Thursday, August 29, 2013

My heart is absolutely shattered....

..... for my friend, Jo Flowers Denny.

 [This is Jo in Israel - taken from her personal Facebook page]

Jo and I met in Israel. 
She was with her parents; I was with mine, my brother and sister-in-law, and husband.  It was a trip of a lifetime and for us - an early inheritance present from my mom and dad at Christmas time.  We embarked on this trip last March (March 2013) and being that Jo, myself, Tyler, Molli, and Jimmy were the only young people on this 14-day excursion to visit every part of the Holy Lands, we stuck together in a pack.

Since coming home from Israel last March, Jo and I have kept in contact through Facebook and she has even purchased some items from my seasonal "Talia's Closet Sale."  In one of the seasonal purchase, we did write each other back and forth concerning the fact that if we lived closer, we both knew we would be good friends.  Our husbands had things in common - motorcycle riding, farming, working with their hands - and she and I could shop our lives away and laugh telling old stories.  There was just that understanding that the relationship could be more, only if our lives were different.

Do we talk on the phone?  No.  I don't have her phone number.
Do we communicate much through email?  No, I don't know her email.
Do we send each other cards in the mail, or letters back and forth?  No, I don't know her address either.
So to many reading, you may wonder, "How do you call her friend, then?" 

There's an unspoken understanding, a knowing between real Christians.  When you are around someone 1) you like, but 2) you understand that connection that you have with the Lord - the same Lord to each individual - it brings a relationship of any kind to a new level.  

I don't need to know what she does on a daily basis to call her "friend."  
I don't need to know all the ins and outs of her marriage.
I don't need to even keep up with her on a monthly basis to see what all activities she has gotten herself into.
 There is just that unspoken understanding and it has always been very strong with her.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and walked into the kitchen to find my husband, Jimmy, reading the paper at the kitchen table.  
Jimmy looked at me and said, "I have some bad news."  Immediately I thought, "Oh man, did he get fired?  Is the clinic shutting down?  Is there something wrong with Molli [my sister-in-law who has had some problems during her pregnancy]?  Is something wrong with our parents, niece, nephew?  What could it be?"

He relayed that my brother, Tyler, had written a group text to our family and it said:
"Jo Flowers Denny, the girl we met on our Israel trip with her parents - her husband was killed in a motorcycle accident yesterday."

My heart sank.  
Hearing that felt like I had been punched in the stomach and knocked to the ground.
I just couldn't believe it....still can't.
I started to think back to her posts on Facebook about their together activities - riding the motorcycle - and I immediately asked Jimmy if she was with him.  After I really broke down and started to cry, I asked him how long it would take to get to Wedowee, Alabama where she resides.  10 hours and 34 minutes from our house.

As we made breakfast together, I couldn't help but feel so guilty.  
 I cried while eating my Cheerios, but looking at Jimmy who had tears in his eyes too. 
I couldn't even imagine what she must be going through.  
Here I sit with my husband - who I would take a bullet for - and she is making funeral arrangements for hers.  He will go off to work today and I plan to see him tonight around 10:00pm when he walks through the door.  We have inside jokes to still laugh about and when I look at him, I see love for miles; love for the Lord, love for me, love for our life together.  I see a future forever and we're only at just the beginning.  She doesn't get to live that kind of life anymore.  As you continue to read, you may be saying, "This is so odd that you feel this way, you don't really know her."  No, I don't, but what I do know is this....

She loved her husband with all of her heart.  She said it in her numerous Facebook posts and you could see it written all over her pictures.  Even being around her for 14 days on the trip (he could not get the time off work to go) I could see that she was aching for him to be there alongside her, taking in the amazing sights and history.  These days, you can just tell when someone is genuine.  When they're posting something about the love of their life and looking at the photo.  Does it say anything?  Does the love that's talked about meet their eyes?  Can you tell just by looking at the photo that they are so perfect for one another, or does it seem off? 
You can just tell.

When I looked at her, or we exchanged messages or comments back and forth via Facebook, I could just tell she was head-over-heels-willing-to-give-her-own-life for her husband.  She loved Patrick like there was no tomorrow.
He was the "H" in her heart and the "L" in her love.  They completed each other.

[Wedding photos taken from Jo's Personal Facebook.]

See, for months I have been physically battled [in my mind and body] with the fear of losing Jimmy.  
At first, it started out in dreams, and then it went to the feelings of separation when I was running, worried I would come home to a phone call that something had happened while he was on the farm tractor, or that he rolled the lawnmower over on himself while mowing our back hill.  Many nights, I have literally jumped out of bed in a cold sweat from a dream that Jimmy had died and I was living in our house all alone.  They were real.  They were vivid.  They are etched in my memory and heart, and along with their etching, the raw feelings come right alongside them. 

I have felt the hit, realized the fear, and hurt with the heartache that seems to never end. 
Yes, Jimmy is still with me, but I know...I know....I know what it would be like to lose him - I have physically felt it and it was so real -  and hope I never would have to feel that pain and reality. 

When Jimmy read me that text, yesterday and still today, I have been feeling the feelings I know Jo is reciprocating. What it would feel like to live in a marital home, alone?  What it would feel like in the evenings when you've been somewhere surrounded with people, and then you have to go home?  What would that drive home be like?  Or, the overwhelming sadness when you pulled into your driveway knowing you're walking into an empty home that you once shared?  What would that be like?  Last night, I sat in the driveway and physically felt what it would feel like to walk into an empty, dark home that you once created memories in and laughed with the one God had truly created just for you.  What it would feel like to rejoice in an activity, or something good happening in your life, and then be reminded that your husband isn't there to hear the good news?  To realize that the dream of having a family together is gone.  To realize that your life as you knew it, all the plans you had for the two of you in the future, are diminished.  To realize that your true soulmate...the one that you were made no longer living on this earth, but you're left here.  
How would you deal with the overwhelming pain?

Those are all the feelings she's feeling today as she buries her husband, Patrick. 

[Photos from Jo's personal Facebook page]

Today, here is her Facebook post.

The last 39.5 hours have been the worst and most trying time of my life. I have a lot of questions and a lot of insecurities at this present time. To bury the love of your life at the age of 24 is not a task i was planning to do. I was not expecting to do this for at least another 50 years. I thank God He gave me 5.5 years with Patrick. They have truly been the best years of my life. I can't imagine going on with out him, I'm just trying to understand why this has happened. Please keep me and our family in your prayers as we will bury him today. I'm not expecting it to be easy but I know the only way I can make it is to have people praying. Thank you in advance.

I sit here bawling so loudly that I can't even type another word.  
So loudly, that I just know the neighbors are going to come knocking at the door, wondering what is going on and if they can help, but they can't in a situation like this.  A situation you wish was never experienced by anyone.  A situation that is so hurtful and upsetting that it makes [one not even dealing with it, personally] you physically want to vomit.  

To me, the hurt for her is so, so real.  
The feelings, the unknown, the devastation, it is so real to me that I can't seem to get a grip on anything else.  
The hurt is overwhelming and the void in my own heart is so great. 

Many wonder, "Why do terrible things happen to good people?"  
I don't know and will never understand, but as I got into my car after an amazing church service last night, I said "God, why?  How can I help?  What could I say?  Should I go there tonight to be there for her?  Should I drive all night long, or make a trip in a few months when life has somewhat settled?  I am so stirred with what to do?  How can I help?"  His answer was this song.

Restore by Chris August.

This song is really about divorce and restoring relationships, but the lyrics that came on the radio when I needed an answer the most, was this:
I know you're feeling like it's falling apart and you can't go on anymore, but God is a God that knows how to heal, and just give it up to the Lord and he will restore.

Oh, how true that is.  
He is the only restorer and that knowing lifts some of the burden I carry for Jo.  
The knowing that she is a strong Christian, and that she comes from a loving, strong, Christian family.  The knowing that He is there in the dead of the night, in the raging storm, in the hurt of the healing process.  He will restore.  In my past when I was at my absolute rock bottom, He restored me when I didn't think there was anything left of me to restore.  He made me whole.  He made me well.  He healed me to completion and beyond, but it wasn't overnight.

Jo, He'll do that same thing for you.  Even when you don't believe it, or want it, He will be right by your side.  I pray He gives you the hug today that I can't.  I pray that He shows himself faithful and provides you strength when you're seeing the continual line of those who came to pay their respects.   That you have the courage to withstand the hurt and realization of Patrick's void, but that He holds your hand the whole way.  He is your rock, just as Patrick was your rock.  He always has been and he always will be.  Patrick is in heaven right now with the Lord and the two of them right now are working together to try to knit your heart back together.   He (God) will be the only one to get you through this.  He will be the only one to understand your feelings and the overwhelming cloud of hurt surrounding you.  But, in the end of all of this mess, he'll make you a living miracle.  He's in the business of turning messes into miracles and I cannot wait to see how he uses you through this terrible, unbelievable personal tragedy.

Forever, I will always remember you and Patrick - your forever husband - like this.

In a situation like this, a "Call to Pray" is all I can think to ask of myself or anyone else.

In a situation like this, I stand back asking myself, "God, what if that were me?  How would I react, how would I feel?  Currently, my heart is broken for her, it is shattered.  She has to feel she has been punched in the gut and like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, even when knowing there is.  She's got to feel the uncertainty of tomorrow and the hurt of knowing it won't be what she had planned...dreamed.  She's feeling the "Where do I go from here, God?  How will I get past this when I can't even see past my current situation as it is so overwhelmingly hurtful?"  There is no way anyone can ever feel what someone else is experiencing when they have lost a loved one, and it is futile to pretend that we can. 

There was a lady in our church that lost her husband a few years ago and, honestly, when this was happening, I couldn't fathom.  She and he had been married for a long time [20+ years or more] and he died from a massive heart attack that came out of nowhere.  Truly, I didn't even begin to fathom what that would be like and selfishly just thought "Man, I am glad that is not me, but I will pray for her."

I feel I have been given this overwhelming burden for Jo because I was so insensitive in the past concerning a situation all the same, the loss of a loved one.   Now, I am ashamed to think of all the tragedies endured by others, but were not physically felt by me, because I was selfish and just didn't want to go there....didn't want to even try to feel what that would be like.

After receiving a nasty comment upon first publishing this post, I sat back and thought about what they said.  Had I made this posting all about me?  Should this be something talked about in private and not on the Internet?  Is this any different than a Facebook posting, or a "Please pray for my friend" tweet?  Am I driving attention to myself, or are my intentions black and white?  I was afraid they weren't so I started to ask myself, "Why did you want this to be a blog post and not a letter you sent to Jo in the mail?  Did you want to receive attention from it, or was it to gain attention for your friend who is hurting and needs all the prayer warriors out there?"
What was your original intention of "Why?"

I feel deeply.  After reading this posting - and any others for that matter - any reader will be able to see that feeling is a forte' of mine.  I am a no-nonsense, no-secrets kind of person.  I am a story teller, a feeler, a real person with real struggles.  I am outward and open, not closed in and dark.  I want to remember where I was [when] and be able to look back on it.  I want it to be a record of remembrance for praise to my Lord and Savior, or for a reflection truly needed.  I want it to be a reminder of the day I was slapped in the face with how selfish I was toward others in their past struggles and a reminder of how real it was when I put myself in another person's shoes. This sums up my reasoning in making my  raw feelings and convictions, public.

When we really think about it, the statement "It could always be worse" comes to mind first.  We think our lives are bad, or they're not going the way we want them to, that we're dealing with this or that struggle, and we feel overwhelmed and beat down.
Today, I'm reminded of "what if."

What if you were Patrick's mother?
What if you were his father?
What if you were his sister, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, best friend, and the list goes on?

What if you were Jo's mother, her father, her sister, brother, best friend, college roommate, coworker?  How would you feel?  By putting yourself in the shoes of another - truly doing so - you're able to reach a level of understanding not realized if you were wallowing in your own selfishness.  I am preaching to myself.

In a situation such as this, all I ask of any reader is to pray.  Pray like you never have before for Jo and others who have lost loved ones.  Put yourself in their shoes [even for a minute] and feel the feelings, raw and real.  Jo, herself, asked for prayer herself in her Facebook posting this morning:
Please keep me and our family in your prayers as we will bury him today. I'm not expecting it to be easy but I know the only way I can make it is to have people praying.

Prayer and making it not about you - but about her -  is the only way she'll feel your presence in this tragic time.  It is not about me and if you feel that way, still, after reading this posting, I'm sorry.  Let's wake up, realize the world isn't revolving around us, and look to the only one who can heal the hurt and pain that others are going through.

Today, I plead the call to pray once more.  I plead for you to take a few minutes out of your own busy schedule, put yourself in the shoes of another, and give grace where grace is deserved, and prayer where plenty is needed.  I pray God continues to show me the pain of others personally so that I may see with Jesus' eyes, feel with Jesus' love and compassion and not be the person that just passes by when others are in pain.