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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Look Back

I really hate when it is time to sleep and that is when my thoughts turn to Scott.  Sometimes the only way to get the thoughts to stop is to get up and write them out – so that is what I am doing now.

I have been thinking a lot lately of when I had to tell Jaelyn that her daddy had died.  That was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  Those few words just tore apart life as she had known it.  I remember the inadequacy of words and not really knowing now to say it.  The difficulty of pushing those words through my lips is something I will never forget.  I still cry when I think of that moment.

When I think back to the hours after Scott’s death, I’m amazed at how together I was, getting through and doing what needed done.  Calling friends to break the news and hearing the disbelief and shock on the other end of the phone and I struggled to keep myself together.  Talking with the funeral home was concrete and something that I actually knew what to expect because of participating in that same meeting for my brother nine years before – although it still seemed surreal.  I found myself making sure everyone around me was okay.  It was only in the quiet and dark of night that my tattered emotions and scattered thoughts overflowed.

There was a handful of friends and family who just stepped in and did what needed done and were there supporting and encouraging us as we grieved.  I can remember thinking that I just wanted to be through the grief and come out the other side, even though I knew that there is no real end to grief.  Grief is so intangible with no clear right way to go or length of time it lasts.  For someone who has experienced the loss of control in a loved one’s death, the tendency is to control everything else that can be controlled.  Well, let me be the first to tell you, grief cannot be controlled.  It was overwhelming in the beginning as grief just loomed over us like this insurmountable mountain.  It was hard to face waking up day after day facing this mountain.  The closer you get to it, the larger you realize that it is.  There is no sense of perspective.  And not only did I have my own insurmountable mountain that I wasn’t sure how best to climb, but I also needed to figure out how best to help Jaelyn climb her own mountain. 


There were days when I couldn’t sense God’s presence.  Those were the days that I tried to look back for the evidence of God’s presence.  And it was there – without fail.  It was present in the ways God provided for us, encouragement at just the right time, and special people coming into our lives at just the right moments.  It was there in all the little cards and notes that we received.  It was there in friends just pushing a box of tissues across the table and the words, “I have plenty of tissues, go ahead and cry.”  It was there in new friendships developed and old friendships rekindled.  It was there in every moment of friendship, love, support, and understanding.  God’s presence was there overall, even when I couldn’t see it in the moment.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Healing - A Photo Journey

Today was one of those good days, despite having to push myself through a few times.  Healing is happening, although when you are in the thick of it, it is hard to see.  I can see my healing in my writing.  I can see Jaelyn's healing in pictures.  I am most grateful for Jaelyn's healing and treasure the visual journey.  Pictures say a thousand words. 

Two months after Scott's death - refusing to have picture taken 

 Four months after Scott's death -- Only in picture out of threat of consequences if she didn't get a picture taken with her cousins.

 Nine months after Scott's death -- In the picture, but not really smiling

 One year after Scott's death, posing for picture willingly, still no smile.

1 year 2 months after Scott's death -- now the smiles-- although forced -- start

 1 year 4 months - still forced smile 

1 year 8 months after Scott's death - genuine smile 

1 year 10 months after Scott's death - genuine smile and actually requested to have her picture taken

 Two years after Scott's death - No hesitation, no arguing, no fake smile, just a genuine happy smile when she realized that the camera was on her.

I am so thankful that despite all my agonizing, prayers, and worries that Jaelyn was healing, she has and is a beautiful girl inside and out.  She treasures the things that she is good at because her daddy taught her how to do it.  And treasures the memories of the times he spent with her -- even if her favorite memory is of going for slushies almost every day!



Monday, August 18, 2014

Remembering Scott -- The Heart Walk


The Heart Walk is coming up -- just six weeks away.  If you have lost someone to a heart condition or stroke, or know someone who has been affected by a heart condition, heart attack, or stroke, you have a personal reason to walk or to donate.  Last year was the first year that I chose to walk in Scott's memory.  Quite frankly I imagined that I would only do it one year.  I don't particularly enjoy being in large groups of people and after seeing the numbers for how many people show up for the Heart Walk each year I certainly didn't think that I would  be interested in doing it again.  To my utter surprise I thoroughly enjoyed the Heart Walk.  It is an extremely well organized event and it certainly didn't feel like there were as many people there as the numbers showed.  BUT, the main reason that I thoroughly enjoyed the Heart Walk was due to this group of people:

This is the majority of the team that showed up to walk in Scott's memory.  When we came together as a group for one purpose -- to remember Scott and his heart -- it brought a sense of unity.  I'm not sure I can adequately describe what it meant to come together as a group.  As much as I know in my head and heart that I am not alone in grieving Scott's loss, walking together in his memory allowed me to see with my eyes that Jaelyn and I are not alone.  If walking in Scott's memory causes you on one day to think about your own health and resolve to take whatever steps necessary to preserve your health, then that is one positive from this situation.  I do not want to see anyone else go through what Scott, our family, and our friends have gone through with Scott's loss, which was entirely preventable with the most basic of tests and treatment.

I am including below the link to my personal Heart Walk page.  There is a link to the team page -- if you would like to join us this year, follow this link and then click on the link "Join Team."  We are walking on September 28th at the Avon Park in Lebanon.  If you are unable to join us but would still like to donate in Scott's memory, or in memory or honor of someone close to you affected by heart disease or stroke, please click on the donate link on my page.  Every little bit helps.  Our team goal is for 20 walkers this year and $1000 in donations. 





Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seconds



It is almost two years since Scott’s death.  When I stop moving and am still, those raw emotions, feelings, and physical reactions surrounding Scott’s death come flooding back in.  How do those without a hope and strength in Jesus Christ survive and “get through” a loss like this?  Some days, even two years later, it is only by God’s strength that I can function and move forward.

 There are still many more moments when this all feels surreal rather than real.  Is there a moment in time when it will move toward feeling real?  It is no longer my first thought – “Oh, I need to tell Scott about this.”  Now it is, “Oh, I wish I could tell Scott about this.” Or, “I wish I knew what Scott would think about this.”  It all feels so unfair.

 In two weeks it will be the second anniversary of Scott’s death.  In facing that, I am coming to realize that the dreaded “firsts” are not necessarily the hardest.  The “seconds” reinforce that this is reality and not just a horrible dream.

 Just a few weeks ago I realized that I have been arranging my pillows each night to take the empty place where Scott used to be so that I still fall asleep each night as if I was cuddled up to his side, with my head on his chest and my arms around him.  I had been sleeping like this for months before it hit me what I was doing – then I cried.


 There is a gigantic Scott-shaped void in our lives.  It has started to scab over, but every so often something happens or a thought hits that rips the scab off without warning, leaving it raw again. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Worry and Anxiety



Although I believe in God and have faith in His Word, one of the things I have struggled with spiritually since Scott’s death is worry and anxiety.  In talking with others who have experienced tragedy in their lives, I have come to realize that this is a common problem.  Because I have experience unexpected tragedy in my brother Jason’s accident and then death 12 years later, as well as Scott’s unexpected death, my mind is hyper-aware of the fact that life is not in my control and something can happen at any moment to tear away someone that I love dearly.  Sometimes the anxiety and worry hit for no apparent reason and my imagination can run rampant.  Other times I find myself worrying about the future.  Sometimes it takes a long time for me to hear God reminding me to trust Him, that He is in control.

In recent days, God has brought it to my attention that this is an ongoing issue for me.  I have spent much time thinking and praying about it.  So often a simplistic answer is offered – just think about something else, think about something positive, or simply – stop worrying.  Those of you who have been there know that the only simple answer is God, but in saying that I realize that the process of trusting God is not easy and it is not a “cure.”  Simply by saying that I trust God does not erase my worry and anxiety.  I believe it is a journey – a journey of continuing to draw closer to God, continuing on a daily – or hourly or minute by minute – basis to deliberately put it back in God’s hands, praying for His wisdom and guidance, and trusting that He will help you move forward on this journey.  (Just for clarification, I believe that medications and counseling are God’s provision if needed and not a sign of weakness.)

Has my worry and anxiety disappeared?  No, but I am hearing God’s voice more quickly reminding me to pause, pray, and put it in God’s hands.  Sometimes a quick prayer is enough to bring peace and other times it is ongoing prayer that gradually brings peace.  I need to remember not to give up and not to get discouraged when I do worry or get anxious, but to continually return to God in prayer.  I’m thankful that God will never give up on me and will continue to work in me.

“We have a Savior who has never once failed us.  He never will fail us.  He has loved and led and guarded us all these years.”  -- Amy Carmichael

Philippians 4:6-7

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Not Once

This morning I was reading in Romans.  Two words caught my attention – faith and believe.  I was caught by the fact that the words appeared to be used interchangeably in talking about coming to righteousness in Christ, yet I didn’t think that they meant the same thing.  After pulling out my dictionary to look both words up, I realized that their meaning is very similar.  Faith is the structure, believing is the action.  Faith is the physical bridge to God, believing is stepping out on that bridge and moving toward God, trusting the bridge (faith) to be true and solid. 

God’s faithfulness is beyond human comprehension.  We are incapable of faithfulness in every word, deed, and thought.  We do not deserve His faithfulness, yet in His mercy and grace He freely gives us what we do not deserve.

In thinking about our grief journey since Scott’s death, almost two years ago, I realized that I have had faith that God is true and would provide for us.  Only in moving forward am I demonstrating a belief that God is true and will provide for us.  And God has provided financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  He has brought people into my life at the right times to provide a word of encouragement, a spiritual reminder, and a blessing in a new friend.  He has provided the right teachers at the right times for Jaelyn and conversations at the right times with the right people with the right words.  God’s timing had always been right on time – never late and never early.  He has provided what we needed at exactly the right time.


I do not understand why Scott had to die so young and I may never know.  But, I do know that God has been faithful and blessed us beyond measure as we grieve the earthly loss of Scott and struggle to move forward.  He has provided us with strength to move forward when it seemed impossible.  He has brought  happiness and  joy back to our lives and our spirits over time, even when it seemed like that would never be possible again.  Every time I see Jaelyn laughing, relaxed, and having fun, I thank God with all my heart for His healing power and His faithfulness to us.  Not once has He failed us, not once has He left us alone, not once has He failed to provide for us, and not once has He failed to bless us.

Please take a moment to listen to the song below, it says it so clearly.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Down Days

Today is one of those down days.  It is beautiful outside, yet I lack the energy or the motivation to do something outside, much less inside.  I suppose that waking up with a severe headache certainly contributed to feeling down today.  Thankfully it has mostly subsided.  I find myself taking the time to think back over our vacation – this was the first one (other than trips to the cabin) since Scott’s death. 

We were so busy going and doing that I didn’t have much time to think about the moments that I marked in my memory, moments when Scott’s absence was so obvious and painful.  A majority of those moments were times of missing Scott for Jaelyn.  Playing tennis and pool with her -- both games that Scott was good at and I only know the basics -- and missing Scott’s patience in teaching her how to hold and improve her swing with a tennis racket or how to hold a pool cue and line up the ball to the pockets brought sadness to my heart.  I think the fact that our vacation was at Massanutten – a place where Scott and I have been quite a few times on vacation, both before and after Jaelyn’s birth – made it more difficult.  Maybe this is why I looked for things to do away from Massanutten’s grounds.  It was easier to do things with Jaelyn that we had not done before as a family, rather than to do the things that we had done with Scott in the past. 

During vacation, I thought a lot about all the changes in our lives and the Bradley family’s lives since we were last at Massanutten in March of 2011.  First of the major changes was my mother-in-law’s stroke, followed by Scott’s death just five months later, and our nephew leaving for college in Massachusetts just two days after Scott’s funeral.  So, with “all” the family at Massanutten, we were missing Nando and Abby (in Boston), and Scott, and trying to help my mother-in-law do as many of the things she enjoys doing as possible while being wheelchair bound.  We have adjusted and continue to move forward, but the pain of the loss and change still remains. 


Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of fun on vacation and got to do a lot of different things – it wasn’t all sad moments.  I simply think that those sad moments are hitting me today.  I am thankful that the down days do not come frequently and, by the grace of God, I am able to rebound and pull myself out of those moments with God’s strength.