This season of my life has been hard. I lost my best pup the beginning of November and then came to the close of semester as I wrapped up caring for our youngest grand daughter.
I was grieving. Big time. I had cared for our granddaughters for the most of the last five years of my life. I knew I wouldn’t do it forever but I had no idea how it would impact me.
I am relieved in many ways since I am a Grandma and not of childbearing age. But the loss was great to me. I actually fell onto a bit of depression and anxiety.
It would come and go and I would cry out to my God to take this from me.
Well, after a few days of intense cold and ice outside that caused us to stay indoors for the most part, I was a mess. Crying and sadness were overcoming me. I cried out to God again and the very day – yesterday – the sun (or shall I say Son ) shined bright in my heart.
We adopted a puppy. Whoever thinks animal therapy is nonsense is very wrong. It may not be for everyone but it is for me!
A friend of mine had an unexpected guest show up at her house in the fall. A pregnant dog who appeared to have had some abuse. Naturally she took her in and cared for her. The sweetest terrier mix with a great personality. She birthed the pups of many colors and I considered taking one when they were of the proper age.
Well, the sweet momma went and got ran over. So sad. She left about six or so pups orphaned but fortunately, they were eating puppy mash at that time.
Because of their orphan state I decided we would take one in a few weeks. I picked the one I wanted. I was still apprehensive until I received a text yesterday saying that there was concern about them being left alone all day in their ever energetic state of puppyhood. Can I take him now?
Of course! I jumped into action. Cleaned the crate and mopped the floors and sent the hubby to the store for puppy chow and replacement milk.
Funny thing is……… all my anxiety symptoms vanished. I came home yesterday evening with a sweet bundle of fur and puppy breath. He needed me.
But more than him needing me….. I needed him. My prayers were answered. Never underestimate the power of prayer. The answers come in many shapes and sizes. Mine came in a bundle of furry mutt that looks like he rolled in a few colors of paint.
It was late January of 2005. Our family was grieving the loss of our daughter. Her memorial was on the 17th of January (you can read our loss journey here – Darkest Day). A dear friend looked at us and said, “Don’t you dare cancel your trip to China or I will drive you there myself!”
Now, back track a few months. We sold a house when the market was high and the first thing we did was purchase two round trip tickets to China to visit our son who was there on a scholarship to learn Mandarin at Shanghai University. What an opportunity, for both our son and us. How many times will we know someone who lives in China and speaks the language? So we seized the moment and bought the tickets. We got our passports and spent a day in NYC enjoying great food, great Holiday decorations and a trip to the Chinese Consulate to acquire a visa into mainland China.
The twenty-one hour flight from eastern USA to Shanghai (via Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) was fantastic. I say that because the plane was practically empty. So we spread out. We saw Mount Fuji sail by, beautiful. It was a reflective time for me. Here we were many miles above the earth and my heart and mind was with my daughter. I knew she was in heaven having the time of her life and that comforted me. I even felt closer to her up in the clouds. But my heart hurt. I wanted to enjoy this trip and time with our son. We three needed each other at this time. I was determined to make the best of it. Looking back, it was a great place to visit when in grief. No one could talk to me and no one wanted to and I didn’t speak the language. It literally was very foreign. That was a comfort to me.
So, here we were, the three of us, in a nice hotel in Shanghai, China. No forks, lots of rice, and a very messy table in the hotel restaurant due to my long flight and a lack of using chopsticks (and you thought rice was only thrown at weddings).
There is so much to tell of this trip but I want to concentrate on The Great Wall of China. We did see much in Shanghai and New Year’s dragon dance and the Chinese Circus and museum and The Forbidden City in Beijing. Such an old land and so beautiful.
We checked into a Youth Hostel in Beijing. My husband and I had our own room and our son was elsewhere in a dorm-type room. After eating an amazing Beijing Duck dinner he informed us that we were signed up to see The Great Wall of China in the morning. A shuttle bus would pick us up early. We were ready – it was winter so I purchased some Chinese long johns in the market place the night before. I put orange drink, peanut M&M’s, Pringle and a water bottle in my bag with my camera. We were picked up early, after our breakfast of Chips A’Hoy cookies and orange drink, and proceeded to pick up other victims, uh, er, I mean tourists for the visit to The Wall.
Three hours later, in a non-heated vehicle, we arrived in the middle of Nowhere, China. We lived at sea-level in the US and here we had to climb stairs just to get to the Wall entrance. Lungs nearly fell out of my body. We entered that “door” behind us and started on the approximately six mile(?) journey of the longest stair stepper I’ve ever seen. Thank God my gym did not have this equipment. Our guide, who spoke only a bit of english, kept saying, “Two more towers”. She made this journey several times a day in the summer with such “tourists” as us. Near the end I wanted to throw her off. But she was so sweet and tried hard to converse with us.
The section above had no steps. But to give you a mental image…… you either walked on flat stones OR steps that were short, steps that were too high for average humans, steps that were steep enough to use your hands also (hence the term climbing The Great Wall) and steps that went down a steep incline so that your guides grabbed your jacket so gravity didn’t take you first. It was amazing and exhausting and in the middle of nowhere. I am thankful for the snacks I brought in my bag. And I am most thankful for the three guides who were conversing together when I heard an english word in the middle of their conversation, “SHORTCUT”. I grabbed our guide and said, “Did you say Shortcut???????”
My husband and I decided to take the shortcut with two guides (appartenly we needed two guides) while our son ventured forward on the wall and we would meet up – somewhere???
The short cut was magnificent. Easy on the lungs, we caught our breath and saw things that were quite amazing….
After a while we came to a bridge (where my camera battery died) – a bridge much like one you would see in Indiana Jones – suspended high over a river. Did I mention that heights and I do not get along? Well, it must have been the lack of oxygen because I started out fine, following my husband and enjoying the view – UNTIL the cables that hold the bridge and acted as side rails decided to drop down to knee level, rather than over my head level. All security left me and I shoved my husband aside and RAN to the other side, leaned against the wall (The Great Wall of China) and refused to look back at that cavern. We waited there for out son, who we saw coming over a high peak toward the bridge. Before we saw him, his guide ran up to me speaking rapid Manderin and threw in english words like son and police. I thought he fell off the wall. Our guide stepped aside and caught our eye and kept shaking her head slightly. What does that even mean? I was starting to panic when two lady tourists of Asian decent approached us and I asked if they understood Chinese and if they spoke english. They did. The guide wanted my son to buy a t- shirt and he said, “Ask my parents”. Go ahead laugh.
I bought the t-shirt:
So, from there we had to get back on the wall – it was so steep that I clung to the steps with all fours, put my head down, and cried. Yes, I cried on The Great Wall of China. My son thought I was having a heart attack or something. I simply said, “I want to get off the freakin’ Wall!”
“Two more towers”, she said. And that’s when I thought of taking her to the bridge and tossing her over the side. Just a thought. When I started to climb to the third tower, she grabbed me and said, this way. We exited The Great Wall and low and behold, a wide paved road stretched before us that lead us to some building. A bathroom and a restaurant!!! I told my son to order anything – don’t care what I eat – I headed to the enclosed hole in the ground to pee. Ahh.
We waved goodbye to our lovely guide, she kept waving as if we were old friends. On the bus back to the hostel we all asked for heat. They turned it on for us. We freshened up and went out again for duck and slept like babies that night.
My son told me recently that we could have gone to a more “tourist” friendly part of the Wall where there are elevators and Starbucks. But he chose the harder route. I am very glad he did. Really, I did CLIMB The Great Wall of China and even bought the t-shirt to prove it. It feels good to have done that and I will never do it again.
Another tragedy for America – The Boston Marathon Bombings. With each disaster that hits our nation comes a twinge of pain, as in an old wound that acts up from time to time. When we experienced first hand a great loss in our family (see Prisoner of Hope series on this blog) it brought a wound that will never totally heal. I’m not even sure that is the right phrasing – I feel I’ve healed in the sense that I got through the initial shock and severe blow of loss – but the pain of loss will always be there. It will pop up when I hear of others pains and loss. It acts up much like arthritis or other similar ailments due to weather change, etc. But much harder. With each new attack of disaster or missing children or even forecasts of severe storms, the pain twinges.
But know that with each twinge it does a good thing deep down inside of me. I’ll try to put it into words. I think that those who understand these words will get this and those who don’t quite, but almost, it will cause you to look deeper within. These twinges bring to me a strong desire for fellow human beings. We are all vulnerable to hard times, to disasters, etc. No one is exempt from hard times. No one. So my heart aches and hurts for those who are hit – in any shape or form – from bullying to misunderstandings to loss and devastation.
My heart goes out to Boston and all those who attended that Marathon. It was a day that represents great victory for all who trained and ran – and turned into such a low blow – such heart ache.
My heart goes out to those who can’t grasp this. I saw some FB posts that implied that this is daily occurrence in other nations – so we should think more of them. I understand that. But here in the USA it is not a daily occurences. It is not part of our daily lives. My heart aches for those nations who do live this way in fear, I want that to change for them. But I also want America to rise up and unite and stand on our roots. I want us to want violence to stop. I don’t know if this is realistic or not. But THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. ALWAYS.
I pray for our law and government safety enforcement and medical teams to be safe and to have wisdom to thwart these plots in advance. I pray for all who attended that fear would not become a part of their lives and I pray for those who lost that healing would come and they would become stronger through such loss. and able to help others.
The thing about hope is, it is always there. Just within reach whether we want it or not. Everyone hopes. We hope for good weather and we hope for a great day, we hope for so many things. But, to me, real true hope is not wishing. It goes so much deeper than a wish. Hope is solid. Hope is strong. Hope is tangible. Hope is spiritual. Hope is just plain real.
I use the title Prisoner of Hope. It is taken from scripture – God says, “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” Zechariah 9:12 I am not a bible scholar, at all. I just know that this passage speaks deeply to my heart. I know that I feel comforted when I read it. There are many “prisons” in life, in our hearts. And when God can tell me that I am a prisoner of hope – well, what a glorious prison! I see a cell with no walls. I see freedom. I personally believe that this hope and freedom only comes from him.
It’s because of that hope that I know we will see our daughter, sister, friend again in eternity. Does it ease the pain of loss? Yes, but it still hurts. But I have hope.
A dear friend, who I will call “J” in this post, recently wrote to me. She was like a sister to our daughter. Therefore, another daughter to us. Needless to say, the loss of Vanessa was difficult for J. But I read the most beautiful words in her letter to me. They speak of another person’s journey of grief and loss and pain. But I saw beauty in these words:
“Grief over Vanessa has been put on a distant shelf and I have not gone there. I even avoid pictures, not conscientiously, but I do. Yet I dream about her a lot. It breaks into my mind and feelings whether I choose it or not. In the few days since I received your package I have thought and remembered a lot and have been surprised at the amount of emotions that have come out. I realized I have been robbing myself of the beauty of grief. It sounds weird, but grief in this last week has not been terrible, but beautiful. There is hope in it and sweet memories. Yes, I miss Vanessa and tears flow as soon as I think of her, but it is sweet right now.”
J put it so sweetly and clearly. The pain and the beauty – when you have hope.
I’ve had a heavy heart all week. Our daughter’s birthday was last Saturday, the 27th of October. She would have been 36 years old.
But that is not the entire reason for my heavy heart. We still wish her a happy birthday and she is in our thoughts all day long. But this year Hurricane Sandy came with a vengeance upon the north east coast of America. Our oldest son and wife and kids (He wrote the last blog I posted) live in the area that was predicted to receive a direct hit from this horrific storm.
We prayed like crazy for protection and for winds to shift. They packed bags and left the area to go to a friends. They were safe and received minimal damage. As a matter of fact I found out that the wind did shift slightly that night and hit further north as we all saw on our TV sets. That is where my heavy heat comes in.
I cry when I see devastating events fall on my fellow human beings. I don’t wish this on my greatest enemies and am greatly saddened over some political posts I’ve seen where people wish it would hit Washington, etc. I say that those posting such thoughts do not know what they are saying. No one deserves such heartache and loss. And I believe they didn’t realize what they were wishing. I also feel totally helpless. I’m far from the needs that have risen back there and I just have to pray. So many are heart broken – of course. Some may not even be able to rebuild on the property they loved and felt safe and at home just a little over a week ago. I’m warm and dry and have food and clothing. So many don’t right now.
Our daughter lost her life in a natural disaster. It was of such a smaller magnitude than 9-11, Katrina, Joplin, MO and now Hurricane Sandy – but not to us or those who were involved. The homes that were lost in La Conchita, California in January of 2005 have not even been rebuilt and probably never will. People have relocated and are trying to go on with their lives. Seems only a few even remember that day. Most people we meet didn’t know it happened. That’s Ok with me. What isn’t Ok is that I should ever take loss of other lives and properties too lightly. I’m not saying you all need to think like me – but think. Think of others and the things they have had to endure. Most people have experienced loss to some degree or other and it’s hard for everyone of them. Many have learned to keep it private so we never know what they’ve had to endure. I understand that to some degree. It’s MY grief, it’s MY loss and I don’t always want to share it with others. But I’ve found sharing it has mostly brought out their losses and grief and it’s totally beneficial to us both. THAT is a good thing.
My perspective changes when these bad things hit the news. Heck, my perspective changed when we lost our daughter! Suddenly some things are not so important any more. I do believe it is OK to desire “things” – big houses, nice cars, etc. But when great loss becomes a reality I tend to look at my life and my view changes. I reflect on what I think is most important and what are the things I really want and need.
This is where my Hope and Faith play a big part. The God I love and serve, Jesus Christ, offers me a security that no home or job or other human can bring. It goes deep. God the father gave his son, Jesus to us. To make a way for us to be with him. It cost him great pain to watch the people that he loved beat and kill his only son. It gave him great joy on the resurrection to make a way for us. He understands loss. He never promises us a life of no pain or loss. But he does promise us hope and love and a relationship that never goes away. He is truth and I am grateful.
My prayers are for those who lost this last week. For those who are in the midst of such a devastation and may be feeling helpless. For the first responders and neighbors of so many. Know that God is aware and it is he who can carry us through. Know you are loved.