A boxer enters the ring expecting to take some blows. I'm sure that after the first few powerful punches, the boxer learns that he must have the courage, the fortitude and the self-confidence to get up again each time he or she is knocked to the ground. Grief, like boxing, delivers some pretty powerful punches. Unlike the boxer in the ring, the person who is dealing with overwhelming grief and bereavement, does not always expect the next punch.
I sometimes forget I am in a fight, one that I hope will lead to healing and acceptance of that which I cannot change. I get busy with living life and dealing with the day to day demands of being a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and teacher. I think I am carrying on quite well. The house is cleaned, the Christmas decorations are mostly up, and I am busy with my social and professional life.
Then, out of nowhere, I am knocked to the ground by thoughtless, seemingly uncaring, remarks or by unrealistic demands. I get up and keep going forward. I remember that not everyone knows that when a person is dealing with grief, each day is struggle. Not everyone understands that the first year in the journey of grief can be a very rough trip. When I get knocked down by someone else, I try to forgive, get up, and press forward. I am determined that no one will steal my joy during the holiday season.
Then, the next punch comes. This type of punch is the hardest to bear. It is the punch that memory delivers. I just happened to come across a photo, one I didn't remember seeing before. It was a photo taken of Julie last Christmas in Utah. Last year, she wanted to be with the Utah branch of the family for Christmas, so I had given her an airline ticket as her Christmas gift. In the photo, there she was, very much alive, stunningly beautiful, and, as always, smiling at the camera. She is surrounded by two of her siblings, her sister-in-law, four of her nieces and nephews and her father. She is happy. She looks like she is at peace. She looks as if she doesn't have a care in the world and is only enjoying being surrounded by family.
|The fam at Snow Basin, Utah|
Then, I study the photo of Julie with my oldest son, Ryan, my oldest daughter, Keicha, and her father, and my former husband, Barry. It just looks like a typical family photo. No one knew it would be the last time that the four would gather for an informal recording of a family gathering.
|Keicha, Barry, Julie, & Ryan|
|Julie and Sheridan|
Julie had many friends. She kept in touch with most of them on a fairly regular basis. While she was in Utah, she met up with Sheridan, her dear friend and roommate from her University of Utah days. There's that dazzling smile and those sparkling blue eyes again. That smile, those eyes, they never fail to deliver a punch theses days.
But, I digress, I was writing about how dealing with grief and boxing are alike. One would never step into a boxing ring without training and conditioning for a fight. Unfortunately, when death visits a family unexpectedly, there has been no warning that one should have been training for the fight of one's life. I've learned that's where faith comes in. After many years of building a solid foundation of faith in God, I can say with assurance that I have believed totally and utterly in the absolute sovereignty of God. Because of that foundational belief, I have been able to keep the fight of faith going as I struggle with the pain of loss, regret, and sorrow. After the loss of a child, especially to suicide, I believe it is safe to say that one's faith is either lost, found or strengthened. My faith has been strengthened. The fight of faith continues to go on. Truly, "morning by morning, new mercies I see."
There is no doubt that, just as the boxer needs people to coach him, to help him in his training exercises, to encourage him when he is down, I have also needed people in my corner. I have had many. My husband is my mainstay. When one enters the ring to fight, it becomes very clear where your friends are. You know who is really pulling for you. So many of my friends and family members have been there for me before I even asked for their help. Julie's friends have also been there for all of us. Team 8:08 has been the best!
I heard a story that Dan Rather told about being in the boxing ring. He said that when he was knocked to the ground and did not think he could get up, he heard a voice in his corner and it kept calling his name. He said that was how he was able to get up again. I've heard your voices, those of you who are in my corner. I hear you calling my name. Thank you for being there.