Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sharon's Poem

I wrote this poem for Sharon's memorial service, and had intended to add it to the post "Missing Sharon", but forgot. It's short and simple, but I tried to find words that were an expression of her, and I think I got them pretty close.

Sweet, loving, thoughtful . . .
beautiful inside and out.
A loving heart,
a generous soul,
a kind disposition.
Mother, wife, friend . . .
beautiful inside and out.
A familiar smile,
a fond laugh,
a dreamer’s expression.
Faith, devotion, grace . . .
beautiful inside and out.
A heart for giving,
a discount queen,
an inspiring woman.
One of a kind.
Memories, laughter, heart . . .
beautiful inside and out.
A treasure zealously cherished.
A blessing thoroughly enjoyed.
A gift greatly missed.
A new life joyously celebrated.
A love to last a lifetime. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Blessing Amidst the Tragedy

I have wanted to be a mother ever since I was a little girl. All I dreamed of while growing up was falling in love, getting married and having a family. It was a dream-come-true when I met my prince charming, a real life cowboy. We fell in love and were married young. Our life over the past five years has been about spending quality time together, growing in our marriage, growing in our relationship with Christ, and making financial decisions that would later allow us to be parents.

Finally, at the beginning of this year we were ready to start trying for a baby. We made plans to start trying in May, knowing that there was a good chance that it could take a few months. Then the worst tragedy of our marriage hit us; Wes' mom passed away the week before we were going to start trying. I knew how hard this would be on him, and I didn't want him to feel pressured into trying to start a family if he just wanted time to grieve for his loss. Instead, Wes surprised me by saying that he didn't want to give up on starting a family. He felt that now would be the best time, because we could use some hope and joy to look forward to through the darkness.

So, with heavy hearts and a desperate hope, we decided that we would still try for a baby. Before Sharon's death, I had worried that I would have trouble conceiving. We'd been married for five years with no "accidents", and since I loved children so much I was unreasonably fearful that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant. So after Sharon's death, I prayed constantly to God for the blessing of a baby. I didn't know how I'd be able to survive difficulty conceiving after dealing with the tragedy of losing Sharon, but I was faithful and confident that I would be able to survive it, no matter how difficult. Wes and I had also discussed the possibility of adopting if we were unable to conceive. So I took comfort in knowing that someday, somehow, I would be a mother.

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. (Psalm 27:14)

All things are possible to him that believeth. (Mark 9:23)

I had spent month after month researching conception, and had taken every possible precaution. I scheduled doctor appointments to make sure I was in good health, started on prenatal vitamins, and even altered my diet to a pregnancy-friendly diet. I was confident that we had a good chance of making this work quickly, but after the emotional roller coaster we had gone through with losing Sharon, my emotions and hormones had been thrown out of sync, and I worried that it would delay things.

So I continued to pray for God's blessing in our lives. Even though He had allowed Sharon to die, we were not angry with Him. We did not blame Him, nor rage against Him. We continued to put our trust in Him, and sought our comfort from Him. I knew, that while God allows bad things to happen in our lives, He also provides us with unimaginable blessings. So I prayed constantly, my faith in Him as unwavering as ever.

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted what I asked of Him. (1 Samuel 1:27)

What did God do? He blessed us, with most most amazing gift of all; He blessed us with a baby.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)

For the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is His name. (Luke 1:49)

These past weeks have felt so surreal. Even after our first prenatal appointment where we got to see the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat, I find it hard to believe that this really is happening. I've been waiting for this moment for what seems like forever. And while it's still early, the blessing of this gift has already helped our family. It has given us hope, and for some it's renewed their faith in the Lord. It provides us with a measure of joy that we've lost since Sharon's death. I know that this baby will not replace the heartache, nor will it replace the loved one that we've lost. But it provides us with hope, and happiness, and something to look forward to beyond this pain.

Thou has put gladness in my heart. (Psalm 4:7)

There shall be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:26)

While we are overjoyed with this blessing, it is still bittersweet. Because there is one person with whom we wish to share this happy occasion, but we can't. It's difficult not to feel sorry for ourselves, or our future children who will never get to know their amazing grandmother, Sharon. But I do know that she is up in heaven, watching and rejoicing with us in this blessing. While we cannot see her, I know that she is with us, because she will always reside in our hearts and our memories. This baby is a piece of her, and through this baby, we will always have a piece of her with us.

Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

We have a long way to go before we can hold this beautiful baby, this amazing blessing, in our arms. But I am so unbelievably grateful for God's gift to us. For the gift of a new life, for the gift of a little piece of Sharon, and for the gift of hope. God is showing us that even though we may face tribulations in our lives, we can still receive joy and blessings. For His mercy, and His love, I am utterly grateful.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being. (Psalm 146:2)

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. (Psalm 33:5)

"For I know the plans I have for you," declared the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Finding the Silver Lining

I don't understand why God has allowed this to happen in our lives, and I never will. We can never fully understand God's purpose or plan for our life. But we can put our trust in Him, and accept it. When my uncle died, I had been very angry with God, and often demanded a reason for my uncle's death. I was angry for so long that I lost sight of my relationship with Him for a while. I had lost my trust, and my faith in Him. I so badly wanted an answer for why He had allowed my uncle to die. Wanting an answer to that question truly hindered my healing process. We can never understand why God allows tragedies to happen in our lives. What I had to learn the hard way, is to trust in God's decision, even if I didn't like it, and to look for the silver lining in the storm cloud of the tragedy. It took me a long time to stop questioning God about my uncle's death, but when I finally did, I felt refreshed. When I finally put my trust back in Him, my entire life changed. While I still don't know why God allowed my uncle to die, one thing I discovered was the silver lining, and God's mercy. The silver lining in my uncle's death was that he should have died four years before, but through God's mercy, He allowed us an extra four years with my uncle. When we first discovered Bryan's brain tumor, he should have died. But through what we came to see as God's divine intervention, Bryan survived and lived for another four years. During those four years, his life changed. He became a family man, and a man of God. During those four years, he and I developed a very strong and special relationship. Although I lost  him in the end, the silver lining I discovered was that through God's mercy I had gained four extra years with him. Four years in which we grew very close, and I grew close to God, and developed a relationship with both Bryan and the Lord that I will forever cherish. If it weren't for God's mercy, I never would have had those four years with Bryan that transformed my life. As I said in a school essay about Bryan: those four years I had with him was worth more than a lifetime of never truly knowing him. After months of searching, I had finally found the silver lining in my uncle's death that allowed me to let go of my anger with God, and to fully put my trust and faith in Him.

I cry out to the Lord; I pray to the Lord for mercy. (Psalm 142:1)

God will always give what is right to His people who cry to Him night and day, and He will not be slow to answer them. (Luke 18:7)

The Lord is close to everyone who prays to Him, to all who truly pray to Him. (Psalm 145:18)

Ever since then, my faith in the Lord has never wavered. Even when if felt like deja vu in the hospital with Sharon: an injury to the brain, life-support, facing the possibility of losing her. Memories of my uncle's injury and death in the hospital plagued me the entire time we were in the hospital with Sharon. I couldn't believe that this was happening, again. I couldn't believe that I was in the ICU, wondering if the person I loved would live or not, again. But through the entire arduous ordeal, one thing remained completely different - my utter faith and trust in the Lord. Because of my past experience with my uncle, I had known that things could end badly. I knew that even if I prayed and believed in a miracle, the worst could still happen. With Bryan, I never once thought that he would die . . . but he did. I didn't know what God had planned for us with Sharon, but I knew the all too real possibility of what could happen, and I prayed constantly for God's strength and comfort for me, and the entire family for whatever outcome we were to face. In the end, we lost Sharon. But one thing we did not lose was our faith. I had been so worried that someone would be angry with God and would turn away from him, just as I did after my uncle's death. But this family of mine is so awe-inspiring, and I have been filled with such deep pride for them, because not only did they not become angry and turn away from God, they instead turned to Him and sought comfort from Him.

Nothing . . . in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:39)

Come near to God, and God will come near to you. (James 4:8)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and He saves those whose spirits have been crushed. (Psalm 34:18)

Looking back on my uncle's death, I've wondered if maybe another part of the silver lining was that God was preparing me for this moment, and this tragedy with Sharon. I've wondered if my experience with Bryan's death helped to strengthen me for this battle that we would face, so that I could be strong and offer a sense of comfort for my family. While I'm still sad over my uncle's death, I'm grateful for that experience because it has made me into who I am today, and it strengthened my relationship and trust in the Lord to help me bear this current tragedy. If not for my uncle's death, I don't know if I would have had the strength to shoulder the burden of Sharon's death. I am utterly grateful to the Lord, for even in the death of my loved one, something good came from it, and that was my faith. After Bryan's death, I had felt like the strength of my relationship with God and my trust in Him would allow me to face any challenge or tragedy that lay before me. I thought that I would face a personal illness, or perhaps difficulty conceiving. Never, not once, had I ever thought that I would face the death of my beloved mother-in-law. But I did have to face it, and endure the battle, and I have survived. My God has allowed me to survive another tragedy.

We are like clay, and You are the potter; Your hands made us all. (Isaiah 64:8)

Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction. (Mark 5:34)

When I search for the silver lining in Sharon's death, I've found it in more than one way. First, Sharon might have lived, but she may have had to live with a terrible handicap or as a vegetable. After the death of Sharon's oldest brother, we learned how terrified Sharon was of having that happen to her. So for me, one thing that I am grateful for, and one way that I see the silver lining is that Sharon didn't have to suffer. Instead she was blessed with paradise, where there is no pain, and no handicap. She is healthy and whole. The other silver lining I see is God's divine intervention in our lives over the past year. When looking back on the past, I can see His hand in many aspects of our lives, guiding and preparing us for what was to come. He allowed us so many opportunities to spend time together with Sharon, and for Dutch and Sharon to spend quality time together. The last bit of silver lining that I've been able to find, is that through Sharon's death we've grown closer in our relationships with God. And I truly believe that Sharon would be ecstatic to know that she helped strengthen our relationships with our Lord.

This body that dies must clothe itself with something that can never die. (1 Corinthians 15:35)

While this has been one difficult tragedy to endure, the strength of our faith in God has helped us to overcome it. We will still suffer for longer than any of us will wish, but beyond it all is our God. And through Him, we can do all things. The healing path ahead of us may look longer and more daunting than we'd like, but our God will be there to help us through.

I will be with you always. (Matthew 28:20)

Pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. (Philippians 4:6)

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father encourage you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

Missing Sharon

It's been nearly 10 weeks since Sharon's passing. In some ways, the pain from her death is easier to bear, because it is such a familiar part of me now. There is a permanent hole in my heart that I've learned to live with over these past weeks. And I know that no matter how much time passes, this hole will never completely heal. It is an ever-present part of me, just like the hole in my heart from the death of my uncle. Certain wounds never heal completely; they shrink down to a smaller, more manageable size, but they are never truly gone. Although we've faced a terrible tragedy this year, I know that the future holds hope and blessings for us. While I look forward to the joy that awaits us in our future, I know that nothing will ever be able to repair the wound in our hearts, but some things will make it easier to bear, and some things will add joy and love to our lives.

All of which, we desperately need.

I wanted to dedicate this post to my relationship with Sharon. Not many people can understand that the pain that I suffer is real, and soul-deep. Not many people may understand that the relationship I had with Sharon was more than that between a mother and daughter-in-law. My pain is true, and tangible, and fills me with terrible heartache. It is not the same pain that Dutch, Wes, nor Lori suffer, and I know that it is not as potent because the love and memories they share are stronger than what Sharon and I had. They lost a wife, and a mother. Their pain is unimaginable. While my heart aches, I understand that I do not suffer as they suffer. But I do suffer just the same, and more than typical over the loss of an in-law. By title, Sharon was my mother-in-law. But over the years she has become so much more to me. Over the years she became my friend, my inspiration, my teacher, and my second mother. I loved her as I loved any member of my family. She was my family, not just my husband's family.

I still remember the first time that I met her. I was nervous because since Wes was my first boyfriend, I would be meeting someone's parents for the very first time, and I really wanted them to like me. Sharon was at her mother's house, and we decided to stop by so that we could meet. She walked out onto the porch, and I remember climbing up the porch steps, nervous as can be. She smiled at me, and was so kind and welcoming. I told her that I was a hugger and hoped that she didn't mind; and I hugged her for the very first time. I was later told by Dutch that Sharon had shared that memory with him, and told him that she had loved that about me from the very start.

It was about six months later, around Thanksgiving, where I felt a turning point in our relationship. I had seen them multiple times since Wes and I started dating, and while Sharon was always nice and friendly, I wasn't sure what she thought of me, or if she even liked me for her son. So when Dutch and Sharon were camping in the desert for Thanksgiving, we drove down to spend the day with them. I don't remember too many details, but I do remember that we had a great day. We ate delicious food and played games together. Again, I don't remember the specific details, but for whatever reason, I felt as if that time we spent together was the start of a wonderful relationship together as a family. For whatever reason, by the way they both spoke to me, and smiled at me, and hugged me, I knew that they liked me. Dutch was obvious in his affection for me because he would playfully pull on my ponytail; Sharon, however, was more subtle. But something about that weekend reached out to me, and I just knew, that they liked me and I liked them. From then on, we've been a family. Over the years our relationships grew, and love developed and grew. Before I knew it, Dutch and Sharon had become my second parents. Again, more than just my in-laws, they were my family, not just my husband's family.

As the years passed, Sharon and I found reasons to spend quality time together. Dutch and Wes would be off doing "guy stuff" and Sharon and I would spend "girl time" together. One occasion I remember was a girls night we had at their house. We both brought dishes and had a yummy meal, then sat down with some dessert to watch "The Phantom of the Opera". The movie started out well, and then frustration ensued because the DVD kept freezing at the same spot, and although we tried different remedies, we couldn't get it to work. We both kept complaining because we had been having such a wonderful night, and just wanted to watch the end of the movie! After a while, we called it quits and said goodnight. She called me the next day to tell me that she found the movie online (discounted of course) and purchased it because she just had to see the ending! We laughed about our partially failed girls night, but both looked forward to the next one. Unfortunately, that was the last girls night that we shared. I will forever remember that night, and will forever remember Sharon when I watch that movie.

It's difficult to know that I will never have that opportunity again. We will never have another girls night together, ever. I will never again get to sit on a stool at her kitchen island and talk with her while she cooks. I think that is one of the things I will miss the most. It seemed like nearly every time I was at her house, she was cooking something or cleaning up her kitchen. And while Dutch and Wes would be in the living room or music room, I always sat at the kitchen island while we shared girl talk. It was never materialistic conversation; it was always personal, and meaningful. Sharon would always ask about my family, and genuinely wanted to know how they were doing. I found her so easy to talk to, and felt as if I could share anything with her. She even shared things with me. I never felt judged, or condemned. I looked forward to our conversations, and her opinions and advice. She was someone that I had grown to greatly admire and trust. It hurts to know that I will never have another opportunity to share a conversation with her again. I miss her voice, and her unique accent. I miss the sound of her laugh, and seeing her smile.

This pain is difficult to bear. There were so many things that I looked forward to in our lives together. So much that I had planned, and wanted to share together. Now all those opportunities and plans are gone. Since her passing, I've had to face some of those opportunities as I'd always imagined, but they were bittersweet because she wasn't there. I had always wanted to help provide food for a branding, and when my opportunity finally arose, there was no Sharon. I had always wanted to take over her job responsibilities for the ranch in order to allow her to retire, and that opportunity finally arose, but there was no Sharon.

Over the years, Dutch and Sharon, and Wes and I had become a small family all our own. We spent a lot of time together, and shared a lot of memories. For the longest time, it was always the four of us. Now ... it's just three of us. That is so unbearable to write. For me, that has been one of the hardest adjustments. We spent a lot of time together, the four of us, as a family. Now, while we find tremendous comfort in one another's presence, that fourth absence is very prominent. For me, as the girl, I find it difficult because while Dutch and Wes can still go about doing their "guy stuff", there is no Sharon to do "girl stuff" with me. That has left a very poignant emptiness in me. Now, when I take a picture of the boys, who do I get to take a picture with? Now, while they are in the living room watching tv, who do I get to talk to in the kitchen? I feel her absence so clearly, and so deeply at times that it is very overwhelming. Losing her has been one of the worst tragedies in my life. Losing a loved one is among the hardest obstacles to overcome.

This is the hardest post that I've written so far, because it is so very personal, and I can't seem to stop crying.

Sharon is the second person that I've lost in this life who I loved very much. She was also the second person that I've lost in this life who loved me for reasons that I didn't understand. I know that she loved me, and as more than just her daughter-in-law, but I don't necessarily understand what she saw in me, or why she loved me as she did. But I'm so unbelieveably blessed and lucky to have had her love. Losing someone that you shared such a strong relationship with, and a great love, is very difficult.

My heart literally aches.

I miss my second mother. I miss everything about her. On a daily basis, I try so hard to distance myself from the emotion, to look at our lives strictly from a non-emotional point. I try to look at it from the factual point that this is what our lives are like now, and try not to remember what it was like before, and how different it would be if she were still with us. I try to leave out the emotion, but I often fail. I can go about day-to-day business with a focused, one-track mind thinking only of what needs to be done, but there are many times when I'm overwhelmed by the emotion, and the devastation of loss. It's gotten easier over the past few weeks; I can go longer periods of timing without allowing the emotion to overwhelm me, but occasionally I lose that battle.

Luckily for me, I have God on my side. This has not been an easy ordeal. I desperately miss Sharon. But I find comfort in my amazing family, my God, and in knowing that I will someday see my second mother again. And we will have eternity to spend together.

He remembered us when we were in trouble. His love continues forever. (Psalm 136:23)

God's peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Those people who know they have great spiritual needs are happy, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. (Matthew 5:3)