When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

It has been five years since I said goodbye to my father for the last time. He passed away after a short, yet torturous battle with leukemia. That year I gave birth to my daughter, and two days later my dad went into the hospital. He was there for a month before the doctors could even figure out what was wrong. By then, it was too late for the treatments to really be effective. He tried. He really fought. Ultimately, it was too aggressive to control.

I miss my dad every single day. So much. I wish he was here to see my kids grow up. I wish he could have seen the house that my husband and I finally settled into, and could have spent at least one Christmas with us here. I wish he could surprise me and take me to lunch like he used to. I wish we could still laugh together. He had an awesome laugh. I miss hearing him sing and play the guitar. I miss how he used to check in on me, but tried not to make a big deal of it. I just miss him.

Losing a parent was life-changing. Someone who was a daily part of my life for my entire life disappeared. It almost doesn’t feel real. There are still days where I will think, “I can’t wait to tell Dad about that,” and then I realize that I can’t. There are days when the sorrow is suffocating. There are days when the emptiness feels infinite. Then there are days when I am completely at peace, remembering my dad as the incredible man he was and all of the wonderful times we  had together. Time does not heal the heart. It just makes us a little more numb to the pain each day. The pain is still there though. It doesn’t go away.

I wrote the following a couple years after my dad passed away…

It was a Wednesday morning in September. I awoke to the soft, yet panicked tapping on the bedroom door as a pale light peeked in from behind the thin window curtain. My mom had come downstairs to tell me that the hospice called and said they thought my dad had a stroke during the night and that though he was still alive, he wasn’t responding or waking up. I skipped showering, threw my hair back in a ponytail, slipped on a pair of jeans and drove my mom to the hospital. 

We got to the hospice and walked into my dad’s room. He was sleeping. His mouth was open and his breathing was heavy, loud, and rhythmic. The nurse talked over his sounds, explaining that he had not woken that morning since they first checked on him. My anxious mother listened, but I stood there in a daze as I sought to truly comprehend what the nurse was trying to prepare us for.

The nurse left the room. My mom talked to my dad for a bit and then said she was going to go grab something to drink or something to eat from the cafeteria. At last. Finally for the first time during this 4-month ordeal I was alone with my father. No mom, no brother, no husband, no children. Just me and my dad. Unlike a screenplay would have it, I didn’t have any regrets or apologies and I didn’t need him to have any for me. My dad and I had a great relationship and even if we were ever in disagreement, we understood each other. I didn’t have anything to tell him other than that I loved him. So, I sang. I sang “Give Me Faith” because it was fresh in my mind, a new song recently added to our worship team’s repertoire. 

“Give me faith to trust what you say;

That you’re good and your love is great.

I’m broken inside. I give you my life.”

Thinking back upon that moment, I can’t tell you which of my fathers I was actually singing to. My dad lay there as the words squeaked out of my mouth, like I was singing them on his behalf so he would hold onto his faith as he was about to embrace eternity. Even though I was hardly audible, my soul cried out to my Father in Heaven with the plea to give me faith because I knew that soon my dad would be in His presence and no longer in mine. It was an honest and beautifully vulnerable moment and I’ll never forget it.

My dad died later that morning. My brother was in the room with him as his breathing slowed and as he was finally released from this excruciatingly horrible disease. I had gone home to grab the shower that I had skipped earlier that morning. I got the call from my brother. I remember trying to tell him that I was just going to shower really quick and then I would head straight back to the hospice and… He cut me off. He said, “Dad died,” and he began to cry as he told me the details.

I don’t remember much about the rest of that day. I remember going back to the hospice and a lot of hugs and tears. I remember how calm everyone seemed. I think the calmness could be attributed to the fact that ultimately we all knew where Dad was and that he was no longer suffering. My dad stepped into eternity on September 14th, 2011. 

I still cannot fathom how people can do this without faith, without hope, and without belief in the one true God. Perhaps that is why death is so scary to some people and why grief has the power to numb us, paralyze us, suffocate us, and consume us. My worldly self would like to think that I go on for my husband, for my children, for my mother, and in a sense I do. There’s no doubt in my mind that God gave me the dearest people in my life for many reasons. But more so, I go on because I have hope. I’m able to let this devastating circumstance be a temporary trial rather than never ending sorrow. 

I pleaded with God that day to shield my spirit and strengthen my faith so that I wouldn’t be crushed by the pain that I knew would accompany my father’s passing. He graciously protected me that day and continues to be my rock. I have a Savior who I love and who loves me and who rejoices with me on my best days and comforts me through my worst. As I reflect on one of the most heartbreaking days of my life, I can’t help but pray for those who haven’t accepted His love.

A piece of my heart has been lost for 5 years. No more lunches, no check-ins, no visits with Grandpa. The laughter has faded. The guitar has been put away. The song is over. Those mournful days come and go. There are days when I am nothing but angry at God. I’m bitter and resentful. I think that’s an ordinary component of grief. I haven’t lost my hope though. There is peace in the midst of the pain. There is comfort found in faith.

It hasn’t changed for me.


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In loving memory of my Dad, Stephen K. Clarke

1951 – 2011

You Are Still a Good Mom, Even on the Bad Days

After my son was born, I went back to work when he was just 2 weeks old. I didn’t want to, but my husband and I were in a place financially where I needed to. The things I struggled with then are the things I still struggle with today. Keeping up with family schedules, proving to be a dedicated employee, striving to be the perfect wife and mother, and maintaining the home is demanding. I am constantly trying to balance my career and my home life, which can be extremely stressful at times.

There are days when I feel like I have everything together. Everything goes according to plan and on schedule. If I’m being honest, those days are few and far between. A lot of the time I feel like I am totally underwater. The kids have their own agenda, running around the house like a couple wild hyenas trying to get all their crazies out before dinner. My husband has to finish a work project, which isn’t helped by the noise so generously provided by said hyenas so then he gets frustrated. Meanwhile I am trying to tame the hyenas while pacifying my stressed out hubby and making dinner simultaneously. That’s just within the first 15 minutes of being home!

It’s enough to make a mom lose her mind! Some nights, I have all the patience in the world, but other nights I snap. I get angry. I yell at my kids, who are admittedly just being kids, excited to be home at the end of the day with mom and dad. I turn a cold shoulder to my husband. Despite apologies, I feel horrible about all of it after the fact, which just makes it that much worse. Nights like this make me feel completely defeated. They make me feel like a bad mom and wife. They make me wonder what I am doing wrong.

It totally sucks because no one else talks about it either. No mom wants to tell anyone that she lost her temper and handled her anger in the wrong way. No wife wants to say that she got mad at her husband for no logical reason. Heaven forbid that we admit we were wrong and made a mistake when our emotions got the best of us. Stop the presses when we realize we are just human and no one person can really do it all. If you say you can, I kindly call bullsh*t. Yup. I said it.

Where did this idea even come from? Why do we think we can’t be honest about the daily struggles that accompany being a spouse or a parent? Is it mom-shaming? Is it ego? Is it lack of support? It feels like our society went from “It takes a village” to “I can do it myself and I can do it better than you!” What are we trying to prove? I think sometimes we can put ourselves in the “I can do it myself” mindset because we don’t want to admit that sometimes we do need help. I personally have a lot of pride about all the things I manage to juggle, and for the most part, juggle well.  Pride can be my own worst enemy though.

For example, it took a really long time for my husband and I to acknowledge that our son has ADHD. Our pediatrician just happens to specialize in neurodevelopmental disorders. He knew that, from a very young age, our son was exemplifying all of the characteristics and symptoms of an ADHD child. We, being the prideful parents we are, held off on a medical treatment plan in hopes that we could correct the problems our son was having with alternative methods. We tried things like changes to his diet, essential oils, supplements, therapy, different parenting strategies and nothing seemed to help at all.

We were pulling out our hair trying to figure out how we could have a better relationship with our child when he was literally difficult to be around. Ouch! What kind of awful parent am I to admit that?! But it was true! I love my son unconditionally but our relationship was truly strained. After exhausting all of our options, we finally agreed with the pediatrician to start a medicinal regimen. It was like sudden world peace in our home! We could have improved our entire family’s situation months in advance if our pride hadn’t gotten the best of us.

I think another thing that gets in the way of reaching out for help is the fear of judgment. Unfortunately, often times uneducated individuals can be the most judgmental. Using ADHD as an example again, anyone who has the opinion of “There ain’t no such thing as ADHD. It just bad parenting,” is obviously an idiot. Anyone who is educated and informed on the topic knows better. Don’t let someone invalidate your problem just because they know nothing about it. After all, you are reaching out for help, not to be put down.

On the other hand, if someone is reaching out to you, be mindful of how you respond. It’s easy for anyone to take a problem to the internet and try to google a solution. It takes a lot of courage to seek help from someone you know. If a person trusts you enough to come to you with their problem, listen to them. Don’t dismiss them. Don’t judge them. Assess the problem and offer your advise. Be encouraging. Be supportive. The person reaching out to you clearly admires your perspective. Be worthy of that.

To you, mom who might be reading this, don’t be discouraged. You aren’t doing anything wrong. The bad days happen. We lose our tempers. We make mistakes. It is 100% okay to admit when you are wrong. It is 100% okay to need help. It will never make you a bad mother or a bad wife to say it out loud. We are resilient. We learn. We adapt. We better ourselves.

Don’t Lose Your Spirit, Little One

My littlest started kindergarten a couple weeks ago. I was able to hold it together as my pintsized free-spirit skipped off to class in her pink princess cowgirl boots. I was a proud mom, delighted that my girl was confident enough to enthusiastically begin the school-year. It was such a happy and exciting moment for us. In the back of my mind I was thinking, “I hope she never loses that.” I hope she never loses that confidence or her enthusiasm for new experiences.

My daughter is fearless. Okay, maybe not fearless, but if there aren’t any spiders in the room, she is fearless. She has rarely ever been afraid to try something new. She will taste funny-looking foods. She will jump as high as she can on a trampoline. She will cover herself head to toe with dirt and delight in it. She will scale the side of a mountain on all fours through the tricky part of a trail. She does all of this in a way that encourages whoever is with her to be just as bold.

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Not only is she fearless, but she is strong. An eight mile hike ain’t got nothin’ on my petite beast. My husband and I used to refer to her as “Hank the Tank” because she’s so tough. If she falls, she gets right back up. If she doesn’t get something right the first time, she’ll try again. If she’s not sure about why you’re asking her to do something, she will question you. If I’m being honest, sometimes that seems like more of a curse, but trust me. It’s a blessing.

She is so compassionate too. She is always considerate of others and their feelings. She is a friend to everyone. She forgives and doesn’t hold grudges. She’s an amazing, bright sparkle of hope for a world that is growing dull and bitter.

I pray that God will guard her heart as she gets older and starts to realize how cruel people can be. I hope she never has to hear the whispers of other girls talking about her instead of to her. I hope that she never questions how beautiful she is. I hope she never values the opinion of someone else so much that it makes her deny who she is. I pray that she won’t be broken to then be remolded into an empty shell, void of the dreams and extraordinary imagination that she carries with her now.

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I think no matter how big she gets I will always see her as a bare-footed, crazy-haired blur of movement. I’ll think of her sloppy kisses and her irresistible cuddles that I know won’t always be offered. I have big hopes for this tiny soul. I hope I can encourage her, protect her, and comfort her. I hope I can build her up when she feels like others are trying to tear her down. I hope she will command respect and be respectful to others. I hope she will speak her mind. I hope she will take risks. I hope she will love. I hope she will soar.

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Be a Friend, Not a Frenemy

Do you ever feel like there are people in your life who might be bringing you down more than lifting you up? The term for these people is “frenemy.” You know… the people who act like your friend in person but every time you’re around them you just pick up on some really negative energy. You can never call them out on it either because they’re always perfectly nice to your face. They haven’t actually given you a basis not to trust them, but for whatever reason you just have a gut feeling that they are not interested in truly being a friend to you. I mean, making friends as an adult is hard enough. No one needs or wants it to be one-sided.

Maybe I’m just paranoid. Or maybe I’m just honest. While I can’t go so far as to say that I’ve purposely neglected to be a friend to someone who may have valued my companionship, I will say that I know there are a few relationships that I let dwindle rather than fueled. Part of that is different schedules, uncommon interests, or simply oblivion. Often times, though, it seems pretty mutual.

So how do we get past this as adults? How do we dive deeper? How do we stop hurting others intentionally or not? How do we stop getting hurt?

1. Support the people in your life. This is probably the easiest thing we are all capable of doing. If you’re lucky enough to see your friends often, ask what’s happening in their lives. If you see someone struggling, ask if you can help in any way. For friends who we don’t get to see in person, it takes all of five seconds to shoot an encouraging text. Social media has made it easier than ever to keep in touch. If all else fails, you can simply “react” to the posts in your feeds, or leave a brief comment.

2. Be real. Be honest. Be open. Pretty self explanatory but I’ll go a little further. There’s a difference between being polite and being fake. Don’t lead people on if you have no intention of investing in that friendship. You will only hurt them more in the long run. Alternatively, if a friend does something that upsets you, tell them so you can both work through it. I don’t know about you, but I can’t read minds. I would much rather face a potential bit of conflict than let some silent resentment build up until it completely destroys a friendship. When you are honest with your friends, you’re showing them that you value them. You allow them to be honest with you in return. You build a foundation of trust that will ultimately strengthen your relationship.

3. Make time. This one is hard. We all have way too much going on. I get it. Everyone has a full plate all of the time. This is by far the biggest challenge I face in my friendships. I try to invite friends to do things that we all need to do anyway. If you can meet a friend during a lunch break, do it. If you can invite a friend over for dinner, do it. If you can break away for coffee, do it. If you want to do something special and know it takes a lot of advanced notice for an evening out, plan it.

Ladies Night

 

A few weeks ago a group of us gals got together for an evening hike. I planned it well in advance so everyone who wanted to come could make necessary arrangements. It was awesome!

Spending time with friends is important and it’s fun when you finally get to do it!

4. Show your gratitude. We all know how unpredictable life can be. Tell your friends how much they mean to you. Let them know that you value their friendship. Share the love.

Some say that friendship is in all the little things. It’s a little thing to show support, to be honest, to make time and to show gratitude, but those little things fill our lives and our hearts. Those little things become the big things over time.