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!

Wallace, party of one

I’m out with friends, headed to a wedding. 

My friends, but Kyle’s friends too.  The groom is Kyle’s friend. I’m riding in the back of his best friend’s, Josey,  pickup truck listening to music and drinking a few beers.

It’s fun, but it’s also sad. 

I got teary-eyed when a certain song played on the radio. 

I remembered that I dreamed about Kyle last night. And we actually talked in the dream. And we laughed. 

I miss him so much. His friends miss him. Nothing is the same without him. 

The music blares from the speakers. The songs are the same, yet they don’t feel the same. 

I’m not supposed to be here without Kyle. 

***********************************

The wedding was fun, but sad at the same time. One of my friends asked me how I was doing, and I almost lost it. It was hard to contain my tears. And it really didn’t matter how much I drank, I never shook the feeling. I would rather be with Kyle than anywhere else in the world. 

Now on my way home with the same people.. 

in a past life, I would be cranking up the music, singing at the top of my lungs. I wouldn’t care what time it was. I was young and wild and free. I didn’t care how much we had to pay the babysitter or how bad my head would hurt the next day. 

Now the thought of the life Iived 7 months ago seems like a dream. I can’t even come close to feeling that carefree now.  Kyle gave me stability and freedom. He made me feel like I was 22, and still young and reckless. He made me feel complete, and  let me be the best version of myself.

 

Unfair. 

Sometimes life just doesn’t seem fair. It’s not fair that my children have to live without their wonderful father. It’s not fair that I have to watch their little faces as they cry for him. Today, Hamp yelled for his daddy when he saw a white truck driving by. He shouted “daddy’s truck! Daddy’s here!” When I told him that wasn’t daddy, he said in a sweet little voice “daddy’s with Jesus?”, as if to answer his own question. Then later this evening, I found Myla in the den curled up with a framed picture of Kyle, crying her little eyes out. This time I couldn’t help but to get a little emotional as well as she told me she wished he didn’t die and wished he could come back and wait to die when she was old. I told her how much I missed him as well and that I wish I could make everything better and perfect again. She wrote me a sweet little note on her art easel that reads “dear mom, sorry your huzbin dide'” 


     It’s so easy to get angry at our struggle and resentful of our pain. It would be so easy to scream, curse, cry, or turn my back on God. It’s not fair that my son will never have clear memories of his father, and will never have the chance to know him. It’s not fair that my daughter sleeps with photo albums every night, instead of getting to kiss her dad goodnight after bedtime prayers. It’s not fair that men I view as “lesser” husbands and fathers get to continue to play those roles and take them completely for granted. Tonight I was thinking about how unfair it all was and ” asking the “why us?” question. But then I quickly answered myself with “why NOT us?”  

      

 The reality is that everyone experiences unfairness in life. The key principle to remember is that how we react to unfair treatment is more important than what has happened to us.  The truth is that everyone is going to die. In our lifetime, we will experience major losses. It’s just a matter of when, where, and in what order.  We have to be prepared for the loss, as well as how we will react to it. 

Responding to unjust situations or actions in anger, bitterness and revenge is not the answer (Ephesians 4:31-32). Rather, trusting God in faith and obedience brings true peace of mind and, in due course, entrance into eternal life (Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 19:17).

I know God is not singling me out or punishing me. He is not angry with me and took away my husband as my punishment. He is, however, showing himself to me. He is showing me his grace and mercy at every turn. I am so thankful for His precious grace during our extreme trials. 

The good ones are called first. 

Today, almost 6 months to the day of burying my own husband, I sat in the funeral audience  of a dear friend as she memorialized her husband. My college friend, Mandy, lost her husband Ronnie in a tragic car accident on Valentine’s Day. They have a 6 year old son, Noah. 

  I scanned the auditorium- so many familiar faces. So many of the same friends, who just 6 months ago mourned a friend and watched his wife go to pieces, now mourning another one.  It was so strange, but I almost felt sorry for them. I felt sorry for my friends who are also friends with Ronnie and Mandy. They’ve had to say goodbye to two great men in half of a year. I questioned God in that very room, and wondered why? What is the point in this? What are you trying to show us? 

  If the deaths of two 36 year old men back to back isn’t enough to get your attention, I don’t want to know what is.   

As I looked at her across the room, I was completely heart broken for Mandy. She was so broken, yet she doesn’t know what’s coming. I know she is existing in the foggy sadness, not in the reality yet. I wanted to tell her to brace herself, the following days to come will be extremely hard as this nightmare reality sets in. I wanted to tell her that she will feel isolated and completely alone. I wanted to tell her that friends she thought she had will begin to drift as the grief gets too much for them to handle. I wanted to tell her that she will fee like she is standing completely still, while threat of the world spins around her. I wanted to tell her all of those truths. But I know her grief makes her too delicate to bear them today.

She will know them soon enough.

  For anyone who may ever read this, please take this as a wake up call to get your life in order. And by that I mean in order with God. Kyle and Ronnie were both Godly men, and are now in a most perfect place. There will come a day when YOU die. That’s a fact.  We have all sinned, but ask for forgiveness, and ask for Christ’s grace and mercy. You never know when your heart may fail or you may have an accident. This life is too precious to throw away on a chance that God and heaven isn’t real. It IS real. And I have hope for my future because of that.