Monday, March 31, 2014

The "No Make-up Selfie Craze is Making Me Crazy

I've been a bit confused by the "no-make up selfie" craze that has hit social media.  Actually it's making me a little crazy.  How does this supposed bravery compare to the bravery of anyone who is fighting for their life while enduring horrendous chemotherapy?

I take a chemo drug twice a day by mouth.  I don't have cancer, but because CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demylinating Neuropathy) is an autoimmune disease, the thought is if they can lower my immunity enough to stop my body from attacking itself, they can at least halt the progression of the disease.  When I was told about this treatment I was also told, "You need to understand, this drug can kill you."  I was given tons of information about the pros and cons of taking Cellcept, and after much prayer and research I simply asked my neurologist, "If you were in my shoes and knowing all you know about my case, would you take it?"  His answer was yes.

Taking chemo by mouth does not have the same side effects as taking it though an IV line.  I've not lost my hair, and my nausea is nothing compared to what others endure.  It does cause me to have stomach issues, and I take three other meds to help control those symptoms.  Chemo is a nasty, nasty drug in any form.  Because it is so dangerous, I have to have blood work done so often that I stay anemic.  Chemo makes you lethargic.  It's not as severe in pill form.  Add in the anemia and the weakness from CIDP, and some days it's all I can do to get out of bed.  I don't wear make-up very often at all because of the weakness in my hands and arms.  Putting on eyeliner or mascara is near to impossible.  I have to keep a hairstyle that allows me to wash and go.  It has to be a style that doesn't take much effort to blow dry because my arms are too weak to hold a blow dryer for very long.

But at least I have hair.  So I don't complain about a boring, short cut and not being able to curl or flat iron my hair daily.  I'm very grateful to have hair.

Before getting sick you would have never seen me without make-up.  I would have not walked to the mailbox without my hair and make-up done.  There was a time in my life I would paint my fingernails every night with a color that would match my outfit I had picked out for the next day.  Now you might see me wear make-up two or three times a year ... usually only during family pictures.  I overheard someone say one day, "She's just let herself go since she got sick."  The person who said that has no idea I heard them (I guess they will now if they read this), and it hurt.  It made me self-conscience.  Every flaw on my face can be seen because it isn't covered with make-up.

I've been somewhat offended by the "no-make selfie" craze.  If wearing no make-up is brave, what do people really think of me, and those like me, who really can't wear make-up?  And what about those who make it their choice for a variety of reasons simply not to wear make-up at all?

After doing some research, I learned this originally was started as a way to raise money for cancer research.  I've seen over a hundred post on different social media sites, and out of all of those who have posted their brave picture, not one person posted the link where you can donate money for research.  Somehow it got lost in the craze.

I read this (There is no bravery in no make-up selfies) post on a friend's Facebook page a couple of days ago, and this morning I read this (Why your bare faced selfies aren't really helping anyone) post on a different Facebook page.  I encourage you to read both.  I thought I was being oversensitive to be offended by this craze, but it turns out I'm not the only person who feels this way.

Before posting your brave no make-up selfie, stop and think about how it is effecting someone who is dealing with a life-threatening disease.  I have a friend whose daughter is fighting for her life.  She as pancreatic cancer.  She told me this weekend she hasn't wanted a picture taken of herself because she's so sick and lost so much weight.  She finally agreed to have one taken in the last few days.  She's not brave because of the picture she allowed to be snapped.  Her bravery comes in her wanting to fight for her life, and solely relying on her Heavenly Father to give her the ability to fight.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Grief is a Process

This has been a really hard week.  Sunday we said good-bye to our pastor, and today is the 2 year anniversary of my Mom's death.  I've cried a zillion tears this week, and my heart is deeply hurting.

About 9 o'clock last night I got a phone call from my friend Carrie.  She called asking if she could pray with me.  She knew this week was hard.  I love that she called.  I love that instead of just saying she would pray for me, she actually called me up and did.  It really encouraged my heart, and it was a great lesson for me.  I need to actually pray more with people instead of just promising to do so.

Carrie also told me she had sent me a private message on Facebook that contained a copy of Kay Warren's status update.  The one year anniversary of the death of Rick and Kay Warren's son is approaching.  Kay wrote about how hard "well-meaning" comments had been for her. 
Status Update
By Kay Warren
As the one-year anniversary of Matthew's death approaches, I have been shocked by some subtle and not-so-subtle comments indicating that perhaps I should be ready to "move on." The soft, compassionate cocoon that has enveloped us for the last 11 1/2 months had lulled me into believing others would be patient with us on our grief journey, and while I’m sure many will read this and quickly say “Take all the time you need,” I’m increasingly aware that the cocoon may be in the process of collapsing. It’s understandable when you take a step back. I mean, life goes on. The thousands who supported us in the aftermath of Matthew’s suicide wept and mourned with us, prayed passionately for us, and sent an unbelievable volume of cards, letters, emails, texts, phone calls, and gifts. The support was utterly amazing. But for most, life never stopped – their world didn’t grind to a horrific, catastrophic halt on April 5, 2013. In fact, their lives have kept moving steadily forward with tasks, routines, work, kids, leisure, plans, dreams, goals etc. LIFE GOES ON. And some of them are ready for us to go on too. They want the old Rick and Kay back. They secretly wonder when things will get back to normal for us – when we’ll be ourselves, when the tragedy of April 5, 2013 will cease to be the grid that we pass everything across. And I have to tell you – the old Rick and Kay are gone. They’re never coming back. We will never be the same again. There is a new “normal.” April 5, 2013 has permanently marked us. It will remain the grid we pass everything across for an indeterminate amount of time….maybe forever.
Because these comments from well-meaning folks wounded me so deeply, I doubted myself and thought perhaps I really am not grieving “well” (whatever that means). I wondered if I was being overly sensitive –so I checked with parents who have lost children to see if my experience was unique. Far from it, I discovered. “At least you can have another child” one mother was told shortly after her child’s death. “You’re doing better, right?” I was asked recently. “When are you coming back to the stage at Saddleback? We need you” someone cluelessly said to me recently. “People can be so rude and insensitive; they make the most thoughtless comments,” one grieving father said. You know, it wasn’t all that long ago that it was standard in our culture for people to officially be in mourning for a full year. They wore black. They didn’t go to parties. They didn’t smile a whole lot. And everybody accepted their period of mourning; no one ridiculed a mother in black or asked her stupid questions about why she was STILL so sad. Obviously, this is no longer accepted practice; mourners are encouraged to quickly move on, turn the corner, get back to work, think of the positive, be grateful for what is left, have another baby, and other unkind, unfeeling, obtuse and downright cruel comments. What does this say about us - other than we’re terribly uncomfortable with death, with grief, with mourning, with loss – or we’re so self-absorbed that we easily forget the profound suffering the loss of a child creates in the shattered parents and remaining children.
Unless you’ve stood by the grave of your child or cradled the urn that holds their ashes, you’re better off keeping your words to some very simple phrases: “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Or “I’m praying for you and your family.” Do your best to avoid the meaningless, catch-all phrase “How are you doing?” This question is almost impossible to answer. If you’re a stranger, it’s none of your business. If you’re a casual acquaintance, it’s excruciating to try to answer honestly, and you leave the sufferer unsure whether to lie to you (I’m ok) to end the conversation or if they should try to haltingly tell you that their right arm was cut off and they don’t know how to go on without it. If you’re a close friend, try telling them instead, “You don’t have to say anything at all; I’m with you in this.”
None of us wants to be like Job’s friends – the pseudo comforters who drove him mad with their questions, their wrong conclusions and their assumptions about his grief. But too often we end up a 21st century Bildad, Eliphaz or Zophar – we fill the uncomfortable silence with words that wound rather than heal. I’m sad to realize that even now – in the middle of my own shattering loss – I can be callous with the grief of another and rush through the conversation without really listening, blithely spouting the platitudes I hate when offered to me. We’re not good grievers, and when I judge you, I judge myself as well.
Here’s my plea: Please don’t ever tell someone to be grateful for what they have left until they’ve had a chance to mourn what they’ve lost. It will take longer than you think is reasonable, rational or even right. But that’s ok. True friends – unlike Job’s sorry excuse for friends – love at all times, and brothers and sisters are born to help in time of need (Prov. 17:17 LB).The truest friends and “helpers” are those who wait for the griever to emerge from the darkness that swallowed them alive without growing afraid, anxious or impatient. They don’t pressure their friend to be the old familiar person they’re used to; they’re willing to accept that things are different, embrace the now-scarred one they love, and are confident that their compassionate, non-demanding presence is the surest expression of God’s mercy to their suffering friend. They’re ok with messy and slow and few answers….and they never say “Move on.”

All I can say is wow!  She said all of this so much better than I ever could have said it.

I've have been harshly judged for how I have grieved my Mama.  Her death was a complete shock, and I'm just now beginning to come out of that shock.  I've been told I visit her grave too often.  I had someone tell me I talk about her too often, and it makes others uncomfortable.  I was told I should have closed her Facebook account a long time ago.  I've been told I need to move on, and I need to pull myself together.  I even had someone ask me why I'm still crying over her.

The list of things that have been said to me goes on, and I think people just don't think before they speak.  I think most people are well-meaning.  People think they have to say something, and they just don't understand it's okay for things to be quite.  I remember Darryl and Mary sitting on either side of me the night my mom died, and neither of them said a word.  Just having them there was such a comfort.

I had someone say to me yesterday, "So now that you are moving into year two, this year will be better for you.  It won't hurt as much."


It hurts more.  The more time that passes the more the reality hits she's not coming back.  She will never call me again.  She won't be calling me trying to work out holiday plans or asking if my laundry is caught up yet.

Grief takes time, and as much as I hate to say it, it's a process.  A process without a time limit.  Some days are better than others, and some days my heart is as raw as the day she died.  I'll never "get over it".  My heart will hurt for the remainder of my days.  I will always long for just one more chance to say to her, "I love  you".

Be patient and loving with those who are grieving.  It's not a "cookie cutter" process.  Even those who are grieving the death of the same person will grieve differently and at different rates.  That's okay.  Just love them through it.  Pray with them.  If they need to talk, listen.  If they need to be silent, just sit with them.  Don't try to fill the air with well-meaning words.  Those words often hurt without the one saying them even realizing it.  Just saying, "I love you, and I'm praying for you" is more than enough.

For those of you who have loved me the past two years, thank you.  If I were to list who you are I would surely forget to add someone.  You know who you are, and more importantly God knows who you are.

For those of you who have made hurtful, down right insensitive comments.  It's okay.  Learn from it.  We've all done it.  The key is to learn from it, and do better the next time.

I truly have forgiven every person who has said hurtful things to me.  The words still sting, but I don't harbor hard feelings toward anyone.  I just pray everyone truly realizes grief is a long, hard process, and we all learn to be more patient and loving with one another.

This coming year I plan to focus more on the positive, loving things that are said to me.  I will continue to talk about my Mama, and laugh at some of the silly, crazy things she would do.  I will cry when my heart needs to, and I will visit her grave at least once a week and sometimes more.  I will keep her memory alive, and will teach our girls all things she taught me.  I will cuddle up on the couch with the blanket she made me when I need to be close to her.  When I become proud, I will remember her saying, "Robin, the bible says proud before the fall."  I will probably still try to pick up the phone to call her.

I even have plans to attend a McKammey's concert in a few weeks.

I will always love her and cherish her.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

She's Singing For Her King Jesus

As I sit here listening to the birds signing outside the window, I'm reminded of every detail of that horrible day.  That morning the birds were singing too.  I spent the day in a nearby town with my bible study group shopping in antique stores looking for the perfect blue Mason jar and trying to decide if I really wanted to buy another Vera Bradley purse.  I had chicken and rice for lunch in a cute little restaurant, and because it was so warm we stopped for 1/2 price slushes at Sonic on the way home.  I commented on how beautiful the Red Bud trees were that lined the highway, and talked about how vibrant that Spring was going to be.  I even said, "This has been a really good day."

Little did I know within the hour I would get a phone call that would change my life forever, and what had been a good day would quickly become the worst day of my life.

I can still hear my dad's voice on the other end of the line.  It was tone I had never heard.  All the way to my parent's house I kept praying, "Lord, please don't let it be true.  Please don't let it be true."

It will be 2 years tomorrow, and it still seems like it just happened yesterday.  Whoever said time heals all wounds lied.  I told a friend earlier this week it actually gets harder.  In the beginning I was in shock and disbelief.  It was as if I was living out a nightmare.  The more time passes the more the reality becomes clear I'll never see her again this side of Heaven.

I still cry at least once every day.  Although I don't visit her grave every day like I did the first year, I still go every Sunday after church, and some weeks more often than that.  I still pick up the phone to call her.  Just last week I had the thought, "I need to call Mama and tell her ...".  It wasn't until my dad answered the phone it hit me she isn't here anymore.

I miss her terribly.

We talk about her all the time.  We laugh about some of the crazy stuff she would do.  Sara tells me almost on a daily basis, "You are turning into Mama Gaile.".

It's so hard to live life without her.

As I think back over the past two years I see so clearly how faithful, loving and gracious the Lord has been.  Every moment I thought I couldn't get through, He carried me through it.  Sometimes it still hurts so much it feels like I can't breathe.  I can hardly stand to be in the room where she sat.  It's hard for me to see anyone sit in her seat ... unless it's one of her grandchildren.  Somehow that seems okay to me.  Probably because I know that would make her smile.

I've been reflecting back over things that have been said to me over the past two years.  People can say some hurtful things.  I've had people be very critical about the way I have grieved her.  I have had some deeply hurtful things said to me.  I don't think most people mean to be hurtful.  I think they just don't know what to say, so they say whatever comes to mind without really thinking it through.

The one thing that irrates me the most is for someone to tell me, "Heaven gained another angel."

I can still remember the first person that said this to me after my Mama died.  I was standing in front of her casket, and it took every bit of restraint I had not to tell them what she would have to say about that.

I remember having a conversation with my mom one day about this very statement.  She said to me, "Do people not realize that statement isn't even biblical?  The bible says we are above the angels.  If we are Christians, we are co-heirs with Christ.  Why would I want to be an angel when I die?  I'm a child of the King"

Most everyone has had some very encouraging words to say to me.  Only a few people have been hurtful, but those few tend to standout more than those who have encouraged me.  I'm trying to do better about being intentional about focusing on the encouraging comments.  This morning I read an email my friend Keeba sent me a few days after my mom died.  She said, "This is what it's going to be like."  I have found that email to be so comforting the past two years.  It helps to know someone else cries in the card aisle on Mother's Day.  That seemingly out of nowhere sometimes tears will start to fall for her also.  It helps to know it's not just me.  I'm not going crazy.  What a gift that email has been to my heart!

The night my mom died my friend Barbara and her husband Ralph showed up at my mom's house.  Barbara and I had spent the day together.  Her husband Ralph is a PCA minister, and a highly respected Old Testament scholar.  Just google Dale Ralph Davis to get the full picture of who is.  I say that to help you understand why when I saw them walk in the door I almost ran to them.  I just knew Ralph would have some sort of biblical answer as to why she had died so suddenly.

He hugged me and then looked me in the eye and said, "This is a hard providence isn't it?"

My thoughts were, "That's all you got.  You are Ralph Davis, and the only thing you have to say to me is this is a hard providence?"

Two years later I can say those word are very comforting.  It is a hard providence.  My Mama's days on this earth were numbered, and when it was her time God took her home.  In that moment I wanted a reason.  I wanted to know why.  I didn't realize he was giving me the "why".  God knew the exact moment He would take her home.  Her death was providential.  It was all a part of God's plan.

A couple of days ago my friend Robyn wrote in a text to me, "I know this is a hard week for you, but remember God will never put more on you than you can handle.  He is with you and holding you when you're too weak to stand."  She also wrote, "But rejoice that you know you will see her again.  That's the promise that brings so much comfort."

Yes, yes it is.

I know she is with Jesus, and I know one day I will see her again.  But today I miss her.  My heart still hurts, and my arms still ache from wanting so badly to hug her.  I still regret not telling her I loved her before we hung up the phone the day before she died.  I regret not insisting she go to the doctor that day.  It is still so hard to know she died alone, and not knowing what really happened that day can drive me batty.

But God is sovereign.  God is good.  He is loving.  He is full of mercy and grace.  He will never leave me.  My heart will probably always hurt, but moment by moment God will give me the grace I need.  And like Robyn sweetly reminded me, He will hold me up when I'm too weak to stand. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 

And just like the birds that have been singing outside my window all morning, I believe my Mama is in Heaven singing.  She's probably teaching everyone her favorite McKammey's song.

She's singing for her King Jesus.