One week away.

Social Media. Timehop. Facebook Memories…..

I usually love the memories and moments these apps send to my cell phone every day. Every morning is a brief walk down memory lane, and a peek into some forgotten past moments.

But today, they have just about broken my heart.

Between my phone and Kyle's, the memories and events of last year at this time really caught me by surprise.

To back track and catch up anyone who may ever read this and not know our story, 8 months before Kyle died, he was fired as a head coach at one of our local schools. The same school myself and my mother graduated from, and where Myla was currently in kindergarten. It was an extremely difficult football season, and a school culture that is out of control. Needless to say, prior to Kyle's death, it was THE HARDEST event I had ever had to experience. Our family suffered tremendously, and it hit me hard.

So, today when I get a picture of Myla trying on her new cheerleader outfit to cheer on her daddy's new team, it instantly brought tears to my eyes. It is so bittersweet. By that point in the year, Kyle had been hired pretty quickly by another local high school, and we were so happy and excited about the future. Myla was so proud to have a new cheerleader uniform.

We could have never fathomed that the first time she would wear it would be on August 18th, at a prayer vigil for her father.

And this 1st day of School picture really sting also. Myla was so nervous that day, starting a new school. But she put on a brave face, and took the challenge head on. We were in need of a fresh start at a sweet little Christian school, free of parental drama and sports drama.

She looks so small and precious. Her innocent, sweet little face is free from the knowledge of the pain life causes. 7 days after this picture was taken, on her 4th day of school, she would receive the worst news of her little life.

Oh how my heart hurts for her! Last night at dinner I asked her if she was excited about 2nd grade. When she hesitated, I asked:
"are you nervous?"
"Yes"
"What makes you nervous? New teacher? Homework?"
" no ma'am"
"Are you remembering how hard it was last year when daddy died?"
"Yes ma'am. I don't want it to be crazy again, and all those people. And I don't want any body to die this whole year!"

After I pulled my mind together, I took that opportunity to use it as a teaching moment, and tell her that we are not guaranteed a single day, and we never know when it will be our time to go live with Jesus. That's why we must keep God and Jesus in our hearts always so that we are always ready.

Bless this child, dear Father. She already knows more than any of her friends about the first hand experience of life, death, and eternity. In my sorrow, I am thankful for the time I can spend telling my children about your glory and your Heaven that awaits your children. Thank you for every day, good and bad. In your name I pray. Amen.

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In 9 days, I will have been a widow for one whole year.

How did that happen? How did I get to this point?

The past year has been such a blur. It some ways, it seems like August 17th, 2016 was literally just yesterday. I honestly barely remember this past year, especially the first 6 months.

I also think Myla and I are both suffering a little PTSD from last year in anticipation of this upcoming school year. I can tell she is stressed out. I absolutely HATE that children have had to face such a hard suffering at such a young age. It's not fair. I couldn't protect or shield them from this pain. I couldn't do my job as a mother- protect my children.

Myla went to her counselor last week and dictated this letter to her to be typed to take to the cemetery on the 17th:
If that doesn't break your heart, you are made of stone.

And let me go on the record and say that the clichés are all a lie. "IT" doesn't get easier. Time does not heal.

The truth is I have gotten stronger, and only GOD heals. I can say I've gotten so much stronger, even as I sit here and cry while I write this. I have learned how to bite down, grit my teeth and survive every day. I have learned little "tricks" to avert my mind when I can feel the tears coming on. I have focused any spare time I have to reading the truths of God's words, especially about eternity. I have crawled on my hands and knees through the glass and gravel of this past year to make it to this point.

Also, a good Christian grief counselor is invaluable. I almost want to puke when I think of how much money I've spent in counseling this past year, but I can't put a price tag on my sanity at this point. Having a counselor has helped me tremendously to get through this year.

But I still have so much farther to go.

I've lost a lot of who I am during this year. So many people have told me "Kyle would be so proud of you!" This makes me laugh a little. Yeah, he would be proud that I haven't strangled one of our kids or burned down the house by now. But I don't think he would be to happy with the Jamie that I have become. In some ways, I have become a much better me – especially in my walk with God. Kyle would give me a big pat on the back for that one. (Or actually a pat on the top of my head, which he would often do because he was so much taller than me. Ha!) But some of the things Kyle always loved about me are almost totally gone. He loved that I was a free spirit and would squeal almost like a little kid when I was excited about something. He LOVED that I was artistic, and expressed that in ways he was always so impressed by. He was literally like a proud parent when it came to my artistic talents.

But those parts of me feel so far away, almost completely gone. I feel like a hollowed out shell of who I used to be.

And now that I'm a single parent, and the extra mountain of stress and responsibility that brings, I don't see the old Jamie coming back any time soon. Old Jamie wouldn't want to be in with all this sadness. Way too depressing.

Bottom line, I miss kyle the same right this very moment just as much as I missed him a year ago. What I wouldn't give to have him back…

August 1..

I'm going to be honest, I have been having a hard time the past few days. Overall, the summer has been going pretty well, but the past few days are starting to become heavier and heavier. I don't know if it's because I'm getting closer to the year mark, or if it's the anticipation of the start of school, or seeing everyone on social media start to get excited about football season , but something (or all of the above) is really getting to me. I have known for some time that the month of August in 2017 was going to be quite a doozy. Hamp's 3rd Birthday is the 1st (today), tomorrow I turn 35, we start school on the 14th, on the 17th is the year anniversary, and the 28th is our wedding anniversary.

I know, that's enough to make anyone crazy!

Lately, I've been so overwhelmed and stressed with single parenting. It's so hard y'all! Beyond what anyone can ever imagine it to be – but especially while grieving. Hamp is in the terrible "3s" and I lose my patience with him so quickly and far too often. Then, I get mad at myself for losing my cool and it breaks my heart. Tonight, after several failed attempts at getting Hamp to stay in his bed, I finally completely lost it and started yelling at him and Myla. All three of us were crying! One thing I have prayed for constantly over the past year, is to have more patience with my children. Sometimes I don't feel like God is helping me with that. My stress level is so high, and they are often in the line of fire. It breaks my heart for them to see me like this. My seemingly constant yelling and frustration and sadness is killing me inside.

I can tell Myla is having some difficulties lately as well. I think some of the memories and anxiety is starting to surface again. For the past several months, I noticed a change in her. Like she was beginning to become "normal" again. But over the past week I have caught her crying and she is also more irritable. She asked if she could visit "Mrs. Tiffany" again. (She is her counselor) I of course made that visit happen, and when she came out of her office, she handed me this paper and said that Mrs Tiffany helped her type it and she wanted to put it on Daddy's grave.

One of the most heart wrenching things about going through grief, is watching your babies go through it. As mothers, all we want to do is to protect them, but sadly everyone will experience suffering and loss at some point in life. I just never could of imagined that my children would experience such a great loss at ages 2 and 6. A few nights ago, as I was getting the kids ready for bed, I walked into my room to find Myla sitting in the floor, looking at a locket with our family's photos in it. She said she was sad. She told me that she thinks about her daddy every day, but doesn't always say it because she doesn't want to cry. We climbed in to bed together and talked about some daddy memories and talked about Heaven. As I was describing what the Bible tells us about Heaven, I couldn't help but to get teary eyed. What an awesome promised place God is preparing for his children, and what an amazing year Kyle has had! Myla said she knew daddy was happiest where he is now.

My heart always breaks a little each night when Myla falls asleep to her "daddy books". It makes me so sad that that is our reality. She doesn't get to kiss her daddy goodnight, she only gets to hold her photo albums like they are golden treasures. And while I try to be optimistic about Heaven and eternity, I still get angry and the sinful side of me wants to scream that IT'S NOT FAIR!! Why were we chosen to suffer now? Why can't my children be care free and happy and have both parents here? Why, God, why us?

I know the answer- "why not us?"

Everyone will suffer.
Everyone is going to die.
Everyone will go through pain.
Everyone will have regrets.

But everyone is also a child of God. If we chose to follow our father, we will be rewarded in a perfect Heaven.

Honestly, I'm ready for that.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, I’m sitting in a balcony overlooking the Pensacola Beach, drinking my morning coffee while my children sleep peacefully inside the cool, dark condo. It’s the first week of summer vacation, and a cold front has hit the coast, creating a very pleasant temperature and cool breeze. This sounds like any normal beach vacation, but it’s not. Nothing ever feels “normal” to me anymore. 


Kyle’s brother (Brock), and his family are with us this weekend too. We all are sharing a condo. It has been tricky navigating my emotions. I can feel Kyle’s abscence so strongly when I am with Brock.  I’m sure by this point in our vacation, I would have been annoyed by their stupid inside jokes and weird ability to communicate entirely through movie quotes. Even though they shared countless similarities, when Kyle was alive, the brothers seemed so different. Kyle was very structured and detail/task oriented, while Brock is a more laid back and go with the flow type. Now that Kyle isn’t with us anymore, I see even more similarities in Brock. It makes me miss Kyle even more intensely. They even sound so much alike sometimes, and Hamp has even called Brock “daddy” twice since we’ve been here. That was hard for me to swallow when I heard that. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying myself and having a great time. I have loved seeing Myla rip and romp through the waves, and I love seeing sweet Hamp build a sandcastle and tell me he wants to eat jellyfish for supper. They are enjoying every second of this trip. It’s just that it is a little harder for me. I am beginning to think I’ll never fully and completely  enjoy anything ever again. I just feel like such a different person, almost a stranger. I’m not the carefree funloving mom I once was. The bright and crisp edges of my life now seem to have a blurry and dark frame around it. Kyle’s abscence and our pain swirls around everything that we do. Grief has a way of transforming us. There are moments when I felt like I am only defined by brokenness; that my identity is “broken.”

Being with Kyle’s brother and seeing his interactions with his wife and family almost break my heart. I miss the family we had, and the love we shared. I even miss the quarrels and hard times! It feels strange to be on vacation without him with us. 

I pray and try to seek Christ on this, and although I will never be the same, I am thankful that my eyes have been opened to eternity and my need for Christ’s saving grace has been made so apparent. I know one day I won’t feel so shattered and one day I might feel more joy than pain, and God will work in great ways to restore, redeem and heal. It just takes some time to heal and that the transformation of my life  will be greater because of the pain. 

Everyone inside the condo should be waking up by now. I’ll dry my tears and put on my best happy face and Enjoy this absolutely gorgeous day God has given us!

Mother’s Day

My first Mother’s Day without Kyle is in just a few days. I’m sad, of course, as I am with every holiday this year. I’m celebrating a day of being a mother without the man that made me one. It’s bittersweet. 

Kyle was a terrible gift giver. He was practical, and only liked to buy things we actually needed and were going to buy anyway. Sometimes I would say to him jokingly “do you even know me?” when he would get me some random, yet practical gift. It was a running joke in our house (and among friends) for 6 years, that he gave the worst first Mother’s Day gift ever. Myla was born 2 weeks before Mother’s Day. And while other moms were getting jewelry to commemorate their first born, I got stepping stones. Yes, you read that right- stepping stones for the backyard. And not actually the real stones, but the promise of the stones. We still had to go get the dang things and lay them! Oh I never let him live that one down. Last year, he gave me floor mats for my new vehicle. Yeah, I needed them, but still extremely practical. 

Now I would give anything for one of his terrible gifts. I would tell him how much I loved and needed it! I wish I could go back and tell him those things instead of giving him a hard time. I know he didn’t have a lot of extra spending money, and never had time to shop anywhere and be a football coach. 

Now I don’t have anyone to celebrate all of the joys and struggles of parenthood and motherhood with. My children are too little to even understand what the day is about, much less get me a card. Just another thing to add to the list of the void Kyle left behind. 

I’ve missed him extra hard this week. I miss him so very much. 

Babies and grief

I don’t understand the 2 year old brain. Who does, right? I don’t know what Hamp thinks about or how his little mind works. He turned 2, just two weeks before Kyle died.  If I’m being perfectly honest, I’ve never really been all that concerned with his grief up to this point. I know that sounds bad, but over the past 8 months, ive had to focus on myself and Myla. That alone has been a huge challenge, and I often times felt so blessed to have one to not have to worry about. 

Lately though, he has said some things that almost knock the wind out of me. Obviously I have told him that Daddy died and he is in Heaven with Jesus. We look at Daddy’s photos and we ride in Daddy’s truck. That’s about the extent of it.  Lately when he is upset though or in pain (any type of crying situation) he cries out saying “I want Daddy!!” How does he remember that his daddy is someone who protected him? It’s been 8 months! Tonight he was being very defiant, and I spanked his bottom one good time with the spanking spoon. He shrieked and crumpled to the ground. Of course, my heart broke into a million little pieces. I scooped him up and hugged him and told him that he couldn’t do that anymore to Mommy. He finally settled down and said this :

 “I want Daddy. I want Daddy to stay. Get in car and go get him!” 

Knife to the heart. What do I do with that? What do I tell him? How do I explain death to a 2 year old? I don’t know what to do. I feel terrible about neglecting his grief, but I didn’t know that 2 year olds really have grief. I mean, the kid doesn’t know his last name yet. How does he remember that his daddy is “gone” and should be here at home with us? 

*********** 2 hours later ***********

I had just gotten Hamp out of the bathtub and was drying him off in his bedroom. I had him alone, and asked him “Hamp, where is daddy?”  He got an excited look on his face , pointed and said “Right there!” I looked over and he was pointing at a picture of Kyle in his high school football uniform. I asked him again where imhis daddy was, and he said “at a football game”.  I started explaining again what happened to daddy and where he was, only to be interrupted with an urgency to go play with his train table. 

I wish I had someone to ask about their experiences with this. I wish I knew someone who lost a parent at 2 so that I could find out what they remember. I may never know if he has any actual memories as he gets older, but I sure hope he does. 

This reality. 

Grief is sneaky. It hides in the corners and jumps out at you when you least expect it. 

These days, my grief catches me by surprise most often. I guess I have learned to brace myself and mentally ready myself for the times when it’s expected to be painful. Those are the times I clench my teeth and brace myself for the pain, often times feeling so relieved and in control of my emotions when I make it through without completely losing it. But the times when it comes out of nowhere are the hardest. For example, tonight I was up late during a rainstorm watching TV. After my show ended, the ending credit music was a cover of a Rolling Stones song. I completely lost it. Out. Of. Nowhere. All I could think about was that I’m not supposed to be in this house, living this life, and parenting my children without Kyle. 

Yesterday evening, the kids and Skip and I loaded up in Kyle’s truck, and rode out to the country to pick up a piece of furniture from my parents house. We were packed in like 4 sardines! We listened to Z106, which is the rock station Kyle always listened to, and rolled the windows down. The sun was setting as we drove, and the smell of his truck made me feel so safe and familiar.  I pulled over and snapped a picture of us. My little family. My whole world. All my people squished into the front of our Kyle’s pickup truck. Even though we are missing a piece of our puzzle, we are still holding together. 

Sometimes I just wish Christ would decide to return NOW. Now, while my sweet innocent children are still sheltered under my protective wings. Now, before the world gets any uglier. Now, while we are all together so that we can wake up in a new world together. 
We are learning so much during this time of grief and healing. Heaven and eternity are so real to me and Myla. Hamp is too little, but he already knows that daddy lives in Heaven with Jesus. Christ is working within me, and my eyes are on the prize. I pray for God to show me how to steward the hearts of my children.

This life we are living is temporary. This life without kyle is my worst nightmare, but I know it will be over in a flash. My forever will be with him in eternity. I can’t wait!