(This blog was previously published, but a couple of the pictures disappeared for some unknown reason, so I had to fix them and republish it. Sorry for any confusion.)
If you’ve read the last few blogs, you’ll know my family recently suffered two great losses:
My granddaughter Rosalee was delivered stillborn on July 13. She was 23 weeks old.
A couple weeks later, my Uncle Kenny died of COVID complications. He was 58 years old.
While I’m convinced some wounds—such as losing a child or grandchild—never fully heal, we can learn to go on. I feel our responsibility to those who have passed on is to try and squeeze as much life out of LIFE as we can!
Or, to put it another way…
We owe a debt to the dead, and that is to keep on living.
The original title for this blog was, “That ‘Live, Laugh & Love’ thing ain’t no joke.” I’m still wrestling with myself about whether or not I should’ve changed the name, but I’ll have to make peace with it and move on.
The reason for the first title came from a conversation I had with my wife, Laura. Since I’m using a lot of pictures for this blog, here is one of the latest shots of the two of us:
Yup, that’s my beautiful lady, right there. We met as teenagers in 1985 and were married in 1987. I wouldn’t want to go through life with anyone else. She’s my heart and soul, and next to God, the most important person in my life.
We were lying in each others’ arms the other night, talking about how rough the last few weeks have been, and I told Laura I felt like the two most crucial aspects in our recovery are God and family. Sure, we crawled into our “emotional caves” for a while after Rosalee passed on, just to hide from the world. But we decided to trudge on, through the sadness and despair. We all returned to work, and slowly made our way back to routine activities, such as going to the movies and eating at restaurants. We’re making an effort to conduct life as normally as possible. Laura, our daughter, daughter-in-law (more on her in a minute) and grandchildren even made the three-hour trip to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to visit the town where “The Pioneer Woman” is filmed.
We’ve chosen to keep living, and I told Laura, “Ya know, that live, laugh and love thing ain’t no joke. That’s what’s gotten us through.” Take, for example, our grandkids.
This is a picture of me with eight-year-old Joshua and three-year-old Jenna-Marie. While we’ve had a couple of moments when they needed consoling in their sadness from losing their cousin, they refuse to LIVE in the tragedy. Kids thrive on affection and adventure, and they’ve kept us searching for the light, as opposed to dwelling in our darkness.
For children—who I liken to flowers—life, love and laughter are their sunshine, soil and water.
Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 17:22, where we find that laughter, or in many biblical translations, “a merry heart,” is like medicine to our spirit. For that verse, though, I prefer the Good News Translation, which says, “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.”
Man, ain’t it the truth?
I chose my day to grieve, and did so, in a big way, which was cathartic. It doesn’t end there, however, as grief is not linear, but cyclical. Put another way, it’s not like a road trip, where you can mark off the travelled miles, moving gradually closer to our destination. It’s not a matter of growing “past” the heartache and then never visiting it again.
Trey said, “The sadness comes in waves,” and he’s right.
So, rather than viewing life as a road trip, think of it like this: when grief makes a house-call, we answer the door, let him in and deal with it the best we can, without succumbing to the debilitating nature of prolonged gloom. We deal with the sadness, but like a crazy uncle who comes to visit but doesn’t know when to leave, we, at one point, usher him to the door and go to bed.
We move on. We choose to live. We choose to laugh. We choose to love.
Then when anguish visits us again, we deal with it.
That’s the best sense I can make of it.
This is a shot of my daughter-in-law, Maria, and my son, Trey, Rosalee’s parents. Now, it would’ve been easy for them to give up on life, and even on each other, but they didn’t.
This picture was taken at a Kansas City Royals baseball game, during a recent, weekend get-away. Sure, the heartache persists, and tears fall easy for all of us, especially Trey and Maria, but we refuse to give up. Going to KC for a two-day sabbatical is a great example of the “live” part of “live, laugh and love.”
It took a while after Rosalee’s passing, but a few weeks ago I heard Maria’s contagious laugh when we were all hanging out in our backyard with Joshy and Jenna. When Laura and I heard that laugh, we looked at each other and smiled.
We knew she was strong, and even through the horror of losing a child, we realized her and Trey were going to be ok.
Care must be taken, though, when we label someone “ok.” Many of us move on, expecting others to do so at the same pace. Yes, we must go on living, but regarding the grieving process of loved ones, it’s vital we keep an open door for their true emotional expression. Just as no two people are alike in how they lament, no two people move on from a traumatic event the same way, or at the same pace.
Another example of choosing to LIVE: Trey and I had a “guy day” when the rest of the family went to Oklahoma, which was filled with Leo DiCaprio movies, Chinese food and heavy metal. Here’s a picture of us that afternoon:
In the midst of all the fun, however, we had some “real talk” about the horror of the past few weeks. I felt it was important for me to let my son know he could ALWAYS talk to me, no matter how he’s feeling.
We all heal in our own time.
Yes, what we experienced was horrific; it ripped our hearts right out. But we’ve stuck with each other. We’ve continued to “live, laugh and love” every day.
And THAT’S what is getting us through.
I know it may feel like your current predicament will crush you, but just keep telling yourself:
“Christ gives me the strength to face anything. (Philippians 4:13 CEV)”
No matter how bad it gets, never be afraid to reach out for help. Just because it seems you dwell in darkness NOW doesn’t mean you will still be living there a year from now.
Remember that. And…
And life will go on.