Heavenly Focus

Today it has been 4.5 years since Derek suddenly and unexpectedly left our world and entered into eternity with Jesus. The 14th of every month is bittersweet for me because it also marks the anniversary of the day that Derek came into our world and changed our lives forever. The birth of our first born taught us what unconditional love looks like. It blows my mind that the love we have for our children can’t compare to the love that our Heavenly Father has for us. Even though Derek’s physical death brought with it pain and suffering unlike anything I have ever experienced, I have felt the presence of our Heavenly Father more than ever in my life. He has comforted, taught, and sustained me in ways that I never imagined possible over the past 4.5 years.
It has been a while since I have shared a glimpse into my life and my progress on the road of child loss. It’s not that God wasn’t working or that I wasn’t struggling. It has honestly been a time of drawing into the Lord and of personal growth. The absence of Derek in my daily life is still as real and painful as it was on the day he left. The Lord is teaching me every day that this world is temporary and my eyes should always focus on what’s eternal instead. During the time since I last wrote, God has been helping me focus on what’s important. He has also allowed me opportunities to share my faith and experience with child loss.
At times I struggle with having an attitude of “I don’t care” about worldly things and problems because I know that they really won’t matter in the end. At the same time, watching events unfold in our broken world, family and friends struggling with loss, sickness, and hurt has a way of bringing me back to worldly thinking. I question God at times for allowing such chaos and pain. When I start thinking that way, the Lord always stops me in that thought process. Although the struggles and things in this world won’t matter in the end, the people of this world should and will. When our loved ones and friends move from being seen on Earth to unseen, it should push us to become laser focused on loving and sharing the gospel with everyone around us. Relationships, forgiveness, and sharing God’s love and grace should become a priority and that is what the Lord continues to lay on my heart. Shifting my focus to Eternity allows me to live full of love and joy while grieving the loss of Derek at the same time. Heavenly focus is also teaching me to spend my time with the people that matter to Him and less energy things that don’t matter.
On my own, my focus isn’t always clear but the Lord always has a way of bringing me back to being clearly focused on Him. I look forward to the day that I get to see my sweet son and other loved ones that have gone on before me. While I am still here, I plan to make the most of my time and share God’s love.
Thank you Lord for walking beside me every day of the past 4.5 years. Thank you for teaching me what’s truly important as I wait for my time to join you and Derek in Eternity!

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Running with God

Eleven years ago our family moved to Fort Bliss, Texas for my husband to attend a Military school. We had a much needed one year break from deployments and time to enjoy our family. We focused that year on making new memories with our children and trying to get healthy. Casey and the boys started racing BMX bikes, the girls joined a competitive cheer team, and I decided to start running. I always hated running but I was determined to make myself do it. I am not sure why I wanted to torture myself in that way because I hated every minute of it.
It has been two and a half years since Derek suddenly and unexpectedly left for Heaven and it has been so incredibly difficult to deal with. Since that day, I have spent a lot of time in prayer and deep in thought as I try to process through all of the emotions that come with child loss. It is so hard to accept that one of my children is no longer here on Earth with me. Thinking back on my journey over the past couple of years has reminded me of making myself run that year even though I hated it. Although I had my husband and friends to encourage and support me, running was physically painful and I had to fight the urge to quit trying over and over. After a while I realized that the more I forced myself to run, the better conditioned I was to do it successfully. After I had been running for a while, when my body started to get tired and my heart started pounding, it got easier to push myself to keep going. I ran terribly slow and awkward at first and would take a lot of breaks but I didn’t quit. Eventually, I began running faster and with more grace. I even started seeing blessings from forcing myself to do something that I didn’t enjoy. Although I continued to hate running, with time and encouragement it became a little more natural.
I hate that Derek went to Heaven before me, it’s not the way that I thought it would be. The love for your child continues to grow even when they are physically out of reach and that causes feelings of incredible pain and emptiness. It is exhausting because I just miss him so much. I miss his smile, his laugh, and his contagious love for life and adventure. I miss the way our family was before. We have huge hole in our hearts and lives that will not be filled while we are on Earth. It is so difficult and I feel like quitting at times but I know that is not what God wants for me. He has put people in my life to pray, encourage, and run along side of me when I struggle to keep going. He has given me so many reasons to keep moving forward in my journey…my husband, my three wonderful children that are still here, my family, and my friends.  I also know that He still has work left for me to do. I am so thankful that God gives me the strength to endure the pain and heartaches of this world and continue run His race for my life.
I am running more gracefully than I did two and a half years ago. I don’t know how many miles I have ahead or what other heartbreaking obstacles that I will face along the way but I know what’s at the finish line. That is why I will keep running, trusting God, and looking for  His blessings along the way. Until the day I see Jesus and my sweet son’s face, I will press on towards to prize, Eternity in Heaven.
Lord, thank you for your continual grace and strength to help me endure the heartaches of this world. Thank you for all of the wonderful people that you have put in my life to run along side me. Give me strength to continue to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Derek

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

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Gratitude in 2018

I have been working on this for a while and should’ve published it a month ago but was overwhelmed with the holidays. I decided that I shouldn’t add unnecessary pressure to my life and should just post as I can. I know that God is calling me to share my story and I have a lot to say in His time!

Another new year has begun and although my head knows it’s 2018, most of the time my heart feels like it’s still 2016.  In the early days of grieving the loss of Derek and trying to figure out how to continue my life without him, I was told over and over how hard the holidays would be. I expected his birthday, the anniversary date, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to be difficult and they were. I didn’t put much thought into the first New Year without him and it was one of the most difficult days for me. The thought of starting a new year without him broke my heart and it was one of my most emotional days. I felt like we were leaving Derek behind in 2016 and I didn’t want to start a new year without him.  It has been over a year since that “first” and I can’t believe that 2017 is over. Last year feels like a blur to me. Our family walked blindly through through the year trusting God to help us figure out how to continue living with a huge hole in our hearts. We made it through the year and it’s hard to believe that it’s 2018.

At the end of each year, I reflect on the past and look forward to what is ahead. Reflecting on the past while walking the road of child loss can be very painful. We have so many wonderful memories of our “complete family”. Knowing that Derek will no longer be a a part of them overwhelms me with sadness. We have continued to make fun memories as a family but it will never be the same without him here. As 2017 ended, I started praying for guidance and direction for 2018. Gratitude is the area of my life that I feel God wants me to focus on this year. I made a decision to be intentional about thanking God for our blessings even when it hurts. When I pray now, I thank Him for almost 21 years with Derek instead of focusing on why this happened and what we are missing without him here. That is not an easy thing to do but that is where God is leading my heart this year. Our family has continued to have blessings in our lives after our tragedy and I want to get back to thanking God for them. To end my “first post of the New Year”,  I will share a few of the things I am most thankful for:

  • God’s grace and forgiveness and the promise of eternal life with Him
  • My husband Casey that has stuck with me through the hardest experience of our lives
  • Allie, Katie, and Luke’s strength and determination to persevere through the painful experience of losing their big brother
  • Our family bond strengthening because of our tragedy
  • So many precious and funny memories of our son Derek that I will start sharing this year
  • Amos, the smartest Blue Heeler in the world that Derek left behind
  • Family and friends that have loved and supported us even though we don’t have much to give back
  • Derek’s amazing friends and Brooke that have shown such strength and character as they have continued to reach out and love our family
  • My boss that graciously gave me three months off with pay to take care of myself and my family and continues to allow me flexibility to step away when I need to
  • My giant tubs of unorganized pictures that hold years of precious memories
  • Patience extended to me by my family and coworkers as I suffer from chronic forgetfulness or as some call it, “grief brain”

Lord, thank you for helping us through 2017. Thank you for allowing us to continue to see blessings in our lives during such a painful time. Thank you for the precious years with Derek and our wonderful memories of him. Help us to continue to look to you and see your blessings as we continue on this journey in 2018.

derek and amosI thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3

Choosing Joy

I have sat down in front of the computer over and over these past few months to share my thoughts but have struggled to form a complete thought to share. I have felt  overwhelmed, defeated, and so so sad. Any extra energy that I’ve had has been used to complete the tasks of day to day life. Grieving the loss of Derek is taking a toll on me. My heart is broken and I grieve deeply because of the love I continue to feel for my son that is no longer here with me. As I have struggled through the past few months, I have prayed for strength and help to get through this season. As I have prayed, Joy is the word that I keep hearing and seeing everywhere I turn. I believe that God is showing me what I need to continue on this difficult journey.

The first anniversary of Derek’s death, followed by his birthday, Thanksgiving, and now Christmas has brought with them new and more painful feelings. The second round of holidays without him has been much more difficult. This year, my heart and head are more able to acknowledge that Derek really isn’t here.  This time of year should be a time full of joy with all six of the Kennedy clan under one roof  laughing and spending time together as a complete family.

Since Derek has been gone, feeling joyful hasn’t been easy. We miss him so much and he should be here. He should’ve arrived home from college with Allie last Saturday. He would’ve walked through the door with a big smile on his face and his dog Amos right beside him. He would have a bag full of dirty laundry for me to wash. He would be excited to show us all of the new tricks he had taught Amos since our last visit. He would start wrestling matches with his little brother Luke and debate world issues with his sisters Allie and Katie. He would be waking up in the early hours of the morning to go hunting with his Dad. I would sleep peacefully at night knowing all four of my babies were safe at home for the holidays.

Again this year, he didn’t walk through the door with his sister. He won’t be with us as we go to church on Christmas Eve. We won’t hear his contagious laugh as he opens the Christmas gifts that he didn’t ask for…  he never asked for anything. There is an empty chair at our table as we gather as a family. He is not home with us but I believe that he is in our Eternal home waiting for us to join him. Derek now celebrates Christmas like we can’t comprehend. He is with the one we are celebrating, Jesus. He is experiencing JOY unlike anything we can imagine. I want so much to be happy for my son but I miss him and want him here with us.

Christmas is so different for our family without Derek here and finding joy in the season takes effort. I fight back tears as I Christmas shop knowing that he isn’t with us.  Our family is making new memories and starting new traditions without him as we celebrate our Savior’s birth. There is laughter in our home but the absence of Derek’s goofy and contagious laugh is missed so much. The picture in front of our Christmas tree will only have three of our four beautiful children in it but we will take it anyway because we know how important the pictures and memories are. We will tell stories of our past Christmases and wonder what it would be like if Derek were still here.  We cry because we are missing him but cherish our time together. We forgive quicker and love deeper than ever before because we know how precious our time together is. We choose Joy as we celebrate our Savior and the gift that He brought to the world.  Because of Him, we will see Derek again. That brings Joy to my heart while grieving the loss of my son this Christmas.

God, thank you for the gift that you sent to the world, Jesus. Help our family and others that are hurting during this season find peace, hope,and joy in Him. Allow us to be a light for those that are struggling as we celebrate the birth of your son.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

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The Greatest of These is Love

 

I have had this blog post written for over a month but as October 14 approached, I started dealing with a roller coaster of emotions and decided to step back from anything that caused me extra stress. Making sure this blog post expressed my feelings perfectly was adding to my anxiety and I needed to take a break. After a couple of weeks, I decided to come back to it because I feel like the message is important and I know that God wants me to share my heart honestly.

On October 13, 2016 at 10:27 pm, I sent my last text that would be received by my oldest son Derek.  I sent a text to him that said “I love you”  before I went to bed that night.  He replied at 11:04 pm with “love you too”. I had no idea when I went to bed that night that it would be the last night of my life that I would fall asleep with the peace of knowing that all four of my children were walking the Earth with me. At 7:30 am on Friday, October 14, 2016,  I sent a “good morning” text to Derek and didn’t get a reply. While I was sleeping, my precious oldest son’s life was taken.

I have dreaded the one year anniversary of Derek going to Heaven since the beginning of this nightmare. I’ve spent the past year just going through the motions of life to keep from falling apart. I looked at the first anniversary as milestone on this journey that I will be on for the rest of my life.  I have often questioned if I’d be able to survive it, it has seemed impossible on some days. I don’t know what I expected to feel when I got to this date, I just hoped it would be better. So here I am still living one year after my oldest son left us. I can tell you that it still hurts terribly, it’s just not as shocking and raw as it was a year ago. I am learning to carry the pain and grief,  I hear from other bereaved Moms that it softens over time. I just miss him so so much. I am a different person now and the things things that I once thought were important have changed. I no longer care about the kind of grades Derek made in school, if he managed his money and affairs the way I taught him, or the foolish mistakes he made. Yes, all of that is important but in an instant it meant nothing.

For me, two questions immediately consumed my thoughts when I got the call about Derek.  The first was, “will I see him again?” I do have hope that I will see him again when I get to Heaven. Derek and I had many conversations about his decision to have a relationship with Jesus. Was he perfect after that day, no. Did he struggle with temptations, yes. Did he struggle with his faith at times, yes. Do I believe that his home for eternity was secured the day he prayed for his sins to be forgiven and asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life, absolutely. The second question that instantly consumed my heart and thoughts when I found out about Derek’s death was this, “did he know how much I love him?”  I have thought about this every day since and it’s heartbreaking not to have one last chance to tell your child these things. …  do you know how much I love you…. I am sorry for making a big deal about something so insignificant… I am sorry if I made you feel like I was disappointed…I am so proud of you and I love you no matter what. Although the last text he received from me said ” I love you”, I have questioned if he really knew how much. I didn’t get the chance to make sure that Derek really knew how much I love him and I have no choice but to trust that he did. One of the most important lessons that losing Derek has taught me is to never miss an opportunity to let my three children that are still here know how much I love them. In the end, Love really is all that matters.

Lord, thank you for giving me the strength to make it through the first year without our sweet Derek. Help me in this next year to focus on loving others the way you love me, especially my three children that are still here. Help me to focus on what matters most, their home for eternity and showing them how much they are loved.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Leaf

 

 

 

Thank You

Dereks friendsSince October 14, 2016, I separate my life into two parts…before Derek left for Heaven and after. I am not sure if I will always think of it that way but for now, that’s how my heart and brain see my life. One of the ways I have been able to function and keep moving forward since then is to look for blessings in our life after. One of the biggest blessings has been how special some of my old and new friendships have become and the amazing love and support that has been shown to our family. As we are coming close to the end of our first year with Derek in Heaven, I would like to make sure that everyone knows how very special they are to our family.

To Derek’s friends…you were always such an important part of his life.  When he was in high school, a comment that he made that drove me crazy was, “all I want to do is have fun with my friends” When he went off to college you continued to be such an important part of his life and he did have so much fun. He loved you all so much. Before he went to Heaven, I was thankful that he had such great friends but I didn’t realize how important you would be to our family until he was no longer here. Immediately after we got the call about Derek you stepped up and handled things that you shouldn’t have to at your age. Raising money to travel to Texas to say goodbye to Derek, donating the excess travel money to our family, the sweet gifts, the visits throughout the year to spend time with us, and the regular calls and texts have meant so much.  You have honored your friend in such an amazing way and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you for choosing to stay close to our family, we love you all so much.

To my sweet and wonderful friends…you have been such a blessing and source of strength for me. Thank you for showing up and sticking around. Thank you for the continued prayers and being understanding. Thank you for listening to me cry and vent and not judging me when I laugh and joke. You have given me the most precious notes and gifts and I will always treasure them. Thank you for extending grace to me while I am grieving and not having expectations of me as a friend. You have reached out and supported our family in ways that we will never be able to repay, thank you and I love you all.

To my very special new friends, my fellow bereaved Moms… we may not have met face to face but the support you have shown me from a distance means so much. I hate the reason for our common bond but I am so blessed to have you in my life. Your prayers and understanding ear have been a a gift from God. I am so blessed that you all were put in my life at His perfect time. I am grateful that we have each other to lean on as we continue on this very painful journey.

To our wonderful and strong family…we wouldn’t have survived this past year with out you. Thank you for taking care of things for me when I didn’t have the energy. Thank you for supporting every thing that I have wanted to do to remember our sweet Derek. Thank you for knowing when to leave me alone and when to step in. Thank you for the sweet gifts and continual prayers. You have been my rock and I am so very thankful that we finally live close to most of you. Thank you for showing us unconditional love during the most difficult time in our lives. We love you so much.

Thank you Lord for blessing us with such wonderful family and friends. Thank you for Derek’s friends that are so precious to our family.  I ask for your continued love and grace for our family and friends as we begin our second year with Derek in Heaven.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

 

The Hard Days

 

My plan for the past three weeks was to make my next blog post more light and uplifting, I wanted to write about something positive.  No matter how many times I tried to write the post, I just couldn’t come up with the words to say. Today, after quiet time with God, the words that He wanted me to share came to me easily.

I have spent the past few weeks trying to be strong, dealing with a lot of chaos and uncertainty, and loving and supporting everyone around me. This morning I hit a wall, I was overwhelmed and felt hopeless. I started praying and had a moment of surrender to God and realized that I was trying to do this on my own…. Again. I had to humble myself and accept again that my plan is not God’s plan. I could no longer shut out the pain and sadness that I had been trying to push away for the past few weeks and had to allow myself to grieve again. In that moment, I felt God’s grace and I was reminded that it’s OK not to be OK.  I was trying so hard to be OK and I reached the point of being too exhausted to do it on my own.

That struggle sums up what my life has been like for the past almost 11 months. It has been a battle of being honest with how hard it was to bury my oldest child and live without him here and being stubborn and trying to convince myself and everyone around me that I am OK. So, here is the truth….I am not OK and I won’t truly be OK until I get to Heaven. Derek’s life was taken too soon and he is no longer walking the Earth like he should be. It feels so wrong to continue living life without him here but I have no choice. I long for my old life back, the one that was so simple when I reflect on it. Do I have reasons to smile now, yes. Do I have a good husband and three wonderful children still here with me, yes. Do I have family and friends that love and support me, yes. Do I have daily blessings in my life, yes. Do I have a Heavenly Father to rely on to carry me on this journey, yes. It is still so hard.

The simple things in life are no longer simple without Derek here and I am not OK with that. Saying “table for five” at a restaurant is painful, we are a family of six and he should be here. Watching his friends beginning their senior year in college hurts, he should be there with them. Taking a family picture without him just feels wrong, he should be with us. Having a daughter turn 20, the age that Derek was when he left for Heaven was painful, my younger kids should still have their big brother here. Every time I am asked the now dreaded question, “How many children do you have?”, I feel like I get punched in the stomach. The change in temperature as Fall is getting close causes me to panic sometimes because it is a reminder of that morning in October. The list goes on and on of the simple things that will continue to be difficult without Derek here. This morning I was reminded that I can’t be stubborn and try to face these hard days and weeks alone, I have to trust and lean on Him to help me through each difficult moment.

Thank you Lord for the reminder once again to trust you to carry me everyday  but especially on the hard days.

“Trust in the Lord will all you heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and he will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-7

Derek

 

 

God’s Work

Looking back on our life before October 14, 2016 is something that I do often, I want my old life back. The life with my four children that bickered constantly. The life with calls for money to be transferred to four kid’s bank accounts. The stress of making sure I coordinated our schedules to have our family of six all in the same place at the same time.  I want that life back. In the years prior to that day, I believe that God was preparing us for what was ahead even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I do not believe that it was part of God’s plan for Derek to be taken from us that day but I do believe that He knew it would happen. Looking back, I can see God’s hand working in so many ways to help us prepare for the most difficult experience of our lives.

Life hasn’t been easy for us, a Military family with many moves, many combat deployments, two miscarriages, and many tough situations. Marriage was hard, raising kids was hard, and life was just hard. My marriage got so hard that I quit listening to God and gave up. I walked away from my twenty year marriage when it got really hard. Thankfully, God didn’t walk away from me and he kept working on me, convicting me, and tugging at my heart. I started listening and trusting Him again and I’m so glad I did. A year and a half before that horrible day in October, my husband and I started working things out, repairing what we had broken, and restoring our failed marriage. On May 7, 2016, we were married again and had our family back together. It was a decision that would strengthen us as we faced that heartbreaking day that was ahead.

Fast forward five months to October 2, 2016, God was working for the good of our family that day. Derek went to Georgia with one of his college buddies to spend the weekend with his family. He went to church with them that day and heard a sermon on The Parable of The Prodigal Son and how God loves us even when we mess up. On that same Sunday in Texas, we decided to visit a new church. We responded to an invitation in the mail to hear Don Piper, the author of 90 Minutes in Heaven, speak about his near death experience and his time in Heaven. I talked to Derek that evening about what he heard in church that day, what we heard in church that day, his relationship with God, and the struggles and temptations of being a college kid. We talked about his decision to accept Jesus as his Savior as a young boy and how God loves us even when we mess up. I’m so thankful for the talk I had that day with Derek. I’m also thankful that twelve days later when I heard that my oldest son was no longer here, I had visions of Heaven as Don Piper described it and Derek being met by his Great-Grandparents when he got there.

Oh how it hurts and I want him here. I want our family of six all together again.  I want to watch Derek graduate from college, get married, and start a family.  I know that God didn’t want Derek to be taken from us that day but I do believe that He was putting things in place to help us deal with the tragic situation that was coming. I’m sure I will always question God and I won’t understand until I join my oldest son and Jesus in Heaven. I have to trust Him though and know that He works for the good of those that love Him.

Thank you Lord for giving me the strength to trust you even when my heart is broken.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose”  Romans 8:28

May 7 pic

Promises

KidsIn the early days of trying to figure out our life without Derek here, I felt very hopeless and wondered if I would ever feel joy again. The most basic things brought me so much guilt and pain, eating and sleeping even felt wrong. I couldn’t see how I would ever feel happy again when we are missing one of us.

About two weeks after Derek’s Memorial Service, we had to drive out to Troy, Alabama to get his truck and pack up his room. We stopped in Tuscaloosa on the way to spend a few days with our daughter Allie. We wanted to make sure she was doing OK, she had to go back to college so soon after losing her big brother. We took her out to dinner while we were there and that was an unexpected trigger of guilt and pain for me. It was the first time we had gone out for dinner since we got the call about Derek three weeks earlier.  I felt such incredible guilt because we were out trying to enjoy a nice dinner and our oldest son is no longer with us.  I cried throughout dinner that night and made this comment to my husband and daughter, “I don’t think I will ever feel joy again.” As soon as those words came out of my  mouth, Allie got a really concerned look on her face and said this to me.  “Mom, you can’t say that! Aren’t you going to feel joy when you see me graduate from college? Aren’t you going to feel joy when Katie, Luke, and I get married and have and have children?  Aren’t you going to be happy watching us live our lives?” Her words that night were what I desperately needed to hear. I feel that God used her to speak to me. She helped me realize that even though a part of me died the day Derek went to Heaven, I still have work to do while I’m here. I believe that I will always struggle with feelings of sadness, pain, and hopelessness but my family needs the best of me. A a piece of my heart will always be missing, I really do have so much to look forward to.

I made promises to myself and my family that day that have helped guide me on this journey so far.  I promised to do my best to not rob my living children of joy and the best life possible because of the pain and emptiness I feel.  I promised my husband that no matter how hard walking this road will be, we’ll do it together. I promised myself that no matter how dark this journey gets, I will look to the Lord for light and not turn to anger and bitterness. I have moments that I fail at keeping my promises but I keep trying. I’m so thankful to serve a God that doesn’t fail like I do. He promised to never leave me that day as I poured out my heart to Him and He has kept his word.

Lord, thank you for keeping your promise to never leave me as I learn to live without Derek here.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” Deuteronomy 31:8

The Fog

Writing about my journey of grief and how I am learning to live without one of my children has been on my heart since Derek left for Heaven. I’ve learned so much over the past almost 10 months and I know I will continue to learn and grow as I travel along this journey that I do not want to be on. My hope is by sharing my heart, I will bring comfort to those on this road with me and give a better understanding to those that haven’t experienced the loss of a child. I want to go back and start at the beginning of my journey and share some of what I’ve learned along the way.

October 14, 2016 started out just like any other day for me. I woke up, got my two youngest children off to school and sent my daily “good morning” texts to my husband who was traveling and my two college children both living in Alabama. I got to work and was enjoying coffee and talking with my coworkers. At around 8:30 am, my phone rang and it was one of my oldest son Derek’s best friends. What he said to me that morning will forever play over and over in my head. “Mrs. Kennedy, have you heard from Derek? People are saying that something happened to him last night.”  I couldn’t process what he was saying and insisted that Derek was at home sleeping. I told his friend to go to his house immediately and wake him up. Just a few minutes later, the official call came to let me know that my oldest son Derek passed away five hours earlier. I collapsed and cried out to God,  “No, you can’t take him.”  Instantly, my world went completely dark as I tried to comprehend what was just said to me.

My memories after that moment are very hard to recall because of the fog that instantly flooded my mind. The fog is still with me almost 10 months later, just not as heavy as it was in those early days. It has effected my memory, my ability to focus, my decisions, and my relationships. As I have traveled along on this very dark road, I have moments that the fog clears for a minute and I can see. In those moments of clarity, the reality that Derek is no longer walking the Earth with us is right in front of me. When this happens,  I feel as though I can’t breathe and the pain in my chest is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. I have learned to be thankful for the heavy fog that lifts slowly and for short periods of time. I don’t think I could bear the pain of complete clarity all at once. I believe now that “the fog”  is a gift that God has given me to be able to keep walking on this road of  such a tragic and painful loss.

Thank you Lord for the fog, without it I believe the pain of living without my oldest son would be unbearable.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” Matthew 5:4

Melody and Derek