Broken Pot

Travis would have been 40 today…next Wednesday, the 25th, he will have left this earth and been with God and Jesus for 9 months.

Two thoughts have been foremost in my mind in the past few weeks as today approached.  First was that it was a little hard to believe that he had been here…with us…last year on his birthday.  Many friends gathered in our yard and serenaded him and our family that evening.  Many of you wrote letters that talked about Travis’ imprint on your lives.  The second thought is that he was really young to be gone already.  How are either of those things possible?  Yet they are.

Last year in October we attended, as a family, a grief camp.  Travis had only been gone 2 1/2 months and the the camp also coincided with the weekend that I had taken him to the hospital a year prior and where he eventually was diagnosed.  I know a grief camp does not sound like much fun and frankly none of us really wanted to go but I felt that it was important for us individually as well as a family.  One of the activities that held a lot of symbolism for us was called the “broken pot”.

They gave each family a clay pot that we took outside and had to drop on the ground to break.  This symbolized how our hearts, identity and even families break when we suffer a significant loss in our lives.  I remember even the sound of the pot hitting the ground causing me to cringe.  I thought, “I know that sound.  I have felt it inside in my heart.  I have seen it in my children…in Travis’ friends.”  We brought the pieces back inside and now we had to write on them.  On the pieces that curved inwards (the inside of the pot), we had to write words that described our grief, our loss, our pain.  Symbolizing the things that we tend to keep inside and let no one see. On the pieces that curved outwards (the outside of the pot), we had to write the things that had given us support during our grief, our loss, our pain.  After all the pieces were filled with writing, we had to reassemble the pot with glue, figuring out where each piece was supposed to be.  This activity was accompanied by many tears as it seemed to draw so much out of us emotionally even as we were putting our hands to something physical.  At one point, as the final piece was placed, everyone in the family had their hands on the pot holding it together until the glue solidified.  It impacted all of us in that moment, that it was going to take all of us…together as a family…to put this back together.  

Recently, as part of our continuing activities at the family and grief center groups that we attend monthly.  We repeated the “broken pot” activity.  Only this time, I did the activity with each individual child.  We encountered quite a few difficulties this time around with the activity.

With one child, we dropped the pot twice to break it.  Thus ending up with a quite a few very small pieces.  I thought about how often, we as a family and individually, have been re-broken along this road.  As each holiday passes without him, as shock and denial recede more, as we live life each day sometimes it seems the breaking happens more to pieces that are already broken.

In some instances, we became very frustrated because we just simply could not figure out how the pieces went back together.  We simply had to walk away and allow ourselves to come back later to work on it.  (We are still working on it.) 🙂

I thought about how often we have been emotionally overwhelmed by moments and have just had to walk away and deal with it later.  Deep, heavy emotions…such as grief, pain, loss…I am realizing take quite a bit of time to process and the layers of those emotions are quite thick and numerous.

In all the scenarios, we had a hard time coming up with words…something we did not encounter the first time.  It seems that as our emotions have run a deeper course, words are harder to find to fully grasp the depth of emotion contained inside our hearts.

In some ways, I can say, it feels like we just started feeling like we are sliding downhill pretty fast as the shock and denial have seemed to wear off to a greater degree.  In the beginning, I experienced a general sense of loss, of him being gone.  Now it seems to be more specific…the person that I would emotionally unpack my day with…cook dinner with…garden with…just “be” with.  I enjoyed life and activities not necessarily because of the activities themselves but because I was with him.  Travis had a way of just living life with you and being with him, for me, brought enjoyment to life itself.

We got through today with tears, sorrow, memories and good friends.  I know that somehow God holds all the pieces of our pot…He knows how they go back together…when they go back together.  There will always be a Travis’ shaped hole in our hearts…our family…our house…our days…our weekends…our years.  We will miss him and love him every day until we can see him again.

“In a sense, grieving is actually a show of faith.  We are trusting God to hold us in our most vulnerable time, when our feelings are raw, our life is in pieces, and our strength is gone.”–Experiencing Grief

Nothing Can Separate…

This past Sunday marked 8 months since Travis went to heaven. Sometimes I wonder how that is possible, it does not seem that long.  Other days, it feels like it has been a whole lot longer.

I would love to say that we are doing well but in all truthfulness and reality, we are not.  It’s hard…it’s a struggle…and frankly, it’s just painful. It makes me think of the line from Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks says that he chooses to get out of bed every day and breathe in and out and one day he hopes to find that its not so hard to get out of bed or breathe in and out.  That’s the day I’m waiting for…for me…for my children…for all those who miss Travis.

In the midst of that pain and struggle is another struggle…my struggle with God, with His choices, with my view of Him, my experience of Him, my knowledge of Him.  There has not been much communication between God and I or even anything relational between us, at least from my end. Right now, I just find it hard to be in relationship with a God who seems a little reckless and haphazard in His actions.  I am trying to reconcile that notion with having a relationship with Him.  I still believe in His sovereignty, in the truth that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine but I can not seem to accept the pain and suffering that His ways have brought into my life and the lives of my children.  I do not understand.  I do not get it and frankly, it just makes my head hurt sometimes to even think about it.

That has brought me to a place where I just can not seem to function in this relationship with Him.  I just do not have the energy, emotion or desire to be an active part right now in my relationship with Him.  I have not felt any guilt about that, it is just where I am. I figure that He knows that better than anyone and He is okay with that. I had experienced levels of this during Travis’ illness but it has been more apparent since his death.

About a month ago, I was reading a book about a man who had lost his mother, wife and daughter in an car accident.  This is what he said, “For months I felt shattered as a human being.  I could do nothing for God and had little desire to obey Him.  Night after night, I sat in my living room, unable to say anything, to pray anything or do anything.  I was empty of energy and desire.  All I could do was let God love me, even though I hardly believed that He loved anyone, least of all me. I had no idea how I could ever really believe again or if I even wanted to. I had no will or desire for it.  But somehow I believed that not even my weakness of faith bothered God much.  God loved me in my misery.  He loved me because I was miserable.”

My first thought was, “Wow! Okay, so I’m not the only one and this is normal for where I am.”  Then the passage from Romans 8:38-39 popped in my head.  I have always viewed those verses, in the past, in terms of the fact that nothing I ever did would separate me from the love of God.   I do not know why I thought of it that way but I just did.  After those verses popped into my head, I heard God say to me, “Tammy, you may never participate in this relationship with Me again and I am still going to love you and pursue you.”  What?! I had to think about that for a while.

On one level, it made sense.  When Christ died and even before we acknowledged Him in our lives, God loved us.  He pursued us even though we were doing nothing in return.  Somewhere in our walks with God, we get hung up on doing “our part” in the relationship.  Yes, obedience is born and should be born out of love but sometimes I think there is a subtle shift in our thinking that assumes that our part in the relationship keeps God doing his part in the relationship.  That could not be further from the truth.

All I can really say is that in that moment, it felt like the pressure was off…a burden was lifted.  I have not resigned myself to walking away from God or my relationship with Him but suddenly Him loving me and pursuing me is not dependent on what I do or even my inability to love Him in return.  Truthfully, it never really was.

Where does that leave me?  The next excerpt from this gentleman sums it up well, “…Still a problem remained.  God may have promised forgiveness and unconditional love.  But I wondered if I could trust a God who allowed or caused suffering in the first place.  My loss made God seem distant and unfriendly, as if He lacked the power or desire to prevent or deliver me from suffering.  Though I believed my transformation depended on the grace of God, I was not sure I could trust this God.  Was it even possible to believe in God, considering what had happened?” I guess I am also waiting for the day when I can answer that question too.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”–C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed