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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Difference a Year Makes...

I am no longer the same person I was a year ago. I don't exactly know how to explain it except to say that the world changed me profoundly, but God also changed me in some amazing ways despite everything.

I have lost quite a bit of the lighthearted cheer that once came so easily to me.

Can y'all tell? Is it even noticeable here in the blogosphere?

You see - for those of you new around here - our family experienced two major losses beginning around this time last year. The first loss came in the person of our next-door neighbor and close friend "Rosie." She courageously fought her battle with breast cancer for over two years before the Lord called her Home. She left behind an amazing husband named "Ring" and her kindergarten twins - a boy, "Pocket," and a girl, "Posies" - as well as countless friends and neighbors who loved her well.

Several weeks later, we laid to rest my father-in-law, who spent 16 long months battling stage three pancreatic cancer. I don't know that I can adequately describe the agony that is pancreatic cancer - unless you've seen someone live through it, you just don't know. And those who have lived it are most often not around to share their stories: the survival rate for pancreatic cancer hovers around 5%.

To lay myself bare, I must confess that I found it easier to accept the loss of my husband's father... still so young at 63, but a man who raised three children and watched them become parents themselves. We are grateful that he met the Tongginator, but still feel intense sadness that we will not be able to introduce him to the daughter we wait to adopt. And of course we miss him intensely. But ROSIE? Rosie, a mother with young children. Rosie, a woman who found the love of her life not even ten years prior to her death. Rosie, my friend - not too very much older than me.

I didn't understand then. I still don't.

Except that I do.

Some may call me naive... some may call me deluded... some may call me mature... it doesn't really matter. But this past year, knowledge I held in my thoughts gradually became a deep-seated sureness that I feel in my heart. I now know with certainty - despite the hurt, despite the anger I still feel, despite watching my husband and neighbors grieve these past twelve months - I KNOW that God does not cause bad things to happen. All good things come from God (James 1: 17). It's people and living in a fallen world that create the horrible, gut-wrenching, that is SO not fair stuff.

Like a momma of five-year-old twins dying. And watching a grandfather leave this earth before he meets the child a family had been waiting to adopt for two-and-a-half years.

That kind of stuff.

I've become more patient this past year. I'm an impatient person by nature... horribly, pitifully impatient... but I've grown just a bit during this past year as we've lived through my husband's grieving process. I've also grown in compassion. Watching Rosie cling to every ounce of will she possessed to have just One. More. Day. with her children... well, I think of the Tongginator's first mother more now than I did two years ago.

I've always hated it when people say to those who hurt, "God never gives you more than you can handle." Really? REALLY? God thought that Ring could handle years of praying over his children, hoping they would survive, then finally breathing a sigh of relief, before - just one year later - watching his wife battle breast cancer? God thought my Tongginator could handle the pain associated with the loss of her first family, culture and language? God thought my mother-in-law could handle becoming a widow before she turned sixty? REALLY?!!?

No, y'all... God doesn't do that. The phrase should not be... should NEVER be "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." If you say anything at all, it should be the truth of "God never gives you more than HE can handle." But probably you shouldn't say anything at all.

Probably you should just offer a hug.

* What are y'all grieving right now? And what can others do to help? *


bbmomof2boys said...

I don't think that we'll ever stop grieving the loss of loved ones. The anger will go away (it will), but the grief? no, it won't. We learn to live with it but its always there, in the back of our minds. A song will come on the radio, a certain gesture, smells, even a well written blogpost, something will trigger it and then its right back.



Upstatemomof3 said...

How about God is there to carry you when you cannot walk it. Although, you are probably right - you should just say nothing. I too have found this past year to be a bit much. I too have felt that I cannot make it throgh and then somehow I do. I know nothing good comes from the Lord and yet I still ask Him to help - to fix it.

Norah said...

I had a bad night last night. More and more days I am wondering how much longer I can do this with this child. I'm trying so hard not to feel sorry for myself, but at the same time I feel like everyone I love is turning against me. But thank you for your post. It has strength. I needed some of that....even if it only lasts through today. Thank you.

happygeek said...

This is why I adore you.

autumnesf said...

I'm hearing you! This time last year I was losing my dad to pancreatic/liver cancer. A little over a month after he died my sisters FIL died of a rare blood cancer unexpectedly. Six months later a person from my upbringing...mom's close friend died of lung/colon cancer. All these were at least older, not young parents, but it still felt like we were getting hammered.

I agree that God doesn't cause cancer. Our bodies were perfect UNTIL the fall of man. We caused the beginning of decay and disease.

I too have really struggled with the God doesn't give you more to handle.... and your changing of just the one word makes it all make sense. You have no idea what a stone you have lifted off of my shoulders. Thanks TM!!

Leah said...


I really needed to read this post and thank you for sharing openly.

My struggle is my mom's kidney cancer and our struggle with infertility coupled together makes days almost unbearable and highly emotional. God is teaching me some wonderful things, but the process and loss is too much for me somedays, but I know it is not too much for our Father who loves us more than we can even comprehend.

Michelle said...

Great post, TM!!! Thanks for sharing.

Mama King said...

You brought tears to my eyes with your honesty and eloquence. My heart goes out to Ring and his angels. It is comforting to know he has family and friends who care so deeply about he and his family.

Marla said...

Perfect post, TM. My mom is battling pancreatic cancer right now and it is a BATTLE! We're blessed that she has a rare slow-growing tumor, but still, it's there and we know it. And it sucks. I lost my beloved MIL in 2007 to cancer also, and I hate that our youngest doesn't remember her. Explaining to our children that she was sick and not going to get better was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

My heart goes out to you, your family, and to Ring and his sweet children. There really are no words, so I just offer my hugs and prayers of peace and comfort for all of you.

jen@odbt said...

hugs TM. what a beautiful and honest post.

Patricia/NYC said...

BIG BIG HUGS to you, my friend...a wonderfully honest post...praying here...

Laura L. said...

This was a very well-written post.

I absolutely agree with, "God never gives you more than He can handle."

We have not experienced the loss of a parent, but I know the time will come. Other hard times will come. I am comforted to know that HE will be the one who will carry us when those times come.

I do admit that I feel a tinge of fear about those things though. I am glad that we do know Him.

somebodyneedsanap said...

Grieving? Nothing really, but I've been there trying to make sense of what is going on, why I'm living through certain trials, why bad things happen to GOOD people.

The best thing, always, is a hug, a ear to listen, and a shoulder to cry on...and IF someone mentions something that they need help with, by all means DO IT. Even if it seems small.

Aunt LoLo said...

You're right. A hug is usually the best response. My father always taught us that God doesn't give us more than we can handle WITH HIS HELP. If we could handle everything, there would be no point in having a Saviour.

It's been a year since we lost Grandma Mary. I think I have come to terms with it. An experience I had tells me that she did meet Siu Jeun, in passing. As Relief Society president, I grieve that I can't fix all the problems I see in people's lives...and I grieve that people cannot follow instructions from God to make their lives easier. I grieve watching them suffer, knowing that they have it in their own power to better their situations.

It's like being mommy to 137 children. All at once. And most of them are older than me.

Aus said...

Ah TM - you are - in all manner of the word - a wonderful person. And if you need it - you have my (our?) permission to be and feel how you do. That's a part of our world today - we don't 'accept' our feelings, and because we refuse them and don't process them - well....there are an awful lot of people out there that have become wealthy treating us for that. I'd encourage you and TD both - don't stop greiving or thinking about our missing friends and family. My dad died something over 42 years ago - and I still think about him almost daily, and write him a letter from time to time....generally helps me deal with whatever I might want to have discussed with him too!

Keep the honesty out front - and welcome to as many hugs as you can stand!

aus and co.

day by day said...

Ohhhh....beautiful post!!! Thank-you, TM!!!!

Joan said...

Thank you ! This post brought tears to my eyes as well as a deep feeling of appreciation. So many times people don't feel heard and you are giving them a voice.

My grief is with my Dad. I am sad he is burdened with his long struggle with Parkinson's, proud of the strength he has shown me my whole life and grateful he is still here with us.

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

parents who are older and making some tough choices. their health is not good. and a brother and sil who are. . .challenging throughout this experience. It could be far worse, but it's a trial for me.

Kristi said...

Beautifully said! I'm still trying to find my footing after the phone call out of the blue five years ago (the day before my and Ian's five year anniversary) that my dad was gone. And then exactly five weeks later stepping off the plane in Dayton (on my way to visit my grandmother who was sick, but not THAT sick) to learn that she died while we were flying.

But God is good and He has brought me through to a better place. The pain is not gone, but it is different, and as you said of yourself, so am I...

LaLa said...

Me, well I lost my mom in 2002 very unexpectedly and then my dad in 2006 after a battle with colon cancer. It was weird really, becoming an "orphan" at 40 and then realizing my youngest sister had no parents at only 29! I still miss them daily and was so happy my dad at least had 6 short months with Annslee but do grieve that my mom never knew her (they would have been big buds) and neither knew Coby. I am so blessed to have a wonderful mother in law : )

I also on some level still grieve the dream of Malia. We are so blessed to have Coby and I can't imagine that not happening but I still have things monogrammed with the name we thought our daughter would have and for some reason I just can't get rid of them.

Great post!

Lisa (Briana's Mom) said...

Back in 2002, it seemed like Doug and I kept getting the wind knocked out of us. My grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack in June, Doug's grandfather died in Sept after a battle with prostrate cancer and then I miscarried in November of that same year. But we did make it through that year somehow, and I'm sure He had a hand in getting us through it.

I think a hug is the perfect answer. And maybe a little hand holding too.

Myrnie said...

You said it exactly. As soon as I read "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" I thought "No...He doesn't give us more than HE can handle." God tempers us. Tempered glass is stronger, more resilient, and less likely to shatter because it's been heated and tested and tried. God is our refiner- when silver is refined, it is heated so hot that all impurities are burned away. Do you know how you can tell when silver is finished? You can see the refiners reflection looking back.

God doesn't give us pain and heartache, but He gave us a Savior to heal our pain and heartache. There is no pain or sorrow that our Lord has not felt- He suffered for us all in Gethsemane. He suffered for our sins, and for our pains.

And that is why I will fall at His feet after this life and cry. Oh what a gift.

Shawnstribe said...

i'm no good with loss....really struggle with it....so...just more (hugs)

Patty O. said...

Wow, I can so totally relate to this post. I am so much different than I was about 5 years ago, in some ways better and some ways not so much. About 3 years ago, I felt like my world was falling apart. My parents had separated, my grandma had died and we were worried about Danny having autism (a worry that is still with us, but in a different way now--I am so much more peaceful about it).

Then, I find out my mom has uterine cancer and I had such difficulty coping with the thought that I could lose her. She had a really tough battle, complete with surgery, several different types of chemo and radiation and it knocked her on her tail. She was so sick and we were so worried.

Luckily, she is fine now, but I know now that life is tenuous. At any moment, bad things can happen. Things we can't control. And this discovery really shook me. I can't even explain it.

At the time people said that all the time that God never gives us more than we can handle (or better yet, that I should serve others and it would make me feel like my trials were inconsequential, which in this case wasn't true. no one can convince me that my son's future, my mom's life and my parents' marriage aren't important....) and it drove me nuts. I agree with you. God never gives us more than HE can handle. With His help we can make it through, but it won't be easy.

I think the best help is validating the other person. Listening without judgement. Admitting that life is so hard sometimes, acknowledging that it is ok to be sad or angry. That's what helps me, anyway.

Kerry said...

I have always hated and been haunted by that phrase. SO often we feel like we need to say something- and an empty cliche just comes out- but really- so much better to lend an ear, or a hand- especially a hug.

Hugs to you.

Dita said...

Oh how I don't like that phrase, in any incarnation. I much prefer the Hug it Out Method.

I am sending you hugs, TM, for the losses I have watched you endure this last year and for the wisdom this process has brought to you in the process.

(Can you feel my big bear hug?)

prechrswife said...

"God never gives you more than HE can handle."


Wendy said...

I don't know who came up with that phrase. It's definitely not Biblical. I think somebody said it in a whim to try and comfort someone grieving. I find, especially in the line of work that I do, that words are better left unspoken. (((Hugs))) and a listening ear are what matters the most.

Kim K. said...

Beautifully honest post. Always the best kind. I grew up with parents who own a funeral home (they still do). Death is never easy. Faith helps tremendously, but it's still hard. Because of my parents, I've learned to cherish every moment.


PS. Josie was diagnosed with pneumonia today. I always freak out a bit with all heart issues when she gets a respiratory infection. I'm hugging her a little bit tighter today.

Janet said...

I believe that God helps people handle the trials in their lives. He gives them what they need to deal with horrible circumstances. The times that I have felt overwhelmed, I have never felt ABANDONED. I think that is what the saying is getting at. God never abandons His children, He gives them the strength they need to continue on when they feel that they can't. That's my own interpretation of that saying, anyway. :-)

Super Mommy said...

Hugs!! I am not good at losses either, but I KNOW God is good. I am glad you are where you are now!! ;0)

Annie said...

Hi TM. I lost my father just a little over a week ago and then our beloved puppy dog yesterday. I watched my Dad battle Alzeihmers and it was horrendous and heartbreaking. I do have a quote that I love that I keep on my fridge that is along the same lines but it does give me strength. It is, "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it." I don't believe that God did any of these things to me or my famliy but I do know that He will bring me through all of it. I hope that year from now, I will have grown as you have. Right now, I just really miss my Dad.

Laurie said...

One of my students was hit and killed by a car right before school started this year and there is not a day that goes by that I don't feel like crying for the girl that hit him and his family. There are constant reminders around my classroom and his classmates remember him fondly, but I miss that little boy. We don't know why God makes these choices, but with faith we accept them and know that there is a reason for everything.

discombobulated said...

Moving post. Thinking of you and TD.

blackbelt said...

Is it not God's grace that brings Good - your growth in the Fruit of the Spirit - out of such sadness and hardship? Thinking of the adoption process itself - the sadness upon sadness upon sadness - and the light at the end - your Tongginator. Your love. (((HUGS))) to you my sister.

Wanda said...

You know - you throw that question out there (and I'm thinking I may the only one with a similar story....not really, but sometimes it feels that way) and WHAM....everyone has a story. We all have our seasons of pain and some more than others for sure. I often comfort myself with this thought. Some things will never be revealed in this life but I sure do have a long list of questions for when I get to the Master's feet!

As you know, I lost my twin sister a bit more than a year ago to liver cancer and I will never feel completely whole again. A part of me is gone with her. And just a few months before that, my mother passed and then last summer my MIL. It was a season of losses.

And then summer came and with it a new daughter.

So, here's my question: if God doesn't cause the bad stuff, how come he gets the credit for the good stuff? (I just ducked.....thought I heard a thunder clap!) If you feel so inclined, maybe you could post about that one day.

Thanks for opening up this discussion and...ummmm.....I think I love you!

Sarah said...

Last year we weren't even friends, which makes this year better. You're one of my best blog friends and the support you've given me since day 1 goes above and beyond (don't stop though!).

I'm sure at some point I'll start grieving for my "old self" (because that's how my brain works) so get ready. But get ready for the new me to take shape too :)

CC said...

Besides the mother-daughter co-worker pair I lost last spring and the mom to The Flash's friend that we lost last summer, there was a horrible tragedy a few weeks ago. One of my long-distance adoption friends and her 7 year old son were killed in a car crash. Only her husband survived and now is all alone in the world.

Horrible. Horrible tragedies this year has entailed.

triona said...

*hugs* What a beautiful and moving post. Thank you.

Lisa said...

I'm grieving with you tonight, the loss of a beloved Papa and the loss of a courageous Mama to two young children.

(((hugs))) Despite what you think, yours is not a skeptical or gloomy blog.....its a place for hope, pure and simple.

Sally- That Girl! said...

My best friend of 23 years left this world way too soon almost 4 years ago and I have never been the same since. Something left of me left with her.

Life is good and I am blessed, but something is just not the same. My laughter is not the same. And at the same time my life is the best it is have ever been, but it is not the same, something is gone that I will never have again this side of heaven. How do I accumulate 23 years of history with anyone ever again? And how do you explain that to other dear friends?

Your post was beautiful.

Alece said...

i am grieving so much loss, i don't even know how to make sense of it all. and i certainly don't know how to ask for help in the midst of it.