billandmardy


Hello Friends. Bill has given this a thumbs-up, but he was not aware of the battles I was facing that day and is concerned readers may think I’m still in the state of empty I describe here. He wants me to add that this was my last note before my four-day weekend alone where I felt like I got to lie down in green pastures, be led by quiet waters and have my soul restored quite a little. That’s how David described his restoration, but to me it feels like I have been emotionally, mentally and spiritually dehydrated since a hole appeared in my heart on Day 1.  I have been sustained by grace each day, but that weekend I got a double dose of grace in my IV. I imagine if they had ICU units and IVs in David’s day he might have described it the same way, but his world was limited to shepherd-speak.

I have had some tough days since the day I penned this, but none yet where I felt as shaky and depleted as I did that day. God’s grace has been great and He is giving sweet insights through the tears. I just don’t feel right sharing the insights without the pain. Your prayers are helping all of us, every single day. Thank you so, so much. Most of this is from a note to friends.  Mardy

January 13th – Day 24. This is the first day that little things have made me angry, and I haven’t felt angry at little things in years. It’s been a day full of so many things to do and so many people to see. I drove Joel to school and then stopped to shop for a birthday gift for Kate. How incredibly thankful I felt to walk into a store, immediately see a kiosk of scarves, make a decision and be back to the car in 9 minutes. Stores feel big to me these days, so many choices, overwhelming decisions, too much walking. And strangers feel overwhelming – what if they intrude into my life by asking how I am today? Even talking to people I know and love today is difficult. I feel like a car very low on oil that wasn’t supposed to drive out of the shop this morning.

I finally got back to the safety of home, and remembered I wanted to help Bill get ready for that 4-day sailing trip with his brother. Bill needs this restoration time. His brother is his closest friend and the St. Johns his favorite haunt.  I boil eggs for their breakfasts, get coolers packed, find the rest of the groceries from his list and keep going – and going and going. Clank goes another rod in my soul. Everything just seems hard, hard, hard, and I feel so low on inner resources I want to drop. Where are the protein bars, why are there no spoons in the silver drawer, I need to get the thermos from the apartment (three blocks it seems to walk to the apartment and up that set of stairs, count them 1 through 16 up and 1 through 16 down), the kitchen trash is overflowing and I can’t smush another thing in so stop everything, resack and start over. Realize I forgot to ask Joel to do about five important things before he left for the weekend, but can’t do anything about them now, and why did I just drop another glass? Irritations rising and rising, and I am getting warning signs that something in me is about to break.  I did not know that weeks of grieving zapped mental, physical and emotional stores.

I had planned to help Bill get the boat swept and shining around noon, but I’m kept busy all day with the next thing and the next and the next.  A lovely family visits and brings us dinner, while Bill runs late in his preparation so he isn’t ready for my help until 4:30. By now I am completely spent. It’s cold outside, and I start feeling colder on the inside, which I think must be a stress-thing. Nothing in me wants to drag myself out to that freezing, untidy boat, climb up the ladder and start another job.

But I look over at Bill and feel only compassion for my guy who is grieving so deeply himself, and has been working so hard to get out the door with many painstaking projects for the past three days. If he knew I was suffering inside right now, he would never let me help, so I push through for his sake, remembering he has also been pushing through his pain to carry me many days.

I walk out to the boat (why is the back yard so far?), climb in, but the hand broom is nowhere to be found, so climb back out, walk back into the house (3 more blocks it feels, step, step, step, clank, clank, clank goes my soul), get another broom, walk back out to the boat, climb back in, trip over a gas tank thingy that’s been pulled into the walkway, start sweeping, find many little things from Bill’s projects that must be sorted and put in the exact right spots in the exact right tub and into the exact right cubby. Get out a tub, take off the lid, put in that thing, put away the tub because I think I have found the only one, keep cleaning and find another one, take out same tub or different tub, take off lid, put thing in, repeat.

It’s cold, so I’m wearing shoes rather than being my normal barefooted self, so I am taller and keep hitting my head on the cabin ceiling – ouch, I can’t believe I just did that again, ouch. I find another thingy for yet another tub in yet another cubby, ouch, hit my head again, trip, hit my shin again on the gas tank thingy, ouch, repeat. I am angry at the cubbies and the thingies I keep finding and the ceiling I keep hitting my head on. I can feel my breathing change to deep sighs as my stress level rises. I start to think about a hot jacuzzi with lots of bubbles, but realize there are more ends to tie up, more things to pack. I push on, not showing my anger, but feeling it rise while my soul sends more warning knocks to my brain, clankety, clanekety, clank.

When I finish the cabin, Bill carries the cooler next to the boat, opens it and notices that one of the tea jugs is leaking all over the food. I am now way angry at the tea jug, angry that I have to climb back into the boat to find paper towels, angry that I can’t tell which of the three jugs it is and must balance each one on a paper towel on the catamaran hull in the yard and wait for the guilty one to leak. I empty the cooler into the yard and notice leaves and woodchips are now stuck on the bottoms of each food item. I start wiping out the cooler, and without ever saying a word to Bill, throw each and every soggy towel into the yard as hard and as far and as angrily as I can as soon as I finish with it. I am on the verge of screaming.

And guess what thought pops into my head as I fling the last paper towel?

So, what did the slave mothers do?

Huh?

What did the slave mothers do?

I think about it, and the thought is humbling and overwhelming. What did slave mommies who lost their children do? How did they cope when their children were beaten or abused or put to work in the fields from sun up to sun down with no rest, no opportunity, no medicine, no doctor, no help? What did they do if they died?  Did those mother’s souls go clankety, clankety, clank when they went back to work in the fields hour after hour, day after day with no break? How did they cope when they felt low on oil, when they felt they had used up every single unit of their resources, but weren’t allowed to stop, even for one day to grieve their own child’s death? What did they do with their sorrow when they were given little or no compassion, when they didn’t have weeks of loving care to grieve their loss as I have been given? How did they do the next thing and the next? And how did they keep their faith in a sovereign and loving God in such an ongoing fire?

And not just the slave mothers, I think, but what about mommies today whose children die from violence in warring nations and hunger in third world countries? How, how, how do they cope without massive amounts of friends forming a tight wall of love around them, bringing hot meals each day, texting to say I love you and am praying for you, or actually have masses of people praying for them? If I feel irritation and anger because I can’t find a spoon in my kitchen 24 days after losing my son, what does a mommy feel the day after she buries her son and doesn’t know where drinking water is coming from tomorrow for her other children?

I shudder to think what condition my faith might be in if I were asked to trade places with them. I would need a grace I’ve not yet experienced.  I see now I am being sustained, propped up, by the prayers and care of many people. I imagine if you gathered all the mothers who have ever lost a child into one group, surely the kit-glove care and tender love and massive prayers I have received would be in the top 5% of all time. I live in a day of technology where thousands have been asked to pray for us and scores are serving us – and the call goes out with the touch of a button from my friends’ computers. It feels very much like I’ve been checked into a very special VIP ICU unit of God’s hospital with fiery angels standing at the door, a mass of loving friends tending to my needs, and the Great Physician close by who has been giving me time to just cry and heal and cry and heal.

I don’t know why I would be given such amazing care, but realizing it now makes me feel about 100 times better. I’m still cold, and I bump my head on the cabin ceiling a few more times getting the last of the items in (boating is a lot of work!), and I still feel utterly depleted. But, I’m no longer angry about tea jugs or cold boats or spoons I can’t find. I am humbled.  I’m not working in the fields right now or exposed to the elements or emptying someone else’s toilet or tempted to worry about food or water for tomorrow. I feel extremely grateful to be me, extremely grateful to be so tenderly cared for.

The boat is ready, and I am still cold on the inside and can’t help thinking about that hot, bubbly jacuzzi. Then I realize I should offer Bill something warm before he leaves instead of his plans to eat fast food. As I stare at the microwave watching our plates of a deliciously catered dinner turn round and round, knowing they’ll be piping hot in 90 seconds, I wonder how my faith would be holding up if I were serving wormy rice or stale bread as some grieving mothers must be doing tonight.

Bill has just called to say he arrived safely in Palatka, within five minutes of his brother. That is amazing timing. These two, who love water and wind and sails and each other, and do not mind the cold at all, will have a much-needed time together. Joel is happily spending these four days with a family who loves him like their own. And my house is finally, finally deliciously quiet. It feels like a sanctuary right now. I’m going to go start that hot bubbly bath, melt some grated parmesan and mozzarella onto a baguette, pour a (very small) glass of wine, light a few candles and sink into the tub. My anger I notice is still gone.  It’s been replaced by overwhelming gratefulness.

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I have been journaling to a few friends and family members over the past few weeks, and am just beginning to feel like I can share some of those entries with a wider circle now. I’m placing them here so all the people who are praying for us can go to one place and know how their prayers are helping us. I thought about putting here only the good lessons I have been learning in this very dark valley, but think I am supposed to keep in the painful parts I’ve been experiencing, too.

If you signed up for this blog before December because you thought it would be fun to keep up with our adventures and my lessons, you’ll probably want to unsubscribe. My writings this year will most likely be a processing of my grief, and I know that can be very heavy for those not going through it. My feelings won’t be hurt in the least when folks unsub – I don’t even think I get a notice, so I wouldn’t even know.

The weekend of January 13th, Bill got to spend four days sailing with his brother, Joel spent four days with a family that ministered to him, and I got to spend four days completely and deliciously alone. It was the exact therapy that each of us needed, and I notice that my writings become more insightful from that weekend on. For now I am just posting my before-January 13th writings which are more raw. I will share some of my after Jan 13th writings soon.

If you have posted a comment or sent me a note, I have read it and cherish it. I just cannot reply to them all. Thank you with all my heart for continuing to pray for us. It is very clear to us that we are being sustained by your prayers.

Mardy

The LORD (really is) close to the brokenhearted and (really does) save those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

To a few dear friends that come to mind this morning who I know are grieving deeply with us and praying for us. There are so many others that should be in the header, but I am not thinking clearly yet – you are just the ones who come to mind at this moment.

Yesterday was very difficult for me, extremely painful, as we had to deal with some official things. I can’t even rank it as the second most difficult day or the fifth – I just fell sobbing onto the couch again into the arms of my precious, tender-hearted tower of strength husband, while Kate, Daniel and Joel also comforted me.

Kate then whisked me off to a full spa treatment. She had earlier told me we were only getting a pedicure, but when she saw how difficult it was for me, she changed it to a full spa day. There was a large coffee table book in the dressing room, and while we stood in our robes waiting for our room to open, I opened it and it “happened to” fall to the page on God’s great and gentle comfort in grieving and loss. I cried my way through each sentence and each verse, though the words were very hard to focus on.

I couldn’t keep tears from flowing during my facial, and it is very awkward to try to hide tears running into your ears while someone is massaging your face on a table. The therapist wiped away my tears over and over, and leaned close and whispered Scriptures of comfort to me. She was very black, just like the little black servers and hotel clerks in the Bahamas I fell in love with on the cruise and wanted to bring home with me (I kept telling each one she was soooo beautiful – because they were so strikingly beautiful – and that each was worthy to wait for a man of honor, and I think I drove my kids nuts (in a fun way) accosting each girl in this way). Yesterday, it was like one of those little black girls was there with me, speaking back to me words of strength, love and comfort. She had the thickest false eyelashes I have ever seen in real life, and tons of silver jewelry, things I wouldn’t be brave enough to even wear to a costume party, but she was to me the most beautiful girl in the world, besides my Kate.

I feel like my storehouse of emotional reserves has been depleted and is so low, even for touching, hugging, listening, talking. It is such a drastically different place to be in, and so not controllable. It’s like I can just look down into my soul and notice my resources are almost gone. I didn’t know that shock and grief and weeks of crying would use them up like this, but even thinking about cooking a meal is still way too much work. For three people! And I love to cook. It’s like the ‘love to cook’ was used up in the grief and would have to be replaced in the refilling of my emotional tanks for me to ever want to do that again. That makes me wonder, when one is spending tons of emotional reserves in any crises, like a divorce or death or huge financial loss, if loves of things can get spent up to survive and sometimes don’t get replaced?

I am wordy and weird today. This is what I do in my quiet alone time that I relish. I write and write and write and take bubble baths and read and sip tea and then I write. Or fold towels or weed the garden or load the dishwasher or try to work on office stuff, which we are way behind on but I won’t allow myself to panic over. I have no emotional reserves left for panic. And then when Joel and Bill are around, I love on them and try to serve them which is a huge therapy for me, but I’ve noticed uses up more energy stores than before. Offering to make Joel’s lunch for school yesterday my mind said, “OK, walk over to the fridge and find the mayo. Found. OK, now go to the pantry and find the bread. White and wheat and those flat things. He doesn’t like wheat. I don’t remember if he likes the flat things. He’s in the shower, I can’t ask him. Wait, I could walk all the way to shower and ask him through the door, but that seems like such a long walk. I can guess. Big decision. I should make a decision. I’ll go with the white. Does he like mustard or barbecue sauce. Oh, mustard – Patrick liked barbecue sauce (cry, cry, cry, wash hands, start over). What drawer to I keep the sandwich bags in again? Oh, yes, always been that one, what is wrong with me??”

Comparing now to the past ten years, while making a lunch I would have written three emails in my head, planned out my errands for the day, and made a mental note to call a friend who seemed discouraged. I wouldn’t even have remembered making the sandwich. When the children were all little, I (vaguely) remember using up all my stores, but that seems like 100 years and another life ago now. I am now only used to limitless emotional stores. I dip into them, then dip in again, then again. Wheee, isn’t this fun? Shift into 5th gear, round that corner on two wheels, screech to halt, pick up a few passengers and off again. I love life! Vrooom, vrooom. Next project, Lord? Oh, meet with that mom? Plan a surprise party for one of the kids? Sneak Bill on a date? Yippee! All while loading the dishwasher.

I feel as though I was designed to be a 5-speed sporty little Martha-coupe, created to tool about in 5th gear, happily doing God’s will, and who checks in for Mary-maintenance and restoration when needed. But, I have suffered a tragic accident, and now sit immobile in the shop. The Great Physician, it seems, has called on specialists from every corner of my world who I did not know were such experts in love and care and knowledge to come to the shop for me. Each one brings a special concoction, their own precious balm mixed with His Spirit and their love for us. Each promotes a little healing, a little soothing in my soul at His prompting. We can see that my engine runs still, but I have many repairs deep inside yet to undergo, and my forward gears still will not go. I did find in the past 2 days that I can run a vacuum, fold laundry, tool about in the garden, clean a toilet and mop a floor while crying, so first gear of my soul seems to be working. And I can sputter slowly to our children’s home, but I cannot dream of even going to the store yet, not even to pick up milk (which thankfully we have plenty of and plenty of people offering to do).

I imagine when I am thrust back into driving Joel back and forth to college next week that I will find that second gear will work again. But, it does not seem possible that 5th gear will ever work again in this life for me. I just don’t feel like I’ll ever be fixed enough to return to that much fun. But, I do feel like I’m in a microwave of healing and grace. I can just tell, that even though I have almost no emotional reserves, that I’m in a bubble of healing, being guarded, possibly by angels, though I’ve never seen any, of course. I just like to imagine there might be angels around because I feel like there is a wall of protection around me so thick in this ICU unit where fiery darts are quenched before they can even get near my mind or soul. I think there might be a battle going on just outside my room, but as long as I stay snugged in my room I am safe from harm, and can keep healing. So, here I stay, feeling a tiny bit more restored than yesterday, and like I may be a tiny, tiny bit more healed today. But, still those healing tears going on and on and on….


Dear Friends,

On December 20th, my husband and I received the double shock that our 19 year-old son Patrick had died, and that it was apparent he had taken his own life.

I will never be able to describe to anyone, ever, the slap of such a shock, the depths of such pain, or the dreadful questions that plague a parent’s heart following such a call. They are the worst. For five days my heart was crushed with the pain of my son’s pain, and stung by the question of how we could have missed it.

Five days later, on the 26th, our daughter, an ER RN, made a connection between a head injury her brother suffered the day before Thanksgiving and his death.   Patrick was in school at USF in Tampa, 2 hours from home.  His work schedule didn’t allow him to have Thanksgiving off, but he was able to get home for a few days before, so we had a ‘Thanksgiving Lasagna’ one night, a ‘Thanksgiving Stroganoff’ the next, celebrating early with his siblings so he could be with us.  He was happy, and told us he was doing well with his two part-time jobs and two classes at school.  He said he was finally getting a killer cardio workout because he had to run at top speed to retrieve cars as a parking valet all day.  He had the usual fun with his siblings, and as he was our biggest prankster, he hacked my FaceBook status (again) while he was here.  He told us he liked his church and his small group fellowship in Tampa, and was having a conflict with one person, but was working toward resolving it.  All seemed well and we looked forward to his return the week of Christmas.

He left for Tampa with kisses and hugs and promises of seeing him in 3 1/2 weeks.  Forty minutes later, he called saying he’d been in an accident on I-75.  Bill and Dan went to make sure he was okay. He’d lost control of his car in the rain, hit the guardrail several times at highway speed, swerved back into traffic and hit another car.  No one in the other car was injured, but Patrick hit his head on the steering wheel and driver’s door window.  Bill and Dan changed his tire, checked his car, and checked him for signs of concussion. Patrick called Kate to ask if she thought he might have a concussion. She told him it was possible, gave him a list of things to watch for, and told him he should check it out. I had told him that morning that there were plenty of funds in the HSA account for medical needs.  For whatever reason, our beautiful kid did not get checked out, or connect any of the dots when he began displaying erratic behavior.

From Kate: I’m not exactly sure why it took me almost a week to put the pieces together – probably because of shock – but I realized something I think would be helpful to many of Patrick’s friends and family who are struggling to make sense of this, trying to figure out why no one saw this coming.

I am currently working at a large research university where staff has been frequently and thoroughly educated on the findings of recent research on traumatic brain injuries. I’d like to share some of these findings with you:

When a person comes into the emergency department for a bump to the head, standard procedure is to perform a CT scan (if the physician is concerned) and then, if no bleed is found, discharge the patient home. However, new research is finding that healthcare professionals are missing a huge piece of the picture. We are just now discovering that while nothing is showing up on a CT scan, MRIs of recently bumped heads show abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex, the emotion/reasoning center of the brain.

When someone suffers a bump to the head (whether it results in concussion or not), there is between a 30-80% chance (the research is still new) that in the following 2-3 months they will experience the following symptoms: insomnia, difficulty concentrating, difficulty relating to people, depression, suicidal thoughts and lack of impulse control. Students’ grades drop, people break up with their significant others, lose jobs, etc. They have personality changes and these short-term symptoms wreak havoc on their lives. There is abundant information available by Googling head injury and depression.

On December 28th, Kate and Dan drove to Tampa to take care of final details for us, for which I will be indebted to them for the rest of my days. When they finished, they spoke with Patrick’s friends about Kate’s thoughts. Everyone’s reaction was the same.

Kate: As soon as I started reading the symptoms of brain injury, each friend expressed shock and said I was describing Patrick’s behavior since Thanksgiving exactly. He could only sleep 2-3 hours a night, he couldn’t concentrate on school, he became withdrawn and distant, he had developed a persistent headache. They said his personality in three weeks had suddenly negatively changed.

For me, this has been the missing puzzle piece. Everyone who knew Patrick – and many of us knew him very well – have said the same thing: Patrick wasn’t unhappy, he wasn’t depressed, and he certainly wasn’t suicidal.  He was suffering from post-concussive symptoms.

Patrick’s altered behavior was apparent to friends, but naturally no one made a connection to the accident.  One friend said he’d become erratic so quickly that he thought he might have started taking drugs.

For me, I feel like I was shot through the heart with the initial call, and then rolled into ICU, being sustained moment by moment by tubes of God’s grace, like a feeding tube or breathing tube keeping me alive.  All my heart could do was lay immobile and be taken care of by others who held me and tried to make sure I ate and drank. Learning of the TBI symptoms (traumatic brain injury) poured a Saline of truth over my broken heart and washed away questions that I think would have plagued my me until the day I die.  He had watched us rescue siblings when they experienced a few crises, and we felt confident he would also call us if he needed us. The thought that he would not was excruciating to both of us. The last thing Bill said to him before he moved was that his room would always be waiting.  To know he wasn’t hiding failures and pain from us all semester soothed some of my pain, but learning the symptoms of a TBI was also very painful and triggered the grieving process afresh in me.  I imagined all the stress and pain he must have faced running as a valet and keeping up his other job and school on so little sleep, pushing himself to do better, not realizing he was injured.

Patrick’s natural temperament was Melancholy, so he set high standards and took life seriously. We watched him over the previous year pull overnight shifts and still go to class the next day, or go to school when he was sick when we advised him to stay home. He was Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, his favorite character and the only movie that I know of he bought for himself.

And here the keyboard disappears into yet another blur of tears – our son left a note. I can’t share it with anyone outside our family. I don’t even know what’s appropriate or not appropriate these days, but I asked Kate and Bill to help me know, and they said I should share the gist of it.  He wrote that he was very sorry for the pain he knew this would cause all of us, that he loved us all very much, that he knew he was very loved, and had been given a loving family. But, he could not understand why he was so deeply sad inside all the time and could not go on.

He thought of others first in so many decisions, and to read he was concerned for us in his final thoughts is more than I can even process yet.

January 5th was my first venture out of this safe and loving cocoon of home.  I took Joel, 16, to get a hair cut, pick up some books, and I thought I would treat him to a trip to Wal-mart to spend a gift card he received at Christmas. I ended up bursting into tears when an employee was trying to help me, trying not to draw attention to myself while looking for a place to escape.  Looking back on it that night, it felt like I was trying to push an IV pole across a busy street still dressed in my hospital gown, while cars whisked past me honking and speeding.  My goal was to get my weak little self all the way across that street, and I did, but sat down and cried on the bench once I got there.  Not so good.

Later I read three notes from three different friends who didn’t know each other, but all said the same thing – that I must come to a place where I accept that God is completely sovereign, and that though this was never His design, He still saw it in advance, and was able to protect Patrick from the accident as well as the injury – but didn’t.  If anyone who could have protected him and changed the outcome, it was God.  But, He didn’t.  And yet He loved Patrick many times more than all of us put together.

Reconciling God’s love for my son with His sovereignty in allowing this outcome clicked something into place in my soul, like a bone that had been broken that just got set, or an alignment that allowed me to stop walking stooped over.  Something inside settled, and I could sense a new soothing, as though the Lord administered a spiritual pain med.  For the first five days my heart had been crushed with the pain of my son’s pain.  When I cried out to Jesus to take my crushing grief, He did.  Once we learned of his head injury symptoms, I was weighted again with my son’s pain and a barrage of what-ifs and whys (I had been protected in accidents and greater dangers, why hadn’t he?, What if we had thought to visit him between Thanksgiving and Christmas – we might have seen it?  Why this, why not that?).  I know that I must pass through these unanswerable questions as part of my healing process, but since allowing myself to accept both God’s sovereignty and love simultaneously, I’ve been at new level of peace.  I still cry many times a day, but I’ve been able to say each day, This is Patrick’s story with You, his God, and I will not demand that You tell me the whys of his story.  I will keep trusting You and wait for You or him to tell us when we see him again.

On December 24th, the day after his memorial service, but before we learned of the TBI, someone wrote to remind me of Isaiah 53, that Jesus bore my griefs and sorrows, and they encouraged me to cry out to Him to take my crushing sorrow.  It sounded like fiction, that it would be impossible to have the crushing, crushing weight of grief ever leave me.  I’d been hurting so deeply and dropping to a couch or the floor sobbing in fits since we heard.  After 3 hours of gut-wrenching sobbing before my family was awake, I reread my friend’s note, and called out to Jesus, that if it were true, if He really did take my crushing sorrow on the cross, would He please remove it?  Bill found me shortly after that prayer, surrounded by a mountain of tissues, still softly crying.  He held me tight, prayed for me, spoke words of truth to me, and asked me never to grieve that way alone again, that I must find him or wake him when I started to slide.  Since that day, Day Five, I’ve no longer been crushed with overwhelming grief.  We still have many tears – we both cry alone and cry in each other’s arms.  I cry with the kids, with friends who come by, and, last week on my first venture to a store I cried all the way down the aisle, through the parking lot and into the car.  But it is not the same crushing grief that gripped me for the first five days.  It didn’t return.

We don’t have enough words or even adequate words to express our gratefulness to all who have been praying for us. Friends dropped everything in their lives the week of Christmas and pulled together the most beautiful memorial service that ever was.  More friends stepped in to run our home, cook our meals, field calls and posts, and pray and cry with us.  We’ve been showered with flowers and gifts, people in high places set events into motion to assist us, and people we had never met reached out to us as with one heart. We’re still just learning of acts of service which were done for us.   If you have sent us an email or card, we’re still in the process of reading them all.  If you sent flowers or gifts, they’ve all been extremely beautiful.  A family member will be coming over in the coming weeks to help us acknowledge them all.

I tend to process my lessons and joys, and I see now my grief, through writing.  This note is a compilation of many notes penned over the past three weeks, some to myself, some to family, some to friends.  We know many outside our family are suffering over this tragedy.  We’ve talked about what is appropriate to share and how to communicate, and decided as a couple to publish this note here.  If you know anyone who has been suffering with us and you think this would help to comfort them, please share it.

Today, January 11th, I still feel like I am in the ICU unit of God’s hospital. Even though I can sense God’s grace sustaining me, I still have a gaping hole in my heart.  Each day I bleed a little less, “come to” a little more, and my wound closes a tiny bit.  Bill and I have been healing the slowest.  I think our hearts will eventually stop bleeding, but we will bear a Patrick-sized scar for the rest of our days here.  Our adult kids are each balancing normal stages of grief with ongoing commitments, facing ups and downs, good days and low days.  They have stayed close as they grew up, calling or texting each other regularly, but are staying even closer now. Bill and I are still learning of things they did to shield us during the first week.  They bore a very heavy load together with their spouses.  Joel remains a soft and Sanguine blessing, processing healthily I think, being a strength to me, and even playing a few tricks on me to make me laugh again. We are comforting one another daily, and to the degree of healing we are intended and able to one day reach while we yet live is our united hope and goal.

We know that grace is being administered to us through massive amounts of prayer and due to no strength of our own.  We know some of you will carry us in your prayers as the weeks turn into months and years. We are immensely thankful. I am particularly thankful to the God who sees everything in advance and loves our children more than we do.  And I am thankful to Jesus who actually, really and truly bore our griefs and sorrows on Calvary, and who actually, really and truly gives sustaining grace in the darkest valley.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

Sustained by grace, Bill and Mardy for all our family


Hello Friends!

I’ve been chatting with a friend who’s been experiencing chronic pain for the past couple of years. It’s hard to know how to encourage her because other than breaking my toes on a fairly consistent basis as I dash about the house barefoot, I don’t have any pain.

But, I feel my friend’s pain in my heart, and thought I would share with you some of the things I shared with her today.

Many blessings, Mardy

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l be almost entirely arm-chair quarterbacking in this department, but here goes.  When we lived without air conditioning for 13 years, and our van was completely dead for 8 months, and we had no AC in the van for a couple of years, it was hard. I didn’t handle it as well as you’re handling your pain right now. Eventually though, I started counting my blessings – literally counting them each day, journaling them, forcing myself to keep them to the forefront of my mind. It didn’t change my circumstances and I still had to go through everything I was going through, but it helped so much.

Here’s my story. One day, when I was leaving a nursing home where the kids and I had just made a visit, I got into the van after loading everyone up. Florida in the summer is unbearably hot, and inside a van that has been parked in the sun for 2 hours is hot, hot, hot. And we had no AC at the time. Plus, the power steering had been broken for months. It was the end of a long day of running errands, and I still had a big meal to cook when we finally got home – in a hot, hot, hot kitchen.

I started to back out of the parking space, realizing I would have to do it in back-and-forth spurts w/no power steering, using all my weight to pull the steering wheel as far as I could in one direction, then inch the van backward, then use all of my weight in the other direction, then inch forward, then block traffic in the lot, and do it again.

I started to feel exasperated and the old why-me pity demon showed up, my old friend (my enemy really, but I had entertained him as a friend for so long…). And self-righteous thoughts popped up like “Why me? And when I am trying to lay my life down and do so much for others, and why can’t we ever get a break, etc.?”

Then I remembered a lady we had just visited who had been hit by a drunk driver and become a paraplegic at 29. She was now in her 60’s and had been in a nursing home all those years.  She had such a sweet, accepting, mature, loving attitude.  She had just reminded us to count our blessings each day.

So I turned – that moment – and said out loud to the kids, “Well, at least I have 2 arms to turn this van.” Thirty minutes later I was in a long grocery line w/tired kids waiting to get checked out, feeling impatient w/the people in front of me and the sloooow cashier, and self-pity tried to slither its way back to my side, so I said, “At least I have 2 legs to walk into this grocery store with!”

And on it went. That day was kind of a turning point for me that has helped me to face some pretty difficult trials. I have been grumpy and ungrateful plenty of times since, but it has been a slipping rather than a way of life.

I know that breaking my toes is not the same as the chronic pain you’re facing each day, but I keep breaking them! Twice last year, and the pain is bad. And then I am stuck with my foot elevated, having to be waited on, and watching things slip out of my control. Things like, “Why don’t my kids put the mayo back after they make lunch?” and, “Yikes, I can’t bear to look at the way they did this or that!” I lose control over my kitchen, my house, part of my life when I am incapacitated and forced to focus on my healing. I have to force myself, with MUCH effort, to focus on the blessings I do have, and not the way I want things done. It is not fun, and I have to keep choosing the relationship (w/God and people) over what I want. I think you may already be doing that, and I’m proud of you.

More recently, and not as dramatic, I woke up to find sugar ants on the kitchen counter after working so hard to get rid of them for weeks. I had just had success (I thought) when a certain child, who will remain nameless, put the sugar canister back in the old place (that I had said not to) and then spilled sugar again and didn’t clean it up. When I first saw the familiar trail creeping across my counter, I felt the same ol’, same ol’ feelings of discouragement, frustration, etc. – that strangling feeling of, “Not again!” But, I remembered that this negative feeling was going to lead me down a path that would end up with me in an emotional prison again. So, I looked up and said to God, “Sugar ants? This is the biggest trial I’m facing right now? Well, I’ll take ’em! Thank you that this is it, and bring ’em on!” (And then I killed them all with great pleasure!)

I hope this is a little encouraging to you, and wish I could be of more help. I will pray for you today. Love always, Mardy


You and I can not change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.  Warren Wiersbe 

Oh, how the world around me is changing!  Our youngest child, Joel, will be dual-enrolling at the local college in the fall.  That means that after 25 years of homeschooling seven children, I have almost finished this race.

Just parenting seven children (five born within 6 1/2 years) brought huge changes to my life, most importantly because I didn’t have the example of parental attention or love as a child.  As one can imagine, I had a lot of growing up to do myself, and those first few children felt the impact.  I’ll probably write more on that some day.

But, homeschooling? That was Bill’s idea.  I eventually got on board with it, and it brought so many more changes to my life than I could have ever expected – especially for a girl who dropped out of high school.  How insecure it feels to basically say to the state, “I can do a better job teaching my children than you can,” when you secretly wonder if you can.

So a couple of years ago, with this finish line almost in sight, I entertained the idea that it wouldn’t be long until I could rest of my laurels (or kick up my heels) when I completed this course.  Unlike some of my friends who love teaching (and love their children), I only love my children and do not like teaching.  More specifically, I don’t like switching hats from mommy to teacher to nurturer, back to mommy, then to teacher (then to prison guard – LOL), then back to mommy, then to teacher, nurturer, repeat.  I didn’t like it, but how it forced me into needed changes.   And that leads me to my next life-verse (my life-verses keep changing, too).

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow – or next year – we will rest on our laurels or kick up our heels after finishing an iron-man of a homeschooling adventure.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will rest on our laurels or kick up our heels, and also do this or that.”  James 4-kind of…

Then two years ago, Bill took an early “retirement” – and promptly went into business for himself.   That meant that all the free time I would have gained not homeschooling has been spent (and much, much more) learning how to run a home office and understand QuickBooks.   At my age, no less.  That in itself has brought huge changes for a woman who loves writing words, not tracking pesky, unforgiving numbers.

And just to keep life changing, Bill’s dream to sail became a reality last weekend with his adoption of a 26′ sailboat.  Me?  On a sailboat?  Me, who loves to walk romantically along the beach as long as I don’t have to actually get into the ocean, is going to learn to sail?  On the ocean?  I expect many future posts about this new adventure, and have created a page for sailing (which Bill thinks is a very worthy endeavor!).

So, by grace, this mother who was raised in a highly dysfunctional, secular environment, had seven children who have turned out to be the most amazing people (each of whom she wants to be like in so many ways).  By grace, this girl who quit high school actually taught them to read, and watched them fly from there, each finishing well (one to go, but he is on his way).  By grace, this writer who will never (ever!) enjoy tracking debits and credits is now (somewhat clumsily, but eventually successfully) keeping the books for her husband’s companies.  And by grace, this woman who has never been fond of water is now going to learn to sail.  By grace.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.  2 Cor 12:9

And now for this blog.  I absolutely love to write.  It is therapeutic form of word-sculpture, and is very fun for me.  However, with all these changes, I hope I will be able to find – no, to make – the time for it.  (I have actually created this blog while away sailing/working with Bill and Joel for the week.)  We will see if I can keep it up when I jump back into real life in a few days.

And now, I must get ready to leave with Bill for a business meeting.  One of those changes I am still not used to….

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