In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Friday, June 28, 2019

Grief Interupted

About six months ago, I was feeling guilty for feeling like I had sufficiently moved past all intense emotions about Dave and feeling like I was good to go, in moving forward in life.  It's like in the movie Father of the Bride, Part 2 that I watched six trillion times, when the movie starts and Steve Martin says, "It's like the saying goes, all those who think you've got it made, take one step forward . . . not so fast George Banks." (is it sad that I have that memorized???) All of the sudden I am backwards.  Like, as in, WAY BACKWARDS.  I feel like I'm back at where I should have been at summer number two.  It feel ridiculous, but then again, it kinda makes sense.

Nine months after Dave died, I started my nine month survival plan of living with a terribly herniated disc.  Life became all about managing my physical pain.  Then in the middle of that whole ordeal, I met my ex.  When we got married, I was pretty much, not allowed to have any of Dave's stuff anymore or even talk about him, and having a feeling about him, was way out of the question.  If I would tell a very neutral story from the years that I was married to Dave, it would not go well. I would say something like, "when WE went to the Sand Dunes, it was so incredibly windy." Then my ex would sarcastically say, "I never realized that WE went to the Sand Dunes together."  Then I would try to use I, instead of we, and say, "I went to the Sand Dunes once and it was so incredibly windy."  Again, according to my ex, I got it wrong and he would say, "Oh, you went there by yourself???"  Then I would just sigh and give up telling my story, or I would ask him to choose the pronoun he would like me to use.  It was too exhausting to ever tell a story, not even about Dave, but any story that took place while I was married to Dave.  This is one tiny little picture of what emotional abuse looked like in my marriage to my ex.  It wasn't like he would call me names or tell me I wasn't worthy. In fact, often times his words were complimentary, which is what makes these relationships so confusing.

And don't even get me started on Dave's birthday or death day.  I didn't even want them to exist, because managing my ex around those times, took more out of me, than taking time to remember Dave.  If I had a feeling about Dave that I would dare to express, my ex would express how difficult it was to be married to someone who had lost a spouse.  There simply wasn't enough room for me to have a feeling about missing Dave, because that was just too hard for my ex and then I would have to manage his feelings and his passive aggressiveness that would inevitably ramp up to a level 10.  It was so impossible.

As, I type this, no wonder I am so far back in the grief process.  I seriously had to shut so much of Dave down, as soon as I put that ring on.  It is so sad. Last summer, I did not feel this way.  I felt immense relief and some serious anger, but now that those are diminishing, the sadness and the vacancy that Dave left, is so stark and so sharp.  I've decided that I do NOT do sad, very well.  In fact, I seriously hate it.

I've done a lot of choking back tears lately.  Like a couple Fridays ago, when I went to pick up Spencer at Eagle Lake Camp, where Dave and I were both campers at the SAME TIME, when we were Spencer's age. What are the chances of that happening???  I can't even imagine how different it would have been to drop Spencer off at camp or pick him up, with Dave there???  Then when we got back, I took the girls to get mountain bikes and we all went for a mountain bike ride.  It felt so great to take care of all of that on my own and get them out there, because I knew Dave would be cheering us all on, but the cloud of sadness that he was not WITH us, was pressing in so hard that day.  Then after that we went to the pool and I got to play some volleyball . . . yet another thing Dave and I enjoyed doing together. I loved everything I did that day, but I couldn't get away from heavy sadness that comes with doing Dave things.  It's like I want to carry on all these things that we did together and I want my kids to learn all the things they would have if Dave were here, but doing those things, also hurts, lately.

I can't even seem to speak his name without crying, lately. I was timing at a swim meet, when someone asked how he died and I instantly began to leak tears.  It is just so right back on the surface, for LITERALLY crying out loud.   I broke down in Taco Bell, of all places, the other day.  May I remind you, this is 6 1/2 years later??????  It feels ridiculous to me!!!! My kids were with me and they were like, "What the heck?" So I told them I was missing Dave and then I went on for a bit.  I said, "Are you guys tired of listening to me talk, yet."  Spencer said, "I'll never get tired of hearing you, mom."  Leah goes, "I will!"  I want to be fine without him and without any other guy, for that matter.   I am relearning again how to do this life and parenting without Dave, (or anyone else) yet again.  This time, for reals!

Oh, one quick story from our bike riding time, was when they all started to do some bouldering and the girls were having a hard time getting back down.  I was at the bottom telling them to get busy getting down and that it was taking forever, because that is the kind of patient mom I am!!!  Meanwhile, Spencer had climbed over to them and told them where to put each foot and he talked them down all instructively (is that a word?) and calmly.   It was SOOOOOOOOOO Dave, that I started laughing out loud!!!!  Spencer is SUCH a mini-Dave in his just simple kindness.  It's not from me!!!!!!

Father's Day just recently passed.  I just wanted to pretend that the day was just like any other day.  I've already felt so griefy lately, that I just didn't want to entertain all those sad feeling that I'm evidently NOT good at, whatsoever. I was doing such a good job at forgetting that it was Father's Day, that I got on Facebook, where every post is about how wonderful everybody's dad is, complete with perfect family photos. I was in mid gag, when I came across this post called, "Let the Children Fly," and it challenged me to work A LOT harder that day to honor Dave, by using the day to talk about the men in my kids' lives that are examples of good fathers. Lately, I tend to want to point out what makes up an unhealthy person, but after reading that post,  I tried to use Father's Day to talk about what makes a good father. They had some really good ideas on what makes a good father. I ended up letting them take the lead on the day, and they decided that they wanted to play mini golf at Dave's favorite spot.  And then at dinner that night, Leah prayed and thanked God for all the Father's out there.  She was thankful for fathers, even though she doesn't have one here on earth????????  My kids are quite possibly so much further than I am.  So, to the men in my kids' lives, they are watching and God may be using you, more than you know, when you live lives of integrity, honesty, kindness, and faithfulness.
This is a father that my kids didn't know super well, but man, all three of my kids really looked up to him.  We will miss you, Ted Woodard! 

This weekend, I'm headed to an Aldridge reunion of sorts.  I'm so thankful for my continued relationship with Dave's family.  I love them so much. Sometimes when I think things will be hard, they are not, and sometimes when I least expect it, the grief hits. Either way, I'm thankful to still be a part of Dave's family.

One last parting thought.  I am not really a lyrics person.  I don't need deep lyrics to enjoy a song, but I do like a fun beat, (that's just how deep I am).  With Tween's in the car, I've gotten a lot of Tweeny music exposure.  One of my favorite songs, lately, is, "Broken and Beautiful," by Kelly Clarkson.  It's how I feel about writing a post like this.  It's this mix of, "I've got this!" "Hold me!" "My broken is beautiful!" Some of the lyrics are:

I don't need your help and I don't need sympathy
I don't need you to lower the bar for me

I know I'm Superwoman
I know I'm strong
I know I've got this 'cause I've had it all along
I'm phenomenal
And I'm enough
I don't need you to tell me who to be

Can someone just hold me?
Don't fix me, don't try to change a thing
Can someone just know me?
'Cause underneath, I'm broken and it's beautiful  


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Here We Go . . . I'm Gonna Tell My Story

Holy Cow! It's not actually all that long before Spencer goes to college. 
You wanna know the random thought that floats through my head all the time?  I picture my kids going to college, where nobody knows their story already.  I picture them having to tell a little about themselves in a welcome week group and they start with the framework of their little lives and they say something like, “My name is Spencer. I am from Colorado.  I love soccer, skiing, camping and I play the piano.  I grew up with the best mom in the world (my own words are in italics) and two younger sisters. One of my sisters is Ethiopian and was adopted when I was five.  Sadly, my dad died while jogging to work one morning when I was six years old and then a couple years later, my mom married another guy. He ended up being pretty abusive.  But we got out of that and life just went on from there.”

It just doesn’t feel real that that is the story of MY kids???  The Aldridge kids???  That can’t be me, he is talking about to his new college friends!!!  A mom that got into an abusive marriage???  Only really weak, not well, messed up moms get into relationships like that, right???  It’s so embarrassing and still so shocking that that was me . . . in a totally, completely, dysfunctional, destructive marriage, dragging my kids through the whole deal.  While it is embarrassing to share, I will share, because it was two girls from college, actually, who shared their story and gave me the strength to face my reality.  They were NOT messed up girls.  They were strong, they were leaders, they were so kind, and they were beautiful and they were both very brave to share their stories and were a critical part of me understanding my reality.  They took away the myth about who marries these types of people, for me.

Part of not getting out earlier, a HUGE PART, was desperately wanting to bring our marriage to some state of health and normalcy, so that I didn’t have to sit here, like I am in this very moment, at Starbucks, and be not only a divorced woman, but an abuse victim (which I’ll talk more about in a second). The countless hours pleading with God to turn our marriage around, revolved so much around just the shame of getting a divorce, the belief that divorce was some unpardonable sin and, also, that a divorce would jeopardize my reputation as a good Christian and as someone who would simply just never get a divorce (as if I am better than people who do get divorces). In addition, I pleaded for a normal marriage, because I wanted my kids to have a step dad who loved them, a husband who treated me like he loved me and because marriage can be so much fun and so many wonderful things. I desperately did NOT want my reality to be that I was in a destructive marriage, so I worked so incredibly hard to make that not true and believe that is was not true.  To no avail, of course. 

It may sound like I am being hard on myself.  I don’t believe, anymore, that I was just plain stupid to get into a relationship like this.  I was maybe ignorant about the fact that people like this really exist. And let me tell you, they are everywhere and they are sneaky and they are hidden and they are tricky. That statistic feels IMPOSSIBLY HIGH, but once I was on the other side, I can not go anywhere, without meeting people who have been in relationships similar to mine.  It's just that now I have ears to pick up on it and I'm not afraid to start asking questions. I truly believe it is an epidemic. 

I was also very trusting and why shouldn’t I be???  I was married for eight and a half years to Dave, the most straightforward, easy going man. It never even crossed my mind to not trust Dave - even once.  OK . . . maybe once for about 6 seconds when he was all giddy about running the Ragnar overnight race with pretty much all cute, younger women from work.  I was like, “don’t act that excited as all these cuties are pulling up in our driveway.”  But, honestly, I actually thought it was cute.  I just didn’t have it in me to not trust him.  I just trusted him and he trusted me.  All that to say, these people that manipulate and control and lie in these types of relationships don’t discriminate.  In fact, sometimes they target strong women and Christian women, because they know strong women will fight to make the marriage work and their Christian beliefs will also keep them trapped in a marriage. And strangely enough, after my last post a million months ago, I had a decent number of women who had lost their husbands and then found themselves in a marriage like mine, next. I don’t know how to explain that one, but it was weird.   

Some people will give me an excuse and say that I was in a vulnerable position when I met Tony.  And I was, no doubt!  I had only lost Dave a little over a year, when I met my ex.  I was also in a lot of physical pain for many months, with a herniated disc. But that is NOT why I got sucked into this marriage.  Maybe, those things had a little to do with it and maybe he targeted me, but mainly,  it was that I, literally, knew NOTHING of this type of person.  Plain and simple.  

Earlier in this post, I wrote that I was an abuse victim. I honestly don’t know how I feel about that label. There was, FOR SURE, financial abuse, where I was clearly a victim and could do nothing about some of it.  So, I will take on the victim label there, but the rest . . .  I don’t really know.  I chose to stay, even though I knew it was JACKED UP!  I could have left earlier and I almost did at a mere 3 months and again at two years.  However, I didn’t understand what I was dealing with at those points and I was too afraid to really look.  So, I don’t know what to really say about that, but that every time I think of myself as a victim of spiritual and emotional abuse (which is a term now that almost makes some people say, “whatever,” but I don’t know what else to call it) I don’t feel comfortable with it.  Maybe because I don’t want it to be true, or maybe, because if I had the choice to get out, then how could I be a victim?  In fact, I guess I do believe that I was no longer a victim, when I took off my blinders, got educated with articles, counseling and books and knew what I was dealing with.  Once I knew what I was dealing with, I was making a choice to stay and I was no longer a victim. Anyway, thanks for talking through that with me!!!!!   

What really blows, is that when I finally got real, and left and told the truth about it all, there were people that simply didn’t believe me or wanted to diminish my story for some reason.  In my case, the people that flat out didn’t believe me, were mostly men and they were also people that interacted with my ex a decent amount.  This phenomena will, to the end of my days, baffle me. This was far, far, more shocking to me than almost anything my ex did. 

Nothing became surprising with my ex, because he was not well, but people that I have known for a long time and do not seem to have mental illness, their responses to me leaving were either no response at all or opposed to me leaving.  

Sidebar:  TO BE CLEAR, there were a few men, that did see through my ex and would not entertain his victim playing.  Of course, my ex wouldn’t interact with those few men who wouldn’t entertain my ex’s games and fake humility. I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate those few men, though. They have been and continue to be an important part of my healing, just knowing that they stood up for me and that there are men like that out there. 
Anyway . . . I have about six hundred more sidebars to share that I just feel some need to share them at this time.  My goal is to share my story.  Over the past 14 months, since I have left the marriage, it has actually become somewhat of a distant memory already, which I feel is an incredibly tender mercy from God. For a while, I thought I’d never be able to think of anything, but that messed up-ness. I was so consumed by it. Now that I'm not consumed by anger and survival, but the memories are still there, I want to write about a few things, that relate to being in a destructive marriage.  Maybe my story will help someone else who is trying to understand their own crazy in a relationship, or maybe it will only help me to move through what is still hanging on me, from all of this.  These writing may accomplish nothing, but I just feel compelled to write at this point.  So stay tuned, if you want.  I plan on writing some more.    

Friday, January 25, 2019

Six Years Later (and a month, but who's counting?)

We have now celebrated six of Dave's death days.  I can go back in my memory and describe how I was feeling surrounding the last six deathaverssaries.  The first, I was in absolute survival mode and in so much physical pain with my busted disc that my only goal that day was to survive.  The second, was about the most normal one.  The next three were were miserable and impossible, but not because of grief. The next was so rich, but it took an extreme amount of energy to guard the sacredness of that day.  And now this one.  Year six. Personally, I think it is a good sign that I didn't feel so pressed to write about it in any hurried manner.

A few months ago, I did kind of get a little/lot panicky.  The dates were lined up, just as they were the year that Dave died.  The year he died, school ended on a Friday and I was supposed to go in and help with Spencer's Kindergarten Christmas party.   The next day we were headed to Pagosa Springs, to ski and celebrate Christmas on a Tuesday, with his entire side of the family.  Fast forward to 2018.  This year, school ended on a Friday, with Christmas parties as usual. We were headed up to Pagosa to ski and celebrate Christmas, on a Tuesday, with Dave's entire side of the family.  I was starting to feel like I needed something to be different or that something bad might happen again, with everything lined up so exactly the same.

As Christmas began to creep closer, I expected my fears to escalate, but they did the exact opposite.  I don't know if it had to do with God's continued whisper to me that HE is the SUSTAINER of my life and the life of my kids, or if it was some EMDR work that really helped surrounding this, but I imagine it was a little of both.  In fact, I felt a little over EMDR'ed potentially, because I was actually looking forward to the day in a sweet way.

Truth be told, I actually felt almost a little guilty about feeling so OK with the day and even accepting  of Dave's death.  It was an unfamiliar feeling, for sure. Here is my pattern now. I have that unfamiliar feeling of being a little too OK with Dave's death, so then I feel guilty for about one second and then it is quickly followed by a little smile.  You know why?  Because I am 10,000% sure that Dave is so proud of me and our kids.  He's so proud that we are moving on and enjoying life.  He's so proud that I left an unsafe situation, as scary as it was.  He is so proud that even his death doesn't have the same hold as it has in the past.  He's so proud that we are looking forward to the future.  And he is so proud of who I am, who Spencer is, who Leah is, and who Macie is. (I can't be sure he's proud of Emmit, because he REALLY loved Charles, the dog).  I just know it and I am 10,000% sure that he would want it this way, because DAVE WANTED GOOD THINGS FOR US!  I can't tell you how much I loved that about him and how much that character quality of his, helps me now.

So, on Dave's death day, we really just enjoyed the day with the four of us.  We saw the movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet  (I never would have chosen to see that movie, but I loved it), we did a little last minute Christmas shopping, and then we went to one of those pottery painting places.  We painted plates with things that reminded us of Dave.  Then in the evening, we went home and watched Christmas Vacation, because that is what Dave and I did the night before he died.  I still feel so lucky that Dave and I had such a sweet night, the night before he died.  What a gift!

At the top of Spencer's plate, he added the quote,  "Did you see the Peak?" because EVERY time it snowed on Pikes Peak, Dave would call
from work and make sure we saw the snow up there!

My Dave quote was, "Before we go, everyone needs to pick up
10 pieces of trash."  This quote is meaningful to me, because until
his funeral, I thought maybe he just said that to our family, but one of
his friends that spoke, included that Dave quote in his talk. One thing
I loved at his funeral is that everything I heard was so consistent with
who I knew Dave to be. He was the same person with everyone he
met.  Dave was just Dave.

Another incredible gift that happened the week of Dave's death day is this little story.  I LOVE this.  So, a couple weeks prior, a friend sent me a picture of Macie when she was still in Ethiopia.  It made me realize that I was missing some pictures.  So, I took a cursory glance around for Dave's old phone, wondering if I ever got the pictures off of it.  I couldn't find it, but then I was looking for something else a week later and came across his phone in the most random place ever.  It said it was disabled, but I tried to sync it with my computer and it actually worked.  Some of the pictures I had, but some of them I had NEVER seen and there were a number of videos that I had, also, NEVER EVER seen.  Evidently, when Macie came home, I was busy falling apart and Dave was busy taking videos of her.  So, the week of Dave's death day, you could find the four of us huddled around my computer, watching these new found treasures.

I love the timing of this discovery.  It was so perfect.  I'm so happy that we didn't discover them until now, because now they feel so untainted.  I love that the kids can hear Dave in the videos.  When I took videos it was usually of the kids and not Dave, believe it or not, and usually he was at work or wherever.  But in the videos he took, it was his voice and his personality that you get to know.  There were a couple videos that I think the kids watched literally 20 times.  Those videos were not ones where my kids were performing or doing something video worthy, but they were videos where Dave was interacting with them.  I think they were so hungry to know what Dave was like with them.  I won't post those, because they feel so sacred to my kids, but I want to post a couple of them to share Dave's voice and to share this perfectly timed little treasure.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Best Years Ahead of Me

I have felt thankful before, but I've never felt this level of deep, deep, overwhelming gratitude.

On paper, I feel like I should still be wrecked.  In the past six and half years, I have brought home a three year old Ethiopian with a trauma history, I have lost an infant through a failed adoption, my husband died, (that feels like way too short of a phrase to capture the depth of that tragedy), I had back surgery, I have been a single parent to three young kids, I have endured a nearly three year long emotionally destructive marriage, and I am at the tail-ish end (hopefully) of the divorce process.  During these incredibly challenging years, I have had my share of doubt in a good God.  Before this special (and not in a good way) string of unpleasant circumstances, to put it mildly, I would have classified myself as someone with unshakable faith. But layers of loss and confusion kept rattling me so hard, at one point, I was barely holding on to my supposed "rock solid" faith.

Never got to bring home this little guy.

First car ride in America with Macie.
Single parenting with ease . . . just kidding!

Celebrating Dave's 40th Birthday without him:(

My back surgery stint.

However, if I were to describe what Jesus is to me today, I would say he is My Rescuer. I feel so rescued, so grateful, so loved, so known.

I think, for me, being in a marriage where I am continuously told that I am controlling, judgmental, unable to love well, and selfish, I began to believe these things actually defined the kind of wife and person I was.  Either I began to believe it, or I wanted to believe it, so that maybe there was something I change, in order to calm the chaos.  I have even written blog posts on my other blog, about how I am those things, which, honestly, makes me very sad.  In my marriage, in order for it to survive, I had to agree and walk hand in hand with deceit.  It meant believing, or at least, going along with A LOT of lies, including the lie to the outside world and to myself that our marriage was ever OK.  I remember the day that my ex (My goal is to share my truth, not to expose anything about him, so I'm not using his name) was trying to get me to admit that I was something bad, and I remember thinking that I definitely didn't believe that about myself.  If I wouldn't join in the lies about myself and literally voice them out loud, the alternative was to hear my former husband say that I think I'm perfect and that I can do not wrong. My two choices FELT like they were, to believe I was bad, or to believe I was perfect.  So, I chose bad, because I definitely knew I wasn't perfect.  So, I stood in the bathroom, saying, "I'm done saying bad things about myself, that I don't believe are true."  That didn't go over real well, but anywho. . . .  When I knew (actually, when I was able to finally accept) that I was in a destructive marriage, it took a lot of getting educated on what it looked like.  It's not always what you think.  I was still experiencing some amazing and wonderful times with my ex, but then in one instant, the rug could and would be pulled from underneath me and I was living in crazy town.  That is part of the confusion. So, it was a down and dirty, strip everything away, process.  I had to completely let go of my biggest idol, my reputation, push away every outside voice, and understand who God is, and understand who He says I am.

I guess as I write this, I'm not sure it was as much about learning who He says I am, but more about learning who He is and isn't. It was more about learning that God isn't in the biz of drilling into me that I am selfish, I am not who I used to be, I am damaged, I am controlling, I have ruined my kids' lives, or that I am guilty.  That is probably one of the hardest and most overwhelming things I struggle to totally wrap my mind around . . . that there is nothing that I can do to earn more of God's love and there is nothing I can do that would cause him to love me any less.  And that is the deep, deep, deep, gratitude that I have, for without Jesus, that wouldn't be true.  It couldn't be true.

So, this Thanksgiving week, I am thankful for my friends (some of whom I could never express how thankful I am for their warrior-like support of me) and family who have walked this road with me. I am thankful for my kids, my parents, my neighborhood, my kids' schools, teachers and coaches and, I would be remiss, if I didn't include my dog, in this list.  I am grateful for new life. I am grateful for the freedom to enjoy and deeply love and take care of my kids, to enjoy who God made me to be, and to be freed from guilt for staying as long as I did, as well as guilt for leaving (only grace could do this).  I really thought that I would feel condemned by God for getting a divorce, but God (not to be confused with some people in the church or the institution itself) has been so incredibly gentle with me.  There has certainly been pain from the reactions of a few, which is to be expected in these situations, but not from God.  Not even the tiniest little bit. Thank you, thank you, God.

This summer, I had a random conversation with a guy I didn't even know, at the pool one night. I've replayed part of that conversation 1000 times, since then.  He said that there is such a strong temptation to believe the lie that, "My best years are behind me."  I was living like that was just a given, until that conversation. Now, I think that it is very likely that my best years, are indeed, ahead of me!
Single parenting again, but enjoying every bit of my kids.

Emmit, the dog.

Thanksgiving with my niece.

Can not be thankful enough for this crowd!

And many other crowds. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

And Five Years Later

I put this post on my shared blog, but when it comes specifically to Dave, I want to have a record of it here on my little personal blog:

On Dave's death day, December 21, 2017, I wrote on facebook, "Today is five years, alright.  This is not a good time to try and reflect, because Christmas time is just so busy.  Thankful for today to be with my kids and Rachel, (my niece) and holding our loss.  I don't like this day, but I couldn't live without it.  It's necessary.  Five years later and the nightmare of Dave's death lives on.  It's not that there are not amazing things woven in and I do like who I am becoming (on my less cynical days) and I do still think there is purpose to this pain, but I seriously thought that my hard road would be much shorter and have more beauty and "hurrah" to it, at this point."
Nightmare might seem to be a strong word in that post.  It feels strong to me, yet fitting.  On December 21, 2012, the nightmare was his death.  The nightmare was raising three kids alone.  And the most nightmarish part was getting down to Spencer's level and telling him that his dad died.  Today, the nightmare isn't that we live without Dave, although it hurts. The nightmare is the fallout.  It's that there is this crack now, that Satan loves to play in.  
The actual day of acknowledging the anniversary of Dave's death is NOT a nightmare at all.  It certainly has some sweetness and some sorrow and tenderness and joy.  I mean, when I went to wake up Leah, she was reading Psalms out of one of Dave's old Bibles. Sweetness! And then to sweeten it a little more, when she realized that she was on Psalms 21 and it was the 21st of the month, her eyes lit up with amazement.  I loved that little gift from God to get her so excited about His word. It's not common practice that she reads her Bible with her own motivation, but I'm sure she knew it was a sacred day of sorts.  I deeply love that her response to a difficult day was to pick up her Bible. 
The nightmare is NOT the season.  The Christmas season is nutty to begin with, in a purely busyness standpoint. It's all good and great and fun stuff, but for me, there is a steady low level of sorrow underneath all of December.  The year he died, we chopped down a tree and rode four wheelers at a friends house in Crystal Park.  We went to his best friend’s birthday party/Christmas party. He hosted the Memorial Rehab Christmas party at our house one week prior to his death, with tons of people. I even remember him talking about how he was afraid one of his co-worker seemed headed for a heart attack. We were just getting ready to ski at Wolf Creek and spend Christmas in Pagosa with his entire side of the family.  He just happened to die, right smack dab in the middle of the most joyous Christmas seasons ever. Blah! Don't like it! 
The nightmare IS the product of deep pain and how that deep pain gets played out.  I always joke that when I see the first three numbers of the school phone number pop up on my phone, I pray that one of my kids has an infectious disease and is in the nurses office.  Obviously, I don't really want that, but I also don't really enjoy hearing the words, "Do you have a minute.  We have a situation," from the Dean of Students.  So, there I sat, for an hour in the principal's office, trying to understand where the disturbing behavior of one of my cherubs is coming from.  Hopelessness sets in.  Chaos like this surrounds Dave's death day.  Did this child feel like Dave might overshadow him/her, so this child needed to do it up big?  Or, is it that this child's grief and shame still can't find words, so she/he pulls other innocent children into his/her world of pain?  I then battle whether to allow this sweet cherub to participate in Dave's death day, because I just want it free from chaos.  Is it my guilt that allowed this child to participate or is it grace?  I don't even have any idea? In the end, by the true grace of God, I did not regret my decision and this precious child only added to the day and was able to make it about Dave. Thank you sweet Jesus. 
Then I returned home and another member of this family is dealing with his own pain over Dave's death, which comes out in the form of passive aggressiveness. It was aimed at me, but ended up hurting one of my kids. Hello Mama Bear!!!  Then I'm accused of making him feel little, because all I care about is Dave. I get accused of having no grace for his hurts. I get accused of only caring about myself.   That is the nightmare.  A husband that is still fighting a ghost.   
Death, itself, is a fierce enemy, but I tell you what, shame is the fiercest enemy I have ever witnessed.  In my own life and in this family.  Satan knows when to strike.  Satan knows that we will be pointing to Jesus as our hope and light, on December 21st, in particular.  He is a crafty distractor. But I keep repeating, from this two minute movie that our church has played at the beginning of the sermon lately.  "Jesus Shines Brighter."  Sorry shame.  Jesus Shines Brighter.  I do say that with a bit of a caveat. Lately, when I say to myself, "Jesus Shines Brighter."  My knee jerk reaction is, "No, it doesn't."  It just DOES NOT FEEL LIKE IT!  But then I remember that there are many lights.  Many bright lights everywhere. They look like the real deal.  They are so fancy and pretty and flashy and I'm drawn to them and I think I'm looking at real light, but it's not giving me light.  Then I realize that I'm not actually looking at Jesus. It is true - that his light shines brighter. It just does. 
Anywho . . . I'll just get to the point.  I guess I'll just give a simple account of what we did on Dave's five year anniversary of his death.  For all the chaos surrounding it, is was the most perfect way to celebrate, remember, reflect, cry, laugh and talk, all about Dave. 
We started our day with reading from Daniel 10, which is a passage in the Bible that Dave read to me, about a year before he died.  It was an angel trying to get to Daniel, but he was detained by a prince of darkness for three weeks. Dave was fascinated by this passage and it was cool one to read to the kids about angels and princes of darkness literally battling.  The angel that finally came to Daniel, was like, "Sorry, I tried to get here a bit sooner, but that pesky prince of Persia, held me up for 21 days."  Sometimes, the Bible reads more like a soap opera, (is that sacreligious to say that?)  I have seriously started to fall in love with stories from the Bible. God is just, and holy and righteous, but he is also pretty funny.    
Next, we ate Swedish pancakes.  Then we headed to the dog park, where we all spread some of Charlie's ashes. Charlie (the dog) and Dave were pretty much attached at the hip and call me crazy, but I think they are once again, and if not, I'm fine being wrong on this one. Then we went to Chick-Fil-A and in the parking lot, somehow we got started talking about the day he died and recounting what everyone remembered.  It was one teary car in that parking lot.  Fortunately, chicken nuggets and waffle fries work wonders in bringing calm to weary hearts. Then we were off to one of those places where you paint on canvases.
Only a few short months before Dave died, his mom brought a box of his artwork from high school.  I was seriously amazed at all that he had created. In all the first eight years of marriage, I knew he could sketch up a quick plan for a house project, but I didn't know he was an artist of sorts. As it turns out, Leah and Spencer are little artists of sorts. It's been such a gift for them to be so good at something that CLEARLY comes from Dave. Weirdly, we all ended up picking out pictures of trees to draw. It was fun to watch the kids take their paintings so seriously.  Inspecting each color choice and never rushing the process . It was the perfect outing for that day.
Then we headed to the Broadmoor for our tradition of seeing the gingerbread houses and getting a chocolate, but they weren't letting anybody in, unless they were part of a private party, of which we were not. So, we went to the Chocolate Factory, instead, to honor Dave's love of chocolate.  On the way home, we listened to his funeral service.  It was such a quiet ride, with a few sniffles, a few light laughs from the stories people shared about him at his funeral, and some heavy, heavy air that is ours to breathe.  The heavy air of still trying to grasp that he actually died and what that means for us, and the heavy air of saying goodbye to another day, where we got to press pause on life and experience a little bit of Dave. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Film of Before and After

This space on the internet still seems to be the place where I continue to work through death. It's so sacred and precious to me. I have had so many distractions from death, since Dave died.  I had back surgery, I've had a new marriage, I've had step sons.  I've had the task of raising kids.  Some of these things are good, but mostly they are just plain hard.

About six months after Dave died, I heard, second hand, someone say that they didn't want to move on from the death of their husband, because they liked the attention they got. I decided right there, in that moment, that I was NOT going to be that person, so I was going to move forward.  I think that I may have short circuited my grief with distractions and determination.  It wasn't because it was too painful, it was because, I just want to be a normal person. A person without so much crisis in my life.  A person with too much crisis, is a person who tires people out. That's the belief that I have held.  It's a lie, but I can't seem to shake it. I can believe that other people carrying so much chaos need grace and care, but for me, I believe that my chaos is just plain tiring.

Anyway, here I am, back to dealing with death. What has struck me so hard lately is that death casts a shadow in every direction. It feels inescapable. What brought this to such clarity are the earthly possessions that most of us would grab first if there is a fire in our house.  Photographs. They are precious and irreplaceable.  They help bring memories into focus.  They evoke sentiment and emotion.  But when unexpected death crashes into life, all photographs take on the shadow of death. Every photograph within a 10 year span is now categorized into BEFORE and AFTER.  The closer they are to the crashing, the stronger the shadow.

This idea came into focus the other day, when I was looking for a computer cord. I never found the cord, but I came across this picture.

I completely crumbled. This picture was taken about two months before Dave died, at mother/son dance. All I can see in this picture is Spencer's look. I can almost hold the innocence in this picture. Little did either of us know that our lives of comfort and safety were soon to be challenged.

Every. Single. Time. I get a little "memories" picture when I open up Facebook,  the first question I have is, "will this be a before picture or an after picture."  There are few pictures that stand alone with just the value of the picture. It's so frustrating to not be able to adore a picture or experience the memory of the picture, without that shadow. These following are all pictures that would normally elicit a sweet memory feeling or the simple capturing of an age or event. They do that, yet each one, also, has a film of sorrow on it for now.
                                                                Sweet Leah!
                                          A daddy and his baby, getting to know each other.
                                           Leah catching her second fish at the Lone Duck.
                                                            Spencer, the little boy.
                                              Meeting Macie for the very first time, ever.
                                                   Charlie's first day in the Aldridge family.

They are all just normal pictures.  Some with Dave in them and some without Dave, but all having that shadow.

If there are any pictures or stories that I can not classify into before and after, they are a sort of gift.  They get to stand all by themselves, holding only their own meaning and memory.

Pictures taken after December 21, 2012 have the same shade thrown on them. They can still have joy and laughter and new life, but many of them have a, "Dave is missing this," proponent . . .especially, as it pertains to the kids doing something new or displaying the personality of the kids. Dave didn't ever really get to see Leah as she has come out of her shell. She was always funny, but he never got to experience her humor as it keeps developing.  He never saw Spencer swim on swim team or play goalie in soccer or do a million different things. He never got to really get to know Macie at all and to see how far she has come, physically and emotionally.
                                          Was Spencer really this little, after Dave died?
                                                    Leah's third fish she ever caught.
                                                               Unlikely (nearly) twins.
                                                          Leah loving her new dad.
       Practicing for their first ballet recital, shortly after Dave died.  They looked so cute, but most               everything about that performance was empty without being able to share it with Dave.
                             I still can't figure out why anyone would WANT to play goalie?????
                                                                     Leah, the comedian!
                                                             Macie riding the waves!

Will this ever change?  Will I ever be able to look at the pictures surrounding December 21, 2012 without a film of loss over them?  Will their value ever be restored to the simple value of the memory being captured? I have no idea?  I hope the layer of grief over them breaks down at some point, or that the film will have more of a sweet hue, rather than a sticky film of sorrow.

I feel like I need to add a dash of cheer, to this rather somber post.  Perhaps a quote from the Bible that says, "Joy comes in the morning," but I'm just frustrated by this haunting.  One of my more comforting verses lately that is not one that is found inside many frames or the front of Hallmark cards, is an easy one to memorize.  "Jesus wept." He wept, because his friend died. Jesus knows the sting of death. Fortunately, he also knows the victory over it. Maybe that is his promise that death's shadow will fade . . . someday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Jesus Day

Four years ago today, I stood in my kitchen while my girls insisted that they could see Jesus in the kitchen.  More specifically that they could see him standing behind me, with his hands on my shoulders. I remember thinking, "My life is fine right now. What a weird time for them to see Jesus in my kitchen." 

Four years ago from tonight my life was normal.  As normal as life could be.  A  cute husband with a new position at work, three kids, and Christmas coming in a few days.  Not a day since then has felt normal.  Not one single day. At least, I don’t think so. Every day since then has felt like I was walking with one foot on a railroad track and one foot on the ground. Like I’m tilted. Or that I’m hobbling. Nothing is smooth or glidy about life, ever since Dave died.  I’m on a track and it’s not like it’s the wrong track, I suppose, but I just can’t get upright, entirely.  I can’t make it feel unbumpy. I can’t get in the groove of it. 

Tonight, I sat in Spencer’s room as we watched a couple videos of Dave with tears streaming down both of our faces.  Normally, I have something to say. I think of something. I ask if he want to read the Bible. Or I remember something from a sermon. But tonight. . . .I had nothing. I just stared at him and cried and said, “I don’t know what to say.” “Sorry your dad died.” I just sat there and cried.  He just sat there and cried. One video had Dave’s voice in it. More tears. Spencer said, “It’s just been so long since I heard his voice.”  “I wish he didn’t die.”  

Maybe a better analogy is that I’m wearing a pair of glasses, but they have been knocked a little sideways on my face and I just can’t quite see straight.  I can’t quite get back to normal vision. No matter what I try, the vision just won’t go back to normal. Supposedly, the new vision is something that can be used by God, but I can’t see straight enough to see what that is supposed to look like.  

Leah, even with the flu, sees the sadness and just tries her best to lighten the mood.  For a little girl that can throw down a pout at the slightest infraction, she is a the queen of making sure nobody is emotionally down. She is very crafty at what she does. 

Tomorrow is the longest night in the year. That is so true on so many fronts.  It feels so dark, for so long. I hate it. 

I have that feeling again, that my body was not meant to know how to deal with death.  This was not part of what we were created for and we were not created to do death well, or pain free, or easily or gracefully. We were not created to be broken.  

I miss Dave. I just miss him. I never dreamt that four years later, it could still feel so yesterday. So many good things have happened since that day. A million laughs, hundreds of sunny days, the best friends in the entire world, a new marriage that is growing into something healing and unique and strong, a desperate dependence on God. However, through thousands of days and millions of good things, there is still a sting of death that I thought maybe I would be above.  I thought I wouldn’t have to feel this forever.  And maybe I won’t?  Maybe that sting will continue to lessen, but maybe it won’t. 

I’m surprised on days like this, how I consciously think to myself, “How can I position my thoughts, so that I don’t have to feel this kind of pain?” Then I realize it’s no use and so I just cry a little more.

Tomorrow, I’ll wake up and know just how dramatic I was tonight.I'll probably try to delete this.  I’ll go to the North Pole and remember how Dave was so childlike at this place when he finally got to take Spencer and Leah there for the first time. And I’ll remember that God is with us.  Emmanuel!   And the days will go on.  The good and the bad and Jesus will continue to challenge me with his desire for my life to be abundant and full.