Our only child graduates high school tomorrow. Wow! That happened fast!! I am not sure that I have really processed it all. Like most things, I probably will not until long after she crosses the stage. The good news is that she will spend at least the next year at home with us as she completes her core classes at the local community college while trying to discern her future plans. She has many talents and is gifted in the the arts. She is quite mature and definitely way more than I was at her age. I told her it is okay if she is not certain at this moment in time exactly what she wants to do. Many people who are “certain” change their minds or paths at least once. I did. I was going to be an English teacher, or so I thought. I even spent two semesters as an accounting major and never imagined I would land in healthcare which is right where I am supposed to be. So I told her, “Don’t sweat it. Our brains are not even fully developed until we are 25. Expecting that everyone has their life’s plan figured out by age 18 is not realistic.” Some may, but it is not requisite. Progress- that is the current goal , just forward movement and contemplative forward movement.
When she was baptized at age 8 she chose the scripture she wanted to share for her baptismal day. Some call this their life verse. I had no idea which scripture she had chosen until it was displayed with her picture on our church monitor. This is what she chose:
Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
How appropriate a verse for even now. I pray she clings to this hope, promise and truth. Our God has a plan for her to employ the gifts he has bestowed upon her. I pray he guides and leads her path to where and how she will employ them.
I will enjoy this next year with her home with us as she continues to find her path. I hope to enjoy and seize the moments and keep nourishing her with life giving encouragement and mentorship. Her infancy was such a blur as I was in grad school, so I thank God that he has given me back some time. I aim to use it well. This will mean saying no to some good things so I can focus on some great things for this very brief season that will be gone even faster than these last 13 years. I know I will always be her parent, but this time with her in our own nest preparing her to take flight and soar is a very limited season. So I want to seize each moment.
In recent days leading up to this milestone I have inundated my social media pages with photos, memories, and a lot of nostalgic remembrances. I will show up tomorrow and enjoy the pomp and circumstance. I will cheer loudly when they say her name as she crosses that stage. This sweet girl is such an overcomer and tomorrow she will not only complete her 13 years of school, her 4 years of high school, and 21 hours of dual college credit, but she has overcome many obstacles. While she lived in full in her imaginative adventurous youthful years the transition into the teen years were challenging. She has endured the harsh slap in the face of puberty and some life events that led to esteem issues. She pressed on despite physical issues that at times we did not even understand and that had no name or diagnosis. She persisted despite mental health challenges that she downplayed because she did not want to burden others. She has overcome things I probably don’t even know about. So I celebrate every C just as they were A’s. I am as thrilled with her next step at community college as others would be with theirs going off to an Ivy League university.
What I think she has finally learned and perhaps life’s hardest lesson of all and it took me much longer to learn it that it has her is this- BE YOURSELF. LOVE YOURSELF. GOD MADE YOU FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY. Don’t apologize or feel bad for being different. It’s ok not to look like everyone else or live like everyone else as long as you never forget WHOSE you are- and you my precious child, my light from the Lord, are a daughter of the MOST HIGH and he has great plans for you and the best is yet to come!
I am awoken early this first of December morn. There is much in my heart and on my mind. Frustrations from injustices heaped upon me and others. A dear family grappling with a diagnosis we prayed against. Everything in my being wants to “fix it” or seek out someone or something that can. And yet this morning, the day after I lament to those close to me that I have not supped enough with the Lord in solitude as I know he has bid me to do, I am stirred from a deep sleep.
I reach for my phone as I often do, but no senseless scrolling this time. No there is a deep peace in this still, dark morning. My soul yearns for the Word and in the digital format at my fingertips, I am led to Isaiah. In Isaiah this message seems to bounce of the screen into my very marrow.
Stop trusting in humans -.
Myself- I promise I am quite aware of my own folly and shortcomings. Despite this I often spring to action to solve any problem placed before me or those I assess from afar seeking to solve them. For it is my nature and profession to assess, diagnose, and treat problems. Yet even that skill gets only so far in my own efforts. All the study and research and experience is empty apart from the Lord’s anointing of my call to serve others in medicine or even in my gift of exhortation.
In supervisors/leaders- The work place persons who seem to have control over my life and my team’s life due to their position are not the final authority. When the conflict began months ago, the Lord told me the battle is His. I am reminded again, ‘Don’t trust humans with even your professional life.’ They have mere breath in their nostrils. The one who placed the stars in the sky, who put in place that vast ocean, who hung that moon in just the right place , yes that same one who knitted me together in my mother’s womb and gave me the breath in my nostrils and my lungs, that One is where to place my trust even with these complex challenges. The battle is His. In my strength I get weary, because I am helpless due to their position. In His strength nothing is impossible.
A diagnosis handed by a series of tests from humans does not get the last word. I have personally been privileged to witness many odds defied. I need to remain in prayer , but trust and believe in healing. I know medical diagnoses are not the final word.
Approval addiction- I struggle with the desire for my friends, family, peers, even church family to approve of me. People pleasing and approval addiction is real and a life long thorn I shall contend with because I want to be liked, approved and thought of as a joy giver and peace bringer. I should still work in the gifts of exhortation granted me to bring peace and joy, but in conjunction with His will. “Who are you trying to please God or man?”
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ
In this early contemplative advent morning I am reminded my faith is not in humans. My faith is not in myself. My faith is not even in my faith. All of these come up short. My faith is in the living God, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, our Emanuel – God with us. In Christ alone – all other ground is sinking sand.
Thank you Lord for awakening me to sup with you this morning as you know it is my heart’s desire to do so though my flesh often fails. Thank you for this word of discipline, for I know, Lord, you correct the ones you love (Hebrews 12:6). Lord I pray that those of us who are in you may walk in your light, your path, and your will. Help us not to look to trust man, but to trust you alone. For you are our Maker and Redeemer. Lord bless this advent season so that I and all my brothers and sisters who seek your face may hear from you so that we may sow the seeds that we may reap a bountiful harvest for Your Kingdom. Lord let your Kingdom come in my heart and let your will be done , not mine. Let my life be a living sacrifice for you and your people all for your glory, our loving, Holy, merciful , Great God. It is in the atoning blood of the lamb of God I have access so it is in His precious name, Jesus the Christ I pray.
Today my only child heads out the door to begin her senior year. The last 12 years truly have flown by. It is surreal that we are here!! How did we fast forward through learning to walk, to putting monkeys (stuffed) in the microwave (toy kitchen) to gnome, fairy and Barbie adventures to her last year of high school. We had fun getting stuck in ice cream trucks (Snow Buddies), building Legos, Littlest Pet Shop parties, Mario Bros adventures and races. She went from learning to read, to write in cursive, to many doodles and scribbles and now art in full manga style among other images. She went from playing piano by ear since she was young to self taught ukulele then acoustic and electric guitar. She went from trips to Chuck E Cheese to the Game Preserve and movie nights with friends. She started dressing up as princesses, fairies, and lady bugs and continues to dress up, but now as more complex cosplay characters for comic cons and anime fests. She started her theater debut as a Dalmatian and has continued on to portray a Greek goddess, a Constable, a nurse, and a cranky businessman. There have been so many fun adventures and memories that the volumes would exceed Tolstoy’s great work. Thank you Lord for each moment of joy and for each trial and triumph.
I have so much joyful expectation for her. I have prayed and will pray even more fervently that she know who she is in Christ Jesus. I pray she takes all the gifts and talents the Lord has bestowed upon her and continues to grow in them so she may serve His Kingdom well by utilizing these gifts to bring light to a broken, weary world.
After she and my husband who teaches at her school both left for the morning, I sat sipping on my coffee and picked up my bible. I turned toward the Psalms and opened up to Psalm 27. I read it aloud.
I got to to these verses and I choked through tears . Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. There are two reasons this verse choked me up. First it echoes the plea found in Psalm 25: 4-5 which Kyra chose as her verse when she was baptized at age 8. Second, because of my oppressors -she has a story to tell that is her own but it involves some bullying in middle school and some challenges with depression and anxiety. Add to that some physical challenges that began to manifest in middle school mildly that were exacerbated and fully flared up after a virus last year. The oppressors of physical, mental, and spiritual torment come after us all in different ways. I watched the past couple of years my child take on some challenges, I am not sure I could have endured so well when I was her age. And then the next verses make a praying , pleading mother’s heart burst with hope and joy invincible and expectation that greater things are yet to come. I remain confident of this : I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. She will be healed and flourish like a seed planted by a stream. What the enemy has meant for evil against my sweet precious girl, God will use for good.
I pray for her delivery from anxiety, depression and the illness that afflicts her body. I pray for her soul wounds to heal. I pray for her to rise out of the ashes and soar. I know our God is good and has great plans for her. So I am holding fast to that promise here, now in the land of the living.
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
I want her to learn and grow in her studies this year. I want her to continue to be equipped to take on the world . I want her to develop skills and nurture her God given talents . When she was confirmed Bishop alluded to her God given talents and prayed she would use them for God’s Kingdom.
“Mom, ” she said inquisitively. “Did Bishop say the same thing to everyone confirmed today? ”
“No , he prayed a unique prayer for each of you, ” I replied.
“Mom, Bishop does not know about my art and music, does he?”
“No, Kyra, but the Holy Spirit does and Bishop is very in tune with the Holy Spirit.”
I share this with my readers, but it is more a reminder to myself that the Holy Spirit knows and guides her. Our Lord has a plan for her and it is GOOD!
You see her name, Kyra means light or Lord. She is and has been my light from the Lord. I know he does not intend her light for me alone but for the world as she reflects his light. I pray he continues to shine his Light in and through her that she may reflect this light and shine into a dark world that craves light and hope.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I did not make it to church this morning because I chose some physical rest after a late evening with my mom in the emergency room. Thanks be to God she is ok. I chose to complete my Bible study homework to reflect on this day of Sabbath rest. As I was working on it, it speaks of King Uzziah and the prophet Isaiah and how Uzziah was Isaiah’s hero. This question is posed-
“Have you ever lost a hero? If so, who was it and why was he or she a hero to you?”
Now I recently lost my Daddy and in so many ways he was a hero to me. However this question posed made me truly sit and think quietly and interestingly enough the man that came to mind, I was just talking about with my husband yesterday. I concluded that discussion with “I want to be like Vince.”
Vince Lucadou was a hero. I am not sure of every aspect of his life, but if someone told me that he scaled a building to save a kid, I wouldn’t be surprised. That was just the kind of character this man had. Let me tell you about my hero Vince Lucadou.
This tall man with dark hair , brown eyes that were caring, but could be as serious as he was witty. His stature is one that I imagine as a football player in his youth turned teddy bear. I met him at church for the first time in a prayer team meeting.
I just joined prayer team in a large sized church. I loved praying and was hoping to connect to others who loved the same. Vince was one of the first few I had met. Oh, Vince could pray. His prayers were with a firm certainty that was wrapped in love and set ablaze with passion. He loved praying.
Vince also loved praising. Many a time I would witness him in worship at a usual church service or even special praise and worship services . Vince worshipped with his heart, mind , soul , hands , voice and all of his being fully engaged in praising our Great God. I can still envision him with his uplifted hands singing out the words to the song ‘The Great I Am”.
I would learn Vince was part of a motorcycle ministry and a prison ministry. He would go and share the gospel and lead the Walk to Emmaus at the prison. He always loved to share the great things God was doing in prison. It is amazing how our God can free captives even though they may remain incarcerated and serving their secular penance. With repentant hearts they can be as free as the apostle Paul was in prison. Vince knew this. He wanted all of them to know it and he was there for any who would receive it.
I would learn Vince was a general manager of a Randall’s store. He heard I needed some empty boxes to create and activity for my daughter’s Minecraft themed birthday party I was hosting at home (back before any Minecraft items were marketed). Vince loaded up his truck on his day off and delivered several empty boxes to our home. He talked to my husband and myself but made a point to offer special attention to the birthday girl. He offered her a prayer blessing and then gave her a gift card. She could not believe this guy she barely knew from church was so very kind. That is just who Vince was.
Vince served on our church’s food pantry. He would minister to several people in our surrounding communities. As they would come and get their physical needs met, he would share a prayer and the gospel with any opportunity.
My mom was widowed in 2014 and she would not only benefit from the food the pantry provided she would tell me about this guy Vince who she discovered knew Steve (my stepfather) from the hardware store. Apparently Vince would go to Circle S, a locally owned mom and pop hardware store where my stepdad worked over 20 years. Vince knew my stepdad from there and how kind Steve was and how he loved to serve. So you can imagine how my widowed mom who humbly had to get assistance at the food pantry when meeting this man that was gracious, joyful, prayed for her and then found out he knew her husband, well this made her so happy. Vince and all the staff at the food pantry made my mom feel loved and appreciated, but this connection with Vince and Steve made mom feel even more comfort.
Vince always wrote encouraging replies on my Facebook page and long after the Lord shifted me to another church he stayed connected to me in this way.
When my Uncle Lynn died, my prayer was what I pray for anyone I lose. I pray they know and are at peace with Jesus. My Uncle Lynn spent time in and out of prison. He did not always choose well. In the last of his years apart from alcohol he straightened up mostly. Apparently there was a “preacher man” that would come to visit him at least monthly and sometimes more often.
I showed up for my Uncle Lynn’s funeral at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Houston. Apparently this preacher man was coming to deliver the message at my Uncle’s service . I learned my Uncle Lynn would hear the preacher man coming to his house and shout out “hide the beer , here comes the preacher man!” . The “preacher man” was Vince Lucadou. Vince met my uncle at least through the food pantry (and possibly at some point in prison ministry). He explained to my Uncle Lynn that he didn’t care about the beer and that didn’t need to hide it from him. He told Lynn the only one he needed to worry about any issues he had with that beer was God and well we can’t hide anything from him . Well that “Preacher Man” Vince gave me the sweetest gift when he shared at my Uncle Lynn’s funeral that after many visits eventually my Uncle Lynn professed his faith in Jesus.
I learned also at my Uncle’s funeral that Vince is married to the cousin of my Aunt Christi (who was married to my Uncle Stevie and is my cousin Kayla’s mom).
One man impacted the life of my stepfather Steve Quebedeaux as a customer of a hardware store; my mother Kathy Quebedeaux as a widow receiving assistance from a food pantry; my Uncle Lynn from the food pantry and prison ministry; my Aunt Christi Hicks as family; my daughter Kyra Huckaby as a fellow church member and a general manager of Randall’s that had some boxes to give; my husband by being a friend to his wife and kind to his daughter and a fellow church member; and me as a fellow prayer warrior, recklessly abandoned worshipper of God at Stonebridge Church in The Woodlands and as an encourager and prayer warrior on Facebook.
Look at how one man impacted a lot of people in a single family and he was unaware we were all connected.
Everything Vince did, he brought Jesus with him. He shared Jesus through his life and work and words, and posture and leisure time. Vince loved the Lord His God with all his heart, mind, body, and strength. He carried the good news to countless people. There is no telling how great was his impact. God knows and Vince knows now.
What we see ” through a glass, darkly;” Vince sees face to face and what we know in part he knows as he is known.
When I found out Vince had contracted COVID and was very sick. I flooded the throne of heaven with prayers of certainty that our God could most definitely answer and raise Vince up in that earthly tent. However, our God who is good, whose plan is perfect, knew it was time for his good and faithful servant to come home. I know without a doubt as sure as I breathe now that Vince heard , “Well done!”
Vince, Preacher Man…..you are my hero and if I can live my faith out with the reckless abandon in every aspect of my life as you did, then I will have a life fully lived.
Two recent events led me to feel as I imagine Noah must have when the dove returned with the olive branch.
The first moment was the day I heard Fr. Stan announce we are able to go back to sipping from the common communion cup (a couple of weeks ago) I was moved to tears and overwhelmed with elation.
The second time was today.
Today I had training on our Woodlands campus. I walked into our hospital- no checkpoints… without a mask and went upstairs for training in person with many of my smiling colleagues whose whole faces I could see. It’s been two years.
It has been two long years.
Working the pandemic has been quite an experience. In the beginning so much was unknown and fluid. We were all so uncertain and honestly scared. We witnessed the illness in all levels of severity. We had a front row seat to its impact and all the loss. Working all the surges exhausted, yet determined to fight through the fatigue because you wanted to help just one more person. Pushing aside your own grief for another day so you could help, knowing when it was all said and done it would be worth it.
Today in our training we paused to reflect on the past two years in our organization. I imagine it was like soldiers debriefing after a war. It was then I realized with my personal grief from losing Dad and all the other challenges I had not even begun to process what has transpired for me professionally these past two years.
As we reflected we talked about what we learned and the good we could take from it all. We talked about healing. Taking the good and learning from it all to move forward, that is where we can find the healing.
Drinking from the common cup. Walking the hospital lobby unmasked and sitting at a table next to my colleagues. These were my olive leaves.
Signs of life. The water has receded. It’s okay to come out.
Covid did not disappear suddenly because we proclaimed it, but now we have layers of protection and treatment options. Just this week we have a slight uptick after a massive decrease and an all time low (thanks be to God!!!). I was able to assess my patient virtually and then send an oral prescription to the pharmacy that will help their bodies overcome the virus. After sending 2 of those in a row, I was awestruck at how far we have come and messaged one of my virtual care partners…. ‘How amazing is this?’ We are excited to be at this point.
So it wasn’t a flood as God has kept his faithful covenant with Noah. But this global pandemic has been an exile of sorts. May we take all the good we have learned and NOT forget it. May we remember to never take life for granted. And when the next big challenge comes our way, may we remember we are survivors and we are most victorious when we come together.
I finally finished Lewis’ A Grief Observed. I mean I literally just finished the book. I felt compelled to see it through after coming across it last night. My immediate thoughts are – Wow! What a raw, honest, introspective, eloquent journey with Lewis through one of his darkest valleys.
As I am ever the optimist, midway through the reading I found myself praying and hoping Lewis would find light and peace and hope. Yet in those same breaths and thoughts I was thankful he was honest and bold to share the truth of pain, sorrow, and anguish. As he said when he married H. the two were one flesh and losing her was an amputation. His doubts of God, reality , and his own faith were very real struggles he did not disguise. It is often so with us when our souls are torn.
Every thing inside of me wanted to reach through those words to the hurting author and just make it better. As a caregiver by nature, a nurse practitioner by profession I have taken care of many with physical and emotional pain. I have dedicated 26 years of my life thus far doing this because I love to help people. I especially love to help hurting people and what the caregiver wants most of all is to ease the pain. We wish we could eliminate any suffering at all, but in my many years in medicine, I have encountered the reality that sometimes you just cannot.
In losing his beloved wife, Lewis faced with the reality that “there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it.” This is true and hard. The question of pain is the one that will place any defender of the faith on shaky ground. The harsh reality of grief is one that we all have or will meet in time.
There is nothing we can do with suffering, except to suffer it…
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Just as it is true in one’s own grief journey , Lewis’ record of his wrestling with grief leaves so much to unpack. There are the issues of faith, marriage, relationships , pain, loneliness, lament, and the nature and character of God himself. While this was a first completion of reading it through, I doubt it will be a last as this brief 94 pages leaves so much to ruminate. On the surface however, let’s just talk about the grief process as a whole.
In our modern western society we are uncomfortable with the subject of grief. I feel this is because first and foremost it is hard. In facing the bereaved we confront our own grief. It is a reality of life that we do not want to dwell on. So we don’t talk about it. We don’t learn about it. We don’t know how to walk with others through it. So inadvertently we leave the walking wounded limping because we are paralyzed by the whole topic, process, and situation.
Because we don’t talk about it or dwell on it , and we sure don’t dedicate time to study it , we don’t learn anything and thus we don’t teach. We don’t really know how to help someone in the raw pit of grief. And when we do attempt to help, we often lean on old adages that are intended to soothe or comfort. You know the ones we have all heard.
They are in a better place.At least theyare no longer suffering. They are with God. God will use this for good. And the worst told to my brother and his wife after they learned at 28 weeks of pregnancy their precious Lydia was with us no more. At least you are young and you can have more children….
Did that person even think before they said that? And as a nurse practitioner I am ashamed to admit it was healthcare professional that told them this. So none of us are immune to the well meaning , empty adages that leave the bereaved feeling worse.
Let us just consider a few of these and look on the other side of the coin:
They are in a better place.– So I am selfish because I want them still here with me.
At least.... Here is good advice one of our guest instructors in nursing school shared. NEVER start a sentence with at least. It just doesn’t help.
They are with God.– I hope and pray they are. Ok maybe I know if anyone could be they are, but isn’t God everywhere and it does not change that I still want them here with me?
When my niece died it was then I truly came to learn just how poorly we handle grief as a society. I did not want to be like that healthcare provider leaving them with adages that only added to the pain. I was at a loss. I remember going to the library and bookstores looking for something on grief. This was in 2010. There was very little to be had. There is probably more now than there was then, but it is still lacking. My hopes in finding a book on grief was not to ease my pain or my brother and sister-in-law’s pain in losing their daughter. I however was just hoping to learn how to walk along side them. How am I am even supposed to be there for someone I love dearly who lost their daughter? I did not know what to say or do. I will attribute my actions solely to divine intervention and definitely not my own wisdom or merit. I turned in desperation to the book of Job.
Job’s friends came to him, wept with him, grieved with him and sat in silence for seven days and nights. In fact if you continue the story you will see that when they speak, that is when things go downhill. Silence is uncomfortable. Allowing ourselves to enter into the grief with a person is hard and uncomfortable. We want to say something because we feel powerless and we want to make better a thing that we cannot. Even the most careful chosen words often fail when it comes to soothing the anguished soul.
I remember on the anniversary of my stillborn niece’s delivery, Aug 1. I was in Honduras on a mission trip. It was our 2nd year after we lost her. I wanted to acknowledge her and my love for her and my love for her parents and acknowledge their grief. What I posted had in some way been mistaken. This led to a reply that showed me they were hurt. I was more hurt that I hurt them and that they mistook my well intended post. So as I stated, even the best intended words can come up mighty short to the grieving soul.
Since that time I have experienced much loss. The good news is I now have heard of things like Grief Share. We actually have a group that meets at our church. I have been transparent with my grief and I see others are doing the same. There are efforts made to improve how we approach grief in our society, but I will say this: we still have a long way to go.
Lewis writes in A Grief Observed that he hoped his jottings would prove a map of the state of sorrow. He goes on to say, ” sorrow , however turns out to be not a state, but a process. It needs not a map, but a history.” Lewis’ history of his early grief process offers insight and allows us some understanding. Another book by Mary Beth Chapman, Choosing to See offers this peek into the reality of a mother’s loss of a child and those early days of her grief journey. Listening to the thoughts and words of those deep in the pit of grief is the only way we can being to understand any of this or how we can help and when it is our turn to be in that pit, how we can cope and endure.
This is the foundation of how we help the bereaved. We will love and lose. We will grieve and by God’s grace we will be comforted. As we are comforted in time he will allow us to help others with the comfort we received. I lost my Daddy July 4, 2021. A friend recently lost her father. I reached out to her as one who does not know her exact pain, but as one can parallel as I too have lost my Daddy and so relatively recently. I can tell you in that at this stage in my grief process the ability to help a fellow sojourner fresh on the road of grief offered some healing deep in my soul that is unexplainable.
Observing Lewis’ grief over his beloved H. has allowed me to add another layer of understanding of how others process grief. It allows me to contemplate some deeper components of the grief process where faith and reason are intertwined. Coming out the other side of this first read, I feel like I understand Lewis more. I feel like there has been some progress in my own grief through the reading. Additionally, I can now relate to others with a different personality than my own as they wade through grief. Most importantly, I feel compelled to keep the conversation about grief going. The aim is that we may grow in our compassion, cognizance and competence in the matter of grief and the grieving. Though the walking wounded will still limp down the road of grief, we will be better prepared to travel alongside and offer some hope in knowing they do not make this journey alone.
I purchased this copy of A Grief Observed in a used bookstore in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It was August 2014. My stepfather, Steve, had died May 17 that year. I was no stranger to death or grief, but losing my stepdad would hit closer and cut deeper than any grief I had known before. I immediately went into caregiver mode. My mom, newly widowed would need me like never before. In fact only once I knew someone would be with her while I was away in Colorado, I decided to make the trip.
The Colorado Rocky Mountains are a place I feel closest to God. I was a mess and had not even began to process my loss. I needed a respite and I needed God. I knew I needed to do something with all this pain , but I did not know where to begin. So when I saw that book on the shelf it was staring at me. “Buy me!” , it seemed to say. So I did. I started reading it, but did not get very far.
Little did I know when I bought this book I would also say farewell to my Grandma Shirley (Steve’s mom) September 4 and my Aunt Angie (my dad’s youngest sister) October 1. This began a long list of loss. It was like every two years the list would grow. I had already lost my cousin Shane, Pappa, Granny Hicks, Aunt Diana, Uncle Ronnie, Grandma Arlene, Grandpa Arvie, my niece Lydia, Grandpa Charley, my mother-in-law, Mary Lou and my father-in-law, Huck.
I would go on to lose my stepmom, Lana; close church family; Grandma Curtis; Uncle Lynn; Aunt Lou; my cousin, Rachel; Aunt Val; Uncle Elmer; a dear friend , Vince; my cousin, Brandon; and then my Daddy.
I picked the book up again after Lana died. I tried yet again to read it. It’s not even a long book. Reading that book was like taking a bitter elixir, you know once you choked it down you would feel better on the other side. However, it was too hard to get past the taste at the time.
The rawest grief and if I am honest the deepest yet has been losing Daddy. He passed July 4, 2021. It’s been 8 months. The grief journey has been peace-filled, but hard and intermittent. Initially there was a heavy fog. You could not think or see. I mean you could see, but nothing seemed clear or to make sense. You functioned on muscle memory and rote memory. There was no energy or ability to take on anything new. Getting through the absolute required duties were exhausting and all you could do. Afterwards you would lie down or sleep. Brushing your teeth felt like tremendous effort. It coincided with a Covid surge so I was extremely busy with every 8 hour shift I worked. It was truly only by God’s grace I got thru those days.
In time the fog lifted. The heaviness was still there, but less weighty and less constant. Instead there were intermittent twinges and sharp stings of pain. They were often brought on by the simplest memories. I recall crying in HEB because of pimento cheese. (Dad often had me make him pimento cheese sandwiches on the days I stayed with him after his stroke.) I couldn’t watch football, westerns or listen to Elvis. It just hurt too much. In fact it took some extra energy to watch the Astros in post season because it reminded me so much of him. I pushed through the pain of it and got through to the sweet side of doing it because if he were here he would be watching. I watched the Astros mostly as a tribute to Dad.
There is still a lot of grief to unpack. A few days ago I kept seeing an image of him in my head. He was younger, healthier, and smiling. I found that odd because Daddy was not one to smile much. He wasn’t mean; he just wasn’t a smiler. It was sweet to see those images. It was peaceful, but at the same time it comes with the sting of his absence. Now mind you, I grieve with hope. I am a believer and Daddy was too. He wanted to make sure the world knew that after he lost his precious wife, Lana. He made sure to start going to church. He was baptized. He knew there is a God and a Savior and an afterlife and he wanted to be sure that profess that. This hope is what keeps me going.
It’s been 8 months. The week of spring break my brothers and I were all together again for the first time since Daddy’s funeral. We had a great time just hanging out together. I like to think Daddy was smiling because of that. He would have loved that… us together as a family. That was important to him.
So here I am spring cleaning and this book is on my night stand because I had on many occasions intent to read it. Perhaps it is time. As I dive into Lewis’ grief, I know that he will have thoughts that resonate with me. He will also have some that do not, but there will be something in that common grief journey that will seep into the recesses of my soul that is still healing from the loss; I just know it. And perhaps whatever balm I receive, maybe, just maybe I may be inspired to write more so that I too can help other grieving souls like me.
You see grief is a journey no one wants to take but we all will. We will feel alone at times, but we are not alone. All the sojourners who have gone before us and continue on are a testament that we will be okay and persevere. The sorting through the emotions and the pain and the good memories and the sobering regrets that is the hard work of grief. But …much like cleaning out my cluttered, overcrowded closets and drawers …with each painful step a little progress is made. And while it won’t get and stay tidy forever , it will get to a place that is just tidy enough that life is doable with a sense of peace. What I am working on in the physical state of my home is symbolic of the emotional state of my soul. As I make each next step, not to perfect (that will only happen when I am with Jesus), but to better.
So spring cleaning, an unfinished C.S. Lewis book and grief …
Soon I will have to be brave and swallow the whole 94 pages of soul elixir prepared by one of my favorite authors who is now in the place of hope that helped him endure life’s toughest pain to swallow.
Today is my Uncle Steven Carl Hicks’ first heavenly birthday. He entered eternal rest Aug.28, 2021.
Today in church we sang these words from an opening song “Christ is risen from the dead We are one with Him again Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory?”
As I sang tears streamed down my face as I both grieved my Uncle’s death and rejoiced in the truth of this song. In these tears I had simultaneously much needed pent up grief released and yes also joy.
Later during the service we sang the hymn, “Come Thou Fount”
The tears constantly flowed as I sang the words of this hymn we sang at my Grandma Arlene’s memorial. You see it was at this very memorial Unc stood up before his family and proclaimed fervently the truth that is proclaimed in that hymn. He knew this truth. It transformed him. His life changed dramatically and he yearned for all of his family to have this same hope and joy.
So today it felt as if Uncle Stevie, and Grandma (Memaw) , my two faith giants were smiling from heaven while I sang out through tears and sometimes choked through this resounding truth:
“Jesus sought me when a stranger Wandering from the fold of God He to rescue me from danger Interposed His precious blood
Oh, that day when freed from sinning I shall see Thy lovely face Clothed then in blood washed linen How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace
Come my Lord, no longer tarry Take my ransomed soul away Send Thine angels now to carry Me to realms of endless days
Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be Let Thy goodness like a fetter Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above Here’s my heart Oh take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above”
And as if God through His tender, comforting Holy Spirit reached into the recesses of my grieving heart and said, “I know it hurts sweet Shelly and I am here.”