Friday, September 26, 2008

Surprised by Design

Greeting to all! Man this week has flown by its hard to believe we are up against the weekend again, but I am very grateful for it at the same time. There was nice breeze put back into our sails this week due to an overnight excursion that Ali and I got to take last weekend! Yes, we got to get out of our house and away from our crazy children for a night! It was spectacular, we knew we had a limited amount of time so we chose New Orleans as our destination because it was close. Because we were staying one night I decided to pick a nice hotel for us to stay in. When we arrived at the hotel Saturday around one in the afternoon and I ask the manager what the next room upgrade would cost me. He said, “Sir, it is already taken care of, I have put you in the nicest suite our hotel has, I have gone up and inspected the room myself, I also put a bottle of wine for you and your wife to enjoy.” I literally had to pick my chin up off the counter, I looked at him and said buddy, you don’t know how much that means to my wife and I. We got up to the room and to say the least it was phenomenal next to the bottle of wine there was a handwritten note from the manager welcoming us to the hotel and letting us know that if there was anything less than exceptional to let him know and he would take care of it. WOW! How does God take care of His children uh?

Ali and I partook of New Orleans to the fullest! It was the first time in what feels like a very long time that we just fun together. There was no schedule we had nothing to do so we laughed, we sang along with the bands, I even embarrassed myself by attempting a little Karaoke, with the emphasis being on the word attempt and an even a bigger emphasis on the word embarrassed. We woke up the next morning had breakfast at one of New Orleans local hang outs and then headed home to pick up our kids. After we pick them up, the noise of life returned quickly, but there was a difference in the air. There was a breath-ability about life again, I don’t know how long it will last but I will take it as it comes!

Well, this week made three months since our precious Cate departed this earthly life. The pain, the hurt, the tears, the snot, the anger, and the loneliness all seem so overwhelming at times that we are not sure how you will make it through the day. We all have plans of what our life will look like and we all work very hard to design our lives, our futures, our marriages, our children, our friendships in order to move us in the direction of that plans. When our designs get tossed out the window by this thing we call “life,” it truly puts us into a world wind of confusion, desperation, and even hopelessness. There are plans that we have, though we may never say them out loud, the “in case of emergency” plans, the how we will react plan, what we will do plan, the who will be there plan, the who will do what plan, can often get thrown out of the window because life is not always as we design it, though we think it should be and we try to buffer ourselves as much as possible in order that we may live safely within the lines of our design.

Over this past week I have been reflecting on the people who have pushed through the awkwardness of grief to be close to us, to reach out to us, to take their place in a design that was not mine and probably was not theirs, but God has surprised all of us by HIS design. I have reflected on people who we have never met who have sent cards, gifts, sweet comments, and prayers our way. On people who have left dinner on our doorstep in a Styrofoam ice chest with a pretty red bow rapped around it. People who have called to go run errands, grocery shop, take the kids for the afternoon and I stand in awe of the design that God has been orchestrating through this catastrophe we find ourselves in. To be real honest with you, I think I got so focused on my design and my emergency plan and saying, where is so and so, why aren’t they doing whatever, that I have truly failed to recognize that God has been trying His best to provide for our every need. The other night as I reflected on what “I” thought should be happening and “who” should be doing it, I truly found myself being surprised by God’s design. All the phone calls, emails, comments on the blog, cards came flooding into my mind and God just said I have been trying to provide for you all along.

So, I have decided that my design for my emergency plan may not have been the way that it was supposed to work and that once again I need to sit back and allow God to be God. I need to ask Him to make me more aware of His designs and how they are playing out in our daily life on this road we find ourselves trying to navigate. A good brother of mine has a ministry that is centered the paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 2097. The last sentence of this paragraph says “The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the World.” When we fix our eyes solely on ourselves and our designs and life doesn’t go “our” way our hearts can quickly be filled with jealousy, angry and resentment, but if we can keep our eyes on God and His designs our hearts can remain grateful, joyful, and hopeful. We ask that you pray that we may be aware of and submissive to God’s design as we continue this journey of grief and we thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts for accepting your role in God’s design for our life. May we all continue to be Surprised by Design. Much Love, The Cantrells

And by the way I met with a counselor last week and have another appointment next week thanks for the prayers and keep praying!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Independence vs. Interdependence

Greetings to All! I know I have been sparatic in my blogs lately and as I drove to work this morning I was questioning myself as to why I have not written. First and foremost I want to thank all of you who responded to the “Quiet Loneliness” blog with your comments and prayers. We even got a card of support in the mail signed a “Loyal Reader” which Ali and I thought was very sweet. It has been very difficult for me lately and I have been trying to process my thoughts and feelings but I keep coming to a dead end, therefore I feel I have nothing to share or to write for that matter.

Ali and I started a class called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey last week. It is a once a week class for thirteen weeks. As I sat in the class last night one of the questions we had to answer in small group was, “When you are tired and stressed how does that effect your financial decision making?” When I read that question it was as if it jumped off the page at me, but not in the financial sense. It got me thinking about how I feel and what decisions I make and have made when I am tired and stressed and especially in regard to the past three months, by the way this past Saturday made three month since Cate’s surgery day, hard to believe uh. I have been coming to realize that I have gotten to the point of being so tired and stressed that I just do not care anymore. I don’t care about anything but not in the sense of I want to die or anything, but I just don’t care. Nothing really seems that important to me, until it frustrates me and then I just go off the deep end.

The only thing I seem to care about or the only thing that fills my heart and mind lately is that Cate is not with us anymore and I miss her so much that my heart just seems to be consumed with her and the grief of the loss of her. Even yesterday as I drove back from the area I have been working in, which is about a three hour drive I started thinking about the hospital staff that took such good care of Cate and how I wish there was some way that we could show them our appreciation. All of a sudden I was taken back to her hospital room, the beeps, the hustle, the looks on the staff's faces as hope for her recovery dwindled away and of our sweet Cate just laying there lifeless. Right then every bit of pain, hurt, and sadness flooded my heart and from that moment on and the rest of my day went to crap. I got home, I was ugly to and impatient with Ali not to mention completely non-compliant with anything she said or did. As we drove to our meeting I asked her questions that were just looking to pick a fight so I could blow up and get what was inside of me out of me out, but of course Ali being the virtuous wife that she is mostly likely saw through my childish attempts and did not play into my game. Even as I was doing it I was questioning myself, “Charlie, what are doing? You are acting like you did ten years ago," but did that stop me no of course not I charged on in my efforts to spark an arguement anyway. Which proved to be futile because I am married to such a wonderful woman. So, I spent the remainder of the night in quiet and at times not so quiet desperation for release.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a rather stubborn guy, I am a pull yourself up by your boot straps, either you make it for yourself or nobodies going to do it for you kinda guy. This has kind of been my mindset through this grief process. If I just keep walking even when I am not sure where I am going, just keep walking and eventually I will get on the right path. All the while, I also feel, and my wife may disagree with this, that I have been so focused on her and the kids and their process and what direction they are going in, that honestly I have not thought too much about how I feel or my own journey of grief, which right now isn’t much of a journey at all, more of a stale mate that looks like grief and I bashing into each other over and over. Therefore when I allow myself to finally “feel” is comes out in a burst tears that lasts for twenty minutes and then I dry my eyes and say, ok, enough of that you have got to pull yourself up and get yourself together for the sake of your family!

So, as of today I have not pursued any real “help” on this journey and as I type that I realize how silly that sounds. Well, as I drove to work this morning I realized my way isn’t working. It is not working for me, it is not working for my marriage, and it is not working for my family. I need help and I have to be proactive in finding it and I need to find it now. I don’t want to be ten years down the road still feeling like I feel right now, hell I don’t want to be one year down the road and feel like I feel right now. No matter how much I try to convinced myself that “time will heal,” which it will, but I think time and good direction are the necessary tools, if you will, that I need to walk this painful path in a positive and lasting way.

So, for all of you still out there, this is my prayer request for you all. That Ali and I, individually and as a couple, can find the right person/people to journey with us through this process of grief. God has revealed to my heart, yet again, that I am not as independent as I think I am, but that in fact, I am interdependent and if I am to begin the process of healing that I need to allow Him to guide me out of the miscontrude independence that I cling to and move towards a healing and holy interdependence. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers. Much Love, The Cantells

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quiet Loneliness

Greetings to all! Well we survived Gustav with no problems at all, thank God and now our eyes turn to Hurricane Ike. Dude had his tonsils out the Thursday before the hurricane hit Louisiana and I think for our little family that was worse than the hurricane! He is getting better every day, hopefully now that he is back in school he will have some good distraction, but please keep his recovery in your prayers.

I know that it has been a while since I have written and it is mainly because my thoughts and feelings are so jumbled up that it is hard for me to focus on anything. Ali and I sat outside last night and were talking about the blog. I was telling her that I just do not know what to write or what I want to write could come across in a way that could be offensive to some people. I am going to do my best to explain to you all where Ali and I find ourselves on this journey of grief so that we can ask you to pray for and support us in this specific way.

Over the last few weeks the feeling of loneliness has invaded Ali and I’s life. The road of grief after losing a child is one that we so often feel that we are walking alone. Although we know people are out there willing and or wanting to help, it is almost that we feel secluded and isolated. We have become, “those people” who are sheilded away from and at times it feels, and I use the word FEELS like we are forgotten about. This feeling can range from our family to close friends to anyone else that we want to feel frustrated with because WE feel alone. We are trying our best to work through our grief but as Ali said the other night, “it is crippling.” Now, couple that with having to take care of a four year old and a three year old, who even last night asked why their sister had to leave and if they were going to go to heaven soon, trying to maintain some type of marital bliss, which bliss occurs less frequently than heartache and hurt, and then to get up and go to work, which at often times feels so unimportant. And when the weekend finally comes, there is no relief, we are isolated from our friends because a lot of them have babies or about to have babies, we don’t hear from some people anymore, or when they call, it’s not at a time that we feel like talking, so we don’t answer. The comment I have gotten from the few people I have shared these feelings with is, “when people don’t know what to say, they don’t say anything.” This maybe true and maybe the case but we still desire to hear from people, whether it is a card simply saying, “Love you and praying for you,” a text message saying, “your not forgotten,” someone dropping dinner off at our doorstep,” a call saying, “hey, I am coming over to pick up your kids so you and you can have some time with just the two of you” these small acts help us to feel not so alone and give us the encouragement, time, and ability to continue on and to most importantly focus on healing. It just feels like at times everyone else’s life has gone back to “normal” and we are still here left trudging through the misery and grief of the loss of our sweet Cate.

It is been very difficult because we don’t always want to “talk” because we don’t know what we are even feeling so when people do call that we have not talk to in a couple of weeks, months, or years and ask us how we are doing? We don’t even have the energy to answer them or even pick up the phone. We often feel like a damper on any joyful situation we walk into because we are wondering if our very presence makes people uncomfortable as you watch faces of joy turn to this sympathetic look of, “Oh the poor Cantrell’s.” It really is a terrible feeling, so instead of trying to hang out with people, Ali and I just hang out with each other, which I know for both of us, has gotten old after almost three months. I watch my beautiful wife struggle quietly through this heartbreaking journey and I often think to myself, where is "so and so," why haven’t they reached out. The struggle of being resentful is very difficult because we know that people’s lives must go on. We know that we are not the center of the universe, but we are a couple who needs the people who are closest to us to be here right now and we continue to be surprised by how alone we feel on a day in and day out basis.

I have not wanted to post this because I fear like it could come across as a “need” for attention, food, or child care and that isn't the intention. Yet, at the same time Ali and both feel like we want and need you all to know where we are at so that you can pray for us in that place. Ali said just last night that she has been putting feelings down on paper but was not sure if she was going to post it because, “it’s down right depressing.” We are standing at the foot of the cross and are asking that you lean with your hands on our backs supporting us as we walk this journey of grief. We love you, we are offering this time in thanksgiving for you, and I sincerely hope that these words may be encouraging or enlightening rather than offending. Pray for us…we need each and every one of you. Much Love, The Cantrell’s