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                  December 9, 2018

             Making A Choice Each Day For Life

Here we go. My first ever blog post. I have been thinking about this for a long time. I have known what I wanted to say, but actually knowing how to spill it out on paper (well...screen) has been a bit of a battle. You see, a blog post about this WE LIVE ON mission is very personal for me. If you've read through the site, or you know me, you know what I have dealt with over the last year, and I have to be deeply thoughtful about how to balance the sorrow that I carry with a message of real inspiration for people. As I have aged, I have come to realize that EVERYONE has their sufferings - their battles - their own (usually hidden) pain. Life is a tough gig! My struggles, my pain, my losses are without a doubt out there for all the world to see. And I decided that's where they need to be. It creates a vulnerability that can be uncomfortable, but maybe that's what's missing from this world. I am trying to be AUTHENTIC, and without that, we as humans have no chance of forging the relationships we need to get through our hard times. And maybe that is the first step toward real mental health. We need each other. And we need God. But last time I checked, God was still using people for his missions here on earth. We are his hands. And we've got work to do.

     Making a Choice Each Day For Life -This phrase is sort of a little tag line for our whole movement. It has a very special meaning and purpose for me because I believe that we are faced with this decision every day. Some days, it seems a given. The sun is radiating its luscious warmth, the sky is one of its spectacular shades of blue (did you know that there are 19 shades of blue in a Crayola 120 box of crayons?) The world around us can be full of beauty even in the midst of the chaos of our lives. I think most of the time, most people deal with the mixed bag. We all get the sunny, azure sky days, and the grey, miserable cold rainy days. And in our country we are indeed blessed, because most of us have a roof over our heads, enough food to eat, clean water (what a luxury is a hot shower - have you ever thought about that?) For most of us, when we count our blessings, we would say our families are our greatest treasure. When something happens that threatens the well being of our beloved family members, we are suddenly thrust into a new reality. How quickly we realize how insignificant and petty are all of the day to day annoyances that tend to stress us out so unnecessarily.

      On April 14th, 2018 I found my youngest son, Chris after he had decided to take his own life. It was less than 6 months after he lost his big brother, Tom to an opioid overdose. That day has become quite a blur, thankfully, but the thing I remember the most afterwards was that I shut down. I went to lie down in my bed. And I really had no intention of ever getting up again. I remember looking up on my phone how long it would take to die without food or water. And that was it. But you know what? I'm still here! And I find that nothing short of a miracle. God embraced me through this, and people I loved did not give up on me. I have no idea how many people prayed for Adam and me, but it must be in the hundreds. People I didn't even know who heard of the tragedy sent cards and love. My dear friend, Sonia, lay next to me and cried with me. My family surrounded me and held me through it until I did take that drink of water, and I did eat something. And despite suffering the greatest 2 losses one could ever acquire I decided I would live on.

I spent the next week being pampered greatly by my brothers, and sisters-in-law, and my dear friends Sonia, and Melinda. My husband, though devastated was my rock. Even in my deepest grief, I realized the broken heart still has the capacity to feel love. I think that in itself is a miracle, and surely God must have some reason to keep me here. Then...about 2 weeks after Chris's death I had to have a biopsy. It was surreal - I don't think I really had any strong feelings about whether I wanted it to be positive or negative. It was just a little bump in the road - cancer or no cancer, it didn't seem too terribly important. If I was left here on Earth while my children were with the Lord, than it might as well not be for a long time, right? So, I went to the doctor for my results, and found out I had breast cancer! I felt it more of an inconvenience than anything. Like I really need this right now!?

     Over the next few months I went through all of the flurry of doctors and procedures that one has to attend to. I learned a lot about breast cancer, and had great support from more dear friends, some who had been through it all themselves, or had a loved one go through the diagnosis and treatments. I had a lumpectomy with 3 lymph nodes taken out, and the results of the biopsy on those lymph nodes would mean a lot. That would tell them if the cancer had spread. When I got the call from the surgeon I was surprised at how nervous I was! When she told me everything was "all clear", I was surprised again at how relieved I was. Could it be that, again, I had decided I wanted to live?

     I had to go through radiation and medication and in the end I am cancer-free! And I count my blessings, because my cancer experience was so much easier than most women who get that diagnosis. But I got to meet so many inspiring people on that journey, too, who were immensely giving and supportive in spite of their own affliction. I think witnessing and experiencing all that was another miracle. Do you see a pattern here?

     In the up and down, roller coaster world of grief, I have found that sometimes you just get your legs knocked out from under you. Sometimes it comes with no warning. But its all part of a process. And into those dark pits that you fall, eventually the sunlight will burst through, and that Crayola blue sky will appear again. Sometimes you just have to wait it out - or call a friend, or a family member, or talk to a counselor, or go to church, or join a support group. I did ALL those things, and all have been wonderful and helpful. But it all started with me making that decision for life.

 

  -Susan

 

P.S. Today is Chris's birthday. He would have been 19 today.

 

 

December 20, 2018

The Next Step

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on the first blog post. I am new at this and I'm just going to try to continue the best I can and hope for positive results. I hope my friends and family will at least read these! But I am meeting new people all the time, and I am finding that having this mission of ours and the web site and blog are good ways to tell my story and have people understand what my "new" life is all about, because my old life is over. And I don't mean for that to sound so bleak, it's just a simple fact that when people's lives are disrupted like ours have been, change is inevitable. So now is the time for introspection. What do we want that new life to look like? What are our new dreams and aspirations? And all that questioning comes with a fair dose of excitement, and a startling amount of fear! We all want to know how the future is going to unravel and reveal itself to us before its time. I guess that is a human trait. But I always had a secret wish to jump in my car and drive, with no map and no clear idea of where I would arrive. I always thought I would find something there that, otherwise, I would never see. So, with that in mind, I guess this journey is going to take me to someplace unknown - and that is going to be OK with me. It might just turn out to be someplace amazing! And I will share it all with you.

     The Next Step - what is the next step? How many times has that dilemma been faced by you or me or countless others. It's really pretty much the sum of our whole lives. Just like a toddler learning to take consecutive steps - there is one step, then two...maybe three...then BOOM - on your bottom you go! Toddlers are pretty resilient, and VERY determined to get to where they want to go. Usually they aren't too discouraged by their plopping down on their backsides. The prize at the end of the journey is too exciting. It doesn't even matter what that prize is. It must be terribly exciting for a babies to suddenly find their legs and balance enough to propel themselves across the room. If memory serves me, it doesn't take long until that toddling walk becomes a full out run! And it never seems like the destination is of too much importance to the little tykes. They just want to go AWAY...someplace where you will have to run after them, as they pretty much relish the chase. I think it's their newfound sense of power that is so thrilling to them. When little toddlers start running they can REALLY shake things up (and break things up, too - if you're not fast enough).

     But at some point, walking, running, and a lot of other thrilling milestones become just every day routine tasks. What once was exciting develops into plain mundane ho hum. I mean, what adult could get their kicks from walking? Most of us would rather sit in an easy chair watching TV or something - anything to avoid having to actually move?!? I guess I'm showing my age (or my lack of physical fitness). But seriously, as our lives unfold most of us get to a point where we lose our bearings, and settle for what will get us through the day. And when that happens, though it may lead to a sense of security in the moment, there is a real lack of direction concerning...the next step.

     So here I am, along with the rest of the entire world, wondering where that next step needs to take me. And no amount of praying, or meditating, or studying, or exchanging ideas with others will give me THAT ONE ANSWER - the one that isn't really meant to be known. And that is "what does the future hold?" One thing I have learned in my spiritual life, is that there are basically 2 things that God will never give you - that is at least while our journey is here on this physical Earth. One is the answer to the question "Why?" There have been numerous theologians and philosophers that have tried to tackle the big "WHY" questions of life, but I don't think their explanations are very satisfying. And the second thing that God does not give you is "what is going to happen next?"

     I have a theory about this. I think that, not only are we incapable of understanding the fullness of the answers to these questions, but also, if we knew these answers, would we ever even take that first step? Would we need more specific information, a more detailed map, a more sophisticated form of transportation? Maybe in a spiritual sense, we are like toddlers, and it's really those STEPS that are the important part. Putting one foot in front of the other, wobbly at first, then more and more steady, and reveling in the pure joy of it all. Maybe we just don't need to know the "whys" and "wheres" at all. Maybe we just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and see where it takes us - we'll know when we get there! Or, if your feet hurt like mine, lets jump in the car together and drive - we don't need a map.

-Susan

"The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way: though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand."  Psalm 37:23-24