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.
Author Archives: melissaconner2015
It’s your birthday today baby. No matter if you would have been 18, should have been 18, or will forever remain 15, today is the day you came into this world. Today is the day you changed my life forever from a naive, devil- may- care 20 year old into a mom. The minute you were born I had someone I was responsible for, someone I had to take care of, someone who’s life mattered more to me than my own. You were impacting me even as a newborn. You were an unexpected gift that had caused me so much anguish and heartache but turned into unspeakable joy and fulfillment.
You taught me true fulfillment comes from putting others ahead of yourself. Its hard to remember being happier than those days when I was juggling motherhood with going to school, knowing that every early morning and late night studying was going to further our future. I wasn’t just going to school for myself I was going for us. My heart ached for you while I sat through classes and taught lessons. I didn’t feel complete until I held you in my arms at the end of the day even if you were already asleep. I think you may have saved me back then from a potential train wreck caused by my own selfishness.
It’s still very very difficult to bring back memories of your life and I don’t know if that will ever change. The grief is still so raw and intense and your absence so looming…I am torn every day between wanting to remember the beauty of your life and knowing that it will bring back deep heartache. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “he’s in heaven now! He does’t have to endure the hardship and pain of this evil world.” I can’t fault them at all . The Bible says, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Thessalonians 4:13-14
Is it comforting? Of course. Does it mean I don’t miss you in every cell of my being and feel your absence every single day? No. I still selfishly want you here with your family and everyone who loves you so you can continue to change the world for the better.
You would understand. Your intuition and sensitivity were intense. You would not think my grief for you is over the top, that I just need to get over it, that I need to remember you are in a better place. You knew me better than that. Empathy was probably your strongest trait. There were many places where our brains intersected and I could see myself in you. Then there were other places where I could only hope to be what you were. You understood me better than anyone.
You knew how much I loved you and cherished you and how special I thought you were. I know you felt the same despite my many faults. Though you never personally lost anyone close to you I know you would never have minimized my grief. How strange to think about how you would have reacted to my grief about your loss. Yet I think about it. I think about it because it was you who comforted me so many times. It was you who always had a hug and a “it will be ok momma.” That was the best gift you could ever give and something that will be imprinted on my brain forever. I still remember exactly the way it felt to hug you.
It has been another hard year without you with many bumps and twists. So many days I couldn’t get out of bed. I often feel like this earth is a foreign and hostile place where I do not want to be. It has taken all my strength to keep my head above water. This year I have grieved the ending of my marriage. I have had to accept the hard reality of living alone for the first time in my life and being a single parent. I have experienced the stress and anxiety of trying to find a full time job after being a stay at home parent for 15 years. My plans of finding my dream job that would actually pay the bills did not turn into reality. So many times I have thought of how much easier things would have been with your support. So many times I have felt the absence of your strength.
I have stopped asking why…it’s an exercise in futility. There are just no answers. I accept the fact that this earthly life by nature is simply full of pain and the only thing we can do is try to grow from it. We must grasp the blessings as they come to us and realize happiness is a choice. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kids, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverence.” James 1:2-4
It feels like a lifetime has passed and then it feels like it has been only days. The thing about life is most things have a starting and an ending point yet grief is not that way. When I think about the tears, the struggles, the wrestling, the heartache, the prayers I have silently offered up every day, it feels as if I should have made some significant progress. Yet today after three years I feel as if I lost you three weeks ago. I think the hardest thing about your going to heaven, other than the fact that you are gone is that no one understands. It becomes painfully clear by the things they say… or don’t say. It becomes clearer and clearer to me as time goes on that despite their best intentions, people just don’t get it. This experience is very isolating. Yet I wouldn’t wish this understanding on anyone.
Yet there have been a few who have walked this walk with me without judgement or expectation. They have simply been there. As Nicholas Wolterstorff said, they have “sat on the mourning bench with me.” They know there is nothing to say that will make it better. What I need is the reassurance of knowing they will check up on me and reach out to make sure I haven’t gone under.
You have changed me for the better sweet boy, through your life and through your passing; although today I feel like a bloody mess. You were, and are, a blessing beyond the scope of the imagination and every part of your life and existence was woven into the tapestry of God’s plan.
You have shown us all what a life worth living looks like in your short fifteen years. That is a feat few can claim. Not that you did it loudly or publicly or with even anyone knowing. It was quiet and sincere and came from a heart of love. I think what I am most proud of is that you showed the true nature of a child of God. Perhaps it was because of the way that you lived your life that he chose to take you home so soon…as a reward for being a good and faithful servant.
Remembering your birthday today isn’t for you…it’s for us. I will never forget your birthday just as I won’t ever forget your life, as it flashes by me in vivid pictures. So many beautiful memories that leave me in a puddle of tears. I want to hold on to every little detail but I know they will slip through my fingers like grains of sand. The past is always lost to us except in memories but with you we also lost your future and that is the hardest pill to swallow.
It is what you left behind that is most important… a legacy. Lucas Van Sprange was a young man who showed an incredible amount of kindness and encouragement to others and was a true friend. Not just sometimes but all of the time. To leave a legacy is rare and precious. You walked in the way of Christ. That is why you were kind and selfless and compassionate. You chose that path for your life, not the easy one but the narrow and difficult. The one that requires surrendering of yourself…an incredibly difficult feat in this self-centered world.
Happy Birthday my sweet boy. Thank you for your gift.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
It seems about once a week or so I have this outpour of emotions, this overwhelming desire to just let it all out and blog and then for some reason I am not able to. Right now I have about 15 minutes until the bus comes to drop Bryleigh off.
This keeps happening over and over and its enormously frustrating because blogging helps me cope so much. It takes such an enormous weight off my shoulders to share what I feel…almost like I’m sprinkling a little bit of it on everyone who reads it so they can share my burden. Just a little.
I haven’t done an entire blog post since June 9th. Its October. That’s a lot of pent up emotion!
My heart is breaking right now. crumbling into little pieces and falling to the floor. Sometimes I feel like grieving is like your heart is dying a slow death. It hurts so much to feel that it just can’t any more.
I hate that it has been so long.
I hate that is has been so long since he called me to pick him up from baseball training.
That is what got me so upset…I was cleaning my car on this beautiful fall day and it was about 3:45 and suddenly, out of the blue, I thought he would be calling me soon.
It broke me….it broke me that his phone has been still and silent for 21 months. What a funny thing it is- literally a butterfly beats its wings the wrong way and I start crying about him. The smallest most inconsequential thing and the tears will flow. And flow.
Right now I’m thinking about words and how inadequately they describe grief and losing a child in particular… how difficult it is to convey the very depth of your pain. To give people even an inkling of what it feels like. I used to think strange, strange things when people’s children died. I didn’t understand it at all. I am embarrassed to admit some of the things I thought. Like whether or not the parents thought, “wow I have just spent _ years raising this child and now its for nothing.” I imagined that after a few years they would still miss them and be sad sometimes, but not a lot. Just on anniversaries and birthdays and holidays. They would mostly just dwell on happy memories and the grief wouldn’t be so sharp and raw anymore.
could have imagined how many times a day I think of him.
How f*cking awful it is to lose a child.
Yep I said it. Its awful when your dog dies, or your car breaks down or your house blows away. Its awful when people get sick and old and people are cruel and hateful and kids get bullied.
It’s f*cking awful to lose a child.
Not just saying this to make you feel sorry for me. Or feel guilty. I just say what’s on my heart because it helps to let it GO. To let it OUT. To scream it to the world because sometimes its just too much for me to bear.
Sometimes I feel my pain is pushing me further away from God instead of closer to him. Every time I start to feel angry because that its not my handsome kid going to homecoming or hanging out with his friends at the football game. That he is not calling me to be picked up (though he would be driving by now). That this must be some sort of punishment. How can it be that a loving God would have this in his plan when Lucas was my world, and not only that he was on track to change the world. What was in his heart was so pure, so loving, so compassionate it defies understanding.
Then I stop, and remember that Jesus is all I have. He is my everything. The only one who truly loves me unconditionally and is there to comfort me in every minute of every hour. This world is a fleeting blip on the screen of eternity. Heaven is the big picture. We are here to prepare for heaven. That is all that this life is. Simply a blink of an eye.
Still…though just a blink the days and hours seem to last eternity sometimes. The pain is just too much and now I have shared it all with you, collectively, my readers. Who have been so incredibly supportive of me and my family. I read through some of the comments again before I started blogging and they are so healing and soothing and uplifting.
Thank you for reading. You never really know the impact you can have on someone by simply stopping them and saying, “I think about you often. You are still in my prayers.” Not only does that tell me that they care about me but they still remember my sweet boy. To anyone who has had a loss- acknowledgement means “I remember. I am sure you are still in a lot of pain and you have to hide it every day. But I remember and my heart is with you.”
So just say something. Even if you feel awkward or like you won’t make much of a difference- say it anyway.
I’ve been training for the LLL 5k. Yes, exactly four weeks before the race I first tied on my running shoes and got out there and started pounding the pavement. You know the run (if you can call it that) slash walk thing you do when your pretty out of shape and it feels like some kind of medieval torture?
I used to like to run. That was about ten years ago. I remember how great and easy it felt, you know the “runners high” and the endorphins and all that? Well that has not come back yet. That feels like a different lifetime. In so many ways.
So the other day I was really trying to push myself towards the end of my torture session- my lungs were searing, my legs felt like lead, everything in my body was telling me “stop! STOP! This will not end well!!
I thought, this is my life. Life is like a beginning runner. The nice easy walking part is enjoyable, it feels good, it’s necessary. Yet if that is all we do it doesn’t really get us towards that goal of being a runner.
I don’t feel like there’s a lot of “walking” in my life right now. I feel like I am hanging on to the edge of a cliff by my fingernails. Yes, there are those blissful short times when I forget. But it’s like going to the mall with a toddler- you are constantly aware of where they are because you don’t want to lose them- until you are distracted by a shiny necklace in a store window. For a minute you forget about the toddler until they start running away and then you start chasing them in a panic.
If I don’t think about him I feel like I am losing him. Even though he is not on earth with me everything that he was to me lives in my head. Every conversation we had, every hug, every precious moment of time we spent together is only stored in one place. I never, ever, ever want to lose that.
So, you say, that’s good right? You can think about all the good times with him and it makes you happy.
I wish. Every thought, every picture, every story, every reminder, every little thing that belonged to him that I still find hidden around the house is a cause of tremendous pain. Excruciating, wracking pain.
So back to the running metaphor- I am at the lung searing, legs like lead, heart pounding out of my chest, body crying out for mercy phase right now. Yet that is what turns a walker into a runner. No pain, no gain, right? If we don’t push ourselves we will not grow.
As difficult as life is right now I have complete trust in what God is doing. I have accepted the fact that this is really really sucky but I am going to grow through it. Do I feel like I am running into a concrete wall over and over sometimes? Yes. Yet I also believe wholeheartedly that God loves me and has an incredible plan for me. Christians suffer just like anyone else- we live in a fallen world. Being a Christian doesn’t put me in a bubble that protects me from all the horrible things that happen in the world.
So… as I was running and on the verge of giving up suddenly a light rain started coming down. I immediately thought of God’s blessings showering down on me: my four beautiful children on earth. A loving family. The friends that are always there for me. The people that continue to pray us through this difficulty. Knowing that Lucas is in PARADISE! As much as we miss him here is no way he would ever want to come back to earth. He gets to spend every day with Jesus. I am so, so beyond jealous.
I just have one favor to ask you. Please sign up for the LiveLikeLucas 5k. You can walk it, jog it, run it, gallop it- whatever you want. Without your support we cannot fulfill out mission of empowering youth to spread kindness. This journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
sign up here:
It is a gorgeous sunny Saturday- the sun couldn’t be brighter, the trees any greener, the sky any bluer.
My eyes keep filling with tears blurring the sun, the trees, the sky; obscuring their beauty. The tears make my eyes sting, throat ache, my heart feel like a big heavy rock.
I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to blog like this. I’m so tired, so tired of hurting yet I know their isn’t an end in sight…yet.
It’s prom tonight. It’s mother’s day tomorrow. The fields are full of baseball players running and hitting and sliding and catching in green grass stained pants. The world is still just a spinning away, each rotation bringing a new dawn and a fresh start and every day my son is not here. Every day feels like he gets further away; more of the world’s history gets piled on top of the year and four-ish months since he has not been a part of it.
It’s just so heartbreaking I feel like if the pain were shards of glass piercing my heart I would be dead in second.
I’m working on my candles today because I need a whole bunch of them for the Painted Farmgirl flea market next Saturday. It would be a welcome distraction if it weren’t for my kids also fighting and screaming at each other so I have to stop every two minutes and try to referee. I would let them just go at it but one of them is four so most often he is involved. He also desperately wants me to play trucks with him and go to the park. In a few minutes, I keep saying, in a few minutes.
I’m using an electric sander and it grinds away the imperfections in the glass slowly and tediously but yet it is satisfying. Taking a rough bumpy surface and making smooth and beautiful. I have bumped my finger on the sand paper a few times and made it bloody and raw. Like my heart.
I am being sanded. It hurts so bad, it takes so long, but eventually; eventually will emerge a shiny smooth surface. Quite a few of the bottles have a divot that is too big to sand out. It is simply imperfect; yet beautiful in it’s own way. I know I have a divot or two that may never sand out.
I was watching a movie last night and the Father is speaking to his Son whose Wife is in a coma. He says “life breaks all of us to some degree or another. If is doesn’t break you it kills you.”
I’m not entirely sure how true that is but I pondered it. Without a doubt we are all broken… it’s called sin. How much each individual feels broken; I don’t know. We cannot see into everyone’s hearts. I’m sure there are a great many people more broken than they care to let on or admit.
I only know my experience and how many ways I have tried to frame in my head what happened and why. How many times I have tried to fit the puzzle piece of his death into my idea of what life should be and found it the completely wrong shape. There are so many things that just don’t make sense in any way. The only to cope is to lay it at God’s feet and say, “you are the creator of the universe and my mind is simply not capable of understanding.”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8
I know that suffering is something to be thankful for. As bitter a pill that is to swallow.
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
My favorite: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18.
Sanding though rough, painful, tedious leads to beauty.
Suffering is part of the bumpy winding path which leads to Heaven.
Happy Mothers day <3
So often, I just want to give in.
To stop clawing my way above the avalanche- desperate and tired and bleeding. Just give in. Let the grief and pain sweep over me and take me wherever it may. So tired of fighting.
Life is a fight anyway right? To keep moving in the right direction, doing the “right” things, raising your kids the best you can, keeping your marriage together, keeping all your relationships going. Keeping your relationship with God going. Staying close to him and not letting your own agenda take over.
So much work.
I never thought of myself as a strong person but I guess when you have been told that you are enough times you start to believe it a little. Just a little. What I will say is I am a strong person with many faults and who is constantly battling depression and anxiety. I often feel completely crippled and that is what makes me feel weak. Yet I am still here, still fighting, still getting up every day and hoping to do something to make the world a better place because of Lucas.
That is one thing I know that will never stop. I loved him so much and believed in him so much. Many others saw that inner character that was undeniably kind and good and pure. Whatever adversity we may face his kindness WILL win.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I know that at the end of that journey will be something beautiful. Incredibly beautiful.
I am looking at his handwriting above me on the board from in his room “God is at your side,” “Don’t be afraid to go all in,” Have no regrets.”
He is speaking to me, he is speaking to all of us.
The pain of life, the pain of humanity is staggering. I may shoulder one of the hardest losses imaginable but I am not alone. So far from alone. The question “why?” echoes across a thousand lips. The winds of hardship and crushing disappointment blow through all of us at one time or another. It is part of being human.
If we are lucky we can spend much of our lives feeling only twinges of pain, mild heartbreak, some tears, some sadness, bumps in the road.
Without even realizing it we are able to skate through life without a whole lot of awful. We may think we have felt hurt…but have not. I am speaking of myself. I only wished I had realized how good I had it. I should have been celebrating every single day all the people in my life who were alive, healthy and well. I used to be able to go to a birthday party and feel absolute unadulterated happiness. Christmas was a time of joyous celebration of Christ’s birth and wonderful times with family. I could go to a baseball game or an orchestra concert or drive by a high school or….
I didn’t know. NO ONE KNOWS. To be perfectly cliche, no one knows what they have until it’s gone. Just as no one knows the depth of pain and hell it is to lose a child- unless it happens to them. How it feels to have a piece of yourself die inside. To know that you will never EVER get over it. You will never ever stop grieving and missing that child. You are changed forever. There will never be a day in your life where you don’t feel the pain of that loss.
I have to admit, this week I didn’t feel like clawing my way out of the ruins. I just wanted to cry. For myself, for others who have lost, for the entire human race. I was just crying into my glass of wine when my friend texted me:
“I paused at the rock ( at Lions ball park there is a giant boulder with Lucas’s picture and an inscription on it). Prayed for you and told Lucas that I am friends with his Mama. I am sorry this had to be you but I know your boy has changed lives. Keep on keeping on lady. You’ve got this!”
Thank you Michelle. You are a wonderful, dear friend.
I am going to keep on keeping on. Because my precious Lucas would want me to. Because God is BIGGER than all of this. So much bigger…and he is by my side.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
It’s the week leading up to Easter. Holy week. It has felt everything but holy in our house…
Germs. Sickness. Blech Blech Blech. This time I was the one taken down hardest- I can’t remember being so sick. Being sick as a Mom is TERRIBLE. You’re still Mom as in “Mom wipe me!” and “Mom did you get my lacrosse stick?” and “Mom Bryleigh bit me!” but all I could do is lay in bed and shiver. And sweat. And cough. And see all the household chores piling up around me. No one has anything to wear or can find…anything. Basically it feels the household is crumbling down me and you I feel like…
What is it that people say when they are really sick? One of those phrases I avoid with a ten foot pole- Death.
There are so many terrible phrases when you have recently lost a loved one that have the effect of acid on a wound. For me being sick meant more than just physically illness but lying there with nothing to think about but another holiday around the corner- without him. My head hurt to much to read or watch TV, so when I was awake he was on my mind constantly. His life was playing over and over before my eyes and it was so absolutely awful. Beautiful and awful.
The fact that his life was so beautiful makes it being cut short so much more awful.
I don’t really know what I would do without this blog to pour my heart into…when it hurts so bad. So so bad. When I don’t think I can BEAR it any more and it’s just too much it eases my pain just an iota, just enough to get by, knowing that others are listening.
I just need someone to TELL. Thank you for letting me TELL you.
It seems that the holidays and the birthdays and all those certain”hurting” days are endless like a barrage of waves crashing over me; the water fills my lungs and leaves me struggling and gasping and wondering if I will make it…they just keep coming and coming and coming. I feel like I am more down than up…
Then comes the parade of self- doubt. Of feeling like a failure. Feeling like I’ve let everyone down. I am not strong, I am as weakly human as they come. Frail, helpless, throwing my own little pity party. Yep- I’m pretty sure the last three and half months have been just a big mess of negative emotions and I would like nothing more than to find my way out of it.
Unfortunately my grief will be with me forever. There’s no running away, no stuffing it down inside and hiding it. I must finding a way to cope every single day. Yet the Bible gives hope that suffering is a gift.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
I Peter 1:6-8
The rest of it- all the yucky stuff that makes me feel un-worthy and a screw up and overall just a piece of trash?
That gets nailed to the cross. All of it. Every single bit. I have the comfort of knowing I’m left to drown in all this yuck but he died to set me free.
Free to revel in being a child of God. To allow his arms to cradle me on those days when I’m falling apart at the seams. Free to look forward to paradise with him FOREVER.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
Easter is coming.
No matter how un-holy and unworthy we feel…all we have to do is ask. He comes straight to us, right down to our dirty grungy selves, and washes us clean.
3/15/16 Back to reality.
I just got back from a long weekend in Florida. A long overdue- once in a decade getaway.
I had had enough. I needed some sunshine. I needed a change of scenery. I needed to GET AWAY.
So two weeks ago I got on the computer and booked the cheapest flight I could find and said “Hubby, we are going to Florida.”
The beach was gorgeous. The scenery was stunning. The sun and sand was warm and inviting and just…delicious. I love sun. The thing about sun is it makes you feel alive. It makes you feel like the earth’s very energy is pumping into you. There’s a reason they call wonderful things a “ray of sunshine.” I’m so glad I went.
However my life was still waiting for me when I got back. It was still waiting for me as I sat in the airport terminal and one of the stupid timehop things popped up on facebook. I keep forgetting to turn them off. I’m not even sure I know how. A collage of pictures of Lucas I had posted last march… the last pictures that exist of him. He had taken selfies of himself with someones ipad in class.
I couldn’t breathe. I literally could not breathe for like… a whole minute. I’m sitting in an airiport terminal with hundreds of people around me and I had tears running down my face like a torrential rain. I tried, I really tried to pull it together but the tears kept coming, kept coming…my nose was running, I was so embarrassed. I thought, who does this? In an airport? Little kids that’s who does this. My grief made me humiliated. It made me want to hide. It made me feel like a little girl.
That’s how I feel a lot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to just bawl in the grocery store or at school or at the gym…but I stuff it down. It is a whole lot easier without a picture of him staring me in the face I can tell you that much. But so many times I just wish I could wear on the outside what I feel on the inside. Not pretend to be fine all the time. I can’t live in my grief constantly- it would destroy me. But when things come on, so many times I just have to put a happy face on and pretend everything is normal. I’m brave. I’m strong. I’ve got this. I can be a Mom and a wife and a friend and most of all- take care of my kids and make sure they grow up happy healthy well rounded wonderful children.
Most of the time I just want to sit in a corner with a blanket over my head and wait for the apocolypse.
When I woke up this morning it was to me sweet little towheaded three year old chirping “mommy! mommy! mommy! I found Lucas’ boat! I want to play with Lucas’ boat!” I think I heard the words Lucas’ boat thirty times before I made it downstairs. When Lucas was about ten or eleven he got a ginormous remote control boat. I think it stopped working a long time ago but it was still in his room and guess who found it…
Right now it is sitting on the floor in Rich’s office a few feet from me and looking at it makes me want to crumble. I had to go into Lucas’ room to get it out because Brady was having a meltdown- he couldn’t carry it out. As I went into his room I saw bare walls. A stripped down bed. Nothing anywhere. Just a bed and a dresser. It made my knees go weak and my heart jumped into my throat. Someone emptied his room. No more pennants and baseball pictures on the wall. No more trophies on the dresser along with his various parephanelia no more clothes in his closet and things on the shelves, no familiar comforter and pillow on his bed. Nothing. It is no longer his room it is just a room. I’ve been robbed.
The room where he had pet gheckos and his collection of pins from OM, where many baseball uniforms hung ( and laid on the floor of course.) No more little desk in the corner and picture of him holding his baby sister Brooklyn on the dresser. I want to see that room again. I want to go in there at my leisure and feel “him.” It was his space.
I recently read a book by Glennon Doyle Melton called Carry on Warrior. I think, hands down it is one of the most inspirational books I have ever read. She describes life as “brutifal.” Part brutal, part beautiful.
Spot on… So much brutal-ness. An bleeding aching heart that both feels empty and so heavy at the same time. A child ripped away from his mother. A mother having to bury her child. A mother constantly tormented day and night by relentless longing for that child. Unable to fully comprehend his absence. One year and two months later.
Life is beautiful. Creation is beautiful. God is beautiful. Three sweet funny loving mischievous little girls and a gentle smiley precious boy- all beautiful. Lucas’ legacy of love, kindness, and encouragement. Being able to be So Proud Of That Boy. So Very Very Very Proud.
Knowing that of LiveLikeLucas will grow- although it is a slow, arduous, sometimes painful process. It will get there. We have a beautiful goal- to empower youth to spread kindness. In world full of hatred and racism and classism- where teenagers kill themselves out of their sheer pain and loneliness- we need more kindness. This past year starting a non-profit has been a trial by fire. But you live, you learn, and you get better. You get smarter. You grow a thicker skin. You figure out how to make things happen. I still have an undying passion that Lucas’ legacy make a difference and I will not stop. We have a 5k coming up- June 25. We are looking for sponsorships for the race. This is the hard part. If you know any businesses who might be remotely interested in sponsorship (basically giving money to have their business advertised on our race materials) please please let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Life is and will always be brutiful. We just have to keep fighting for the beauty. Show someone that beauty- do a random act of kindness today.
I think about him every day.
In a hundred tiny ways-
Today when I got up I read a text from my daughter that reminded me of him. It started with “Mother!”
That is how he always texted me when I was late picking him up. Which was…..often. It was usually 5 minutes maybe 10 but to a kid that’s always an eternity and a half. So I would say “sorrrrryyyyyyy….” kind of half meaning it, after which I would explain how Brady had to have a last minute diaper change or I needed to wait for the potatoes to finish boiling. He would always flash a huge smile at me and tell me it was okay. Then ask me how I was.
I was complaining to Brooklyn about how the snack food in our house always disappears like we house an army of hungry wolves, and I remembered how he always took extra granola bars for his friend who never took a lunch. I would see him shoving 4 or 5 in his lunch bag and throw my hands up in despair… but not once thinking, what a kind friend he is. I was only worried about the grocery bill.
I remember collapsing on the couch after a long day of mothering and attempting to keep our house “clean” enough the CPS workers would not come calling, and Lucas would be sitting there on his phone, and he would ask me if I wanted to watch Big Bang Theory with him. That was “our” show. We watched separately more than together, I say regretfully but it was one we both loved. I wish I would have said yes more often. I know he was trying to cheer me up but instead I would go to bed, too weary to think of anything but my pillow.
I did not intend to blog today about regret, although so often what I intend is not what ends up on the screen. I was simply missing him. Overwhelmingly missing him and had a quiet moment where I felt the keyboard calling me.
In my opinion the greatest anguish, the greatest pain, the greatest sorrow is having that child that you can never talk to, never touch, never hug again in this lifetime.
Yet in passing on facebook this week I saw a post about someone famous eulogizing his wife. He said something to the effect of, “I can’t say I lost her because that would mean I don’t know where she is. I do know where she is.”
I read that and I tried to think of that, only that for 20 minutes. I actually set a timer and just let that thought of him in heaven saturate my mind. I tried to let my ever tortured heart be at peace with the thought of him with Jesus. I would like to say that it made me feel so much better. Yes- the thought of him in heaven does bring me joy.
It is just that joy overlaid with the same sadness that plagues me day after day. Like a cloak I wear. Glasses that I see through. I still feel happiness. I laugh. I smile. Yet the cloak never leaves.
We are so surrounded by, drenched in, permeated by this world and its pain. We try to keep our eyes on Jesus but it is a constant struggle to remember that this is only our temporary home. This earthly life is but a grain on sand on the beach of our eternal life. Our human brains can barely grasp that idea. We are so very “in the moment.”
I said in my last blog that my human life means nothing to me. I did not mean I don’t truly intend to live my human life to the fullest- to the glory of God. I just mean that with the pain I carry, with the perspective I have gained through this loss, I look forward to my next life with intensity. I hope every day that today will be the day that we lose this earthly skin and gain our heavenly glory.
However it may not be today, or tomorrow, or next year, or twenty years from now.
This life- this is the hard part. This is the race.
It has been a long time since I ran a race. I do however remember how it feels. I remember running a leg of the mile relay. A full out sprint all of the way around the track. At first it feels pretty good. Stretching your legs out, pulling out ahead of your opponent little by little, feeling the crisp air fill your lungs and the adreneline pumping. Then you hit about half way and your legs start feeling a little heavy. Your breath more labored. Your brain has to psych you up for every step. That gap between you and the next runner is getting smaller. Then your lungs start to burn. Your legs feel like lead. It takes sheer willpower to keep going. Your body is telling you “hey! hey! we’re maxed out now! lactic acid has filled your muscles and your heart is beating at maximum capacity! stop! please!” But you ignore that voice and push on, through the pain, and cross the finish line.
This is the hard part.
It was never meant to be easy. Whether you have lost a child, or not. You may have lost a sister, a Grandma, a job, a relationship; its all pain. It’s all part of the race.
We weren’t put here to coast through life without a care in the world; sitting by the pool drinking margaritas. Duh, everybody knows that. Yet when hard times fall on us we cry out and say “God where are you? This is too hard! I can’t do it!” I HAVE DONE THIS. I CONTINUE TO DO THIS. I AM HUMAN. YOU ARE HUMAN. WE DON’T LIKE PAIN.
This is the hard part. This is the race. Remembering my sweet boy every single day and feeling that deep awful pain but NOT GIVING UP. I am still here. God wants me here to run the race, to further his kingdom, to proclaim his name, to live life every day for HIM. To live life for my creator who loves me and has the greatest prize that ever existed waiting for me.
When I finish my race.
It’s January. Errrr February. I think. Winter sucks.
I feel very guilty saying that, because of course every day is a new day that the Lord has made and we are supposed to rejoice in it. Right?
Okay so today I saw a beautiful sunny sky with fluffy white clouds and it looked just like a gateway to heaven. So every day isn’t dreary and cold and sleeting or raining or muddy and gross…?
I’m just having a hard time and anyone else who suffers from seasonal depression let me hear an AMEN. Bring on the spring, pretty please. With some sunshine and rainbows on top.
Yep I’m struggling with guilt, because no one deserves a mommy and a wife who is a grumpy troll and really, really wants to just climb in bed all day.
I had to take a long drive today, 2 hours round trip and it was brutal. I find whenever I am driving in the car alone for any length of time it is just so utterly painful. It is then that I realize I am not alone with my thoughts very often- they are often occupied by grocery lists and chore lists and dates and to dos and many many children talking to me…and when it is quiet I immediately turn to the TV. MUST OCCUPY MIND WITH DOWNTON ABBEY or X-FILES or MY 600 LB LIFE. Now there’s a diversity of shows.
A long drive means lots of time to think about him. How terribly terribly horribly much I miss him, and how every day of grief feels like it’s starting all over again- just tearing open the wound and letting the blood gush out.
I cry out to God in such anguish and desperation and I wonder how he feels so see me, his child, in SO MUCH PAIN. How he could take a boy from his mama and watch her languish on earth with a giant hole in her heart. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t wish I could go to heaven. Not a day that goes by I don’t wish I could push a fast forward button to the end of my life when I finally get to say goodbye to this earth. To finally end all this earthly pain and sorrow and suffering. My life here means nothing to me.
“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
So I am left to ponder how I may complete my task. I can only pray that all this suffering is somehow part of my task, somehow part of a bigger picture that will ultimately be to his glory. It all just seems too much to comprehend. I’m just a really really broken person who is really mean to her kids right now writing a little blog to help with her pain. I don’t feel I am doing anything to glorify him- just surviving. One minute. One hour. One day at a time. One load of laundry. One recitation of Toot! Toot! Beep! Beep! at a time. One practice (oops we missed that today) one conference, one meeting, one dinner attempt…
That is my life right now. Baby steps. One thing I do know is that God meets us wherever we are. No matter how much we have sinned, now matter how broken we are, no matter how many times a day we just wish to be in heaven. No matter how reluctant we are to struggle through this life on earth sometimes. He is right where we are- the Master of Universe, King of all Creation, is right down on the floor with us while we are crying.
It’s called amazing grace. Bathe yourself in it- accept it-enjoy it- it is His gift to you.
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.