Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 3)


aunt-karenJamie and Heidi wrote each other letters quite often, especially for their young age.  Heidi would get so excited when mail came for her.  Their move (Carlton and Kathy) to central Nebraska expanded all our experiences.

From time to time, we’d drive the six hours to visit and leave Heidi for a few days.  And they’d do similarly with Jamie.  So, we were able to maintain family connections.  Mother  (Grandma Phyllis) and I were able to be there with Kathy when Holly was born.

During their elementary school years, Heidi and Jamie both excelled in school.  They both enjoyed challenges.  Heidi… very competitive, in general.  But, Jamie’s work  was near perfection, and already had a vision for his future.  Focused.  Serious, indeed.

Actually, Jamie and I shared a dream.

Both my Dad (Grandpa Ken)  and my uncle were pilots.  My Dad flew The Hump (Himalayas) during World War II.  And despite being in a small plane crash with my uncle (yes, really… private plane in a field), I quietly dreamt of getting my pilot’s license one day.  Jamie, on the other hand, set his sights on the Air Force Academy.  In time, he knew exactly which planes he wanted to fly and why.  He knew exactly what criteria he needed to fly those planes, including all the rigors of getting into the Academy.

His love for aviation only grew when his Dad took a job working for a major airline in Denver, Colorado.  Part of the benefits package includes flying privileges for immediate family members.  This meant Carlton and Kathy’s kids grew quite accustom to airline travel.  I think they all enjoyed it.  But, Jamie listened and learned every time he flew…he firmly planned on making his visions of flying planes a reality one day.

Even when we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1986,  Carlton and Kathy came to visit as often as they could.  Jamie commonly visited us on his own as well.  He spent a lot of time with us… a lot of time- nearly a month every summer as well as periodic weekends throughout the school years.  Even as they aged into their teens, Jamie and Heidi got along very well.  He was easy to have around.  He was neat and tidy… helpful.  And not nearly as argumentative as Heidi could be at that age.

I think we all had high hopes for these two, our twins.  My own college experience, though limited, stirred delight and intrigue that I truly hoped for both Heidi and Jamie as well (and Michael and Holly, too).

The university’s (that several of us in the family either attended or graduated from) hymn is “A Mighty Fortress.”  A grand… epic song.  No journey is without struggle.  Higher education offers opportunities to learn, to wonder, to question, to grow, to share… to solidify our own faith.  Sure, there would be days they’d be tested.  Yet, I truly thought the sky was the limit for Jamie and Heidi, and I expected he’d be a pilot first.

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever”

Martin Luther (circa 1527)

I do remember Kathy mentioned Jamie’s attitude beginning to sour  around his freshman year in high school.  He initially attended a larger high school in Colorado.  He had to get glasses which caused a great disappointment because he’d no longer be eligible to fly the planes he’d been planning on for so long… as the military standards still disqualified persons with such “handicap.”

Although I don’t remember noticing anything significant in his demeanor until summer 1991.

That summer he flew from Denver to Tulsa to stay with us a few days before he & Heidi traveled with youth groups to Washington DC for a youth conference called DC ’91.  I remember him being exceptionally quiet that trip.  We’d set up a bed in Tim’s study for Jamie, and he seemed to linger there for long portions of the day … alone.

I remember walking by the study.  He was listening to metal music.   We didn’t allow Heidi to listen to that kind of music, so I asked him to put on his headphones because I didn’t want her to hear it.

This has lingered with me for years… I’ve wondered if he thought I didn’t care about him enough … to ask him to stop listening to the music – which just seemed full of repetitive negativity… to apply the same standard of protection that I had for Heidi?

I also remember that around that same time he seemed to be battling something like depression.  He had just had a battery of medical tests run, and he was quite hopeful they would find an imbalance that  could be corrected with medication.

The next time we saw Jamie alive was Thanksgiving 1991.  Again, he flew into Tulsa to road trip with us to my parents who were living in Leavenworth, Kansas at the time.    He seemed to have a weight on his mind.  Extraordinarily quiet… but also somewhat tense.  He mentioned that he needed to talk to Grandpa and Grandma while he was there.

My energies much of that trip were focused on planning, preparations, clean-up, and helping Mother host all of us.  I do remember he did talk with Mother and Daddy.  I remember him being quite helpful with the Thanksgiving meal (see him pouring drinks in photo above).  But, my favorite memory of that trip came when we drove him to the airport to fly home.  Even on the drive to Kansas City, he seemed lighter… less preoccupied or agitated.

When we walked him to the terminal (we could still do that in those days), he checked in & we hugged him and said our good-byes.  As he walked through the corridor, Uncle Tim moo-ed, yes…moo-ed (a real talent he has… he actually sounds like a cow… we’ve had herds come across a field to his call).  Jamie turned over his shoulder, with the biggest smile, and he laughed.


continued… Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 4)


Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 2)


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)

Aunt Karen.JPG

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.


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.



“…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)




September… Silence, Light & Hope (part 3)


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

Leaning in close to the Only One Good grants grief a lens to life… And even in its presence… Pulsing fresh delight… joining ancient prayers.  These prayers mingle promises… a past redeemed, our present Help and a future flowing with  persistent Hope and enduring joy.”Where there is darkness, let me sow light.”  (St. Francis of Assisi)

As with any symphony, several key elements must come together with practice, precision … and a certain unleashing emotion.  So, too with learning to lean into tough space, we learn to bridle difficulties & grief into useable energy to shine, to sing, to love, to live.

Make my life a prayer to you
I wanna do what you want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers no compromise

I wanna shine the light you gave
Through your son you sent to save us
From ourselves and our despair
It comforts me to know you’re really there

Well I wanna thank you know
For being patient with me
Oh it’s so hard to see
When my eyes are on me
I guess I’ll have to trust
And just believe what you say
Oh you’re coming again
Coming to take me away

I wanna die and let you give
Your life to me so I might live
And share the hope you gave me
The love that set me free

I wanna tell the world out there
You’re not some fable or fairy tale
That I’ve made up inside my head
You’re God the son and you’ve risen from the dead


I wanna die and let you give
Your life to me so I might live
And share the hope you gave me
The love that set me free

written by Melody Green & sung by Keith Green
That vibrant living isn’t a bygone whim, but a reality … that is actually beyond us. Yes, just beyond our reach.  Our hearts long for it.  Our minds strategize for it.  And our souls know deep within deep living doesn’t happen alone.  !Viva abundante!   Beyond us…Yet, vibrant living is also for us… but not for us exclusively.  Meaning?  Once we arrive at a place where we recognize our own breath is still circulating… we whisper a prayer of thanks.
Not a cliche’ thanks to the clouds that pretends away the pain of the past or lacks direction… but a weak thanks to our Creator Who has sustained through darkness & revealed He alone is the Light of the World.  We thank Him in the midst of our trying times because we know His Character isn’t short-sited.  His plan?  Mysterious to us in many ways, but ultimately … Always Prevailing.  Hope Personified.
And He chooses us to pour out pure & gritty Hope.  Gritty?  Yes, we’re still here – a world coiling & recoiling …  attempting to taint, to smear that which is Good… to lessen the Mighty with the grime of resignation, apathy, envy, discontent, discouragement and rivalry.  While the tension is real, it is not new.  History reminds us chaotic darkness dares to dim His Glory.

“The most powerful evangel is the glory of God dwelling in the midst of His people.” 

Ravi Zacharias Is There Not a Cause? Part 4/4  (Nehemiah)

 I think sometimes we expect it all to look different, to feel different… we want the song without the weight of silence, we want the light without the framing darkness, and we want our difficulties and even our energy to be manageable.
Living Hope… is beyond us… as a song to Him, reflecting His Light in the crevices of our weaknesses… and it is binding us… together.
written by Heidi L. Paulec
September:  Suicide Prevention Month 2016

September… Silence, Light & Hope (part 2)


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


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  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


Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 4)

Grandpa Ken

On January 16, 1992, our youngest daughter Kathy (Jamie’s Mom) along with her younger two children (Michael and Holly) came to visit us for the long weekend.  Jamie opted to attend a winter retreat with his church youth group.

Although we were a bit disappointed, we certainly understood.  And, I think, a little hopeful he was making some good friends after the difficult couple years.  Also, some suspected his interest in spiritual matters had dwindled in recent months.   So, his initiative to go an such a retreat was a welcome option.

The evening of January 18, 1992 – the phone rang.  I answered it.  The voice on the other end?  Our son-in-law (and Kathy’s husband), Carlton.  He spoke directly.

Matter of fact:  “Jamie killed himself.”  Initially, I could not believe he would joke about something like that.  But within moments, I knew this wasn’t a joke.

Jamie’s gone.  Shock set in immediately.

I numbly told Phyllis and Kathy.  Their tears… The screams… shook the street, I think.

Then, hearing the commotion, Michael and Holly rushed in…  “What’s wrong?”  I think they asked… By now, I’m not even sure what explanation they received.  A total blur in my memory.

I remember Phyllis flew with Kathy and the kids while I drove from Kansas City to Denver the next day.  The blur continued.  I do not remember any part of that drive.  Numb, I suppose.

As the family gathered for the funeral, we shared sorrow and loss.  Jamie’s gone.  We proceeded through the customary funeral preparations.  Trips to the funeral home and cemetery.  No dress rehearsal.  Nothing prepares you for all the formal finalities.

One thing I really regret now is that I viewed the body.  While I’d been to several funerals in my life, seen the bodies and it didn’t trouble me.  However, Jamie’s body… in a coffin … That’s different for me.  Very hard to see.  I wish I’d never seen it.  And I can’t seem to forget it either.

I want to remember the young gentleman from Thanksgiving instead.  Sure, he had concerns.  But, he also seemed to be handling them with grace and peace… maturity beyond his years.

Remembering Jamie… some memories- I just want to be fresh again.  Others … just sad.  What could I have done differently that may have impacted his decision?  Or, if in fact, did I do anything that contributed to his decision? … That troubles me some still.

I hurt for Kathy and Carlton and the family.  If it were possible, I would have done just about anything to take that pain away.  We cannot walk in another man’s shoes- even though we sure would like to sometimes.

Recalling memories of his childhood with Phyllis and Kathy eases grief’s sting, I think.  I remember the time he placed his foot in a tub of hot water on the back porch – he was just a toddler.  He pulled his foot out fast and said, “Dumb Kid!”  When he got excited as a toddler, he bent his elbows, clenched his fists, and then swing his arms back and forth.

The countless rides on the tractor or combine.  His laugh…  and Heidi’s, too… laughs that I hushed.  And what a proud big brother.  A good brother, too.

Photographs around the house remind us of Jamie’s life.  His death is hard, but the manner of death is the hardest part.  I think general knowledge of Scripture and trusting that God’s children cannot be lost… That brings  a great deal of comfort… despite what Jamie did.

Prior to Jamie’s death, I remember a childhood friend losing his life to his own hand.  We never knew if it was an accident or on purpose.  But, you think about these things even if no one talks about them.  Back when we were younger, you just didn’t speak of such things.

Although I’ve not spoken about all Jamie’s death that much, I’d be open to sharing with another going through a similar situation.  We deal with any death.  It takes time.  But, this kind of death has its own sharp, deep pain, too.

I think it is important to know that time does take the edge off.  Accepting the absence of a grandson, first-born grandson, is not easy.  But, I am thankful God gives us memories.  We’ve got some real good ones with Jamie and the rest of the family, too.

God also gives us Hope.  Hope in Jesus. “…When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace...”   Hope that leads us to Heaven one day… And I look forward to seeing Jamie there one day.

He reached out to me… and I remember.


My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

Refrain:  On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.


His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.


When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.


-Edward Mote

written by Heidi L. Paulec


Follow the family…Grandpa Ken married Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 1).


Grandpa Ken … He Reached Out to Me (part 3)

Grandpa Ken

…. Jamie explained, when he attempted to seek explanation, he said he was silenced without reason.

In such a situation, I see how a young man’s self-respect could easily erode.

Yet, I certainly never imagined Jamie was in the process of giving up on living… He spoke so clearly.  Calmly… Compassionately, he really didn’t want to burden others with the conflict.

I think he hoped we’d help.

“Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.”

Job 8:8-9

In addition to this conflict, Jamie’s dream of playing football deflated as he did not get to play in any games in yet another season.  In his big city high school, his slighter build in a sea of larger athletes hid his ability to strategize the game better than many men I know.  Yet, he’d hoped the smaller school, smaller team would offer a different outcome.

I’m told he practiced with drive and determination.  Eagerness… and asthma.  He even practiced through asthma attacks pleading to be deemed worthy in the coaches’ eyes.  The harsh words, and probably that physical, health weakness, nearly ripped away his love for the sport.

Instead of gaining physical strength during the season, Jamie’s health actually depleted.  He lost weight.  His asthma did not allow him to persevere and progress as hard as his will pushed.  He was hospitalized at least once for his health directly related to these practices.  I suppose altitude may have been a factor, too.

The coaches didn’t play him.  But, I don’t blame the coaches.  He really hadn’t been there long enough for them to know how serious or not-so-serious his asthma may have been.  But, I certainly do feel for him.  He loved football.  He could throw the ball.  And his thinking game…Bright.  In the end… just so sad, really.

“Because he talked so little, his words had a peculiar force, they were not worn dull from constant use.”

Willa Cather  My Antonia pg.55

Our talk, that day, didn’t last all that long.  Jamie didn’t belabor his points.  He just wanted us to know what he thought.  I am still not sure why he chose to share.  Maybe seeking our help… not sure we managed to do that… but, I am thankful for that talk that day… that memory.

Our little Jamie… a young gentleman, indeed.

continued… Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 4)

September … Silence, Light & Hope (part 1)

Silence, Light & Hope…

Silence… When death silenced Jamie, I fell silent, too.  A silence… I didn’t understand.  A silent intrusion… felt both foreign & serene.  (He Stopped Laughing)

Some silence quiets questions.  Some silence calms chaos.   Some silence honors the sacred.  And some silence screams shame.  Complicated Shame.

Shame?   Shame on me because I didn’t know how hopeless he felt.  (Not all of our family felt shame.  In fact, Grandma Wanda never did.)  But some of us did.

Some silence is welcome.  Quieting questions, calming chaos, and honoring the sacred…

The Breaking Silence …

… for the one suffering with hopelessness in its various forms, we acknowledge your anguish.  You are NOT alone.  If loved ones reach in, please don’t shut them out.  We urge you to reach out.  Don’t know exactly what to say?  Maybe a simple, honest start… “I need help!”?   If family and friends are unsure how to help, keep reaching out.  Counselors, teachers, clergy, doctors… all prepared to embrace you with help.

We thank educators, the medical, mental health professionals  & so many others who work and advocate on your behalf.  We thank groups like RemedyLive who are available to you in moments of crisis.  Their commitment, work & availability make asking for help more and more accessible.  Please reach out for help.

… for those of us who’ve lost someone who maybe never felt hopeless before… yet, struggle with the silenced voice.  We may attempt to silence the ever-spinning world to hear that silenced voice again.

How many of us have wrestled with dark shadows in silent shadows?  You’re the heart why we’re not remaining silent with our family loss.  Testimonies… persevering… gathering… sharing.  There is a Living Hope.  This Hope anchors our souls with compassion for all you’re facing… whether your grief is fresh or a few years deep already… we know we share something hard… and deep.  And we learn to live aware of the daunting shadows of death.  But we’re not locked in… in paralyzing fear, doubts, or sadness, either.  Living Hope.

And finally…

… for those who long to love on your hurting people lavishly.  Thank you for seeing & hearing our hurt.  And thank you for overcoming the awkward… And enduring with us.  These are Defining Times.  How do we “Rejoice with those who rejoice.  Mourn with those who mourn?”

We have to move in close…You know exactly how to celebrate the graduations, the weddings, the baby showers.  However, these darker times require a different kind of Breaking Silence.  Some times the quieter the voice… the louder the love.  Your presence means so much… even if we can’t properly thank you… please lean in & learn to listen… even to the silence.

written by Heidi L. Paulec



Remembering – a reading

Remembering Jamie on his birthday (the fb Live)

Candles, Cakes, & Crossed Arms (writing by Heidi with photo, too)

THANK YOU, your response to our first fbLive
delights & a-mazes us.
You showed up, submitted excellent feedback as well as truly encouraged us…

YOU are exactly why we’re meticulously & vulnerably sharing.
THANK YOU to all
who joined us Live (or watched later) as my family remembered Jamie’s life…
The one whose silence
Unleashed Grief
like we’d never known.
Yet, his death also lifted a veil to the
Daring & Daunting
Eternal Joy, &
Living Hope.

He’s why started this journey,
but YOU are the reason we write on…
Yes, we share some sad places;
Yet, we also hear Hope’s whisper &
feel His embrace. And we’re learning how to extend compassion as well.

Now, we’d like to honor you by remembering your loved ones by name as well.
🔹We invite you to submit a handwritten note with your loved one’s name & dates & anything else you’d like to share. Snap a photo & add in comments. We welcome a photo of your loved one as well.

Here… We remember to remember.
We pause & process.
We pray & persevere.
Shadows of death are real;
yet, comfort & rest
grow courage & compassion in the
Shadow of the Almighty.

Living Hope.
Again, Thank YOU for being among us.
Alex & Heidi Paulec

Perspectives | Shadows Presence