Thursday, January 30, 2014

Finding Grace in the Grief

Wow.  I just looked at my last post dated March 2nd.  I can't believe it has been almost a year since I have written.

And now, there is so much to write...

What a crazy ride life has been for me...

I'm definitely learning to find grace in the grieving.

When I lost Anna Sophia almost 5 years ago, I went through such a dark, sorrowful time.  I didn't understand why it happened.  I didn't understand how to deal with it.  And I didn't understand that it would take me going through it and dealing with it to get to the other side and find healing.

I definitely had no idea, at that time, that 5 years later, I would lose the love of my life.

November 6th, 2013, Freddie lost his battle with cancer.

It is so difficult for me to put into words the emotions and thoughts I have each day.  I've now buried two of the three most important people in my less than 5 years...

When Freddie was first diagnosed with cancer in May of 2011, of course my brain automatically went to "What if?"  When you hear that word, when anyone hears that word, they wonder...Will I make it?  Am I strong enough?  Why me?

At that time, I couldn't imagine my life without Freddie.  Will was only 5 months old.  I was a stay-at-home mom believing that we were coming out of a dark time grieving our daughter and finally able to celebrate the new life God had brought into our family.

So many events, procedures, prescriptions, treatments, journeys, relationships, hardships were experienced during that time.  I still don't even know if I know what true, honest faith is.  I worried most steps of the way, but continued to believe that no matter what, God would get me through it.  And now, I feel like I've learned so much more about faith.

I remember so many people praying for Freddie to be healed.  Believing that there would be a miracle for him.  And I remember thinking, "But what if there isn't?"  How would that be a testament to God's ability to take care of His people?  How would people learn that faith isn't always about getting the answers we want.  Faith is believing, that no matter what, God will be there.

Do I feel that every day at every minute during every stressful, exhausting moment?  No...but that is grace.

I remember it so clearly and vividly hitting me after Freddie's funeral while I was talking to a dear friend at the reception at Fort Worth Club.  You see, expecting a miracle wasn't the only way that God could work through Freddie.  I truly believe that Freddie's LIFE was a testament.  His joy, his charisma, his generosity, his relationships, his loyalty, his laugh, his jokes...can't we all look at the way he lived and believe that God worked through him?

It sounds crazy to say that his death was sudden and shocking.  He had cancer.  But he had put on such a brave face to most around him that nobody expected him to go so unexpectedly and so suddenly.

November 5th, Freddie worked all day.  He came home late afternoon and sat in my office as I worked and talked to me.  Looking back, I realize there was something on his mind, but he wasn't ready to talk about it and I was wrapped up in the busyness of my job.  He and I talked for a little bit about those daily mundane things married couples rarely get to talk about because there are never many minutes you have to devote to each other when you have kids.  He left to see one last client and I left a few minutes later to pick up Will at school.  I came home, made dinner, ate with Will, and Freddie came home not long after that.  I remember apologizing that I made spaghetti.  Freddie had a lot of stomach problems and sometimes the acidity of tomato sauce would bother his stomach.  He said that it looked great and he was hungry.  He went into the other room with Will and started eating.  I was watching a TV show and cleaning up the kitchen.  He suddenly came running through the room, getting sick to his stomach.  I, of course, was worried the food had made him ill, but he insisted it wasn't that.  He said he was scared.  He had a lot on his mind.  He finally broke down, in tears, and told me the doctor had called and said they found the cancer in his skull.

Freddie's biggest fear, during his entire cancer battle, was that the cancer would end up in his head.

I was in shock and looking back probably didn't say the perfect thing or most positive, supportive thing.  But as we were talking, he began acting funny.  His speech was garbled, and one side of his face started falling.  I so distinctly remember saying, "I think you are having a stroke." and googling the symptoms and calling a friend.  Her first response, of course, was, "Have you called 911?"

I didn't believe all of this was really happening.  I called 911 and 10 minutes later had 15 or so people in my living room between fire fighters, EMTs, and neighbors.  I remember the EMT saying, "Ma'am (you know it's serious when they say "ma'am".), I'm not trying to scare you, but I really do think he's had a stroke."  They took him downtown and I followed shortly.

As I was backing out the car in the driveway, a good friend called and asked what was going on.  I couldn't believe she even knew anything, but God has His mysterious ways.  Our new neighbors' son is good friends with my god-daughter.  He had text her when the emergency vehicles showed up and she told her parents...thank God.

I arrived at the hospital and Freddie was still getting an MRI of his brain.  He came back not long after I had been there.  He was semi-conscious and our good friend David soon arrived.  We waited and waited and finally the doctor came in (mind you, we still are not in a real room, we are in the ER triage with a curtain around us), and again "ma'am, tell me what you know."  I told the whole story of the cancer battle up to Freddie telling me they found it in his skull.  The doctor nodded his head and said, "We've counted at least 17 tumors in his brain."




To say that I wasn't grateful that I wasn't in that ER alone is an understatement.  I truly believe God put David there so that I would have support.  I remember sobbing with him and both of us not feeling like this was real.  I calmed down and walked up to Freddie's bedside.  I told him the doctor just came in and asked if he wanted to know what he said.

His response, "No.  I heard him.  I love you.  I love William."  And he began praying the Lord's Prayer.

"NO!" I screamed.  "You're not leaving me!  Don't do that!  Don't talk like that!"  But I truly believe, from that point, he began to let go.  He was tired.  He was suffering.  And the last thing Freddie ever wanted was for Will and me to watch him suffer.

Friends started hearing the news.  People arrived to visit.  I went home for a few hours to shower, get a little sleep (visitors were not allowed at night in the ICU), and bring Will the next morning.  When we arrived, I spoke with the doctor and the news was grave.  He didn't know how much longer we had, but expected it to be a few weeks.  Not half an hour later, the social worker was in the room asking us to make the decision to move Freddie to hospice.  Freddie's family and two close friends and I made the decision.  We wanted him to be comfortable and in peace.  He arrived at hospice just before noon and less than 4 hours later, was at eternal peace.  It was shocking.  I remember walking into his hospice room wondering when I'd get home to get more clothes because I just knew we would be there for days/weeks.  We weren't even there a day.

I share this story now because I truly believe I was only able to get through that day (it was less than 24 hours) because of my faith and the family and friends Will and I had surrounding us.

So, going back to faith...and wondering what it truly is...I believe it is believing that no matter what, somehow, God is going to give you the grace to keep going...even when you don't know how you will.

To say that the last three months have been exhausting, shocking, difficult, and unbelievable would be an understatement.  Going from hearing your baby cry for his daddy to not really asking about him at all is heart-wrenching.  Waking up each day and putting one foot in front of the other is a choice.  It isn't always easy.  It is very rarely enjoyable.  But, I have a sweet, sweet little boy to keep me going.  A boy who already sounds, laughs, acts, and jokes like his daddy.  And that, my friends, is a legacy.  That is finding grace.