The highs and lows

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.


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