Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer Olympics 2012

Haven't seen me since Friday night? The truth is you may not see me for the next two weeks! I am glued to the couch with my eyes peeled on the Summer Olympics in London.  I've always been a sports fan, but I become a fanatic with the Olympics -- particularly the summer ones! Here's my take so far:

So, let's just briefly touch on Friday night. I didn't think it was the worst Opening Ceremonies, but I didn't fully appreciate it. If you enjoy British humor, you probably considered it a hit! You lost me after the Queen parachuted out of the helicopter! That was cute and then I was done. Mr. Bean, dancing through the thanks! Then during the Parade of Nations I start to seriously question my intelligence. I mean, I know, I haven't taken geography since 5th grade and don't regularly study a globe, but seriously, where ARE some of these countries?!! And the Parade of Nations I was conked out by "T" and apparently missed the best part of the show, at least in my opinion. The fireworks spectacular was just that, SPECTACULAR! And, I missed it. I was in dreamland (Is that a country? Just kidding. Bad joke!) by that point.

Being the sports fan that I am, I was thrilled to wake up Saturday morning to see what was going on! The TV was tuned to cycling. I would never choose to watch cycling on TV. It is the Olympics; I was hooked! I must have stared at all of those bike wheels going round and round for at least an hour. A 38 year old athlete from Kazakhstan claims the gold! Is niiiiiiiiiiiiice!

Then we move onto the women's volleyball where the US is going up against Korea. There is a woman who is 6'4'' on the Korean team!! That is tall for the Americans, but wow! I am not trying to be racist, but such height is unusual for the Korean culture and it was just fascinating to watch. I always wonder how the different teams get assembled.

Moving right along to swimming... All I have to say is anytime the male swimmers are competing, my grief temporarily escapes me! Pure bliss! I won't discuss them any further because I don't want this blog post to turn into an excerpt of "Fifty Shades of Grey", but WOW! I could never be that ripped even if my abs were airbrushed! It's no secret that Ryan Lochte is a hottie! I'd really be more interested in Brendan Hansen, but he's married, so he's off limits. Let's not even mention the fact that I read many of these athletes bios and a number were born in 1992! A whole DECADE after me! Yikes! We'll just leave all of that alone.

Synchronized diving just blows my mind! How does anyone have the patience to ensure they are that precise? I always get nervous when their feet are hanging off the edge of the diving board, afraid they are going to fall. Then they jump and twirl and are in perfect sync. And, the kicker is the announcer said that the Americans don't even have the opportunity to train together! Crazy! Beautiful!

And my favorite event -- Gymnastics. I admire the strength and beauty of that sport. When I was younger I took gymnastics for a little while. Those of you who know my disability might think that was impossible, but nope! I don't let anything stand in the way and truly enjoyed the uneven bars because I have arm strength. If I am watching the Olympians, though, my favorite events are the balance beam and the vault. One announcer commented last night that a routine on vault was OBSCENE because she kept going up when gravity should have been pulling her down! How on earth are the moves they do even humanly possible? It's just all so fascinating to me! If I could be an Olympic athlete, I'd be a gymnast. I'm short, have "muscular" thighs (yeah...right) and would love to fly through the air! Can't ya see it? Yeah, I thought so.

I try to stay up and watch the medal ceremonies. Standing on the podium listening to your anthem being played must be such an emotional and proud moment. All of your hard work and perseverance has paid off and you are representing your country as a winner! Question: Is the US the only country that puts their hand over their heart during the anthem? I haven't seen any other country do it.

If you can't tell, I am thrilled the Games are on and that my favorite events kick it off! In case you don't see me for awhile, no need to alert the authorities.  Just come and check the couch! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Inheritance

The months after a loved one's death are stressful. In addition to grieving the loss, you find yourself "buried" in paperwork to settle the affairs of the estate. When all is said and done, you've lost a loved one and gained their inheritance. The most basic definition of inheritance is what you leave to your loved one. This can come in many forms; the most common being money, property, clothes and prized possessions. I have a couple ideas of what I would like as a remembrance of Mike, but I would argue that your inheritance does not have to come in a material form. After the affairs are settled, I won't gain Mike's material possessions. Nevertheless, he did leave me an inheritance.

What I inherited:
  • A love of the Lord: It has been tempting to just walk away from God and to abandon my faith after such a tragedy. I trusted God to work things out. I trusted God to heal Mike. We had even been praying specific verses that assured us that God would rescue Mike and sustain him with a long life. That didn't happen. Despite the tragic circumstances, Mike fervently loved Jesus. Jesus has clearly been present throughout all of this. So, even though things didn't turn out as I'd prayed they would, God is still there. I will continue to love Him and live out my faith.
  • A desire to learn new things: Mike never stopped learning. Whether he was attending an auto mechanic class, brushing up on his Italian, or reading a host of books and newspapers, he had a hunger for knowledge. There are some plans in the works that could potentially put me back in a classroom, but formal education or not, I vow to never stop learning.
  • A desire to serve: He was a leader with a servant's heart. He coached youth soccer, started a Bible study (in middle school!), cooked for a lonely, old lady in his apartment building, and was the first one there to help Grams into her wheelchair. My "community service" attitude and activities have been put on the back-burner in recent years. It's time to get serious about service. This could be something as small as helping the wheelchair bound intern in my office or something as large as finally getting that non-profit rolling! Mike and I were working on that together.  Either way, time to serve it up! 
  • The travel bug: In addition to discussing a temporary move to London, Mike and I sat down and made an "exploration map", otherwise known as a list of places we'd like to visit. The list contains over 100 destinations. We've always felt it is important to experience people different than us. What better way to do that than to be on their own turf! My grief has kept me close to home, but Mike would want me to get out and explore beyond 22314!  Next destination? (London will have to wait for now.) 
  • Caring for others despite your own pain: Towards the end of Mike's life, he was in a great deal of pain. At that same time, I was having major surgery. Before the doctor had even walked away from briefing my parents on the outcome of my surgery, my mom's phone rang. It was Mike checking to see that I made it through without any issues. I also reflect back on our last conversation and now see ways in which he showed me he truly cared. Truthfully, I've found it difficult to care for others amidst my own heartbreak. Mike made an effort. Why shouldn't I?
  • A smile: Dude had a smile that could light up the whole world! The last three months, grief has hidden my pearly whites. I'll tuck his smile in my heart and flash mine for the world to see. 
Those of you who know me may say that the things I am claiming as my inheritance were present within me before Mike's death. I don't disagree with you. When you inherit something, it doesn't mean you didn't have something like it before. Typically, you gain more of what you already had. My inheritance from Mike is a rekindling of things already present -- a stronger desire/inclination. If you never had the opportunity to meet Mike, bummer! You missed out on one of the most amazing men the world has ever known! But, thanks to my inheritance, I will carry his spirit inside of me and "introduce" him to you.

It's never too early to start thinking about what you will leave behind to those you love.

Dude, I love you. Thanks for everything.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Fierce Goodbye

I never dreamed of writing this post. I never wanted to have experience in grieving a suicide. But, unfortunately, on April 3, 2012, I was inducted into the "suicide survivor club". I wish I could turn in my membership card in exchange for my best friend. I can't, so I thought I would use my experience over the last three months to hopefully help others.

Induction into the "suicide survivor club" was the most traumatic and heartbreaking experience of my life. The pain, at times, is unbearable. Initially, I prayed for my heart to continue to beat. I didn't want to die, but thought my heart could not withstand the pain. Through the help of counselors, fellow survivors, and a couple good resources, I have learned that the journey to healing will be long but healing will come. Grieving a suicide is different than grieving a typical death. Accompanied with the loss, is shock, trauma and questions that will never have answers on this earth. I have also learned that I am not alone in this journey. I realize I have readers outside my circle of friends and family, so I wanted to use this blog post to share some of the resources that have been helpful during this difficult time.

Besides prayer and faith that God will bring me through this, a pivotal resource is a book called "Grieving a Suicide by Albert Hsu. Hsu is a suicide survivor and a Christian. He writes from his personal experience, stressing that God is not only with you, but also with your loved one in heaven. I found myself flipping through the pages and identifying with nearly every one!

A few of my favorite passages:

"Because death has struck so close to home, life itself seems uncertain. We don't know if we can go on from day to day. We wonder if we will be consumed by the same despair that claimed our loved one. At the very least, we know that our life will never be the same. [We will go on living] as people who see the world very differently" (Hsu, 10). 

"Suicide carries in its aftermath a level of confusion and devastation that is, for the most part, beyond description". (Hsu, 23)

But just when it seems bleak, there is hope.

 "God doesn't only absorb the pain of grief and loss; he makes a way through it....If God knows suffering and we know suffering, then we can know God even in the midst of our suffering....God's pledge is not that suffering will never afflict us, but that it will never separate us from His love" (Hsu, 130).
Hsu also emphasizes that living your life honors your loved one. This sounds easier said than done amidst mourning, but another helpful resource is This website discusses suicide from a Christian perspective and details what you might experience during the grief process. It  also offers suggestions for going beyond surviving. Whether reading this book or perusing this website, you could probably overhear me saying, "That's me!" over and over. 

If you are a friend of a survivor and are looking for ways to help them, here are some things that have been helpful and hurtful so far in this process.

Helpful to hear:
  • "I don't know what you are going through, but I am here with you."
  • "Just go with whatever emotion you are feeling and let it pass through.": Don't stifle your anger, tears, fears or even laughter.
  • "Take your time."
  • "I love you":  It is so important to hear these three words. Sometimes it feels like your loved one abandoned you and didn't love you (even though that's typically not the case). Hearing those words is confirmation that you do matter.
  • Let the survivor talk about the loss.  To you, it will probably feel like they are talking in circles. Chances are, that's true, but the loss consumes their thoughts. It takes so much energy to think of something else to talk about. 
  • Prayer

Hurtful to hear:
  • "You'll get over this." Survivors learn to live with the loss, but will never "get over" the fact that their loved one took their own life.
  • "Move on.": This may be the most hurtful. We are well aware that life goes on and we will eventually not feel as bad as we do at this point, but it's a slow process.
  • "This was all a part of God's plan" or "He needed another angel in heaven.": God never wants someone to take their own life.       
  • Asking a lot of questions or posing possible reasons for the suicide when you were not close to the loved one: Suicide survivors have tons of questions swirling around in their heads. More just feel incredibly overwhelming and almost suffocating.      
 To date, it has been a little over 3 months since I lost Mike. As my counselor says, "Three months is only the first trimester of a pregnancy! You have a long way to go, baby!" I continue to work through this grief and will join a suicide support group. The suggestions I offer here have been helpful to me.  My hope is that they aid someone else. However, I pray that you never have to use them. 

If you suffer from depression, please get help. There is hope for you. If you know someone who suffers from depression, speak up and urge them to get the help they need and deserve. Risk your friendship to save a life. There needn't be anymore members in the "suicide survivor club"!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fourth of July

You don't have to ask me twice if I'd like to spend Fourth of July on a boat! It's rare that I turn down a relaxing day on the water and that's exactly what this was!
At 9am, we set sail on the beauty second from the right. The boat was docked at Washington Sailing Marina in Old Town. My mom and I accompanied a family friend, Danny, his wife and a bunch of their friends. They had this whole "day on the water" deal down to a science. As soon as we boarded, we were greeted with blueberry french toast for breakfast. Yum!
Dad didn't go because he was afraid of getting seasick, but man, did he miss out!
We leisurely sailed from Old Town down to the Georgetown waterfront. I typically get lost in my thoughts and surroundings when I am near water, but this was a particularly reflective and relaxing time for me.

Along the way, "Captain Danny" noticed these boys out to the right of us. It looked as if their dinghy had stalled, and despite a valiant effort, the engine would not start. We cruised alongside of them to see if they needed any help. I don't know if you can tell, but there are four boys in that boat. The oldest looks about 16 and the other 3 were all under 7. The "future mother" in me kicked in and was concerned that kids so young should not be on the water by themselves. Danny was worried that if we did not help them, they would be stranded! (At least, until the water patrol came by). They finally gave into our offer to help,
and we towed them to their much larger boat along the Georgetown waterfront! Poor kids were trying to go kayaking at Roosevelt Island and never made it!

Feeling like we had done a good deed for the day, we threw some burgers and dogs on the grill and headed back to the dock. Along the way, we saw this
It is a "missing man formation". This is done at military funerals when a pilot dies. It is a stark reminder that even as I am relaxing on America's birthday, brave men and women are out there fighting and sacrificing their lives for the freedom I enjoy on that day and everyday.

Given that the temperatures soared above the century mark on the fourth of July, the day felt like a scorcher just sitting at the dock. We escaped the heat and returned to my parents' house to trade the boat for the pool.
My dad went for his annual dip in the pool. We had to memorialize the moment because it is rare! While his leading ladies and guests continued floating around for a few more hours, he went inside to play bartender.
  Strawberry daiquiris are a must on Fourth of July. As is cake.
It is America's birthday, after all. What is a birthday without cake!?

After cooling off and stuffing our faces with red, white and blue goodies, we returned to the boat for some more relaxing and the perfect view of the fireworks!

I absolutely love fireworks, so I transformed into a little kid at Christmas during the show!

All and all, it was a very relaxing and refreshing day. Thanks to Danny for his hospitality, thanks to all who fight for our freedom, and thanks to God for a day to escape my worries and relax on the water.

For being 236, you look pretty good, America! Happy Birthday! God Bless!

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