Tag Archives: death

There’s No One to be Proud of Me Anymore

7 Sep

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 11.50.20 AM

Since my mother’s death, I’ve felt creatively blocked.  I thought it was grief or depression, but as time went on, I became more and more frustrated.  Maybe writing isn’t my calling, I thought.  I mean, who ever heard of a wordless writer?  

It came on suddenly—this realization that there was no one to be proud of me anymore, at least not in the way my mother would glow at my achievements.  I said it out loud but never connected it to my success as a writer.  Any future achievements won’t have her nodding head of approval.

I recently went to a writer’s conference where I sat in lectures with feelings of anxiety welling up inside of me.  How am I supposed to establish a platform, a core message, and write an ebook by October when I don’t know who I am anymore?  And even if I did do all that, who would read it?

See, my mom read every blog post and edited every college and grad school paper.  She kept every college newspaper I published and even make a scrapbook of my childhood awards (because that good citizenship award from third grade is a keeper.). She was at every school concert or play, cheered me on when I sang solos at church, and showed up even when it was embarrassing.  I was definitely her celebrated child.

Before she died, I desperately wanted my mom to tell me that she was proud of me.  Instead she told me she told me she loved me over and over again.  “But, Mom, are you proud of me?” It was an urgent question to which I desperately needed an answer.  She told me I did the best with what life handed me and that she was sorry life handed me so much.  

I never got to hear those words.  And I never will hear them from her again, at least on this side of life.

It all rushed back to me one day as I was sitting on a wooden bench in my gym’s locker room. Openly sobbing in a wet bathing suit I realized there was no one who would be proud of me.  No one who would really celebrate my achievements the way my mom once did.

As Credence Clearwater Revival’s  “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” played on the speaker overhead, God voice cut through the music straight to my battered heart: I will be proud of you.  I will always be proud of you.

It seemed sacrilegious to equate God with pride because pride always comes before the fall.  But it’s not a haughty type of proud, more like pleased with me, delighted in me, celebrating with me.  Yes, God is the God who would celebrate me, His Beloved daughter. (Zephaniah 3:17)

And suddenly, I became unchained.  God, who is always faithful, delighted in every little thing I did.  Not only did He also see every concert, every award, every solo, He saw every time I held the door in His name or returned a shopping cart or just started loudly praising Him in song as I drove along Route 309.The very God who created me to do and create and be was watching and reveling in my acts of worship.  Suddenly, very normal kindness seems like very holy business.

It doesn’t mean it won’t ache when I publish a book my mom won’t read or become a YouTube celebrity without her watching (haha!).  Losing a mom is a mother load of loss, one I’m still processing in these months since her physical death.

But I can move forward as I accept the reality that I don’t just create to make my mother proud, but to communicate God’s love, truth and beauty to a world that desperately needs all three.  Instead of earthly praise, I’m looking for something far, far better.

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My Mom Died

6 Sep

One of the biggest events to ever happen in most people’s life happened to me last November–my mother died.  I’ve written my grief out in small ways on Facebook, but until now, it has felt too personal to put out there into the world.

Yet I know I must in order to heal, I must write.  And I hope possibly my next series of blog posts will connect to others who have lost moms or dads or loved ones.  I’m not sure what’s going to come out, but I hope it’s real and raw, a fitting tribute to my mom, an honest look at grief, and most of all, brings glory to God, who has held me together and because of Him, I have the hope of seeing my mom again.

Please pray for me as I continue to grieve, rejoice and cry in remembering, but most of all, grow closer to Jesus, the Man of Sorrows.

Thank you for your love and prayers!

A Deafening Silence

13 Aug

Silence can be deafening.

It can fill a whole room, a whole body, a whole heart.

It’s a lonely, depressing ache that goes on and on.  How I wish for the breath to say something, to find words, to hear my voice.

The silence is emptiness and emptiness is deadly, dark and meaningless.

Silence, for me, was a way of coping.  As long as I remained quiet, as long as I pretended I had it all together, then maybe I would be OK.  Or at least people would think I was OK.

But I wasn’t OK.  I was falling apart.

My secrets ripped me apart, caused me to hide in the shadows, and question my existence.  Did I deserve to take up space, resources, air?  The thoughts were loud and angry.  The train whistle cut through the silence several times a day.  There was life somewhere outside of my apartment.

It’s hard to imagine someone like Robin Williams, who has the resources to access the best doctors, best medicines, and best therapy could fall into the deafening silence.  There’s a cruel irony in entertaining the masses, yet dying inside.  Tears of a clown or something like that.

Those of us who have been there or are there or live with constant battle against the darkness know what it’s like.  The silence only makes the illness more pronounced because the angry thoughts swirl around, the clichés become tormenting (“Why don’t you…?” “Someone has it worse.” “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” “Trust in the Lord”), and it’s a sad, lonely place.

If someone like Robin Williams couldn’t make it through the pestilence of mental illness, specifically depression, what hope is there for the rest of us?  We swallow our pills, see our therapists, practice using our coping skills, and hope against hope we’ll make it.

We hope and pray that we won’t end up like Robin Williams all the while wondering if we will.

There’s a choice in suicide.  There’s always a choice.  It’s just hard to make sense of what’s up and what’s down in mental illness, which doesn’t make sense at all.  Yet everyone seems to have an opinion on depression, anxiety, PTSD, and so forth.  Just like week someone told me I couldn’t possibly have PTSD because I’ve never been in combat.  Oh, yes, I’ve seen combat, just not in the military.  The world is its own battlefield.

The reason why I’m alive, the reason why I didn’t tighten the noose around my neck or jump in front of that train was this—hope.  No matter how small, God placed that hope in my heart when I was a little girl.  Though I had run away, battered and bruised from the Church, His hope kept me alive.

It may sound overly simplistic, but maybe it is that simple.  Maybe hope really is an anchor to my soul—an anchor firmly rooted in Christ Himself.  Christ died every possible death so that I could live.  Through the brokenness of my life, He shines forth.  Into the deafening silence, His voice speaks.

Into the deafening silence, His voice speaks the words of hope I desperately need to hear.  His soft whisper drowns out the angry thoughts.  His truth slices through well-intentioned, but ill-timed clichés.

In a world that judges, God accepts me just as I am and uses me despite my weakness.  Because of God, I have meaning and I don’t have to be silent anymore.  I can speak out of my weakness because He has made me a display of splendor.

In the deafening silence, His sure whisper can be heard.  Perhaps it’s in silence, God can be best heard.

Book Review:: Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain by Paul Meier, MD & David L. Henderson, MD

2 Jun

Did you ever forget you had a book in that “to be reviewed” pile?  Yes, even an organizational wizard like me loses things once in a while. Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain by Paul Meier, MD and David L. Henderson, MD is good read, especially when pains makes life unbearable.  And when it feels like God has forgotten all about His children.  This book is for such a time as this.

The doctors focus on seven key areas of pain, which include injustice, rejection, loneliness, loss, discipline, failure, and death.  Outlining these universal struggles allows the reader to feel understood in his or her suffering, but Drs. Meier and Henderson take things a step further.  Instead of focusing on the problem, individuals must look directly to God for healing from the pain.  It sounds so simple, and yet it’s often the last thing Christians do.

While this book isn’t a quick fix, especially at just under 300 pages, it can be insightful for those suffering.  It just isn’t a book I would give to someone who is suffering at the moment of pain.  It is better read in retrospect.  Still, Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain is a solid read and can help heal not only the wounded, but also makes a great resourced for Christian counselors.

*This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.*

She Lived and She Was Loved

9 Apr

Today is April 9.  On this day in 1918, a baby was born.  She was named Dorothy June Patterson and she grew up to marry her high school sweetheart, who perished in WW2.  Eventually, she was introduced to another fella by the name of Edwin.  They were engaged after only six weeks and were married over 50 years.  Dorothy or “Dot” as she was called had two children–a girl and a boy.  She didn’t do anything extraordinary besides cooking, cleaning, taking care of her house, and loving those around her.  Society wouldn’t hail her as a hero, just another good person.

But she was extraordinary.  She could make the best potato salad and baked beans anyone ever tasted.  When one of her daughter’s friends needed clothing, she made it herself.  And when the grandchildren came, she would lavish attention on them.  She could fold little birds out of paper and play a good game of Old Maid with her granddaughter.

I’m proud to say that Dorothy June (Patterson) Landis is my grandmother.  She died on July 31, 2005, but if she was still alive, she would be 91.  I just wanted to remember her on this, her special day, to tell you all that she lived and that she was loved.

And she is loved and I miss her.  Although I bet the birthday cake in Heaven is way better than the stuff they make around here.  Have a good birthday with Jesus, Grammy!

I Called Him Poppy

8 Jul

poppy

Ninety-three years ago today one of the greatest men I’ve ever known was born.  He was the oldest of six children, and instead of going to college, went to work immediately after graduating from high school to help support his family during difficult times.  Eventually, he married an unfaithful woman and then got divorced.  He then married a war widow and had a son and a daughter with her.

He labored for many years on sewing machines–fixing, inventing, using, and improving them.  In fact, he could probably sew better than most women.  The relics of old sewing machines in his basement were fascinating to my young eyes.  His children grew and married.  His daughter had a daughter and his son adopted two children from Korea.

After retirement, he still fixed and mended whatever needed fixing or mending.  He’d show up at a family member’s house, toolbox in hand, whenever anything broke.  He loved his granddaughter who he called “Lightning”.  She never asked why, but she wishes she could.  He also loved his daughter to whom he granted power-of-attorney.

But the love of his life was his wife, Dorothy, who died six months before him.  He died that day with her, but his body just kept on going a bit longer.  If he hadn’t died in 2006, my grandfather Edwin W. Landis, who was born July 9, 1915 would be turning 93 today.

I just wanted his life to be remembered today because I loved him so much.  He was called lots of things by lots of people, but I just called him “Poppy”.

Tears In My Potato Salad

4 Jul

potato salad

I still contend that my grandmother was one of the best cooks that the world as ever seen, especially when it came to picnic food and desserts. Until my own venture into making potato salad yesterday and today (it was a two day event), I didn’t realize how hard she worked. And, really, all I did was peel the potatoes and taste the salad because Sarah is much more of a cook than me (yes, it has dawned on me that I should be able to cook to be a suitable candidate for marriage. However, I do know how to clean, decorate, take care of pets, and plant flowers…oh, and I’m very good with power tools. That should count for something, right?)

We called my mom in order to get my grandma’s potato salad recipe and like all my grandmother’s recipes, this one wasn’t terribly exact. “Add some vinegar” isn’t that helpful, you know? Finally, the potato salad was ready for a taste test…and it tasted nothing like Grammy’s. I called my mom fighting back fears because it just had to be like my grandmother’s because that’s what I remember being the best part about the Fourth of July. We added more vinegar and then salad dressing and onions and paprika and celery salt in various quantities, but it was futile. While our friend Julie loved the potato salad, I thought it tasted terrible.

July 31 will mark the third anniversary of my grandmother’s death, and in these three years I’ve come to realize it’s the little things that truly matter most–her potato salad on the Fourth of July, the little birds she folded out of paper, and the answers to the questions I never asked. I can’t make her potato salad; I don’t know how to fold those little birds; and I can’t ask those questions.

I know it’s just potato salad and such a thing shouldn’t make a person cry, but it does. Because it’s not potato salad; it’s something I can never ask my grandmother to show me how to make. I can’t make it for my family one day (if I ever learn how to cook) and say, “This is how my grandmother made it.” Today I missed my grandmother terribly, not just because of her potato salad, but because of what not having her potato salad means. They say that a loved one’s death gets easier with time; I think it just gets “normal”.

If anyone out there has a good recipe for potato salad that contains vinegar, salad dressing (the mayo alternative), and sour cream, please e-mail it to me at amy@backseatwriter.com or post it here for everyone to enjoy. Thanks!

Spiritual (and Physical) Hypochondria

19 May

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with “moderate hypochondria” which came as no shock to those near and dear to me. Hypochondria is one of those things that can be tremendously funny and horribly terrifying. The funny part is that it’s completely irrational, but the horrifying part is that the fear is terribly real.

Hypochondria is a psychosomatic disorder which revolves around the fear of getting or being sick. While it varies in intensity from person to person, a hypochondriac will get something simple like a headache and believe or fear that she has a brain tumor. Normal bodily sensations and pains are intensified and even imagined. Some hypochondriacs go to the doctor too much while others are terrified to seek treatment. I used to be the former, now I’m the latter. I hate going to the family doctor, but I go when I must.

The Internet makes it easy to find new and interesting diseases from sites like WedMD or the Mayo Clinic. In trying to find cold relief, a hypochondriac can “end up” with pneumonia. For me, the hypochondria comes in bouts of anxiety. Sometimes I’m relatively OK as long as you keep me away from “E.R.” and “Grey’s Anatomy” but other times a commercial for “House” can freak me out. Plus, there’s the power of suggestion. If someone close to me has a bladder infection or a kidney stone or an ovarian cyst, then I suddenly “develop” one as well (or rather the symptoms).

Hypochondria hasn’t always been part of my life. As a child, I had surgery on my ears due to fluid in my cochlea (“tubes in the ears”), my tonsils removed, and knee surgery at 16. Despite terrible allergies, terrible sinus infections, and ovarian cysts (painful!), I was OK. That is until March of 2001, when I had the worst sinus infection imaginable. I kept going to the doctor trying to find relief for the pain, which wasn’t even lessened by prescription pain medications. After several tests including a spinal tap (those are HORRIBLE), it was discovered that I suffered from a rare condition called psuedo tumor cerebri. I was rushed to Philadelphia for emergency surgery–a shunt was inserted into my body to drain the fluid causing pressure in my head. This pressure was crushing my optic nerves, not only giving me terrible headaches, but causing me to go blind as well. I survived that ordeal and didn’t realize I was in for another.

A couple of weeks later, my right arm flailed about uncontrollably and went numb. Since my appendage was hanging on my body like dead weight, my mom drove me to the emergency room. After a few minutes, I suppose I just got tired of waiting, so I had a grand mal seizure (you lose control of your entire body) right there in front of everyone. I got rushed into a room where I had another seizure. Apparently, I was out quite a bit and there was fear I was brain damaged, but I was OK. The room looked like a scene from “E.R.”. Cabinets were open, stuff was thrown all over the place, a big blue breathing tube was popping out of my face, some weird thing was going out of my nose, and there were electrodes all over my chest.

After getting yet another spinal tap and other tests (which weren’t nearly as unpleasant as the spinal tap), it was discovered I had a blood clot in one of the main arteries of my brain. So I had to be put on blood thinners, which meant that the thickness of my blood was checked several times a day. I was in the hospital a week the first time and ten days the second. I became very good at stretching my arm and getting blood drained out of it. I also became very bruised.

Finally, I went home but I was terrified I would have another seizure. I had to wear a medical identification bracelet because I was on blood thinners and anti-seizure meds. And for a while my balance was off, and I had to use a cane. Plus,  I had frequent doctor visits to neurologists, the family doctor, the eye doctor, and everyone else that needed to see me. It was definitely not the way I wanted to spend the spring semester of my junior year.

Now it’s seven years later, and I’ve had sinus surgery due to chronic sinusitis and been diagnosed with several other chronic disorders which I don’t wish to mention, and now I hate going to the doctor. It seems to have worsened into hypochondria after the lingering deaths of both my grandparents.

Hypochondria makes life difficult at times, but fortunately I don’t live in a constant state of fear. I have random cycles in which I am forced to deny how I feel physically and rely on what I know to be true mentally. I have to trust that God is in control of my health and my life, which is something with which we all struggle. The problem is that my body ACTUALLY thinks it is sick, except that it isn’t. It actually feels pain when nothing is wrong. The pain is very real, but the underlying pain problem is not.

At least I have a diagnosis, but I tend to think that we as Christians often live as spiritual hypochondriacs. Instead of trusting God, we carefully analyze every situation to gain control. We feel the sting of others more deeply than we should and take on “illnesses”. We look around and say to ourselves, “The world is not safe. God is not in control.” We despair and fall away from truth.

During times of physical and/or spiritual hypochondria, I take comfort in Psalm 46, especially verses 1-4,

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

I don’t know about you, but if I saw the mountains fall into the ocean (an earthquake perhaps?), I would be scared out of my mind. Yet this psalm urges us not to fear because nothing escapes the watchful eyes of God. I like how verse 4 contrasts the volatile ocean with the “river whose streams make glad the city of God”. Completely out of  our realm of control is God, who invites us to be still and know Him (vs. 10). There is so much comfort and power in these words, especially in times of trouble, anxiety, and yes, hypochondria.

While I’ve tried to pray my hypochondria (and other ailments) away, so far I haven’t had any miraculous healing. But I have learned a lot about being still and knowing God, the value of praying and encouraging others, and living in situations I would have never chosen for my life. Since I can’t change it, I simply (or not so simply) accept it, rail against it with the truth, and trust God with the rest. It sounds easy enough, but it’s the fight of my life. Fortunately, thought sometimes I feel like it, I am never alone.

1 in 5 Come Home Mentally Ill

18 Apr



“A war is like when it rains in New York and everybody crowds into doorways, ya know? And they all get chummy together. Perfect strangers. The only difference, of course, is in a war it’s also raining on the other side of the street and the people who are chummy over there are trying to kill the people who are over here who are chums.”–Hawkeye Pierce, “M*A*S*H”

When it comes to electronics, I’m pretty lame. I mean, I just got an iPod in March (thanks Sarah!) So it should come as no surprise that I own a Playstation 1 with a variety of outdated games including Spyro the Dragon, Tomb Raider (1 & 2), and Crash Bandicoot Racing. The last one is my favorite because cartoon characters drive little cars around and lob bombs, rockets, and other weapons at one another. I get a certain feeling of satisfaction running one of my opponents off the road with one of the weapons in my arsenal. I feel even better when I win. However, if it wasn’t a game (and didn’t involve cartoon characters), destroying others wouldn’t be so…fun. It would be devastating, heartbreaking, and just plain mean. But it’s just a game, right?

Sadly, every single stinkin’ day there’s a suicide bomber somewhere blowing up something. There are militants slaughtering the innocent. There are troops out in the desert being shot are by snipers. In reality, war is hell, and people are living it every day. Plus the technology developed to kill is far more sophisticated than my Playstation 1. With a press of a button, a missile can wipe out a village, like the people never existed.

Is it any wonder that one in five soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan now suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder? (Full story) Maybe the sickest “deaths” can’t even be measured in a body count. Perhaps the sickest death isn’t just a dead son or daughter in a body bag, but a man or woman suffering from mental illness. Despite how noble our military is, you can’t go to a place and kill people for six months and be OK. I believe it changes a human because it’s dehumanizing. We were never created to kill. It’s not part of the original design that God had for us. But because we are fallen, we are at war with ourselves, our world, and each other (Rob Bell points this out in Sex God).

Major depression and PTSD can be treated effectively. They can be medicated, get counseling, and go on to lead great lives. I’m not condemning our men and women in uniform to life in an asylum. I am merely saying that the cost of war isn’t just in dollars and death, but in the quality of life that exists for our soldiers once they do come home. I don’t know how I feel about the war in Iraq. I don’t know whether we should have gone in the first place. I don’t know what to do now and if immediate withdraw is the right option. I just don’t know. But I do know that once the troops do come home, we need to support them, love them, and help heal them however we can.

The other thing I know is this–I hate war. Yet I know that war will continue to be part of this present reality, as Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 24:6-7).

You know what I hate most about war? The fact that no one really wins. In the end our side has casualties and so does their side. And really, when you think about it, you have a 19 year-old American soldier fighting against a 19 year-old Iraqi or whoever. They’re shooting at each other and but they really have no beef with each other…just that the other one is the “enemy” because they’ve been told the other side is the enemy. Given another situation, and if they could communicate well enough, they’d probably go get a beer and pick up girls together. But war makes them enemies and they shoot to kill.

I hate war and I have what it does to the minds of the people who are fight in it.

It is finished

21 Mar

“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up His spirit.”–John 19:30

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