It’s been 3 months now since we got the news and heard the silence, 3 months since our little Doria died. I thought I’d look back at the first trimester of our new story at some things I’ve learned along the way.
1. It’s hard. There you go. It’s hard. The trouble comes in various ways that I’m learning to live through:
a. Losing focus. I love to read, and that ability is just now coming back. I won’t be where I was for a while yet, but it’s getting better. Apparently, it’s quite normal to lose track of things mentally, which is tough to take when your life revolves around reading. If you can’t read, history is tough. That’s led to periods of frustration, and it’s probably good that we don’t have a dog (metaphorically speaking).
b. Caring. I read right away that it’s easy not to care about work after losing a child. They were right. On the other hand, I have an army of enthusiastic students, and that helps me to care. In the quiet times, it’s real easy to look at a book and say “I just don’t care.” That’s a new experience for me. I can’t say that I like that. I don’t cheer the same for sporting events, either. It’s fun, and I love it, but it’s not the same.
c. Emotional ups and downs. I’m used to living like a robot emotionally. I’m not used to ups and downs. Just this past weekend, we got takeout from KFC. They screwed up my order. Big deal. I could hardly have been angrier. Somehow, that led to a massive bout of “I can’t even have chicken right” and pouring out my heart to (or at) God on the way there. Fried chicken ticked me off. Thankfully, I was much more peaceful when I got there, and the counter guy was smooth. I could have chicken. It’s something.
d. Getting tired. I’m used to 16 or 18 strong hours a day, getting some sleep, and then plowing right through whatever is on my plate. I can’t do that yet. I’ve had a couple of days like that, but not 100 or so like I’m used to by this point in the semester.
2. We’re surrounded. It could be so easy to think that my wife and I are alone in this, but we’re not. I’m surrounded by amazing people. Without Doria’s death, I never would have realized how amazing they are. I think that I would have been OK without knowing, but it’s not changing now. I’ve never seen support and wonderful things from people like this. One example: I’ll never forget checking Facebook after announcing the news, and seeing people that we know on every continent but Antarctica praying for us, and then people that we don’t know on each continent praying for us. That’s amazing, and I don’t think of that everyday. I’ve gotten phone calls, messages, and e-mails from ministry friends in Jamaica that are fantastic. We have a support network that actually does cover the world, and we wouldn’t have realized how powerful that is without this experience. I’d still rather have Doria, but this is awe-inspiring.
3. Pain is real. That doesn’t change. Since Doria isn’t coming back, it won’t. I just get to learn to move along. That said, my pain can help somebody else, and there’s a blessing there. It’s not one that I wanted, but it’s there. I’m in the club now. Might as well redeem that time. That said, those moments where I realize that Doria really isn’t coming back stink. There’s no getting around that. Pain is a big part of the new reality. I’ve said to people before “welcome to the world” when something disappointing happens. Well, me, welcome to the world. Pain is real.
4. Grace is good. I was a fan before. I’m a fan now. In fact, grace is actually Doria’s middle name. She was and is a gift of God’s grace to us. We saw our hearts change, and we like that. We saw that what we knew of grace was good, and what we’re learning of it now is greater. The way that people have poured out to help is astounding. Seeing meals, time off, flexible schedules, hugs, offers, trees, grave markers, all these things that we never considered before really opens the eyes. I always thought that we were good at giving, but now I’m seeing a whole new level of that. The way that I’m seeing more and more that God still cares is wonderful beyond all my words. I always knew it, but experiencing it is great. It’s very reassuring that He doesn’t abandon his people, even though life hurts.
5. We want another child. Neither of us wants this story to stop at the grave. It’ll be awkward explaining that our next child has an older sister, but we both want that. It’s a problem I’m willing to deal with, and so is Becky. We’d like to see the process through, and bring home the prize this time.
6. Life marches on. Nothing changes that. No matter how dramatic the event, life marches on. Doria’s death changed our lives forever, and life marches on. I’ve got a huge day of reading ahead, right after a cemetery visit and grabbing lunch. It’s been a wonderful morning of mourning, and now life marches on. That’s a simple phrase, but it’s staggering in its implications. At some point, things need to be done, and life just keeps marching on. That said, it’s time to get in step this afternoon and do some marching myself.