Grieving

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I want to take time to talk about a subject that no one likes to address, grieving.  We have all been there, whether it be it over a loved one, a failed marriage, losing a job, etc. (the list can go on and on).

This Christmas was different for me.  While we had a wonderfully blessed 1st Christmas with our son, I could not help but feel a tug of sadness and longing in my heart for those who have lost loved ones. A week after hearing about the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I was woken up by a phone call that no one wants to receive. My very close friend’s mother told me that my friend passed away that night. I can still hear myself screaming “No!” She explained that my good friend Jess had died of a massive heart attack and the tender age of 28.  I was left sobbing on my husband.

It feels like I was just listening to Jess explain how she wanted to help keep the policemen warm this winter by fattening them up with seven tubs worth of cookie dough!  She was always thinking of others.  I tried to remember the good times with her, but it was so difficult to when I had to write a eulogy for her.

My husband did and continues to do an amazing job of consoling me and praying with me. But it was difficult to comprehend how other people dealt with my sadness. I heard comments like, “People die. It is a part of life,” “Don’t get depressed or you will ruin your milk supply,” and “You need to snap out of it. It will be okay.”

Grieving is a process that takes time. I still miss my grandma, Baba, and it has been over eight years since she passed way. I agree with the expression “time heals” because in time, God helps to restore our hearts and gives us the strength to press forward.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James 1:2-3

Pruning

After viewing several articles and watching YouTube videos, Garrett and I decided that we were ready to prune our beloved roses that brought us so much happiness. We reluctantly got out the clippers and prayed that our roses would come back abundantly stronger. As I clipped away, I felt guilty–I was stifling the roses chance to grow and when I was finished, the rose bushes looked so colorless and lifeless. What did I do?

It was then that God confirmed in my heart that I did the right thing. He showed me my life and the difficult times in which He had pruned me, preparing me to live a life filled  with His abundance. I remembered those times, but I wished I could have bypassed the painful pruning.

When I was 11 years old, my care-free years ended when my heart rate went from 70 beats per minute to 224 beats per minute!  Shortly after being hospitalized, I was introduced to a cardiologist who placed me on a two-week holter monitor. I felt like a lab specimen and could not bear to go to school hooked up to wires for the next two weeks. I felt humiliated and could not understand what I did wrong to bring on such misery.

I am now 31 years old, free from tachycardia. Since the age of 11, I had to undergo 3 heart surgeries and sample several different doses of heart medication. I have at least 4 beta blockers in which my very supportive mother had to hold back the tears as a way to reassure me that every thing was going to be okay.

I was also not able to be on a sports team because my heart was not reliable. I did not want to let my team down in case my heart acted up.  As a matter of fact, I remember when my I found out my husband was an All-American runner and I smiled and told him, “That’s great because I am half-Czech.” Since that time, Garrett has patiently taken it upon himself to introduce to the sports world.

My heart problems enabled me to see a side of life I may have never known. My mother was my number one cheerleader during that time.  She was there for every appointment and we would always get Wendy’s frosties after visiting the cardiologist. The time we spent together was priceless.  As I grew older, I began volunteering in the hospital as a a Candy Striper. I felt like God gave me the gift to look into the patients’ hearts instead of their IVs and bandages. After college I was blessed to work as a child life volunteer, though it was difficult to see the pain the kids were enduring, I felt like God had given me the compassion to help them get through it.

Looking back, I see that God used my heart problems as a way to prune my soul and for that I am forever blessed.  When difficult situations arise, I will often tell me husband that God is working through us to prepare us for something good.

Questions:

1. How has God pruned your life to help you grow healthier?

2. What helped you trust in God’s plan while you were being pruned?

“Good- Bye”

I wrote this poem when my grandpa  Ralph passed away during my sophomore year in high school:

“Good-Bye”

What you see, lying  before you is my shell, my body.

I am not moving or breathing, my body is dead.

You cry in sadness and yet I wonder why?

I, meaning my spirit or soul is alive and free,

No longer caged or spoon fed by society.

You  are in denial. You think I might wake up,

That I’m just sleeping and will come back soon.

I cannot.

I awoke to a new life the moment my heart gave off its last beat.

If you cry now, the weight of your sadness will bind me,

To a world that is no longer mine.

My work is finished here.

“Good-bye” is only good if you mean it.

Please say it peacefully and in truth.

Send me on my next adventure,

Let me go.

“Good-bye.”

Comforting One another

I had three heart surgeries, the first of which occurred at age 11. Even though I was not a Christian at the time, I know now that God was able to transform my pain and fear into joy. He gave me a second chance in life and I did not take that important realization for granted. I began volunteering at the UCI Medical Center helping children feel some type of joy in the midst of their pain. I remember one young boy who quickly attached himself to me. He had an infectious smile and we were laughing and playing within five minutes of meeting one another.

That day, the advisory nurse pulled me aside and told me that she just received a phone call that the young boy’s father died one floor above us. The nurse told me not to say anything to the boy, but to be prepared.

How could I look at those innocent, yet fearful eyes and not show sadness? God knew that I would not last long without crying and the boy was told moments later. Prior to the phone call, we were both boasting about our martial arts skills and how tough we were. I could tell that he wanted to cry, but he didn’t want to appear weak, especially after proving to me that he was a “tough man.”

I broke the momentary silence by telling him that it takes a real man to cry and that if he wanted to cry, it was not a bad thing. It meant that he missed his dad and that his dad would appreciate knowing that his son missed him.

Immediately, he buried his head in my side and sobbed. It was beautiful moment of comforting one another.

 

 

The Flight

I woke up in a fearful mood after dreaming about my grandma, Baba, who is no longer with me. The dream felt so real as I relived my sadness of losing her and frustration for not being able to do more for her. I was not in a good mood and we were late for church. But first, we needed to stop off at my parents’ house to feed Vulture, their Dusky Conure. Vulture has been in our family for over 20 years and she and I had a love-hate relationship. It never failed that when I was on the phone or working on a project, she would squawk at the top of her lungs demanding my immediate attention. However, Vulture also had a loving side to her. She was known for making kissing sounds and snuggling and she has no problem falling asleep next to you.

As I was walking into my parents’ house, I could hear Vulture greeting me, but I did not give her a very friendly greeting back because I was in a hurry. I followed the routine of changing her food and cleaning her bedding. She is very sneaky and managed to get on top of her cage. I got her down (easier said than done) and placed her on her rope perch where I thought she would be safe in her cage. As I was leaning over to change her paper, Vulture flew right over my head. I was terrified of what would happen next.

I ran after her trying to catch her, but I was too late. She flew into the large glass window and broke her neck. I looked down on the floor and I couldn’t see her because she was holding on to the side of a chair. I picked her up and began yelling to Garrett in fear and sadness. I said, “Oh no, oh no…Please help me! Please help me!” Our previous bird had died the same way and I knew what would come next. We placed Vulture on the table and talked to her. She was gasping for breath so we thought there still may be a chance. Then she took her last breath and rolled her head to the side. We lost her!

Looking back, there are so many things I would have done differently: been in a better mood, placed some type of netting over her cage,…oh the list of should haves, could haves, and would haves goes on and on. If only, I would have done it differently…

Through this experience God taught me the value and fragility of life and that we should value all of our relationships. I wish I could have made Vulture’s last day special. I also learned that there are not any repeats or redos in life. You only get one chance to live each day and make a difference in someone’s life.

Questions: 

1. What occurrence(s) in your life do you wish you could have prevented?

2. What did God teach you through your pain?

3. How are you going to live today differently?

A Special Gift for the Grump

I have not been feeling well at all. Physically, I feel useless, and emotionally, I feel drained. Poor Garrett. I truly believe that I have the best husband in the world because he has gone out of his way to comfort me and lift me up. For example, when I was unable to sleep because of the pain, Garrett never became upset with me. Instead, he held me and prayed for my pain to go away.

Last week, I was having one of those days when nothing seemed to go right. I was in a lot of pain and a grump, a very bad combination. Garrett came home with a funny smile on his face and told me that he had a special surprise for me, but that I would have to wait to see it until he called me into his office. As I waited, I questioned why on earth would he buy me, the grump, something special. My negative thoughts were quickly interrupted by Garrett’s cheerful voice calling me into the room. He set up the movie “Fletch Lives” and handed me a very colorful margarita glass filled with my favorite jelly beans (Belly Flops).

Garrett knew what would cheer me up. I always joke with Garrett and tell him that he should be glad that I am not a high maintenance wife. Tonight’s demonstration of love reminded me of how special the little gifts in life are.

Questions:

1. How has a gift from your spouse cheered you up?

2. What made the gift special?

3. How do you demonstrate love to you spouse?

**Please note that this was written about a month ago**

“I’ll be Back at 12:30 am”

It’s 11:45 pm and I cannot sleep. My blood pressure is too low and the nurse insists on coming back in 45 minutes. My left hand is throbbing because I think the IV is old, but I don’t want to say anything because I do not want them to replace it. Apparently, I have rolling veins which makes the old expression, “the third time is a charm.” true. It always takes several attempts to put an IV in me.

My stomach groans remind me that it is Tuesday night and I have not eaten anything since Sunday! I am so hungry. What I would really like is some chocolate ice cream! That’s not too much to ask for.

I feel so sleepy, but I do not want to be woken up in shock by the nurse. My pillow is soft and the medicine which I was told is 4x stronger than morphine is really kicking in…

Now, it is 12 am… 30 minutes to go. It is dark and cold in this room. I keep thinking someone else is in here with me. I wish my family was here. Tears roll down my cheeks because I have never felt so alone. I try to pray, but I am interrupted by a burst of pain. I was given a pain monitor in which I could push a button to receive immediate relief.

Don’t we all wish we could have one of those?

Oh, now it’s 12:15 am, only 15 minutes left. Perhaps, I can just rest my eyes… I drift into a medically peace induced sleep.

It’s 12:30 am, a LOUD knock shocks me, bringing me back to the cold reality of being in a hospital room. The nurse takes my blood pressure and in a disappointed tone says, “It’s still too low. I’ll be back in another 45 minutes.”

Questions:  
1. What pain have you endured that brought you closer to God?

2. How did God walk you through the pain?

3. What did you learn from your pain?

Please note that this was written when I was in the hospital and now I am at home.