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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Day Of

I'm gonna do it.  This is a post that I need to write, because I can feel it becoming bigger than what it needs to be.  Each time I have even thought about writing it out, my stomach churns, my heart goes brittle and I end up watching TLC instead.  I can't let the dread of writing it grow any bigger, so on the third month anniversary of Dave's death, I will recount the events of December 21st, 2012.  The unequivocal worst day of my life.  

Dave wanted to get to work about an hour early that morning.  We were going to be heading out of town for Christmas and the schedule at work was a little up in the air, so he wanted to get a beat on that, before a meeting started at 8:00.  His 4Runner was in the shop, so either I was going to have to bring him, or he was going to ride his bike or jog to work.  The night before when he said that he needed to get to work early, I sarcastically said, "Don't look at me.  I'm not getting everybody out of bed early to drive you to work."  Then I went on to tell him that I would totally bring him in.  We said a couple more things about it and he convinced me that he really wanted to run to work.  

His alarm clock rang early. Probably around 5:45.  He usually presses snooze a couple hundred times, but I don't know if he did that morning or not.  I kinda heard him getting ready, but I know I never even looked at him.  What I do know, is that before he left the room, he said, "Holly, I'm leaving.  I love you."  I totally heard it and I totally didn't even respond.  I remember thinking that if I started talking that I would wake up and not be able to go back to sleep for an extra hour or so.  When I finally started stirring, the first thing I did was grab my phone and text Dave.  It was at 7:06am.  I wrote, "Holy cow-I can't believe u ran to work in this weather. Your are pretty studly." I know that text sounds kinda 8th gradish, but I'm sure he would've loved it, had he gotten it.  

At 7:50, I piled the kids in the car to bring Spencer to school.  My phone never rang, but I got the little alarm that says you have a message.  I listened to the message en route to school.  It said, "This is Kelly (or Karri) from Penrose Main Emergency room and I need you to call me back."  I was at about a 5 out of 10 on the panic scale.  I have a tendency to go to the worst case scenario and I did, but then I talked myself out of it, because the worst case scenario really never happens.  However, since Dave should be at Memorial Hospital in the event of an accident, I knew that this was either in relation to something or someone else, or that Dave was unconscious at best and not alive at worst.  I thought I better drop Spencer off at school, in the even that something terrible did happen to Dave, so that he was taken care of for the day.  Spencer got out of the car and I dialed Dave's cell number thinking that Dave would pick up and my rising anxiety could be put to rest.  He didn't answer, so with rising panic, I called his work number.  Ninety-eight times out of 100, he answers his work number, so I knew I was going to hear his voice on the other side.  No answer again!  My panic had soared to about 9 out of 10 by this point.  I drove home as fast as possible, figuring that I shouldn't be getting whatever news this was, while behind the wheel of car with two little four year olds in the back.  We got in the house and found the land line, which was no easy task when I was so frantic, and I called the hospital.  The nurse asked if I was Dave's wife.   She said that I needed to come to the hospital, but have someone drive me.  You can only imagine how much I was freaking out by this time.  I said, "I just need to know if he is alive."  Then she said, "You just need to stay calm, find someone to bring you to the hospital."  I said, "No, I just need to know if he is still alive."  She said, "I'm so sorry, but he's not."  

I really did think that this had to be a dream.  You hear that all the time, but I kept thinking that it just had to be a dream.  The girls were already in full play mode, with their princess dresses on and plastic jewelry draping from their necks.  I called my mom and told her the news that I just received.  I wasn't even crying.  Then I called his mom and told her and kinda started crying, but mostly because I should be crying at this point.  Then I called my friend Kate and told her that Dave had died and that I needed a ride to the hospital.  I was trying to make all these ridiculous plans about how I wanted the kids to come with me, etc, but fortunately people were overriding my in shock decisions.  Then I called my mom again and that is when the real hysterical, madness tears starting coming. "  I remember saying a lot of "Help me's" and "I can't do this."  At this point, it was obvious to the girls that something wasn't right.  I was trying to stay out of the freak out so much that I scar my children zone, but I'm not sure how successful I was.  I'll find out someday, when they are in therapy, I guess.  I told them that daddy died, but they just pretty much carried on with their princess play, which is what I kind of expected.  When I got to the hospital, I think that there were already about 30 people there, or maybe they came a little after.  I can't really remember.  I was ushered into a little, cream colored room, decorated with a sweet, older chaplain.  I'm sure he's seen his fair share of grief, but I'm not sure he knew what he was in for that day.  The nurse with a bit of a valley girl lilt in her speech entered with an already hurting expression.  She talked to me about how a biker found him on a path and called 911.  The rescue workers worked on him for 40 minutes, but his heart remained in only a quivering state.  The words she spoke to me, indicated that it could have possibly been a heart attack, but she certainly didn't say it.  

The volume of my words was uncontrollable.  I kept apologizing for cry-talking so loud, but I couldn't help it.  I kept saying, "I didn't even tell him that I loved him, before he left."  I was also so focused on the fact that he tried to give me my Christmas present the night before - twice, but I rejected the notion - twice.  He was so excited to give it to me, but I didn't open it!  I hate that part of the story!  See, I like anticipation to build when I'm going to open a present, and sitting outside the car fix it place in the dark, didn't feel like the right time to open a great present.  Then on the drive home, he said, "Holly you deserve this present for all that you do.  It was kind of expensive, so don't buy me anything."  I mean really . . .  could I have married a sweeter guy?  It also didn't feel like the right time to open it in the middle of putting the kids to bed.  And then we started drinking a little wine and watching, "Christmas Vacation," and then we went to bed.  So, I've always been really sad about not opening the present that he was so excited to give me.  

That morning, probably while paramedics were furiously trying to save his life,  I had actually cracked open a Bible study about Hagar and her son, Ishmael, wandering in the desert without food and water and they were about to die.  God heard the boy's cry, provided a well, and told Hagar to not be afraid and that He would make Ishmael into a great nation.  The whole point of the study was that GOD SEES.  I wanted to do the study in full, because I really felt like just months before God was seeing our situation with Negusu when for a long time, I didn't think that he did.  Anyway, that may seem random, but it plays back into the hospital.  I remember wanting to find the verses that I read that morning.  I thought maybe those verses would mean something a couple of critical hours later.  I was loudly, of course, asking for a Bible.  The dear chaplain finally handed his over to me, I opened it up, and it wasn't a normal Bible.  It must be a look alike that carries only comforting words from the Bible.  I remember handing it back and asking for a real Bible.  I never did find those verses while at the hospital.  

Then an officer came in and told us that it is being treated as a crime, because nobody was there to witness the death.  They also said that I would get the autopsy results the next day.  It turned out that they were off by about 5 weeks with that estimate! (By the way, I found out just last week, that he didn't die of a mitral valve prolapse.  He had a heart defect where the coronary artery goes through the heart muscle instead of around it and for some reason, with that one beat, the heart muscle closed around the artery). Then the chaplain, my parents, who had arrived by this time, my pastor, and a police officer went with me to see Dave's body.  It was all so surreal.  I walked in and he still looked very much alive.  His bushy hair was molded into the shape of a baseball cap, his face was scruffy from not shaving in about two days and he was actually still warm to the touch. He had obviously either died from crashing into the ground, or he had died and THEN crashed to the ground.  The second turned out to be the case.  I thought there was just NO WAY he could actually be dead.  My pastor prayed and reassured me that Dave could see us.  I remember feeling beyond grateful that at least I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Dave was in heaven.  Dave had a child like faith - not to be confused with an ignorant faith.  While my faith often rattles in light of difficult circumstances, his faith was always planted and always firm.  I was always jealous of his gift of faith.  

After signing some papers, we left the hospital and I started rehearsing how I was going to tell Spencer that his daddy had died.  Now, that I have gone through a box of Kleenex, just writing this, I don't think that I have it in me to talk about Spencer.  There is a lot to say, though.  What a kid.  The conversations we have had are so rich, so deep, so heartbreaking, and so a part of eternity.  But I'm spent.  Whew - well, I guess I am about half way through the day.  Maybe it won't be as hard, next time to come back and tell the rest.     

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Double Life

I totally feel like Hannah Montana.  Not in a sort of youthful, rock star sort of way, but in a double life sort of way.  Just so you know, I know she is somewhat a decade ago, but she's just who popped into my mind when I thought about the phrase, "Double Life."  She was an average teen who went to school by day, but was a pop star by night.  Only her closest friends and family knew Hannah Montana's real identity.  My double life-ness isn't quite so glittery and exciting.

By day I feel like a fairly capable (I say capable lightly, as I still have people bringing meals, cleaning my house, and doing my laundry) and relatively fun mom of three kids. By night I feel like a broken, sad, grieving widow with three grieving kids.  They are in stark contrast with each other.  How can I be fun and normal AND be deeply sad and broken, AND feel OK about being both, all in the same 24 hours.  One isn't a cover for the other.  I'm not pretending to have fun while I play with my kids at the park.  I'm not forcing myself to feel joy when Maci explains in her unique vocabulary, "This dessert is impressive."  I'm not fabricating parental pride when Spencer exercises his new skill of reading the English language.  And I'm certainly not feigning laughter, when one of my more tailored friends (and you know who you are) starkly announced yesterday, "I just want to scratch my balls!" When she actually meant to say, in reaction to her allergies, "I just want to scratch my eyeballs."  

I'm also not stifling my tears all day.  I not hiding my hurt.  At least I don't think I am?  Maybe the jury is still out on this one.  I know I don't want to be sloppy crying over everyone, all the time and making everything about me.  That is for sure! I don't ever want to outdo anyone else's problems or concerns that they have in their life.  That would leave me with friends that don't want to share the good, the bad, the hard, and the real.  I would be left with exchanging the insignificant with my friends.  Gross. I want to spit that thought right out of my mouth.  However, I wonder just a little if I am so worried about that happening, that I don't disclose the frequency or the intensity of my tears.  Or maybe it is just healthy and healing enough to fall apart when I am alone in my car or after hours at the Aldridge household.  I am like a negative twenty on the internal processing scale, so I probably just feel like my session of mourning isn't complete unless I have processed it with somebody.  However, that would be a little weird to pick up the phone late at night and say, "Hello.  I just cried real hard." And here is the other thing.  I crave the normal.  I don't really want to use my precious time with friends to boo hoo the whole time.  I think I would much rather laugh, kick back, and live out a little normal when I get the chance.

I have always read Solomon's words in Ecclesiates to mean that there is a season for everything. 

  a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

In my life, the seasons change by the minute. At 3:15 it is a time to dance in the kitchen with the girls.  At 3:20,  I see a CiCi's Pizza commercial, and it reminds me of Dave and our classy dinners there, thus making it a time to weep.  One minute I am keeping with stability and the next I am ready to look for something new.  

I imagine this part is just going to be hard for a while.  Until the two begin to blend a little, maybe I just need you to know a few things.  I am doing quite well.  I still genuinely enjoy so much in life.  I still love to laugh. I love Jesus with my whole heart.  I am proud that our family is still carrying on.  I am not OK.  I am sadder than I have ever been in my entire life.  I am questioning the power of Jesus on earth.  My heart is continually wrung out for my kids.  I cry a whole lot.

All these statements are true.  My double life is in full swing along with Hannah Montana's reruns.    Unfortunately, my double life isn't exactly the material that sitcoms are made of.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dads, Dudes, and Donuts Day

I'm pretty sure that I have already established that Fridays are hard.  It continues to stand as a marker of time from the day Dave died.  The intensity in which I miss Dave also continues to stand strong.  I can manage through a day fairly well, but when I sit still and miss him, I still FULLY miss him.  Forlorn Fridays are not fun.  So, let's talk about Thursday.

A week ago Thursday a flier came home in Spencer's take home folder.  It read, "Dads, Dudes, and Donuts."  Here we go.  I wanted to make sure to give Spencer the heads up, before he found himself hearing about it at school and not knowing what he’ll do on that night, without a dad.  When I first read the title, he instantaneously lit up, but the light was quickly distinguished by a look of panic and then watery eyes. Oh, Lord, help.  He immediately asked if I could go, because he didn’t have a dad anymore.  I said I couldn’t go, because I'm not a dude, but that he could choose one of the fine fellows that have committed to contorting their feet into Dave's one of a kind shoes, whenever the need arises.  I went through the long list of amazing guys that are in his life and each one came with a side to side head shake.  After a couple rounds of him saying that he didn't want to bring anyone, but he wanted to go, he casually walked through the kitchen after school on Tuesday and said, "I guess, Mr. Jim."  The phone call was in and the reply was a yes.  

The big day was yesterday.  In the morning, I awkwardly climbed the ladder, up to his bed and rattled him awake.  He looked at me with genuine excitement and announced that it was, "Dads, Dudes and Donuts Day!"  Either donuts have such power they can cover gaping holes in life, or he was feeling good about this special event and his plan to allow Jim to bring him.  I'm really hoping that it wasn't just the donuts talking. Anyway, that little glimmer in his eye truly made my day. It was a huge encouragement to me.  I could maybe see a trace of the Father taking care of my child's heart.  I think so.  

The rest of the day just felt a little lighter than usual.  It was sunny and warm, so  I walked with my friend, Emma, and my dog, who appears to be an emotional eater according to his weight gain. The girls were in good moods most of the day.  I talked on the phone, which is actually a big deal when you have two four year olds in the house.  I celebrated a friend's Birthday party and I went to Bible study.  It was a good day and it felt good. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pike's Grief Mountain

Our pastor recently referred to grief as serious spiritual workout and compared it to doing the Accent about 20 times in a row.  If you have ever hiked Pikes Peak, you have heard of the 16 Golden Stairs.  Each week is like starting at Barr Trail and each weekend is like tackling the 16 Golden Stairs, except there is no donut shop at the top - just another agonizing hike up the grief mountain.  BTW - If you ever hike Pike's Peak,  don't be fooled into thinking (like I was) that when you get to the 16 Golden Stairs that you have only 16 steps left to the top.  I could be wrong, but I think it refers to the last 16 SETS of switchbacks, which is actually 32 switchbacks.  I think that last sign should actually read, "Even Though You Are Close,  It Will Still Take a Good Couple of Hours.  Good Luck Chumps."

This is what my spiritual workout is all about right now.  The days following Dave’s death were ones that were very spiritually charged.  He died just days before Christmas, which is terrible timing, and wonderful timing.  Terrible for all the obvious reasons.  Wonderful, because with Christmas approaching, there was a constant reminder of the hope that Jesus brought to this earth by his birth and life and death and resurrection.  It provided an easy back drop to tell my kids that we will see Daddy again.  Hope filled our house.  Hope was the fuel for getting out of bed in the morning.  For a little while, I was thinking that I would now be catapulted into a deeper, more dependent relationship on Jesus.  I would start growing spiritually at perceivable lengths.  I could almost see myself sitting with the other ladies waiting to take the podium at the “Women of Faith Conference,” or Jennifer Hatmaker calling to ask if I wanted to co-write a book with her.  What I didn’t expect was to find myself here, at 10 weeks out, with another round of questioning and doubting.  

Throughout the adoption process with Negusu, I had two main questions, “Is God real?”  Yes!  Any argument against the existence of God was bankrupt.  Then my questions morphed into, “Is God good?”  This was a toughie.  I can’t tell you how much I hated it when people would throw out, “God is good,” after something good happened to them.  I would almost gag when something meaningless (in my opinion) would occur and people would tout it as God’s goodness, while my baby was languishing in a struggling Ethiopian orphanage.  I know that is not very gracious, but it’s pretty easy to say those words when things are going your way.  I was on the hunt for people who had experienced great disappointment and could still say those words with conviction.  I found some and I became one of them.  

My doubting spirit has now landed on a new question.  How powerful is God, this side of heaven?  I know he conquered death.  That is pretty powerful.  If we know Jesus, we get to live forever in a place where there are no more tears and no more pain and no more sorrow and, of course, a place where we will see Dave again.  Oh, I can’t wait.  But is God powerful just on the other side of heaven or does his power extend into this wretched world, filled with so many tears, so much pain, and such intense sorrow.  I know the answer, I think, but I don’t really believe it for my life.  I guess I even believe it in my mind, but my core is questioning it. This questioning is extinguishing some of my fervent hope that I had, right at the beginning.  I need to know and feel that God is powerful, because what seems to weasel its way in, is fear.  The less I feel that God is powerful, the more fear I feel.  How will my kids be OK without a dad?  What will happen to them, if something happens to me?  Who will take care of me, if something bad happens? If I don’t believe that God is powerful, then I don’t feel like I can trust him with my life and my kids lives.  There is not a whole lot of freedom in this way of thinking.  I’m sure I am still just longing for a safer world, which I know I won’t find here.  

I will say that when I have cracked open the pages of the B-I-B-L-E,  I read with hunger.  How powerful are you God?  I’m searching the pages.  Unfortunately, I really feel like I don’t have any good space to really let the words penetrate.  I have 2 minutes at 11:30 at night to be lucent and in the morning, if I even attempt to try and turn on the light, my little Ethiopian Early Bird, rises with me.  Even while writing this post, I have broken up numerous disputes, helped out in the bathroom a couple times, let the dog in after he barked for five minutes, enforced a time out, and written this particular paragraph while Leah has whined for me to go look at something in her room, even though she probably doesn’t really have something to show me.  (She did finally ask sweetly for me to come and look and sure enough, there really wasn’t much to show me).  I can’t find the quiet (and clean) space to search out this question.  I know it’s there, but I’m having a hard time finding it.  That being said, more needs are quickly arising around here, so my window of time to partially concentrate is closed.  I just needed to write something, even if it doesn't make any sense. If I don't, I just end up with a tangle of thoughts.  I can only seem to unravel them by writing here.  So, thanks for reading and helping me to heal at some level through writing.