I will see you again…

This post is dedicated to my mom.  A great loss that taught me about God’s love…

Patricia Elizabeth Rodman-Edwards
Born June 21, 1945 – Died November 4, 1995

My mom absolutely loved Halloween.  She enjoyed seeing the little kids in their costumes, giving out the candy…everything that had to do with Halloween.  She didn’t dress up every year, but when she did she gave it her all. I’ll never forget the year that she dressed up really scary when I was in high school.  It wasn’t something that she normally did and I so wish I had a picture of her.  She wore one of her old gowns that she wore on New’s Year’s Eve from back in the day.  It was long and silver. She teased her hair and wore dark eye makeup.  Then she put on really red lipstick and made it so that it looked like she had blood dripping down her chin.  She turned all the lights off in the house.  My sister and I were the look-outs because she didn’t want to scare the little kids.  But when one of the big kids came to the door…you know the ones that really shouldn’t be trick or treating any more…she would be the one to answer the door.  We had a storm door so we left our main door open.  The bigger kids would knock on the door and there my mom would come – around the corner of our living room with a votive candle lit and held under her chin that made her whole face glow. The kids would jump and take a few steps back…it was so much fun!  One kid actually jumped over the railing of our porch and ran away.  Good times!

mom halloweenMy mom was a secretary for an executive and had to wear a suit to work every day. The only exception was Halloween. Every year she would carefully plan her costume.  I think she really enjoyed being able to show a different side of herself and her last Halloween it was a bit of a wild side.  She decided she was going to dress up like a “biker chick”.  I think she really got a kick out of it because everyone at work knew she was a Sunday school teacher and she knew they would never expect it from her.  She got my sister to spike her hair, she wore my old leather jacket, she got some fake tattoos and put them on her arms…she was really done up.  The week before Halloween she drove in her car with a hand-held tape recorder and would record motorcycles on the road as she drove by them.  The funniest part was her “motorcycle” was Kyle’s big wheel.  It had a seat with a compartment where she put the tape recorder and it played motorcycle sounds while she rode it around the office.  This picture doesn’t do the costume justice, but you can certainly see the joy on her face.  She passed away four days later.

It was a Friday night.  The kids and I went to my parents house like we did a lot of weekends.  This particular weekend my parents were going to watch the kids for us because we were getting new carpet installed the next day.  It was also my chance to show my mom the costumes the kids wore that year.  I don’t like Halloween, but since my mom enjoyed it so much I would dress the kids in costumes for her.  It was the first year that I didn’t make it over on Halloween night (we lived an hour away and for some reason I didn’t make it over that year).  Mike was still at work, but we were all hungry so my dad went out to get us dinner.  While he was gone, my mom and I played with the kids.  Before my dad got back with the food, my mom complained that she was getting a headache.  That wasn’t unusual…she got headaches a lot.  But I could tell this one was really bad.  She took some medicine and I made her lay down on the sofa (it was always hard to drag her away from the kids).  When my dad got home with our dinner, we both knew that this was not her typical headache.  He decided that he was going to take her to the hospital (this wasn’t the first time she went to the hospital with a bad headache, but it had been a long time).  He was helping with her shoes, but it quickly became clear that she was in distress.  I ran for the phone and dialed 911.  I talked to the operator and they told us what to do and that they were sending help.  I quickly went and fixed the kids plates for dinner to try to keep them occupied and out of the way.  Kyle had just turned 3 and McKensie was 22 months old.  Just as I finished getting them settled, my mom lost consciousness.  I sent my sister outside to flag down the emergency vehicles since my parents lived on a flagged lot and it was hard to find… especially at night. The paramedics came and she and my dad were off to the hospital.  I waited for Mike to get home to my parents house, called my cousin to come and sit with the kids, and then we were off to the hospital.

When we got there, they were still running tests so we had no idea what was happening.  I don’t remember how long it took before they came out, but it seemed like a lifetime.  The doctor said that she either had a catastrophic stroke or a brain aneurysm.  Either way it didn’t look good and if there was any family that would like to see her…we should call them in tonight.  Wait…what do you mean…call the family in?  That usually means the person isn’t going to make it. That can’t be what he means….right?  But it turned out that her brain had a lot of blood around it and if she did survive she would probably be a vegetable.  How do you make that phone call??  She had 3 sisters, and 2 brothers.  I decided to call her middle sister because they were pretty close at the time.  I’ll never forget my aunt’s reaction.  She said “get out of here” like I was kidding.  I know she knew I would never kid about something like this, but I also knew she was in shock just like me.  I asked if she would mind calling the others.  About an hour later, the whole family was there saying their goodbyes.  My grandfather wasn’t quite grasping what was happening and he kept asking us why the doctors weren’t helping her.  It was heart breaking.  I was still holding out hope that somehow the doctor was wrong.  Somehow she was going to make it. She was only 50 years old…that was too young.  What was I going to tell the kids?

We took turns going in to see her…a few of us at a time.  While in the waiting room with everyone, I felt like God was telling me I needed to tell her it was ok to go. Have you ever had an argument with God in your head?  Well I was having one heck of an argument.  “I can’t tell her that…I don’t really mean it.  She’s too young.  I’m not ready to not have a mom.  My kids need their Mom Mom.”  But He was very persistent.  “You have to tell her it’s ok to go.” “Well how am I supposed to do that with all these people here?”  “Spend the night” He prompted.  So, as everyone was getting ready to leave…I have no idea what time it was…I know it was late.  I told Mike and my dad that I was going to stay with her.  I don’t remember if they fought me on that, but if they did I won and stayed.

I remember sitting with her and praying.  There were a few times that I would have to leave the room so the nurses could work on her.  I would go out in the waiting room.  I was the only one there and nurse after nurse would come out and talk to me.  “What happened?” they would ask.  And as I explained to them what happened tears would fill their eyes.  I heard a lot of “she is so pretty”and “my mom is older…I can’t imagine losing her like this.”  I think my mom was a different patient for them because she hadn’t been sick, she wasn’t in an accident, she looked perfectly fine…like she was asleep.   But the time came to accomplish what God had asked me to do.  I really didn’t understand why He wanted me to do it. He’s God…He can take her any time He wants right?  So, I simply said the following:

“Mom we all love you.  You mean the world to us.  But if you see Jesus…go to him.  We will miss you terribly, but we will be ok.  The doctors are saying that you aren’t going to be the same.  And I know that if you can’t play with Kyle and McKensie the way you want to it will be Hell on Earth for you.  I will take good care of them.  We will all see you again.  It’s ok to stay with Him mom.  We will understand.”

And that was it.  I prayed over her the rest of the night…what was left of it, and in the morning my dad and Mike came to the hospital.  Mike took me to my parent’s house and my dad stayed at the hospital.  I took a shower and got something to eat…checked in on the kids who were there at my parent’s house with relatives and then went back to the hospital. When we got there, my mom was gone.

Next came the funeral arrangements. I went with my dad to the funeral home. As we were leaving, Kyle started to cry hysterically.  When I asked him what was wrong, he asked me not to go with Poppy.  Mom Mom went with Poppy and didn’t come home.  He was afraid that would happen to me.  Broke my heart.  My dad couldn’t even remember the names of my moms siblings he was in such shock.  People he had known most of his life.

Then came the viewings.  Two days and nights with a full house each time.  And then the funeral.  I remember the panic of that day…knowing that I would never see my mom’s physical body ever again.  Seeing her just made me feel better…like somehow she wasn’t gone.  But this day was really the end.  I remember sitting in the front row as the pastor was speaking during the service.  I didn’t know what it was then, but now I know that I was in the middle of an anxiety attack.  I felt like I was going to go crazy. I just wanted to jump up and scream, “I can’t do this!”  The term “heart-break” is a good one because that is exactly what I felt like was happening to me.  I could feel the pain in my chest.  I really didn’t think I could sit there through the service.  I started praying…chanting in my head, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.”  I asked God to please help me and then I told Him that I couldn’t do it on my own.  If I was to sit there, He was going to have to do something.  And He did.  At that precise moment, I felt like all of the pain and anxiety was literally being sucked out of my chest.  It was such a powerful feeling that I looked down to see if I could see anything.  I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but it was such a weird feeling that I just wondered what was happening.  And then it stopped, and all the pain and anxiety were gone. I had such an amazing feeling of peace and comfort, and I was able to sit through the service and even laugh at some of the funny stories that were told about my mom.  I had always believed in God, and I was about 4 years into understanding that I could have a personal relationship with Him.  But on that day I knew for sure that He was real and that He loved me, and that if you let Him…He is there to help you.  A huge blessing among a huge tragedy.

The following year on Halloween I dressed the kids up as Mickey and Minnie…for my mom.


magnet

Shortly after we got to the hospital, one of the nurses brought this out to us.  I had to laugh wondering what they must have been thinking.  When my mom was playing with the kids, Kyle was taking magnets and putting them in the neck of her shirt and laughing as they came tumbling out the bottom of her shirt.  This was in her bra when she got to the hospital (smile).  I guess this little magnet got stuck on the way down.  I still have it on my refrigerator all these years later.

When I hear that someone has lost a parent, it breaks my heart.  I truly feel for them.  I guess you could say it’s one of my life’s passions to reach out to people with that kind of loss.  If you’ve lost a parent, and don’t have anyone to share your grief with, I would love to chat with you about that.  You can reach me via the contact section of my blog.  Here is a song that helped me along the way.  I will leave you with this last thought:

Hug your loved ones.  Tell them that you love them…because love matters.

Will you go with me?…

One of the things I like about Facebook is staying in touch with childhood friends.  It really feels like it was just yesterday that we were all together. Really…it feels like it wasn’t that long ago.  The fact that my son is at the age I was when I got married gets me every time I think about it.  How does that happen?!  If you have little ones, cherish every moment because it goes so much faster than you can even imagine.

One of the groups I belong to on Facebook is from my neighborhood in the city where I grew up.  They have postings about the progress they are making on a new rec center.  When I was growing up, the rec center had dances every Friday night that my friends and I would go to.  There was great music, dancing contests and pizza.  What more could you ask for? (smile) The dances ended at 9pm and at that age I thought I was sooo grown up being out “that late”.  It was during my junior high years (6th-8th grade).

Seeing those posts about the rec center bring back a lot of good memories. One memory is of my first “boyfriend” (I use the term loosely).  I was in the 7th grade and back then we called it “going together”.  If you were going with a boy, it meant that you liked each other and would go to the dances at the rec center together and that was it.  Nothing serious…we were just babies.  I’ll never forget when my mom found out I was going with a boy in my class.  It was during one of our school plays.  The mom of the boy I was going with actually went to school with my mom and they were chatting after the play. His mom mentioned that we were going together. My poor mom wasn’t familiar with the term and asked “Where are they going?”…lol.  Logical question…it is a strange term for dating.  Believe me there were a lot of questions when we got home about what “going together” actually meant.

When a boy asked a girl to go together, it was a very technical process.  It went something like this:

Go with me

A folded piece of notebook paper passed from one student to the next (in the middle of class – secretly of course) until it made it’s way to the girl he liked.  She would answer and then pass the note back.

These are memories that make me smile.  We were so young and it was so exciting to know that someone liked you. Imagine for a moment of what that was like for you.  The butterflies in your stomach, the chats with friends, the nervousness of wondering if the person you liked had the same feelings for you.  Now imagine for a moment if the feelings you had caused confusion.  What if you liked someone of the same-sex?  What is up with that?  Instead of the magic of young infatuation, you had feelings of shame, fear, and self-hatred.  What if you grew up in the church and you knew what the Bible said about homosexuality.  You pray and pray for the feelings to go away…but they don’t. Where is God??  Why isn’t He helping you?  You go to church, pray, study the Bible…but it doesn’t seem to help.  You don’t send any folded notes…and if you receive one…you don’t know what to do.  What if someone finds out?  You begin to shut down and tell yourself that there is no way anyone would ever like you.

These are some of the feelings that gay youth experience.  I know that it isn’t that way for everyone…and I am grateful for that.  But for many…more than you can imagine…the experience of puberty is a painful one.  They would do anything for those feelings to change.  My son tried for 3 years to deal with his feelings on his own before we found out.  Our journey was difficult and often times very scary.  I will be sharing that journey in hopes that other parents can find hope in it as we are all doing much better now.

Proud of my Tough Mudders…

So proud of my family!  This weekend they participated in a Tough Mudder event.  What’s a tough mudder? Here’s what their website states:

Tough Mudder events are hardcore obstacle courses designed to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. With the most innovative courses, over one million inspiring participants worldwide to date, and more than $5 million raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world. But Tough Mudder is more than an event; it’s a way of thinking. By running a Tough Mudder challenge, you’ll unlock a true sense of accomplishment, have a great time and discover a camaraderie with your fellow participants that’s experienced all too rarely these days.  If you want to learn more, visit their website at http://www.toughmudder.com.

Before the event:

adventure team

It was really inspiring.  They launched several groups throughout the day and each time they would go through a ritual with them.  They would thank them for supporting the Wounded Warriors Project (you pay a fee to go through the course), they would play the Star Spangled Banner, and then they would get them pumped up. They would ask everyone to take a knee, and then they asked anyone who served in the military past or present to stand and everyone cheered. Then they would ask police, firefighters, teachers, students, etc to stand until everyone in the group was standing. They explained how they were all heroes to someone.  Then they asked everyone to place a hand on the shoulder of the person next to them and explained how this course was a team effort…no man/woman left behind.

I didn’t get to experience the event as a participant because my body wouldn’t let me, but I would have loved to join them.  Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that I’m pretty tough so I think I could have held my own (smile).  But I had to settle for being a spectator.  Part of the fun of the day was seeing all the different outfits people wore.  As you can see, my family chose to be superheroes.  I saw girls in tutus, guys in unicorn shirts and hats, painted faces…you name it.

They had a path for the spectators to follow so we could watch some of the obstacles.  The first one I went to was the burn zone which was a bunch of very steep hills one after the other.  Following that was the artic enema which is a container filled with 28 degree water.  Participants have to jump in the water and swim under a bar to get to the exit. They have a special gel in the water to keep it from freezing.

One of my favorite spots was at the Electric Eel.  Here they made participants army crawl through water while getting shocked by wires hanging down.  Some of the reactions were hilarious…especially from the guys.  Most of the girls handled it much better then the men.  Too funny!  I tried video taping some of it, but the language was too bad.

It was a grueling course and the temperature didn’t get above 60 that day.  I was cold with 3 layers on so I can’t imagine how cold they were having to swim in water several times throughout the course…especially the artic enema. Their purple lips were confirmation that it was rough.  This is the team picture at the end(the group that participated from Mike’s place of work).

Team Praxis

Team Praxis

It took 5 hours for them to complete the 12 mile course.  It gave me time to reflect.  Do you know that you are a hero to someone?  Do you know that someone sees what you are going through and how you handle it inspires them?

There was a lot of dirt on this course.  The participants were messy and tired. But their faces at the end showed the satisfaction of completing something they thought might be beyond their capabilities.  They didn’t complete the course alone…someone always had their back to provide a helping hand or word of encouragement.  It reminded me of life.  It can be messy, but we have Someone to walk us through the mess giving us strength, hope, encouragement.  He can take our messy life and make it clean if we let Him.

Jesus can take our mess and through His sacrifice make us clean.  Be kind to each other…be a hero…we are in this mess called life together.

Yield – to produce or provide something…

This fall our pastor is doing a message series on love.  I’ve been enjoying the series because hey…love matters (smile).  He has talked about loving relationships, loving ourselves, loving others, and this Sunday he will be talking about loving our enemies.  We talked about that in staff this Tuesday (I work for my church).  Since our meeting, I’ve been thinking about enemies.  Do I have any?  Well at times my body feels like my enemy.  With headaches, unexplained fevers, chronic fatigue, and joint pain…there are days where I feel like I’m in a battle with myself.  But what about other people?  I wanted to find out exactly what the definition of enemy is so I looked it up…not that I didn’t already know what enemy meant…I just like to look up words to see the exact definition to make sure I completely understand what the word means.  This is what Webster had to say:

en·e·my

noun \ˈe-nə-mē\

: someone who hates another : someone who attacks or tries to harm another

: something that harms or threatens someone or something

: a group of people (such as a nation) against whom another group is fighting a war

Pretty much what I thought.  I can’t specifically remember any, but I’m sure when I was younger there were people I would consider my enemy.  I know that there were people who considered me their enemy.  Growing up our neighborhood was divided by railroad tracks.  I lived on one side, but had friends who lived on the other side so I would hang out with them over there.  I dated a guy “from the other side of the tracks” and apparently the girls who lived there didn’t appreciate me “coming into their territory”.  His ex-girlfriend let me know that when she sucker punched me coming out of a store one day.  It got to the point where I would have to call my mom to come pick me up because there would be a gang of girls on the corner waiting for me and I couldn’t walk home. Crazy!  But I really don’t ever remember hating someone…disliking yes, but hating is such a strong word to me.

I did a search on enemy and found this:

yieldIt reminds me of the passage Matthew 5:43-44:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

I came across another blog the other day and I think it’s one of the reasons this enemy thing has been stuck in my head.  It was written by a Christian mother whose son was gay.  She and her husband told their son that they loved him, but there was always a “but” attached to their statement.  “We love you, but what you are doing is a sin.” “We love you, but our church doesn’t agree with your lifestyle – it’s embarrassing.”…the same message…just different ways of saying it. Their son committed suicide.  He never felt truly loved by his parents. The parents realized that how they handled their son was wrong and she is trying to make it right by writing a blog.  This poor mother gets hate mail from other gay people who tell her that she killed her son.  I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of receiving those letters/comments.  She also gets negative posts from conservative Christians because she is speaking out about how she and her husband have changed their thoughts about their son’s homosexuality.  This really makes me so sad. Especially since it could have been my story.  My son was suicidal and the fact that this family is getting “persecuted” from both sides of the fence is just heart breaking.

I found it very interesting that the statement above “Love your enemies…no exceptions” is written on a yield sign (well sort of – that was the first thought I had when I saw it so I went with it).  So, you guessed it…I looked up the word yield and this is what Webster had to say about it:

yield

verb \ˈyēld\

: to produce or provide (something, such as a plant or crop)

: to produce (something) as a result of time, effort, or work

: to produce (a profit, an amount of money, etc.)

So maybe this love thing takes time, effort, and work.  Just maybe putting forth that effort will produce understanding.  Stop arguing…stop trying to prove you are right when maybe you don’t know all the circumstances.  Another definition of yield is to surrender or submit to another.  I think it’s time we surrender all this hate and learn to have empathy for one another.  It’s ok to not agree, but it’s not ok to hate.

Just some late night thoughts…love your enemies…because love matters.

yield signPS:  In case you know me personally and are now afraid to drive with me, I want to reassure you that I know what a yield sign looks like (smile).  I was really tired when I did this post and yield sign is what popped into my head…it wasn’t until I was finished the post that it dawned on me that it wasn’t.  Sheesh!  Something else you should know about me…when I’m tired my brain squishes words together.  I will be searching for the right word and my brain will take two words and put them together.  For instance, it will take snippet and tidbit and it becomes snidbit.  Hopefully none of those will sneak in here, but consider this fair warning (smile).

Neither height nor depth…

The only way I can even begin to wrap my brain around how much God loves me is to think about the love I have for my children.  I would do anything for them.  When they were little, even the most frustrating day could be made better by sneaking in their rooms at bedtime and watching them sleep.  They always looked like little angels and the days frustrations just melted away.  And in the morning…we had a fresh start.

It’s hard for me to believe sometimes that God’s love for us is even stronger than the love I have for my children.  He sees our mess, He knows our hearts, and He loves us.  Oh how He loves us.  One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:38-39 (NIV):

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Notice that there isn’t a “but” in that verse or an “if”.  Nothing can separate us from His love.  As much as I love my children and family, my love is nothing in comparison to God’s love.  God is love.

When people find out that I have a gay son, a common response is “of course you love him…he’s your son.” For some, that statement seems to imply that if he wasn’t my son, I wouldn’t love him…that somehow he wouldn’t be worthy of love because he is gay.  It’s as if you are saying, “well I think same sex attraction is a sin, but what are you going to do, he is your son and you love him.”  My son is not the first gay person that I’ve ever known.  Over the years I’ve known many gay people.  I found that they were just like me.  Regardless of whether or not you think same sex attraction is a sin, I love my son despite the fact that he is a sinner.  Just like I love my husband, despite the fact that he is a sinner.  Just like God loves you, despite the fact that you are a sinner.

When Jesus was asked, “of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  He answered in Mark 12:29-31 (NIV):

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”

It seems to me that this love thing was pretty important to Jesus.  And I think the reason for that is…love matters.

I shouldn’t be allowed on here today…

So I googled the word frustrated tonight and this is one of the pictures I found:

frustrated-baby

I have to admit…it made me feel a little bit better.  Look at that face!  I had a post all ready to go for today.  I wrote it yesterday.  I usually pray before, during, and after a post before I actually “publish” it.  I finished it pretty late last night and wanted to sleep on it before posting it today.  I got sidetracked this morning by an article someone posted about the church and gay people.  There were a slew of comments after the article.  I have to tell you…reading those comments I was ashamed to call myself a Christian.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it…and it made my heart heavy.

There is nothing wrong with having a strong opinion.  There is nothing wrong with standing up for what you believe in and being very passionate about it.  It is, however, wrong to tear other people down when discussing your stance on something.  The name calling and strong language is just wrong.  The funny thing is that the people who have the strongest opinions assume a lot (you can tell by what they say) and they really have NO CLUE what they are talking about.

When I read posts like I did today, it always makes me question if I’m doing the right thing by having this blog.  Is this really what God wants me to do?  Did I hear Him right?  Will it ever really make a difference?  As I was pondering these questions, God showed me these verses (in the translation that I have listed):

1 Timothy 1:12 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,

Zephaniah 3:17 – New International Version (NIV)

17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Thank you for the reminders Lord.  This was the verse He led me to before I started the blog:

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – The Message (MSG)

13-14 Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.

As the Tenth Avenue North song says…”Empty my hands, fill up my heart, capture my mind with you”

I’m going to keep on keeping on….

Love each other…you know why (smile)

Keeping it real…

I was asked a question the other day and thought maybe others are wondering the same thing.  The way I have my blog set up – I have to approve comments from someone at least two times before they are automatically posted.  I did this because on other blogs that I have read regarding this subject I’ve seen some really hateful comments with really bad language and I didn’t want that on my blog.  So the question posed to me was, “Will you ever post negative comments that you get?”  My answer is “yes.”  As long as the person is respectful in their comment I will post it.  I want this blog to be an avenue to start conversations.  I want it to be a support to others going through the same thing.  If I don’t “keep it real”, then I don’t see the point in doing it. I know not everyone is going to agree with what I write…and that’s ok.  My main objective is to let people know that they aren’t alone.  Going through this can be very isolating.  I also hope to create some understanding. Since I’ve started this blog, three people have contacted me regarding their own family members, or friends who have family members who are gay.  I don’t know if I will be able to help them, but just the fact that they reached out made me do this:

My happy dance!

My happy dance!

So if you have questions, please ask me.  If you don’t feel comfortable asking in the comment section, you can ask me on the Contact page.