Saying Goodbye to Bryant, Joy for the Journey

Some thoughts on the road of healing after the loss of my 14 year old son by suicide

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Wife... Mother... Lover of Jesus... Freedom Writer!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

15 is the number of the day

My 3 year old is watching Sesame Street right now as I begin to write this. Now I'm not crazy about Sesame Street but she went to bed last night with a fever and she 's moving kinda slow. So we're doing TV this morning. And Elmo just announced that the number of the day today is 15.

Fifteen years ago today I had my second son Bryant. He was born on a Saturday afternoon at 2:31 pm one day before his due date of August 18.

My first son Brenton was 2 &1/2 years old at the time. Brenton was born on his due date. My labor and delivery with him from first labor pain to birth was a quick 4 & 1/2 hours and I'd been told that second babies generally come faster than the first.

So late Friday afternoon, on August 16, 1991 when I began to feel the first twinges of labor I called my husband at work and told him I thought things were getting started. At that point I had been feeling regular contractions for a couple of hours but they were coming in 10-15 minute intervals so I figured I still had some time. And in fact I did. Travis came home from work at the usual time, about 5 ish. We gave Brenton dinner and then took him to my mom's house. We visited with my mom for a bit, trying to determine our next move. Since my contractions didn't pick up any we eventually headed back home to get some rest. I remember that Travis didn't want to undress that night for fear that something would happen and we'd have to run out in a hurry with no time to spare.

Travis and I went to bed. By the time I woke at 6 am I had some serious contractions going on. I called my doctor's office but could not get an answer, not even the answering service. After the third failed attempt to reach anyone, I called Labor & Delivery at my hospital and they told me to come on in.

Now my plan for this baby was to try for a natural delivery. I'd had my first son so quickly I really thought this was doable. When we got to the hospital that morning I was 4 centimeters dilated. By 1 pm I was at 7 centimeters, still unmedicated and it was getting hard. My doctor came in and asked me what I was still doing pregnant. :) He said he thought for sure I would have been done by then. I'd gone as long as I thought I could without drugs so we called for the epidural. A little while later my nurse noticed some "irregularity" with the baby's heart rate on the monitors and she got the doctor. He checked me and informed me that the baby was head down and facing up instead of head down, facing down (or towards my back). The doctor tried to turn him but his heart rate plummeted and faster than I could say "jack sprat" I was in an operating room full of health care professionals, being prep'd for a C- section.

When they pulled the baby out (we hadn't found out his gender beforehand) I heard an audible gasp from several of the hospital staff. The baby's umbilical cord was wrapped multiple times around his neck. He was fine but they really gave me a scare for a minute there. He was a beautiful pink, 7 pounds, 7 ounces.

And so I was then the mother of two boys. We named him Bryant Colin ( meaning strong and virtuous child). He was such a little doll. We were discharged from the hospital on Monday morning. I remember dressing him in a cute little yellow two piece "coming home" outfit. After dressing him I remember thinking, wow you can barely tell where the outfit ends and he begins. Right about then the prediatrician told us he was jaundiced. My little pink fella had sure enough turned a sunny yellow.

A home health company met us at our house that afternoon to set up an untraviolet light in Bryant's crib in our bedroom. We were instructed to leave him under the light as much as possible, naked, wearing only a little blindfold to protect his eyes. A home health nurse would come back to check his billirubin each morning until it decreased to the normal level.

The emergency C-section was harrrrd. ('Til that point I had always thought I had a high pain tolerance but the recovery after surgery was hard.) Baby Bry only had to have the light for about 3 days. I remember the laugh we got on his first night under the light. Travis and I had gone to bed when we looked over to see a stream of pee coming up and out of his crib. It was so cute.

Where did the time go?

Our one and only vacation as a family of 6 ( since my 16 month old was born) was this time last year. We went to the Chattanooga Aquarium in Tennessee to celebrate Bryant's 14th birthday last August. We had a nice time and he loved having a special trip to celebrate, being the young man of the hour. How I thank God for that time and the memories.

Much of the the night of April 3, 2006 is a blur for me. My older son found Bryant dead and then came and told me. I ran up to his room, found him and touched him. He had already started to get cold. Somehow I made it downstairs and screamed for the phone. I managed to dial 911 and then my pastor. I think I called another friend but I don't know how. I remember writhing in pain in the floor of my front foyer. People came. Emergency personnel arrived. Someone ( I learned later it was Brenton) had gotten my husband at work. I remember seeing him briefly and then hearing the worst wails coming from him in the distance. ( He was rolling in the grass of our front lawn.) Someone managed to get me out of the floor and onto a sofa.

I was in labor again. The worst labor. Labor times a million. I was birthing a 120 pound, 5 foot 7 inch baby into heaven.

Over the next 5 days until we buried Bryant I would have the experience of labor pain two more times. The days after his funeral brought me a real and definite postpartum. There was a huge hole in my soul that was almost tangible. This was not just in my head. I felt as though a cannon ball had been blown right through me. On the Wednesday after his funeral the women of my church met at my house so I could share. After our time of sharing they prayed for me. Someone asked the Lord to give me a quick healing for the hole in my soul. Within a day or so after they prayed it was completely gone ( filled).

It has been an interesting 19 weeks since Bryant left us. I use the word interesting only because there is not a single word that could describe our loss. It has been horrible and yet wonderful (because of the comfort God has given), awful and yet sweet (because of the love He's poured out on us). I could go on and on.

There is so much more I could write but I'll save it for another time. As I was talking to a dear friend a few weeks ago about all the Lord has done in this tragedy, about how strange it was to take the first step to move on with life, she said to me that Bryant left an empty space in our lives. A space that will never go away. This is so true... But I realized something this morning when I woke up on his birthday feeling "a peace that passes all understanding." I said before that I am a kinder, gentler Sharmayn since my son's death. And I now understand why. Jesus has filled the space Bryant left in my life with Himself. I can't help but be different. With all the questions, all the pain, grief, regret, and sorrow, Jesus has given me a way and a reason to go on.

Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.

" You will teach me how to live a holy life. Being with You will fill me with joy; at Your Right Hand I will find pleasure forever." (Psalm 16:11)

Happy Birthday Bryant! I miss you and love you so very much.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Horses on the horizon

For some time now my life has been like a rollercoaster ride, complete with high inclines and difficult and unexpected jerks and drops. I've tried to live well but my recent past has been, well ...wild.

I came to know Jesus in the 7th grade when I was 12 years old. My elementary school had a Friday morning Bible study before school called Morning Watch. My mom taught at the high school down the street and she dropped my sister and me off to school early every day. I looked forward to Friday mornings and Morning Watch. I remember the day the invitation was given to know Jesus as Savior and I remember saying yes to Jesus. I remember feeling changed in that moment, knowing that something was different about me and I wrote about it that night in my journal.

For as far back as I can recall, we regularly went to church. But that was the extent of it. I've heard it often said that "going to church makes you a Christian as much as sitting in a garage makes you a car." Looking back I say that during my growing up years I was "churched," but not discipled. When I was about 14 or 15, a youth leader at a vacation Bible school gave me a Bible. That was my first Bible and I was very happy to receive it. I read it some as I loved to read but I didn't really know how to study or make The Word mine.

During my teen and young adult years I was master of my own fate and found myself walking a sort of tightrope, doing the best I could. My faith was a safety net beneath my willfullness. I would go about my business, doing things that I knew were against God's stated will for me ( I don't have to give examples do I? ), at the same time hoping and praying for God's protection ( in my sin). I didn't have much Bible knowledge but I knew when I was doing wrong. God's Holy Spirit (and my conscience) would caution me about my wrong doing but most of the time I would ignore the warnings. I would back myself into my little sin corner and then cry out "Oh God! What do You want from me?"

So I did my own thing ( as a Christian) and prayed this desperate prayer for 18 years until one day when I was 30 years old. By this time I'd had a child, gotten married, had another child ( in that order) and my young marriage was on really shaky ground. My husband was also churched, but not discipled; neither of us had a clue what we were doing on this here road of life. I have a large history of divorce in my family line and it seemed I too might be headed in that direction. In desperation one day, I began to call out to God as I never had before. I had come to the end of my proverbial tightrope.

It was during this time that I decided to attend a prayer meeting at my church. This was a new thing for me. I'd never been part of a group that would pray out loud and I was a bit unsure about it. As I waited that day for the meeting to start I remember seeing Robert waiting in the group with us. Robert was a mentally handicapped man who attended our church. Someone tried to send him away (thinking that he was there looking for a ride home) and told him that we were about to have a prayer meeting. I think he surprised us all when he responded, " I came to pray." The praying started. First one and then another. And then Robert. As Robert prayed, everything within me began to shake. His prayer was pure and honest. He praised God for being God. He mentioned how people made fun of him and how it was OK because he knew the perfect One who loved him perfectly. When Robert finished praying I was completely undone. And then I heard God speak to me as never before and I got the answer to my 18 year prayer. God said to me clearly and plainly, " Sharmayn, I want your whole heart."

That night I read in my Bible this passage:

One... who was an expert in the law of Moses asked Jesus this question to test Him: "Teacher which command in the law is the most important? "
Jesus answered , " Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first, Love your neighbor as yourself."
Matthew 22: 36-39

It was then that things for me really changed. I didn't just have fire insurance (protection from going to hell) anymore. Jesus was more than just my Savior, He became my Lord as I said yes to giving Him my whole heart.

After that revelation I wanted to walk closely with God. I started to consult Him in everything, and not only to consult but to obey. My faith was no longer a safety net but a safe haven. Things didn't instantly become perfect for me but I began to devour the Word of God and to grow and to be more conformed to Christ's image.

There have been times since then when I got sidetracked. The busy-ness of life, obligations, responsibilites, and distractions have been all too real to me. (I read somewhere that BUSY is an acronym for Being Under Satan's Yoke). These things may have bought my ticket to the rollercoaster.

It's been 134 days since my life changed forever. ( I started counting the days after my son's death in response to Psalm 90: 12. "Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.") Since Bryant's death I've had to face the rollercoaster of my life. I've been forced to do spiritual inventory and make necessary adjustments. My tragedy has made me a kinder, gentler Sharmayn. I want to be wise. I want to be fully God's and I want Him to be fully mine as I continually get rid of anything that competes with Him for my heart. As I was frantically riding the rollercoaster of life, my son died. And it's time to get off.

I have a new vision for my life these days. I see myself in a lovely carriage strolling about town (with God's banner over me). Everyday I have the choice to ride the crazy coaster or take a stroll with The Father. Everyday is a new beginning, a new opportunity to do things His way, to face any challenge with the confidence that "if God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).

I see horses on the horizon. My King and His chariot await me. I'm going to enjoy the ride. :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Murphy's Law and other applicable cliches

Well I wasn't expecting to have an opportunity to write today for several reasons.

1. Our air conditioning unit is on the fritz and it was 472 degrees inside my house today. ( Actually it was only about 85 until we got a nice, much needed rain. It's now about 7:45 pm and we have the windows up , ceiling fans going and the thermostat is right now reading a cool 81.) A service man came and worked several hours this afternoon only to discover that he needs to replace coils that have to be ordered. So he'll be back tomorrow.

2. Virtually everything else that could have gone wrong, did.

I won't bore you with the details. Let me just say that "when it rains, it pours". "If it's not one thing, it's another"... " No pain, no gain" ... "The road to success is always under construction"... " For crying out loud", "this too shall pass." "It could be worse."

Now I'm smiling as I write this because today was really... well, crappy. I mean the day wasn't crappy because it was a day the Lord made. But the events of the day were all around, pretty crappy.

But you can't keep a good woman down ( definitely not one who knows the Lord). OK, maybe just long enough for her to get a good night's sleep. After a day like today this good woman is gonna take a load off her feet and get some shut-eye. Just between you me and the fencepost, tomorrow is another day. By the grace of God I'll arise in the morning bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to face another day.

And that's the long and short of it. ;)

I did have a special moment in all the chaos of today. I have a cousin who is a singer in the group of a well known contemporary Christian artist. I 'd never met this cousin but I knew who he was. His dad and I are first cousins. His grandfather and my father are brothers. Until this summer I did not know my cousin sang with this well known artist. I was invited to a concert (of said artist) in May by a friend and during the concert, when the artist introduced his group I recognized my cousin's name. After the concert I wanted to get a note delivered to my cousin but I ended up getting a chance to go backstage and meet him. It was so great to meet him. He's about 10 years my junior, married with a young family. I talked to him about our family here, his southern roots, told him briefly about Bryant ( this was about 6 weeks after he'd died.) We talked about 15 or 20 minutes and exchanged phone numbers. I've thought of him often but we hadn't spoken again... until today. Out of the blue he called to say he had been thinking of me. It was such a blessing to hear from him. One of those "God-incidences" (instead of coincidence) that reminds you of God's kindness in the midst of the madness.

Hugs and good night.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Eighteen weeks

It's been 18 weeks today. Onehundredtwenty-six days. Every day for the past 125 days I have relived that Monday evening. Sometimes it seems like a dream, the worst dream. But every Monday has gotten a little bit better.

Today has been a challenge in other ways. Dh started a new job, his first day back to work since April 3. I spent a couple of hours this morning signing my father into a nursing facility. He is scheduled for a few weeks of rehabilitation but there is a possibility he'll need to stay there indefinitely. ( This was/is soooo hard!) I have two meetings at the same time this evening, one is orientation at my teen's high school and the other is equally as important. (Where is a good clone when you need her? ) I'm also operating in sleep deficit because I was up late last night visiting with a young cousin who was in town for the night. I think we turned in around 2:30 am and she had to be up and out this morning for a 7am flight. Then there are the little ones. Every once in a while I stop and scratch my head in wonder at how I ended up with a 3 year old and a 1 year old at this stage of my life. [ Yes, I do know how they got here. :-)] And I want to raise them well.

So in an effort to stay real and also to stay joyful I'll just say that on a scale of 1-10 ( with 10 being tops) my joymeter reads about a 7 today. My brain is tired but it really is a choice. Everything is. We can't always choose the circumstances of our lives but we can choose our reaction and response to the circumstances. By God's grace I'm choosing to live not "under the circumstances" but above them instead.

Bryant's birthday is August 17th. He would be 15. We're planning to have a party for him with the youth group at our church. I want to celebrate his life with his friends and talk to them about how important it is to keep a rich and steady diet of God's Word, to know Truth. I plan to ask each of them to make a fresh commitment, in Bryant's memory, to an authentic faith in and relationship with Jesus. I want them to write out their own private and personal commitments to be placed inside of 15 helium balloons. As a finale, hopefully just before sundown, we will release the balloons in a little ceremony outside on the church grounds.

Eighteen weeks ago today... in fact it was probably happening in these very moments. My son was ushering himself into eternity. And somehow we have to go on. I am going on. Thru the hurt and thru the pain, "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Pitchin' a fit

I am currently in the process of night weaning my 16 month old son. I know I know... My friends are all surprised that I'm still breastfeeding him, especially during the night. And I know he is well past the age of sleeping through.

So we're trying. I was away for two nights last weekend at a Women's Conference and Dh said the baby did well without his "noonie." On Sunday night however, it was as if I hadn't been gone at all and babycakes was ready to do business as usual. Let me tell you it was no small feat to get the lil' guy down for the night. And after we did finally get him to sleep, it wasn't long before he was up frantically looking for me. It has been a real challenge to watch my otherwise gentle-natured baby pitchin' a fit all night long. Last night he was up at least 7 or 8 times.

The month before Bryant died I a did a Bible Study entitled He Speaks to Me (by Priscilla Shirer) on the life of the boy Samuel. Of the many nuggets I got from the study was another "mine" (words that just leap into my heart) passage from Psalm 131, verses 1-2

My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

There is so much going on in my life right this moment. ( In fact I just wrote several long paragraghs detailing it all. Then the computer froze and lost it.) Today is DH's and my anniversary, our first anniversary obviously since the loss of our son. We're told that there is an 80% divorce rate among parents who bury a child. So we are really working and praying and believing hard that God is able to keep us in the 20%. I won't try to recount again all the external stressors (outside of grieving for Bryant) that we face everyday, including but not limited to caring for my ill and aged father who's lived with us for the past 5 years, parenting a 17 year old and 2 toddlers, careers changes and financial concerns and... and... and...

If I didn't know what I know I might even find myself pitchin' a fit... But

"My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things to wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother
like a weaned child is my soul within me"

The fact of the matter is that TRUTH always overcomes (swallows up, conquers, defeats) reality. The reality of my life is that I don't have many answers right now to the why? the what? and the how?. But the TRUTH is that I know the One Who has ALL the ANSWERS. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the earth is His and everything in it, He is good and kind, full of grace ( His free favor) and mercy. He has engraved me on the palm of His Hand and He has good plans for me. He is Lord and King of all. He is mine and I am His, a daughter of The King. In at least four places in the Bible there is the admonition that followers of Christ walk by our faith and not by our sight. Instead of pitchin' a fit I'm gonna trust Him. (And you wannna know what else? He would love me just the same even if I did have myself a good long fit pitchin' moment.) :-)

One day soon my little one will be able to quiet himself without his "noonie", the thing of comfort that he thinks he can't do without. He'll realize that it's time to grow, to move on to the next stage of life, that no matter what, to the best of my abilities I'm going to meet his every need.

" ...In repentence and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength... "Isaiah 30:15