Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Today is it. It was day +50 and Joseph spiked a fever. We spent the day in the clinic and they decided to admit him for IV fluids. We thought he just wasn't drinking enough. I actually scolded him. And I was mad because I knew I was going to likely miss a trip to Florida that I had planned to meet up with some friends. He never came home again. I actually had a good day yesterday and wasn't thinking about this particularly anniversary. Its like my body knows. I woke up feeling off and emotional. I looked at the date, had a suspicion, looked at my journal on Joseph's caringbridge page and exhaled. A year ago today God started easing him out of our arms.

My heart is so heavy. Life looks so different now. He's been gone so long and yet it feels like yesterday. I wish so much things had turned out differently. I was wrapping presents last night for Christmas and discovered tubes of wrap that I had stubbornly bought last year in my determination to be positive, get through Christmas and hopefully bring Joseph back home. I don't think I can use those rolls again. It hurts just to see the patterns on the paper.

I did hear something on the radio yesterday that I turned over in my head all day and that turned my eyes toward hope. The morning radio show I listen to was talking about ghosts and haunted houses and people were calling in to tell their stories. It was mindless, interesting listening, until this one lady called in. She stated she didn't believe her house was haunted, but did believe she gets visits from time to time from her daughter, who died 9 years ago at the age of 4. She woke up one morning crying because her head hurt so badly. After what I can only imagine was hysteria at the escalating pain and franticly trying to decide what to do, the little girl opened her eyes, looked across the room and pointed, stating "Heaven! Oh Mommy, Heaven! Its so BEAUTIFUL!"...and then closed her eyes and a few minutes later breathed her last. So sudden and so sad. She had an aneurysm.

I hope it was like that for Joseph. Beautiful. Peaceful. Wonderful. Full of puppies and other kids, particularly the little ones he was so good at entertaining, and a sweet girl to pal around with like he was beginning to yearn for toward the end. Nick turns 13 on Thursday and is now about my height. I wonder how tall Joseph would now be. He will be forever 13 in my mind's eye.

Today, then December 11th, the day he went to ICU and was put on the respirator, then December 23rd, the last day we had any conscious, deliberate communication from him. And then January 10th will come, and it will be a full year since he flew beyond where I can see.

I don't feel desolate about Christmas nor without hope for the future. But I am inexorably sad and old inside. I miss him.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Give Thanks

To my Joe-Gi - Thank you for the memories you gave us of your last Thanksgiving with us. I have sweet, warm memories of you wanting to help cook and me trying to find some things for you to do that would not be an infectious risk to your brand new baby immune system. You were so diligent and sincere as you stirred butter into the green beans and seasoned them for us and as you melted butter in the microwave and used the basting brush to coat the rolls. You wanted a turkey leg on your plate and you got one, about a half pound of meat there I suspect, and you took maybe two bites, but I recall the look of peace, pleasure and satisfaction on your face as you looked around at your family. I don't remember what we laughed about, but I remember the sound of our laughter with you, your dad, your brothers, Joe and me. Thank you for giving me such warm, happy memories of you. I will do my best today to remember the happiness of when you were here more than thinking of the sadness that you aren't anymore. Your time here with me was a gift from God and I will be thankful for that time.

To Stewart - Thank you for being a wonderful father to our sons and for being a strong, worthy partner as we navigated both Alexander's illness and Joseph's and now the fallout in our family from our loss. Not many people can get through a divorce as well as we have, and I recognize you have worked hard to make that possible. I am grateful for your efforts to keep us all a family despite the differences that caused us to part. I am thankful for the memories you have given me that are filled with the sounds of laughter from our children, particularly from Joseph at times when I am sure he didn't feel much like laughing until you brightened his day. And thank you for the times you have made me laugh too. I am grateful that you are such a wonderful parent to our sons, co-parent to me and a friend to Joe and I. You are one of a kind and I will always pray for your happiness.

To Nick - Thank you for being such a sweet and tender soul. You are stronger than you realize and so smart it stuns me at times. You are always there with a hug or a hand to hold and you are always ready for family time, ready to share laughter and intellectual conversation. You are just starting to figure yourself out and watching you grow has been a blessing to my life. I am proud of the man you are becoming, proud of how you face your shortcomings, proud of how you do not give up despite the struggle life and school are at times and proud that you are such a pleasant young man who makes others feel good about themselves, who honestly wants to do right in the world. You amaze me with your attention to current events, politics, the world, the arts and your life. You are a gift from God to me and I love you.

To Alex - Thank you for the laughter you bring to me. Your wry sense of humor and ability to add depth to the humor of every day life is such a blessing to me. I love the way that you so openly love me, how you will hug me spontaneously and how you always want me to play games with you, to share in your achievements and the things that you find fun in life. You always are ready to help out without complaining and you show so much self motivation for such a young man. The fact that you had a brain tumor so young and have turned out to be so courageous and driven makes me so proud of you. I am thankful for your life, your love for me and your presence here every day. You too are a gift to me from God and I love you.

To my Joe - I do not know how to begin to categorize how thankful for you I am. It is just too massive to define. You saw me through the darkest years of my life and because of your love, your encouragement and your boot to my ass on many occasions, I am doing better than I would have ever given myself credit for being capable of. You make me better than I would be without you and you make me think better of myself. Thank you for the laughter you bring to me every day, for the security you have given me financially, emotionally and spiritually, the passion you fuel between us and the tender love you protect and care for me with. Thank you for letting me take care of you, for sharing your foibles, your self percieved failings (I never see them the way you do), your worries, your dreams and your goals and thank you for letting me run beside you as we strive to make life as good as it can be. Thank you for providing us with this home and for making it a place I want to be more than anywhere else on earth, for working on it so diligently even when it isn't fun. I am grateful for the way you make me feel like the most beautiful and sexy woman on earth, for your playful side that makes us both feel young again and for the way you work so hard with me when we are irritated, frustrated or perturbed with one another to bring us back together again. Thank you for forgiving me for being difficult to live with at times and thank you for being so patient with my grief, which I know is unpredictable and painful for you to witness. I am so grateful God brought you into my life and I want to live the rest of my life with you. I will take care of you all of my days.

To Mom - Thank you for raising me, caring for me, developing so much of my character. Thank you for reading to me so much. It is an activity that gives me so much pleasure even today. You make me feel good about myself, particularly when you want my advice on decorating or choosing your clothing. I am proud of the woman you have become, particularly since Dad died and I admire the way you attack your personal demons and work so hard on being a good person. Your laughter always makes me laugh, your smile is burned in my memory and the time we get together is precious to me. You are never afraid to say you are sorry and you are always willing to forgive me when I tip off the deep end for a while. You loved me when I was not very lovable and didn't hold it against me as I grew out of the worst of it. You are supportive and kind, fun to be with and understanding. I have a wonderful friend in you and I don't know what I would do without you. I never want to know.

To Nessa, Amy, Tahiya and Felicia - You are some of the best friends a girl could ask for. You give me perspective when I am wiggy, tell me I am lovely when I don't like myself very much and laugh with me when I am a weirdo. You listen when I need to talk, love me when I am grieving and share your lives with me in a way that makes me feel like I still have something worthwhile to give. I cherish your friendship and am so grateful for your presence in my life.

To Heather - You have stayed so close to my heart all through this horrible time. It is true that you find support where you do not expect it when life deals its hardest blows and this is particularly true in you. You have been a faithful fan of my life, a nonjudgemental support in my grief and a wonderful sounding board as I adjust to no longer being single. You share your own challenges and relationships with me and make me feel like I still have valuable insights to give. You have been one of my most avid supporters as I strive to get into nursing school and give me such wonderful, realistic ideas of just what I am seeking to get myself into. Your spirit is so giving, so honest, so strong and so real. I don't see you nearly as often as I would like to and am grateful when our lives settle enough to let us get together. I am so thankful to have had your friendship. You bring things to my life that nobody else does.

To my Phenomenal Women Online Imaginary Friends - You also are a source of support that I would not have expected and on whom I lean a great deal. You are proof that the Internet is not solely the source of evil that so many think it is. Though many of us have not ever met face to face, I have had years now of correspondance, shared accomplishments and shared challenges. You have sent gifts, money, support, meals, cards, encouragement, insight, perspective and prayers throughout Joseph's illness and passing and I will never forget those of you I looked up and saw at Joseph's memorial and funeral both. Your place in my heart is so deep. You amaze me both individually and as a group and I feel humbled to be part of such an amazing group of women who tell me all the time they think the world of me.

To Mary Ann - Thank you for opening your heart to me and to Joseph. I am humbled as well that someone as accomplished, educated and amazing as you would seem to think so highly of me. You are special to my heart, not only for what you have done for me and for Joseph but for all the wonderful, funny, sweet memories that Joe shares with me of your growing up years together. I am grateful for you and hope life brings us all together soon.

To the men in the armed forces who protect and sustain our country, thank you. I could not do what you do and it makes me doubly grateful that YOU do what you do.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I have not had time to think today, barely time to breathe it seems, and now that life is quieting down the heaviness of this day is settling in on me, the sadness pressing onto my chest and making my stomach hurt. I don't know what to do with it or where to put it or how to be. Settling down into bed with his blanket, the first urge in my bones, will not break the spell of sorrow and feels useless and pointless. It is as if my spirit paces within the question of "why", prowling for some answer that will bring peace to me. Oh God, its been a year since we brought him home, a year in the next few days, through to the 28th, that we had our last "good" days with Joseph in terms of his being at home, being coherent, still very sick but able to try so hard to be well. Where do I put this? I have no pocket, no pouch, no purse, no emotional holding for all the ways it spills over. I don't know what i need or want. One minute I just want to be alone, the next I want to be held. One moment I want to cry, the next I am impatient with that urge and sick of it. One minute my mind and heart demand to know why, the next I am shrunken with the realization once more of how pointless that question is.

I had my physical today. I believe the Cooper patients go home more fatigued at the end of their day in our clinic than I do at the end of my day of work. It started with blood work, progressed through a baseline bone density, my mammogram, spot compression views to check an abnormality, consultation with the breast radiologist, then back upstairs for body composition, hearing testing, photographys of my vocal cords, vision screening, then on to the dermatologist for a head to toe skin cancer screening. After this, upstairs again to meet with the dietician and go over my three day food journal, then back to the doctor to talk about past medical history and current complaints, then basic physical exam, pelvic and pap smear, then dressed and across the hall for a resting EKG and treadmill stress test. After that, enough time for a brief snack before heading downstairs for a full body MDCT HealthScreen to check for coronary calcification, thyroid and abdominal tumors of any kind and other abnormalities and a CT scan of my head because I get headaches. Then back upstairs to meet with the doctor again, go over all the results, get all the recommendations, discuss all the concerns and issues at hand. All of this took over eight hours, from 7 AM to 3:45 PM. But I had all my results today and all my health testing done at once by the same people, who talk to one another and spend as much time as I need with me. So I found out I have a kidney stone, a dilated milk duct, a heart murmur that was not there before (a benign "flow murmur"). I have symptoms of potentially growing an ulcer and abnormal reflexes in my left foot that needs a neurology evaluation if after good hydration and some stress reducing measures (because it can be caused by anxiety) it is still there in two weeks. I have been assigned diet, exercise, yoga classes for stress reduction and attempts to wean myself off Excedrin for my headaches. My vitamin D is critically low and I am not getting enough calcium but to date my bone density is still normal. So I need Vitamin D supplements to the tune of 1000 mg per day. But the body can only absorb 500 mg at a time, so it will have to be twice a day, not just once. Oy vey. I suddenly feel very old, for a girl who has never had any worse health problem than being overweight. I didn't do too hot on my stress treadmill but that is no surprise. What IS a surprise is that the dietician wants me to eat more, not less, to lose weight.

So all of this of course left my brain and body pretty weary, after being squished, prodded, stuck, scanned, palpated, pulsed, sampled and screened. I feel like crawling out of my skin, laying it aside and just slipping into wonderful nothingness of a warm bath and time to be with my thoughts, to wash away all the hands and eyes that surveyed me today and passed judgement upon me, even if just medical judgement. Obviously it is time to make some changes, and I think I am ready to do that. But right now, I just want to be quiet, still, cared for and soothed. Joseph is dead. Today I see the toll his illness took on my own health and its time to get serious about remedying the damage done. I think psychologically what I hate right now more than anything is the feeling that I have no idea where we would be right now if Joseph had survived. All my life I have had this silent map in my head of the general course my kids lives will take...and its become so deviated. I can no longer dream for my oldest son. I can only remember. My head is weary and I have no idea what I need. I grieve. It is a weight. I would swear I could hold it in my hands. I want to be kept company but yet I want to be alone. I remember my Joe-Gi. I honor his memory. I miss him. I love him. Still and always.
A year ago today we got to bring Joseph home from the hospital after his transplant. I almost don't know what to write about that. I almost don't know what to say. I am so grateful for the time we got with him, so glad we got one last Thanksgiving together, and I am so sad that it was the beginning of the end.

Sometimes I am really appalled at what people will say. It doesn't happen often and I know that even when someone is seriously chewing on their foot they do mean well. But I had a good friend yesterday tell me that she dreamed of Joseph and actually believes she communicated with him..and that he died so that the rest of us could be "a happy family again". um....what?! Not only just plain a horrible dream, but what on earth would possess anyone to think that would be a message of hope, joy or comfort? As if we don't have enough guilt about his passing, now someone thinks he became another Christ and sacrificed himself to "save" the rest of us. I am incredulous.

I have my first Cooper Clinic physical today. I am not looking forward to it, to say the least, but it needs to be done. It will be interesting to learn how things work there and what the process is. Basically I will get everything done today and results back today. I hate it that one can't wear an underwire or deoderant and I really really dread the idea of the exercise stress test. As if one cannot tell by looking at me that I am in terrible shape.

We are looking forward to Thanksgiving. My Aunt June and Uncle Ed are coming down to visit, so that will be fun, and I am hoping to get a lot of my Christmas shopping done. My Christmas Tea is on December 2nd, so things will be in high gear here soon. I have an Algebra test on December 6th and the class ends on the 18th. Time does go awfully fast.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nick and I had a pretty terrific time this afternoon. He had indicated an interest a few weeks back when he heard that the Moscow Ballet was coming to perform The Nutcracker. I was pretty enthused to hear he'd like to go, so needless to say, we went. It was his first ballet and the first I have attended in probably 10 or more years. I was not too sure how he'd do...I thought it might get boring for him. It was held at The Majestic, which alone seemed to impress him tremendously with its chandalier and restorations. We had excellent seats in the second row of the third balcony and he was rapt the entire time. I do have to say, he was also, near as I could tell, the only pubescent boy in attendance other than a couple of the dancers themselves. His awestruck, very impressed "That was AWESOME!!!" as we gave our final ovation says it all. I have a culture buddy in my middle son. We had a great time together. Of course, he went to put on his dress clothes and discovered between now and the last time he wore it his arms and legs have grown three inches and everything was too short. He wore them anyway because we really didn't have anything else appropriate, but he needs both a haircut and some new dress clothes. He looked very handsome anyway and spent a lot of the time during the ballet with his head on my shoulder, ogling a little ballerina dressed all in white with a tiny harp she was carrying around. He said that she turned his heart to mush. Oh my.

As for me, I spent much of the time wondering what it would feel like to jump around like they do and have absolutely nothing on one's body jiggle, wiggle, reverberate or crease. They were just lovely, every single motion the epitome of grace, skill and athleticism. Nick pointed out that all the men seemed to have a wedgie, to which I silently replied "Yes, and we ladies all are thankful!" They were absolute performers, entertainers, and when one considers they hear this same music over and over, twice a day every day for about 8 weeks, one can't help but be impresed. They bought a lot of energy to the performance. It was wonderful.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am having so much trouble writing. It feels a bit like at the very beginning, when there were so many emotions under the surface and so many changes flying around me that I just could not put my thoughts together coherently and the idea of cataloguing them was actually unattractive and a little frightening. But I am thinking about Joseph all the time.

We are headed toward Christmas and it is everywhere now. I am feeling strangely different than I thought I would. Yes, it is tremendously painful. But all those reminders have been ghosts around my head all year long...Joseph's ultimate end was fairly steeped in the Christmas season. So all these reminders are actually making me feeling much closer to him. There is a part of me sinking down into that like a warm, soothing bath. I can think about him all the time now. The sights and sounds bring him to me constantly, and it is almost as if all these things are giving him back to me. Its painful but it is wonderful too. Forevermore Joseph will be so present in Christmas for me. A whole new meaning to a very special holiday that has always been my favorite. I miss him so much. I get to thinking about him and the thoughts just tumble and jumble over and around one another, at times raging out of control in my head. I can find so much to feel guilty about. All the times he wanted to do something and I said no, not because what he wanted to do was truly dangerous but because of things that I feared could happen. All the times I secretly silently fantasized about the day not only he but all my children would be grown and gone and my life completely mine again, because I am a selfish being and was very unprepared for the sacrifices children bring. I don't have that thought anymore. If anything now I feel like my flailing hands are grasping at the air and smoke children leave behind as they zoom toward adulthood....too late now....too late a solemn, mournful bell tolling in my head. And the one who will never get there. Who has disappeared completely, never to age past 13, never to grow a time when it was just getting good, our talks, his thoughts, the wonder of listening to his independent ideas and the generosity of his desires for people on earth. I should have been more like him. I still should be. How I wish I knew if he knows how much I love and miss much I have always loved him. Sometimes my desire to join him is so very strong, and I find myself yearning for some sudden event to carry me away and end the mystery once and for all. Where is he? HOW is he? I can actually get a physical ache in my upper inner arms where his thin shoulders would come into contact with me at the first exchange of warmth in our embrace. I can type here all the usual platitudes of how no parent should ever have to bury their child. It is true, but it does happen and more often than I ever realized until I joined those invisible ranks.

So I go through my days..carrying him with me everywhere, stealing every moment I can to slide off into daydreams and thoughts of him. I wish at times for hours in which I can just be with him in my mind, alone, no speech, no touch, nothing to disturb my memories and musings, which were silent for months after he passed and now which bombard me the second I open tha tdoor. What will happen when the one year anniversary of his death hits? Its almost here....what will happen when that day looms up bright and sunny and completely opposite of the cold, dark days that followed his death this past January?

I don't feel unhealthy and I don't feel like I am stuck in a quagmire of darkness. I feel sad beyond the measure of my own bones and skin, yet at the same time deeply aware of others around me whose loss would also bring me to my knees. I am in this in between place, anticipating our first Christmas in our first house together, looking forward to enjoying my boys while they are still young enough to enjoy me back and yet registering with every fiber of my being that there was another and that there still should be. I almost feel sorry for the families that will go through this holiday not even realizing the holes in their lives that are currently filled, but could be so devastatingly emptied in one strange twist of fate. If there is one thing I am grateful for during that time that Joseph suffered and that time just prior to his death. I have never in my life been so aware of my depth of love for someone. I am glad to know it is there. It is not gone. I feel it every day, in every lonely moment without him. I have loved greatly. No different from any other parent except perhaps in my awareness of the depth of it and the abiding nature of it. I loved him enough to let him go. It almost doesn't matter that I had no choice.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I am not blogging too often these days. Things have gotten very busy between school, work, kiddos and home. I was writing in my mind earlier tonight, but now I am just plain tired. Too tired to say very much. We had a lovely evening at home tonight. Joe made us chicken on the grill and Alex and I sliced up potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes from the garden to make little grill packets. It was a nice, simple meal. Somehow we wound up talking about gift giving and meaningful gifts, etc. One of his favorite memories is of his sister, Mary Ann, who made him whatever kind of cookies he wanted every two months for a year. He remembers how she'd send him a huge batch and how fun it was for him to call her up and say "I'd like some oatmeal cookies" or chocolate chip or rice krispie treats. I love family memories and holiday stories.

We are doing well. The 3rd marked six months since Joe moved to Texas and in with me. It felt like a milestone. I think if this was going to be a blatant disaster we would know by now, but we are both very happy and content. I am planning a Christmas get-together with my girlfriends that we do every year, only this time it is going to be in our home. That will be fun. Joe's given me a generous budget and I am having fun making plans. Some people have Christmas lights up already and one of the radio stations is playing Christmas music as of the 7th. I find both disgusting. It absolutely ruins the season to see that stuff before Thanksgiving.

More this weekend.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The wind is blowing and the house is creaking and moaning. A cold front is moving in. The kind of night that makes you want to know exactly where the children are. Nick and Alex are with their Dad. Joseph is not here. Not anymore. He lays in a scout uniform 30 miles away and 6 feet underground. He resides with God. Is there wind in heaven? Is there anything to creak and moan in contrast to the warm tranquility within a secure dwelling? Does it get chilly enough to light a fireplace? And if not, would anyone want to be there? All is perfect in heaven...being cold is a kind of suffering. And we do not crave suffering, but the remedy of it. And its remedy is the stuff of gratitude. And gratitude is the stuff of happiness. A circular conundrum. I would not want him to be in an eerily winded place in which the temperature were dropping and walls making noise around him. Not without me. Not without his mother. It is a kind of ego I suppose. A child needs his mother to feel truly safe. I fear he can't feel truly safe in heaven. Again, a lack of faith that claims me so easily. I shall never be a soul worth emulating. I am too full of doubt and fear. I see a paternal God in my mind sometimes shaking his head silently, not in denial but more in dismissal for all I cannot know or understand. A child asking why the sky is blue and who thought up the color green.

I talked to two old friends tonight, both who have known me for over 10 years and both who know me very well. It was strange to hear them interact with me, as if I were the same old Sheri. It was like watching myself through a looking glass or a tunnel of some sort. I could see myself as they see me in those moments, this whole person with whom they have a history. And yet I could feel myself in my body, so disjointed and disconnected, talking individually to two people whom I love very much and looking at the conjoined history with no sense of ownership. It all gets broken down into before and after. Before Joseph got sick. After Joseph died. I wanted to cling to them, this lifeline of a girl who used to have so much laughter and passion for life. I am still her I am sure. But at times she feels so foreign and separate, like a happy suit I put on to mask the small, uncertain, frightened Sheri inside. Talking with them made me realize I do have a whole history, much of which did not involve Joseph at all. I existed before him. I have to learn to exist after.

I had belly dance tonight.. our instructor video taped us last week and then showed us the result today with her critique. Um. Ew. I looked just terrible. I have been doing well with eating right but seeing that tonight was even more motivating.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Its been a fairly nice weekend. Joe is sticking close to me and watching over me protectively and tenderly, and that helps. Lots of physical affection, spontaneous hugs, long moments of being held. It is wonderful and soothing. I did a lot of cooking over the weekend, which I like to do in the fall. We had homemade pizza on Saturday night with the crust and the sauce from scratch. We have been growing our own basil and that really made a difference. It was insanely good. Joe smoked a couple of pork shoulders today and I made some dinner rolls from scratch that were pretty much a bust, but sure did make the house smell good. I got all the Halloween decorations taken down and Joe and I had our talk about Christmas budgeting. All is well on that front.

Saturday morning Cooper was having a 5 K fun run, so the four of us went out for that. We got free Tshirts. I really expected Alex to love it and Nick to grumble and moan through it. It was a pretty cold morning for North Texas (about 47 degrees) and Alex was the one complaining and Nick really stepped it up. We all got in a good 5 K walk and it was so much fun. Nick wants to do more of those and it was good family time, so I think we will. My poor body is wondering what on earth got into me...I am still sore today. But I made decent time on the walk and had no trouble finishing it. Cooper had a fund raiser for the new kids exercise initiative and the top ten employees in terms of bringing in $$ were put into a drawing for a brand new Honda Fit Sport. I didn't even try to raise money but after seeing that very nice, fully loaded car given away to another employee I think I will put some effort into it next time. They do such incredible things for the employees at Cooper. They had another little contest earlier in the week and I won a $20 gift card to Chili's. I really am grateful for my job and my family.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

This has been one of the more difficult weeks that I have had for a while now. Halloween without Joseph was lonely and sad. Yesterday was All Soul's Day and my church always does a memorial for the families of our parish who have lost a loved one since the last All Soul's Day. We all bring a picture to put on the altar...this is my third All Soul's Day memorial mass. First it was grandpa. Then it was Dad. I never could have imagined it being Joseph though. Seeing his smiling face up there among the others who have passed away, there in the church that I have avoided since his funeral....I cried more at that memorial last night than I did during his funeral services. I felt so bewildered and stunned...stunned that this thing that only happens to other people has happened to me. To us. Ten months. Its been just short of ten months since I have seen my Joe-Gi. Eleven since I have heard his voice. I miss him with a hollow desolation...disbelief that I will never see him again washing over me, particularly in the evenings when I am very tired, but with me through the day to some extent as well. Big Joe has been so patient. I was really doing better for a time and it has to be confusing and painful to watch me struggling again now that we are headed toward the holidays. He wants to talk about our Christmas budget this weekend and start getting things in order for gift buying and the like. I feel sick when I start trying to remember how much I usually spend on the kids and to work out the numbers. Simply multiplying by two instead of three is like some loud, heavy door slamming in my head. Grief is so selfish, so self absorbed. If I believe what I was told growing up and what I heard at church last night, Joseph is in a place that has been prepared for him, past the point of suffering and pain, capable of loving on a level that I cannot even conceptualize yet. I can start to feel very bad about myself for my current lack of faith and for the fact that even if I really do believe all those things (I think I do..but that overwhelming feeling of yes! There is a God and I KNOW it! is gone because even if there is I don't like Him very much right now) that I would rather have Joseph here with I said. Selfish. I can take comfort in the fact that he is in that mythical "better place" but the flip side of that coin is that he is not here. He's dead. And goodness knows I have never been very good at waiting.

I do ponder a lot over the book A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. I pick it up often and read blurbs from it. He captured so much of the essence of grief over the death of his much loved wife from cancer. He makes a good point, that none of us really know that we have faith or that we are believers until something happens that makes us utilize that faith or belief. That everyone can crow to the heavens over Jesus and heaven, but that a loss like this kicks the platform out from underneath us. His own faith faltered for a time. Maybe I will find mine again too. But I cannot hear God right now over the wailing of my own broken heart.

A woman took Joseph's picture from my hands as I went to the altar to collect it to take it back home. She was a little bit of an oddity, soft spoken but smiling brilliantly and the first person to approach me in such a forward fashion to ask me about my son. I think she followed me up there. She must have seen me weeping through the service. She asked how old he was when he died and what his name was. And then she told me, not in a judgemental way or a scolding fashion, but more as if she were marveling at something beautiful "He is rejoicing..Oh he is rejoicing now!" I think in another time and place I would have hated her for that, thinking of all Joseph suffered and feeling as if she had neatly swept all of that away with one blithe statement, that it would have seemed to be more about comforting herself than about any real attempt to impart comfort to me. But this didn't feel that way. My spirit went quiet inside and all I could manage was a meek "I hope so". I would like that faith again, that certainty. It would be comforting to know where Joseph is and when, in a vague sense, that I will see him again.

So please keep us in your prayers. The hardest time both just in terms of the seasons and holidays but also in terms of anniversaries of Joseph's journey are coming up swiftly. Its like watching a hurricane approach.