Remembering to Remember


“Ask the former generations…”

Just over a year ago, we began to make public our family story and journey spanning 25 years now.

What is this all about?  Our first year, we’ve recounted our individual Perspectives along with some of my personal journey in collecting researching & grieving along the way.

Honestly, there are so many layers, textures, tensions, nuances… finding a place to begin was a difficult first step.

I’ll never forget the afternoon my husband came home with Frederick Buechnner’s Telling Secrets.  My husband had been working with a friend.  Somehow they got onto the topic of untimely death and grief.  This friend suggested to my husband that I read this book.

Over the course of just a couple deep days, I met a kindred mind whose heart inked onto pages and pulsed pain, yes… but beauty and compassion most resounding.

Again, over the years, I’m not sure of one writer who has impacted my journey more into the deep.  But from that initial reading, I distinctly remember feeling shock & gut-clenching emptiness as he recounted his father’s death when he was just a boy.  Due to the nature of the death,   young Frederick’s family – not only did they not have any type of funeral or memorial service- they were to speak little of the man again.

This man… Frederick’s Dad died… by suicide.  (That’s how they say to phrase it today.  ‘They’ don’t want us to say ‘commit suicide’ anymore.  I’ll leave this discussion for another day.)

Immediately, I yearned to run back to 1936– and circle this family up tight.  Love on them.  Love on them with the wringing of words.

You know… Oh, we must talk this out. Get the feelings out, right?  Now!
And yet, in the few scant words chosen, we hear … straining strength tidying … with true tenderlings…

“‘Your father was gentle… 

The world is not gentle.'”

Frederick Buechner

The Sacred Journey pg. 28

What Truth!  We recognize it.  And if I am honest, I prefer to see & accept the surface of this… the dual between grandeur & gentleness… the myth & the man… the war of the world.

Throughout the 25 years of this personal, family loss as well as the writing project, I’ve discovered the deepest well of Hope.

The thirst exposing… the thirst quenching kind.  Living Hope.

I also have discovered some enter & endure life with a toughening up… a fragmenting, maybe.  You know, I hurt here, but you’ll never know because I hide it with humor… or hiding myself.

Or maybe even relegating hurt to the past and never looking back.

Through this journey, I’ve discovered I’m one who has been called into a space of softness … a space I’ve often earnestly resisted.

This softness holds a tension.  A tension that feels deeply (I can’t seem to tame, leash, or avoid empathy… though I’ve tried.) and thinks intricately (not claiming to be a smart-y by any means- just saying my mind hits overdrive with or without my permission.)

This tension in our times can easily seem off.  Something is wrong.  Just, generally as a culture we’re more comfortable avoiding the annoying & complaining away the minutely uncomfortable, we’ve no room for the deeper, darker, real & relevant as aspects of the human existence.

Those parts that demand an entering into… that entering draws into Eternity while breathing our own moments in history.

The Scriptures and the Spirit of the Living God unveiled mighty mysteries to me throughout the journey.

The forthcoming series, Remembering to Remember, will unveil more clearly some of the earthy and eternal elements I’m learning along the way.

We’ll work through the family Perspectives, some of my more personal wranglings as well as address more of your questions and comments.

Thank you for journeying with us.  We know how uncomfortable shadows can be.   The shadow of death is real; yet, so is the All-Sufficient Shadow of the Almighty.  And the chasm between the two… may be a jousting … for minds, hearts, souls, strength, and real community.

“My soul continually remembers it 

and it bow down within me.

But this I call to mind, 

and therefore I have hope

the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

His mercies never come to an end; 

they are new every morning 

great is your faithfulness.

‘The Lord is my portion’, says my soul ‘therefore I will put my hope in him.’ 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. “

Lamentations 3:20-25 ESV

Remembering to Remember is an act of the will.  It is not the same as the cliche “getting stuck in the past.”  Why?  Stuck in the past is passive.  Remembering to Remember is active, intentional, and always points to Living Hope.

So we invite you to join in our journey of collecting remembrances that root & bloom hope from a hardy, gritty place.  How can you join in?

As always, you may comment here on the blog, comment on our Facebook page, send us a Facebook message…

and NEW this year… For this series, “Remembering to Remember,” we are going to add the hashtags –

#RememberingToRemember

&
#LivingHope

– for you to share your own faith stories connecting the earthy tensions with the steadfast love and eternal hope.
What a delightful realm to live

-not demanding only happy or sad,-

but daily seeking & finding abundance & leaning in… sharing compassion.

Living Hope,

Heidi

 

Oh, and if you’re just stumbling across this space for the first time, I invite you to check out the following to get to know us a bit.  We’d love to get to know you as well.

He Stopped Laughing

Perspectives

… from Heidi’s hand …

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…and the moments in between…

holidays-holydays

holidays… holy days… and the moments in between…    

written by Heidi L. Paulec

Anticipate… Savor… Remember. 

The holidays are upon us… again.  Do you anticipate… savor…remember?

Notice the photo above?  Some of my Mom’s (Aunt Karen … after the rain (part 1)) side of the family circled up for Thanksgiving dinner back in 1991… 25 years ago.  While the day wasn’t necessarily an ordinary one for me, it was familiar with a hint of formal.

Every Thanksgiving since… I remember this particular photographed Thanksgiving and one other.

The other was the year my great-uncle on the Italian side of the family (several states away) fell through a skylight and passed away.  We got the call as the family sat and feasted around the table.  We went from celebratory chatter to shocked silence.

Why this photographed Thanksgiving?
Well, several that sat among us that day are no longer with us.  Specifically, two of the dear souls photographed… have already passed on… unto life beyond this life.  Grandma Ruth, the one with the white hair, had only recently stopped dying her hair … that most days looked more purple-y than her more youthful brown, and we teased her about her punk-rocking tendencies.

And Jamie… the one refreshing drinks.  (He Stopped Laughing)

This simple photo captured a glimpse into our family that day… any day until 1992… when the unraveling began for me.  Even as … so much dares to die & change… I’ve come to plod up the hills of holidays with the Hebrews of old… through the Psalms of Assent.  I remember.  I anticipate.  And I savor.

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Anticipate… Savor… Remember.

As one prone to planning big events, a well-devised check-list comes easily.  Honing in on tasks to complete, ambiences to create, and people to circle… I can do it.  I love doing it.  It is the everyday… the moments in between … that catch me lacking.

Do I need… Aim.  Ambience.  Audience?

Holidays circle us around again to what has been.  I love the Psalms of Assent (Psalm 120-134).  These are the preparatory songs the Hebrew people would sing as they traversed up the hills to Jerusalem to gather for their feasts a few times a year.  God instituted the feasts (Deuteronomy), and He called His people to gather to cyclically celebrate … together.

What exactly were they called to celebrate?     Success?  Ease?  Pleasure?  Petition?

What and why do we celebrate still?

For me, this year 2016, Thanksgiving served up a ripened harvest of fruit – not from ease or pleasure, success or petition… Rather, this year has been one of the most exposing, daunting, exhausting, exhilarating one of my life.

Yet, I know …

His peace in pain…

His joy in suffering…

His faithfulness in doubt…

His truth among lies…

His Love in unworthiness. 

His encouragement in rejection.

His profound endurance across the ages …

in everything.

Remembering a lifetime of holidays over the past several weeks…

… why the flood of memories this year?  I think the release of this Shadows Presence project earlier this year…  along with sending a son off to college and battling my own health issues… and the 25 years… I guess I was bound to feel a little something extra this year.

I know I instantly like to think of the giddy, tummy-tickling days anticipating the wonders… especially all the years we opened gifts on Christmas Eve night following the slowest day of the year.  As we begged the sun to tuck away, the chili and cinnamon rolls to be consumed, so we could gather around the biggest tree in the biggest living room in the world.  We’d beg our Grandpa to read the Christmas story because we knew that always preceded unwrapping the gifts.  For years, he read from the Gospel according to Luke.  In the King James version.

I think of cleaning china and carefully washing dishes…only to pack them away again.

I think of high and happy expectations fulfilled and surpassed some years … while others dashed in vomiting heap… the whole family coming down with a stomach bug?  For real.

Honestly, as one prone to plan… I’m also quite prone to remember.  The kind of remembering that can be tense in the present.  Why?   A yearning to return  … jousts with a pulsing hope for  the  fresh moments… moments ripening… memories-in-the-making… longing to … re-weave the tatters… and set it all right for my own children.

Switching seasons still startles me a little.  Transitioning from one to another… like from the reflective Thanksgiving to the season of anticipatory Light & Wonder.  I think I tend … to attempt… to stranglehold the holy days … my vain, vice-gripping… my own grit-grab at “peace on earth.”

I don’t want to let go… I love the anticipating… the merriment… the laughter… the colors, textures, flavors… sights, sounds, smells… I even enjoy the predictable annoyances volleyed around a family…  I just don’t like … it to be over.

Why is this 25 year old Thanksgiving photo relevant all these years later?

I remember.  And I miss them still.

The Gathering … the gathering of souls … familiar souls… a universal appeal… across time & space… we long to be known and loved… to be surrounded and secure…  for the Gathering.  And we get hints of the gathering here … on earth… not to settle us here… but to give us a taste of our Home to come.

The holidays remind us of history.  Our history.  And if we … wonder into the deep… and really remember… we might remember the history beyond our history.

The holidays refresh us in the present.  The Pause.  If we relax long enough to listen, we join eternal choirs’ song and savor prayers prayed… the kind full of human weariness, but fully assured of Heaven’s winsomeness sprinkled about the now.

The holidays reinforce the enduring beauty of the Hope to come.  The Hope.  Our Living Hope.  He stirs us with anticipation, wonder… and longing For the Glory Yet to Be.

The holidays remind us … every day can be a holy day… set apart… not necessarily for extravagance, but to elevate earthly whims to eternal wonder.  A wonder… we can enter … into any day.

What about the days that change everything?  The days families unravel at the seams?  The absences hover and grow heavy among us… When the Silence shrieks…

I remember deeply longing for the return of the happy… the holidays… not the unending heavy… and yet… also, carrying a tension… a perpetual plea … for the mundane.

A Song of Ascents.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
    O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities.”

Psalm 130

Cycling through the Psalms of Assent remind me of the journey set before each of us.  Traversing the years… these Psalms… teach me & … tenderly… over and over and over again…

…how to prepare for the long haul, how to anticipate the wonders of Him & Home, how to savor & return thanks in the moments, and how to tuck away aspects of His Character to count on when the future questions His Faithfulness.

I’m reminded of all I’m lacking…  on holidays, holy days…and moments in between… Yet, I’m also reminded of a firm, steadfast eternal Love – a Person, a Place… Who chooses to pour Himself into earthen vessels… gathered … for our good… and His Glory.

After 25 years, I’m still learning… learning to welcome a co-mingling of human emotions…Anticipating… I’m learning to relax… linger… Savoring… soaking in … .  Remembering… brief & beautiful… timeless & tough… remembering history is beyond me… and includes me.   Ultimately, I’m learning… I’m still learning… my deficiencies don’t define me… rather, they just make more room for Him… tenderly He leads me… through seasons of loss … into an emptied awareness … of His Eternal Abundance … tenderly entering  holidays… and every day… as holy days.

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P.S.

To Our Dear Readers This Past Year,

I want to thank you for sharing your journey with us through the release of these writings.  Connecting with all of you from around the world in this quiet, often painful – but extraordinarily beautiful place… has been our honor.   What joy & peace to share…slowly &  vulnerably and  then hear from so many, many of you as well.  Absolutely humbling to be a part of this endeavor.

Thank you for being part of Shadows Presence.  Praying for each of us this holiday season… May we render our losses at the Cross… may we recognize & receive Jesus among us and celebrate His Resurrection and Redemptive work as eternal encouragement and endurance … And I pray He makes us brave enough, so He can pour Himself through us to offer creative compassion and comfort to those around us.

Living Hope,

Heidi

 

Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 5)

uncle-tim

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 1)

uncle-tim

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)

aunt-karen

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.”

 

 

Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 4)

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On the evening of January 18, 1992, as Heidi was out on a date, Tim and I were home watching Top Gun (which was Jamie’s favorite movie) when the phone rang.  We paused the tape in the VCR, and I answered the kitchen phone.  It was Daddy (Grandpa Ken).  He immediately instructed me to get Tim on the phone.  I assumed something had happened to Grandpa Philip (Great-Grandparents).  Details of the initial news… escape me now.  Only, I remember hearing he’d hung himself, but I didn’t remember hearing he’d actually died.

I remember lying on the floor of the kitchen… crying… in complete disbelief. “It can’t be!  It just can’t be!?!”   I had to know for sure.  So, I called Carlton.  He was just about to leave his home to drive into the mountains to the camp where Jamie was retreating.  Carlton confirmed Jamie was gone.

The next thing I remember…FEAR.  What is this going to do to Heidi?  I had worked at a middle school at the time a well-loved eighth grade girl had taken her own life, so I knew the behind-the-scene precautions outlined by mental health professionals and implemented by school counselors… how do we tell her?  Her twin is gone.  How will she take it?  Copy -catting is an unwanted reality.  Heidi’s close relationship with Jamie would cast her into a shadowed statistic…to keep a closer eye.

I wanted to leave and go find Heidi.  I was afraid someone else would tell her before we could get to her… not logical, but among my early thought.  Tim reminded me that was nearly impossible and suggested we stay home.  He called over a couple friends.  One lived close by, and she arrived before Heidi did.

As we sat… and waited for Heidi to get home… and cried, my heart felt torn out of my chest.  Memories flashed in mind…shock sent in silences… thoughts rushed again.

“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

Because He Lives…”

Gloria and William Gaither

Tim locked the front door, so we’d know when Heidi got home.  She was irritated when she first pulled her key from the door knob questioning why we’d locked her out.  I guess she  realized something was wrong as her eyes darted around the room to each of us.

Tim asked her to sit down several times, but she just kept demanding, “Just tell me!”  Eventually, he did.  Again, I don’t remember all the words… but, the pain… palpable… as her legs crumbled beneath her.  And her sobbing… exclaiming, “I knew it!  I knew it!  I knew it!”

That night… we knew we needed to get to Colorado as soon as possible.  However, we needed sleep.  I think I’d hoped we’d leave before sunrise.  I wanted to get to my family as soon as possible, but Heidi wanted to go to church first.  Tim decided we’d pack up for the 11 hour road trip, stop in at church, and head out of town directly from there.  Tim shared the news with our Sunday School class by saying “We lost our ‘son’ last night.”  This actually was confusing, so we had to explain he was our nephew, etc.

The Sunday School class responded… generously.  They actually collected an offering to help us with the trip.  The drive… long and quiet… outside of the reflective music filling the car.  A salve to our souls… reminding us life is bigger than what we see, dream, battle… we’re not alone.  When our souls sing, we remember.  Who He Is.

“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

My Savior lives…”

Gloria and William Gather

continued … Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 5)

Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 2)

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Those early years… we lived … farm and small town life… together.  Daddy farming.  Mother canning pickles, apple sauce, and strawberry jam.  While Carlton and Kathy’s lived on the homeplace, we spent quite a bit of time there as well.

During the school year, my Tim taught K-12 social studies, phys.ed., and coached wrestling.  So, as remains common in small towns, the school and the church were the hubs of activity outside the farming and ranching demands.

My Swedish ancestors planted the church we attended.  Mother sang solos, quartets, and in the choir.  She even taught children’s Sunday School to be with Heidi and Jamie.  Daddy served on the deacon board and often sang in quartets and the choir as well.  His soft-spoken mother had been the longest serving organist for the church for many years.

Huddling around a piano to sing hymns… one of my most cherished childhood memories.    Mother made sure our brothers, Kathy and I learned to play the piano. While I don’t ever remember not having a television, we lived in such a rural area we only had one channel out of Cheyenne for years.  We made time to watch the evening news, but we certainly  didn’t allow it to steal our time. (Once the technology was more widespread our rural community still only had three channels available until the early 80s.)

So, yes, working land and all the support tasks to keep a farm going forged a work ethic in me… that I didn’t realize was that uncommon until I was much older.  Work awakened us.  And we worked until the sun tucked itself away.  Yes, we worked.   But, we also praised and prayed.

Our morning routine included coffee, circling around a table, and reading the Bible and Our Daily Bread.  We prayed for the weather today and missionaries serving in foreign lands.  We lifted up others in the community facing hardship.  We weren’t vaguely talking to the air, but Jesus was (is) the Hearer of our prayers.

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

We Love the name
The holy name
Your precious name”

Gloria and Bill Gaither (1970)

On Wednesday evenings, we’d go into town for prayer meeting.  We usually went to town for every athletic home game.  And commonly we traveled to the away games, too.

We all spent time helping around the farm, though.  Whether the intensive hours of harvest or the day-to-day operations, the unspoken expectation… help out wherever and whenever you can.

Except on Sundays.  My Dad believed in honoring the Sabbath with worship and rest.  My Mom prepared a roast with potatoes and carrots, so we could feast together around the table after church.  We discussed the sermon.  So, for some, this conversation lingered while others of us cleared the table and washed dishes.

Once the dishes were dried and neatly put away, we’d grab a pillow & a spot to nap.  Sunday afternoons meant nap time for everyone.  Some seasons this might be to the quiet drone of a football game on the television.

Jamie loved football.  Even as a young boy, he’d sit through whole games.  He wanted to understand every play and penalty.  He’d play catch with anyone willing to play.

He also had the most contagious laugh.  I loved to hear him laugh.  But to see him laugh… full body joy.  We all loved watching he and Heidi run around the living room.  We’d shut off the television just to watch those two toddlers.

Coming from an Italian mother and Swedish dad, people often suggested my olive coloring came from the Italian side.  My demeanor, though… far more stoic.  Some of my siblings’ personalities… far more emotional, demonstrative than mine.

But Jamie’s joy made me smile, too.

Our concept of family was both broader and tighter than may be customary in the USA nowadays.  Although Tim and I didn’t live on the home-place, we spent a lot of time there.  Jamie and Heidi played outside a lot.  They had generous boundaries.  They knew not to wonder into the fields or bother Grandpa Ken or any other workers around the farm.  My grandparents (Great-Grandparents ) summered on the farm.  So, with them, Mother (Grandma Phyllis), Kathy, and me… those two had eyes on them, but a lot of exploring freedom as well.

“A family is a formation center for human relationships.”

– Edith Schaeffer What is a Family? pg.62

We’d often dress Heidi and Jamie in coordinating outfits. I remember their first snow suits.  We bundled them up- cozy tight.  And they loved playing in the drifts. They looked so much alike in the early years.  They played so well together.  Sure, they’d fight and argue similar to siblings; however, they’d figure out how to get along again.  They had their similarities, compatibilities throughout their childhood.

“A family is a  blending of people for whom a career of making a shelter in the time of storm is worth a lifetime…. a family is meant to care for each other, and to be a real shelter- from birth to old age.” 

Edith Schaeffer What is a Family?  pg. 102-103

They were like “our” twins, so Jamie really was more like a son than a nephew.  We loved them, disciplined them, and taught them collectively.  And they looked after each other, too.

Three years after Jamie and Heidi were born another nephew who-felt-more-like a son was born to Kathy and Carlton.  We only had Michael on the farm for a year before Carlton and Kathy moved to central Nebraska.  They moved just before Jamie and Heidi started kindergarten.

And everything changed… Although we all did our best to remain close, everything changes when our lives no longer mingle day to day.  Oh how a thunderstorm of tears poured from Heidi when they moved away… We thought that would be the toughest separation these two would learn to endure.

continued… Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 3)

 

Aunt Karen … after the rain (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 Mom’s desire to comfort … as her daughter numbed into a distance… she longed & tried every way she could think to reach in.

I’m so grateful she didn’t give up on me.  Her answers on the surveys were thorough and easy to discuss.  And her enduring commitment to help me realize… I still have a pulse; I’m still breathing… Thank you is inadequate, Mom… but, we’ll start there.

Brief History:

Aunt Karen is both sister to Jamie’s Mom, Kathy, as well as sister-in-law through her husband (Uncle Tim) to Jamie’s Dad, Carlton.  These two sisters married brothers in the early 1970’s.  And she is Heidi’s Mom.  During the first five years of Jamie and Heidi’s lives, they lived in the same rural community in southeast Wyoming.  Jamie’s parents lived on the same homestead as  Grandpa Ken & Grandma Phyllis (Karen & Kathy’s parents).

Aunt Karen highly values excellence, order, education, making memories and creating a welcoming home.  Friends of the family enjoy teasing her by finger-printing doors and windows… wondering how quickly she’ll notice.  Aunt Karen loved Edith Schaeffer’s What is a Family?  She’s a keeper of memories & a creator of traditions.  She fosters remembering past family legacies while envisioning a huge family reunion in heaven one day.   Along with her own family and childhood with the richness of grandparents, Aunt Karen prioritized a tidy home, making memories with extended family, and educational and social endeavors. 

She chose to stay home with Heidi until she was school age.  At which time, Aunt Karen began volunteering at the hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming where Jamie & Heidi (and Karen & Kathy’s siblings were born there) as well as at the school Heidi attended.  She worked part time for husband Tim throughout the years.  When they moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, she again volunteering.  This time at Heidi’s middle school.  Eventually, she moved into human resources of a large public school system where she worked for several years.

She’s always been a celebrator of seasons.  She’s an intentional homemaker, reader of biographies, collector tea cups, and most detailed oriented Grammie around.

And honestly, Aunt Karen isn’t adequate to describe her relation to Jamie…   He was like a son to her, and she like a second-mom to him.

______________________________________________________________

Perspective:

“…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.”

Because He Lives (verse 2)

Bill Gaither, Guy Penrod

Going back to 1973-74, I’m reminded with gratefulness of the Lord generosity to our family.  Tim and I were married in 1971.  Not long after, we were ready to start a family of our own.  However, this turned out to be much more difficult than either of us imagined.  Tim, second-born of five, and I (second-born of four) both envisioned having a large family one day.  I couldn’t wait to decorate for the seasons and find ways to celebrate God’s Goodness every day.  Tim, being the all-star athlete and studying to be a social studies teacher with phys.ed. emphasis as well, looked forward to an active family.

By late 1973, I wondered if something might be wrong… we longed for children.  We had hopes for children.  And Tim, well, children loved him.  But, not yet.

Our whole family was so excited to hear the news of Kathy’s pregnancy.  I was overjoyed for them.  And so grateful that not long after, we announced what-would-become my only pregnancy.  How generous is the Lord!  Kathy and I got to walk through these pregnancies together which included a hot summer.

The wonder of a late summer rain on the plains where I grew up… is the scent of rain.  The deep grey-blue taking over the vast sky with ever- approaching streaks… and that fresh fragrance…

God’s rich blessings rained down on our family during the autumn of 1974.  When Jamie was born… I’ll never forget holding him and loving him instantly like I’d never loved anyone before.  And seven weeks later when Heidi arrived,  I know Kathy felt the same about her.  They looked so much alike.  Jamie’s face a little rounder.  Heidi’s more oblong. Jamie’s hair grew in faster.  Both of them got the family curls.  These two kids had the same family history… same grandparents on both sides of the family.  The same aunts & uncles and cousins, too.  But their kinship…  so much more.

continued… Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 2)

 

 

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September… Silence, Light & Hope (part 2)

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Light… The visual reverberations jolting us awake… awake to life again.  This time… the contrasts – louder… darker.  As much as we long to return to our naiveté, we both strain and squint… the presence… an absence.

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark.  If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find darkness is required.  The stars neither require it nor demand it.”

Annie Dillard Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

So much surrounding Jamie’s death etched a surreal inking on my soul.  Such vitality… secreting volume… volleying sense of violence, vice and sacred virtue.  However, as much as I remember… vivid pockets stole away from me.  I remember so many random details from our drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Denver, Colorado for the funeral… memorial service… whatever you call it.   But, on the way home… even the leaving, I don’t remember anything.

Maybe the heavy veil shrouds darker etchings of loss as mourning maneuvers -however unwelcome or unready we may be- back to the mundane routine… that is forever changed.  That proverbial “new normal.”  Routines do help some.  I certainly won’t argue against that, but when are we grievers ready for routine?

I remember returning to familiar territory.  My large high school.  Academics.  Dance team.  Church youth group.  I remember hearing caddy chatter all around me… signs of life-taken-for-granted…  I remember trying to study & reason through my studies.  Suddenly, for the first time… this type A driven student wondered if any of it was really relevant, really worth on ounce of time and cognition.

Pioneering paths into the familiar?  Illuminating… hovering shadows pulse & prance… irritating and exacting… All the familiar… seemed muted and smeared.  A heavy haze.

He discoverth deep things out of darkness, and bringth out to light the shadows of death.”           Job 12:22 KJV

Yet even in this space… what I do remember… is Light.  I remember morning sunrises.  Sunrays cutting through trees as I ran to escape the quiet clatter clinched in my head.  I remember music, movement, and nature  beckoning… daring me to dance within the contrasts.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”     John 1:5

How profoundly generous and personal!

“When tragedy makes its unwelcome appearance and we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own agony, when courage flies out the window and the world seems to be a hostile menacing place, it is the hour of our Gethsemane.  No word, however sincere, offers any comfort or consolation.  The night is bad.  Our minds are numb, our hearts vacant, our nerves shattered.  How will we make it through the night?  The God of our lonely journey is silent.

And yet, it may happen in these most desperate trials of our human existence that beyond rational explanation, we may feel a nail-scarred hand clutching ours… We make it through the night and darkness gives way to the light of morning.  The tragedy radically alters the direction of our lives, but in our vulnerability and defenselessness we experience the power of Jesus in His present risenness.”

Brennan Manning Abba’s Child pg. 105-106

Seriously… I had never sensed death’s nearness like this.  Have you seen the movie, “Meet Joe Black” starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins?  Similar nearness; however, much darker realness.  I remember feeling so tired.  I wanted to sleep innocently again.  What do I mean by innocently?  I mean… I wanted to dream in the light again.  My dreams dripped with shadows, groans, crowds & utter isolation.

“If the night is bad and our nerves are shattered and darkness comes and pain is all around and the Holy One is conspicuous by his absence and we want to know the true feelings of the inscrutable God toward us, we must turn and look at Jesus.”

Brennan Manning Ruthless Trust pg. 91

I longed for it all to make sense.  I felt the clash, but longed for harmonious synergy… oh to find the poise to live, to walk, to dance, to see… and to sing again.  But where is the rest?  Where are the words?

Nicole Nordeman’s “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

Interestingly, a couple songs surface… First,  one we sang at Jamie’s funeral… also a summer camp anthem of my childhood:

It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s Love,
Once you’ve experienced it,
Your spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

What a wondrous time is spring,
When all the tress are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That’s how it is with God’s love,
Once you’ve experienced it.
You want to sing, it’s fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.

I wish for you my friend
This happiness that I’ve found;
You can depend on God
It matters not where you’re bound,
I’ll shout it from the mountain top – PRAISE GOD!
I want the world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on.

I’ll shout it from the mountain top – PRAISE GOD!
I want the world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on.

Pass It On  written by Kurt Kaiser

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”    Matthew 5:14-16

Please be clear…  I struggled, wrestled… with this “new normal” largely because I wanted the Light back…alone.  Set apart.  Not the Light framed by darkness. Yes, the Light may have been dimmer without the contrast, but I wanted an “either/or.”

My journey… led me to accept the “both/and” aspect of Life & Light.  A tension I don’t pretend to fully comprehend- even still.  But the mere warmth … of the Light … stirs my  soul.  “The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.”    Psalm 118: 27

The brilliant power and faithfulness of an all-powerful Creator, who is simultaneously mighty and tender, grants us dawn and dusk every day – illuminating the abounding contrasts.  Yet, how many times in our darkness & disappointments do we slip into slumping postures and sleeping habits that block out the wonder & fragility of the days we breathe?  While we think we yearn for the Light, we nest into the dank and desolate.

In this space… the tension tight, contrast steady…prayer & praise became more than a whimsical wish list or shallow gratitude journal.

“Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
    shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
    come and save us.

 Restore us, O God;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.”

  Psalm 80:1-3

Slowly, tenderly… mightily He warmed & relaxed my soul with wonder in His world & His Word … breathing Light & Life… even into my pen.  “ But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.”     II Timothy 4:17

This “new normal” includes a persistent awareness … dark & light.  silence & sound.  death & life… with prevailing Hope.  “The darker the night, the brighter the stars.  The deeper the grief, the closer is God.”  Fyodor Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment

Pulsing fresh delight… joining ancient prayers…”Where there is darkness, let me sow light.”  (St. Francis of Assisi)

by Heidi L. Paulec

Dialogue: Breaking Silence

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Join us September 10th at  9pm eastern as we “Dialogue”

this tough & tender topic.

Edit: Join us on Shadows Presence facebook page.

the Live recording … here’s link: Dialogue: Breaking Silence … Perspectives with Alex & Heidi

January 18, 1992:  The day death clenched my family.  Not an accident.  Not an elderly relative…not even a fit of rage.

Rather, a seventeen year old young man whose abilities amazed, whose potential inspired, whose kindness encouraged, whose efforts focused on others… but whose hand dared… and successfully silenced his own heartbeat.

The first piece I ever wrote on this subject, He Stopped Laughing (follow link to read in entirety), has received heavy traffic as well as feedback from readers world-wide.

In his silence, questions screamed in me.  The “what-ifs,” the “who’s fault,” the “‘what did I say-or-not-say’ or ‘do-or-not-do’ that could have…would have convinced him otherwise?”

At first I couldn’t even put words to the whirling questions and emotions.  I scoured libraries first.  Evidentially, my search led me back to my own family.  Who, despite generational stigmas in the realm of suicide, opened up to me their Perspectives regarding Jamie’s death and their own subsequent grief.

We do not speak as professionals.  We’re grateful for those who serve in the frontlines of crisis and counseling, so we encourage all to seek the helpful resources available.

We speak from a more raw and personal place.  We speak honestly, but hopefully as well.  Tender space, indeed.  Those who grieve will likely find a voice or two that speaks clearly to their journey.  And the feedback we’re receiving is that our hope & prayer to share is encouraging families beyond our wildest dreams.

We look forward to sharing more of our journey with you.  We welcome you to shadowspresence.com.  Come on in & read around our story.  You’re welcome to leave comments, questions, etc.  Although this is over two decades of research & writing, we began sharing publicly in January 2016.

My husband Alex & I will be dialoguing this evening on the Perspectives portion of this project.  We’d love for you to join us on Shadows Presence  (click this link to find us:  Living Hope ~ Connect ).

Here’s to Living Hope Together~

Heidi  (founder & writer of Shadows Presence)

“Light the path that I must walk. 
I don’t care how many hurdles are in the way, how many pits I must jump over or climb out of, or how many thorns I must step through. 
Guide me on the right path…
Just show me which path is Yours,
dear God, so I can walk it.”

~ Nabeel Qureshi
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

“…God has woven a beautiful nest out of the ‘twigs’ of my life.”

~ Alice von Hildebrand
Memoirs of a Happy Failure