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Hot August Nights

The start of this month is always the Peach Basket Classic. In Walla Walla, they block off Main Street and set up basketball half-courts all along the blacktop. People come from all over to play brutal games of three-on-three basketball in blistering heat. Zach and his friends, Drew, Seth and Matthew have played together every year since they were little kids. One year, they even took it all! This year, they didn't really expect to. They had all of two practices...both in Bam's pool! Their team name was People Owning On Pavement...but their shirts just said, "POOP!" How can you not like it? They had a few wild plays set up, reminiscent of the Harlem Globetrotters. Most of their fancy stuff led directly to turnovers. The Haroldson Clan came for the weekend, and it was fabulous fun. The weather relented a little, the boys had a great time, Evy's sister Annee and her daugther Mimi were passing through, so we got to see them. We had about 100 (okay, it was 8) boys come for the BBQ Saturday night and stayed for s'mores, and ended up sleeping all over the family room floor. I made 3...yes THREE!...loaves of bread into french toast the next morning!

Here Zach checks the shot!

He's a little more "ballet-like" on offense!

Drew is always equal to the challenge.

Matt shoots a freethrow. Having to call your own fouls was a new thing.

Seth takes one for the team.


Zach says, "OOP!"

We took the Haroldsons to see Dave's rock. It was a quiet moment. Filled with many things that remained unsaid. Thinking of last year, last Peach Basket, when hope was failing, and Dave was a shadow of himself. Thin, tired, worn, fighting so hard to stay with us, to be with us. A year ago, it was clear that the end was approaching. It's a year later. You'd think I might have something profound to say, but I don't . If anything, I'm less clear than I was a year ago. A year ago, I did what I had to do, for Dave, for my children. Like Kara said to Cathy, you just saddle up anyway. You can't stop to try to understand. You just do what has to be done, physically, emotionally, spiritually, you just keep moving forward.
This week, I stopped moving forward. It finally caught me. I got sick. Physically, emotionally, spiritually sick. I spent four days in bed, covered in sweat, tossing and turning, coughing so hard I would vomit or pee and have to stagger up, change my clothes and bedding, and fall back into bed, flailing blindly through dreams or hallucinations that were more real than the hot wind coming through the window. My kids, they are troopers. They've had to be. They fed themselves and me. They did the dishes, the laundry. Even fed the cats and dog. Brought me medicine and cold cloths and rubbed my head and feet.
My dreams were of Dave, and Doug. Dreams of them coming back to life, jumping out of closets, saying "Surprise!" Dreams of them laughing and singing and dancing and playing guitar. Not in some other-worldly realm, but here, with me. I cried a lot those four days. I cried with missing Dave. I cried because my kids had to be so brave. I cried because if I died of that fever, nobody but my kids would have known. Not that people don't care, or that they don't help, they do...but it's that too-sweet saying that's too true..."To the world you are just one person, but to one person you are the world." And my person for that is gone. People care. But I've lost the one who really cared, who it really mattered to, and it's lonely. And the same is true for my kids. There are lots of people who care for them and who will congratulate them if they do well or console them if they don't, but it's not THE most important thing to them, where it was to Dave. Nothing can fill that gap, for any of us.
I'm having a crisis of faith. This summer, Kenny and I went to Matt Stroe's wedding. And I listened to those young, hopeful, beautiful people say those timeless words. "In sickness and health, for richer, for poorer, as long as we both shall live." "Until death we do part." Even in the beginning, we acknowledge that we will die, that the only real hope we have is in Jesus, that our life here is not eternal. We talk about the end on the day we begin.
When Kyle died, I had a crisis of faith, then, too. I remember it so clearly, it was like standing on the edge of a black hole. I could see so clearly that the choice was mine, to step into the black hole of despair, or to turn toward Dave and try to survive it. And we did, little-by-little. The death of a child can shake your faith to the core. It seems so wrong, so out-of-order, and makes no sense at all. I follow Jacob Duckworth's site sometimes, and his mother writes with such faith, such powerful belief. Sometimes I find it inspiring. Sometimes I'm ashamed, because my faith is so shaky, my willingness to learn and accept so lacking, my anger and bewilderment so all-encompassing. Jacob's mother writes often about what she's learning. I, too, have learned much. But in a still-petulant, childish voice, I want to whine, "Is this the only way You could figure out how to teach me these things??"
A visitor to Jacob's site related a story that likens the death of a child to an experience he had as a young boy, watching fireworks with his mother. He was so awed by the beauty of the fireworks that he unknowingly wandered away from his mother. She spent a desperate 10 minutes trying to find him, shouting and screaming his name, fear tearing her apart. And just as he turned to say, "Mommy, look at that one!" she appeared around the corner. For her, the separation was agonizing; for him, it was as if those 10 minutes simply didn't exist, he was so absorbed in the glory before him.
That works for me. I picture Kyle, safe in Jesus' arms, happy, content, waiting for us. But I can't quite get there with Dave. It may be wrong, but honestly, it's small comfort to know he's in paradise. I guess because I see so much here that only he can do. And every fiber of my being rails against it. I was the one who saw Zach's face at fooball registration tonight. And I know how much different it would have been if Dave were here. And I try to tell myself that God is bigger than all this, that He must understand. But that tiny, stubborn voice in my head says, "Like hell He does!!! There is no reason good enough for this. I don't care if He IS God."
Sometimes I look at slideshows online of the aftermath of Katrina. It happened right after Dave died. Hitting Florida on my birthday, actually, and New Orleans four days later. And I can remember being completely untouched by the multitudes of tragedies happening on the other side of the world, having no room for anything but my own loss. Now I see the pictures, read about people who lost entire families in one giant roar of the ocean, and I remind myself that others have survived losses even worse than mine. I purposefully seek out stories about abused and neglected children so that I can say, "At least my children had a father who loved them, and they will always know that." It's an awful way to try to count your blessings, wringing them out of someone else's burdens.
Kari said something on her site that reminded me of a piece of poetry that's been rattling around in my head for the last year. It's gotten quite a bit louder since Doug killed himself. It's an Emily Dickinson poem, and one of the lines is, "I used to think that when I died, I'd see you, so I died as fast as I could." Kenny can relate, I think. When Papa Snookie died, I found Kenny on the lawn, shouting at the sky. Turns out he was mad at God and that he hated the idea of heaven. In talking a little further, it wasn't really the idea of heaven, it was that we should all just go together. I think Kenny was around 10 years old at the time. And I wondered why God would have to be shown the way by a little boy with autism who couldn't stand to see his Nana hurting.
So like Kenny, I still struggle with what it all means, what I'm supposed to do. Some days I do want to die a little faster, I just want to get through this and get there and understand. But most days I know that while this body is a shell and our life here only temporary, it must mean something. That there is much still here for me to do, and much that still brings me unclouded joy.
And I'm thankful that God is big enough to put up with my churlish attitude and fits of temper, and even yet, He hears our prayers. Nicholas had a follow-up MRI and the lesions have shrunk significantly during the time he's been on the antibiotics, so that is very good news, leading them to believe that it is an infection of some sort that is clearing. They'll check again in three months. I'm so happy and relieved for this family of dear people.
I'm thankful that God has a way of reaching out to us. A few weeks ago, Zach was watching The Passion of the Christ over and over. I bought it for Dave the Easter before he died, but he never got to watch it. Zach watched it with a friend, and then asked if I'd watch it with him. It's not pretty. In fact, it's one of the most brutal things I've ever seen. I was convicted on the spot, watching it, knowing how much He suffered for me, knowing that God would actually plan this horrific thing to save us. Someone told me that it would make a difference in how you saw the cross that so many wear as jewelry. He said, "It's actually like wearing a guillotine or an electric chair on a chain. Do they even realize?"
And I have to say that no, we don't. We don't realize much of anything. Most of the time, we live blindly, drifting from day to ordinary day, unconscious to both the wonders and the horrors that surround us. In response, or maybe rebellion, Dave and I tried to practice the art of what we called conscious parenting; realizing that every moment you have with a child is a gift, and every interaction imparts something: something wonderful or something hurtful, something sustaining or something damaging, whether you are aware of it or we need to be aware, watching, thinking, feeling, observing, knowing what gifts we give by our interactions. It's a lot harder than it sounds.
Self-awareness always is. It's easy for me to know what God should be doing. Much harder to focus on what I need to do. One step at a time.
PS. Thank God for antibiotics!


  1. Michelle
    There is nothing to say except I will be praying for you and thinking of you these hot days of August. I also was in bed with that horrible flu for 4 days but I count my lucky stars I had Tom and Morgan to wait on me. Please know we "ALL" love you and we "ALL" know in our hearts it isn't enough.

  2. Michelle, Sue wrote all I was thinking. My first thought when I started reading was so glad you had posted then it went on to thinking I wish I would have known you were sick. As I read along it is not needing help when your sick it is a whole life of change. Sue is right we ALL love you but that is not enough.
    I thought of you many many times last weekend. I connect Dave with Peach Basket maybe because it was the last time he was out and about and sports was such a big part of Dave's life. I am glad you have Haroldson's here with you for the weekend. Sounds like it was a good weekend for Zach and all the kids who find your house another home.
    I have a girl friend coming from Az. in a week who lost her husband suddenly Christmas Eve. I want you to know you have helped me to understand a bit more of what she is feeling, what she is missing and maybe what I can say or not say to her.
    Michelle It sounds like your feeling better but take it easy and don't wear yourself out it is easy to do after an illness.
    So glad to hear from you I think of you often.

  3. Michelle, my heart aches for you and all of us that are going through this same loneliness and emptiness. You mentioned about "saddling up" and doing what has to be done. I know so much of what you mean. You go through the motions of it all and try to keep going so you dont have time to stop and feel the pain and the true meaning of that horrific loss. Im still doing that and am too afraid to slow down to feel it. Its territory thats unknown...something Im so afraid of. Ive let myself feel it some and it hurts, sometimes physically hurts. Hurt that I know you feel too everyday. I love ya Michelle.

  4. Michelle
    Sorry for the second entry but Morgan and I just got back from walking through Wa-Hi and finding her and her friends classrooms. We stopped by Dave's "Rock" for the first time . . . .Wow is all I can say. It is amazing and to stand there and touch it is more amazing.

  5. have an amazing way of saying what most people do are right we do have an awesome God. He is definitly working in your heart and mind.The Lord knows how much we love the people we've lost because in thruth that's how much he loves you and me. until care.

  6. Michelle, Thank you for the beautiful book you gave me tear soup. As I have read your entry my heart agian goes out to you and I think about the book you have given me. Remember the part in the book that says that it is your own pot of soup and it has your name on it. You must go though this in your own way. It also says in the little notes she keeps, that she is upset that she has to be making this soup. There is nothing fair about this. Like in the story tear soup, she knew that this time she would need the big pot of- more than I can bear. We are all pulling for you Michelle praying for you and your family. It is not fair that you had to get out the big pot of - more than I can bear.

  7. Michelle,

    Just wanted to let you know that I think of you and your family often. I really enjoyed reading your post on the bt list. Hope everyone is doing well.
    This journey is so unfair and painfull. But we must hold our heads up and keep walking down this road where ever it may lead. You and your family are in my prayers. Take care.
    Kristine w/o James 32 GBM
    dx 12-29-2006

  8. Oh Chelle,

    How I wish I lived nearby...I would certainly have been there to hold your hand, hug you, bring you something/anything to help. I'm so sorry you were sick. So sorry you were alone. So sorry for all of it. All of it. I think your body needed this...perhaps now you can continue on, a bit stronger for it, maybe. Sending you love and hugs. Your city mouse friend.

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