower-seeds-for-the-world/

Where have you been?!?!?!

It has been a while since I last blogged. I’m not sure why only that life has been a bit glum, and the words have disappeared. Perhaps the words came earlier in this journey because the desperateness I was feeling from the initial shock of Evan dying or maybe they just continued so that the Lord could guide me towards a path of healing. Perhaps I have no idea, and in my way, I want to find the answers. All I know is that my words had gone silent. 

So much can be said about this season. As a person trying to promote a business and also reaching out to those who are hurting I sometimes find myself in the unfortunate space of having envy. Now that can look like a lot of things when you break it down, but I mostly envy all that will not or all that is yet to be. Guess that’s why it’s called envy. There is no end to it and society is enslaved by it. We live in an age of being in people’s front room by merely scrolling through IG or FB and drenched in people’s opinion just by responding to a post or thread. The noise and chatter are overwhelming, and it leaves little room for pondering or true evaluation.

I think that what I need is understanding as the places that I land on and the threads I scroll through leave me empty, shattered and unloved. I want a connection with people, and I am connected, but many times it feels as though something is missing. Most of the time I feel the emptiness of Evan not being here. Not that he would be with me at every event or outing. It's just that I miss him. It probably doesn't help that my husband and son are on a backpacking adventure and are on week two of a 4-week journey.  

I sometimes think with all that is going on I've forgotten the sound of my voice. 

Recently I spent time in the mountains and found little time for reflections as the busyness kept me from thinking or pondering too deeply. It wasn't until I traveled back home and the hollow feeling of loss came over me and left me feeling overwhelmed and anxious…nauseous really. When I finally got home and uploaded the photos from my nature walk in Yosemite that I thought that somehow in the busyness the Lord brought comfort as is His way when it comes to my photography. Photography gives me space to feel the full impact of what is going on within my heart and mind for grief is a constant thing.  It doesn’t rest or take a break. Sometimes it's a quiet whisper other times a raging sea...It can go from a sweet memory to a full-on belly cry. But alas it is constant. 

Grief is hard. And as much as we try to avoid it, we can't. We are all grieving something or someone. So when I'm feeling consumed by it. Shunned by it. Avoided by it. I have to remember who I am and to whom I belong. That the Lord is near to the broken-hearted. That He holds my tears in a jar. That those that I love He sees and that He sees me. He comes close to me. He values me. He sees my worth, and my heart ache. It doesn't scare Him or frighten Him. He comes CLOSER! So much comfort.  

9 years later...Vacaville Christian High School, Class of 2018

Thursday was the graduation ceremony for the Vacaville Christian High school Class of 2018. I was invited to come by several of the families and I had hoped to take a few shots of the seniors that I had done their portraits. I walked onto the field and headed towards where the seniors were gathering with advisers and administrators in preparation of them walking towards the stadium. I wish I could say that my steps were light and sure…as they were not. I felt an overwhelming sense of disconnection. I felt at odds with my heart and head so after hanging out for a bit longer I left the ceremony with my head winning over my heart. I often have this happen to me. It’s a struggle to let the mind win cause typically the most important people you care about lose. I wish I can say that I’ve mastered “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” but alas I have not.  After countless texts to a friend who had their own struggle, I decided to return and do what I had set out to do. 

This time of year always bringing about feelings of melancholy and nostalgia it also holds great excitement, anticipation, and joy. Most times I have to do a great deal of talking myself through these things as they will continue to be a part of living and loving people. I want to so much to be included and sometimes I don’t always sense that connection. I feel at arm's length from it and maybe that is just the season I’m passing through. 

Congratulations to all of the Class of 2018!! Thank you for allowing me to photograph this chapter of your story. 

I’ve included a few photos from Evan’s graduation in 2009 at VCHS. He was the second graduating class from the new high school.

Glimpses of Me

For me, it seems that most days are not without some degree of sadness. I try hard to be who I was before Evan died and at times I think that person is still there. Grief has a way of changing who we once were. Oh, I see glimpses of her….some of those glimpses are good some of them not so much. All of the same hurts, insecurities, simple pleasures and wonders are present but all of them are now sifted through grief. I have watched people and places that have always been solid places for me begin to disappear before me. As I learn more about this journey none of this is unusual. It is actually very common. People scatter….places that held happy memories become a wound that is often times too large to bandage. The very things that you thought you knew are now vague memories or are completely forgotten. 

Not too long ago I was explaining to a dear friend through tears that there is something in me….it almost feels like I’m expectant…edgy…watching but with this restlessness in me I want to see progress…I want to push. She said that it sounded similar to that of a mother birthing a child. There you have it. That is exactly how I’m feeling. It’s hard for me to rest..to practice pausing…waiting…to lean in. I’ve been listening to a lot of worship music since Evan’s death. Some of my favorites are Elevation Worship. The words are so powerful. I read an article about their song “There is a Cloud” and the meaning of the song. Such a great article I've included the link here. http://www.newreleasetoday.com/article.php?article_id=2112

One of the many verses they talk about is Hebrews 11:1. "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." I’ve included one of the verses of the song in this post. This is from Elevation Worship “There is a Cloud”.

On this Day....One year ago

Today November 9th, 2017 is the 365th day of not having you on the planet.  As I look back over the days leading up to this I'm amazed at how the Lord prepared me. Our community would spend days petitioning God for a miracle...to give you life but instead the miracle was that you would give life to others. That selfless act is so much a part of who you are and of the people that you associate with. I remember the hours and moments as they ticked away and we waited for them to come and take you to the operating room. They came to your room at 2:14am and I see so vividly all of us walking you to the door of the operating room and of us standing in a huddled clump, Dad, Alex and I.... with all of our friends watching us watching you. What I remember the most is the silence. Almost as if at that moment the world had forgotten it's voice. A silent cry. Not a sound was made. All I could hear were our tears. We asked Dr. Gaborko if he would go with you...as a prayer covering and a witness that you would be watched over. I can honestly say that knowing he was going in with you gave us peace.  Jeff's kindness to us was a selfless act and one we can never repay. The other thing I remember is looking back at all of the people who stayed till the end and seeing their faces. Such brokenness. So many tears. I shall not forget those moments...never ever. Letting you go was so, so hard. Even to write this brings great big tears.

Oh, how we miss you. The thing that is hardest is your voice. I can't hear it. Your ridiculous laughter is silent. Your words live on only to be read in a voice that is not yours. Most days we do what we have always done. We wake up, drink coffee, go to work, come home, eat, go to bed. Time has marched on and the seasons have changed and the world has not stopped. We have not stopped. I'm one year older, we still wonder about the holidays and what we will do, we still talk about life and truly most days I still feel your presence. Maybe it's the familiar things that make you seem close...my daily journeys to Peet's where I keep expecting you in the afternoon to come up behind me and say "Hey! Mom!"...maybe it's driving by Best Buy and thinking of all the time you spent there and the holidays you missed because of the craziness of the seasons...maybe it's the train at the Nut Tree that for years we spent EVERY WEEKEND during your train faze as a young child...maybe it's the sound of your friends at our house to commemorate a birthday or to just play a card game...or maybe it's what I see through my lens that brings me into close proximity to your presence...the more familiar the location the closer you are to me....I'm learning to look for the things that the Lord is showing me because that's where you are....with that said you're missed...every day by us. 

I know you would be proud of us for putting one foot in front of the other....for pressing forward. Looking back only to remember with fondness and a little bit of angst. Today we will celebrate you with the thing you loved most....A Poetry Slam! to honor you and to keep a bit of who you are alive in our hearts. To celebrate a life lived and loved well and one that gave the gift of life to others. 

 

The Middle

Last week at my Grief Share meeting the subject was "Why?" As you might guess that is the biggest question that people who are experiencing grief ask themselves. One of the many takeaways from this section of the study was that we are in "the middle of the story". That in the middle of the story God is after the "deeper things". Another point that I really loved was that we should live in the exclamation point, not in the question mark. I know your reading this and it all might sound trite but for those of us who are living with the questions these things help us to move towards healing and help us to lean into the things we don't understand to look for the deeper things.

I'm learning to allow the longing, the missing as some want so much for me to be ok. For the most part, I am OK. I'm sad and part of that sadness is that I want to talk about Evan. I want you to know him like I did. I want to remember the good, the bad and the often crazy/zany person he was and will always be. I'm learning that my response is true and that my journey is unique to me. I don't have to run to catch the next train so to speak. I'm learning the "pause" or the "middle" as I move in grief. I'm looking for the opportunities to see Jesus and what He is doing in the "middle". I want to see the beauty in the "pause". To capture the essence of what it allows me to learn about myself and about the journey I'm on. Evan so much love has come from this tragedy I very much hope that you knew how much you were loved by so many. It's crazy! As for me, we are solid. There aren't any questions about that with us. We spoke of it often our feelings and there's great comfort in that. Doesn't make the missing easier just makes it bearable. I'm so grateful for your words that you gave so freely to not only me but a host of others. How blessed we are to have that. 

So much about this seems hollow...hollow in that I never thought this would be our family journey. I often think about why did I never see you beyond the life that you lived. I never saw you married or with children. Maybe that was just the future that was not to be in my mind. I don't know and now it doesn't really matter cause that just makes it more painful to think of the loss of that dream for you or should I say my dreams for you. Instead, I look hopefully towards the future that God has for me...as I wait in the "middle" the "pause". 

Reaching Back

As I come to the conclusion of this last week of celebrating my entrance on to the planet I was asked a question that strangely I've been pondering over the last several months, even before these questions were asked. The question was...as you start a new birthday year what were the highs and lows of last year? and what are your goals for this year?  Now as you read this and if you know me you can almost guess the low was/is the death of my son, Evan. This was the lowest time of my life not just of this year. I miss Evan every day but maybe it was the anticipation of the fact that this would be my first birthday without him which made me reflective and heart sick. I honestly don't get why I have to be without him on my birthday...I should be happy I got 26 birthdays. Kinda the glass half full but alas I miss Evan and feel cheated to not have him here. Reflectively as I look back I can say that one of the highs is my last birthday spent together as a family in Napa. I felt pampered and lucky to have such great people who love me....by celebrating and honoring me. In this same way this year Alex gathered many of the people he knew would be a blessing as I celebrate this first birthday without Evan. It was one of my greatest moments as I begin this birthday year. Although Evan's absence is always so real for me the gathering of friends to celebrate help me to feel his presecence in a way that brought great comfort....and just a few tears.

Preserves for my birthday.

Preserves for my birthday.

Love you.

Love you.

More of my tribe...Love you.

More of my tribe...Love you.

My kite flyers and the people that put them together.

My kite flyers and the people that put them together.

Another kite flyers

Another kite flyers

As I mentioned above some of the highs from last year and this year for me was the collective group of community that surrounded our family during and through this last year of loss. I can say that many have stayed connected to us and have walked beside us. I have forged new friendship with others who have lost their children and that has been a welcomed refuge for me. To have others who have walked this road a head of me and are reaching back to me and encouraging me forward has been truly a blessing that I wouldn't want to overlook. They have helped this journey to not be so lonely as many who grieve do so alone as grief is very personal and most just can't go there.  Many of Evan's friends have reached out and have stayed connected to us and have been a source of such connection and hope for me. I know that on some level many of them still feel such sadness and grief related to Evan and I want them to know that I can and will go there if they need to have a space for their grief.

So the other question that was asked of me was about my goals for the coming year...my goals as I move into a new birthday year is I want to continue to move in a healthy direction with my grief. I feel confident that this journey is one that can be hard to figure out. Once you think your moving forward something comes along to shake your very foundation and it takes you two steps back.  I will continue to read books, participate in groups, and continue to connect with those in my influence who need to see Hope in the sadness of grief. Because with Jesus nothing is wasted and this life that He has given to me is valuable.

I've set some goals about my photography that I can only hope will be positive for me. I want to give more time to the building of that area of my career life so that means change is on the horizon. I'm also wanting to look at more way to come along side those who are having difficult circumstances to capture moments that for them might otherwise go un-captured with those precious memories lost. I'm trying some new things and seeing what fits for me. I want to also spend time exploring Evan's writings. I really wanted to collaborate with him on a project that combines my art/photography with his writing but he is not here to work beside me. So in his absence I hope to bring life to his words that always seemed to have such depth and insight. 

It has been a good birthday week. I miss Evan and there is never, ever a moment that he isn't on my mind. My heart is broken but I'm not broken. Evan gives me the courage to forge ahead. #11

Road Noise

As I continue down the road of grief I am struck by the things that take me from such great joy to weepy tears. I'm not even sure how to quantify it or give it a number on a scale. I spend a lot of time reading and listening to books. As I've shared in other posts I am listening to a book on Heaven and a book on waiting. Both of these areas in my life have been a struggle. Kinda like that kid that wants to be president at the place that they work even before they learn how to count back change at the register.  As I've said in previous blogs Heaven has always been abstract to me and because my faith points me to Jesus and the bible I don't really want to speculate about it. I want to know what the bible says as that is foundational...my center. On top of reading/listening to many books I am attending a faith-based small group on grief called Grief Share.  All these things keep me a float...keep me moving...processing. They keep me reaching out to grasp what is really not something you can grasp. So what it does is give me strength. It gives me Faith to look beyond what I can see and it gives me Hope that what I think and believe are Truth and that at some point it will bring peace and understanding. 

Roads are a funny thing. I've spent most of the summer on the road either on the east coast or west coast but always on the road. I went on a road trip this last weekend and we had times on this trip where the highway was smoothly paved. The road noise was minimal. You could hear the stereo in the car without having to crank it up and the skies were clear....smooth sailing so to speak. We then had places where the road was so rough from years of weather and chains from vehicles that you could not even hear yourself think. You couldn't hear the radio. You couldn't even have a conversation as the noise in the car was so loud and storms that nearly blinded you as you drove down country roads in the dark. Sometimes you turn down a road that you think is the right one and all of a sudden you are at a dead end. You make a plan that you are going to leave at a certain time. You stop just to get food and go to the bathroom no extra stops just to realize it took you about the same amount of time as it did when you enjoyed the journey. Stopped and looked at the sights. Made memories and took your time.

I share all of this because grief is very similar to the road trips I've been on and to be perfectly honest life is this way as well. It takes me to places I didn't want to go. Sometimes I enjoy where I'm going and the effects of it leave me refreshed and my burden is lightened. Sometimes the noise is so loud I can't hear what is being said to me and I zone out. Sometimes I just want to get home...to do it my way. I forget about all the beauty that is around me and if I had just stopped...walked around...and practiced pondering I would have gotten home in just the right amount of time and enjoyed the journey.

Evan, we love and miss you so very much. Every memory is bittersweet and filled with the what if's and why not's. As I travel this road I hope to have less of those questions but for now...It is September and that means that you have been gone 10 months....but really it is for eternity.    e·ter·ni·ty  əˈtərnədē/ ~  noun ~ infinite or unending time. 

http://www.visitcalifornia.com/attraction/sundial-bridge

https://www.amazon.com/Real-Heaven-What-Bible-Actually/dp/0801016134 

https://www.amazon.com/Wait-See-Finding-Peace-Pauses/dp/0781413559

http://albanycarousel.com

Thank you, Mom. I can't wait to see what you capture next....

Last year I was challenged to take my art out into the world. This challenge came in the form of a letter written from Evan but I had also many friend who told me I should try. So I did and it was successful. I placed in many of the shows I entered and won small monetary prizes for those placements. I'm glad that I did it and it helped me see a different side of photography....

I was unsure if this year I would be up to the task of placing my photography in the numerous shows that I had last year. Some of my motivation was that Evan and Alex really helped to move me forward and honestly putting your work in shows is time consuming. But I felt that I had a few piece that I could enter and my motivation was different this year so I entered a few shows along with entering the California State Fair. I've included those piece in this blog post.

Being an artist is unique and beautiful. It can also be demanding and test you in ways that you thought impossible. Sometimes I think that it was more then I bargained for this thing I do. I want to say that since the loss of Evan my world has changed...I can't really describe it but I feel the full impact of my loss every single day. I was out yesterday and nearly every place that I went or drove past had a memory of something or brought back to me a conversation I had with Evan. The other night I was out looking for picture frames for photos that I was placing in an art show I ran into some dear friends who asked, How are you??? Well at that moment I was deep in the process of trying to get frames and I was great but as I talked further I was grateful to get through a conversation about how I was without tears. Please don't take that the wrong way...for me that is a step forward in my healing. I want to be at a place that the very conversation about Evan does not destroy me.....crumble me to a "bucket of tear"so to speak...."grief ambush" as it's called in my small group study that I'm doing. I want to be able to have conversations that invite people towards me...to not be afraid to see people or have them avoid me or feel awkward. To be real grief is scary....and awkward...and crummy but it is also part of the process of loving and being loved. I'm grateful to have loved Evan and that he loved me too. There is so much joy in that...if I hadn't loved there would be no sadness or this grief that I have. Maybe that is what is different is the full impact of our love is felt in loss. Yes...I think that's what is different is that I know that if I love fully the full impact of the loss of that becomes very clear and painfully real. It goes back to something I believe the Lord is showing me.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror.....1 Cor. 13:12. 

 

Hiding in the Cave.

Tonight our family had the honor of watching my son, from another mother, preach his first message. It was from Psalm 57 about David hiding in a cave to escape as his enemies pressed in from all sides. So much truth in all that you expressed tonight. We are so proud of you and how you are walking out your calling. I share in your suffering just as you have shared in ours. I loved the truth you spoke of when you said when you are in the cave...lean into the Lord. He is there. Love that so much. 

As it says in Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." I'm glad that Evan is a part of that cloud of witnesses. So very proud of you and for now I will rest in the cave. We love you all so much and pray always for you. 

P.S. Get to church y'all!!!

Giving Comfort

The month of June has zipped by and I am finally able to stop and catch my breath. In the process of me catching my breath I have also found that the busyness has kept me from the full extent of my sadness. I've learned to navigate this part of my life as the spaces that I inhabit don't always allow me the opportunity to go there. I will hear a song, see a photo or just be reminiscing of moments I've experienced that bring me to the brick wall that is my grief. It stops me and as I'm shaking off the fact that I've run full force into it...it looks at me unshaken and with not a blemish that I have hit it and all the while I'm left beaten and battered trying desperately to get my balance and footing. Some times it is much more subtle...not as much of an assault but more sly...in the midst of great laughter and fun it sneaks in and crumbles me to a sentence I use often..."a bucket of tears". 

This month I've felt like I was being taking on a ride that I thought would be fun. It had all the makings of good times and loads of happy moments but for me, in this season I can't help but think of the missed moments I will not have. I know...bummer but this is my journey and it is at times very much a bummer. I miss seeing my son with a group of his friends as they celebrate a great accomplishment of one of their own. I reminisce about what his response would be....and think about just how happy he would be for this dear friend. I think often of those who miss him but are really not sure what to do or what to say and I wonder...What does a 20-something do with their grief? I think of some of the dearest people I know that as they look at me from across a room and wonder about this journey they are on with me as they can't fathom the depth of my sorrow but are walking with me. I think of the many near and far who reach out almost daily with texts, Facebook messages, hugs and love. 

As I sat in church today and listened to our pastor lead worship and preach from the psalms. The message from Psalm 142 as David is hiding out from those who would want to capture and destroy him. I was brought to tears thinking of not only my own heartache but that of my husband and son too. As I am weeping in church as his message and worship are striking a cord I receive this text from a dear friend of Evan's~"Hi my sweet Dawn. I am thinking of you now and missing Evan so much. Crying out to God (while literally crying haha) and I just take this moment to honor him and wanted to tell you he is on my heart so much and so are you. I know God is showing us something so big right now, I hope to grasp it soon so I won't be so sad. Love you so much". As I watched as my own pastor can't proceed with his message as he too thinks of the things that his sheep are going through and like any shepherd his heart is turned towards them. As I get a hug from a friend who knows me and knows my story her hug is so close I can hear the beat of her heart...to a sweet new friend who only knows me on social media but comes over and holds me...no word are necessary...as I weep. Then I think of the beautiful sunset last night among my sunflower fields that I believe are God's gift to me...cause those faces are just the best thing in all the world. I know that all of this and more are part of my journey. Part of the steps I walk in my healing. That the tears that I cry don't go unseen. That God because of His great love for us sends these, that are giving comfort, as only the God of the universe can do. 

Mother's Day for those who are bereaved.....

Today is International Bereaved Mother's Day https://goodmenproject.com/families/the-importance-of-international-bereaved-mothers-day-bbab/ 

As I think about Evan and the loss of him I can't help but think of all the other parents but especially Mom's who have lost a child. It is never easy..it continues to hurt...but we keep moving inch by inch..moment by moment. The immense love that we felt is only made harder but the immeasurable sadness we feel with our loss. 

Yesterday when I got home from work we had received a letter from the Donor Network. The folks who connect donor families to the people who have received their loved one's organs. In God's great mercy and because of His great love for us...this letter arrived this week. The great excitement that this recipient has experienced from receiving Evan's heart....that it has brought him back from the brink of death has made it is so very bittersweet for me. I'm so glad that he felt safe enough to contact us. That he has shared how his life has been immediately changed. How he is doing all that he can to live a health life and use the gift that he received to tell other to give the same gift. I can't help but be so overwhelmingly mournful of our great loss. 

With that said...We would not change the course that has taken place with Evan doing what was in his heart....and that was to be an organ donor. I'm proud of him and his very clear and direct decision to donate his organs. We continue to see God's hand in all of it and never once have thought this was not what Evan would have wanted. So as I close out this blog on this day that many are struggling to understand why and what can this all mean...let me encourage you. Hold your head up as well as you can...I know from experience it is not always easy...be present in the everyday...and if you can, think about giving the gift of life through being an organ donor. You could change the course of someones life. I know that it did for Lee.  https://www.donornetworkwest.org

The World as I see it as I Welcome 2017 and Say Good-bye to 2016

As our family wraps up 2016 and moves into the new year it would not be complete if we didn't take a moment to thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers, cards, emails, texts and most of all your love towards us. This community that God has given us has truly been a life line for us.  Losing Evan has been one of the hardest things our family has experienced and we want you to know that you have been a great source of light and hope for us. 

During the holidays we tried to create new memories while clinging to old traditions as we have faced many firsts already without our son and brother. It was difficult to not have Evan with us during this time of year as it has always been a time that we have gathered to celebrate. Although we tried hard to enjoy the company of family and friends something of course was missing and that something was Evan. Oddly for me when fun was involved and I was in the throughs of laugher or singing loudly or dancing to awesome 70's hits.....a sadness invaded me and tears would begin to fall. I felt a touch of guilt that Evan would not be here on this earth laughing, singing loudly and dancing and that brought sadness to me.

Many will say...he is dancing in heaven...yes I know and maybe in the future when I have wrestled with my feelings of loss maybe I will have the strength to look death in the face and not cry foul....but the reality is he is not here and heaven although real....is abstract to me and selfishly, I want to have him here......to hear his laughter...listen to him sing loudly and dance. The struggle is real for me as when I write this what does it say about my faith...what does it say about my heart....This is just my world and honestly, I just told my family last night...I get inside my head when this happens and it just isn't good......all this while tears are streaming down my face.....I'm glad that God is big enough for these things that I ponder and that he has provided me with a husband and son that are trying their best to love me while their hearts are breaking too.

As I move into this New Year somewhat reluctantly I would like to extent to you all the hope and joy that the New Year brings. We pray that you live each moment of each day with love in your heart. Enjoy those you love....As for me I am expectant to what the Lord is showing and teaching me in this season...I know that I am looking to be more intentional in 2017. Making every moment count....

".....Cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder".  

                                                               Romans 12:12 MSG

Our last family photo taken in Napa for my birthday. 

Our last family photo taken in Napa for my birthday. 

Snapshots from the first week of January 2017