Live Like LucasThe non-profit organization Live Like Lucas was founded in August of 2015 in order to accomplish the goal of empowering youth to spread kindness. Our first official event was on January 16, 2016 where we had over 200 youth as well as adults participate in service projects and random acts of kindness in the Grand Rapids area. We served a pancake breakfast at Park church, made over 100 lunches and hygiene kits and distributed them to the poor along Division avenue. We made breakfast and did activities with the children at Hope Community, which is temporary housing for single moms and their children. We went to nursing homes and played bingo and bowling with the elderly. We distributed fifty 10.00 gift cards at Meijer as a random act of kindness. The result of just this one day was astounding. The volunteers had their eyes opened to situations that they had never been in before and met people unlike they had ever encountered. They saw people in poverty as real, worthy, human beings who weren’t just lazy. They saw the elderly, as one student put it “peppy and funny and mischievous.” They connected with people who were far outside of the Forest Hills “bubble.” And they wanted to go back. They wanted to do more. They asked, “When can we do this again?” Live Like Lucas is not just about spreading kindness out on the streets of Grand Rapids but also in our schools. We are currently researching programs and speakers to encourage our youth to practice kindness EVERY DAY- not just to their own friends but to those who feel alone and disenfranchised. We want to encourage friendships across all social, racial, and socio-economic boundaries. Teaching kindness also needs to start young. We are working on a program with “Lucas puppets” for the social workers to use to teach lessons on being kind to others and encourage conversation about sadness and loneliness and bullying. The kids will be able to put letters to Lucas in a mailbox so they can express their feelings and in turn the social workers can address these issues. One especially powerful method of learning about kindness in a global way is through mission projects. Our goal for next summer is to fund or partially fund at least 10 trips to Guatemala for kids who would otherwise be unable to go due to financial concerns. Lucas went 2 years ago with my grandparents and it was life changing for him to see the utter poverty and lack of medical care that was available for these people they visited in remote villages. He was prompted to really think about what his future looked like- he had planned on going into the medical field and now felt drawn to the mission field. Live Like Lucas has a vision of youth who look outside of themselves, look outside of wealth and power and popularity as goals and really see the world as how it is- full of hurting people. Even a small act of kindness can turn someone’s day around. It may even change their life.
Monthly Archives: January 2016
Okay, let’s just start with Saturday the 16th. WOW.
I feel really almost two weeks has gone by and I haven’t written about it. It went AMAZINGLY. There was not a single hitch. Not only was there not a single hitch everything went BETTER than I ever could have expected. I am so, so thankful for the many volunteers who came with open hearts and open minds and just served with the best of their ability. It was so beautiful.
In case you don’t follow me or LiveLikeLucas on facebook or now Instagram (I’m trying!!) on January 16th we held the LiveLikeLucas kindness and service extravaganza. It was a giant outpouring of love to the community. Anyone could sign up for a slot to volunteer at a variety of locations in a variety of roles. We had two pancake breakfasts- one for the homeless and another for single moms in transitional housing, three different time slots of playing games with and just having fun with elderly people in nursing homes; making lunches and distributing them to the homeless in downtown Grand Rapids, and also doing random acts of kindness (giving out gift cards) at the Meijer on 28th and Kalamazoo Ave. In addition to that the Forest Hills Central girls and boys basketball teams got together care packages and made hand written cards for 300 soldiers overseas. Well over one hundred people participated in volunteering and hundreds were on the receiving end of the event.
Phew! Now that’s an extravaganza. That’s a kindness-fest.
It was definitely a high. It was a huge learning experience for me. I had never worked with the homeless before. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was nervous taking high school students to Division Ave. We had a large group with lots of adults so I felt like it was safe but how would the recipients react? What would they be like? Would they even accept it?
This is what I learned: they are people. They are people just like you and me who have had an unfortunate turn of events or a lifetime of unfortunate events and because of that they have no home. No place to call their own. They are people that have stories and wisdom and are lives that are worth something. They have something to offer the world. They are made in God’s image.
Yet they are treated as trash. Non-human. Hopeless. People steer clear of them and avoid eye contact. They are mistreated and dehumanized in so many ways that they don’t trust anyone. That is why I wasn’t sure they would accept our lunches. Yet they did. They saw our smiles and LiveLikeLucas shirts and I guess they figured that we were OK. Every person that we offered a lunch to took it (or took several!)
I hope they saw in our faces that we respected them. We talked to them and made eye contact with them. Nearly all expressed their gratitude. I can’t even imagine not knowing where my next meal was coming from and having to accept one from a stranger. I feel like I would be angry at the world. Here these nicely dressed people come parading down the road handing out food. I feel like I would scowl at them. Yet we met many very thankful people.
We all have the same hearts pumping red blood through our veins. We all have hopes and dreams and aspirations. One homeless man we met at park church was an amazing artist. Who knows what other talents lie within these people. How they became homeless doesn’t really matter. Very very few people would choose to be homeless. Perhaps they were just getting by and suddenly lost their job. Sometimes it is substance abuse and often, sadly mental illness. Then suddenly- boom. They are a nobody.
Those were just some of the reflections I had looking back on January 16, and I hope others had the same- how the people we were serving were just like us.
The week following The LiveLikeLucas kindness and service extravaganza was difficult. I really had to deal with all the emotions that came with the reality it had really been a year since I lost my sweet boy. It hit very very hard. For me it hurt so much thinking so much time had passed since he had hugged his brother and sisters. Since he had sat at the dinner table with us. Since I had playfully hugged him tight and called him “little.”
Time is supposedly a friend to grief. Everyone says time heals all wounds. Time helps the pain lessen. Things will seem less raw.
This has not been true for me, if anything it has been more painful and more raw. The only good thing time does is help you figure out ways to deal with the pain. To live with the pain. To carry the pain and still live your life.
My heart breaks every day. In the mornings when I wake up, especially when I see the snow outside and I think of the horrific morning a year ago.
It breaks when I talk to friends about their sophomores driving, thinking about college, playing sports, doing life. Everything my son is supposed to be doing right now. I lost not only him but a chunk of myself that was really excited to have a high schooler and go through all these exciting stages with him- all these milestones. Not just with my other kids but with HIM.
It breaks at dinner time when he is not there. I still struggle with this immensely. The other day I thought “I haven’t made chili in over a year. That would be perfect for a cold snowy day.” I couldn’t do it. I immediately remembered how much Lucas loved chili and all the times we all sat down at the table together to eat it. It was too painful.
My heart breaks so many times during the day every day and it is just something I have to cope with. It’s like a combination of having the wind knocked out of you and have your heart feel like is literally splintered into a thousand tiny shards.
Time has not helped. It has put distance between me and the physical Lucas and that for me is harder than anything. The memories fading. I can still so clearly hear the sound of his voice and the way it felt to hug him and the way he walked and how he looked sitting on the couch doing his homework. These are things that grow fuzzier over time, not sharper. The thought that I would lose any iota of my memories of Lucas is too much to bear.
I am just in the beginning stages of a lifelong process of grief. That is a very depressing thought. I want it to feel better. Yet grief is the price of love. I am paying a heavy, heavy, price. That boy was my whole world. My children are my whole world. We all know the lengths we would go to protect our children. We all know the immense sacrifices we would make for them. I didn’t get a change to protect him. I didn’t get a chance to sacrifice for him to keep him here with me.
So I am left with paying the price: grief.
Yet I was given the immense blessing of having had a child who inspires me so much I want to change the world for him. One act of kindness act a time. For that I am unbelievably thankful. He was a gift to me. He was a gift to the world. I will never know why he was taken to heaven at fifteen until the day I die and ask God, but in the meantime I am not going to waste that gift of his legacy. It may not take away that terrible pain but it gives hope. So much hope. It brings optimism to a future that can seem so bleak. It is something God gives us to keep us getting up every morning and knowing that through our pain we can still make a diffrence.
Ahhhh the woe of sleepless nights…
It is only 11:40 PM, but I have been in bed for two hours. I am tired but my brain simply won’t settle down. I don’t want it to think. I want it to sleep. It hurts when it thinks.
I have been trying to reacquaint myself with instagram. I haven’t used it in over a year. I am just an oldie who is stuck on facebook. I go on and see a picture that Lucas had tagged me in a long time ago and I so just naturally go to his page. As I am doing it I almost feel like a person who cuts themselves to feel better. Isn’t that a strange analogy? I know how deeply painful but somehow satisfying it will be. Except the painful far outweighed the satisfaction. I don’t know how many actual videos there are of Lucas out there, I haven’t really sought them out; we are kind of bad parents that way. I never take videos. There are probably quite a few older ones thanks to my parents and the good old video camera, but recent ones? I don’t know.
I do however know of the ice bucket challenge video on his instagram page. I forgot it existed. I watched it again. I didn’t even have the audio on, I couldn’t bear to hear his voice.
If I could pick one single thing that has caused the most pure unadulterated anguish since the day we buried him… it is watching a video of him. In the flesh (so to speak) moving and talking and…alive.
That was without audio- add that and I think I would be laying in fetal position on the floor. For months.
Have you ever cried for hours? Its really exhausting and painful. I used to just cry in spurts, like 5 or 10 minutes, really hard and then try to pick myself up and move on.
Now it just doesn’t stop. Hours and hours, as if each day he has been gone produces a gallon of tears.
There are many things in life I have not experienced. Sickness, for example. Cancer. Homelessness. Persecution. Hunger.
For some reason I am obsessed with thinking about these things and wishing God had just given me those (even all of them) instead of taking my child. You can go ahead and get mad at me if you have experienced them and think I’m being stupid.
I don’t really know what they are like. I do know loneliness, depression, relationship issues, body image issues, and the brutal chopping off of a piece of my being- my child. I would trade anything in the world for him. Anything. Anything. ANYTHING!!!!!!
So….I am still in the bargaining phase apparently. After a year. I am also still in PTSD mode. I am still “I can’t look your handsome face” mode. I am still in “I can’t celebrate your birthday by having german chocolate cake” mode.
I did however go into his room yesterday. For the first time in 12 months. It was for maybe 30 seconds. Things did not look the same. We had a roof leak in his room (of course) so the furniture was all moved around and wonky. Yet there were HIS clothes on the bed and HIS stuff in the closet and HIS stuff on the walls and HIS baseball trophies on his dresser.
I don’t know why I went in. I went downstairs to look for something. His door was open (it has been closed up until a couple weeks ago when it leaked) and I just walked in. It was kind of an out of body experience. I came back upstairs. Brady was playing with cars. I laid on the floor by him and tried to pretend I wasn’t crying. I made a feeble attempt at building with his building blocks. I tried so hard to keep the sobs in. Finally I said, “Brady do you want to cuddle in bed with mommy?”
Thank goodness he agreed. He promptly fell asleep so I could let out the grief that had been building inside me.
We had an incredible sermon on Sunday at Ada Bible, part of a series entitled “When you feel like giving up.”
Talk about appropriate. I go between “I can’t do this I’m giving up” to “I really really have to do this” about every five minutes.
Jeff talked a lot about fear, which I didn’t think applied to me. Then he started talking about the fear of living with something in your life that doesn’t have a happy ending. Bingo. I know that my grief will not have a happy ending nor will it ever go away. It will always be a part of my life until my dying breath and there is no cure. No solution. No way out. So yes, that does bring me fear. I do fear the future and enduring days, weeks, years, decades without Lucas. Fear is a very real part of grief for me, I just call it anxiety.
The main “character” so to speak in the sermon was Ed Dobson. I had not realized he passed away Dec. 26. He was a friend of Jeff’s and they had stayed in touch in the past years as Ed had deteriorated of ALS.
A clip was shown of Ed being interviewed as he was becoming more advanced in his disease. He was having a difficult time getting words out. The interviewer asked, “how did you feel when you were first diagnosed and you read about all the terrible symptoms and the deterioration and pain you were about to go through?”
Ed responded “I was terrified. It consumed me. I could not stop thinking about what was ahead. So every time I was afraid I would say Hebrews 13:6. I would say it over and over and over and over until I started to believe it. At first I didn’t. But after five minutes or so of repeating it, I did.”
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”
What to do when I am overcome with debilitating grief that I do not know how to handle?
What to do when the tears will not stop flowing?
What do I when I feel so very alone? When my heart is as heavy as a stone and grief follows me around like a stray puppy? When I feel there is no hope, no happy future, no freedom of this tragedy that has encumbered me and surrounded me to the point where all I see is desolation?
I will repeat Hebrews 13:6 over and over and over until I believe it.
“He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.…”
I have been tossing and turning for 3 hours now, feeling like I am submerged under the ocean dying for a breath and I just can’t seem to get to the top. I need him like I need oxygen. I suspect it will always feeling like this to varying degrees…from feeling mildly breathless to gasping for air.
He would have been 16 today. As i typed that my fingers didn’t want to, it was like slow motion; almost like if I didn’t type it it wouldn’t come true.
I keep thinking about the day he was born, and beautiful blonde haired 7 lb 11 oz baby boy and we were instantly bonded. I loved him fiercely and that never wavered. He was gorgeous, he was a gift from heaven, and he was mine. Mine to take care of and protect and nurture and I loved every single minute of it.
I delighted in everything he did, every little milestone, every little word and could just not get enough of him. I remember picking him up from the babysitters and I would hold his hand from the front seat just so I could touch him on the ride home.
It is different with a first child. Not only was he my only one for 3 years and 9 months, I believe he was the easiest little boy that ever lived. I don’t remember disciplining him. Ever. My memory is probably a little fuzzy on that but I distinctly remember the shenanigans that his sisters got into especially in those younger years and the exasperation that ensued.
No one is perfect. We are all sinners. Yet Lucas was a one in a million, and I don’t say that to brag about my wonderful genes or parenting skills. It is simply true. God made him that way and I have had many people say similar things about him.
This is what you do on your child’s birthday- you celebrate him or her. You focus on all the good things. You thank God for their life and everything they mean to you.
I can’t stop thinking about his beautiful curly hair and blue eyes. His impressive height and build. How simply exquisite he was. Because it shone through from the inside too.
I keep thinking about how he looked shooting his bow and arrow and what an amazing shot he was.
Seeing him swing a bat and have it go soaring over the fence.
Watching him bowl a near perfect score.
Seeing him sit on the couch texting and peeking over his shoulder to see he was consoling a hurting friend.
Hearing him talk about how he stood up for a girl who was being mocked at his lunch table.
Hearing the genuine concern and hurt in his voice when he was talking to me about what to do about a relationship and not wanting to cause hurt.
Seeing him cry because he wanted so badly to get straight A’s but his memory just kept failing him no matter how much he studied and he just couldn’t focus in class.
Being amazing at his incredible writing skills, his impressive collection of diverse music, his many interests that were so different from his peers.
The way he read his Bible app every night.
The way he hugged me and asked me every day after school how my day was.
I miss him like a flower needs the rain. Wilted and drooping.
He was an incredible gift. His memory is an incredible gift- although is causes more pain and agony to me right now that I every could have dreamed possible.
Happy Birthday baby. This will be your best one yet.
His picture- his face, his eyes, it gets me every time. I don’t keep pictures up of him around the house for that reason. Then I open the blog and POP! There it is- fresh heartache and a re-opened wound with salt poured on it. Such a beautiful face, a beautiful soul, I want to grab him right out of the screen and hold him forever. Never let go. Yet I sit here with empty arms and a tear stained face.
A New Year. I tried to ignore and dull myself to that fact as much as I did Christmas and Thanksgiving. It was too much. I went through the motions (barely) and just willed myself to get through it. My kids are probably starting to think Mommy lives in bed. I have been better some days than others. Yet the days I am not in bed I am simply existing, too exhausted and depressed to do much more than make a peanut butter sandwich and turn on their favorite shows. The thought of taking them ice skating or to a movie or Catch Air or some kind of outing- well you might as well ask me to dig a hole to China.
You see- I have been fighting depression for many many years. I have managed to stay somewhat on top of it, well at least to the point where I don’t spend days in bed. Too often. Yet it is one of the major struggles in my life. I have tried more medications and therapists than I care to admit. I wish more than anything people understood better; I feel even as I am typing this that I am going to be judged. I feel like people will look at me as weak. Even people very close to me still think that I should just snap out of it and pull myself up by my own bootstraps. It is incredibly hurtful. It is an illness.
I didn’t decide to blog today to write about depression. That is just a side note I didn’t really plan on adding. Yet as always my blogging is simply a steam of consciousness, not a book or a paper or anything close. I simply write it, quickly skim it for missed or misspelled words and bam! publish. I do not worry about grammar (as you may have noticed…)
So the New Year. It is simply a date on a calendar, people make a big deal out of it, I have never honestly understood why. Yes it is a symbolic date to “start over” “make resolutions” “be a better person”…but there is no reason that can’t be February 1 or July 15 or September 3. Am I right? Yes it is a chance to have parties and celebrate with friends and family. I haven’t done that since before I had kids. Now I see all of the pictures on Facebook of people having parties and merrymaking and I cry. Hard. Every year.
Wow, you must be thinking, I am so crazy for baring my soul like this. As I have said from the very beginning, I don’t care any more. When you experience loss that strips everything away from you the last thing you worry about it blogging about depression and loneliness. I have nothing else to lose. There is nothing in the world more valuable than your child. If I lose people’s respect because I am telling thousands of people my deepest innermost feelings…that is really insignificant. If they can’t love me for who I am then what is the point?
Here’s what I am working on…so intently…truly believing with my heart and soul that that the God of the universe loves me more than everyone on earth ever could…that he knows my every innermost thoughts and feelings and will NEVER EVER fail me. It’s called faith. It’s remembering that no matter how lonely and heartbroken and raw and hopeless I feel he is right there next to me. Faith is HARD. We live in a world of the tangible- friends that can sit across from us at the table and reassure us. We can’t see God. We can’t call him on the phone. We have to open our hearts and minds completely to his presence and allow him to work in our lives. We have to be completely open, transparent, and humble. It goes against our every grain to let a being we cannot see take control of our lives.
That is what it comes down to for me…I lost the control I thought I had on January 16. I thought my life was MY life. I thought is was MY life that I could kind of fit God in where I wanted him…in a corner here or a corner there.
I could not have been more wrong. There is nothing about our lives that is in our control.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[a]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
I cannot base my happiness on anything in this world. Not even my children. I lost an incredible young man almost a year ago- a pure-hearted, kind, giving, compassionate, intelligent, funny, sweet human being who I thought was my whole world. He showed me constantly how much he cared about me and my feelings. He was, as I thought so many times, almost too good to be true.
I don’t have him anymore. What I have had, is God whispering in my ear for nearly a year “… surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b.
That is my “New Years” resolution. To have faith and trust that God will NEVER leave me. That I am not in control and never have been; I have been given the greatest gift ever given; Jesus.
I am reminded once again of the Heidelberg catechism Q1 that I quoted on TV a few days after Lucas’ passing. It holds true just as much that day as now- and just as much to you as to me. No matter your creed or denomination, each sentence comes straight from the Bible.
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,1 but belong—body and soul, in life and in death2—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4 and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5 He also watches over me in such a way6 that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven;7 in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.8
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life9 and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.10