Saturday, August 7, 2010


Photo by Grant Merritt

My son Michael just returned from his second trip to Haiti. Last summer, he, his bandmates from Chasing Canaan, and several other people went to Les Cayes to help the Bighouse orphanage there, as part of the First United Methodist Church of Shreveport's Haiti Initiative. Les Cayes is about five hours away from Port Au Prince. At that time, they held vacation bible school, built cubbyholes and desks, fixed some beds, got the well fixed, took all the kids for blood tests (zero of the 80 or so orphans were HIV positive, which was great!), and loved on the kids. When they returned home, largely under the leadership of Britney Winn, the church started a sponsorship program, which provides daily meals to the kids and continued doctor visits. In the year since, teams have returned several times, and have built latrines, a dining pavilion, a playground, and other things needed for the kids. Britney Winn was hired by FUMC Shreveport to be their Haiti missionary, and was in Les Cayes in January when the earthquake happened.

Britney started blogging, partly as a way to update the sponsors, back in October. She is so eloquent about her visits to Haiti since then, that I think it's best to just refer you to her blog, .  This year the team put up videos at .  Last year's videos are at .  The blog and the videos help me understand why my 22 year old son has gone, and will continue to go back, and put me at peace about any dangers he might encounter there.  I'm glad he went, and I'm glad he's back safely in Shreveport.

I was able to go out to DFW Airport on what was supposed to be Michael's layover there last night, and brought him a burrito from his favorite restaurant, Chipotle, which they don't have in Shreveport.  I really enjoyed his stories about Vacation Bible School  and other experiences there, and it was good to give him a hug before he left again.  The Dallas area had some bad weather last night, and his flight was cancelled, so he and the team rented vans and drove back to Shreveport, and to a different world than the one they just left.

Friday, July 30, 2010


I’ve been divorced ten and a half months now. In the time since the divorce was final, I finished a Rebuilding support group and went through a DivorceCare group. I have come a long way toward healing and accepting my single state, and am ready to rebuild in new ways.

My ex-husband told the family about his girlfriend in June, and that set me back a little, but also set me free in some ways. He’s moved on, and I am finally all right with the idea that I can move on, too.

One of the decisions I made about five months after the divorce was to start visiting other churches. A little more than 20 years ago, my ex-husband no longer wanted to be in a church I loved. At the time, I thought it best to keep the family attending church together, adjusted, and became active in a Methodist church. We raised our children there, and they benefited from it. As a single person, though, with grown children, I decided to go back to my roots and look for a charismatic church. I have taken a break from the church choir I belonged to, which sings at traditional services, and have been attending contemporary services at my church. I’ve also been visiting other places, and may have found one that is a good fit.

A few weeks ago, I found a church with a big program for single people age 30 and up. A good number of these are baby boomers, like me, both male and female. We go to a Saturday afternoon service, then to a church school class, and then out to eat as a large group. I have been pleased to discover that I am not the shy, socially awkward person I used to be. I’ve spent years working in a job where I call strangers on the phone and make conversation, and it’s transformed me into a person that can talk to almost anyone. I’ve learned that the secret to being a good conversationalist is being a good listener. I also realize I’m an interesting person with a bit of wisdom, compassion, and depth. At this time, going out in a mixed group of singles and getting to know people is exactly enough for me.

I struggle enough financially that I’ve decided to clear out a bedroom and look for a housemate. I really enjoy my solitude, but want to stay ahead of debt that has grown lately. I’ve had to use credit cards on some unexpected bills, and want to pay them off, not add to them. I’m hoping I figure that out before long.

I decided to try to save some money this year by starting a vegetable garden and planting some fruit bushes and trees. This is my first year gardening in Texas, and I’m sure I’ve spent more on building the gardens than I’ve reaped in produce. I do think in future years I’ll get better at this. I’m expecting it to take a while for the blackberry bushes, pear tree, and fig tree to produce fruit. I’ve harvested some tomatoes, salad greens, and beans fresh from the garden. Last night, I had my first taste of a home-grown cantaloupe. In Texas a lot of gardeners plant a spring garden, don’t get much during the summer, and plant again in the fall. I’ll figure out what to plant for the fall before long. We are still having scorching days.

Another goal is to find my musical voice again. I haven’t written a song for over three years. Now and then, I play some songs, but I haven’t had the drive or desire to really pursue music for a while. I expect it to come back. I’ve bought some things needed to record my songs, and I hoped it would motivate me. But I still need to figure out the hardware and software, and need to find a piano player when I am ready to record.

I do have a creative outlet that I’ve been enjoying. I go over to the park near my house quite often, just as the sun is setting. I’ve been taking pictures and sharing them, mostly on Facebook. I’ve developed an eye for a good picture, and have a certain peace and gratitude about being out under the sky when it’s putting on its nightly show. And this is one thing I’ve realized. A sky with no clouds doesn’t produce much of a sunset. The most interesting skies have clouds in them. I think with people too, some of the cloudy times produce some beautiful colors and shapes in an inner life. I know I’m a deeper person as a result of my struggles.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The End of a Marriage

(Ten months after this post was written, I’m modifying it a bit.)
It's been a busy three months this time since my last update. Two days ago, my 32 year marriage came to its legal end, at 9:35 a.m. We'd been living separately since he first filed for divorce, 2 1/2 years ago, so I've had a lot of time for growth, adjustment, and understanding. It's hard, though, to lose such a huge part of my identity, to say "ex-husband" instead of "husband", "divorced" instead of "married." It's early Saturday morning, and I've had thoughts running through my head about this for much of the night. I've also been sick this week, and some of the prescriptions that help my bronchitis and asthma keep me awake. I'm hoping to go back to sleep after writing a little.

I do think being a bereaved child and having a long way to go in healing when I was in college affected a lot of things, including who I was attracted to, and who I attracted. I was a wounded person who felt most comfortable with others who could understand what it was like to be damaged by life. My ex-husband has a lot of wonderful talents and good qualities, but came from a childhood full of his illnesses, his father's alcoholism, and tirades by his mother at times about how worthless men were. We met in my church, after he'd just become a Christian. He told me later that he felt like he was rescuing me, and I think I felt that about him too. It's not a good way to start a marriage. He had a list inside his head of things he would like me to change. I had a lot of things I needed to change, too, self-esteem, confidence, overcoming shyness, but he wanted a different woman than I knew how to be. Motherless children often have no example of how to be a healthy female, and we try to figure it out in our own way.

We did help to heal each other, and kept growing, but a lot of my changes were a blossoming into the person I should have been, and they were in ways that didn't fit well as well with him. I'm a social worker, and have become more liberal in politics. He's a staunch Republican. I'm empathetic, he's logical. I'm an extrovert, he's definitely an introvert. When I found a place that felt safe and comfortable, a church or a community, I didn't want to leave. I wanted roots, he wanted adventure. I've learned to be assertive about things that need to be fixed. He avoided conflict. Unfortunately, I grew in one way that he could not accept. I have had a lifelong battle with my weight, and gained weight after our children were born. I’ve had successes in taking it off followed by gaining it all back plus more. My former husband felt like my weight gain was a personal betrayal. An effort didn't count to him if I gained it back. I've had men tell me they loved their wives throughout their marriage, and big or small, they were still attracted to them. That was not the story of my marriage. I’ve known for years that he hasn’t thought me small enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, or optimistic enough. And I haven’t heard the words “I love you” for many years.
At the beginning of our separation, I asked if there was another woman, and he said no, but he hoped to find one. If he has, I don't know about it. He's been an honorable man, even in his unhappiness with me.

I do have a lot of things I'm thankful for in my marriage. Even though my ex-husband told me long years ago that he wanted to leave, he didn't want to leave me or our kids in financial trouble. Brian always worked hard to provide for the family, and made many sacrifices. Once we had kids, he always worked full-time, often went to school, and did music jobs. He had to let go of some of his dreams. Brian stayed with me through years of being home with the kids, grad school, and while I was establishing my career. He's been my friend for 35 years, and was fair in our divorce. And we did raise three wonderful young adult sons.

When all of this started, I told one of our ministers "I've failed." She said back to me, "You didn't fail, the marriage failed." That helped. I've realized over the years that you can't make someone else happy, and you can't make someone love you, even as much as you want to. People have to find those things inside themselves that fulfill them. Even with my challenges in life, I do have a peace about who I am, and a basic sense of satisfaction about who I've become over the years. I really like myself, and that will help me get through. There was a time I didn't appreciate myself as much as I do now, and was willing to give up parts of myself to try to make someone else happy. If I ever marry again, I want to find someone who likes who I am right now. I'm worth a husband that would accept me and love me in a way I haven't been, for a long time.

I've gone through a multitude of emotions over the last few years. One was fear of how I would survive on my paycheck. I wanted to keep the house, which gives my college aged children a place they can call home. Since the first filing for divorce, we've used some retirement money to pay down the mortgage, and I am getting enough of his retirement in the settlement that I can cash it out and pay down the rest. Having confidence that I will be able to pay my bills helps a lot. He lives in a duplex we owned together, so we each get a piece of property.
I've been in several divorce recovery support groups. Two have been based on my favorite book about adjusting to divorce, "Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends" by Dr. Bruce Fisher and Dr. Robert Alberti. I highly recommend that book, and the workbook that goes with it. There's a website of many places nationwide that use the book in divorce recovery, at . Another thing I found very helpful was going to a Beginning Experience weekend. Information is at .  For people who would be fine with a biblically based curriculum (I am one), information about the DivorceCare program can be found at

Someone said to me the other day that this is a new beginning, a blank slate on which I can begin the story of the rest of my life. I do believe that. Another person wrote, after I told her I was divorced, "Congratulations! and my deepest sympathies, both. I really believe your life is about to just blossom in ways you never imagined!" I do think that's true. I've grown a lot over my lifetime, and keep growing. And it the midst of it all, I find every experience I go through teaches me something I can use to help others. Life will be different, but it will be good.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Caring for the Caregiver

I haven't posted for a while, and wanted to write an update. My last post was in early April. That was a difficult month. My dog had two surgeries, a week apart, for bladder stones, some of which had gone into the urethra. He's doing fine now, but there was a lot of stress and some interrupted sleep while he was going through the surgeries and recovering. I had a really busy week the week of the second surgery, and by Sunday I was worn out. That evening, on April 19, I started to feel terrible, and on the 20th I found out I had pneumonia.

I've never had pneumonia before, but I've know quite a few people who have had it, and all warned me not to overdo, because I could relapse and have an even worse case. Friends and some doctors told me it would take a month to six weeks to fully recover, and some said it took them even longer. I went back to work after almost a week off, but I've been trying to take it easy. It's only been in the past few weeks that I feel like I've gotten back to my usual energetic self. I haven't been hiding away from the world - I traveled to Ohio for my nephew's wedding in mid-May, and had some of my son's bandmates stay at my house Memorial Day weekend when Chasing Canaan did some concerts in the Dallas area. I've also had my college age kids come home for a few days to a week, here and there, and it's been nice to spend time with them. Now, I'm catching up on all the things I put off while I was sick.

So, what is caring for the caregiver? It's simply this. We need to take care of ourselves to do well at taking care of others. Sometimes it's really hard to make our own needs a high priority. It feels selfish. One of my friends tells people he counsels that taking care of ourselves is not selfish, it's enlightened self-interest. I'm one who tends to get out of balance, and sometimes, I just need to stop a while and do things that are good for me.

Last week, we had a big storm in North Texas. My house lost power 7 p.m. on Wednesday, and power wasn't restored until 11 a.m. on Friday. Those two nights without electricity were fortunately quite comfortable in temperature. I was amazed at how much more ready I was to sleep when I'd spent the last part of the evening doing everything by candlelight. Usually, I'm up too late, doing something online, in a fully lit room. I may experiment with turning the lights down sooner each night, because staying up too late is one of my worst habits. Electricity is a wonderful thing, especially for powering air conditioners in a Texas summer. I want to be wiser in how I use it.

I'm also focusing on improving my health. A year and a half ago, my sister gave me a set of CDs by Dr. Mark Hyman called "The Five Forces of Wellness." This doctor had worked as a conventional physician, got very ill, figured out how to get better, and now works in a field called functional medicine. Conventional medicine takes the approach that if you find the right drug to treat an illness, you've solved the problem. Functional medicine focuses on trying to find out why the body is getting sick. There is often a discoverable cause that causes a multitude of symptoms. "The Five Forces of Wellness" talks about five things that make us sick, malnutrition (eating the wrong things or not absorbing nutrients), impaired metabolism, inflammation, toxicity, and oxidative stress. From listening to the CDs and reading Dr. Hymans book "Ultrawellness", I began to realize I had inflammation and impaired metabolism, may have had some other problems, and never really felt completely well.

I've been going to conventional doctors for years, and have been prescribed more and more prescription drugs, several for asthma and allergies, two for high blood pressure, one for thyroid, one for hormones, etc. I've been well enough to function. This year, my doctor wanted me to try yet another drug to help the breathing problems, mentioning that maybe I had emphysemia. My health plan had changed, and I was paying about $500 a month for all these medicines. I decided to start looking for a different type of doctor. I found one trained in functional medicine, and got on her waiting list. When I got pneumonia, I felt even more strongly that I needed to figure out how to improve my health.

In May I went to my new doctor, and have been tested for food allergies, hormone levels, adrenal funtion, thyroid, C-Reactive protein, and the usual blood sugar and cholesterol tests. I've always had really good numbers on cholesterol and blood sugar tests, but the new tests showed problems. I'm now taking certain supplements and vitamins to help my adrenal system function better. I'm working at improving inflammation by avoid foods I react to. I never knew how many food allergies and intolerances I have. So, in the past few weeks, I've been eliminating yeast, chocolate, wheat, oats, corn, corn products, gluten, eggs, dairy products, a few kinds of seafood, olives, and mushrooms. I do think I'm getting better. My head is not so stopped up, my digestive system is working better, and I can mow the grass outside without starting to wheeze. My singing voice has been clearer, too. I'm expecting continued improvement, and eventually hope to cut back on my prescriptions, under doctor's supervision.

Since the major change in diet is so new, I've bought books like "Feast Without Yeast" and "The Gluten Connection", and am trying to learn how to make enjoyable meals without the ingredients I react to. It's a good kind of challenge. All these changes have kept me busy, though. I do plan to keep blogging, but I need to slow down a bit to focus on other things.

In my work as a bereavement coordinator, I've heard thousands of stories about how loved ones have died. Many had chronic illnesses that got worse over the years, until they became too sick to survive. If doctors are discovering solutions to chronic illness, and some of that suffering can be avoided, I really want to know about it. I don't want to be someone's sad story in ten or fifteen years. I'd like to live a healthy life until I'm in my late eighties or nineties, and then die after a short illness. It could happen. I hope it happens to me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Taking Pictures

I got a new camera for Christmas, a nice digital one with all sorts of cool features. The one I use most is the Automatic setting. On that setting, with the flash turned off, using the camera's zoom lens, I can take great pictures with very little effort. Lately, a lot of my time has been spent taking pictures, looking at them, making photo albums, and so on. That's why I haven't written for a few weeks.

My sister has worked as a professional photographer, and some years ago gave me a Nikon camera body with several lenses. There was nothing automatic about the camera at all. I took a photography course just to learn how to use it. Even with all the fussing I had to do with F stops and light levels, I did manage to take some very nice pictures. After a while I got tired of all the work it took to use the Nikon, and went back to the simplest technology I could find, either simple 35 mm cameras or store-bought one-use cameras. Processing was fairly simple. I took pictures until the film ran out, dropped off the film or camera for processing, and picked up the photos a few days later. After I got rid of the worst ones, I put the pictures in a box to keep them out of sight until I finally put them in albums. I have several years of pictures waiting for that day.

This new camera is so much easier, and takes pictures as good as any I've taken before.

Last weekend, I went to Shreveport for a No Ordinary People concert, featuring Chasing Canaan and Mark Sorensen. One of the girls in Chasing Canaan told me they did not have many shots of the band playing, so I took quite a few pictures. I picked the best 60 and put them on Facebook for the band members to see. I got on Facebook to keep up with my sons, but am now also in touch with their friends and people I've known from church and college. The Chasing Canaan band members are almost all on my “friends” list, so they were able to look at the pictures as soon as I posted them. I also took a few pictures of the azaleas on the Centenary College campus.

Chasing Canaan. My son Michael is the guitar player near the center. He sings, too.

Digital photography is in some ways simpler in other ways more time consuming. Instead of having someone else process my pictures, I now download them to my computer, put them in folders, then go through the pictures one by one to find the best ones. I delete some, then make smaller folders to upload to Facebook or Photobucket. If I make an album on Facebook, I have to decide what pictures to caption and what people to tag. I've also played with editing pictures, mostly cropping to get a better view, but once in a while changing something more complicated. In one outdoor picture of my family my hair was blowing in my face, but everyone else looked good. I found a similar picture where I looked better, and used that upper half on the first picture. It was more complicated than I expected and took a lot longer than I thought it would, but was worth the effort. The picture at the side of this blog has had a background change. I'd taken that on on my son's computer camera, and his room had been the background. Mostly, I just crop pictures.
When I was taking pictures at the concert, a lot of the close-ups were too dark. Some of these were taken farther back and cropped to look closer.

I've also been taking pictures of sunsets. I live very close to a park, and when there are scattered clouds in the evening, I wander around, taking photos from various vantage points. Dallas is usually sunny, so there are not a lot of opportunities for great sunset pictures. Late winter offered some great opportunities, though, and the bare trees were nice for dramatic shots.

I've been really enjoying this new camera. Time flies when I'm evaluating and organizing the photos. I'm glad I can post digital photos online, because there's less fear that my computer will crash and I'll lose them. With online posting, I know I can get them back.

If you wish to look at the pictures I posted on Facebook, you might be able to get to my page from here , or you could search for me in the Dallas/Fort Worth network. There are just a few samples here. Photography has taken lots of time lately. I'll get back to more serious posts later. This has been a enjoyable way to spend my time.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Anniversary Reactions

The holiest of all holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart; the secret anniversaries of the heart.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Beware the Ides of March!” is a well-known phrase from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar. The Ides were on the 15th of the month, several times in the Roman year. On March 15, 44 B.C., Caesar was assassinated. Many years later, March 15, 1964, my mother collapsed in a church service, and died two days later. This year is one when all the days line up the same way as they did 45 years ago. Friday the 13th was first, then Sunday the 15th, then Tuesday the 17th, St. Patrick's Day. That serves as a stronger reminder of life events I can never forget.

My birthday is two days before my mother's. On this date in 1991, I realized that I was exactly the same age my mother had been when she died. I could see in the mirror's reflection how very young age 36 was. My mother and Marilyn Monroe died at the same age, forever young. From that day on, I moved beyond my mother's lifespan, into years she never experienced. I no longer fear that I will die young, as she did. Today I am exactly 18 years older than my mother was on the day she died. I'm glad to be 54, and am determined to live the rest of my life fully, as long as I am here. It's a blessing to be growing older.

March 17, St. Patrick's Day, is the anniversary of my mother's death. In my small private ritual of remembrance each year, I wear something green, since I married into an Irish family, and something black, in honor of my mother. If her grave were closer to my home in Texas, her death date and her birthday would be days I might visit. I don't feel much grief any more, but I always remember her on this day.

When I talk to people who are grieving, I've seen a pattern, borne out in the literature, of an upswing of grief just before the one-year anniversary of the death. We have enough volunteers with our hospice that we are able to make calls to many family members near the one year anniversary. People tell me that they start reflecting as it approaches about all the things that happed a year ago. They review events that led up to the death, and often dread that anniversary date. Some have flashbacks or an increase in vivid dreams. Many people are surprised when I tell them that grief can increase right before the first anniversary. Sometimes just finding out that it's normal to relive those memories helps with the emotions of the time. It's not unusual to experience some grief or a time of remembering each year as the anniversary approaches.

There are many significant dates that we remember, unique to each of us. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of seeing singer Judy Collins in concert. She told us that night was exactly 50 years since the first day she got paid for being a singer. That date held special significance to her. Some of my significant dates include the date I found my faith again, the date I got engaged, my wedding anniversary, and the birthdays of each of my children. When I talk to people who are grieving, they mention their significant dates, birthdays, anniversaries, the day their loved one was diagnosed with a terminal illness. One mentioned the first day of baseball season, which she had always enjoyed with her mother. Another mentioned her AA anniversary, the date marking her sobriety. She had always celebrated it with her special someone. Sometimes we don't even realize a date is significant until our emotions rise, and we begin to wonder why.

I deal with heightened feelings this time of year for another reason besides the anniversary of my mother's death. My wedding anniversary is on Thursday, but the date brings up a lot of mixed feelings. For the past two years, my husband and I have been living apart from each other, with an uncertain future. To my husband's credit, he's brought me flowers on our anniversary for the last two years, even with his indecision about remaining married to me. We still see each other fairly often, or call, or e-mail. It's not easy to live each day wondering what the future will hold. Although being left was devastating, I have adusted to living alone, have grown from the experience, and have even found some things I like about being on my own. Someday, there may be a definite ending and another date to remember, or we may be able to put our marriage back together. The best I can do is to decide how I will live fully while coping with my circumstances. I used to think that my experience was unique, but I find in this kind of loss, too, there are many who have gone through similar situations.

Life can be a series of endings, with many leading to new beginnings. Sometimes life improves, sometimes it gets harder. We embrace the struggle, and grow deeper. And along the way, our heart remembers those we have loved, and significant days we shared with them.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Traveling Through the Darkness

Yesterday morning, I was listening to the local classical music station on the way to church. On Sunday mornings, the station broadcasts programs from various faiths. I happened to tune in at the beginning of a broadcast about depression. In only a few minutes of listening, I'm not sure I got all the subtleties of the discussion, but it seemed to me that this faith tradition was saying that depression is a kind of darkness. Since God is light, and we are like God, we should not accept darkness in our lives. Their advice for getting out of the darkness was to claim the light was real, and the darkness was not. I've read or heard other religious doctrines that have said that we are to claim the good things in life as gifts of God, and not accept the difficult things. By doing so, all the hard things will be overcome. I disagree.

I have lived through some difficult times, and have experienced times of darkness. Many others who have lost loved ones have traveled through the darkness. This is a reality we deal with.

Some years ago, Psalm 23:4 took on new meaning to me. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. I'd always assumed that verse was primarily talking about the time when death approaches. This verse is a great comfort to dying people, and I agree with the validity of that interpretation. As time goes on, though, I have come to understand that the valley of the shadow of death is also the place where people who are mourning have to travel. Losing someone we love can cast us into a time of darkness. We don't stand still in the valley, we walk through it. The valley may be difficult and dark, but we are not alone. And each loss brings a valley of a different shape and size.

I've been reading two books in the last few weeks, both of which talk about grief. One is a book of fiction, called The Shack, by William Paul Young. In it, the main character enters into a time he calls The Great Sadness. He has gone through a terrible loss that was a result of another person's evil choice, and it has shaken him to the core. Along the way to the beginning of healing, he builds a new relationship with God, while having some unique conversations about many aspects of life, including evil, suffering, and forgiveness.

The other book I've been reading is A Grace Disguised, How the Soul Grows Through Loss, by Jerry Sittser. He tells of the struggles he experienced after a drunken driver hit the minivan he was driving, killing his wife, his daughter, and his mother. He was left alone to raise his three surviving children. One of the images he used was so powerful, I'm going to quote it here. It's on page 33 of the book:

I had a kind of waking dream shortly after that, caused, I am sure, by that initial experience of darkness. I dreamed of a setting sun. I was frantically running west, trying desperately to catch it and remain in its fiery warmth and light. But I was losing the race. The sun was beating me to the horizon and was soon gone. I suddenly found myself in the twilight. Exhausted, I stopped running and glanced with foreboding over my shoulder to the east. I saw a vast darkness closing in on me. I was terrified by that darkness. I wanted to keep running after the sun, though I knew that it was futile, for it had already proven itself faster than I was. So I lost all hope, collapsed to the ground, and fell into despair. I thought at that moment that I would live in darkness forever....

Later, my sister, Diane, told me that the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.

I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey, wherever it would lead, and to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it.

The writer went on to talk about how allowed himself a time of solitude every day to deal with the darkness and give himself to grief. In these times, he both suffered and grew deeper. When he wrote the book, three years after the accident, he still was experiencing times of darkness. On page 36 the author wrote:

The decision to face the darkness, even if it led to overwhelming pain, showed me that the experience of loss itself does not have to be the defining moment of our lives. Instead, the defining moment can be our response to the loss. It's not what happens to us that matters as much as what happens in us. Darkness, it is true, had invaded my soul. But then again, so did light. Both contributed to my personal transformation...

In other words, though I experienced death, I also experienced life in ways I never thought possible before, not after the darkness, as we might suppose, but in the darkness. I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within the pain the grace to survive and eventually grow.

The author of the book is very candid about his struggles, with faith, with fear, and with the meaning of forgiveness. He managed to write a deep, uplifting book after a terrible loss. The focus was more on the struggles we all experience in the hard places, not just on his own journey. I recommend it.

It's often said there is no way out of grief but through. Allowing ourselves to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, trusting that we are not alone in the darkness, will help us reach the other side.

These pictures were taken at Northwest Park in Irving.