Thursday, September 2, 2010

Facing Heaven

I haven't written in a long while. Every time I sit down to write something I get stuck. I have words and then none. I have thoughts, but can't organize them. I feel like I'm living in a cloud...or maybe a dream..a nightmare to be honest. I wish I could just wake up and it would be over. A year has passed...but has it? Yesterday passed but I can't remember it. What about tomorrow? I don't know. I can't see that far into my future. I am so confused every day. I feel myself doing normal things all the time but I don't feel like I'm actually doing them.

I haven't seen my daughter in over a year now. That is REAL! But every time I have a memory of her, I jump when I have to tell myself that she is gone. As if I just learned of this. I know her so well. It's so normal for her to be here. How can she not be? How is it possible for her to go so far away so fast? Heaven feels so far away. It is so mysterious to me. Death confuses me. I just don't get it. I always thought I understood death until I tasted it.

A year later is more frustrating than ever. Last year we were entering a "new" world. Our old world was right behind us and it gave us strength to face the future. We didn't know what was coming so we took it as it came. The pain on the inside matched the destruction of our lives on the outside. We were paralyzed. We couldn't do normal things. When I went places I felt like everyone could see my destroyed life. As if there was a huge sign on me saying "I just buried my daughter." My memories of Ashley were so fresh that it seemed temporary in a way. Our old life felt more normal than our "new" life.

Time passed. Our kids grew a year older and so did we. Life moved on. We slowly learned how to do our "work." We figured out how to function at least to get by. One thing never changed. Ashley's bed sat there the way she left it...neatly made to begin another day. Ashley's seat at the table was always empty. There was always one head missing in the car. One less arm band for rides at the fair. One less plane ticket, one less suitcase, one less, one less, one less. I began to be able to function in public. As long as I only did what I knew I could handle. I learned how to guard myself in order to protect. We made it to the end of the year.

Now...the end of the year has passed and what is next? ANOTHER year! This time I know what to expect. I don't look forward to it. This time the memories I have of my daughter are two years old. They feel foreign to me now because life with her is no longer normal. I am far away from her. Last year I would go shopping and see things that Ashley would like and I would cry because I couldn't buy them for her. Now, I shop and because the styles have changed and Ashley would be a year older...I cry because it haunts me that I no longer know what Ashley would like. When I have memories of her pop into my mind I feel like I am looking into a past life that I no longer recognize. I am facing another year without the energy I had to run on from last year. I spent it all! Just to survive one year! I enter this year exhausted at the thought that I have to do it again. and again. and again.

They say time makes it easier. In a way, yes, it does. On the outside it's easier. I can do a lot more things than I could do last year. I look more normal on the outside as well. The inside and the outside are growing farther apart. On the's deeper, wider, and darker. It is harder to open up to others. The deep, dark places inside are not as easy to take other people to. It's been over a year since I've seen, heard, touched, hugged, kissed, been kissed by, been loved my first born child. Absence makes the heart grow fonder is what they also makes the heart long deeper and harder. The concepts of life that were brand new to me last year are too familiar to me this year. I no longer shriek at the presence of a deep valley (they come like waves of the ocean), or by the presence of sorrow even at the same time as joy. The absence of Ashley has been filled by the presence of constant pain and sorrow.

This sounds depressing. It IS! It sounds hopeless, but it isn't. We are moving upward each day. Some days we slide down a little or a lot...but we get back up and keep moving up. My goal is Heaven. It seems like an unending game (like chutes and ladders) it takes forever to get anywhere. Some times you climb up high...tasting bits and pieces of heaven. Sometimes I get a glimpse of what it is like to rejoice in my sufferings, and feel comforted by being a limp, broken lump of clay resting in the potters takes me to a mountain top with a clear view of the beauty of the valley below. That fast, I take one step forward and hit a "chute" that takes me back to the beginning of the game. Once again I taste death and destruction as if it happened yesterday. I try to look up, but the underbrush is so thick I can't even see the light coming through the trees, let alone see the mountain top above me.

I believe God is teaching me to believe many things about him. I keep thinking about the 23rd Psalm. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me." I don't have to fear, but I still have to walk through the valley of the shadow (which is a darkness that is caused by something blocking the light) of death! I am glad to KNOW that God is present in the valley even though I can't always see or feel Him. He is there. With me. I continue to face the light, even when death stands in the way leaving me blinded by the darkness.


  1. Wendy, while stuyding for this week's sermon on suffering I came across Matthew 26:37 where we are told that Jesus on the night he was betrayed, "began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed." I often wonder if God knows our pain and then I am reminded that he does know it for sure. I heard of a man who had buried his young son demand of his pastor, "Where was God when my son died!?" The pastor responded, "Right where he was when His Son died." Your words reminded me that our God is really bigger. We really worship the One who knows what it's like. Thank you for your words through grief and pain. I can't imagine but Jesus knows intimately you and the pain and suffering. Love you guys.

  2. Wendy once again your words ring so true for my own thoughts, heart ache, and struggles to wrangle this thing called life since my boys passed away. I am so sorry Ashley is not here. I wish this all was just a terrible nightmare and you could wake up from it. I guess that is what heaven will be. Finally waking up from the nightmare and all things will be made right.

    Ashley Manross

  3. i love the chutes and ladders analogy. i love you.

  4. Wendy, I could barely read through my tears as and for a moment, I experienced a fraction of your pain. I can't help but think of Sadie as you describe your life without Ashley. Really, it makes me want to crawl into her bed, hold her tight, and quite frankly, never let her out of my sight. For only a moment, though. Because, also, I read regularly about the fun you have with your family and the experiences they would miss out on if I bubble wrapped them! At the end of the day, we have our Savior! He is so good indeed. I pray for you that the sting of death continues to fade leaving behind only fond memories of your sweet girl. Beyond that, I simply do not know how to respond to your great loss. I have never experienced such a great loss, and quite honestly, there are times when I thank God for not giving me that load to bear. I wouldn't wish your grief on anyone in the wide world. You continue to amaze me with your servants heart and your gratitude toward our Maker even in your "valley". I hope that you have a good day today and it is filled with all things delightful. Janey Griffin

  5. Beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. Love you.

  6. Dear Wendy, I dont know you and you dont know me but still sisters in Christ and I also am a church family member. I want you to know that there has not been one day that has gone by that i dont think of you and your family and ask God to be with you, place you in his arms. As a mom to two daugthers, right around the age of Ashley I understand the pain that there would be but cannot understand the actual pain that you and Jake must go through on a daily basis. I find myself asking why? what purpose could this have possibly be for a young couple to go through such tragedy and there are no answers other than what Pastor Betters said, this happened at the precise time, not a minute later, not a minute sooner and if we truly believe in the soverignity of God, than we have to know this was his plan. I still question it as you do I am sure. I have a good friend who lost a daughter and she said to me. everyone says she is in the perfect place now.. and she said i just want to scream at them and say.. let your daughter be in that perfect place, i want my daughter here with me... As a mom, our job is to protect our kids and to think that in a split second life has changed forever more. Even though you have other kids and you have to go one for them, i cannot imagine waking up every morning to the pain all over again. I guess if you were told when Ashley was born that you had only 11 years with her, you wouldn not have changed a thing, the blessing, the joy that she brought to your life and the lives of her brother and sisters. I look at the video and tears just come streaming down to see such a beautiful young girl, so full of life and to be cut short. Why? God has his reasons and we may never know other than he has a perfect plan, you will be able to help others in need and you can understand the depth of the pain to perhaps a non believing people that will come to know Jesus though Ashley's life and your life. Again, I just want you to know that even though we dont know each other, I pray for you, Jake and your son and two daughters. Thanks for sharing, because in your sharing Jesus shines through all of your pain. A sister in Christ.

  7. I recognize many of your feelings, especially the part about seeing things you know she would like, but you can't buy them for her. Wish life didn't have to be this hard. Sending love from afar.

  8. I am so very sorry for your loss. I can't even imagine what a mother must feel when their child is abducted from this world, only to be seen in the next glorious life called Hevean.
    I cannot tell you how incredibly comorting your words are right now.... a friend of mine connected me to your blog because just this past Tuesday my cousin and best friend burried her first born 18-year-old son.
    We are a strong family with a great deal of faith. We all know we will see him again... but as I cry for Carla, I'm not necessarily crying for the loss of Bradley, because I know he's in a glorious place, but rather, I'm crying for the pain that Carla must be feeling right now. I worry about her especially for this first year. I wonder how she will survive and be able to function once again. Your blog has given me tremendous insight as to what lies ahead for her and her husband and daughter... Your blog has made me less afraid for her as I see that one can and will survive the first year, one can and will rely on God for strength, and one can and will make it to year 2, 3, 4, etc.
    I'm so sorry that both of you feel this pain every second of every day... but I'm so relieved that your faith will allow you both to see your first borns one grand reunion day!
    My heart aches for you as it does for my Carla, and I will include you in my daily prayers, at the top of my list, just as I do for Carla as well.

    May God continue to bless and continue to help you put one foot in front of the other.

  9. Wendy, Your words are so beautiful. It helps us know exactly where you are and what to pray for. I'm so sorry for your pain. I wish beyond everything that we could understand why this had to happen. I continue to pray for you and your family.

    And I remember your "Forever little girl." She's looking Jesus right in the eye, I'm sure to ask Him to take care of you.