A loss of innocence

A “loss of innocence” is a common theme in fiction, pop culture, and realism. It is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child’s life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or suffering in the world around them.

I’m just going to go ahead and give you fair warning.  This whole subject makes me want to curl up and cry like a baby. Honestly, I have a time or two.

I’m not sure at what age I realized that my life wasn’t normal and did not look anything like others my age.  I think my awareness began long before it should have.  I know by the time I was four, I was keenly aware things were not like my peers.

By the time I was one, my mom discovered a hideous mole on my dads back.  She encouraged him to have it checked out.  He did and it was malignant.  Melanoma. They removed a large portion around the perimeter of the mole. The portion was so large, it looked like a crater to me.  My little hand fit in the crevice of the dug out space.

Getting clear margins and feeling hopeful, the doctor said, “All should be well if you see no signs within 2 years.”

Nearing the end of the 2 years, another spot appeared.  This time, the cancer had spread.  Chemo would be necessary.  Considering the year was 1972, the best facility for treatment was at Baptist Hospital (aka Wake Forest Medical Center) in Winston Salem, NC.

Thus the journey began.

An entire week, every month, my dad would go for treatment.  Sometimes we would go but not often.  My dads brothers were gracious enough to take turns driving him and picking him up.

In addition, my aunt and uncle who lived in Winston helped with his care as well.  Days turned into weeks and weeks into years.

His body was worn and beaten.  He allowed them to try new treatment drugs on him in hopes to help others, not himself. He knew his time was coming to an end and so did I.

I think my mom tried as best she could to keep life as normal as she could but let’s be real, how many 5-6 year olds do you know whose parent is on chemo and gone for a week every month?  I didn’t know any at the time.  Not one of my friends and I’m not even sure they knew or understand how different my life was than theirs.

I learned, even then, to pretend that I was tough and strong. I could be like the others. You know, “fake it till you make it”. All the while, the voices in my head were screaming, “You’re different, You’re not like them.”

Then it happened, during a routine eye exam in Kindergarten, my teacher discovered I was not seeing 20/20. She informed my Mom. Mom took me first to an optometrist who had no couth told me I needed glasses pronto.. In fact, he was such a nice guy, Mom and I both left the office in tears.

Fortunately, we were given another recommendation and that’s when we met Dr. Gleaton. Not only did he have a terrific personality and calming nature, he also explained the necessity of glasses. Unlike the previous bully, he told me I had a “lazy eye” and would need to wear a patch over my good eye to strengthen the lazy one. By the time we left his office, I felt good about having glasses. Until I actually wore them for the first time.

Oh, the sneers and jeers. The jabs. The taunts. The snickers. I sat on the bank with tears streaming for what seemed like hours. Day after day. It made me see how cruel this world can really be and I was just six.

Now the voices were louder and eviler than before. Not only did I feel different. I felt unattractive, unworthy and yes, even unloved.

Here I was a kindergartner with a dying father and now being made fun of because I had to wear glasses with a patch.

Want to know what I learned? It’s called stuffing. Yep, just hide what you really feel and pretend you don’t care, even if your heart is being ripped to shreds.

On one hand, my father was sick and dying. I saw the cruelty of the disease stripping away his energy and zest for life. I saw how the chemo weakened his strong body. I had no one I could talk to, no one who understood. I don’t even know if anyone had any idea how aware I was.

Then my friends basically turned their backs on me., except one. It was just plain hard being a six year old for me.

Do you know what that year at the tender age of six created? A little thing called insecurity, which actually isn’t so little at all. Insecurity has followed me most of my life. There have been times when I’ve felt less insecure than others; but it’s always there, lurking about, waiting to pounce like a lion.

I have these voices that tell me time and again:

  • You’re not good enough
  • You’ll never be pretty enough
  • You’ll never escape your past
  • You are not worthy

What I’ve learned over the past 26 years, is that these voices will come but they don’t linger very long. I have weapons to fight against them now. I have the voice of truth echoing in my ear:

  • You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 3:20)
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14
  • You are forgiven and free (John 3:16)
  • I paid a very high price for you and I say you are worthy (I Corinthians 6:20)

A loss of innocence at such a young age has always been a challenge for me. There was a point several years back when I heard or read something to the effect that it is important to grieve the loss of innocence when it’s been stripped from you. I’d never really contemplated the need to grieve over what was taken from me as a child; however, the more I thought about what was lost, the more I realized I needed to grieve. By taking time to grieve, it has given me some real insight to how this substantial loss has influenced and affected many areas of my life. A life that God is in the process of helping me break free

Alex’s friend Derek: A life that made a difference!

Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. ”

“Ok. Glad to know you’re safe” I replied.

He said, “I think the accident just happened and if I had not stopped by the house to change clothes, I might have been part of it.”

He was headed out to dinner with friends and had been at work. Not wanting to wear his work clothes, had stopped by the house for a quick change.

I called Amy to make sure she wasn’t involved. Fortunately, she was no where near Kanuga Road. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home.

I called Terry to tell him a bad accident had happened and traffic was diverted. As soon as I got out of the car, at our house, I heard MAMA whirling above. At that moment, I said to Terry, “Dude, this is not good. I hear MAMA! We need to pray for the people involved!

Everyone arrived home safely and the next morning, I woke up with the accident on my mind. There was a feeling of uneasiness about it and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I drank my coffee and finished my Bible Study. Then I began to research about the accident. Here’s what I found Wreck on Kanuga. As I read and listened to the accident report. I began to well-up with tears. The teenager, Derek, wasn’t doing anything wrong. He had left work and was heading to get gas before going home.

I didn’t know this family or the young man, or so I thought. I just knew my heart was in shambles for this family.

I remember telling Terry when he got up how heavy my heat was for the Miller family. I told him I couldn’t imagine what his parents were going through.

I went to get ready and suddenly, while blow drying my hair, like a ton of bricks, it hit me. Derek is Alex’s friend from work. Derek is the one Alex eats out with all the time. Derek is the young man I met one night while I was out having dinner with a friend and Alex and his friends were eating there too.

By the time I was finished getting ready, Alex was up and knew that his friend had been killed the night before.

Talk about a somber moment. He said, “Mom, I was most likely the last person to talk to Derek! He finished his shift, a little before me and asked if I wanted to go out and eat. I told him I already had plans for that evening but we could go out after all the next day because we were both scheduled to work.”

Alex was heartbroken. Devastated. He knew that God had spared him because of his couple of delays. He was shocked and dismayed. Shaken badly.

There was nothing that I could do or say to take away the deep pain my child’s heart was feeling. Now, not only was my heart breaking for the family, my heart hurt deeply for my son.

Over the next few days, I observed as Alex processed his grief. He didn’t sit around and wallow in his grief. He went to the Millers. He spent hours with Derrick’s Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. “family. He grieved with them.

As the time approached for the memorial service, Alex told me that he felt compelled to speak on Derricks behalf. So, he had taken the liberty of calling Derricks brother, Colby, and mentioning it to him. The family was elated because they had been praying that one of Derek’s friends would speak.

We watched as Alex prepared his testimony about Derek We listened as he read us what he was going to say. Although we didn’t know the family, personally, we went to the service to support our boy.

As he concluded his Eulogy, I will never forget what he said about his friend. “The thing that I am going to miss most about Derek is seeing Jesus live in him!”

It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you’re in, remember the impact you can have on another’s life. This young man was 17 years old and he had an impact on his friends and others. They noted and saw the difference that Jesus made in him.

It’s not about a degree or pedigree. It’s about the difference that Jesus makes when He’s invited to come into our lives. It’s not about impacting the world. It’s about impacting those that God puts in your path. He can use you, just like he used Derek in Alex’s life.

First Week….First Christmas tree and first sleepless nights!

Our story continued……

Our first week of marriage had some rough spots. So, if you’re under the impression that we’ve somehow just sailed through the past 23 years, I’m sorry to disappoint you and tell you that we’ve had our share of struggles.

Obviously our honeymoon couldn’t last a full week because of Christmas coming. We headed to Murrels Inlet on December 17 and returned on December 21.

Since we had closed on the house the 7th of December, we were all set up and ready to move in. We picked the boys up from my parents and went to our new home.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree and I wanted to put on in the picture window. I asked Terry if he and the boys would go find us a tree. In the meantime, I could finish unpacking those few remaining boxes and get the lights and ornaments ready for the tree

When they arrived back with the tree, I was disappointed, to say the least. The tree poorly misshapen, dry as a bone, needles falling with each move. Terry assured me that was the best they had to pick from. It reminded me of the Charlie Brown tree, only larger and a little more full.

Once we got the tree set in the stand, we realized the trunk wasn’t exactly straight. It had a slight curve which caused it to be cattywampus! A clearly defined lean-to the right. (If I ever find a picture, I’ll share it). We straightened it with the base as much as we could.

Finally, the tree was ready for lights and decorations. Now, I have a thing for blown glass tree ornaments and had purchased a ton of these before Ryan was born. Since the boys were both small and wanted to help, I knew better than to let them hang the ornaments. I hung them around the middle and top and let them hang the non-breakables around the bottom, where their little hands could reach.

Once decorated, the once frail looking tree, had life. Our first tree! We were all proud of it. The only foreseeable issue was the lean-to and the distinct possibility the tree could topple.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our first full day as a family of four. Then came the first night.

Considering that the boys and I lived with my parents and Matthew didn’t sleep through the night. He was accustomed to getting out of bed and crawling in the bed with me. If I wasn’t home, he crept downstairs and got in bed with Mom and Ned. Terry was well aware of this and had already told me that Matthew was not sleeping with us.

“He’s 3 years old and old enough to be sleeping by himself  Besides, he’s in a bad habit of not sleeping through the night becasuse you and your parents have allowed him to get in bed with you.  I’m not sharing my bed with a 3 year old.  I’m sharing my bed with you.”

We tucked the boys in  They shared a room because that’s what they were accustomed to, even at Mom’s.  They went to sleep right away.  Terry and I went to bed.  He locked our bedroom door to keep Matthew from coming in.  We had nightlights all over the house, thanks to Mamaw.  Like clockwork, around 2:00 AM, Matthew gets out of the bed.  Our house was small and I could hear the pitter-patter of little feet, not to mention, we had some creaky floors.  He came to the door and turned the knob.  It was locked.  He knocked gently on the door.

Terry said, “Matthew, go back to bed.”

At this point, he started to cry and knocked louder.  Terry kept reassuring him he would be fine and needed to go back to bed.  I was crying too.  It was breaking my heart to hear him cry but I knew I had to break the cycle.  It’s just hard and especially when Matthew was my baby, at the time.

After a few minutes the crying ceased,  I drifted back to sleep.  The next morning we were up early.  Upon opening the door, we found Matthew curled up outside our bedroom door with a blanket.

The next night, the same thing, only there was less crying and Matthew did go back to his room  The third night, he came and only a gentle knock at the door.  No crying.  He went straight back to his bedroom.  That was the last night he got up in the middle of the night. From that point on, he slept straight through the night, at least when he was home.

I remeber telling Terry I felt like he was ripping my heart and Matthew’s heart in pieces. Truth is, he was.  It needed to happen.  We just weren’t ready, at first.  It was traumatic for all of us.  Terry didn’t want to hurt either one of us.  He just knew what was best.  I hade to learn to trust that about him and so did Matthew.

We had a wonderful first Christmas and our tree was still hanging on, by a thread.  We planned to take it down on Decebmer 28.  It didn’t quite make it.

The boys were rough-housing, typical boy stuff you know?  They can’t help themselves. They dashed through the dining room into the living room and somehow Matthew’s hefty little self hit the tree.  Still, to this day, have no clue how it happened.  It just did and suddenly, like the great mulitude of angels singing, there was a great mulitude of cracking and breaking of glass.  Remember, I had all those lovely blown-glass ornaments around the middle and top section of the tree.  The thud.  The crash.  The breaking of glass.  I knew what happened and in a fit of rage, I screamed at both of the boys.  Sent them to their rooms and started crying over those shards of broken glass.

I didn’t think one time about the fact that neither one of them had been injured or cut by the glass.  At that moment, all I could think about was my lovely, beautiful ornmanets destroyed.

I was so angry that I made Terry angry.  He didnt yell and scream at the boys but he did give them a good talking to.

Then he and Matthew both tried to console me.  Matthew said, ‘Momma, I’m sorry.  We can get you some new ones.”

I didn’t want new ones.  I didn’t want to be consoled.  I just wanted to be angry.

A little while later, after I finally calmed down, Terry came to talk to me.  He let me know very quickly that I had behaved like a child.  Sadly, I knew he was right.  He also reminded me that the cattywampus tree was probably destined to fall anyway.  He also reminded me that those boys were little.  They were going to play rough.  Things were going to get broken.

After this incident, I would love to tell you I never had a childish outburst again, but that would be a lie.  What did happen after this particular outburst was my attitude towards things of value began changing.  I began to see the importance of lives over things.  I began to see that the hearts and lives of my children were far greater than any blown-glass Christmas ornament on my tree.  I slowly began to change my perspective.

The other valuable lesson through our first days together was learning that Terry and I had to communicate.  We had to talk about our feelings about things and we had to work them out.  We didn’t always have to approve of eachothers behaviors or attidudes but we did have to learn to effectively communicate.  If we were going to make this marriage thing work, we had to talk but more importantly, we had to learn to put God at the center of everything.  It was a choice that we had to make then and one we are still making today.

Laugh….Cry….Have one heck of a day!

Last night I went to Hendersonville First Baptist Church to hear their Christmas musical. I already had plans to attend but after an earnest plea on Facebook looking for a church whose music ministry might be performing a Children’s Christmas musical, I discovered that this musical was multi-generational.  Children, youth and adults all come together and sing together.  I was excited.

On Wednesday I asked Mom if she wanted to go with me and my friend Tima.  She said, “Sure.”  My heart was happy she wanted to go too.

Excitement and elation filled my thoughts throughout the day. It had been a long time since I went to any musical.  In fact, probably the last Christmas musical was one my children and I participated in at Biltmore Baptist Church 11 years ago.  The last Christmas Children’s Musical was “Mayhem in Bethlehem” presented at BBC 11 years ago.

Joy filled my heart as those precious children sang.  So filled with wonder and awe, the joy beamed from their faces into the crowd.  The innocence of youth. Lifting their voices high with praise to God.

As I sat there and listened, I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.  I looked up through the Adult Choir and I saw him standing there.  Tall and proud to be a part of it all.  Ned.  There he was.  Only he wasn’t there.  Instead of him being in his familiar spot, his friend and prayer partner Jim was there.  It was at that point I realized the sides had shifted.  The bases and altos now sat where the tenor and sopranos sat and vice versa.  I realized as the night wore on, it didn’t matter how the seating arrangement was.  He was there or at least I could see him.

As the evening drew to a close, Karen Scoggins along with the choir sang “Amazing Grace”  Now, if you’ve never heard her sing, trust me, she’s got pipes.  This dainty precious soul can sing.

I knew Mom was crying.  I didn’t dare look.  Our friend, Linda, reached over to console her.  Tima had her hand on her shoulder.  Still I dared not look.  Tears were already starting to form and I knew I might not be able to control them.  As the final verse started, Mom was holding Linda’s hand and said, “I know where he is and I know I’m going to see him again,”  Well, great.  Thanks Mom.  Tears festered and started to fall softly.  Finally I glanced over in her direction and said, “Did you not bring any Kleenex?”

“No, I didn’t” She replied.

Linda asked if everything was ok.  I told her we didn’t have Kleenex.  She offered her scarf.

As the last song started, I began thinking about Mamaw and I began to smile then chuckle. I had to control myself from laughing out load.  That’s about as difficult as keeping the tears from free-falling.  For those of you who know me, I laugh a lot.  Sometimes I squirrel laugh, that’s what my kids call it and sometimes I just laugh hard and loud; of course, according to Ned, nothing about me was ever quiet.  Why was I having to fight hard to keep from laughing hysterically?  Because I could just hear my precious Mamaw (Colleen) saying to me and mom, “You dummies!  What do you mean coming without bringing Kleenex?”

You see, my grandmother, well she was always prepared for the best and the worst.  She had Kleenex in every purse she owned and in about every pocket of every coat she owned.  She also had other things too, like certs, certs and more certs, tylenol, Advil, cough drops……you name it she had it.  Obviously, mom or I neither one takes after her.

Jimmy Valvano says, ” If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Well, these days I’ve been doing a lot of laughing and crying.  I’m not pretending it’s not raw and I’m not pretending it’s easy when you lost someone you love, especially around the holiday season.  What I am telling you that for everything there is a season and that’s what God’s word says.

Ecclesiastes 3 suns it up beautifully:

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

I have seen the task that God has given the children of Adam to keep them occupied. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life. It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. I know that everything God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of him. Whatever is, has already been, and whatever will be, already is. However, God seeks justice for the persecuted.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8, 10-15‬ ‭CSB‬‬

The Highest of Highs and the Lowest of Lows

Talk about a flurry of emotions yesterday. This one picture brought back everything from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

The day was Friday October 9, 2015. Early that morning I received a phone call from my friend Ashley. She was delivering the news we all knew but didn’t want to hear. There was nothing more the doctors could do for our friend Gary. His time on earth was drawing to a close.

I couldn’t even get mascara on because every time I started tears would flow. It was difficult to get ready that morning. I had to pick myself up because I had a mission. I had to go find shoes for Amy.

I collected my thoughts and got myself together. Combed every shoe store and department in Spartanburg, until I finally found a pair of shoes Amy agreed to! The funny part is that after 2 1/2 hours of shopping, the shoes didn’t work and we ended up returning them.

Anyway, I left myself time to run by the hospital to see Gary. It was a sad day for all of us! We had all hoped beyond all hope that he would recover.

That evening, Amy was crowned Homecoming Queen. I remember thinking, “Wow, God! Only you could take the blow off my otherwise hard day.”

Now, two years later that picture represents so much more. Truthfully, it was about the time that Ned started to cough. Chances are the lung cancer was already there. We just didn’t know it.

Amy was so eager to get out of her dress that Mom and Ned missed the photo-op with the dress and crown. Graciously, she put the crown back on but wasn’t about to change her clothes. The best part and I didn’t even catch it until yesterday was that she had her “Nitro” shirt on. This shirt was their HHS FCA shirts. Oddly enough, Nitro is the name Terry gave Ned years ago.

The urban dictionary defines Nitro the following way:

Ask: Describes a person, place or thing as being unequivocally, quintessentially spectacular and dumbfounding.

Without a doubt he has lived up to his name. He is very memorable. If you’ve ever met him; you’ll never forget him and he is definitely one of those folks who can leave you leave you astonished and amazed. You never quite know what he will say or what he will do!

I am just reminded by this picture how much can happen in the course of two years. It reminds me to not take things or people for granted. It reminds me that relationships are much more important that things. It also reminds me that even on the darkest of days, there is always light, hope and joy!

 

Steep and Long

Sometimes you just gotta go back home.

I did just that the other day.  I wound up in my hometown of Columbus, NC (more commonly known by the neighboring Tryon, NC).  I went with a purpose.

I went to cancel a venue and reclaim my deposit check due a location change.  Sure, I could’ve called the place holding my deposit and let them know the space was no longer needed.  That would’ve been the easy thing.  However, I’ve learned in life that face to face contact with folks is important.  Therefore, since they were considerate enough to give me leeway to cancel, I felt it was important to do it face to face.

My second purpose was to intentionally go and personally invite a former classmate to our reunion.  I wanted to make sure he knew.  Again, I had an address for him and  easily sent an invitation.  Why the personal invitation?  Why not?  I knew precisely where he worked and it was not out of my way.  Besides, sometimes seeing a familiar face and receiving a more personal invitation makes you know your presence is welcome and wanted.

After taking care of the two main priorities, I decided to go make another appearance in an attempt to reconnect with an old classmate.  The particular classmate lived in our neighborhood and just so happens that his mom still lives in the same house.

But first, I had to drive by my old house.  I do this each time I go to Columbus.  The drive-by.  So much has changed in the neighborhood.  Quite a few more houses.  Our house looks about the same.  The driveway….ah, yes the driveway still long and steep.  I actually had two accidents on that driveway.  One on my shiny, brand new 10 speed bicycle.  The other, in my little 1982 Honda Accord and I wasn’t even in the car.  I failed to get the car over the lip on car port.  Left the car in neutral because I was running in to grab stuff then run back out.  When I got out the car had left its spot, rolled down the driveway and the bumper hit a tree.  Funny part was, the bumper hit in the dead center, so it looked like a big “V” in the back.

Luckily, Ms. Barbara was home.  She didn’t recognize me at first.  I was afraid to ask and maybe I just didn’t want to know.  At any rate, we visited for a while and I learned that my former classmate and friend is doing well which made my heart happy.  I told her we were doing a 30 year class reunion and told her frankly, “I’m sure he won’t come.  I just want to make sure he knows, just in case.”

Why in the world when I usually take a more positive view would I even be somewhat negative?

I knew my friend didn’t have the best experience in high school.  My friend was taunted by others, some who even pretended to be his friend. .  He was made fun of, mainly because he was different.  He was different. He was highly intelligent He was different because when all the rest of us were out having fun, romping around, hanging out, partying.  He was at home.  Not only because he made a choice not to do those things, but also because he was always working.  His dad made him work.  Doing odd jobs around the house was a constant.  Mowing his yard.  He worked while we played and that made him different.  That made him an outcast.

I really hope I get to see my friend one day.  I doubt it will ever be at a class reunion and honestly, I don’t blame him.  I get it.  I saw his hurt.  Although, he tried to pretend it didn’t bother him it did.  Also, as a parent I’ve watching and seen the same thing to happen to a couple of my children. Sad, but true, they’ll probably never go to their high school reunions either.

You see, driving by my old house and looking at the changes are always exciting but some things don’t change, just like that driveway.  Steep and long.  Words can have a powerful effect on folks.  The hurt can be steep and the pain can be long. It’s why we need to choose our words carefully and wisely.  Once spoken they can never be taken back.  “Words can inspire. And words can destroy.  Choose yours well.”  Robin Sharma

My Sweetest Sorrow

Forty-one years ago today was the beginning of my “sweetest sorrow” or “the great sadness”.  I was seven, an innocent child, with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

The cancer diagnosis came when I was one and my dad was thirty.  A mole mom discovered on his back.  They removed the mole and it was malignant Melanoma.  After successfully removing the mole they had to continue cutting around the perimeter.  Finally, after leaving a crater sized hole in my dad’s back, margins were clear.

He was told by doctors at the time if he didn’t have any recurrence for two years, he would be fine.  Close to the end of the two-year period, he had a spot on his leg.  The Melanoma had returned.  This time, however, it had spread.  Chemo would be necessary. So, the arduous process began.

Every month for a week at time, he would travel to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem for treatments.  This continued for approximately four years.  In late February of 1976 while waiting to be checked-in, he told my mom that he couldn’t feel his legs.  Immediately, they rushed him for x-ray.  A large tumor was pressing on his spine.  It was inoperable.  My dad was paralyzed from his waist down.  He knew the end was drawing near and wanted to be closer to home.  The decision was made to transport him to Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville.  This would be his home for the next seven weeks.

We would visit frequently.  My dad had a pull-up bar in his room.  He still had strength in the upper part of his body and could pull himself to an upright position.  We called it his “monkey bar”.

On the evening of April 4, 1976, we went to visit.  Daddy was very weak and didn’t have strength to pull himself up.  He talked and laughed with us like normal but then as we were leaving he asked me to come hold his hand.  He looked at me with his beautiful sky blue eyes and told me how proud he was of me.  He told me how much he loved me and then the very last thing was, “Honey, you’re the oldest and I need you to help your Mama take care of your sister and brother.  Now, you be a good girl and remember I love you.” Then he kissed me.

Here I sit, forty-one years later and it still rips my heart into tiny little pieces.  I was given a task by my dying father that I could not fulfill.  I was far too young to take on responsibility of my younger siblings but at the time, I was determined to try.  I wanted to do what my daddy asked me to do.  I wanted to be his good little girl and I wanted him to be proud of me.

It wasn’t long after he died that I realized that I wasn’t able to live up to the promise I made to him and I began to feel like a failure.  Yes, at seven, I was a failure, a flop, or at least in my mind.   Thus began the compartmentalization of my heart.  I took each hurt and disappointment and tidied it up and put it in a box in my heart.  I shoved and stuffed for as long as I can remember.  In my mind, I yelled and screamed at God asking “Why”?  Why did my daddy have to die?  Why did you not answer my prayer?  Why did you send someone new into mom’s life?  Why?”

At night, I would bury my head under my pillow and cry myself to sleep.  I couldn’t let anyone see my misery, especially not my mom.  It was much easier for me to conceal than to feel.   Because I was hiding my pain, my anger grew.  It was intense and, at times, quite explosive.  In fact, this anger I carried into my relationship with my first husband, my children and even with Terry.  Oh, I had control over it, most days, but when it came out, it was ugly.  (My kids can attest)  The sad thing was I never really understood why I had these horrible explosive outbursts and most of them happened over the most random incidents.

I didn’t understand until I read “The Shack”.  Now, before you tune me out because you don’t agree with the book, hear me out.  As I read the book, it was as if God was taking me back to “my shack”, “my sweetest sorrow” or “the great sadness”.  Just as Mack, in the book, learns how to trust God with his deepest hurt and pain, I had to learn the same thing.  I had to allow myself to feel the grief of my father’s death.  I had to learn to let God help me work through the feelings of worthlessness and failure I felt for not being able to fulfill my dad’s wish.  What I really had to learn was to get over the anger I held in my heart towards God.  This was a pivotal moment.  It was the recognition that my anger towards God for letting my daddy die was the reason I burned so fiercely with anger. I had to let that anger go.  The only way to let it go was to tell God all about it and allow him to begin the healing process.

Remember, I told you in my post, “Binding Wounds”, that most of the time we don’t want the wound to be pulled apart because it hurts too much.  Well, it hurt like hell.  I felt as if my whole entire soul was being ripped apart.  It was.  It needed to be.  I needed to feel the pain of being seven and losing a most beautiful life.  For the first time, I grieved.  I grieved not just the loss of my dad but the loss of my innocence.  Through the grief of “my sweetest sorrow” I began to heal.  I began to be able to feel the anger subside.  Do I still get angry?  Sure, I do.  I just don’t have the feelings of irrational rage.  Most times, I am able, with God’s help, to prevent an outburst before it happens.

For years, this day has been much harder than tomorrow, the day my daddy died.  It was hard because I never wanted to talk about what happened the night before.  I didn’t want to share my deepest hurt because it hurt too much.

My prayer through sharing this story is that it will help you to understand a little more of who I am.  I am wired differently and think differently because of the events that happened in my childhood.  My hope is also that my story will benefit others.

I am here today sharing this story only by the grace of God.

“The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me.  I will protect those who trust in my name.  When they call on me, I will answer.  I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue and honor them.” Psalms 91 14-15