Tough cookies

So this journey took an unexpected turn when my lovely friend, Laura, left this world unexpectedly. You can read about her HERE. She was battling cervical cancer like a real badass when suddenly the cancer just went out of control. A little while in the hospital, docs trying hard to stop it or slow it down. But it was her time. She knew it. Posted on Facebook shortly before that she guessed her number had been called. That she loves us all to the moon and back. And then she was gone. I still can’t believe it. The very toughest of cookies.  

But it is true. And somehow our lives must move forward. Granted, I feel like sitting down on the path and crossing my arms like a small child denied some lovely thing. No. I’m not going. It’s simply too difficult. And it’s certainly not fair. But…I must.

There is simply no way but forward.

This thought occurred to me recently as they popped the needle into Mort the Port to take some blood and, as they do every three weeks, make sure I didn’t go ahead and get myself knocked up between three weeks ago and now. (What do they think is going ON in my house?? I must look very, verrray sexy to them.)

Or maybe Kevin does.

So, I can’t just sit down and languish until the vultures come for me. There is no way but forward. This thought keeps coming into my head. Maybe it’s just a sensible notion. Maybe it’s the Holy Spirit nudging me along. Maybe Laura sent me that wisp of a thought that swirled its way through the clouds and rainbows, as she left this world, making its way toward me as she came into God’s glorious presence. Whatever brought it to me, it’s true. Forward is the way.

People tell me they admire my strength.  That I’m a proverbial Tough Cookie.  Am I?  I’m never quite sure how to take that because 1. I’m leaning real hard on God right now.  2. I’m not exactly doing this alone – I’m so crazy blessed to have the best army of food-makers, child-watchers, juice-deliverers, jewelry-senders, scarf-givers, flower-bringers and prayer warriors in all the land! 3. I do feel angry, sad and a sense of disbelief at times.  (I just choose to usher those emotions out the door after a short but meaningful visit.). Now, on the other hand, I’m also motivated, persistent and stubborn as a grumpy mule.  

So when someone says that to me, I am filled with conflicting emotions and corresponding potential responses:  “Thanks!  No I’m not.  I’m actually very sad and tired today.  Me?  Strong?  Thanks for noticing.  You’re nuts.  I’m strong because of people like you helping me.  I am strong aren’t I?  I’m not strong – just a little crazy.  I’m a total badass.  I’m as strong as a newborn kitten.  I’m a fraud!  Its all God – I’m nothing without Him. I am pretty awesome, huh?  I can’t believe I have this many people fooled.  Bring it on, Cancer!  I should really be wearing actual red Wonder Woman boots.  It’s because of all the prayers.  I’m hungry – maybe you’d like to help me be strong by making me a vegan-paleo-gluten free-organic-nonGMO sandwich?”

Chemo sucks.  (How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.) Friends leaving this world too soon is the worst – There is a Laura shaped space in my heart that will always feel empty.  Cancer is a mean, nasty, violent thing.  But there is no way but forward.  There is no way to be but strong.  Not because anyone can do it alone or because we’re looking to impress anyone.  I’m not talking about ACTING strong.  I’m saying let’s BE strong.  Strong is admitting you’re weak and need help.  Strong is going to work even though you don’t feel quite right – because you are ok with looking less than your best.  Strong is also staying home because Lord knows the world goes on without us.  Strong is striving hard but knowing when to let someone else carry you for a bit.  Strong is laughing at the absurdity of it all.  Strong is knowing, 1. without God, we’re totally screwed and 2. that it takes a lifetime to begin to grasp His infinite goodness.  Strong is having perspective that is not limited to today’s pain and tomorrow’s fears.  Rather fix your eyes on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal.

Forward is the way.  Strong is the way.  God is the way.  

Good grief

Grief feels pretty bad.


It can feel like anxiety, depression, shock, outrage, emptiness and more.  When someone we love dies, we’re going on an emotional ride, like it or not.  You can shut your eyes and pretend like you’re not hurdling through the air at high speeds against your will…but if you’ve ever been to Cedar Point, you know how well that kind of denial works.  Most of the emotions are unpleasant.  Like really tough. Parts of you that you didn’t even know existed hurt.  Time seems to pass slowly.  The pain springs up in unexpected and awkward ways.  Hot, stinging tears fill your eyes while you’re just trying to pay for your milk and eggs and (let’s be honest, chocolate.)  Choking back sobs while you’re putting a sweetly clueless child to bed.  Burning the toast because you got lost in a memory that swept you down the river of grief…rendering you pretty useless and frankly not hungry anymore. 

I would like to start a new tradition.  When we lose someone we love we should be issued a t-shirt that says “I am grieving.  Please be nice to me.”  Why?  Because it feels like the entire world is acting like a jagoff to you when you’re grieving.  You get cut off in traffic.  Your boss yells at you.  For some reason the hardest times (and I’ve only had a few) of real, life-altering grief I’ve experienced, I’ve actually, physically found myself at some point in some kind of situation where I’m essentially standing in the rain, cold, drenched and unable to feel anything but totally sorry for myself.  And no one even notices!  In fact someone in a large vehicle drives by splashing muddy splatters everywhere. That’s what the real nitty gritty of grief feels like to me, standing alone, freezing, drenched, dirty and void of hope.  
So the title of this post is good grief.  How can it be good when it’s so bad?  I have a few thoughts.
Grief is good because its usually so intense we can’t help but be real.  Typically, we spend a lot of time managing our reputations, creating ways for people to think we’re cooler, smarter and stronger than we are.  Grief yanks those masks right off and burns them.  Grief is not gentle but it is helpful in this way.  We allow ourselves to be seen more authentically when we grieve.  Of course there’s always the deeply unhealthy attention seeking jackass who has to collapse in a public puddle of sobs when the opportunity for a lot of attention arises.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I mean quiet (or loud…but maybe at least a little private?) moments with people who love you.  Stripped bare of your tough facade, crying and saying things out loud that you know sound a little crazy.  “We were supposed to go to the mall on Tuesday!!!!”  Or “I forgot to give him back his sweater!!!!”  It’s ok.  Let it out.  This lets people love you in a unique and wonderful way.  Frankly I completely hate that part of grief, but I know it’s good for me and my relationships.
Grief stops us in our tracks.  Shows us what little things have been taking up our heart and brain space.  Who cares if my gray hairs are showing or that my car is full of empty yogurt containers and granola bar wrappers?  Don’t sweat the small stuff, you know?
Grief can be a gift.  How?  We look heavenward even if we’re not into that.  God can use grief to draw us near.  When you’re really desperate, really lost…sometimes we’re willing to believe, just a tiny bit, that there is actually something…someone out there who is bigger and better than we ever dreamed.  Don’t be afraid to seek that out just a little…you can always go back to believing we got here randomly and that we’re on our own. That belief will always be available if you don’t find something better.  God says if we seek Him, we’ll find Him.  Ain’t no harm in taking a peek around, right?
Grief can bring up old hurts.  Dealing with grief in a healthy way can help heal those wounds.  Sometimes when a loved one dies people feel like everyone they ever love dies. Those are abandonment issues that, if unaddressed, can lead to some bad life controlling habits like refusing to connect deeply with anyone out of self-preservation or even starting down the path of addiction.  Considering the seriousness of believing that (everyone we love dies) then responding by investigating what led us to believe that, defining reality a little more clearly and willingly releasing that belief and its associated fears can be very freeing.  
Grief creates community.  You know who has really got your six when life falls apart in this way.  Also, I’ve become new friends with people simply based on the fact that we lost a mutual loved one.  
Grief creates opportunity to serve those most impacted.  However much you’re hurting, there is probably someone even more devastated.  Think of your very best talents and resources and how you might offer them in some way.  Food, music, your company, a poem that doesn’t suck, help with legal issues, cleaning, a foot rub, letters, texts and phone calls as are appropriate.  Don’t just force yourself on hurting people.  Pay attention and try to see what the best way to help is, and when.
Grief is the worst.  But it is also an opportunity for growth, learning and love.  Don’t waste your grief.