3am…

I don’t want to be awake right now.

Steroids do funny things. I’m on Day 4, & I know they’re doing what they need to do, but I’m tired…but jumpy…and honestly, emotional.

Her birthday is this week….it’s Tuesday. If you ask me specifically why it hits me differently every year, I couldn’t tell you. Everything was running along smoothly, except for, same as last year, when I realized that life was running along so quickly that I wouldn’t have time this week to take that “pause” to honor her….to reflect on her life….and I hate that.

I had to say the words last night out loud, “Hey, I get this. We need this. She was real, she was a person, and she is part of who we are, so even in this crazy, busy week, we make time.”

I don’t know how that is going to happen, but it IS going to happen.

We move along in life so quickly….we have our routines and schedules. We don’t take time to sit and reflect, so it feels unnatural, but it needs to be done. Pain and sadness need to be recognized, so they can be processed….so that they don’t get buried….because we all know they don’t STAY buried.

For me, if I don’t take this time now, these feelings and frustrations will manifest themselves in a couple of ways. I’ll cry or fly off of the handle about something innocuous. I’ll sulk or withdraw. I won’t sleep. I will carry around unnecessary guilt and shame. I’ll get sick. My family will suffer, & it will all be fallout from my failure to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Stop. Breathe. Remember.”

My daughter…my beautiful winter butterfly…would be 12 years old this week. We’d be going through “the change” that all of the women in my family went thru at 12, and OMG HOW WOULD WE DEAL?!?!? I imagine we’d be having arguments about social media & boys, & junior-high drama…there would be the introduction to makeup, or maybe a CCW class with Auntie, & Lord knows what else. We’d be starting the conversation about college, and I would be internally freaking out about how much information about LIFE, & HOW do parents maintain that balance? I think my Hannah & I would have a good relationship, & that I would be finding myself on my knees more than ever before as we enter the last year before TEENAGERDOME. 🙂

My little girl passed away before too much of her personality could be established, but there are some things I know for certain: She loved music. She loved songs with soul & excitement. 🙂 She smelled like Cheerios, & she knew her Daddy’s voice. She was a happy baby, which is amazing, considering the duress by which she came into the world…

And she made me into someone I’ve wanted to be, for as long as I can remember: She made me a Mom.

I will always, always be grateful to God for blessing us with her. I will always be grateful for our 29 days on this earth together, & I have absolutely no regrets. We had a gift that changed the course of our lives, our marriage, & our faith, & we are eternally impacted by 29 days with the most precious princess this world has ever seen.

I love that our journey with Hannah isn’t over. I love knowing that because of Jesus, it’s only on “pause,” until we are together in eternity. I love that He gives us that level of hope, and that He takes our despair & turns it into a beautiful anticipation of what is to come….

Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. You’ve made my world more amazing and beautiful, just because I had the chance to call you mine.

3am isn’t so bad, after all.

A Time To Mourn…AKA, “Speaking Christianese Never Made A Heart Heal Faster”

You can’t slap a Bible-verse Band-Aid over a severed limb and expect the bleeding to stop.
Healing is a PROCESS–it’s not instantaneous, and it isn’t pretty. Sometimes, we have to take in the full extent of the injury or the loss before healing can even begin. Things take time to process..realizations and understandings come in phases, and we don’t get it all at once, therefore, we can’t process it all at once.
The thing about Jesus, though, is that He meets us where we are in the process. Day by day, hour by hour, He meets us, and He welcomes our honesty. We don’t have to put a smile on our faces and fake it with Him; it’s useless, anyways. No one knows us better, so why do we try to act like we’re fine? There is no weakness in the truth.
Things happen in our lives that reshape every perspective or opinion that we’ve held, but our foundation remains the same. Jesus doesn’t change. His Word says there is “a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” It doesn’t mean that we speed through one to get to the other…it means there is a TIME for each process. It doesn’t mean we avoid one and focus on the other; it means that we endure one and we know we have a hope for the other.
Autumn is always a sensitive time of the year for me. It’s not a time of falling back into those initial days of the heaviest of grieving processes, but it is a time of respecting that you know what? Certain days are going to affect me more than others.  I’ve had a few conversations lately that have reminded me that grief, for any reason, is grief, and it has a process that must be respected.  I’m reminded of a conversation that I’ve referenced  before, but I feel like I need to go back to it:
Around 2 weeks after my daughter passed away, David & I finally made our way back into church. While there, I was having a noticeably difficult time (I suck at trying not to cry), and I went to sit in the lobby. A prominent woman in the church came up to me and hugged me, and said, “Are you better, now?”
I nearly slapped her.
I don’t remember what I said back to her, but the conversation has stuck in my brain as indicative of how Christians handle the process of grieving.
We. Are. Terrible. At. Grief.
It makes sense. I mean, c’mon, every worship song we sing focuses on joy and peace and happiness and glory and awesome and blahblahblahblabityblah. It’s all true. We serve an amazing, glorious, fantastic Lord Who loves us, so what’s not to celebrate?
We have this extremely arrogant tendency to coat our sorrows in Bible Verses, like the paper they’re printed on is going to magically paper-mache a lead balloon and make it float.
You can throw Bible verses at someone all day long, and yes–there IS life in the Word. However, read the room–don’t throw Scripture at a starving man. Feed him first, then tell him about Jesus. Acknowledge the broken heart (yours or someone else’s) with compassion and empathy, not with counter-attacks and guilt-inducing Christianese.
We’re so programmed to put on that joy that we forget that true joy is there, in the grieving process itself. We don’t have to bypass grief to hang onto joy. Joy is there, in the darkest of times, providing the guiding line to lead us out of the cave of heaviness and depression. Joy doesn’t always mean that we smile and dance…joy sometimes means that we lean into the comfort of our Savior, and that we know He is PRESENT in all things.
In the darkest days of my life, I can look back and see that silver thread of joy that is woven through the tapestry. I can see it through the rage; I can see it through the tears. I can see it becoming ever brighter as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and I can see it with me even now as I deal with personal battles. Joy is not always expressed as laughter. Joy is sometimes a gentle strength that shows up as an anchor in the waves that want to drown you.
The Fruits of the Spirit (I’ve always thought of that as a funny way to word those characteristics. And now the song is in my head. GAH!!) work together in our lives in many, many ways, but in times of grief or crisis, they really shine the brightest if we let them. The love of Jesus pours over us, capturing every tear we cry. His joy stands firm in the face of sadness that wants to encompass us. His Peace–peace is so, so hard to come by in a crisis, but it’s there. Sometimes it comes when you’ve cried your last tear, and you’re exhausted and can do nothing but sleep. Sometimes it comes when you look at someone’s face that you know understands you, and you see their expression and that they “get you.” Their compassion and empathy give you the peace of understanding without words–that’s huge.
His patience–He is patient with our grieving process, and He gives us permission to take our time. He is kind–Jesus doesn’t get angry with us for being sad or broken. He’s good–He wants us to bring our pain to Him, and He loves our faith. He loves that we believe in Him enough to bring Him our burdens…
He is gentle…He doesn’t rush in to distract us from dealing with our crises, but He loves us like a Father.
The world takes us from drama to drama at an alarming pace. We stay in permanent crisis mode, or in a permanently-hyper-emotional state. The church tries to tell us we should focus on being frenetically joyful all the time, while the world tells us we should be in full-blown Jersey-Shore Drama Mode all of the time (I’ve never actually seen the show, but I don’t think I have to).
Life is somewhere in the middle.
The shortest verse in the Bible acknowledges that Jesus Himself cried when His friend died, even though He knew He was about to raise His friend back to life again. He still grieved, even though He had that hope and that expectation. Why?
Because He was fully God, but also fully Man, and He felt the grief and the loss, even in the eyes of Hope.
We are allowed to weep for a time (“How long?” I don’t know. Ask the person who’s had their arm cut off, how long it takes to get used to not having an arm…to using a prosthesis….to having phantom nerve pains, or physical therapy, or re-learning how to tie their shoes. That’s how long.).
We are allowed our time to mourn (“How deeply?” I don’t know. Hobart Vann once said to me that I would know I was through the healing process of losing my daughter when I could talk about it without crying. That took a while, and it took me a while to understand what he meant and why that was so important. You have to be able to tell the story and point it back to the love of Jesus. It might seem impossible, at first, but it can be done, and when you can do it and you mean it wholeheartedly, you can do it with joy. That takes a while).
And one day…maybe nearer or farther away than we can comprehend…we will see our way back to our time to dance.