Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 5)

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How do we respond to Him?  Sink into Him through His Word.  As we read and wrestle, we call out to Him … listen carefully… offering thanks and praise for His Presence and very personal provision of divine comfort… presenting our honest emotion and questions … angst, grief… asking Him to enter in and show us elements of His own Character.   He is trustworthy and true.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  lean not on your own understanding.    In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

When earth’s hurt and heaven’s hope collide… we grieve, but we grieve …hearing the choirs of Heaven on the horizon.    Trusting Him.  Leaning into His Word… allowing His Word to shape our thinking…guide our grieving…  comfort and “tune our hearts to sing His praise.”  His Faithfulness extends this life-giving Hope to others when they’re hurting.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Henry F. Lyte (1847)

He is faithful to hear our cries… and He answers… with Himself.   Remembering He’s … always holding somebody up … (part 4) …  Yes, we receive.  And we remember.  Next… we reach out.  We pray to be vessels of His Love and Truth to the hurting around us.   Ultimately, His Identity is… revealing mine in Him as well.  My confidence is not in me or my ability to figure Him out, but rather…in the Great I AM… under whose wings we find refuge…and abide.

Jamie’s absence left an unfillable hole in our family.  Karen walked closest with me through this.  Our prayers for Heidi, Michael, and Holly along with Carlton and Kathy grew deeper.   I’m thankful we had each other to walk through it all.

Since Jamie’s death, I’ve experienced the loss of a business colleague to suicide as well as talking through challenges of this kind of grief with others who endure it. I do not shy away from reaching out to those who are in facing fresh grief of any kind … broaching conversations… attending funerals… do what ever I can to be present with the living to honor those who’ve died.  I’ll share about Jamie and the lingering pain.  But, most importantly we remember to share the Hope we have in Jesus Christ – beyond our present pain… or Jamie’s past pain.  He alone redeems… and ultimately He sets all.. right.

Losses unearth emotions and questions… … Even with the most devastating losses, He grants us memories… of Calvin and Hobbs… infectious laughs… churning needs to investigate and imagine… through the darkness into His Eternal Light … illuminating earth’s hurt and heaven’s hope collides in Him…  Heaven draws near … that we might know our redeemed identity is secure in His.

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Uncle Tim’s married to Aunt Karen, Dad to Heidi, and his parents are Grandpa Darrell Remembers… Mercy (part 1) & Grandma Wanda… Beyond Brilliance (part 1)

written by Heidi L. Paulec

Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 4)

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Jamie introduced me to Calvin and Hobbs.  Periodically, he would even send clippings from the Rocky Mountain News.  The brilliant… the simple… the depth … Jamie got it.  And I loved that we’d discuss them… and laugh.

I remember looking through photos of him… suddenly seeing a distance… a sadness, pain in his eyes.  Why hadn’t I sensed it before?  I remember his visit the summer of 1991 before he and Heidi ventured to Washington D.C.  He was distant… quiet.

At the funeral, I was asked to introduce the songs as well as be one of his pall bearers. For more of my words at the funeral, see … always holding somebody up … (part 1) .  Some people are easily troubled, and everyone knows it.  Others, like Jamie, carry burdens… alone.

My last memory of Jamie was at the Kansas City airport Thanksgiving 1991.  As he walked away, I made the moo sound of a cow … loud & likely a little embarrassing for a seventeen year old nephew, but he turned around, looked at us… and laughed.

I remember his laugh… and all these years that have passed,  I still wonder what silenced it.

As a result of Jamie’s death, concepts like salvation, sanctification, suicide, hope  … and heaven stirred deeper questions about God Himself, how He sees humanity, and what Heaven is really like.  God in His Providence brought me to a point of really dealing with eternity on deeper terms.   Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven encouraged me deeply as I was considering Heaven- the Home place God’s prepared for His people.  Theologically, I landed with the Perseverance of the Saints .

“He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees.”

CS Lewis A Grief Observed pg 90

Even so, tears overtook me like never before in my life.  I traveled from Tulsa to Houston quite a bit back in those days.  While driving through a toll both, I remember reaching for my wallet.  When I opened it up to pay the toll, I saw Jamie’s photo.  I held it together long enough to pay the toll, but I had to pull over alongside the road.  The tears and emotion… came unexpectedly.

“Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.”

Ka­tha­ri­na von Schle­gel  “Be Still My Soul”

The depth of my own grief caught me off guard on several occasions.  Yet, my heart ached deeply for my brother’s family … and Heidi.  None of us will ever really be the same.  Watching Heidi slip into her own silence…   Where do we go from here?

Questioning, seeking… wondering about our own identity before the Sovereign God in light of Jesus Christ’s overcoming death… and ultimately God’s unveiled Identity as well.

Again, often when older people die, we loosely envision pearly gates beyond the clouds… heaven’s called them home.  But, when a young person dies… especially by their own hand, I hear the music … His Heart … Heaven… drawing ever near.

We walk this out… For the Glory Yet To Be …yet, recognizing the peace, comfort, renew strength, and joy all come from His Grace, His Presence, His Nearness.   We’re compelled to respond to Him and others… but how?

Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 3)

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The call that changed everything…  Karen and I were in the middle of watching Top Gun… one of Jamie’s favorite movies… when my father-in-law (Grandpa Ken) called to break the news.

Since Heidi wasn’t home at the time, I remember needing to call my brothers.  First, Carlton… he confirmed Jamie’s death.  I don’t remember his exact words.  I just remember the firm finality… and his heavy… quiet… confusion in the midst of rapid-fire decision-demands on a Dad, my little brother, in shock.

We didn’t really grow up saying we loved one another.  Yet, before I got off the phone that night with Carlton, I told my brother I loved him.  Always have… just never said it enough.

I also called my older brother, Dave.  He’s one of the fastest thinkers I know… yet, that night he, too, was much more reserved… quieter than normal.

The next thing I remember most is knowing we needed to tell Heidi, but oh how I did not want to tell her.  How do you tell your only child that the closest she knows to a brother is gone?   And gone… by his own hand?

Heidi’s return home that Saturday evening… shattered whatever heavy silence lingered.  I wanted to protect her… but this… was bigger than me.  Even as I asked, instructed her to sit down, my soul prayed unfathomable prayers… she immediately slumped to the floor… crying, “I knew it!  I knew it!  I knew.”… too heavy – even for a 6’3” Dad to hold up…

We knew we needed to get to Colorado as soon as we could.  Rather than leave immediately in the morning, we opted to go to church.  Heidi requested we go.  And as difficult as it was to go … weighted & raw…  I am thankful we went.  Our Sunday School sincerely loved on us that day.  They listened.  They reached out with hugs and words of condolence.  They even gifted us with an envelope…they had no idea how needed that cash gift was at that time.

While I had many questions throughout this, God’s Presence… His Grace and generosity… His Hope held me close.

Prayers and encouragement from a body of believers… truly, girds our souls with deep roots for daunting times … that demand… endurance.  I cannot deny… These are His provisions poured out among His people.  A Sovereign, yet profound mystery.

As we drove north that day, I remember a profound sense of questions… and indescribable sadness.  Where do we go from here?

When we got to Carlton and Kathy’s that Sunday evening, I remember the questions surged.  How exactly did he do it?  How was the scene left?  What exactly did his room look like before he left?  Was there a note?  Any evidence offering conclusive answers as to why he did it?

I’m sure not everyone handles this kind of thing the same.  But, I am thankful Carlton and Kathy allowed us to investigate through Jamie’s room well into the night.  I remember one of my brother-in-laws going through room contents with me.  Heidi, Michael and one of Jamie’s friends also waded through his stuff for several hours… exhausting.

Jamie had been in the process of painting his room when he left for the weekend, so things were a little disheveled… but, minimally so.  Overall, his characteristic precision and order remained despite the project.  Ultimately, we pieced together enough to somewhat calm the guttural urgency.  He left no one note to give conclusive answers.

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.

Fannie Crosby All The Way My Savior Leads Me

Jamie professed Jesus as Savior.  He’d been baptized just a couple years prior.  Baptism is a public profession of personal faith entered into by personal initiative yet witnessed and upheld by a community of Christ followers.  What silenced his hope?  How could he succumb in those final moments?

“… All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.

Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see…”

Jamie wrestled darkness for sometime.  We learned he’d battled insomnia for some months.  He battled bouts of extreme emotion.  But, his final decision… was as decisive, tidy, and ordered …  consistent with his historical personality.  Why?

My own imagination seemed to stew beyond me… over and over again, I saw him in what I imagined his last moments may have looked like.  Neatly packing away his minimal belongings.  Removing the strap.  Securing its place… sinking into the pressure… never to unfold his hands again.  Why didn’t he just put his hands down?  Why didn’t he get interrupted?  Why couldn’t the paramedics save him?  Why did he have a copy of Helter Skelter with him?

When the family had our time at the funeral home… I remember others commenting about how peaceful he looked.  When I looked, I didn’t see him.  His body, yes.  But, his soul was not there.  Could we uncover any answers in the casket?   I had to see his wounds.  His body lay so unnaturally still with his collared shirt pulled up to his chin.  Longer necks seem to be more common among our genes, so this looked severely off.  I didn’t expect his body to hold his countenance; yet, I think I hoped for more answers.  Pushing back his collar near his ear… the purple ring revealed… where life pooled … and stilled.

Where do we go from here?

continued Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 4)

 

Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 2)

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We know the theoretic heaven… the one way up in the sky…far, far away.  And we’re fairly comfortable assuming when older people die they leave here and go there.  Bright, shiny… simple, beautiful… right?

But, when death steals the young… like Mr. Spafford’s family and Eric Clapton’s young son… and in our case … Jamie – my 17 year old nephew who was more like a son… when death steals these… Heaven draws near.

Yes, Jamie was the first born of my younger brother.  But, he became like a son to me.  Likewise with Michael and Holly – his younger siblings.  Jamie, a high energy child, had the most infectious laugh.  If he got to laughing, the whole crew around him joined in.  We couldn’t help it.  His joy – contagious.

He and Heidi played and interacted so well together.  More like siblings.  He irritated her, and she irritated him.  But, they also could get each other to laugh.  One summer, right after we moved to Tulsa (well before caller id), I remember them prank calling televangelists.  Just talking about it, they’d both laugh so hard.

Jamie was very smart, organized, and articulate.  When he came to visit, he always asked me to play catch with the football.  I loved catching up with him casually as we spiraled the ball back and forth.

He was also tender hearted, sensitive, and thoughtful.  I always enjoyed talking to Jamie because he had something to say worth hearing.  He also had quite the quick wit.  Only most comments came out quietly – he could make you laugh out loud.

We spent many days together when Carlton’s lived on the farm in Wyoming.  But even when they moved, we spent as much time as we could together.  If we could work it out, Jamie often travelled with Karen, Heidi and me.  One spring break Karen and Heidi and I  filled our Lincoln Town car with Kathy, Jamie, Michael to go visit Great-Grandparents who wintered in Florida.  We drove from southeast Wyoming through Texas along the gulf states.  Most of the trip the kids sat in the front seat with me.  A lot of laughing from those three as I made up stories for hours.

Some years ago some dear friends of ours gave us a portrait of Jesus laughing – it is a respectful rendering of Him.  And I think accurate, too.  Jesus has a sense of humor.  I think about the unparalleled  joy of heaven.  The unending, purest kind.

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My initial exposure to suicide actually came just a few years before Jamie’s death.  One of my closest friends in high school was one of the paramedics called to the scene.  One of our high school buddies … gone … by his own hand.  I grieved for both my friends.  The one who died.  And the one who had to live with that scene in his memory.

I think the Lord gives us an imagination to empathize and offer compassion.  I remember trying to think what could have been so bad… His mind must have been utterly distraught and the burden he felt… too much to bear alone.

“… would you help me stand if I saw you in heaven?”

-Eric Clapton “Tears in Heaven”

When the call came in about Jamie… suddenly, earth’s hurt and heaven’s hope collided… so real.  So intensely personal, now.

continued Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 3)

 

Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 1)

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PERSPECTIVES:  We can learn so much from one another as we sojourn horizons that both beckon and daunt us.  While our general experiences may have general connections, the specificity of our experiences depends on our position, our perception, and how we filter it all.  What is this all About?

This grief journey led me back to our family.  How do you navigate such a loss?  When I nervously asked if they were willing, several vulnerably shared distinctly personal elements of grief, sadness, struggle through this heavy darkness.  Each generation recognizing the varying social stigmas of suicide as well as the responses of their closest friends.  I am supremely grateful for their honesty.  While we share common relationships, every memory is profoundly unique to those who cycle through them; yet, our family’s openness to sharing weaved threads of bravery within me.

“While they spoke, I penned their words…and processed my own.”

– Heidi L. Paulec

When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story.   However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives.  Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted subsequent oral interviews from their responses.  These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person.  In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.”  Both sections are written in the third person.  Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.

We welcome you here.  This remains tender space for us.  So join us accordingly.  Know you’re also welcome.  We invite you  to subscribe to receive emails as we publish pieces here.

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Reflections of the Interview:

Interviewing both my parents were actually the toughest for me. (Heidi)  We spoke so many, many times about Jamie and his death…  that was actually comfortable.  But, the articulating of devastation and the growing difficulty with parenting me after … that was difficult.

Many conversations fuse to make up these reflections for which I am profoundly thankful.

My Dad’s determination to understand and honor Jamie… even in the ultimate sorrow really became a deeper quest that illuminates ideas like identity… with more clarity and compassion.  Who are we?  In particular, in the intersection of this finite earth and the eternal home, who are we?… Leads us to Whose we are & more profoundly Who He Is.

Also, my Dad’s eternal perspective grows and grows.  His saturation in the Word, his commitment to trust, his perseverance, his hope, and his contagious joy encourage those around him.  He asks questions.  As he seeks, he finds… and he returns praise and thanksgiving.

Thank you, Dad.

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Brief History:

My Dad’s name is Timothy Paul.  He shared that he feels a bit more like a Caleb (trusts God) or Barnabus (encourager).  His passions include education, agriculture, industry, and cross-cultural opportunities.

He was born  and spent elementary school years in small town Kansas.  Waving grain fields remain the “yellow brick road.”  His family moved to Wichita, Kansas when he was in junior high school.  Tim, popular among his peers and who excelled as a multi-sport athlete, broke and set records.  He has an older brother, Dave, and younger brother Carlton.  Carlton is  Jamie’s Dad.  These brothers also have two younger sisters, Lori and Gretchen.

Tim spent two summers in high school working on harvest crews that travelled from Texas to Wyoming to help farmers bring in the harvest in a helpful and timely manner.  Tim actually worked for Grandpa Ken.  It was on these summer adventures he met Aunt Karen.

After high school, Tim had two options.  One enroll in college, or two prepare to be drafted into the Vietnam War.  He chose college, so he could get the student deferment.  Despite his athletic gifting, he turned down Kansas State negotiations to run track.  He decided to follow Karen to her small liberal arts college of choice.  He earned a degree in Social Studies Education with minor in Phys. Ed.

Upon graduation, Tim secured a teaching job at Karen’s high school alma mater in Albin, Wyoming where he taught grades 3-12 for three years.  He taught social studies honing his favorite Socratic Method of teaching.  Additionally, he taught PE.  He served at assistant football coach in Burns as well as head wrestling coach in Albin.  Several qualified for state under his coaching.  During those years, he also managed irrigated farm operations for the family.

In the early 1980s, Tim ventured into business.  He served as President of a start-up oil and gas operation.  Eventually, after selling that business, Tim began brokering oil and gas properties which remains his primary industry to this day.

He’s one passionately versatile man.  Never fully shaking the teacher and coaches heart, he founded the Jenks America Track Club in the 1990s.  He ran for state senate.  He’s served as elder in his church.  He’s travelled around the world, including Africa and east Asia as an ambassador for missional business.  He loves the opportunity to share and encourage.  Organically sharing the gospel through cross-cultural business opportunities stirs wonder of what heaven will really be like.  Can you hear that choir?

Did I mention my Dad (Uncle Tim) sings, too?  Although he loves all kinds of musical genres & the history of the music, hymns remain among his most treasured.

My Dad was Uncle Tim to Jamie because Jamie’s Dad is his brother and Jamie’s Mom is his sister-in-law because she’s Karen’s sister.  However, I’m not sure the title without explanation is adequate to describe their relationship.  As mentioned in Karen’s five part perspective, Tim and Karen were not able to conceive more children beyond Heidi.  They both loved children.  In many ways, Carlton and Kathy’s children became like their own.

Uncle Tim loved Jamie like a son.  He corrected him, disciplined him and encouraged him very similar to the way he guarded and guided me (Heidi).  I think Jamie looked at Uncle Tim as a second-father figure.

written by Heidi L. Paulec

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Perspective:

Right around the time of Jamie’s death, Eric Clapton released a song he’d written after the loss of his own son.  The song?  “Tears in Heaven.”  My soul didn’t question God’s Sovereignty.  Yet, my emotions resonated with some of the questions he posed in that powerful song.

Do you know Horatio G. Spafford?  He was a businessman who faced devastating loss.  First, he lost a son.  Then, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 impaired his enterprise with great loss.  When his friend Dwight L. Moody planned an evangelistic campaign to Europe, Mr. Spafford decided he and his family would join him.  He sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him with plans to join them in a few days.

After their ship sank, he received this from his wife… “Saved alone.”  Immediately, he boarded the next available ship to join his wife.  While at sea, he penned the world-renown hymn “It is Well.”

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend

What powerful imagery!  This is not merely imagination.  He’s coming back.  Why?  To bring His own to the Heavenly Home.  Jamie’s life and untimely death rolled back some clouds for me.  Darkness… more real.

Inevitably, our beliefs are tested.  Shaken.  We may even wonder if we might sink under the losses.  When we sift through it all, where does my hope land?  Why is it a trustworthy foundation?  How do I live humbly… honorably… every day in the shadow of Heaven’s Hope?

continued Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 2)

Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 5)

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Gathering as a family in Colorado felt like a much needed embrace… At the same time, all too much to take in all at once.  I really don’t remember a whole lot from that week.  I remember Tim and my brother going through Jamie’s room looking for answers.  I remember wondering if we shouldn’t have brought him to Tulsa for an extended stay… all really too late now.   I remember Heidi… alone.

When we went to the viewing, we visited with family and close friends.  When our allotted time had expired, I remember actually saying to Kathy … “We can’t let him stay here tonight – all by himself.”  Of course, I realized how ridiculous this was to say… and wished I hadn’t.

The day of the funeral… I mainly remember wanting to keep my eyes on Heidi.  A complicated day… the end of our twins.   And anticipating the impact of this loss on the kids, particularly Michael, Holly, and Heidi.

Upon returning home, I remember gathering resources to try to figure out how we’d navigate this grief with Heidi and Tim.  Prior to Jamie’s death, I considered myself fairly stoic… generally able to control my emotions.  However, tears surprised me, even at work sometimes.

I tried to imagine being in Kathy and Carlton’s position, and I just couldn’t/can’t imagine what they’re enduring.  We missed Jamie… everything about him.  But, his immediate family felt his physical absence.  They walked by his room every day… his empty chair at meal time… and his silence flooded their home.  Forever wounded their family.

Despite others distant discomfort, I was never ashamed  of him although some people responded like I should have been… or at least temper the talk about it.  (Again, I worked in human resources of a large public school district.  Their official policy at the time in reference to anything regarding a suicide was that it should only be spoken of in the presence of a qualified professional… school counselor.)

As Heidi’s Mom, my personal grief easily sidelined as she was our immediate concern.  I remember her silence… general heaviness… like our vibrant Heidi had faded into a haze.  I’d asked  the school psychologist about her and what we could/should do to help.  She indicated looking for normal habit patterns to return.  If she’s a list-maker, look for those lists.

In mid-February 1992, just a month after Jamie died, Heidi travelled without us to compete with her dance team at a national dance team competition in Orlando, Florida.  Certainly not easy to send her.  But, she’d served as an officer that year.  They’d been training since the previous June, and she loved that team.  When we returned from Colorado, there was no question.  She would throw herself into competition mode… this comes naturally to her.  This was a physically  and socially demanding commitment that she took very seriously.  And we’re so grateful for her coach, the team, and the parents that year who loved and looked after her.

That trip worked wonders for Heidi.  Not only did they rank fourth in the nation, they debriefed for a day at Disney World’s Epcot Center.  Evidentially, they had a grand time.  I remember when we met the team at the airport.  Heidi was laughing, and she even seemed to be the center of the fun.  The girls, giddy exhausted, celebrated together before heading home.

I felt such relief to see her happy again.  But, I certainly wasn’t prepared for how short-lived it would be.  As soon as we walked in the door of our home, the sadness returned.  Routine reminded her he was gone.

She could not think clearly.  Deep hurt weighed her down and fogged her mind for weeks.  Our chiseled-focused daughter drifted off into a heavy quiet place.  We worried about her.  We missed her.  We tried to reach in… not sure if she could even let us in.

We grieved, Tim & I.  We prayed.  I struggled with people who suggested suicide is the unpardonable sin.  And suggested this so freely to us in the midst of our fresh grief.

“God sent his son
They called him Jesus
He came to love
Heal and forgive
He lived and died
To buy my pardon
An empty grave
Is there to prove

(Chorus)
Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know
He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives
(Verse 2)
How sweet to hold
A newborn baby
And feel the pride
And joy he gives
But greater still
The calm assurance
This child can face
Uncertain days
Just Because he lives
(Chorus)

(Verse 3)
And then one day
I’ll cross the river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death
Gives way to victory
I’ll see the lights
Of glory and
I’ll know he lives”

Bill Gaither

We visited family as often as we could.  Gathering together seemed right because we could talk about Jamie and his death with ease.  Yet, gathering also reminded us he wasn’t there.  No quiet jokes under his breath.  No pleas for football passing in the yard.  And no twin.

We watched as our daughter… wrestled death.   Wondering if our feisty, funny girl would win… Mixing grief with worries… heavy, dark times… brim and boil in unexpected ways.    I just remember when the weight bore down… whispering…

“Jesus Jesus Jesus
There’s something about that name
Master savior

Jesus
It’s like the fragrance after rain

Jesus Jesus Jesus
Let Heaven and Earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
There is something about that name.

Gloria and Bill Gaither (1970)

I may never know all Heidi went through… or Carlton or Kathy or Michael or Holly or other family members… “Kings and kingdoms will all pass away.  There is something about that Name.” I found great comfort knowing He Who comforted me would also comfort & guard with peace our family … as we fractured a little … in grief.

Tim… so grateful for him.  He loved Jamie so much.  Despite our dreams, we were unable to have more children biologically.  I mourned this years ago, so did he.  But, we prioritized and opened our hearts to love nieces, nephews and foster children … more intentionally.

I don’t think we ever expected life to be the same.  But, I certainly didn’t know what the new normal would be.  I remember someone told me not to feel guilty about my tears.  “Those tears just show how much you cared for him and your aching family now.”  Crying really did help release the pressure within… like nothing I’d known before.  Grief takes time… and I do think we need others -maybe a very small circle- who will communicate on real levels.

I must also say one of the mysteriously beautiful things that has happened through this… the tight near sibling-hood Michael and Holly offered to Heidi.  Growing up, Jamie & Heidi were the “older ones,” who played together while Michael & Holly made it into their twin plans…sometimes.  Heidi, an incessant teaser, drove Holly to tears on too many occasions.  However, they lean on each other to this day.  This certainly didn’t have to turn out like this.  A generous gesture to bond those three.  Heidi knows she can’t replace Jamie.  Yet, I do think she’s grateful to be “big sis” to them.

Until the releasing of her writings over 20 years after Jamie’s death, Heidi really didn’t let us too close to her loss and subsequent mourning.  But I’ve seen her faith grow deep… swell & spill as she loves others.  I read her writing, and I know the Lord has done a mighty work.  As a Mom, I hear the things she can’t say.  We all miss him still.  This collective journey… something we’ve all endured… but Heidi uniquely.  We continue to pray that our sharing about Jamie- his life and his death- encourages others feeling the drenching ripples of grieving hard losses.  Most importantly… “Master, Savior… Jesus… after the rain.”