Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Hopeful New Year"

"Happy New Year"…it just rolls off the tongue. I guess I have never really thought about it much…it's just something you say this time of year. That is, until the last two Januarys, when it feels like the emptiest 3 words that can possibly be said.
I want to be happy. I really do. There are certainly moments that make me happy, although it seems more difficult than ever to really achieve such. Happiness is a feeling, based typically on circumstances. And while that is great, I want so much more. Because, quite frankly, my circumstances feel hard and are filled with the disappointment of plans and dreams that will never come true. Whether it's listening to Carson talk about how his dad won't be here to watch him graduate. Colby not sleeping through the night when he's at home vs. other people's houses, because "they have dads there to protect them." Or, Cooper asking who will take care of him and make him sandwiches, if I go to Heaven too. There are so many daily reminders of what is missing and what isn't right.

God does not promise us that we will be happy. In fact, he says quite the contrary. John 16:33 says,
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Joy…now that's what sustains and comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. When that relationship is there…no matter how broken it may seem, HIS spirit fills you with JOY and peace that is unexplainable. The kind of stuff that makes people scratch their heads and wonder how. It is NOT based on circumstances, and actually defies and breaks all the "rules" of the circumstantial. Trusting His plan EVEN when it makes no sense or goes against everything you could have wished for. Out of that springs HOPE. Not just any hope, but the Bible says we will even be filled with HOPE that's overflowing…regardless of how crappy things are all around us, IF we will just trust Him.

Romans 15:13

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

So, for 2015, I say "Hopeful New Year" instead of "Happy," because I really want to fix my eyes on so much more than what the world uses to measure happiness with. I love my boys and as I tucked them in, we prayed about what 2015 would hold for our family. Carson said, "surely, we will have a better year than 2014, mom." I don't know, but I pray that whatever it brings…I will be overflowing with HOPE and filled with Joy and Peace that can only come from Christ. I certainly wouldn't mind a few more "happy" moments too! :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas the Night Before Christmas

My heart is heavy tonight. Our first Christmas at home without Bunky here. It still does not feel real. I have tried desperately to focus on Christ and what His birth really means to ME. When I take my focus off of our situation and all that is so wrong about it, I can't help but rejoice at the miracle of Christmas.

So, even as I felt a depth of loneliness tonight in the midst of preparing for tomorrow, I was reminded that this is NOT my permanent situation. This is NOT my home. Here's my "mama's" take on an old classic Christmas story!

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house.
Only mama was stirring, and the quiet seemed loud.
Four stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
But the one that was missing, made the mantle seem bare.

Three boys were nestled, all snug in their beds,
While memories of the past, consumed mama’s head. 
Missing part of our family, and thinking of his laugh,
Made it hard for mama to sleep, or even to nap.

When one minute he was there and the next he was not,
This was never the plan, mama constantly thought.

The excitement of Christmas, so numbed with the pain,
of losing my love, whom I still call his name.
When what to my wondering mind would remain
The peace, hope, and love for which Jesus came. 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to His work,
Being born in a manger, without any perks.
This day will feel different, of that there’s no doubt,
But, this mama will remember and with JOY will shout...

Thank you Jesus, for holding my broken heart,
And sending your son to fulfill prophecy’s part.
For one day, this mama will see him again,
And what feels lonely now, YOU will gently tend.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Support Someone Who is Grieving Over the Holidays

It has been a while since I have been here. I haven't known what to say or how to say it. Even when I do…well, I haven't wanted to. Truth is I feel shattered into pieces. On the outside, everything looks okay to most people. On the inside, it is a big ole mess.

In all of it, I have realized more and more my desperate need for God. For His promises to be what I have grown up believing to be true. The firm foundation is there. My roots are grounded deep in the soil of the belief I have in a Sovereign God. I think this is the ONLY thing that surrounds the deepest parts of my soul with peace unexplainable, on days when all I really want to do is crawl back in bed.

Yet, even in my rooted faith, I feel shaken to the core. I question. I argue. I plead. I cry out in anger. And while I know it is not my place to question "why," I still do.  I realize there is a constant struggle internally. The struggle between how I feel and what I want to feel. The struggle between acknowledging my grief and living full of hope. The struggle between allowing myself to be angry at the circumstances, yet embrace all that I have to be thankful for. It is a constant internal teeter totter.

With the holidays upon us, I simply feel vulnerable. I want to close my eyes and just wake up on the other side of Christmas. It is exhausting emotionally to harbor the sadness and loneliness that tends to weigh especially heavy this time of year, while attempting to move forward and embrace the joy the season brings.

I think at this point, most people want to hear how things are looking up. After a while, it's easy to tire of hearing about how difficult this all still feels. This is simply my reality and I will always be honest. Holidays stink! So, if you would like to know the truth…well, I guarantee that most people you talk to who have experienced the death of someone they love dearly, will tell you that the holidays are hard. Just think about it…our greatest holiday memories are captured with our family, with our husbands and wives, with our children, grandparents and parents. When suddenly one of those people are no longer there, it tears all the memories you've known and loved, completely apart. Nothing feels quite right without them there. Nothing. So, here's what I would encourage you to do this season, (from the perspective of someone who is grieving):

How to Support Someone Who is Grieving over the Holidays:

1. Be aware…look for those around you who may be missing someone this year, someone who has always been a big part of their normal traditions and activities.

2. Invite them to join your family, even if it's the day before or after, and start a "new" tradition of loving on someone who is grieving. It could be as simple as having a Thanksgiving dessert together or "day after Christmas" movie and popcorn date. Invite the kids over to bake cookies or play board games, so the parent that is alone could have a mental "break" from being "on" with the kids or could go Christmas shopping without having to pay a sitter. For parents who have lost a child, they may just need some time together alone.

3. Make a point to check in…whether it's a simple email, text, phone call, or card in the mail to say "I'm thinking about you this holiday season."

4. Allow them to talk about their loved one and don't feel afraid to share your stories and memories if you have them. It really is wonderful to say and hear their name. It's okay and good to acknowledge that you can imagine the loved one's presence is missed. It brings validation that is important for those who are grieving that loss. 

5. Please don't complain about or share your family drama. Someone who is grieving a loss during the holidays has no mental energy or tolerance for hearing this when they would give anything for one more holiday with the one they lost. Be sensitive to this. 

6. Also, be understanding if they do NOT want to get together or engage in conversations, it just might not be the right time. Just knowing that you took the time to pursue them and were thinking about them means more than you could imagine, even if they choose to not receive in the moment. Remember it is not about YOU and what YOU receive from it, but about your thoughtfulness toward them…however they choose to receive that. 

7. Offer to help decorate for the holidays. It can be really painful pulling out all of the decorations and traditions that were always a part of things for your family. The absence of one who was always involved with all of it can feel extremely intense and the part they played in getting ready for the holidays is very real. 

8. Pray for the family that is experiencing the loss. Whether it's taking a minute to put your arm around them and pray in person, or committing to pray for them with your own family during the holidays. 

I have been extremely blessed to have people in my life who have done these kind of things for us, so  this is just from my own experience. My hope is that someone else could benefit from these ideas. I am truly thankful for so many who continue to reach out in even the smallest ways, and it always makes us feel special and loved. While, it doesn't take the sting away, it certainly brings comfort to know someone thought about US in the midst of all they have going on in their world.

I'm trying desperately to choose thankfulness this holiday season. I am focusing on the HOPE I have in Christ, even when I am torn up on the inside. Life is a gift. One that is fragile and sacred and precious. One that should be cherished. Thankful for those who continue to walk with us through prayer and tangible acts of thoughtfulness toward us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin Tradition

Our last family photo at the patch (2012)
The 5th Annual Cooper Trooper Pumpkin Patch is underway. It comes with a rush of emotion. I still can't believe Bunky is not here for this. I couldn't be more proud of how the foundation has grown. I love hearing from people who come to visit the pumpkin patch and say, "this has now become our family's tradition"... to buy pumpkins for a purpose. Rod Cook would be beaming!
Cooper at the 1st pumpkin patch 2010
Carson and Colby working at the patch (2010)
It has been our own family's "tradition" since Cooper was only 1 year old. The pumpkin patch consumes our October. With Bunky gone, there is such a gaping whole. His presence is there though. I still see him in everything we do that involves the pumpkin patch. He wouldn't believe all the people who come from near and far to unload 10,000 pumpkins on a Saturday morning because they believe in what the foundation is doing! Many also come to honor him. My boys notice and they are so proud that their dad had that kind of impact on people.
Cooper with his daddy checking out the pumpkins (2011)
Before talking to the volunteers about unloading. These guys had some fun!
There are no adequate words to fully encompass the gratitude I have for those who make it all happen. It takes months of planning and preparation. It then takes countless hours over a month-long period to keep all the parts moving. It takes over 600 volunteers just to keep it operational. It is both exhausting and rewarding all at once. I am grateful for those who have plunged in and taken great pride in it's success. For those who have believed in the vision and mission of really making a difference in the lives of families living in the storm of childhood cancer. I am convinced that it is only because of these hearts full of compassion for a greater purpose, that the pumpkin patch continues to be successful. I remain humbled.
Dr. Netterville, who did two major surgeries to resect Cooper's tumor, came to the patch (2012)
And so, my heart is bursting with thankfulness. I pray it's the biggest year yet! I hope more people are made aware of childhood cancer and the lack of funding it receives. I am thrilled to think of every dollar made that will go to bring smiles to the sibling heroes who get lost in the shuffle. I am honored to continue what we began over 5 years ago, even though Bunky is not here to do it with me. So, while it is bittersweet to do this for the second year without him, I will do it. I will do it, because that is exactly what he would want us to do!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Where I am Right Now

Grieving for one you love is truly so unpredictable. And, if you know me…well, I don't like unpredictability. I guess no one really likes it. I think for most of us in this world, we like some sense of control. We have dreams of what our lives will look like. We have expectations. We want to have what we want and how we want it. Sometimes the story God writes for us is very different.

I think I have always expected that there might be bumps in the road. I have braced myself and been on guard for life's curve balls. I think losing your mom at the ripe ole age of 8 will do that to you. It forever skews your view of this world…it certainly did for me. Unfortunately, that is now the reality of my own children. On the flip side, it also forces one to live life more fully and take nothing for granted. It encourages a person to make meaning out of things that might otherwise be meaningless and to just let some things go. I can only pray that it draws my boys into a relationship with Christ at the deepest level, to fill the needs that only He can.

As much as I thought I grasped what difficulty in this life looked like, I realize I had absolutely no idea. Yes, I lost my mom to cancer. Yes, I lost a child to miscarriage. Yes, I had a child diagnosed with cancer. Yes, my husband lost his job. Yes, we have been in serious debt. These are all horrific things to endure. There are many who have endured much more difficulty in life than I have. It wasn't until I lost my husband, that I truly got a taste of such deep despair. I wanted to scream at God, "Isn't that enough pain?" And at the same time, I knew my ONLY hope was and is anchored in Him. My whole identity and everything that was feeling secure and settled in my life, was ripped away in an instant. I am not even sure what to do with that. I am not sure who I am anymore. All of the other "difficulty" was comforted by my husband's presence and what we were together. How we went through the hard together. This great pain and loss caused an awakening of my complete dependence on my Heavenly Father.

I want to be really honest here. I wish I could say that I am moving forward in the process. I wish I could say we are settling in to what is our new normal without Rod. But, I would be lying. This "2nd year" has only brought with it a clearer view of what is gone. The reality is heavy. The fog has lifted. As a new widow friend I just met stated so perfectly the other day, "the anesthesia has worn off, and the pain is intensifying, as the 2nd year begins."

I am still dialoging with God about my anger. He is big enough to take it…even if I need to throw in a few cuss words! As we sang in church this morning, "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…" He hasn't given up on me. He is waiting in the shadow of my bitterness and anger to rush in and wrap me up in His arms, at the very moment when my ranting turns to sobbing. He gently whispers, "you are never alone," when I am feeling loneliness so deep that feels like it's burning a hole through my soul. He never fails. He never leaves. His love never runs out on me.

So, when you see us, we may have a smile on our face. I will be overwhelmed and busy with pumpkin patch for the next month. But you can know…I need prayer. I am desperate for it. I still appreciate a warm hug or a text to say you are thinking about me. The little things still mean a lot, because my heart is still broken. God is mending it, but the pieces will never fit the same again. I will learn to live with it better or differently, but I will never "move on". I will never "get over" losing the love of my life. So, will you continue to pray as God brings us to your mind?

Please do one thing for me if you happen to take the time to read this. Tell your spouse that you love him or her and then do something to back that up through your actions. Forgive them for whatever you might be holding on to. Hug them more. Kiss them more. Be grateful for who they are, even in their imperfections. Do the same with your kids. Tomorrow may not come. Don't have any regrets. I am thankful that I didn't.

God's love never runs out.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


The boys and I went camping for Labor Day weekend this year. We have a group of close friends who go a couple times a year and are pretty much "camping experts." They invite us to go every time and have for years now.

Rod's answer EVERY time was "No thank you." He said that he had done his camping days out in Texas, under the stars, and he had no desire to do it anymore. Until, a couple of years ago. He decided we would go, as he wanted the boys to have this experience. Have I mentioned we have some pretty persistent friends? So, off we went, and let's just say that about everything that could go wrong, did! His words as we were driving away from the campground…"Never again."

So, fast forward to Labor Day weekend 2014. As always, we were asked to go. With some hesitation, I agreed to go. After all, the boys wanted to do it. Well, for the most part. Carson, who is the personality clone of his father, wasn't too thrilled, but he agreed nonetheless.

The place we stayed was beautiful with gorgeous hikes and a magnificent waterfall. The friends that went with us are really like family and so enjoyable. Being in the outdoors and unplugged is just good for the soul. Campfires and s'mores do something great for my mood. Having so many expert campers take care of the details and cook all the food makes it unbelievably easy. Watching your kids run free without a care in the world and play flashlight tag for hours vs. looking at an iPod is refreshing. Still, two nights has been declared the Cook's maximum camping threshold. 

Pouring rain, lightning, and thunder all night long. Watching drops of water begin to form inside the tent and proceed to run down the sides to make everything damp. A mattress that deflated every 1.5 to 2 hours with a slow leak to lower a 41 year old woman's back to the rocky terrain beneath. Bug bites and an 11 year old with a cast on his arm. These are what drove the Cook's to load up and drive right on out of that beautiful park one day earlier than anticipated. Not to mention, all of the emotionally hard parts for me, in not having my husband there with me…but that's another story for another time.
Memories were made and it's possible we will go back again (most likely in a rented pop-up camper). Honestly, though, we were all quite happy to be in our beds with the A/C pumping once we got home.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why God is Not My BFF

I love the new personalized coke cans! This one caught my attention at the grocery store today, after I had written this post last night. Crazy how those things happen in perfect timing. God continues to nudge, when I feel hesitant to put things out there I guess. The lady in front of me thought I was a little crazy for wanting to take a picture of the carton of Diet Coke with her groceries.

I have to say that growing up, I was the typical girl who wanted to "claim" others as my "BFF," and in turn, wanted to be the recipient of that title. Every girl needs someone to call her "Best Friend Forever" right? That designation holds some kind of merit that makes you feel like you belong. Like you are cared about. Like you have that special friend who will always have your back. Like you are not alone. What is interesting is that best friends do fail you and you will fail them. In fact, "forever" is a long time and it is rare to even have one "BFF" for many, many years.

From a young age, that position seemed so important. One year I might have several "BFF's" and the very next, it would all be different, depending on who was in my life at that time. I will say that I have been blessed with some amazing friendships over the years and have tried to be a good friend in return. I think girls especially, go through elementary, middle school, and high school years placing such a high value on having at least one BFF in their life at all times.

After I got married, Bunky became that "Best friend" that trumped any friendship I had ever known. He was my first priority and our commitment to each other was at the forefront. More important than any other friendship I had. That is how God intended it and my friendship with my husband was deeper and more meaningful than any friendship I had ever known.

At the same time, I believe we all still need our girlfriends, even after we get married. Girlfriends just suddenly hold a different place in our lives, or at least I think they should. They are a lifeline. Girlfriends are a vital part of being the women God called us to be. Girlfriends know like no one else what it is like to be the "rock star" wife, even when we don't feel like it. Our mommy girlfriends can relate to the sheer exhaustion that comes from being up all night with a baby or sick child. Girlfriends understand the joys and emotions, the highest of highs, along with the heartbreak, isolation, fears, insecurities and low points that creep in to our minds as women. There are some components of who we are as women, that husbands and men in general, don't get and never will. It's okay. That is how God wired and designed them. It is also why God gave us girlfriends in our lives.

As the last 13 months have gone by, I have realized even more how much I treasure those girlfriends that God has allowed my path to cross with. Whether a friend from early in life or one who I may have just met…I have been encouraged and loved by many, many friends (not just girlfriends, but men and women alike, and some who were my husband's friends that I didn't really know).

I have appreciated the sorority sister I haven't seen in years, reaching out. I have been touched by the card from a friend from elementary school. I have felt moved by those friends, who continue to do special things for me and my boys. I have been blessed with amazing women who do real life with me and have for years. I cherish the friends who don't forget that the world has moved on, but are keenly aware my heart is still trying to navigate how to do this world without my BFF. Even with some of these tender places being cared for through the gifts of these friendships, there remains a great empty spot without my husband and his daily friendship.

To be quite honest, I have been wrestling with God. Struggling to believe His plan is perfect. Struggling to have faith in His provisions for me. I have been in a constant dialog with Him about how He could allow our world to be shaken like this. I know He is big enough to handle all I throw at Him, and I know that this is part of how I need to process the tragic loss that has happened. I sometimes plead with Him to show me why He took my best friend away. Throughout those times, if I am quiet and still long enough to listen, I can almost hear Him whispering…"I HAVE NOT LEFT YOU, Missy. I will be all that you need, if you will just let me." To that I find myself responding…


And you know what I have realized more and more? He is NOT. He is not my BFF. Do you know why? Because "Best" is relative. "Best" is fallible. "Best" may still not be good enough. In this fallen world we live in, "Best" just doesn't cut it every time.

Christ is more than a "BFF"…He is Truth. Everything about Him is true. Everything He says is true. Even when I cannot see it, feel it, think it, smell it, hear it, or touch it. He is TRUE to His promises…the same ones I am questioning and struggling with.

The definition of true is:  having all the expected or necessary qualities of a specified type of person or thing. 

God IS all that He says He is. That is truth. And that is enough. So, God is not my "BFF", but He is my "TFF"- a True Friend Forever. I will take it. And I know in time, it WILL feel like enough, because  while He won't change, my heart will. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Our Anniversary- August 1, 1998

Tomorrow marks what would have been mine and Bunky's 16th wedding anniversary. Tears stream down my face as I think of how many more anniversaries I planned on spending with him. At the same time, joy fills my heart, as I remember and cherish the years I had with him. 
We decided before we got married that we would write a letter to each other and exchange them the night before our wedding day. We knew we didn't want to see each other until I walked down the aisle that day, so we just decided that a letter might be something nice to have to read in those last hours before we said "I do." You know... just to calm the nerves a little bit. 

Those "love letters" turned into an anniversary tradition, and each year we wrote each other one and exchanged them on our anniversary. They are still in a shoe box, labeled for each year and I can't bring myself to read back through them just yet. 

In those first years of marriage he worked in a cubicle at State Farm and commuted an hour to work every day, while I continued graduate school. So you guessed it…it was the ONLY "gift" we gave each other on our big day! We didn't have a lot of money. I had no idea then, that those "gifts" we gave each other, had far more value than anything we could have given each other materially. It is such a priceless treasure to have, especially now. Especially in this situation. I guarantee I wouldn't remember anything material we gave each other each year. I will ALWAYS have these gifts though, and I love that! In fact, I would highly encourage you to talk to your spouse about incorporating something like this into your anniversary if you don't already. You will not be sorry!
I wrote in my journal last year on this day and read it tonight. We were supposed to be in Cancun for our 15th Anniversary…instead, I was just shy of a month out from saying my final goodbye. I stated in my journal that I wanted to write one final letter to Bunky, and I still plan to do that. 

I was thinking today how it's easy to glorify a marriage and make it all seem like a fairytale with no bumps, especially when your spouse is gone. That is certainly not what I want to do and would not honor the spirit of transparency I wish to have, nor the honesty that was such a part of Bunky's character. In fact, I would go so far as to say, it's those "bumps," flaws, and mistakes made that can result in a truly happy and fulfilling marriage. It's how you come through those circumstances that build a lasting marriage and respect for one another. While Bunky was absolutely an amazing person, he was imperfect. He was a sinner, just like all of us. He made mistakes, just like all of us. He wasn't always the best husband or father. He didn't always make great choices. Neither did I. Neither do I. 
We had rough times just like every couple does. Our marriage was tried and tested when Cooper was diagnosed with cancer. (Statistics prove that high divorce rates are the norm for married couples with a child diagnosed with cancer, and I can believe it). It is stressful. We fought hard for what we had and never gave up on each other…sometimes it looked ugly and hopeless. There were dark days when he was laid off from a company he had been with for 10+years, due to cutbacks within the company. We went through some low times, but we went through them together and we made a promise to each other that we would not let anyone or anything destroy us or what God intended. 

I feel like in some ways, we were just really starting to reap the benefits of sticking through the "hard" together. Those difficult circumstances only brought us closer to each other and most importantly, closer to God. I think once you make it through the valleys of life (whatever those may be), you are going to naturally share a closeness that wouldn't be otherwise. We had settled into that more and more over the last few years. Things just didn't feel as hard anymore. And when they did…we just knew how to deal with them in a better way. Together.

So, tonight, my words for Bunky are:

Thank you. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for loving me without conditions. Thank you for your die hard, relentlessness to be heard and convince anyone around you that you were worth listening to. Thank you for pursuing me and making me feel beautiful. Thank you for being an example to our kids of what being a man of your word looks like. Most importantly, thank you for modeling for them how to love Christ. Thank you for working so hard to provide for us at all costs. Thank you for balancing me in so many ways, so perfectly! Only God could have orchestrated how well we complimented each other's personality. Thank you for believing in and pushing me to always do my best. Thank you for caring more about us and what was important for our family, than what anyone else might have to say or think. Thank you for your love of sunsets, golf, and all things Alabama football. Thank you for your steadfastness and resolve to stand up for what you believed in, even if it wasn't "popular." Thank you for protecting our family time. Thank you for being quick to forgive and quick to ask for forgiveness. Thank you for how you motivated and took time to really get to know those people who were important in your life. Those same people are now who make sure we are okay. Thank you for living fully in the moment, for not taking the little things for granted, and for living so much life in only 42 years. Thank you for making everything, even the mundane, much more FUN. Thank you for having a relationship with Christ, so that there is HOPE and we will see you again. Thank you for so many memories, Bunky! I will always, always love and adore you.

1 Thessalonians 4:13
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Finding Gratefulness in Sudden Loss

Choosing to be grateful. It seems like being grateful or thankful for something shouldn't have to be a "choice." If you are blessed with something to be thankful for, then shouldn't you just be overflowing with gratitude, rather than needing to willfully choose it?

I spoke with my grandfather the other day to wish my grandmother a "Happy Birthday." She turned 88 years old. I couldn't wish her a happy birthday myself, as she is in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease. And what a horrible disease that is! All the same, I wanted to make sure HE knew I was thinking about her on that important day.

My grandpa is an incredibly loving and devoted husband to his wife. He has patience like I have never seen. I admire him for his unwavering strength and ability to stay by her side, even though the woman he married all those years ago, is not "with" him, as she once was. She hasn't been for a while now. Yet, he is there with her day after day, in the facility which cares for her. In their "home." I have no doubt, that even though she may never speak it, she somehow knows he is there. He has not left her side. And I can only imagine it must bring her comfort. Still, it breaks his heart to the core, but he chooses to be by her side, just as he promised.

Bunky and I went to Ohio to visit them about 2 months before his death. It was the first time my grammy didn't know who I was. She looked at me so puzzled and with such a blank stare when I approached her in the hall. She really didn't speak much to me at all. To say it was hard, would be an understatement.

I remember the 2 nights Bunky and I were in town very vividly. Bunky spent a lot of time with my grandfather, while I sat with grammy. Then, we would go back to our hotel at night and talk for hours. This visit spurred lots of discussions for us about the end of life, sacrifice and unconditional love in a marriage, and what we wanted things to look like for us as we aged. We talked about how difficult this must be for my grandfather to endure day after day. Bunky had immense respect for my grandfather, and talked a lot about how completely and unselfishly he loved my grandmother. I took this picture, without them knowing, when we were all just sitting in the room visiting one afternoon. What a beautiful representation of unconditional love.
Little did I know that I would hold my own husband's hand for the last time, just less than 3 months later, as he laid unconscious in a hospital bed. I can still remember the way his hand felt holding mine. What I wouldn't give to feel that even one more time. But, oh how grateful I am that his was the hand I held for over 17 years, while dating and then while married.
As much as sudden loss is an indescribably horrible event to experience, I find myself grateful that I or Bunky did not have to go through what my grandfather is going through now. To suddenly and so tragically lose one you love carries a multitude of feelings that hit you in the face. The shock in and of itself, can be paralyzing. There are days that the darkness, loneliness, and pain are so excruciating that I don't know how I can possibly move forward. The regret of things I wish I would have done differently or better sometimes weighs heavy. Then, there are days (and I am finding they are coming more often), that I experience great joy and comfort in the realization of what I was blessed with. Memories of sweet talks, like when we visited my grandparents, come flooding back…and I smile.

After talking with my grandfather, I really thought about how there are reasons to be grateful, even in my loss. Even though it happened so suddenly, and sent my "train" abruptly down an unfamiliar and unexpected track. I knew that Bunky loved me and he knew that I loved him. I have absolutely no doubt in that. I know that I will see him again. I have no question about that. During our final days with each other, we were fully aware of each other. We were fully engaged with each other. We fully understood who the other was in our life.

I think my grandfather would agree…that was a gift. One I will always choose to be thankful for.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A New Calendar

The year mark is over. Part of me is relieved that I never have to go through another "1st" again. And another part of me, a really big part, braces myself for the fact that it's now just every day life without him in it. There's no anticipating or preparing myself for certain dates. How are we going to celebrate this birthday or that holiday? With July 3, 2014 comes a new calendar.  Dates that hold just as much meaning as they did during the first year I went through them, but somehow already going through them leaves me feeling more empty. It's as if there are expectations with everything "post 1 year"…After all, I did it once and got through. Why not again?

I believe time heals. I believe that I will learn to live with this emptiness. I believe that I won't ever "get over it," but will learn how to embrace what things look like now. I believe God has a bigger story and I pray I can be sensitive enough to His calling to live out that story in my life, while bringing Him glory. I'm hopeful for what He has in store.

I will forever be thankful for the abundance of people who have poured out generosity to us this past year. I truly feel an army of prayer warriors surrounding us, even now. Please continue to do this. I can't tell you how much it means. I can assure you that our daily lives are still marked with a great absence. One that is felt in so many ways. One that will continue to be real and difficult.

I would say one thing that has been really awesome to me is to see how God uses people in seemingly small ways. I couldn't begin to tell you the times I have gotten a random text, email, phone call, card, or even Facebook message from someone (even those I may not know or be all that close to) that speaks volumes to me in that moment. I have had lots of people tell me that they hesitate sometimes to say something, even when they feel led to say it. Don't! God uses you. He has been using you in my life. I know that after this year, I will always try to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to reach out to someone. I've seen what God can do with this too many times in my own life this year, and I am a believer.  Even if it's just to say, "I don't have any words, but God put you on my heart and I just wanted you to know."

You may have just what someone needs in a particular moment…and God may just want to use you to comfort someone. Let Him!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

One Year

The day came. There was no stopping it…as much as I wanted to put the pillow over my head and wish it away. The one year anniversary of the death of my beloved, best friend, husband, father to my children came and is now almost gone. The one who not only made me smile, but continually made me laugh. A belly laugh. Like the kind that causes tears from laughing so hard. 

Just to digress a little here. We always talked about how important it was in a marriage that you are able to laugh with and make your spouse laugh. As he always said, when we are old, you won't love me for my looks…it will be because I make you laugh. I have a feeling I will still laugh at some of my many funny memories with him as an old lady, he just won't be here to do it with me, now. Please make time to laugh…really laugh…with your spouse. You won't ever regret it!

The day started with us looking out the window at a bunch of white flags stuck in our yard with "RC" on each one of them. I still have no idea who did this, but it was really cool!

We cried and laughed as we watched a video together that I made for them. I thought about posting it, but I think I will keep that one special just for us. It has a lot of old pictures of them with their dad through the years. Then, we headed out to do some random acts of kindness in honor of their dad. A sonic car hop and a lady selling the homeless newspaper got a surprise tip! We still have a special girl at Sonic we will go visit…she wasn't there today. We gave them a note with their money that explained about Rod and why we were generously giving as he did throughout his short life.

Then, my niece Hannah came and got the boys to go to Chick-fil-A, another one of Bunky's favorite places to eat. They also went and played at Goofballs (a family fun/arcade/bumper car, etc place) for a while. I spent those few hours alone. I went for a jog and sat outside for a while, just talking to God and remembering how He has been faithful over this past year. Also, remembering the deep loss that I have experienced. I sometimes wonder if the pain will ever ease up. I was grateful to have that time alone and for the boys to just go have some FUN.

The boys came home and got to open a surprise package from my dear friend from graduate school days, Rachel. They had a box FULL of Alabama stuff, with a signed football from Nick Saban! They were truly through the roof on this one. 

We dropped a card and some cookies off at their Papa's house and went on to the cemetery. There were some left over lanterns from the birthday celebration we did to honor Bunky, so we thought we would send those off. Unfortunately, the wind was really blowing and we had to nix that. A sweet lady was visiting her husband's grave right next to us and took our picture. We just sat a while. We prayed together. Each of the boys prayed…which can I just tell you, made this mama bawl! There is nothing sweeter than the prayers of children, who are feeling the magnitude already, of their need for their Heavenly Father. Before we left the boys got a hold of the camera and took a few pictures of the sky too.
After that, everyone was hungry, so we headed to Garcia's to have Bunky's favorite Mexican food! I let them stay up to watch a movie tonight, as well. Overall, I feel such sorrow in my heart, if I am being honest. However, I can literally feel that we are covered in prayer, as peace lies in the midst of all the pain. The only thing I can think of to describe it is, the hurt and pain is there (it may always be on some level), but there is this warm blanket of peace that covers over it. It is like being cold and having a warm blanket put over you. You still feel cold, at least for a while, until you adjust to the warm blanket. There has been a "blanket of peace" covering my coldness today.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the texts, calls, cards, gifts, messages, etc. that I have gotten over the last several days. I am just overwhelmed. Completely overwhelmed and grateful beyond words. Thank you for not forgetting. We have loved reading stories of things people are doing to "Remember Rod"…It is making an impact. My prayer is that all of us would incorporate that mindset into our daily lives. Thank you for continuing to think of us and pray. It is powerful and I can assure you it is felt. God is so good!

Lamentations 3:32
"Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love." 

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Scars

Just a "heads up," if you haven't already figured it out…writing is therapeutic for me. These next few days feel heavy. There is a lot stirred up in me as I remember, too specifically at times, what transpired over these days between late Saturday/early Sunday until the time Rod was taken off of life support on that Wednesday morning a year ago. Therefore, I may post more than normal. Bear with me or stop reading if you wish.

I picked the boys up today, after they were at a friend's house for 2 nights. I missed them a lot and it was good to have them home. However, I realized quickly that I am still very "edgy" with them, and just feel extremely depleted emotionally. I hate feeling like this. It makes me feel inadequate as a mom when I feel such a lack of control with my emotions. After all, I have done a pretty decent job of keeping it together for almost a year now.

I am continuing to pray for wisdom and a sense of peace to wash over me. I had always hoped I would be in a better place by this time. That somehow I would boldly walk through these days, with such a sense of hope and gracefulness. Instead, I feel myself slipping backwards emotionally. I feel more lost and unsure than ever. Then, I remember…there is no certain way this should look. Whatever perceptions or expectations I have of myself should just be thrown out the window. Grief is unpredictable and takes sudden, crazy turns. Loss of any kind is painful. It comes with both the predictable and unpredictable moments of sadness.

Tonight I am reminded to BE. STILL. Just be still, Missy. It sounds so easy, yet it is one of the MOST difficult things for me to do. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." He wants me to be still, because when I am "still" with my thoughts, emotions, and all the expectations I conjure up in my head…HE is able to come in and fill me with the only voice I need to hear...HIS. His voice is truth. His voice tells me that He is good and faithful, even when the circumstances are hard. His voice reminds me that He is near to my broken heart and will never leave me. When I allow myself to really hear His voice, I am filled with strength and peace like no other to face the days ahead.

Interestingly, I was reading a book to Colby at the counselor's office last week, as we waited on Carson to finish his session. He picked it up because it had a tree on it and he thought it might be a children's book. It was called The Tree That Survived Winter. I had never heard of it, but it was beautiful and so full of truth and metaphors that aligned with my story. One line in particular caught my attention and I read it over and over. (see below) The entire story is of a tree who had to go through the winter and basically felt forsaken by the sun in those cold, hard months. But the tree realized quickly as she blossomed and bloomed and was stronger, that surviving the winter shaped her into this beautiful, strong, resilient tree. I love this! I want to be grateful for the scars one day. I want God to use those scars to produce an unspeakable solidarity in Christ within me. And I pray that I will.

"Profoundly humbled, the tree bent low, grateful for the obvious gifts she had to share, but even more grateful for the less obvious- the scars that produced an unspeakable solidarity." - Mary Fahy, The Tree That Survived the Winter.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bruised- The beginning of God's new story

"Combat comes before victory. If God has chosen special trials for you to endure, be assured he has kept a very special place in His heart just for you. A badly bruised soul, is one who is chosen." - L.B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert.

Today marks the day that it all began 1 year ago. The series of events that forever changed everything from that moment moving forward into what I thought my future would look like. I have felt a great need to have some time alone…only with God. So, graciously, a friend took the boys for a couple of nights, to allow me to do just that. My counselor recommended I do this and she was right. It has been a gift.

I realize how for so many months, I have had to be "on" as a mom. This doesn't mean I couldn't be upset, angry, or show any emotion. It just means I had to contain it to a certain degree. My boys worry about me. Carson is especially perceptive and gets concerned easily about how I'm doing. I have probably perpetuated that, as I am a master at keeping it together most of the time. So, a "respite" at home is exactly what my soul needed.

The summer has felt intense, particularly. There are really no breaks from all of the boys at the same time. One or two may be at camp or a playdate, but typically not all 3 are gone at the same time, as they are when school is going on. So, I have felt heaviness and sadness stirring within me, that often comes out sideways. They are out of routine. Bedtimes are later. All making for a not-so-great combination for this exhausted and lonely mama, who is desperately missing her husband, and weary from doing it alone.

I know the next few days will be difficult. I would covet your prayers, as I am having a hard time sleeping. Lots of flashbacks. Lots of emotion. God is faithful and I am loving some one on one time with Him. It is like a big hug. You know how you can think you are fine? Then, the moment that particular someone hugs you…the floodgates open and the emotions come barreling out. Something about that "hug" from my Heavenly Father reminds me of how much He cares for me and that it is okay to let it all out. To be vulnerable. To cry so hard that my bones hurt. I am resting in a great big hug from Him right now, and as the quote above says (which I love, by the way), I'm believing that "He has a special place in His heart for ME." He sees that I am badly bruised, and tenderly cares for my every need.

God chose this road for our family, one year ago today. I will probably never understand why. I can only hope that my response to His plan is one that brings glory.

Some days I know it doesn't, and I give myself grace for that. But, today I give Him all glory and honor and praise!
I love you, Bunky, and miss you more with each passing day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Last "First"

We survived. Not only did we survive the last of the "Firsts," before the 1 year anniversary of his death, but I would even venture to say we thrived. Was it hard? Absolutely. But I can honestly say I felt so covered in prayer on this day.
Father's Day will forever be a difficult day for these boys. It will break my heart every year, I have no doubt. It will never be the same for them. However, as I shared with them from my own story of losing my mom, the day will hopefully come when the sting is not so painful and the hole does not feel so gaping. It may be, as it was for me, once I had my own children. I don't know the answer to that and it may be different for each of them. But they now know that they CAN get through it, and they can do as we did…choose to focus on what we had in their daddy, rather than on the loss.
We decided that morning to find somewhere to go on a hiking adventure! So, we decided on Edwin Warner Park in Nashville, which is only about a 25 minute drive. It was really beautiful and we ended up spending almost 4 hours out on the trails. The time truly went by fast. We covered a lot of ground, but we also played a lot along the way. Boys are drawn to water and there was a perfect stream and pond to play in on our trek. We probably spent an hour there alone.

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We really enjoyed just unplugging from everything and everyone for a few hours. Along the way we had some great discussions about the kind of man their dad was and the things that were most important to him. We laughed as we talked about some of the funny things their dad said and did. I will admit I had tears falling as I walked behind them on the trail and longed deeply for him to be there walking with us.  I was even asked by one lady (not in front of the boys, thankfully), "you must be giving dad a break today, huh?" I just nodded and couldn't bring myself to say anything else.

The night before, we talked about how the boys wanted their Father's Day to look or what special things we could do to celebrate what an amazing earthly father they were blessed with. They decided they each wanted to make a rock for their dad and leave them at his gravesite. This was actually Cooper's idea! The other 2 thought it was perfect. So, I brought the rocks and my sharpie with us in the backpack and they decided to find a special spot to sit and write on their rocks, while hiking.
After we left our hike, we went to the cemetery and the boys left their rocks. There are no words to describe how heart wrenching it is to watch your children sit and stare silently, tears falling, at their daddy's grave. We didn't stay long, but it was something they all said they wanted to do and were glad they did it. When I asked them how they felt about the day…they all said (in one way or another) "Better than I thought it would be."

And I felt the same. 

Thankful for prayers. They do make a difference. God heard and the day was in fact, better than I thought!

Then, it was off for Master Blasts at Sonic, followed by mom's grilled hamburgers! Yes…I can grill…I learned from the grill master himself…their daddy!