The best Mother’s Day ever

Life for us got derailed a little more than four years ago. The wreckage was overwhelming and seemed as though repairing life and getting back on track could never happen. Thankfully it does. Lately I feel like I have finally come to accept life without Jake.

I spoke with a 30 year  club member the other day. The lady lost a daughter to a drunk driver in 1988. We shared our stories with tears and she said something unexpected to me. “Boy” she paused, “Your on the fast tract. It took me a lot longer to get where you are in the healing process.”

Actually, I have felt that way sometimes and other times I felt like I was wearing lead boots in quicksand. We are moving forward. Time is our friendly escort away from the wreckage and I rarely stop and take a look back at it. I never wanted to stop healing and get stuck in grief and it saddens me to watch those who aren’t moving forward.

Grief is a terrible place to stay. I decided long ago I would rather hurt moving forward than hurt standing still. There’s no schedule in grief but there are many exits and layovers on the journey. I expect delays but I never stop for very long. The final destination is heaven but as the country song says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to go now.” I can relate to that.

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Life took a cozy and scenic turn two Sundays ago. Our oldest revealed to us that they are having a baby and we finally get to be grandparents. It was the best Mothers Day ever!

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I remember in the early days of our pain saying to my wife that I didn’t want grandchildren. I did not want to love with the possibility of losing again. What Stacey responded with has stuck with me through these difficult four years. “Mike,” she said, “It is better to have loved and lost than to never to have loved at all.” She’s right.

We are greatly blessed by God who gives and takes away. Jake was taken away from us but the One who gives us life and breath is forming a new life in my sweet baby girl.

Nothing could ever replace Jacob, but God has chosen to change our season of grief into a season of joy with a new life. For this I give him thanks.

There have been many twist and turns on our grief journey. I feel like we have hit a straight away but not so naive to think that there will not be more bumps along the way.

I am enjoying life. I am excited about our future and our first grandchild coming into our family. Life is good. God is good.

13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

 

 

A mother’s grief as seen through a father’s eyes

Linda and Bella

Linda Lou Philo and Bella

One year ago today our mother, Linda Philo, left her earthly home and family to join her family in her heavenly home, she was 66 when she died.

There were five generations of women in my home on mother’s day 2012. I remember that day very clearly because it was the last time these devoted moms would be gathered together as a complete family. My wife and her sister would each lose a son to drug overdoses in the next year. Their grandmother and mother would also die 6 months apart, all before mother’s day 2014. Two sisters each losing a nephew and a son, their granny and their mother in a 24 month period. The whole family was devastated but I think the 3 daughters, and the girls, young and old, lost more than most men might recognize. Mothers day is Sunday, as it approaches I am observing a mothers grief through the eyes of a grieving father- this is what I see.

Linda, Lorri holding Bella, granny and Jess

Linda, Lorri, Bella, granny and Jess

I see the pain of my wife, I sense her silent grief and longing for her sweet mother and grandmother. Her eyes tell me of her pain though her mouth rarely communicates it to me in words. I also watch the aguish she carries over Jacob, our son, having a third of her heart torn from her chest. I have said at different times that I believe there is a deeper grief that a mother feels in the loss of a child that I as a father cannot understand or feel. They conceived, they felt the first kick, they endured the pain of labor, they nursed and nurtured them immediately and never stopped doing it. There is deeper love that mothers have for their young, it’s not better than a father’s love it’s just different, it is in my view deeply intimate.

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Our family before grief

For Stacey to suddenly lose her mother and grandmother was to lose the ones who had nurtured her most in life. Even as an adult she has admitted that her deepest sense of loss is that her mom and grandma are not here to nurture her anymore. Mom lived only a mile away as a crow flies and granny was often there or at her sisters house just next door. What Stacey wanted most in life was just to be a mother and to be mothered by these wonderful women. Mothers never cease to give their love and daughters are happy to receive their nurturing as it is dispensed. The girls in our family learned from the best, Marjorie and Linda were devoted loving and nurturing mothers and their girls are following their great legacy.

Jordan our daughter the stat girl

Jordan our daughter

To lose a child is to be robbed of the most natural instinct that a mom possesses. They are hardwired to be loving nurturers, wise counselors, and sympathetic comforters. Stacey still has two surviving children to be a mother to but death can never kill a mothers deepest desire to nurture, even when the one you love is gone. Perhaps that natural desire intensifies and deepens their grief, I can only speculate on this but I think it might be true. I have watched a mothers grief through the eyes of a father and come to believe they are pained not only from the loss of life, but also because she has lost her basin where her nurturing was once poured. I am just a man, I could be wrong but this is what my fatherly eyes behold.

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Stacey and Bella

I am not sure if the men in the lives of grieving women really understand this part of grief and loss. I doubt it is deliberate because men by nature are not nurturers, they are providers, they are fixers, they are many times purposefully emotionally disconnected from their pain. I am often accused by my wife that I am a woman, not that I am  unmanly but I try to understand how women are wired so that I might be a better husband to her. In my opinion the main circuit in the panel box of grief for a woman is the circuit of nurturing love. When the breaker has been tripped it leaves our ladies without the ability to receive nurturing or to give it out, their outlet for love has been short circuited. If a man would look through the eyes of a women for one moment they will better understand their grief and their unending pain. Men can help them by providing an environment where they can be loving nurturers once again.

As the father of a son who has died I feel the disconnect as well. I am hardwired to give encouragement to my son, to pour in wisdom, calling him to be courageous and to be a man in every situation of life. Death is the great thief, It has robbed me of this fatherly joy and the opportunity for me to have my boy come to me and say, “Dad, I need your advice.” The thief has also robbed my wife of receiving nurturing love from her mom and the ability of her to give it to her beloved boy.

the worm

The Worm

What is the greatest mother’s day gift for a mom who has lost a mother, a grandmother or a child? Time with the family is the most precious gift that can be given to these hurting moms. Men, buy her flowers on a day she least expects it and give her what she desires the most on the day we honor them most. Gather your family to her and let her be a mother, let her nurture and be nurtured, let her love and be loved. This is who they are, this is what they do best, this is what they desire the most- let’s give them what they want!

Finally, as a Christian man I am called to lead in faith as the apostle Paul did. How did he do it? He led as mother and as a father. He said, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7) Paul continues, “You are witnesses and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 ESV)