Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Vacation" or NOT

It's been a while since I have written. This summer has been a familiar place and so foreign at the same time. I wanted summer to come, because it is my favorite season. I love many things about summer. I love gardens, flowers, produce, sunshine, warm summer nights, lightening bugs, the sound of locusts on a hot summer day...to name a few. We have had many sweet trips to the beach over the years. I love the beach! My kids have always loved the beach as well.

We decided to start our summer the day after school let out. We took a last minute trip to Jacksonville Beach, Fl. I was amazed that we found such a nice place to stay so last minute. The place was well equipped for kids...which turned out to be the biggest blessing. We spent much of our time in the condo and were thankful for an open toy box. Despite the fact that we can't get away from our grief (actually sometimes going away magnifies our loss), we sometimes feel the need to get away from this environment no matter how comforting or painful it may be.

It was good to be away from home, yet feel at "home" in the condo. We had time to relax and be together. Vacation means something else to us now. Rather than a nice getaway from home, it's an attempt to escape the furnace...only to realize that the affliction just comes along. It's a learning experience..trying to get to know each other again as who we used to be and who we have become now. We have to figure out how to be a family again with people that we don't recognize. It's also alot about figuring out who "I" am now. Even the kids are trying to find themselves apart from Ashley.

Sitting and playing on the beach is something we used to spend all day doing. We couldn't get enough of it. Ashley especially loved the beach. She made friends with every child she met, swam in the ocean, played in the sand, looked for shells and sand crabs...there was never a dull moment. The last time I went to the beach with Ashley in the summer was two years ago (we hadn't made it there yet last summer.) She was old enough to enjoy jumping waves and boogie boarding. I remember swimming with her that time. It was just us two. We spent a long time together sharing a boogie board far out in the water. I think she met the kid in me that day...doing the things I used to do with my Mom when I was young...she loved it. She couldn't wait till we could do it again sometime. Me too, Ashley. I was so excited to see her grown to a point that we could do those things together. I loved the bond of friendship we had begun.

The water in Florida was gorgeous. One day I went out swimming, jumping the waves, floating. It was lovely and relaxing...but I was missing someone. My Ashley should be with me. I ached over what is now out of reach....remembering the fun we had that we should be having again. The kids tolerated the beach for small amounts of time. I was frustrated, craving what it "used" to be. Feeling angry that it wasn't the same. I realized that they were "lost" on the beach too. Ashley wasn't there to show them what to play....and teach them all the fun things to do on the beach. They don't even realize it. Needless to say...it was one more place to feel broken. Broken is the word that best describes us now. It's hard to get anything that is broken to work right...including a family!

I am glad we went...even though it was a challenge at times. We still had moments to enjoy together and it was a breath of fresh air even to be in a different place. We all craved home more than half way through the trip. Home hurts, but is also a place of refuge and safety. We were all glad to be home again. Looking back, I am so glad we went. God provided just what we needed. I have a hard time calling it a "vacation" though, because it sure feels different from what I knew before.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Parent's Pride

Today was the last day of school. I had no idea it would be such a tough day for me. Closing out the school year that my daughter was not a part of at all was not easy, but was something I had to do for Jacob and Emma. Emma graduated from Pre-K and Jacob had classroom awards and the closing chapel for the year. I held up ok until it was time for chapel. I went to my car for a while and sat there crying. I watched families walking to their cars with ALL of their children. They were happy and excited about the fun filled summer ahead of them...the break that they have been waiting for. I remember it too. I used to have the same feelings. I sat there, knowing that I have not only a broken family. I have a daughter who should be completing elementary school, but isn't here. I also have a summer filled with agony and pain to face. I've always loved summer, I still do. Now my summer is tainted with painful memories, and a daily harsh reality.

I watched all of the proud parents as they watched their children receive awards for their excellent accomplishments in academics, math, reading and so on. I remember that pride from years past. This year there were no great "awards" to be received. I didn't expect any. I didn't care...It no longer mattered to me. I stood there with a pride that I have never known, a pride that I never imagined for my children. I was proud of my children for doing what no other child had done that year. They went to school broken and lost. They had to do their "work" despite the fact that they had been torn from their sister only one month before school began, uprooted in life, and thrown into a "new" environment that didn't feel anything like home to them. They had to walk into Ashley's school. They walked through the same halls that Ashley walked through. They looked for her in dissapointment and sorrow when she was not to be found greeting them during the school day. They had to face her teachers and her friends on a daily basis. I couldn't have done what they did this year! No award would ever be able to commend them for this job that they did so well.

School has been a hard place for me to be this year. I have managed to do my best each time, but it wasn't easy. I remember the end of the school year last year so well. I remember Ashley's classroom awards. I can still see her that day. She loved the last day of school because she couldn't wait to be home with us for the summer....but she hated saying goodbye to her friends and teachers. She loved school, but treasured her time at home playing so much more. The closing chapel last year made an impression on me as well. The principle encouraged the children to stand on the rock...on God's word. He challenged them to read the Bible every day. He gave them each a rock to carry with them, reminding them of God's word. Ashley took that message very seriously. Not a day went by that she did not read her Bible. I was amazed that even on vacation late at night she insisted on reading. I even argued with her one night that it was ok for her to skip one night since it was so late. She had planned to read through the Bible. She left off in Luke (which was her favorite.) I have begun to read the Bible to Jacob every night. We began in Luke.