Tag Archives: grief

March Musings

5 Mar
Sunset at Santa Monica March 30, 2011

Sunset at Santa Monica March 30, 2011

I’m just writing something short to say “Welcome” to some of my new and old readers. My goal in 2013 is to really write more on my blog and hopefully focus it a bit more. I so appreciate you reading it and giving your input. I’m also doing some guest blogs this week and in coming weeks for my friends, Dave and Nan and for one of my favorite organizations, A Beautiful Mess. So glad to get to share my heart as I’m learning more about God, life, dating, and waiting.

As I think about life this week, I’m reminded once again to slow down. I cancelled all my plans for the week because on Thursday, I’m flying to Ohio to be with family to celebrate the life of my grandma, who died Sunday night. She was a pistol. Sometimes you never knew what she was going to say. So many crazy stories about her…I’m looking forward to sharing memories with our family this weekend and for her memory. She was a bold one! I only hope to be that audacious in my life!

All that to say, sometimes the silly things I worry about are trivial. This week, hug a friend or family member and express to them what they really mean to you. Say “I’m sorry” where you need to. Keep short accounts. Love well, trust more, and be open. Enjoy a sunset, be grateful for life.

2012 Was, In Many Ways, A Horrible Year…And Yet…

10 Jan
Can We Dare To Hope After A Year Like 2012?

Can We Dare To Hope After A Year Like 2012?

It’s that time of year when we consider where we’ve been and where we want to go. Let’s look back in hopes that it can help us make sense of things so as to move forward:

Oh Lord, you know us so well. You know when we sit and when we rise. You perceive all of our thoughts from afar…

2012 was a very disturbing year in a lot of ways. I became increasingly aware of how fragile life is and how hard grief can hit home when, in February, a 15-year-old kid took his own life by jumping off of his school roof in the town next to the Community Center where I worked. The trend continued when, in July, a gunman shot and killed 12 people in the mall where I grew up. How chilling. How unexpected. Death seemed so close. And to what purpose?

You know this season that we are in where it is hard to see the good amidst all of the pain...

In the fall, death knocked again and I lost my Grandmother. Although not sudden, I didn’t really have the opportunity to say goodbye because life got in the way and I had to keep moving forward. With the end of the year came the end of the world, or so said the Mayans. A minute part of me thought that maybe it would actually happen because although I’m not a cynical person, the news seems to be getting worse lately and fear is at an all time high. I wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t reflected in some of our movies like “The Dark Knight Rises” where, for most of the film, Batman is thwarted by a pervasive evil that he just can’t seem to overcome. Half of me thought he wouldn’t be able to beat Bane but the title did have “Rise” in the title, which gave me a little hope.

 You know all of our suffering. 

So many questions, where are all of the answers?

So many questions, where are all of the answers?

And then in the political arena came doomsday talk of “If Obama wins, it’s over” and “If Romney wins, the country will never be the same.” And although I’ve never really seen a James Bond film, can someone tell me why even the title, “Skyfall”, sounds so ominous? And does he always let women die in these movies? I found it more than a little disturbing that some psychopath, played by Javier Bardem, was so obsessed with killing Judy Dench’s character that the whole movie was based on some sort of misogynistic revenge plot against women. James Bond, himself, wasn’t much better, letting the Bond girl die when, minutes later he was rescued via helicopter. He could have stopped her from getting shot. Amidst all of that came Newtown and the tragedy that struck there. What a horrific cap to an already collectively tough year for us all. Where is the hope when 6 year olds get murdered just for showing up to school?

Comfort the needy. Bring peace to the anxious. 

As a caveat to explain my morose tone, I write this at the beginning of January, two days after learning that my dad’s cousin, who was like an aunt to me, lost her 7 year battle to breast cancer. And all that I can do is cry out. Oh Lord, why? Where’s your hope? Where is your peace? Can you please comfort us?

Can We Approach 2013 with Child-like Innocence?

Can We Approach 2013 with Child-like Innocence?

I can’t help but believe that we need God more than ever now. We need more good news. More good stories. Stories of hope and life. Stories to help us remember that the news isn’t so bleak and that we’re going to make it through this dark season.

 Hear our cry, oh Lord and grant us hope and grace to love despite the evil in this world.

On a cold (for California) night when we’re just ten days into the new year, dare I hope that joy is still here? Dare I pray for God to show up in the midst of all of this? Dare I not?! I have to cling. Because clinging is all I really know how to do to cope with all which seems overwhelming.

Hebrews says it best: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Unswerving. That means to hold on tight no matter what. When the waves are high, when the outlook is bleak. When my soul is downtrodden. When bad things happen to good people. When trying seems pointless. When effort feels wasted. When people die. When the unexpected happens and the healthy become sick. When love is lost. When jobs don’t pan out. When I’m feeling alone and unsure. I hope. I cling.

Help us now, God. We need you. 

So I dare to hope that 2013 is a year of adventure and newness. I hope for a rebirth. I hope for love. I hope for new beginnings and fresh starts. To put behind what was and to hold tight to the hope that I have not yet seen. I hope for good finishes to things I’ve completed and many moments where I’m able to release the breath I’ve had all pent-up in my throat so that I can find peace. With myself. With my life. With death. And with God.


Hope On A LilypadAnd so the whole prayer, we say again slowly, hopefully, and together: Oh Lord, you know us so well. You know when we sit and when we rise. You perceive all of our thoughts from afar. You know this season that we are in where it is hard to see the good amidst all of the pain. You know all of our suffering. Comfort the needy. Bring peace to the anxious. Hear our cry, oh Lord and grant us hope and grace to love despite the evil in this world. Help us now, God. We need you. Amen. 




Saying Goodbye To One Who Knew Me Well

21 Sep

I knew her once and well, but not lately.

Her small, lingering laugh.  Her bright eyes that lit up with emotion.

Her gray fluffy hair that I had long ago seen dark brown like my mom’s.

She smiled big and said “Well,” in a knowing tone.

She liked to explain her thoughts and I liked to listen.

She was small in stature but not in heart.

She had it rough, but she lasted longer than all of them:

The Depression, the Second World War, graduating college with a degree in Latin, 4 children (including twins!), 50 plus years of marriage, her battle with early hearing loss, his battle with cancer, his battle with polio, her battle with cancer, 8 grandchildren, moving to separate rest homes, his death, her friends’ deaths, 4 great grandchildren…she lasted 92 years through it all. A feat in its own right.

What was unique about her was that despite her hearing loss, she still heard me.

My Grandma, Elizabeth Vandersall Hanks

Despite her eyes going, she still saw me. She understood far more than they thought.  I sometimes wonder if she went through life behind the scenes, never really getting all the credit she deserved for all she endured. She was quiet like that. A servant.

I tried to take the time to hear and see her back. She felt blessed but wanted more for her family.  She hoped they would understand joy and our family’s deep traditions that stretched back to her father’s love for God, mission, and country.

She voted. She worked at the church. She believed. She instilled that in me in a deep way without having to say many words to do so.

I am bittersweet because she is gone, but only sweet because I know where she is.  Without a doubt, I know.

My Grandma is in heaven. She can hear. She can laugh. She can see clearly now. She feels no pain. She is sitting at the feet of Jesus and he is delighting in her up close.

He surely said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” and he is so proud of her. So proud. 

In the church we often say that we don’t know people’s hearts.  Only God can judge who will spend eternity with Him. But from what I know about God and what I know about her, she is there with him. I don’t know very many people I can say that about for sure, but she is one. And so I’m happy for her.

She taught me how to persevere. She taught me the fruits of the spirit including peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. She taught me to keep going and I learned not to quit from watching her. She taught me just by being.

Elizabeth Vandersall Hanks , my grandmother, one of my first spiritual influences, went to be with Jesus last weekend. I’m grateful. I’m sad. I miss her.  But most of all I’m determined and committed to continue the work she started here and carry on the legacy she left us.  She was first and foremost a follower of Christ.  So I will cling hard and continue on. I will follow. I will tell others, just as her father did and she did after him.

I love you, Grandma. I know you’re happier than our wildest dreams now. More than anyone I know, you deserve this.

Philippians 2: 2-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.


Where Were You September 11, 2001? Here’s Where I Was…

11 Sep

I was living in the heart of Los Angeles on the USC campus. It was my senior year.

The phone rang. I was in bed on my top bunk, so I had to reach to grab it. It was my mom. The first words I remember her saying was “I think we are being attacked.”   It was mass confusion as I jumped down from my bed and ran into the other room to turn on the TV. She kept blurting out words like “New York City” and “plane.” Something about “World Trade Center.”  Just as I turned on MSNBC, I saw the replay of the plane hit the World Trade Center. My tired mind couldn’t compute. I thought I was watching “Die Hard” or “True Lies.” How could this be real? Reporters were trying to hold it together but I could see the confusion on their faces. They didn’t know what to report. Was this an accident? Just then, the second plane hit and it became collectively clear that this was planned. My mom was right.

We were being attacked.

My throat clenched tight. I thought immediately of NYU, where my boyfriend at the time was attending school. His apartment building was a mere 4 blocks away from the World Trade Center.  I had to hang up with my mom so that I could call him. “Was he okay? Were they evacuating him?” In the confusion, I woke my roommates up. They were just as befuddled as I was. I was hysterical and started to cry. I was scared, but didn’t know of what. I prayed but it was like I forgot the words. I didn’t know what to say to God in that moment. I was too panicked to ask why. It was a more “what can I do all the way here in Los Angeles?” question.

I couldn’t track my boyfriend down for a few hours. All the lines were busy. I called his parents in Vancouver. They hadn’t heard but would call me as soon as they did. At one point, one of my roommates realized that one of our friends was in Boston and was supposed to take a flight out that day back to LA. Was he on one of the planes? We didn’t know.

That pretty much sums up that day. We just didn’t know. We didn’t know why. We didn’t know what we could do from so far away. So we prayed. We cried. We huddled together and erected a mock vigil for the victims and their families. The next couple days were a blur but I remember buying a flag and going down to the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights and waving it as people drove by, joining others who wanted to do something to say

“We’re still here. We love America and we will not go quietly.” The smiles and honks validated us.  People were nicer for a few weeks. The sky was eerily quiet for a major metropolitan city. Yet, we were all in it together.  I wanted it to stay that way forever. Why couldn’t we drive like we did on the days after September 11th? Why couldn’t we all be so united? Why did it have to take a national tragedy to remind us that we can be kind and decent to one another? These questions stayed with me…

My boyfriend was okay, my friend wasn’t on the plane, but September 11th shook me to the core. It made me question my life and purpose in the world. Several days passed and others around me started to unexpectedly lose people who were close to them. A parent. A best friend. A beloved grandmother. All of it was too much for me to handle and it brought me to a crisis point. I was 21 and about to be graduating college into a world that I no longer understood.  A world where death was the norm. People could be there and then gone the next day. Life was truly fragile.  What was I to do about that? How was I to respond? How did I trust God in the midst of that uncertainty?

In December 2001 I got the chance to visit Ground Zero.  Although it was in a devastating sense a graveyard for thousands, there was something about Ground Zero that remained hopeful. Candles still burned there.  And passersby remembered, as did the cleaning crew that was still sorting through the remains.  The images of the smoking buildings, the tattered flags, and the crying relatives had stuck with me. But being there brought a sense of relief that I wasn’t crazy. Whereas many of my California friends had moved on from the events that occurred on September 11th, I needed validation that we wouldn’t just forget. I had been marked by it and I needed to see it up close to somehow understand that we would recover.  In those quiet moments where I replayed the events in my head and looked at pictures of the missing who weren’t coming back, I asked God to show me how to remember.

After September 11th, I started to see a therapist. It was a free service at school and while I thought I was dealing with my issues around the day, I really started to deal with deeper, core issues about myself. Was I going to make it? Was I going to be okay after I graduated? If life just offered death unexpectedly, what then could I do? 11 years later I have a better idea. I can keep holding on. I can keep hoping. I can remember and believe and trust. I can hope. It’s September 11, 2012…11 years later. I still think about those feelings I had. The fear. The uncertainty. The sadness in knowing that our country would never be the same.  The knowledge that it is okay to heal and that grief is a part of life. That God is still good even when we don’t know that he is. Despite everything.

I will tell my children where I was. I will offer stories and try to explain. I will keep traditions and grieve well. I will invest my passions and efforts into others because on that day I learned that heroes wear badges and suits and business casual, not always capes.

I want to remember. 

I hope to never forget.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7

What Do Breakups, The Question of Why, and Adele Have To Say To Us?

12 Dec

me asking why in my younger years

I’m sitting here on my couch and outside it’s pouring rain. It’s 10AM and I’m supposed to be at work. I can’t work. I’m too busy listening to Adele’s “Someone Like You” which rivals James Blunt’s “Goodbye, My Lover” for one of the saddest breakup songs in the world, in my opinion. As Adele croons, “sometimes it lasts in love and sometimes it hurts instead,” I get it. Oh how I get it. I’m here again. At the end of something and yet at a new beginning. An opportunity? I am faced with the question of “What am I going to do about this?” Perhaps you’ve been there too. Something you wanted to work out didn’t. A relationship ended. A job turned out to not be what you’d hoped. A friend chose to not be your friend in a moment you really needed them to.  So many other times when maybe you’ve been disappointed or felt sad about something not going the way you wanted. Oh how I know this.

Yesterday morning I sat on a bench at this children’s memorial park near my house and it read, “Every exit is an entrance to something else.” Those words are true but I wish they weren’t. I don’t want to exit. I liked it.

How many times have these words been true for me before? I even wrote last week that you have to let go of something to create space for something new.  I believe that. Part of me doesn’t want to let go though. It was so good for such a short time. Why? Why are things the way they are? Why does love last sometimes and sometimes it hurts instead? WHY?!

Simultaneously, I’m also being asked to live out what I’ve been talking about on this blog for the better part of a year.  I am currently watching friends date and break up in community and then date again. It’s so painful to watch sometimes. It’s tricky to navigate friendships with people, walk the line, and then have your words to them about sacrificial love suddenly apply to you.  I’m finding now that I have to step up and practice what I’ve preached in a new and difficult way. It’s really awkward. It stings. If I’m honest, I don’t want to do it and I resist, especially yesterday fresh off my own painful experience. Why? Why now? Why is this happening? What’s with the timing?

“Why” is a dangerous question because it can suck you in to a pit that is almost impossible to get out of. The reality is, we don’t often know why. If I spend my time asking why then I’m probably missing the point. There aren’t always reasons for things that we can see from our position. In time, the why’s might be answered but if I spend all of my time wondering why then I could be wasting it when I could be moving forward. Instead I want to look back and remember all of the ways in which God has been faithful to me in my life. The times He has showed up in my darkest hour.

I was praying this morning. I felt like I should read Psalm 116 aloud. It’s actually really encouraging and perfect.  Here’s a portion:

For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

Beaches are the number one place where I process questions. Here's one in North Carolina I visited

And then I remember. Yes, he has done these things! And he will do them again. He helped me walk among the land of the living.  I have walked. And wallowing in my why’s didn’t help. I just had to keep walking one step at a time trusting that that would be enough. In thinking about my past, it has been enough.

If you had told me a year ago that people would be dating partially because of my words on this blog and through life, I would have laughed at you. If you had told me that I would be advocating for my friends to date the people I’ve dated before, I would not have believed you. But here we are. And I don’t know why. But what I do know is this: Our God cares about us. I know this because he cares about me. He sees me in this dark hour. He loves me when I don’t love myself. He knows my own shortcomings. He knows why so that I don’t have to. All I have to do is trust that he knows. Easier said than done, but then I remember his faithfulness this last year in my own life. I see it in the life of my friends who have faced their own sad endings but still choose to walk in the land of the living. I see it in the success stories. I remembered it when I saw the look on my friend’s face yesterday as her baby was getting dedicated and thought about how faithful God was after the traumatic birth. I don’t know why things happen. I don’t have an answer to Adele’s song about why sometimes love lasts and why it hurts instead. But instead of asking why, I will choose to trust that God is good. And that’s all I can do today.

Almost Joyful

13 Jan

I’ve decided to claim joy as mine this week. Somehow, I turned a corner. All of the massive family drama, financial unrest, anxiety, too many things to get done and not enough time, friends going through rough seasons, outpouring, not being able to say no to people, wanting so much but receiving so little, betrayal I felt in friendship, and frustrating grief I’m still feeling almost did me in. I’ll be honest, I was feeling really low last week. Maybe it was because I declared joy as my word and so what else should I honestly expect? When you make a bold step like that, it’s normal to experience setbacks.

I think it was when a few girls from the small group I lead gathered around me that I started to realize yet again how love is manifested. It comes through people. It comes in small moments when you feel seen. It’s a break in the clouds, more gas than you thought in your gas tank, a beach on an overcast day.

I laughed and it wasn’t in my head anymore. It was out loud. It was real. It was a reminder that it’s  okay to be me. The strange thing about grief is that you can’t bottle it all up inside or else you’ll burst. You can spend so long thinking you’re okay and pretending you’re just fine but you aren’t. You have to admit that to someone once in awhile. They have to know that you aren’t as strong as you want to be yet. Yes, you’ll get there but not quite yet. You don’t want to test the ice because it hasn’t frozen all the way through yet and if you walk on it too soon, it will crack and you’ll fall through, never being able to find your way to the surface.

I don’t have it all figured out. I may never. I journey through this life trying to realize that I’m only a passerby. I’m not here permanently. I wait in the dark night and the stars comfort me.  Sometimes you just need a security blanket. Or a friend to ask you a question. Sometimes I need to remember that I’m not invincible and I don’t need to be. Sometimes my strength comes in my vulnerability. I’m sad sometimes. But life is out there waiting. It’s waiting for me to find the joy in it. It’s not easy. I have a lot on my plate. Sometimes it all seems like way too much. And I trick myself into thinking I have all of this time. I don’t. We don’t. We’re here and gone.

I think about Tucson. How did that happen? At a Safeway. I go to a grocery store almost every day of my life for one reason or another. I think about that little girl and all of the hopes she had. She just wanted to see her congresswoman.  I think, I have to feel joy in life if only for her. She wont’ get to experience it here on earth. Don’t I owe it to her? I didn’t know her, but I should enjoy my life. To not would be a sad state of affairs. I heard a TED talk on 1000 Awesome Things. I want to know awesome things. I want to live awesomeness.

Not quite there. But starting to emerge. Not quite. Almost. Getting closer every day. Like an athlete who can’t play quite yet but is resting so that when she gets back in the game, she amazes everyone. Even herself.

Juxtaposed Grief

21 Nov

Juxtaposed Grief

By: Melissa Mills

The glimpses have become moments,

The moments linger longer.

The flower opens gently,

Suddenly I’m stronger.

I ache in quiet places,

That stir aloud to my soul,

My tears have reaped their grief,

Lonely strife taking its toll.

I wait here in this juxtaposition,

Until I cannot sleep.

Battered dreams and untold schemes,

Toward peace I slowly creep.

Abundant  chasms of time,

When nothing makes much sense.

I drip and drop and freely flop,

Waiting for recompense.

An Opposition of Such Emotions,

Simultaneous and true,

Has never sentenced itself upon me,

Until I wrested with you.

Yet here I am inside and out,

A project half complete.

I’ll let you break me, strike me down,

Until you’re obsolete.

And somehow, I keep moving.

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