365 days from now…

IMG_7182It’s that time. Time to stare at a blank page looking for something profound to write about the last year of my life. Some piece of wordsmith that proves the last year of my life was full of meaning and didn’t feel like any other year. I want to write about the amazing steps I have taken to get over the loss. I want to write about all the success I had this last year because of the move to Nashville. I wish that I could write lines and lines of news over how bright the future looks for Maggie and myself. I wish with all that I am that this is what I could tell you.

The last two weeks have been some kind of crazy around here. I sat here at the computer the other night tearing up and then bursting almost uncontrollably into tears, sobbing, searching for the reason. The reasons ran the gamut of the events of the last year of my life and all of sudden it all came to a head. It played out like a bad movie culminating in the sudden recognition that Maggie was finishing first grade and I couldn’t tell you where the last 7 years went.

My heart crashed and felt like it weighed 20 pounds inside my chest. It pushed and struggled, trying to pound while someone was stepping on it. The reaction was completely visceral; it felt primitive and out of control. Everyday since that moment has been spent the same way; I get up in the morning take Maggie to school and drive the two lane road home lost in my thoughts not even looking at the road in front of me. Each time the same thought over and over again, “would this all be the same if she was still here?” Daily I miss her. Daily I think about what would have been. Daily I look for answers on this short ride home. Daily I just can’t understand the plan and when we are going to move to the next part of the plan.

“I have a plan, do you trust me?”

It is a sign written in my heart and this sign has been beat, shot at, weathered by the storm almost unreadable now hanging by only one link in the chain. It squeaks and chirps as the wind sways it back and forth trying to make it fall to the earth. With an unsure future ahead I am still waiting for the plan. Each day get’s harder and harder to smile and be joyful about this life.

Maggie recently found the photo books I made for her for years 1-3. I need to catch up with 4-7, but that is another story. Everyday she takes those books out and pours over the pictures, year one being her favorite. She looks at the first set of pages with Jennifer and she asks questions as she studies each pictures. She tells me how much she misses her. She tells me how beautiful she is. She asks me how much did she love me? Each question hurts so badly. My heart hurts for my loss, but mostly because of her loss. She is beginning to feel the pain of losing her mother and not having that figure in her life. She understands now what she would have had and what she is missing out on. As hard as I try, I will never be her mother and will never fully fill that missing role in her life.

I’m 45 now and before I know it, she will be walking across the stage getting her diploma and I’ll be asking the same question, “Where did the time go?” In 365 days I will be starring at this blank page and I so want to write something different. I don’t want to write about how I miss her every single day. I don’t want to write about not knowing what God’s plan is for Maggie and me. I don’t want to write about my doubts. In 365 days I want to talk about how one year ago everything changed. One year ago, the move to Nashville proved to be the best thing, proved to be God’s plan. One year ago, Maggie started having the best year of her life and she was happy and full of joy. In 365 days when I turn 46 I want to write about the best year ever.

A silent night…

IMG_6855A year has come and gone here in Nashville. We are entering the winter months and the air is beginning to turn cold and crisp. My favorite months and worst months align once again as we enter in to the dark season of my past.

This week has been filled with introspection, retrospection and any other kind “spection” you can think of. I laid in my bed last night and pleaded with God to come sit on the edge of my bed with me and hold my hand and tell me we were going to be okay. Again I pleaded, all night I laid there just wondering why can’t he, why won’t he just come and do that.

Why does there have to be such a separation between us and Heaven? I just want the Holy Spirit to come down, as promised, and fill me with just a little comfort.

Slowly but surly the Christmas decorations are starting to come out. The tree is up and lit and Maggie has decorated her tree in her room. Every day the hurt gets worst, moving towards Christmas. I can’t bring myself to unpack the Santa’s yet, but I know I need to do it and need to keep the tradition going. In fact I hope to buy another Santa to add to the collection from a very nice man at church who carves each one by hand.

This last Sunday I started teaching again and after presenting all the classes I can teach they asked me to teach the class on grief. Ironic doesn’t even begin to describe it. So I have spent the last week reviewing my notes and the memories of everything have been flooding back to me.

Six years ago tonight the waiting room for the ICU was packed with friends and family to say their last goodbyes to Jennifer. But there was one memory that sits with me like an old friend playing chess in the park.

I was sitting outside the hospital trying to breath, trying to make sense of what was happening around me and this cool Ford Falcon came driving up and parked. Out of the garage walks Bubba. Bubba has been my friend forever. Since I was in High School Bubba has always been there for my family and me and on this night there he was again.

As he walked towards me I could see the tears welling up and I couldn’t speak. He sat next to me on the bench and said something only a friend could say, “We don’t have to talk, we can just sit here.” That is exactly what I needed to do, just sit there with Bubba next to me and try to understand and make sense of the next few hours. With out saying a word the two of us get up and head back upstairs to the waiting room. The silence of that moment was perfect. It was a million words of encouragement, sympathy, empathy and support with out uttering a single sound. The comforter showed up in the form of Bubba and did exactly what I needed.

The nights around here are very quiet and they leave me with lots of moments to reflect on the past and that night. Tomorrow at 2:45am it will be six years and I can feel the loss like it was yesterday. I am managing the grief these days but the pain is still very real and still heart breaking.

“Dancing In The Sky”

https://youtu.be/t7sx6SrqNrg

Tell me what does it look like in heaven
Is it peaceful? Is free like they say?
Does the sun shine bright forever
Have your fears and your pain gone away

‘Cause here on earth it feels like everything good is missing since you left
And here on earth everything’s different, there’s an emptiness

Oh-oh, I,
I hope you’re dancing in the sky
I hope you’re singing in the angel’s choir
I hope the angels know what they have
I’ll bet it’s so nice up in heaven since you arrived

So tell me, what do you do up in heaven
Are your days filled with love and light
Is there music? Is there art and invention?
Tell me are you happy? Are you more alive?

‘Cause here on earth it feels like everything good is missing since you left
And here on earth everything’s different, there’s an emptiness

Oh-oh, I,
I hope you’re dancing in the sky
And I hope you’re singing in the angel’s choir
And I hope the angels know what they have
I’ll bet it’s so nice up in heaven since you arrived

I hope you’re dancing in the sky
And I hope you’re singing in the angel’s choir
And I hope the angels know what they have
I’ll bet it’s so nice up in heaven since you arrived
Since you arrived

I will be riding with you…

IMG_424915 years ago I did the most stupid thing I could do.

Let me set the stage. Three days before the wedding, Jennifer and I were on our way to celebrate Shelby’s birthday with the family. Her parents had just flown in and they were going to join us at the party. We left our house in Yorba Linda and drove to the hotel not more then 10 miles away and the car irrupted in anger.

I could not tell you what started the fight, couldn’t tell you what the fight was about but it ended in me being told I was not interested in participating in the wedding, the planning or the over all blah, blah, blah, at that point I just tuned out. That didn’t help.

We turned the last corner to the hotel and just as the front wheels entered the parking lot the words were spoken, “Maybe we should just call it off!” “Maybe we should, “ and just like that the wedding that we spent 6 months planning was now called off.

What was I thinking? I am walking into the hotel to get her parents 3 days before the wedding to drive out for my niece’s birthday party and we just called off the wedding. Nothing awkward about this moment. We both put on the fake smile, which I have never been good at, and set off for Corona. As we walk out to the cars I suggest that she should ride with her parents and she looks at me, burns a hole through my heart with her eyes and sternly talks threw her teeth with her finger pointed at me, “I will be riding with you.”

The silence in the car was deafening as we pulled onto the 91 headed east to Corona. As usual, the freeway that day was a spurned woman and the traffic headed out was stopped as usual and I began to break out into a sweat knowing I was in for the most uncomfortable ride of my life for the next 45 minutes to an hour. We made it one exit and the silence broke like crack of thunder.

Jennifer had a way to make me talk even when I didn’t want to. She reached over and held my hand and we just started talking about the fears we had. We talked about the unknown future and how we waited so long to get married because we wanted to make sure we were ready. We assured ourselves that this was the right thing. We knew we were right for each other, and only each other and as we talked the traffic began to loosen up and move faster. As repaired the damage of the ripped relationship, gently tying the threads back together, the traffic got less and less and we made our way to the waiting party.

Three days away from what would have been our 15th anniversary, I look at that day with joy and sadness. Joy that we could repair and recover from such a horrible fight in 30 minutes, which tells me we were meant for each other, and sadness knowing that we were meant for each other and now I don’t have her.

Not a day goes by that I don’t ask why my life has turned out this way and I guess you can’t help but wonder at times, what if.

What would our marriage be like?

How would Maggie be?

Would be here in Nashville or in California?

Not a day goes by that I don’t ask God why.

Where is my place in this world? Where is it God wants me to be? What lesson am I supposed to learn from all of this? I’m a 44-year-old, unemployed, broke, single dad of a 6 year old. I’m a stranger at my own church, and live a solitary life.

God I understand the lesson. God thank you for showing me what is important in this life. God, please keep satan away so I can catch my breath.

I am Hector…

Baja_SunsetI am Hector

“The basic mistake people make is to think that happiness is the goal!”

― François Lelord, Hector and the Search for Happiness

I will start with this unspeakable truth; we are all looking for happiness. Too my readers who will say to me that they are not looking for happiness and do not seek to be happy, I say liar. You will need to prove to me that this is the case.

As I write this at 1am, I find my mind searching high and low for the last truly happy moment in my life. Not just a conversation, or brief remembrance, but a truly prolonged time in my life where I can point and say I was truly happy.

I was tasked recently by a great friend to watch Hector and the Search for Happiness, once again this friend nailed it. As I sat there watching this wonderful piece of art on my IPad I asked myself over and over again, when was the last time I was truly happy.

So I ask you my readers, what is it that causes happiness? This is no trivial question, I am really asking. Is it joy that brings happiness or is it happiness that brings joy? In the absence of either one can you have the other? When you are the midst of happiness, is it darkened with the ideas that this won’t last? This is a fleeting feeling that will only be here temporarily and will soon depart and I will return to my normal blackened life of pain and misery?

“Happiness. We’re tearing our hair out to try to find a definition of it, for heaven’s sake. Is it joy? People will tell you that it isn’t, that joy is a fleeting emotion, a moment of happiness, which is always welcome, mind you. And then what about pleasure, huh? Oh, yes, that’s easy, everybody knows what that is, but there again it doesn’t last. But is happiness not the sum total of lots of small joys and pleasures, huh?” ― François Lelord, Hector and the Search for Happiness

The entire premise of the story is a man doing “ordinary” life wondering if there is more out there. Is there more that will bring me happiness then this mundane existence of boring routine. Is there a Dali Lama of happiness sitting high atop some Tibetan mountain with the answers in hand, this little happiness god waiting to release the answer to those seeking the truth about happiness. No, there isn’t. He doesn’t exist.

So maybe what I need to do is concentrate on the past, search the nostalgic times in my life when I have been happy. The ex-girlfriend that could have been, the college buddies that spent hours and hours with laughing and living life without a care. Maybe that is where happiness lies for all of us. The problem there is that is the past. A movie that you can watch over and over again that makes you smile for a brief moment, but isn’t where we live. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Happiness altogether is elusive and comes in such strange and unbelievable ways. Maybe happiness is a bunch of little moments that we string together over a lifetime and if we are lucky, maybe we just might be lucky enough to have the happy joyous times out way the sad times and then we can sit back and call our life happy.

“Lesson no. 20: Happiness is a certain way of seeing things.”

― François Lelord, Hector and the Search for Happiness

So to the contrary, some only view happiness in their future. They make plans and devise schemes to find this future happiness only to fall very short. To me this happiness is contrived and not at all real. In my view happiness comes not by some forethought plan, but in what naturally occurs in life.

In every situation in life you can obtain a multitude of views. It is in these views that we see situations as happy, sad, destructive or all of the above in some instances. It is in everyday life we find happiness, as it unfolds. The key is to see it that way. Jennifer died and as tragic as that day was I was happy to be surrounded by people that loved her and me and wrapped us in love. I find happiness in knowing she is home now. She is feeling no pain and because of that I am happy. Our unhappiness shows us the true happiness we have in our life. Without the dark you cannot appreciate the light.

“Lesson no. 5: Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story”

― François Lelord, Hector and the Search for Happiness

Happiness comes when we least expect it. I found happiness a year ago and even today I do know happiness on occasion. Unfortunately that happiness is 964 miles away. The happiness comes in little conversations, movie suggestions and discussions of the best music ever written. It is these little moments that flash the colors of the Aurora Borealis across my mind and bring joy to my life.

François Lelord said it best when he wrote, “Exciting happiness is joy, celebration, travelling, being in bed with a woman you desire”

Or maybe happiness is just sitting on the front porch on a warm summer night watching your little girl chase fireflies around the front yard. What ever happiness is I am ready to find and feel more of it.

I don’t want to see you at all…

IMG_6069Dear God, when will enough be enough. When will the test be over, when will the challenges stop. When do I get peace, when do I get to feel rest and feel your love? What do you want from me? What is it that you have planned for me and when can this pain stop and I see that plan unfolded? I am trying, with much failure, to hold on tight to my faith and to my love for you. All of it seems to be slipping away. Dear God, when will enough be enough.

Tonight I did something so out of my comfort zone it was crazy. I don’t do movies by myself, I usually don’t do dinner by myself and tonight I went to a concert by myself. After searching high and low for some one to go with me I came up short and didn’t want to waste both tickets. I sat there in the crowd, couple after couple came in to the arena, holding hands, laughing and chatting about everything from the kids at home to the soccer games tomorrow.

I reached out to several people to ask if they would like to go to the concert, here is the one response that stuck out to me. I asked an old friend from school if she would like to go, maybe catch up, but just go as friends. The response I got was awesome:

“Michael, I’m not trying to be rude or disrespectful, but I do not want to see you at all.”

Glad she wasn’t trying to be rude or disrespectful. I guess I had unrealistic hopes of reaching out to “friends” from college that live in the Nashville area, just to say hey, how has your life been, whatever. But to receive that message, I really thought, “Wow, I must really be repulsive to this person and several others.” I of course instantly replayed my life and all the contact I have had with this person from college all the way to the present day to try to decipher what I might have done or said that would evoke such a drastic response. As horrible as a person I once was, I could not imagine sending someone this type of message who just wanted to say hi and catch up.

Since moving here in October my life has not been what I expected. Of course the last 5 years I have watched my life from outside my body and it has not been what I expected. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I am not the person I thought I was, maybe people are exactly what I thought they were, but nothing has gone the way I thought it would and I am beginning to seriously doubt my move. I am questioning why God seemingly called me here to have everything that I have invested in torn from my hands and when I can stand no more and fall to my knees to scream from the depths of soul, “Dear God, when is enough going to be enough for you?” Does he enjoy watching people suffer? I think back to that comment my “friend” made, and I can’t help but think God is instilling my punishment now, here and now, I am reaping the sins of my past. I am not getting to wait for judgment day, my sentence starts now and I am living it out everyday.

 The sun goes up and the sun goes down,

but you’re not sure you care.

You live inside the false,

till you recognize the truth.

People send you pictures,

but you can’t believe it’s you.

Seems forever since your house has felt like home 

that’s how you learn to live alone

 It does seem like forever since my life has felt like a home. I sat in the arena the words from her echoing in my head and felt this panic attack coming on. I have to learn to live alone. I have to learn to make my way with Maggie alone. It seems that every time I reach for the hand of God, he pulls it away just as I reach it, like a child’s game you play at recess. I guess the difference is that when I play this with Maggie, I make sure that before we stop playing, she gets to grab my hand so she know when it comes down to it, her Father will always be there to hold out his hand and take hers when times get tough. My Fathers hands seem distant to me, and they are not there to help me.

This was on a friend’s wall today. It really hit home.

Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love. But in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful.

Selfishly I wish I could have just one day back with Jennifer, so I could once again feel true love. I pray for one day with her, to feel her touch on the back of my neck, to laugh together at some inside joke, just to watch her drink a Diet Dr Pepper and eat a piece of wedding cake for her prebreakfast. It is so bittersweet to know she is happy at the feet of God, But to miss her and what we had so badly.

 It’s bittersweet, you see

You’re not here but I can feel you

Every memory is on the tip of my tongue

Close my eyes, see your face

Hold on tight to yesterday

Praying when I wake, it was just a dream

It’s bittersweet

That’s How You Learn To Live Alone

Jonathan Jackson

https://youtu.be/yY8y4tEJz3A

First you fall, then you fly
and you believe that you belong
up in the sky.
Flap your arms, as you run,
every revolution brings you closer to the sun.
You fall asleep in motion, in unchartered
hemispheres,
and you wake up with the stars
fallin’ down around your ears.
And when they hit the ground,
they’re nothin’ but stones
that’s how you learn to live alone.
That’s how you learn to live alone.

Bit by bit, you slip away,
you lose yourself in pieces
by the things that you don’t say.
You’re not here, but you’re still there
The sun goes up and the sun goes down,
but you’re not sure you care.
You live inside the false,
till you recognize the truth.
People send you pictures,
but you can’t believe it’s you.
Seems forever since your house
has felt like home
that’s how you learn to live alone
that’s how you learn to live alone.

It don’t feel right, but it’s not wrong.
It’s just hard to start again this far along.
Brick by brick, the letting go,
as you walk away from everything you know
When you release resistance
and you lean into the wind,
till the roof begins to crumble,
and the rain comes pourin’ in,
And you sit there in the rubble,
till the rubble feels like home
That’s how you learn to live alone
that’s how you learn to live alone
that’s how you learn to live alone

I miss you…

10955217_857264864316823_3096557640693431822_nThis post has been a long time coming, and even now struggle to put into words what I am feeling in my heart. At this point I usually put down the proverbial pen and come back to it, but tonight I am going to push through, dig deep and try to draw out exactly what I am feeling and write it down.

I wrote previously how I thought God used my IPod to speak to me at times, but lately, he has been rather silent in my life. I quietly listen for him to speak, to show me something I am missing, to somehow jar me out of this state I seem to be in as of late. Yet still, silence.

I guess this post comes from the moving to a new state, city and church. People her don’t know me and as I am becoming more and more involved in people’s lives here the inevitable question arises, where is Maggie’s mother or Michael’s wife. I have found myself reliving those last days in the hospital at least once a week since we have moved here. Maybe all the story telling has brought the wound back the surface, or maybe I never finished the stages of grief, either way, I am finding myself surrounded by people yet feeling completely alone her in Nashville.

Maggie has started asking about Jennifer, I wasn’t really ready for that, and is questioning why all the girls in her class have mommies and she doesn’t. That has been a huge part of it as well, I suppose.

Needless to say, the move to Nashville has not produced the perfection I was hopping, in fact quite the opposite. I find myself in a daily struggle to forgive God of the last five years. What it has proved is you can’t run, like Jonah trying to run from God, I can’t run from the last five years. They follow me and haunt me. I see it when I watch Maggie struggling to find peace in her brain over what was done to her. I feel it when I sit her alone having no family relationships left. I feel it when I share the story of how Jennifer was taken from us, all of us, and He allowed it to happen.

The move her was supposed to be a whole new book, but unfortunately, this first chapter is just a review from the last chapters of the last 5 years.

It all came to a head this weekend. My friend posted this on FaceBook and I just felt this wave come over me of sadness, regret and sorrow:
I miss your smile
I miss your face
I miss your eyes
I miss your voice
I miss your love
I miss you.

Curse God and die seems like a way easier route right now. Maybe if I give myself over to satan and give in, maybe just maybe he will leave me and Maggie alone. Each time I think I am doing the right thing, each step where I think God is calling me too, just seems to be deeper and softer quick sand with less and less branches around to pull myself out. At this point I care so little about myself and what God is allowing to happen to me, but I need him to protect Maggie. She is innocent in all of this and I need him to get satan away from her and let her have peace and stillness. I need him to protect her and build a hedge around her, to be a shield about her and he isn’t doing it. He is letting her suffer and that isn’t right, she is innocent.

I miss Jennifer and what we had. I miss what we could have been together, but right now I miss her strength and her ability to tell me we will be okay.

For those reading this, I make personal plea. Pray to your God, the one that listens to you and ask Him to protect Maggie, ask Him to give her some peace as she struggles with the mistakes her father has made.

Lovers last eternally…

IMG_5651Today marks 5 years without her. I woke up at 2:30 this morning, something in my mind told me to wake up and watch the clock turn to 2:45.

2:43…2:44…2:45am

A small tear rolled down my cheek and on to my pillow. At 2:46 I closed my eyes and tried to rest my mind, but images of her and us together flash like lighting round and round. Images of vacations, of sad times, of great times. How she looked on our wedding day, getting the finger from her followed by a light kiss on my cheek. visions of us with Josh and Leah laughing and crying together. Diet Dr Pepper cans and red vines being chased by peeps. Times with Brady and Dani at kids camp picking wild berries.

At 3:00am I was exhausted from the barrage of memories that flew by. Five years later and it still so hard to think about what happened, five years later and it is so hard to forgive God for taking her from us. Five years later and I am still mad at God for taking her. Five years later and our baby girl still has no mommy to bake with on Christmas. She died so young and had so much more to do and give to people.

Maggie has started to ask about her, ask about her mommy and why I’m not married. She realizes that her life is different for the other kids around her. I’m not ready for that talk yet, but I know it is coming sooner than I want it to.

If I didn’t live this life no one would even believe it. It is a fantastic journey of highs and lows. A journey of searching for real answers and understanding. The thing I know is that lovers last eternally.

I have written about Little Big Town before, but I went and heard them live recently and they played a song that stop everything for me. Live Forever.

“Live Forever”

You roll through life like a rolling fire
I bring the rain like a thunderstorm
Yeah, we found peace on the battlefield
It all makes sense in love and war
It all makes sense in love and war

[Chorus:]
You and me, wild as a willow in a hurricane,
strong enough to stand in the stormy weather
We might be, crazy enough to make history,
’cause the world just ain’t the same since we got together
And if we don’t die young, we might just live forever

There are Kings and Queens upon their thrones,
that have a love like you and me
Kingdoms rise and Kingdoms fall,
but lovers last eternally
Lovers last eternally

[Chorus]

They might sing us in a song,
or write our names up in the sky
Even when it’s carved in stone,
a love like ours goes on and on
A love like ours goes on and on

[Chorus]

You roll through life like a rolling fire
I bring the rain like a thunderstorm

Together with Jennifer I was strong enough to stand against any weather that came our way. With her we were and unstoppable force. without her I am having trouble standing, trouble really moving forward and getting my faith and love for God back. In the last five years so much has happened that continually shakes my faith in what I know deep down to be right.

Today I woke up to watch a clock remind me of when she died, A Love Like Ours Goes On and On.